Mac-curious

I’ve been Mac-curious for a while, I guess.

All of the cool kids have one.

At Kiwi Foo Camp earlier this year there were so many Apples it was like an orchard!

What was I missing out on?

I’ve been using Windows ever since I bought my first PC in 19961994. I didn’t (and don’t) consider Windows to be broken. On top of that I was obviously at the back of the queue when they handed out the Apple kool-aid … I still don’t even own an iPod.

But, they say a change is as good as a holiday, so I took the opportunity when I moved to Xero to try switching.

A month in and I’m hooked.

I have found that most of my assumptions were wrong.

For starters, I was surprised to find that it didn’t cost much more. I priced up a Dell and sent the details to a couple of Apple fanboys. The challenge for them was to convince me to buy an Apple instead. Actually it was pretty easy for them. I’d always assumed that Macs were more expensive. While it’s true that you can buy a much cheaper PC, when you compare like with like (Apples with not-Apples?) there is not a great difference.

OS X has been a surprise too.

I didn’t expect to rave about an operating system.

And I know that there are lots of people who don’t like it. Phil for one has taken the time to document the specific things that frustrated him.

But, I love it. It took me a few weeks to get through the valley of despair – or more accurately the valley of unfamiliar keyboard shortcuts. But, now I’m there I find I’m spending much less time fighting with software and more time getting on with things. It feels like the operating system has melted into the background compared to what I’m used to.

And I haven’t had any trouble finding software to use. Like Nic I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover a healthy industry of small application developers creating great software for OS X. My favourites so far are Yojimbo (which has replaced my hitherto dependence on OneNote), VLC, and Quicksilver. And of course Firefox (I’ve also tried Camino, but in the end went back to Firefox for the add-ons). If you’re into Getting Things Done then Actiontastic is also worth keeping an eye on (although it’s not quite there yet for me). I’m also keeping an eye out for VMWare and Pixelmator.

The switch has also highlighted to me how much of my software now resides on the net and so is independent of the operating system – Gmail, Google Reader, WordPress, Xero, etc etc.

I’ve heard a number of people say that OS X isn’t suitable for business use. Now I can understand why.

Microsoft Office for the Mac is a pale imitation of the Windows equivalent. Entourage is especially painful. I’ve failed to get our Exchange server working with OS X Mail, so for now I’m stuck with it.

I’ve started to learn Omni Graffle and Keynote, but I’m still a bit of a novice with both, so I’m not as productive.

So, until the new Mac version of Microsoft Office comes out I’m resorting to running Vista on Parallels for some of this stuff. It’s a bit of a security blanket, but I’m cool with that. It’s a feature. As Marc Andreessen points out, with a Mac you effectively get three operating systems in one (OS X, Unix under the covers, and Windows in Parallels/BootCamp). Or, for a slightly more fanboy spin on the same point: “… all computers can run Windows, but some, the special ones from Apple, also run Mac OS X.” (from John Gruber).

I haven’t tried to do any development yet – although I know plenty of great developers who are Mac users, so I don’t expect any problems and again, with Parallels and/or BootCamp the development languages and environments I am more familiar with are only a mouse click away.

Of course, the hardware itself is super sexy. As Amnon said about the Dell when I sent him the comparison: “How will you live with yourself with that monstrosity in the house?” The only downside is I have had to upgrade my laptop bag to match!

As a long time ThinkPad user I wondered how I’d go with the track pad (I always thought I was more of a nipple man!) but I haven’t had any problems adjusting. I’m now addicted to the two-finger scroll.

Downsides?

Choosing the right time to buy seems to be a secret art. I was all ready to go until a friend pointed out that there would be a new version out shortly. I realise that Apple manage to generate a lot of buzz via their rumour mill. But, I have to wonder if they don’t create a fair bit of bad-will (is that a word?) when they make sudden leaps forward in their product lines. Take, as an example, this comment from the MacRumours.com forums following the announcement of the new MacBookPro range:

“NOOOOOOOOO! I’ve just bought my new Macbook Pro! Loving it alot. But now……. a little less.”

To get around this I got a temporary machine from Rentamac for a couple of months until the new model was released. This would also be a good option if you’re not totally sure that you’ll want to stick with a Mac.

Would I recommend it?

Definitely give it a try.

I can also recommend a Mac to anybody who is looking to opt out of providing tech support to their extended family. I got an iMac to replace Mum & Dad’s old PC, and I can now honestly say I don’t know how to fix any problems they have when they call. Although, so far to be fair there haven’t been any to fix!

Now, about that iPod … :-)

Cartoon from: Hugh McLeod

[Blogged from SuperHappyDevHouse Aotearoa!]

10 comments on “Mac-curious

  1. Nic Wise says:

    If you are into GTD, this may be for you

    http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnifocus/

    under dev, but coming soon. Merlin “43 folders” Mann, who’s a GTD nut, is on the advisory team for it, I think.

    Good on ya for the mac. I’m loving mine, still.

    BTW, I didn’t realize that Che Tibby was so TALL until I saw the debate video :) Get that man on a basketball team!

    I have found, however, that since getting my mac book (and 80GB ipod with 71GB of music on it now!), I can walk into an apple store and not be tempted to buy anything…… nice side effect, esp as we didn’t have much spare time in Chicago :)

  2. [...] another Apple fanboy Published July 7th, 2007 Life Rowan has finally confessed that his affair with OSX has now turned into full blown [...]

  3. Interestingly I had my first play with Vista today after 6 months on a mac, and it was not the “experience” I had with OS X. 6 months ago I was in awe and felt like a kid again. Today I was 10 minutes in and found the way new windows threw themselves into the foregound annoying.

    Lots of fun to be had.

    Here is something if you are paranoid about someone lifting your new shiny mac. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkAtRfA1UXc

  4. Yeah, I too was surprised at how reasonable Macs are priced now. Almost on a par with my Dell… Doh!
    Surely thats quite a recent change??

  5. I’ve been a GTD follower for two years now, and use a PowerPC Mac laptop half the time and Windows the other half. The Palm desktop has been my main inbox, so I can have all my lists (on my Palm) when I am away from a computer. It works well as long as I only sync with my Windows machine. I found out early on that the Palm Desktop on the Mac just sucks. Still this is a problem in working on the Mac that I really still haven’t solved. I’ve taken to creating an extra inbox by using Google Docs to save lists and add them to my Palm Desktop when I’m on my Windows machine. It kinda works, but it’s not perfect yet.

    Still Rowan you’ve shown me a good (but expensive) solution. I can buy a new Intel based Mac with Parallels and run the Windows Palm Desktop on it. I can add Microsoft Office too, since it is much better than the Mac version. Then I can rid myself of all the ugly Dells in my office. Very tempting!

  6. Andrew says:

    For GTD stuff under OS X, I thoroughly recommend iGTD. (details are just a google away).

    Also, it you’re not using it already – get (and learn to love) Quicksilver. :)

  7. [...] new iMac Published August 8th, 2007 Apple As previously reported, Amnon’s quote: “How will you live with yourself with that monstrosity in the [...]

  8. [...] of only buying Apple goodies within days of launch date  – to eliminate any concerns that, say, mac fanboy Rowan gets some Apple goodness before me. (Last time it was a dead heat – he’s late to the party [...]

  9. [...] often don’t announce release dates until they arrive. And, as I’ve mentioned previously, they don’t seem to have any issue with selling the old version of the products right up [...]

  10. [...] I first switched to using a Mac I really struggled for the first month or so. Prior to that I’d been a Windows user for [...]

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