Articles of Interest Regarding Apple

I have made the personal decision to switch from using Microsoft Windows-based PCs to Apple Macintosh, eventually striving for a Microsoft-free environment. The decision is based on many years of experience with Microsoft operating systems, none of them particularly satisfying; a dislike for the business practices of Microsoft; and a growing awareness of and admiration of Apple products. As I come across articles of interest related to this issue, I will add links to some of them here.

I will also share information about my personal choices in Mac applications.

PC Magazine 18th Annual Reader Satisfaction Survey

The complete article is available at the PC Magazine site. Here are some exerpts.

The Particulars

Who's doing it right? As usual, Apple receives the highest ratings for overall satisfaction with both desktops and notebooks, and it is a Readers' Choice award recipient.


For the first time, we've removed Apple from the mix when calculating these relative weightings. Whether because Apple's products are truly so much better than everyone else's or because Apple's customers are so passionate about their products, the company scores so high that it's like the class genius blowing the curve. More importantly, however, when shopping for a system, buyers are apt to compare Apple's platform to the Windows platform--not just to, say, Dell's product line or HP's. By removing Apple from the calculation of averages, we can compare Apple machines with the "average" Windows PC.


This year readers gave us data on more than 26,000 PCs, supplying us with enough information to report on a dozen desktop makers and ten notebook makers, for a total of 15 of the top PC companies in the United States. Our readers remain loyal to old favorite Dell, and Apple once again runs up the score against the Windows opposition. ...

Desktops & Notebooks


Readers' ChoiceOnce again, Apple achieves scores that are far and away the highest for all vendors in our survey, earning Readers' Choices in both desktops and notebooks. For Apple, in both the desktop and notebook sections of the survey, every single score is significantly better than the industry average for Windows machines. No exceptions. Apple's overall score for desktops is 9.2, and the closest competing score, Alienware's, is 8.8. Apple's overall score for notebooks, 9.2, is just as high, and the rest are even further behind: IBM and Fujitsu are the closest, at 8.4.

The company's scores are so high there's some concern that they can't be completely trusted: that Apple users are so passionate--almost fanatic--about the company and its products, they're not quite as objective as other computer owners.

Still, there's solid evidence that Apple computers may actually be worthy of devotion. There's little doubt, for instance, that the company builds unusually reliable products.

On the desktop side, readers say that Apple systems needed repairs only 11 percent of the time, an astonishing number when you consider that the closest competing score is Sony's at 16 percent. Just 17 percent of Apple notebooks needed repair--second to Averatec's 14 percent--but this is still amazingly low considering that no one else is under 20 percent.

Tempting as it may be to suspect that Apple owners are prone to exaggerate when asked subjective questions, they are much less likely to exaggerate the number of times a system needs repairs. "I have never had a problem with this unit," says Michael Wright, of his Apple PowerBook. "My only reason for contacting tech support was to set up my wireless network, and they even helped me set up my Windows desktop."

Nonetheless, we've heard from readers about problems related to the all-in-one design of the iMac G5. Looking at Apple desktop systems less than a year old, the iMacs (18 percent) were twice as likely to need repairs as PowerMacs (9 percent).

Apple does walk a thin line with its support, though, offering perhaps the stingiest terms of any of the vendors in our survey. If customers do call Apple for technical support, they're more likely to pay an extra fee. While some vendors offer a lifetime of toll-free telephone support, Apple's standard warranty affords only 90 days. The warranty protects against breakdown for only a year, and Apple fails to offer on-site service.

That's right: The company will not send someone to your home or office to repair your system. Your best option is to carry your system to one of the more than 100 Apple stores spread across the country.

Still, while we appreciate generous support and repair policies, it's even better to offer top quality products and services, as Apple has done.

PC Magazine review of Open Office Revision 2

The complete article is available at the PC Magazine site, with links to other reviews. It is reprinted below.
REVIEW DATE: 09.06.05
Price: Free.

Note: There is a program derived from named NeoOffice. It has been upgraded to have a Mac-style interface. I have used it successfully since first learning of it, and prefer it to Rev 2 because of this interface. MacWorld comments on NeoOffice in their article "Dumping Microsoft Office for an alternative suite"


If you can remember the name of, you can remember where to download it for no charge. If you tried the previous 1.1.4 version, the 2.0 beta version currently available will be a pleasant surprise. Unlike the slow, ugly, and underpowered earlier version, 2.0 is swift, smooth, and highly compatible with Office documents. Even better, it has plenty of features that you can't find in MS Office itself.

The 76MB download expands into five applications: the Writer word processor, Calc spreadsheet, Impress presentations program, Base database program, and Math equation editor. OpenOffice .org uses an XML-based file format by default, but it opens and saves files in MS Office format seamlessly, without special prompts or warnings.

Our tests showed impressive compatibility with MS Office documents, although Word macros—notorious for security problems—won't run in Heavily formatted Word files opened in Writer almost exactly as they did in Word, even when they included tracked changes, drawing objects, and other advanced features. We didn't expect Word's (largely ignored) animated text to translate into Writer, and it didn't.

Writer adds a PDF-export feature that Word doesn't offer, a find-and-replace feature that uses wildcards and regular expressions, and an impressive macro and scripting feature that organizes your macros in a tree-structured display. Advanced find-and-replace operations (such as those involving fonts and attributes like italics) are easier to manage in Writer than in Word's confusing Find dialog, although Word makes it easier to find special characters like dashes.

The Calc spreadsheet opened most of our test Excel files with few problems (save for some minor mislabeling and misalignments in charts), though charts based on pivot tables tended to be blank. We found Calc's menus and dialogs easier to navigate than the corresponding dialogs in Excel. The Impress presentations software is feature-rich and easily managed, with tabs for notes, outlines, slide-sorting, and other conveniences.

But the program can't do everything that the MS Office suite can do. There's no online collaboration or Smart Tags, for example, no grammar checking, and no highly flexible outlining, smart table formatting, or research task pane. And being free software, it has no tech support in the traditionlining, smart table formatting, or research task pane. And being free software, it has no tech support in the traditional sense. But the Web site does host a huge community-based support forum where you can usually get fast, detailed answers to any queries not covered under the FAQ section.

Anyone who doesn't want to pay Microsoft's premium prices for rarely used features may prefer this free suite. It does most everything that typical users need it to do, and does some things better than MS Office.

Tiger burns bright

Apple's Mac OS X 10.4 brings productivity to desktops, turnkey power to servers

By Tom Yager
June 03, 2005

The complete article is available at the InfoWorld Magazine site. Here are some exerpts.

Users usually don’t expect much from OSes. They’re the foundation for prefabricated or build-it-yourself solutions, but none is a rich solution, a self-contained platform out of the box. If you want a complete productivity platform, you can nickel and dime your way there with Windows, hammer and saw your way there with Linux … or hit the ground running with OS X.

Unlike any OS X before it or any competing desktop OS, Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) sends users’ productivity skyrocketing before one manual is opened or one application is purchased, thanks to stellar new search and workflow tools. OS X Server 10.4 has made an impressive trek, putting in one place every service you could need or want, with the exception of a commercial database. It boasts turnkey ease of operation but no restrictions on customizability or configurability.

Windows development chief 'would buy a Mac'

Tuesday Dec 12, 2006  1:53 PM ET

From: Windows development chief 'would buy a Mac' - Yahoo! News

Longtime Windows development chief James Allchin wrote in a January 2004 e-mail to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and company co-founder Bill Gates that the software vendor had “lost sight” of customers’ needs and said he would buy a Mac if he wasn’t working for Microsoft.

“In my view, we lost our way,” Allchin, the co-president of Microsoft’s platform and services division, wrote in an e-mail dated Jan. 7, 2004. The e-mail was presented as evidence late last week in the Iowa antitrust trial, Comes v. Microsoft.

“I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems our customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that does not translate into great products.”

Allchin, who has headed various aspects of Windows development since the mid-1990s but plans to retire at the end of this year with the shipping of Windows Vista, later wrote in the same e-mail that he would buy a Mac if he was not a Microsoft employee, according to transcripts from proceedings Thursday and Friday in the class-action case obtained and posted by, an open-source legal Web site.

Jim Hibbs, a spokesman for Wixted Pope Nora Thompson & Associates, a Des Moines public relations firm employed by the law firm prosecuting the case, confirmed that Allchin’s quotes were read directly from his e-mails by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Intel's CEO Paul Otellini re Vista

"Vista will play out like XP did," Otellini said in reference to Microsoft's last major OS launch. "People won't upgrade the OS on the machine, they will buy it on a new machine when they need to do that. I think people will like Vista as they play with it -- it's nicer and prettier. For those who use Macs, it's closer to the Mac than we've seen for a long time."   Mar 05, 2007

"Nicer and prettier" - how's that for a return on $10B of engineering? Nice that they're getting closer to the Mac, though.

Feds Skeptical about Vista Upgrades

DOT Bans Vista Upgrades


CIO cites cost and compatibility issues.


By Paul McDougall


March 3, 2007 12:00 AM (From the March 5, 2007 issue)
Citing concerns about cost and system compatibility, the CIO of the federal Department of Transportation has put a hold on DOT upgrades to Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system, Internet Explorer 7, and Office 2007.

An agency in search of alternatives

The agency has an "indefinite moratorium" on upgrades because "there appears to be no compelling technical or business case for upgrading," CIO Daniel Mintz says in a Jan. 19 staff memo obtained by InformationWeek. In addition, there are "specific reasons not to upgrade," he says, referring to compatibility with software apps, upgrade costs, and an upcoming move to a new headquarters. The ban applies to 15,000 DOT computer users who now use Windows XP Professional. The memo indicates that a similar ban is in effect at the Federal Aviation Administration, which has 45,000 desktop users.

DOT CTO Tim Schmidt said last week that the ban remains in effect and that the department is exploring other options, including Novell's SUSE Linux and, for a subset of users, Apple's Macintosh hardware and software.

Microsoft Hit By U.S. DOT Ban On Windows Vista, Explorer 7, and Office 2007

Tens of thousands of federal workers are prohibited from upgrading to the latest versions, according to memos seen by InformationWeek.

By Paul McDougall

March 2, 2007 12:00 PM

Citing concerns over cost and compatibility, the top technology official at the federal Department of Transportation has placed a moratorium on all in-house computer upgrades to Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system, as well as Internet Explorer 7 and Office 2007, according to a memo obtained Friday by InformationWeek.

In a memo to his staff, the DOT's CIO Daniel Mintz says he has placed "an indefinite moratorium" on the upgrades as "there appears to be no compelling technical or business case for upgrading to these new Microsoft software products. Furthermore, there appears to be specific reasons not to upgrade."

Among the concerns cited by Mintz are compatibility with software applications currently in use at the department, the cost of an upgrade, and DOT's move to a new headquarters in Washington later this year. "Microsoft Vista, Office 2007, and Internet Explorer [7] may be acquired for testing purposes only, though only on approval by the DOT chief information officer," Mintz writes.

The memo is dated Jan. 19. In an interview Friday, DOT chief technology officer Tim Schmidt confirmed that the ban is still in effect. "We're analyzing different client software options and also integration issues," says Schmidt. Among the options the Transportation Department is weighing as a possible alternative or complement to Windows Vista are Novell's Suse Linux and, for a limited group of users, Apple's Macintosh hardware and software, he says.

Schmidt says the Transportation Department hasn't ruled out upgrading its computers to Windows Vista if all of its concerns about the new operating system -- the business version of which was launched late last year -- can be resolved. "We have more confidence in Microsoft than we would have 10 years ago," says Schmidt. "But it always makes sense to look at the security implications, the value back to the customer, and those kind of issues."

The DOT's ban on Vista, Internet Explorer 7, and Office 2007 applies to 15,000 computer users at DOT proper who are currently running the Windows XP Professional operating system. The memo indicates that a similar ban is in effect at the Federal Aviation Administration, which has 45,000 desktop users.

Compatibility with existing applications appears to be the Transportation Department's major concern. According to a separate memo, a number of key software applications and utilities in use in various branches of the department aren't Vista compatible. Among them are Aspen 2.8.1, ISS 2.11, ProVu 3.1.1, and Capri 6.5, according to a memo issued by staffers at the DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Any prolonged ban on new Microsoft technologies by the federal government could have a significant impact on the software maker's bottom line, as Microsoft sells millions of dollars in software to the feds annually.


From: Microsoft Hit By U.S. DOT Ban On Windows Vista, Explorer 7, and Office 2007 - Technology News by InformationWeek;jsessionid=TSYT3J5HIF0PCQSNDLOSKHSCJUNN2JVN?articleID=197700789&queryText=dot

FAA May Ditch Microsoft's Windows Vista And Office For Google And Linux Combo

FAA chief information officer David Bowen said he's taking a close look at the Premier Edition of Google Apps as he mulls replacements for the agency's Windows XP-based desktop computers and laptops.

By Paul McDougall

March 6, 2007 11:00 AM

March is coming in like a lion for Microsoft's public sector business. Days after InformationWeek reported that the Department of Transportation has placed a moratorium on upgrades to Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Internet Explorer 7, the top technology official at the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that he is considering a permanent ban on the Microsoft software in favor of a combination of Google's new online business applications running on Linux-based hardware.

In an interview, FAA chief information officer David Bowen said he's taking a close look at the Premier Edition of Google Apps as he mulls replacements for the agency's Windows XP-based desktop computers and laptops. Bowen cited several reasons why he finds Google Apps attractive. "It's a different sort of computing strategy," he said. "It takes the desktop out of the way so you're running a very thin client. From a security and management standpoint that would have some advantages."

Google launched Google Apps Premier Edition last month at a price of $50 per user, per year. It features online e-mail, calendaring, messaging, and talk applications, as well as a word processor and a spreadsheet. The launch followed Google's introduction of a similar suite aimed at consumers in August. The new Premier Edition, however, offers enhancements, including 24x7 support, aimed squarely at corporate and government environments.

Bowen said he's in talks with the aviation safety agency's main hardware supplier, Dell Computer, to determine if it could deliver Linux-based computers capable of accessing Google Apps through a non-Microsoft browser once the FAA's XP-based computers pass their shelf life. "We have discussions going on with Dell," Bowen said. "We're trying to figure out what our roadmap will be after we're no longer able to acquire Windows XP."

Bowen, however, said he has not definitely ruled out an FAA-wide upgrade to Windows Vista and related software -- if Microsoft can satisfy his concerns over compatibility with the agency's existing applications and demonstrate why such a move would make financial sense given Google Apps's low price. "We have a trip to Microsoft scheduled for later this month," said Bowen.

Like the Department of Transportation, the FAA -- technically under DOT but managed separately -- has its own moratorium in place on upgrades to Windows Vista, Internet Explorer 7, and Microsoft Office 2007. Among other things, Bowen said the FAA's copies of IBM's Lotus Notes software don't work properly on test PCs running Windows Vista.

Bowen's compatibility concerns, combined with the potential cost of upgrading the FAA's 45,000 workers to Microsoft's next-generation desktop environment, could make the moratorium permanent. "We're considering the cost to deploy [Windows Vista] in our organization. But when you consider the incompatibilities, and the fact that we haven't seen much in the way of documented business value, we felt that we needed to do a lot more study," said Bowen.

Because of Google Apps' sudden entry into the desktop productivity market, what once would have been a routine decision at the FAA to eventually upgrade to Microsoft's latest software is now firmly up in the air. With similar debates doubtless playing out at other government agencies -- and in the private sector -- Microsoft is going to have to work a lot harder than in past years convincing customers to follow its well worn path of new releases and follow-on patches.

From: FAA May Ditch Microsoft's Windows Vista And Office For Google And Linux Combo - Technology News by InformationWeek;jsessionid=TSYT3J5HIF0PCQSNDLOSKHSCJUNN2JVN?articleID=197800480&queryText=dot

Mac vs. PC cost analysis: How does it all add up?

Everybody knows PCs are cheaper than Macs, right? Wrong! (At least sometimes.)

Scot Finnie   Today’s Top Stories    or  Other Hardware Stories  

June 08, 2007 (Computerworld) -- People have been arguing online about how much more expensive Macs are than PCs -- or not -- for more than a decade (and in print for years before that). These discussions usually involve some hard facts but also some persistent myths. As a longtime Windows guy who has recently migrated to the Mac, I think I'm in a pretty good position to try and sort out reality from fiction. Let's take a look at what you can really get for your money these days.

But first, let me say to all those people who have ever bought a Packard Bell or eMachines PC and believe that great value in a computer means any model that sells for $600 or less: I agree -- Apple doesn't have an answer for you. In fact, I suggest that you skip this article entirely. You're not going to find anything of interest in it.
It's the hardware
For those of you who are left, what I have found in my research is that neither side has a lock on good value. If you start with Apple's relatively short list of SKUs (three or four model variations for each of its lines, such as MacBook Pro, MacBook and iMac) and then look for comparable Windows machines, you'll find that Apple bests the competition in some ways and not in others, but the pricing overall is surprisingly on par.
Only a few years ago, it seemed like a no-brainer that Windows hardware was much cheaper. But if you're talking name-brand hardware, that's just no longer the case.
On the other hand, if you search the Windows side first, you'll quickly discover machines that -- in features and price -- fit in between the Mac SKUs. And in those niches, they represent very good values. So there's one answer to the question of whether Macs or Windows represent a better value: If one of those "in between" PCs suits your needs best, you'd be paying an unnecessary premium to get a Mac instead.
Let's look at some hard numbers. I started my research with top-of-the-line notebooks -- I spent an hour on Dell's site trying to find the cheapest notebook that offered everything Apple's $2,799 MacBook Pro 17 provides. That includes:
• Glossy 17-in. screen with 1,680-by-1,050-pixel resolution (optional 1,920-by-1,200 resolution for $100 more)
• 2.4-GHz Core 2 Duo processor
• 2GB of RAM (upgradeable to 4GB)
• 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT video
• 160GB 5,400-rpm SATA hard drive
• 8x SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
• Gigabit Ethernet port
• 54Mbit/sec. a/b/g/Draft n Wi-Fi
• Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, ExpressCard/34 card slot
• Three USB ports
• One FireWire 800 port
• One FireWire 400 port
• DVI port
• Built-in iSight video camera
• One-year warranty (upgradeable to three years)
(See Apple's site for the complete MacBook Pro technical specifications.)
I was a little surprised to find that Dell's Inspiron line doesn't currently offer processing power equaling that of the MacBook Pro. To get a 2.33-GHz Core 2 Duo processor (a 2.4-GHz version isn't available yet), you have to move up to Dell's more expensive XPS M1710 with Vista Home Premium.
Once I did that, though, and tricked out the M1710 with only those extras it had to have to compete with the MacBook Pro, I was surprised to see the Dell come in at a whopping $3,459, some $650 more than the Apple product. Now, it's true that the Dell has some additional features (higher-end video and six USB ports instead of three, for example), but it also weighs nearly two pounds more and is much chunkier (1.69-in. thick, compared with 1 in.).

I continued my comparisons with a visit to Circuit City last weekend to take a look at high-end 17-in. notebook PCs. Like Dell, Sony has one with every conceivable bell and whistle selling for more than $3,000 -- the Vaio VGN-AR390E, which goes for $3,150. Like all the other Windows models available at Circuit City, the processor is a 2-GHz Core 2 Duo, slower than the one in the MacBook Pro. On the other hand, the Vaio comes through with 1,920-by-1,200-pixel screen resolution, a 5,400-rpm 240GB hard drive and a whopping 527MB of video memory. Like the Dell, though, at 8.4 lb. the Vaio makes the 6.8 lb. MacBook Pro look like a lightweight.
Moving downscale a little, both Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba have models in the $2,000 neighborhood that approximate the MacBook Pro's equipment. The HP Pavilion DV9260US comes with the Intel Core 2 Duo 2-GHz processor, a 240GB 5,400-rpm drive, Windows Vista Ultimate, and a 17-in. screen whose maximum resolution is only 1,440 by 900 pixels (a major drawback). Circuit City's price is $2,000.
Bottom line: Assuming that you want a high-end notebook PC designed to work, play and be your everyday machine with style, the MacBook Pro is a surprisingly good value. The models that I compared it with, the Sony and the Dell, had some extras here and there, but they were also more expensive. The key to the perception that Macs are more expensive is that Apple offers very few in-between models.
Moving to the midrange
In the midrange, where lower-cost 13-in. LCD MacBook models occupy price ranges from about $1,100 to $1,500, you may be equally surprised. Apple's recently updated MacBooks (see the technical specs) more than hold their own on price/performance comparisons with other 12- and 13-in. LCD computers from Sony, Toshiba and HP.
The desktop landscape may also be an eye-opener. Even though the likes of Dell, HP, Sony and so on have machines priced from about $500 and up, those prices don't include LCDs (in most cases), and they don't start to get hardware-competitive with the processors in Apple's iMac line until they hit about $1,000.
Because of the iMac's built-in LCD, it's actually less expensive, though some of the details (such as hard drive size and RAM amount) may be tilted in favor of the Windows desktops. If you know your way around PCs and want some extras, the Apple could in some instances be the clear value leader in this category.
For comparison's sake, let's look at Sony's attempt to out-Apple Apple, the Vaio All-in-One Desktop PC VGC-LS25E. It comes with a 19-in. LCD, 2GB of RAM, a 7,200-rpm 250GB hard drive, and Vista Home Premium, but it has only a 1.83-GHz Core 2 Duo processor. The Circuit City price tag is $1,800.
So, how does that compare to Apple's 20-in. LCD iMac, which sells for $1,500? The iMac comes with a 2.16-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a 7,200-rpm 250GB drive, and 1GB of RAM. (See the technical specs.) You would need to upgrade the video memory and system RAM (bumping the price to about $1,750) to make the iMac comparable with the Sony in those areas. But the iMac has a bigger LCD and a better processor no matter what, and even with the RAM and video upgrade, it still costs less than the Sony.
Plus, Apple's $175 RAM upgrade is costly. You can save money by buying the memory elsewhere and installing it yourself. Kingston memory is less expensive, offers excellent quality and is fully compatible with Macs. I've also had great luck on my Macs with the bargain-basement-priced memory from Data Memory Systems in Salem, N.H. (I just wish DMS would take PayPal.)
Bottom line: When you configure low-end and midrange notebooks and desktops, you'll find that except at the very bottom of the heap, Windows machines are roughly comparable in price to Macs. There are fewer Mac models, so if your needs vary from what Apple has decided on, you may find a Windows model that costs less for you. But Apple's choices make a lot of sense for most people, and when you do the point-by-point comparison, Apple is actually a better value for some needs.

Reality check
The comparisons I've drawn above are by no means exhaustive. For example, I didn't address computers at the level of the Mac Pro, Apple's stand-alone desktop workstation. Nor did I cover the Mac Mini, a computer that I don't think is much of a bargain from a price/performance standpoint.
I also didn't address the 15-in. MacBook Pro, and -- full disclosure -- I feel it's of dubious value. It's only $300 less than the 17-in. MacBook Pro but has lower resolution, a smaller hard drive (without an upgrade), a slightly lesser SuperDrive, fewer ports and so on. It's nowhere near as good a value as the 17-in. model. The only time I wish I was using one is when I'm flying coach.
Anyone who performs a similar comparison will have to make his own subjective assessments about what's important and what's not. I happen to believe that many of the small details about Macs have a value that's hard to put a price tag on. How much is the very best trackpad in the business worth to you? To me it's worth a lot, but I know that some people couldn't care less. So I chose to focus on objective speeds and feeds, such as CPUs, RAM, video memory and so forth as best I could.
And then there's the software question, which comes up over and over again in any discussion of the cost of Macs. Long-term, entrenched Windows users (like me until last September) who are comparing prices tend to think in terms of the investment they have in software and peripherals.
I can't factor in your particular context. If you need Microsoft Office for the Mac, you need it, and that will set you back a few hundred bucks. But you can amortize that cost over the lifetime of your computer use, and you're going to have to pay for your next Windows Office upgrade anyway, right? What's the difference?
The more interesting question -- the question Mac people get really tired of -- is what to do about all the software you've been using forever to solve problems. Will the Mac world have those solutions? You like to do things your way; can you still do that on the Mac?
The feedback I've gotten from Mac people on this point is that I should just do things the Mac way. I reject that piece of advice, even though I have come to understand it. I don't agree that there's just One True Mac Way of doing things. There's the way that people using a computer are comfortable with doing things -- and that's a subjective determination made by each individual.
As Windows users consider what their costs might be in getting up to speed on the Mac, though, I would recommend this: Don't sweat the small stuff. As with Windows, there are solutions to esoteric Mac problems. Chances are, even if your favorite program doesn't exist for the Mac, something similar does. There are resources out there that will help you. There's a ton of free software. There's a ton of very low-cost software. In fact, there's plenty of Mac software out there -- much of it of surprisingly good quality. (For a personal tour of my A-list of Mac software, see The Great Mac Software Hunt.)
The release of OS X transformed the Mac marketplace. It's a vibrant, growing community. There's an excitement around Mac products, software and hardware that you just don't feel in the Windows world any longer. I'd forgotten what that felt like.
Get involved with the cost analysis
I'm interested in what both Windows and Mac people have to say about comparing the value of these two types of computers. There are a lot of ways to look at this. I just want to ask the people who heavily disagree with me to do these two things: 1) Read what I've written carefully, and 2) do your own homework. Don't make assumptions about pricing without doing a tech spec comparison of directly comparable Apple and PC equipment.
With that said, please send along your comments, suggestions and criticisms.
This article is adapted from the June 2007 issue of "Scot's Newsletter" and is published by permission. Scot Finnie is Computerworld's online editorial director.

Related Reading:
• A Windows expert opts for a Mac life
• A Windows expert opts for a Mac life, Part 2
• Windows expert to Redmond: Buh-bye
• The great Mac software hunt
• Ken Gagne: Steve Jobs, Slayer of DRM
• Joyce Carpenter: Mac OS X better than Vista which is better than XP which is better than ...
• Shark Bait: Apple's mobile phone: A must-have product, or will it go the way of the Newton?

From: Mac vs. PC cost analysis: How does it all add up?

Personal Technology

The Personal Technology Feed from The Wall Street Journal

Leopard: Faster, Easier Than Vista

Upgrade of Apple’s OS Isn’t Revolutionary, But It Beats Microsoft’s

October 25, 2007 by Walter S. Mossberg Sphere Share Print

The Mac is on a roll. Apple Inc.’s perennially praised but slow-selling Macintosh computers have surged in popularity in the past few years, with sales growing much faster than the overall PC market, especially in the U.S. By some measures, Mac laptops are now approaching a 20% share of U.S. noncorporate sales, up from the low single digits where they once seemed stuck.

There are several reasons for this, including the security problems in the dominant Windows platform from Microsoft; spillover from Apple’s blistering success with its iPod music players; the fact that Macs can now run Windows programs; and Apple’s highly successful chain of company-owned retail stores. But another key factor has been the Mac operating system, called OS X, which came out in 2001. It has proved to be as powerful and versatile for mainstream consumers as Windows, yet easier to use and more secure. And Apple has upgraded OS X far more rapidly than Microsoft Inc. has upgraded Windows, bringing out major new releases roughly every 18 months, while Microsoft struggled for more than five years to produce the latest Windows iteration, Vista, which came out in January. On Friday evening, Apple will release yet another new version of OS X, called Leopard, to replace the current version, known as Tiger. I’ve been testing Leopard, and while it is an evolutionary, not a revolutionary, release, I believe it builds on Apple’s quality advantage over Windows. In my view, Leopard is better and faster than Vista, with a set of new features that make Macs even easier to use. Leopard will come preinstalled on all new Macs. It can also be purchased for $129 as an upgrade to existing Macs that, depending on configuration, can be as many as six years old. Unlike Vista, which is sold in four noncorporate upgrade versions ranging from a $100 stripped-down “basic” edition to a $259 deluxe “ultimate” edition, there’s only one version of Leopard. It includes all the features, from those aimed at novices to those aimed at power users. For me, the marquee features in Leopard are a new function called Time Machine that automatically backs up your entire computer in the background; two new methods, called Cover Flow and Quick Look, for rapidly viewing the contents of files without opening any programs; and new techniques that allow you to access the files in, and to remotely control, other computers on your network or connected over the Internet with a few clicks and no technical expertise.

Plus, Apple’s free software for running Windows on a Mac, called Boot Camp, which was formerly an add-on users had to download and install, is now built right into the operating system. And, in my tests, the third-party Fusion program for running Windows and Mac programs simultaneously continued to work fine in Leopard. I did notice a few drawbacks, but they were minor. The menu bar is now translucent, which can make it hard to see the items it contains if your desktop picture has dark areas at the top. The new folder icons are dull and flat and less attractive than Vista’s or their predecessors on the Mac. While Time Machine can perform backups over a network, the backup destination can only be a hard disk connected to a Mac running Leopard. And, on the Web, I ran into one site where the fonts on part of the page were illegible, a problem Apple says is known and rare and that I expect it will fix. While Apple claims the new system includes more than 300 new features, there is nothing on the list that could be considered startling or a major breakthrough. Some of Leopard’s features are unique, but many others — such as backing up data and quickly viewing files — have been available on both Windows and the Mac via third-party programs or hard-to-find geeky methods buried in the operating systems. Leopard has made them easy to find and use. When I upgraded my personal iMac desktop to Leopard, it took less than an hour, and after the process was complete, all my programs, including the Mac version of Microsoft Office, the Firefox Web browser and Adobe Reader, worked rapidly and fine. I was still able to run Windows XP via Fusion. And my previous installation of Boot Camp, which turns the iMac into a speedy, full-fledged Vista machine after a reboot, worked perfectly. All my Vista programs and files continued to function properly.

With Cover Flow, users get a visual preview of a computer’s files without having to open programs. In fact, every piece of software and hardware I tried on two Leopard-equipped Macs — a loaned laptop from Apple and my own upgraded iMac — worked fine, exhibiting none of the compatibility problems that continue to plague Vista. My old Hewlett-Packard inkjet printer, for which Vista lacks the proper software, worked instantly in Leopard, even over the network. And, unlike with Vista, it was able to print on both sides of the page. I popped my old Verizon cellphone modem card into the test Leopard laptop and it worked, too, with no software installation or tweaking. Leopard felt about as fast as Tiger, and it started up much faster than Vista in my tests. I compared a MacBook Pro laptop with Leopard preinstalled to a Sony Vaio laptop with Vista preinstalled. Even though I had cleared out all of the useless trial software Sony had placed on the Vaio, it still started up painfully slowly compared with the Leopard laptop. It took the Vista machine nearly two minutes to perform a cold start and be ready to run, including connecting to my wireless network. The Leopard laptop was up, running and connected to the network in 38 seconds. In a test of restarting the two laptops after they had been running an email program, a Web browser and a word processor, the Sony with Vista took three minutes and 29 seconds, while the Apple running Leopard took one minute and five seconds. Here’s a rundown of some of Leopard’s key features. Much more detailed information is available at File management: Apple’s Finder, the equivalent of Explorer in Windows, now offers two new ways to quickly see what your files contain. You can still view them as icons or lists. But you can also use Cover Flow, the same system Apple uses in iTunes and on the iPhone to display album covers for music. In Leopard, a large preview of each file you select appears above the list of files in a folder, and you can rapidly scroll through these icons. These previews are live, and their contents can be viewed without opening the program that is normally needed to display them.

Time Machine backs up files. For instance, if the file is a video, you can just click on it, and it will play. If it’s a multipage PDF file, you can click on it, and arrows will appear allowing you to flip through the pages. An even better and deeper look can be obtained using a feature called Quick Look. Just hit the space bar or click on a toolbar icon, and a preview of any selected file zooms out. You can even view multiple sheets in an Excel file via Quick Look without launching Excel. Another quick new way to see your files is available in the Dock, the Mac’s equivalent of the Windows Task Bar. Here, any folder you place on the right side of the dock will display its contents, after a single click, either as a grid of icons displaying miniversions of the file or as a “fan,” or arc, of such icons. These special Dock folders are called “Stacks.” Leopard includes one by default that is the destination for everything you download from the Internet, so your desktop will no longer get cluttered with downloads, Time Machine: This built-in feature will continuously back up all of the contents of your Mac to either an external hard drive directly connected to the computer, or to a hard disk connected to another Mac running Leopard that’s on your network. The initial backup, in my tests, took all night, but after that, the system updates the backups hourly and I didn’t notice any slowdown during the process. To recover any file you deleted, you simply click on the Time Machine icon, and you are taken to a view that shows file folders — or your email or address book or photo collection — in a stack of windows that appear to go on infinitely. You click on an arrow and the stack of windows zooms until you arrive at the last view in which the missing file existed. Then, you click “restore,” and the file is recovered in your normal desktop view. You can also restore whole folders, groups of files, or even an entire hard disk. Shared computers: In Leopard, any computer that has been set to be shared on your network shows up on the left side of every Finder window. Click on it, and you can access whatever folders have been shared on those machines. Depending on the remote computer’s security settings, you may first have to enter a user name and password. It’s the simplest method I’ve ever seen for accessing other computers on a network. And it works with Windows PCs as well as Macs. When I first turned on the Leopard laptop in my office, it immediately found a shared folder on my colleague’s old Dell running Windows XP. She hadn’t even remembered sharing the folder, which contained files from 2003. You can copy or move files to and from these shared computers, or view their contents with Cover Flow and Quick Look, or open them in programs on your own computer. If you are a member of Apple’s optional .Mac service, which costs $100 a year, you can use a feature called “Back to My Mac,” which can access your Macs from thousands of miles away over the Internet. However, this feature works only over certain kinds of routers (not all of them Apple’s) and, as my router didn’t qualify, I couldn’t test it. Remote control: For any Mac in your shared-computers list for which you have permission, you can take over the screen by simply clicking on a button called “Share Screen.” You can also remotely control distant Macs over the Internet using Apple’s built-in iChat instant messaging program, as long as you have permission and the Macs are running Leopard.

Stacks displays the files in folders in the dock. iChat: Apple now allows you to use its instant messaging program with Google Talk as well as AOL’s AIM service, and you can set up a video chat in which you can present a slide show or display a document. You can also add special backgrounds that can make it look as though you’re someplace else, like Paris. In my tests, this even worked with someone on the other end using a Windows XP computer running the latest version of AIM. Spaces: In order to cut down desktop clutter, Leopard lets you set up as many as 16 different desktops that can run simultaneously, with different programs open in each. You switch among these desktops by using keyboard commands or a menu. For instance, you might have your iPhoto and iTunes running in one “space,” or desktop, your Web browser and email program in another, and Windows XP in another. Leopard isn’t a must-have for current Mac owners, but it adds a lot of value. For new Mac buyers, it makes switching even more attractive. Email me at Find all my columns and videos online free at the new All Things Digital web site,

IBM brings 'Microsoft-free' PCs to Europe

By Matthew Broersma

March 10, 2008 ( In a move to challenge Microsoft on the desktop, IBM has teamed up with Austrian and Polish system integrators to supply the emerging Eastern European and Russian business PC markets with "Microsoft-free" systems based on Red Hat Linux and open-standards-based productivity software.

Under the deal, announced last week, IBM will work with Vienna-based VDEL GmbH and Warsaw-based LX Polska to sell systems using software the companies call Open Referent. The systems will be based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop, Lotus Notes, Lotus Sametime and Lotus Symphony.

IBM sold off its PC arm to Lenovo in 2005, and the company insisted that it isn't getting back into the PC business.

Nevertheless, Open Referent taps into a growing demand for low-cost desktop systems that aren't tied to Microsoft standards, and it poses a direct challenge to Microsoft.

IBM said it is responding to demand from large businesses and government agencies in Eastern Europe and Russia -- including Aeroflot, the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Rushotel hotel chain -- and claimed that Open Referent could cut their costs in half.

IBM emphasized that government agencies in particular are interested in open standards, with many governments beginning to require formats such as ODF or PDF for official documents.

"This is important because it's a secure and cost-effective Microsoft desktop alternative," said Kevin Cavanaugh, IBM vice president for Lotus Software, in a statement.

Lotus Notes will be provided for groupware, with Lotus Sametime for unified communications. Lotus Symphony is based on and uses the ISO-approved ODF family of open document formats.

The integrators are likely to use white-box PCs, with manufacturers varying from country to country, according to IBM.

Large organizations in the U.K. have been slow to adopt open source on the desktop, even more so than other Western European countries, according to open-formats advocacy group OpenForum Europe. Its chief technology officer, Mike Banahan, once remarked that the U.K. is a "Third World country" compared with the rest of Europe when it comes to public- and private-sector interest in open source.

OpenForum's research found that open-source adoption is blocked by many factors, including the fact that companies are often highly uncomfortable with the available technical-support options.

Q Associates, a U.K. IBM reseller, told Techworld that it does significant business in Linux servers but has seen minimal interest in open-source desktops.

Desktop Linux integration isn't necessarily a straightforward process for a large organization, despite any cost benefits. The city of Munich, for instance, has spent several years tweaking a 14,000-desktop installation of Linux. The effort has involved developing new software such as the GOsa network administration tool to help manage the desktops.

We welcome your questions, comments or suggestions. Please feel free to contact us.

Note: If clicking the above link does not open a contact window, please click here.