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Matthew Ahrenstein

DevOps Engineer for an amazing company, hiker, amateur radio operator, target shooter, and developer.

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Today I read a post on ModMyI about Intel’s new Ultrabook. The Windows vs Mac (OS X, and iPad) debate already started in the comments on their article. Instead of chiming in there, or re-posting their article here, I decided to just write a general post, on my thoughts about Windows vs Mac. I’m even throwing Linux into the mix, since I use that too.I personally think each operating system has its place, and depending on who you are, you might need one over the other. Now, I’m not going to get into arguments like “video editing/audio production/third thing is better on this vs that” because that is a personal preference, and will be different in every case, depending on the user. The “Operating System Wars” all really boil down to the individual. No single OS is better, or worse than the other. (assuming we are talking about the big three here) I’m going to share my personal preferences so you can see a good example.

Learning a new OS:

One good reason to avoid picking a favorite OS (aside from going to war over a personal preference) is because if you are helping someone else, you might make things worse by making them switch, or by bashing their current setup. For example: I sometimes repair computers for people for extra money. One repeat customer I have is a couple that has an inexpensive Dell running Windows 7. Every time I help them, it is some type of virus issue. Switching them to a Mac (or Linux) would solve their virus problems for good. Doing so would cause many new problems though. These users are not very good with computers, and are not ready to learn new things. They use the computer solely to play flash games like poker, and solitaire. If they made the switch to let’s say OS X, they’d not only be super frustrated with needing to learn a new OS, but they might not like it in the end, and they’d be stuck with a system they hate. Last time I saw them, I solved their problems by creating a locked down account they can use to browse the web, I hardened their Internet Explorer (since they hated the idea of a new browser), and I installed some free anti-virus/anti-spyware and tweaked the hell out of it, so you’d never know it was there. Now they have no problems, and I didn’t need to make them buy a new system, and learn a new OS. There are countless examples like this, but I won’t be getting into them all. They all boil down to the same thing: Preference!

Now I’m going to discuss what I use, and why:

I use all three operating systems. I primarily use OS X for browsing the web, writing, music, watching videos, and all my other “regular computer use.” I also use Windows. I have Windows XP installed in a virtual machine on my MacBook Pro so I can access certain Windows only tools for my job, and in case I need Internet Explorer to access some website that refuses to work with anything else. (ActiveX much?) I even have a few virtual Windows servers running for various reasons. They are running Windows, because it works best for the tasks I have them do. Active Directory is a great example. It’s way better than the OS X equivalent Open Directory, plus you can even join Macs, and Linux to it with minimal effort, where as joining Windows to Open Directory, or OpenLDAP is a nightmare and a half. I also have a few Linux servers that do various things. Linux is by far my favorite for hosting services like websites, file servers, etc… If I can host a service on Windows or Linux, I’ll choose Linux. It’s stable, it’s free, and it works well.

What about the market?

What about it? Linux may have a small market share, but if you look at any serious company, you’ll find racks, and racks of Linux servers. Windows is the current market leader in consumer computers, and it still has a lot of use in the corporate world as a workstation OS, and a server OS. Apple’s OS X is gaining market share, and is not going away anytime soon. People are using it more and more, as Apple’s mobile products help push their name out there. Even I started with an iPhone 3G, and then moved to a Mac. There is room for everyone, and honestly I think there should be. If everyone used the same platform, we’d have a monopoly issue. Prices could be forced up, and we’d have no choice. Competition is good for consumers, and good for businesses. It keeps innovation up, prices low, and profits high. I hope all three platforms are around for a long time.