Tag Archives: Windows

VMWare Unity

TUAW highlighted this great video preview of the new Unity feature in VMWare: Fusion. The competition with Parallels Desktop is really starting to hot up, as although they’ve had a similar feature for a while with Coherence, Unity seems a lot more slick. I don’t doubt though that Parallels Desktop will respond to this…

The real question is whether it is enough to make having to run a Windows laptop unnecessary…

When Gates met Jobs

If you watched any of the dreadful Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul you will probably remember a series of sketches they did imagining Steve Jobs and Bill Gates meeting at a party. They are two of the biggest names in the industry, and haven’t appeared together on stage for more than 20 years. Steve Jobs company is running an advertising campaign lampooning key products of Bill Gates to the extent that PC magazines feel they have to run articles defending the PC. As a result how the two get on together is a subject of much speculation, especially as despite all of this, Microsoft is the largest developer of Mac software outside Apple.

With all the speculation, it is impressive that the D5 conference has managed to get the two men together on stage. The full session runs for well over an hour, and is available in seven parts with a prologue. If you don’t have that much time, check out the highlight reel which includes a number of gems and little snippets.

Steve Jobs also gave a solo interview – check out that video for a classic Jobs line when challenged with the point that via iTunes, Apple is one of the biggest Windows software developers…

“That’s right. … It’s like offering a glass of ice water to people in hell.�

Update: You can now get the entire session with Gates and Jobs as a single download from iTunes.

The Annual Mac Attack from PC Pro

Last year it was Vista v MacOS X that compared a shipping version of MacOS X with a beta version of Vista, this time around, PC Pro has rolled out “32 Reasons Why PC’s are Better Than Macsâ€? as it’s annual cover article bashing the Mac, and what a pretty pointless waste of paper it is too – however it is a further example of PC Pro’s schizophrenic relationship with the Mac.

Point number one is “Service Packs Don’t Cost £90â€? which is wheeling out their argument from last year that the MacOS X upgrades are service packs, and it then rolls through the familiar selection of PC owner grumbles including the one button mouse, which of course isn’t, but Apple defaults the Mighty Mouse to a single button configuration. Insecurity pops up too, with the standard PC retort that PC’s are perfectly secure if you get hold of a decent anti-virus application. They also pad out the list a bit with grumbles about the Mac startup sound, version numbers of MacOS X, and one whole item of the 32 is devoted to a whinge about Steve Jobs! In terms of the interface grumbles and ‘it’s not intuitive’ arguments that pepper the list, most boil down to the fact that it doesn’t work the same way as Windows – which means that anyone with a lot of Windows experience is still back to feeling like a novice trying to use a Mac. For example, the single mouse button doesn’t bother long term Mac users as everything that is on the right-click menu is able to be carried out elsewhere anyway. The menus being at the top of the screen is seen as consistent to Mac users, and so the list goes on. The article also waves Office 2007 as an advantage because Mac users are having to wait for Office 2008 for compatibility with some features. Of course as a look back over the releases will show, Microsoft always operates like this, and Office 2008 will bring new features that aren’t available on Office 2007 that will be included in the next PC release. Some of the points are just plain wrong. Number 28 compares memory handling, unfortunately taking a pop at the Classic MacOS memory handling and claiming that Mac applications crash from lack of memory. Certainly the old MacOS Memory Management was lousy, but certainly I’ve had no such problems with MacOS X.

To find the reason for this latest effort, you have to take a look at the editors column at the front of the magazine – it seems that Tim Danton is a little upset by the Get a Mac adverts, and is finding that the office Mac’s used to put the magazine together are crashing. I have to say that some of the Mac faithful are getting a bit fed up with them too, with even the occasional Mac magazine suggesting that a change in advertising would be a good idea. With regards to his unreliable office Mac’s he doesn’t say what they are actually running, or what age the machines are, certainly they could still be running MacOS 9 which is still widely used in the publishing industry. As to why they bother with these periodic efforts, I really don’t know. It’s true to say that the numbers of Mac owners are rising, but the numbers are millions behind the numbers of PC’s, and there isn’t any real chance of the numbers overtaking. Maybe it is this PC Pro Schizophrenia, as the magazine finds themselves giving good reviews to Mac’s they have to do these big Mac bashing articles to balance out!

However, whatever the article may say, it doesn’t change my experiences. Sat in front of me is a recent PC, and a similarly aged Mac. Both are running the latest versions of their respective operating systems. This, like most things I do at home is being done on the Mac because it is just plain more reliable, and just works. Compare this to the PC’s. As you know, I’ve got a love hate relationship with Vista on my laptop. Driver wise it is better supported, but the machine is noticeably more sluggish since I installed Vista, and, as I discovered on the Time and Talents day, more unreliable too. What I need in a home computer is something that is reliable and stable, and I’ve got that in the Mac. True I could probably build a PC that is as reliable with a bit of work, and by picking the right combination of hardware and software, but why bother when you can buy a Mac off the shelf that meets my needs?

To round off though, even PC Pro has to concede the one thing that sets the Mac apart. The article finishes off with highlighting the one thing that a Mac can do that a PC can’t, and the reason why a number of Microsoft staff are now running Mac’s. Whilst there are hacks to get MacOS X running on a PC, the Mac is the only official way to get the current big three operating systems, Windows, MacOS X and Linux running on the same machine, and schizophrenic to the last, PC Pro shows you how, even trumpeting the stability of of MacOS X when running four virtual PC’s and three virtual Linux boxes simultaneously…

Update: PC Pro are already starting to get feedback over this on their forum
– expect more when this issue hits news stands! It is worth noting that last time around they ended up defending themselves on their letters page.

Also, for a more detailed analysis, take a look at a point-by-point rebuttal over at themak.org. The first part is here, with the second part here, and the third and final part here.

Another Switcher

It’s starting to look like Microsoft might have a problem on their hands. Catching up with Mike Roberts blog it looks like he too is switching platforms. He’s yet another techie I’ve found who thinks that Microsoft have lost the plot with Vista.

I have heard Mike speak at conferences, and he is probably most well known for being behind CruiseControl a tool that provides automated continuous build functionality, and that I used in my previous job. However don’t think that he’s stopping .NET development – not at all, he’s doing it under Parallels on the Mac!

How Serious are Apple about Windows XP on a Mac?

Back in January, you may remember that Howard bought himself one of the first Intel Macs, you may also remember how he was a definite early adopter with Windows on the Mac, but then hit a number of problems with the limited driver support offered by Boot Camp. Anyway, chatting with Howard today he was talking about his new Dell laptop. Essentially, Apple has not updated the drivers that Boot Camp uses since the original release, so all the same problems remain.

That set me thinking, is it really a pipe-dream that Apple will ever provide drivers that will get the best out of Windows running on a Mac?

Thinking about it, it doesn’t really seem to be in Apples interest to get Windows to perform well on their machines. Since many of their revenue streams are tied up with MacOS X and it’s applications, if users buy their hardware and then just install Windows, Apple won’t make any more money from them. Certainly it seems to make more sense that there will remain key missing features and niggles with the Boot Camp drivers, and generally poorer performance that you’d expect, so that there remains a reason to boot up MacOS X on the machine.

Essentially, several months down the line, the Boot Camp episode was much more about publicity, and putting a stop to the third party hacker efforts to boot Windows, as providing users a fully working version of Windows on Mac hardware. Indeed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Boot Camp changes into something a lot closer to Parallels Workstation where Windows has to run within MacOS X, again giving a reason why MacOS X has to be booted up. Certainly, it doesn’t really make a massive amount of sense to waste too much time and resources on a project that reduces the long-term revenue they could earn.

Mac running XP picture originally uploaded by alienx.

Vista vs Apple – The Comeback

Last month I commented on the PC Pro Vista vs Apple comparison article, highlighting the fact it compared a Vista beta with a soon-to-be replaced version of MacOS X. I also mentioned the fact that they down-marked MacOS X for having a poor selection of included software by ignoring the iLife suite.

Anyway, this month they have published two, of the apparently many e-mails and letters they received criticising the article and accusing it of bias. Needless to say they aren’t giving any ground, they again justify the comparison by blaming Apple for not releasing Leopard beta code to them for review – bear in mind that they haven’t shown Leopard to Mac magazines, so they’re hardly likely to let a PC magazine see it. With regards to iLife they make the comment ‘and some people may have received bonus software such as iLife with their iMac‘ – lets just make this clear, whatever PC Pro may think, iLife ships with every Mac that Apple sell, just go through all the machines on their web site and it is listed. Microsoft maintained to the EU that software such as Windows Media Player and the like was no part of their operating system – it has to be said that they weren’t believed – but the only real difference is that Apple charge separately for the upgrade versions of iLife whereas upgrades to Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker are free upgrades, or come along with the OS upgrades.

The final point they address is the accusation of bias, which is effectively an agreement, but justified by saying that everybody else would be biased anyway.

To the credit of the magazine, despite their acknowledged bias, they have reviewed all the new Apple hardware in recent months, and although they review it from the point of view of putting on Windows – something Howard thinks is a bit of a waste of time – all the hardware has got pretty good reviews, with this month them conceding that the MacBook is a better compact laptop than many of the PC’s in their group test elsewhere in the magazine. So whilst they admit to being biased, even they are starting to succumb to the nice new Apple hardware!

UK Hi-Tech Crime Wave and Why I Use A Mac

Last night, the BBC showed a documentary on the UK Hi-Tech Crime Wave, which even for someone pretty up to date with the selection of security threats was pretty worrying, and was probably downright terrifying for the average user without proper virus checking, firewall or spyware detectors! As Dave Oliver has also chosen to comment on Howard’s decision to get a Mac, it also seems like a good opportunity to highlight why a Mac is now my main machine rather than a PC.

Looking at the programme first, it was primarily a whistlestop tour of the various methods by which criminals are making money from the Internet. Amongst other things it included a former chair of a local Police authority who had £2000 spent on a debit card that he never lost, which led to a discussion of skimming, where shops swipe the card information on the magnetic stripe on the back of your card (and still there even on new Chip and Pin cards), and then use the numbers online. They also interviewed an online retailer who has had problems with people using such stolen card numbers to buy goods, and who says that with his current losses eating into his profit margins, he soon will be unable to afford to keep the business going.

From there, the programme looked at the more PC based threats, firstly looking at the phising scams that have hit almost every major bank worldwide. From there it moved on to the more worrying key logging, and screen logging spyware, including another small businessman whose PC got infected with such spyware that recorded all his account details. The programme also looked at how the banks are trying to avoid the keyboard loggers by using drop down menus, but that the criminals are fighting back with applications that record the contents of your screen as well.

The final part of the programme looked at how infected, broadband connected PC‘s are used, detailing an attempted extortion against an online gambling site, where a bot-net (an group of infected PC‘s remotely controlled) was used to mount a denial of service attack, and then the attack followed up with both e-mail, and telephoned threats of extortion. According to the programme, the UK is one of the largest sources of infected PC‘s, and to be honest I’m not surprised.

The programme finished by encouraging everybody to ensure that they had up to date anti-virus software, firewalls and anti-spyware software installed, and to some extent that is where a lot of the UK problems come from. There are several people I know who still maintain that they don’t need to keep up to date anti-virus software as they don’t open any suspect e-mails. However, even people who are careful still get infected. I know of two people whose brand new PC‘s were infected in the short time the new machines were connected to download the latest virus definitions!

This leads neatly on to the reasons why I mainly use our Mac rather than a PC. Firstly a bit of background. We actually have both a PC and a Mac, and I would never have considered a Mac prior to the arrival of MacOS X. In my time with the PC I’d always messed around with alternative operating systems, particularly those that were Unix-like such as Linux, and particularly BeOS. However whilst they all had advantages over Windows in terms of interface, security and so on, ultimately I still needed to come back to Windows for software compatibility, and support. Whilst it was fun to play around with the different systems, for a machine that I could reliably keep up with e-mail, write documents and browse the web, and easily fix on the occasions it went wrong, Windows could not be beaten.

Things changed somewhat with the demise of BeOS. After that, Scot Hacker a leading advocate of the BeOS platform who wrote a regular column in Byte magazine wrote an article called Tales of a BeOS Refugee detailing how he went from BeOS to MacOS X, which led to me looking a bit deeper at what the Mac had to offer.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, when I spotted an end of line EMac in a sale, I picked it up. Initially it was used in a similar way to BeOS, for specific tasks, with web browsing and e-mail remaining on the PC. However over time I have gradually switched. The big changes were when the e-mail was switched over, which was as a result of a couple of events. Firstly back in 2001 Beth got sent a virus through her yahoo account – which she browsed with a web browser, and the virus downloaded onto the PC, so I decided to try and set up our e-mail so she could use a calusari.demon.co.uk address, but keeping the mail separate. When it happened, all the PC solutions cost money, or required a switch to Linux, so I left it. However a while after we had got the Mac, Microsoft Outlook, which I was using for e-mail really messed up, to the point where I couldn’t send and recieve e-mail. Looking at the Mac, it included a full Sendmail server, and following a guide on O’Reilly I was able to set up our current system where Beth and myself have separate e-mail accounts. Similarly over time, one by one, things that I used to do on the PC have switched over to the Mac. Compatibility isn’t a problem either – the whole St James Parish Profile was put together using the Mac version of Office , with the other contributors using PC‘s.

Alongside the fact that I am able to do everything I need, one of the other things that keeps me on the Mac is the security. As more and more people have issues with viruses and spyware, the Mac remains largely unaffected. Whilst there are the same security issues that affect other platforms, whether due to the size of the market or whatever, the Mac isn’t affected by the volume of viruses and spyware that affect Windows. It is worth saying at this point that whilst there isn’t a problem now, technically the Mac could be attacked in the future, (have a read of this MacWorld article for some of the myths) so I still ensure I maintain up to date protection. However it is true to say that largely I don’t worry too much about it. As the US National Security Agency said in December 2004:

The system’s default configuration is one of the most important security features provided by Mac OS X. First, as stated above, the root account comes disabled in Mac OS X. Second, network services are all initially disabled. Third, the initial logging setup is consistent with good security practice.

Compare this with a Register review of Windows XP security after Service Pack 2 which was supposed to sort out the problems:

While we found that there are indeed a few minor improvements worthy of acknowledgment, in particular, some rather low-level improvements that don’t show to the admin or user, overall, SP2 did little to improve our system’s practical security, leaving too many services and networking components enabled, bungling permissions, leaving IE (Internet Explorer) and OE (Outlook Express) vulnerable to malicious scripts, and installing a packet filter that lacks a capacity for egress filtering.

Whilst it is true that I could probably do everything I do on the Mac on the PC, and it is perfectly possible to sort out the security flaws on the PC, I’m quite happy with the Mac.

Despite having worked with Dave and had him try and persuade me to switch back for years, he has failed. It is worth highlighting that his most persuasive attempt, was when he updated his PC to Windows XP SP2. Whereas my Mac Security Updates often don’t even require a reboot, SP2 left him spending the entire weekend rebuilding his PC after the update screwed up the machine.! So am I going to swap my ‘rubbish‘ Mac whose ‘setup is consistent with good security practice‘ for an OS that does ‘little to improve our system’s practical security, leaving too many services and networking components enabled, bungling permissions, leaving IE and OE vulnerable to malicious scripts‘? Of course not, I want a machine I can turn on, read my e-mail, browse the web and be done.

As to what machine I advise people to get, I don’t regard myself as a Mac Zealot, in that I don’t particularly care whether the processor is a PowerPC or Intel. However, putting aside security, if you want a machine that you can write a few letters, browse the web, send e-mail, and espcially if you want to work with digital pictures, video or music (iLife comes for free with the Mac), you owe it to yourself to take a trip to somewhere like the Apple Store, and take a look at what a Mac can do.

If you want more totally biased operating system comparisons, take a look at this article on Operating System Advocacy.

If you don’t have up to date virus protection, take a look at these:

Norton Internet Security 2005 Norton Internet Security Mac 3.0