www.avgguytech.com - OS Choices

How you interact with your computer matters

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)

1. ChromeOS

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.

2. Windows

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.

3. Apple/MacOS

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.

4. Linux

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.

Bottom Line

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.

Check out some of the latest computers on eBay