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Submitting to all things Mac

I’m a recent switcher to the Mac. My first computer was a TI 994a, then I moved onto a custom-built IBM XT (clone) running PC-DOS, then MS DOS, then onto IBM AT and IBM 386 computers running Windows 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1 (3.11, hah!), and eventually I was a very early adopter of Windows NT, then to Windows NT 4 (SP3!), Windows 2000, Windows XP and most recently Windows Vista x64 at work.

I’ve made a living on the Windows platform but I eventually saw that there was no need for this at home. As I see my kids growing more comfortable with computer technology, I wanted them to grow into a platform that made things easy and allowed them to be successful at anything they wanted to accomplish. In the end, Windows and Dell computers simply did not fit he bill.

Consider my kids’ iMacs. There is one cable running from the machine to the wall, a power cable. If you are a PC user, recall the mess behind your desk and consider if it’s all really necessary. On the iMac, the display is built-in and the mouse and keyboard are wireless. The iMac even comes with a remote, making it a comfortable DVD and music player they can manipulate via FrontRow as they recline on their chairs.

But I digress.

Over the past 14 months, I’ve replaced each and every machine in my home with a Mac. Why did I do this? It’s hard to say. Lots of reasons. Let me try to explain.

Over the past few years, my appreciation for Apple and the way the engineer their products has been steadily increasing. It was an iPod at first, then iTunes, then the experience of being in the Apple store. Apple’s marketing team blitzed my mind brilliantly. They knew me, a PC user, and slowly worked their way into my world by bringing key products to Windows.

As I saw the way they put software together and how well they engineered their physical hardware, I thought to myself there must be a better way than Dell, Windows, anti-virus, anti-spam, spyware, apps that barely work together and a tangled mess of wires behind my desk.

Then, Apple switched processors from the PowerPC to Intel. All the while, virtualization software was growing exponentially in popularity and performance was becoming almost native. Then Apple released Boot Camp, allowing Windows XP and Vista to run natively on any Intel-based Mac. It was all just becoming obvious. I could have my cake and eat it on flaming-fast, beautiful, hardware.

I started with a laptop, a MacBook, and gently eased myself into the Mac world. I listened to Mac Podcasts, tried out Mac software, and tried to simulate my regular workflows using Mac software.

There were some gems on the PC that I would miss very badly if I switched. Visual Studio, C++, and .NET are where all of my experience lay. Without those, I’m somewhat powerless to make the computer do more than what I can purchase or download. Google’s Picasa is a brilliant program and one that I still miss. But that’s where virtualization kicks in. Using Parallels or VMWare Fusion, I can run all of this side-by-side with my Mac software. Ultimately, though, if the Mac was going to be a successful replacement for my PC, I had to have certain apps run natively.

On the PC, I spent most of my time in these apps :

I spend my time making maps for D&D (some here), managing my home photos (I have, like 22,000 digital photos), doing simple video editing (again, like 100+ hours of DV and HDV video), programming, and of course web browsing and blogging.

I chugged along on my MacBook… experimenting, downloading, and trying out. I did this for months and months. I was only “playing” with iPhoto, though, which I felt was never nearly as good as Picasa. I used the MacBook on the train for browsing the web (thanks to my phone’s bluetooth Internet sharing) and reading PDF’s. I subscribed to Apple Downloads and found some awesome gems:

  • TextMate - An awesome text editor. I use it for blogging… like right now
  • Parallels and later VMWare Fusion
  • iStumbler
  • MacDrive - Which helps me manage the transition from PC to Mac by allowing my PC to see my Mac-formatted external drive
  • Flip4Mac - Which allows me to play Windows Media video on the Mac within QuickTime
  • QuickTime - I think that a lot of people don’t realize how amazing QuickTime Pro is. At $29, it’s a serious must-have application if you do anything with Video
  • Photo2Movie - An excellent program that turns photos into digital video slideshows… with some amazing Ken Burns effects
  • Jungle Disk - How to automatically save and backup gigabytes of data on Amazon S3’s website for pennies a month. Well, maybe a few dollars… but not a lot of them.
  • Hardware Monitor - Similar programs for the PC are just crap and they have to deal with gazillions of motherboard manufacturers. This program monitors everything in a clean and convenient interface
  • Adium - For all your IM needs in a single window
  • Quicksilver - The only program launcher you’ll ever need… for keyboard junkies
  • TeamSpeex - A TeamSpeak client for the Mac
  • ChronoSync - A wondrous file synchronization program
  • Quadrium - Kind of like a fractal, image-processing, Yahoo! Pipes extravaganza.

For the latest mac software links, at least the ones that I find interesting, check out my del.icio.us links:

http://del.icio.us/NickCody/software%2BMac or subscribe

And, of course, the Mac has some built-in wonders:

  • Grapher - An amazing graphing and plotting package which can animate charts and formula at the touch of a button Polar
  • Disk Utility - Norton Ghost? Who needs it. The Mac has this functionality built right in.

Now, yes, Windows has tons of software. Tons more than the Mac. I have found, though, that Mac Software works better together. Whether it’s support for Automator, or for special locations like iTunes and iPhoto stores, applications tend to make easy tasks easy and hard things possible. I borrowed the analogy from my friend the .NET Addict, who describes developing Cocoa applications that way.

For instance, when I want to insert an audio clip as background music for a slideshow, iPhoto shows me my iTunes library within the insert-audio dialog box and supplies a convenient instant-search box so I can quickly locate the tune that I’m looking for, right within iPhoto. 3rd party apps are amazingly consistent in this way, more so than I have experienced with Windows apps.

Then, it was time to take things up a notch and, for Christmas, I splurged and got my kids a pair of iMacs. I blogged about that experience back in December of last year.

I have never regretted that purchase. My kids were able to do more with the Mac with the same computer skills they had 5 minutes earlier, as they shared a Dell PC. The kids just ‘got’ the software and were able to do magic with it.

I even found an awesome typing-tutor program for the Mac, called TypingTrainer4Mac. My kids record their speed every day and have been steadily becoming expert touch-typists.

Then, about a month ago I decided to take the final plunge. After nearly a year of research, I had decided that the Mac was my platform.

I went and purchased a Mac Pro to finish the job I had started last summer. In addition to the Mac Pro, I went and replaced by old version of Adobe Creative Suite 1 with a brand-new version of Creative Suite 3 Design Premium for the Mac. This suite was perhaps my most important software purchase to date and was the final nail on the coffin.

But Apple didn’t stop there. Just a few weeks ago they released iLife ‘08, an amazing update to an already amazing built-in package. iLife ‘08 finally made me forget about Picasa (well, almost… Picasa is tons faster even with my 8-core Mac Pro). With the introduction of the ‘Event’ concept and tighter integration with their .mac service, I was sold on the Mac photo management workflow. iMovie ‘08 also leveraged the ‘Event’ concept and for the first time, I find myself actually with a viable platform to bring in my 100 hours of DV and HDV video so it’s all available for editing and DVD authoring.

But Apple didn’t stop there. They came out with an update to iWork which included a Spreadsheet package and some amazing usability enhancements for Pages, their word processor. Pages can now handle all editing tasks from simple word-processing to more advanced page layout (via two fully-separate modes of operation). Pages can even open the brand-new Office 2007 file format and has naive support for drop-shadows, reflections, and many of the native layout capabilities that I love about Office 2007 (I use it at work and Office 2007 rocks pretty hard).

The beauty of the “Apple Way” is that they don’t ever seem to stop. I know I sound like a drooling fanboy here, but really that’s what this post is about so I’m going with it since I’m sure to be complaining about this and that in the coming months as I go through withdrawal. This post is mainly about recognizing a successful software company who is simply hitting all the marks that I needed someone to hit in order to win me over. Unlike Microsoft, Apple updates their OS regularly and each revision is a major leap forward. Vista is nice, but it was too-huge an update and we waited way too long for it. It will take years for ISV’s to adapt their software to work the way Microsoft would have Vista apps work, if ever.

I have also noticed the obvious advantage that Apple has in designing the hardware along with the Software. Functionality like sleeping a notebook are so much smoother on the Mac than they are on the PC. You just can’t compare the experience. There are some amazing synergies that you get when you control both the hardware and the software. I’m sure an Apple TV is in my future as well since it works so naturally with my entire Photo, Video, and Music collection. The iPod itself epitomizes this integration and is perhaps the most popular example of how true and beautiful integration can be a reality.

All in all, I’m happy and excited about the possibilities in this new era for me.


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