Why We (The Royal We) Don’t Mac

I can’t recall where I ran across this link, but this ZDNet blog entry was in response to an article titled, Eight Reasons Windows Users Don’t Switch.

And here is my response to both.

Yes, welcome to the echo chamber.

Here are the reasons that I, a Windows and Linux user (and a former photographer – a potential Mac advocate), haven’t switched (in somewhat descending order of importance):

  • There is no reason to switch: Can Mac do this or that better? Yes. Can Windows do this or that better. Yes. It’s a coin toss. I believe that – bottom line – Mac OS trumps Windows OS, but mainly in ways that don’t matter to the average user.
  • Standards rock: As the internet has taught us, standards are everything. HTTP, TCP/IP, Ethernet… With ~90% of computers operating Windows, MS is a de-facto standard, like it or not. I still have Mac users at work forwarding Excel spreadsheets to me because they can’t open them on their Mac (yes, insert your own conspiracy theory). While the Mac interface may be easier to learn than the MS interface, people have already learned the MS interface. That’s huge.
  • Speaking of work: Unless you’re doing graphics or some sort of publishing, the computer on your desk at work is a Windows machine. Makes using a Windows machine at home more reasonable.
  • Apps: If someone (Apple) would give me – for free – replacements to all the apps I have on my Windows machine (HTML editors, Photoshop, Illustrator, QuarkXpress, CuteFTP and so on), I’d probably switch in a minute. But that’s not going to happen. And if it (sorta) did, it would be “we’ll give you equivalents….”. Hey, I’ve run a zillion FTP programs over the years; I like CuteFTP. Yeah, Fetch works just as well, but I don’t want to have to learn the idiosyncrasies of new programs when the old ones (on Windows) are well understood.
  • People are creatures of habit: There must be a compelling reason to switch. Right now, beyond slick graphics and so on, there isn’t (if we were all forced to accept Vista, I think it would be compelling).
  • Macs are still more expensive: There are a lot of ways to measure this, but all I can say is that every time I’ve priced out a Mac and a comparable Windows machine for myself, Mac always lost, and big time. Your mileage may vary… (Example: I just priced out a RAM update from 2G to 4G on a MacBookPro: $700. On a high-end Dell XPS laptop, same upgrade $375)

I’m not a die-hard MS fan – pretty much the opposite. But XP on a (relatively) cheap Dell box just works beautifully. It’s what I know; it delivers what I expect.

And I’m not bashing Apple at all – I love Macs. Owned in the past; worked on them at several workplaces.

I’d like to buy one right now.

But I just don’t need to get a new desktop/laptop.

And if I did – depending on my need – Apple would have to compete with both MS and Linux (with Linux scoring a lot of Apple points [secure; unix based] with a much lower acquisition cost). That said, if I did did need a laptop in the near future, it would probably be a battle between a MacBookPro and a Windows ThinkPad.

Bottom line: I have never “resisted” switching; there was just no compelling user case or cost savings that made switching a must. For both cases, staying with Windows made more sense, actually.

All that said, the next computer I buy will definitely have a Mac in the contender race. With OS X (and all its upgrades), the Mac is getting more mainstream.

Final Note – I’ve left the whole security issue out of this discussion. Yes, Mac trumps (big time) Windows. But Linux or AIX or (pick your Unix flavor) beats all.

Part of the issue is architecture – Unix architectures (including Linux and Mac OS X) were built as networked environments; Windows was built as stand-alone computer OS. Windows – now understanding the ‘net – still has a 90% installed base.

*Insert magic wand*

Linux/Mac has 90% of installed personal computer base over the last 10 years.

Linux/Mac will have 90%+ of security issues. Sorry, that’s a reality. The problems might well be less severe than we see today, but that’s where the Blackhats will focus their interest. Best bang for your buck…

Night (Mental) Moves

Beware of thoughts that come in the night. They aren’t turned properly; they come in askew, free of sense and restriction, deriving from the most remote of sources.

— William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways (opening lines)

I should be in bed now – it’s nearing 1am and it’s been a long week, but the later it gets, the more thoughts that come.

Untuned or not.

It’s a cerebral version of Joyce’s or Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness prose without the prose.

It’s the actual stream-of-consciousness, but focused. Zoned in.

It’s addictive, which is why I’m passing up sleep for a strange mix of tickler entries, code bug fixes and mentally revisiting long-ignored possibilities.

I’m going to hate myself tomorrow, but tonight is “what if?…” night.

Indulge me.

An Inconvenient Nobel

Well, kudos to former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who today won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their work on climate change.

Must be a hard spin for the White House. Gore – who lost to President Bush in a still hotly contested presidential race in 2000 – has seen his approval rating rise since that time, while Bush’s numbers continue to decline.

And Gore is pushing for changes to the way we produce and consume energy, while Bush is adamant that he will not sign on to the Kyoto Protocol (which mandates fossil-fuel emission reductions) in favor of a voluntary program.

In a nation of SUVs, the voluntary program doesn’t look too promising.

Bush is mired in a no-end-in-site war in Iraq that has drawn the wrath and scorn of the world; Gore has just been handed one of the highest honors available on earth.

There has been talk of Gore joining the presidential race, and this win – to some – gives this possibility even more credence.

I don’t think so, but what do I know? I still can’t believe Bush was re-elected. But that’s me.

Good for Gore – good for the environment.

Crazy-Ass Weather

The average high temperature for this time of year in the Chicago area is 67 degrees.

Over the weekend, we hit 87 two days in a row, with humidity about the same.

And – of course – I was out Sunday in the sun, lugging about 20 lbs. of camera equipment for a portrait shoot. Sweat city.

Today – just three days later – we’re supposed to have a high of 54 – with a low of 45.

Over the weekend, we had the air-conditioning running all day.

Today, we might have to turn the heat on.



This is my – Lee Geistlinger’s – blog, which I’ve been posting to since May 2001.

I was on blogger.com – which FTP’d to this site – until Google announced the end of such service as of sometime in March 2010. I don’t like the switch, but I think this move to WordPress (again, on my own site) will be – in the long run – a good thing. I’ll update as necessary.

This blog is mainly for my amusement, to scratch that writing itch, to give me a platform to combine writing, graphics, coding and so on.

It’s sort of a continual work in progress, my online sandbox in which I play.

If you find something of value here; sorry, that wasn’t my intention….

Consolidate…and Distribute

I’m a big literature fan – I graduated college with a degree in English – and one of my all-time favorite authors is James Joyce.

Yes, James Joyce – he of the incomprehensible. He got denser and denser with each book, but, to me, he’s still the finest English writer since Shakespeare.

He’s not the most quotable author, simply because of the density of his work. For example, one of his best quotations is the last page or or so of Ulysses, an inner monologue of Penelope giving in to the temptations of the flesh. Closer to music than prose.

That said, Joyce does have some sound bites (to use today’s vernacular) that are accessible and memorable. One of my favorites is the following:

Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

— (virtually) the last lines of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

I was thinking about this quotation last week (why? I dunno), and it made me think of the internet, the web, and Wikipedia (in particular).

These virtual areas are, to a great extent, the “uncreated conscience of my race”: The online world is capturing, organizing (thanks, Google) and explaining the sum of everything for the whole human race.

It used to be groups of people (communities, traveling tribes), then cities and religions, then universities that took on such high-arching tasks.

Now the online world is the teacher, memory bank and zeitgeist – past, present and future – of all that we know we know. And then some. For better or worse.

Now, I’m not the first to see this relationship, of virtual to reality in the fourth dimension (time), but it really struck me after recalling the Joyce quotation.

Mash-ups (and associated open APIs [esp. HTML] ) really make this all possible, along with the power of the masses. I had to look up “snooker” today at Wikipedia, and there was so much knowledge about this game/sport that it was overwhelming.

Sure, some of the data is probably wrong/biased, but that’s what the community will correct.

So we’re collecting data that will be – to some degree – the sum total of what we are, what we know, what we believe and so on.

That’s impressive. And, to some degree, accurate.

Yet I read a news headline yesterday that made me think that, while we are collecting and centralizing information, we are also doing the opposite of aggregation: We are rapidly moving toward a strong decentralized form of “uncreated conscience.”

The headline?

Nokia to buy Navteq for $8.1 billion.

Nokia is a HUGE phone maker, and very forward thinking. Navteq is one of the largest GPS/mapping companies – and there are really only a handful of such companies.

When an 800-lb gorilla shells out serious money (in whatever form: stock/cash etc) for a scarce and valuable resource, it makes one take notice.

I did.

One of the touchstones of internet visionaries is that innovation happens at the edges: In other words, it’s not going to be Sun or Microsoft doing the “next big thing” on the web, it’ll be some small start-up founded in a dorm at Stanford University.

Yeah, like Google.

While Sun, MS and Google will continue to contribute to the growth of the web, it’s the people who just have an idea, a passion, that’ll change the web. Or move us off the web to something different, as Usenet/Gopher/Veronica etc gave way to this World Wide Web.

(Sir) Tim Berners-Lee just wanted a way to share documents at CERN. Whoops, it became the web.

eBay I didn’t get it. A garage sale online? And you’re buying from people you don’t know a continent (ocean…) away? Sure, I’ll be doing that…(not!). And the business model? eBay takes a small percentage of each sale (garage sale, remember, so they weren’t – at launch – selling BMWs). OK, take your cut of my sale of a dented copper cannister set for $5…

Seemed ridiculous.

Seems brilliant today.

OK, that’s my (over)view of innovation starts at the edges.

Today – as the Nokia purchase confirms to me – the innovation that is happening at the edges also includes the innovation at the edges that will remain at the edges, or pushed to the edges.

What the hell does that mean?

Well, it’s great that’s there this big honkin’ thing called Wikipedia, and there are search engines that can give me this or that, but my car just broke down outside of Hutchinson, KS: Who can I call for a tow, and – most importantly – who should I call so I, a city slicker whose knowledge of cars extends to opening the hood and confidently proclaiming, “Yep, that’s an engine” – don’t get fleeced?

Powerful stuff.

And before you say anything, yes, such an edge capability would be useful in most areas. Yes and no. Big city/suburb, you go to the Name (with a capital N) shop, or the one that looks best. Might not be the best bang for your buck, but you’re trying to not get totally screwed. In a town with two stations, and they both look like they were built in the 1930s and both run by some dude called, for whatever reason, “Dude,” it’s more compelling. One Dude will fix your car for $20 and that carton of cigarettes you have. The other Dude will sell your spare tire for a hit of smack.

It comes down to the “all news is local” concept. Apps that may – or may not – take data from centralized locations and delivering them where they are needed.

That’s powerful stuff.

Consider an area such as a college campus. Where are the emergency phones? (Fire, crimes, someone is following me!…). This doesn’t necessarily need to be in an uber-centralized place like Google or Wikipedia. But if I’m a student at Farber U., I should be able to pull that data up – via a centralized app that recognizes my location or something I subscribe to (RSS feed, for example).

I’m not articulating this well – gee, that’s a first.

But I guess I’m trying to say the following:

  • Innovation happens at the edges: I know this will continue.
  • Edge innovations of value become centralized: I know this will continue, as well.
  • Fruits of centralization are being pushed to the edges: But, more and more, in a very targeted, localized manner. This is the internet’s – and telco’s – next frontier.
  • Some edge innovations of value will remain there: Centralized weather pushed to location makes sense; the Avocado Ripeness Meter (making this up), however brilliant, is only useful in Castro, CA. At the edge.

Well, I began with a quotation; let’s end with another. This one explains, better than all I have written before, the value of The Edge:

“You’re still in touch. I guess that’s the test.”


“A psychiatrist could help. There’s a good man in Albany.”

Finnerty shook his head. “He’d pull me back into the center, and I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” He nodded, “Big, undreamed-of things — the people on the edge see them first.”

— Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Player Piano