Sunday, July 26, 2009

20 Months on a Mac and Not Drinking the Cool-aid

Someone posted a request on an email list for comments on his thinking about moving from a PC to a Mac. He only wanted replies from people who have switched from a PC to a Mac in the last couple of years. Here is what I emailed to him, expanded and updated for this blog post

Just a quick note on my experience … I purchased a MacBook Pro in Dec 2007 as my first personal Mac (though I have had others in my house). I used it as my only computer (though with XP running in VMWare Fusion) while I was away on sabbatical in Spring 2008 and in general I found it adequate and continued using it as my main computer when I returned home in the Summer.

Toward the end of summer, however, the hard drive died on my Mac and I had to send it in for replacement, which took a little over a week. During that time, I started using my desktop Vista PC again, instead of the MacBook Pro, as my main computer. When my Mac came back, I had to reinstall everything from scratch, and I found that I really did not want to use the Mac as my main computer again, due to a number of limitations, which I list below.

By early Spring 2009 (possibly earlier) my Mac started slowing down considerably and programs started hanging ("beach ball of death") more and more. This was especially true when I opened more than just a couple of programs. In addition, MS Word started crashing whenever I opened more than one document, and VMWare fusion (running XP) became incredibly slow. I was ready to chuck the computer!

Finally in late Spring 2009, I decided to wipe my Mac's hard drive and reinstall the operating system. At the same time, I decided to install Windows 7 under Bootcamp on my Mac, and gave it most of the hard drive.

I have been using this configuration (Windows 7 and Leopard on two partitions with Bootcamp) for the past couple of months and basically felt that there was not a lot of difference between the two operating systems in terms of most of what I do. If I opened in Leopard, I generally stayed there for most of the day; if I opened in Windows 7, I generally stayed there for the rest of the day. There was one program on the Mac side that I did not have an alternative to on the Windows side, and there were a few on the Win side with no equivalents on the Mac side – so that kind of determined which OS I would open at startup.

Now, however, I found a replacement for that one program on the Mac side and I almost always open in Windows 7. Although I think they are fairly comparable, I think Windows 7 is visually more attractive and has better functionality (especially out of the box without having to buy additional utilities).

Currently, my fastest and most stable computer, is my relatively inexpensive Gateway AMD quad-core Vista desktop. I have had it longer than I have had my MacBookPro and I have never had any significant problems with system slowdowns or programs crashing. It still runs almost like new! (The fan comes on more now than when it was new, but other than that, I love it – and Vista runs great!) And I install a lot of trial software and run many programs simultaneously. In fact, I kind of wish I could get rid of this 15" MacBook Pro and get a smaller Vista laptop instead (which I would upgrade to Windows 7, of course), because I find that my Mac is just too big to easily travel with.

In general, my complaints about the Mac are:

  1. Almost nothing is free and some common file management capabilities on the PC are non-existent on the Mac. Freeware programs that I run on the PC need to be purchased for the Mac. I needed to purchase programs to add functions that are built-in to the PC to the Mac. I purchased Default Folder X (so I can do simple things in the open file dialogue box, like rename a file) and Pathfinder (which replaces the Finder application - Mac's version of Windows Explorer). Most of my early frustrations with the Mac were solved when a friend recommended these two programs to me.
  2. The Mac intentionally tries to be un-Windows. There are a lot of functions that are done in totally opposite ways from Windows just so they can claim to be different, and without concerns for user functionality -- in my opinion. For example, whereas in Windows you can resize a window from any corner or side, the Mac will only let you resize from the lower right corner. Also, in Windows, the menus are part of the widow and move with the window. On the Mac, menus are fixed at the top of the screen. These two less-than-user-friendly design options continue to drive me crazy.
  3. My Mac will overheats, especially in the summer, giving me the "Black Screen of Death". I think this is why my hard drive died, as I said above.
  4. My Mac proved to be just as susceptible to the system aging and slow down as it a PC – possibly more so in my recent experience. It also has its bugs. For example, I cannot access to the Ethernet at my workplace using my Mac – and the head of our IT support (a Mac guy) could not resolve my problem. Despite what Apple fan boys claim, I do not think it is superior or more stable to a comparable Windows Vista computer.

So anyway, that is my personal experience. I have not drunk the Mac cool-aid and may be selling my MB Pro on eBay this coming year – though so far Windows 7 is mostly running great on my Mac, so maybe I will keep it...


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