Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Keeping it simple: computers & blogging software

I am (by constraint) using a MAC to post for the next couple of weeks. It is amazing these clumsy, clunky fiendishly obscure toys survive when the modern PC offers such convincing competition - simpler, cheaper and very robust with modern operating systems such as XP or Vista. It is testimony to the extent that dislike of Microsoft and Bill Gates can distort people's tastes. I have witnessed the anger colleagues feel for Microsoft and the wholly unnatural love MAC owners feel for their machines. But, even ignoring the economics that favour PCs, I still think PCs are easier to use. Maybe a couple of weeks forced use will improve my MAC ability.

While I am on it there are strange preferences for blogging software as well. The adult software to use is widely seen to be WordPress. The kiddie level software that I have used without hitch for nearly two years is Blogger. But from my perspective - having tried both systems - anything you can do in WordPress you can do far more simply in Blogger. I always assumed that WordPress offered advantages if you ran a site with enormous volumes of traffic to monitor. But I notice that Greg Mankiw's excellent blog, which has upwards of 14,000 posts per day, operates more efficiently than smaller blogs that use WordPress.

For example, among Wordpress users, Larvatus Prodeo seems to be having an endless maintenance problem - it attributes these to right-wing inspired 'spam' attacks but I wonder if these lefties don't worry about Liberal Party agents spiking their cornflakes. There are also recurring problems presenting themselves at John Quiggin's blog and Troppo.

So until someone convinces me to make the switch, with clear evidence of enhanced capabilities from doing so, I'll continue to blog on a PC using Blogger. Just keeping it simple.


conrad said...

Actually, I'm running Windows Vista, and its crap (its slow and lots of software doesn't work well with it). Stick to XP. I aree with the Mac stuff -- its amazing what marketing can do.

hc said...

I have switched to Vista Ultimate everywhere outside my workplace and it runs well.

I think you need 2 MB RAM to get any sort of speed.

I haven't come across software incompatibilities.

kipwatson said...

It's adolescent of me to get involved in Computer-wars, but I'm just really surprised that an intelligent person such as yourself would have such a blind spot towards Macs.

Is it so surprising that, as in every other field of technology high and low, different models of computers have 'evolved' to suit the needs of different target markets, and that for those in certain industries there are differences in the Mac architecture and interface that are not childish and unnecessary baubles for dupes dumb enough to be sucked in by slick marketing, but are in fact rationally selected technologies upon which our livelihoods depend?

For example, after nearly 2 decades, Microsoft has still not deigned to fix the problems that existed in its first generation of Windows software that make it unsuitable for document production in the industry in which I have worked during that time, while year by year improved Apple has improved its products.

Of course, if you're outside these industries, and one of those to whom Microsoft Excel and Windows Media are the pinnacle of technology, you would be unaware of the differences.

A fool thinks he knows everyone else's job (and I know you're not a fool). Shouldn't an economist have greater awareness of such things?

hc said...

kip, You are right - my viewpoint is that of an individual user who blogs, does word-processing, uses Excel and runs a few 'quant programs like Mathematica.

I know the MAC is strong in specialised printing applications.

TJW said...

"...I wonder if these lefties don't worry about Liberal Party agents spiking their cornflakes."

LOL you're a character.

As for Wordpress, I really like it. I blog mainly to clarify my own thoughts and no one really visits so it's not like I have an over-abundance of activity to worry about. I like playing around with the themes such as the 'magazine' style one I'm presently using, something Blogger doesn't allow. The 'plugins' for Wordpress allow things like proper footnotes in your posts. In fact, most Wordpress sites I visit don't use more than a fraction of it's potential.

As far as Windows versus OSX I haven't ever had the cash to consider a Mac and I'm a gamer so it wouldn't make sense anyway. For those without the funds to buy a proper Mac there's a thing called OSX86 (http://www.osx86project.org/) that allows people to use PC hardware to run OSX. It will only ever be a small percent of users but it's not something Apple would be that happy with (you still legally purchase the OS so it's not illegal but then again maybe it violates the Terms of Service-type agreement) because they charge a premium on the hardware to make their money.

gilmae said...

The challenge for LP, Troppo, &c is not the software they use but that they have chosen to administer it themselves. While I am quite certain Jacques knows what he is doing over at Troppo, he is also enrolled in full-time study; god knows who is doing all the work at LP. Whoever it is, it goes without saying that they simply can't compete with the resources Google is prepared to throw at the problem of hosting all those Blogger blogs.

Matt Canavan said...

You haven't mentioned security Harry. I got sick of paying near a $100/year plus a lot of my time to protect Windows.

I've switched to Linux (specifically Ubuntu). And though it has been a steep learning curve, it's been fun, and I'm reaping the benefits now.

Also, wordpress can do Latex math.

kipwatson said...

Sorry to get hot under the collar.

Apart from their usual publishing capability, the greatest thing about the new Macs is that they are basically user-friendly Unix.

It's a cinch to set up Apache/PHP/SQL on a Mac (or Linux for that matter), and run any of the 'blog packages on your own computer, experiment to your heart's content, and when satisfied synch up with your on-line 'blog.

I like WordPress, which is reasonably powerful but easy to adapt.

Jacques Chester said...

I use a Mac as my main work machine -- these days it's a good choice for programmers. You get the unix command line, a nice GUI and decent app support compared to Linux. In terms of not liking it, I reckon it's just a matter of familiarity.

I hate Wordpress, but mostly because I hate the way the project itself is run. They make a big song and dance about being responsive to user needs but to be honest it's all bollocks. I have to fix things at Troppo pretty frequently, and most of the problems are due to Wordpress.

On the other hand, using a privately installed package gives me enormous flexibility to customise. We run about a dozen plugins at Troppo and some of those I have customised to suit our circumstances. I wouldn't be able to do half of what I do on a hosted service like Blogger - or Wordpress.com for that matter!

As usual, I guess the moral of the story is "horses for courses".

Yobbo said...

Wordpress used to be a lot more flexible than it is now.

Don't listen to the Mac maniacs Harry. Any advantage Macs had over PCs was gone 5 years ago. The only reason to shell out extra for a Mac now is to be seen as part of the cool crowd, it's like buying a Prius.

And you still pay approxiamately double the price for a similarly specced mac compared to a PC.

Jacques Chester said...


Can you prove that statement please?

Yobbo said...


* 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme
* 2GB memory
* 500GB hard drive1
* 8x double-layer SuperDrive
* ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB memory

A$ 3,339.00

Dell Core 2 Duo:

C2d 2.66
3gb ram
24" monitor
500gb HD



Iain Hall said...

As some one else has already said the problem for bloggers using WordPress is actually confined to bloggers like LP who decide to use their own domain and server. and this especially so when they decide to extensively customise the format. LP has gone of the air a number of times purely because they don't pay for enough bandwidth and on a high traffic blog this is a deadly mistake. their LP in exile has run faultlessly on the free hosting provided by WordPress.
I am an unabashed fan Of WP for so many reasons but top of the list is the tools that they provide,little things like their stats more flexible picture posting even their commenting system and spam protection far exceed the offerings of Blogger.(you don't need the very annoying and rather useless word verification for instance and you can block annoying trolls as well)
I exclusivity used blogger for about a year and it is simple but it is also limited.

Anonymous said...

Arguments about PCs and Macs are invariably silly, and almost invariably end with a silly price comparison. It's like watching some guy who's bought a Hyundai bang on about how his car gets him from A to B, just like some other guy's BMW. Funny stuff. Yobbo, the problem with the Dell is that the average punter has to run Windows or, heaven forbid, Linux. In terms of consumer welfare, that easily accounts for the price differential, don't you think?

Yobbo said...

Yobbo, the problem with the Dell is that the average punter has to run Windows or, heaven forbid, Linux. In terms of consumer welfare, that easily accounts for the price differential, don't you think?

No, windows is fine.

The only people who dislike it are mac freaks. 95% of the world's computer users are quite happy with windows.

I personally have never understood what's not to like.

Like I said there was a time when Macs did certain things a lot better than PCs, but that time ended about when Windows 98 was released.

The only justification for paying double the price now is that you have an irrational hatred of Windows and/or Bill Microsoft. It's no coincidence that most Mac users are also lefties, the main reason people hate Windows is because Bill Gates is the richest man in the world.

Jacques Chester said...


Well spotted. Prices were almost identical when I got my imac.

I would note that there are differences between the two you gave -- the imac is using the C2D-extreme at 2.8Ghz compared to a regular C2D at 2.66Ghz. Also the imac has better graphics hardware.

To be honest, from here on in I think we're just arguing about personal preferences.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, 95% of computer users are happy with Windows. Keep it up, Yobbo. Stockholm syndrome is always a little tragic. Paying double the price is worth if I can avoid Microsoft's terrible products (wait, irrational hatred kicking in, make that 'Micro$ofts' terrible products). As it happens, MacBook laptops are (or at least were) price-competitive with comparable Dells/HPs, etc.

hc said...

I've got to say I agree with Yobbo on this one. Windows - in fact since Windows 95 - has been a stable and reliable operating system. I've also found Internet Explorer works well and I've never understood the complaints about it either.

I think Yobbo is right - the criticisms seem directed at the rich guy or Microsoft which has made a pile of dough.

When I ask my colleagues who hate Windows so much why they do so they splutter and mumble things that suggest to me their core opposition is that it makes things too easy. But that's why I like it.

hc said...

In comment 2 I said 2MB, I obviously mean 2GB.

Jacques Chester said...

"Windows - in fact since Windows 95 - has been a stable and reliable operating system."

I suspect you don't drive your computer very hard, then. The Windows 9x series relied heavily on luck. If you had well-behaved software, you might get away with it. If you ran more than a few programs at a time, well ...

The NT-derived Windows series are much more stable, though from NT 4 through to Windows Server 2003 they had a famous problem with the GUI code & drivers living in kernel space. This is tech talk for "faster but dangerous". Windows Vista has somewhat returned to the original Dave Cutler vision for Windows NT and apparently Windows Server 2008 is the bee's knees.

Honestly though, you can make any commercial operating system unusable or unstable. Just today I discovered a "fork bomb" condition in Wordpress which could bring Linux, OS X or Windows to their knees in a few minutes. It certainly stuff Troppo up good.

James said...

Yobbo: At a glance, the A$ 2,599.00 imac is more comparable to the dell. Plus (or minus) the education discount. And the laptops are much more price-competitive. Windows: "The only people who dislike it are mac freaks." - I disagree, I'm a linux freak who dislikes it. Also solaris freaks, but they can be safely ignored.

hc: the problem with IE is it leaves you more exposed and vulnerable than a drunk naked person bending over.

Robert Merkel said...


Two corrections on LP's situation:

1) we don't think that the spamming has anything to with politics of any kind. As I said at the time, see Hanlon's Razor.

2) Our tardiness at setting up is due to the fact that LP runs a fairly extensively customized Wordpress theme. Updating this to cope with the updated Wordpress version has taken a while, mainly due to the unavailability of key people at key times. Furthermore, we want all the bells and whistles configured before we move back.

Oh, and you're all heathens. Everybody should be using OpenBSD.

Anonymous said...

OMG, Harry,
I can't believe you call yourself an economist and decry consumers' taste for variety: MACs and PCs are valued by different people for different reasons. The consumer is sovereign and we don't need boneheads like you and Yobbo telling us what our preferences should be. Its just like the right wing to proclaim love of individual and consumer choice, but then to turn around and criticize it when it doesn't fit their preferences.

Anonymous said...


On the Internet Explorer thing -- there are two different strands here.

(1) User experience: I reckon about 80% of people who initially switched away from IE to another browser did it for one reason -- tabbed browsing. Sounds strange, but it's true. Why do you think that was one of the most touted features of IE 7?

Even today, if you are a "power browser" (10+ windows open at once) Firefox is so much more efficient at managing and switching between lots of tabs, performing quick searches, and so on.

It's also easily customizable to a ridiculous extent which IE just can't match at the moment.

(2) Web design: If you've ever had to design web pages that work for IE, you'll understand why people say "f#&$!ng IE" a lot. Simple layout instructions still break for no good reason, even in the most recent versions.

I swear, I spend at least three times as long finding and fixing IE layout bugs then I do designing a web page that works with every other browser in existence in the first place!

Yobbo said...

James: The $2600 Imac would require upgrades to RAM, HD size and processor speed to be equivalent.

If you bought these upgrades for a PC you would be looking at about another $300. For a mac they would be more expensive again, but by how much I'm not sure.

And let's not forget that buying a boxed Dell is already more expensive than a no-brand clone, which work just as well (but are more confusing to order for amateur users).

You could knock about $250-300 off the Dell's price to get an equivalent home-brand system.