Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why I Choose Windows over OS X. Or, Mac vs. PC

I am a big fan of Windows, but I use Mac from time-to-time. This is not article meant to start a flame war, and it is not an article to show who's the "best". I wanted to write this to hopefully give some insight to those who are proponents of one or the other. Reading up on some Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro articles prodded me to lay out some ideas people on either side may have not considered.

It is important to remember that I will may use Mac and OS X interchangeably throughout the article, as you are only meant to be able to use OS X on a Mac.

Why You Prefer Mac or PC
First, I find it very interesting that most people use PC in opposition of Mac. PC is an initialism for Personal Computer. Isn't Mac a personal computer? This falsity could be perpetuated by the successful Apple commercials, which they may have been legally obligated to use to avoid lawsuits from Microsoft. Or maybe, Mac truly wants to be considered something more than a PC.

But here's the skinny: In my lifetime I have found certain general observations to hold true. One such being that depending on which side of the road your country drives on is also the same side of a sidewalk those people will walk up or down.

Similar to this, most people's propensity to use a Mac or Windows-machine is dependent on what was first readily available to them and thus became familiar with. Many of the people I have talked to have admitted that their preference was also their first OS that they began using on a regular basis. This makes sense not just for this situation, but many, if you think about it.

The Exception to the Rule
I am an exception to this general rule. I was first introduced to computers with the Apple IIe, and shortly thereafter, Macintosh. I used them throughout school until about Junior High. The reason I became a Windows fan was because of my father. His first laptop (which was Windows-based) cost about $5,000 USD. I was already fairly comfortable with Macintosh computers by this time, but laptops were a luxury, and now my family had one.

The first time I was allowed to use this laptop was quite soon after my father brought it home. Within 2 hours of messing with it, I had deleted the entire OS. I don't know how I did it, but I did! My mother was furious because she thought it was destroyed, and considering how expensive the laptop was, I understood why. Luckily, my father, being the technologically-inclined person he is, knew he could reinstall the OS, and did so.

One could argue that I had more exposure to the laptop since it was at home. But during that time, while I did enjoy using computers, I was rarely allowed to use his laptop, and we had no desktop. It wasn't until just before Junior High that I would sneak out of my room late at night and use his IBM ThinkPad to scour the web using Netscape. For those of you reading this that were not born or too young to know, Lenovo did not originate the ThinkPad, and Netscape was essentially the Firefox of the day (with a #1 browser spot!).

Fanboy, much?
I have never been a huge Apple fan. I have always championed Microsoft, but just for Windows. I have enjoyed Xbox in its many iterations, but I was a Sega Dreamcast fan (more for the hacking ability), and before that I was purely a Nintendo user. I have owned both Playstations and Xbox's - in their many forms, and find their quality and uses comparable.

I have owned an iPhone, iPad, and a Mac. While I even use a Windows-machine, I have made and continue to use virtual machines for OS X (along with others like Ubuntu). So, while I am partial to Windows, I can easily switch between the two.

If someone were to tell me I could only use a Windows 8 or OS X machine for the rest of my life - without customization - I would be hard-pressed to choose either. However, if I could customize the machines, I would probably choose Windows 8 since I could alter it enough to be similar to Windows 7!

Usability vs. Upgradability
I feel that in the arena of usability, unless you are already prone to one OS or another, Mac is easier to get used to. I think this true of all their consumer products, which is why they are so highly regarded by the public. Windows on the other hand, especially Windows 8, can take quite a bit of time to get to know the ins-and-outs of. However, I do feel that if you need more access to advanced customization and capabilities, Windows is the better platform.

As for upgrading, Windows wins out. Every Mac machine "needs" special Mac parts that come with exorbitant price tags. For a Windows counterpart, it can have a substantially lower cost. Sure, there are hacks that can get Windows parts to work on Mac, but not everyone can (or is willing) to perform these hacks; furthermore, not all upgradeable parts can be hacked.There are "hackintosh" machines, but these are essentially PC-part machines with OS X installed. These are not officially support by Apple, and they can have multiple issues in operating or functioning.

Apple is king when it comes to integration. They have iPhones for smartphone users, they have iPad tablets for those needing more screen real estate and portability, Apple TV, and they have iMacs, Mac laptops, and Mac Pro towers. In terms of software, they have items such as iTunes, FaceTime, Final Cut X Studio, iCloud, and the App Store. All seamlessly integrate and work as intended.

While price is of course still an issue, the only other company that comes close to this type of hardware integration is Samsung. They have their own Android (and Windows) Samsung smartphones, Galaxy tablets, Samsung TV's, and numerous household appliances that can be controlled with Samsung devices. It should be noted that the Samsung TV is an actual TV, while the Apple TV is a device that connects to your TV. In addition, there are ways of setting up your iPad or iPad to control household items as well. A combative, interesting point is that Apple has always used Samsung CPU chips in their iPhone...

As far as software, there is nothing quite on par. There are music players, editing suites, VOIP programs, and cloud services to compete with Apple; but no single company that offers all these and is as popular or purchased with the purposes of integration in mind.

Adobe Suite (CC) vs. Final Cut Studio
Before I begin this section, I wanted to give a little background on Final Cut Pro. Final Cut Pro was originally made by two men who had worked on the first three version of Premiere. They then went to work for Macromedia and created what would become Final Cut Pro based on Apple Quicktime. This created issues concerning Apple Quicktime as they could not offer the product due to a licensing deal with Microsoft. They later demoed both a Mac and Windows version, and when no one chomped at the bit, Apple bought Final Cut as a defensive measure. Macromedia would later be bought acquired by Adobe... Funny how the world works.

In my mind, until their later versions, Premiere and Final Cut were essentially the same thing for different OS's. Their intertwined history helps prove that somewhat.

But, I am an avid Adobe fan. I have always loved their workflow and have been able to utilize all the tools available in their suite at one time or another. Keep in mind, their full suite heavily outweighs Apple's because Apple's suites is for video post-production, while Adobe's is for that and so much more. Less we not forget, there is nothing, NOTHING, that comes close to Adobe Photoshop's features and functions.

But what's more, Adobe is cross-platform. It can be on a Windows or Mac. Giving it a huge advantage over Final Cut Studio. While this does not help the cause of deciding on Windows over Mac, it is something noteworthy of mention.

My only gripes are what Apple has done to some of their products and Final Cut Studio. I originally became interested in wanting to use a Mac for the purposes of special effects through Apple's Shake. Shake was a professional, node-based, compositing program that helped make such films as Peter Jackson's King Kong. But Apple discontinued the product in 2009 and supposedly integrated some features into Final Cut Pro. I then learned how to properly color grade with Apple's Color. Color was originally called FinalTouch and developed by Silicon Color, which was acquired by Apple in 2006. It was amazing and by far the best program (to me) in Final Cut Studio. Of course, Apple decided to discontinue it in 2010 - a year after Shake - and allegedly integrated a better color grading system in Final Cut Pro X.

Thanks to these many changes, especially Final Cut Pro X itself, many people have since jumped ship to Adobe. Adobe has since included their own color grading program called SpeedGrade.

Program Support
While Mac does have a lot of programs that can accomplish similar tasks to that of a Windows-based machine, there are numerous instances where programs are only supported for Windows systems.

One major program like this is 3ds Max. 3ds Max is owned by Autodesk and is a 3D-creation program for making models, animation, games and images. It can be compared to a CAD program of sorts, like AutoCad (also owned by AutoDesk), but far superior in its capabilities. Autodesk is also the owner of Maya, a program very similar to 3ds Max. However, in simplistic terms, I have read that most use 3ds Max more for buildings and other inanimate objects, while Maya is better for modeling and texturing. Some use 3ds Max for making a model (like a person), then bring it into Maya to apply a texture.

The one thing about 3ds Max that is important to this article is that it is only Windows-based. While Maya can run on Windows or Mac, 3ds Max is purely a Windows program. This means that movies like Transformers were made with Windows. They may have used Macs for other things, but the Transformers themselves were all done in Windows. You might ask, but the transformers are humanoid-like figures, wouldn't that be best performed by Maya? No, because remember that Transformers are machines, machines that turn into cars, and 3ds Max is great for such objects.

Another popular program is Access, which used to be part of the MS Office suite. While Macs can use MS Office, but they do not support Access. For most of us, that's okay, but for those of us who use Access to create and use databases, that's an issue.

There are many other great programs that do not support OS X. This is one impacting drawback when one comes across it, as there as some incredibly useful applications for Windows that would be just as useful for Mac. The only solace one can take, if they are on a Mac, is that there are a few programs like Wine that try to allow Windows-based programs to run on Mac. The downside is that sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes you get a combination of both.

Unless You've Got Power!
The one debate I always seem to get into with professional or consumer enthusiasts is which OS (but really machine) is better. The easiest way I put a stop to this is with one question. This is how the conversation usually goes: "Macs are better." "Why?" "Because they're better for [insert reason]." "Okay, but what actually makes Mac better at that than Windows?" "...I don't know." Mac is also interchangeable with Windows in this conversation. People can give me preferential reasons (or excuses) as to why one OS is better than another, but no actual hardware or technical information as to why.

There have been rumors for many years that Macs are better in terms of digital photography or video editing, but this is largely untrue, especially now. One of the most popular rumors was that the graphics power was far superior, and thus better for photography or video. The most I ever read supporting this was that at one point in the '90's Mac's were able to get better throughput (not to be mistaken with bandwidth) of graphic processing from the graphics card itself to the operating system. However, this was still marginal in comparison. Whether this was true or not, I am unaware as I only saw one lengthy post on this from many years ago, however, it did give a feeling of legitimacy from the knowledge the author had on computer workings.

I feel that Windows is far superior in this arena. Not only do we have more CPU choices at our disposal for desktops, but we have undoubtedly more choices for motherboards, RAM, and other components.

The only thing Apple had was Thunderbolt, an esoteric technology that allows for unbelievable fast transfer speeds from specified-devices. SuperSpeed USB3.0 (not to be confused with the first iteration of USB3.0) is now as fast as Thunderbolt. But Thunderbolt 2 is now out and twice as fast as the first. Thunderbolt was very limited for Windows enthusiasts when it came to availability. Now Intel (who developed Thunderbolt in cooperation with Apple), has released it for both markets. So this advantage will soon be gone.

Maybe just to give a more modern perspective on the power of a Windows machine, I will use Pixar as an example. Everyone Knows Pixar, it's Disney and non-Disney 3D-animated movies have touched our hearts. They are probably the best known 3D animation company, alongside Dreamworks. But did you know that Pixar creates their animation on HP (Hewlitt-Packard) workstations? In case there is any confusion, HP does not make any Mac machines. It takes a lot of processing power to make a Pixar film, and it seems Windows is the way to go for them. Kinda funny given that Steve Jobs somewhat helped put Pixar on the map...

Maintenance & Repair
From what I have found, Windows definitely needs more maintenance. Windows may get sluggish over time depending on how many programs I install and whatnot. I constantly use Disk Cleanup to free up what space I can, and find that when I do that on others computer's, they'll often get a few gigabytes of space back. I periodically use the built-in defragmentation program, and if it is severe enough, I go ahead and perform the defrag. It is said that the NTFS filing system should not need to be defragmented, but why would Microsoft put it in Windows otherwise? I even clean the registry, which many people are unaware even exists. I have found this to incredibly speed up computers at times. I should note that Mac does not have a registry.

On the other hand, I never found the need to do any type of maintenance with my Macbook Pro. I could load up programs, save videos, and anything else and it never really seemed to slow down. There is no native tool to defrag on Mac, but there are tools on the Internet that will do this for Macs.

The only reason I had before to not choose Windows over Mac was disk failure. From what I had heard, and read, when a Mac died, it was dead. There was no way to get your data back and start anew. I thought this true because many people saved all important data to an external drive, but this is just good practice for either OS. Whether this was true, and still holds true, is not something I am privy to. I have had Windows disks die in the past, but was able to extract the data from the disk.

I have read many articles for and against using Macs for networking. Most are about long-term costs vs. upgrading. Some argue that while the initial costs for a Mac setup may be high, that long-term issues are normally non-existent. While Windows-based machines are cheap to setup, but always have problems sooner or later.

As far as upgrading goes, many argue that Windows systems will be easier to upgrade. Opponents argue that while upgrading a Mac system can be costly (if applicable), integration of newer Mac systems are simple.

I have talked to many IT professionals and was surprised to find that when I asked which OS caused the most issues, it was always Macs. I must also admit that I have never seen many Mac-networking setups in the wild (with the exception of post-editing facilities), so is that the way to go, or are they simply feeding into the popular trend?

Viruses & Issues
Contrary to the common belief that Macs cannot get viruses, they can and do. The Apple site at one point even touted this, but that bit of information has long since been taken down. If order to know why it seems like Macs do not get viruses, you have to look at a virus creator's perspective. If the OS market is dominated by Windows, thanks to cost (and piracy), which is a better target? Windows. You would want a virus to reach as many people as possible, so you choose the most used OS. So while Windows has and will always have the potential to contract viruses, so do Macs.

Arising issues is an interesting topic. I have been told, and have read, that Mac issues are much more frustrating. Why? Because, while they may not appear often, the error messages received give little or no information as to what the issue could be. Thus, without knowing the issue, it makes finding a solution that much harder. I wasn't sure if this was really true until it happened to me. Generally, when I have a Windows issue, I can solve it rather quickly. Sometimes I get almost no information, but the little I do get usually aids me in resolving it. When this has happened to me on a Mac, I was lost and it took me an abnormal amount of time to resolve the problem.

I have to say though, this is a toss up between Windows and Mac as far as issues are concerned. I get issues on Windows much more frequently than on OS X (largely due to how often I am trying new things or modifications), but the time to solve the issues on Windows as compared to OS X seem to balance themselves out.

Each OS has their strengths and issues, some of which have already been discussed. One last circumstance I would like to voice is that different OS versions warrant different reactions. When Apple stopped creating their OS solely based on their own work and switched to a Unix-based system, lots of people were outraged. Some swore to never go back to Macs, others forced themselves to stay.

But this is very similar to Windows 7 and Windows 8 arguments. Microsoft wanted to integrate their Windows RT tablets and Windows 8 interfaces so users could easily switch from one to the other, if need be. People either love it or hate it. I definitely hate it. Windows 8 was good for those who were using a Windows OS for the first time, but Windows enthusiasts hated the learning curve. While there were modifications that could make it almost like a Windows 7 OS, you would have to figure that out on your own. The most jarring thing was the absence of a Start button. In either case, Microsoft seemed to take notice as they immediately started development on Window 9 ("Threshold").

One other thing, which is more of a hardware-based aspect, is the use of a BIOS. I won't get too detailed about a BIOS, but it is a firmware interface that allows your computer to run hardware and continue on into the OS. When Intel-based Macs first arrived, they started using EFI, which was a much more user-friendly firmware interface. While EFI was first introduced into PC workstations, it did not gain popularity for Windows-based systems until later. Many newer Windows-based systems now boast UEFI, a newer version of EFI. I believe there was a bit of lag, but newer Mac-based systems now have UEFI.

My Computer, My Choice
Ultimately, the choice is always up to the consumer. What they like? What they want? What they need? The answer is that is completely depends.

A consumer new to computers may find using a Mac ultimately easier. A consumer looking for easily accessed advanced customization and modifications may prefer Windows. Someone may only be able to afford Windows, while another person who is well-off may want to purchase a Mac just because they can (and it shiny!).

What is my computer? My choice? I have a custom-built Windows 7 desktop. I have had the case for many years, but have upgraded its innards several times. I have a AMD FX-9590 with 32GB DDR3 RAM in a ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z, running Windows 7 off a Kingston 96GB SSD. This also includes two hybrid drives, and two SATA III drives, both running RAID 0. I have 3 external drives, one via USB2.0, one via eSATA, and one via USB3.0. I have well over 13TB of storage space (soon to be almost 20GB).

I chose this setup primarily for two reasons:

  1. Cost
  2. Upgradability

Other reasons are that I have always enjoyed the Windows OS since 3.x, and can do things with it I would be unable to do in OS X. I love the Adobe suite, but far prefer it on my Windows system. I should also mention, again, that I do run OS X off of virtualization software within my Windows machine. However, at the moment, I really only use it because there is a great HTML5 web developing program that can only be used on OS X (ironic, right?).

A final reason I chose Windows as my OS was because that, at the time, you could use a NVIDIA card hack with Premiere Pro CS5.5 and get the MPE (Mercury Playback Engine) to run. The MPE allows for certain effects and filters to run without any need to render. While MPE was meant to only be used with NVIDIA Quadro cards, a simple hack allowed for many (cheaper) NVIDIA cards to be used. While Macs allowed this hack too, I read many were hit-and-miss. This hack could also be used for AMD/ATI cards, but was also very restricting in what cards would work. Now there is a lot of support for both NVIDIA and AMD cards on both Mac and Windows in Adobe Premiere CC.

If you are wondering what kind of phone I use, I now only use Android-based phones. I am partial to Samsung or LG - and currently have a LG G3 - but do have other brands. I find them easy to use and modify, and many apps I seek out are free from the Google Play Store. I have a Samsung Galaxy tablet as well. Other than the program mentioned above, I only have iTunes (for my wife) and Quicktime Pro (for video editing purposes).

Dual-Boot vs. Virtual Machines
For those few who read this in hopes of a definitive answer, then you have not had to go through all the forums and articles bad-mouthing each other. However, there is a way to have your cake and eat it too!

I will not be detailing the following techniques as dual-booting can be potentially dangerous, and virtualization software setup information can easily be found from a simple web search.

Dual-booting, or multi-booting as it is often referred to, is the process where one computer hosts two OS's (or more). There will usually be a way to choose which OS to boot when the computer first boots. This is a common procedure for Windows machines, and can allow you to jump from one OS to the other easily.

The major drawback here is space. You will need to partition a hard drive, or use another blank hard drive, if you wish to install the OS. You may be able to grab files from one OS drive and transfer to the other, but this is not a good way to go. It is better to allot enough space for the OS and all your programs and files. Another drawback I found was that I once made a multi-boot on the same hard drive. The computer eventually became unstable to the point it wouldn't boot up anymore. For others I have talked to about this, they have never seen that issue. Maybe there was just too much going on in one OS, or maybe it was a fluke. But I would advise anyone attempting this to only use a separate hard drive for a multi-boot OS, just to be safe.

Virtual machines are by far safer, and fairly simple in implementing. You setup a program like VMware, VirtualBox, or any other virtualization software just as you would any other program. You then install the OS of choice. On a Mac, Bootcamp is for this exact purpose. However, you can still use different virtualization software with a Mac if desired.

The drawbacks here are mainly RAM and support. Virtual machines are notorious RAM hogs, and the more you have the better it will perform. If you have a small amount of RAM on your machine, and don't intend to upgrade, be aware a virtual OS may act extremely sluggish. Another point is that certain items may not be fully supported, or at all. Bootcamp warns not to use a wireless mouse, while it can be used, it may not function perfectly. I use a wireless mouse with VMware and have not encountered an issue... yet.

But wait! Can Macs multi-boot? Well, actually, they can. I have not done this myself, but there is a program called rEFIt located here. And it seems as though it should be easy enough to install an OS through Bootcamp. Bootcamp itself has had support dual-booting for some time. I have to warn as I did before that it seems the documentation indicates the OS can instead be installed on the drive, which I will reiterate can bring about mayhem later... Please note that this software is only applicable to Intel-based Mac machines.

To sum up, the OS for you is just that, for you. I tried my best to be impartial as I do read up on both platforms to increase my technological knowledge. I have even proven that I am loyal to Windows, but not Microsoft itself. Maybe this article will help show that each has a place among the people for a variety of wants and needs.

Side Note
While not mentioned above, I am happy that Apple is around. Samsung and LG are huge companies that are in many of the same markets as Apple, and they have quality products to compete with. (I own a TV from each, and they are both incredible!) However, those giants are both Korean; Apple is American. While I do understand that those companies probably wouldn't be where they are today without American consumers, it is still nice to know that at least one American company has the know-how to favorably compete against giants like those in international markets.

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