Mac or PC ?

Tim Cutts tjrc1 at cus.cam.ac.uk
Mon Nov 21 07:51:55 EST 1994

dehais at next9.lirmm.fr (Patrice DEHAIS) writes:

>It s just for an opinion poll.

>I work in a laboratory specialized in genetics. We have to change all  
>our old personal computers (old PC running DOS) and buy new machines. 

>Now with Windows, the two environments are both user friendly. But  
>today, is there more good useful software in genetics for PC/Windows or  
>for Mac ? And what about tomorrow ? 

We are unfortunately at a crossroads, and I do not envy your position.
In general, I think there are probably more science-oriented programs
for the PC, mostly because of its superiority as a data collection
tool (there are lots of hardware addons for PCs for real-time data
collection, which are not really available for Macs).  This only has
an indirect effect on biological studies, since such measurements are
not often made in our fields.

The Mac is probably still more user-friendly, but there are places
that both stand out.

In favour of the Mac:

The PowerPC is a well future-proofed technology, compared to the 68040
based older Macs, so go for these if you decide on a Mac.  They may
not be as fast as the best 68040 macs, but once the native software
comes out, they'll be faster, and you will have a choice of operating
systems; MacOS (as now), and probably Windows NT and Workplace OS
and/or Taligent, the upcoming products from IBM/Apple for the PowerPC.

Microsoft are really buggering about with Windows at the moment, and I
don't really trust them any more.

PowerPC is much better value in terms of power per dollar, than a
Pentium PC.  The newly announced PowerPC chip is also three times as
fast as a 90MHz Pentium, so watch this space! 

Macintosh'es will be able to read your PC disks.  And PowerMacs can
run most PC software, although very slowly.

In favour of the PC:

Much more flexible in terms of your individual hardware requirements.
You can easily choose your PCs in terms of the sort of RAM, hard disk,
backup, video and so on that you want.

You already use DOS PC's, so it's sensible to stick with them for that

More flexible (at the moment) in terms of operating systems.  Windows
you already know about.  Unlike the Macintosh, there is a wide variety
of powerful true multitasking operating systems available.  Windows NT
is the best known, though I personally favour OS/2, of the commercial
bunch, and even Unix.  Unix is available quite cheaply these days
(even for free, in some cases, like Linux or FreeBSD), and there is a
lot of genetics analysis software for Unix, such as the GCG and Staden

I think the PC is also superior for connectivity.  Networking
macintoshes is expensive, unless you buy an expensive macintosh with
built-in ethernet.  If you will need to connect to remote hosts (for
example, my groups use an SGI machine running the Staden and GCG
packages), the PC stands out.  I can use my PC as a dedicated
X-terminal to the remote machine.  My fellow lab workers on their
macintoshes cannot.  There are X servers for Macs, but they are
supposed to be awful.  After all, X requires three mouse buttons, so
you're onto a loser from the word go...

Also, other software.  Microsoft is now the established king of the
applications software world.  They obviously push their own system
first, so all their Mac software is usually lagging a bit behind the
Windows version.  Just something to consider.

In summary:

So you see that what you choose depends on your precise needs.  I am
biassed towards PCs, and I admit it.  But I see the advantages of the
Mac, especially the new ones.  The decision is difficult.  Microsoft,
the current masters, are dithering, and IBM's OS/2 could fill the gap.
Apple and IBM are possibly going different ways over the PowerPC, but
no-one knows.  It's a real mess.  Good luck with your choice!



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