Monday, October 15, 2007

18 Months Windows-Free (Nearly)

I'm Dave and I am a former Windows user.

Not that I ever liked it. Back in the day, I used Atari 8-bit and 16-bit 68000 computers. The Atari ST machines were cool because you could run Mac programs on them with the help of the Spectre GCR Mac emulator, and the native Atari programs (like PageStream and Calamus) were actually pretty very good themselves. Power without the price. Stickin' it to the man never felt so good... we had the best of both worlds.

Around 1994, as I was also getting into Linux, I started to use Windows as my primary desktop UI. It sucked, but at least back in those days (Windows for Workgroups 3.11) you knew how it sucked and why. And in general you could work around it. It was lightweight enough to be manageable.

Back when I ran an ISP, I developed a bunch of software using Microsoft SQL Server, ASP, Access, and other relatively common, garden-variety tools of the day. It got the job done and I was happy enough.

During the Mac's PowerPC years, I always found the Mac to be needlessly obscure and imperious; its choice of the PowerPC architecture, while admirable from a performance standpoint, just made very little sense in terms of interfacing with the rest of the world.

The Web hadn't really emerged as a viable application development platform at that point, and the Mac was pointlessly obscure in the face of Windows. Everything was available for Windows, and the Mac was precious, delicate, and oh-so-special. I wasn't interested, despite my respect for the platform.

Around December 2004 I succumbed and bought an iBook G4, a PowerPC machine. As a software developer I was curious about how OS X was coming along so I thought it would be cool to have a current Mac.

When in early 2006, Steve announced they would be switching to Intel chips, I felt a nearly religious change of heart towards Apple, or that Steve had one towards me. The implications were obvious: the long freeze was over. Mac would become Intel friendly, and Intel-friendly OS's like Linux and Windows were suddenly going to be a possibility on the Mac. Yeah, I am aware that there were ways to run Linux and Windows on PPC, but it was hard (and obscure). I'm all about ubiquity and reaching for things that can be done on a huge platform.

I went out and bought a Mac Mini Core Duo shortly after and have never looked back. While I'm writing this on my old decrepit iBook G4, I also own a MacBook Pro, a MacBook, a Mac Pro, a MacMini, an iMac, an iPhone, and two iPods. I am a certiifiable Apple Fanboy, though I try hard to hide it (and mitigate it).

I still use Windows to run Quickbooks and Quicken, and the occasional odd program (like the Nokia phone firmware updater). It seems it can't be easily avoided. The Mac versions of both Quickbooks and Quicken are crimes against humanity, though the Windows versions aren't much better. No matter, home is where the heart is, and I must say that to finally be using a decent OS on decent hardware on a regular basis is truly bliss.

Now I read reports about Microsoft's dominance in the OS space and I just shrug and think "yeah I guess", while I myself have been shielded from the tyranny for nearly 2 years... Now when I run Windows, I look at it as some outmoded form of existence that I revisit now and again for nostalgia.

Don't even talk to me about Vista.

Last February, upon its release, I went out and bought a copy, thinking that as a technologist, I should know what it does and doesn't do. As an optimist, I figured it had to have some redeeming qualities. After loading it on my PC, I can say it was a pointless exercise bordering on utter disaster.

I wanted to "experience" the Aero-glass features, so I bought a new $175 video card. I bought a new $200 300Gb hard drive so I could install Vista without imperiling my old XP installation. This was all a huge mistake. I ended up with my XP installed as a secondary drive, and a bunch of programs that wouldn't run. Accept or Deny?

Then my Vista boot drive died, and the whole thing ended up as a pile on the floor with a Knoppix Live-CD stuffed in the DVD drive, acting like a life-raft on the Titanic, trying to tar+scp things off onto whatevner machine would take it. If I had a gun, I'd shoot the thing. It is dead, and Vista killed it as far as I am concerned.

Now I keep my virtual machines on an external USB drive I can carry between my MacPro or my MacBook Pro (depending on where I am) and I am a lot happier.

Bless you Steve, for finally coming around to Intel. It may not always be better, but at least it's what everybody else is using. Now when I hear about the latest stupid ideas from Microsoft, I can just shrug them off, secure in the knowledge that a) my Mac will work great, and b) I can run Linux or BSD or Solaris to do anything else.

And I can even know that I can run Windows, if I absolutely must. For creative professionals (and by this I include everybody from artists to coders to database guys), the Mac is truly a gift to you. Enjoy it, appreciate it. If you are still on Windows or forcing yourself to use a Linux UI for ideological pride, it's time to move.

Anyone with a creative bone in their body should be using today's Macs.


betaphi said...

So sorry to hear about your recent loss.
So glad to see you back at the blog. :-)

joel badinas dot com said...

I too wanna switch to Mac but I can't afford it right now. (^_^)

MagicTongue said...

You finally persuaded me to get a Mac! But what about the web designer software, like Homesite, Paint Shop Pro, and so on, that exist for Windows? Can you find equivalents on the Mac? Finally, where can we go to ask questions about Twittervision? It's a program I use all the time. I like it very much. But I have one problem with it I would like to raise. Where can I go?

Dave Troy said...

Magictongue - while it's true there is less software overall for the Mac than for Windows, software generally tends to be of higher quality. In the cases where nothing but Windows will do (in my case for Quickbooks and Quicken), I run Parallels Desktop with Windows XP. It's fast, easy to deal with, and most importantly, it goes away when I close Parallels!

With the Intel processors, a Mac gives you everything you could want in a single, beautiful package. Again, for a desktop, it's hard to think of a better solution today.