Apple v. PC...Desktop v. Laptop

What skills to learn, what tools to get
Night Runner
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Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:20 pm

Post by Night Runner »

"an indication that they in fact perceive greater value in the products."

Depends on the kind of value. I live in a college town, and most students with Macs that I spoke with said they bought it either because it's a status symbol ("cool," shiny and so on), or because they didn't do their own research and fell prey to marketing myths (PCs will self-destruct because of all the evil viruses, whaaa!). There are very, very few Mac owners I know who actually use the system because of its advantages.


NYC ERE
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Post by NYC ERE »

I run my business on an 18-month-old Macbook Pro, which I bought used for a whopping $2,100 to replace another MBP which died shortly after its third birthday (I have it running again now; it was a panicked business-essential purchase). My business requires this sort of processing power, and so does my patience.
I think it's hard to make a universal claim about the superiority/value of Mac/PC/Linux because it depends on
* the level of OCD of the user -- the more customizable the platform, the more time wasted customizing it

* the unique opportunity costs of time spent for a given user -- will you miss a deadline/lose a client because you had to spend all afternoon dealing with the latest worm? How much income will be foregone trying to make a dysfunctional flavor of Linux work? On the other hand, if the system is used primarily for leisure rather than business, it would be hard to justify the Mac premium.
I also have been able to sell a five-year-old mac laptop for $500. To apply a bit of ERE formulizing:
* cost of ownership for a MBP: ~$2,000; length of use: 3 years; resale: $500. That's a steep $500/year "rental" cost, actually, even if it does help you forgo IT SNAFUs.

* netbook hackintosh/XP/linux + 22" screen: ~$450; length of use (face it, these things are plastic): 3 years (screen: 10); resale (netbook only): $75? COO (assume the monitor depreciates to $0): $79/year

* MB. $1,200, 3 years, $400, $267/yr.

* server rack/suitcase/desktop = $??? 15 years? I don't know, do you?


photoguy
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Post by photoguy »

@nightrunner -- while I wouldn't call Macs cool, I certainly like their design. My Mac Pro has a beautifully designed case that is also very functional -- easy to work in, no cables in the interior, and great airflow that keeps all of the components cool (heat is a killer for hard drives).
Regarding the "myth" of mac security -- I don't think it's a myth and I believe it's a very good reason to get one. Here's three reasons why I think this:
(1) The number of compromised PC computers is enormous. One only needs to look at the botnets to see this. For example, Conficker, a botnet targetting windows PCs has "more than seven million government, business and home computers in over 200 countries now under its control" (wikipedia). I would definitely call this a significant issue and conficker is only one of many.
(2) Companies like McAfee and symantec have billions of dollars of revenue. If security wasn't an issue, why are they making so much money?
(3) I have used PCs and Macs for over 20 years. In that time I have never experienced and know of absolutely nobody who has had their mac compromised or infected (same for Unix/Linux). On the other hand, I know several friends and colleagues that had their PCs compromised and needed to have their machine wiped wasting a day or more of work. My colleagues are not novices and if you have people with computer science degrees from MIT getting infected, there's obviously some fundamental problems that go beyond "user error".
@NYC ERE I've thought about making a hackintosh (which would be much cheaper) but in the end I decided not too because I was worried that I'd spend too much time in upkeep and I could never rely on it for my main computer. However, I'm very partial to linux which is free.


Chris
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Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 2:44 pm

Post by Chris »

Regarding TCO, there are 3 components: original equipment cost, replacement cost, and electricity. Equivalent laptops are more expensive at the outset, and their replacement costs for components tend to be much more expensive, since some parts are proprietary (motherboard). But they do consume less power.
I am running a homebuilt Linux desktop. Some of the components are 2 years old, some are 8 years old. I estimate I have saved quit a bit of money through slow, continuous upgrades over the years, upgrading only when necessary. To reduce power consumption, it's running a laptop processor and I replaced the power supply with one of the "green" 80PLUS models. With these changes I saved about 20W, bringing it to 55W while idle.
So let's figure 8 hours of usage per day and $0.13/kwh. 161kwh per year for my desktop, or about $21/year. My monitor is another 6kwh/mo, adding another $10/year. If we assume 5 years of trouble-free usage, that's $155 in electricity. So at least for me, even if a laptop used no electricity, added original equipment cost over $155 wouldn't put me ahead in terms of total cost.
It depends on your usage model.


Redsted1
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Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:03 pm

Post by Redsted1 »

@photoguy- I'd have to second that about Mac security. That was a major draw for me--I know TONS of people who are good with computers that have had their machines completely compromised. Me? Going on 5 years as a Mac user and haven't had one. In fact, both of my Apples run like they just came out of the box yesterday, which I know my parents can't say about their PC's.
How would I go about obtaining Linux? Is it difficult to use? This idea intrigues me, but I wasn't exactly a CS major in college so I wouldn't know where to start. If it's a big money saver it could be worth it.


Chris
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Post by Chris »

@Redsted
Ubuntu is a popular Linux distribution; you can download it and burn it to a CD, or request a CD to be mailed to you:
http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/get-ubuntu/download
Will you save a lot of money? Some. Figure that Windows or MacOS adds maybe $90 to the cost of a new computer, plus another $200 or so for Office software. So most of the cost saving is in switching to OpenOffice, which you can also download for Windows.
I'm happy to say that as a Linux user, I haven't had to pay for software since 1998 (-:


KevinW
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Post by KevinW »

@NYC ERE

Dell is price competitive on most all kinds of computers, so you can use them for a reasonable "spot price." Here's their rack server page:

http://www.dell.com/us/en/business/serv ... =bsd&cs=04


JohnnyH
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Location: Rockies

Post by JohnnyH »

Mac susceptibility to threats, virus, etc is a function of market share, NOT innate superiority... The idea that Macs can't be comprised because they're awesome is indeed a ridiculous myth.


Night Runner
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Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:20 pm

Post by Night Runner »

@photoguy

(1) Wikipedia is not a valid source. Try again.
(2) Because most people are uneducated morons who can barely take care of their own bodies, let alone follow elementary security precautions and prophylactic procedures with their PCs. It also ties in with (3) - what JohnnyH said. Macs aren't invulnerable or perfectly secured. There's just not enough of them compared to PCs to warrant hackers' attention. There were, are, and will be viruses designed for Macs, but not nearly as many as for PCs - all because of the market share. Gloating about something like this is like... like New Zealand declaring itself to be the world's mightiest country, because nobody ever bothered to conquer it: everyone was too busy fighting bigger, stronger countries. (Not a perfect metaphor, but it should do.)


NYC ERE
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Post by NYC ERE »

@ Night Runner-- I don't appreciate your snarky tone.


JasonB
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Post by JasonB »

As stated above, I think it really boils down to 2 requirements:
1 - Portability

2 - Application Support
High portability = Netbook or Laptop (Mac/PC)

Moderate portability = eeeBox, Mac Mini

Low/No portability = Desktop PC/Mac
As far as applications go, if Gimp (for example) doesnt cut it, youre probably going to have to bite the bullet and purchase a PC (or Windows license) or a Mac and the software you need to do your "work".
Even if you require a certain paid application (Adobe CS for example), you could always try puchasing an older version of the app (CS2 or CS3 instead of CS4), if it meets your needs, runs on your OS and doesnt have any huge security vulnerabilities.
My personal setup is a Desktop PC with a 5 year old MB, CPU, DVD-RW and case with a brand new $50 video card, 2x brand new 1TB hard drives and an OEM copy of Windows 7. Even with the MB/CPU being 5 years old, Windows 7 runs really well, Microsoft Security Essentials is free antivirus (as are AVG, avira, Avast!, etc) and it's run 99% of the applications Ive thrown at it. Should the MB/CPU die, my plan would be to get a new motherboard that is capable of running the latest and greatest CPU (like an Intel i7) but dropping a cheaper i3 into it. When the i7s drop in price in a few years, I can buy one then and upgrade the CPU for a significant discount and the only thing I have to replace is the CPU.
I also have a 2 year old Apple MacBookPro that I take with me when I travel for work and it works as well as it did when I bought it new. I hope to get 5 years out of it, but should it die, I would probably get a refurb from the Apple store for $1200 or so.


Night Runner
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Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:20 pm

Post by Night Runner »

@NYC ERE:

"I don't appreciate your snarky tone."
Dad, is that you? :p There's absolutely nothing wrong with snark. If anything, I'm suspicious of people who appear to fear snark and respond with a quasi-authoritarian one-liner instead of a bona fide post. Does this mean you concede the debate and admit your loss? If not, I'll be more than glad to continue our debate - as long as responses consist of more than a single line (unless it's a damn good line, on the level of E=mc^2) and references are more valid than wikipedia. ;)


photoguy
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Post by photoguy »

I think wikipedia is fine to use as a reference in a blog posting. Especially to support facts that are not considered the least bit controversial or surprising. However, even if you don't like wikipedia, the botnet page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botnet) provides a traditional reference for every estimate of the number of compromised computers and you are free to look those up -- there are many independent sources estimating that millions of PCs are compromised. (As an aside, there was a very interesting study in Nature that concluded that wikipedia was as accurate as Encyclopedia Brittanica. Quite amazing for a crowd-sourced effort).
The security of Mac computers is certainly helped by it's lower marketshare. However, depending on the estimate, Macs have somewhere between 5-10% marketshare whereas the empirical risk of being compromised on a PC is several orders of magnitude higher (maybe millions of times higher). That's really the bottom line that is important to users.
"Because most people are uneducated morons who can barely take care of their own bodies, let alone follow elementary security precautions and prophylactic procedures with their PCs."
Computers are supposed to do work for us not the other way around. Why should I, or anybody, spend time on a computer in unnecessary and non-productive work? There are many operating systems where the user essentially has to do nothing and the risk of malware remains very low. Unfortunately, this is not true for windows.
Finally, calling people "uneducated morons" is simply uncalled for, adds nothing to the discussion, and ruins the friendly atmosphere of the board.


Redsted1
Posts: 79
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:03 pm

Post by Redsted1 »

Oooooooooooooo-K! Back to it...
So I'm from the Seattle area, therefore I know tons of Microsoft people who always give me crap for my Mac. They say it's "too expensive". I'm not currently in the market for a new Mac laptop, BUT just out of curiosity I've been looking at Craiglist lately and there are some screaming deals on there for Mac laptops. Too risky to buy electronics from Craiglist you think? My only fear is that it's stuff that could often be stolen or not in proper working order.
Another option...might've already been mentioned (apologies if it has), the Microsoft friends are huge refurbished PC fans--laptop or desktop. I'm not completely sold on the idea of a PC in general let alone a refurbished one...thoughts?


Q
Posts: 348
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 8:58 pm

Post by Q »

My Google Account was hacked and used to try to buy $3k in gift cards from some luxury site - extremely scary... and I am hoping my work laptop is the culprit and not my new netbook that isn't very old...
They tried to use google checkout, which I used to buy this laptop


Q
Posts: 348
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 8:58 pm

Post by Q »

SO wants a macbook or equiv - and I want a home based server and I wanted a little laptop for travel.
Given my recent hack (and oddly, I think I only used Google Checkout once - for this laptop), which I think is based on my work laptop, I can't connect my external drive to this laptop until I figure out the breach...and my skills have gone way way down.
Time to harvest and sort-of emulate what JasonB said and build a linux box (linux is new to me) - add it all to my project board...and just crossed off part 1 of motorcycle license no less...


csdx
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Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2010 5:56 pm

Post by csdx »

Keep in mind that it might just be your google account that was hacked without actually having compromised your computer. If you've signed up for sites with the same password, they might have hacked that site without needing access to your computer. Or even the site itself might have been hacked (the big TJX debacle comes to mind here).
Personally I dislike Macs because I'm inclined to like to know how things work, and the Mac attitude leans toward closed source and proprietary locked down hardware. But this is the opinion of a computer geek/programmer, and I can understand how an average user might not be concerned about such things. Even then I still see it as paying the premium to have a 'professional' build a computer for you (and have it look good I'll admit), rather than assembling your own. Since I am interested in computers I'd rather take the DIY approach in this field and save throwing my money to professionals in other fields I don't understand (like medicine).


S
Posts: 288
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Post by S »

This is a classic internet holy war topic. :)
I skipped directly from Windows 3.11 to Linux when I built my first computer. I upgraded that machine with new parts every two years or so up until a few months ago when moved out of my house. At the beginning, in *general* I was happy, but the main hassles were lack of drivers and RPM dependency hell. I'm a programmer, so I could figure these out but it was still a pain. Fast forward and a lot of the worst issues are solved if you use a distro like Ubuntu. Sometimes though, I still pick up some piece of hardware and it doesn't work at all or it needs something done manually like downloading and compiling some code then editing a couple of text config files. As a result, I really can't recommend Linux *yet* for a daily user unless they're fairly sophisticated or they're going to be happy not adding any new hardware once they get a stable set up.
Personally, I use a MacBook Pro so I get the Unix underpinnings for work and I don't worry about some device not working with my computer. Lazy? Probably, but I just don't feel like spending hours trying to get some bluetooth headphones working even if I am eventually successful. My past two employers bought MBPs for me, so maybe I'd have a different opinion if I had to buy one myself.
I haven't used Windows in years, so I don't have a modern opinion there. DH has Windows 7 which he seems happy with, but he basically just uses it to browse the internet and scan documents. He hasn't gotten any viruses, but he has an IT background.


Q
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Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 8:58 pm

Post by Q »

I used to build PC's ages ago, so no problems there.
I thought about it for awhile and I think it was Google Checkout itself, and they (Google) must be pretty PO'd, because it couldn't be just me, else it wouldn't have been handled so quickly. I have only used Google Checkout once, as stated, and they won't let me use it again unless I send in my DL and a utility, so, I am no longer concerned.
This is just a catalyst to another project more than anything else, a good example also to update passwords, which I am bad at.


B
Posts: 164
Joined: Fri Sep 10, 2010 7:42 pm

Post by B »

Like JasonB, I value portability. Although desktop machines are usually cheap and easy to service/upgrade, I can't stand for something that dominates a whole desk (I'd go with the CRT monitor; they can be found for free) and cannot be easily packed up and taken with me on a bike ride.
What used to be IBM (and is now Lenovo) used to make really tough and powerful laptops. It remains to be seen how well Lenovo ThinkPads resist, but there are 5 year old ThinkPads that are still perfectly good. People still pay good money for T42 and T61 models (not quite 5 years old, but still).
As for software, older hardware means you can't follow every trend and run the shiniest OS. Now this will probably discredit my opinion to many of you, but I am a commandline junkie so all the shine and sparkle is worthless to me anyway. Get a bare-bones Linux distribution with gnome or KDE and for 90% of computer users, this will meet their requirements.
Now, if you're doing multimedia work or running beefy simulations, this won't do the trick, and maybe a Mac is more your speed.
PS:

Fuck Windows, of course. ;)


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