The lengthy battle of Apple versus PC

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If you tilt your head at the correct angle and listen closely you may hear the crackle of flames intermingled with a surreal cacophony of explosions and the inhuman cries of battle. These are the sounds of soldiers fighting relentlessly in the name of two mighty powers – powers so enormous they barely notice the loss of an entire brigade, much less that of a single warrior. This is not WWII, this is not Kashmir, this is not South East Asia – this is the Internet. A mighty flame war has been raging on this once-hallowed ground for decades and has now infiltrated the Westminster bubble. Yes, the OS wars have finally arrived at our doorstep.

There are two main camps in this glorious conflict. On one side we have the supporters of the reigning hegemon – Microsoft. On the other stand those who have allied themselves with the rebellion-turned-empire dubbed Apple Incorporated. While allmay be fair in love and war (and these battles sport a touch of both), circumstances necessitate that I use the bastion of fine journalism that is the Westminster Bi-Line to alert the masses of a few myths that have arisen from recent wartime propaganda.

I shall start with the aesthetic elites donning the brushed aluminum armor – a number of exaggerations, or even outright lies, seem to have emerged from the Apple camps in recent years. Among the most egregious is the assertion that Macs have an immune system capable of standing up to the worst of viruses. Just this past spring the “Fakeflash” virus made a cameo appearance on over a million Macs in less than two months’ time. The year before that, “Mac Defender” infected hundreds of thousands of machines through the more traditional mechanism of leveraging human stupidity (an ailment neither side had developed an immunity to as of yet). These and other events prove that Macs are by no means safe from the illnesses that befall PCs and, as the number of users increases, the number of viruses is only likely to grow.

Another claim often made by Mac fans is about usability and aesthetics – Macs are pretty slick.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have won the shiny-things contest – a glance at the Asus ZenBook Prime proves that brushed aluminum can work for the PC as well, and the Razer Blade’s programmable LCD keyboard is several orders of magnitude more snazzy and useful than anything Apple has put out.

Still, in spite of Macintosh’s shortcomings, there is still plenty to be desired from the Windows trenches. Windows computers lack the uniformity of Apple systems and thus are harder to manage on large networks, more likely to be broken from an update, and more likely to require unique (expensive) parts for repairs. Add to those shortcomings the PTSD flashbacks to the days of Windows Vista that Windows 8 is triggering for some veterans and you don’t exactly have a recipe for computing perfection.  Windows machines age quickly, break unexpectedly and, every other OS generation, attempt be all Aero/Metro instead of “functional” and, if Office 2013 is any indication of things to come, the descendants of the DOS warriors of old will face many trials in coming years.

When will this senseless war end? The battle seems likely to rage for decades with no clear victor having emerged. Yet, on the distant horizon a new hope arises and is digging its own trenches, one GNU license at a time. Commander Tux recently led his Fedora-donning forces through their seventeenth release. Ubuntu is working its way through the ranks, just recently allying itself with the sinister yet powerful forces of Backtrack, and Mint is one of the fastest advancing privates the computing world has ever seen. Yes, while Apple and Microsoft are building fighter jets, a new era of user-made, open-source computing is planting the seeds of rebellion within the ranks of both armies. Perhaps this terrible war will finally end some day, but the development cycles aren’t there quite yet. So, for now, pick a side and dive in. When it comes to computing, every battle is worth fighting.

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