A history of Mac fanboyism, part 2

Wow, a great deal has happened in the many months since I wrote the first posting on this topic. It is hard to believe that I had no idea about the impending death of Steve Jobs or even what looks like the decline and fall of RIM. Anything I write on those topics has probably been said much better by others so I’ll just stick to the personal, which is what Blogs are for of course.

The first Apple device I got was an iPod. I had an Mpio mp3 player but the software that came with it to transfer songs was really bad and hung a lot, so I wound up dragging and dropping mps directly onto its SD card. But its own LCD panel navigation with the toggle switch was pretty awful as well. I eventually got frustrated with it and got and iPod on my Aeroplan points and it worked really well. I even watched a few movies on it on the plane. I thought it was a simple intuitive design and I never went back to my Mpio.

The change to seriously consider the Mac was brought about by the amazing amount of Microsoft patches that were pushed out each week. Between my work laptop and our home computer I felt like I was a full time Windows Administrator with all the updates I had to install. Our Windows machine was aging badly and even the updated video card I had installed was failing to provide much extra performance. The second piece that clicked into shape was Apple’s move from their own proprietary processor to Intel. This meant you could dual boot and run Windows or the Apple OS. I run a lot of virtual machines so I never used this option, just bought “Fusion” instead, but the fact that Apple was now in the “intel” world made a difference.

So when our aged Windows machine needed to be replaced I took the plunge and bought an iMac for our family (this was 2007/8 and they were white plastic then). It was shiny and sleek and came all in one piece so it could be moved around the house if necessary. It was certainly not a laptop, but I could move it into another room to watch a movie or something.

The most immediately exciting thing for me was Garage Band. I play guitar and keyboard and write songs and it was an amazing piece of software that came with the OS! I had been using Acid on my PC for a few years, but Sony had bought it and were turning into a piece of DJ software instead of the simple and cool recording program it had been. I had an Oxygen midi keyboard that I had tried, unsuccessfully, to get to work with various Windows software packages for several months. I downloaded a driver and Bang!, I was playing and recording strings into a song in Garage Band. It was cool, fun and “it just worked”. After working with Garage Band some more I realized I could spend a lot of time with this and I needed my own computer, so a couple of months later I bought a Macbook (with the white plastic body). I guess you could say I was a convert.

In my job as a technical trainer I was running virtual machines on my Dell laptop and was able to do so with my Macbook as well. Its 2 GB of RAM was sufficient. In fact, over a three year period I had two Dell machines crash and burn during training and having the Macbook saved me because I was able to use it instead. Last year I sold my Macbook for a few hundred dollars so I upgraded to a Macbook Air. So the Mac kept its value much longer than a Windows machine would have.

Our iMac did not fare so well as its hard drive crashed several months ago (it was about 4 years old). But the Apple “system” showed its usefulness anyway because I was able to simply plug in an external drive to the iMac and restore all the data from the Time Capsule that had a complete backup. The CPU, RAM and screen work great so I expect it will keep chugging along for email, surfing the web etc. for many years. I suppose something similar could have been accomplished using third party Windows software, but it was great that Apple has everything integrated so well.

Summary evaluation: Windows 7 is a good operating system and works pretty well if you enable the graphical interface (Aveo) so you can see all your programs from the task bar, switch between Explorer windows etc. But when many programs initially open they freeze for a while (Outlook, VMware Workstation, Internet Explorer to name a few give the “not responding” message). And when you want to shut down a program that is frozen it takes _many_ clicks of the Task Manager option. But on my Macs, programs rarely freeze and if they do (usually because of a crappy website) using “Force Quit” shuts them down immediately. I think this shows that OSX isolates individual processes much more better than Windows. I open and close my Macbook Air all the time and it suspends and resumes like a dream. I have not had to restart it in months. If I try that with my Dell laptop, programs stop working after the 3rd or 4th suspend, drivers don’t load etc. It’s a disaster, and this may have to do with the hardware, but it just seems like Windows is a flakier OS.I know a couple of people with the fancy lightweight Samsung windows machines but I think the Macbook Air is sturdier and is still more robust with the suspend feature. But I don’t have any firsthand experience to test.

Being a musician I REALLY like Garage Band. It’s powerful and simple to use and I’ve been using it quite a bit even though I am paying money to a studio guy to record my songs. I bought Logic Express but have not really worked with it because GB is so much simpler.

So overall, I’m continuing to be a “Mac guy”, loving my air and iPhone etc. I actually prefer to travel with my Blackberry Playbook rather than the iPad, so perhaps there is room for other devices!

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