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!
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.
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 everyMac 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!
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 Â£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.
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 systemâ€™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.
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.