Friday, February 10, 2012

Recovering from Mac, Part 1

I'm a former Mac user, as it was what I was taught in art school. When I was a kid, I used Windows but I was never really a computer girl, just a gamer, and most of my gaming has been on consoles.

I have nothing against Macs or even Windows. I can use them just the same as I use Linux, it doesn't really matter to me, as long as it has a web browser and then whatever other app I happen to need. To me it's not the operating system that a computer runs that people use, it's the apps. 

Not everyone feels that way, but that's just how I see it. In my personal life, I don't want to run Mac or Windows. I choose Linux because I can do with it whatever I please, and there's always something new and exciting happening. So there's that.

Despite what a lot of people say, Windows has its advantages in life. If you want to play games on a PC, you're going to do it on Windows.

Mac also has advantages. If you're going to go into the artistic field, you'll find that Macs let you run a lot of artistic applications without really knowing much about how anything works.

So it's up to each person in terms of what they want to run.

For me, and a lot of my friends, the choice was to run Windows, which none of us wanted to do because other than being the default platform for gaming, it's a pretty bad OS.  Mac was working well for a while but there were some things I wanted to get away from.

In the next few posts, I intend to go over some of the reasons a Mac user might want to put a stop to their Mac usage, and how it can be done.  I'm not a computer science major, I'm not an expert at anything on any computer, but I know what I know, and so I want to share it.

Reason One: Knowledge is Power

The first reason I'm going to list is a little but abstract, but I think you'll understand it if I use the power of simile!  Hmmmm, or is it metaphor?  I never was any good at English class.

I was watching an old movie about the plague and someone was going to go into a leprosy colony to help the sick people. Everyone told this person that if he went in to the leper colony, he would die, but he said that if God didn't want him to die, then he wouldn't.  The reason people back in the Middle Ages thought this way is because they didn't know about germs, so they just took everything on faith, and it turns out that they were basically wrong. If they caught the plague, then they caught the plague because of germs, not because God afflicted them. If they didn't catch the plague, then it wasn't that God liked them better than everyone else, they just happened not to get the germs, or their bodies managed to fight the germs off.

Translate that to me as a Mac user. One time I tried gaming on a Mac, and it was when Neverwinter Nights 2 came out. I went to the Mac store with a friend to buy the game. My friend is a PC gamer. He always knows all about the latest CPU's from AMD and INTEL, he knows all about graphics cards and things like that. These are things I probably should have been told about in school, because they were supposed to be training us as art students to use the tools of the trade. And believe it or not, whether you have 192bit 512mb graphic memory or 64bit 128mb graphic memory makes a huge difference when you're applying filters in Photoshop or if you're learning Blender.

But we were not told of these things. My friend knew it all, though, and so on our way to the Mac store, he asked me if I had the right graphics card for the game. Of course I didn't know, and besides I just wanted to play the game! I'd bought a 2500 Mac Pro so in my Mac-user logic, I assumed that naturally I had a sufficient computer for the job.  Why? Because Apple had told me I was purchasing a powerful computer. They didn't tell me what that meant, they didn't quote me numbers like 256mb graphics memory at 32bit depth with DDR2 RAM, they just said it was the best money could buy.  So if you're buying the best money can buy, then you damn well expect your computer to play a new game.

To make a long story short, I had just enough graphics memory to run the game at the lowest graphic settings. To drive the point home, my friend, on his PC that had cost a third of what my Mac had cost, was playing the game on full rez. It literally didn't even look like the same game. I ended up going to his house to play nwn2 because if I dared push my graphic settings up just a little, the game crashed.

I'm not saying a Mac can't handle games. I'm saying that Mac culture hides the useful information from its customers. A PC gamer might tell a Mac user that they can't run a game because they don't have the required 512mb of GPU power. But a Mac user won't listen, because the box says that the minimum requirements is the exact card that they have in their computer, so it must be safe. They don't understand what the numbers mean, they don't even know what the different kinds of graphic cards imply, like a mobile or onboard chipset versus a dedicated card.

I wouldn't be surprised if the next gen of Mac products do away with product names entirely and just features icons on boxes or software downloads. If it's got a green eye on it, then as long as you have an Nvidia Mac then you're theoretically good to go. Even when you're not.

Yes, just because they aren't telling you about germs doesn't mean germs don't exist.  See what I did there? I tied it back to that original example. I'm such an internet writer now!

Anyways, the point is that knowledge is power, and if you start getting into Mac culture too deep, you will have to fight the dumbing-down of computers. I'll never forget my final trip to the Mac store. I was asking intelligent questions, and the salespeople, even the Geniuses (yes, I literally made a Genius appointment because I could tell the salespeople were clueless), could not answer half of my questions. It was actually that very experience that made me realize that I'd outgrown the Mac platform.


So if you want to understand computers and what they can do and why they can or cannot do something, then don't get sucked into the Mac Way. They want their customers to be faithful and to take everything on faith. They're not in the business of educating.

Then again neither is Microsoft. It just so happens that there's a culture of PC builders who are helpful and knowledgeable.  Remove Microsoft from the mix and add Linux, and you have an amazing culture of education and knowledge and computer empowerment.

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