by KellyR

     Do you prefer to use a Mac, Windows PC, or do you use both? Or maybe you function better with Linux? What type of user are you?  In the past few years, we have seen a steady decline in the PC market because of the introduction of many tablets, but the PC isn’t dead yet as we begin to see the momentum in PC sales return. Which machine should you purchase? We look at the advantages, disadvantages, and differences between PC, Mac, and of course a quick look at Linux.
     As far as functionality, compared to the PCs, Apple’s Mac computers can be just as useful for artists and producers in animation, video, audio, and graphic productions. For example a number of major films were edited with Apple’s Final Cut Pro such as Cold Mountain (2003), Napoleon Dynamite (2004), Corpse Bride (2005), Social Network (2010), and many others. On the other hand, as far as OpenGL support, Apple seems to be lacking in this department. It took a while for Mac to have better OpenGL support, but finally Apple’s Mavericks finally supports OpenGL 4.1, which is still an old version compared to Linux and Windows users. Since this change in OpenGL 4.1, many users have seen an increase in graphics performance compared to the older versions of OSX. For example, Diablo III and Starcraft II can now operate at 60fps at max settings on a Mac compared to the older versions of OpenGL 4.1, where the graphics performance was restricted. Some benchmarks compared Windows vs Mac using the same hardware and Windows still out preformed.  While it may be true that Mac OSX is behind Windows in gaming graphics, a Mac is still five times more stable than Windows in gaming. Windows still has been the preferred system for gamers through the gaming platform called Steam. Valve developed this social and gaming platform that was co-founded by Gabe Newell in 1996.
     Some of the advantages that the Mac has over the PC are Apple’s easy to use operating system, their design, syncing across devices, customer service, and a “false sense of security” that it doesn’t get viruses or malware. A great example of Apple’s easy to use operating system is connecting your computer to public WiFi. MacDonald’s has a pamphlet on connecting to their Wifi with a Mac in a few easy and frustration free steps. Microsoft’s Windows instructions, on the other hand, have several steps with multiple diagrams to show how it is done. The same is the case with installing a printer, deleting a program, backing up your whole computer, and many others. Apple makes OS X function without needing to comprehend what is going on underneath the hood. One of Apple’s best advantages is their innovative design for battery life, structure, cooling, and a small footprint. Apple’s MacBook Air in combination with OS X, the lightweight laptop will last 12 hours on one charge. In addition, Apple’s teardrop design for their laptops, desktops, and other iOS devices gives it a smooth and lightweight look. The new Mac Pro design offers a small footprint, but powerful hardware with dual GPUs, PCIe flash storage, high performance Thunderbolt 2, the next generation Xeon processor, up to 64GB of RAM, and most importantly it supports 4K monitors. The Xeon E5 processor has the options of 4,6,8, or 12 processing cores, which is a lot of power for such a small footprint. Lastly, Apple has included more graphics processing power by having dedicated 2GB, 3GB, or even 6GB VRAM for the AMD FirePro workstation-class GPU. What is most impressive is that you can edit 4K videos while rendering videos and still connect 3 4K monitors.
     On the other hand, while Apple does have very impressive hardware, what happens when something breaks? When the motherboard, processor, or RAM fails in the Retina display MacBook Pro or the Mac Pro? For the price to have it replaced you could almost purchase a new machine which is what Apple wants you to do; purchase a whole new computer when something breaks. Apple has even gone as far as to solder the RAM to the motherboard, making it impossible to upgrade or switch out the RAM. Many users have the ability to replace or upgrade their own motherboard, RAM, or processor in their PCs with ease but Apple makes this difficult to upgrade anything. Some users create Hackintoshes, which are essentially the same hardware without all the aesthetics. This allows the end users to get under the hood and upgrade their components year-to-year without issues. There are several types of users out there. Some users are Apple fans who don’t really care what is underneath the hood, can afford to have Apple repair their machines every couple of years, and love the Apple design. There are groups of users, such as the “PC Master Race” that put together all their components themselves and install the operating system whether it is Mac OSX, Windows, or Linux.
     Linux is open-source and has some common ground with Mac OSX since they both are originally derived from UNIX. The Linux terminology is different: the folders are referred as directories, the administrator account is the root account, the command prompt is the Terminal (as it is in Mac OSX), and my computer is called the file manager. Linus Torvalds originally created Linux. Linux is more than an operating system; it is an interface. An interface is a platform between computer hardware, programs, and the end user. Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux all have a kernel, which is the core of the operating system. The kernel is the bridge between the computer hardware and the application. The big difference between Windows, Mac OS, and Linux is the fact that Linux is more flexible and more configurable. Many different organizations such as GNU, Xorg, KDE, XFCE help run the many programs on Linux. Linux development is based on the fact of asking users’ for their input on the functionality of Linux. Linus Torvalds found Linux in 1991 with his own kernel and some GNU programs and posted to the public and other computer programmers on how to improve what he started. At this point developers started writing drivers for the Linux interface. This is what makes Linux so great: it develops and grows from its users. As an operating system is it stable, has a variety of programs, and runs very well as a network server since is rarely has any down-time compared to Microsoft Windows. Linux can even run as a server for a year or more without rebooting. Most importantly Linux can be used to cut costs after installing on a PC instead of purchasing server packages from other companies.
     As explained before Linux is a kernel and drivers inside another kernel. If you are looking to get into Linux, there are many distributions you can choose from such as Ubuntu and Debian. Unlike Windows, Linux doesn’t use file extensions because it uses "execute bit". This tells Linux whether to run the file and doesn’t depend on the file extension to tell it what to do. In addition, most versions of Linux have a Project Manager, which connects to online databases of programs written especially for Linux. Another essential feature of Linux is automation. Many developers and programmers write commands for automated tasks that can run in the background. The reason that automation has more flexibility is the fact that devices and drive partitions are represented as files.
     Overall if you have a deep understanding of Linux and can build your own system, you can run an affordable system or server on your own without problems. Compared to Microsoft Windows, you can go even further under the hood and upgrade certain programs as you see fit. What type of user are you? Once you understand how Linux operates, the sky is the limit.



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