I had said earlier that I would write more about BootCamp, and then I never did! Sorry. I’ll kinda make up for it here, but I need y’all to understand one thing: Apple gives me a paycheck. So… I may not be entirely unbiased about Apple’s products. What I can do, of course, is talk freely and openly about my opinion of Windows XP.
In a word: meh.
I was really excited to install BootCamp because having Windows means having access to software that isn’t available for Mac OS X. That’s pretty much the entire upside, but it can be significant sometimes. However, when I really stop and think, there are only two categories that the Windows software I want fall into. The first is “Bizarre one-time use stuff I find on the Net.” The second is “Games.” And that’s it.
The first category is made up of those moments where we realize things like, “Oh, I need to convert this .flv file into a format that QuickTime understands so I can edit it a bit and burn it to a DVD.” The particular task isn’t something you do every day, or even every month. It’s something you do once a year or less. Granted, you might need random software like this every two or three months, but it’s different every time. The advantage Windows has is its ubiquity. It’s not that it’s inherently superior–it isn’t. When people write random, crappy little programs that do stupid things like the task above, they’ll usually write them for Windows because, chances are, they’re running Windows. Sure, the Mac has programs like this too, but there are fewer of them because there are fewer Mac users. (For now.)
So in that sense, Windows is like that odd little tool you keep in the bottom drawer of your toolbox. You don’t know exactly what it’s for, but whenever that particular thing comes up, it’ll be handy. It’s not a screwdriver. It’s not a hammer or a saw. It’s a… it’s a sprocket chain whip tool. (Whew!) I found a crappy piece of software somewhere on the net, totally for free, that converts .flv files to a format QuickTime understands. I would’ve had to pay $50 or $100 for software to do that on the Mac.
The second category is a no-brainer. There are games available for Windows that simply aren’t available for the Mac. Even some really well-selling ones like Half-Life 2. Most major game developers have their act together and know how to make a Mac game. Blizzard, for example, is so good with their cross-platform development that they release the same game on the same day for both Windows and Mac, and they sell them literally on the same disc! Every copy of the game has the Mac and Windows versions of the game on that same disc. All the recent Warcraft games have been done that way.
Still, some developers can’t figure out how that’s done, or they can’t justify the effort of changing the way they develop, so they just don’t make games for the Mac. So if you need a specific game, Windows is your only choice. I’ve played the Half-Life 2 Demo on my Mac mini. It felt pretty good. I downloaded a couple demos for some games I haven’t seen yet, and played them. You get the idea. It was fun for awhile.
So those are the two benefits. Let’s talk about two big cons, too: stability and malware.
I was surprised to find Windows to be less stable than Mac OS X. Blame it on whatever you like, but I’ve had Windows “blue screen” on me at least once a week while using it. Sometimes as many as three times a week. I’ve been in the middle of fights in WoW, for instance, and had it just totally die on me. Mac OS X kernel panics so very infrequently that I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw it, but there it was. Microsoft’s latest OS, completely crashing with surprising frequency. Saying it’s the fact I’m running on a Mac doesn’t make any sense: Microsoft’s whole idea was to make an OS that ran on any pieced-together hardware. The Mac should be no different. The chips and technology in my Mac are extremely similar (and in some cases identical) to what some “regular” PCs are using these days.
Now, the worst of it: malware. Viruses, spyware, worms, whatever this stuff is. It’s a well-known fact that while every platform has trojan horses (programs that masquerade as something more innocent, but require the user to activate them), the Mac doesn’t have any of the other baddies. Now that I’ve installed Windows XP personally, I can see that it was built with viruses in mind. I don’t mean that the protection is phenomenal. Obviously it isn’t. My computer requires new virus updates and security updates almost daily to protect itself. A well-created OS shouldn’t require that.
What I mean is that Windows continually annoys you with “You aren’t using virus protection software! Get some now!” messages until you go out and get some protection. And once you install the virus protection, that software, in turn, continually annoys you with “I just updated myself! OK? Great!” messages. So while I’m sitting there using my computer, the thought constantly running through my mind isn’t about “What can I do with my computer?” Or even, to use Microsoft’s old slogan, “Where can I go today?” The thought running through my head is “How can I protect myself today?” Those two thoughts are vastly, vastly different. One is goal-driven. The other is fear-driven.
You shouldn’t have to be afraid of what your computer might do to your data. Don’t put up with it!
So that’s what BootCamp taught me. It taught me to be thankful for Mac OS X, even though Windows can be handy sometimes. Windows can be a fun place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.