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Why I Bought (Another) Mac

By May 20, 2009

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I bought an iMac yesterday. Despite our collection of Apple iBooks, MacBooks, iPods, and iPhones, this is the first non-portable Apple computer I've purchased and the first time I've purchased one to replace a desktop Windows PC. Less than 24 hours later, I'm contemplating buying a second iMac to replace another of my Windows-based desktop PCs - this time for use as my primary system.

Why the switch? It's not because Mac is immune to malware, despite what Apple might have us believe. In fact, the advertising claims that Macs are immune to malware actually annoyed me so much I almost didn't buy the iMac. Then I saw the ridiculous Microsoft ad claiming that a $699 Windows-based laptop was somehow comparable to the $999 entry level MacBook. That claim was so ludicrous, I decided the misleading marketing field was even.

I'm definitely glad I decided not to let the ad annoyances stand in the way of what really amounts to a very good buy. For starters, the 24" iMac runs WoW in full cinematic splendor with no lag even in Dalaran. Anyone who plays WoW knows that's no small feat for even a top of the line expensive gaming rig. So to get that level of performance for only $1800 seemed too good to pass up.

On a new Windows system, it's at least well over an hour (usually two or more) before the system is patched and ready for use. And that just means the beginning of a series of lockdowns - everything from disabling autorun, to enabling file extension viewing, to setting up Internet security zones, to disabling system restore, getting rid of the Windows security center, installing a new firewall, getting the multiple behavior analyzers installed, disabling unnecessary services, installing third-party patches and so on. In the end, bringing a new Windows system online is about a full day's worth of work for me.

On the iMac, in well under an hour I was up and running, having installed Firefox, loaded up the NoScript addon, disabled Google prefetch, and installed Intego VirusBarrier. All that was left was to install WoW, get the latest Blizzard patches, and then run freely through Dalaran for the first time ever without lagging into walls on the way. It was very nearly a religious experience.

The iMac comes with BootCamp preinstalled so with plenty of now unused licenses for Windows XP sitting around, dual booting into Windows as needed won't be a problem. As soon as I get the free day to spend securing a fresh Windows install, I'll finish that task. In the meantime, the iMac has everything I need to be productive (and have fun at the same time).

I love my new iMac.

Comments
May 21, 2009 at 12:02 pm
(1) Roger says:

First off, I’d like to state my utter disgust in the way you’re handling comments that are being posted. Why is there a leave a comment option, if you’re going to delete them all anyways?

Although I am pleased to hear that you’re smart enough to understand that even Macs are vulnerable to viruses, Microsoft’s ad stating that a $699 PC is comparable to a $999 Macbook is not far off from the truth.

MSI EX630:
Price: $599
AMD Turion X2 RM-70(2.00GHz)
16″ Wide XGA
3GB Memory
250GB HDD
DVD Super Multi
NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS

White 13″ Macbook:
Price: $999
Intel Core 2 Duo ( 2.00GHz )
2GB DDR2 Memory
120GB hard drive
NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics

May 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm
(2) nobody says:

“Then I saw the ridiculous Microsoft ad claiming that a $699 Windows-based laptop was somehow comparable to the $999 entry level MacBook.”

A quick look at Dell, Toshiba, Acer, and Asus online reveals that most $700 PCs have more ram and more hard drive space than the $999 macbook.

It would be a different story if the macbook was better in every area excluding the Nvidia 9400, but neither the macbook nor the PC are winners, and this is a case where the Mac is $200 more. The comparison with a $999 macbook and equivalently priced PC makes the difference even more stark for Apple.

I’m not bashing Macs or PCs, I’m just saying you didn’t pick the best example.

May 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm
(3) Tom says:

You spent $1800 to be able to run WoW well? A $600 custom built PC should be able to do that, you certainly don’t need anything more than $1000 even if you’re getting prebuilt

May 21, 2009 at 12:21 pm
(4) Mary Landesman says:

I will delete any comments that contain obscenities, don’t offer anything constructive, or are just posted because someone wants to troll or provoke . That leaves very few.

May 21, 2009 at 12:30 pm
(5) Binary says:

“”"I will delete any comments that contain obscenities, don’t offer anything constructive, or are just posted because someone wants to troll or provoke . That leaves very few.”"”

I fail to see how my earlier comment asking how, “claiming that a $699 Windows-based laptop was somehow comparable to the $999 entry level MacBook. That claim was so ludicrous…” was meant to be interpreted fell under that statement.

I honestly wanted to know how you rated the two computers. Do you refute the actual physical worth of the parts? Do you beleive that the price differnce is justified by being able to run OSX on supported hardware? How are you measuring the worth of the two computers and coming to the conclusion that they aren’t comparable?

May 21, 2009 at 12:31 pm
(6) Ray says:

I don’t see any point in paying soo much for an iMac, my $700 comptuer has the same specs, and with the money I saved I got a TV and soundsystem.

May 21, 2009 at 12:37 pm
(7) Bob says:

Damn; $1800? I made a small cluster with that much money. (4 IGP mainboards; 4 quadcores; 2x2GB of RAM each)

I wouldn’t hate on the iMac if it was a better price, but that’s ridiculous, it costs Apple $600 to make that thing.

May 21, 2009 at 12:38 pm
(8) Exosus says:

Two major, basic factual issues with your post. Others are certainly present, but my time is valuable and I do not care to pick them out one by one.

#1: Dalaran lag is not a result of one’s computer (assuming you aren’t running something made in the 90s). It is a result of lag between the server and your personal modem, usually as a result of the former being overloaded but also commonly as a result of the latter being insufficient to handle the traffic. If you were to bring up the CIA mainframe as a dedicated WoW machine you would still lag in Dalaran on max-pop servers. There is not a computer made that can improve off-site servers by virtue of its sheer force of will. This is the same reason that an instance like Karazhan will lag every Saturday night even if you are in it alone – the server cannot handle that much traffic in one place. You aren’t actually displaying any of the other parties in the instance, but you experience lag as a result of them nonetheless.

#2: If you are spending a full day setting up your computer, you are doing something drastically wrong. I set up my Vaio in 20 minutes, with an additional 10 spent gathering up third-party programs like iTunes and Firefox. Add to that approximately 20 minutes worth of time spent downloading patches, which of course can and was done in the background while using the computer, and you have a grand total of 50 minutes. This is not to be confused with 16 hours 24 minutes, which is the time the average American is awake in any given 24-hour period, that is to say a “full day.”

May 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm
(9) Mary Landesman says:

Binary, for benchmark tests between Windows and Mac OS, see http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/reviews/4258725.html.

Being able to run both Mac and Windows OS is a plus for me. I also think it’s a plus that I went from half a dozen cords hanging off the desk to just a single power cord. But those are more the little benefits; neither factored in the buy decision.

As for the cheap $699 laptop, I have an Acer, a Dell, and a HP laptop all in that price range. WoW won’t run on them without major lag. In fact, I used to have a $2k HP laptop that WoW ran terribly on.

The big thing though is that despite security flaws in both OS, it took me far far less time to secure the iMac and get up and running than it does to *properly* secure a PC. And since I have better things to do than spend a day making system tweaks, the iMac was a welcome change.

May 21, 2009 at 12:44 pm
(10) Yotsuba says:

I do not want to seem like i am leaving a nasty comment, but i do not understand what you mean when you say that a Windows system takes a whole day to set up. I was using mine after about 1/2 an hour. Is there something vital that I missed?

May 21, 2009 at 12:46 pm
(11) todd says:

That “test” is horrendous.
Vista is the worst Windows operating system yet.
Try it against XP.
With half the specs of the Mac.
XP would still win.

May 21, 2009 at 12:50 pm
(12) Mary Landesman says:

Exosus, latency due to the connection is just one part of the equation. Hardware also factors in – and in my experience, has more impact on the quality of play and the level of lag.

Securing a PC properly takes far more than just patching the OS.

May 21, 2009 at 12:53 pm
(13) @Mary says:

OSX runs on my $350 netbook, being capable of running Windows on your mac basically defeats the purpose of getting a mac.

When it comes to laptops, watching out for one that has good graphics is easy, my $650 MSI runs run WoW with ease, in fact, it’s 9600mGT(512MB GDDR3) is the same power as what’s in your $1800 iMac… a 8600GT with 256MB DDR2.

Securing Windows is just a matter of updating(automatic) and NoScript, beyond that common sense gets the job done perfectly well… Windows’ firewall is surprisingly powerful since it’s basically a simplified version of what’s used with the enterprise products form MS.

$1800 is a brutal pricetag for those specs, my workstation from over a year ago has dual quadcores and cost just as much, with a 8800GTX and 8GB of RAM.

May 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm
(14) random999 says:

also make sure when doing that test again, you get a fresh copy of xp (or 7), and not the crap that you get from the manufactures, preloaded with all the ads to keep the cost down. You’re comparing manufactures when doing that, compare the OS.

Also for securing a PC, you really don’t need to do anything. I’ve never had a virus and I don’t have any anti-virus. I’ve just uploaded to virustotal when I download something.

May 21, 2009 at 12:55 pm
(15) Mary Landesman says:

Todd, I too would have preferred to see an XP benchmark. I only run Vista on one of the comps, the others (with the exception of the Macs) are all running XP. (Yes, I have a lot of computers).

My point was that you can’t really compare hardware to hardware between the Mac and the PC. Mac OS runs better than Windows, i.e. it doesn’t have the same performance needs and hence even a Mac with ‘lesser’ hardware’ runs better (in many cases) than a PC that might have higher specs.

May 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm
(16) random999 says:

or better yet… dual boot it on one computer, you will get perfect results then

May 21, 2009 at 12:58 pm
(17) Mary Landesman says:

@random999, you do realize malware doesn’t ask permission before it installs itself?

May 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm
(18) Jesse says:

WoW is extremely forgiving on older hardware. I’m not sure why you ran into lag in the first place if you were playing on a machine built within the last few years. I played WoW for two and a half years on a dated budget system running XP SP2 with only 1GB of memory.

May 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm
(19) random999 says:

@mary landesman
you do realize that malware doesn’t get into your computer without you doing something first?

May 21, 2009 at 1:01 pm
(20) @Mary2 says:

Windows, Linux, OSX; hardware performance isn’t affected by much other then graphics drivers, which Widows has the advantage at.
A 2GHz C2D is basically the same speed; a HDD’s speed depends on the filesystem, which means EXT4 in Linux beats Windows’ NTFS and Apple’s HFS.
The only thing slow about Vista is startup time. I run 7, it’s faster then XP and Vista… and OSX… and Linux at SMP with HT, otherwise it’s just as fast.

May 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm
(21) Mary Landesman says:

@random, that assumption is so incorrect it’s scary. No, malware doesn’t ask permission, and the user doesn’t have to ‘do’ something first. That’s oh so five years ago. Malware has long since evolved.

May 21, 2009 at 1:05 pm
(22) Jesse says:

random999 makes a good point with the laptop manufacturers. Your mileage may vary depending on whether you bought the laptop from Sony, Asus, HP, Toshiba, MSI, etc…

May 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm
(23) random999 says:

wrong… a computer works exactly how it is told to work. unless I’m on a compromised network (meaning that my brother sitting in the chair next to me is hacking, or someone sneaked into my house and plugged a network cable into my router that is two feet in front of me, or I did retarded crap with the router/modem settings) the only place malware can come is from the internet. thus I just have to be smart about what I download

May 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm
(24) Person says:

“and the user doesn’t have to ‘do’ something first.”

So you visit any website… boom, malware? Alert the presses, websites are insecure now! Because browsers totally don’t already tell us “Something wants to get downloaded and you didn’t ask for it, do you want to let this happen?”
The sites with malware are generally telegraphed to the point where you know it’s malware before you even click the link. And if you download malware without asking for it… well, maybe you are asking for it.

May 21, 2009 at 1:14 pm
(25) Mary Landesman says:

@Person: I think you should brush up your knowledge on how exploits work. Today’s malware seldom prompts for access – that’s a dangerous misconception.

@random: The web, the network, Internet worms, email, social engineering, autorun. So yeah, if you disconnect from the Internet and any network and don’t use autorun or at least disable it properly, then you can stop worrying. Unless you buy a netbook or a photo frame or some other device with pre-installed trojans, which are increasingly common.

May 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm
(26) Person says:

I’m sorry, but you’re sounding a lot like sensationalist media. “There is a disease out there that a few people have, and a few more people will have tomorrow, so you will have it by the end of the month.”

People who know how to Internet don’t get malware.

May 21, 2009 at 1:26 pm
(27) Mary Landesman says:

What does “know how to Internet” even mean? LOL. It takes time to properly secure a Windows computer and thinking that malware will somehow ask permission before it installs itself is incorrect. Implying that the user is somehow always at fault is also incorrect.

There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about malware; some of the comments left here demonstrate those misconceptions. If there’s any defining user behavior that points to malware infection, it is complacency brought on by misguided or outdated beliefs in what malware can or cannot do.

May 21, 2009 at 1:27 pm
(28) random999 says:

The web – I have to download it
the network – it has to be compromised (wired lan at house, impossible)
Internet worms – I have to download it
email – I have to have a email client installed on my computer, accept and open the email from an unknown person (and usually run the attachment, but not always). I use webmail so I have to download it.
social engineering – a friend or anonymous person who studies me vigorously has to trick me in to giving my password away. And he/she still only has access to my online accounts. I use firefox’s password saver (plus master password) so if phishing will never work on me. I also have to be a retard to fall for this one…
autorun – someone has to sneak into my house and plug in a flash drive to my computer, or throw in a cd without me noticing… I think I have bigger problems if someone is in my house.

Thus if I have to download it, then I can take the proper consideration of is it A) a well know site and if not B) upload to virustotal to check stuff for me.

also I’ve never heard about photo frames coming with Trojans. That would be a very good argument for you if you could provide a source. (research shows that you might be talking about network security with wifi frames… I have two desktop and no wifi, thus is not a problem. If you are talking about something else, I would love to see the link ^_^)

May 21, 2009 at 1:37 pm
(29) Mary Landesman says:

@random, you sound like a smart guy but I strongly encourage you to read up on today’s threats.

Malware spreads easily via compromised websites, using exploits to deliver the trojans silently. You won’t be prompted.

Internet and network worms also don’t prompt, they exploit vulnerabilities instead.

Social engineering isn’t just about getting you to divulge your password. For example, social engineering can trick you into clicking a link that points to a malicious or compromised site.

Autorun worms spread via fixed and removable drives. You don’t need someone to sneak into your house to plant an autorun worm.

Re: trojaned photo frames, just use your favorite search engine to look for ‘trojan picture frame’ or “Bestbuy trojan photo frame” or some derivative thereof.

Today’s malware is nothing like it was a few years ago. It is much more serious and much more surreptitious.

May 21, 2009 at 1:37 pm
(30) random999 says:

also one more thing. auto-run is automatically disabled for anything other than a cd since 7 (maybe vista, but I don’t remember… I know that xp automatically runs U3 on U3 drives, but vista doesn’t.)

Thus autorun (which was the main problem) is already fixed

May 21, 2009 at 1:42 pm
(31) random999 says:

“Malware spreads easily via compromised websites, using exploits to deliver the trojans silently. You won’t be prompted.”

How? How does it trick my computer into downloading and running something (without me asking), just by accessing a web page? I run firefox. By any chance would you know one of these site so I can visit it in a virtual machine and see the outcome?

May 21, 2009 at 1:46 pm
(32) Mary Landesman says:

You are mistaken about autorun. Vista also includes that feature. Unless you’ve disabled it or applied the final MS patch that eventually fixed it, Search on autorun and you’ll find plenty of info around this.

Likewise, just search for malware and compromised websites. You’ll find plenty of info.

May 21, 2009 at 1:55 pm
(33) V says:

“Exosus, latency due to the connection is just one part of the equation. Hardware also factors in – and in my experience, has more impact on the quality of play and the level of lag.”

No. Just… No. If the network latency is even part of the problem, no hardware in the world will change that. If your “experience” is that hardware affects your quality of play more than network latency, your understanding of the hardware involved is clearly lacking.

“The big thing though is that despite security flaws in both OS, it took me far far less time to secure the iMac and get up and running than it does to *properly* secure a PC.”

I sure hope “securing” OSX involved patching that Java exploit and doing something about the retarded permissions OSX sets on certain system-critical directories. (/Applications/ writable by the default user account – yeah, that’s really smart!) However, it didn’t, as there is no patch for that cute Java exploit. How you, a supposed security expert, can call a system with an unpatched widely publicized, trivially remotely exploitable, security hole “properly secured” is completely beyond me.

May 21, 2009 at 1:58 pm
(34) @Mary says:

Mary, you’re being trolled… and from your responses you sounds more like a secretary being t then an engineer…

Autorun does not execute since SP2, there was a security hole ages ago, but that was fixed before SP3.
That window that comes up when you put in media is a dialogue box.
Vista never had autorun on by default… not even when I was using the RC1 and RC2.

May 21, 2009 at 2:04 pm
(35) Mary Landesman says:

Network latency is only one part of the problem with the lag issues in Dal. That is a true statement. But a large part of the lag issues aren’t from network latency. And I never said network latency was solvable via hardware. Not sure where you got that impression.

There are plenty of unpatched vulnerabilities for all OS and third-party apps. I specifically stated that the notion Mac was immune to malware was ridiculous. It is, however, less time consuming to secure a Mac than it is to secure a PC, assuming you are doing either properly.

May 21, 2009 at 2:07 pm
(36) V says:

“@random: The web, the network, Internet worms, email, social engineering, autorun.”

The web:
NoScript used to protect completely against this before its author showed his true colors. Flashblock, Adblock and common sense will have to do until someone forks it.

The network:
iptables -P INPUT DROP
iptables -A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT
iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m state –state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT

Problem solved in three simple iptables rules.

Internet worms:
See “The network.”

Email:
Don’t open attachments you didn’t expect and disable HTML. This isn’t exactly rocket science.

Social engineering:
OSX neither protects you from rubber hose cryptography nor social engineering. How, exactly, do you secure your Windows box from those threats? How is that easier to do with your Mac?

Autorun:
Turning it off in Windows takes five seconds. Leaving it off in a sane Linux distribution takes zero.

May 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm
(37) Gentoo says:

“Why I Bought (Another) Mac”
Why indeed.

You claim to know security.
You’ve claimed to be knowledgeable of computers.
Yet you got an $1800 iMac.
Here; run the below.

[Removed]

May 21, 2009 at 2:15 pm
(38) Mary Landesman says:

Autorun hasn’t executed since SP2? That is blatantly incorrect. Please check your facts (especially before posting comments you intend to be condescending). And Vista also includes autorun. The feature was finally removed in the forthcoming Windows 7. Don’t take my word for it though; here’s the MS blog about it:
http://blogs.msdn.com/e7/archive/2009/04/27/improvements-to-autoplay.aspx.

May 21, 2009 at 2:25 pm
(39) vesu says:

“As for the cheap $699 laptop, I have an Acer, a Dell, and a HP laptop all in that price range. WoW won’t run on them without major lag. In fact, I used to have a $2k HP laptop that WoW ran terribly on.”
I spent $1600 on a PC seven years ago that shows WoW in it’s full cinematic glory.

Either that is the sorriest laptop ever made, or you somehow affected the performance on the software end ( Bad video drivers, inadequate memory/ page thrashing, malware)

May 21, 2009 at 2:56 pm
(40) V says:

“Network latency is only one part of the problem with the lag issues in Dal. That is a true statement. But a large part of the lag issues aren’t from network latency. And I never said network latency was solvable via hardware. Not sure where you got that impression.”

As I wrote, if network latency is even part of the problem, then it is the whole of the problem. The speed of the game is determined by the lowest common denominator, not by some kind of average speed of the components involved.

The hardware requirements of WoW are ridiculously low by today’s standards; any video card sold in the last 2-3 years will play it flawlessly (not counting laptops, but since you’re an engineer you’re undoubtedly aware that laptops do not make good gaming machines.) Similarly, any CPU from the same time period, with any amount of RAM above one gigabyte will be enough (as the real bottleneck, apart from the network, is the GPU.) I was running WoW without problems on an iBook G4 for $DEITY’s sake!

May 22, 2009 at 12:41 am
(41) vekin says:

Autorun has only displayed a prompt and asked if you wish to set a default action for inserting a disk. For a while now..

May 22, 2009 at 9:59 am
(42) Mary Landesman says:

A good place to start researching autorun and its many problems is Nick Brown’s blog post on memory stick worms. Be sure to read all the comments on his post to see how autorun and its many issues has progressed over time. Also check out the US CERT notice. As for patched versions of Vista displaying an autorun dialog prompt, that’s pretty ineffective as discussed in this SANS diary report. I recommend disabling autorun entirely. If you’re not an advanced user, autorun can be (and is) dangerous. If you are an advanced user, launching apps manually shouldn’t be any problem whatsoever.

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