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From the archives: Why Macs are better than PCs

This gleefully biased piece was written for MacFormat aaaaaaages ago – Leopard wasn’t out, MSN Music was still a going concern, etc – and it was designed for potential switchers who might be sneakily reading Mac mags in the newsagents [There’s a companion piece, the Seven Deadly Sins of Apple Ownership, that I’ll post later].

Some of the advice is hackneyed and some of the prices are out, but I’m still amused by the really bad jokes…

1 Our Apples don’t explode

The slogan “Dude, get a Dell!” did wonders for the PC firm, but perhaps it’s time for a new slogan – such as “Dude! Get a fire extinguisher!” In August, Dell embarked on the biggest battery recall programme the world has ever seen, replacing 4.1 million laptop batteries that suffered from an itty-bitty, teeny-weeny problem: some of them exploded, taking people’s PCs with them. Of course, Apple recalled laptop batteries too – but it didn’t wait until things blew up to take action.

2 Our Macs don’t crash

Really, they don’t. The odd program will occasionally pack up, but because of the way Mac OS X works it can’t take the entire system down with it: you can simply use Force Quit to shut down the errant application and relaunch it. That means you can use even the buggiest program – such as early beta versions of browsers – without fear, because the worst that can happen is that they’ll go in a huff and force you to Force Quit them. On PCs, though, a bug or memory problem often crashes the entire system, kicks the cat and says bad things about your mother.

3 We don’t worry about viruses

It’s technically possible for Macs to get viruses, in much the same way that it’s technically possible for Victoria Beckham to sing in tune, for George W Bush to say something sensible or for your daily newspaper to be delivered by a pig in lingerie. However, back in the real world it’s a non-issue. Where PCs greet potentially dodgy programs with a cry of “woo-hoo! A new friend! Come and fiddle with my secret places!”, Macs are much more sensible and won’t install anything without your permission. Such an approach is common sense, which is why it’s taken Windows five years to copy it.

4 We don’t need no Activation

When you buy a PC, it’s not enough to buy it legally, in a real shop, with real money. Oh no. When you get it home you’ve then got 30 days to activate Windows, and if you don’t it stops working. But that’s not the best bit. Once you’ve activated Windows, if you upgrade a couple of components, Windows needs to be activated again. That’s right: even though it’s the same PC and the same copy of Windows, you need to get Microsoft’s permission if you want to keep using it. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were some sort of incentive, like a handful of magic beans or a video of Steve Ballmer’s monkey dance. But there isn’t.

5 Our music store doesn’t suck

On iTunes, no matter what track you buy, you know exactly what you’re getting and what you can do with it. Compare that to the Windows download shops such as MSN Music, where different tracks come with different rules. On MSN Razorlight allow 25 transfers to your portable and 10 CD burns; Justin Timberlake offers unlimited transfers but just 3 CD burns, and the current best-seller – Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie – provides just five transfers and five CD burns. And of course, MSN music doesn’t work on an iPod at all – which means we’re missing out on confusing, inconsistent and often unnecessary restrictions on our tunes. Boo and, indeed, hoo.

6 We don’t know the meaning of “DLL Hell”

Here’s how you install new hardware on the PC. First, you hook it up. Then, you insert the driver disk and wait ten minutes for it to install. Then, you reboot the PC. Then, it turns out that the driver’s incompatible with the Secret Hobbit Disco Synthesiser or some other guff, and it crashes your system. So you reboot, and it crashes again. So you borrow another PC and download a new version of the driver, and install that on your PC, and hurrah! It works, mostly!

Here’s how you install new hardware on the Mac. First, you plug it in. Then… there’s no then. That’s it.

7 We’ve had Vista for years

Forgive our snickers, but the great new features in Vista – desktop widgets, system searching, tabbed web browsing, whizzy visual effects, pretty icons, secure logon, parental controls, data encryption, integrated firewall, easy networking and effective power management – have been in OS X for years. Now that Microsoft’s finally catching up, Apple’s already onto bigger and better things. The next version of OS X, Leopard, delivers virtual desktops, amazing video chat, tools for building your own widgets, Time Machine to make sure you never lose an important file again… and there are still some top-secret new features to be announced. We don’t know why Apple’s so paranoid, though: at this rate it’d take Microsoft until 2020 to copy anything.

8 Macs are sexy

PC manufacturers try very hard to emulate Apple’s sleek designs, but the results are always a bit Max Power: in much the same way boy racers appear to have covered their cars in superglue and ram-raided the nearest Halfords in their unsuccessful attempts to emulate proper cars, PC firms’ attempts to sex up their systems always look desperate rather than delicious. If Macs were cars, they’d be Aston Martins: understated, immensely powerful and utterly desirable. And PCs? The closest automotive equivalent would be a clapped-out Corsa with a big-bore exhaust, luminous green paintwork and an ASBO-attracting, baseball-capped driver clad from head to toe in Kappa.

9 PCs are full of crap

The amount of rubbish on a new PC beggars belief. As Nick Bradbury of TopStyle (nick.typepad.com) reports, when he first ran his wife’s new Dell he was “stunned by the amount of unnecessary crap on it.” Like most PC owners his first step was to spend lots of time getting rid of “the useless startup applications and advertisements masquerading as desktop icons”. And then it went on fire! Okay, it didn’t, but the fact remains: when you get a Mac, you don’t have to set aside a few hours to uninstall AOL, Google goodies and other unnecessary nonsense. Or worry about fires.

10 Our Macs just work

One of our very favourite things about Macs is the way that everything works with everything else. There’s impressive integration between iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes, iWeb and Garageband, and you can use the excellent Automator to automate tasks not just in one program, but across applications. But the main reasons Macs “just work” is the tight integration between the hardware and the software, something that Windows simply can’t compete with.