Should You Buy a Mac or a PC?

In the last couple years, more and more folks have been asking me whether a Mac or a PC is the better computer. In case you don’t know, a Mac is a type of computer made by Apple, the same company that makes iPods and iPhones. A PC, on the other hand, refers to a computer that runs Microsoft Windows. When you’re standing there holding your credit card deciding which to buy, which is best?

Apple would have you believe that Macs are far superior to the old stalwart PC. You may have seen the Apple ads on TV that portray the Mac as a coolguy 30-something with all the answers. He has conversations with PC, who is a middle-aged nerd in an ill-fitting business suit that is always having problems.  According to Apple, the purchase of a new Mac will change your life forever.

Well, Apple’s claim is true in some ways, but it’s mostly marketing hype. The truth is that for 95% of computer users, all tasks they want to do can be done on either a Mac or a PC. The difference lies in how the total cost of each of the machines is spread out. Macs are great for creating audio, video, and DVDs right out of the box. It’s easy to make your own custom recordings or photo albums. Also, you don’t have to buy antivirus software for Macs. The catch to all this is that Macs cost about twice as much (or more) than a PC with the same amount of processing power, memory, and storage space.

PC owners won’t pay as much up front, but they will have to spend $400-$500 to buy software that offers features equivalent to what a Mac can do out of the box. (Some users won’t spend a dime on extra software because they will never need these capabilities.)  Then, there’s the $30-$50 per year you’ll have to spend on a good antivirus program, since Windows PCs are vulnerable to many types of viruses and other malware. PCs outshine Macs in the area of choice. For any given thing you might want to do on a PC (such as create scrapbooks), there may be 4-5 good programs to choose from for getting it done. On the other hand, a Mac might only have 1-2 programs for any given purpose. Macs and PCs can’t run the same software, so any software you want to use has to be written for one or the other.

Which Do I Think is Best?

I have used PCs for 15 years and Macs for 8 years. My personal take on it is as follows:

Buy a PC: If you favor a lot of choices, buy a PC. As for software, there still is no where near the amount of software available for Macs as PCs. Why? Apple makes up 10% of the computer market, so there aren’t as many people buying software for Macs. Therefore, more developers (the people who create computer programs) write code for PCs. I would feel guilty if I didn’t state outright that I think Windows 7 is great. It’s the best thing Microsoft has cranked out in a long time. As an example, AreoSnap and the way Libraries work allow me to get more done faster. It’s all the small touches like this that makes Windows 7 great.

On the hardware side, Apple doesn’t offer a lot of variation in hardware configuration or style. When’s the last time you saw a red or blue Macbook? Some people love the clean, white lines of a Mac. Others abhor them. Unless you buy a PC, you’re out of luck.

Buy a Mac: If you are willing to pay a little more and don’t want to worry about so many choices, a Mac is the way to go. Most of the software that’s available for the Mac is pretty high quality, as long as it always has the features you need.  Macs come with iLife, which comes with some of the best consumer-grade audio and video creation tools out there.  More and more developers are being drawn to write software for Macs, because there market share is growing very quickly (due in part to the iPod, iPad, and iPhone). Also, Macs are easier to maintain. Macs do get slower over time like PCs, however, it  takes much longer. As of now, you really don’t have to worry about viruses on a Mac, though I suspect that will change as more and more people buy Macs. The more people using a system, the more appealing it is for virus programmers to get to work.

With the Web, Who Cares?

I can’t really say a Mac or a PC is better. It all depends on what you value. Each is great in its own way. Mac vs. PC has been, is, and will be one of the biggest geek holy wars.

Most PC users I know right now are really into sharing things on sites like Facebook, Flickr, or Twitter. All this communal goodness takes place in a web browser. The sites don’t care what browser you use, and both Macs and PCs have several great browsers available. So, for most people, the choice of Mac or PC is moot. Both cost about the same in the long run, and both do a good job getting things done, howbeit in different ways. Some things are easier on a Mac and some things are easier on a PC, but you really can’t go wrong either way.

In the last couple years, more and more folks have been asking me whether a Mac or a PC is the better computer. In case you don’t know, a Mac is a type of computer made by Apple, the same company that makes iPods and iPhones. A PC, on the other hand, refers to a computer that runs Microsoft Windows. When you’re standing there holding your credit card deciding which to buy, which is best?

Apple would have you believe that Macs are far superior to the old stalwart PC. You may have seen the Apple ads on TV that portray the Mac as a coolguy 30-something with all the answers. He has conversations with PC, who is a middle-aged nerd in an ill-fitting business suit that is always having problems.  According to Apple, the purchase of a new Mac will change your life forever.

Well, Apple’s claim is true in some ways, but it’s mostly marketing hype. The truth is that for 95% of computer users, all tasks they want to do can be done on either a Mac or a PC. The difference lies in how the total cost of each of the machines is spread out. Macs are great for creating audio, video, and DVDs right out of the box. It’s easy to make your own custom recordings or photo albums. Also, you don’t have to buy antivirus software for Macs. The catch to all this is that Macs cost about twice as much (or more) than a PC with the same amount of processing power, memory, and storage space.

PC owners won’t pay as much up front, but they will have to spend $400-$500 to buy software that offers features equivalent to what a Mac can do out of the box. (Some users won’t spend a dime on extra software because they will never need these capabilities.)  Then, there’s the $30-$50 per year you’ll have to spend on a good antivirus program, since Windows PCs are vulnerable to many types of viruses and other malware. PCs outshine Macs in the area of choice. For any given thing you might want to do on a PC (such as create scrapbooks), there may be 4-5 good programs to choose from for getting it done. On the other hand, a Mac might only have 1-2 programs for any given purpose. Macs and PCs can’t run the same software, so any software you want to use has to be written for one or the other.

Which Do I Think is Best?

I have used PCs for 15 years and Macs for 8 years. My personal take on it is as follows:


Buy a PC: If you favor a lot of choices, buy a PC. As for software, there still is no where near the amount of software available for Macs as PCs. Why? Apple makes up 10% of the computer market, so there aren’t as many people buying software for Macs. Therefore, more developers (the people who create computer programs) write code for PCs. I would feel guilty if I didn’t state outright that I think Windows 7 is great. It’s the best thing Microsoft has cranked out in a long time. As an example, AreoSnap and the way Libraries work allow me to get more done faster. It’s all the small touches like this that makes Windows 7 great.

On the hardware side, Apple doesn’t offer a lot of variation in hardware configuration or style. When’s the last time you saw a red or blue Macbook? Some people love the clean, white lines of a Mac. Others abhor them. Unless you buy a PC, you’re out of luck.


Buy a Mac: If you are willing to pay a little more and don’t want to worry about so many choices, a Mac is the way to go. Most of the software that’s available for the Mac is pretty high quality, as long as it always has the features you need.  Macs come with iLife, which comes with some of the best consumer-grade audio and video creation tools out there.  More and more developers are being drawn to write software for Macs, because there market share is growing very quickly (due in part to the iPod, iPad, and iPhone). Also, Macs are easier to maintain. Macs do get slower over time like PCs, however, it  takes much longer. As of now, you really don’t have to worry about viruses on a Mac, though I suspect that will change as more and more people buy Macs. The more people using a system, the more appealing it is for virus programmers to get to work.

With the Web, Who Cares?

Most PC users I know right now are really into sharing things on sites like Facebook, Flickr, or Twitter. All this communal goodness

Netbook Plunge

Last night, I decided it was time that I get myself a netbook. These tiny form-factor laptops have been around for a while now, however, I initially brushed them off as an underpowered machine that casual computer users would buy to avoid breaking the bank while still having basic Internet and emailing abilities.

I’ve changed my mind about who needs a netbook after lugging my 17″ hoss of a laptop for the past 13 months.  Don’t get me wrong:  I love the power of my full-sized portable. I have been using it as my primary machine to teach online courses, create websites, and wrangle technology since I got it. It’s fast, full-featured, and gets the job done.  Its weight, though, leaves something to be desired when I just need to check email or or look up some basic information while I’m not at home. A lighter weight, lighter duty machine would fill the bill. This type of machine is a netbook.

After weighing the build quality and price of several netbooks that Best Buy had to offer, I decided to go with the Asus Eee PC 1015PE. So far, I have been very happy with my choice. The little netbook boots fast, is snappy, and gets about 8 hours of battery life  while surfing and checking email. Typing on the 85% chicklet-style keyboard takes a little getting used to, but after about 12 hours of exposure, my fingers are having little trouble touch typing. The trackpad is spacious and responsive, and the click button that sits below it works well enough for right and left clicking.

On the comical side, the text in most of the Asus-created apps features poorly-translated English. For example, after finishing with the registration app, the congratulatory text said, “Now your new machine can get your downloads from us.” I’ve been using products from Taiwanese companies for years and this is expected. I don’t think this diminished the overall experience and I’m not judging at all: I cannot imagine becoming even semi-fluent in any Asian language, as the speech patterns and tones are beyond me. Nonetheless, it is pleasantly comical to read when feeling out a new gadget.

The 1015PE comes with Windows 7 Starter, which I’ve heard many people complain about. My take on it is that Starter is perfect for a netbook. Many of the customization options are disabled and it doesn’t have Media Center enabled, but given the limited power of a netbook, this is a virtue.  You don’t need all the bells and whistles of the more fully-featured versions on a netbook. If you think you do, you probably don’t need a netbook in the first place.  I have no intentions on upgrading from Starter: Its light-and-lean feature set is exactly what this lilliputian machine needs.

To sum up, I’m happy with the 1015PE and would recommend it to anybody who needs a small machine with good battery life that is capable of consuming basic information.

Life with a Kindle

I’ve had my Amazon Kindle (Wi-Fi only) e-reader for a little over a week now. I don’t regret my purchase at all. It’s an absolute joy to use.  The screen is so good that I’m not sure how you could make it look more like paper.

The Kindle solves a couple problems for me. For one, I’m running out of room for new books. I have a lot of books I may never open again, for for some reason, I feel compelled to keep them. Storage is even harder considering that many of my books are programming and tech books that are thick and heavy. I have a couple cheap bookshelves that probably couldn’t take another pound. With the Kindle, I could fit every book I own into it’s light, 7-inch frame. Granted, there aren’t many of the books I will repurchase for the Kindle, but considering I’ll be buying new tech books for the rest of my life, the Kindle will be hosting thousands of pages of silicon-derived goodness before you know it.

The second problem my Kindle solves is the closest bookstore is an hour and half away. I know I can buy books online, straight from Amazon, but I really like the fact that I can get previews of books right on the Kindle. I realize Amazon has allowed you look inside books on it’s website for a long time, but I really do prefer the Kindle’s paper-like screen for reading longer works. There’s also the instant-gratification aspect of having a book in under a minute. That will come in very handy the next time I get stuck trying to configure a Squid proxy server and need to figure out the problem 10 minute ago.

I think the Kindle will even allow me to start reading more fiction, since it’s so easy to tote around. While I’m waiting for Beck to come out of Bath and Body Works, I can catch up on some reading. I’m currently working my way through Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, the first book in the Sword of Truth series. And since the Kindle has a decent WebKit-based web browser built-in, I can always catch up on the latest news or Facebook gossip anywhere I can snag some free wi-fi.

If anybody has been sitting on the fence as to whether an e-reader is worth it, I can tell you they are if you like reading at all. As always, your mileage may vary, but for me, it was a very wise purchase.

Powell County Distance Earning Forum

This news release may be of interest to anyone who is interested in a sustainable mode of employment in Eastern Kentucky:

Distance Earning Telework Forum planned for Stanton
STANTON – Have you ever wanted the ultimate work-life balance, a rewarding career working from the comfort of your own home, or wished you could utilize your education and work experience to its fullest potential?

The Eastern Kentucky Distance Earning Initiative will sponsor a free Telework Forum at the Powell County Library, located at 725 Breckenridge Street in Stanton, Ky., at 6 p.m., Wednesday, February 16, 2011. This free event will highlight a new and innovative job creation plan in Eastern Kentucky. Participants can learn about the thousands of telework career opportunities and receive information on the Distance Earning initiatives skills inventory, which it plans to roll out in the coming months to target large scale telework job creation across the region.

Sponsored by a consortium of Kentucky Community and Technical College (KCTCS) member schools, businesses and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), the Eastern Kentucky Distance Earning Initiative is an aggressive economic development strategy that aims to bring sustainable wage jobs that can be performed at home or from a business incubator.

“Work is no longer a place you go, it’s something you do,” said

Joshua Ball, who coordinates the program for KCTCS. “This program is not about job creation, it is about creating opportunities for Eastern Kentuckians to work for progressive and innovative companies that are leading the charge to compete in the global marketplace.”

There are currently thousands of jobs available in a variety of different fields like: data entry, clerical, medical transcription and coding, IT support, computer programming, sales, tutoring and teaching, and a variety of management.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 8 million people worked from home in 2005. Companies like IBM, Dell, American Express and Lockheed Martin have employees who telework.

“Even during a time when jobs are scarce, IBM has over 2,000 telework opportunities available,” Ball added. “This strategy helps eliminate some of our region’s greatest barriers when it comes to job creation: geography and infrastructure.”
Interested individuals will receive free resume and interview coaching. Additionally, they will receive twice-a-week telework job postings emails from the program.

“It’s critical that we do everything we can to link our talented workforce to the many telework jobs that are available,” Ball said. “We know that that there are a lot of people looking for work, and a large number of talented workers who are underemployed.”

The Eastern Kentucky Distance Earning Initiative will roll out phase 2 of its plan in the coming months: a proactive blitz to use a skills inventory taken from forums held across the region to form partnerships with national companies to develop a pipeline to our workforce.

Companies across the globe are seeing the vast benefits to telework. Studies suggest that employees who work from home are more productive and tend to miss work less. It also has massive benefits to the environment. According to the Telework Exchange, if white-collar Americans would telework just one day a week, they would avoid driving 134 billion miles, eliminate 120 tons of pollutants from the air and save nearly $162 billion.

For more information about the program, contact Ball at (606) 487-3205 or 800-246-7521, ext. 73205.

Our Destiny is NOT Free Enough

I just caught the tail-end of President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address. He said something to the effect of “our destiny is still ours to make.” It is with a heavy heart that I must disagree with him.

Slowly but surely, our ability to shape our destiny is being eroded, statute by statute and tax by tax.  President Obama is an advocate of some of the most oppressive legislation of my lifetime. For example, small business will cease to exist in this country as most will be cannibalized by mandatory healthcare supplements for all employees. On paper, this sounds like a great thing, especially for the employees. However, what this will actually do is discourage small business investment because it will create such a high barrier to market entry. Therefore, instead of having a job without insurance, many workers will have no job at all because the small businesses will be forced into extinction.  Therefore, the destinies of thousands of small business owners is now at the mercy of some misconceived, fairy tale legislation.

Furthermore, Obama’s hatred of coal-generated electricity is beyond logic. Yes, coal is a dirty way to generate electricity. Yes, strip mining has some negative effects of the environments. Yes, coal miners face peril and risk life and limb on a daily basis. BUT, do we have another viable alternative that can generate the amount of electricity needed in America today? BUT, is President Obama doing anything to keep lobbyists and utility companies from impeding these alternatives? I think not. I hope that coal can eventually be replaced, but until its replacement is viable, I think mining should continue uninhibited.

The saddest part about my objections listed above is that I, an average person, has no ability to bring about change. My elected officials don’t seem to be listening, or are afraid to do what I (and many others like me) want for fear of retaliation by the majority. I can get on this little website and air my grievances, but that’s not going to do much good (beyond therapeutic value for me). I often wish they’d put some big issues to popular vote, but that wouldn’t do much good. Some self-important, power-monger judge would just overturn whatever we decided if he didn’t like the decision. What this all means is that I hate my destiny but can’t change it because of my government. If that’s not a reason to be sad, I don’t know what is.

Right-Clicking with a Broken Right-Mouse Button

I was working on the Health Science teacher’s laptop yesterday and discovered the right mouse button on the touch pad is broken. Since the Commonwealth is broke, replacing the out-of-warranty laptop is out of the question just to enable right-clicking again. (And no, the keyboard for this laptop is devoid of a right-click button.)

I started Googling to find a utility that would simulate a right click. Come to find out, Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 all support right-clicking using the keyboard without having to do anything special. The magic command is to simultaneously press Shift + F10 at the same time. The right-click will register wherever your mouse cursor happens to be.

Obviously, this isn’t something you’ll need to do all the time, but in a pinch with a busted mouse, this tidbit can come in very handy!

To All US Veterans

I want to say thanks to all my friends and family, past and present, who are veterans. America couldn’t be America without you.

This country is a little shaky at the moment, but because of your willingness to sacrifice, we all have the right to try to change things without fear of oppression. That right is a priceless gift that we owe in no small part to you, the men and women of the Armed Forces. God bless you all!

Pride

Tomorrow, voters will go to the polls in the 91st district and make their choice for State Representative. Win, lose, or draw, I am proud to have stood by Mike  over the last 11 months trying to let the world know why Mike Bryant is what the 91st district needs. Throughout this entire campaign, Mike and myself have tried to conduct ourselves with dignity and honor. We have run a clean campaign. (I know we were accused of otherwise because we pointed out Teddy’s voting record and stated why we don’t agree with it. However, stating a voting record is not underhanded. An voting official is the sum of his or her voting record. But anyway…)

If Mike wins, I know he will work hard to do what he said he would do: That’s why I’ll vote for him. If he loses, he’ll commence to doing what he has tried to do since I’ve known him: Create great software using Information Technology talent from right here in Eastern Kentucky. Either way, it’s good to have a guy like Mike working to make the 91st district a better place.

Mike is like a 10-year-older version of myself in a lot of ways. I can only hope to conduct myself  over the next 10 years the way Mike has. I am proud and honored to call him my friend.

[Facebook folks: If you like Mike and think he’ll do a good job, consider liking this post, or better yet, share a comment about why YOU like Mike!!]

Mike Bryant Will Work for You with a Programmer’s Approach

Mike Bryant has been a computer programmer for the last 15 years. He has worked for AutoTrader.com, Time-Warner Cable, as well as many other businesses. What exactly about this job would make someone a good state representative?

To answer this question, it helps to know a little about how a programmer approaches the problems that he or she tries to solve every day. The general process a programmer employs to find solutions goes something like this:

  1. Figure out what the problem is
  2. Gather as much information about the problem as possible
  3. Analyze this information to formulate a plan of action for solving the problem
  4. Write computer code based on the plan
  5. Test the code to make sure it’s working as planned
  6. Revise the code to fix any errors
  7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 until everything’s working

The keystone of a programmer’s approach lies in the first three steps. Writing code is actually a small part of solving a big problem. The programmer doesn’t do anything until he has an idea of the facts about the problem and how the building blocks available to him fit together. Useful programs ARE NOT a result of some knee-jerk reaction or off-the-cuff decisions.

If you look at the economic and political climate in Kentucky at the moment, it would seem that our current elected officials have made a lot of decisions without any analysis whatsoever.  I get the feeling that most of our senators and representatives read a summary of a bill and totally ignore the details. Too bad the summaries aren’t what determine the success of legislation. As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details!  I’m not saying that everyone in Frankfort is so short sighted, but the results of their actions speak for themselves.

Mike will use his analytical skills to craft good legislation that actually make things better for the 91st district? It’s true that legislators have to deal with tons of requests and details every single day. Does Mike possess some super-human mind that will allow him to track all the facts in his head? No, but he does know how to use spreadsheets and databases to get to the details needed to make good decisions. Computers are really good at crunching details. Luckily, Mike is really good at telling computers how to work for him!

It may seem odd to think that software can make that big of a difference. However, it’s been proven over and over in the business world that software which lets decision makers see underlying trends pays off big time.  In government, this would translate to a government that actually works for the people.

I know that when Mike gets elected, he will be a champion for data-driven decision making. Furthermore, I know that he will share his custom-written software solutions with his fellow representatives so that they all can make better decisions based on what the facts are. I’m confident that when decisions are made based on the details, things in Kentucky will start to change for the better. What an exciting thought!

Mike Bryant is a Change in the Right Direction

When I think about what Mike will do to help Breathitt, Estill, and Lee Counties if he gets elected, I get excited. Why? Because I think Mike will be a strong voice, the likes of which the 91st district hasn’t seen at least in the last six and a half years since I’ve been in Breathitt County. Mike won’t be a mouthpiece for anybody, be it a Republican, Democrat, or Whig. Sure, he knows that he will have to work with the other legislators to make sure the people of the 91st district receive their fair share, but he won’t jump at the majority leader’s every whim. I’m willing to stake my reputation that if Mike gets elected, his voting record will reflect the needs of his district.

I’ve talked to Teddy about 3 times, long before Mike ever decided to run. He’s a nice man, but he doesn’t have a voice of his own. Any time I have asked him what he thought about certain policies or things going on in the legislature, he always fills me in on what all the other representatives thought about the situation. He never indicated to me what he believes or doesn’t believe.

There’s nothing wrong with Teddy being a nice guy, but it is a problem when he isn’t willing to stand up to other state representatives to make sure the 91st district doesn’t get overlooked for the betterment of other districts. Niceness is no substitute for passion! I get the feeling that Teddy votes with other state reps hoping that they’ll vote with him once in awhile, but I don’t think he gets that much backing from others. I realize he has to work with others, but once in awhile, a little bucking might funnel some much-needed resources into the 91st district.

There have been accusations that Mike has been slinging mud. Teddy’s supporters are portraying Ted as a victim of some evil plot to defame him. I have never heard Mike say anything about Teddy’s character. I can’t speak for Mike’s other supporters, but Mike and I aren’t really concerned with Ted’s character. As best I can tell, Ted is a good Christian fellow. My personal reasons for supporting Mike are very clear and they have nothing to do with me thinking Teddy is a bad person:

  1. I think Ted’s voting record does not support the wishes of his constituents.
  2. Aside from some of Ted’s legislation supporting education (which is good but not really that good considering he’s had 8 years to introduce stuff), I think the legislation Teddy has introduced has been lackluster and inconsequential.
  3. Mike is passionate and willing to fight for what the 91st district needs: anti-drug efforts, job opportunities, and infrastructure (high-speed Internet access and better roads).

Teddy’s nice. The current social situation for the hard working people of the 91st district isn’t so nice. Teddy’s approach isn’t working.  Since he isn’t willing to change his approach, I’m willing to change my State Representative.