the platform question

Once upon a time, I loved all things Apple.  My first computer was an Apple II where I learned to word process, program, and play.  In college I used various Mac models and liked them all.  In those days, people didn't say things like Macs "just work" or go on about the quality.  The IBM compatible world did not have the ecosystem then that it does now and thus did not have the hardware compatibility problems that have plagued it for the last 15+ years.

No, the cool thing about the Mac back then was that its operating system was a GUI through-and-through.  IBM & compatibles ran MS-DOS and later Windows 3 or some other graphical shell.  But no matter how pretty the shell, DOS was the foundation.  It wasn't made to handle the modern niceties like more than one program running at once or more than 640k of RAM.  It could fake it pretty well but could not compare to the Macs.  (BTW, serious programmers tended to see Macs as a bit of a toy because you couldn't script them as easily.)

The running pictures will be interspersed with my story today to break things up.  We started by running up a big hill.

When I got my first job, the Mac started to get left behind.  For the first couple of years I didn't have a computer at home aside from an aging and increasingly disused Mac II-LC.  Kinda shocking to think that nowadays but true.  And when I did start to fill my house with computers, it was home-built Windows machines.  The lure of picking every part and messing with overclocking was too tempting.  Not to mention it was cheaper that way until Dell started some price wars several years ago.  (Yes, I had one of those ridiculous 300MHz slot Celerons.)

Plus Apple was dying a slow death, becoming less and less relevant by the year.  But in time, thanks to the ipod, Apple eventually resurged and now are seen as the "quality" brand.  Personally I see them as the "you must do it our way" brand which clashes with my style.  But more on that later.

A bunch of flowers near the top of that first hill.

About 2 1/2 years ago, several IT folks at my company got MacBook Pros.  I asked around and found out that since about 25% of our customers (retired CEOs) use Macs, we wanted that platform to be represented around IT so that we wouldn't ignore their needs.  I mentioned that no programmers had one of these machines and if they needed such a Guinea Pig...  A couple of weeks later I had my new machine.  Since my previous machine was slow and crappy I was quite happy about it.

I soon ran into some troubles though.  First off, to this day I have not found a decent free text editor.  On Windows, I use Notepad++.  Nothing (free) on Mac is even 1/3 as good.  The built-in terminal program is better than anything I've used in Windows (granted I don't use the terminal enough to look around very hard.)  However, there is no keyboard shortcut on that program to switch between tabs.  It's pretty unbelievable to me that keyboard shortcuts are more consistent in Windows programs across thousands of software vendors than even the set of programs built-in to the Mac OS-X.  It took several months for a Mac version Java 6 to be released compared to other platforms.  Ironic since many Java developers (I am one) use Macs.  Oh, and Microsoft Office for the Mac is horrifying.  That's not really Apple's fault though.  If any of you buy a Mac, save the money and get the free Open Office.

Those are my quibbles.  Now for the kudos.  The Macbook Pro is a beautiful machine.  If you installed Windows on there it still would be.  The trackpad isn't perfect but it's better than any other I've used.  The screen is fabulous, the magnetic power cable is a nice touch.  Software-wise, the wifi controls are better than the Windows that I've used (haven't tried 7 yet), I love Spaces and Google's QSB is even better than its ancestor Quicksilver.

This is San Diego to me.

After that, I began to out technical press/tip articles to the other Mac users because that's what I do.  A couple of months later, one of the IT execs slightly misinterpreted that and said, "hey Todd, you're a big Apple guy right?  We should get you an iphone."  Now that's an offer I was not going to refuse.  It took about a month but soon I had my 3G phone.

Since then I've, um, done things to and with it.  It's a nice phone.  No question if I were paying myself I would get an Android so that I could do what I want, install what I want, etc.  In another year I think that will be even more true as the Android matures.  But no feature can compare with free so I can live with the limitations quite happily.

This is the group I ran with most of the day - Greg, Rick, Rick and Jenny

You've read my personal pros and cons of the Mac world.  What is my conclusion?  Did I switch at home too?  Well, no.  I sit here writing this post on a Dell Inspiron 530 and a lovely 24" Dell monitor. I can't pick a clear winner - it's just a different set of strengths and weaknesses to me.  Given that, why would I pay the 25% price premium for a Mac?  I can't see myself doing so.

On the way back, clouds had rolled in with rain coming in the afternoon.  I love how we're all lined up; I just followed the swinging pony tails home.

People often ask me if they should go to Mac.  What I wrote above is all about me.  For others, I summarize the differences this way...

Apple says: "We have figured out the best and most consistent way to do things.  Buy our products and do things our way."

Windows says: "We will give you 1,000,000 ways to do things.  One of them is perfect for you.  Buy our products and find it."

If you're a geek like me, Mac may clash with you to some degree.  Also if you live in Outlook and are buying a work machine I would not do it.  Entourage is crap and you will be unhappy using it. (Note: We don't run Exchange 2007 so I can't use Mail/iCal, maybe that's better.)

If you are not a geek like me and want to streamline your computer time as much as possible, the Mac may be worth it.  If you are willing to commit to the Apple way, buy a MobileMe account, and drink the multicolored KoolAid then it might be the right choice for you.