Monday, October 20, 2008

Mac Guy on the Road

My "MBP" on the job in a Hong Kong hotel today

So it's been three months since I purchased my Macbook Pro (used, on Ebay, because I'm cheap). Many of my PC friends were wary of my early enthusiasm, and several said "Yeah, well, it's a new toy right now, but talk to me in two months." Three months later I'm still a Mac guy, so I wanted to share some updates on my Apple experience thus far.

First, the things I don't like - and it's a short list. I traveled to the UK earlier this month, and realized before boarding my flight at ATL that I'd forgotten to bring my power adapter. No worries I thought, I'll just pick one up somewhere. Several electronics stores in Hartsfield sold "universal" notebook power supplies - but none worked with any Apple notebook. No worries, my hotel in Liverpool had three large electronics stores within walking distance - but none of them had Mac power adapters either, even though at least one sold Mac notebooks! I was very fortunate that Liverpool has an Apple store, so I spent half my first day figuring out how to get there so I could get my replacement power cord. (the local Computer Troubleshooter in Liverpool graciously offered to bring me one, but searching for an Apple store seemed as good a way as any to explore the city so I decided to go on my own). Similarly becuase the Macbook uses the DVI port instead of VGA, I have to bring two adapters with me if I expect to plus into a projector somewhere. (Two because I have a history of losing one and need a backup just in case).

Other things that I don't like: no SD card slot (but I have a USB/SD card reader that I can bring with me). Battery life is only about 2 hours per battery for me, and you can't hot-swap the batteries on an airplane (I carry 3 batteries with me for long trips, but I have to Sleep the notebook before swapping). And occasionally my Windows environment (I run Windows on the Mac simultaneously with the Mac OS using VMWare Fusion, mostly so I can use Outlook) loses sound for some reason.

So that's the bad list - but there's a much, much longer list of things that I love. I haven't had a crash or lock-up except once, whereas my old PC notebook used to hang at least 2 or 3 times a week (in fairness to the PC, I tend to run a LOT of unusual applications, so having occasional crashes doesn't surprise me). Most operations are faster than they were on my PC, even though this is a 2.16GHz Core2 Duo and my PC was a 2.2GHz machine. The wireless network connects faster, which doesn't sound like much but if you're trying to download your emails during a 10 minute airport layover, that's helpful. The backlit keyboard is surprisingly useful in dark hotel rooms (like as I'm typing this right now).

The two things I like the most right now are VMWare Fusion, and Front Row. VMWare Fusion lets me run my Windows environment inside my Mac environment, which is necessary for me since many applications I use (including Microsoft Outlook) only work in a Windows environment. VMWare Fusion gives me that ability, and more than that it allows for near-seamless file sharing between the Mac and PC sides of the system (whereas in the old days you used to require a translation program of some kind to let one OS see files on the other). So I have one "Desktop" and one "Documents" folder, and both OS'es see them the same. Cut & Paste also works between the OSes, which is amazing and helpful.

Front Row is the newest thing I've started using. It's integrated with iTunes, so that any music or video you have purchased or ripped into your iTunes library is available in Front Row. By using the Mac Remote Control (a tiny little thing) I can choose to listen to specific music or watch specific TV shows or movies - which is really handy. For example when I was in the UK I missed the season premiere of "The Office" back home, so I was able to download it on iTunes and watch it from my hotel bed using the Mac Remote. I've also used it to watch movies during long flights, or to listen to music while getting dressed in the morning. Sure, there are similar programs in the PC world, but this one is built into the Mac OS and the Mac hardware, and it just works.

So, so far my "Mac enthusiasm" shows no signs of abating. More and more we see our small business clients migrating to the Mac environment, and now that I've "drunk the koolaid" I can see why. For businesses where most of their work is web-based, or based on Microsoft Office, you can likely accomplish 99% of your work in the Mac, making it a valid option for businesspeople today. And for those who still need Windows apps, programs like VMWare Fusion make that an easy option too.

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