Reflections after almost a year since switching to Mac

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 1:53 PM | comments: 4

OK, so it really has only been about 11 months, but with the new Parallels release yesterday, I do feel like one era has ended for me, and another has begun. Keep in mind that I'm an ASP.NET developer, I've built every one of my desktops ever, and generally well adapted to Windows, as most geeks are. That said, here are some observations. I won't say they're free of passion, because frankly the shiny metal boxes have made me enjoy using computers again.

Macs are more expensive, sort of.
Let's just get this out there now. The cost of entry into the Mac world is a little more expensive. It's just not more expensive where you think it is. Part for part, most Macs end up pricing out about the same as any Dell, give or take a hundred bucks. It's just that, unlike Dell, there are no low-end Macs. When I bought my Mac Pro a few months ago, with its dual dual-core Xeons, the equivalent Dell was actually about $50 more.

The expense for me has been in other related areas, mostly software. I had to buy Parallels so I could run Windows. I had to switch to a different off-site backup service (oddly enough, .Mac is least expensive for my needs). I did have to buy the Mac version of Office, though I admit I don't use it much. You bet I'll buy the OS X update too. Again, in terms of hardware, I feel I got more than what I paid for compared to a Windows machine, but I am paying for some quality software that I already had on Windows.

OS X is more than eye candy, it's just "better."
I have a very hard time trying to nail down why I like OS X better than Windows. Sure there is the stability, security and lack of virus threats thing, but there is something just less offensive about it. Widgets, Expose, the dock, clean lines and textures... it all just adds up. One tangible thing is the way that you don't really have to tweak it. Windows was always about getting TweakUI and doing registry hacks to make it work the way you wanted, where as I don't really do anything to OS X other than shrink the dock. Navigating the settings is so much easier.

Windows on a Mac.
The switch to Intel was huge, and the reason I own Macs today. BootCamp was a great start, Parallels rocked my world, and now with coherence, I have the best of both worlds. I doubt Visual Studio will ever ship as a Mac native version, but in this arrangement, it almost doesn't matter.

The right-click issue, delete key and scrolling.
Holding down Ctrl to do a "right-click" in certain apps is not a big deal. In Parallels you just hold the button down slightly longer to do the same thing. You get used to it. And keep in mind too that this only applies to the laptop. My Mac Pro has a standard Microsoft wireless mouse on it. I don't understand why scrolling on the touch pad, by dragging two fingers horizontal or vertical, isn't a standard feature on every laptop. It's so common sense and simple. It is weird that there is no dedicated delete key, but again, not an issue if you're using a non-Mac keyboard.

Stunning hardware design.
This is really a bigger deal than I thought. I liked my last Dell laptop, but the MacBook Pro is so elegant. It has smooth edges, it's not plastic all over, it's thin and it doesn't have ports on four sides. It feels good in your hands. I know that doesn't make it more useful, but consumer electronics devices are more appealing when they're pretty and functional.

There are some minor things I don't like, like not being able to override the sleep mode when you close the lid, but I did get over that awhile ago. It was also annoying that the initial units had those giant blobs of thermal paste that sucked at getting the heat out, but I did resolve that on my own without much drama.

Very few "What the hell is going on?" moments.
You know what I'm talking about. Those instance where Windows is churning away at you hard drive for reasons not clear to anyone. That never happens in OS X. The OS is responsive almost all of the time. Sure, there is weirdness now and then, but it's not frequent. I'm not suggesting that Windows XP isn't stable, it just does stuff that you can't explain. When I boot my Windows machine at work, it's time to go off and get a beverage or use the restroom. OS X boots quickly, without loading ten thousand little things into the task bar thingie.

Final Cut Pro.
I wanted to edit HD, and Avid's constant compatibility nonsense, dongles and daily updates got annoying. This was my first motivator for switching.

Office compatibility.
I've read of people having issues with using Windows Office documents on the Mac version, but I haven't run into any problems. Granted, I don't use it much, but I do have a Word template with crazy macros (a screenplay template) that works exactly the same without issue.

General Web compatibility.
Stuff on the Web is almost universally functional on the Mac, the only serious exception being Windows Media stuff. I don't know why Apple doesn't work out a deal to put Flip-4-Mac on pre-installed. That's the only issue that I've run into.

The included iApps.
The Apple marketing makes a lot of noise about the iLife apps. I use iTunes, obviously, and beyond that, the only one I use regularly is iPhoto. And I have to tell you, the app is awesome. I'd like it if it could do some tagging tricks more effectively, but I suppose they'd like you to buy Aperture. I played with iDVD once just to get a Windows Media file from my DVR to a DVD, and it just worked. iChat also just works, even with video chat to other Mac users. I did a three-way with the same AIM screen name I've had for almost ten years. Everything "just works" for the most part.

Crazy stuff that isn't well documented.
I learned a couple of days ago that I can type Command-Shift-4, and the cursor turns into a cross hair. Drag and lasso a part of the screen, release, hear camera shutter noise, a PNG of what you roped is created on your desktop. That's one of all kinds of things baked into OS X that I just didn't know about.

Battery life.
I generally get about three hours on a charge, which is usually adequate. That assumes of course that you aren't running your screen at full brightness. I used to get about the same on the Dell, so that sounds about right.

So overall, I'm really happy living in a Mac world. I have beautiful hardware running uncluttered UI, and I can still do the Windows stuff when I need to. I'm a happy camper.


Alex, February 28, 2007, 7:21 PM #

You are aware that you don't need to control-click on your MacBook Pro, right?

There's an option where you can rest two fingers on the trackpad while clicking to get a right click in the trackpad preferences.

Neuski, March 1, 2007, 3:44 AM #

Come on Jeff. You're better than that. ;)

Jeff, March 1, 2007, 5:03 AM #

And there you have it.

draegs, March 1, 2007, 4:49 PM #

Regarding tagging pictures in iPhoto, Keyword Assistant does a nice job of simplifying the process.

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