The Journey from Windows to Apple: Part 3 - Radiant

The Radiant Blog

Posted by Ray Majoran

The Journey from Windows to Apple: Part 3Well it’s been a long time coming, but the third installment of my journey from Windows to Apple is finally here. I can’t say it’s been an easy road by any means, but it has been enjoyable.

The last time I made an entry was on April 7; at that point I had owned my new Mac for about a month and things were moving along fairly smoothly.

It has now been over 8 months and I have to say that I’m still impressed as a whole. Let me summarize my experiences in bullet points and if you have any further questions, feel free to comment at the bottom of this (rather lengthy) post. So here we go:

1. I’m still loving Spaces, the Apple tool that enables you create as many virtual desktops as you want and scroll between them all. On my machine I run 3 monitors (2 + my laptop) and have 6 virtual spaces. (Monitor 1 hooks up through my miniport adapter; Monitor 2 hooks up through a USB-DVI device that I bought from Gefen.) Essentially I am running a total of 18 screens (6 virtual desktops multiplied by 3 monitors)… kind of overkill I know, but you’d be shocked at how many I use. On one virtual space I run my mail, iTunes and Adium (an instant messaging client that ties all of your IM accounts together, i.e. Google, Facebook, MSN, Yahoo, etc.). On the second virtual space I run Photoshop (and all of it’s tab groups on separate monitors). On the third virtual space I run Yummy FTP and multiple instances of Finder. On the fourth virtual space I run Dreamweaver, Firefox and Safari (for beta testing). On the fifth virtual space I run OpenOffice (for documents, spreadsheets, etc.). Finally on the sixth virtual space I run Parallels (for testing sites in Internet Explorer on Windows) along with Remote Desktop (for accessing outside servers). Wow, it sounds like I need to add some more spaces for Flash, Premiere, etc. :)

2. I reboot my laptop about once every two weeks – seriously. I go to work and open my laptop. I leave for the day and close my laptop. Later that night, I open my laptop… and so on. I never log on, log off, etc. And the thing that blows my mind is – as soon as I open the computer, it’s ready to go. There’s no waiting for the operating system to load – it’s just there. No lag time.

3. Originally I had purchased Microsoft Office for Mac. I have to say that it was a mistake. I purchased it because I wanted some familiarity in my desktop applications (since I use Word and Excel multiple times per day). But on Mac (even on my laptop with 8GB of RAM), it is SO slow. I could open up a Word doc and go have a coffee before it opens. About three months ago I decided to give OpenOffice a try – a free open source product that has all of the same (general) features as Microsoft Office. Let me say – it is amazing. It’s fast, smooth and runs way better than Word and Excel on Mac. Their presentation software (that mimics PowerPoint) is great as well. I’ve had no problem opening up any MS Office files either. Now I know many of you Mac-heads out there might be saying, “Why didn’t you go with iWork”? Two reasons: 1. Although it’s inexpensive, it still costs money, and 2. I needed compatibility between Mac and Windows. OpenOffice is free and fulfills both of those requirements.

4. With the release of Snow Leopard comes Microsoft Exchange support. I almost had an emotional breakdown at the thought of switching from MS Outlook (in Parallels), but after some convincing from my friend Brandon Cotter, I decided to make the switch to Apple Mail. There were some major things that I needed to have in place before hand -- well one actually. It’s a program made by Lokiware called Mail Attachments Iconizer and it literally saves Apple Mail from disaster when it comes to sending and receiving attachments, particularly with people on Windows machines. I won’t go into detail but if you’re on Apple Mail (or thinking about switching to Apple Mail), it’s an absolute “must have”. Last time I checked the product was $15. Since switching to Apple Mail, my experience has been pleasant. Apple mail opens pretty much instantaneously (unlike Outlook, which sometimes enables you to go grab coffee #2 after you’ve just finished opening Word). The one decision I did make early on in using Apple Mail was to compose messages in plain text rather than HTML format. It’s not as fancy as it once was (i.e. signatures), but it simplifies things tremendously. I figure that if Mac is about “simplifying”, then I can give up HTML-formatted signatures.

5. One of my main concerns (which should be one of your main concerns as well) is backing up data. Apple’s program called “Time Machine” could possibly be the best backup application I’ve ever seen. You literally plug in an external drive (i.e. a 1TB Lacie drive) and it asks you, “Would you like to use this drive as a Time Machine backup?” You say, “Yes”, and the rest goes on behind the scenes. Every hour (or how ever often you want) it backs up any files that were changed (in the background). I have it plugged in all the time and I haven’t found that it slows my computer down any. Three months down the road if you realize that you accidently deleted or overwrote a file, all you have to do is click on Time Machine and your machine brings up a screen that looks like outer space. From there, there is a slider bar that enables you to scroll back to any date and browse your hard drive ON THAT DATE. I’m not kidding. You can literally browse your hard drive (through the backup device) like it was three months ago and recover any file you want. It’s brilliant!

6. Now some bad news -- Macs still crash. They (Apple computers) were made by humans (not robots), and as we all know, humans are not perfect. The Apple operating system does a good job in recovering from most crashes, but nevertheless, there have been a number of occasions when I’ve had to do the old “hold the power button down for 5 seconds” trick and wait for the machine to come back to life. Remember though – I am a power-user (as per point #1)… I am hard on my machine and still don’t appreciate the fact that I have to wait for an application to load. :) I find most of my problems come when I have Firefox open. I love Firefox and it’s still my favorite browser (because of its wide variety of add-ons), but Safari is much faster overall.

7. I also help out at our church in various ministries, particularly in the audio, video and technical areas. Recently, our church expanded and built a new youth wing that required its own A/V equipment, projection system, etc. Being familiar with Song Show Plus (a Windows application), the simple thing would have been to stick with that for our projection/worship needs. However, I decided it was time to venture out on a limb and instead we purchased an IMac and ProPresenter, a Mac application that does the same thing (generally speaking). I’m pretty sure that I can speak on behalf of the entire team in saying that ProPresenter has been way better at meeting our needs than Song Show Plus ever was. And once again, it’s fast and simple.

There’s so much more I could go on about, but let me summarize with a couple of things.

First of all, people always ask me, “So do you think I should buy a Mac or PC”? My response is this: I own a copy of Windows 7 as well and I have to say that in my opinion, it’s a pretty amazing operating system. Microsoft has done a good job in moving in the right direction. Ultimately I still think that Apple’s Snow Leopard is a better operating system by about “20%”. It’s a little smoother, a little simpler and really easy to get attached to very quickly. At the end of the day, if you have the money then I would say “go Mac” but I have to be honest with you – dollar for dollar, it’s not a comparable operating system. It’s way cheaper to buy a good Windows 7 laptop from HP or Dell laptop with (generally speaking) the same hardware in it vs. a Macbook or Macbook Pro. Understand that when you buy an Apple, you ARE paying for the “Apple experience” (and they know it). If you are a business and want the best product (not necessarily for the money), then Apple is the way to go. Ultimately though (and I’m starting to believe it), being on an Apple DOES indeed feel like I am being more productive. It feels like I get things done a little faster. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. But the overall user experience has convinced me (and many others) that I am getting more work done with less stress. Regardless of whether its true or not can be submitted to the TV show, Myth Busters – they can figure it out.

And now for my second and final summary point – today we switched our entire company over to Apple. It was a surprise actually – we stuck everyone in a room and told them not to come out for a few minutes (while we unloaded the car)… then we introduced them to their new computers. All of our old Dell computers will be donated to our local church / used for other purposes. I believe it was a good decision for our company; whether it’s the best decision for every company is another story. But for all of the people in our company that were on PCs, the journey from Windows to Apple will now begin… again.