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  • Those Mac Myths Just Won’t Go Away

    October 25th, 2006

    The other day, I got a letter from a long-time reader that, in part, disputed my contention that Macs were now priced similar to comparably-equipped Windows PCs. Why? Not because of any factual information, but because Consumer Reports magazine said so.

    This reaction is understandable, since Consumer Reports is supposed to be incorruptible. After all, it’s run by a non-profit organization, it buys all the products it tests and takes no advertising. However, that doesn’t mean its editors don’t have an agenda, and clearly they do when it comes to reviewing computers. Sure, Macs get high ratings, but there are always little nits in the articles that reflect myths rather than facts.

    Take, for example, the alleged higher price of a Mac, a real irritant in my book, since it’s so not true. Yes, I realize that the big box PC makers build cheap products that are often considered loss leaders, since they provide little or no profit. Those low prices, however, are just come-ons, designed to entice you to check out an online or brick and mortar store. Once you’re curious, they want to upsell you to something that’ll provide more profit opportunities. Click the Customize button at a PC store or manufacturer’s ordering center and get ready to get lost in option heaven, which is the real profit source.

    Although Apple lets you customize their computers too, you can’t strip them most of the basics, such as gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, iLife and all the rest. Yes, I realize some of you would rather have your Macs without certain features, but when it comes to a Mac mini, it’s definitely a bad idea to try to install something later on, something you forgot about when you placed the original order.

    But that’s not the real comparison. You have to equip the Mac and the PC as closely as possible to get the true price, and here Apple seems to fare better and better as time goes on. The newest MacBook Pros, for example, not only have faster processors for the very same price as the models they replace, but larger hard drives and more memory. The 15-inch models even get FireWire 800 and dual-layer SuperDrives.

    Then there is the Mac and viruses myth. No, I’m not talking about the Windows virus that shipped on some iPods last month. Aside from Apple’s cheeky comments on the subject, which brought lots of intense criticism from some quarters, it’s pretty much a dead issue. Stuff happens. No, instead I’m talking about the oft-repeated claim that, as Mac market share rises, more viruses will come to the platform.

    I don’t know about you, but isn’t an audience of twenty million enough to attract some Internet criminals to the party? After all, that’s surely enough computers to cause an awful amount of damage. Besides, being the first to author a virulent Mac infection ought to carry some sort of status among the criminal community, I suppose. But it’s not happening. Why?

    For one thing, it’s the simple fact that Mac OS X makes it difficult for a virus to spread. Oh, it’s not so terribly hard to do a one-off destructive infection, say invoking an AppleScript that, when launched, can launch a Terminal command that wipes out a bunch of your files. But it’s not something that spreads behind your back. It requires the conscious effort of launching the thing to do its nasty stuff. You can’t just open an email, as you do under present versions of Windows, and have things go awry.

    The fact that Mac OS X application installers generally require passwords and several clicks to do their thing provides another ounce of protection, or at least give you a chance to think before you act.

    This doesn’t mean that malware can’t possibly infect a Mac and spread into the wild, but it makes things more difficult than on the Windows platform. It’s an open question how well Windows Vista will fare in this regard, but how can you feel terribly confident when Microsoft itself feels the need to attempt to supplant third party security software vendors with a protection package of its own?

    In the meantime, Apple is clearly basking in the glow of booming sales of new Macs. If they can avoid some serious screw-ups, and certainly ignore certain sources of erroneous tech news, they might actually take the Mac to greater heights than ever before in their history.



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    12 Responses to “Those Mac Myths Just Won’t Go Away”

    1. Enrique Mayoral says:

      In all fairness, Password protection is an option for developers to put in their installer packages if they chose to do so. Is it possible maybe that the publicity surrounding the Apple community is keeping some hackers “At Bay” and not wanting to sully the good name of Apple? I believe the viruses are not written for mac is because a lot of their OS is “Rock Solid”. I mean fewer security holes than windows. Even then the Leap-A Virus was supposed to infect people, you had to accept the download from the iChat. In my opinion, you earned it if you accepted. Few simple security messures are built into the OS to make it more difficult to write viruses for. On Windows, memory is shared accross all applications. If a virus were to say write malicious code to use up the memory, the virus could essentialy crash the system. In Macs, each application has it own encapslated memory allotment from the OS so if one application, such as the Finder goes down, it does not affect any other system. That is mostly as a result of the Unix core. I felt I wanted to elaborate a little on the virus thing. Sorry if the details were a bit boring. I love the techie nerdy stuff!!!

    2. steve says:

      Let’s say that you wanted to impress your buddies and/or the world with your virus-writing ability. Do you write the 200,000th Windows virus and join the ranks of script kiddies, or do you write a virus that will propagate under OS X?

    3. Another (probably the) reason why hackers can’t come up with a virus for OS X is that Apple stays on top of the security situation. It’s hard to hit the target when people as smart or smarter than you keep moving it.

    4. Matthew says:

      Since we are all adding on and expanding the topic here, here is my 2 cents.

      The most notable in my opinion is the permissions system that unix uses and Mac OS X expands on. Depending on how people set up their Mac, it determines how hard or easy (and I dont say easy lightly, because its still hard even then) a virus ‘could’ infect the system.

      My Mac is setup with 3 accounts and I’m the only user of it. two administrator accounts, and one standard account I use for everyday. One admin account is for basically any admin stuff I’d have to do (very rare I log into this account) and the other admin account is for diagnostic purposes, so I can log into a account I never use to see if a problem on another account is software or hardware related.

      Anyways getting on with the point, using a standard account in the first place is recommended by all and I’m sure readers of The Mac Night Owl all or at least mostly agree with this statement. If you were to get infected with something and using a standard account, its infection is limited to the standard accounts home directory. So really if a virus were to get on the system, and you don’t realize it and you all the sudden see a popup asking for your admin password….well somethings up?

      Basically the point is, the permission system thats being used can also be considered a security measure more so than a privacy measure.

    5. ghanna says:

      A few months ago at the Blackhat (or something) the only thing the hackers could come up with was a lame attemp to bypass a third party wireless card. That should be a hint to OSX security.

    6. Derek Currie says:

      Hi Gene!

      If you want to take the Mac price issue further, don’t forget about the superior ROI (return on investment) for Macs and the lower COO (cost of ownership). For example, a typical estimate is that it takes nearly 10x more resources to maintain a Windows PC than it does a Macintosh, as in the example of needing a much higher ratio of IT support staff per Windows PC than IT support staff per Macintosh. Similarly, it is estimated that Macs are used by their users as much as 2X longer than Windows PC machines by their users before upgrading. Macs are well known for holding their value over time compared to Windows PCs.

      I would be glad to point you to a slew of information on the subject. Bounce a note to me if I can be of assistance.

      :-Derek

    7. 6.

      If you want to take the Mac price issue further, don’t forget about the superior ROI (return on investment) for Macs and the lower COO (cost of ownership). For example, a typical estimate is that it takes nearly 10x more resources to maintain a Windows PC than it does a Macintosh, as in the example of needing a much higher ratio of IT support staff per Windows PC than IT support staff per Macintosh. Similarly, it is estimated that Macs are used by their users as much as 2X longer than Windows PC machines by their users before upgrading. Macs are well known for holding their value over time compared to Windows PCs.

      I would be glad to point you to a slew of information on the subject. Bounce a note to me if I can be of assistance.

      :-Derek

      That’s an issue that they seldom touch. Maybe you can send us some information on this, for possibly a follow-up article. But I need stuff I can sink my teeth into.

      Peace,
      Gene

    8. jayzee says:

      Let’s say that you wanted to impress your buddies and/or the world with your virus-writing ability. Do you write the 200,000th Windows virus and join the ranks of script kiddies, or do you write a virus that will propagate under OS X?

      Duh? I’d rather be one of the 200,000 that succeed, rather than the only one who fails.

      What was your choice? You didn’t say.

    9. yolantevonscheußlich says:

      on this subject everything has been said ad nauseam by you and others.
      there is no need to do it over and over again, other than that you can’t come up with something interesting to say.

      i believe i’ve send you the relevant article long ago but here is the url again:

      http://www.applematters.com/index.php/section/comments/1206/

      i for my part will as of today quit reading you and delete the rss feed, the rare times when there actually is something worth reading does not outweigh the …, well i leave it at that.
      there is no shame in updating less frequently.

    10. i believe i’ve send you the relevant article long ago but here is the url again:

      http://www.applematters.com/index.php/section/comments/1206/

      Actually, I don’t find the article relevant, because the price comparison, which is based on Australian dollars (and may not apply in the USA anyway), doesn’t take into account my key phrase, which is “comparably equipped.”

      Has what I said been written before? Possibly, but not in the article you sent.

      Peace,
      Gene

    11. bquady says:

      To add to Derek Curries mention of ROI and COO… (or to elaborate on ROI):

      Computer user 1 buys windows machine, hates to use it, avoids it.
      Computer user 2 buys mac, loves to use it, uses it frequently and eagerly, explores new options, does more kinds of things with it.

      Ceteris paribus, how would you evaluate the two computers?

    12. Aaron says:

      Computer user 1 buys windows machine, hates to use it, avoids it.
      Computer user 2 buys mac, loves to use it, uses it frequently and eagerly, explores new options, does more kinds of things with it.

      I fully agree with this statement I know I have been Exploring many different types of software since owning my first Mac and Talking to my PC buddies they seem to just do the basics… And my 7 year old son does plenty of his own exploring on his own machine using OS9 with out me having any fear of damaging the machine.

      Strange I still use and own all my Mac’s I have purchased over the years ..so I can say I get my money’s worth and more.

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