My MacBook Pro Experience - Day 16

My MacBook Pro Experience - Day 16

Summary: A couple of people have asked me whether working on a Mac is significantly different to working on any other Windows PC. I'm guessing that what they are really asking is whether the workflow associated with carrying out a task on the Mac is all that different to doing the same task on a PC. Is it easier? Is it harder? Are there greater or fewer steps involved?


Is working on a Mac all that different to a PC?

A couple of people have asked me whether working on a Mac is significantly different to working on any other Windows PC.  I'm guessing that what they are really asking is whether the workflow associated with carrying out a task on the Mac is all that different to doing the same task on a PC.  Is it easier?  Is it harder?  Are there greater or fewer steps involved?

I've been using my MacBook Pro for over two weeks now and in that time I've actually used it quite a bit to do real work with.  Once you've got a few basic skills under your belt the Mac then become just a tool.  I find that tasks relating to the writing and communication (surfing the web, email, blogging, writing and so on) are now just as easy to do on the Mac as they are on a Windows system.  I really don't feel that there's a huge difference between the two operating systems when it comes to doing simple tasks.  Yes, I have far more customizations on my Windows PCs that make life quicker and easier and I also have a raft of tools and utilities that I'm just so used to using that their use is almost automatic (for example, tools such as WinZip, UltraEdit and BlogJet).  However, considering that I've only had the Mac for just over two weeks, and considering that the platform is so radically different to what I've been used to for well over a decade, I feel that I'm doing pretty well. 

The truth is that I like the Mac, and I feel that I'll be a little sad when it has to go back.  It's a good machine.  I think that part of it's appeal is that it's still relatively clean and uncluttered - most of my systems have too many apps installed and way too many distractions in my eye-line.  The Mac is still pretty sterile, and that holds an appeal.  When I'm working on it I'm not constantly distracted by RSS feeds, emails, messages sent over the network and games.  Yes, that makes me "off the grid" in a lot of ways and there are times when I've been seen with the MacBook on my lap (yes, I was surprised to find that the MacBook Pro is actually cool enough to use on a lap without cooking any of my vitals) and my Windows-based notebook next to me.  Why?  Because there are about 1,001 things that I really should add and customize on my MacBook (and that I now know how to do!) that I can't be bothered doing - setting up email accounts, network permissions, installing software, moving my cache of passwords over, that kind of thing.  I  can't be bothered doing all this because the machine has to go back in a couple of weeks and it's not worth the investment in time.  If it weren't for that single reason, I would have set it up so that I could work independently on it by now.

But I'm also aware that Mac isn't for everyone.  Some things bind you to your existing platform (Windows or Linux) more than others.  Photoshop, Visual Studio, accounting software just to name three.  Here you're either going to have to unlimber your wallet and buy new software or, if your are, say, a Windows developer, find a new job.  The same goes for hardware - PDAs, MP3 players (unless it's an iPod), cell phones - can keep you locked to your existing platform.  Even thinking about making a 100% transition to Mac is either going to be very painful or costly.

One thing that having the Mac for sixteen days has shown me is that black and white thinking about operating systems is, at best, idealistic.  For years I've been puzzled by people who look at the choice of an OS like a religion, and the more I use the Mac the more this kind of view seems irrational to me.  Sure, we all like to think that we've made the perfect choice or purchase, but increasingly that is nothing more than a state of mind or an illusion.  In this age of convergence, the differences are getting smaller and less noticeable.

Is being "platform agnostic" the way forward, or will user of different platforms continue never see eye to eye?

Topic: Apple

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  • Other Devices

    You mention that MP3 players, cell phones, and other devices can hold you to windows. While they may be true for a few individual devices, over all I have not found many that will not work on a Mac. iSync works amazingly well with cell phones, and for the ones it does not work with, you can use The Missing Sync which is a 3rd party app. I know several people with smart phones and Macs as well.

    For MP3 players, while the software they come with may not work, you can still transfer songs on and off of them manually. Although the play list may or may not work, this I am not sure on.

    Its good to see that you are getting more used to the machine. I feel the same way about an OS being just another tool, and it more or less comes down to what the user needs, and what their personal preferences are.
    • Not to mention

      that the most popular MP3 player by far is the iPod, and it seems to be right
      at home on the Mac. ;-) I also bluetooth sync my Treo with Mail, Address Book
      and iCal using The Missing Sync (and a QueSoft conduit). And for accounting,
      I use Quicken for my online banking, and QuickBooks for my consulting
      business. If I remember correctly, some or all of those Intuit programs won't
      run on a new Vista computer because of some legacy use they make of the
      registry that they shouldn't be doing. So for me now, I would have to give up a
      number of things that I use on the Mac in order to go to a new Windows
      machine. That seems a bit ironic.
  • Thanks Adrian

    Your words ring true with everything that I have been able to find out in my own independent research on the Mac. I wish to buy a Macbook Pro and the price it carries seems very reasonable. It looks like it could completely replace my current XP PRo VAIO laptop except for one simple thing.

    The are NO docking stations for the Macbooks. As a fairly mobile user. I find that I must connect and remove my laptop almost everyday. The Macbook line (and I believe pretty much all Mac notebooks) do not have support for a docking station. Apple does not support docking the machine and third party accessory makers can't support it either.

    I don't understand why Apple did not chose to provide docking support in the otherwise stellar notebook designs. It seems to me that any and every notebook/laptop should have some sort of docking port or replicator port and most do. Why not Apple?

    This is the one and only thing that has delayed my transition to the Macbook Pro. I have found some work arounds but these seem "cheesy" compared to the otherwise admirable design of the machine.
    • Finally.... a voice of reason

      >>>For years I've been puzzled by people who look at the choice of an OS like a religion, and the more I use the Mac the more this kind of view seems irrational to me. Sure, we all like to think that we've made the perfect choice or purchase, but increasingly that is nothing more than a state of mind or an illusion. In this age of convergence, the differences are getting smaller and less noticeable.<<<

      whew, and I was begining to think that since I didn't ascribe to a religious view of Windows, OS X, or Linux that I was somehow missing out.
      • I gave up on the docking station

        When I went with a PowerBook & 23" display I toyed with
        the idea of a docking station. Finally gave up and chose
        an iCurve ( and keep it behind the
        display. The hook up is fast - the display has 2 USB and 2
        Firewire ports on the back, making it fast. Wile I could use
        the PB's display for more screen space I don't need it - the
        23" works fine for me as long as I don't look at a 30" for
        more than 10 seconds.
    • Docking stations

      Try here :
      • Thanks for the lead, but

        I had found this before. These seem to "sprawl" on the desk and look a bit clunky compared to the styling of the notebook but I can deal with that. It's the $300 price tag for what is basically a platform with some cabled connector extenders that's really hard to swallow.

        Unfortunately, I probably will end up with one of these anyway.

        A docking port connector and a docking station that is styled to look more Macbook like would certainly be worth the $300. All of my VAIOs had these and they looked good on a desk.

        Come on Apple - get with it.
        • Part of the design

          As long as the Mac laptops continue to put all of those connectors on the
          sides of their machines, any docking station that works with them is going to
          look something like the BookEndz devices. I agree it isn't elegant looking. I
          have docked Compaq's, HP's IBM's and Dell's and all just slipped into a
          docking station with a single deft move, and they looked pretty good without
          the laptop in them. The BookEndz devices look more like what their name
          implies. It also didn't look like they have a solution for the 17in. MacBook Pro
          • It has to be that way

            MacBooks are very slim, putting a hinge and all the connectors on the back would
            make one or the other less than robust, so Apple puts them on the side.

            Most users don't use a dock and side-mounted ports are more convenient - laptops
            with stuff sticking out the back are a pain. Having said that, I'd like to use one but
            the Bookends docks look ugly and expensive. Guess I'll stick to manually inserting
            connectors, at least it's just one USB for keyboard and mouse, one for the monitor
            and one for speakers - takes about 10 seconds max. Thank heavens for WiFi and
            Fred Fredrickson
          • It doesn't have to be that way at all

            I have owned at least 10 Sony VAOI laptops. All of these were chosen because they are small and especially because they are slim. This includes the XG series (earlier and a bit bulkier), R505 series and V505 series.

            The V505 (I currently have three with two docking stations) all have all connectors on the sides. When docked to the docking station, they connect through a specialized connector on the bottom of the machine. The docking station gives them a lift in the back for enhanced cooling and provides all of the pertinent connections to the back of the docked system. Including separate DVI and VGA ports, ethernet, USB etc.

            All of this tucks nicely under the monitor stand so when I use the docked laptop, it's actually difficult to tell if I am using a desktop box under the desk or a laptop somewhere else. This gives a very professional appearance that I need as a marketing and technical guy. I really don't want a 14" wide laptop sprawling all over my work space because Apple couldn't engineer a docking connection for their product.

            So the question remains, why can't Apple provide a decent docking station for their otherwise stellar laptop designs?
    • To Dock or Not to Dock...

      You know, I have had a docking station since about 1990, Changed to MBP about
      a year ago, and I have to tell you this is a nonissue.

      Just about all of the periferals are USB, so if you put them on a USB hub, then you
      have only three things to plug in: power, Ethernet, and USB.

      This does not take any more time than positioning a Thinkpad on a docking
      station, pushing it in, and making sure it is properly seated. Really.

      If you also use a separate monitor and a some firewire pieces, then you might
      have a different situation. You could use a firewire hub, of course. I must say that
      for me, the built-in screen is so good that I have stopped using an external
  • There must be Diversity!

    Without it the world is doomed!

    The danger is Real! The Danger is Microsoft!
  • The New Egalitarian

    This new egalitarianism is better late than never.

    Vista is being trucked out the door on tuesday and a renewed commitment to the
    PC platform will be made by many. It will require further investment in the
    platform. The kind of investment that Adrian cites as incentive to stay put. The
    only "religion" any vendor requires is the purchase price. Support is given or taken
    with the voting dollar. To own both platforms is to support both platforms. To rely
    on one exclusively, is to put money in the coffers of one and deny the other. One
    can be even tempered around platform piety, preach, equality and still continue to
    be effectively "religious". Monetary support is all the faith a modern market

    A few others have made the same argument. Why switch? It will be an effort and
    an expense. Why indeed. This has less to do with Apple than it does with
    Microsoft. In a competitive market where there are 8 different commercial desktop
    OS vendors, the support (through purchase) of one of those vendors products,
    represents a dead heat. This isn't the case here. There are two proprietary desktop
    OS vendors. One of them controls 95% of the market for better or worse. To throw
    exclusive monetary support behind this one vendor in the face of this market
    imbalance is to abdicate your voice. No one gets to complain. It's almost that
    simple. Vista's late? Too bad. IE Stagnant? Too bad. Viruses? Malware? UAC
    glitches? Price escalations? Too bad.

    Adrian's other article of this week have been concerned with Microsoft's
    sometimes questionable policies and decisions. There are daily complaints about
    Microsoft's level of accountability, and their responsiveness to their customers.
    One can bleat on endlessly in blog after blog about how hard done by we all are.
    These commiseration sessions are good thereapy? No. It's codependency.

    The question Adrian has yet to answer is... why did it take so long? Why is a pro
    and an enthusiastic hardware guy taking so long to initiate this experiment. Why
    does it require goading from posters and a loaner from Apple for Adrian to
    discover the best laptop hardware he's ever laid his hands on?

    The answer to that question needs to be factored into this new mindset. It needs
    to inform subsequent decisions. The irony for Windows users, is that if we want to
    send a real and tangible message to Microsoft that we demand timely high quality
    software, the best way to do it is to buy a Mac.
    Harry Bardal
    • Tangible message to Microsoft

      I agree whole heartedly. I want to buy a Mac but I know that this investment will be expensive. I will want to get Mac versions of the Windows software that have these available like Office and Adobe Creative Suite applications.

      All of my Adobe tools are about a couple of revisions old. In order to "sidegrade" I must also upgrade. That's another $750. Plus the Adobe Creative Suite 2 programs run very poorly on the Intel Macs (I got this from the Adobe sales guy). So we must wait till CS3 to get real performance from these. But I can't upgrade from my Photoshop 7 to CS3. So if I wait, I must buy full retail and the price turns into at least $1200 or upgrade twice which will probably be about the same expense.

      Regarding Office, I have Office 2003 Premium for Windows. Can I "upgrade" to Office 2004 for the Mac? My cynical nature and experience with MS says that is highly unlikely. So I must again buy full retail.

      There are other examples but these two illustrate the point. Third party software vendor pricing and policies also seem to be designed to frustrate migration between OS platforms. This tends to make OS choice very difficult and further promotes the "religious" atmosphere of OS selection.

      However I am committed to migrate. I can, unhappily and screaming, afford this choice but I doubt that my wherewithal is shared by a majority of Windows users. Thus the message becomes more symbolic than tangible.
      • Problem is it's the same with Windows.

        Many, many applications must be upgraded to work their best in Vista. So the cost is the same regardless of platform.

        What you should do is network the Winbox to the Macbox so you can use RemoteDesktop from the Mac to connect to the Winbox until such a time arrives that you can buy the know, a little at a time.

        Vista creates the same cost barriers so I can imagine many people jumping to the Mac (if you have to spend, you may as well diversify).
      • Check out all options

        If you have a college student in the family, check out the student discount
        on these products. Most have a very generous policy of letting that
        software be loaded on multiple machines provided the student uses them
        to some degree. Where my daughter attends college, all students were
        "given" a copy of Office 2004 for the Mac or Office XP as well as several
        other programs (like antivirus) that were included in their IT package. I'll
        have to read the agreement to see if I can keep them after she graduates.
        There are also several open source programs that run quite well on the Mac
        that can take the place of Office for the most part. Check out NeoOffice and
        Open Office. Ditto for the Photoshop application. I know a few graphic
        designers that switched to the free open source program The Gimp and
        never looked back. It's quite a mature program at this point.
      • Adobe Products on Intel Macs

        Actually, the speed difference does not appear to be that great in many instances.

        In December, I attended a computer club meeting that had one of Adobe's top
        software managers presenting and he talked of this perceived usability problem
        and complaints from Apple users (re delay of CS3 for Intel).

        Being mainly a Mac user himself, he used his "older" G4 Powerbook and had a
        side-by-side run off with a new MacBook Pro he had just received. The Intel-
        based MacBook Pro was equal to or won many of the "intensive" Photoshop
        process races.

        Bottom line was, he didn't think many of the performance complaints were
        justified and the live side-by-side comparison seemed to bare him out. (he also
        had an interesting demo of the audio beta Soundbooth)
      • Poor Adobe performance? Don't believe it!

        New Intel-based Macs run most things in Adobe CS2 about as fast as the fastest
        PowerPC Macs. And remember, that is using emulation. When CS3 comes out with
        native Intel versions, they scream ahead in many areas.

        Barefeats is a great site for Mac performance tips:
        Fred Fredrickson
      • Take a look at these
        middle of nowhere
      • Get OpenOffice instead

        You can mitigate some of your new software costs by getting OpenOffice for free,
        knocks spots off MS Office. I use it on both my PC and my Mac and both are
        compatible with MS Office, with more functionality, and includes a database.