back to article Scientists love MacBooks (true) – but what about you?

I've done a few Apple in the enterprise articles recently, and it has set me thinking. Despite Apple's obvious success in a number of areas, a fair amount of nerdly vitriol is spewed at Macs. I have had a few unkind words to say about them*, but the arguments can get quite heated. Some of the particular debate points used by …

  1. Efros

    Not my experience

    Macs and Apples were eschewed largely because we wanted hardware level access to busses and so on for digital I/O and ADC. Ironically the Apple IIe was extremely popular in labs because of its open architecture. When that stopped, IBM compatibles became the de facto standard. Macs may be used on the computing side of science, but generally when it meets hardware especially custom hardware it is PCs.

    1. SuccessCase

      Re: Not my experience

      So for practical reasons, simple, no more explanation required. That is why for you the tech made sense at the time you used it. When you actually stand back from it, Trevor has spent two pages wondering how it is there are people out there who don't think like him. There are two groups, zealots and these scientist people, and he can't help but admit this second group tend to be rather clever, and he goes through all sorts of mental contortions trying to reconcile his world view in which these two groups exist and buy Macs. Of course if he just threw out the prejudice inherent to a reductionist world view that tries to discriminate people into Trevor Pott labelled buckets "zealot Mac user", "scientist Mac user" then he would be more able to see the difficulty he is having and his reasoning on the subject establishes nothing because it is no more than a struggle with his own prejudices.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Not my experience

        There are plenty of Mac users who aren't scientists or zealots. Zealots are a small (but disproportionately noisy, arrogant and irritating) segment of any user population.

        There was a period, however, where "zealots" were all Apple had left. It lasted over a decade. And their increasingly inane (and insane) drivel altered the public perception of the mac user for generations to come.

        You seem to think (wrongly) that I have something against Macs. I don't. But I do have rather a big chip on my shoulder against zealots, of any religious or brand tribalist persuasion.

        1. TonyJ Silver badge

          Re: Not my experience

          "There are plenty of Mac users who aren't scientists or zealots..."

          I'd count myself in that group. I have a late 2011 MBP but it spends 99% of its time booted into Windows.

          From a hardware-perspective it was equal cost for similar spec compared to say the equivalent Alienware laptops available at the time and has been far and away the most physically reliable laptop I've recently owned.

          But since they (Apple) have decided that the newer variants can't be upgraded, my next choice won't be another one, but back to a traditional Windows based laptop.

          At the end of the day I will choose whatever makes more sense at the time I need to replace it.

        2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          Re: Not my experience

          Zealots are the ones who could just as easily use any tool for their work, yet insist that only a Mac is suitable, and insist that everyone else's valid choice is wrong because it's not a Mac. That, as you point out, doesn't apply to scientists - here, OSX has some considerable advantages over Windows, but ironically, the biggest advantage is supplied by Microsoft.

          The ideal scientific researcher's system is a "Unix that runs Microsoft Office". The first bit seems obvious, but the second will be a surprise if you've never worked in academic research. There's no point in finding stuff out if you don't share that information with other researchers, so that means lots of paper writing, conferences and presentations. Hence, MS Office, particularly Word and PowerPoint. (Personally, I've always preferred TeX for paper submissions, but a surprising amount of journals now either accept or actually prefer .doc files).

          But brand-loyalty has always struck me as one of the more depressing aspects of human psychology. I'd always describe my computer use as being "someone who owns a Mac" rather than "a Mac user" - the former term doesn't try to define me as a person.

          I sometimes have great difficulty in understanding how someone can become so invested in what is only an inanimate possession that they'll waste their life in unpaid defence of the honour of whatever multi-billion-dollar corporation makes it. Camaraderie with other users or lovers of the same products is fine, but unless you're actually paid by Apple/Google/Microsoft, quit working for them for free: they sure won't be sending any flowers to your funeral.

        3. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Not my experience

          Couldn't agree more. OSX 1 worked really nicely out of the box partly because they removed the Apple menu (there was a token 'apple' in the centre of the menu bar which didn't really do anything). They apparently even wanted to discard the concept of the 'desktop' as well.

          Unfortunately the screaming of fanbois, coupled with the sound of heels being stamped in mass tantrum unison, resulted in the Apple menu being restored to its pointless glory and the desktop remaining.

        4. gkroog
          Joke

          Re: Not my experience

          You seem zealously anti-zealot...

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge
            Pint

            Re: Not my experience

            I'm also highly intolerant of intolerance. Humans are lovely bundles of contradiction, eh?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't agree more

    One of the reasons I run a Linux machine is because:

    - I spend my entire day writing software for Linux machines or administering Linux-based computers

    - The software I use best runs under a Unix-like environment

    MacOS X isn't bad for my needs, it isn't my taste but I can get by and use it. My gripes there are less about the OS and more about the physical computers. My last workhorse was a late 2008-model Apple MacBook (one of the original MacBooks, not one of the modern crippled ones), and aside from the Core2 Duo CPU becoming a little weak, the biggest push for the move was a lack of ports. The machine had two USB ports: I either used a USB hub to plug everything in, or did without.

    My laptop bag (I weighed it the other day) came out at 6kg when the weight of all the dongles was factored in. I now carry around a Panasonic ToughBook, which, whilst heavier than the MacBook by ~500g, I have RS-232, VGA and full-size HDMI ports, two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports built-in, it becomes a more practical machine to lug around. The machine itself runs Linux beautiful, unlike the MacBook which was plagued by idiosyncrasies around the NVidia GPU/system chipset and Broadcom WIFI.

    The MacBook spent most of its day running under Linux because I found the environment worked better for me and most of the software I used worked better in that environment. Before I bought the replacement machine, I did look at the Apple line up (Retina Display was just in), and a pre-retina MacBook pro looked tempting, but then I saw they were becoming even more proprietary, and decided having MacOS X as an option wasn't worth it. So I paid the Microsoft tax and went to a traditional IBM-compatible clone.

    Today, we have 3 people who now run Linux machines as workstations on a regular basis. One of our old Windows-XP era laptops got loaded with Linux and is used for scanning of packages in receive/dispatch. (When all you need is a web browser, why fuss around with Windows?)

    Some have expressed the desire to run MacOS X, and there I (as one of the system administrators) have no problem with this. Our log-in scripts even support MacOS X and there's a guide for setting this up on both Linux and MacOS X. (In theory, even *BSD is usable, but untested.)

    It's easier to let the person choose the tools (with appropriate oversight) needed to get the job done rather than dictate tools from above and face a rebellion.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't agree more

      I used to work in academia on a Dell, dual-booting to Linux whenever I wanted to code. Academic software is generally compiled with GCC, probably because UNIX has ruled in universities for so long.

      When I got a mac, and I realised I could have both the UNIX environment and functioning drivers! I'm aware Linux has gone a long way since, but I still had driver problems on my Linux desktop less than three years ago.

      I did receive emails from students asking how my academic code can be run on Windows machine, and in general I answer to try Cygwin, but other than that they're on their own. I have no idea why a university would only offer Windows computers to their CS students, but I'm not going to spend my time supporting that decision.

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Re: Can't agree more

        To answer your students, if it's C code, mingw should be enough, rather than cygwin. I'm not 100% sure if cygwin is still supported.

        Or alternatively, give them a small Linux VM image, and let them run that and ssh into it from Windows.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can't agree more

        When I was at University they removed all their sun rays and replaced them with shiny new dells running XP.

        Which, because we were studying courses in c, and operating systems we used to run putty and xming into the the sparc-servers the sun rays used to back onto.

        I can only assume there was a budget that needed spending.

      3. oolor
        Holmes

        @ AC re: windows

        >how my academic code can be run on Windows machine

        VirtualBox with a stripped down debian 7.8 or such (because it was the first reasonable .iso I could get straight from the source without scouring the net). If they cannot figure out the command line, well then, they can always get a desktop bundled version.

        This runs on obscenely old hardware on XP (and pretty much everything else). Allows for experimenting with VMs and also virtual networking. Can practice scripting in both environments and pass data between while simply toggling through windows.

        Bonus: use plug-and-play linux install to make minimal CLFS scientific/academic UNIX install

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Can't agree more

      Been an Apple fan since 1979. Not a diehard, evangelical, "Winblows is evil" fanatic but someone who has always used Apple/Mac to code with because I am used to using it.There were some highpoints I can recall, such 7.1.1, 7.61 and 8.6 while 7.5.3 and 9 were definitely not.

      Unfortunately Docker then came along and (kitematic notwithstanding) now I do just about everything on Ubuntu.

    3. jaime

      Re: Can't agree more

      "The software I use best runs under a Unix-like environment" this is ironic since OS X is actually certified as Unix whereas Linux is not LOL

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can't agree more

        "The software I use best runs under a Unix-like environment" this is ironic since OS X is actually certified as Unix whereas Linux is not LOL

        I wasn't saying OS X was not Unix. It is, but with Apple's spin on it. Yes my software runs there, and it generally runs well. There are some slight differences to Linux and traditional Unix, which is where most of the software I run is developed.

        It was more a reason why I don't run Windows, which is NOT a Unix-like OS. My primary reasoning for not liking OS X was down to the hardware it runs on. The OS is also a little inflexible with regards to key bindings and workflow (although not as bad as Windows).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    "So, why are the smartest people in the world using MacBooks?"

    Because Macs generally (for most values of generally) just work; a feat that Windows hasn't been capable of since Windows 2000.

    Where I work, if our Windows laptops show any sign of weirdness that can't be solved with a reboot or some simple flowchart-based support, our IT support simply swap them for another machine and hope for the best. No attempt at a diagnosis is made. This sort of madness doesn't need to happen with Macs or any other Unix-based machines.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      -NT4: Great, snappy, fast, reliable. No USB, no drives over 8GB, no DirectX

      -98: Crashed a lot.

      -2000: Stable enough, but did some weird shit with Zip drives.

      - XP: Had ShadowCopy, but no built in application for actually making system images.

      -Vista: Would restart itself whether the user wanted it to or not, in order to install updates. No good then for any long render, calculation or simulation.

      - 7: I'm liking 7. A few niggles.

      I use Windows because I use CAD software - and the reason engineers don't historically use Macs was covered by the first poster on this thread. When I have played with Linux distros, I did notice how much scientific software was available.

      Really, if you need a program, then the OS is merely to launch that program. If I was a musician or a graphic designer, I would use OSX.

      1. hitmouse

        "NT4: Great, snappy, fast, reliable. No USB, no drives over 8GB, no DirectX"

        NT4 - released two years before USB devices were generally available with USB 1.1

        1. bailey86

          NT4 wasn't really fit for purpose until SP6 - which was so large it was more like a new OS - and SP6 was released over a year after USB 1.1.

          Some of us were trying to use NT4 on our workstations as it was more stable than win98 so USB would have been nice. Acutally, it was because NT4 couldn't run a dial-up modem that I switched to Linux. If I've needed to use an MS only tool (VB6, XML Spy) I've run Windows in an VM - and actually Win2000 worked well in a VM - the bloated XP, not so good.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Am I going crazy, or wasn't there a third party USB driver for NT? I thought I remembered USB devices on an NT workstation once...but it was so long ago it's all hazy.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              didn't USB support and a few other nice features come with NT4 SP3?

              1. Sid_the_Kid

                Don't remember which SP it came with but USB support did come to NT4, but it didn't support hot plugging as I recall. I (hazily) remember some specific devices with custom drivers you could plug in with the machine running and it'd work but most needed a reboot.

            2. Groaning Ninny

              NT4 certainly had no native USB support, but you could use a third party driver. Saved my bacon when trying to support some old hardware(/software) in the past. Sadly, not that far in the past, this was probably about 2011, and the PC's probably still attached to the lab equipment it runs.

          2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

            "Acutally, it was because NT4 couldn't run a dial-up modem that I switched to Linux."

            Eh? I ran a couple of NT4 boxes with dial-up modems without any hassle.

          3. hitmouse

            "the bloated XP" - which is smaller than a phone OS these days.

      2. Handy Plough

        What CAD software do you use?

    2. Charles Manning

      Time machine?

      I figure one of the most important things aspiring boffins do is write reports.

      We all read, and laugh at, stories about PhD students losing their life's work due to a disk failure etc. Some have even lost stuff because they overwrote a good version of a thesis/report with a crap version.

      Apple's Time Machine backup system is easy enough to use (even for social scientists) and does the backups even if you forget. That has got to be a winner.

      Many of them are on grants, so they're spending other people's money.

    3. Kevin 6

      Yea my web server/file server (it does dual roles) which runs XP is so unusable that the last time it went down was when there was a power outage, and the time before was another power outage (something like 1 year prior).

      My current PC with windows 7 I think has crashed 1-2 times in the past 3 years, and that was strictly due to the software having issues that I was using at the time.

      Windows 8 I'll give you that sorta works as it's a royal PITA to get to do anything.

      Your IT support sounds mediocre, and needs replacing.

    4. Unicornpiss Silver badge

      Haha

      Macs "just work"? Clearly you haven't ever had to support Apple devices. True, they may have SLIGHTLY less issues than Windows devices, but they are a LOT worse to deal with when they do fail.

      If you want to use Linux, just install (totally free!) Linux on whatever remotely compatible device you want to! I am into Mint these days as distros go, but pick your poison and save a few bucks on hardware. (Apple does build beautiful hardware, but after 10+ years of trying to coax machines to behave, there is no mystique for me.)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I grew up using both Macs and PCs in my late teens. In those days, the Windows "blue screen of death" was a common occurrence. Not only did the Mac "just work", but it had a beautifully-designed UI with literally a whole book of user interface guidelines for developers to follow, to ensure applications work consistently. You spend less time swearing at the machine because it just does what you expect.

      That was in the days of System 6. At System 7, the Mac became just as unreliable as the PC, and I abandoned it.

      Meanwhile Windows was getting better but still rubbish. I remember one of my expert sysadmin colleagues being pleased that the company had upgraded the RAM in his Windows NT workstation, as it meant he only had to reboot it once a week instead of once every 2-3 days.

      Once I discovered Linux which "just worked", I jumped in. When OSX came along, I knew I would eventually be tempted back to Mac. I made the shift when I was in an environment which required me to share Powerpoint and Word documents. (Libreoffice was, and still is, useless for editing Powerpoint without corrupting it)

      The fact that Macbooks have good hardware design is a minor issue for me. It's entirely about the OS. If I could run OSX on a normal PC, I would. (I know it's possible, but I can't be bothered with "Hackintosh" and mucking around with compiling kernels and the like).

      Given the way OSX is going with forcing your data into the cloud without your permission, I can see myself swinging back to Linux at some point.

      But one thing is for sure: I'm not tolerating Windows ever again. Occasionally I'm forced to touch it and if it weren't for Google it would be completely unusable. Example: tried resizing a PowerShell window? Thought you could just drag the corner of the window? Think again. Oh yes, you have to right-click on the icon in top left hand corner, then select "Properties", then select the "Layout" tab, and under the "Window size" heading edit a text box which gives the width, then click "OK". Obvious. These people have no CLUE about user interface design.

      Finally, I thought this comment from the article was illuminating:

      "scientists tend to operate in environments where they have a freer choice regarding the selection of their computers, and the result is Mac usage that is disproportionately high when compared to your average enterprise"

      Put it another way: many/most people would prefer a Mac if they had the choice. More simply again: many/most people hate Windows.

      Could this also explain why Windows phones and tablets have such a tiny market share? The name "Windows" chimes with everyone as meaning "horrible user experience"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I grew up using both Macs and PCs in my late teens. In those days, the Windows "blue screen of death" was a common occurrence. Not only did the Mac "just work", but it had a beautifully-designed UI with literally a whole book of user interface guidelines for developers to follow, to ensure applications work consistently. You spend less time swearing at the machine because it just does what you expect.

        That last line pretty much summarises my own reasons for using a Mac.

        I didn't plan to use a Mac. My last experience with Macs was having to use OS 9 at Cable & Wireless in London and I hated it with a passion. My own personal platform at the time was Linux on the server and Windows on the desktop.

        To cut a far too long story short, my last impression of Macs was thus far from positive, so when I had to research a book I only bought a MacBook as a research tool, fully planning to have it just as a backup laptop after getting used to the OS for a month.

        That was not what happened.

        Instead, I threw out everything Windows, and it's a decision I have not regretted since. Now it's (still) Linux on the server, and OSX on the desktop, and it indeed just works. I don't think there is such a thing as the perfect computing platform, but for my needs, OSX pretty much hits it dead centre.

      2. TonyJ Silver badge

        So you have such a low level of knowledge about an OS that you require the assistance of Google to use it? And that, somehow is a failing of the OS?

        And yet, despite some admittedly dubious decisions about the GUI choice of Windows 8.1, my 7 year old son can happily pick up a Windows laptop and find his way around it?

        I reboot my laptop roughly monthly after applying patches, whether said patches require it or not. Otherwise it gets hibernated every day.

        "many/most people hate Windows.". Whilst I agree that many on here may hate it, given there seems to be a larger than average Linux contingency than elsewhere for general forums, give me some sources that back up your spurious claim that MOST people hate it.

        Nice rant, otherwise.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Don't confuse reluctantly using Windows with "not hating Windows". In my experience, most people who use Windows loathe it, but feel they have no other choice. That's sort of why "Windows" was a really bad way to sell phones. The brand name is a net negative.

          Though, oddly, the UK has a much higher % of Windows phone users than elsewhere. Blackberry users too. Quite odd.

          1. TonyJ Silver badge

            "Don't confuse reluctantly using Windows with "not hating Windows". In my experience, most people who use Windows loathe it, but feel they have no other choice.

            Really? Because my experience is that most normal users - i.e. non technical personnel are absolutely and utterly ambivalent towards it - it's just something that is there and that they've got used to using on a day-to-day basis and really don't care one way or the other. The general moans have always been towards the particular application(s) they're forced to use, rather than the OS.

            And therein might be the problem. Because they're not technical they moan about Windows as opposed to "Application X, Y or Z".

            I've spent most of the last 20 years specialising in Citrix technologies and I still see and hear complaints about Citrix that are utterly unrelated to it - but it's a word they know, and is the most visible thing to fail.

            I would also suggest that this is another case of the echo chamber as reported recently on here - if you mostly mix with non-Windows users, you will only get a positive reinforcement of their opinions. And when that comes to Linux/*nix/OSX they tend to be a very vocal group too.

            1. Marshalltown

              You could argue that it isn't Windows that is hated (though you would frequently be wrong) so much as software like Microsoft Office, which is an ungodly nightmare (but so is Open Office on Linux). My experience is that Windows simply has problems weekly while Linux has problems - yearly at best. That latter seems to be changing as we see programmers appearing in Linux bailiwick who "need" to restart Linux following an update. Apparently not experience Linux/Unix programmers.

            2. Marshalltown

              Cost - cost -cost

              Linux software is extraordinarily inexpensive compared to Windows or Mac. Some of us send along the occasional donation, but world-class software like R or GRASS is otherwise free. The comparable commercial software is brutally expensive and your typical grad student or even undergrad can afford it more than even a seat license or a "student" version of SPSS or Stata and don't even think about ArcGIS . They are fine programs but the cost leaves you without ramen and beer for a week or a month or even the rest of the semester.

            3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              In my experience, most normal users don't ahve issues with any given application nearly so much as they have issues with Windows Explorer. To the end user, Windows Explorer is Windows. And they are frustrated as all hell by it.

              1. TonyJ Silver badge

                Well we need to agree to disagree. I've just recently completed a multi-thousand user refresh for a council in England.

                As part of the requirements gathering, I spoke to a large cross section of users across multiple departments and I am struggling to recall any issues with Windows and/or Explorer. RSA/Web access/Application Issues etc etc but nothing I can remember as being the OS.

                But I guess if you see the glass as half empty, then you will just reinforce your own negative perceptions.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  But I guess if you see the glass as half empty, then you will just reinforce your own negative perceptions.

                  It's known as confirmation bias. This is also why it is fairly pointless to have this discussion with someone who has not used any of the platforms under discussion for at least two months because they have no factual basis for their opinion (not that it stops them HAVING an opinion, mind :) ).

                  This is also why I hate statements like "this product/service/feature" is going to be better/best - only experience will tell, and that takes time.

                  There is also the matter of volume. We switched to OSX after a few months of evaluation, but we're a small shop so keeping them in good shape is not automated. I would have no idea what it would be like to manage the sort of volume you're dealing with, because that requires management tools. Other than centralised password management and security surveillance we don't have any central management, so your context is already sufficiently different to ours to possibly change choices and approach.

            4. Monkeyman
              Thumb Up

              @TonyJ

              Spot on, you are now officially The Voice of Reason, use your powers wisely..

      3. Planetary Paul

        > Given the way OSX is going with forcing your data into the cloud without your permission, I can see myself swinging back to Linux at some point.

        When did that forcing happen? Sure, Apple wants everyone to go cloudy, but I choose what to keep local and what in which cloud.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          > When did that forcing happen? Sure, Apple wants everyone to go cloudy, but I choose what to keep local and what in which cloud.

          OK, I'll bite.

          It started in earnest with version 10.9

          Before then, you could sync an iWhatsit or an Android device locally. Doing this (for contacts and calendars) requires Sync Services which was a standard service for "a long time". In 10.9 Sync Services were quietly dropped on the basis that "everyone syncs their iWhatsits via iCloud" (and an inference that users of other mobile devices don't exist and/or don't matter.)

          There was a big backlash against it, so Apple actually had to backtrack - so being able to connect your iWhatsit via USB cable and sync was restored. Sync Services as a whole wasn't, so "Missing Sync for [ Android | iPhone | Blackberry ]" became useless and has been dropped as a product for new purchases.

          It's what's keeping me on version 10.8.

    6. TonyJ Silver badge

      "Because Macs generally (for most values of generally) just work; a feat that Windows hasn't been capable of since Windows 2000.

      What an absolute crock! I don't know anyone who would complain that Windows doesn't 'just work'.

      It may not look or behave quite the way they are used to or like, but to say that it's not functional really goes too far.

      That you prefer to replace a machine and hope for the best speaks more about your lack of knowledge and ability and points to abject laziness and apathy than it does about the operating system and the chances are, it's down to some third party weirdness anyway, not the OS.

    7. Meerkatjie

      I would beg to differ - I use both a macbook and pc at work for different tasks and I have the same amount of issues with both. With windows I have to go through some arcane paths to get software to work that on the mac does just work. But the mac sometimes does things for no apparent reasons that can take days to fix. My recent one was the network printer disappearing and being impossible to get back - a week later it magically reappeared (no system or printer updates in that time).

      Funny you mention IT simply swapping windows laptops if things don't work - my colleague has just had their macbook replaced twice because it had weirdness that couldn't be solved by a reboot or simple flowchart-based support. The latest one seems to be behaving so far - no idea why the others weren't.

      TLDR; all systems have quirks and don't "just work" for all situations so use what's appropriate and don't judge people for using something you don't agree with if they have valid reasons.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Horses for courses

        I use a Windows 8.1 desktop at home for working on my photos and coding C# and Android. I use Windows & Linux at work to admin Windows and Solaris boxes, and I own a Macbook with OSX when I'm away from home shooting and editing photos. I have an Android phone and an Apple iPod for music. My wife has two Macs and a Macbook, my daughter doesn't care what she uses provided it has an Office suite and can play Sims and Minecraft ( which both Windows and OSX can ). I also have a Honda car, an Epson printer and own Canon, SONY and Fuji cameras.

        "Horses for courses." - I use what I need to use to get the stuff in my life done. Brand loyalty is absolute bollocks put about by marketing drones to ensure people buy the latest Supersonic Hydromatic Gadget from company X. Always choose your gadgets based on what they offer you in order to your s**t done!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My recent one was the network printer disappearing and being impossible to get back - a week later it magically reappeared (no system or printer updates in that time).

        Yes, Bonjour and me don't always get on either.

        However, if you have that problem it may be worth checking for the presence of a nearby WiFi repeater. I recently installed an Epson WF 7610 (A3 inkjet multi function device) and it is a brilliant machine, unless there is a WiFi repeater about. At that point you will find that the OSX print queue gets messed up something weird, to the point of needing to re-install the print queue. Not sure if that was OSX or Epson, but relocating the repeater helped.

    8. Dan Paul

      Then your IT department .....

      is just crap and lazy to boot. They don't know anything about Windows.

  4. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Mushroom

    Facing the Inquisition

    Having supported them at a major phrama house for years my observation has been all the negative reactions from others if someone has the temerity to use a Windows machine. The grunts, moans and demeaning comments really should be compiled into a video for CS majors.

  5. ThomH Silver badge

    "I really cut my teeth on computer networks in the early 90s. Right around the time Apple went mad ... [a]s such, I've typically dismissed anything an Apple fanperson has to say about computers"

    I think this is 90% of the problem when it comes to discussing Apple rationally; the desire to partition certain people into groups and assign to all of them the same credibility as a tiny group had over twenty years ago. As often indulged by everybody, with every point of view.

  6. Ole Juul Silver badge

    Yes, it depends

    Someone with a penchant or motivation for learning things will deal with whatever computer they need to and a Mac is probably a sensible choice for most scientists.

    For me the problem with Macs is actually Mac users. Many are no problem, but I don't believe that users who struggle to figure things out are helped by using a Mac. They still struggle. I'm always getting non-standard files from them (dot pages anyone?) and e-mail attachments which can't be opened on any other system.

    1. Phuq Witt

      Re: Yes, it depends

      "...I'm always getting non-standard files from them (dot pages anyone?)..."

      And every graphic/web designer in the world will match your story with several about asking clients for a copy of a company logo or product images and being sent Word docs with said files pasted into them.

      ...or asking for copy text in plaintext format and being sent .docx files.

      ..or applying for a graphic design job at a company and being sent the application form by their HR department, in .docx format.

      So what does either my or your point prove?

      Merely that a lot of people don't know much about computing outside their own field –whatever the OS involved.

  7. anttix

    News: "People buy computers that run the software they need"

    I always thought that the sensible way of buying kit was a) work out what you want it to do b), find the software that does it, then c) get a computer that will run said software.

    OSX is built on Unix, so seems logical to me if that's what their software is written for. Isn't that why coders buy Macs?

    I have much less sympathy/more derision for those who buy a Mac, then try to find software that does what they want.

    What? I have to buy Office again?

    Yup.

    But what about my old gribblewiggl software?

    Not available, er why did you buy a Mac?

    Because Apple says they're the best computers in the world and they're a really great company who would never lie to us or abuse our ignorance.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: News: "People buy computers that run the software they need"

      >Isn't that why coders buy Macs?

      Linus Torvalds says he uses a MacBook Air because it is quiet and it is lightweight. He has some opinions about Mac software, but then he would, wouldn't he?

  8. ckm5

    The view from Silicon Valley

    Pretty much everyone here uses Macs, largely for the same reasons scientists do - most of the internet & mobile is built on Linux backends, so having a (largely) Unix machine that's usable as an every day computer is important. It also helps that Apple pioneered the long-lasting lightweight relatively powerful laptop.

    Also, most of consumer tech these days is driven by mobile and, at least in terms of 3rd party developer revenue, Apple dominates. If you want to develop for iOS, you pretty much need to use a Mac.

    The side effect of all this adoption is that a lot of really, really good applications are only available on OSX. True, they tend to veer towards creatives (Sketch, FinalCut, etc), but it's also the case that most mobile consumer apps also start out iOS....

    Finally, if you need to run several operating systems including OSX, you pretty much don't have another choice. And you do get the benefit of extremely high resale values.....

    I'm not really sure what IT people have against Macs - it seems to be that they cause fewer user headaches, so less support burden. And, for whatever reason, they seem to get less infected by bad crap (again, lower support burden), the hardware is usually better quality and it retains it's value/usability for a longer period of time.

    Me, I'm pretty agnostic - use an iMac every day, but I also have a Toshiba laptop running mostly Linux Mint but sometimes Win7 , several iDevices, several Android devices and at least 3 Linux machines running constantly in my house.

    1. hitmouse

      Re: The view from Silicon Valley

      Working in a large research environment, I can unequivocally say that the Mac users generate at least 3x the support calls per head that Windows users do. There is much less problem solving capability demonstrated when issues arise.

      I also see a lot of younger scientists preferring Windows laptops so they can use OneNote.

      1. Handy Plough

        Re: The view from Silicon Valley

        I know that you are bullshitting because OneNote is available on Android, iOS and OS X.

        1. hitmouse

          Re: The view from Silicon Valley

          If you think these very very recent editions are as featured as the Windows version you are wildly mistaken.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The view from Silicon Valley

        "I also see a lot of younger scientists preferring Windows laptops so they can use OneNote."

        which would be weird, given that OneNote is available free in the Mac App Store...

        Hmmm

        AC

        1. JoeCool

          Re: The view from Onenote

          Onenote has been available in the iStore for about 1 year. Onenote has been available on Windows for 10+ years, so your "insight" is overly simplistic.

          I will aso mention that until very recently, the non-free versions were more funcitonal, and useable.

          The original statement is a valid conclusion. mmm hmmm.

    2. dan1980

      Re: The view from Silicon Valley

      @ckm5

      "I'm not really sure what IT people have against Macs - it seems to be that they cause fewer user headaches, so less support burden."

      Well, you've kind of hit the nail on the head - people (not necessarily you) don't understand why system administrators prefer not to have Macs everywhere.

      The simple truth is that most people who want to use Macs don't just want to use a Mac computer - they want to run the way they do at home, without the burden of IT policies and having to use this program or that program or accessing files in this way rather than that way.

      They want to be able to install whatever programs they 'need' and use whatever websites they want without firewalls blocking them or security settings stopping scripts from running. They want to view Flash on news websites and to be able to access Facebook and Twitter without needing to get signed-off approval from their managers and they want to receive zip files in their e-mails and save all their documents on their desktop rather than using the document management system and so they are easy to work with at home without having to bother connecting to the VPN.

      They don't want to have to use a complex password or have to change them every 60 days and they'd rather use their e-mail mailbox as a filing system along with a collection of spreadsheets they have cobbled together rather than the company database application.

      That is what most people want - it's not just a matter of using a shiny laptop with a glowing bit of fruit on the back (though that's a lot of it for some people) but of being freed from the controls and restrictions that are necessary in most larger organisations.

      In situations where people are working autonomously, perhaps uploading results or data to a central website share to collaborate with people around the world then Macs work beautifully. If you are a professional photographer designer or musician, working on your own projects and transferring files to clients via DVD or dropbox and saving things on stacks of USB hard drives then, again, fine. If you are a student using your laptop to take notes and plagarise articles from Wikipedia and keep in-touch with friends and access the university e-mail then a Macbook with a sticker or two is certainly a suitable way to express your individuality and creativity while you do so.

      But, if you are working in a large organisation, where protecting against unauthorised access to or disclosure of sensitive data is a major concern, and where compliance is paramount and uniformity of the system and ease of deployment are dictated by development cycles and support budgets, then Macs aren't quite so suitable an option.

      Not to say they can't work in businesses great and small, and there are many add-ons and programs that will help wrangle them into some kind of order but Windows boxes are designed to be used inside such networks from the get go, and Macs simply aren't.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The view from Silicon Valley

        what he said!

      2. hitmouse

        Re: The view from Silicon Valley

        @dan1980 "The simple truth is that most people who want to use Macs don't just want to use a Mac computer - they want to run the way they do at home, without the burden of IT policies and having to use this program or that program or accessing files in this way rather than that way."

        No one wants to use their computers with the restrictions they have at work. Being on a Mac has nothing to do with it.

        I look at Macs as having a higher initial outlay cost, and then a higher support cost per head and per incident across the organisation.

    3. Kevin 6

      Re: The view from Silicon Valley

      I'm not really sure what IT people have against Macs - it seems to be that they cause fewer user headaches, so less support burden. And, for whatever reason, they seem to get less infected by bad crap (again, lower support burden), the hardware is usually better quality and it retains it's value/usability for a longer period of time.

      Try repairing them.

      Hint they are not fun specially the new ones where every single damn thing is glued together.

      Where I used to work we had Dells if one failed dell sent us a board to swap out so we could get it done fast. Actually they sent us a few extra boards as we had hundreds of laptops which when one died we sent the board back, and they sent us a replacement on the side. All in all if the MB failed on the laptop it took me maybe 15 minutes to replace it so the laptop was down for under a half hour(including diagnosis).

      Try that with a new mac book as to dismantle them you need a heatgun, but good luck getting parts for repair you have to send it to apple which can take a week or so.

    4. bailey86

      Re: The view from High Wycombe

      I contracted at a company in High Wycombe which sells technical musical equipment. Great place to work, lovely atmosphere, chef cooked free lunches, free Nespresso's all day etc.

      The main IT guy was a nice bloke who was trying to run a Windows network - however!

      He told me that over the course of a few months they'd expanded and taken on designers, musicians, coders, techies etc - all in all about 12-14 new staff.

      He said that something like all but one had said they wanted to use a Mac - and - nearly all had actually turned up with their Mac's expecting to get on with their work on them.The main Windows users were admin staff using email and spreadsheets on their company issued Windows machines.

      And - the article picture reminds me of Drupalcon Croydon 2011. Full of very techie people doing very techie things - and when I looked around the main hall with several hundred delegates in it all I could see were Apple logos - and that was four years ago. Me - on my old Elitebook with Ubuntu installed.

      Things do seem to be changing.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: The view from High Wycombe

        I've just show a musician friend who has a mac and the biggest fuckoff screen ever a load of stuff running on the RaspberryPi 2. He was gobsmacked.

        The reason why a lot of musician use Macs is cos that's what they are shown and know. When you spend more on a single musical instrument than you do on a mac it doesnt seem a lot to ask. When you realise that a ten year old can have a full blown recording studio for less than £200 on a Pi the school budget looks VERY different.

        1. dz-015

          Re: The view from High Wycombe

          a full blown recording studio for less than £200 on a Pi

          LOL. What the fuck are you talking about?!

    5. macjules Silver badge

      Re: The view from Silicon Valley

      Thought the 'internet' was built on a certain CERN individual's Mac IIcx.

      1. Tim99 Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: The view from Silicon Valley

        @macjules

        I'm not sure if you are trolling or not. He used another Jobsian device a NeXT computer running a BSD derived OS. You could say that that was a progenitor of the later fruity stuff when Jobs came back to Apple.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where I work, we used to be a mac shop.

    All laptops were Macbook Pros. The main reason we were buying them were that (despite what most people seem to think) they were "fairly" cost effective, although perhaps a touch on the expensive side, if you take everything into account. Plus they were good quality and reliable.

    Then we started getting the failures ... the motherboard issues, the graphics card glitches in whole batches of machines. Suddenly, when the machines start falling over left, right and centre, they don't seem that cost effective.

    So now they're expensive and shit.

    We get Lenovos now and we're pretty satisfied with them. Built like bricks and they feel like they would outlive the cockroaches come the nuclear holocaust.

    I have run OSX, Linux and Windows on Macbook Pros in the past and they worked pretty much out of the box. I seem to remember the only slight headache was getting hold of firmware so that the camera could be made to work but that turned out to be fairly straight forward.

    I wouldn't have another mac now.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >the motherboard issues, the graphics card glitches in whole batches of machines.

      As happened to MS's XBOX 360, as happened to Dells machines. As happened to loads of makers because they didn't at that time know how to use lead-free solder. Legislators enforce a new material that nobody has much experience of using.

      That was then. Now is now.

      1. dan1980

        @Dave 126

        While what you are saying about the regulations around lead may well be the cause of failures, these types of changes are usually flagged well in advance, with the express purpose of allowing affected parties the time to adjust.

        For RoHS, it was sorted out in 2003 but companies had 3 years to get their acts together so if they point the finger at that regulation for failures then they are trying to shift the blame.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > As happened to loads of makers because they didn't at that time know how to use lead-free solder. Legislators enforce a new material that nobody has much experience of using.

        I will bow to the weight of any evidence that you can provide, but I for one have a lot of trouble accepting that motherboard manufacturers don't know how to solder, even post RoHS.

  10. DN4

    What about us?

    Here it is like half Windows, half Linux.

    The dividing line goes approximately between people just using commercial software and people creating their own tools (the latter would not be considered normal users in an office but in a physics department it is different). While Macs can do both and there is usually a way to get most Windows and Linux software working, the appeal to people either locked deeply in Windows software or accustomed to open source environments and tools is kind of limited...

  11. dan1980

    "Even a blind pig will truffle every now and again."

    Well, considering truffle hogs locate the tasty morsels via smell, this would not be so surprising.

    1. gkroog

      And some people turn their car radios down so that they can find the street they're looking for better...

  12. Salts

    CERN use Mac...

    Let me think...

    TBL@CERN invented www on NextStep

  13. Bob 18

    Speaking as a Scientist...

    We spend our days writing and running Fortran/C/C++ codes, and analyzing the results. Our "can't do without" software packages include gcc, python, perl, bash, netCDF, R --- plus the scientific codes we write and run. All of this stuff is written for Unix, and it's questionable how well it will run with Cygwin. Our lab doesn't even support our main software product on Windows. Not to mention that the command line windows on Mac/Linux are so much better than on Windows. That is why nobody uses a PC in this lab, the choices is Mac vs. Linux. The supercomputer runs Linux. Mac is a good choice for your personal computer (laptop) because:

    1. Macs are better built than most laptops (maybe not Lenovo).

    2. Government regulations prohibit buying computers from Chinese companies (such as Lenovo) because our gov is afraid of built-in spyware, such as the recent phony root certificate found on Lenovos.

    3. A lot of ancillary things don't "just work" on Linux, and they do on Mac. Since it's not "job related," helping you get YouTube working on your Linux laptop won't be a big priority with IT.

    4. The Linxues allowed by IT are hopelessly out of date --- meaning, you have to build your own GCC plus every library your software requires. Big PITA.

    5. We generally don't have root privileges on our machines. With a Mac, you can build a Macports for all your needs in user-space, and upgrade it whenever you feel like it, no root privileges required. The same COULD exist for Linux, but it doesn't. Instead, you have to say "sudo yum ..." and you have to run down to IT every time you need to type "sudo."

    1. DN4

      Re: Speaking as a Scientist...

      > We generally don't have root privileges on our machines...

      So Macs have better workarounds for restrictions that make computers not fit for the purpose?

      You have a problem.

      1. James Cane

        Re: Speaking as a Scientist...

        "So Macs have better workarounds for restrictions that make computers not fit for the purpose?"

        No, Linux machines have build processes that require root elevation without justification.

        1. LionelB

          Re: Speaking as a Scientist...

          @James Cane

          "No, Linux machines have build processes that require root elevation without justification."

          The justification seems to me pretty straightforward: to prevent users borking their system (been there, done that - on my own machines). With great power, etc.

          As it happens, the IT people in my establishment (a university research lab) have a pretty reasonable attitude: you are free to opt out of running an IT-managed Linux and install your own - but then don't expect IT support.

          1. Bob 18

            Re: Speaking as a Scientist...

            > The justification seems to me pretty straightforward: to prevent users borking their system

            Yes, but no. The problem today isn't just users who unwittingly type 'sudo rm -rf /'. Also is the prevalence of malware that is just waiting for you to run it with "sudo." There is less that can go wrong if you are able to install the software you need without root privileges.

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Speaking as a Scientist...

          "No, Linux machines have build processes that require root elevation without justification."

          Until you make a reasonable request to IT for permission to do what you need to do and then you will be given permission to do that (not as su) and accept the responsibility that goes with that.

          The sensible thing is to stop anything happening until you are sure it should. MS could learn from that.

      2. gkroog
        Facepalm

        Re: Speaking as a Scientist...

        Yes. Priviledges exist for a reason: people doing things they shouldn't.

        If someone should have access, they'll have a password.

    2. SimonLoki

      Re: Speaking as a Scientist...

      The above comment is pretty similar to our situation. I spend a lot of time developing analysis software (mostly in C) and running data analyses (genomics so typical projects involve TB of data). I can develop on the Mac and transfer the working code to the linux cluster for the heavy lifting. Yes, I could do this in Linux and I have had linux and *BSD laptops over the years, but at some point I got bored with the hassle each time i wanted to do 'odd' things like, for example, give a lecture/presentation. In fact in bioinformatics in general (which is a fairly computationally intensive field) you see a lot of mac laptops at meetings.

      The other major reason that I have been using mac laptops now for the last 10 years or so is that I have been living in France and Spain and many companies apart from Apple make it really difficult to get a US keyboard on a laptop, and I hate programming on a French or Spanish keyboard!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Speaking as a Scientist... @Simon

        "The other major reason that I have been using mac laptops now for the last 10 years or so is that I have been living in France and Spain and many companies apart from Apple make it really difficult to get a US keyboard on a laptop, and I hate programming on a French or Spanish keyboard!"

        I work at a shop that also does HP integration and warranty work. Ordering laptop keyboards with any layout isn't a problem at all, and the replacement is usually a very simple less-than-5-minute work or so. I've ordered keyboards for Thinkpads and even Acer's too and the experience has been similar. Perhaps your French/Spanish computer shoppes just don't offer a good customer service, or your choice of Wintel laptop brand just doesn't have a good service channel.

        1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Speaking as a Scientist... @Simon

          "Perhaps your French/Spanish computer shoppes just don't offer a good customer service, or your choice of Wintel laptop brand just doesn't have a good service channel."

          I'm in Switzerland and there is no problem getting what you want via a channel provider, but if you only have access to retail outlets you are well and truly stuck with Swiss keyboards.

          Apple is the only major brand who offer an English keyboard at the retail level.

          And programming with various European keyboards is a real pain, not to mention the occasional utility which demands a key combination which is not available (yes I know you can remap keys, but that's tiresome).

  14. Michael M

    Sheeple?

    There are many arguments for/against buying a Mac but the 90% criticizing the 10% for following the herd is one I could never quite understand.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Sheeple?

      Easy, One of the 90% called the 10% "sheeple", and the rest followed.

    2. dan1980

      Re: Sheeple?

      @Michael M

      " . . . he 90% criticizing the 10% for following the herd . . ".

      Well, it's really about context. In a university situation, many of the students will be using Macbooks so they are the 90% there. Other scenarios and the situation is reversed.

  15. Mike 16 Silver badge

    That Cisco policy

    Was in effect when I was acqui-hired (Mid 2000s). They asked me to choose among several machines and I ticked the box for a MacBook Pro. My supervisor OK'd it. Then I.T. delivered my Thinkpad. Not to be too harsh. That T40 was pretty nice, once I got all the third-party software I needed installed and configured. Would have been really sweet if the Access Point nearest my cube had managed to stay lit.

    As with many others, the combo of "This is Unix, I know it". and a working Office(tm) for all the dreck from management was the ticket. Of course, now that I'm buying my own machines and administering them myself, I'm getting pretty tired of each OS "upgrade" being less stable, and having to buy a new computer every 4 years to run the next OS (the only one with security fixes)

    1. James Cane

      Re: That Cisco policy

      I have a late 2008 standard Macbook (not a pro, not an air). It's running Yosemite perfectly happily and seems stable, and it's coming up for seven years old now.

      CPUs got powerful enough around 2007-2008 that the upgrade-to-cope argument has become less and less important.

      1. Michael Jennings

        Re: That Cisco policy

        I think it is more the GPU, in this case. Apple decided in 2008 that the Intel graphics on its lower-end machines were not good enough, and as a consequence they switched their entire product line to nVidia graphics in 2008-9. They didn't make any machines at all that used only Intel graphics until 2011, by which time Intel had rather upped their game. OS-X 10.11 (and 10.10, and 10.9) support any machine released after that switch to nVidia graphics, and any machine from about 2007 that had discrete graphics rather than integrated Intel graphics.

    2. Michael Jennings

      Re: That Cisco policy

      I have a 2007 Macbook Pro that is presently running 10.10 Yosemite and which Apple have just announced will run 10.11 El Capitan. There are one or two machines that are a bit newer than that which are not supported, but every computer Apple has released since 2009 will support the latest OS for at least another year. This is the third new OS release from Apple that has not dropped support for any hardware at all compared to the previous release. Apple has not always been good in this department, but they have really raised their game in this respect recently.

      1. Noel Morgan
        Meh

        Re: That Cisco policy

        Not only Macbooks.

        I have a 2008 Dell XPS M1330 that cost £500 when I bought it (reduced from £800). It came with Vista and has been upgraded to Windows 7 and then 8.1

        Just installed Windows 10 Technical preview on it, and it is working very well.

        You don't have to buy an apple machine to have a computer that still works with the latest operating system 7-8 years later.

        People constantly compare a £1000 mac computer to a £300 cheap laptop. Try comparing them to a similar priced PC and there is a LOT less difference in quality.

        Mind you - I do agree that an 7 year old windows laptop is normally worth a lot less in the resale market :-)

  16. Fazal Majid

    The scientific community and the academic community are deeply interconnected. Given Apple's strength in the education market, it's not surprising they are better represented in the scientific community than in the general business arena.

    At my startup here in San Francisco, the Mac is the company standard, and that's consistent with most tech startups in the Bay Area. We're not religious about this, and two of of our 30+ employees actually opted to use Windows, primarily because Excel for Mac is so far behind the Windows version (we buy the licenses, but they are on their own for installing it and supporting themselves). We don't have centralized account management or directory services, but our IT is either cloud-based, web-based internal apps coded to web standards (we don't test on IE, so if they run Windows they have to use Chrome/Firefox) or SSH to UNIX (Solaris) machines. In practice, it's BYOD except the company is paying for the devices. It all works far more smoothly than my previous startup where we ran Windows and had 2 full-time IT people supporting it.

    There are places where regulatory requirements (e.g. HIPAA or banking regulations) require a locked-down environment with Active Directory and Policy Editor, but in this era of cloud services the client OS is much less relevant than it used to be. I thought it was a cliche, but I have been at a corporate IT shop where the admins didn't bother to conceal that job security was the main reason why they pushed Microsoft and Oracle technologies.

  17. Nanners

    LoL

    You do know everyone uses apple

    Products now right?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forget scientists, what about computer scientists?

    Good point that academics and scientists in general are not necessarily good with computers and want something that "just works" like any other consumer.

    So, acknowledging that flaw with your analysis, why not look at what the smartest computer experts use?

    I know developers at companies that are known to hire top talent (e.g., Google, Amazon, Facebook), plus some people in computer science academia, plus some developers at startups. With few exceptions, these computer experts and enthusiasts use Macs.

    If you're talking about supercomputing, or cloud computing, or web services, for the most part you're talking about Linux. And OS X is more compatible with Linux than Windows is. Why would computer experts who interact with this stuff want to waste their time dealing with Windows's unfamiliar command line interface and software? Makes no sense.

    OS X is sort of like Linux with a nicer interface and some mainstream software support, e.g., you can get Photoshop for the Mac, etc. No wonder computer experts like it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forget scientists, what about computer scientists?

      "Good point that academics and scientists in general are not necessarily good with computers and want something that "just works" like any other consumer"

      Agree that most everyone wants something that works out of the box but the first part of that sentence seems strange to me.

      Scientists are generally technical focussed types; they learn and apply the knowledge they have acquired carefully.

      They wouldn't add chemical A to their experiment when they mean to use chemical B. Or use a rotary vane vacuum pump when a turbomolecular one is required. And a English lecturer wouldn't use "fewer" when the right word is "less". But they will still meet problems and invent workarounds for them in their own speciality. I can think of few reasons why they couldn't if so motivated learn the techniques of any operating system.

      Perhaps it's that although they all have the potential to do well with computers they choose not to.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Forget scientists, what about computer scientists?

        "Scientists are generally technical focussed types; they learn and apply the knowledge they have acquired carefully...Perhaps it's that although they all have the potential to do well with computers they choose not to."

        When i get home, the very last thing I want to do is work out the parts of my brain dedicated to logic and technical thinking, etc. I don't want to fix my own computer. I don't want to measure every single grain of rice for supper, or make the perfect loaf of bread in the breadmaker.

        Decision fatigue is well known, but I think "logic fatigue" is also a thing. Brains get overworked. With the exception of a certain class of aspie, most people can't think in pure logic all day, every day.

        One example: I have studied molecular gastronomy. I understand more about the chemistry of food preparation than a normal person should. But most of the time, when I cook, it's *schlorp* from a can into a pot and mindless consumption of pesudo-food. Why? Because I spend all day nerding about really difficult problems that are highly technical and complex.

        Just like a chemist doesn't want to learn every last thing there is to learn about every operating system and application, and then apply that knowledge every time they use the computer, I don't really want to cook every meal with a molecular gastronomy approach.

        That I can cook meals that will melt your mind is cool. I bust it out when absolutely required, or to impress someone. Similarly, many a chemist can troubleshoot Windows or Linux, but choose not to do systems administration as a part of their day job because they simply have other things they'd rather be doing.

        Like the things that get them paid.

    2. LionelB

      Re: Forget scientists, what about computer scientists?

      "OS X is sort of like Linux with a nicer interface"

      Funny, but one of the main reasons I run Linux rather than Mac is that I've never got on with the OS X user interface. It wants me to do things this way, I want to do things that way... Linux, by contrast, doesn't have an interface, it has a large choice of interfaces, many of which are insanely configurable. That may be a Bad Thing for some, but works out just fine for me: I have over the years evolved a software environment/UI that is beautifully tailored around the way I choose to work.

      "and some mainstream software support, e.g., you can get Photoshop for the Mac, etc. No wonder computer experts like it."

      Photoshop? We are talking about scientists, are we not? I haven't come across anyone in my lab (roughly split between Linux and Mac plus the odd PC for unusual peripheral hardware needs) who uses it. Yes, I do have to deal with the odd Microsoft document, which Libre Office usually almost more-or-less copes with.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Forget scientists, what about computer scientists?

        >>Photoshop? We are talking about scientists, are we not? I haven't come across anyone in my lab (roughly split between Linux and Mac plus the odd PC for unusual peripheral hardware needs) who uses it.

        That was just one example. (And who says scientists can't use Photoshop? Who knows what they do off-hours, or even to manipulate their science-y images?)

        Anyway point being that the Mac has a lot of nice polished 3rd party software available for it and a nice system of installing/deleting/managing applications. It's not like Linux where you have a package manager that's an impossible tangle of interdependencies to install some open source software that the developer was 80% done with 8 years ago and has since got a job or had a kid and has stopped improving/maintaining...

  19. gareth husk

    Macs are old school

    So my first gig as a post-grad 1984, macs. Only for doc prep but the other option was nroff. Two years later as I'm writing my thesis MS Word appears. WYSISYG huge docs (multiple floppy file linking), integration with MacDraw & MacPaint. Macintoshes saved our asses back in the mid-80s when the PC was basically random.

    There was a really bad period when Apple lost the plot but when they finally came back we had same interface, same apps AND UNIX.

    A long time later I'min a commercial operation, at work OSx is 1% of installed base... but we're a microsoft house, its .NET, SQL Server... At home though, in the interest of not doing the same at home as work we run OSX and android.

    I spend way less time on IT support and ... durn that dubious game doesn;t run on Mac - tough cookies

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The important takeaway here isn't "smart people choose Macs". As most scientists aren't computer experts I'm not sure that their choices regarding computers should be considered more valuable than, say, that of a systems administrator."

    Physicists at CERN invented the WWW, perform one of the distributed data analyses the world

    has ever seen, producing that "5 sigma" discovery involved a massively complex system

    of computer programmes, and you they are not considered as computer savvy?

    1) the physicists at CERN must use a unix environment for their programming and terminal

    sessions to remote systems. The unix-with-lipstick aspect of macos is very useful.

    They like being able to use macos over windows for that reason.

    2) we get made to read and process MS Word documents to interact with our university and funding council admin; that sadly rules out a pure linux direction after the first time the OSS alternative destroyed a critical grant application "word" document five minutes before submission.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      "that "5 sigma" discovery involved a massively complex system of computer programmes, and you they are not considered as computer savvy?"

      Not really, no. Developers typically know fuck all about hardware and even less about systems administration. Scientists even less than your average developer. The ability to code is emphatically not the ability to understand thing one about the issues that a systems administrator needs to worry about. Off the top of my head:

      1) Hardware, operating system and applciation lifecycle management

      2) Procurement, logistics and supply chain management

      3) Licensing, support and regulatory/legal compliance

      4) Enterprise operating system management

      5) Application distribution and management

      6) Back end systems integration

      7) Public key infrastructure, key distribution and management

      8) Data protection

      9) Endpoint threat detection, mitigation and response

      10) Endpoint monitoring and remote assistance

      Just because you can write some C/C++/Fotran/Python/whatever that tells a controller somewhere to activate an electromagnet, or start collecting information from a sensor doesn't mean you have the first idea what managing endpoints is like.

      To use a crude analogy, you're saying that the cast and crew of the latest blockbuster film know everything there is to know about operating, managing and maintaining a modern multi-megaplex cinema - from ticketing to crowd control to video distribution and display to building maintenance and utilities - because they made a film. Making the greatest film in the world doesn't mean you know a damned thing about getting in front of the eyes of the populace. By the same token, even building the goddamned large hadron collider doesn't mean you know thing one about endpoint management.

      For that matter, point me to who knows how to build a large hadron collider, hmm? Just the one person who knows how to built every instrument, every component, every cooling system. One person who managed to fit all that knowledge inside their brain. There is no such person.

      So I ask you, if your job is to design and operate something so complex that no one person can know everything there is to know about, why - I ask you, why - would you fill your mind with "needless trivia" like endpoint management? It's a thing that someone else does. Like janitorial, or security.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >>Developers typically know fuck all about hardware and even less about systems administration.

        Systems administration is support staff. To use your movie analogy, you guys are like the support staff on a movie. Catering... legal... etc. Important for sure, but don't get confused about who's adding the real value to the project.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          "don't get confused about who's adding the real value to the project"

          I'm not. It's the systems administrators that add real support. Systems administrators build layer after layer of defenses and kludges, patches and scripting to handle the shitty, code cranked out by dimwitted, asinine "programmers" who can't look beyond their own blinkered arrogance long enough to perform even the most basic unit testing. Developers are a goddamned menace.

          In a world where this shit parade that is modern applications run critical systems upon which lives depend it is systems administrators that keep us all actually alive. If it were up to the developers, we'd all have died a dozen times over as soon as some unexpected exception occurred and blew up the whole goddamned contraption.

          It's not the engineers who design the plane that make it fly. It's the maintenance crew that make sure the damned thing works - and who solve problems the engineers never anticipated - that keep her in the air.

          Never, ever trust developers. especially when lives matter. They'll just assume that the entire goddamned world is exactly like their lab, and then people die.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            >>I'm not. It's the systems administrators that add real support. Systems administrators build layer after layer of defenses and kludges, patches and scripting to handle the shitty, code cranked out by dimwitted, asinine "programmers" who can't look beyond their own blinkered arrogance long enough to perform even the most basic unit testing.

            And without all those dimwitted asinine developers to make stuff for you to support, what line of work do you think you'd be in?

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              ":And without all those dimwitted asinine developers to make stuff for you to support, what line of work do you think you'd be in?"

              Well, I switched to writing. But had I not been burned out like a weak candle by the thundering stupidity of the world's developers over the past 20 years? Robotics. Possibly geology. Maybe even neuropharmacology or practical epigenetics.

              Really, if we had developers that could code shit worth a damn, the possibilities are pretty much endless. As a society, we'd have so much technological abundance i could do what i love instead of what makes me money.

              If we simply didn't have computers because there were no programmers at all, I'd definitely be in geology. Probably inventing electromechanical robots to do geology more safely.

              Remember, sirrah, I had a life of fixing computers foisted upon me. I've no love for fixing yet another goddamned printer error or solving some insane security problem brought about by some developer's crazed idea of ACLs. I'm owe developers a living. I owe them a therapy bill.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Trevor, that is deeply arrogant and backwards. It's the team wot wins dummy. I hate to break it to you, you are not the most important, bestest and most knowledgeable cog in the wheel, you are just a cog. Like everyone else.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              "It's the team wot wins dummy"

              No it's not. The person who wins is the person who walks away with the most money. That's usually the shareholders.

              "I hate to break it to you, you are not the most important, bestest and most knowledgeable cog in the wheel, you are just a cog."

              I absolutely am the most knowledgeable cog, but that doesn't make me the best or the most important. It does make me infinitely more useful than developers, however. Mind you, so was the cow I had for supper.

              "Like everyone else."

              There are certainly logs of professions that are great analogues to systems administrators. And calling systems administrators "cogs" is entirely accurate. But don't for a second think that everyone is "the same" or "equally valuable" or any of the rest of that bunk. Those who get the most value out of a project - shareholders, VCs, etc - are not remotely the most valuable. Capital has it's value, but the provisioning of capital is remunerated disproportionately in our current economy.

              Similarly, developers are egotistical prima donnas that only occasionally provide more value (in the form of their code) than they drain (in the form of the ongoing costs of operations, maintenance, security breaches, legal and regulatory compliance, etc.) While many problems can be solved with code and a computer, that doesn't mean that the pseudo-primate in front of the keyboard is actually capable of delivering on that vision.

              Meanwhile, I could turn to a kindred spirit, the building utilities guy, and point to him as the fellow who actually keeps it all glued together. The servers don't run if the A/C don't blow, or the power don't flow. The machines don't make widgets if they don't get maintained, and they don't move out the door if the courier can't get his truck up to the dock.

              Meanwhile, I could replace half the sales force with a shell script and marketing are stuck using a playbook from the 1970s and are completely and utterly inept.

              If you want to give everyone a ribbon, you're preaching to the wrong cynic. I evaluate professional value based on tangible criteria, and in my experience the overwhelming majority of developers are - at best - a wash. That's why the ones that are actually worth a damn get paid so much. They're so rare that there's no choice but to pay way over the odds.

              What do you make again?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Trevor, you are not a cynic, you are an arrogant SOB. Period. If you were able to just get over yourself a little bit, you'd find the rest of the world a much nicer place.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  "Trevor, you are not a cynic, you are an arrogant SOB. Period. If you were able to just get over yourself a little bit, you'd find the rest of the world a much nicer place."

                  Like all people, I have my predjudices. I also - like all people - have many flaws. Unlike most, I spend a reasonable amount of time in introspection, and am aware of my predjudices and my flaws in great detail. Awareness isn't the ability to change, however - if it were diet failure, alcoholism and many other human psychological ailments wouldn't be an issue - but awareness is the first step.

                  Part of knowing thyself is knowing not only your faults and limits, but your capabilities and areas of knowledge/expertise/etc. I know what I know, and - far more critically - I know what I don't know. This has a few side effects.

                  The first is that I am functionally immune to chastisement from individuals who don't know me particularly well. With very few exceptions they aren't able to articulate grievances or counter arguments beyond an emotive blithering that is tied to a loathing of their own inability to affect my opinion.

                  The second is that I care almost nothing for the emotional contrivances, brand tribalist attachments or self-aggrandizing self-importance of others. I recognize that many people need to think of themselves as special, or superior or somesuch. I don't particularly care. Nor do I care if speaking the truth as I see it hurts their feels. Evidence of superiority or GTFO.

                  The reason this flows from my own self-awareness is simply that I've had to come face to face with my own utter irrelevance. In the grand scheme of things - hell, in most day-to-day circumstances involving even the most important people in my life - I am meaningless. Utterly disposable and replaceable. A "cog", as it was so rightly put.

                  Being a replaceable, disposable cog is my job. It is inculcated into systems administrators from day one. Our whole existence is based on the concept of risk management. Hundreds of times a day we have to make decisions where "how can this be maintained if I get hit by a bus" is a fundamental consideration.

                  Systems administrators spend their entire careers engineering themselves to be disposable and replaceable and automating themselves out of a job. It's ground into us at every turn. We spend our careers working out ways to replace everyone else, too. We see the world and all it's people as little more than the tasks they complete and the manner in which they are completed.

                  "Rock stars" that stand out are bad. They are hard - if not impossible - to replace, and that makes them a stability threat, if not a security threat.

                  Now, if you want to sit there and believe that someone trained almost since birth to think of themselves as utterly disposable is "full of themselves" you go right ahead. You are, in fact, merely reinforcing my entire point about developers.

                  My disdain for developers is something that has been earned over decades. Maybe if you spent a little less time trying to prove how you're such a special snowflake and more time coding unit tests you'd be able to start reversing that opinion.

                  Unless what you code is so perfect, so well designed, co complete so flawless and filled with exception-checking and error handling that it can stand on it's own - and there are damned few developers who can do that - then being a unique special snowflake is a hindrance, not an asset.

                  If you don't like that I point that out, too bad. If you don't like that I don't respect developers, too bad. Respect is earned. it is not a default setting.

                  In 20 years of doing this I have learned the hard way that the overwhelming majority of developers are threats to security, to stability, to unit cohesion and to the success of ongoing operations. They need to be carefully risk managed.

                  If you want to call that being full of myself, go right ahead. I call it learning how business for beginners. Now, if you want to get into the care and feeding of sysadmins, I'd be glad to discuss all the risks they pose too, and the special considerations required to handle them.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Sys. admins?

                Former developer, now reduced to SA in small and now vast firms:

                I am still shocked by how little SAs know about UNIX and how to drive it. They live in bare survival mode, reliant upon the software provided by others, whether via an engineering deparment in a large company or off the net or knocked up by a friendly developer in smaller firms.

                A lot do know lots about disc partitioning, using installation tools (software written elsewhere) and problem work-arounds. Good ones know a fair bit about running their local networks. But in all but hte smallest environments they rely upon specialists and developers, whether hardware, networks, DBAs or SAN and are really the glue and general factotum in the middle - which is not to be sniffed at or denigrated.

                But SAs are just as specialised and just as whole system ignorant or knowledgeable as the next specialist and just as reliant on the software and design of architects, developers, hardware specialists and so on as the scientist, bank clerk, graphic designer, sub-editor email expert or school child computer user.

                If you value your sanity and comfort, never look too closely at the shell/perl/python scripts knocked together by administrators and avert your eyes while they plonk through a vi(1) session. The learn survibal skills while fending off an avalanche of unrelated problems, questions and daily tasks, depending upon those despised developers to provide the tools.

                The only important people are the end users, the customers. All the rest of us are just support staff whose jobs and purpose depend upon those. If Apple has managed to design a set of software, interfaces and hardware that support those end users, in the users' judgement, better than the SAs limited understanding of what is wanted, good for Apple and the rest of us had better catch up and put the same effort into supporting them as we do into our current bigotries.

                For those who believe their Windows or, generally, Linux platforms are much more stable or flexible or useable: I question your experience and open mindedness.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  Re: Sys. admins?

                  "The only important people are the end users, the customers. All the rest of us are just support staff whose jobs and purpose depend upon those."

                  Bingo.

                  "For those who believe their Windows or, generally, Linux platforms are much more stable or flexible or useable: I question your experience and open mindedness."

                  Quite.

                  A tool is a tool. If all you know how to use is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But once you figure out screwdrivers, a whole other world opens up. Then you learn about rivets and another universe can be explored.

                  Brand tribalism and fear of the unknown are the biggest issues to be overcome in any group of individuals: nerd or user alike.

            2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              I should point out that I don't consider most scientists "developers". They are scientists. Code for them is a tool, the resulting program is a tool. It's not the purpose of their efforts. Scientists don't need to build applications that handle every bizarre possible condition or scenario. They are generally very purpose built. More to the point, they have incentive to make sure their tools work right...because if they don't, they'll get ripped to shreds.

              Developers don't have any of that. The application they write is they point of their existence. There is no special prize for getting it right, and the disincentives for getting it wrong are indistinguishable from random "synergies" or "outsourcing events" that periodically decimate their ranks anyways. There is precious little incentive for a developer to crank out more than the most basically functional anything, and few (if any) have a system of peer review anywhere near as strict as scientists.

              1. LionelB

                Largely agreed, but it's greyer than that. As a research scientist, code is indeed a "tool" for me - but one which I frequently wish to share with my peers. So I maintain, document, distribute and support code... which I guess makes me a developer (and de facto admin, tech writer and helpdesk too). This is not so unusual.

          3. James Cane

            Those that can, code. Those that can't, support.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              You can't support unless you can code. But there's more money in solving other people's mistakes than in making your own.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                >>You can't support unless you can code. But there's more money in solving other people's mistakes than in making your own.

                What are you talking about? All you have to do is look at Glassdoor and see that developers make more money than system administrators on average.

                Most of the interesting work, and the glory, is in designing and engineering something new, i.e., being a developer. Do you want to be the architect of a skyscraper, or the maintenance man who fixes the elevator in said skyscraper when it breaks? 99% of everybody would say architect, but I guess you would be the elevator repairman because in your comically warped world view, that guy is somehow more important and better paid and everybody else is a bunch of idiots.

                In the large companies I've worked at, everybody out of college with a computer science/engineering degree tries to interview for a developer position. The ones that fail the developer interview but still do pretty well get put on a tester interview. The ones who fail both interviews but still seem fairly knowledgable about computers get put into system administration. It's always their last choice, it pays the least, and it means they already failed two interviews for things they'd rather be doing. You can decide what to take away from this information.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  "All you have to do is look at Glassdoor and see that developers make more money than system administrators on average."

                  Depends. Glassdoor breaks up "systems administrators" into the various subspecialities pretty granularly. Network admins, storage admins, etc make rather a lot, and it really depends on where you live. Devs in Canada, for example, don't make a lot...but they do in the valley. (Where glassdoor is most popular.)

                  "Most of the interesting work, and the glory, is in designing and engineering something new, i.e., being a developer."

                  And? You're talking about what motivates you, personally. Not what is delivering value to a company and to the end customer.

                  "but I guess you would be the elevator repairman because in your comically warped world view, that guy is somehow more important and better paid and everybody else is a bunch of idiots."

                  Actually, because it's a maintenance specialty, "elevator repairpeople" are usually quite well paid. But they are narrowly focused specialists, so I wouldn't think that they are knowledgeable about how to manage and maintain an entire building. managing and maintaining a building would be the job of utilities/facilities staffs.

                  And oh, yes, I don't for a fraction of a second think that most architects know how to maintain buildings. That's why architects are supported by teams of engineers who are in turn supported by teams of drafters and other ancillary staffs.

                  Architects and proper Iron Ring engineers are a great example of regulated professions in which there are massive legal incentives to think of every little thing. Fuck up and you lose your license to practice. You may even go to jail.

                  This doesn't exist for developers. If developers fuck up, the sysadmin gets yelled at when things fail. Developers aren't held to the sorts of standards that proper engineers, architects and so forth must meet. There is nothing mandating professional ethics or regulating responsibility within the industry.

                  The architect takes feedback from a massive team of people and runs simulation after simulation and discusses every aspect of everything with specialists. Including - low and behold - facilities specialists who can inform the architect about maintenance challenges they haven't thought of.

                  A modern architect working under legal regulation isn't a good analogue for a developer. They're an analogue for a certified project managed leading a unified SecDevOps team.

                  Developers tend to exist in a vaccum. In some cases - like developing your own piece of scientific software where only your own fingers will ever be in the soup - that is passably acceptable. In most cases, however, it's not.

                  "In the large companies I've worked at, everybody out of college with a computer science/engineering degree tries to interview for a developer position."

                  That's because computer science is about teaching you how to program. It isn't about teaching systems administration.

                  "The ones who fail both interviews but still seem fairly knowledgable about computers get put into system administration. It's always their last choice, it pays the least, and it means they already failed two interviews for things they'd rather be doing. You can decide what to take away from this information."

                  Well, yes, it would be their last choice because they're accepting a job they didn't train for. Probably at the lowest possible rank and the most substandard pay. I sure as hell wouldn't pay a computer science graduate even half of what I'd pay a properly trained systems administrator produced by my local polytechnic.

                  I can take a trained sysadmin cranked out of an actual systems administration program at a polytechnic and let them lose on the network after only a week or two of orientation. It would take me months just to deprogram a computer science graduate, let alone train them in what they need to know!

                  Now, that said, if I can deprogram a computer science graduate and train them up as a proper sysadmin - that takes about two to two and a half years - then what I've got is a DevOps specialist. They're trained as a developer and they've learned to think in risk assessment and operational terms. That is valuable.

                  Take that same person and teach them security and 5 years after they've landed in the department they'll be SecDevOps and probably the highest paid non-executive in the whole company. They'll also easily be the most valuable member of the IT team.

                  But you see, there's the key. The ability to think holistically. To run a team, and solicit input about all the moving parts before architecting one's datacenter. It's knowing enough to know what you don't know, then finding specialists to provide feedback to fill the gaps. It's thinking in terms of "what can go wrong" instead of simply "how can I solve this".

                  If any of this sounds familiar you might worked on mainframes. That specific subclass of developer who works on mainframes tends to have to work like this. They can't simply reboot every time something goes squirrely. They have to play nice with everything else. And any outage not only is going to cost millions, it may well cost lives.

                  There aren't a hell of a lot of those folks left. In today's world, it's the SecDevOps guys who are taking up the mantle. In a lot of ways, they have it harder, because they have networking and security issues to consider that a lot of the mainframe devs never had to worry about.

                  The best designed building in the world is worth nothing if it can't be inhabited. And no building can be inhabited unless it was designed from the start to be maintainable and is actually properly maintained. Over time, even the best designed building in the world will need to evolve. Telephone jacks will give way to RJ-45, which will give way to fibre. Power will be upgraded. Asbestos will be found to be a bad building material and need to be removed.

                  Architects don't solve those problems. Facilities staffs do.

                  What an architect - a good architect - does is make sure that the building can be evolved over time. That it's service life is longer than the technologies of which it is composed. A good architect listens to input from dozens of specialties and the result is a building that can have a useful service life that lasts centuries.

                  There is mainframe code out there has has persisted for decades. It will persist for decades to come.

                  Embedded devices exist all over this planet. Billions of them, growing at a rate of tens of billions of devices a year. Will they last decades? Will this "internet of things" be secure, hardened, capable of withstanding the evolution of IT over the life of the devices involved? Or will cars and microwaves and toasters move from decades of service life to years, not because of mechanical failure, but because of bad code?

                  Will the rock star snowflake developers of today, who believe in their own importance and that they know best architect applications that serve as monuments and withstand the test of time, or will they need to be managed, maintained, defended and ultimately discarded?

                  How long will your code last?

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Rubbish

                I work with and am, as ex developer and system engineer, now an SA.

                Most SAs can not programme their way out of paper bag and write some of the most dangerous and simplistic scripts imaginable, with no understanding even of the editor. Modern ones are worse as they think a GUI is magic and always right. They jump to Google as they can not understand man pages.

                They are often good at fire fighting and quick diagnosis. But they hate scripts and automation with a venom driven by fear for their jobs and status. A good SA is a gem. But, just like any other technician, they are part of the support, like cleaners, plumbers, secretaries, accounts or, indeed, the whole of IT unless the business is providing IT or software (or perhaps outsourced Sys admin.).

                SAs are valuableL but many smaller firms run very nicely with cooperative admin. by their general IT people until the network grows to the point where admin. takes too much time from the purpose of the developers, DBA and other users.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Trevor, I thought it was the pilot that made the plane fly, but I stand corrected.

            I also thought systems administrators' sole purpose was to take down important machines with no notice during business hours to apply the latest set of ill-understood patches, whilst simultaneously letting you know the next time you can get any software installed is in 3 years time, but I stand corrected.

            Every major f**kup we've had with our environments and who's to blame? You guessed it. Our systems administrators.

            Grow up. Seriously.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              "Trevor, I thought it was the pilot that made the plane fly, but I stand corrected."

              Used to be. Pilot also used to be one of the mechanics. Now, for the most part, pilot's there to look after the dog, and the dog's there to bite the pilot if'n he tries to touch anything.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Or, they are like the farmer who secures the farm and shoots foxes, while waiting on the chickens who either lay eggs, or pretend to, whilst getting royally fed regardless... until.....

  21. LDS Silver badge

    When someone else pays for your hardware...

    ... it's much easier to go for the most expensive one. Especially when it's difficult to measure your ROI <g>

    And don't believe just because someone is a scientist he or she doesn't feel the pressure of some kind of fashions anyway. Actually there are fashions in science too.

    Most companies have far tighter budgets per person when it comes to IT spending, and often a far larger user base to manage, including a lot of 'production' and 'sales' people for whom expensive, powerful machines are a waste. Although l've seen companies spending more on their sales people hw than developers, just because customers meet sales people and not developers...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given OSX, Windows and Linux

    I always end up returning to Linux, it would be nice if there were certain proprietary packages available for it but on the whole I find it works best for me. Could I ever give up the lovely Plasma 5 ? Never.

  23. Joey

    On my 27" iMac, I am running Mac OSX, Windows XP (with IE6), Windows XP (with IE7), Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 beta, Ubuntu 15 - and BDS Unix - all at the same time if need be. When you are developing web sites, you gotta have ALL the browsers.

  24. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    I happen to make a hobby out of neuropharmacology

    Didn't we all when young. Peace and love, man. :-)

    My problem with Macs is that although they're based on Unix, all the standard Unix admin knowledge goes out of the window. Add NFS mounts to /etc/fstab, you must be joking. Add static routes, I could sort of do that up to Mavericks, no idea under Yosemite. It's all bloody obscure plists and custom GUI tools rather than simply firing up your favourite editor and modifying a text file in /etc, and the recent breaking of ssh was the icing on the cake. If anyone has a guide to making Macs fit into a normal Unix network, please point me at it.

  25. Phuq Witt

    My Tuppence Worth

    I work in Art & Design and have always used macs, since way back in the PowerPC days and System 7,5. I can't stand Apple (the company) and would go Linux full-time if t'were not for the fact that none of the professional graphics software I need runs on Linux.

    [Please nobody mention Gimp or Inkscape, as derisive laughter wil ensue and tea will spray from my nostrils]

    I do tend to install a Linux on my old macs, once a new toy comes along, as I enjoy tinkering with it and knowing your way round Linux [and especially the command line] is a useful extra string to my bow when dealing with web design.

    In my experience both working in design and also teaching in the field, the landscape is overwhelmingly Apple gear. I can't think of a single professional designer I know who uses anything else.

    The college design faculties I've taught in have been 100% mac [with the exception of 3D graphics, which has never been an Apple strongpoint] and all students who treat themselves to a laptop when the student loan arrives seem to go for the MacBook Pro.

    And so it ever was and ever will be...

    Except...

    Last week I had a teaching job in one of these new-fangled "Academies" that are springing up everywhere and, for the first time ever teaching in the design sector I found that only about a third of the students were sporting MacBooks. The rest were using... wait for it...

    Surface Pros!

    It sounds crazy but, if you can cope with Windows, it makes perfect sense for a design student. A Surface Pro will run Photoshop, Illustrator et al nearly as well as a MacBook Air, you can detach the keyboard and use it as a tablet for Youtube & FacePuke and –the big plus– the built-in digitiser gives you the ability to draw directly on screen without having to sell a kidney to afford a Wacom Cintiq.

    All of that for less than the price of a MacBook and it's a veritable "no-brainer".

    Now wouldn't that be ironic? If the shifting fortunes in the computer hardware world resulted in Apple ending up as the "resting on their laurels" incumbent, used in science and academia —and Microsoft becoming the plucky young upstart, beloved of the artistic types?

    Or is that just too "parallel universe"?

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: My Tuppence Worth

      The problem with Surface Pros is that they are sold by Microsoft, and Microsoft can't be trusted with anything, ever. They not only don't have our best interests in mind, they aren't even trying very hard to hide it any more.

      Cloud first, mobile first. Staff, partners, developers and customers last.

      1. Hellcat
        Angel

        Re: My Tuppence Worth

        The problem with Macbook Pros is that they are sold by Apple, and Apple can't be trusted with anything, ever. They not only don't have our best interests in mind, they aren't even trying very hard to hide it any more.

        Cloud first, mobile first. Staff, partners, developers and customers last.

        1. James Cane

          Re: My Tuppence Worth

          Unlike Microsoft, Apple make the vast majority of their money selling hardware direct to consumers.

          Whether they actually are more trustworthy, I don't know. But they are certainly incentivised to be so.

      2. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: My Tuppence Worth

        I generally like and for the most part agree with your comments Trevor, but "The problem with Surface Pros is that they are sold by Microsoft, and Microsoft can't be trusted with anything, ever. They not only don't have our best interests in mind, they aren't even trying very hard to hide it any more.

        Cloud first, mobile first. Staff, partners, developers and customers last"

        First off - no company is ultimately there for the good of the people that work for them or their customers. They're there to generate profit for the shareholders.

        Secondly - name me any other company of similar size to MS in technology that doesn't have all the same motivations and problems? Apple? Google? Lenovo? HP?

        Thirdly - MS will eventually learn. It may come too late, but the steady kicking they're giving people like us by pulling Technet subscriptions, not listening to feedback etc etc will eventually come home to roost, so don't think I'm entirely on their side.

        Ultimately though your comments show that you've sadly become blinded by rage with MS and it clouds some otherwise perfectly valid arguments.

        1. TonyJ Silver badge

          Re: My Tuppence Worth

          Yup...Apple treat their staff really well! http://reg.cx/2fM8

        2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: My Tuppence Worth

          "name me any other company of similar size to MS in technology that doesn't have all the same motivations and problems? Apple? Google? Lenovo? HP?"

          Lenovo, for the most part, is actually one I would classify as "there for the customer". They make mistakes - everyone does - but if they piss off their customers, they're dead. They simply aren't big enough to survive screwing their customers. They have lock-in. No monopoly.

          Apple, Google, HP and many others have the ability to get you locked right in, and they have no issues with then squeezing you until you've been drained dry. There are very few companies that manage to get vices on our testicles that don't then squeeze for all they're worth...but Microsoft has more vices than most, and their entire business is abotu funneling you from one lock-in to the next through "integration".

          Microsoft are not merely "not focused on customer interests", they are so arrogant and secure in their various monopolies (and duopolies) that they are outright hostile to their users, partners, etc.

          "You're holding it wrong" isn't even a fraction of the condescending hostility, Microsoft has. For all their faults, Apple are just less shit to their customers, and they've gotten better since Steve passed. They aren't saints, but my trust in them is a less negative number.

          As for "MS will eventually learn", that's a matter of hope, not fact. They haven't learned. I have no reason to believe they ever will. If and when they do, I'll revisit my opinion of them.

          "Ultimately though your comments show that you've sadly become blinded by rage with MS and it clouds some otherwise perfectly valid arguments."

          There's no rage, except at the licensing department. But I view them as separate from the others, because Microsoft is a collection of fifedoms, not a unified entity. I analyze Microsoft. They are points of data that are fed into a risk assessment matrix. I look at everything from past behaviour to personality traits of various leaders, to taking the time to investigate the political situation within the company and determine which individuals hold what level of sway and in what areas.

          Other than Ninite, I am loyal to no company. I loathe brand tribalism and I refuse to let emotion cloud my judgements when I examine organizations. I also refuse to consider individual products in isolation. A product is part of an ecosystem and that ecosystem is governed by the actions of the corporations that make it up.

          If I am hostile towards Microsoft it is because they are hostile towards my interests. And why shouldn't I be? Why should any organization or individual get the benefit of the doubt, or a break, or a presumption that future behavior will not align with past behavior? Where is the ROI in blind trust?

          Trust, like respect, is earned. Microsoft have done a great deal to lose both my trust and my respect, and next to nothing to regain it.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I work in a small research lab (around 300 desktops\laptops) all of those are DELL windows 7 boxes. We also have a pretty large Linux community probably around 70 DELL precision workstations, the majority of those users also run a virtual Win7 box for running any software they need that isn't available on Linux. We run an HPC and a 150 node cluster and have over 2.5Pb of storage so we're a pretty large IT user for the size of the business. We have maybe 6 Mac's which aren't support by us (we have 2 Linux and 2 Windows support staff) so the users are on their own with them. Again the reason we don't support them is the pain up the ass to do so factor, the extra work to get them integrated the extra work supporting yet another OS. Its taken us a long time to get a standard working environment and that's Linux and Windows we haven't got the staff or resources to support another OS and hardware just because it looks nice!

  27. BigAndos

    I had an iMac at home for three years and I absolutely loved it. Easy to use, beautiful hardware and on the occasion I needed to run some other software I could use bootcamp with my spare Windows 7 license.

    However after the three years there was no hope in hell of upgrading it to handle the latest games. So I gritted my teeth and built myself a Windows machine so I could easily rebuild in future with upgraded components.

    In short, if only Macs were more upgradeable / user repairable I would still be a loyal Mac user.

    1. hardboiledphil

      Try updating a 4 year old PC. Memory types change, disk controllers change, very little is re-usable apart from the box and power supply which don't cost that much anyway. You pretty much end up buying whole new insides and reusing the case, which isn't really upgrading more replacing.

      1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        Rubbish. The limiting factor is expense. DDR3, SATA and PCI-e have been used for years. Before that, DDR2 was used for years.

        CPU support is limited by BIOS support and price/performance tradeoff. Four years on there will be new chips, whether the expense is worth it is a different matter.

        Disk controller? Either buy a new controller card and run it at full speed, or if using an ancient system, an adapter. There are adapters to fit SATA/SSDs in everything from IDE (very cheap) to SCA (wincingly expensive, but if you want to put one in your 90s Unix workstation..)

        Graphics card? Endlessly upgradeable, within the constraints of your PSU providing enough power.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. James Cane

    The issue in most enterprises is custom in-house software which not only won't run on a Mac, but quite often won't even run on anything but a specific version of Windows.

  29. Uberseehandel

    A mistaken idea of what happens in Space Fight Centres

    Its hardly surprising that conference rooms at flight centres are full of Macs. These rooms are full of PR folk and journalists. Macs meet their requirements perfectly.

    In the real world most of us use Mac OS X, Windows and several varieties of Linux/Unix. There is a very important 3D design tool called SolidWorks, surprisingly it doesn't fully work on a Mac. Most of the grown-up database design tools are Windows based. Anything requiring a specialised card is usually win/'nix based.

    Macs develop at their own pace. Try setting up a 5K iMac with a second matching 5k screen. Doing the same with a Win workstation is NOT a problem.

    Of course academia is full of Macs - that's where so much of social media originated. Macs are great for students.

    Most of the time we don't do anything much more sophisticated than writing correspondence, managing lists, goofing off and wasting our real lives (aka social media). Today's tablets are well suited to this. So my scientific friends who actually work in research labs can be seen with macs and iPads whilst their experiments are run by 'nix devices, designers are wedded to their win machines (for 3D modelling and rendering). Whilst when I work at my original research topic, I'm still Windows based, I'd prefer it if I could use a Mac, but even using parallels or bootcamp, it isn't a satisfactory solution.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Horses for courses

    These are the people who, 20 or 25 years ago, would have had a Sun/Sparc workstation on their desk. They would have loved a Sun/Sparc laptop if they could afford it, or lift it.

    Today they can get a Macbook which is basically the same: a Unix workstation.

    They want to compile and run software from source, using a choice of free toolchains. They want a system with a true POSIX API, where basic functionality like fork() and threading have always worked properly. They want to write applications in C and Fortran and ML and Haskell, not C#/.NET

    If it's wrapped up in a shiny shiny then that's a bonus.

    1. Fink-Nottle

      Re: Horses for courses

      > If it's wrapped up in a shiny shiny then that's a bonus.

      When I started my first graduate job, my boss gave me a brand new HP-85A. Now that was shiny. People from other departments would come to marvel at the high tech wonder of 256 x 192 graphics.

    2. James Cane

      Re: Horses for courses

      Good points.

      Except for one: writing code in C, Fortran, ML or Haskell is easily possible on Windows.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Horses for courses

        Sure, you can buy a C compiler and you can write to Microsoft APIs.

        Or you can install Cygwin for free and use the normal Unix tools (gcc etc) and write code for POSIX APIs, via an POSIX emulation layer which is almost, but not quite, good enough to run POSIX applications reliably, and you can spend a lot of time working around the problems.

        Or you can just have a Unix system in the first place.

        1. James Cane

          Re: Horses for courses

          Or you can do what many developers do and have multiple machines and/or virtuals. Win / win.

  31. F0ul

    Its about ego and risk

    Good article, and you almost hit the nail, but then don't.

    Scientists and Academics do fashion, but not the same fashion as everyone else. They do fashion as a reduced risk of mockery type fashion. They might be very knowledgeable about stuff that nobody cares about, but they have very thin skins, and are very self conscious. Why do you think they like being published? Its all about ego, baby!

    They like Apple because they look good, and their work mates have one. If you ever want to sell a computer to a scientist, tell him that the scientist down the road has one like this, but with something missing. What's better than getting your work published? Having better equipment than the scientist who just got published! That's another Macbook sold, then! ;-)

    Scientists don't do IT networks, or even use more than 1 or 2 desktops at once. They never see the problems of Apple hardware that IT bods see - so they don't care. All they want is a better laptop than their colleague who just got published! ;-)

  32. dz-015

    I was thinking about posting a comment, but I see that all of the sensible comments explaining clearly and reasonably why scientists prefer Macs are being heavily downvoted, so I think I'll just not bother.

  33. Indolent Wretch

    "So, why are the smartest people in the world using MacBooks?"

    Because when you are given a list of options you don't have to pay for you are likely to go for the most expensive one.

    1. James Cane

      If you think the most expensive option available to, for instance, a particle physicist is a Macintosh, then you've got some learning to do. Prepare to be very surprised by how quickly the money can escalate.

  34. theOtherJT

    Perhaps they have a media relations department?

    Ours makes us hide the dell's and break out the macbooks whenever we have a photographer or a TV crew in. They think it makes us look "hip" apparently.

  35. TRT Silver badge

    I'm the IT manager/tech a neurobiology research lab...

    And I have to say, I always recommend an Apple because (1) the Unix underpinning means the bulk of standard bioinformatics tools are available, (2) there's the standard Office suite available, (3) anything that is PC only (a lot of e.g. customised DNA/RNA specification software) can be done in e.g. Parallels or VirtualBox, (4) native PDF for screen drawing means that if you can see it on the screen (OK, print it), you can make a PDF of it easily and freely, and scientists love PDF (5) There's a lot less nasty stuff out there that you can pick up by just browsing the WWW (6) They've usually already got a stake in the Apple eco-system with a smart phone or an iPad or something, although I've not persuaded anyone to use Keynote and beam their presentations from their phones in the meeting room yet (7) things like Matlab run better than on Windows because of the memory management.

    The downside is all the bloody dongles, so I've no idea if someone is hooking up an "illegal" laptop (we register Mac addresses for the vLAN and it give me a chance to check for antimalware), the expense of repairs, and being a more attractive target for walkthrough thievery.

    I've a fair share of PCs as well, about 50%, and I have to say, I spend far, far longer working fixing Windows issues than Apple ones. I can easily have a PC laptop on the workbench for one or two weeks with all the updates, defragging, registry repair, dual antimalware installs and updates, KMS problems, Enterprise Wireless issues etc etc

    And then there are a few UNIX machines too. Most of the Microscope machines are PCs due to custom hardware, which is a pain in the arse because you can't replace the box without considering card interface standards PCI, PCI-E, half-height, dual width, x4, x16, available IRQs (some cards simply won't work in these cobbled together hybrid Dells with their bus negotiation chips that fuse older bus types onto newer ones), then there's hardware driver availability in newer versions of Windows... so you end up having to consider buying a new £250k microscope rig just because the PC has died and you can't get a new one that works with the older hardware. OK, there are virtually NIL Apple-based microscopes, but if there were again as there were once upon a time, they would be a single cable standards interface like FireWire for the camera and USB for the controls.

    1. Richard 111

      Re: I'm the IT manager/tech a neurobiology research lab...

      There is a lot of general scientific software that are written just for Mac's. You can find often an equivalent tool, maybe without the nice interface, for Windows. Lots of the bioinformatic tools are written for Linux and most run on Mac's (and Windows) just fine. But it really depends on the field you work in.

      In my field, proteomics, all the analytical instruments switched from Mac (or Sun in a few cases) to PC's and Windows in the late 90's. This means all the data is acquired with programs that run on Windows and the vendors libraries needed to open the files also only run on Windows. Any scientist analyzing the actual data would be using the vendors software or third party tools all of which run on Windows. More recently tools have appeared that allow for the opening and processing of data from some vendors on Linux but functionality can be limited. Mac may be used for day to day work as a personal computer plus the further away you are from the raw data the more likely it is that you (can) use a Mac.

      In much the same way as the computers used to control microscopes many vendors use exotic or ancient interface cards linked to older operating systems. Your 10 year old million dollar instrument still works fine but the controlling computer is limited to XP and is no longer allowed on the network. Plus you have to buy replacement computer parts on ebay.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: I'm the IT manager/tech a neurobiology research lab...

        "In much the same way as the computers used to control microscopes many vendors use exotic or ancient interface cards linked to older operating systems. Your 10 year old million dollar instrument still works fine but the controlling computer is limited to XP and is no longer allowed on the network. Plus you have to buy replacement computer parts on ebay."

        Yep. Been there, done that. You're not Canada Richard are you?

  36. msknight Silver badge
    FAIL

    I shall join the eperiment and raise you a banana

    After reading the aforementioned article, I've decided to buy a refirbed Mac Air and partake of the kool aid.

    So far, it hasn't exactly gone as planned ... http://msknight.com/technilife/?p=434

    1. Phuq Witt
      Trollface

      Re: I shall join the eperiment and raise you a banana

      "...So far, it hasn't exactly gone as planned ... http://msknight.com/technilife/?p=434..."

      Well, there's five minutes I'll never get back again.

  37. Jay 2

    As a Linux sys admin I spend all day looking after Linux boxes (funnily enough) and also get to do all the usual stuff on a Windows box. At home I've got a Mac.

    In short I got a bit fed up with looking after Windows PC at home, plus when Microsoft (and various peripheral manufacturers) decided to try and flog more kit when Vista came out it was the straw that broke the camel's back. So I purchased a Mac.

    The up side is there is generally less messing about and I can just get on and do stuff. Everything I need to do I now have suitable applications for. Though I have VMs with various Windows and Linux if I ever need to do something different. Having a UNIX command line to drop down to is pretty handy every so often. And my first Mac lasted 6 years before I decided to upgrade before it could no longer get the latest MacOS.

    The down side to Mac is that they cost a small fortune, and now are increasingly difficult/expensive to repair yourself. Also if you want to play any more recent games, then you may be out of luck. Though I'm now playing Elite: Dangerous OK, however I must mention that performance under Windows (via Bootcamp) on the same hardware was a bit better.

  38. Sparks

    It's nothing to do with the users, and everything to do with the IT department

    Macs and Windows boxes have endpoint controls for IT so that software upgrades and security controls can be used. With Linux, that's a lot harder (even though IBM has software to do that, it's readily bypassable).

    So the simpler cheaper option is to not allow Linux to be used.

    You honestly think anyone who's used to tiling window managers, keyboard controls, proper virtual desktops and a thousand other productivity increasing things that have been developed since 1982 on GUIs is going to *choose* to give those up to go to a Mac platform where the next big feature that's just been announced in 2015 is a rudimentary and basic form of tiling in their window manager, something that's been around since 1983 in Unix and since version 1.0 in Windows? Of course not. It's not a choice they get to make; the company says its a rule and you have to work within it.

    And then they spend lots of their time finding workarounds and fighting a window manager that should have been taken out behind the chemical shed years ago.

    *goes back to trying to get hammerspoon to handle virtual desktops properly despite Apple thinking standard APIs are for wierdos*

    ps. Don't go on about the build quality of Macs. Lenovo's thinkpads left them behind years ago in terms of solid builds, and the only reason you see retina displays on Macs first is commercial deals with the manufacturers of the displays, not superior R&D. As to brushed aluminium and shiny cases, you can get that for a normal PC if you want to go buy Asus :P

    1. John 104

      Re: It's nothing to do with the users, and everything to do with the IT department

      Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner.

      Linux based machines are great. They really are. And as one off's, I salute those who use them. In an enterprise environment they are absolutely rubbish. User management is a pain, patch management is non-existent, and app comparability can be problematic.Cost of support is the bottom line. Being able to manage machines through group policy, centralized anti-virus, and other tools is the best way to keep costs down. And cost is what drives business.

      * me, I'm about done with Windows for personal use. 8/8.1 are really annoying. Maybe MS will gain back some loyalty with 10 but I'm afraid their best days are behind them for consumer OS's.

  39. zenkaon

    CERN use of MacBooks

    The simple reason people at CERN use MacBooks is because when you open a terminal you have unix.

    Most other people at CERN are using Ubuntu, only a small small percentage actually use windows

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I happen to make a hobby out of neuropharmacology"

    I'd be a bit more discreet about that if I were you... ;-)

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem with Macs

    We have a mixed shop of Desktops.

    Business users have Windows desktops or laptops.

    Scientists have Linux Workstations.

    The Design team use Macs.

    Of the 3, Macs are the biggest pain in the arse to manage. It's only recently that the capability to apply patches to more than one at a time has been introduced.

    We've just finished the monthly round of Linux patching, applying all the updates to 600+ machines at 4 sites automatically, Windows machines get Monthly patches too, but the Macs, don't talk to me about the Macs!

  42. NotWorkAdmin

    I recommended my boss get a MAC

    Partly because he kept on about how great they were so why not, but mostly because never having touched one myself I thought it might be interesting to see how he got on with a machine without being able to ask for my help.

    He used it for less than a month before he'd punched the screen in frustration and destroyed it.

    1. James Cane

      Re: I recommended my boss get a MAC

      Pictures or it didn't happen.

  43. Naselus

    Walled Garden

    I've absolutely never understood anyone who says 'Macs just work'. Firstly, they have about the same fuck-up rate as PCs do. Secondly, Macs 'just work' as long as you're not trying to plug them into anything other than another Mac. Windows PCs can have more or less any piece of hardware nailed to the motherboard and will happily attempt to plug'n'play it, and will gamely attempt to run a far, far, far wider range of software. Nothing Apple have EVER released has been so willing.to play nice with products from another company. I think we can all remember a time 10-15 years ago when just the presence of a Mac on a network was considered an acceptable root cause analysis for almost any problem that might crop up.

    In truth, if we're talking about more than just the individual device, then it's PCs that 'just work' and Macs really, really don't. This is also why sysadmins tend to despise Apple more than most people; we spend our lives plugging lots of computers into each other and hoping beyond hope that the bloody thing works. Back in 2003, if you had to build a network with 50 clients and 4 servers, if you went all-out Wintel you'd have everything set up and ready to go in 3 days. If you included just 1 Mac in there, then you'd need to sacrifice a goat, chant the incantations and only plug everything in on a full moon in a month with an R in it, and even then the whole thing would keel over every two weeks.

  44. Pat 11

    Status

    Nothing says "I have a considerable amount of grant funding - and thus status" like an expensive over-specced Macbook for your Powerpoint, notwithstanding it often won't play nice with the AV. It says you had the freedom to choose, rather than borrow the departmental Dell. Grad students ape this by buying their own.

    Not so prominent in the lab, connected to unusual hardware, though. That tends to be PC's mostly because it's always been possible with PCs to get dirty with the hardware.

  45. deanb01

    Works for me

    Purely a practical choice for me.

    I've got a late 2013 15" Macbook Pro I purchased from Apple's Refurbished store. Got last years model and saved my company £340. At that point it was cheaper than the equivalent Windows PC.

    It spend 90% of it's time booted in Windows 7 with occasional forays into OSX. I'm a software developer working on a mixture of Windows and Linux systems with some multimedia work & app development mixed in. It has its quirks, but so far has been the best laptop I've owned, mainly down to the screen resolution.

  46. SniperPenguin

    Simple answer why usage is growing

    "Finally, if you need to run several operating systems including OSX, you pretty much don't have another choice.".....

    Exactly, because Apple are the only company who specifically refuse to allow you to run OSX within a VM legally.

    If Microsoft made Windows 10 only available through Surface Pro's (their own hardware), there would be an uproar.... Apple? Naah, its ok!

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Simple answer why usage is growing

      "Exactly, because Apple are the only company who specifically refuse to allow you to run OSX within a VM legally."

      You can run OSX in a VM. That VM must, however, reside on Apple hardware.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Simple answer why usage is growing

        "Exactly, because Apple are the only company who specifically refuse to allow you to run OSX within a VM legally."

        You can run OSX in a VM. That VM must, however, reside on Apple hardware

        I guess this is a follow on from when Jobs scrapped the licensing of Apple clones. It makes no sense now though in the modern, virtualised world and is just another example of their locking in users.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Simple answer why usage is growing

          I don't disagree. That said, you can run OSX in a VM. Just sayin'...

  47. Mayhem

    Because they are pretty

    I'm seeing a lot of adoption of iMacs in the reception space because they are pretty and don't need cables. Architects and Interior Designers LOVE them. And then they get Bootcamped to run Windows so the access control software can run.

    They're pretty easy to support, you can basically treat them as windows clients, the only tricky bit is either networking or when you have to swap out a keyboard, in which case you need to boot back into OSX temporarily.

  48. regadpellagru

    Why I use a MacBook pro

    Because:

    - it works, and very rarely crashes. I only reboot to install patches, each and every 3-4 months, rest is suspend/resume

    - there are not 50 useless keys cluttering the keyboard

    - if someone stumbles in the power cable, it doesn't throw my laptop on the ground

    - OS X is way easier to use than the Win 8 madness. Also, OS X doesn't change the UI each and every f**ing update

    - for legacy apps, Parallel Desktops is really good

    - there is a cool bash xterm in OS X, an ssh client, and not the totally retarded DOS-style term of Windows

  49. Zebad

    A calculated decision

    I'm a trained scientist, but have been in (Unix/flavours of) sysadmin for many years.

    Moving into the contract world last year, I needed a machine which satisfied the following:-

    1. Unix (flavour) OS

    2. Light/portable

    3. Loads of RAM (to run multiple VMs)

    4. Decent display (for photo processing)

    5. Able to run Lightroom (one of only two commercial applications I use) natively

    The only system which met all these requirements was a Macbook.

    A simple choice, and vendor agnostic.

    I dislike being lumped in with the "fans" - it's a decent bit of kit (and actually quite decent value when you weigh up all the spec, including the display (and the fact that you can get them a bit cheaper if you don't buy via the usual Apple cartels)). But, it's a tool, no more.

    When Lightroom runs natively on Linux, the choice for me will be different. Last year, there was one choice.

    As an aside - it's perfectly possible to run Apple kit without buying into the whole Apple ecosystem. Firefox, Thunderbird, Chrome, Google (for calendar/file storage etc) - works fine. Thinking about it, I only really run the Apple desktop and Apple terminal applications, the rest are third party.

    1. Phuq Witt
      Alert

      Re: A calculated decision

      "...Thinking about it, I only really run the Apple desktop and Apple terminal applications..."

      switch to iTerm 2 and you can cut that dependency in half.

  50. Angry_Man

    Whilst Macs may "just work" in a standalone environment, I find that this argument soon diminishes when you start to have to manage them to provide a consistent environment.

    The apple products (I've not tried Profile Manager recently) just do not work on any kind of scale. And Munki (similar to puppet i believe) is overly complex. Nothing like GPO in the windows world. This is where they fall down for me - the hardware is great, the price not so, but you can't have it all..

  51. mrvco

    Windows ran me off with Vista. I switched to a Mac in 2007. I do continue to maintain a Win7 gaming machine (DIY build) because Windows is still easily the best choice for gaming. However, for everything other than gaming, I don't miss the frustrations and headaches related to Windows. I recently moved my wife over to a Mac and my time spent doing home IT support has dropped to virtually nil.

    My employer gives everyone the choice between Windows and Mac... out of ~50 people in this office, I believe only 2 are using a Win machine (both Thinkpads).

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Glorified BSD with an annoying GUI on top

    That's how I see OSX, I hate working on OSX even more than I hate working on Windows, it's beyond my comprehension how someone pays $2000+ for a computer just because it has a shiny, half chewed apple on the lid.

  53. CFWhitman

    My impression would generally be a combination of factors leads to the use of Macs in the fields mentioned. The people in question are not concerned about the difference in price, so that is not a factor. They don't want to research which models of hardware are high quality and which are not. Apple doesn't make any low end hardware (as far as quality goes), so that makes it easy. Macs run a Unix based system, and they need that to run the software they need. Macs are also supported by large software corporations that make the applications they need to interact with other people in the field with common file types like Word, Excel, Illustrator, etc.

    For me price is a factor (not that I technically couldn't afford a Mac, but I hate to feel like I spent more money than I needed to), and so is flexibility. I also administer some Web servers. So I generally use Linux.

    For some people price is a factor, and readily available support and compatibility with the majority of their friends or colleagues software is important, so they run Windows.

    Then of course there are the people who run Windows because price is a factor, and that's what comes on a new computer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >>For me price is a factor (not that I technically couldn't afford a Mac, but I hate to feel like I spent more money than I needed to), and so is flexibility.

      If price is a factor, there are a couple things to consider.

      First, Apple makes a few models that are actually quite competitive, price-wise, with similar PCs.

      One is the 11" MacBook Air, which you can often find on sale for $800 and sometimes less. It's difficult-to-impossible to find a PC laptop with similar size, weight, SSD, processor performance, and battery life. (Not to mention aluminum unibody build quality.)

      Another is the Mac Mini... you can't really find (or build) a PC that's that small, that quiet, with that much processing power, and that much storage space/flexibility. Last year I built a mini-ITX computer for HTPC use which was as small as possible but still twice the volume of a Mac Mini, and that's before counting the external power brick. It was a struggle to get it as quiet as a Mini, and ultimately it didn't cost much less.

      Another thing to consider is the market for used Macs. You can typically buy a new Mac, use it for 3-4 years, and sell it for at least half of what you bought it for. Selling used PCs has always been a struggle in my experience. So if you look at your computer use in terms of cost-per-year, you might find that a Mac is competitive or possibly even cheaper.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        "Another is the Mac Mini... you can't really find (or build) a PC that's that small, that quiet, with that much processing power, and that much storage space/flexibility. Last year I built a mini-ITX computer for HTPC use which was as small as possible but still twice the volume of a Mac Mini, and that's before counting the external power brick. It was a struggle to get it as quiet as a Mini, and ultimately it didn't cost much less."

        Nonsense. Intel NUCs take less space even counting the power brick.

        The specs between top end NUC (NUC5i7RYH) and Mac Mini are quite similar, though the NUC sports a newer i7 and upgraded graphics. The NUC can be fitted with the memory (16G DDR3L) and storage (2,5" and M.2 2280) of your choice. And the warranty is three years without any "care plan".

        The only things going for Mini are the admittedly better looks, internal PSU, SD card reader, OSX and Thunderbolt. Everyone can judge for themselves whether they're worth the high price since the NUC fitted with otherwise similar memory, storage and CPU is only half the price.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          >>The specs between top end NUC (NUC5i7RYH) and Mac Mini are quite similar, though the NUC sports a newer i7 and upgraded graphics.

          I stand partially corrected.

          When I was building my HTPC a year or two ago, I did a lot of research into Intel's NUCs. At the time, they had crippled processors (i3s in the low 1.x GHz range with no turbo boost), they didn't have 2.5" storage bays and instead required MSATA cards, they had an impractical number of USB ports for HTPC use (2), their fans made an annoying high-pitched whine when under load, and by the time you added together the cost of a low-end NUC with some cheap memory and storage, the price wasn't that far off of just buying a new Mac Mini.

          It seems Intel has gone a long way to correcting most of these deficiencies. More capable processor, 2.5" drive bay, more USB ports. Unfortunately I can't find anything about fan noise, which is important for HTPC use.

          I'm not following you re: price. The barebones model you listed is selling at a steep discount on Amazon but it's still $530, not including RAM and hard drive. The base model Mac Mini only costs $500 and that includes everything. So I'm not following your factor-of-two price difference comment.

          1. Sandtitz Silver badge

            "I'm not following you re: price. The barebones model you listed is selling at a steep discount on Amazon but it's still $530, not including RAM and hard drive. The base model Mac Mini only costs $500 and that includes everything. So I'm not following your factor-of-two price difference comment."

            That's an apples to oranges comparison.

            The NUC5i7RYH model is the highest end model which should be compared to the 2.6/2.8GHz model configured with the optional i7 CPU, which brings the minimum price to $1000, and the processing power to about the same. The upgrade from 8GB to 16GB is $200, so it's $1200 for the Mac Mini - and this is only with the 5400rpm 1TB HDD model.

            The lowest price for the NUC is actually $477.

            The NUC fitted with 16GB (+ $100) for the barebone model is then 577. The same HDD type is about $50 so less than $650 altogether.

            I selected the NUC5i7RYH model since you were talking about hw requirements 'not found on other computers of the same size' and compared it to the top Mac Mini model.

            The base model Mac Mini should be compared to NUC with an i5 CPU, which would either be the NUC5I5RYK or NUC5I5RYH - the former an even thinner model. Those are $290 at Amazon.The 4GB DDR3L is about $30, so definitely less than $400 with the 5400rpm drive.

            Obviously at the low end the price parity is nowhere 2:1, but if you're comparing a fully configured Mini to a similar NUC - it's close enough in my book.

            BTW, drilling down to small details - the graphics in the NUC has support for 4K/60Hz whereas the Mini i7 "only" supports 4K@24Hz or UHD (3840 res)/60Hz. The OpenCL support in the NUC is also v2.0 vs 1.2 with the Mini. Therefore the NUC is a bit more future proof.

  54. groMMitt

    '...even blind pigs can truffle occasionally...'

    Interesting - I thought pigs 'truffled' (is this really a verb?) by using their sense of smell

  55. Een8nope

    Windows is too restricted

    I have done science in the past and have been IT-curious for some time. Windows is very good for office and IT policy enforcement, for everything else is is either the same as other platforms or simply too restrictive. The only people I know who put up with windows are the administrative staff who basically run excel, accounting software, send mails and browse the internet.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Grump.

    I've just kicked my last PC out and replaced it with a MacBook Pro. Since the early 1980's I have been the custodian of: NCR PC's, Compaq PC's, the first NeXT PC in the UK (my boss had to get the nod from some geezer called Jobs for that) Silicon Graphics IRIS / Indigo / Challenge / Reality Engines workstations and servers, Sun SparkStations, Dell PCs and laptops (God help me) and now the shiny fanbois skinny-latte laptops of the Chingford Californians. And I have to tell you. The only way you're going to get my MacBook Pro or Air off me is either to know more Karate than I do (which isn't necessarily that hard) (or even hard at all) or to pry it from my cold and dying hand. I love this Air. I lick its trackpad on a nightly basis. I wrote my first (and so far only) novel on it. It is just so dam' nice. The Pro is a PC desktop substitute. It's 2015 and top of the line, terabyte of SSD and it just burns through 500Mb Photoshop files with a hundred layers in them. Flash Builder projects compile in the wink an eye. I run After Effects, Motion and Final Cut Pro as I dance naked around the studio, listening to iTunes as stuff renders and watching it all on a 27" retina thunderbolt monitor whilst stroking my magic mouse, trackpad, Wacom tablet and Logitech precision mouse. Which one shall I stroke next???? And yet, there is more.

    When I need to sink into the desperation that is Windows 8.1, because those lazy scum-suckers at AUTODESK can't get their BLOODY fingers out and BLOODY well port 3DSMAX to OS X I merely hold down the alt key on my shiny wireless keyboard and shimmy into Windows. Let it be said, the best way to run Windows - is on a Mac. And despite being the code of demon spawn 3DS MAX runs beautifully on the 'Pro, as does VRay 3 and all of those clever little Itoo plugins, as well as RayFire and the like. Moving files between volumes? Pah, A Porche styled LaCie drive with XFAT makes short shrift of that. I am, quite frankly, in pixel-pushing heaven on the shiny MacBook Pro.

    But seriously folks. There's one reason why I now prefer Macs to PCs and it's really mundane. It's just that I know that when I open up the lid the damn thing is going to work first time, and I'm not going to have to download 97 Windows updates or re-install the display drivers again. I am, frankly, too old for that sort of shit.

  57. Joe Gurman

    Not just scientists, of course

    Even respected industry analysts, including one who eventually headed Compaq back in the day when it was a big deal in the industry:

    http://www.benrosen.com/2011/10/memories-of-steve.html

    From: Benjamin M. Rosen

    Subject: 30 years later -- from Ben Rosen

    Date: June 4, 2007 9:06:02 AM EDT

    To: Steve Jobs

    Hi Steve,

    When you created and then showed me the Apple II in late 1977, little did I know how much it would change my life -- to a much more exciting one.

    Well, after a 20-plus year interlude with that other OS (necessitated by my Compaq involvement), I thought you'd be pleased to know that for the last few years I've returned to my roots. I'm once again an avid Apple user and evangelist.

    Imagine, Ben Rosen, former Compaq Chairman, now a Mac enthusiast!

    Warm regards,

    Ben

  58. JeffTravis

    Love this

    Read the blog and every comment so far, fascinating what is said and not said by everyone.

    Could we be at the point where we all agree that people with differing requirements prefer differing solutions and move on though.

  59. Semianonymous Megacoward

    Everybody has an opinion

    Here's a perspective from someone who worked in scientific/engineering (not IT) positions in industry. Oddly enough, I was introduced to Macs by BP, which originally used them for user desktops before Windows PCs. We used assorted mainframes and DEC machines for scientific and engineering work, and the minicomputers were replaced by Unix workstations around 1990. Unix had a steep learning curve, but it was also very stable compared to Windows back then. For business applications, PCs replaced the Macs, and after a few more years Linux boxes replaced the Unix workstations for technical work. Both changes were cost-driven: PCs were cheaper than Macs, and Linux machines were cheaper than Unix machines.

    Folks working in big companies often have little choice of the hardware and operating system they're made to use, but scientists in academia may have more freedom to choose. Old-time scientific types invested in Unix had two choices when migrating off proprietary (Sun, IBM, H-P, etc.) Unix workstations: Linux or Mac OS X. The Apple logos seen at JPL and the like reflect the choice of Mac OS X. They got to keep the Unix environment they were already familiar with, plus get Microsoft Office and a consistent GUI. IT types may have been more likely to choose Linux, but scientists were less likely to do so because they didn't want to get involved with configuring and tweaking their computers.

    I suspect that zealotry often results from defensiveness; folks who are heavily invested in a particular way of doing things will defend their turf loudly when they feel threatened, especially when they're in the minority. It's just human nature.

  60. the_stone

    MAC in education is the "answer"

    Apple pushed itself into education; "scientists" normally work for universities.

  61. Brian Allan 1

    Choosing the best for the job...

    Professionals select a computer that allows them to be the most efficient in their day's activities. For me that is a Windows based computer. For the person down the hall doing graphic design it is probably a Mac (of some sort).

  62. Sam Adams the Dog

    Right for the wrong reasons

    I am a scientist/software-developer working for a company that sells software to scientists. Linux is our main development platform, and indeed most of our income comes from HPC apps that run on large clusters or GPU-enabled machines, including some on the cloud. Front end-end GUIs run on Linux, Mac and Windows (and, to some extent, in OS-agnostic browsers).

    First, the idea that if you build on Linux it just runs on Mac is completely wrong. The back end is easier to port to Mac than Windows because of the shared *x heritage, but easier ≠ easy. Front-end cross-platform compatibility is made easier by our use of Qt, but on this level, it's actually a little bit easier to port Linux to Windows than Mac, because Linux and Windows share the paradigm of separate menu bars for each app, whereas Mac has "one true menu bar."

    Though most of us internally have Linux on the desktop, most of us use Mac on our personal machines, including (a) developers developing and testing code at home and (b) field engineers demonstrating SW and helping customers on site.

    This is in contrast to our commercial customers, 90% of whom use Windows. So (1) why do our field engineers use Macs, and (2) why do our commercial customers use Windows?

    1. Our people use Macs because: (a) We can run Windows and Linux on VMs. You can't run a Mac VM on another platform. So we can support all three of our platforms from the same machine. (b) We do find the Mac easier to use (especially because many of us come from Linux/HPC backgrounds) and also because of the generally acknowledged convenience factors you mentioned. Because of this, our Systems group has to support Mac whether they like it or not; and indeed, many of our customers, especially in the academic world, use Mac. But again, our bread-and-butter is HPC apps that run on Linux clusters, including GPU-enabled clusters, and on Linux on the Cloud.

    2. Our commercial customers use Windows primarily because that's what their IT department supports. But that begs the question, why is that? (a) Yes, there is a heritage of Windows support and a large body of Windows-trained system personnel out there to hire. It's hard to find IT admins who know Linux and Mac well, especially when the Linux side includes GPU-equipped boxes, large clusters and the cloud. And there is a large body of legacy enterprise-level desktop clients that run only on Windows. But (b), having been personally involved in efforts to support Windows HPC (which succeeded technically, but not economically), and who has had Windows on my desktop over periods of many years, and who has listened to my sysadms, the fact is that Apple has nothing to compete with the support that Windows has for enterprise-wide management of machine and software configurations. In an earlier post you gave a few alternatives for this sort of support, but, as you concluded, the extent of it does not compare with what is available for Windows.

    The fact is that Apple has never really been interested in pursuing the enterprise market and creating such tools. They may never. In the meantime, the past few Mac OS X releases (Mavericks, Yosemite) have been rather unstable, and we are hearing more and more good things about Windows-10. So we could possibly see a reversal of preference, where even people like me decide that Windows makes more sense. But, to be honest, that would be a long time coming.

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