Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006


September 19, 2011 • Editorials, Rants and Raves

Movin’ to a Mac

Recently, I was laid off from my day job.  As a result, for the first time in my life (literally!), my main system will be an Apple system, specifically 15″ MacBook Pro running OS X “Snow Leopard”.  And as I’ve made the move, copying my iTunes library over, setting up a backup disk, and all the other nonsense in which one must engage when one makes a big move of this type, I’ve noticed a few things.  If you’re someone who is considering making the jump, but has been hesitating for one reason or another, maybe my experiences here will help you make a final decision.

Let me state right out that I am most definitely not an Apple fanboy.  Like many people, I’ve been put off by the price, the lack of choice for reasonably-priced peripherals like mice, keyboards, external drives and the like, and by the (let’s be honest here) somewhat cultlike POV of many Mac folks.  I didn’t want to join a club–and an expensive one at that–I just wanted a laptop.  The only Apple systems I’ve owned are iPhones, iPods, and my iPad.  So no, this isn’t a post to try to convince you to buy a Mac.  Nope.  That’s simply not where I’m coming from.

But let me say, right off, that Apple’s attention to usability and detail becomes obvious right off the bat.  It’s there in the small things, the things that are niggling irritations when you’re using a PC that they’ve clearly tried to make better.

Let’s take the power supply for a start.  Every PC power supply I’ve ever used is a big ol’ brick that, once you finish coiling up the power cord, is bulky and awkward.  If you’re luck–like I am with my Lenovo–you’ll at least have a velcro strap of some kind that will hold your cord in place.  More or less.

On the Mac, someone actually gave it some thought.  It’s flatter and squarer than most PC power supplies and looks weird–until you have to cart it around, and then you realize that, with the cord coiled around it, it’s quite compact.  Further, Apple supplied a little clip that’s just the right size for holding your power cord in place once you’ve coiled it around the brick–no velcro to catch on your clothing, your laptop bag, or anything else.

The power jack plugs into the side of the MacBook, which means that you don’t have to do that whole “flip the damn laptop around or fumble blindly behind it” maneuver to find the power socket.  Not only that, but the jack itself is magnetic–it sets itself into place with the satisfying click of magnets latching together.  And finally, it has a little light on the jack itself, to let you know that power is flowing.  How many times on your PC have you had a loose power jack and find, too late, that you haven’t been plugged in at all?  Or that you’re not certain whether you actually are plugged in?  (I have had this problem with multiple Dell laptops.)  On the MacBook, there’s a light.  Simple.

And folks, that’s just for the power supply.  The screen is ridiculously bright and clear after my Lenovo.  The sound is vastly superior out of the MacBook speakers.  On the Lenovo, there’s a downward facing light that you can turn on when it’s too dark to see the keys; on the Mac, they keys themselves light up, but only when the light in the room is too faint.  And there’s more.

How many times have you experienced the . . . discomfort of plugging in a new device to a PC, even if it’s just a simple thing like a mouse?  Windows tells you a new device is found; it tells you it’s looking for the driver; if it can’t find the driver, it asks you to find it.  Is the driver on the system, and Windows is looking in the wrong place?  Is it on a CD, and you have to install it?  Do you have to download it from the Windows support site?  Does it turn out that you have to download a service pack update first just to make the driver work?  Do you have to reboot?  Do you have to reboot multiple times?  Who the heck knows?

Having experienced this sort of idiotic nonsense on and off for, what, 15 years now, I was pretty reluctant to plug my Belkin 6-1 USB adapter to my Mac.  Would it be compatible?  Would the devices plugged into it be compatible?  Would my Windows backup external hard drive be recognized, or would MacOS barf on me, generating lots of error messages and asking me impertinent questions.  I plugged it in . . .

. . . and everything worked.  The mouse.  The Kensington keyboard that I love, because it has great tactile feedback, the keys are slope to fit my typing style, and the Windows button has been popped off.  The external hard drive.  The external Blu-ray drive.  It all worked.  No statements in the tool bar about how “New devices have been detected”, or questions about drivers, or error messages; it all just worked.

Then there’s the support.  I find Apple’s software support to be . . . less than helpful.  But their hardware support, particularly at the retail stores?  As Dan has noted many times, it is beyond excellent.  If they can’t fix your device, they send it in.  If it’s not under warranty, sometimes they fix it anyway.  If fixing it is going to cost you too much scratch, they tell you how much you would get to “recycle” your machine, and how much the current version would be to replace it.  And on and on.  (And I don’t know how they are elsewhere, but Jeebus, here in Texas, they’re awesomely personable, polite, and helpful.)  Plus, going to an Apple store is fun; Joseph likes to go with me, just because he likes looking at all the cool stuff.  (Current want:  Jawbone Bluetooth speakers.)

Now look:  I just got started with my MacBook Pro.  It could be that it breaks down a lot on me.  Or that stuff about it drives me crazy.  Or the lack of peripheral choices really irritates me.  But I want to tell you all this:  when you talk about how Macs are more expensive, you may be right, but believe me:  you know where that money goes.  Into little things like a small clip for the power cord, and big things like the awesome support.  Is that extra money worth it?  That’s for you to decide.  But for me, so far, I love this machine like I’ve loved no other system since my late, lamented SGI Indy back in the day.  (And I might add that this is the first system that feels like it has gone beyond the Indy, interface-wise.  Every Windows box I’ve ever used has made me feel like, “Yeah, that’s okay, but SGI was doing that 5 [or 10 or 15] years ago; what else ya got?”  Not the Mac; the Mac has gone beyond that.)  And yeah, it’s worth the extra money.

But what do you think?  Share you thoughts below.

7 Responses to " Movin’ to a Mac "

  1. Anonymous says:

    That’s how I felt when I bought my first Mac 5 years ago. I just like the experience. Macs aren’t right for everyone, but they work for me.

  2. Cindyl Hays says:

    Oh my goodness, if i was a writer I would have written these same things!  I got my MacBook Pro for Mother’s Day this year.  My daughter had me urging me to get one, finally my husband went out and bought it…. I bragged so much about it that he went and got himself one for Father’s Day!!  I have not regretted it one day.  The support is superb, as I had known because I have had an iTouch for a couple of years.  Everything has run so smoothly for me.  They are well worth the money and so nice that you can finance for one year intrest free (we are still making monthly payments on both…. but I still do not regret it!)

  3. You guys (&gals no disrespect) at GearDiary (and my iPhone) helped to convince me to get my Macbook 2 years ago.  And I LOVE it.  Plain and simple….It just works…(almost) every time…I rarely ever have a problem, sleeping/waking it, connecting to wireless networks, wireless printers, projectors, external displays.  My previous 3 Dells all had difficulties in all these areas.  I convinced my Mother In Law to get a Macbook to replace her Dell desktop…she was a little nervous right when she started…it seemed so different from Windows.  But now, 3 months later, she loves it and she HATES going to work and using her old windows desktop.  
    It is worth every penny.  I love my Macbook Pro.  

    • Anonymous says:

      If Apple gave me a commission for every Mac, iPhone or iPad I have convinced someone to buy I would have already earned a pretty sum. Alas, Apple is among the least friendly companies when it comes to that sort of thing. Still, that doesn’t deter me. I was using a Windows machine the other day and was quickly reminded why my move was such a pleasure. Once again the word “elegant” came to mind as in “Apple’s products and the experience of using them is elegant.” not do elsewhere.

      Sent from one iOS device or another

  4. Panzerfaust says:

    Not everyone has trouble using PC’s.  Yes, for some people they can be quite intimidating and cumbersome.  Others, however, are quite keen on their operation.  I have never fumbled around to find my laptops power outlet; I’ve never wondered if it was being charged; Yes, charger is a brick but I suppose Ive learnt to accept that.  Vast majority of devices do, nowadays, “find” themselves when plugged in.  Don’t get me wrong, I know Apple is quite innovative with their design, but please realize there are people out there that are very tech-savvy with their PCs, and in the right hands & optimized , a PC can FLY and run just as efficient as a Mac.

  5. Anonymous says:

    My mom was the same way – she was nervous, but I was having a terrible time troubleshooting the “blue screen of death” from halfway across the country.  Best thing I could have done for her.  She has been on a Mac of a number of years now and loves it.   I put her on an iPhone about 2 years ago and she has been bugging me about when the iPhone 5 might be coming out!   Now she wants to steal my iPad…   :)

  6. Behind7proxies says:

    If you really have popped the Windows Key off your Kensington keyboard you’re none too bright…  That maps to the (pretty vital) Command Key when plugged in to a Mac…