So hows the MacA

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August 3, 2006 2:11 p.m.
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So how’s the Mac?

A few months ago I told you how, after two decades in the PC universe, I was considering buying a Mac. The immediate trigger was a really bad experience with a new Gateway computer. But there was a broader dissatisfaction with PCs and interest in trying out Macs. Also, in the field I work in — journalism and web design — Macs are fairly dominant. So I got a Mac Mini to test the water and a nice Mac Cinema display, figuring that if I liked Macs the display would migrate with me when I got a more powerful Mac system.

So I wanted to take a moment and report back on what my experiences have been.

Basically, I’m sold. I’ve been using a PC at home and a Mac at work for several months now. And I just prefer using the Mac. A lot. Some of it is simple ease of use, the ‘it just works factor’. It runs with few or no problems. And not having to worry about computer viruses is nice. I’m also doing a lot more working with video. And there’s no question the machine is just better designed for working with video — both on the hardware level and in the applications it comes with. But that’s a niche use.

When I think about it, it’s hard for me to point to any one thing that I prefer about the Mac. I’m a pretty adept PC user. And I’m usually able to fix or workaround whatever problems crop up. I think what it comes down to for me is basically three things.

First, Quality. That can mean a lot of things, but I mean this: Because I spend so much time on a computer and it’s so central to my work, I’m willing to pay good money for a really well-built machine. In the PC world, I’ve just had a really hard time finding that. Sure I had a bad experience with Gateway. But it’s the same with the other big companies. Even if you get the top of the line, it’s just not that well put together. And it’s usually a bunch of different parts that don’t really work together all that well. So, quality of the physical product and its integration with the operating system itself, which also seems light years ahead of Windows. The thing’s just made really well and it shows. (The only systems I’ve found in the PC world that have some of this are the formerly IBM manufactured ThinkPads, now made by Lenovo.)

Second, Integration. This is an aspect of the quality issues I mentioned above and the integration with the operating system. But as a PC user I would find myself wishing the operating system did things a certain really convenient way. And just as often, I’d think couldn’t there be a program that accomplished this one relatively simple task for me? They all seem to already be there on Mac. Or at least I find them again and again. It’s hard to point to any one thing that makes too big a difference. But they build on each other. And all told, they lead to a more pleasant and productive work experience. The new Macs have a suite of programs (iLife) for organizing and editing your photos, videos, music, etc. Amazingly powerful and well-designed. Just right there, ready to use, perfect. If you’re working with graphics and video and anything to do with design, it’s just not even close. A lot of this, I suppose, is just what’s possible when you have more of a integrated production concept. Mac creates the machine, the operating system and a decent amount of the software. So of course they all tend to work well together. I’ve always been a bit leery of this since it sounded like I’d be tied into one prescribed approach and system and would be cut off from the innovation produced through a less hierarchical computer universe. In practice, though, I really like it. (It still bums me out that Mac doesn’t make a Tablet computer. I absolutely love my Tablet.)

Third, Aesthetics and It Just Works. I like the way the Mac looks and the physical presentation on the screen is vastly nicer than on a PC. Also, things just work a whole lot easier. I plug things in and they work. Everything is just organized a whole lot better. There are still some things I’ve had difficulties with. But I think that’s mainly because I have the personality disorder that prevents me from reading directions.

By and large, migrating data over from Mac works pretty seamlessly. I’m still having a problem finding a way to migrate my Eudora email over. The files go over. But there’s some slight difference in the way texts files work on the two systems that makes the PC email not come over entirely intact. I think I need to find a Mac techie who can put together a script to fix this. If you’re familiar with this problem and have any tips, please let me know.

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