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Experiment: X

Apple

March 18, 2007 07:32 PM PST

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I've been using Windows computers since Christmas of 1996, and various flavours of Unix machines provided by my university since 1990. The Windows machines have significantly improved usability over OpenWindows or XWindows or whatever ncurses based terminal environment runs on linux these days. But the usability improvements of Windows always seem to be offset by some issue or other plaguing my computers, and there is always the threat of malware, like the nasty Sony rootkit, which I have no idea how to detect let alone remove.

In the summer of 2004, I decided to get a Powerbook running Mac OS X. There were plenty of good reasons to buy one before that time, but it was only then that the feature set added up to something irresistible: Xcode, GarageBand, Camino, iLife, Delicious Library and of course, the OS itself: an incredibly polished and beautiful user interface with a solid Unix core. It certainly helped that I'd been enjoying using my iPod for all of music needs (including my alarm clock), and the hardware is extremely well designed both technically and aesthetically.

the purchase

The Powerbook was never my main machine, but I use it daily during my commute up and down the 101, meetings, periodic cocoa hacking and guitar recording. It's a far nicer experience than linux or Windows, so in the fall of 2006, I decided to get a 24" Intel iMac. This is an incredibly fast machine, booting the OS in a few seconds, and it comes with a beautiful screen: far more colorful and bright than either of my Dell flat panels. Another huge benefit of using the iMac is the lack of cables, making for a computer that actually looks at home in the living room.

the switch

I've been so happy with my two Macs that I've decided to make my experimentation with OS X permanent: I've donated my Windows machines to charity. My apartment is now so much more quiet without that jet engine of a PC fan humming in the background. The area under my desk no longer looks like some cyber squirrel made a nest there out of all the wires and cables and plugs and dusty bunnies.

Will I regret it? Probably not. I don't do much PC gaming these days, thanks to the excellent Xbox Live service, so I don't need Windows for that. With the iPhone coming out in a couple of months, I have no more need of my Pocket PC... anyone want to buy a hardly used Dell Axim cheap? The online applications I use, like Google reader or docs don't care what OS I'm running.

I've got Parallels installed on my iMac, but I'm trying not to use that or Bootcamp at all... I want to do everything with an OS X native solution.

vista

I hear that there are some Vista only games coming out, but I think that the whole "DirectX 10 only runs on Vista for complex technical reasons" is a load of crap (and so do many others). It's all about pushing Vista. DirectX is a software interface to the underlying hardware, so there is no reason that OpenGL can't do those fancy new tricks as well.

Vista's new features don't really resonate with me: their imitation of Mac OS X's Expose is a perfect example of how badly Microsoft doesn't get it when it comes to building user interfaces and experiences:


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Vista's "Flip 3D" feature, instead of showing you the contents of all windows like Expose, just stacks the windows in a perspective view while still obscuring their content! I guess you can scroll through the view, but how is that different than just alt-tabbing today? Oh right, they're using DirectX 10 to do it.

And when it comes to security, no OS is immune, but when you can't even trust Microsoft to protect it's own OS, you know there's a serious problem.

Oops, I didn't mean for this to turn into some big anti-Microsoft rant, I still love their Xbox Live service, which makes multiplayer gaming painless. That's a pretty significant and much appreciated accomplishment!

no more excuses

But all the little nits build up, and after 10 years of putting up with things not working seemlessly like Wi-Fi on my old Toshiba laptop, poorly designed user interfaces, software that doesn't quite integrate with the hardware so that there are a dozen little taskbar bubbles popping up everytime I connect a device to Windows:

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Me: connect PocketPC to PC's USB cable
PocketPC: automatically turns on and starts syncing whether I want it to or not
Windows taskbar: "I found a new USB device!"
Windows taskbar: "I'm configuring a new USB device!!"
Windows taskbar: "It's a Dell Axim!!!"
Windows taskbar: "Do you want to partner with your newly configured USB Dell Axim device? I won't remember your answer for next time, so we can do this again! Wheeeeeee!!!!"

Then there is the mediocre, terrible and disastrous software so common in the Windows experience. It's time for something new. Actually, with all that Unix goodness under the hood, OS X is also something old and proven. People are starting to notice.

teh future

I'm thinking of eventually pushing the experiment a little further: getting rid of all non-laptop computers entirely. But that will have to wait until the next generation of Mac Book Pros are launched (I'm going to want at least 300 GB of disk in the laptop), and until there is a simple network storage and backup solution for all my files. Until then, I'm sticking with the beautiful iMac... it's almost as if the future is now.


Comments (5)
Sniffy, March 18, 2007 08:17 PM:

Get a NAS and you're done. As an emergent Macaphile nyself, this D-Link one seems like it would fit the bill.

J, March 19, 2007 09:54 AM:

Apple also has a NAS device with Airport Extreme if you want to stay all-mac, of course it costs more.

Wheelson, March 20, 2007 02:11 PM:

After winter storms knocked out the USB and PCM/CIA ports on my home computer that my wife and I share, I too decided to experiment and go with a 20" iMac.

My experiences match those outlined here. Sharing the PC with my wife was never a good experience but the Mac with its Unix underpinnings lets my wife and I share the computer seamlessly. The performance, even with us both logged in with a normal suite of apps running is great. Administration of the machine has been a great experience too.

Because of the way this experiment has gone, I definitely plan to include a laptop in the mix as well as Apple TV and Airport Extreme for my NAS. I was planning on going all laptop again, but having a stationary computer always on at home is really great too. The fact that the iMac looks so damn sexy just sitting there made that decision easier. Sticking an Elgato dongle on the iMac is an exciting sounding option as well. Pair that with a widescreen iPod if such a thing is to exist and I'll start believing that personal jetpacks and hover cars are not too far behind.

Wheelson, March 20, 2007 02:14 PM:

I'll add that something like FolderShare from Microsoft is a pretty neato way to sync files between my personal iMac and my work issues ThinkPad.

Paul, March 20, 2007 02:53 PM:

I didn't realize that FolderShare had a Mac version! I'll check that out tonight.

I'm hoping that AppleTV gets DVR capabilities. If so, I'll be first in line to get one.






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