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Mac OS X: It just works

Mac OS X: It just works

Last week, I wrote about my re-awakening to the Mac OS X as a platform, driven largely by forces completely unrelated to enterprise IT -- I needed a computer at home after my PC died and I approached the Mac more as a "right now" solution than a right one. After a couple of weeks with the Mac and OS X, I'm pretty close to being a convert. As I said last week, I'm not ready to do a mass migration at InfoWorld, but OS X is definitely on my enterprise radar now.

To temper some of my own breathlessness about OS X, I think it's fair to point to one issue that could affect enterprise deployment: The fundamentals of the UI are not necessarily straightforward for users accustomed to Windows so it's not safe to assume that the Mac is automatically "easier" for everyone, at least at first. The OS X Dock takes some getting used to for those used to the Windows Start menu, After putting my wife (a daily Windows XP user) in front of Mac OS X and watching unforeseen frustrations develop, I realized that I had made a classic IT mistake: putting a new system in front of a user and expecting that person to just figure it out. In the larger scheme of IT, introducing OS X into a non-OS X shop is still a disruptive change.

Any negatives aside, there are some specific technology issues that Mac OS X addresses really well. Perhaps the most compelling reason to consider Mac OS X is astoundingly simple: It's a Unix-based system that runs software such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. First and foremost, overall security is much easier to tackle than with Windows. In an era of Blaster and Sobig.F empowering desktops to wreak serious havoc, security issues might be the most important of all. If you search Bugtraq for vulnerabilities, you'll find some for Mac OS X, but the vast majority of these vulnerabilities are shared with Linux and BSD, which means the fixes are generally available through the ultra-efficient open source bug-fixing machinethat I've grown to trust over the years. The Software Update tool in OS X makes it easy to retrieve and install updates at your discretion.

While IT typically pays the most attention to achieving "five nines" uptime of their server hardware and software, desktops get little attention. Yet, desktop system freezes and reboots exact a high price for individual productivity. My Mac OS X system hasn't crashed a single time since I got it up and running over two weeks ago. When Internet Explorer froze on me, I started a terminal session, ran top, noticed that IE was chewing up a lot of CPU time, and ran a good ol' Unix kill on the process -- back in business.

The "it just works" quality of Mac OS X also saves a lot of time and frustration -- what your pro-Mac friends and colleagues have been telling you is definitely true. Several months ago, I bought a 120GB external FireWire hard drive for my home PC to use as a backup device. After about a month, my PC stopped recognizing the drive, so I tried the drive with another PC at work and the same thing happened. I foolishly lost my receipt for the expensive but still-warrantied drive, so I was stuck. Enter the Mac -- I plugged the drive into my G4 and it worked immediately. This is what makes Mac OS X so compelling: With decimated IT staffs getting slammed from without (Sobig.F) and within (frustrated end-users), something that just works is downright refreshing.

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