Defending The Mac

Steven Den Beste has another scathing
piece on Apple’s move to the new Power 4 chip
for the next generation of Apple machines. He’s right, the Power 4 would be a fast chip if it came out today, but by the time it makes it to store shelves it will be only in the middle of the pack, if that.

At the same time, I’ve started using a Mac regularly in my web design work. It’s an older G4, running at only about 400mHz, far slower than even my crappy little Duron-based PC. Yet, for some reason, despite the fact that the Mac has less technical horsepower, I find it much easier to use than my PC.

I’d encourage Mr. Den Beste to give Jaguar a try. The new version of Mac OSX seems to solve the problems with the slow UI function of previous versions. If anything, Jaguar seems to be faster than Windows, even if the benchmarks are not quite up to speed. Gone are the days of visible slowdowns in the UI – this new version handles the Quartz rendering layer like a charm.

Den Beste is approaching this issue from the standpoint of an engineer, which makes sense, as that’s what he is. Yes, Macs are slower than PCs in terms of computing horsepower. Yes, the architecture of the Macintosh can’t evolve faster than a PC because of its proprietary nature. Yes, it’s virtually impossible to build a Mac from scratch as I do with PCs.

On the other hand, I find Mac OSX to be a visually intreguing OS, I find it terrifically handy that there’s a UNIX core underneath with a complete toolset, and it gets the job done. I can run Photoshop, Dreamweaver, GoLive, iTunes, and Mozilla on my Mac and get what I want done just as fast as I can on a PC. Realizing that when Dreamweaver hangs I can pop into a terminal window and use a ‘kill -9’ on the process is somewhat of a transcendent experience for someone who’s used to either a good UI or a powerful CLI, but not both at the same time. Plus, I can do it in an operating environment that’s surprising intuitive after a while, and the Mac font rendering system gives me a clarity of text that puts any other OS to shame. (For example, I designed this new template on the Mac, and in OSX it looks absolutely stunning and the type is exceptionally clear.)

Industry pundits have been predicting that Apple is on the verge of death time and time again. Yet it always managed to survive, if in a niche market. The Mac faithful aren’t about to jump ship now, and someone who would never have touched a Mac before Jaguar is now giving serious thought to purchasing a Mac in the next year. Granted, if one approaches this from the standpoint of an engineer it makes little sense, but from the perspective of a user the Macintosh does the job, and does it well.

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