--> divine angst: Computers?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Over at Blawg Wisdom the request of the day was for laptop recommendations. And Nuts and Boalts had this response. I threw in a comment, wondering why people always advise other people against getting Macs.

Nuts responded:
Mac's have the windows platform available to them, so compatibility with respect to exams is not that much of an issue (especially since now you don't turn exams in on floppy's). Compatibility with the network is. I know of only one Ibook user and he's had a bit of trouble using the wireless connection. So far as I understand it, using the windows platform on Mac slows the computer down, which defeats the purpose of having a Mac in the first place. Factoring in cost, the lack of heavy graphics use during law school, I see no reason to purchase a mac given the PC alternative, unless as I said before you're just too accustomed to the Mac OS.

My first response to this response is: "IGNORANCE!!"

See, people who don't know anything about Macs assume that it must be the OS itself that causes problems when, in fact, it's usually user error—as in 99% of all other computer problems. But Mac OS X is supposed to be so simple to use, I think many people assume that when problems do occur, it must be that the operating system can't handle sophisticated usage.

So here's my slightly longer, more in-depth response:

First, about this mythical student who can't get on the wireless network because Virtual PC is too slow...well, the wireless network, for internet connectivity, should never require Windows. So if he's using Virtual PC to connect to the network, well, there's the major problem. A wireless network is a wireless network, and the operating system doesn't matter as long as you have a wireless card.

But perhaps the real issue is that this fellow can't print to network printers—that could, indeed, be a problem, particularly if the printers use protocols that are not Mac-friendly. This doesn't mean the Mac user can't print to a Windows network printer. He doesn't even need to go bother the IT department in most cases. Usually, if he downloads an open-source UNIX driver for these kinds of problems (gimp-print is one), he should be able to print to his heart's content.

I also think it's interesting that many people assume the only reason to get a Mac is because they're better with graphics. Don't forget, please, they're also more stable, less vulnerable to viruses, and, let's not forget, very snazzy looking.

I think the most important thing anyone looking to buy a laptop should consider is, "What are you comfortable with?" Sure, there are other, law-school-specific issues to consider. But if you've been using a Mac since your freshman year in college and like it, don't run out and buy a Windows machine just because the law school says they don't support Macs. They may not support them, but you shouldn't need much help anyway. As for the cost difference, laptops are all pretty expensive. A low-end, new, Windows laptop from a big-name company (Dell, IBM, etc.) is going to cost you as much as the same, low-end Mac laptop (the iBook). A high-end laptop from a big-name company will cost you as much, if not more, than the same, high-end Map laptop (PowerBook). Do the cost comparison, making sure you equalize all the components (optical drive, hard drive, RAM, sound card, ethernet card, USB and FireWire ports, etc.). I think you'll find that the Mac is competitive. (Where Macs aren't competitive is in the desktop arena, but most people who spend lots of money on the high-end Mac desktops are in graphics, video, sound or other industries where a Mac is more appropriate than a PC, so Macs don't have to be as competitive price-wise.)

Remember—a Mac can do anything a Windows machine can, and everything you might need in law school (except perhaps use platform-specific exam software). Buy what makes you happy and what you will be comfortable with.