Movin’ to a Mac

GearDiary 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.


About the Author

Douglas Moran
Doug is a nerd from way back, falling for a Commodore PET at the age of 15, and never looking back. Riding the nerd wave, he got a Computer Science degree and entered the tech industry at a young age, deciding after a year and a half of front-line phone technical support that he should try something, *anything* else. He settled on technical writing, and has been cranking out documentation for companies like Unisys, SGI, Cisco, Juniper, and many others ever since. He is nothing short of ecstatic to be working for H-P from his home base in Austin.