Why I choose freedom.

No Apple!Another entry about computers. Heaven help us all.

If you want a frame of reference for this article, try John Droz's Mac Vs. PC webpage. It all started in this entry in Ryguy's blog. The discussion about Mac conversion got me thinking about Macs, and a recent perusal of WeHateTech turned up the 115 page "document" version of Droz's website(pdf), so I started reading.

For the record, That PDF is 115 pages of vitriolic dogma on why Macs are superior.

Now, first I'm going to critique John's writing and then I'll explain why I continue to stand behind Lorelei and George and all the other computers I have owned (which have run Windows 3.1/95/98/XP pro or Linux (Red Hat and/or Mandrake) and operated (which include a couple variants of MsDos, Windows NT 4.0 and 2000, A few other Linux distributions whose names I've forgotten, and several variants of Mac OS up to and including OSX).

Let me say something up front, to make clear my background: I like computers. I've been a computer user since I was 10, and have two degrees in electrical engineering and a minor in computer science. I was raised on the fruit of the Windows tree but I have known many Mac and Linux users and interacted at least briefly with almost every major operating system. My sister and her husband are both in the visual creation industry and are Mac users.

Now, so that you don't think I'm going to try and be impartial about my critique of the writings of Mr. Droz. I'm not. The man scares me. It is my opinion that John Droz is in a cult.

Rick Ross writes about the warning signs of cult involvement here.

To wit:

Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.(check)

3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".(check)

4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.(check)

5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.(check)

6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supersede any personal goals or individual interests.(check)

9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.(check)

Six out of ten? The man creeps me out.

In addition, his writing is painful to read. The document is full of emphasis. Quite often when the man wants to say something, it must be in bright and garish colors, no matter how mundane of self-evident the fact might be.

I'm not kidding, his whole site is like that. Entire paragraphs are blindingly painted in swathes of bright red. Few things set off my "extremist neurotic to be avoided" warning bell more than the excessive use of font modification for emphasis. It is my firm belief that if your content is compelling enough, it will need only minimal visual elaboration--the kind that can be accomplished through the use of occasional italics or bolding.

Droz's paper is riddled with technical inaccuracies, false syllogisms, and editorial cartoons bashing Microsoft, Dell, Intel, and any other company that competes with his holy Apple Computer, Inc. in any way. Any pretense of reasonable discourse is completely absent by the time you reach the first page of comparisons.

I had hoped to read the entire document because I fundamentally support his underlying hypothesis: that Macintosh systems are the ideal computers for K-12 school networks.

They really are. They're expensive up front, but they're super cheap to operate (low power consumption), they get the job done, they require very little maintenance (no matter how computer illiterate the user-base is), and they're generally clean, cute and friendly. They're perfect for the school system.

But the style of discourse that John Droz employs is so fundamentally frightening to me that it makes my skin crawl. My head hurt and my brain was beginning to lose basic cognitive functions before I had reached the halfway mark, and I was forced to give up--I couldn't withstand a barrage of so much extremist dogma.

It is my experience that x86 power users tend to be pretty laid back. Sure there are some anti-windows Linux zealots out there--people incapable of spelling Microsoft without a $. And there are even a few pro-Wintel adherents that bash anything that isn't vanilla commentary handed down directly from the mouths of Bill Gates and Craig Barrett, but overall the group tends to be pretty low-key. We've been through the best and worst of the computer market. We laugh along with "Every OS sucks" (qt) when we hear it played. The discussion is mostly low-key and reasonable "Hey, use what works for you. What sort of hacks are you running to make your system better? Don't you wish there was a third competitor for the Graphics Card crown?"

But in my experience with the Mac universe, laid-back power users are few and far between. I only know one, the aforementioned Ryguy. The majority of Mac users seem split into only two camps: the technologically illiterate--grandmother's, hipsters and English majors--and the high-strung, vehement, apple-logo-flag-waving, Steve-Jobs-worshipping horde.

Don't get me wrong--I think that Pixar is the best thing that has happened to animated entertainment since Hayao Miyazaki--and honestly I don't mind Apple's mindset. Their devotion to clean, reliable software and hardware integration is admirable and their engineering is top-notch. They build things of beauty that I admire as an Engineer. They push the limits of where culture and computers mix, and our lives are made better for it. The Rio may have broken all the ground for the reality of portable MP3 players, but it was the iPod that brought that technology and culture to the masses.

I admire Apple's engineering, but I have to admit that this dogmatic mentality has been fostered over years by careful and concerted misinformation via the Apple advertising campaigns.

For years Apple has fed outright lies into its marketing and, we, the computer literate, have turned a blind eye. Everything from the lie that Windows PCs don't come in any color but beige during the early days of iMac (thank's, Jeff Goldblum!) to the modern Switch campaign videos which are downright insulting to anyone with an IQ higher than driveway gravel.

But what bothers me isn't even their marketing, deceptive though it may be. That's the job of a corporation's marketing department: to infect people with mindsets that are favorable towards their products. What bothers me is the brainless zombie horde of Mac supporters who feel that we, the non-Apple-faithful, are somehow living in sin--They remind me of the members of Greek organizations on my undergraduate campus. Constantly urging you to try out Greek life and insisting that it has "something for everyone".

Greek life doesn't have something for everyone--I got tired of "secret clubs" and "no girlz alouwed" signs before I turned 12. And Mac machines aren't for everyone either. I like Windows XP. It is a fairly stable operating system that works for me and I can use it intuitively because i have a 12 year history of Windows interaction.

More importantly though XP gives me the flexibility I demand. I'm a power user who likes computers. I like putting them together, taking them apart, and modifying them to suit my needs. I don't want my computer maker to release a "patch" to my operating system that disables my computer's ability to be upgraded, as Mac did with the G3.

I don't want my wrist slapped when I open up my computer's case to install new hardware, and I certainly don't want my ability to install any new hardware denied to me by the company's software updates in order to "ensure stability" (translation: protect our bottom line).

I like the freedom that comes with x86 compatible hardware because I know that if Windows ever gets too frustrating, I can install Linux--I have that option. I like the freedom that comes with knowing that if a new RAM standard becomes available, I can replace my ram without a worry that my OS might deny me the right to use it because this particular machine wasn't built with those specifications in mind.

The great thing about IBM completely f*cking up its entry into the Personal Computer market is that in the process, it allowed for Intel and Windows to step in and present an alternative that wasn't a complete hardware solution, and since it wasn't a complete solution, tons of other companies sprang in to fill the gaps. Graphics provided by 3Dfx and ATI and Nvidia. Sound cards from Creative and Turtle Beach. Motherboard squabbles between Asus and Gigabyte. All that competition made the x86 world a jungle of competing standards, but it also pushed competition and ensured that Windows would be forced to support the flexibility and freedom that so many competing vendors would need.

Of course Windows wasn't always as stable as MacOS! It encouraged you to do things to your machine that MacOS simply denied you the right to even attempt.

I have never met a robotics engineer who considered embedding the MacOS in a robot. When faced with a design challenge that requires a powerful computing solution, most of the engineers I know immediately reach for an x86 platform on which they can install a stripped down version of Linux. And Windows CE is still popping up in all sorts of things. These OSes were designed with the flexibility to support the hundreds of thousands of variants of competing hardware and software that were possible, and they reflect that flexibility in the places they are now appearing, in new realms outside of the normal desktop and laptop PCs.

I need the freedom that Windows XP gives me, it is a part of what I demand from my computer. I could never switch entirely to a platform where I was forced to put my neck beneath the boot-heel of the company that provided me my operating system. I can see myself perhaps owning an iPod. Maybe even an iBook for a laptop, or a G4 or G5 as a secondary machine if I took on a job in content creation. But as my day-to-day personal computer? No way. No amount of pretty images and fancy engineering is worth my freedom.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Anonymous Anonymous said...

on your Aug 22, 2005 response re: Macintosh Computers....
You have John to a T.....as his neighbors will tell you

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup - I've had the "pleasure" of personally working with John Droz and he's a real "gem" - made me want to blow my brains out on a daily basis.

1:12 PM  

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