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Goodbye Windows, Hello Mac!

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I’ve been a Microsoft Windows user since Windows 3.1. I remember the day I upgraded to Windows 95 and it felt like going from the stone age to the iron age – the Start Menu seemed like a great idea and it looked fantastic – my world was changed forever. I’ve been using Windows ever since and as soon as the latest version – Windows Vista – was released, I installed it and started using it day-to-day as I mentioned before.

Initially I liked Vista, I was impressed by some of the cool animations and effects, I liked the icons and there seemed like a few decent improvements over XP. It was quite snappy and everything appeared to work rather well. Of course, as is to be expected of Windows, things degrade over time. It’s slowed down a lot, various pieces of Microsoft software crash from time to time and the “Do you want to perform the following action?” dialog that pops up often from UAC just gets annoying and seems like a poor solution to spyware and viruses after a while. Frankly, I think Vista is a huge disappointment and my disappointment was about to get a lot bigger.

While attending the Future of Web Apps conference in London I noticed a lot of attendees used Macs. My friend John Topley, who I was attending with, has been trying to get me to buy a Mac for years and had a MacBook with him. As he started showing me the software you get with it I was blown away. It was absolutely clear that a lot of the new GUI (Graphical User Interface) in Vista is directly copied from Mac OS X – except it makes more sense in the Mac as all of the GUI conforms to the same rules. Straight out of the box there’s a bunch of useful software to let you create music, video, photo books and a host of other things you have to pay for with Windows. I looked at the Mac vs. PC adverts and they started to make sense – Windows machines are work-orientated and pretty dull on the whole, whereas Macs seemed more fun and creative at heart. And I’d lost count of the number of bloggers out there who’ve switched from PCs to Mac and never looked back.

My MacBookJohn then wrote ‘The Case For The Mac‘ on my site (a very good read) and I was sold. I finally ordered a MacBook with a view to replacing my Vista laptop and desktop. I didn’t want to write about it immediately as I decided to live with a Mac for a month or so to really get a feel for what it’s like. That time has come.

Quite frankly, I’ll never buy another PC. Everything they say about Macs is true – “it just works”. You get so used to having to tweak Windows to get things to work correctly, from graphics cards to the registry to a hundred other things. Not so on the Mac. One of the first things I did was connect to my home wireless network which was a simple case of picking it from a list, entering my WEP key and that was it. I went on holiday the other week and brought my MacBook and my Dell laptop running Vista. To connect to the local wi-fi on my Mac took perhaps 10 seconds start to finish and I was surfing the web. To do the same on Vista took 5 minutes. I had to connect and re-connect about 6 times before it would stick, each time I had to go through a 3 step wizard and I got sick of hitting the same buttons over and over again. I started to get frustrated with Windows in a way I never did before. I was being asked a load of questions it should know the answer to – and the Mac was smart enough to make these decisions itself.

A photo of me from Photo BoothI’ve had tears running down my cheeks making crazy photos with software called Photo Booth that comes with a Mac. You use the built in camera to take your picture but it applies some mad effects live that you can preview, like the one pictured right (I don’t really look like that). The software isn’t particularly useful but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and you just wouldn’t get something like that bundled on a PC.

As I mentioned you get lots of useful, creative software bundled with a Mac, called iLife. The software all integrates really well and lets you create music using Garage Band (there are hundreds of loops you can use to create very professional music – oh, and you can sing or record your own instruments too), manage and edit your photos in iPhoto, play music in iTunes, make movies with iMovie and there’s a host of other things that are fun and creative. The software is very well thought out and easy to use, taking the power of great GUI design to a level I’ve never seen before on Windows. For the first time in a long time I’ve felt a surge of creativity since getting my Mac – suddenly I want to try and write music, create a movie and do a whole bunch of other things I’d never have thought about on a PC.

I’ve often wanted to create a DVD you can play on any DVD player with a slideshow of some of my photos – that way I could send it to my dad and he could see my holiday pictures, etc. Can you do this on Windows out of the box? I’ve never been able to – so I’d have to go and search and buy some software and it’s just never been worth the effort. Can I do it on my Mac? Easy, I can go from start to finish in a couple of minutes and it’s really obvious how to do it. And that’s just one of a hundred common things you’d want to do that would require buying more software on a PC that comes as standard on a Mac.

The MacBook itself is really well thought out. Having a magnetic power lead means if someone trips over your cable, it just pops out and doesn’t drag your MacBook onto the floor. This has saved my skin several times already! When you shut the lid it goes to sleep, but a little light on the front slowly dims and lights up to indicate a heartbeat so you know it’s in sleep mode rather than off. Open the lid and it springs back to life – do the same on a Vista-powered PC and it springs back to life after a little while, but then it has to re-connect the wi-fi and all in it can take a couple of minutes. That’s not good enough.

The lid of the MacBook doesn’t have some rubbish catch you need to slide across to open, it’s magnetic. The built in camera is pretty impressive and “just works”. They even look incredibly cool (and I love that the Apple logo on the lid lights up when you use it). It’s amazing how beautiful design can influence your thinking.

I read the OS X Missing Manual to really get to grips with all the shortcuts and differences between the Mac and PC but within a week or two I was quite at home on my Mac. I doubt you could switch from a Mac to a PC and be as settled so quickly.

Regular readers know that John’s Background Switcher 3 is just around the corner (a few days away to be precise). They’ll also know that it’s written on Windows but I’ve got a Mac now, does that mean it’s dead? Well no.

Visual Studio 2005 on a Mac

I also bought Parallels which allows me to run Windows applications inside my Mac – the best of both worlds. I installed Windows XP (because I trust XP) and can run Visual Studio 2005 alongside my usual Mac software. In fact the last few beta builds of JBS 3 have been built on a Mac and you’d never know! It just works.

I find myself going into work – where I use Vista – and cursing at how slow it is, being frustrated at how it forgets all my folder display settings, gnashing my teeth every time I’m asked to confirm that I really do want to run an application I’ve just launched (like Visual Studio 2005), swearing every time software hangs or crashes and getting annoyed in a hundred other tiny ways. They’re just little things, but they add up and I find myself thinking “it’s much better on a Mac”.

So far I’ve managed to persuade one friend to buy himself a Mac and you might be next! The thing is, you just need to sit down and use one for 5 minutes to realise that you’ll never want to go back to a PC again. Do believe the hype.

Posted by

Scotsman, footballer, software developer, bounty hunter, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

38 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. A good write-up, John. I’m still taken aback as to how complete your transformation has been. You need to start saving up for one of these babies next!

    A minor point of accuracy: I took my trusty PowerBook G4 to the FOWA conference; unlike you I don’t have one of those fancy MacBooks!

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  2. Ha ha, one step at a time John!

    Ah, so you have a PowerBook – I’m not familiar with all the different models yet, I’m still new to the platform! :-)

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  3. You have way too much disposable income for your own good!
    Perhaps I should write a blog entry entitled “The Case For Procreation”… hmmm :-)

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  4. I think you’ve articulated one very big advantage of Mac OS X. It doesn’t bug the $h|7 out of you. I really get sick of the Wizards. Really. I know they were intended to make computing easier for novices, but man! Click, click, click. Why?

    OS X is VERY well designed, but to be fair it has its share of mostly minor quirks. Finder (file management) needs to be overhauled. It was okay in 2003. We need something better. Finder windows don’t always retain their positions and view settings in OS X either.

    I don’t have any Windows machines anymore. I’ve been happily and productively using Macs exclusively since 2002.

    Bot

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  5. Yeah, I think I’m still a bit new to Macs to see the downsides yet (I’m still in the Honeymoon period) but I doubt I’ll find them anywhere near as frustrating as Windows quirks.

    As for wizards, I remember writing Windows desktop software for many years thinking they were great. But the more you use software the more stupid it seems guiding you through a process when it really should know what you want to do. Lazy programming if you ask me!

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  6. I have a 15″ MBP with 3Gb of RAM and it rocks, best machine I’ve had, although I really miss the form factor of my 12″ PowerBook, especially when travelling…. still maybe there will be a 12″ MBP…

    Parallels rocks ;-)

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  7. John, you may know some of these apps already. If you don’t, get on to VersionTracker.com and try them:

    1. Quicksilver – superb launcher FREE
    2. TypeIt4Me – you can make your own “shorthand” – REALLY speeds up typing
    3. AppleJack – Run the MacOS clean up procedures – FREE
    4. ComicLife (Should be bundled with your MacBook) – Great fun and actually very useful – I use it for posters, fliers and ESL materials

    Yours sincerely,

    John Davis

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  8. I’ve not had any problems with Finder windows not retaining their settings but I do miss hovering the mouse over files to get a tooltip showing me how big they are, and the Finder status bar isn’t much use.

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  9. Dave: Since my MacBook seems way faster than any PC I’ve used your Pro must be a flying machine!

    John Davis: Thanks for the tips, I’ll check them out!

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  10. Dammit Janet — you’ve got me thinking now. Do Apple sell through retail? If so, I may go check one out for an hour.

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  11. Congrats and welcome. What about list view or column view to see file sizes?

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  12. Kenny: Not sure if they do or not – usually you have to go to an actual Apple store. Hell, it’s worth the train fare to London just to see one in the flesh! :-)

    Ah yes, list view shows the file sizes so everyone’s happy!

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  13. You can buy Macs at PC World, although why you’d want to is another matter. I never really got on with list view – I guess I just like looking at those gorgeous icons in icon view!

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  14. All I can say is I am glad you did not use the examples of me for the picture taking features!!

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  15. I too got my cousin at Apple to get me a discounted iMac and haven’t regretted it. At the same time, I’ve busy moving files etc from my PC. During this time, my PC has developed some unbelievable and unsolvable problems too numerous to mention here. I’ve had PCs for 15 years and have been fixing them just as long. These new problems reinforce my belief that I won’t go back, EVER.

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  16. Hey, congrats!… I’ve been on a Mac personaly since ’84 and use XP at work.

    on piece of shareware you might want to run in MONOLINGUAL. (google it)

    It removes all of the other language builds that are installed by default by apple on your mac. I downloaded this nice piece of shareware and it opened up 3.1 gig’s of space on my computer’s HD. When you open it, there are three tabs, LANGUAGES, INPUT MENU, and ARCHITECTURES. I ran the default on Languages and Architectures and left the input menu script alone. (just didn’t wanna mess with it and run the risk).

    Anyway, enjoy the MacBook, mine rocks also.

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  17. Welcome!

    PC frustrater for 5 years… Mac lover for 17. As an interactive developer I need to be familiar with both platforms and why anyone puts up any Microsoft OS is beyond me. People who say Macs suck have never spent much time using one.

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  18. I know what you mean Anthony, I’ve formatted many a dodgy Windows box and started again – which when you think about it shouldn’t be necessary at all!

    Thanks Jim, I’ll take a look at monolingual – I’m sure I could use that 3GB for better things!

    Bill: Yeah, I’d always thought Macs were all hype and couldn’t possibly be as good as people said. But that’s just because I never sat down and used one, I’d just muddled along in ignorance. I’m so glad my friend forced me to look at one!

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  19. Congratulations John.

    And for those of us desiring a better Finder, we should remember one is on its way in Leopard, hopefully by early summer.

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  20. And for those of us desiring a better Finder, we should remember one is on its way in Leopard, hopefully by early summer.

    How do you know that, HG?

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  21. john, when you do want to check out MONOLINGUAL, be sure to look it up at versiontracker.com Because there you’ll find a lot of warnings NOT to use it
    cheers,
    and welcome to the mac

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  22. Leo…

    checked out the reference you made regarding Monolingual. Not sure what’s going on with some of the other users, but I have used monolingual on 8 macs to date with no issues. As stated in my previous post, I didn’t clean any of the selections under the “input menu” tab.

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  23. … 5 minutes to realise that you’ll never want to go back to a PC again. Do believe the hype.

    You know why? Because it’s true, it is not hype. And soon you’ll start to say things about your Mac that you know are true and you’ll get that *look* on the PC user you are talking to who will say “Man, you Mac users are such fanboys. Keep drinking Stevio kool’aid and waste money on your toys”.

    THERE: you have just came out of age, became a Mac user and will never ever stop trying convincing other Windows users to switch to a better computing experience: it is just too good not to share it.

    The last stage happens to many: you get tired of the ignoramus and stop caring: “You use Windows? good for you. I am sure you deserve it” and move along.

    Welcome aboard

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  24. >> And for those of us desiring a better Finder, we should remember one is on its way in Leopard, hopefully by early summer.

    > How do you know that, HG?

    Because the iPhone will be released next June. iPhone runs Mac OS 10.5 Leopard. Welcome to the next level ;-)

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  25. Welcome to the Mac world I left Window about 4years ago .. am on iMac&Powerbook(PowerPC CPU)and my Wife on iBook till today I can only say Machintosh does thing better&easier eg with iLife &many more …
    For me Mac only goodbye Window for info I did my wedding photo on iPhoto March 2003 when I just got my new iMac less than 5 days ….mac just work

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  26. Congrats on the Mac switch, John!

    I noticed you use .NET for programming. I don’t know if you use Visual Basic, but you might check out REALbasic — it’s a cross-platform environment that will compile to standalone apps on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux from the same source code (the apps require no DLLs or support files to run, either). It’s great if you’re interested in doing cross-platform development — you can use your Mac to write apps for Windows. RB was created on the Mac but now has an IDE that works on all three platforms. It’s very fast and powerful and fully object-oriented.

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  27. I’m not really sure how I found your page. But what matters is I found the PC and MAC dual quite impressive. Like you, I’ve been a PC user for years!!! seriously. I’m 34, and that’s all I know. I’ve just started seriously considering buying a MAC.. and I think your little short story here has convinced me to do so. I appreciate you taking the time to write about it, and in an honest fashion. Ah yes, the other thing I read was your take on the World trade center a year later. It was mad. And you’re right there is a lot of evil in the world. I hope Obama can turn things around for us here in the states. Best of luck to you. :) Oh yes, very funny pic of what people throw out… what the hell is wrong with people anyway? It’s the earth for god’s sake, not a trashcan. –Hope

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  28. So John — it’s been over a year and a half — and still no JBS for Mac. :-{

    Now that I’ve finally conned the folks at work into giving me a MacBook Pro (albeit with a broken trackpad button and battery with only 20 minutes of juice), it’d be nice to have all of my favorite photos show up on the Mac too.

    Heck, I’d be happy if there were an OS X Screensaver that supported MediaRSS (why haven’t more people started writing apps to this standard??)

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    • Yeah, unfortunately I’ve had an extremely busy year to say the least. Working flat out for a start up which was then acquired by a bigger company and been working flat out with that too. I did at least manage to get a new version of JBS out there but the trouble with creating a Mac version is I have to learn the development tools and language first to a high enough degree to make a decent product (I don’t do things by half measures). And while I’m working on a Windows version I can’t work on the Mac version at the same time – so I had to make the choice and work on JBS last year and not the Mac version. I’m planning on starting work properly on a Mac version in the New Year and getting that done before starting on JBS 4.0, which may bug some people but I’ve been wanting to build a Mac version for ages (well, ever since I started using a Mac) and I have to do it some time!

      So my apologies for taking so long but I’ll get there in the end! :)

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  29. Hi John — I’m sure it will be worth the wait. I imagine you must be bugging you to have a primary desktop (Mac) that doesn’t look as good as your virtual one (Parallels). :-}

    Reminder that now that I have my very own Mac (well, from work), I’d be happy to provide alpha/beta-testing for you.

    Oh, and you’ve got Media RSS support as of October. Hurrah!

    I hope to be sending you another donation (for the Mac version) soon!

    Reply

  30. Pingback: My First Mac OS Upgrade « John’s Adventures

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