The OS Wars are over

by John Q on November 7, 2009

One of the longest-running of culture wars, that of Mac vs PC (or rather, Mac OS vs MS-DOS and then Windows) can finally be declared at an end. After this piece by Charlie Brooker, nothing more need ever be written on the subject (hat tip, Nancy Wallace).



Substance McGravitas 11.07.09 at 5:56 am

Dear internet: cease being the internet IMMEDIATELY.


Ex-PD 11.07.09 at 6:15 am

I’m smugly running ubuntu.


Neil 11.07.09 at 6:28 am

So far as I can tell, Brooker is typical of the new breed of Guardian (where this first appeared) commentators: he has nothing to say and appears to be trying to be funny, though it is hard to be sure. I guess I am missing something (since I respect JQ) but I missing it by too much to have a clue what it might be.


Chris Bertram 11.07.09 at 7:48 am

You are missing something Neil. Brooker isn’t part of any breed, Brooker is Brooker. He’s also consistently brilliant.


Billikin 11.07.09 at 7:59 am

Plan 9

(from Outer Space)

Just for the name. ;)


Jordan DeLange 11.07.09 at 8:07 am

here here!

(sadly, I think my significant other will be buying me an iphone in about a month. Given that I’m an ATT customer about done with my last contract it makes sense, but still….)


alex 11.07.09 at 8:27 am

Ah, but then the thing about being a comedy writer is that nobody is actually expected to act on your pronouncements: C Brooker = V funny, but nobody’s guru.


JulesLt 11.07.09 at 10:50 am

Indeed – long my Brooker continue to be infuriated, with Windows keeping his bile up.

And I’ll continue to read it on my adult’s Fisher-price playcentre aka MacBook.


Henri Vieuxtemps 11.07.09 at 11:15 am

He’s got a point. Especially some of these iPhone people, they really are annoying and even frightening sometimes. The possessed. One expects this kind of behavior from teenagers, but these are people in their 30s and 40s.


Chris Dornan 11.07.09 at 12:09 pm

I saw it the first time round in the Guardian — it gets better with time. It is very funny. I feel sorry for the Vista engineers. (Disclosure: I too am tormented by Vista, trying to avoid it for years, but couldn’t be bothered to argue about the missing, promised XP option on my last laptop). Like the old British Rail (about to return) folks just enjoy kicking it too much.


Chris Bertram 11.07.09 at 12:45 pm


Henri Vieuxtemps 11.07.09 at 1:24 pm

Also, I was at a small dinner party last year, where the host grabbed a hold of me for about 40 minutes to demonstrate some mac photo album application with face recognition. I can certainly fake enthusiasm for a couple of minutes when necessary, like everybody else, but that was too much, way too much.


Farren Hayden 11.07.09 at 3:05 pm

Funny as hell, but in aiming for laughs he does skip essential details. You can legally install Windows on a self-assembled machine. The same cannot be said for any of the Mac OS’s. And although some of my American friends have told me Macs are very reasonably priced in the States, out here in the other colonies you can pay up to twice of a similarly specced Windows PC for its Mac equivalent. Comparisons based on ease-of-use and reliability alone are apples and oranges. On my lifetime PC budget, I would have been running at half power for most of my life if I was a Mac user.


Farren Hayden 11.07.09 at 3:14 pm

That said, Vista was f*cking awful, so I’m going to identify another category of smug users: Technically proficient Windows users who stuck to XP while they waited for Windows 7. I witnessed a few of managerial types insisting on a Vista upgrade against my advice, only to see their performance drop precipitously. This is not simply a perception issue. A PC Magazine benchmark comparison of XP SP3 vs Vista SP1 last year had XP beating Vista on 9 out of 10 benchmark tests.


Larry Tate 11.07.09 at 3:35 pm

False dichotomy.

Try Ubuntu Linux.


JoB 11.07.09 at 3:40 pm

Electronics is boring. Gadgets are boring. Electronic gadgets are über-boring. It’s time wasted in the pursuit of time, wishfully but never actually, gained.


kid bitzer 11.07.09 at 3:55 pm

that was a very funny piece–i laughed several times.

but as to the general problem:
yes, microsoft is shite.
yes, macs are far better, and he should switch.

if the only thing holding him back is the horrible obnoxiousness of mac users, then there’s a simple cure:

hang out with linux users for a while.

you’ll come to love mac users.


Substance McGravitas 11.07.09 at 4:50 pm

Electronics is boring. Gadgets are boring. Electronic gadgets are über-boring. It’s time wasted in the pursuit of time, wishfully but never actually, gained.

If I were to write this I figure I’d do it on the side of a tree or something.


Barry 11.07.09 at 5:55 pm

kid bitzer, that might work, but I bet that hanging out with MS salespeople would also work, and take far less time. Possibly five minutes :)


Beryl 11.07.09 at 7:51 pm

Jeesuz, I must really be out of it! I’ve used PCs from early DOS days (not to mention Unix, Xenix, Linux and even OS/2 boxes) and Macs on and off. My main (home) machine has run on Vista for two years without problems. To get equivalent specs on a Mac would require nearly twice my budget. I’m a humble scientist. What are you guys? Architects? Fashion designers? Movie editors? Snobs?


Philip 11.07.09 at 8:31 pm


Substance McGravitas 11.07.09 at 8:52 pm

What are you guys? Architects? Fashion designers? Movie editors? Snobs?

I got an exceptional deal on a used machine.


Tom Hurka 11.07.09 at 9:25 pm

Is being boring about your Mac worse than being boring about your favourite rock band? Compare and contrast.


onymous 11.07.09 at 9:44 pm

I’m a humble scientist. What are you guys? Architects? Fashion designers? Movie editors? Snobs?

Really? Most of the scientists I know use Macs. These days, when giving a talk at a conference one tends to look out on a sea of Apple logos as people peck away at their laptops while paying only marginal attention to what’s happening in the same room.


Beryl 11.07.09 at 11:53 pm

Rude snobs (not my gang)!


David 11.07.09 at 11:58 pm

Patently ridiculous. This Brooker character may be brilliant but one could never tell it from this bag of barf bytes. Not a hint of anything new or compelling here as re the “OS Wars.” The same bile countless others have spewed non-stop for the last 15 years. As noted above, the linux fanbois easily match their mac cultist counterparts and then some. Many of the comments here reflect the same stale and humourless thinking.


MarkUp 11.08.09 at 12:07 am

iPhone users are smug because they had something enjoyable, compared to say the older Blackberry, to use and for them more functional, but yes they like most folks with cell phone devices, they too can be quite annoying. Culture 2k. Remember the good old days when it was the folks with garage door remotes…


Salient 11.08.09 at 1:28 am

If we’re chatting about Charlie Brooker, let’s also mention this.

“I suppose you could argue that walls are intrinsically better than people at tennis”


Keith 11.08.09 at 1:47 am

Clearly, the author has never had the joy and privilege of trying to get 12 windows machines who have been simultaneously auto-downloading updates for the last three hours to fucking stop. It’s like watching a pack of Labradors lick their own balls. For three hours. By the end of it, I was ready to chuck them out the window and tell the students int he library to go back to pocket calculators and cans with string.

I won’t mention that the iMacs in the lab don’t do that. I also won’t mention that they don’t let patrons download malware that requires me to spend an hour reinstalling the OS. Or that they don’t just randomly drop off the network and have to be rebooted. Mentioning these things would clearly be impolite.


Ian Milliss 11.08.09 at 2:25 am

Being an IT consultant and (non-evangelical) linux user (mandriva 2010) is a bit like being the only atheist in a room of warring theists, or perhaps the science advocate in a room of climate change denialists. Like science, linux is simply utilitarian, and it’s also free and works painlessly so it’s just not as exciting as the tabloid scare world of Windows (“Danger! Danger! Insecure! Do you really want to do that? The others are all out to get you! Insecure!”) or the “Look at me! Look at me! I’m so sexy! Don’t you think I’m so sexy? Hey look at me again!” world of Macs. And of course the fact that both Windows and Mac OSs are insanely expensive brings cognitive dissonance into play – their users must argue vehemently for them in order to avoid facing the fact that they’ve been conned like complete mugs.


Martin Bento 11.08.09 at 2:52 am

OS wars are boring, but these launch parties did amuse me. because their promotional video comes out and warns you to install Doze 7 and play with it a few days beforehand. Wouldn’t want it to be a crash and burn party, as people actually tried to make it work in real time. Also, that Windows actually screens people who have parties. If I decided to have a party without their permission, would MS come after me for some kind of IP violation? Why would anyone have such a party without prospect of pay anyway? Doesn’t Tupperware at least give party hosts a commission?


Substance McGravitas 11.08.09 at 2:54 am

linux is simply utilitarian, and it’s also free and works painlessly

Which version is the least painless?


Substance McGravitas 11.08.09 at 2:56 am

Or, uh, you know, least painful…


Ian Milliss 11.08.09 at 3:00 am

the non-nerd versions – ubuntu, suze, mandriva


Substance McGravitas 11.08.09 at 3:06 am

How’s the font-smoothing on LCDs?


Ian Milliss 11.08.09 at 3:35 am

I use the commercial Powerpack version of mandriva 2010 (cost 69 euros) so it has the manufacturer’s commercial driver for my graphics card that looks sharper than anything I see on the PCs or Macs I use at my clients. And I recently test loaded the completely free ubuntu 9.1, openSuze 11.1 and Debian 5 on an oldish Toshiba Satellite laptop and they all looked better than the Windows XP they replaced, so without having investigated too much I’d say most linux distro graphics are as good as you would likely see anywhere. Drivers used to be the big problem with Linux until Vista came along and did driver disaster ripoff on a scale that made solving linux problems seem a real doddle. The worst linux problem now is if you have some specialist software that only runs under Windows – but Macs have the same problem. With linux that is easily solved with a dual boot (which linux always sets up automatically when you install it) or a virtual machine running inside linux. I use both because most of my clients use Windows.


Old-Timer 11.08.09 at 3:55 am

I’m old enough to be your grandfather. I’ve used machines you’ve never heard of. Also Macs, iPhones, Windows PCs, various flavors of Unix, etc. And been an administrator, and a programmer.

I hate them all, but I don’t get excited about it. Computers are like socket wrenches, not supermodels. Let’s talk about something else.


Neil 11.08.09 at 4:05 am

Now two people I respect are telling me I’m missing something. I tried again to no avail. The frustrating thing is that I doubt there is anything anyone can point to that will help me. I can see the jokes: they seem tired and obvious to me. I am no mac evangelist but I am a Terry Pratchett evangelist; I think I’m experiencing something of the same frustration I sometimes get when someone who is intelligent and has a sense of humor just doesn’t ‘get’ TP; only this time I’m the tone-deaf one.


Ian Milliss 11.08.09 at 4:05 am

I agree with Old-Timer. It would be nice if computers just worked (LOL) and their manufacturers stopped the endless beat ups (LOL). Sigh. There are much more important things in life.


Substance McGravitas 11.08.09 at 5:03 am

It’s funny though. Like the mouse here:


Ceri B. 11.08.09 at 5:34 am

I’m having the same reaction as Neil. There are a bunch of people here I trust saying they find it very funny, so I believe them. But all I can see for msyelf is the same kind of dread of being the Wrong Sort of Person that’s made US politics and its established loathing for those dirty fucking hippies the marvel it is, and gamer/nerd culture so welcoming to LGBTs with the insistence that “fag” is just a generic putdown and everything bad being “gay” is just a label and how dare anyone mind. If I found clues indicating he was satirizing that position, that’d be one thing, but that’s apparently not the case. So I’m stuck.


Ian Milliss 11.08.09 at 5:34 am

That’s hilarious, an own goal if ever I saw one. On the other hand who ever uses all those internet buttons on the top of Microsoft keyboards? Like the commenter I use and hate OOo but only half as much as I hate the hideously user-unfriendly MS Office 2007 which has even more useless buttons, icons, panels, etc etc. It’s the software equivalent to those ugly bloated petrol guzzling 1950s US cars with enormous metallic toothy grills, head high tail fins and fox tails on the aerials.

PS Substance Mc, my answer re graphics and fonts is trapped in moderation, something about it obviously looked too much like spam – nothing ever works perfectly in computers or life.


Martin Bento 11.08.09 at 6:02 am

Indeed, computers are the refutation by experiment of determinism.


Ian Milliss 11.08.09 at 6:12 am

Ceri, isn’t The Dread of Being The Wrong Sort of Person exactly the fear the advertisers are targetting and that Charlie Brooker is satirising? The problem for Microsoft and Apple is that operating systems were pretty much sorted out a long time ago and the only way to keep selling a product that should by now be as exciting as shoe polish is to keep stuffing it up with useless extras on one hand and creating identity warfare advertising on the other. We all sadly to some degree manufacture part of our identity from the products we buy and endorse and the PC/Mac culture war is one of the most pathetic examples of how advertisers manipulate us by inflaming this false sense of identity. I use linux but the linux world is full of micro cults around obscure distros and the last thing many linux geeks want is universal acceptance of linux because they would then lose their sense of embattled specialness, a syndrome that also afflicts some parts of the LGBT community I must add.


anona 11.08.09 at 6:17 am

Martin Bento observed:

“OS wars are boring…”

Agreed. Let’s fight about something really important.

Perl vs. php vs. C vs. C++ vs. Java vs ….


I have to work with computers all day long. I come here to get upset when people post things about politics with which I disagree. John – can you close comments to this thread please?


John Quiggin 11.08.09 at 7:03 am

@onymous #24 The “Sea of Macs” phenomenon is one I’ve only noticed in the past year or two. Not that many years ago, mine was the only Mac at the typical conference I went to, and no-one took their laptop into the sessions.

To those who didn’t find Brooker’s piece funny, my point was that it managed to present, and simultaneously undermine, the standard cases on both sides, in a way that, to my mind, couldn’t be bettered.


bad Jim 11.08.09 at 8:39 am

I’m using a Mac to comment because the last time I used Opera on my trusty Win 98SE machine it suggested I download the newest version, and, when that wouldn’t run, suggested I try it again, with the same result. So, should I use Explorer to see if Firefox still supports that old time OS?

Since the Mac is running a version of Unix with a reasonably useful command-line environment I do not feel particularly disadvantaged in comparison to Linux users. I like the absence of a box: the idea that the motherboard and the hard disk lie flat behind the screen strikes me as cool. The keyboard, of course, sucks goats, and I don’t think there’s an easy way to migrate my old umpty-key clickity programmable Avant Stellar. So far life’s been a long process of tossing the last best thing into the attic.


Francis Xavier Holden 11.08.09 at 10:19 am

This house has 2 PC s running XP, 1 laptop with XP, 1 eeepc running linux, and 1 x 22″ Mac.
The Mac cost more than two new more powerful PCs would have cost. The Mac is reliable and never needs twiddling.

Except I can’t easily upgrade the Mac myself. The DVD/CD recorder /player on the Mac has borked. To get it fixed will cost me nearly the price of a new PC, because it is built in, is a Mac brand (marketting lies) and has to be taken to the store @ min $100 labour.

To replace a PC DVD would cost me around $55 and take me 10 minutes to do myself.


Prime Junta 11.08.09 at 10:51 am

I’m a Mac user (dumped my last Windows PC last month), and I found the piece funny as hell. Forwarded it to a whole bunch of people.

FWIW, I like to wear charcoal sweaters and I practice Zen, which makes it even funnier. Still working on the serenity, though, to qualify for full-on Mac-monkhood…


bad Jim 11.08.09 at 11:29 am

Perhaps not the worst thing about the Mac is the underlying presumption that truth is beauty, and conversely, I originally bought this thing for my elderly mother, for whom its only useful function now is the screen saver, an endless cornucopia of family photos. What sets my teeth on edge is its unrelenting cuteness, dramatization of routine functions, celebratory pentatonic burps and farts, just like my cell phone, most likely not entirely coincidentally.


chris y 11.08.09 at 2:31 pm

That said, Vista was f*cking awful, so I’m going to identify another category of smug users: Technically proficient Windows users who stuck to XP while they waited for Windows 7.

You don’t have to be smug to have done this, merely to work (thank God!) for a firm that’s sufficiently cheapskate not to have “upgraded” its kit during the Vista lifecycle.

OTOH a friend of mine who’s a senior techie at Chris Bertram’s place tells me he spent three months ripping Vista off new boxes that had been shipped with it in its early days, because of user complaints. They weren’t being smug, they just wanted to get some work done.


Hortense 11.08.09 at 4:58 pm

isn’t The Dread of Being The Wrong Sort of Person exactly the fear the advertisers are targetting and that Charlie Brooker is satirising?

that was my take on it too – and for another bit of parody on the way we are corporate tools, see the Onion’s “Sony Releases New Stupid Piece of Sh*t”


Jacob Christensen 11.08.09 at 5:45 pm

Yes, Ubuntu 9.10 is not too bad. Except it always tells me that the battery in the eeePC is out of order when I boot the machine.

I would like Windows 7 on my office computer, though. Or alternatively just a computer which doesn’t take 20 minutes to reach working condition. (Actually, I think Win7 would kill the office box completely).


qb 11.08.09 at 6:23 pm

Oh. How arch.


Billikin 11.08.09 at 6:31 pm

Since people are having a serious discussion, let me say something about my experience. Mac is much better than Windows unless something goes wrong. I had to learn a lot about Windows in self-defense. Things go wrong with Windows more frequently than with Macs, but fixing the problems is easier, for one thing because there are so many knowledgeable Windows people on the Web. I still have some Mac problems that I have never solved, but I just shrug it off. I also use Linux on a live CD on an old laptop.

I hate to say it, but I think my next computer will be a Windows machine which I will make a dual boot with Linux. The only reason I have not lost more days of my life to Mac problems is that I have to live with them.


Billikin 11.08.09 at 6:35 pm

And while we are at it, Moore’s Law say that computers double in power and speed every 18 months. That being the case, why are my computers more sluggish and clunky now than my AT machine 20 years ago?


Mandos 11.08.09 at 6:50 pm

Linux user here. My problem with Macs is that Apple is worse than Microsoft when it comes to being Big Brother.


steven 11.08.09 at 8:37 pm

Yes, Ubuntu 9.10 is not too bad. Except it always tells me that the battery in the eeePC is out of order when I boot the machine.

I tried several flavours of Linux on my Eee and they were all significantly worse (buggy, slow) than a plain WinXP install. Eventually I just gave up and installed Mac OS X on it, which runs delightfully. YMMV. ;)


Salient 11.09.09 at 2:19 pm

Which version is the least painless?

Oh god, that would be Slackware.

Or, uh, you know, least painful…

Aw, that’s a much less fun question. I think the Linux geeks I know all think of ubuntu as the perfect Linux for non-Linux-geeks (and they say things like this not with preening condescension, but with human sympathy and appreciation for users who want their computer to “just work” as a reliable task-performance device). The Canonical Store sells ubuntu “advanced support” for about £75.

They argue with me when I suggest openSuSE as an alternative (at this link you can buy a supported version for about US$60! … No, I’m not a bot!). It’s… not an argument worth rehashing here (and these distros’ names can be googled to find the earlier hashes of these kinds of arguments).


Salient 11.09.09 at 2:23 pm

Eventually I just gave up and installed Mac OS X on it, which runs delightfully.

Hmm. If Mac enthusiasts are monks, what shall we call Hackintosh enthusiasts?


Anderson 11.09.09 at 5:22 pm

Especially some of these iPhone people, they really are annoying and even frightening sometimes.

I thought of them re: this from the Shitmydadsays Twitter:

“Son, no one gives a shit about all the things your cell phone does. You didn’t invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that.”


Jon H 11.09.09 at 5:50 pm

“Except I can’t easily upgrade the Mac myself. The DVD/CD recorder /player on the Mac has borked. To get it fixed will cost me nearly the price of a new PC, because it is built in, is a Mac brand (marketting lies) and has to be taken to the store @ min $100 labour.”

Buy an external USB/Firewire drive. The US Apple Store has one for $119, you can probably get cheaper ones.


David 11.09.09 at 6:13 pm

Such continuing, dreary misconceptions. John H is perfectly correct. Almost any external DVD drive will work straight out of the box with your Mac. You can probably pick up one for under $50 or even less on Craigslist. And what is this “…is a Mac brand…” nonsense? You mean the dvd drive in the unit? Not so. It’s a commodity item just like the drives in almost any machine.


Substance McGravitas 11.09.09 at 6:30 pm

I don’t believe that “buy an external drive” is an ideal solution if you bought your iMac to look the way it looks instead of an iMac with another cable poking out to a drive sitting on your desk.


Jon H 11.09.09 at 6:43 pm

“I don’t believe that “buy an external drive” is an ideal solution if you bought your iMac to look the way it looks instead of an iMac with another cable poking out to a drive sitting on your desk.”

Then hide it in the drawer when you’re not using it, which is most of the time.

Or duct-tape it to the back, out of sight.


john b 11.09.09 at 6:57 pm

@63,@65, for some reason I’m reminded of 1960s British motorcycle fanboys…


novakant 11.09.09 at 6:59 pm

Windows user for 15 years. I ran Win and Mac in parallel for two years, because I started to work with Mac-only applications (Shake, Color, FCP). Switched over completely a year ago (well, still running bootcamp for some apps) and never looked back. Mac hardware is overpriced, yes, but often there are cheap alternatives (e.g. for memory) and if you time is worth anything, the cost of a Mac will be amortized very quickly because the Mac is just better integrated with the hardware, it should be obvious why. Also, if you’re doing tech support for friends and family, tell them to get a Mac immediately or else you will stop doing it – this simple decsision will save you several days a year.


Substance McGravitas 11.09.09 at 7:57 pm

Off-topic, Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s published its latest list of university rankings. I think someone here long ago pointed me to a good paper on the difficulty of duplicating the results they’ve achieved based on their own numbers: anyone have a pointer?

On topic, the Macs in the big enclosures (which I prefer to iMacs) are quite wonderfully easy to add or subtract drives, memory or cards from.


Putney Debater 11.09.09 at 9:29 pm

“I’m a humble scientist. What are you guys? Architects? Fashion designers? Movie editors? Snobs?” — What’s this? Film editing on a PC, no fun. Used to keep crashing. Since switching to a Mac, a joy, like it should be. Despite a pile of hard drives on my desk.


Jacob Christensen 11.09.09 at 11:29 pm

@58 Steven Tempting, very tempting but a wee bit too geeky for me (yes, I know this doesn’t make any sense coming from someone who has installed a Linux distribution) :-) .


steven 11.09.09 at 11:42 pm

Salient —

Hmm. If Mac enthusiasts are monks, what shall we call Hackintosh enthusiasts?

Funky monks? But I’m not really a Hackintosh enthusiast. I have two real Macs as well. I would probably buy an Eee-sized Mac if Apple actually made one. Since they don’t, my addiction to Scrivener, Writeroom and TextMate forces me to hack.

Jacob —

a wee bit too geeky for me (yes, I know this doesn’t make any sense coming from someone who has installed a Linux distribution) :-) .

You’re right, it makes no sense at all! The way to do it using your legal retail copy of OS X is really pretty straightforward. (Apparently by doing this one is still somehow breaking Apple’s onerous EULA, but y’know sosumi.*)

* Old-skool Mac joke for fellow cultists.


Jacob Christensen 11.10.09 at 12:15 am


Occasionally the Cult of the Apple reminds me of the world in the alternative Simpsons universe where Ned Flanders is the Supreme Leader of the Universe.



Jim Harrison 11.10.09 at 1:21 am

The Middle Ages had Chartres; the Baroque had Bach; we’ve got office equipment.


novakant 11.10.09 at 4:08 am

Linux is a cult as well, it’s only that its followers tend to be 95% male, generally rather unattractive and often socially inept – so if you gave me the choice… runs, ducks for cover.


novakant 11.10.09 at 4:14 am

I’m not sure if there are genuine Windows cultists, but I imagine they would be the same people who argued in favour of nuclear power and the interests of big business when I was a teenager (there was always at least one guy doing that).


Wax Banks 11.10.09 at 5:37 am

Wow, this article was fair…and balanced!

‘Dear Windows users: your OS sucks; I hate it.’

‘Dear Mac users: your OS is excellent; I hate you.’

It’s funny in that funny fun way that’s actually not funny.


Ian Milliss 11.10.09 at 9:58 am

Novakant got it 2/3 right. Linux and Apple are both cults (linux about initiate societies, apple about fashion fascism) but both are damn good operating systems albeit not perfect. Windows fanboys on the other hand are corporate shills for shoddy software and a business model based on a form of extortion – sort of young fogeys. While knuckling under to extortion is understandable I don’t see why Windows users need to pretend that MS software is anything but second or third rate, unless (in all likelihood) they don’t know better. Most users simply endure it as I do.


rvman 11.10.09 at 9:38 pm

MacBook – $999. This is the lowest priced laptop on the Apple website.
Dell Inspiron 14 – $449. $619 when configured more-or-less to the same specs as the Mac. Bargain basement – lowest price is about $299. Apples sell for a price of 3 Dells.

Desktops START at $1199 for apple. For Dell, try $299 (closer to $800 for a similarly outfitted machine).

The Apple had better be more stable and easier to use than the Vista machine – you could buy from 2 to 4 Vistas for the price of a single iMac.

Now, it is probably true that comparing ordinary Dell computers to Apples is unfair. The Dell XPS Studio line is probably a more fair comparison.

But that is the thing – most people don’t need that much machine. Windows computers are the machines of the common man. Macs are Lexi, or Infinitis, or other pretentious car brands kitted out with a moonroof, an automatic transmission with 7 or more gears, 8 airbags, and model numbers which helpfully rank each car in order of its exclusivity so you can keep score. A smug “you should get a Mac” to someone having trouble with a several-year-old Windows machine is the same as saying “you should get a Lexus” when someone talks about how their ’02 Ford is in the shop. In other words, it is a way of publicizing the Lexus/Mac owner’s status and power to those of lesser means.


Substance McGravitas 11.10.09 at 10:53 pm

MacBook – $999. This is the lowest priced laptop on the Apple website.

Buy used.


Ceri B. 11.10.09 at 11:13 pm

For me, the key thing about Macs is that I spend very much less time maintaining them. Even a few hours a week reclaimed from spyware checking, driver conflict troubleshooting, and the like adds up to someone who depends on her body’s limited ability to sustain focus and concentration to do productive writing. I can do the troubleshooting, I just like not having to, and if I assess my time at bare minimum wage, a price gap of even a thousand dollars pays for itself in a matter of months. It’s not just writing time, either – it’s the reduced medication bills from reduced stress, and a lot else.

The fact that I like Apple’s design aesthetics and find them a good fit for my apartment helps, but it isn’t decisive. Nor is any of the above an assertion that anyone else is doing it wrong. I mean, I have friends who actively do find a certain rugged fun in troubleshooting mastery, and I can understand that as a hobby not all that much difference from shooter computer games. This is just why it makes sense for me.


Beryl 11.10.09 at 11:59 pm

Trivial anecdotal report:

Approx. time spent installing and configuring custom software (written for OS X and Windows) on Vista Home Premium (Acer) PC box at home – 20 min. Amount of time needed to install same software on iMac (OS X 10.5) at lab (including calls to local IT and Apple tech support) – 7 hours.


Ceri B. 11.11.09 at 12:48 am

Beryl: I hear stories like that. And I have stories like it going the other way, of trouble with Windows. I think that user hostility – that whole “this is so not what I want to be doing, dammit, why is this working this way and not that” – looms larger than almost anyone gives it credit for.

The phenomenon I find really interesting is rare but not freakishly so: the person who seems to make a particular type of computer crash simply by being in the environs. James Wallis can do this with Macs, I’ve seen it done, and I ran into a couple people who were like that with Windows when I worked in my university’s computer lab. I don’t know of any real effort to look into it, and would be curious.

Oh, it’s also true that a lot of software made for both Mac and Windows sucks in the Mac version.


Mikhail 11.11.09 at 5:34 pm

I fail to see what Brooker’s ramblings have to do with either system, frankly. True, there are devotees of both, and the Mac ones tend to be more annoying, but there is a reason for it.

The difference between Mac and PC/Windows is in the distance the system places between itself and users.

A Mac is your typical black box – nobody knows how it works, not even how to open it… If it breaks, you HAVE TO call tech support – a diminishingly very limited number of people are capable of dealing with a Mac fault. But that’s the reason Mac devotees love it – they do not have to do absolutely anything with it. If it works, it works. If it breaks, they call someone to fix it… They also typically do not have any need or desire to do anything “out of bounds” of your regular, run-of-the-mill office work on the computer.

Not the case with PC/Windows – most devotees of the system not only can fix/upgrade/change it, but often do it themselves – be it upgrading hardware (more memory) or software (I’ve always wanted to try this app…) Therefore, these guys tend to be much more matter-of-fact about their machine. It’s something they WORK WITH, not something that works FOR THEM.


Chris Bertram 11.11.09 at 6:35 pm

Why on earth Mikhail believes that Mac users cannot upgrade memory themselves is beyond me. I’ve bought 3rd party memory and upgraded two systems without problem.


Matt McGrattan 11.11.09 at 7:56 pm

I’ve done quite a bit of repair/replacement work on Macs: including difficult jobs like replacing the PSU on a liquid-cooled G5. It’s a myth that they are really all that much harder to fix/upgrade/change. In the case of the Pro tower types, they are actually quite a bit easier than many PCs to do things like drive replacements, memory upgrades, and so on. It is true that some parts — such as the PSU mentioned — aren’t really intended to be user-replaceable, but that’s also true with a lot of PCs which use proprietary rather than off-the-shelf parts.

With software it’s also often easier to replace software, or upgrade the O/S than it is with PCs. It’s another pervasive myth that Macs are black boxes. In fact, they are not.

I write this as someone with no particular axe to grind, I use a PC at home and a mixture of Macs and PCs at work. While I find Macs to be marginally more reliable in daily use, current generations of PCs with recent Windows O/Ss are pretty reliable, too. At the end of the day it depends which user interface you prefer as much as anything else, and whether you’d benefit from the ‘nix elements of OS X.


Mikhail 11.11.09 at 9:35 pm

I never meant that Macs are more complicated or difficult to maintain than PCs. What I said is that a much smaller percentage of their users know how to do that compared with PC users. It’s your basic self-selectioon. I don’t know why Macs attract people who like using them without having any idea of what’s inside, but that’s what my extensive IT experience tell me (as well as other qualified people’s observations). It’d be great if someone actually did some statistic on this…


Beryl 11.12.09 at 12:08 am

What Mikhail said… “basic self-selection”. Macs have the reputation of being an “OS X chromosome” machine. IT types are constantly surprised to find a female who works with and can troubleshoot PCs.


linuxuser 11.12.09 at 12:13 am

Charlie Brooker is leaving out a lot of history. Windows users now are much lower key because they now are the dominate OS. Many years ago (1990-200) things were very different and windows evanlgiism has at it height. One of the problems to days is the general low quality of PC hardware. One significant example is lack of ECC memory functionality on desktop and laptops.
“ALL” computers used in business or medical applications need ECC memory. Just about all computers at some time run spreadsheet or database applications. If numbers are being stored or numbers are being manipulated (arithmetic) then the computer definitely needs to have ECC memory. So the only users who might not need ECC are those who use their computers solely 100% for full time gaming or movie watching. ECC memory also helps reduce problems of computers crashing or locking up because of corrupted data in memory. Even a reduction of one crash a year fully justifies having a desktop computer with ECC memory.
You really DO need ECC Memory
James Hamilton’s Blog
Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Real Business Quality desktop PCs with ECC memory and virus resistant operating system can be found here:


Stephen Tiano 11.12.09 at 1:06 am

“I don’t know why Macs attract people who like using them without having any idea of what’s inside … ”

So here’s the thing: Speaking for myself, I can say that the Macintosh is a tool I use to get my work done. Much as I love its industrial design—thru 20 years (this month) of Macintosh use, I’ve been more interested in getting that work done for my clients than in getting under the hood of my computer.

Then again, I’m not a kid who loves to poke around under the hood of my car, either. I just use it to get me where I want to go.


John Desmond 11.14.09 at 2:42 am

Salutations, gentlefolk,

A little over a year ago my old computer, running Win 98 SE, reached point of imminent failure. Being out of work, I acquired a replacement running Kubuntu Linux 8.04.1 (Hardy Heron), kernel 2.6.24-14, KDE 3.5.10, and have concluded that Linux is:
time wasting
lacking necessary utilities
lacking documentation
Not Ready for Prime Time
Unfinished, and never likely to be ‘finished’ and suitable for the average person to use to do Real Work.

The people putting together Linux (I know a couple of Linux ‘gurus’ with recognizable names.) are doing it for their own pleasure. There’s no mechanism for collecting feedback or suggestions from ‘lusers’, and no one interested in putting them into code if there was.

It’s likely to stay a ‘niche OS’ forever. Recommended only to youngsters wanting to learn about OS code. In other words, an educational toy.

I am hoping that I get a steady job in the near future, and can afford to upgrade to XP. (Note: I got my first PC in ’86, have owned three Macs, wouldn’t get another even if I could afford one.)

Yours, John Desmond


Beryl 11.14.09 at 5:12 pm

It’s likely to stay a ‘niche OS’ forever. Unless a big player adopts it, and what’re the chances of that happening?

BTW, I still have an old computer at home running Win98SE (actually with a few WinME tweaks). There are a lot of old DOS utilities that I need for my lab work that have never been satisfactorily ported over to Windows or OS X, and Win98SE contains the last solid implementation of DOS in a convential OS. It’s remarkable how well the machine (and Win98SE) still runs in a modern, internet-based environment.

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