Is there more interest in Macs?
I am often asked about Mac myths in conversation or the increasing number of e-mails I receive each week. This in itself is one indicator of the growing interest in the platform: Macs and OS X. Of course, I am also told that "no one uses Macs".
Sales may have diminished a few years back, and in Thailand there was an elitist market then. Much has changed in the last five years: throughout the world and in the Thai market.
One way in which I gauge this is the number of shops that cater specifically to the platform in Bangkok and (less so) in the provinces. Here the number of retail outlets has increased. As each requires a substantial investment, a decision to open new shops is not taken lightly.
There are areas which have yet to reach their potential. Most stores are in the central area, with a couple of exceptions: northern Bangkok has only a couple of shops; while the Thonburi side, with its huge population, has none.
I have also found clues closer to home. A number of teachers I know on International programs have switched to Macs, but now also some at the Engineering Faculty where I work: one of whom has used Windows, Linux and Unix for years. He tells me that he now does 60% on OS X on his Intel iMac, and the rest on its Windows installation. He has also begun to explore new OS X software.
The student population has also long been a Windows-only user-base, but this year a number of students are now Mac owners. Last week I found another: a Mechanical Engineering student with a new MacBook. I asked one why he had bought his iBook and he told me that he was fed up with viruses.
For the last couple of years, doom merchants have been predicting that Macs will eventually succumb to the virus problem that plagues Windows operating systems. They claim that, as the platform became more popular, so those with malicious ideas would turn their attentions to OS X. I am still waiting.
Not that any regular user of Macs is complacent. I urge Mac owners to work in a password-protected environment. The norm is for an Administrator account to be used. Although I have such an account (OS X does not work without this), I do all my work, including software installation, from an ordinary user's account, entering the Administrator details when prompted. With rigid maintenance schedules run through software, and not letting others run loose on my computers (it is easy to create and later delete a limited account), I have several G4 Macs running without problems.
Some people claim that Mac users should use a virus checker because of mail attachments and in case these are forwarded to others. Like those in the Windows world, messages that include files are dealt with carefully, usually by dumping them in the trash. Mail is not forwarded automatically.
If the sender is known to me, I examine the file type and the mail message itself before opening. I have examined suspect files with a text editor just to see what these packages look like.
A file that needs to execute a process cannot install itself without the express permission (via password) of the Administrator account owner; and .exe files do not work at all. This inability to install software has frustrated some of the students who use my Mac minis at work, where I guard the disk, the passwords and accounts like Cerberus (the dog who sat at the gates of Hades): but I run clean machines.
Like other operating systems, OS X may be liable to attack through exploits that probe for weaknesses. When discovered, they are plugged. Apple usually sends out Security Updates a short time after a discovery, depending on the level of risk.
A few weeks ago at the Black Hat Conference, a weakness in Airport (WiFI) was alleged. Those carrying out the demonstration did not use Apple wifi hardware in the attack, and did not apparently contact Apple. When the allegations surfaced, Apple had a look anyway and carried out what they call "an internal audit." They checked to make sure. Consequently, there was a release of updates for the Airport security: either a Security Update or an Airport update depending on the hardware and build of OS X installed.
Macs (and OS X) are now far more widspread than they have been for years and with good reason. Once people moving to the platform have grown used to differences in working styles, they find that they are saving time by not having constantly to protect their machines from virus attacks, and by not needing to reinstall the operating system (with all the hoops that this requires) as often, or indeed at all.
My PowerBook has never been off in two years and has never crashed.
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