Switching to Mac? (I don’t know about that)

The more I read the (tech) news these days, the more I hear about the Microsoft’s latest doing’s and the less I like what I’m reading.

I have been an MS user from the PC’s “BW” era (Before Windows). I did have my choice at one time though. My Sound Production business ran an Enhanced for it’s computer needs but MS’s offering (for my home at least) allowed me to screw around more. It also crashed more often and therefor allowed me a great deal of valuable on-the-job training fixing my screw ups which enabled me to receive a great deal of valuable “school of hard knocks” experience over the years that moved me nicely along my longtime career path.
For one reason or another that career, after many years, went by the wayside in order that another more onerous duty could be accomplished so now I, like so many others, am basically working from paycheck to paycheck and have entered the realm of the, albeit, extremely-over-experienced, “Average Computer User” and as such am beginning to seriously wonder whether sticking with the Windows OS and taking the next step up to Vista is worth the effort.

Now I know the Windows OS like I don’t know Apple’s OS X since I have not used any of Apple’s offerings since my Apple II E days which means the Mac and I are perfect strangers but I’m not above walking over and shaking the stranger’s hand if Microsoft keeps on messing up like it has been and apparently, is continuing to do so but I have to ask the question; is switching worth the time, trouble and especially the cost both monetarily and application wise?

What gave me this serious kick in the pants that has me considering a switch? Read below.

iTWire – Latest Windows hole the last straw

The news that a much feared new worm has been let loose to exploit the latest vulnerability in Microsoft Windows, made known last week when the software company released its security update MS06-040, will no doubt be the last straw for many users.

Those who have been forced to arm themselves to the teeth with multi-layer security defences, including firewalls, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-phishing and anti-whatever packages, only to see their systems get taken down by some new Windows or Office vulnerability, must be wondering what they need to do to feel safe when they go online.

In what has become a bizarre monthly ritual that hopefully will one day be consigned to the garbage dump of history, Microsoft saves up all the fixes for new vulnerabilities in its systems that it or someone else discovers and issues the fixes to its hundreds of millions of users on the second Tuesday of the month.

With monotonous regularity, each month, Patch Tuesday as it has become known reveals a dozen or more serious deficiencies in Microsoft’s software. Some of the bugs are so critical that if malicious attackers were to exploit an unpatched system they could gain control of an online computer without the owner having to lift a finger.

As critical as these bugs have been each month, the vulnerability addressed by security update MS06-040 is so serious that the US Department of Homeland Security has felt the need to get on the act and warn users to install the patch. No reason has been given for the Government agency to get involved. However, there is a possibility that it not just worried about cyber criminals gaining remote control of computers.

For many Windows users who have been hacked and had their systems compromised despite their best efforts at protecting their systems, at least some must be now wondering whether it is time to consider looking into whether there is a safer alternative.

All the above and much more like it has passed in front of my eyeballs of late. To me, it does not bode well.

Ok. Besides the cost of switching machinery which is still higher for an Intel based IMac then it is for the equivalent Windows based PC ($1299 for the basic IMac dual core machine and around $800 for an “equivalent” Windows machine). Of course I’m only talking about performance not asthetics for the IMac is a story in compactness and beauty along with middle of the road performance and minimum upgrade ability while a typical Windows PC is pretty much like they’ve always been. Big and bulky, large noisy fans, a lot of brute force as far as performance goes and easily upgradeable and comparatively easy to crash. Ok, not as easy as it used to be but it can still crash and burn. One also needs a damn good security/anti-virus suite like the one’s offered by ZoneLabs, Panda, McAfee etc.
Macs, for now anyway, don’t need things like anti-virus, firewalls, anti-spyware and the like (yet) and OS X tends to be much more stable than the Windows OS.

But…

If I were to switch some of the following questions come to mind:

  1. Is my Verizon DSL equipment with 3 USB wireless 802.11g adapters compatible with my new IMac? What about drivers? Can I even use it? I paid for it didn’t I? Verizon should be able to accommodate a new Imac or will that “Airport” thingy pick up the wireless DSL signal broadcast by the Westell router?
  2. What about the blogging software I use? I know that Tiger has a kind of built in blog editor that supports videos and images galore but what platforms does it support (my Blogs are on WordPress.com) or do I have to use Apple’s offerings?
  3. I use MS office XP and OpenOffice version 2.03 for creating documents. OpenOffice does not have an version for the Aqua OS structure yet and as far as MS office is concerned it looks like I am going to have to put down $400.00 for the Apple version even though I have a “bought and paid for” copy for Windows XP that will also run on the up and coming Vista OS (Apple’s “BootCamp does not count. Why would I want to run Windows on a IMac? I want to switch remember?).
  4. What about support and services. I hear I have to pay for them on an annual basis. Is this true or not?
  5. I use open source imaging programs like PhotoFiltre and FastStone image viewer. Are they cross-platform? How about Paint Shop Pro? Do I have to plunk down $80.00 for Adobe Photo Elements instead? What about the Gimp? I use that too.
  6. Where do I go to find honest, down to earth answers to these questions?

And all the other little niggling questions, things and surprises. I know that the answers are out there somewhere and some are easily found but overall it is still going to take a fair amount of time to find out these things and I’m not in a position, when it comes down to the final switch-over, for a lot of surprises.

One good thing I don’t have to worry about is that Firefox has a Mac version also.

Now ironically, if I decide not to switch but instead, upgrade to the new I have to ask all the above questions yet again because Vista is a whole new animal and the least “backwards compatible” OS that MS has offered to date (a point to their side. MS should have stopped trying to run “everything that came before” a long time ago).
With the exception of adding another 512 megs of memory and upgrading my video card which I had planned to do anyway irregardless, my current PC is more than sufficient to run Vista but I already know that my Verizon DSL equipment and wireless setup is going to need a whole new set of drivers that may or may not be available in order to work in Microsoft’s new OS.
Add to the above the fact that my tried and true Panda Internet Security 2006 suite that keeps my XP Pro SP2 machine virus and spyware free and safe behind a solid firewall has yet to announce an upcoming Vista-ready version. Aaaarrrggghh!!!

Of course there is the option of staying with my old XP Pro which, even with keeping SP2 fully udated avery second Tuesday of every month I will still be faced with spending a fair amount of $$$ renewing every year in order to protect a rapidly aging OS that’s already 5 years old and soon to be replaced. In this ever more rapidly changing world of personal computing, the option of sticking with the same OS for ten or 15 years is no longer viable.

There’s time to wait yet, mostly by necessity right now but where doth the future liveth? Time will tell. I just hope some idiot(s) out there don’t come along and hack my poor old OS to bits in the meantime just because they know how.


Have a nice evening…

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