Because They All Suck

The release of Windows Vista has caused an unfortunate resurgence in that eternal flame of computer religious wars, Mac vs. PC. Everywhere I go, somebody's explaining in impassioned tones why their pet platform is better than yours. It's all so tedious.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

You had the best comment I’ve seen on the subject to date:

“If you truly believe you need to pick a mobile phone that “says something” about your personality, don’t bother. You don’t have a personality.”

This applies to phones, computers, cars and iPods. You can’t buy a personality, and if your gadget does impress someone, it’s probably not someone you really want to know.

(ah ha…found a non-dead link)
Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie. Every OS Sucks:


I love your blog, Jeff, but I disagree pretty strongly with some of your points this time.

I have no problem with the debate/fight between users of the various operating systems. Like freedom of speech, it can be readily abused, but in the end it points the way to a better life for all of us.

A computer is not a screwdriver. It may be a car, or a submarine, or a player piano, or a particle accelerator. It is a complex tool, with many uses, and many ways to misuse it. It is NOT a screwdriver.

First lesson with simple tools is that a good carpenter never blames his. But that’s because they’re simple, and everyone is supposed to know how to use them. Computers are much more complex, and complex machines will always be subject to criticism regarding their ease of use and their suitability to various tasks. It’s inherent in their complexity.

Mac vs. PC – feh.

Everybody knows that Unix is superior, and that the REAL question is Emacs vs. vi. :slight_smile:

One of the biggest problems with the Mac is the perception that it’s this can-do-no-wrong machine, incapable of crashing, never generating errors, and being the very definition of elegance and simplicity. The problem with a reputation like that is it simply can’t live up to that hype. The Mac does crash. The Mac does have errors. The Mac can be confusing and counter-intuitive. The end result is a huge letdown for anyone who’s actually bought into the hype.

On the flipside, Windows has such a bad wrap that you’re half-expect the Blue Screen of Death every time you go to use it. You’re expecting a crummy experience, so when you get one it’s just par for the course. However, when something goes smoothly and wonderfully it’s a pleasant surprise.

Debating personal computer preferences is closely akin to religious or political wars. Everyone reenforces their own beliefs while condemning the other guys beliefs and no ones mind is ever changed during these exchanges.
Some people are extremily passionate about their choice of computers, religion, or political party (or even choice of cars as noted above)and feel they have to prostylize their choice. Or perhaps they are merely attempting to rationalize their choice?
But, Jeff is right. The entire process of arguing that A is better than B is pointless. The computer is just another tool. Fancier than most, and more complicated to some people, but a tool nonetheless.

I disagree a bit. Sure, a computer is the ultimate calculational swiss army knife, (screwdriver is a bit of an understatement) but it needs software. The reason the culture wars are being fought is because all the non-OSS operating systems (and many of the OSS ones) work their little hearts out to cause lock-in. Therefore it’s a pragmatic drive to try and convince someone else to come work in the same environment you do.

For example, every time I give someone a computer or build it for them, I put Ubuntu on it. Why? Because they are going to tell their friends if it works, because it was free and clean. After they tell their friends, their friends might try it. If enough people try it, the games I want to play are eventually supported, and I stop paying my tithe to Microsoft. Interoperability (and lack thereof) is the root cause of the OS wars. Java and the Internet will eventually fix portions of the problem; in the future there may be both a PC market for the behemoths of calculation and multitasking we have now, and a thin-client market for consumer level server-based computing. At that point, OS becomes pretty immaterial on one side, and extremely important on the other; I’d guess that the reasons for the segment of the market for PC’s to own one will be a: gaming, or b: ‘heavy lifting computing.’ At the moment, that leaves Linux or MacOSRomanNumeral as a heavy lifter, with PC’s as gaming machines. Everything else, well, pretty much better handled on a server once people get over their fear of others handling their data. (which is a fear apparrently easily overcome, seeing as ID theft is continually growing; “Ah, good. An expansion market,” a’la Grosse Point Blank) Java fixes the problem by allowing same-language development all over the place… Not necessarily always a good thing in implementation.

Overall, I think you’re partially right that OS is immaterial, but the zealots have a goal: Developers! Developers! Developers! Develop…! Yeah, anyways. I’m not quite as round as Ballmer yet but I’d look just as silly dancing around screaming that. In reality, there is a definite point to the OS wars - more software for particular OS’s. All you need to see proof of this is to look at WINE and Mono and BootCamp (or whatever) and all those other apps designed to help run software designed for an onerous system that has somehow become the norm.

Everybody knows that Unix is superior, and that the REAL question is Emacs vs. vi. :slight_smile:

That’s not even a question - everybody knows vi is superior! How could you think otherwise?

Just kidding. Agreed on the stupidness of the debate, but not on the screwdriver aspect. I think cars are a better analogy… some people need minivans, some people want sports cars, others just want the cheap alternative. I do think that there are certain situations, and people, where Macs are better than PCs, and vice versa, when Linux is superior, etc.

Good post, Jeff. You know what, though, I do love the Mac commercials. They are creative, humorous and they do something that Microsoft has failed to do (or hasn’t bothered to do): they have created the perception that their product is hip, vibrant and easy to use. It’s not. And neither is Windows. But I respect the imagination and creativity behind the ad campaign. Why isn’t Microsoft countering with a humorous, creative ad campaign?

Anyhoo, yup, all OSs suck and the reason is because the level of complexity. Once you get into millions of lines of code there are going to be problems, period. 'Nuff said.

Actually - If most applications would be cross platform compatible this whole VS debates would be all moot.

The Apple ads do generalize PCs. Some commercials are comparing software such as movie editing, and others are comparing hardware such as the Vista upgrade checkup commercial. However, as both an owner of a Windows PC and a MacBook, I would love to load Windows Vista on that little MacBook.

Apple has the ability to argue on two fronts, both hardware and software.

Linux has the ability to argue only software.

Microsoft Windows can only argue on the software front.

Hardware - There are more options on the non-Mac side, but Mac does the best job of a PC manufacturer creating a piece of art.

Software - Now you have to separate the OS from the Apps.

  • OS’s Windows, Mac, and Linux/Unix. They all have their own lists of pros and cons. If you just use it to run business apps (word documents, spreadsheets, etc) then it really doesn’t matter which OS you want to use. Though I hate the fact that you can’t “Maximize” in Mac.

  • Applications tend to go more towards open source versus closed source. Most people like MS Office, just not the price. For photo and video editing, Mac seems to have better applications. Some companies will make their applications cross platform compatible.

Regarding couture, the word couture implies clothing (couture means sewing) that is custom-made by hand for a particular person. No mass produced consumer products can be couture. That being said, one device can be more fashionable than others.

Don’t blame the computer… it’s not the computers fault, its the people.

There are fanboys ad nauseaum, but speaking from personal experience, its more of a demographic issue… Most of my acquaintances with macs incidentally drive german automobiles, eat sushi, own expensive foreign camera equipment, and think they’re better than anyone else.

In the end, you see two groups of people getting polarized… the it-must-be-better-cuz-it-cost-more-and-im-better-because-i-can-afford it camp, and the diy-i-want-full-control-and-make-my-own-soap camp.

The mac owners I know need to take their machines in for a genius to install memory, freaks out when a check engine light turns on on their expensive german automobile and thinks power tools are a set of widgets on their desktop.

Nothing wrong with osx. Their users, by and large, suck.

Nice to hear from you across the blogosphere and hope all is well. I especially enjoyed your Tyler Durdenesque anti-consumerism quote in teh post.

I’m sure at some point I’d quoted Don Norman about how the future of computers were specialized devices and met with ridicule from you, Elgan or Wilbur, may he rest in peace. In any case, that hasn’t happened really although, as you note, there have been some successful (at least in terms of units distributed) products that have a very PC-like architecture under the hood such as TiVo or the Xbox. As I’m sure you would agree, the software makes all the difference.

Cell phones could have been an out, but carrier business models warp their purpose, functionality and interface. And now Microsoft, Apple and even Nokia want to turn them into little computers. Didn’t we learn our lesson with the PDA?

Yours in WinMagnanimousness…

P.S. I’m quite savory, especially with a nice Chianti.

Arn’t operating systems more like a toolbox, containing a range of screwdrivers, hammers etc. The actual tools are the applications being run.

Makes the PC vs Mac vs Linux vs … argument even more silly as who really cares about someone’s toolbox!

The personal computer (lower case, any manufacturer) has become a toaster. Started with CAD systems on engineering workstations, before the 8086, and came to fruition with 1-2-3 on the PC.

And that’s the problem; it ain’t a toaster, really. But IBM, and others, found they could make a lot of money if that’s how it was sold. It is apocryphal that IBM’s original estimate was 2,500 units/year, or perhaps total; too long ago to be sure. Either way, the estimate was derived from the intended use: a Computer, not an appliance. IBM turned out to be wrong, thanks to Lotus. And M$ got rich for the same reason.

Now, with Vista/DRM/suck-up-to-Left-Wing-Hollywood, M$ is clearly no longer interested in the Computer part. Uncle Bill is all but inviting the Fortune 10,000 to stop bothering him. Uncle Bill wants, as does Uncle Steve, to run Your Home For You. And pay him a fee every year in order to keep it running.

And silly people Still think Big Brother lives in Washington, DC. Ha.

Phillip J. Birmingham wrote: “Everybody knows that Unix is superior, and that the REAL question is Emacs vs. vi. :)”

They both suck. :smiley:

Until Mac software runs indistinguishably on a PC and vice versa, you can’t really say “we’re all using the same screws”.

To extend the metaphor:
In our computing case, many/most “screw” manufacturers will only produce one type of screw: “Phillips-head” (Mac) or the other (“slot-head” (PC). If the manufacturer doesn’t support the screw type for your screwdriver, there may be an alternate supplier that does, but if what you need/want is a unique type of screw, then, well, you’re screwed.

The popularity and number of screwdriver owners of each type has a HUGE impact on what the screw manufacturers produce. So if you could increase the number of screwdriver owners of your type, potentially you could increase the variety/number of your screws available, likely at the expense of the other kind. It’s not totally zero-sum, but certainly partially is.

So the Mac vs. PC debate isn’t just about partisanship or a pointless debate of merits. It’s also about evangelism and counter-evangelism. Someone’s promoting the other type? Gotta fight back so you don’t lose any ground! Maybe even win some converts and earn a place in Redmond or Cupertino with 7 still shrink-wrapped OS copies! :slight_smile:

Do I think this is a good mentality? No. But I understand where it’s coming from.

Jeff… nice article, fresh perspective. I am a Win32 developer by day and a Mac user by night, and I agree that both platforms can be extremely frustrating at times. I’ve never been very drawn to the whole “Mac vs. PC vs. Linux” debates, though, because almost everybody arguing seems to be willfully ignorant of the strengths of the other platform and the weaknesses of their own. The only thing more annoying for me than using sucky software is hearing somebody tell somebody else why their OS sucks. It’s the ultimate waste of time.

(And Dave a couple posts up… nice troll there! As a long-time Mac user who neither drives an expensive automobile nor enjoys sushi, I have to wonder at your generalization skills.)

I’m sticking with the idea that it’s not “Mac V. PC” but “Steve Jobs V. Bill Gates”. Ever notice how it’s always “Mac V. PC” and not “PC V. Mac”? Kinda like how it’s always Betty and Veronica, and never the other way around…

I wrote as similar article earlier in the month when I had grown disgusted of the renewed Mac v. PC debate. My analysis came down to one conclusion: it’s not Mac v. PC, it’s Steve Jobs v. Bill Gates. Here’s my basic insight:

"…I would like to actually set aside Mac OS X versus Vista, for a moment and consider the real debate: Bill Gates versus Steve Jobs. Front men for their respective companies, these two have been duking it out since the early 1980’s and I’m getting pretty damn sick of the smack talk between their pasty acolytes. Here’s the dish:

Bill Gates is a philanthropic ego-maniacal d***. He took an obscure company to the top of the game with a hatchet man who had no remorse. Between Bill Gates and Paul Allen, no dirty trick was left un-played. These men were ruthless and efficient and without them, there would be no such thing as a 60% home-user penetration of personal computers.

Steve Jobs is a massive p**** who has done everything from cheat his best friend out of money, to section off a portion of his company from the board of investors to hard-line a product that was completely experimental. He’s an obsessive, controlling micro-manager who will not let something out the door without his personal seal of approval. Without him, we wouldn’t even have personal computers at all.

You have to understand both viewpoints. While I get tired of the acolytes waving around their floppy disks and giving us the one-digit salute, they both have their points."