Letters

A nation of Windows users is sick and tired of slobbery Mac love: Readers respond to Farhad Manjoo's "Hallelujah, the Mac Is Back."


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Salon Staff
February 2, 2005 5:08AM (UTC)

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Wow, it's been a while since I've seen such a piece of propaganda for the Mac as enthusiastic as that. While I think the author's claim that the Mac is the "world's best desktop" is at best debatable and at worst ignorant, I'll leave that aside and quibble with some other flaws in the article.

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The presumption that the Macintosh is somehow more secure simply because it's built on Unix is laughable, and this is coming from a self-professed Linux junkie. The group Mi2g reports that a much higher percentage of attacks succeed against Linux machines (also built on the author's seemingly impenetrable Unix platform) than they do against Windows. Yes, Linux is not OS X (and thank God, too) but this serves as evidence that Unix does not make one hack-proof.

The simple truth, as almost any techie (as opposed to Apple evangelist) will tell you is that any OS that has dominance will have tons of malware, exploits and security flaws found. The Mac is more secure right now because it makes more sense to have a virus that affects 95 percent of the world than it does to affect 3 percent. Change the percentages and I would love to hear the author's account of Mac life then.

As for the claim that the Macintosh is the system for people who feel attached to their computers, this is true only in a physical sense. No one will argue that, on the outside, a Macintosh is the prettiest computer there is. For many techies though, computer love is more than just skin deep. As I stated, I am a Linux guy and my care for my Linux machine, Dante, knows no end. I patch him daily, and take great care to make sure he is well cared for. A similar, although lesser, love goes for my Windows machine named Guido. Yes, Guido is popular and so more people want to hurt him, but I love him too and find myself talking to him/it frequently. However, Dante and to a lesser extent Guido both provide me with something no Mac ever does -- the ability to make the machine work exactly the way I like.

Linux is inherently tweakable to its core, even on the more tech-phobic distributions like Lindows and Lycoris (which in some people's opinion, although not mine, have the potential to be more of a giant-slayer than any Mac will be). Windows, while less tweak-able, has frequently been called a system best for power users. So Apple can keep pawning its outer beauty all it wants -- I'll take real computer love, thanks.

Are Macintoshes horrible? No, they aren't. For some applications, like media editing, they are hard to beat. But the author goes waay too far in supporting Macintoshes -- I think even Apple's P.R. department (not the model of restraint either) would have appeared fairly even-handed compared to this. At this rate, next we may be seeing an article about how the Mac computer is the only ticket to eternal salvation

-- Scott Parker

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I typically enjoy Mr. Manjoo's tech articles, and this piece on the Mac is no exception. The only thing that marred my enjoyment of the article was a creeping sense of unease about his evangelism of the product. A few too many things are presented as fact that lie firmly in the realm of opinion ("To the individual Mac user, it matters little why the machine is less vulnerable to attacks." "Compared to Windows, the Mac is a Fort Knox of security." "A comparably priced Windows computer is a cheap Windows computer; a Mac Mini, with its built-in top-of-the-line software, is a digital media appliance that fits on a countertop...") This seemed like more of an editorial article, in fact, than a news/technology piece. I understand there will be a fair amount of subjective opinion in a trends/prediction piece, but this seemed just a tiny bit too much.

-- Tyson Streich

Farhad Manjoo forgot to mention the Mac's biggest failing -- the realm of computer games. Games running on the Macintosh don't outperform games running on a similarly equipped Windows machine at all and are more difficult to play sometimes, because of the silly one-button mouse.

-- Tristan Knowlton

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I'm a Windows user, and the most confounding thing about articles like this is how they talk about Windows users. They are describing a creature that is not me or any of the Windows users I know.

We're not the stupid people that Apple lovers portray us as. We've had 20 years to be convinced that an Apple is worth having. Really, nobody coerced us into keeping our PCs. Apple just hasn't made its case.

I'd happily buy an Apple machine if I could get a huge range of software at Staples for cheap (I can't), if I could choose from buckets of hardware for a few bucks that I could pop in (I can't), if it used the software and hardware I already paid for (it doesn't), if it worked like the computers everybody else uses so we could work together (it doesn't), if I wouldn't have to pay for every minor upgrade (I would), if the company weren't so secretive (it is), if I could expect my software to continue running from version to version as most Windows software does (it doesn't), if I or one of my friends could get parts to fix it (we can't), and most important, if there were some competition that would break Apple's megalomaniacal mini-monopoly and I could comparison-shop Apple clones from different manufacturers (I can't).

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One cheap product will not a revolution make. Sell me a machine that meets the above criteria and I'll be happily led to the Elysian fields ... or maybe I'll think about it while I'm actually getting some work done.

-- Dennis Bathory-Kitsz

"Hallelujah, the Mac Is Back" is just another silly thing written by Mac lovers for Mac lovers, with Old Bill Gates cast as the eternal villain. If a PC maker were to ask $500 for a good-looking, small PC with no monitor, keyboard, mouse or speakers, and 3-year-old parts, they would be laughed at (and rightly so), instead of fawned over and called the savior of personal computing. Microsoft certainly does need to get its security act together, and open-source computing may well force it to do so. And the iPod is nice. But Apple is a niche maker of expensive hardware for "people who love their computers on a personal, emotional level," nothing more or less. It would take some real doing to get me to "switch" to a platform that I can't upgrade by myself, costs double, is incompatible with all of my friends' and families' systems, and that I just ... don't ... like on a personal, emotional level.

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-- Tim Farnsworth

I have just read Farhad Manjoo's article on Apple and I've seldom muttered such disdainful comments at my computer while reading a Salon article.

I own a Windows-based laptop and I didn't buy it because I "resigned" myself to working harder to use it, or because I ignored its lack of aesthetic appeal. I shopped for months and considered all the available Intel-based and Apple products before making my decision.

In the end, I didn't want white plastic that cost $400 more to accomplish the same thing: give me a lightweight, slick-looking machine I could use to write at home and on the road and which is capable of making wired and wireless Internet connections for research and communication.

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In the 15 years since I discovered CompuServe, I've had almost no problems with spyware or viruses, because my use of the Internet is almost always limited to "serious" sites. (Few people admit that many of their problems arise from accessing porn or other sites that are on the fringes of Internet commerce.)

Apart from graphic designers and people who work extensively with images, there is no measurable difference between the performance of a typical Windows or Apple machine for users performing routine tasks. The difference between buying an iMac or a Centrino-powered laptop for word processing and financial spreadsheets is emotion. Some Mac users I know don the cloak of "superiority," but I just think they've paid extra for an image that means nothing in practical terms.

Maybe if I wait around on the Intel front for a few years and Apple picks up 50 percent of the U.S. market, my laptop will become even more secure as spyware programmers turn their attention to the so-called safer machine. Apple is safe because it is relatively obscure. As more lemmings lurch toward it, lured by image and articles like Mr. Manjoo's, that advantage will be lost. That would be a shame for graphic designers and people who actually benefit from the (very real) differences between the two systems and for whom common sense dictates that they pay extra to get an Apple. The thing is, such people probably make up less than 4 percent of the PC market.

-- Alison Barnard

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I'm just as unhappy about the Microsoft monopoly as anybody else, but the Macintosh hagiography has got to stop. There are three big reasons why I for one have never drunk the Mac Kool-Aid. First, contrary to the propaganda, Macs do crash from time to time, and when they do, you cannot, and have never been able to, get under the hood and tinker with them to fix the problem. They're all big flaming head; on a Windows machine you can at least pull back the curtain and see what's wrong with the little man pulling the levers.

Second, while Andy Hertzfeld accuses Microsoft of being a bad steward of standards (and he's right), when exactly does Apple plan to get the Mac on board with the ANSI character set, if ever? Does anybody at that company care that text containing extended characters entered on a Mac is junk on any other platform?

Third, the price of a Mac doesn't just include the computer itself, which is expensive to begin with; it includes the cost of all your replacement software, because none of what you've already accumulated will run. And while it's no great sacrifice to kiss the execrable Outlook goodbye (I actually never said hello to it -- I telnet into my ISP's Unix machine to read and send e-mail), I'm perfectly happy with quite a lot of my software, most notably the still-excellent Word Perfect for Windows. Contrary to Farhad Manjoo's broad-brush assertion, most of this software is no hassle at all -- unlike the various Mac programs I've used which seemed to assume that everyone in the world prefers to use the mouse for every task, so why bother supporting keyboard shortcuts?

Apple has a long way to go before its disciples can legitimately claim that the Mac is the ideal machine and that Windows users are either lazy, crazy or brainwashed if they don't feel like "switching."

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-- Keith Ammann

The reason Windows people don't buy Macs is that Apple people are snobs of the most insufferable kind -- and the repair shops and technicians are worse. In addition, Macs remain hopelessly useless if your typing speed is anything more than hunt-and-peck. Let the Apple people have their cute little boxes and keep their stuck-up noses in the air; hope they all drown like turkeys in a rainstorm.

-- Joe Smith

I switched to an iBook 14-incher just over a year ago, having relied on a noisy, dusty, monster piece o' crap desktop running Windows 98 for the previous five.

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The difference between the two experiences, right from the instant I took the thing out of the sweetly designed box, was like walking to your first day of school ever with your mom, being met by a lovely, warm-spirited teacher in elegant clothes, given a school tour, a delicious snack, watching an orientation movie and getting a nice massage, all before classes began ... versus the Windows experience: walking to school alone through a Congolese ghetto at night dressed in a pink tutu with a sign on your back reading, "Punch me, stab me, shoot me, bugger me, take my money, and don't forget to leave me in the dirt, fully bled."

I sang lengthy ballads that extrapolated each of my new machine's million virtues, as though I'd found the truest kind of love that only the ancient poets understood. And I did so to all who'd hear me -- friends, strangers, clients, my poor, confused parents, whom I'd only recently dragged into the world of Windows-based computing, and for which they will certainly never forgive me.

I took the iBook with me to Asia for seven weeks, along with newly purchased iPod, 5-megapixel digital stills/video camera and my rock-climbing gear. I watched season one of "The Office" on Railay Beach in Krabi, Thailand, nightly. I made a home movie I called "Southeast Asia in Thirty Seconds" made entirely of the half-minute clips of digital video, in stereo, furnished by my little camera. I got admiring glances from hot backpacker girls whenever I whipped out my jet-white, gleaming machine in public.

Windows to me now is like some awful junkie girlfriend you finally shook off after being together for a too-long, toxic misadventure that came close to sapping your imagination and patience of all usefulness and merit.

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The iMac is my therapy, my platonic wife, my go-to universe for countless things creative, fun and communicative.

I'd sooner lower my testicles into a vat of boiling acid than even use a Windows computer again -- let alone own one.

I guess that's about all I can say in Apple's favor.

-- Paul Fenn

I must admit I'm still slightly bitter over Farhad Manjoo's (terrible, in my opinion) election articles. But this was a good and interesting article.

The point made toward the end -- that the only hope (open standards) for loosening Microsoft's grip on the world is coming more from the free-software camp than from Apple -- is a bit of an interesting paradox. For Apple itself adopted a "free software" operating system (the Unix variant known as BSD) as the basis for its current operating system. It also adopted a "free software" Web browser to integrate into the desktop (KDE's Konqueror became Safari). And, from my reading, Apple has more or less done a pretty good job at cooperating and feeding back fixes and new code to the free-software projects that it has taken large elements (indeed, the very core) of its current platform from.

This may be a little too on the technical side to matter to most people. But it is to say that in the strange case of Apple's recent evolution, the lines between the proprietary company and the free-software world have become interestingly blurred. It may not be an either-or proposition as to whether Apple or "free software" poses more threat to Microsoft's monopoly ... they may be working (separately) together on this front.

It is also interesting how Apple has now captured mindshare among both extremes of the computer world. It maintains its loyal base of the near computer illiterate (not intended in a derogatory way, of course). But now with OS X, and its powerful Unix underpinnings, combined with (it can not be denied) beautiful physical and GUI designs, it is in many cases the laptop of choice among the extremely technical crowd (at least among those who can still afford it).

-- T. Middleton

Overall I appreciated your recent article about the MacMini and Apple in general as being vastly more insightful that most of what I've read on the subject. However, I did want to set the record straight on one matter.

In the last page, you commented that Apple was just as defensive of its code as Microsoft and so was unlikely to be able to help drive the acceptance of open standards. Certainly it is true that Apple has been famously (and sometimes excessively) defensive of its brand, secrets and trademarks, but in terms of standards and of code, Apple has been making great strides toward openness.

In particular its release of the core operating system code in open source (Darwin) is something that you would never see from Microsoft, and every copy of the operating system sold comes with the developer tools necessary to make modifications. Beyond that, Apple has embraced open standards even where the code has been closed. Behind the proprietary DRM, the music downloaded from the music store is encoded in a standard MPEG-4 format, and Apple is embracing open video standards as well. Both of these standards are in direct competition with Windows Media formats, which are entirely closed and allow Microsoft to dominate decisions about how they are used.

Apple, and even more so the open-source community, need to be encouraged to strengthen this tie, rather than dismiss the gulf as too big to bridge.

-- Michael Boyle

Excellent piece, overall, but with one glaring omission, especially considering the emphasis on the importance of "appliance computing" toward the end. Jef Raskin was the cheerleader for appliance computing at Apple during his tenure there, and he has continued to develop and promote advanced user interfaces in the years since. To leave his name out of the article seems more than a little unfair.

-- Matt Glass

Thanks for such an amazing and eye-opening article. As a frustrated IT director of a prominent Boston architecture firm (on Windows) I can attest to the fact that the Windows OS has lost its way. So far has this OS and its company gone into the dark forest that there is little chance they can be saved from themselves.

As for Apple (and our future)? Their defeat in the great platform war was the best thing that ever happened to them: it made them wiser, smarter and deeply focused on the future -- a future that, in their vision, looks a lot more promising and -- dare I say it -- sensible.

-- Anthony Frausto

Bigger than Jesus? Farhad Manjoo is really dating himself with that one. For the hordes of angry readers trying to burn their copies of an online magazine, here's a tip: Hold a magnet to the screen. The effect isn't permanent, but the psychedelic distortion will take you back.

As for me, you won't be prying my Mac or my iPod from my cold dead fingers. I may be old, but I hope to live long enough to see the implantable, bionic model!

-- Bill Garrett


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