Why I Am A Windows Enthusiast
Many people are enthusiastic about what they do and there is nothing wrong with that; assuming you're not a serial killer or similar, enthusiasm can only be a good thing. In the tech/computer world that generally means some piece of hardware, an application, an operating system or some combination of them. Nothing wrong with a bit of enthusiasm or passion for a particular piece of tech but, when you take that belief to an extreme where you can no longer look objectively at those who prefer other things, you have become biased and may even have entered the world of evangelism.

It's clear that I grew up on the wrong side of somebody's fence because I like Windows and, in the computer industry, the most despised hardware platform is the PC and the most hated company is Microsoft. Despite being the world's greatest philanthropist, Bill Gates was (perhaps still is) regarded as something akin to the anti-Christ and the Windows operating system was his bastard child, the spawn of hell itself. Do you think I'm exaggerating? If you hang around computer support forums as I do it won't be long before you see someone refer to Microsoft as some variant of M$ or Windows as "Windoze". Initially, I found it curious, but over time I began to realise that there were similarities between those intensely critical of my favoured computing platform and religious extremists. In the very same way fundamentalist theists sought to destroy the theory of evolution, the evangelists of Linux and Apple sought to tear down the foundations of those who just preferred to use the most popular operating system of the day, Windows. With wry amusement, I began to realise that the things the haters hated were almost always near the top of their field and that if you stripped away the self-righteous indignation and the claims of superiority, all that remained was indistinguishable from envy.

I've spent most of my life around computers. I studied Applied Biology to degree level back in the early Eighties and I was amongst the first people at my university to type up a dissertation myself. I used an ancient CPM80 based Horizon NorthStar computer while my fellows paid secretaries to do the same. From that point on, computers were in my blood; for good or ill, they had me hooked. Finishing my degree, the very first thing I wanted was a computer of my own; within a year, I was a proud owner of a Commodore VIC20. I read every computer magazine I could get my hands on, progressing through several machines including a Sinclair Spectrum (hated it) a Commodore 16, an Oric and an Apple IIe. With the launch of the Amstrad PC1512, my future solidified as I discovered the joys of upgrading. In parallel with successive generations of MS-DOS, Windows 3x, 9x and so through to today's Windows 10, I upgraded my PC hardware ultimately reaching undreamed heights of the Intel core series with 16GB RAM. That seems like nothing now but I remember when I paid £200 for two 200MB drives (that's MEGABYTE not TERABYTE like the drives we have now). I tried various alternate operating systems but, again, never quite got them but, of all of the alternates I tried, the one I was most attracted to was Linux. I even stuck with SuSE Linux for a whole six months before finally giving up and returning to an operating system I felt I could do stuff with.

My interest in computing and education combined to push me into pharmaceutical computing and from then the die was cast. I've worked in computer programming and support until my retirement a couple of years ago. While familiar with laptops, tablets and phones, I have never stopped building and upgrading computers and use my skills to run, Rocksquad Computers home computer support. I still try alternative operating systems (hardware is more problematic due to cost) and have installed many varieties (they're known as "distros") of Linux on my computers. It's a unique experience; I want to learn, I even follow some tutorials to try, but nowadays I almost always end up staring at the pretty desktop for a time before shutting it down and going back to Windows. Still, I've learned a great deal and usually, what I don't know, I can figure out and it would be a lie to say I have accepted claims to Windows' supposed inadequacy with complacency. I believe that those who claim Windows to be somehow inferior are wrong and I will likely continue to take that stance until the day I am provided with reasonable evidence to persuade me of their view; to date no one has.

I will not apologise for favouring both Windows & the PC platform … it's flexible over an extensive range of hardware, it's easy to learn and it has a lot of excellent software & games. Opensource software is one type of free software; an awful lot of it is good, sometimes even excellent, but there is more (quite a lot, in my opinion) that is poor or what I would call "half-arsed". Still, I make no secret of the software I tend to use; outside of my one main staple, Microsoft Office, I use almost exclusively free/opensource software - it's all about choosing the right stuff and figuring out what is or is not any good.

Windows is the operating system most choose or end up with by default and, naturally enough, that has led to a significant support structure. It's easy to find books, local experts, IT professionals, manufacturers of software & hardware and even companies dealing specifically in support. That means that it is relatively easy to find solutions to all but the most uncommon of problems and tasks.

The most popular commercial alternative operating system to Windows is Apple's OSX used on its iMac and Mac Pro series of computers. Apple computers, laptops and desktops, run the OSX operating system and my experience of it is limited. I'm trying to change that, running it as a virtual instance and trying to repair a recently inherited but broken all-in-one Apple system. While I am interested enough to learn about it, perhaps even admit I've been wrong all along, I doubt that I could ever be a true enthusiast.

There are several reasons why I think that:

  • Local Support: From what I can tell, it's challenging to get reasonably priced local support. Local and internet-based PC support is relatively easy to find.
  • Community: Unlike the PC community, most people who buy Macs seem non-technical and unable to solve major issues with their computer. The majority of PC users seem to know something about their computer at least, enough for specialists like me to talk them through solving common issues.
  • Hardware: As a consequence of Apple locking down its system in a proprietary fashion, the hardware is often expensive. IBM failed to do this, which allowed the PC to become the de-facto open-standard, so today there is far greater choice and economy in the PC arena.
  • Upgrades: Outside of relatively simple procedures such as RAM and disk drives, I get the impression it isn't straightforward to upgrade a Mac while most PC desktops are reasonably easy to upgrade. In practice, this forces the user towards a new machine and, last time I checked, the Apple Mac Pro (purchased directly from Apple) costs around £5500 while a top of the range MacBook costs about half that amount.
  • Software: There was a time when there were things only an Apple system could do, such as desktop publishing and music processing. These days one can source extremely high-spec compatible PCs able to anything high-end Apple systems can do.

I'm not saying that Apples aren't better than PCs, my experience precludes such a generalisation. Mac aficionados claim the Mac is faster yet PCs are flexible and it isn't that hard to buy a machine with dual (or even quad) CPUs, 64Gb of Ram, dual graphics cards and more besides yet still pay less than for a high-spec Apple. The claim that Macs include features and capabilities that don't exist on PC's may have been valid in the nineties but is harder to justify today. The majority of Apple applications and games have been ported from Mac to PC (presumably because of the profit that stands to be made on the PC) and anything you could once do only on an Apple, can now be done on a PC.

The humble PC might not be the best in all respects but there are far more applications, games and other software (including educational) available to it than to any other platform. It can run Windows or Linux and recent reports suggest that Windows may soon gain the ability to run Linux applications directly without resorting to virtualisation. Windows is by far the most popular operating system making it the "platform of choice" for developers; more software, often cheaper and better than other costed platform equivalents, gets written for it. Many companies that once wrote exclusively for the Mac have now ported their products to the PC including the infamous Mac desktop publishing program, Quark. PCs are the most common computing platform in science, business and education. The latter is a significant change from a time when most educational establishments used the BBC micro and reputedly led to businesses complaining that they had to detrain/retrain new staff to use PCs running real-world applications.

The Apple computing system remains a competent yet expensive computing platform and it may well be that there remain some tasks at which it is hard to beat. However, whatever strengths the Apple platform once had have now largely disappeared and it has consistently failed to be the Windows beating platform its evangelists claim it to be. Similarly, Linux has some advantages over Windows; however, in practice, the complex nature of the operating system makes it harder to market to ordinary people.

Ultimately, I use and prefer Windows because it works on a wide variety of hardware, because there is excellent advanced support when I need it and because I want to spend my time using it not trying to make things work.

Rocksquad Computers (RSQ) is a Faversham based company offering high quality web design services and IT support to home & small business users.

RSQ's mission is to design & build custom websites, support client IT problems, ensure problems are properly evaluated and, once work is agreed, commit to no further charges without client approval. In that respect, RSQ aims to leave the client with a full solution.

RSQ was founded by James Rocks, a Microsoft Certified System's Engineer with over 30 years of experience supporting Windows.


Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
Dave Bowman (2001: A Space Odyssey)