Operating system flamewars

As a longtime Mac head, I’m always rather amused by just how emotionally invested people become over a mere tool like an operating system for a computer. A reminder of this popped up over at Pharyngula today, when in the course of echoing a call from the Mothership for reminiscences of the primitive computers we old farts of ScienceBlogs, P.Z. mentioned how excited he was that the new Macintosh OS (OS X 10.5, a.k.a. Leopard) is being released tomorrow, finishing with an off-handed comment about how Leopard is going to haul Windows up a tree and eat it for lunch.

As is typical whenever the topic comes up, a rather–shall we say?–heated discussion broke out in the comments between Mac heads and Ubuntu and Linux geeks. Oddly enough, there was almost nary a supporter of Windows Vista to be found (although the Mac bashers did make an appearance).

So, at the risk of having the same thing happening here (first abortion, now mentioning how much I like the Mac OS–I’m asking for trouble today, aren’t I?), I echo some of P.Z.’s anticipation. However, I do plan on waiting at least a couple of weeks to see how things shake out and make sure there aren’t any major bugs or major applications that I use that break. Then, you can bet that I’ll be upgrading both my Mac Pro and my MacBook.

Oh, and the only way they’ll get me to stop using my Mac is if they pry it from my cold, dead hands.


  1. #1 Brent McKee
    October 25, 2007

    I speak not as a Vista lover or even a Vista defender. The only reason I have Vista is because I had to get a new computer (my old one died) and I have always owned Windows (and before that DOS) machines – I couldn’t afford Macs when I got my first machine and since then I have too much invested in Windows based stuff. I agree with you; an operating system is just a part of what makes the tool (the computer) work. Having never used a Mac (my ex-sister in law had an old one but sold it) I have never used the Mac OS and can’t compare it to Windows. All I know is that Vista does what I need it to do with only occasional “lapses.” That’s good enough for me.

  2. #2 Jared
    October 25, 2007

    No mention of BSD? Your education has been sorely disserved, Orac.

    The thing with the OS wars is the design philosophy which has been all but forgotten in nearly all of them.

  3. #3 Dianne
    October 25, 2007

    P.Z. mentioned how excited he was that the new Macintosh OS (OS X 10.5, a.k.a. Leopard) is being released tomorrow, finishing with an off-handed comment about how Leopard is going to haul Windows up a tree and eat it for lunch.

    As a forced windows user at work, all I can say is that one can hope.

  4. #4 NoAstronomer
    October 25, 2007

    I am with Dianne on this.

  5. #5 KeithB
    October 25, 2007

    Alas, I am doomed to stay in Tiger-land. My 800 MHz G4 iMac is just shy of the 867 MHz required.

  6. #6 Coin
    October 25, 2007

    I am a big fan of both OS X and Ubuntu, although I would tend to use them for different things.

  7. #7 George
    October 25, 2007

    The name of the game is size. I want the smallest lightest computer that will run for a day without charge. The only ones are Windows. Apple has nothing going in the niche.

    <3lbs with battery and tablet mode are key. OS is secondary.

    Having used both Win and Mac OS, I would be quite content with either, I would give Apple a try if they'd offer a decent PC.

  8. #8 spudbeach
    October 25, 2007

    One of my prize possessions is a set dilbert comic strip from way back in the ’80’s, talking about the OS holy wars. They’ve been going on since then, without any real change in the positions of the combatants:

    “Don’t lie to me Gustav, you’re a stinking Mac user!” (said to an obvious artist)

    “Here’s a nickle, kid. Go get yourself a better OS.” (said by a smug old Unix user)

    As a linux user for over 10 years, I get a kick out of that last one.

  9. #9 uknesvuinng
    October 25, 2007

    I gave Ubuntu a try, and it’s just not all that impressive to me. A friend just recently piqued my interest in SUSE and I must say it’s quite nice.

    I suspect the reason there aren’t any Vista defenders is because no one really wants to defend it that much. Driver issues, compatibility issues, not to mention the DRM stuff treats the user like a criminal by default, there’s just not much going for it beyond a shiny interface. Personally, when I can afford it, I plan on going Mac and using XP on it for my Windows-only gaming.

  10. #10 Bronze Dog
    October 25, 2007

    You know, I’ve never seen any Vista defenders.

    I’m currently sticking with Windows XP Professional and 2000, out of familiarity. Willing to try Ubuntu and the other free stuff. (Will they run Adobe Creative Suite?)

    I generally don’t use Macs because to me, Adobe is Adobe is Adobe. Platform doesn’t really change any of the stuff I’ve done.

  11. #11 Robster, FCD
    October 25, 2007

    “Using Windows is like juggling with razor blades… using a Mac is like shaving with a bowling pin.”

    I’m a microsoft user from way back in the day (DOS 2). I still use a little dos coding to work in the windows environment. I don’t have vista, and wouldn’t want it until they get the bugs worked out.

    If you play your cards right, you can get XP pro installed on any new computer in place of vista. It costs a bit more, but is still doable.

    I have a special loathing for macs, not because of some quasi religious beliefs, but because of my experience using them. My undergrad bio dept had them, and they were the most unreliable pieces of junk on the face of the planet. My then girlfriend/ now wife had a mac while we were dating and had constant headaches from all the issues it had. When we got married, she was honestly stunned at how reliable my pcs were compared to any of the macs she had used (partly because they were custom jobs built by friends in the pc service business).

    I know macs are better now, but once burned…

  12. #12 Alan Kellogg
    October 25, 2007

    My iMac is nine years old. Does what I want it too, but not as well as a newer machine would. If you must insist on me getting rid of this thing, you get to make a donation towards that end at my blog. Click on my name in the sig.

    For all you Mac haters you can now put your money where your animosity is. Your contributions will be used to replace my current iMac.

  13. #13 SMC
    October 25, 2007

    Ubuntu? Dang whippersnappers. When *I* was your age we used Slackware! And we compiled our own kernels! On 386’s! Uphill! With no shoes!…

  14. #14 BikeMonkey
    October 26, 2007

    Vonnegut had a word for people like you all.

  15. #15 Jud
    October 26, 2007

    BikeMonkey, any mention of Vonnegut gladdens my heart – thanks, and welcome to the Vonnegut lovers granfalloon.

    I like tinkering, including building my own computers, so that’s meant Windows, Linux and BSD for me. My father has OS X on a second generation iMac (the second portable TV design, just before the desk lamp style came out) and I’ve worked with it. His machine isn’t quite powerful enough to do the more fun media things I’ve played with on new iMacs and Mac Pros in Apple stores.

    Love BSD, but because it doesn’t have as many folks using and working on it as Linux, Windows, and OS X, it’s continually playing catchup in the areas of fun and media. Linux is getting closer to usability for the ordinary human, but still IMHO not quite there for the person who can’t be bothered to do more than turn the thing on and have it work. Windows is probably going to continue being the thousand pound gorilla due to market share, money, and inertia, but just as Win98 and WinMe were the best things that ever happened to Linux, Vista (which in my testing of beta versions was a bloated, buggy pig) looks to be a boon for OS X.

    I use Win2000 myself, and plan to keep doing so until they no longer make updates of my favorite applications for it. But somewhere along the line, finances permitting, there could well be an Apple machine in my future.

  16. #16 jess
    October 26, 2007

    I run Vista Business on my Mac Blackbook full time and its given me nary a problem.

    No driver issues, no compatibility issues, and I have no problem activating my copy. Ditto for the other laptop in my house, a Fujitsu tablet running Vista as well.

    The only thing I hope to get from 10.5 is tap-to-click on the Vita side.

    Really, any operating system is only as good as the person using it. I like my Windows, for me it works. While OSX has never worked in a way I liked and makes me slightly insane to use.

    I say to each there own. And don’t try and convert me, it doesn’t work for the LDS, it won’t work here. 😉

  17. #17 dzd
    October 26, 2007

    “Alas, I am doomed to stay in Tiger-land. My 800 MHz G4 iMac is just shy of the 867 MHz required.”

    I’ll put good money on an update to XPostFacto ( http://eshop.macsales.com/OSXCenter/XPostFacto/ ) that will break any installer restrictions. It’ll probably work just fine on a machine a little shy of the requirements when all is said and done.

  18. #18 Jeff
    October 26, 2007

    “Oh, and the only way they’ll get me to stop using my Mac is if they pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

    Wait….you’ll still be using it when you’re dead?

  19. #19 Oldfart
    October 26, 2007

    The war actually ended before it began. Whether or not DOS/Windows is any better as an OS than any Apple product is meaningless in terms of the success of DOS/Windows over the years. As bad as it has been, it is still run on 90% of the microprocessors in the world. Apple, with it’s unwillingness to license it’s products out to innovators and it’s need to maintain control, lost out long ago. DOS/Windows is the OS we love to hate while the dilettantes fume in the back rooms over their increasingly expensive and increasingly marginal Mac machines. How many of you build your own Macs?

  20. #20 HCN
    October 26, 2007

    Sigh, I miss CCL and CMedit.

    CCL = Cyber Control Language

    CMedit = an inhouse text editing program that had many useful features. Things like the ability to remove, add or edit entire columns of data (take CAD data to create notes for Nastran and the take output from the Nastran job and convert it to be used in a Mimic, Language for Structural Dynamics or to plotting software). It also allowed for a file to change data inside CCL. I would set up a set of analyses where the CMedit file would change one variable in the data set each time (speed, structure length, damping, etc), and come back in the morning to several sets of plots to compare variable changes.

    Sigh… sometimes I miss the good ol’ days (where the computer support folks knew me too well).

    Though now there are PCs that do that, with PC versions of Nastran in addition to MathCAD, Excel and a bunch of other graphical programs. When I do go back to work (it’s been almost 20 years), I will have lots of catching up to do.

  21. #21 cserpent
    October 27, 2007

    I will defend Vista. I’m using Vista Ultimate on my Tosh Tablet without a problem to date. I love the updated interface. Yes, the OS has some annoying features having to do either with security or with its attempts to anticipate what I am likely to do next. But, like a previous poster, I developed a proficiency with DOS/Windows systems early on and saw no reason to switch, particularly since Macs were obscenely over-priced for years and woefully underwhelming under the pretty interface. Additionally, no one I knew, even among Mac-fanatics, had a clue what to do when things went wrong on a Mac – something that happened as often as with Windows in my observations, whereas I could always solve Windows OS problems. From what I’ve seen, the Mac OS and underlying hardware are much better now and more reasonably priced. Now, if the fanatic cult surrounding the OS would just be less annoying, and if Apple would advertise its advantages rather than base their entire ad campaign on insulting MS, I might consider buying a Mac.

  22. #22 Lucas
    October 27, 2007

    Aye, I just built myself a new uber-rig for gaming and have Vista Premium. Runs like a charm once I turned the annoying and unneccessary account protection prompt off.

    For the first hour, I just stared at the screen flicking between the windows in 3D. It’s sliced bread all over again.

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