Notes from moving from Windows to Mac

Posted on Mon 17 October 2011 in Business

318-macbook_pro_13inch.pngMy trusty HP laptop (nx6325 circa 2006) has finally reached retirement.

Actually, as a PC it was running fine. It's processor was expensive for it's time (a 64bit dual core AMD) and routine improvements (memory to 1.5GB, hard disk to 256Gb, 2 replacement batteries) had extended it's life nicely. The reason for replacing was the screen backlight becoming to dim to work effectively. For years I've been using it connected to a desk monitor for everyday use and it only became apparent this month when I needed to display a document on my laptop monitor alongside my desktop monitor while I worked. While I have a reputation for spending little money on computers and extending their life beyond many others it wasn't worth buying a new screen or replacing the backlight... at least, not for work. I may well play with doing that just because I can, but I can't be without a decent laptop for work.

So, what to go out and buy? A mac! Well, no, at least, I thought a mac would be far too expensive and then I've got all the incompatibility issues to deal with. That was, until I spent my mandatory several hours investigating models, options and prices. To cut a long story short, the cheapest 13" Macbook Pro worked out for me to be the best option for price and performance. Note here, I said "for me". My needs are quite specific. I expect my IT hardware to last a long time (I look after it, I'm happy to pull it apart and repair/update things, I don't need the latest & greatest processor or connectivity ports). I compared Sony Vaio, Asus, Toshiba, Lenovo and hunted through reviews on many different IT sites. As a quick summary:

The Macbook Pro won on a combination of:

  • Screen Size I wanted no more than 13" screen. Smaller than my last laptop, more portable
  • Battery Life claimed 7hrs, but I take that with a pinch of salt from all manufacturers. It does declare a WattHour of 63, equal to one of the HP options and greater than many others.
  • Build Quality (+2 for the aluminium body, -1 for the screen's glossy surface and for two of my friends who've both managed to crack theirs... maybe thats co-incidence though)
  • Connectivity I think the thunderbolt connection will be a common standard in the future, as USB is today. I could be wrong (SCSI only ever got popular on Mac desktops if I remember correctly, Firewire never made mainstream PC's) but I decided that was another nice to have feature
  • My programming hobby - a lot of ruby stuff is written on Mac, so the tutorials lean that way. Easier to bug fix (well, I don't use windows for programming anyway - I dual boot my old laptop into Ubuntu)
  • LearningAs the key IT person in my small business, it's good for me to know about the alternatives. Maybe Mac is really really good and our next office PC's will be replaced with Macs. I have a friend who's whole business runs on Mac, including their web servers, business databases, everything. If Mac could help me be as successful I'd be very happy!

It lost on:

  • It doesn't include Windows (having to buy the licence is an additional cost)
  • Battery isn't easily/user replaceable. I gather that's a side effect of getting so much battery in such a small laptop. I just about decided I could accept that compromise.
  • I'd have to almost relearn how to use a computer (all my shortcut keys!)
  • I don't really want to be seen with a Mac
  • I have a feeling some of the ways the Mac expects me to work will be at odds with my penchant for OpenSource software, using hardware for more than the 3 year lifecycle IT salespeople seem to work to, and so on.

It was equal on:

  • Price. Yes, really. 832 ex VAT against 992 ex VAT for a compariable (for me) HP Elitebook. Although, I did need a copy of Windows & Parallels/Fusion to run it, along with a few adapaters to connect the Thunderbolt to HDMI, VGA & HDMI.
  • Processor the Intel core i5-2415M was better than some options, but slightly under some of the latest releases. However, my work isn't that taxing (the CAD design images can be left overnight to render).

On the subject of price, I bought it from a local (Whitstable based) company called Serviceweb who are Apple Authorised Service providers. The total order was for;

  • Macbook Pro 13"
  • Magsafe Power Adapter (one for my desk, spare for home and travel)
  • Displayport -> VGA Adapter
  • Displayport -> DVI Adapter
  • Displayport -> HDMI Adapter
  • Parallels Desktop 7
  • Windows Pro7 64Bit
  • Apple Remote

and the total cost 1095 + VAT (1314 inc VAT @ 20%).
Considering that even for the HP I would have needed to buy a second power adapter the Mac was surprisingly well priced.

So, I've spent a couple of days using it so far, and so far, so.... average. Yes, average. I'm learning the new shortcuts quick enough. I knew it would take a while to get used to that. However, I'm also finding a few bugs. Or perhaps they're not bugs, maybe they're 'features' as no easy solution is jumping from google searching. Anyway, more on those next post, along with the essential shortcuts I'm discovering.

Mac