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…