Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm Not Going Back

So, it's been not quite two weeks since I received my new MacBook Pro. What a machine!

Here's the deal. The Apple philosophy is different from the Windows philosophy.

"Philosophy" is a term I have been using since the '80s to describe the overall point of view a computer company takes in relation to how to use their product or system. The philosophy guides the user interface, what can and can't be done, what you can expect to do or not do, and the general attitude the system takes. For example, in the '80s, you had the CP/M philosophy of files and applications organized by "users" and the MS/DOS (from Unix) philosophy of hierarchical directories. The Mac had "folders" and the mouse and ease-of-use, MS/DOS had "directories" and the command line and "professional." The philosophies of Unix, MS/DOS, and to a large degree Windows assume a technical user community, or one that will just have to deal with the technical things going on. Apple has pretty much always had a target audience of people, and especially, artist or visual types, who don't need or want to know what goes on beneath the hood, so to speak. This was a detriment in the beginning, because the systems were not up to the task of being non-technical. You still had to look under the hood with earlier versions of the Mac. But, with OS X and especially the later versions, this goal of not needing a technical degree to run a computer that can still do some cool things has pretty much been realized. And, the goal of having a Mac do the things formerly firmly rooted in the Windows world seems to have been achieved as well.

The first thing that happens when a PC guy like me moves to the Apple is to try to do things on the Apple the way you do things on a PC. For example: using "control" keys for editing. Different on a Mac. The Mac has a different keyboard layout, and so the first thing is, get used to the new layout.

After that hurdle, the Mac philosophy really kicks in and messes with the Windows point of view. The Mac philosophy is "it just works." When moving from PC to Mac, this is the thing to keep in mind. It just works.

What does that mean? When you attach another monitor, it knows what it is and automatically adjusts. It just works. When printing to printers on an Active Directory network, you join the domain (need administrator help, here), and then all the freaking printers just show up, ready to print. It just works. When you are ready to go home, you close the screen and it suspends properly every single time. When you open the screen it comes back, every single time and it knows where it is and that it is not on the office network, home network, or that the screen is no longer attached, or that the internet is no longer available... it just works.

This is huge. I have a Toshiba Tecra that should be a dream machine that just refuses to come back from suspend or hibernation mode. "Resume failure" is the name of the tune. I have an HP that is testy when I resume in a new place under new circumstances. If it comes back, which sometimes doesn't happen. I feel like I am playing Russian Roulette when I turn my Windows laptop off. This is not true of the Mac. It just works.

I do have a need for Windows, because I have a Sony recorder and a BlackBerry. They need Windows to run their software. So, I have VMWare Fusion for the Mac. Oh man. I copied a Windows XP Virtual Machine (VM) from my Windows desktop to the Mac, and started it up under Fusion. It comes right up and runs, and it works wonderfully! I can run the Windows VM
in full screen and it is indistinguishable from any other PC -- looks the same. I run it one of the Mac's "spaces," which is basically how the Mac does virtual desktops. When I move to that "space", it is as if I am now running a PC. Wild.

It is not a walk in the park to learn the Mac, but Apple's guiding philosophy of "it just works," if you put yourself in that mindset, makes it become intuitive.

So, in a nutshell:

The hardware is second to none, looks beautiful, and works very well. As laptop, it is the best one I have ever used.

Mac's OS X follows the philosophy of "It just works." and it does. It has a number of really cool things that are cool because it makes you work better, which is the goal of having a computer in the first place.

So far, the main apps that I need in life run well under a Mac. Windows XP runs great in VMWare Fusion. My guess is that Bootcamp works well, too, but I am a VMWare guy and it is great to run it all at once.

Using the Mac for the time I have been using it makes me realize how much I need to think about system issues when running Windows. Things like: Viruses? Hard drive: which one? Where is that file, anyway? With the Mac, the apps get the attention. You don't think about where apps are, they are in the Applications folder.

I don't think I shut the Mac down fully since last week when I was installing and upgrading. When I did, it came back right now! not in five minutes.

I know that I will get very good with the navigation system on the Mac. I know that when I am (realistically, a few weeks - true of any system change like this), I will fly with this thing.

The goal is to have the Mac do everything that I can do with Windows. I am not sure that is true, yet, although I am leaning in that direction. I do know, that even if I have to do half my work in Windows, I am doing it on this MacBook Pro, and not on a Windows laptop. I am done with Windows laptops.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Apple MacBook Pro Arrives

Well, the trial has begun. I received the new MacBook Pro today, and boy, is it a beauty. If there is one thing Apple knows, it's the concept of "Whole Product." If you ever bought an Apple product, you know what I mean. The packaging was beautiful! Even the foam surrounding the notebook was cut into a work of art. I knew this was not just another box. The computer itself is clean - no stickers advertising what you just bought. No junk "ad-ware" inside the box ("Office 2007 trial edition! Quicken Trial edition!" junk, junk, junk!). No sample music or pictures. Clean, clean, clean. After years of special ordering laptops for business stripped of consumer-grade crap, it was a joy to just have the computer turn on and not assault me with advertising.

The laptop is beautiful. It is like driving a Packard or Cord instead of a Plymouth.
I have to say, I'm impressed with OS X, especially the "Leopard" edition. Knowing I was entering unknown territory, I just ran the tutorials and video - glad I did. There is a lot there!
Things that I really liked, in no particular order:

  • The multi-touch trackpad is very cool. Like the iPhone. Cool and, more importantly, functional.
  • The glowing keyboard when it gets dark.
  • The ambient light-sensitive screen.
  • "Spaces," which allows you to have multiple "screens" to help de-clutter your screen. This is a concept that has been around since at least the '80s, but they did it very well.
  • "Dashboard" and widgets -- little applets like Google Desktop that you can call up as needed --things like weather, calendar, calculator, etc.
  • Time machine for backing up the thing (although, I would rather it allowed backups to a networked server instead of forcing it to an attached storage device. Perhaps there's a way around that...)
The key to this Mac thing working, though, is that the computer must fulfill the mission, which is to replace my Widows boxes completely. That is the goal. I have three questions:
  1. Can I get my work done on it without continually resorting to Windows?
  2. Is it usable in its own right?
  3. Is it better than working with Windows? In other words, even if it can be used, should it be used? Is there a "value proposition? that makes finally dumping the pig of the Axis of Evil (the Microsoft/Intel deadly embrace of faster machines only to be consumed by the yawning maw of crappy systems software) a real option?
The machine itself is beautiful and well put together. Leopard looks to be a good OS. More to come!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Apple Time!

I am going to see if it is time to move to Apple -- I am getting a MacBook Pro, and will use it for my main computer. More and more things that are done with computers are moving away from the computer themselves, and are moving to web tools, like Google, Yahoo, and others. It is becoming less and less important what machine you are on, and more and more important that you are able to get access, somehow, to the web.

Yes, there are tools that must be run "locally". Microsoft Office and Mind Manager, for example, are two. But both of these run on a Mac.

Some of the tools I use, most notably the BlackBerry, require at least occasional connection to a PC, and the PC must be a PC, not a Mac. So, for that I will run a copy of Windows on the Mac.

But, I think it is time that the Apple can truly take the place of a PC. I will find out, and let you know.

My goals for this are:

1. Do all daily activities on the Mac, including MS Office and Mind Manager activities, and access to Microsoft Exchange. Activities like Google Apps should be a no-brainer, since they run via the web. I can do that from Linux, if I want (and have!).

2. Only resort to a PC (or, really, Windows) when I must (and I will document it). Or, kill whatever forces me to run on Windows. The BlackBerry is safe. All else is suspect!

I should get the machine Wednesday or Thursday. We shall see what comes of it! I'll keep you posted.