20 September, 2008

I Am On a Mission - Which Means Passing the Buck to You

So, my stepmother emails me yesterday with a two-part mission: first, I am to convince my father to purchase her a new computer. Even after implementing many of the fixes you all recommended, and for which she is incredibly grateful, her current machine, to put it mildly, sucks leper donkey dick.

My old dad is not impressed with the idea of throwing more money at electronics. But apparently, I have some sort of influence over his wallet. Interesting idea, that. I'll let you know how it turns out.

The second half of my mission is to determine if the iMac all-in-one is worth its purchase price.

How the fuck should I know? I'm one of those loyal PC users. Mac strikes me as over-priced, over-hyped, and only really worthwhile if you're heavily into movies and graphic art - or so my artsy-fartsy friends tell me. I wouldn't know. I'm a writer - all I need my computer to do is play video clips, music files, and process words. Lots and lots of words.

After spending the last year dealing with the bloody iPhone, my tolerance for Apple products is zilch. It wasn't that high to begin with - I'd spent far too many hours trailing my roommate around to various Apple stores trying to get her damned laptop functioning again after its latest epic fail. (Then again, this is a woman who beats the living shit out of every inanimate object she touches, so it's probably not the laptop's fault.) My old HP Pavillion, purchased refurb many years ago, is still chugging along just fine. Before that, I had an HP desktop so old it didn't even have USB ports, and the only thing that ever quit on it was the internal battery. You could say I'm partial.

So I must beg your input. She wants something affordable that won't blow up in a year. She's sick of viruses. She's desperate enough to go Mac. Should she?

Mac vs. PC - fight!

8 comments:

Atheist Chaplain said...

A year ago I would have balked at a Mac, I have spent the better part of 25 years growing up around PC's, fixing them for a living for a while and I still dabble occasionally in building systems for friends and family. Recently a friend who is sick and tired of getting all the latest, greatest virii and nasties ( I have repeatedly told him how he can avoid such things with a couple of simple changes to his habits and not to visit some of *those* sites all the time) So he went out and bought a 20' iMac for his wife and a 24" iMac for himself, and after having a play with them < can honestly say that if all I did on a computer was to edit a few Photo's, email and brows the intertoobs, a Mac is all I would need, and to quell the knife fight before it starts about Macs doing everything that a PC can and better yadda yadda yadda, Yes your probably right, a Mac does all that and more, its just not economically viable for me to replace many thousands of dollars worth of Windows software. A PC with Linux installed would also work fine for that stuff, cost less and be just as stable (Ubuntu is the flavour I would recommend) after all Mac OS X is based on Unix. So to summarize, A mac would be perfect for thats simple jobs and be less susceptible to malware and virus attack.

Eric said...

Well-
Macs are *slick*... Their user interface is nice, and they tend not to get the usual run of viruses. There's plenty of software available for them - but...
PC's are much less expensive. *MUCH* less expensive, and unless you are going to need the mac for some specific task where the software just doesn't exist for the PC, then I don't think it's worth the money.
As for me, I have a couple of old PC's: Desktop running Windows XP. Limited to email, light word-processing and spreadsheets, and playing Runescape. My working PC now runs Ubuntu Linux (though XP still lurks on the drive, I haven't used it in about 8 months). Again - email, reading blogs and comics, office-work, but also simulation of neural networks and mathematical writing (using LaTeX and Kile), and maintenance of my websites. I'll probably be doing more number crunching as my PhD moves from mainly coursework into mainly research over the next couple of years.
Even with that, there's really *nothing* I am doing that would require the newest-bestest-fastest computer out there, and certainly nothing that would be gained by forking over a lot of extra money on a new ibook or one of the mac desktops.
Full Disclosure: I started computing with the TRS-80, and have usually had access to both Apple and PC since the Apple IIe. I started working in a Unix environment in college ('89) and really started using Linux on my own computers in the late 90's (while I *use* computers a lot, I am not really a computer geek - I just know a lot of computer people and know enough to ask them how to do what I want done...)
My experience is the macs and PCs and (now) Linux are functionally equivalent at the 'everyday use' level. So, I would go for the cheapest: new PC running Vista from Best-Buy or Fry's electronics, or whatever store you have available. You should be able to find a desktop with all the accessories for ca. $500. (Roughly the same as the old TRS-80 was back when...Ah, 4-k of memories...)

Hope that long, rambling discourse helps!

Eric

george.w said...

I am a former Mac hater, but have come to accept them as a better alternative to Windows. Since they updated their OS to a *nix foundation, they've turned into really great computers if you can afford them. Not everyone can.

At work I have a Mac and a Dell, both dual-core machines with 3 gigs of RAM, real hotrods. I can go for coffee waiting for the Windoze machine to log on or sometimes even just start a frakkin' program. If political parties were operating systems, Windows would be the Republicans. The Mac works much more smoothly (not bulletproof, though).

But you are not limited to those unpalatable options. Dell is now selling pre-configured systems with Ubnuntu on them. Check out the price on the desktop machine - $448 with a widescreen monitor.

I look forward to going home and using my desktop Ubuntu machine. I type my login, my password, and press 'enter' and am on the desktop ready to do stuff in 3 seconds flat. It does everything a computer is supposed to do - photos, media, web, office, etc.

khops said...

I love my Macbook. I had a pc laptop in college, and my dad is a programmer so I grew up around various PCs and operating systems, and the mac os is by far the easiest and friendliest. Unlike my gateway laptop (may it burn in hellfire for all eternity), my Macbook has not gotten a single virus or had its harddrive annually crash during finals week, which the gateway did every year for 4 years without fail after the warrenty wore off. But I digress. My relationship with computers has improved substantially since I got the Mac, and even though I don't really use the nice graphicy stuff (I am a bio grad student), I would definitely say it has been worth the money to me to not deal with the aggravation. I will never buy a PC again.

flameraven said...

If the biggest question is on price, than PCs are the way to go. Macs are expensive to buy and, because you can't take them apart yourself, are much more expensive to fix (because you have to send them to Apple for everything). The only thing you have to be careful about is Vista, which really is the worst OS ever. Windows 9 is supposedly coming out next year, so you could wait and upgrade then, or downgrade to XP. This can be slightly tricky; my laptop didn't have some drivers to install XP, so I had to do a bit of finagling. If you really want to just keep Vista, get the Ultimate edition. It's slightly less irritating. (And I should stress that the reason Vista is annoying is because it works like a Mac and wants to do everything for you. Vista Home treats you like a complete idiot. If you're a basic computer user, though, this might not be as annoying.)

In my experience, Macs really run about the same, so it's mostly about what interface you like (I really can't stand Mac's) and what you want to do. If you don't know a lot about computers and don't care much about customizing the way things work, then Macs are okay. Myself, I like being able to get into the inner workings and change things if needed. Yes, Macs get fewer viruses in general, but. If you have good spyware/adware/virus protection, you really won't have to worry. Make sure she gets set up with freeware like Spybot and AdAware, and that shouldn't be an issue.

Finally, I feel like I have to mention that Macs really aren't better for graphics; as a digital artist myself this claim never fails to irritate me. My computer runs Photoshop as well as anything, and it runs faster because it's not trying to make the desktop all shiny with graphics, the way Macs do. Macs once may have had a better graphics card, but they're the same now as PCs, and with PCs if you buy cheap hardware you can always upgrade it. Something that's not really possible with Macs.

In short, PCs are cheaper, but Macs may be "friendlier" to someone who isn't as familiar with computers or is content to let the computer do things for them. If that's the case though, you could just use Vista.

Karen said...

Low-end or refurbished PC with Ubuntu Linux using the KDE user interface -- it's very Windows-like. Most of the everyday sort of software is free: OpenOffice, Firefox, there are multiple choices for email programs, GIMP for editing photos.

I'd love to live in the Linux world, but unfortunately I need some very specialized software that only runs on a PC.

SWE said...

I think it depends on the user's willingness to tinker and ability to learn new software. These things often (but not always) become more important with age. If she's happy with what she's got and just wants faster/less crashy, another PC wouldn't be crazy.

My dad (a proud, self-proclaimed luddite) has a box running some flavor of linux and has managed (with small amounts of help from my brother) to make it work for him. Not that long ago, this would have been a scary option for the budget-minded but non-unix oriented person. But, if my dad can make it work for him it can work for anyone.

All of that said, I got my first mac shortly after OSX came out, and I've never gone back. Things really do just work better. If I weren't such a cheapskate, I'd have got the service plan. My brother's plan has replaced his machine at least twice-once all the way to New Zealand. As close to hassle-free as any of these things get. When my beloved macbook dies, I'll invest in an iMac, no question. Entirely too easy compared to the other options available.

Good luck in your advice and advising! Be sure to let us know what you recommend. :)

Glynis said...

I have to thank Microsoft for keeping me employed for years. I had a Mac at home.

On the flip side, since I got my dad (who is in his 60s) a Mac, I no longer receive my weekly phone call to trouble shoot his PC.