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.