Geek squad

The Seed editors asked us to reminisce about our quaint experiences with computing in the Old Days. Old nerds are so pathetic.

I’m much more enthused about an event in future computing: Leopard is coming out tomorrow! Laelaps has an anticipatory video of what Leopard is going to do to Windows — haul it up a tree and eat it for lunch.


  1. NJ says

    Like I’m sure you did, PZ, I had to slog in the snow uphill (both ways!) to the Math building to feed punch cards into a giant slide rule because there was only one on campus.

  2. says

    I’ll probably wait a week or two to get Leopard in order to see what the bug reports and problems are. One thing I can’t afford to have break is the functionality of Endnote and Microsoft Word, and I’ve had experiences before with Mac System upgrades that broke that link.

  3. Graculus says


    I’m old enopugh to remember when owning an Apple product was a technical decision, not a lifestyle choice.

    Get off my lawn!

  4. Mark P says

    Arrr! Punchcards! Cassette tape backups! Foot-thick printouts! Arrr!

    Give us a report on Leopard.

  5. negentropyeater says

    I wanted a smaller notebook, so bought one last week with Windows Vista, couldn’t find one with XP… Well, after trying to get that fucker to work without crashing, that thing has been returned to the shop yesterday (within the 15 day return guarantee).
    I have never done MAC, but I think I am going to switch. I am fedup with that Seattle company that puts on the market OSs that haven’t been thoroughly tested. XP was fine with me, but you can’t find it anymore, so, you are going to get me MAC…

  6. wildcardjack says

    My first computer memories involve one that used audio cassettes. I think it would have been some TI model because my dad worked there and the company would occasionally dump goodies on employees.

    My first practical computer memories involve an Apple IIc.

    As far as people getting excited about Leopard, I’m working on a four year old PC. It doesn’t look like I’m buying any new gear at least until after the new year.

  7. Dahan says

    I’m with Orac. Gonna wait and see how buggy Leopard is and let them get some fixes in. I probably won’t buy it for a couple months though. Seems like it takes that long for the sneaky ones to show.

  8. says

    My first computer was a TI-99-4a by Texas Instruments. (Shortly after they discontinued them…) My “Intro to Computer Programming” course was naturally in fortran (f77). The thing is, my University could not afford to purchase an f77 compiler. Thus, they made a deal with another major University to have us send our jobs to. We would write our programs, (No punch cards for me thanks!) and send them in and wait 20 minutes or so to see if they worked. My masters paper was written on a Commodore 128 (purchased shortly after they were discontinued.) The gang used to gather in my room to play summer games on it. That game was very hard on joysticks.

  9. fusilier says

    Yep. Punchcard stacks, that the Univac 1107 would take bites out of. (Literal bites, not “bytes.”)

    One time, I was trying to plot a scattergram, and I watched in horror as the pen did its dance 1/4 inch above the paper. No “raise pen” or “lower pen” commands.

    We’ll probably wait a while to switch from tiger. too many other expenses, right now.

    James 2:24

  10. Boosterz says

    Pfeh, Apple. Apple’s have always been crummy little machines. People don’t realize they are paying +$1,200 bucks for an operating system. Apple very nearly cut it’s own throat back when it decided to go with strictly proprietary hardware. It took them 30 years to accept that mistake and finally start using regular PC hardware.

    On the flip side of that, I think Microsoft shot themselves in the foot with a pretty high caliber round this time with the release of Vista. It’s buggy, it’s bloated, and they’ve changed so much stuff around that even life long Windows users run into problems using it. To top that off they have forced all of their OEMs to ONLY install Vista(that’s why you can’t find a new machine with XP on it). As if that’s not bad enough, since they got away with marketing the same product(XP) as if it was really two products(pro and home) they’ve tried splitting Vista into 4 pieces with wildly different prices. It’s the same dang thing just with various features either disabled or enabled. Imagine going to a fancy restaurant, ordering an expensive meal and when it’s brought out to you realizing that it has no silverware. Then when you ask the waiter having him say, “OH, you want the Ultimate combo. That’ll be an extra $50”.

    I’ve decided that I’m going to force myself to start improving my linux skills. I HAVE to be familiar with all of Microsoft’s products due to my work(network administrator) but I think I’m going to start using Ubuntu more for all my personal computing. I imagine more then a few people have made that same decision since Vista was released.

  11. other bill says

    Ah, Punchcards. Fancy stuff, learned about them in college. Before that we used soldering irons, resistors, capacitors and relays.

    Leopard family pack tomorrow and a new IMac when they finally get down to the retail channel.

  12. Steve_C says

    Deluded geek. I’ve been using the “crummy little machines” for 20 years.

    Ubuntu or any other “linux” will never be usable enough or elegant enough for consumers or for creatives that need to get work done.

    I think more people have swtich to Mac than Ubuntu after the release of Vista.

  13. says

    Our first computer was a TI-99 4/A as well; my brother-in-law worked for TI at the time. When I started college we bought the original Mac, which I used for a few papers before it died horribly (some kind of flaw in the power supply).

    Then I decided to major in CS and play with real computers — VAXen (8600s running VMS). Two nodes supporting something like 300 people at a time with nary a hiccup. VT-220 terminals and 11×14 fanfold paper shot out of a pair of Lexmark line printers at nearly the speed of sound. Everything since then’s been a bit of a letdown.

    I still have to laugh at all the people who honestly believe Microsoft invented the concept of virtual memory in 1995.

  14. says

    IBM 7080 and 1410, 1962-3 and lemme tell you they took a hell of a long time to load even a short YouTube video.

    That 7080 still owes me about a dozen cups of coffee.

    I’m a big fan of leopards in general, but I’ll let all you early adopters do the De Facto Public Beta heavy lifting this time. Sign me up for 10.5.2.

  15. Jon H says

    I have two big gripes about Leopard. No, three.

    1. Time Machine won’t back up to a USB drive hung off of an AirPort hub, which was initially one of the features they promoted. (And was why I bought a new AirPort)

    2. Stacks on the Dock instead of folders. Stacks have their place, but folders do too. For one thing, you can give a folder a distinguishable icon. Put three stacks on the Dock and you can’t tell which is which. Second, folders in Tiger provide hierarchical menus when you right-click on them. Stacks only show the first layer of contents.

    3. The translucent menubar has got to go. Even some of the darker backgrounds Apple provides make it hard to see the text and icons.

  16. Ben says

    Steve_C, I don’t want to get into a flame war here, but I have to say that the only drawback of linux these days is the lack of software alternatives. It is really a great OS though. YMMV.

    20 Years ago I was 6, and the only computers I had ever used were the TI 99 and the Commodore 6, and linux would not exist for another 5 years.

  17. Boosterz says

    Mac OS is just modified BSD which is right next door to Linux. I fail to see how you think a highly modified version of BSD is ready for primetime but Ubuntu is not…

  18. clinteas says

    Ubuntu does all that Windoze or Mac can do,faster,more reliable and more secure,havent bothered with the crap for ages…..

    ” Ubuntu or any other “linux” will never be usable enough or elegant enough for consumers or for creatives that need to get work done.”

    Steve_c,i do multimedia editing,office stuff and everything else incl.watching the Cricket online on Ubuntu,how hard have you tried lol….

  19. says

    what Leopard is going to do to Windows — haul it up a tree and eat it for lunch.

    Mac-heads are so cute when they’re being delusional…

    We used to say the same sorts of things when new releases of AmigaDOS/Workbench came out. Now THOSE were the days.

    Unfortunately, neither the Amiga nor the Mac were ever successful at killing off Windows.

  20. Doug says

    The new features promoted by Apple don’t do much for me. Who in their right mind uses a local mail client? That’s so Web 1.0. And Finder? Puleeze! Try Quicksilver or Launchy and Google desktop.

    The only cool new features I like are developer technologies. It’s about time resolution independence came back to desktop computing (Sun NeWS was based on PostScript – which has resolution independence).

    I am certainly disappointed that ZFS didn’t become the filesystem of choice. ZFS promises to be sweet when it finally gets deployed.

    IMHO the best thing about MacOS X is its Unix kernel (and it’s not M$). But most people couldn’t give a darn about that, nor should they. (I would not consider myself the target market).

  21. Boosterz says

    Also I’d like to point out that Microsoft itself clearly understands which OS is it’s biggest threat. They are in a full fledged fight to the death against Linux right now. They tried and failed to destroy Linux using SCO as a proxy with it’s bogus IP lawsuit. Now they are trying the same tactic with patents. The reason Microsoft isn’t bothering to do this with MacOS is because they clearly don’t consider Apple’s 3% market share to be threatening.

  22. Jon H says

    “Unfortunately, neither the Amiga nor the Mac were ever successful at killing off Windows.”

    I don’t think anything will kill off Windows, as long as its the default OS of business (especially in things like supermarket cash registers). But in the consumer space, in science and academia, and in businesses that aren’t attached to Windows-based software, the Mac definitely can do some damage to Microsoft’s market share. Most of the laptops I see here at Harvard Medical School are Macs, and the lab I work in uses Macs for everything except a few PCs that are dedicated to running special apparatus, but those don’t even run Windows.

    Considering that Microsoft took over half a decade to ship Vista, and then only shipped a small portion of the originally-promoted functionality, while Apple has consistently shipped a new OS every 18-24 months, I wouldn’t be surprised if people just get tired of waiting for Microsoft and switch. It’s certainly far less painful to switch now, since you can run Windows apps at near-full-speed inside OS X using Parallels or VMWare Fusion; or you can reboot your Mac in Windows using Apple’s BootCamp, at which point you’re basically using a nicely-performing PC.

    Apple already has a market cap greater than Dell, HP, or IBM (though IBM isn’t really a desktop PC player anymore, having sold off to Lenovo.)

  23. Doug says

    The reason Microsoft isn’t bothering to do this with MacOS is because they clearly don’t consider Apple’s 3% market share to be threatening.

    Boosterz, Linux threatens the rich enterprise system market, and rightly so. But Linux has a very long way to go before it threatens the desktop market that Apple and Microsoft dominate.

    If Windows didn’t find MacOS X threatening on the desktop front, how do you explain Windows Aero?

  24. Jon H says

    “If Windows didn’t find MacOS X threatening on the desktop front, how do you explain Windows Aero?”

    Also, the bit in the Vista Home EULA restricting it from being used in a VM. I have to think that was at least partially motivated by the VMs on OS X. (The business versions of Vista would likely have to allow the use of VMs, because they’re too popular in business, and often run in a VM on top of Windows anyway.)

  25. Julius says

    Wow, the ‘religious’ attitude of people towards their OSes, combined with an utter lack of clue in some cases, is absolutely amazing. And I don’t mean PZ’s “Yay Leopard, I’m so excited” – if you *want* to interpret that as him being a naive, deluded fanboy because you ‘religiously’ believe all Apple users are deluded fanboys, go ahead, but I suspect reality is a bit more subtle and complex than that. Actually, the most interesting aspects, both of online “Fanboy! Idiot!” yelling matches as well as talking to non-geeks in real life, is the surprising amount of antipathy, even hate against all things Mac you encounter. (And an interesting parallel: I’ve seen the same things for the Prius/other hybrid cars, a lot of people seem to *hate* that car for some reason.)

    FWIW, I use a Mac most of the time, but I
    – am not buying Leopard just yet
    – am currently less than impressed with Tiger’s performance (and that’s on a 2GHz Macbook)
    – use Windows when I have to (games)
    – am not touching Vista for as long as I can avoid it
    – tinker with Linux here and there

    Oh, and saying that OS X is just a modified BSD is a slight oversimplification to say the least. It’s a massive amount of proprietary stuff built on top of a BSD foundation, maybe. Ubuntu is good, I like it a lot, but how about judging it by its own merits rather than arguing that “Ubuntu is as good as OS X because Linux is similar to BSD”? (to be a little facetious here)

  26. Epikt says

    Steve_C, I don’t want to get into a flame war here, but I have to say that the only drawback of linux these days is the lack of software alternatives. It is really a great OS though. YMMV.

    Isn’t that kind of like saying “The only drawback to my refrigerator these days is a lack of food in it?”

  27. Dahan says

    Just an aside to the “computing in the old days” theme. My mom worked on Eniac. Now that’s old school. My first computer? A Commodore 64 …my primary memory stick I carry now days has 4 gigs. Amazing how things change.

  28. Steve_C says

    People might want to start rethinking their market share perceptions of apple.

    That 3% only works when you are talking globally. Right now it’s 8.1% in the U.S. and every one of those people own mac hardware. When comparing hardware market share to other PC makes their numbers are even higher. 17%+ of the U.S. notebook market. Bigger than gateway and acer. Over 6% of the overall PC market.

  29. Boosterz says

    Everything in MS Windows is copied from somewhere else. MS doesn’t innovate, they copy/buy/rebrand. Aero is just another extension of that. It has nothing to do with them being “threatened” by MacOS. I also don’t think that MS is copying MacOS so much with Aero as they are Beryl.

    The reason that MS is being restrictive with the licensing so far as virtualization goes is because they have it in for VMware Server. It competes directly with MS Virtual Server and the Vole does not tolerate competition. I plan on implementing a VMWare server at my workplace in the future and using it to replace several of my physical servers. Hopefully MS won’t go getting litigious over virtualization in the future. So far they’ve settled for just adding threats to their EULA.

  30. says

    I wouldn’t be surprised if people just get tired of waiting for Microsoft and switch.

    It’s been more my experience that people (other than geeks) simply detest major operating system changes. They’re not “waiting for Microsoft”. As long as they can still run mainstream software, they really don’t care what operating system they use.

  31. Steve_C says

    Microsoft even ripped of the usage of X in their system naming.
    OS X was announced (not yet released as final) before XP was.

    I’ve seen ubuntu. It’s not purdy.

  32. Rey Fox says

    Perhaps one of the geeks could answer this: PC stands for personal computer, right? That thing that everyone has one of in their homes, right? So how did that acronym come to mean “a machine that runs Windows and/or Intel”?

  33. Boosterz says

    “Ubuntu is good, I like it a lot, but how about judging it by its own merits rather than arguing that “Ubuntu is as good as OS X because Linux is similar to BSD”? (to be a little facetious here)”

    I didn’t say that linux was as good as MacOS because linux and BSD are similar. I pointed out that it was rather silly to praise one while disparaging the other when they both have similar foundations. As for judging it on it’s own merits, that’s easy. The open source development method beats the living day lights out of the proprietary development method. That translates into fewer bugs, more stability, faster patches/fixes for issues that are discovered, better performance, etc.

    MacOS went one way. They chose BSD as their foundation and went with a proprietary model. Everything on the linux side of the fence uses the open source model.

    If you doubt that it makes a difference, try and find some benchmark comparisons between linux/windows/MacOS. I think you’ll find them quite revealing.

  34. Don't Panic says

    (b. 1961)

    early 70’s: father bought a HP-65 – wasn’t allowed to touch it, but was taught about Reverse Polish Notation.

    mid to late 70’s: attended Homestead High School (Cupertino, CA) where math teacher was still good friends with prior students Steve and Woz who helped him acquire cast off HP minicomputer which ran BASIC (even had matrix inversion functions). Input via scantron-cards (like Hollerith punch cards but filled in with #2 pencil), teletype and paper-tape – the switch from mechanical to optical reading of tape was really cool. Computer room also had some KIM-1 (6502 micros), though I never grasped assembly language at the time. I, with help from my father, convinced the teacher that FORTRAN was important as I headed into a physics career, so it was arranged that I would get dailup (acoustic modem) timeshare on a mainframe using a “mean green flashin’ machine” (tektronics 4014) vector mode terminal. Later those former students brought in a wood box containing something they called an “Apple”.

    early 80’s: Berkeley had a computer club where I learned this Unix-thingie and vi. Also my first experience with actual punchcards and having “operators” run the jobs (boy was I spoiled by my prior experience). At home my father bought an Apple II (no “e”) going whole hog to get the BASIC with floating point. Worked with a friend to (pathetically) simulate galaxy collisions using the Apple II – woefully underpowered for this ambitious application. Summers spent working for a small company in the Valley that made business machines. First experience with micromush: they were to supply FORTRAN for their Xenix (Unix) OS but the first copy they shipped to us … well, the engineers at our customers (FORD, I think) weren’t going to be happy that it could only do integer math and could barely do I/O.

    late 80’s: grad school woked on experiment at national lab. DAQ system used PDP 11/45 to record 9-track tape which we then reformatted for use on the mainframe Cyber computers (60-bit words!). Later, Cybers were dropped and I spent enormous effort simulating parts of Cyber on 32-bit VAXen. Built upgraded readout system for some of the detector and found that I couldn’t afford the new 68020 micros which were just barely fast enough to do the readout, so ended up designing and building (wirewrap over 200 medium scale TTL chips) specialized “computer”. Wrote thesis using Latex … but doesn’t everyone? Used Amiga 1000 (evaluation model with tack soldered “corrections”) as a terminal to do “work”, wrote code for it for fun. Used to taunt my advisor, who thought he was cutting edge by owning an original B&W 128K Mac “toaster” by making plots in multiple colors (possible on the Amiga).

    Now: Straddle the Linux/Mac world. Lots of work done under Scientific Linux (repackaged RH Enterprise). But main machine is a MacBook Pro. Looking around the most recent collaboration meeting I noticed that roughly 50-60% of laptops were Macs, though compute farms remain Linux.

  35. Boosterz says

    I think the word PC has mostly replaced the phrase “IBM clone”. At least it has in my vocabulary. When I am talking about a PC, I’m only talking about the hardware. You can run whatever OS on it you wish. You can run Windows, Linux, or even MacOS so long as you hack it so that it won’t look for that silly chip. The truth is that Macs ARE PCs now. They are using the same hardware. They just charge a lot more for it because they installed one of their little chips that the OS looks for before it will start.

  36. Stevie_C says

    They don’t charge ALOT more. Damn. Price them out with the real specs. Dell, HP, any PC maker… Macs just come with more features standard. Yes macs aren’t cheap. They aren’t made to be cheap. And they come with much better software than anyone else offers.

  37. Doug says

    My first computer was an Apple ][+ with 64KB RAM, two single sided 5 1/4 floppy drives, a color monitor, and a Hayes 300 baud modem. It rocked.

    My favorite software was Castle Wolfenstein, Sneakers, and the BigMac assembler.

    I still have the sucker. Perhaps I will give it to the grand kids one day. I sure hope someone will market replacement software that far in the future. I doubt that the floppies will hold the data that long.

  38. Boosterz says

    Define better.

    On linux you can get software to do just about anything you can think of…and it’s free.

    As for the price, let’s take a look.
    Macbook Pro $1,999
    * 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    * 2GB memory
    * 120GB hard drive
    * 8x double-layer SuperDrive
    * NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics with 128MB SDRAM

    Dell Inspiron 1520 $1,563
    *Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T7500 (2.2GHz/800Mhz FSB/4MB cache)
    *256MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8600M GT
    *2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 667MHz
    *160GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM)
    *CD / DVD writer (DVD+/-RW Drive)

    Hmmm, twice the video memory, 1/3rd more storage space AND 400 bucks cheaper? Oh my. And did I mention that the Dell comes with a 3 year accidental damage warranty and free shipping? I don’t know about you, but I’d say paying 25% more while at the same time getting LESS hardware would qualify as a lot to me.

  39. says

    “Old nerd”, hmm? I’ll have you know that the surgeon who is going to fix my umbilical hernia told me I was “young and healthy”! So there!

    Computers: My first computer was a Digicomp I (if that’s not old-time geek-cred, I don’t know what is!).

    When I was 15, a friend who was a year ahead of me taught me the rudiments of Fortran (WATFIV), and we used to go down to the local University and run punch-card jobs on their IBM-360 (I had just read Limits To Growth, so I wrote a program based on that).

    The next year I moved to a different school district, and one of the math/sci teachers formed a “Math Club”. What it really was, once a week after school a bunch of us piled into his car and went off to one of the other high schools, which had THE computer (some small IBM machine with punch-card input). I continued to hack my Limits To Growth program; I really don’t recall how it ended up. Also at Math Club I met a cute girl.

    University and work took me through a succession of machines, OS’s and languages — from Fortran through C to C++ (with various assemblers along the way), IBM 360 to VAX to UNIX workstation. Now, 35 years after I started (not counting the Digicomp), I spend all day in front of a Linux box, writing and tweaking embedded code for telecommish stuff.

    But I still hang out with the cute girl from Math Club ;-).

  40. BJN says

    Cough, cough, (horseshit), cough.

    Jobs never had the stones to put OSX out on its own. As long as OSX is a tool to sell Macbooks and other Apple computers, Microsoft has no reason to fear any kitty-cat iteration.

    Besides, all you Apple hipsters would have to find another platform if Apple ever managed to capture real market share. You can’t be cool in a crowd.

  41. says

    Besides, all you Apple hipsters would have to find another platform if Apple ever managed to capture real market share. You can’t be cool in a crowd.

    Oh, please. I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass if Apple captured 90% market share. I use Macs because they work better and I don’t mind paying a premium for a trouble-free, elegant computing experience. Moreover, I can run Windows XP or Vista on the uncommon occasions when I need to do something that requires a PC-only application.

  42. Horrobin says

    I was a Junior in high school in 1974. Someone told me that there was a computer on campus and when it wasn’t being used for boring math stuff, you could actually play Star Trek on it… I’m not sure what I expected (probably a viewscreen with full color spaceships swooping around), but it wasn’t a couple of big cabinets and a large, clunky printer slowly and loudly spewing a roll of graph paper out of it’s top. “See, the X is the Enterprise,” I was told. “The <'s are alien ships." After that I was so dissapointed I didn't pay any attention to computers until the early 90s.

  43. Stevie_C says

    Buncha windoze linux wankers.

    Does the dell include any software worth using?

    A cam built in? What kind of audio ports does it have? How many firewire or usb ports?

    Devil is in the details.

    It’s funny how designing your own software and hardware is someone a sign of not having balls. It’s alot ballsier than anything Microsoft has done. Unless you consider ripping off Apple as being ballsy.

  44. says

    Well, yeah…and if you travel in the same circles I do, you go to conferences and look around and see a sea of aluminum and glowing apples — we already dominate certain subsets of the tech/science crowd.

  45. says

    I use Macs because they work better and I don’t mind paying a premium for a trouble-free, elegant computing experience.

    … yet in #3 you claim to use Microsoft Word, which has never been a trouble-free, elegant computing experience. So which is it?

  46. Horrobin says

    Okay, I inadvertently triggered an open html tag.

    Should be “The X is the Enterprise. The < ‘s are alien ships.”

    Sheesh, computers….

  47. says

    After that I was so dissapointed I didn’t pay any attention to computers until the early 90s.

    Hey, at least VTTREK attempted to have graphics. You could have been stuck playing something like this:

    West of House
    You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
    There is a small mailbox here.

  48. says

    MS Word is, unfortunately, a standard requirement in many functions — there are institutional forms that are sent out as .doc files, for instance. I hate it and wish people would support a more open format, but it’s a sad reality.

    Using Word is not the same as liking Word.

    I use Word, too, but minimally. I do all my writing in a text editor and copy and paste into Word if the use requires it.

  49. Stevie_C says

    If you bother to actually go through and match the base Macbook 15′ with Dells custom built options…


  50. fusilier says

    1982 – “The IBM Personal Computer, running PC-DOS” – is where “PC” came from.

    Somebody else has mentioned “IBM clone” as an extinct name.

    fusilier, who was teaching BASIC on a Trash 80 at the time, since the grant had ended
    James 2:24

  51. Boosterz says

    The Dell includes a license for xp home and since I run dual boot it will then have Ubuntu and any of the other hundreds of free open source programs I decide I need. How many programs are there for the apple again?

    On linux getting new software is as easy as firing up synaptic and clicking a link. You can have it loaded down with office applications, media applications, etc. All you need is a broadband internet connection.

    As for USB/firewire, my dell lappy has 4 USB 2.0 ports and one firewire. I fail to see how having a webcam built in would be a deal breaker. I’d rather have my choice of OS AND my $400.

    Also, how did my balls come into the equation. It seems someone is having an iFit. :-)

  52. says

    … yet in #3 you claim to use Microsoft Word, which has never been a trouble-free, elegant computing experience. So which is it?

    Actually, Word 2004 for the Mac is not nearly as clunky as any version of Word for Windows that I’ve ever used. That being said, there’s essentially no competition and pretty much every journal I submit to requires Word documents; so I use Word. Fortunately, on a Mac, using Word is not nearly as painful as it is on a PC.

  53. Boosterz says


    I didn’t compare the base price, I compared the price of two systems with the closest specs I could get. I tried to make the comparison as close in hardware as I could get. The closest specs were from the macbook pro, not the base mac book. The base mac book would have even lower end specs. Basically what you are saying is I should have picked a lower end apple to make the price match. That’s crazy.

  54. Stevie_C says

    I was referring to the other guy’s mention of “stones”.

    That laptop was cheaper because it had fewer extras. It’s not really cheaper.

    All I added to it was a remote, wireless N, blue tooth and I didn’t even upgrade it to Vista… it wouldn’t let me.

    And you can run Linux, XP, Vista on a Mac too.

    And I can understand needing a 3 year warrantee on Dells… they break alot.

  55. says

    My first computer, in the late 80’s for use as a word processor) was an Artelonics of some sort (circa 1972) running WordStar.

    I spent almost a decade hating Windows before I discovered linux and when OS X came out I had the closest thing to a perfect OS as possible: the power of unix with the multimedia authoring tools of Mac.

    As to which OS is ‘best’ that’s like asking what house is best. They all have the same basic features and they all vary in their look and feel and in the specifics of how things are implemented. What is perfect for person A is an absolute nightmare for person B. I’ve yet to encounter anything that I can’t do on any of the major OS’s other than run specific software that’s only available for that OS. And of course there is comparable software for the other OS’s that does largely the same thing.

    I’m not saying there’s no differences, but for the vast majority of computer users you could swap out Vista/XP/2000/98 for OS X or linux* (or vice versa) and within a month they’d be totally acclimated to the new one and perfectly content to keep using it.

    *and remember: while ubuntu is the cool kid these days, there are literally hundreds of other perfectly good distros

  56. Boosterz says

    What extras? It sounds like you just went through the build wizard adding stuff until you got it closer to the price of the macbook. As for upgrading it to vista, MS pumped up the price of XP when they released Vista in order to try and drive more people away from xp to Vista. If you changed it from XP home to Vista home edition, it’s very possible the price would go down slightly instead of up.

    As for the warranty, that was for a standard warranty and the accidental breakage warranty. In other words, drop it down the stairs, spill your coffee on it, knock it off the table, whatever, it’s covered and doesn’t cost you to fix it. Does Apple do that? Also, I work in a 100% dell shop. All dell servers/workstations/etc. I can say with complete confidence that they do not have an unusually high failure rate. Apples on the other hand….

    Apple has a history of shipping stuff with defective materials. From cheap plastic that cracks after a few weeks, to faulty lcd linings that get all scratched up. And don’t get me started on them shoving all the hardware into some cutsey little plastic nightmare without any regard to airflow and cooling.

  57. says

    “The Dell includes a license for xp home and since I run dual boot it will then have Ubuntu and any of the other hundreds of free open source programs I decide I need. How many programs are there for the apple again?”

    Um, if it runs on linux chances are it runs on OS X. In case you didn’t know, OS X is POSIX compliant. So the programs that run on apple are
    1 – the vast majority of linux apps
    2 – several thousand major software titles from companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Roxio, Symantec, Intuit, Aspyr, Corel, M-Audio, etc etc
    3 – software from the thousands of mac-only software shops.

    Idiotic arguments that date from the early 90’s annoy me to no end because it’s clear that the you haven’t the slightest clue what you’re talking about and are just parroting what the MSFT fanboys have always told you. If you prefer Windows or linux or BSD or BeOS or whatever then more power to you. But making false claims about the option you didn’t choose doesn’t do much for your credibility.

  58. Boosterz says

    Just FYI, the link you posted won’t work. The build wizard resets when you start over.

    What did you “add”? You said earlier that you added the wireless N card. Does the macbook pro have wireless N? I think you just went down the list tossing more stuff in the cart until you got to the same price as your macbook.

    I wasn’t comparing the prices of “extras”. I was comparing the prices of the base units. That’s why I didn’t add wireless keyboards and shit.

  59. Boosterz says

    Seems to be a little confusion. I’m talking about native applications for macs. Technically speaking I can run ANY application I want on my laptop using emulation and/or virtualization. You can do do the same thing on a mac using something like Fink or parallels but my experience with mac os is virtually non-existent.

    On my dual boot lappy I can run any windows program I want natively. I can also run any linux proggy I want natively. On the apple, the only thing you have running natively is the mac apps and any other programs that have been ported to mac os. Past that you are having to emulate it/wrap it. Why emulate it when you can have the best of both worlds? ;-)

  60. Stevie_C says

    All I added was bluetooth, wireless N and the vista remote…

    (those come with every mac)

    I did add the Photoshop elements because that’s the closest thing to iPhoto.

    Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T7500 (2.2GHz/800Mhz FSB/4MB cache)
    Genuine Windows® XP Professional *couldn’t choose vista*
    Jet Black
    High Resolution, glossy widescreen 15.4 inch display (1440×900)
    256MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8600M GT
    2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 667MHz
    Size: 160GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM)
    CD / DVD writer (DVD+/-RW Drive)
    Dell Wireless 1505 Wireless-N Mini-card
    Built-in Bluetooth capability (2.0 EDR)
    Integrated 2.0M Pixel Webcam
    56Whr Lithium Ion Battery (6 cell)
    High Definition Audio 2.0

    I chose Security with Value, Plus,or Premium Warranty Bundle ????

    Microsoft Works 8. DOES NOT INCLUDE MS WORD
    Photoshop Elements + Premiere Elements
    Remote Control for Vista Home Premium

  61. says

    This may be a frivolous reason to prefer working on a Mac, but if I’m going to have to be in front of a computer all day (and some of the evening), I’d rather be in front of something that looks nice — both the box and the OS.

    When we had the sunflower Macs, I really came to love the ease with which the monitor could be adjusted with just a flick of the finger — I had far less eyestrain and also fewer headaches.

    The office I’m in (at a large University) has 5 Macs, and in the 7 years I’ve been here, we’ve had to call on our IT people (who are responsible for scores if not hundreds of other Macs and PCs) just a handful of times. The worst thing that happened was one day my computer had a big grey ? on the screen, and they were able to get things back to normal within 10 minutes. It was a couple of years before I even realized we even HAD IT staff, since the Macs kept our office running so smoothly and effortlessly. They do a lot behind the scenes that I’m not always aware of, but it is nice that this all can be done without disrupting the work we do.

    The initial cost of the Macs may have been more, but I think we’ve more than made up for it in the long term. Aesthetically pleasing boxes – $$, aesthetically pleasing OS, – $$, efficient & curse free office — priceless!

  62. says

    “my experience with mac os is virtually non-existent.”

    Which was pretty much my point: You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Fink isn’t an emulator, it’s a framework for all the core libraries etc you may need. I can download the source code for tons of linux apps, ./configure | make | make install and wham, there it is. No emulation, no VM.

  63. Boosterz says

    The macbooks have wireless N now? I didn’t think N was even all that stable yet. Oh well.

    On security just look for the one that has the check in the “complete care” option. I think it’s the third one. I also added a larger battery to the one I used earlier. The high definition audio is a waste unless you are plugging it into external speakers. Bluetooth is also a waste but if the macbook have it by default I’ll let it go. I had it set to xp home not xp pro. That’s about 100 bucks right there. Especially if you are planning on using Linux more then windows. In that case get the cheapest windows you can. The other applications are kind of moot as well. MS word is no biggie. You can use google docs or simply download and use open office. There are also other proggys you can use to replace the photoshop elements. Adding a remote for Vista Home Premium also just inflates the price being as how it has XP on it.

    Even if I allowed all that fluff to pump the price it doesn’t change the fact that you are still getting more hardware for your $ with the dell. More storage, more video memory etc.

  64. Jon H says

    “On my dual boot lappy I can run any windows program I want natively.”

    You can also dual boot a Mac into Windows. Or Linux. Or you can use VMWare or Parallels and you don’t have to reboot.

  65. Boosterz says

    And I can open Synaptic in Ubuntu and simply click on any linux application I want. No Finks required.

    Why settle for a cheap imitation when you can have the real deal for less $$$s? :-)

  66. Hap says

    Cheap imitation of what? There’s lots of goose crap where I work – I can go out and get the real thing for free if I want.

    What I would actually want is a PC that works – where the applications don’t hose regularly, or the mouse and keyboard don’t lock up randomly, or the control won’t become stickied, despite setting “sticky keys” off permanently in the registry. A variety of people here (at my work) have these problems (or worse) and no one seems to be able to fix them. Microsoft certainly hasn’t provided that experience – maybe some variant of Linux can (it couldn’t when I used it, but that was a few years ago), but I don’t know. Getting lots of hardware for cheap is no good when you can’t use it or it doesn’t work.

  67. Kagehi says

    Lets put it this way. Here is my take on OS systems, from the perspective of other software produced by the same people. I play EQ2 (not MS), my dad plays Flight Sim X (MS). EQ2 has patched probably 4 times in the last week, though two of those have been for the stupid card game they recently added, and which 90% of the players don’t give a frack about. I have never had the game crash or fail to run **ever**. FSX was last patched… two years ago, probably, several of the “patch” features involved network security, and there is *still* an outstanding bug that causes one of the player files to become corrupted (LOGBOOK.BIN, which as near as I figure only stores your flight path for playback of mapping, or something) at least once a game session, resulting in a) the game refusing to start, and/or b) it crashing the game entirely as the plane you are in lands. No further patches have been released.

    This is the same way they handle their OS. If its some stupid patch to keep some dipshit from typing a odd URL that causes your computer to grow legs and waddle off to join the zombie army of a mad hacker, they patch it, usually once a week, but there is shit in Vista, which exists for “backward compatibility”, because well…. if we fixed it MS Office would stop working and they don’t want to bother patching that either, which first appeared in Windows 1.0. Its bloody insane.

    Mac.. Is overpriced. You used to pay for overpriced ROMs containing their API layer, now you pay for an overpriced API library and GUI engine wrapped over an OS that is functionally no different than any other *NIX system out there. Is it superior in a lot of ways? Sure, but Linux spent decades trying to make sure the stuff running under it worked right, and until recently, pretty much ignored whether it looked pretty or not.

    Windows is a 1950s Ford truck with a new paint job, but the same inefficient engine, bad wiring, cheap suspension and possibly, depending on if you installed them (or where required to), no seat belts. Mac OS is a brand spanking new SUV, complete with seat warmers, automatic door openers, a DVD player and 5 TVs built in, etc., but its over priced, probably gets bad mileage from its hardware, compared to something more streamlined, and can be total overkill for most people. Linux.. Is a custom built vehicle from parts out of a scrap yard, and as such, it can result in anything from a Prias clone with all electric systems, to some butt ugly monster than barely holds together, and where people looking at is say, “Man, even a new paint job can’t save that thing!”

    The first one is complete trash, no matter how many things they glue on it to make it look pretty, the second one is nice, but only if you need it, otherwise its too expensive, too big, too cost inefficient, and just looks impressive to people that like to coo over how nice the paint is. The last one… Can be anything from Frankenstein’s monster to a hybred version of something that looks and very nearly **acts** just like the MAC, except in those rare cases where the code is locked down enough to prevent someone just changing APIs. The only thing still making the MAC better is its warranty options and the MACStar system built in, that tells you the equivalent of, “Your gas cap is loose.” And the only reason you don’t have that is because you can’t buy a version of it that isn’t MAC proprietary.

    The argument between MAC and Linux is just fracking silly. All it amounts to is, “My expensive API is better and I have some special toys that run at start up that Linux doesn’t yet! Don’t you feel so jealous?” That’s changing though, and some of the new ones, I think the latest Ubuntu has it, include some startup systems that are only found in Windows and MAC at the moment. The gap is closing. Its just not closing as fast as a) some company that got UI right 20+ years ago, because they focused on that, not wiz bang BS, or b) some company that does nothing but steal/copy or obfuscate other people’s wiz bang ideas, then sell lots of barely working ones to gullible people that don’t know the features already exist some place else, while virtually ignoring the *foundation* on which all that crap runs (or at least not bothering to patch absurdly silly BS that may only cause a crash 1% of the time, but does so because the fracking API layer is glued together with wishful thinking (as in, I really really hope no one does X before Y, even though we do nothing to check for or prevent it) and used chewing gum.

    Right now, the biggest problem Linux has is that hardware people are almost universally locked into designing for MAC or Windows (the former because MS doesn’t care much and the later because MS makes special deals with them to include APIs that no one else is allowed to link into), with MACs biggest issue, which is shares with Linux, being that a lot of the hardware being released, including processors and motherboards, are buggy (a problem they had fewer issues with, ironically, back when they relied on their own hardware and one processor vendor).

    Heh. All I care about is running “some” of the stuff that I unfortunately need Windows for, like games. And I hate rebooting **ever**, so until MAC *or* Linux manage to VM or WINE things to the point where I don’t a) need to do that or b) need Vista to run DirectX 10 games, I am probably going to end up being stuck with MS. I simply don’t do enough other things to bother switching right now. If I could run half the stuff I already have reliably and I knew the graphics cards would work, with 100% of their features, under “either”, I would drop Windows so fast that the money I spent on 95 back in the day would retroactively vanish from MS’ pockets. lol

    Its looking like I may get “real” close to that day in the near future. It might be sooner if the damn XP systems I have don’t stop doing stupid BS like messing up my networking settings every time I try to make some minor change to them, or saving all my fracking user data in the partition I **intended* to only contain critical programs and the main OS, not user data. (Finally got that one fixed, after trying three times, *then* finally figuring out I also needed to “copy” all the files over, since the @#$@#$ OS wouldn’t do that part for me. What bloody good does it do to change the location where your documents are stored if the fracking documents you already have stay in the same stupid place they where before you moved them, thus rendering them inaccessible? Its this kind of idiocy that has given me the love/hate relationship I have with Windows (mostly hate). lol

  68. Bride of Shrek says

    Delicious listening to,old (I mena mature and wise of course) computer nerds comparing notes obver who had it worst. Reminds me of that Python Sketch where they all try to outdo each other on how bad their childhood was. You know.. Had to get up an hour before we went bed, lick my Dad’s old boots for supper, slept in a shoebox etc etc

  69. Jon H says

    “Mac.. Is overpriced.”

    Unless you’re a developer. Then the free dev tools, including some incredibly SWEET performance tuning and profiling tools, like Shark or the new X-Ray (an advanced GUI for dtrace) more than make up for any price difference.

  70. Graculus says

    And they come with much better software than anyone else offers.

    Oh, bollocks. Apple nearly shot themselves in the head when they informed AutoDesk that they weren’t *interested* in ACAD for OSX.

    Here’s a news flash. Every OS sucks. And blows.

    Apple is a multi-million dolar corporation that is interested in the exact same thing as the dreaded Micrsoft… your money, nothing else. The difference is that Windows users are allowed to complain.

  71. travc says

    If you haven’t ever read it… you really should read
    “In the beginning there was the command line” by Neil Stephenson

    It is a short rant/observation/essay available online at:

    Amusingly, it applies well to both the “old geeks” and “OSX vs Windoze” aspects in this thread ;)

  72. Ichthyic says

    To top that off they have forced all of their OEMs to ONLY install Vista

    that’s not at all correct.

    they encourage OEM’s and PC/laptop distributors to pack Vista on the machines (for obvious reasons), but a simple phone call to any of them can get it bundled with XP instead.

    of course, if you buy already distributed PC’s from places like Best Buy or Circuit City, then you’re stuck. However, any place that distributes PC’s, like Dell, is happy to swap the OS for you to XP with a simple phone call or email.

    I’ve already been through this with numerous clients, who I advised (as I did when XP first came out) to wait until the first service pack is released (should be before the end of the year) before even thinking of migrating to Vista.

    it always takes that long for ANY OS (OSX included) to work out initial release bugs, wait for new hardware drivers to be incorporated, etc.

    jeebus, sometimes i wonder if people recall just how fubar OSX was on initial release.

    here, let me reiterate:


    Always wait for the first major service pack/update/patch

    your life will be much easier.

  73. bee says

    Old and geek…PZ you are so prejudiced…and blahdy blah blah…racist, liberal, ….labels to the max to you too pinhead.

  74. Rey Fox says

    “here, let me reiterate:


    Well, someone has to.

  75. Ichthyic says

    You can’t get gigabit ethernet on the Dell.


    yes you can; depends on the model.

    for desktop/server systems, it’s been available for many years (I purchased several back in 1999/2000).

    for laptops, far fewer models offer it as an option, but it’s still there.

  76. Ichthyic says

    Well, someone has to.

    true, but until they start paying me to beta test “retail versions”, I don’t see why it has to be me… or any of my clients, friends, acquaintances, enemies…

  77. says

    I didn’t say that linux was as good as MacOS because linux and BSD are similar. I pointed out that it was rather silly to praise one while disparaging the other when they both have similar foundations. As for judging it on it’s own merits, that’s easy. The open source development method beats the living day lights out of the proprietary development method. That translates into fewer bugs, more stability, faster patches/fixes for issues that are discovered, better performance, etc.

    Uh, yeah. Open source automatically means better in every regard, because everyone cares about every aspect of their program to exactly the same degree. And everything built on the same foundation is qualitatively interchangeable.

    Oh, wait. Isn’t that complete bollocks?

    I am a great fan of open source software and I use OSS applications all the time. But I am (or at least was, until I lighted out for the biological sciences a year ago) a professional programmer of 15 years’ standing. Meaning: I talk to open source software in its own language and it talks right back. This is not the case for most computer users, even for most scientists. All the evidence there is points to OSS as technically excellent but desperately lacking when it comes to user interaction. And all my many years of experience back that up exactly. OSS is wonderful in many ways, but when it comes to UI it almost always sucks. (And for any idiot who is sitting there imagining that UI is trivial compared to core functionality, all I can imagine is that you’ve never tried to program the UI for anything remotely complicated. The calculations are so fucking easy by comparison it doesn’t even bear thinking about.

    Clearly, this is not wholly mitigated in OS X, because sometimes you’ll find yourself using 3rd party software that pays little attention to the UI, but as a rule the Mac OS experience is markedly better than on Linux or Windows (both of which I have also used very extensively) because, when you come right down to it, UI is never a primary comsideration for Linux and Windows developers. Perversely, Mac developers actually seem to care about that stuff.

    I’ve experienced quite a lot of niche markets over the years, from portfolio optimisation to electrophysiology, and I can tell you that most people coding for small audiences really don’t give a flying fuck about usability. But, disproportionately, Mac developers do. Using esoteric software on the Mac is just easier.

    Moreover, all the basic skills that have long been routinely expected of Windows users — the ability to run a BAT file from the current equivalent of the DOS prompt, for example — are no longer dependably present in this day and age.

    Only this week I had to deal with someone (a dedicated Windows user, who’s barely every seen any form of Mac OS or Linux in his scientific career) who needed to use some molecular modelling software that is available for download as a bunch of Windows executables. He’d downloaded it, but couldn’t get it to work. Because of the dominant market position Windows enjoys, no other binaries were provided. But I could readily download the source, build it (albeit after a brief diversion into Fink to install a Fortran compiler), test against his inputs and provide a solution, all in less than 15 minutes.

    Now, to some extent that’s about me and my experience rather than being specific to the platform; but it’s emblematic of how OS X combines a decent user experience with all the open source command line tools you might want to shake a stick at. Windows, signally, pays little attention to either.

    You can do do the same thing on a mac using something like Fink or parallels but my experience with mac os is virtually non-existent.

    In which case, why the fuck are you bleating on about this? It can only be because of some inexplicable resentment of Mac users. Really, you just need to get the hell over it. However you see them, Macs are not a threat to the likes of you. But for those who have to get stuff done, they’re a promise of a better world.

  78. tonyk says

    Boosterz: Just an FYI – Fink is not an emulation environment, it is a direct port of apt from Debian, just as Synaptic is a version of apt from debian to Ubuntu. The only difference is that you have to go to the trouble of downloading and installing it, rather than it coming built-in.

    Another good one (which I personally use) is Macports, which is a version of the BSD ports system.

    Mac OS X is a version of Unix (it’s even officially certified as of 10.5), so the vast majority of Linux/Unix open-source programs will compile natively. You get Perl, Python and Ruby installed out of the box, and even GCC if you install the Developer Tools from the extras disc that comes in the box.

  79. tonyk says

    Oh, and my geek history:

    My earliest experience was a MicroBee in primary school.

    Started out on an Amiga 500 at home, and went through a succession of Amigas until I had to give up around the end of 1998 and went to RedHat Linux 5.1.

    I then went through a succession of PCs (generally self-built) with a variety of Linux distros (SuSE, Slackware, Gentoo etc.). In 2004 I got sick of the work involved in maintaining and experimenting with a Linux workstation and moved to a Mac.

    So, I have managed to avoid using any Microsoft OS as my main OS on my home computers (though I have long maintained Windows dual-boot installs for games).

    On the server side I still use Linux, as well as OpenBSD and Solaris.

  80. says

    Commodore 64, played games on it.

    My iMac is nine years old. If you like Macs, you can help me get a new one here. If you hate Macs you can force me to commit computing suicide by going here. Use PayPal or Amazon as you wish.

    I support Iraq, evolution, and cat blogging. Make my life stressful with excess cash. :D

  81. DLC says

    At the risk of betraying my age
    I know how to use a punch-card machine.
    I know how to dial-in using a teletype.
    I remember dimly what “2600” means.
    I once asked what I thought was the rhetorical question:
    “what desktop user would ever use up all of a 100 megabyte hard drive ?”
    and I have a green-screen monitor in my closet, gathering dust.
    As for the Mac vs PC vs Linux OS question — use whatever you’re most comfortable with and don’t worry about it.

  82. Ichthyic says

    how do you expect to maintain supergeek status saying things like “i prefer girls”?

    you should be ashamed.

  83. Eric Paulsen says

    Four months ago I decided to teach myself Apple Script and am putting the final touches on my first Apple Script Studio application, with pretty aqua buttons and everything, and I want Leopard for the new XCode and applescript updates. Unfortunately I can’t aford the upgrade (I live in Michigan, have you SEEN or unemployment rate?). Please post a review PZ for those of us who will have to wait…

  84. Leigh says

    NelC, get yourself a geek girl. We maintain ourselves, and all the machines in the house too.

  85. says

    I can download the source code for tons of linux apps, ./configure | make | make install and wham, there it is.

    You know, before OS X came out I never thought I’d hear the day when a Mac fan gleefully announced that he had to compile his own software. :)

  86. MikeM says

    Boosterz, you can still get a new PC with XP.

    True, if you go to one of the big-boxes, it’s hard to get XP, but who buys computers that way?

    I got a Dell Vostro 1500, with XP, and so can you.

    (Just don’t get Norton, even the trial version. Shiver.)

  87. says

    I’m a tech guy and I went to the Best Buy interview just to see what they say. One of their interviewers told me that I have no sales experience therefore, I didn’t get the job. “They would rather Train a salesman to be a tech than train a tech to be a salesman.” Then I opened up my own company called and most of my clients were GeekSquad’s unhappy customers!

  88. Tukla in Iowa says

    Ubuntu would hand it to leopard any day

    I wish. Gutsy has been horrible. Sluggish, has trouble staying connected to the Internet. Firefox can’t even connect to half the sites I use it for. At least Konqueror is doing better, though still takes ages to load pages. I have to reboot if I use BitTorrent for more than a couple hours. Blah. Too bad. It’s the first Ubuntu I’ve been disappointed with in the 2+ years I’ve used the distro.