Common Myths for the Macintosh

There are lots of reasons that people don’t want to switch from Windows to Macintosh. I assume the most common reason is simply because Windows works for the people that are using it. The old adage "If it ain’t broke don’t fix it" tends to apply here. These people are not upgrading to Vista either, they’re staying with Windows XP or even Windows 98 and are just fine.
 
There are however an increasing number of people that are moving to Macs now – many of them people like me that hated Macs at one time. I believe there are lots of reasons for this, not the least of which is that people that are running Windows XP are faced with an upgrade to Vista as their next logical step and feel that maybe it’s okay to consider a Mac since they have to go through a full operating system refresh anyway.
 
One of the reasons I was not interested in Macs for a very long time was that I clung to many facts about the Mac that I felt eliminated it from contention. Well, as with many things in life it turns out the facts that I knew about the Mac were either hopelessly outdated or simply myths. What I wanted to do was tell you the ones that I was aware of and often cited when I dismissed Macs in the past.
 
Mac’s only use a single mouse button
I’m not a Mac historian, my history with the Mac being very recent but I’ve read that Mac multi-button mouse support has been around for some time. You may look at the MacBook keyboards and only see a single mouse button or a Mighty Mouse and think that it’s not supported. The reality is the MacBook track pad has an ingenious way of supporting right mouse clicks that I find better than having the extra little stub that is a right mouse button.
 
You simply press two fingers to the surface and click the button and it emulates a right mouse click. While the Mighty Mouse (which I personally detest) only appears to have a single mouse button it does indeed support right clicking. I just plugged in my Logitech mice and happily right click whenever I need to.
 
There are not that many applications for Macs
Windows does indeed have far more applications written for it than are available for Mac. What you have to do is look at the quality of those applications though. Many of the hundreds of thousands that are cited for Windows were written back in the 90s and few have been updated. Sure, most still work but that doesn’t mean they are still relevant. I have found no lack of software for my Macs – virtually anything I have needed is available in native Mac format.
 
Frankly, as a Mac n00bie I was shocked by the volume of quality Mac software available, especially on the consumer front. The number of Mac titles for business software, especially in the vertical markets for small businesses, is much smaller though.
 
Macs are closed machines that cannot be expanded
I have personally swapped out the memory in my MacBook inside of about 5 minutes. I upgraded my MacBook’s hard drive in another 5 minutes. That’s about all you can physically do with any laptop, whether it’s a PC or a Mac. My Mac Pro upgrades were even easier. That machine is designed to make expanding common hardware about as easy as it gets. It took me less than a minute to install a 1TB hard drive – so little time I grabbed my video camera and filmed how easy it was:
 
 
Sure, I can’t overclock my processor and the number of graphics card drivers that are supported by OS X is significantly smaller than Windows but to say I can’t put non-Apple replacement parts into my Mac is just not the case. The Mac Mini and iMacs are limited in their upgrade options, but the same holds true of the Windows machines from Dell and HP that have the CPU and display all packaged together.
 
Macs don’t work well with Windows machines on a network
I’ve got a GB switch at home and a variety of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Ubuntu and now Mac machines on it. Sharing files between the machines is very simple. My Macs can see my Windows shares and my Windows machines can see my Mac shared folders. I shared my printer attached to a Windows machine with my Mac and it was able to use it just fine.
 
Macs are more expensive
This is the one that I struggle with a bit. Yes, the Macs are slightly more expensive than PCs in general, but you have to look at what you are or more importantly not getting when you buy a Mac. Low cost PCs are often subsidized by bundled application software that is included with a new machine. When I recently bought a little HP that would eventually serve as my Ubuntu workstation it came so loaded with crap and Windows Vista that it barely even ran out of the box. The average consumer that isn’t a techie would be hard pressed to clear up all of the stuff that bogs down the average new PC.
 
For techies it’s a different story. You can go to places like Newegg and build a high performance system that has exactly what you want on it – nothing more, nothing less – and adjust expectations on price accordingly. But doing that means you are your own technical support clearing house. When the motherboard in my newly built gaming rig wouldn’t post I had to call the manufacturer and work through a series of steps before we found that the board was shorting out. I needed to RMA it myself and undergo the same process when the replacement arrived days later. It took me the better part of two working days to build up that machine.
 
That said, I did that because I enjoyed doing it, however that time comes at a cost. Is your time worth anything to you? If it is and you don’t find joy in doing this kind of technical troubleshooting then getting a fully tested and serviced machine that works out of the box is incredibly valuable. You get what you pay for in this case.
 
Macs can’t run my Windows software
Well, that of course is not the case. I can take a legal copy of Windows XP or Vista and without spending any money use Bootcamp (which comes with OS X) and boot into Windows if I have to. It’s standard PC hardware so it runs great. Better yet, grab a copy of VMware Fusion and run the Windows applications side by side with your Mac apps.
 
I haven’t tried playing any high-end games on my Macs yet. This blog has burned up my remaining free time so they are out for now, though that’s the most common complaint I’ve heard that I can’t refute. Perhaps someone can jump in here and clarify that one. Can you play high end games like Crysis on Mac hardware and get decent performance?
 
Macs are mouse centered machines. You constantly have to grab the mouse.
Macs not only have excellent keyboard support, the use of shortcuts is profound. About the only thing I’ve found that doesn’t work as well as Windows is the use of mnemonics in dialog windows that make it easy to jump to a field in a large form with lots of items in it. When a dialog pops up inside of a Mac I find that I generally grab the mouse.
 
On the other hand shortcuts on the Mac are consistent between applications and liberally sprinkled throughout. If you have ever seen someone that really knows the Mac well use a keyboard to do some work it’s an exercise in humility. It’s like productivity++.
 
So there you have it, the myths that I clung to that kept me from seriously considering a Mac for so long. I’m sure there are other reasons that people think switching from Windows to Mac is a bad idea – I’ve seen enough flame wars on the topic to know that it’s a religious issue for many.