Comparing Apples to Apples

If you’ve been a technology consultant you’ve surely heard this expression at least once. A lot of times it’s just a cliche, a filler, but sometimes it literally makes sense. Cliches are boring.

I came to adopting Apple Inc’s Mac products by comparing current Macs with Macs of before (pre- OS X), I wouldn’t touch the former due to cost and mainly because they were closed systems. Since Mac OS X came out I’ve been checking out every once in a while, I finally took the plunge last year and never looked back.

If you know what you’re doing, good products will dramatically improve your productivity. If you’re not so sure of what you’re doing, then Apple compatible products are better at helping you than their Windows equivalents. Ever seen a friend or family stuck win an unresponsive Windows PC? For someone who’s been building and tuning PCs and networks throughout the DOS 5.x and Windows 3.x / Windows for Workgroups and Novell Netware 2.x days, knowledgeable with Windows registry I could still regularly get frustrated asking myself “what the heck is this PC doing? what am I having to wait for…?”. Not anymore since I moved to Mac OS X Tiger (using Linux and Solaris servers).

If you like beautifully designed products then you’re literally smitten by Apple products. Obviously Apple’s products have their issues too, but when comparing apples to apples it’s plain to see that the experience on Macs is better than Windows.

The same thing can be said about popular Linux distributions, Ubuntu is a fantastic example of that. To really appreciate Linux maturity you have to have toyed with some distributions throughout the years, unlike before when you had to search for network and display drivers and fight module dependencies to make your system work, nowadays you can “just install Ubuntu” and start using it right away – in most cases 😉

I have been using Linux for many years and seeing the pace of improvement in 2002 I became convinced that their maturity would outpace that of other established OSses fairly quickly. As ever the hype made that rosier than was possible, but many Linux distributions are really good today.

One thing remain on the sad end of things: interoperability. It’s sickening to still see vendors perpetuate the bad practice of closing their document and database formats, I think not providing an “transportable export” mechanism should be strongly discouraged with some form of market driven coercion. Market dominance should be sought on quality, price or other unique value propositions. Locking down the consumer with non-transportable formats is simply unfair. This is why I can understand authorities demanding that Apple opens up their FairPlay DRM platform. DRM is ok if it’s open and transportable to any platform.

IT is a commodity today, nearly every walk of life depend on it and I think Consumer Associations should turn their attention to the grander issue of “all electronic documents should portable”. Open Document Format (ODF) was a good thing, but why stop there? Email, calendaring, Instant Messaging and Address Books should be covered too, these are documents in their own right and convey critical business information. I know about XMPP, CalDAV and other vCard and vCalendar initiatives. But my point here is that these latter specifications are not pushed as hard as ODF was, I think they ought to be. You don’t want