Friday, November 8, 2013

Mavericks vs. Windows 8.1

I thought that comparing these two operating systems wouldn’t be entirely fair as I was installing 8.1 to my Surface Pro and Mavericks to a 2009 MacBook. I thought Microsoft would have the advantage with the release of their OS and hardware being closer together. This didn't end up being the case by a long shot.

I tried to keep this under a thousand words for easy reading, but if you're curious, and you know how to, contact me with your questions. 

They both take quite a bit of time to download and install. As always make sure you have your device running on AC power and give yourself an hour or more to get it done depending on your connection speed. 

Microsoft basically forces you to upgrade from 8.0 to 8.1. If you don’t, they lock your machine with a gray bar and a single option allowing you to go to the store. When I go to the store, the option reads “Windows 8.1 Preview” or something like that. When I clicked it, I was not sure if I was getting the full version or the preview version. Searching around the store did not yield any clarity. 

Windows 8.1 will mostly hose your system. You will have to re-install applications, drivers, and nothing will work as well as it did with 8.0. Peripherals will cease to work, the OS will “misplace” external drives and SD cards at random and generally anger you beyond any threshold of sanity. Your device may also experience boot failure requiring that you shut down and try again. 

At intervals, my Surface Pro will tell me it’s trying to repair itself and diagnose a problem at boot up. This (of course) always fails and I have to reboot to get the device to function. While I’m using my Surface, it will lose track of the SD card, the Type Cover, cease accepting touch input, constrain the pen to a tiny corner of the desktop, and engage in other extremely frustrating shenanigans. Windows 8.1 turned my very functional and useful device into a baldness and anxiety generator. 

This is a stark contrast with Apple’s new OS offering. 

Apple doesn’t force you to update and the process if very simple. When the update is complete, your system will function as it did before, if not better. Your mouse, keyboard, monitor, external drives, and so forth will function like they did and you may have to update a few apps that have been optimized for Mavericks. 

My laptop runs cooler, faster, and with slightly greater speed. It boots quickly, but still takes a while to shut down. Overall, system performance has improved and after several hours of use I could begin to feel or garner a sense of the boost. Apple doesn’t always deliver a smooth OS update, but they pretty much nailed it this time around. 

Application Comparison, In Brief
Adobe/Autodesk – These are better on a Mac for a myriad of reasons. I’ve adapted to using them on Windows but in the back of my mind, I know the experience is better with Apple’s operating system. 

Browsers – I tend to use Chrome over Safari or Internet Explorer and the mobile equivalents of both depending on the OS I’m using. I don’t love one browser over another really. 

Calendar – Apple’s calendar application is better in almost every possible way. I could write a thousand words about why it’s better. 

Cloud Computing – SkyDrive is far more useful than iCloud but somewhat less reliable when coupled with other 1st Party Applications. Microsoft Office can’t be trusted to sync documents to the cloud unfortunately, while iWorks does a fine job of working with iCloud. That SkyDrive has an apparent file system and can be used to store any sort of file gives it the advantage where I’m concerned. 

Contacts – Microsoft’s “People” application leans on your social networks, has a better UI, and means of adding and syncing contacts than Apple’s “Contacts” app. 

Content Creation/Management – Apple has their iLife applications, Garage Band, iMovie, and iPhoto while Microsoft has a few content management applications that basically pale in comparison. Microsoft has MS Paint and Fresh Paint though, which I love. 

Dictionary – Apple’s built in dictionary app is super handy for anyone who writes. I have got it on the dock and open whenever I’m writing. 

Emulation – There are a number of options for both. I do not struggle to find ways of playing ancient games in a DOS box with either Microsoft or Apple products. 

Games – This is a battle of ecosystems. Still, I’d rather look at Microsoft’s Xbox integrated Games App over Apple’s Game Center any day. 

Mail – Microsoft’s Mail app has come a long way, but Apple still has the upperhand in my opinion. 

Maps – I use Google, in a browser. 

Metro vs. Launchpad – Launchpad and the Metro/Start Menus are a best answer to the UI question asked by all cursor driven operating systems. What is the best way to access, array, and execute applications loaded on my machine? Both are still failing at this in epic fashion, but at least Microsoft gives you the option to boot directly to desktop mode now. 

Music – Apple and Microsoft are competing in this category for the purpose of inventing new and horrible things to do to users. Microsoft’s Music App is worthless ad-fueled crap you should just delete. iTunes is not much better, but it does not subject you to advertising except for defaulting to Apple’s Music Service/Radio tab once after an update. 

Video Chat – FaceTime and Skype are very competitive products. I use them both. 

MS Office vs. iWorks
I used Pages 09’ to write two full length novels, three novellas, and a quarter million words worth of game design documents. Previous to that, I used nothing but Microsoft Word and Publisher for everything. The newer versions of Office are slick and feature rich but crippled by unreliable save/load (with Word anyway) with SkyDrive. However, I love OneNote and its extremely fluid pen input. I need to find a home for all my notebooks and pens, as I no longer need them so long as I have OneNote and a device with a stylus.

Apple recently identified and systematically removed everything I loved about Pages making it barely worth using. They have recently promised to start adding features back in, and Microsoft has been improving their presence in the cloud but it’s really hard to rebuild trust once it’s been lost. The upside is that Apple didn't remove my previous version of Pages from my Mac or the file associations thereof. 

I understand they’re making a device that runs Pages 09’, MS OneNote, and has a touchscreen with stylus. It runs on Unicorn Tears though. 

I’ve had fewer issues with 8.1 on my Lenovo Workstation (which is extremely confusing) than I have with my Microsoft Surface Pro. After much bug chasing, Windows 8.1 still loses track of my external drives and is far slower to boot and shut down than 8.0 on my Lenovo. I wish I could say the same with my Surface. I’m going to try and do a fresh install of the OS and then update again. 

Maybe I’ll have better luck the second time around. 

It’s a strange world when I think Microsoft and Lenovo are making better hardware than Apple, while Apple seems to have the upper hand in the software department. I really like the way Mac OSX runs on a computer, and the reliability it provides. But, I really like stylus/pen input, and that doesn't seem to be part of Apple’s design paradigm. 

At the end of the day, I'm a hardware guy and I’d rather endure Microsoft’s substandard software and have a great machine with a touch screen and stylus. 

Edit: A few frustrating days later, I'm downgrading to Windows 8.0. 

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