A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Apple store

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Apple store

Summary: It's no secret that for years I've wanted a Macbook Air. I love them. They're lightweight, powerful, fast, very thin, and just plain cool. My wife knew how much I wanted one and for my birthday, she took me to the Apple store.

TOPICS: Apple, Linux, Windows

If you've read many of my posts, you know that I have this love/hate relationship with Apple products. I love them for their coolness, their design, their software, their ease of use, and their ability to "just work."

But I also hate them for their price, their inflexibility, their non-compatibility, their short-lived support cycle (iPad 1, specifically), and their kind of opposite way of working.

But, alas, I'm seduced by the fact that Apple makes products that I want.

My wife occasionally reads my posts—occasionally, because often they're too technical for her. She did read a few where I mentioned how badly I want a Macbook Air. I'd given up on the prospect of ever having one because of the price. Seriously, $1,200 when I can buy an HP Envy or an Asus VivoBook for much less? Still, it's a want factor, not a need factor.

My birthday, yesterday, changed everything for me because of my wife-prompted trip to the Apple Store.

Back in February, my wife and I took a trip to Las Vegas because I attended a conference and she went along for the ride. While at Caesar's Palace, she caught me checking out the Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros. I thought she was shopping across the way at H&M—and she was—but I didn't realize that she'd caught me red-handed while I fawned over the laptop computers that I'd never have. I can dream, can't I?

She asked me then if I wanted one.

"Yes, of course, I want one but I don't need one. Plus, they're so expensive. I could buy two or three Windows laptops for that much money. I just can't bring myself to do it."

And I didn't do it. I'd never do it.

As a side note, I'd decided to never purchase another Apple product again. And I haven't. However, my wife gave me a new iPhone 5 for Father's Day this year and an iPad 4 for Christmas 2012. So, I've remained Apple celibate. She, on the other hand, has cheated for me.

Two weeks ago, she asked me what I want for my birthday. I said, "Nothing. There's nothing I really want."

And that was the truth.

She asked again a week later. I gave her the same honest answer: "Nothing."

A few days before my birthday, she gave me a look and said, "I know what you want for your birthday." I had no idea, although her facial expression and her tone gave me a hint that I was going to like it. A lot.

Friday evening after work, she told me she wanted to go to dinner and then to the mall. I'd forgotten* about my birthday and went along.

Off to dinner and then to the mall we went.

After a couple of other stops, she herded me toward the Apple store. I went without realizing what was about to happen.

She said, "Let's check out the Macbook Airs. That's what you want isn't it?" 

I stammered and I'm sure my face turned red over the prospect now that I've put two and two together.

We walked over to the Macbook Pros because there were too many other customers hawking the Airs. An older man** walked up to us and asked if he could help us. First of all, I was taken aback by his age. He was not the typical young, nerdish type who usually approaches me at the Apple store; he was a grandfatherly type who was very friendly and extremely knowledgeable about all things Apple. He immediately put us at ease.

He showed us the Pros and told us all of the features and prices. "Yikes", I said with a hard gulp, "I remember why I don't have one." Without skipping a beat, he directed us to the Air and gave us the grand tour of that model.

He quizzed me on how I'd use my new purchase. I told him about the applications that I typically use and we all decided that the Air was, indeed, the correct choice for me.

I could feel my heart pounding in my throat.

"It's a laptop for goodness sakes, not a newborn baby," I thought to myself. I then told myself that I need to calm down and to not make this an emotional purchase. 

The iMacs caught my wife's eye. Those big monitors, the one terrabyte drives, the bluetooth keyboard and mouse. It was a lot to take in, especially since her sister has one. The salesman told us all about them. Of course, the 1TB drive caught my ears by comparison with the miniscule 128GB drive of the Macbook Air.

"Now I'm confused."

The salesman astutely picked up on our bewilderment and then walked us over to the Mac mini display area.

I'd heard of the mini through conversations with Jason Perlow and David Gewirtz but I'd never seen one up close. I figured that they were underpowered little set top boxes or something similar. David Gewirtz pondered such a use for one in an email to me some time ago. I wrote them off as a potential workstation option.

The mini's features were what I was looking for in a computer replacement for my now aging Asus Aspire 7535-5020 model behemoth that only cost me about $400.

Now I'm considering replacing it with an $800 Apple Mac mini that has no screen, no mouse, no keyboard, and I have to buy a $30 Thunderbolt-to-25-pin video converter to use my current two-page ProView monitor. Fortunately, I also own the Bluetooth Apple keyboard ($60) that I purchased to use with my iPad.

So, we bought the mini. And the converter. I'm using it now to post this article. But I'm using Google Chrome to do it so, I'm not fully a "Mac guy" just yet.

My ginormous Asus is still sitting a few feet away on a table calling to me, beckoning me to "come home". It's hard to resist the temptation. I use Windows at my day job and it's hard to break away. I don't think I'll be able to do it 100 percent. Ever. I'll still have a Windows laptop for those things that don't work on Mac OS X. Which is a lot.

To my surprise, many things that I use aren't available on Mac, although it seems that before I got one, all the cool software was on the Mac. I never priced it though. But lamentations aside, I like the mini. I'm going to use it and be thrilled that I have it.

It isn't a Macbook Air or a Macbook Pro but it's what I've wanted and needed for some time now. I needed a system that uses Mac OS X because I'm interested in the story of how it is to make the switch and in the story of app creation. Of course, I realize that to make an app that people want to buy is going to be tough as there are over 350,000 apps in Apple's App Store.

So, for some time now, you'll read the story of how this longtime Windows Administrator and Linux Administrator converts himself to the wonderous world of all things Apple. There are those in the world who make lemonade from lemons, so I'll do my best to make applesauce from Apples. Stay tuned.


* I know how strange it sounds to forget your own birthday but it isn't the first time I've done it. I have a really funny story about one particular incident involving my birthday amnesia at lunch several years ago that will have to wait for another time.

** I can't recall his name now because in my excitement and confusion, I forgot, but what I didn't forget was his product knowledge, enthusiasm, and professional manner. He's now my favorite Apple salesperson. I will always seek him out for future purchases, even if I have to return to the store later to get him.

Topics: Apple, Linux, Windows


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Make your "but Mac coesn't have it" life a lot easier

    install Windows using Boot Camp. Most Mac users who aren't dogmatic about being Mac users do this, and in the end you get a computer that can run all Windows stuff, all Mac stuff, and most open source/UNIX stuff to boot (thanks to Quartz x11 and Mac's general UNIX-ness.)
    • This just seems stupid to me.

      If you need to do more than occasionally run a PC application then buying a Mac was an unwise decision. That is, of course, if it was purchased as your only computer.
      • Not really

        Reading Ken's comments, he wanted to look into Mac development. You're not going to be able to do that without a Mac. But that doesn't mean he has to give up being a Windows user, so why do so?

        Everyone's under this notion that you have to convert platforms whole hog when you switch hardware - you don't. People should feel free to quintuple boot Linux, OpenSolaris, OS X, Windows 8 and Windows 7 if they so desire. Many of us who are tech enthusiasts don't want to be encumbered by a single way of doing things.
        • I think it's foolish for people to advocate buying a Mac and use...

          ..."because it can run Windows" as justification. There are cases where such a benefit makes sense. But typically if this is what one is doing then it's my opinion they chose the wrong platform.
          • Re: I think it's foolish for people to advocate buying a Mac and use...

            What is wrong to buy the computer with better hardware?

            Unless you believe some computers are made especially for Windows.
          • Most of the time

            it isn't the better hardware though. 9 times out of ten you can get better hardware for much cheaper if you go the Windows route.
            Jason Joyner
        • OpenSolaris is dead

          Solaris 11 Express is available, though.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • I still have OpenSolaris on disk

            Saved it before it died.
        • I had a conversation like this today with a colleague

          Admittedly, the colleague is not computer savvy although he is an avid Windows user and fan..

          The conversation was how he can get rid of the ridicule that maintaining Windows is, and I suggested he could either a Mac or Linux system and run Windows in a VM (he actually has no single application that is available only on Windows, but.. he's a fan anyway).

          He was extremely surprised when I told him there is no problem to load Linux, or even OS X on his existing "Windows computer". To which he attempted to keep his current beliefs by asking "but are not computers made specifically to run Windows, or Linux, or OS X?"
          • What a coincidence - I too had a conversation like this today

            with some colleagues. The conversation was how he can get rid of the ridicule that maintaining OS X is.

            Now one or both of us is lying. a question where the answer is something only the two of us know for sure....
            William Farrel
          • Please

            I think even Owllllnet would be forced to maintain some work needs to be put into keeping Windows up and running. It isn't particularly hard work - such as cleaning temp files, uninstalling crapware that sneaks into the Installer for things like Java, keeping Microsoft Security Essentials up to date, and ensuring that Windows Update has been keeping up.

            But I think we all know what happens if you don't do these things.

            Keeping a Mac clean isn't nothing (you'll probably want to run the "sudo periodic daily weekly monthly" by hand, and clean up all the crap that heaps up in iPhoto.) But due to the fact that there is no registry, and applications install in a single file called an Application bundle... it is hard to argue that it isn't a little easier.
      • Windows on a Mac

        The best Windows computer I have ever used is a VMWare virtual machine running on my Mac. Thanks to VMWare and Time Machine, when Windows crashed fatally during a power outage (yes, I had a UPS, but they only work if your daughter doesn't get tired of the beeping and turns it off). My critical Windows installation was back up and running in the time it took me to copy the virtual file from my time machine drive to my Mac's hdd. Slick.
        Ian Loveless
    • Parallels vs. Boot Camp

      I went the Mac route last year, for mostly the same reasons (development for iOS, rather than Mac, but close enough). But I still need Windows for daily work. So I went with a Windows virtual machine using Parallels, and it works beautifully. Performance is every bit as good as running native. Windows apps can run on the Mac desktop. Parallels maps Mac keys to Windows, so the common Mac shortcut keys are the same for Windows. And they are both always available; not dual-boot to switch between Mac and Windows. Parallels even maps the trackpad for Windows 8 gestures. Once you've paid for the Mac, there's just no downside here!
      diane wilson
    • Re: install Windows using Boot Camp

      For most users, I would always suggest they install Windows in a VM (plenty of choice, from the excellent and free VirtualBox to the more integrated Parallels).

      That way, you will enjoy the better power management and resource utilization of OS X and be able to run both OS X and Windows software at the same time.
  • I went the other way

    I had a Macbook Pro, but when Windows 8 came out with the touch screen I went and played with it and wound up buying a windows ultra with a touchscreen. I, too, had to run a windows conversion software for 90% of my work and i wound up thinking, why the heck am I spending premium money for a windows machine that isn't that great. I know many don't like the touch screen, but I can't imagine going back to a laptop without it. My kids love to swipe to look at pictures, and I love reaching up for a quick selection. I still use my touch pad primarily, but I love the option of selecting things from the screen.
  • I'm pleased with my Mini

    Purchased the Core i7 model back in December of last year. Been a great computer. Had to pick up the external Super Drive so I could install my Canon software. Upgraded it to 16GB of RAM. It replaced my mid-2010 13" MacBook Pro. And it significantly outperforms my 2006 Mac Pro.
  • Enjoy, Ken!

    Hope you enjoy your new mini. I've had one for a while (the last model that had the built-in DVD drive). The monitor I have connected to it is a 47-inch HDTV. I use the mini--with an external tuner and EyeTV software--as my TV/DVR, all controlled with a 7-button Apple remote.
    It's nice that you have a thoughtful wife you can blame for all your Apple goodies. ;)
  • Use Parallels

    I have a Mini in the growing arsenal that is my business. Using Parallels, I have several Windows virtual machines set up (from XP to Win 8) along with a few Mac VMs. They run efficiently, and I can back them all up at once (I use Carbon Copy cloner which is better than Time Machine for this application).
    It's a nice compact way to run Windows and still have a Mac.
  • A high price in a a tiny pot

    Yet downgrading is the norm. There would be $100 Atom Mini's doing the very same if Intel and Linux combined.

    It may just happen, what with Intel now stuck in no where land between ARM and i7.
  • to OSX or Not

    I was a die hard Windows PC guy for years, for the last 2 years when I switched to the MacAir, I have never looked back. Yes there are some apps that have to still be run on windows, Vizio , Project. But these are because of Microsoft not releasing OSX version, and I just use Vmware Fusino to run windows right next to OSX, no issues. Mac is the hands down the best product and the way it interoperates with other devices, Iphone, Ipad, AppleTV, is fantastic. OSX is fantastic, based on a linux underlay, I have never never gotten a Virus or malware, the days of rebuilding Windows every year is over. OSX all the way!!!
    Marc Johnsons