For all of you who are using the occasion of Window Vista’s release to rekindle old Mac-vs-PC flames, I suggest you take a little time to read Jeff Atwood’s post from yesterday. I don’t think I can agree with him strongly enough; while I live my life surrounded by computers (literally — a half-dozen in the home, a research career centered around them, a few hobbies dependent on them), they certainly are enormous pains in the ass half the time.

Take this weekend, when I found myself in the basement at my workbench and needed to look something up on the web. My old laptop — a Powerbook G4 I haven’t used in a few months — was sitting on top of the workbench, so I opened it up and launched Firefox. The first thing I was greeted with was “Firefox is now installing all your updates”; that process ended up taking nearly three minutes to complete. During this, I launched Safari, but as I was typing in the address bar, a window popped up alerting me to a slew of operating system updates waiting to be downloaded and installed. I ignored that, searched for and found the tool manual I was looking for, and clicked on the link to the PDF, after which I was greeted with a warning from Acrobat Reader telling me that the file had features that were too new to be supported in that version of the application. It was five or ten minutes of sheer frustration, all in the name of finding a freaking piece of information on the web.

Jeff is right on when he says that these days, the best electronic devices out there are special-purpose ones that do a small handful of things incredibly well; the more functionality and geegaws a manufacturer adds to a device, the less stable, reliable, and usable that device will be. And when push comes to shove, all these devices are just tools, and they matter far, far less than what we do with them. In Jeff’s words:

That’s the other problem with the Mac vs. PC debate: it completely misses the point. Computers aren’t couture, they’re screwdrivers. Your screwdriver rocks, and our screwdriver sucks. So what? They’re screwdrivers. If you really want to convince us, stop talking about your screwdriver, and show us what you’ve created with it.