truth about what is stability.
Stability is the ability to come
in and use your computer and make it do what you want -
without unpredictable results. It is when you can get
work done consistently and reliably.
Stability is not just one thing - it is a collection of
lots of issues that make up the whole. Stability is not one
technology (like memory protection or preemption) - it is a
collection of all the things that make the system work the
way you want it to.
I have had many users tell me that "WinNT never crashes".
Then I pointed out that the mouse or keyboard would not work
until I rebooted, or the blue screen of death, or that an
application would quit on me for no reason (and take data
with it), or that the system would suddenly slow to a crawl
until I rebooted, or if I changed a setting or tried to
install something the whole system would break. Some
installs could do such evil things to the system that it
requires a total reinstall of the System. The response -
"Oh, that's not technically crashing".
Well if it doesn't work or it is not usable, or I can't
make the system do what I want, predictably, then it
is NOT stable - it is touchy as hell, and I don't like
Note: I do find
WinNT to be far more stable than Win95, if you can get by
it's configuration quirks, and work only with a small
sub-set of hardware and software choices. But it is just
not the panacea that many claim. It is a mortal System
with more than a few flaws.
Here are a few of the things I factor in to platform
- Installation - for a System to be stable you must be
able to install it, or install an application and have it
work. Windows (NT or 95) gives you many unnecessary
parameters to enter, and if you get any of them wrong
they your system may not work - or not work the way you
want it to. That is not stability. On installs there is
often no verification - and it'll overwrite stuff if you
do anything wrong. It is not stability when you can't
touch it or it might break, or if you can't get it to
work in the first place.
- Configurability - often you want to change something,
or have something work differently for different people.
The MacOS does this really well. Mac users are often
too willing to change things, because they get bit
so infrequently. Windows
users are often scared to death to touch anything -
because when ever they do their system comes crashing
down, and they have to reinstall, or get support people
to help them. Now technically it may be stable if you
don't touch it - but to me stability includes working
even when you do touch it.
- Upgradability - part of stability is what happens
when you upgrade (with computers you must often upgrade -
more often with PC's than with Macs) . There are books
and articles on Windows voodoo, and getting things to
work, and how to upgrade and keep things working. On
windows users are forced into upgrading often, and users
often dread the upgrades (for good reasons). On a Mac
people often can (and do) work with much older Software
or hardware if they want - but users are also willing to
upgrade because they so infrequently get bit (unless it
is a MS application).
- Consistency - this is critical to stability. If you
do something wild like drag a file around - you expect
consistent results. On Windows dragging some files will
make a shortcut of the file (if its an app), other times
it will move the file, and still other times it will copy
that file. That is not going to give a user a feeling of
"stability". Things are inconsistent -- the user is
always on "unstable" ground.
- Predictability - Users are often scared to do
anything "new" on windows because they can't predict the
results. (If they are not scared they are inexperienced,
give them time and they will learn to be scared to try
anything new). Sometimes dragging a file to the trash
will automatically delete that file for you <poof>,
that'll teach you to leave something resting on the
keyboard. Also dragging thing to the trash will take them
out of their folder hierarchy for you (ha! try to
remember where it came from). That is not predictable
behavior - and users feel like they are always on shaky
ground. Users never know what will happen -- that is the
opposite of stability.
- Memory Protection - This is a technique to help make
your system stable, but it does not guarantee stability
in and of itself. Macs have some memory protection, Win95
has some, and WinNT has a bit more than either of those
-- Unix, BeOS and Rhapsody may have the most of all. But
protection is only part of the issue. It often means that
apps crash more often - but the system crashes less.
Usually this is better for the user, sometimes it is
worse. Memory Protection does not have much to do with
application stability at all (which is often a seperate
issue) - but at least it does have a little to do with
- Application Quality - This is a biggy. How stable
are the applications, and how likely to come down, or
bring the System down. Mac Apps are usually much more
stable than PC apps (especially 16bit PC apps - which is
still about 70% of the software base). If you factor out
Microsoft apps on the Mac, then the Mac Apps are much
much more stable than PC apps.
- Viri - PC's have 100 times more problems with Virus's
than Macs (I think the score is 35 on the Mac side, to
16,000+ on the PC side). This contributes to PC's
instabilities. While technically it may not be the
that costs you weeks of work - it is still the platforms
problem. Macs have almost no problems with virus's, and I
don't have to waste much time with virus protection. That
is a big part of stability.
So you can see that the Mac are far more stable than they
are given credit for. Microsoft has convinced users that the
system hanging or wasting time reconfiguring, or fixing
virus's, or restoring work after it was destroyed, or
reinstalling your System monthly is not part of stability -
they want users to only focus on memory protection. Mac
users know better. Mac users know that stability is a
combination of many different things - it is how well there
system works overall, how free they are to change things and
focus on doing work, instead of being focused on the tool.
That is why Mac users know that their system is stable
(compared to Windows) -- and also why Windows users don't
know how stable the Mac is.
Now don't get me wrong. There is no such thing as too
much stability, and Macs are not perfect -- and PC's are not
THAT unstable. There is certainly room for improvement with
all the OS's. I am looking forward to Apples Rhapsody
and releases of MacOS (Allegro, Sonata and so on) -- all
improve stability even more. On the Mac new OS releases are
steps forward -- but with PC's those steps may be forward or
backward (many users are bit hard by upgrading).
When it comes to stability I know that on my Mac I can do
more, change more, play more, work more, and fear less -
than on my Windows95 or even my WindowsNT machines. That to
me is stability.