Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Age Old Debate

by Annette Dashofy

The debate rages on. Everyone has an opinion and believes theirs is the right one. There is little compromise.

Am I talking about the health care debate? Republican vs. democrat?

No. I’m talking Mac vs. PC.

I own two computers: one a desktop; the other a laptop. Both are Compaq and both get along with each other. That makes life a little easier for me when I move files from the desktop in my office to the laptop for travel. Unfortunately, both are five years old. More and more, I’m becoming aware of their age. Technology marches on and has left my machines in the dust.

So, I’m window shopping. Not necessarily Window shopping, though. A few months back I wandered into an Apple store in a local mall. The sales guy was great and answered all my stupid questions. The laptops were shiny and pretty. The desktops were sleek and compact.

I was convinced. I wanted a Mac. I’d have to save longer to afford one, but you get what you pay for. Right???

But I’ve heard good things about Windows 7 and have played with the display models at Wal-Mart. Slick. And familiar. I knew what buttons to click to do what I wanted it to do.

I was convinced. I could afford BOTH a new desktop and a new laptop for what I’d pay for one of them if I went with Mac.

Oh, but friends of mine who have a Mac told me they’d never ever go back to a PC. The Mac is far superior.

Okay. Maybe I should rethink this.

My cousin, who is my techie expert, told me NOOOOO. Stay with a PC. He gave me a list of specifics to get in a new computer.

He’s my techie expert. I have to go with what he says. If I don’t, who will answer my barrage of emailed questions?

And now another friend has started raving about her Mac…


So I bring my debate to the Stiffs and our back bloggers. What do you use? Mac? PC? How about Windows 7? And do you use a laptop or a desktop? Or both? What advice can you give a technologically challenged computer shopper? I need to be able to write and keep my financial records and work with my photographs. I don’t do games. I don’t design clothes or make movies.

Advice, folks. I need good, solid advice. HELP!


Gina said...

Annette -
I have both, well, more than both. I have old and new PC desktops and a PC laptop (also old). I also have a bottom-of-the-line Mac desktop. I prefer the PCs for writing and the Mac for graphic stuff, like altering photos and editing digital film. None of them is perfect, and it takes awhile to get used to the weird little differences between the Mac and PC (example: the delete key on the PC deletes the character to the right of the cursor; on the Mac, it deletes the character to the cursor's left). The Mac support is better - you can go to the Apple store and talk to a real person, rather than spending hours on the phone with those nice incomprehensible people in India. If I were you, I'd probably give up on trusting logic to decide and go with my gut reaction on preference.

PatRemick said...

I'm a PC person primarily because I don't have the energy or desire to learn a whole new system. I did get an HP netbook for email and writing on the road and although it's PC compatible, to be honest all the scrolling makes my head spin and you have to save documents in text to move to my PC so the idea of trying to "talk" to a Mac just overwhelms me. But I know Mac users are passionate about its superiority, especially with graphics. I say go with Gina's advice and trust your gut -- and let us know what you decide!

Annette said...

Okay, so far Gina and Pat have me leaning toward sticking with PC.

I'm also interested in hearing from anyone who is using the new Windows 7. Love it? Hate it? What d'ya think?

Jennifer Schubert said...

Ah, I was in your position a few months ago. I've never used anything but a PC, but always heard such fantastic things about the Mac. When my PC went kaput (2 days past warranty, of course), dh pushed me into trying a Mac.

I will never go back. There's a simplicity, an ease of use, with Mac that you don't get with a PC. Also, things rarely go wrong on my Mac.

My mom has Windows 7 and isn't impressed. She's getting a lot of "that's not supported yet" from her internet service, etc.

Good luck making your choice! I know it's not an easy one.

Laurie said...

I'm facing a similar debate. I have a PC desktop at home, and my daughter has a PC laptop at college.
Her laptop is in bad shape and shes need a new one before she starts med school next year.
I'd like to see what I can do with her old laptop,(I'd love to be able to use it. I'd like to leave my house once in awhile while writing)and use it myself, and buy her a new laptop. She'd like a Mac. However, combined with the increased costs of med school, I'm leaning towards getting her a PC laptop. Plus, I'm wondering if it's a good idea for her to switch the type of computer system she's familiar with, right at the same time she's adjusting to med school and learning a new area, classes, etc.

So sorry, I don't know either, my gut says to buy the PC. But I don't know. I'll be curious what advice others give you today.

Joyce said...

My son and resident computer expert says, "Don't get a MAC!" He uses MACs at work and they are constantly crashing. He said PCs have come a long way, and most made now are far superior to any of the MACs on the market. He also adores Windows 7. He said there's a bit of a learning curve, but once you get used to it, it's close to perfect.

I think when you have a couple of computer gurus telling you what to get, you gotta go with them.

Karen in Ohio said...

Here's the thing for writers: The Office programs were designed for PCs. If you want to use a program that is only available for a Mac, then I would go with it for that reason. But if you are using Word, and not much else, what is the point? Is it really worth spending almost twice as much?

But one thing I wouldn't ever do again is to buy a desktop computer, of any variety. They take up too much room in my small "office" space, and the larger laptops are fine for typing on nowadays.

Karen in Ohio said...

I meant to also add that with Macs you pay a premium for the cool design. That's fine, if you need a cool design, and I'm happy for Mac that they have managed to claim that niche in the electronics world. But HP and Sony also have cool designs, just different ones.

In case you didn't see my Facebook response, I'm thrilled with Vista. I've had my laptop for two years and it has never crashed, which is amazing for any computer, I think. Now I'm lusting for a Windows 7 netbook.

Annette said...

I think Jennifer must be the only Mac aficionado who isn't sleeping in this morning. I know there are more of you out there.

Joyce, your son says the same thing my cousin does.

Karen, you make a good point about the laptop. I really like having both and having them be so compatible (I bought mine only a couple of months apart). But if I could only buy one, I'd have to go for the laptop.

Annette said...

Karen, you're the only person I've talked to who actually LIKES Vista! I'm still running XP. Seriously, I love the computer/OS I have now, it's just getting old and slow and is starting to freeze up on me more frequently. Otherwise, I'd have no interest in replacing it.

And I found the Mac fans!!! They're all over on Facebook and are leaving their comments there!

Jennie Bentley said...

I've only ever had PCs and they've always worked well. Cost is an issue, and they're cheaper. Time is an issue, and I'm used to them. I write and surf and use spreadsheets and store photos, and that's pretty much it. I bought a new desktop PC six months ago. I tend to go with HPs, since they've always worked well for me. The laptop is a Dell, and I don't like it as much. There's just something different about it...

So for what it's worth, when I needed a new computer, I bought the same thing again. I will next time, too.

Paula Matter said...

I vote for whatever helps you write well and fast.

Jena said...

I started with a Mac in *cough*1984*cough* and have used both Macs and PCs over the many (many, many...) years since.

Currently I have a Mac desktop and laptop and my husband has a PC laptop his employer issued to him. They refuse to upgrade to Vista, no reason given, even though they have a huge stable of techs to keep a few hundred laptops running smoothly.

He has to fly to another province when an upgrade is needed. I have to click "OK" when my Mac asks me if I want to upgrade my system, and occasionally restart the machine.

My laptop is up and running Word with a couple of my WIP files open in about 2 minutes. It saves, quits (exits) and shuts down in about 30 seconds. I've never seen a PC churn itself to life or death in less than 10 minutes.

Many programs are exactly the same on Mac and PC. I've used Adobe InDesign and PhotoShop for years and seriously, there is no difference between platforms. MS Office programs are not that different either. If you've used Word on a PC, you can use it on a Mac.

I could go on forever, but I'll leave it with this:

"I'm a Mac, and I'll never go back." :)

Joyce said...

Jena said, "I've never seen a PC churn itself to life or death in less than 10 minutes."

While my dinosaur of a laptop takes about that long to boot and/or shut down, our desktop PC boots in under 15 seconds. Word and Excel open in five seconds. Even QuickBooks--which is a huge hog--opens in thirteen. My son's PC is even faster. So, there are quick PCs out there!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

I grew up with PCs. And I mean I've used or owned almost every model since the 8088 (DOS driven with 2 floppy drives and no hard drive).

I currently own and operate a houshold that has 2 PC desktops, a PC Laptop, a PC netbook, a macbook pro and 2 macbooks. My daughters have had Macbooks for a couple of years and I just got a Macbook Pro 8 months ago.

Now that I've had my Mac for a while, they can do everything a PC does, including word processing and in most cases better. I run MS Office on all my machines. If someone says a PC is better for word processing, I'd personally like to know why, because I don't see it.

Macs are different. If you're like me, you'll have a love/hate relationship with it, until you learn it and, don't kid yourself, you'll need to relearn a lot. Apple has a great program for $99 a year called one on one where they will teach you everything you need to know, if you have an Apple store next to you. They also have great video tutorials on-line.

In my experience, Apple customer service is extremely superior to anything offered by any other company. They even replaced a cracked keyboard cover on a 2 year old machine out of warrenty for free and they did it in 15 minutes while we waited in their crowded store just before Christmas.

Bottom line is, a 3 year old Macbook runs exactly the same speed as it did when it was new, even without antivirus, spyware, malware, etc. You don't have any of those add-ons slowing you down. Can't say the same for PCs.

Now, on the other hand, if you have a website that you administer, I have no idea on how you handle that on a Mac. I know you can, just don't know how.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Joyce, FYI, between my daughters, future son in law and myself, we have NEVER had one of our Macs crash.

That reminds me, I don't like Apple Mail or Safari (the web browser). Although, Safarie is better since the new Mac OS Snow Leopard. I use Entourage (part of MS Office and the counterpart to Outlook for mail and I've tried other web browsers like Opera and Firefox. Like I said, actually Safari is much better now than it used to be.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

After reading the comments, one last thing. Like Jena says, I can boot my Mac, open and retrieve email, open MS Word and write a paragraph or two by the time my Windows PC boots up and begins to run.

I never realized how slow PCs were until I had a Mac.

I'm done now.

Joyce said...

Will, I think the Macs they use where my son works crash because they can't handle the amount of data they use. It's a brain research lab and they run huge Excel sheets--some with over 50,000 lines of data. Macs weren't built for that. He said if you're using them for something simple they're fine. Anything complex, forget it.

Becky said...

Don't have much time here so I haven't read the others responses but for me its always about the money. If you intend to replace every 5 years go with the PC.

Annette said...

Thanks, Will and Jena. THIS is the kind of thing I wanted to know. Speed can definitely make a difference in my decision.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

OK, one more thing. The real reason I decided to get a Mac.

Just before I got my Macbook Pro my daughter downloaded a nasty virus on my desktop PC. I ran McAfee's best anti-virus, as well as CCleaner and I periodically ran Startup Mechanic. I had all my financial and tax files on it as well as all my website data. The computer was only worth maybe $400, but it was all about the data.

The virus uninstalled McAfee completely. It also disabled my firewall client. Then it appeared to disconnect me from the internet, because IE and email wouldn't run. But it just disabled the connectivity of those programs. Supposedly by design, you were made to feel like you weren't connected to the internet, so no wiorries, but you weren't disconnected. Hackers could get through.

After doing my research I downloaded a McAfee Malware program and ran it. The virus had attached itself to so many windows system files, the keyboard and mouse wouldn't work (again by design) rendering my computer useless. Plus the video drivers were destroyed. It cost me $400 to get the problem taken care of so I could recover all my data.

So now that $400 computer cost me at least $800 and a lot of heartache. That is on top of all the simple little viruses, etc where I've spent time in cleaning off spyware, tracking cookies, etc.

I haven't spent a minute or a nickle on viruses on my Macs. Add the cost of all the software you add onto a PC to the base cost and the annual subscriptions for antivirus. Plus, how much does all that overhead slow it down?

Macs come with a pretty good suite of software installed for the cost of the computer. iWorks (Apple's office suite) which is perfectly fine is $49 and does pretty much everything MS Office does and is perfectly compatible. I got a free copy of MS Office for Mac which is why I use it.

Annette said...

You're swaying me, Will.

Karen in Ohio said...

Annette, I think most of the people who hate Vista had it installed on an XP machine. Mine came with it, and it's been fine.

Wil, I'm sorry you had such a horrific experience, but it's still possible to get a virus with a Mac, too. A friend services all the computers for a school district, and she's dealt with Mac virii as well as PC virii. Kids are notoriously ingenious when it comes to circumventing all our safeguards, bless their little hearts. My friend still uses a PC herself, and she could buy anything she wanted.

95% of the world uses PCs. There's a reason why they do. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Paula Matter said...

Hell, Will's swaying me and I'm not even looking to buy a new computer...

Karen in Ohio said...

PS I use a program called Eset Security, which costs $40 or $50, and has no additional annual cost. It works seamlessly, and does not slow down my system. My husband is a very serious power user, with some 200 terrabytes of hard drives daisy-chained together on just one of his many computers, and he uses Kaspersky anti-virus on the advice of his computer geek advisors. He has also had no virii on his system (knock wood). And yes, those are all PCs. He could not find the software he needed for Mac.

Joyce said...

Considering the fact that McAfee and Norton are two of the worst anti-virus programs out there, it doesn't surprise me. I use AVG on my laptop and we have Avast on the desktop. Both run in the background and don't use much memory. The best thing--they're free.

Becky said...

Annette don't take this the wrong way but you have been pining for the Mac. So we know which one you will get.

Annette said...

Not necessarily, Becky. I was pretty well sold on another PC before this discussion began.

Wilfred Bereswill said...


That "KID" was my 26 year old daughter. She was looking at videos of potential puppys.

A Mac won't run an install without asking for a password (at least the way all of ours are set up). That same daughter hit a website that downloaded about 20 .EXE files on her new Mac. All those EXE files went into her Download folder and did nothing. They would not run and it was easy to drag them to the trashcan. Had that been a PC, we would have been mired in virus.

There may be Mac virii, but I've not had an issue with any, nor has anyone of my daughters and that's several years of use by college students.

As a person with extensive use of both systems and someone who uses PCs at my day job, I won't buy any more PCs for my personal use. I did just buy a netbook prior to my Macbook, but I only use it for writing when I want to go to Starbucks or I'm flying on a regional jet.

Joyce, I use AVG for all my home PCs now. Actually, the guys that restored my computer after the virus installed it and recommended it. There are wierd times when the little logo disappears from my system tray and I have to make a concious effort to start it back up. It tells me, "HEY, I'm running." But it sure as hell wasn't in the system tray.

Karen in Ohio said...

Wil, the "kids" in my comment were those in the school district where my friend works.

VR Barkowski said...

Oh my Annette, you've touched a nerve. Listen to Wilfred.

I'm a PC user from way back. WAY back, from before Windows was de rigueur and when social networking amounted to Compuserve. After mainframes and punchcards, I worked on a Radioshack TRS 80, was Systems Admin on a now defunct DOS based network and I used pre-Windows DOS with abandon. I can run ALL MS Office applications in my sleep (and often have). I lived in Redmond, land o' Microsoft for the better part of the last fifteen years. My first job in the Seattle area was to train people to use Windows based programs in a company system upgrade. We are a six computer household. I have a MAC, a PC laptop and a PC desktop. My partner has the same.

If you are going to play graphic intensive games, you have to have a PC. You aren't, are you?

And If I were still a power user in a networked company crunching endless data, my choice would be a PC because I think the PC version of Excel is hardier and more nimble. However, I'm not. I'm a writer. My guess is you are not a power user either. Choose your computer accordingly.

I purchased my MAC solely to use a writing program called Scrivener. It never occurred to me in a million years to give up my PC. I'd been on PCs for more than two decades, it's how I made my living.

Then I started using my MAC.

It proved to be at least ten times faster (and yes, both my PC and laptop are less than two years old). My MAC never crashes. I've never had a problem with viruses or security. Of course there's always the threat of a virus. The difference is, protecting your MAC from a virus doesn't bring the system speed to a crawl. Let's face it, hackers don't target MACs, they target the 90%+ of users who use PCs.

If you've ever had a problem finding a file on your PC, the MAC search function alone is worth the price of admission. An individual file search for a particular word on my PC is hours. On my Mac it's seconds.

I know PC users will balk, I used to be one of them, so I understand. It's an ingrained bias that MAC users are computer illiterates. And fifteen years ago I would not be making this argument. I used MACs for graphic design and wouldn't have given up my PC for anything. But that was then. What no one says straight out and what is plainly obvious to a once dyed in the wool PC fanatic is that MACS have progressed and PCs have not.

That said, having used PCs for so long, I'm still not used to the MS Office versions of programs on the MAC. In fact, some of the features I used as a [very] advanced user are not present in the MAC version. But I write in Scrivener (which is so much better for novelists than WORD it doesn't even rate a comparison) and export to WORD, secure in the knowledge that if things get bad enough I can always open the doc on my PC and edit from there. FYI, it's never gotten close to that point.

As for browsers, Internet Explorer is a joke and I've never used it except when I had to. Even when I was PC-exclusive, I used Netscape and later Firefox.

PCs in network corporate settings crunching Excel numbers and manipulating Access databases - yes, give me a PC. At home, as a writer, I wouldn't give up my MAC for a PC - not at any price.

Jena said...

More on Mac programs -- I've tried Safari a number of times, ran Firefox for a couple of years, but recently I was seduced by Google Chrome. It's fast, it's intuitive, and easy.

I use gmail for mail so I can access my mail from anywhere, on a Mac or PC. I never bothered with the iWorks software because I wanted to make sure any file I produced was readable/useable on a PC.

Entourage on the Mac is similar to Outlook, and I find it equally slow and clunky. I mainly use it for syncing address book and notes between computer and blackberry.

Whichever way you go, buy the machine with the best monitor, the most RAM and the fastest processor you can afford. That way, you'll have a killer machine, and that's what counts. :)

Annette said...

Thanks, everyone, for you comments and insight. I've gone back and forth at least five times since the comments started rolling in. And I still don't know which way I'll go.

Stay tuned.

MaryQ said...

Annette, I don't envy you making this choice. I've used primarily PC's. I used a MAC about 10 years ago, but had to switch to a PC when the business software I used went wacky with Y2K & Apple decided not to upgrade to comply.
It seems as if MACs run great like a lot of people have said. Those who own them love them. But the do get viruses,too. It seems like if the MAC is working fine (which they do most of the time), you're in great shape. But if they run into trouble, then it's BIG trouble.
I guess that's why the 'experts' are saying PC.
I still can't say what I would do - except for the money issue.