I bought my first modern Mac in February, 2008, a 15″ MacBook Pro. At the time I was frustrated with the laptop I owned – a 17″ Toshiba X205 – which was running Windows Vista Ultimate in what seemed like a most underpowered way. I was tired of being told that there were no drivers yet available for my gear, I was tired of seeing notifications pop up asking me constantly if I was sure that I wanted to do something, and I was basically ready for a change. It didn’t help that I had already seen Mitchell and Vincent‘s MacBook Pros, and I was swooning over the hardware.
In all honesty I also felt a bit left out, because I didn’t know anything about the Mac OS other that what I had experienced in the late 80s (which hardly counted), and I certainly wasn’t immune to the praise heaped on it by friends who had been converted. In other words, I wanted to see what all the hype was about.
Trying a “new to me” but very developed and feature rich OS was an adventure, because nearly every day I had some kind of “a-ha” moment – some were as simple as learning how to right click with two fingers on the Mac’s generously sized one-buttoned touchpad, and some much more exciting – such as discovering that I could get obscure symbols to appear while typing on the Mac by just holding down the Option key and pressing the corresponding single keyboard button, versus having to key in a numeric sequence while holding down the alt key in Windows (meh!).
The hunt was on as I looked for programs that would do things similar to the Windows equivalents I had been using, and in almost every case the Mac program i found would look more hip, more modern, more colorful, more… (dare I say it?) fun than the Windows OS equivalent. Heck, even the application setup process was cute: download a program, drag it over to the applications folder, listen for the springy sound, click to open – and you’re good to go!
Sometimes I found Mac programs that were even better than what I had been using on Windows, but there were times when I was completely out of luck, unable to find a Mac version solution.
That wasn’t necessarily a problem, though!
All I had to do was install VMware Fusion, and I could have Windows XP on a relatively small portion of my Mac disk. The best part was that it was so easy to do that I never felt like I was “boldly going” anywhere. The XP portion of my disk was what I used for programs such as Microsoft Money, Legacy Family Tree, and eWallet; on my MacBook Pro, running XP and OSX together in Fusion was a beautiful thing.
I did try to give the native Mac information managers a fair shot, but I never felt that the experience was as fully-featured as what I had when I was using Microsoft Office Outlook 7. No problem, I could just buy the Microsoft Mac Office suite and its Outlook substitute Entourage…right? Ugh, it just wasn’t the same. In the end, on the Mac I would up using a combination of Gmail, Calendar and Contacts. For the most part, my needs were met.
I could come up with many metaphors about this, but even when things got a bit tough – all I had to do was look at my laptop’s hardware…the glorious and sleek aluminum MacBook Pro. For instance, it had a generously sized and responsive touchpad. I had always used a mouse with previous Windows laptops, but with my Pro I never felt the need for a mouse! My MacBook had a remarkable backlit keyboard which was the ultimate in convenience for a on-touch-typist like me, someone who doesn’t always work in the best light. And another thing? The power connector was magnetic! How many times have you accidentally yanked the power cord out of your laptop? With a magnetic connector, there is no harm done – even if the biggest klutz trips over your cable and rips it out. Hardware-wise, in my opinion, there was nothing on the market that even came close to the MacBook Pro. That was until the MacBook Air arrived, of course.
Don’t get me wrong, once I started using one, the Mac experience wasn’t quite as perfect as I had been led to expect: there were crashes and lockups, and I did experience annoying waits. But overall it was pretty positive, and I was happy with my purchase. As I wrote in May 2008, “I have heard how the Mac will hardly ever freeze up, how the whole user experience is much more satisfying, and how everything is so much “easier”. Well give me a break…none of that has necessarily proven to be true. I suppose if you are someone that just surfs, emails, and blogs then it might be. But I have experienced driver incompatibility issues – particularly with wireless printer routers, problems finding comparable software to the Windows versions that I am happy with, occasional freezes as well as other quirks that have led me to conclude that the Mac OS is no more a simple solution than Windows. It is just a “different” solution with much nicer hardware than I am used to.”
Then came the first real bump in the road: I was at a Microsoft sponsored Mobius event in Seattle, and my less than three month old MacBook Pro’s hard drive took a dump in front of a room of my peers and Microsoft staff; irony much? Needless to say, I was a bit freaked out, but I was also forgiving. Hardware failures can happen to anyone, right? Although I’ll admit that I had never experienced such a spectacular and potentially devastating FAIL on a Windows laptop. Since I had to send my MacBook Pro in for warranty work, I “consoled” myself with a brand new first generation MacBook Air. heh.
By the time my MacBook Pro returned from Apple with a brand new hard drive, I was so enamored with the Air that I didn’t want to give it up. I used my MacBook Pro as the heavy duty “desktop” (though in truth it didn’t get much use at all), and my Air became my day to day as well as travel laptop. When the second generation MacBook Air appeared, it took about five minutes to debate whether I could or should, then I placed my order for the new and improved SSD model.
Since I purchased my first Air, there has never been a time when I didn’t feel I had the sexiest laptop available sitting right in front of me, but there were little niggling things that made me think that maybe it might be time to consider another laptop…things like the way the Air would totally bog down when I had 20 tabs going in Firefox (typical for me), how YouTube would stutter when playing videos (I still don’t understand why), and how my system was starting lock up more and more regularly- requiring either a restart or at the bare minimum leaving me looking at suddenly words appearing after a a huge lag from when I had typed them out…or even worse – the spinning marble of doom.
I knew that there was a disk reformat and OSX reload coming up again in my near future, and it wasn’t going to be something I could easily use Time Machine to restore from. What I really needed was a more powerful system, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was expecting much from this system. Moving back to the MacBook Pro wasn’t really an option anymore, because I had given it to my fiance, Kevin. Buying another MacBook wasn’t an option because to do so would be pretty silly.
Unlike the few other times when I had needed to reformat my Air for performance issues (yes, I had been in this boat more than once), this time I had a 12″ HP dv2 laptop available to use. I’ll admit that it took me a few days to even pull it out of the box and do the unboxing video; even then, I let Kevin load his favorite game on it and I figured I’d get to reviewing it shortly.
I tinkered with the dv2 a bit, thought it was actually a very well specc’d and good-looking laptop, but didn’t seriously start using it until the day came when I was editing Gear Diary posts, and my MacBook Air simply could not keep up. Firefox crashed several times (version 3.5.1), and even with only one tab open it was doing the whole typing and lagging routine (while I tried not to pull my hair out!). I needed to put something into my Microsoft Money program, which meant waiting no less than three minutes for XP to boot in VMware and once in I could only slowly enter the data. I knew then that I couldn’t put off reformatting my Air any longer, but I simply didn’t have time to do it.
That’s when I pushed the Air across the table and pulled the dv2 over to me. I opened it up, loaded a few of the programs that I knew I would need (including Money, natch), transferred a few files, and started to get through the day’s work.
Almost a week later – with a few more loaded programs added, I realized that I hadn’t touched the Air once…and I honestly did not miss it.
By the time I had finished the dv2 review, I had decided that the things that used to bother me about Windows Vista were no longer as much of an issue as they had been before; that’s not to say that things were perfect, but by now I knew that there was no such thing. The dv2 was a smallish laptop with enough RAM and a strong enough processor that there were little to no lags, programs ran smoothly, and nearly every issue I’d had with Vista back in the day was no longer an issue.
I was actually having fun using a Windows laptop, and one loaded with Vista, no less.
Then the opportunity arose to review the HP dv6, Mini 110-1036NR and Syncables software in conjunction with the HP and Microsoft Back to School and Better Together giveaway. The idea behind using this set of two laptops was that the 16″ dv6 would basically serve as a portable desktop replacement, and the 10.1″ Mini 100 would be the “grab and go” notebook – with documents perfectly synced between the two, thanks to the Syncables software. I had already been exposed to the HP mini when I had been part of the Vivienne Tam program, so I already knew that the mini was a good travel laptop, although certainly not anything close to desktop replacement. But in a setup like the one HP was proposing, the mini might actually shine.
Maybe it was time to give Windows a second chance?