I am a Mac, and… wait, where did the PC go???
Recently I have been wondering about the Mac in science phenomenon. I go to conferences and local talks and about 90% of all computers used by the speakers are Macs. Frankly, I find it surprising, to say the least. After all, a Windows PC is IMHO much better suited for most tasks commonly associated with research activities.
I know I am setting myself up for some major rants from Mac additcts, but seriously – a great majority of software both for communication with scientific instruments and for data analysis is written for Windows. If you need some customized program to perform a specific task, you are at least 10x more likely to find a freeware/cheap shareware solution on the Web for a PC than for a Mac. Mac fanboys will surely argue that their pretty laptops are oh so much more ergonomical, but hell, will somebody explain to me how a single mouse button is more ergonomical than two?
To me, using a computer is a matter of efficiency. I really don’t need the fancy screensaver and icons at the bottom of the screen which change their size once you hover over them. About every task I can think of is done easier, cheaper, and faster on a PC than on a Mac, at least as far as research goes. Those influenced by Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field will keep chanting their mantra: “But ooooh look, I can install Windows on my Mac and use all the programs you can use”. To this I say “Yeah, but I can run my Windows programs just as well for half the price”. So far as I can tell, Macs were designed mostly with a home user in mind, the kind that just wants to plug and play. Why all these Mac users in academia go through the hell of dealing with all the compatibility issues is mindboggling to me. A postdoc friend of mine had to continually do her data analysis on a lab PC because there was no program on her Macbook that would do the kind of analysis she needed. Then she would have to transfer the files using a USB stick, because her Mac had a hard time connecting to the all-PC network in the Department. Congratulations, Steve Jobs! If people do all that just for the privilege of displaying a shiny Apple logo when they give a talk, then you really did an awesome marketing job.