My Mac Life

I admit, I brought this on myself, and it’s up to me to solve this problem. This is my attempt at doing that. After reading this, if you are one of the few dozen people that scolded me for not following up on my post about switching the a Mac, please consider this my retribution.

Ok, I’m being dramatic. The truth is that quite a few of my friends and Readers™ honestly wanted to know how my transition from Windows to Mac OS was gong. Do I like the Mac? Was it hard? Am I still using it?

apple-logo1Yes. Yes. Yes.

My move to the MacBook Air was a slow process. In the beginning, I was excited to join the ranks of the cool kids with a MacBook Air. Reading the previous post on the topic, you’d think I was all in and this was a closed book. In reality, it took longer than I expected to make the transition. The MacBook Air was sexy. It was hip. It was alluring. What I discovered was, most importantly, it just works. I turned it on, set up my profile and was up and running quickly. I hit the Mac Store and downloaded some apps, set up my email using Mail. I was ready.

While it just worked, it worked differently, and my enthusiasm quickly went away. Windows was like an old girl friend that was just waiting for me to come back, and she was there with a gin and tonic, and a smile to greet me at the door.

In the early days of using the Mac, I almost dreaded it. I loved how reliably it worked and how quickly it booted up, but I didn’t feel productive. It took me a while to figure out how to do very basic things. I didn’t know how to navigate the file system. I couldn’t get in to the Windows network that Telerik uses. I didn’t have the apps I was accustomed to – most notably Microsoft Office. So I found myself using the Mac a little, then switching over to my Lenovo X220.

Ah, the feeling of productivity.

I was not only trying to see what life as a Mac user was like, I was also trying to see what life as a Mac developer was like, so I forced myself to use the Mac a little every day. I would do a little iOS development in xCode. I would do a little web development in Dreamweaver. Occasionally I would open up Eclipse (and then quickly shut it down out of frustration because it sucks). Over the weeks I found myself using the Mac more and more. In between writing code on the Mac I would do a little work…on the Mac (even with the Lenovo sitting right there). Mostly this was because I only had one monitor, and didn’t want to keep switching it back and forth (although I did buy an HDMI switch just for this reason).

As time past I realized that the Mac OS X Lion touch gestures were becoming second nature. They were incredibly intuitive, and easy to learn without thinking about it. It dawned on me that they had become part of my muscle memory when I found myself trying to use the two finger swipe on the Lenovo (and I was constantly using the mouse wheel and scrolling in the wrong direction).

The MacBook Air had taken hold of me.

In November I went on vacation with my wife and kids, we rarely go anywhere without at least one computer, and since this was a vacation, I decided I would bring only the MacBook Air. This was a huge step for me. I always have a computer with me, just in case something needs immediate attention. Even if I am not doing work, it’s like a security blanket – I feel uncomfortable without it. Now I was going to be traveling across an ocean, far away from my home office, with nothing but a MacBook Air. I was nervous, but if there is the right time to try this, it’s on vacation, when the computer is much less critical. The vacation was great, and the MacBook proved useful (I took a bunch of photos and used iPhoto to do some quick touch-ups before posting them for friends and family).

self_portrait

In January the transition was complete. I had purchased a Thunderbolt display and a MagicMouse, and the MacBook (now with Office for Mac, and a Windows 7 BootCamp partition) was my primary machine. I still used my Lenovo daily, mostly for network stuff at work, but the time spent on it was rapidly diminishing. I spent a week at Telerik’s office in Boston, and only brought the MacBook Air with me. And the world didn’t end.

As I write this, I am on a plane traveling from Sofia, Bulgaria to Paris, and eventually to Seattle (the photo below is from the airplane, over Sofia). I am writing this on my iPad. My MacBook Air is close by (I thought I was going to watch a movie on the iPad, but decided I didn’t have enough time). I have replaced the DLink router in my house with an AirPort Extreme, and I am back to using an iPhone pretty regularly.

IMG_0016 1

I’m not trying to be a Mac fanboy, but there are some things that simply work better. The MacBook Air is small, light and easily fits in the seat back pocket on an airplane. It boots fast, and the battery is decent. The iPad is far and away better than the Lenovo K1 Android Honeycomb tablet that i have. I had reluctantly given up my iPhone a couple years ago, and now I am back where all the good apps are.

I replaced my DLink router because it was failing, and several reviews I read pointed to the Airport Extreme as the best router for mixed Apple/Microsoft environments.. I took it out of the package and plugged it in, and within minutes a setup wizard had guided me through cloning my existing wireless network. Our total downtime of the wireless network could be measured in seconds, and the entire setup took only a clue minutes. I was impressed.

If anything has lured me to use Apple products it has been the simplicity and reliability of them. Everything just works, and rarely requires any technical expertise. I was reminded of this yesterday when I booted my Lenovo and it took 10-minutes to go from cold to a useable state. All I wanted to do was boot up, Skype a colleague and tell him where to meet me in 10-minutes. By the time it was booted, I was late to meet him and he didn’t know where we were meeting. I have yet to have this experience with the MacBook Air.

Of course, I still use Windows, but mostly I use it in my BootCamp image running in VMWare Fusion (that way I can three-finger swipe between Mac OS X and Windows). Of course, Mac OS X continues to frustrate me from time to time (for example the other day I was using some software that required me to press the right-control key…there is no right-control key on the MacBook Air). I don’t yet feel like a Power User and that is uncomfortable. It’s like when I bought my first car that had electronic fuel injection and an on board computer. Suddenly I went from being able to work on anything in it to not even understanding how it all works. I don’t like that.

I’m still learning, but I am much more comfortable with the Mac now. My fingers are getting trained to use the Command key, and I’m getting used to the significantly lower profile of the Magic Mouse.

Here are a few things I love and hate:

  • The screen on the MacBook Air is beautiful.
  • The screen on the Thunderbolt display is even better.
  • The backlit keyboard is a very nice touch.
  • Fast boot time. Fast shut down time.
  • The power cable allows you to switch out the plug with a European compatible plug (and others).
  • I can drag and drop between the Mac OS and the Windows OS in VM Ware Fusion
  • I can boot to Mac OS X, boot to Windows, or boot to Mac OS X and run the BootCamp image as a VM (I love choice)
  • Full screen apps are awesome – this is the way apps should run
  • The switching between Command+C/V/X/A on Mac OS X and Control+C/V/X/A on Windows is a productivity killer.
  • So is Commend+Tab vs. Alt+Tab
  • Compatibility with my Windows domain sucks.
  • As a general rule, developing on the Mac sucks – the tools are terrible.
  • The MacBook Air needs more RAM (especially if you are going to run Windows on it)

D7

[Ed. Note: In full disclosure, I posted this to my blog as a draft, then edited it on my BootCamp Windows 7 partition with Windows Live Writer – I simply haven’t found a better blog editor for the Mac.]

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Comments

  1. Hey Doug –
    Try ecto for OSX as a blog editor. Different from Live Writer, but very good in its own way. Enjoy the Apple life!

  2. Great post. What I’d like to see is a price comparison of all peripherals and software you use in the two systems. If you have to buy everything you’re used to getting for free on Windows, that’s not very pleasant.

  3. Really good write up Doug. I had a similar experience with a MacBookPro for nearly a year. Loved picture and video editing, hated Finder. Everyone told me there were apps for this, apps for that, and they generally were acceptable.

    “I don’t yet feel like a power user and that’s uncomfortable”. That summed it up for me.

    But I’m still hard-core Windows guy and I’m looking for some quality laptop hardware to run Windows 8.

  4. Very nice post. It kind of sums up my current situation as someone is trying to live in both words with a Macbook Pro. I enjoy it so far 🙂

    The tip using VMWare for quickly accessing BootCamp Windows apps is something I will try definitely although I am concerned with performance…

    You mentioned the power brick and that you can replace the plugs when traveling. Where can I buy the different plugs for the power brick?

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