Recently I decided to get away for a break, so I left the country with all intention of not doing anything work related for a week.

This was all fine, but to check my personal emails I decided to find an internet café to rather than use my mobile phone to save my pennies.

After a while I managed to find a complex which had a few computers setup for people staying in the complex to use.

Unlike some of the other internet café machines I had seen these were not locked down at all, just ordinary versions of Microsoft Windows XP.

This was fantastic, as it allowed me unlimited access and I could run things such as vncviewer (for remotely viewing a machine) and putty (for access to servers via ssh).

The downside was I had to spend a while removing a whole bunch of malware before I could even use the damn thing.

There were 4 other machines in this room, and I quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only one in there who was having problems.

Before long, the old guy on the other side of the room decided to ask the girl sitting next to him how to do something, she proceeded to assist him, only to summarise her experience with…

“Next time i’m buying a mac”

I felt like standing up right then, and giving her a piece of my mind, but I didn’t, instead I got up and went in the pool, also making a mental note to write up about it later.

There’s so many issues with the comment she made I’m not really sure where to begin.

The main issue I have with statements like this is the ignorance.

If you review what she actually said, she’s suggesting that she’s got a problem with the hardware, but upon further interrogation you’ll find their problem is with the operating system (namely Windows) and the way they use it.

When I ask people why they want to buy a mac, they generally say something along the lines of:

“I dunno, I heard they don’t get viruses”, to which I reply:

“I never get viruses on windows, and macs DO get viruses, there’s just not as many”.

The next obvious question is why don’t they? Well it’s pretty straight forward, the reason why there’s not as many is because there’s not as many users on macs as windows and no where near as many people looking for bugs in it the operating system (OS) as windows.

Viruses these days are utilised in such a way that the originator makes money from you, usually by means of forced pop-ups and installing software. They target windows, because it’s a much broader platform, there’s far more users. It doesn’t take a marketing expert to tell you which is the best to target.

But regardless of which operating system you run it’s not difficult to ensure you have an anti-virus solution, your software is up-to-date, and you are behind a firewall. Whether it’s Windows, Mac OS or even Linux, by doing these three steps, you will always ensure you’re not going to get targeted, unless of course you’re stupid enough to click links on sites or emails that you are unsure about.

Ultimately security is in the hands of the user, if you’re going easily fooled by those popups that look like Windows XP default “blue” theme then you’re already at risk, however you can restore your theme to “windows classic” and suddenly you realise what’s going on there.

Another tip you can follow is to use a different browser to the default “Internet Explorer” such as Firefox, as it’s pop-up blocker is better, and generally the whole experience is more reliable.

A lot of the time security issues are down to people clicking links they receive by email when they were not even expecting the email; browsing porn and end up downloading a “codec” because they think they will then be able to watch porn movies for free or finally they use peer to peer software and end up downloading files that aren’t music or movies, they are actually malicious programs. All of these files generally download as “.exe” files, which are “executable” files (ie: programs, or possibly viruses).

Yes, “.exe” files DO NOT run on macs (unless you install windows on the Intel based machines), but it’s also worth noting that “.exe” files also do not run on Linux based operating systems, but people seem to completely overlook that.

Threats like this increase as you add users to your machine, which makes finding the source even more difficult. If you have one user per machine.

With this in mind, you generally find that computers that people keep as “personal” generally have far less issues than shared machines. Macs aren’t really used as shared machines, mainly because they aren’t designed to be, and more importantly they aren’t marketed to be, they are marketed to be a “personal computer”.

What i’ve said above is mainly talking about issues with the operating system, however this girl’s comment was that she was going to buy a mac, as opposed to a “PC”, what’s wrong with a PC?, who said a PC can’t run Mac OS or virtually any operating system for that matter?

It’s ignorant to think that buying full retail hardware and software will solve all your problems, as if you purchased all OEM hardware, and ran a Linux based operating system such as the increasingly popular Ubuntu based gOS, you would likely find that suitable for your needs and wants, all at the fraction of a price, and just as easy to use.

The problem I find is that people don’t even consider Linux, because they simply don’t know enough about it. Why? Fear of the unknown and lack of financial backing of the vendor, which means there’s no mass media marketing unlike Apple.

But why are people so scared of Linux? After all Linux is based on Unix, as is Mac OS X, unlike Windows, and it’s FREE.

Ultimately you need to establish your needs and wants, find out what the hardware/software requirements of your devices (mobile phone, mp3 player, sat nav, etc), computer games and multimedia software is, and figure out which is right for you.

I can almost guarantee that Windows will come out as the most compatible and you’ll find that there’s increasing support for both Mac OS X, mainly because the devices you own are probably made by Apple (eg: iPod), but if you look a little closer, you’ll also find that there’s support for Linux based operating systems such as Ubuntu, you may have to search for it, or request it, but nether the less, it’s there, you’re never going to be the only one with said device.

One of the compatibility issues is that certain software creators, usually of the graphics or music industry (eg: Adobe, Propellerheads) only write software for mac, and windows, which ends up leaving Linux users to create their own open source alternative or try and emulate the official version. With this in mind, I understand why people sometimes choose a mac for their specialist software, but what about windows?

The question you need to ask yourself is “Why do I want a mac?”.

If the answer is that you think they are cool or a status symbol, or that they make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, then you’re buying it for the wrong reasons, computers aren’t meant to be any of those things.

If the answer is that you believe it will solve all your problems, you’re deluded. You’re always going to have problems, especially if you’re prone to them already. Getting a fresh operating system will always solve your problems, at least for a short while, until you start using it, then low and behold before long you’re in the same situation again.

In conclusion…

There’s pretty much two reasons why you might buy a mac, they are the OS (so called “piece of mind”) or the style (so called “lifestyle upgrade”), there is also the obvious combination of both.

There are however those few that do actually NEED a mac because of the multimedia applications they use will only run on the mac OS (if only they would run on Linux, how different things could be).

Next time are you really buying a mac? Or are you buying into something else? Piece of mind, or perhaps a lifestyle?