Parallel Desktops

A Hardcore Windows Guy Gets A Mac

I have been a Windows developer for many, many years. Before I was a Windows developer I was a DOS developer. I’ve always been a Microsoft fan, heavily invested in doing Windows development. Really, since 1984 – my first job doing professional software development – I have been true blue Microsoft. When I would watch the Mac ads with the nerdy PC guy and the cool Mac dude I always secretly rooted for the PC guy.

Last year something interesting started to happen. Many of the people in my network of friends and family started buying Macs. They were sick of the hassles of Windows, with the viruses and spyware and ever slowing performance. They seemed to be drawn in to the Apple advertising – it spoke to them. And they seemed very happy.

I wrote that off as non-techies just looking for something new and easy. The Macs did look better with Mac OS X – it seemed like a really smooth operating system. But as far as I was concerned it was just a fad.

Then my daughter was accepted to go to Virginia Tech. She wanted to be a Marketing Communications major so we started looking into everything she would have to buy, including a mandatory PC. I was excited to go out and get her a new laptop with XP or Vista on it until I read that her department required Macintosh. What?!? They said they were "easier" and had fewer problems. Of all the departments for her to want to be in this was the only one that required Macintosh. I was really pissed and so was my daughter. Having been brought up on PCs she wasn’t ready to deal with a whole new OS. We decided to simply cave and get her a Mac – a little white MacBook.

At first she struggled with it, trying to figure out how to do the things she was so comfortable with before. When she came home for her first visit however her attitude had changed. She really liked her Mac. Hell, loved the little thing.

"Don’t get near my Mac!!!"

She had her music on it, happily surfed the web and used it for e-mail. She got MS Office from the school really cheap and was extremely happy now. This was not what I had expected.

The final straw for me in reevaluating the Macintosh was when two friends of mine that were long time PC guys, heavy techies that were also developers, went out and got Macs. They raved about the machines, talking about how nicely put together everything was and how stuff just worked really well. The funny thing was neither of my friends cited real, hard specific things. It was more a feeling. "I love my Mac". It just seemed so personal.

All of these events led me to think maybe I should get one of these. I could easily justify it because while I have an XP development machine, a Vista laptop, and an Ubuntu workstation, I didn’t have a Mac to be able to test the web sites I build. The Safari browser had always been touchy so having a machine that would let me test stuff right away made sense. Yeah, that’s it – this is for testing my web based applications!

With the justification out of the way I talked to people about which one I should get, agonized about what would work best and meet my limited needs. I chose a MacBook; essentially the same machine my daughter has. 2.2GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 120G hard drive. Pretty basic.

So what I want to do on this blog is give you a play by play of a hard core Windows guy experiencing a Macintosh for the first time. I’ll try to make this as light as I can, focusing on what I find cool and what is a challenge.If you’re a Windows person thinking of moving to Macintosh I hope this is of help.

Initial impressions:

Really nice piece of hardware. Screen is really beautiful and somehow feels much bigger than 1280×800. It doesn’t have the little fragile things my HP has, with eject buttons protruding and threatening to break off. If nothing else the MacBook design and engineering team knows how to build something that looks really, really nice.

One thing I was surprised by was the keyboard. It looks like a little chicklet keyboard off the PC JR from the early 80s! I thought it would be odd to type on it. I was wrong. The keyboard is a pleasure to type on – very easy to touch type with and the travel on the keys is nice.

It is taking me some time to adjust to the shortcut combinations for navigation and selection though. On Windows I’d hit Ctrl-Right arrow to move the cursor right one word at a time. With Macintosh it’s Option (Alt). I’m also used to hitting the End key to pop to the end of the current line of text. ¬†Since this is a laptop keyboard without an End key I now have to hit Command-Right arrow. No big deal, just something to get used to.

Getting started with the Macintosh was pretty easy, with one exception. When it tried to detect my wireless network it prompted me to enter the password for it – it really needed the WEP key. I knew it immediately but I can imagine that someone that was non-technical would need an explanation on that one.

What was completely refreshing though was the complete lack of AOL links, "Free" anti-virus software, Weatherbug, etc., etc. Yeah, it asked me to join the .MAC service (declined) but that was really it. Within a couple of seconds I was able to start surfing the web. The last machine I bought – the one that became my Ubuntu workstation – came with Vista Home Edition. That thing had so much crap on it from HP that the machine was essentially useless out of the box. That’s probably more on HP than Vista but with Apple I didn’t have to worry about that at all.

Overall, my first impression of the MacBook is very good. My friend Bradley, a heavy techie Windows guy and recent Mac convert, was trying to explain to me why he likes his Mac so much. It’s funny but he couldn’t really describe it other than to say he really loves his Mac. There’s just something about it that makes it feel special.

Always the sceptic I guess I had to try it for myself. I think I’m starting to get why he likes his Mac so much.

By David Alison

I bought my first Mac almost 24 years ago when DOS ruled the world. I didn't keep it too long though. I was just kicking off my career as a software engineer and needed to go with PCs. I bought my 2nd Mac in February of 2008. I didn't expect that I would find myself using the machine as much as I have. It's not that I hate Windows (well, I pretty much hate Vista but XP is a fine OS), it's just that I find myself constantly playing with this machine.

I'll share with you here my experiences of making the move from Windows to Macintosh. I still have a foot in both worlds, hence the name of my section.

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