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Weighing in on the PC vs Mac argument

When it comes to computers, I'm a tinkerer. I love taking them apart, seeing how they work together, and putting them back together.
About four years ago, I had a friend who worked in a computer shop. I had him build me a machine (pretty much entry-level), and then I spent the next couple years. Bit by bit (so to speak), piece by piece, I upgraded and replaced every single piece of that computer -- several of them numerous times. Right now I'm pretty much set with my setup (details in the extended section), but I'm always looking for upgrades.

When I first saw a Mac G3, I was impressed as hell. The design was brilliant. I was flabbergasted when I saw that the whole side panel folded down, and the motherboard was mounted on it. That little innovation opened up the entire interior, and made working on the machine a breeze.

There was only one problem, though. Apple wasn't marketing to tinkerers like me. Apple users (if I can stereotype a smidgen here) didn't care to open up their computers. They were more interested in what it could do, not how.

The new G5 also shows a maddening "almost" quality. It's a large tower, made from beautiful brushed stainless steel (at least that's how it looks to me). (Correction: it's machined aluminum. Thanks, Joe Maller.) It's got a lot of room for expansion inside it, as well.

But this time Apple didn't forget that its users aren't too interested in playing with the insides. Consequently, this tower of a computer has a single bay that's accessible from the outside. Adding any more drives other than hard disks has to be done through an external attachment, and not inside the computer itself.

I look at the G5 case, and I almost drool. It's gorgeous, it's innovative, and it's elegant. But the designers put in all that room for expansion and then didn't bother to actually allow it. What a senseless waste.


Full tower, AMD Athlon XP2000+ (Thoroughbred B), MSI KT3 Ultra2-C, 512 MB PC2100 DDR, Radeon 9200, on-board sound, 16X DVD-ROM, 4X DVD-RW (dual format), 40X CD-RW, Zip 100, 4 internal hard drives (2X 80GB, 100GB, 250GB), external USB box w/120GB hard drive, cheapo speakers (also hooked up to home theatre system), 21" NEC monitor, wireless keyboard/mouse.


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Comments (31)

I always thought that the P... (Below threshold)

I always thought that the PCs ability to upgrade components a reason for the innovation and cost reduction in computer components like 3D accelerator cards.
They may not be pretty, but PCs are the reason computer technology is where it is today (including Macs).

You said it brother!... (Below threshold)

You said it brother!
I'm the same way and was forced out by Apple way back when I had an Apple IIGS and they stopped supporting it. That was a great machine and for a while there was a vibrant 3rd party community who provided all sorts of upgrade components. But, when I had to get a new machine, I had to go with a PC; they are just so much more flexible.

Here you have another example. One external drive bay? I mean, many people want to add extra drives and plugs accessible from the front.

Yes, they are beatifully designed. But, PCs from high end companies like Falcon, Voodoo, Alienware etc are just as smartly put together. Voodo I think had an oragami master design the layout of the cables.

Imagine if cars were the sa... (Below threshold)
Justin B:

Imagine if cars were the same way. Pimp My Ride would not be able to work on Mac's in the car world. Who wants a MAC that ain't been pimped. Sooner or later you want to upgrade something and with Mac's they are almost set to be disposable only.

I agree with you mostly, Ap... (Below threshold)

I agree with you mostly, Apple is pretty close minded to tinkerers.

There are some third party work arounds though... you can always upgrade your video card; there are companies that offer processor upgrades for G3's and G4's, and there's a company out there that has a product called the G5Jam, which installs internally (I do think it takes 2 PCI slots... could be wrong) and allows room for two more HD in a RAID configuration.

I think the reason Apple is close minded like that though, is they try to make the entire package top notch, not skimping on any one part - no matter which model you buy. Buy to fit your needs, and you'll get exactly what you need.

But you're still right. (obviously i'm not a hardcore macophile... even though I'm commenting via my powerbook). Apple owners more often buy their computers because of what the machine can do, not what they can do to tinker with the machine.

I guess the pro-Mac thread ... (Below threshold)

I guess the pro-Mac thread was a few days ago...

Don't know if you saw this the first time it went around the 'net:

How I PC'd an Apple G5

Funny hoax story with pictures about gutting a G5 to use the case for a PC. BTW, the cases are machined aluminum and they're fabulous.

Eh. I've always been a prog... (Below threshold)

Eh. I've always been a programmer/software tinkerer, not one who wants to mess with the hardware.

And I loved playing in Unix, because I could do exactly what I wanted. Unlike in Windows.

So, I'm saying that Windows-computers leave much to be desired when it comes to tinkering, but in a different arena. But this is just an OS complaint, not a machine complaint. Non-Macs do just fine with Linux, and Linux is good enough for me to tinker with, too.

But I loooooove my beautiful G5. Bought it with last year's bonus check.

I think what you are compla... (Below threshold)

I think what you are complaining about is Apple keeping to their original promise of "A computer for the rest of us."

That said, there is always room for tweaking the box if you really. feel you must. One of the first MACs i worked on was a MAS Plus. 6800 processor running at a whopping 4mHz. 1mb of ram. we added a 20mb external hard drive (cost as much as the computer in those days). We also added a 14 inch monitor via a clip that attached to the processor. Later we added a processor upgrade that pushed it to 16mHz and 4mb of ram.

Eventually network technology and system software upgrades exceed our ability to find upgrades. But it does still run.

You are right about Apple's approach and understanding of their customers. Most of them buy a computer for what they can do with it, not what they can do to it. I would bet the same is probably true for most PC buyers as well.

Jay, your point about Mac p... (Below threshold)

Jay, your point about Mac people be more interested in getting work done is very true. My Mac users don't give a shit what they drive... They want to use the best tool.

I'll give you the perfect example... When I shoveled mud for a living, I used the biggest shovel I could find. A bigger shovel meant I could move more dirt which meant I got more done. (Would you shovel mud with a teaspoon?)

If you allow that data is "mud" and computers are the "shovels," Mac are just bigger shovels... They get more work done.

Now, having blown wind up your skirt and agreeing with you, lemme address your main point:

I look at the G5 case, and I almost drool. It's gorgeous, it's innovative, and it's elegant. But the designers put in all that room for expansion and then didn't bother to actually allow it. What a senseless waste.

I'd be more impressed with that argument if it weren't wrong.

There are no available bays "going to waste" that room is used. Look at the pic.


Besides, with a superdrive, how many people will EVER put another removable media in it? Tape is dead, Zip is dead. Unless you copy DVD's often enough to justify the added expense, I'm not sure why you would even need another removable bay???

Double Besides, Firewire rocks. We've used external devices since SCSI was introduced in 1986... It is just now the PC people are realizing that external devices are better.

I am an IT Professional and... (Below threshold)

I am an IT Professional and I have a mainly Windows Network. I did purchase two Apple G-5's and was suitably impressed for the same reasons you were. However, due to cost issues, I prefer to build or upgrade my own computers to keep my company cost effective as much as possible. The Apple G-5's do not allow that to be even considered. If Apple would allow on-site IT upgrades, and build capability, I would have an all Apple Network. I love them but can't offord them!

Hmm, maybe I should have fi... (Below threshold)

Hmm, maybe I should have filled out those survey cards when I was adding drives, memory, pro audio cards, etc. to those G3s and G4s I used to use at work...

Working at the same place a... (Below threshold)

Working at the same place as Brian (at least i think this is the same brian) I have to back him up our Mac's look nice and serve their purpose well enough, but we can't tweak them. Some of that is probably because we live in a Windows world and don't get as much exposure as we need to and some of it becuase of design. As far as your comment about the superdrive isnt that really for me to decide as the customer When we are in a large project we often have multiple burns of images going at 1 time if I am the one doing al the burns it is a lot more helpful if I can do them all on my machine instead of scouting for other machines with an open cd burner. If you have ever seen my desk you would know why external doesnt cut it for me.

The G5 case is brilliant; n... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:

The G5 case is brilliant; no wasted space. Much of the design is concerned with airflow and cooling; those G5's generate lots of heat.

If you want more external (or internal) bays, go to MacGurus and pick up an external case to plug into the Firewire 800 jacks. The range of expansion possibilities are beyond anyone's needs. Besides, the external enclosures make more sense for removable media, since the boxes are smaller and fit better on a desktop. Who wants the giant G5 case on the desk?

Reliability, compatibility,... (Below threshold)

Reliability, compatibility, and speed, baby. Not a collection of seemingly big performance numbers but real, actual performance. If you want to pimp something, get a Harley. If you want to use a computer without spending your life on the phone with tech support, get a Mac.

P.S. My favorite part about "Pimp My Ride" is wondering how long it's going to take before the pimped ride looks and works as poorly as the original shitheap. I usually figure three months. I've watched PC pimpers struggle with mods for more than a decade, and I've never understood why anyone would want to compromise a working system in the vague hope that improvement will result, which is rarely the case. I guess some people like to tinker with things . . .

The number of hard drives i... (Below threshold)
JM Galvin:

The number of hard drives in a machine becomes less relevant as individual drive capacities increase. It was far more important when drives didn't hold too much.

The G5 is also equipped with Firewire 800 ports. Even a FW 400 port is almost as fast as an internal drive. A 7200 RPM FW 800 outboard drive is just like having an internal drive.

The G5 also has (built in) the ability to easily, with a few mouse clicks, run the 2 drives as a RAID - making them much faster. OSX also supports fibre channel for connection to external RAIDS at ludirous speeds.

Lastly G5s support up to 8GB of RAM. This is vital in processing large files - such as a 3d rendering in a vector graphic - as it avoids the speed bottleneck of accessing virtual memory on the hard drive.

Sorry, the old MacPC spat k... (Below threshold)

Sorry, the old MacPC spat keeps roaring. If you were to take a vote amoung digital professional around the country regarding which platform they use and why, I believe the majority would lean towards Apple. Most of you tinkers became tinkers because PC's had to be made to look like a bundle of wires with stuff all over the room to perform almost near what a stock MAC would do. Why? The best digital machine runs off the best operating system and guess what? Windows is not it (but PC's are stuck with it, are they)? The comments I've seen here up to now are bias for PCs, one being so sideways to imply that apple didn't know what to do with their inners, sad mistakes not giving the consurmer what they needed in the way of use of space, etc. Goodness. The only thing you can find to run down the G-4 and 5 machines. Innovation is thekey word in my mind. PC's always existed looking out of the corner of their eyes to see what Macs doing now. Then responding to it by coming out with something close to it, and calling it their idea (with beaming pride). You still don't get it...PCs will blowup someday trying to expand their system using DOS their DOS based machine. I would hate to carry windows around everywhere I go. The Tinkers should stop being so spitful and start trying to use the best system needed for their application. I have a small eMac on my desk now putting movies on DVDs without a cough. A person I did one disk for was amazed at ease and professional quality I was able to get with this beautiful computer.
Sorry guys, keep tinkering.

All very good points, but t... (Below threshold)

All very good points, but the games I want to play still cannot be had for Macs, and so therefore all those points are irrelevant for myself and millions of others who share my interests (and who can only afford one comuter) when it comes time to buy a computer.

Take care of that issue, and I'll gladly buy a Mac.

I am a dedicated Mac user b... (Below threshold)

I am a dedicated Mac user but I will gladly bow to the point Tim made. Serious gamers *are* better served by PCs and the growing tsuna ... mound of game software.
But games don't matter to me which makes my Mac the better choice. For me.

I've been building and supp... (Below threshold)

I've been building and supporting Mac and PC networks since 1991. I've managed 2 separate 100+ workstation Mac networks as an outside consultant. That is simply not possible on PC networks. PC networks require at least one full-time tech long before they reach half that number of workstations.
One of those customers told me that if I kept building stable networks, like his 100+ Macs, that I'd go out of business....and he's right.
Thankfully, there are more than enough "tinkerers" building support-hungry PC networks for me to support. PCs account for less than 25% of the machines I support and, surprisingly, they account for 75% of my income base. Thank You Bill Gates!

I'll trust my computing needs to a Mac every time.

Eh. 80% of home computers a... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Eh. 80% of home computers are bought to be internet portals and video game boxes. People are happy with whatever speed they happen to run at and whatever basic suite of 'home office' software comes with it.

20% actually use high-end software for home business, research, etc. About half of those actually want to tinker with the insides of a computer. You're only about 10% of the market so manufacturers don't pay too much attention to you.

Les Nessman,80 per... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:

Les Nessman,

80 percent buy for games, but they're happy with the speed? Eh? Games are the most intensive consumers of processing power and video card performace. Gamers ALWAYS want more speed!

The bad thing about my cube... (Below threshold)

The bad thing about my cube and my sons G5 is that they never lock up or crash so I don't get to constantly reboot like I did with Xp Home Win ME Win 98 win 95 wi 3.1 Fortunatly Xp proff has so many security leaks that it takes all day to keep out viruss and spware at the office even though it is stable this almost makes up for the good old days of crashing all the time.

This Reboots for you.

If you want to tinker, get ... (Below threshold)

If you want to tinker, get an Italian sports car.

If you want to do some computing, get a Mac.

In your heart of hearts, you know Apple is better. They have to be better or they wouldn't exist.

And Microsoft knows that Apple is better, that's why they've been following the Apple lead for over a decade.

When my PC friends talk about their computers, all I hear are the troubles and tribulations they go through in getting their PC to do something trivial, like hook up a DVD writer, or boot without crashing. All the while, my Mac friends talk about how they are actually using their computers.

That says it all to me. If you actually have a need for a computer, get a Mac.

If you don't really have anything productive to do, and just want an expensive, frustrating hobby, get a PC.

Apple: The computer for the... (Below threshold)

Apple: The computer for the rest of THEM. Overpriced, un-customizable (Changing your desktop picture doesn't count), and for the longest time much slower than a similar PC. Operating system is great for the brain-dead gits that make up tthe vast majority of computer users, though. Of course, most users would be better served with an Etch-A-Sketch than even a Mac. Give me a PC running some flavor of Linux any day.

I guess I'll chirp in here.... (Below threshold)

I guess I'll chirp in here...this issue doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.

One of the main objections I have to MAC is that each...and...every...single...troll...I...have...ever...had...the...displeasure...of...knowing...about...has...used...a...MAC. I mean, it's like some sort of mental place that certain people go ("the Tower of MAC, the Tower of MAAAC, the Tower, the TOWER!") that leads them down some road of looking down, down, down on all the vast array of puny humans...

I exaggerate, and am aware. However, the relationship (MAC to Troller) is so consistent as to be something worth figuring, so I keep that in mind and now nearly cringe to the point of running in the opposite direction whenever I pass the Superstore in Newport Beach, dreading even to catch some whiff of the Tower and Trolling in general.

In all seriousness, had Apple ever extended themselves to me as a consumer as has DELL, I might reason differently than I do, but, as it is, my first and foremost great experience with computing has been due to DELL and the hardware that they have provided to me for my dollars. Which were substantial, granted, but in my experience, have been extremely well spent.

I'd recommend DELL and one of their higher-end systems, such as I have, and will buy again next year (an XPS) along with purchasing DELL's Extended Warranty Plan (provides for friendly and efficient home/office visits as needed to install replacement parts as needed, also covered). As to processing, I have no complaints, none whatsoever, but a great deal of bad computing vibes from most if not all MAC users.

Meaning, I don't want to enter into their midst and am just fine and dandy remaining a DELL/PC computing afficiando and I accomplish a great deal, using hardly ten percent of capacity even under the most arduous of comingled, simultaneous services.

And, my DELL tower looks beautiful, too, as does the XPS that I have my eye and budget set on. I prefer it to a MAC, actually, as to design. But, I've always been one of those persons who sees everyone else wearing plaid, I wear a solid. Something about MACs, it's like the plaid people all on the front steps of the Tower of MAC, and the rest of us saying, "oh, o.k., alrighty then, go ahead, just raise one foot, then the other, don't mind me, I'm just going over here..."

If anyone can explain the preponderance of trolling-and-MACs, I'd be interested in reading it. But, as it stands tonight, I've yet to encounter a troll who did not use a MAC and who did not seem to be afflicted with a very, very bad personality -- Paul excluded.

I could never understand th... (Below threshold)

I could never understand that tiny little -- what was it, two inches square? -- monitor/display that Apple used to have by default, but, that thing was my first and last venture toward the Tower of MAC. The machine was fun but hardly exuberant. Cute, but not at all a four wheel drive.

What J didn't get to mentio... (Below threshold)
Jason Mclaren:

What J didn't get to mention was that he not only figures out how computer work, he builds exceptional personal computers one piece at a time. I have seen his computer..( actually I have seen the many different ones that seem networked) and he is the one who opened my eyes to Windows and such. Macs are ok.. but just reminds of that beauty to look at doesn't reflect what is inside.

Mac useres buy Macs cause t... (Below threshold)
R. J> Fisher:

Mac useres buy Macs cause they work...they do not need to be "tinkered" with. You PC guys just like to think you've created something with your tinkering, when in fact what you still have is a piece of JUNK!

I find it interesting that ... (Below threshold)

I find it interesting that Mac users equate digital processing with productivity. They negelect to inform themselves, or everyone else, that it is the PC platform that is utilized for 2D and 3D modeling programs that result in in the majority of manufactured parts being built in this world. I guess DVD production trumphs automobiles, aircraft, and nearly everything created by Autodesk Mechanical Desktop. Yes I know, Catia runs on unix, but not on Apples version. Only a PC will run fast enough to render 3D models. Macs are good for creating home movies and pre-press renderings. PCs are used to build the stuff everyone uses.

this is for brevity only:</... (Below threshold)

this is for brevity only:

Are there any men out there that's like the tower?


To quote FrankR"I fi... (Below threshold)
Impartial indifference bloke:

To quote FrankR
"I find it interesting that Mac users equate digital processing with productivity. They negelect to inform themselves, or everyone else, that it is the PC platform that is utilized for 2D and 3D modeling programs that result in in the majority of manufactured parts being built in this world. I guess DVD production trumphs automobiles, aircraft, and nearly everything created by Autodesk Mechanical Desktop. Yes I know, Catia runs on unix, but not on Apples version. Only a PC will run fast enough to render 3D models. Macs are good for creating home movies and pre-press renderings. PCs are used to build the stuff everyone uses."

OK, a freelance architect friend of mine helped develop and design the Cardiff Millennium Stadium (link: http://www.wsatkins.com/skills/design/sectors/hotelsleisure/cardiffmillenniumstadium/).
His task was working on the sliding roof mechanism and assembly. Did he use Autodesk products? No, too slow, too clunky, too 'get out of my way will you, I want to get some real work done'.
He used Vectorworks on a Mac and was finishing his tasks in half the time it took his PC based co-workers using AutoCAD on similar tasks. It's all about time, money and profit and naff-all to do with false 'standards' and the lemming 'I'll use what everyone else uses' mentality. Macs are often just more profitable to use. Not always, but often.

Why is everyone saying you ... (Below threshold)

Why is everyone saying you cant upgrade with Macs? OF COURSE YOU CAN. Not only software but hardware as well. Take for example Airport Extreme...if you dont have a card already you just open up your iBook/PowerBook and stick it in. Your mac detects it and automatically installs it.

I'm getting a new iBook G4 in a few weeks, I cant wait.






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