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Apple of My Eye

A little hindsight never hurt anyone

By Eugene Kim

Nearly three years ago, I began my career at The Crimson by announcing my steadfast opposition to the rampant proliferation of Macs of all shapes and sizes on our campus. Today, I must admit that I was totally and completely wrong. As a user of both Macs and PCs, I can honestly say that both have their place—and I am more than happy to use both.

It all began when my (admittedly well-used) Dell Inspiron laptop began to die. To make a long story short, the battery, graphics adapter, and internal wireless card all started to bug out in rapid succession.

Fast-forward two years. In the span of time it took for my old Dell laptop to go from a shiny new object of love and affection to a broken-down piece of junk, my new MacBook has gone from a reluctant addition to my life to an essential part of my day. When I walk into my first lecture of the day, it takes me only a few seconds to pull my laptop out of my bag and simply flip it open, ready to go. For me, this is absolutely critical—10:07 am means not a minute sooner.

Admittedly, my anecdotal evidence will not convince all of you that I have changed my ways. But there are some serious substantive reasons to consider an Apple when you make your next computer purchase.

First off, while Apple may produce laptops and desktops that are a bit more expensive than their PC counterparts, the Cupertino-based company does an excellent job of choosing top-notch components that last longer and provide better performance than their generic PC counterparts. To put it more simply, the hardware may cost more, but you get more out of it.

Take, for example, the graphics chipset—the part of the computer that renders the fancy windows and icons used in OS X Snow Leopard. While Apple’s entry-level machines—the white MacBook and the Mac Mini—both sport powerful versions from Nvidia, the average budget PC laptop will usually sport an anemic integrated variation from Intel Corporation, which were once so pathetic that Microsoft found itself slapped with a class action lawsuit for claiming that they could run Windows Vista with all the bells and whistles. And Apple also offers sizeable educational discounts on its hardware, often bundling iPods and printers with Macs that have already seen a major price reduction.

Similarly, Apple offers a compellingly affordable alternative operating system with OS X Snow Leopard, its newest iteration of OS X. Priced at just $29 for the upgrade edition (or $49 for the five-license Family Pack), it is up to three times cheaper than the Microsoft’s Windows 7 Professional—and that’s not even the most expensive version of Windows available.

Additionally, anyone who has worked with Microsoft’s software activation system knows how much of a pain it can be to convince the corporate colossus in Redmond that you’re actually not trying to pirate anything—you just want to reinstall your legal copy of Windows. By contrast, when I decided to wipe my hard drive clean and just “start over” with my Mac, the computer didn’t bother me every time it started up about “checking in” with Microsoft—it just worked.

Now, these advantages do not excuse some of Apple’s more egregious technological sins. Take, for example, the lack of Flash support on the iPod touch, iPad, and iPhone. Nor do they absolve Apple of its failure to adopt industry standards for its desktop hardware—the iMac uses custom parts that make it almost impossible to upgrade anything more specialized than the memory or hard drive, and the Mac Pro’s parts are all flashed with a special BIOS that makes using non-Apple approved hardware extremely difficult.

But when one compares just how badly PC manufacturers and Microsoft have done in the past three years—for starters, bundling “crapware” with their store-bought PC’s that slowed them down to a virtual crawl, violating European antitrust regulations regarding software bundling, and prematurely cutting off support for Windows XP (the world’s most popular operating system), Apple looks pretty good in comparison. Oh, and did I mention Windows Vista?

In short, I’m happy to say that I enjoy the best of both worlds. When I’m in class and want to focus on getting the most words down on (virtual) paper as quickly as possible without worrying if my computer will even turn on, I’m a happy camper with my MacBook in hand. When I need to do something that is a little bit more technically complex and don’t mind taking the time to tweak, I’ll use my custom-built PC. And thanks to Boot Camp, I can get back to my biggest time-waster—massacring zombies in Left 4 Dead—on both.

Eugene Kim ’10-’11, a former Crimson associate editorial editor, is a history concentrator in Kirkland House.

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