If you find it hard to use something, chances are you won’t use it. That has been the focus of this blog from the start 6 months ago. I like making things easier for people to understand the new tech coming out and making the best use of the stuff you have. One thing that seems to always get people fired up online, is “Are you a Mac or PC?” My answer to that question is becoming, “Why does it matter”
I am sure you might remember the Mac vs PC commercials from a while back. Where they presented PCs as being stuffy, business like machines and Mac’s as hip and cool. While this persona is still around today, I think it is time to start getting beyond that.
How you interact with your computer used to really come down to a personal preference, or at least what you were familiar with. This is why Apple pushed so hard to get its computers into the education market. If they could flood the market with computers that kids got used to using, maybe they would continue to use them when they got to be old enough to buy their own. Problem was, Mom and Dad used a Windows machine at work, and they are cheaper overall, so more than likely there was a PC at the house also.
While Apple did manage to convert some, I don’t think they had the whole level penetration into the market they had hoped for. Several years ago Apple made the switch to Intel based processors, instead of their own in-house cores. This opened a whole new world to the Mac. It could now run the programs that people wanted, namely Microsoft Office. This helped homogenize the market even more.
So what are my choices now? (in no particular order)
This is still my current favorite. The ability to get great performance out of low-cost hardware is great. This, in my opinion, is still the best way to get a laptop that can do almost anything you could want, and not worry about any of the stuff you don’t. As long as you don’t need an application that is specific to an OS, then you are good to go here. You probably handle 99% of your computing tasks inside the browser already anyways, so why not use a computer that is built for that. The old arguments about they only work online, is not true, and really, how many times are you somewhere using your computer that you don’t have internet access?
ChromeOS, I think, does the best at just getting out of your way and just letting you get to work or play and do what you want. You really can’t go wrong with one of these machines. There are some great new Chromebooks coming out from the major manufacturers soon. This is an exciting time for Chrome.
The big daddy of them all. No OS has more market share or widespread use than Windows. Due to the early ability to be run on almost any computer (other than a Mac) made it easy for businesses to buy it and for computer makers to field it with their new machines. There may have been some collusion between the manufacturers and Microsoft in the early days, but was Dell or HP really going to ship a computer with MacOS on it? No, not really.
Chances are you already use a Windows machine somewhere in your life, it’s almost hard not to. It brings an ease of use and lots of support to help with any problems you might have. There is a giant community out there using Windows, so chances are if you have an issue, someone else does also.
Windows is probably a little harder for the newcomer to just have a computer that gets out of the way. Mac and Chrome, since they control the hardware, have fewer issues getting running out of the box. Windows is the closest to a One-Size Fits most type of approach to computing.
Apple has always positioned itself as the alternative to Windows, the problem is cost. Mac Computers and Laptops are always more expensive than their Windows-based counterparts when you compare specs. Since Apple controls the hardware and the software they can dictate and focus on software development. This makes the Apple MacOS environment much more robust. Since they can focus on creating an Operating System for a narrow band of devices. This helps to eliminate the bugs that can creep into more diverse OS’s.
I will say the overall build quality of Apple devices is greater than most Windows machines I have used. But as far as the actual OS goes, I think there are still some quirks that take some getting used to. I wrote about transitioning from Windows to Mac a couple of weeks ago. It’s getting a little easier for me, but I still find a couple of frustrations when interacting with the OS.
So long as I stay in the browser, life is great, I get to use what in essence is a $1700 Chromebook. Almost everything I need to do, work or otherwise, can be handled in the browser. So in the browser (Chrome) is where I choose to stay.
For someone who is not as tech comfortable as I am, the MacOS can be a lot different than what they are used to. I would only recommend the MacOS to a beginning computer user if they have never really used a computer before. I would still steer a new user to Chrome before I sent them to the Apple Store. It’s not that the OS is hard to use, it just changes your interaction vs. Windows. If grandma, let’s say, is only slightly comfortable with a couple of tasks in Windows, I would not dump them into Mac, cold. There is a learning curve there that might be a little more than some can overcome.
It’s not that the OS is hard to use, it just changes your interaction vs. Windows. If grandma, let’s say, is only slightly comfortable with a couple of tasks in Windows, I would not dump them into Mac, cold. There is a learning curve there that might be a little more than some can overcome.
Linux really is, in a way, the best of all three. There are so many versions of the Linux OS, called distros, that you can find the one that suits your needs. While you can’t walk into a store and buy a Linux computer, it is easy to add Linux to an existing computer. It also can breathe some life into an older computer, should you choose to go that route.
Linux really allows someone to have as much or as little interaction with the operating system as possible. Should you want to tweak all the settings and optimize all the settings then Linux will let you. If you just want to browse the web and check email, yep that works also. There are a lot of resources out there that can point you towards what might be your favorite distro. If someone you care about has an older computer that maybe isn’t running so well anymore, a Linux distro might be the way to get them back up and running without too much of a learning curve.
5. Andriod (Bonus)
No longer just relegated to the phone, Android is starting to come into its own as a full-fledged OS. While you won’t find it running a whole computer, yet. It can be used as your primary computing device. In fact, you probably already do with your phone or tablet. With the inclusion of a keyboard and a pointing device it is easy to use a larger screen tablet as a full blown computer. Again, if you do everything in the browser, then the OS is really irrelevant.
Android is coming to and is already available on a wide range of Chromebooks. It really brings together the best of both of these outstanding operating systems. All your favorite apps from your phone, now available on your computer. I do recommend getting a touchscreen Chromebook to really get the best experience out of it.
How you want to interact with your computer is really up to you. There is no longer any huge differences between how the different OS’s go about making your computer usable. Well, on the surface anyways. If you are like me and work in the browser, then what OS you use doesn’t matter. And as we move more and more towards SaaS (Software as a Service) the choice in OS becomes even more of a matter of taste, less a matter of what works.
I always look for a laptop/desktop that just lets me work. I am not going under the hood to tweak all the settings and change things around. Not that I can’t do that, I just don’t have a need. The browser brings me everything I need so if I run Chrome on a Mac or a “PC” it really doesn’t matter.
So the next time you are looking for a computer, spend less time looking at which OS you want and little more on how you can more easily make the computer work for you.
I just never saw the point in paying more for the hardware I already had. I thought of Apple MacBooks as really expensive laptops. Since they pretty much are for what you get. When I got the chance at work to switch to a MacBook I took the leap.
If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you should know that I am a huge fan of the Chromebook. I think they offer the best balance and performance and capabilities that most users need out of a laptop.
So why did I get the MacBook? Well, for one, I didn’t have to pay for it. The other side of that is that as much as I can use my Chromebook for work, I can’t use it to access our file shares. For that, I need one of the IT-approved devices to do that with.
The more I have used the Chromebook the more I want to interact with something that looks nice, and stays out of my way. This transition has not been without it’s “hardships” in learning a whole new pantheon of keyboard shortcuts and menus, but the learning curve is shallow. I have been using Windows machines almost exclusively since Windows 3.1. I am old school.
What’s been the hardest part?
Well, like I said, learning to navigate the menus and the keyboard shortcuts. I am a keyboard warrior, if I can’t shortcut it, I almost don’t even use it. Not that I don’t like the mouse, but the keyboard is a much faster for me to move around the application I might be using at the time.
The menu navigation is not too bad, I have used a lot of Linux distros and a lot of them model themselves after the Mac more than the Windows OS. So it was a small stumble, kind of like walking back into your house after being gone for a couple of months, it’s familiar, but not quite comfortable
What has been easy?
The easy part is actually, Chrome. I use the Chrome browser on all my devices, from my Chromebooks, obviously to my Android-based Google Pixel and my work laptop. This allows me to keep the extension and functionality seamless across all my devices. Whenever and wherever I sign into Chrome, boom, there are my favorites, my settings on how I like my internet experience, and my extensions. (If you aren’t making use of the hundreds of extensions in Chrome, you are missing out)
So that has made that part of the transition easier. No fooling about with setting up a new browser with saved passwords and site settings. Also using the Google Drive ecosystem means that wherever I am, my files are there with me.
Are you going to switch back to Windows?
At this point, I am not so sure. Computing has moved way beyond needing a specific OS. My Chromebook proves that daily, I know ChromeOS is an OS. But I don’t usually have a need for specific applications to be run, so I don’t need a full strength OS. So at that point, I am free to run the hardware and OS that I want. I really enjoy being OS agnostic. As long as I can run my Chrome browser I am good to go.
Would I buy a Mac on my own? Maybe not a new one. I might pick up a used MacBook Air sometime in the future since I like the form factor, but I get the same look and performance from my Acer Chromebook 14. At work, I think I will stick with this Mac for now. I don’t see the need to really go back to Windows for any reason. The first day with the Mac was a challenge, but now, 3 days in, it’s like I have always used it. Oh yeah, the Retina screen is awesome.
The argument of Mac vs. PC is almost as old as Chevy and Ford. What side do you fall on? Tell me in the comments. And as always, please sign up for the email list to get notified of new posts!
If you have been around the tech world for a little while and have more than a passing interest in computers, there is no doubt you have heard of Linux. Maybe you never really looked into what it is, or how it could benefit you. Let me try to explain what it is and what it isn’t here. Maybe, just maybe I will inspire you to give it a try.
The name Linux actually has two meanings. The first and most correct one is using the name Linux in reference to the Operating System. The operating system or OS is the layer between your computer and the software you want to run. I won’t bog down in the details here. Other operating systems you may have heard of are Windows, MacOS, and ChromeOS.
Linux is the operating system that several distributions are built on. When some people use the term Linux or say “I run Linux” they are usually referring to the distribution of Linux they are running. Linux the OS is free for anyways to make a copy of, make modifications to, or do whatever they wish with it. Many groups create a custom version of the interface and market it to computer users. The only requirement is that the code of the operating system remain free and open for anyone to see.
So we will look at a couple of distributions (distros) of Linux in this article and explain why you might want to give one a try.
Couple of basics or why use it in the first place
Linux does allow for more control over what your computer is doing and is a safer operating system to run your computer with for a couple of reasons. First is that since not that many people run Linux there are not as many people out there trying to inject viruses into it. Also, since Linux is maintained by small groups of coders (normally) security flaws are usually fixed as soon as they are found. These updates are then pushed over the internet to your computer for an automatic update.
Linux is free! Meaning, once you download a distro and install it on your computer, it will continue to be updated without you ever needing to buy anything. Nothing, all new updates are free also. A lot of the distros do ask for donations to keep the projects running, but it is not necessary for you to give anybody any money.
Linux also does not come with all the extra stuff you don’t want, Windows and MacOS show up on your new computer with programs installed that you have no want or use for. Linux distros, during the install will ask what you want beyond the standards.
Linux has versions that are great for older machines. Many Linux distros pride themselves on working on hardware that nothing else works on anymore. You can get a modern operating system onto a 10 year old laptop, should you want to do that. Linux distros also usually have a smaller storage footprint than Windows or MacOS.
So with that, let’s look at a couple of the most popular distros.
1. Ubuntu Linux
Ubuntu is by far one of the most widely used and recognized distros of Linux. It has a clean and simple interface that will be familiar to Windows and Mac users alike. Ubuntu also has the widest range of add on programs out there. If there is something you need to do, chances are someone has created a program to do it. Best of all, the programs you add to Ubuntu or any other distro are free!
Ubuntu is easy to install, just answer a couple of questions about what time zone you are in and how your keyboard is laid out and let it do the rest.
If you just want to try out Ubuntu without installing it, you can put it on a USB drive and boot your computer from the USB. This gives you a chance to see what it is like to run a Linux distro and try it out without needing to install it.
2. Linux Mint
Don’t let the cute name fool you, this is a full fledged serious operating system. I have used Linux Mint a couple of times in the last few years and have always enjoyed it. It is easy to set up and easy to get going on. It is one of the more Windows looking Linux distros. It is really easy to transition from Windows to Mint. There is also a wide user community that you can ask questions of. Also, Mint was built off of Ubuntu, so a lot of the questions and solutions people apply to Ubuntu work in Mint also.
3. Tails Linux
If you are really concerned about your privacy online and on your computer, then Tails Linux is the distro for you. It leaves no trace behind on your computer that it was even there. It totally runs off of a USB stick. Also, it comes with baked in security tools and settings for secure web browsing and encrypted email. If your tin-foil hat is adjusted correctly, give Tails a try!
Now if you have some really old hardware laying around that you maybe want to bring back to life, there is nothing better than Lubuntu. It is specifically designed to work with older hardware and is based on Ubuntu. It can make an older laptop feel new again. It has a small footprint and the resource requirements are not so heavy that a 10-year-old laptop couldn’t run it. It also maintains compatibility for more legacy hardware specs, like a PS/2 Mouse. So if you need something to bring a laptop back from the dead, or a decent USB based OS. Give Lubuntu a try.
5. Chrome OS
Now you may think that this would only work on a Chromebook, but not true. The Chromebook OS is based on the freely available ChromeOS project. You can turn any computer into an almost Chromebook. The are a few difference, like no automatic updating and some material design differences but underneath it is all the same. Worth checking out if you want something a little different.
Hopefully, this gives you the push to at least try out a live USB version of a Linux based distro. There are many others out there and this doesn’t even start to scratch the surface of what is available. If you want some more info, please leave a note in the comments or sign up for the email list to find out more. Linux is a great way to breathe life back into older systems or make your new system run even better. Both Windows and MacOS can be replaced with a Linux Distro. Go ahead and give it a try.