Mac vs. Windows vs. *nix vs. whatever

Okay, I know this has been done a million times before. But I’ve recently come to a realization about my own experience that I think may be illustrative of the situation. I plead for calm in a topic which generally becomes an overheated shitstorm in a hurry.

So, I’m an expert-level user of Windows. I have used Mac (for about a year about 8 years ago), and Linux (even less than that). Assuming things work right, I can do just about whatever I need to do with any of those systems. If things get hairy, though, I’m mostly at a loss how to get under the hood and fix things in anything other than Windows.

At work, I’m a computer tech. I’ve got a lot of down-time which is essentially waiting for something to break. So, I decided to finally learn how to use Linux. I set up an old box we had lying around with the express intention of installing at least one distro of Linux, and hopefully setting up a file server with it.

Well, this damned thing fights me at every turn.

Many Linux distros install really easily. Some cough and hiccup and ask me questions I plain do not know the answer to.

Okay, assuming that I get the thing up and running, my problems are not over. Some of them automatically detect my wheel-mouse without any problem. A few don’t, and I needed to look up a couple of lines of configuration information I need to copy into a file in order to get it to work.

Setting the clock has been an unmitigated nightmare. The distros tell me that the standard setup is to set the computer clock to UTC, and the OS will make the translation from that to my time zone. It never works that way, though. If I set the clock to local time, it seems to be expecting UTC. If I set it to UTC, all of the sudden, it’s expecting local time.

Adding a hard drive to an existing system was a huge learning experience for me. I had no idea that you needed to create a directory at the mount-point you want to use. I didn’t really know what “mount” even meant in this context. With the help of a few great web sites, I think I understand it and got it up and running.

I have successfully installed precisely one piece of software which did not come in the distro–and I’m not really sure what I did to make it work. It didn’t seem to work immediately after I installed the package, but a couple of reboots, it worked fine.

Now, the point I’m coming to: I am perfectly willing to admit that the reason I’m having all these problems is that my paradigm is different than the one Linux operates under. I am used to the way things work under Windows, and anything that doesn’t work that way sends me to the MAN files or the internet to try to figure out how to do what I want to do.

I know that as I continue to play around in Linux, I’ll get better at understanding how things work…but I’ll likely never be as proficient in it as I am in Windows.

Where we stand right now, it’s an enormous pain in the ass for me to do anything more advanced than word processing or browsing the web in Linux. In comparison, Windows seems to “just work.”

It is my contention that some people are just constitutionally suited for one OS. Why that is, I don’t know. I suspect that early exposure to concepts important to the OS is important. I am willing to concede that Mac OS may be more “naturalistic” in this way, offering a wider array of people this feeling of it “just working.” I have, however, had largely positive experiences with Windows, and so I feel no great need to expend the cash and time necessary to learn a new OS and purchase new hardware.

Are there any Mac users who are willing to consider this an apt anaolgy for their relationship with Windows? If this is absolutely not true, why do you feel this way?

I look forward to reading your thoughts. And I hope it doesn’t devolve into yet another “Windoze is teh suxx0rz” pissing match.

I agree with the notion that some people just like what they like. I really don’t get why people need to rag on the other side. The fact that Mac and Windows are both still going strong after all this time illustrates that they both have merits.

The OP complains about pissing matches - but we’ve actually got a current thread on the topic which has remained rather civil:

Yeah, mostly.

I’m a lifetime Mac user (the lifetime of the Mac platform, not my life, which extends backwards to a time before integrated circuits). I have also used DOS, Windows 3.x, 95, and NT Server enough to be an end user or even semi-competent newbie techie in those systems, and XP, Red Hat Linux, and FreeBSD to a markedly lesser extent.

Little things in the Linux / BSD world have brought me to a complete standstill in ways that neither the Mac systems nor the Microsoft systems ever could. For instance, I finally found the easiest way to get Red Hat Linux to do screen resolution at 1024 x 768 instead of 800 x 600 was to nuke it and reinstall from scratch.

I would agree with you that a huge majority of the relevant stuff is pertinent to what you know and are familiar with rather than intrinsic differences in usability. If this thread fills up with Red Hat users who say “Well if you’d RTFM or just run ‘man screenrez’ you’d know that you just issue the ‘sr 1024.768.32| env 0:0’ command from the command line and then run bind and then run attach and then run config-balderdash and kill and restart X”, I would not be surprised. But I could not figure out how to do it.

One example of “it’s what you know” from real life: I constantly hear Windows expatriates using the MacOS saying “Gee, I sure wish I could navigate using the keyboard the way you can in Windows”… and meanwhile one of my complaints about Windows is that you can’t navigate via the keyboard worth a damn like you can in the MacOS! If I’m sitting at someone’s PC and I go Control-O to open a file, it opens (let’s say) to “My Documents” and I want it to be instead at some subfolder inside a folder I have open on the Desktop… hmm, Control-D for Desktop? Nope. Control-uparrow to climb up out of the folder I’m in and go elsewhere in the hierarchy? Nope. Hmm, looks like if I Tab around all day long I eventually get the “Look in” box highlighted and I can then arrow-key up the hierarchy and select Desktop and enter, ok…now that I’m on Desktop, I’ll just arrow down to the folder I want to open and…ummm, no, I guess first I’ll hit the Tab key another dozen times to get it to focus on the items on the Desktop…now I can go the one I want to open and the folder within that folder and so on.

But I’m aware that Windows users find the Mac’s equivalent dialog boxes at least equally frustrating. Gee, how do I get properties on this file I’m thinking I might wanna open? Hmm, no, right-clicking doesn’t bring up a contextual menu… Command-I, maybe? No, that’ didn’t help…

Are there elements of each operating system that I think are fundamentally superior or inferior rather than just “it’s what you’re used to”? Sure… (Multiple Document Interface, anyone?)… but that is a matter of opinion and my opinion is of course affected by what I’m used to and familiar with.

Comp Sci. grad student here. It seems to me that one’s current knowledge of an OS is almost the sole determining factor as to whether one likes it or not. To me, it’s akin to a vi vs. emacs debate…mostly whatever you get used to. (I’m ignoring the purpose/applications you’re using the computer for – I think I’d probably dual boot with Windows if I was a gamer or with OS-X if I wanted to do some hard core image/sound manipulation.)

I weaned myself off Windows a few years back, both out of necessity (UNIX is the common currency at the universities I’ve been at and I never want to pay the Windows “tax” again) and couldn’t imagine leaving Linux. (Well, maybe for OS-X, but then it’s also UNIX now.) I’ve had minor exposure to WinXP since the move to Linux and feel crippled by the OS – I like working from the command line. I also like being able to look at the source code (even if I rarely do) – I’d never have made it through a networking class I took if I didn’t have access to the source.

On preview, most of what AHunter3 said.

Thanks, GorillaMan. I thought I’d searched for recent threads, but apparently didn’t do a very good job.

May I make a suggestion to you if you can afford it? Buy a current Mac with OS X. I have an e-mail correspondent that works for a major independent Usenet provider. Needless to say, he is a Unix geek, and an impressive one. He has a Mac with OS X, and he has called OS X the Holy Grail of operating systems. OS X is basically a Unix box, with a pretty GUI on top of it for those who want that. For the most part he just uses it as a straight Unix box. However, when he has to he can use the pretty GUI. For example, when for his job he has to work with Microsoft Office documents, he just runs MS Office Mac version on his box. Thus in many ways, OS X is the best of both worlds.

As such, no need to worry about setting up a Linux distro if you get a Mac. When you want *nix, it’s just there.

I’m just popping in to say that Mac OS, Windows, Unix, and Linux all suck.

Genera for ever! :wink:

On a less idealistic note, I think all the major current operating systems (the commercial Unix variants, Linux, Windows 2000 and onwards, Mac OS X, hell, even OpenVMS, though it’s not “major” anymore) are damn good operating systems, and which ones you prefer depends primarily on which ones your comfortable with and which ones run the applications you need.

If you’re doing the computer thing for a living, I think it’s a good idea to get comfortable on as many as you can. Pick up an alpha off eBay and give VMS a whirl; install OpenBSD on that old intel box, etc.

Another example supporting “it’s what you know”: How to unmount and remount a drive in Windows. It’s really not bad once you know how, but I had to ask.

For all I know, Windows users (and PC Unix users) find the Mac way confusing. I do recall seeing some threads from PC folks temporarily using Macs and wondering why they can’t just push the hardware “eject” button on their CD drive or floppy drive and have it spit out.

I think from an average user perspective, Mac vs Win are reasonably equal. advantages, disadvantages, yada, yada, yada, it’s all been said before.

Where I can possibily contribute to the discussion is with my experience with writing identical functionality between the two platforms. On a number of occasions, I have had to write things like disc burning, graphic routines, and complex math and database functionality, text to speech and speech recognition.

I learned coding mostly on Windows, so that is where the majority of my experience is, but I find that it usually takes considerably less time to get something behaving right on the Mac. The code-base is generally more consistently applied on the mac, and you are less likely to get hung up on a real headscratcher. I’ve taken to prototyping on the mac now, and if it takes me three days on the mac, I know to allot 8 days to do it on the Window side.

I just find it silly listening to self-proclaimed “experts” talk about Mac vs. Windows vs. Unix vs. Linux if they don’t have ample experience with all of them. It’s like asking a food critic to compare Italian vs. Indian vs. Japanese vs. American cuisine when he’s never eaten anything more sophisticated than what’s on the menu at Olive Garden.

But that’s part of my point, rjung. I’m most familiar with Windows, and magically, it’s the one that seems to “just work” for me. I submit that’s probably not coincidence.

Now, my question comes down to chicken vs. egg.

I think the best solution is immersion.

Put your Windows machine in a closet, pick up a cheap-but-serviceable “alternative OS” (Irix? Solaris? VMS? OpenBSD? The world is your geek oyster!) box off eBay, and use only that for all your home development, e-mail, web-browsing, etc. needs for a few months. You’ll get comfy real quick.

This is a solution looking for a problem. I’m happy with Windows. I’m playing around in Linux, but have no compelling reason to become a guru in it.

So…why should I?

To broaden your horizons.

I’m fluent in Windows, Mac, UNIX, Linux, VAX/VMS, OS/2, Atari, and the TRS-80, myself.