Monday, January 26, 2004

Why I Switched - One Dork's Story 

I've been catching some hell lately from my friends for being an "Apple" guy now. I figured I'd write this post to explain the my gradual progression from Windows to Mac. (The journey is long.) Hopefully this will explain to my Windows loving friends why the Mac is for me.

My first computer was a Commadore 64. It's OS was BASIC, which I thought was cool because it made me feel like Matthew Broderick in WarGames. In the fourth grade I took BASIC programming on Apple IIc's and Apple IIe's. I had a lot of fun as a kid messing around on these computers, and writing little programs that drew pictures, and did simple math. No GUI here.

My first "real" computer was a 386SX/16 running Windows 3.1. I learned to use DOS 5, and DOS 6 on this computer and learned how to write batch files. I spent more time in DOS than Windows because we all know Windows 3.1 was crap. Also, most games up until Windows 98 only ran in DOS anyway, so why did I need to use Windows? ;-)

I continued to buy PCs over the years, learning Windows for Workgroups, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, and eventually Windows 2000.

In 1997 for about a semester I went to Wake Tech Community College, and I was introduced to Unix. I was impressed with amount of control you could have over the OS, and again, had that felling of "coolness" in a "WarGames" kinda way while using it. I left WTCC when I decided that school wasn't for me, and UNIX got buried in the back of my brain.

In 1998 I took a job at Easter Seals North Carolina as a Network Technician. In this work environment I learned to use Novell 4.11 which was the OS on all of ESNC's servers at the time. Novell 4.11 had no real GUI to speak of, so again, like DOS, I spent a lot of time in the command line. Novell 4.11 also used a heck of a lot of config files that required tweaking, so unlike Windows you were able to make the OS do what YOU wanted it to do, instead of it TELLING YOU what you wanted to do. Also, the Netware servers almost NEVER needed to be rebooted. We had server uptimes lasting many months. (I had friends who would brag that their Windows servers didn't need to be rebooted for weeks.) This began my shift away from Windows machines.

Several years later I got a job at IBM testing their Netfinity Servers. IBM promotes Linux a lot, so I had to learn real quick how to load and configure multiple distros of Linux and UNIX on IBM's machines. Our tests did not use a lot of UI apps, so again, most of my work was performed in the command line. This job reminded me how great command line control over an OS was, and how flexible Linux/UNIX was as an OS. Windows at this point was falling farther and farther on my respect gauge.

So far you've heard me talk about my love of the command line, and why I do not like Windows. So, if I'm so command line obsessed, why am I an Apple guy? Simple, Apple released OS X. I never liked Macintoshes when I was learning computers. The OS was just not designed for a computer geek like myself who wanted control over the guts of the computerand its OS. If it had no useful command line, I wasn't interested. To this day, I still want nothing to do with any of the Macs out there running OS 9 or lower.

What's so great about OS X? Apple's OS X is based on FreeBSD, an open source distro of UNIX. It has all the command line control of a UNIX machine. I can compile many UNIX/Linux apps to run on OS X. Essentially, if I really wanted to, I could use my Mac just like a Linux box. Then why not just use RedHat you ask? Well, because sometimes I just want to be lazy. I don't want to have to worry about package dependencies, or what components of the OS I need updated before I can run a particular piece of Linux software. Linux is a very powerful OS that gives the user a very high level of control. But, you pay for that power and control with lack of simplicity. OS X brings the simplicity back.

OS X's UI is gorgeous and easy to use. Programs written for OS X simply run. (Just drag the program's icon into the Applications folder and you're ready to go.) So I get the best of both worlds : The power, control, and flexability of UNIX, but also the simplicity of Macintosh. There is nothing I can't do on my Mac, besides maybe play a lot of the popular games, but that's why I bought a Playstation. I can act like the WarGames computer dork that I am, but I can also just use the computer for everyday computing without having to put my computer dork cap on.