On switching

Reading time: 4 mins

I received my MacBook some weeks ago, but decided not to post immediately and try to get a better feel for both the new hardware and operating system before posting my thoughts. What follows has been written up over the period of a few weeks.

It’s official. I am now cool. I must be because Matt said so, in a roundabout way admittedly, and in case you have no earthly idea what I’m blithering on about now, I’ll first refer you to this post, and then get to the point and confirm that yes, I am now the owner of a shiny white MacBook. I am cool.

As is my wont, I had spent some time researching, reading articles written by those who had ‘switched’, and compiling a small collection of free applications that I figured I’d need at some point. So, with several PDFs, a folder of software, and several AVI files (for watching on the plane), I was all set.

There are a myriad of articles and blog posts written about switching from Windows to OSX, and I’m not going to add to them, instead I’m going to attempt to give you how I feel about becoming the owner of a Mac, because that’s what it’s really about, isn’t it?

It’s not about the software, the hardware, the capabilities, or anything else that is somewhat quantifiable. No, it’s about the ‘aura’, the emotional attachment, the ‘cult of Mac’.

From that point of view, you could argue that the slow ebb of the Apple message has been carried forth on the backs of a tiny white army of iPods, slowly spreading the doctrine across the land, and I’ll definitely admit that the pleasure I have derived from the two iPods I’ve owned, and the third that my wife has, was a factor in my decision. I was getting a laptop regardless, and as it will only be used for email access, word processing and internet access (in the main at least) then I quickly realised that the operating system was irrelevant.

Ohh and yes I could’ve gone ‘Linux’ but I’m just not that bothered to be honest. I’ve seen systems running various flavours and none have caused me to ponder what the great appeal is… not the way OSX did/does.

So what is it about Apple that makes people so very obsessively dedicated?

I guess the fact that Apple themselves seem obsessively dedicated has something to do with it and there is a certain ‘ethos’, common across the all the parts of the operating system, which tie it together and make it seem almost organic. It’s hard to describe to be honest.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. First impressions were good, setup was easy, and startup times were pretty good. I’ve not got a majorly high spec MacBook but it’s already proven more than enough for my needs. Whilst I’m still learning keyboard shortcuts, it’s actually been sort of pleasant to be a novice again, and have so much to discover and I guess that helps explain why so many switchers spend the first few weeks and months enthusing and gushing about their ‘lovely new Mac’. It’s very easy to explore and as most of the concepts have been well thought out and rigorously applied, you can transfer knowledge from one application to another with some ease.

Windows has the same benefits but not to the level that OSX does. I’m unsure how good Vista is in that respect.

I class myself as an advanced user, so once I’d tweaked a few things to suit my needs I’ve found that the OSX environment is far more comfortable to me than my home XP setup. This is despite having spent sometime configuring XP to be very lean and tailored to my needs. I have a list of XP applications that are ‘must haves’ in this respect, and I’m building the same for OSX. Ohh yes, out of the box I’d probably put OSX ahead on points but it still needs some work. This is evidenced by the recent revamping of the Finder window that will come with the next version of the operating system (codenamed Leopard).

The most obvious thing is, and remains, the way the UI acts and reacts to input. XP is predictable and somewhat staid, but OSX has the advantage that some of the UI stuff is built into the chip and so seems more fluid, and more natural.

And I guess that’s the crux of it. Neither operating system is better at performing one task, or at least not noticeably so.. I’ve updated this website and written some HTML and CSS code in both, I’ve created a .DOC on the Mac and opened it in Word on XP without any issues. They do what you’d expect, but the key difference is that OSX feels more fluid, more dynamic and more part of my thinking and working thoughts than XP.

As I say, it’s hard to put into words, and I know that certain people will be rolling their eyes but the easiest way to explain it is that XP “feels” like you are passing instructions to a computer, it does something and gives you something back. With OSX those lines are slightly blurred, and whilst it’s doing the same thing, you feel more involved and the computer feels less like a tool and more like an aide. I know a lot of people think all those whizzy UI effects are just for show but they do add up to the complete user experience and anyone who has study such things will know that emotions play a part, and that’s something of which the people at Apple seem to be acutely aware.

Suffice to say that as soon as I can get my MacBook hooked up to my nice big Dell LCD monitor I’ll probably start using it for more and more of my daily ‘home’ work. If you’ve only ever given OSX a brief shot in a shop or on a friends laptop, then try and borrow a Mac for a weekend, use it for basic tasks and then see if it starts to win you over. You might be surprised.

~

Ohh and if enough people want, I’ll post a list of the apps I found for the Mac, the ones that have stayed on the machine and that are genuinely useful. Although I guess most of you Mac-ites out there already know most of them…

12 comments

  1. I trust your opinions on such matters (one of the peripheral reasons which led to be buying an ipod nano was seeing the glee in your eyes when you brought yours out at a blogmeet (3 ago, I think).

    Anyway… I think K and I will become Mac people before the year is out. We’ll be honeymooning in America towards the end of the year, so I think we’ll be taking some extra bucks with us to come home with a MacBook.

    So yes, chalk me up as one who does want to hear about the apps you have found/kept.

  2. Welcome to the fold!

    It’s a cliché I know, but I’ve always found in the 3 years I’ve had Macs – “Things just work”.

    I guess the only negative with software versus Windows is the fact that a lot of Mac stuff is shareware, but the good stuff is worth paying for anyways so it balances out in the end.

  3. Yep I made the switch to OSX (via a shiny MacBook Pro) just over a year ago, and I relate to all the feelings you have. It’s hard to put into words exactly how it’s a nicer experience than Windows, it just is.

  4. If I may recommend just one application (which I’m sure you already have), it has to be Quicksilver.

    But I’m still cooler than you. I mean, you got a white one. They’re for girls. 🙂

  5. Quicksilver was.. yeah I’m pretty sure.. the first app I installed. I spend too much time on lifehacker.com and Merlin Mann’s site to NOT be aware of it (I use Launchy on my PC for ‘similar’ usage (it’s not as powerful but it’s a start).

    And the white one matches my iPod and my shoes. Shush.

  6. I have a desktop Mac, the 2.5 Ghz dual. Now about 3 years old.
    From the day I got it, it just runs. I do restart when there is a security update, as required. But other than that, and installing some ram, I have never shut it down. It just runs.
    Daily I am running Photoshop, Indesign, Acrobat, and Word- all day, plus some email & news browsing.
    It is the best computer I have ever used.
    My previous box (sony) was pretty good, I thought. But looking back, I was always having to reboot, and the thing locked up 2-3 times a week. Also, had to reinstall system several times when malware somehow took over…

  7. I agree to a point tom.

    But.

    With some care and basic maintenance my home PC has run the way your desktop Mac has. The hardware gave out before the OS did. Yes I restarted it more often but that’s mainly because there are a few MILLION more targets for security hackers to aim at if they tackle the Windows OS, and it’s notably easier to hack than OSX.

    I have never yet HAD to reinstall an operating system because of malware or anything else.

  8. My mac needs the OS reinstalled. It crashed. Stuff buggered up.

    The malware that caused this is called “sevitz-is-a-flaming-numpty”.

    So basically it is possible to degrade OSX by installing lots of little bits of crap and fiddling to much. This has happened to every machine I have ever owned.

    In fairness it did take me about 3-4 times as long to bugger up the mac, and it’s far less buggered up than my win machines ever were, and it’s in state that will be fine till Leopard comes out when I’ll install Leopard along side and then slowly migrate only the programs I use across.

    I totally get what you mean as well about it being good to be a novice and learning things again. Although I wonder how many mac users would say the same when switching to windows.

    I find the magic in the mac, is that windows became a tool. I actually enjoy using the mac. It’s somehow fun, even for the mundane.

    I’ll also because I’m a nice guy, not dig through your archives saying you were not going to get a mac and don’t even suggest it. 😉

    Instead I’ll give you a bit of software. I’ve been using Zengobi’s Curio a lot, and you might find it a nice way to manage projects and ideas and cut and paste things and stuff.

  9. Mine’s been burning a hole in my knees for over a year, it’s about to get its second battery, the first power lead literally went up in smoke, and the baby has pulled off the shift key. But I’d rather die than use a PC again.

  10. “I find the magic in the mac, is that windows became a tool. I actually enjoy using the mac. It’s somehow fun, even for the mundane.”

    Bingo. And in that sense the ‘silly animations’ that seem to attract the ire of the Windows diehards fit in perfectly. They are, on the whole, subtle enough not to get in the way, and ‘nice’ enough that you get a small sense of enjoyment every time you do it. Emotional design at it’s finest I say.

    And for the record, I DID say I wasn’t not getting a Mac but the difference now is that I DID replace my dying PC with another one, so I have the ‘tool’ already there. The Mac was almost a frivilous purchase…

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