My First Weekend With a Mac

14. October 2012 One-Time 1

This past week, everyone at my office got new Mac Book Pros. We are a software company that currently writes in .NET.  I think I abstained from the computer selection (or said whatever everyone else agreed on was fine.) The reason for this was that I consider computers to be commodities.  

Background

I’ve been on a computer for almost 30 years now. I’ve had a PC clone since I was 8 (and had a TI & Commodore before that.) In my 30 years of computers, there are 2 times I remember caring about hardware.  The first was when I bought a sound card, it HAD to be a Soundblaster. The other time was the first Linux PC I built (back in the day where rebuilding the kernel yourself wasn’t uncommon, you wanted to make sure you had compatible  hardware.

Apart from those two times, I don’t remember caring about specifics to hardware. Instead, I cared about CPU speed, memory and HDD capacity. That is, the last computer I bought, I wanted a core i5, 8GB RAM and at least 250GB HDD. I bought the cheapest computer that met all those parameters. (I actually bought one with 4GB, and spent $80 to upgrade to 8GB.)

So I write this blog post coming from that background.  I’ve used Dells at work,

Compaq & MSI at home, as well as home-built computers.

Usage

I’ve spent the past couple days trying to get the computer up & running with all of my software. There was definitely an adjustment period in running a new OS.  Here’s what I’ve enjoyed on the Mac so far:

  1. Battery Life
  2. Parallels
  3. OSX Spaces

The battery life definitely beats my laptop’s battery.That said, I have a personal rule that is essentially, if I’m somewhere that doesn’t have electricity I shouldn’t be using a computer for more than an hour or so.

Parallels is pretty nice. The performance is better than VMWare or other options I’ve played with. Plus the ability to integrate it into the host OS is very nice.  The virtual desktops are something I miss from Linux days. I know there are packages you can use on Windows for virtual desktops, but really Linux & the Windows packages just don’t really compare with Spaces. And it’s native to the OS.

With the nice parts, there are also some things I’m trying to overcome. The ones that come to mind all revolve around how I use a computer:

  1. Shortcuts
  2. Keyboard

Inside things like Visual Studio I use a lot of keyboard shortcuts. If I’m typing, I try not to use the mouse. In fact, the only time I really use a mouse is when I’m mindlessly browsing the web. So being able to do Ctrl+Shift+Arrow to highlight words is very helpful. I haven’t figured that out yet. 

The other thing that has bugged me so far is the keyboard. Some things will take some getting used to (like the Ctrl & FN key being swapped from my keyboard.) Some things actually irritate me (like not having a delete key.)

Actually the keyboard is, to me, a symptom of the Apple approach.  There is no home or end key (it’s function+arrow).  There is no “forward” delete. There is a backspace that has been renamed to delete. And if you want to delete the character to the right of the cursor, it’s fn+delete(backspace).  None of these are really big deals, except that some of these keys have been around forever.  Combine that with the swap of scrolling (want to go down a page, move your fingers up the trackpad.)

When I encounter these things I keep thinking “If this had been Windows that made these changes they’d be blasted for messing with a standard.” Yet now, it seems as if I’m the problem. I need to adapt. I need to just do things differently (e.g. Command+Click instead of middle clicking.)

Bottom Line

So far the Mac has not done anything to change my opinion. It’s not better than I expected, nor is it worse than I feared.  It is a good computer, but after using it, I still think of computers as commodities.  Just as I don’t care whether I’m eating Farmer Bob’s or Farmer Tom’s corn on the cob, I don’t care which computer I’m using, so long as I can get my work done.

Personally, I doubt I’ll be buying a Mac anytime soon. Not because they’re bad machines, they’re nice. I just don’t see the value in paying between 4-5 times the cost of my current laptop for one.


1 thought on “My First Weekend With a Mac”

  • 1
    Matt on October 15, 2012 Reply

    Yeah, using a Mac is an exercise is frustration for the first year or two. It is very counter intuitive, especially for a power user of dev. If you spend all your time in email or a browser, its easy, but for the ones who really take advantage of their machines, its a tough switch. That said, I have completely converted and my last 3 laptops have been MacBook Pros. Once you overcome the hurdle of conversion its great. I can’t say its overall better, but once you are use to it, it will take a while to go back.

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