Between a Mac and a hard place

Well, it has been over 3 months since my last blog. I thought I had better post something up since my switch to this shiney new WordPress site. I have never been very skilled in the web design area. My software skills are not very strong at the moment and I don’t think I have much of an eye for design. So WordPress is ideal for me. Besides this site, I created another one for the band which I have to say I am rather pleased with. Check it out

A few months ago, I bought myself an iPad and I have to say, it is fantastic. I am unashamedly turning into a bit of an Apple fanboy. I bought a Mac mini last year and I love it. I did get a second hand Mac mini a few years ago but since I was studying for my degree at the time and the software I used for my course was Windows-centric, I never really started using it and my PC at the time was of a better spec anyway. I gave it to my wife and eventually bought myself the new one.

Anyway, since becoming a fan of the Mac, I have noticed a few things. It is curious how strongly people feel about Apple, both lovers and haters. I am very much the former and I am ashamed to say that I have suffered from the proverbial “Mac smugness”, which I should really curtail as it is not a good trait really. However, it amazes me how vehement some people can be about the Mac (and Apple in general) too. I have read some very scathing comments, often from people who have never really used them. I mean I can be just as much of a geek as the next guy but I guess we all need to get a grip sometimes.

I have experience of using a few different platforms and form factors. I have too many computers to justify having really. I have a desktop PC which currently has Mandriva Linux installed, but has had Windows XP and Vista on various occasions. I have a media centre PC, which gets used purely for that purpose. This runs Windows 7. I have a laptop which I really only use for DJing which has Windows XP. I have an Asus EEE-900 netbook which has a flavour of Linux on it (the stock OS was Xandros but I have been meddling with EEE-Buntu) and I have an Apple Mac mini and an iPad. I am going to get shut of the PC and the netbook when I have spent a bit of time flattening them and doing a fresh install.

So, these are my opinions on the whole Windows vs Mac vs Linux debate.

Windows XP – I use this at work all the time and it is infuriatingly slow at times (possibly due to corporate policies and network traffic). At home, I grew weary of the constant housekeeping required. Updating anti virus, clearing temporary files etc, using Crap Cleaner, installing security updates every 5 minutes etc. etc.

Windows Vista – Prettier looking but very resource hungry. It was very buggy, not sure if it has improved yet. Media Center is pretty good but again was very buggy when I used it. I have heard that since I stopped using it, they ironed out a few of the problems and it runs OK now.

Windows 7 – Prettier still, much faster and slick to use. Much better than Vista and the media center bit really is a step up.

Linux – Can be pretty good. Can be nice looking after some configuring and fast too but when it goes wrong, it can be very difficult to put right. Things like external hardware drivers and using a network were problems for me. You need to have a lot of patience with Linux, although I did enjoy my time using it. I had it set up so it was more like Mac OS than Windows but it never quite worked right and I lost patience with it.

Mac OS-X Snow Leopard – Very slick, intuitive, nice looking and overall a pleasure to use. Safari is the best browser I have used. Mail is easy to set up and works beautifully. I use Neo-Office for word processing, spreadsheet etc. iTunes is fantastic on a Mac, although does need a bit of configuring to not do things you don’t want it to. The iLife software which comes bundled is great too.

Don’t get me wrong, I admit I am not really what you would call a power user. I don’t write software or play games. I just do what most people do on a computer – internet, e-mail, office stuff, pictures and for that, I found that the Mac is the best user experience.

As far as Windows is concerned, it is better for gaming, the Media Center Interface is very good with no native Mac equivalent, particularly for DVR functionality and it is much cheaper to knock up a PC than buy a Mac. Although, I would argue that you get what you pay for. Yes, Macs are pretty expensive but both the hardware and the software is top quality.

So, the iPad then? I was intrigued by the iPad right from when I first read about them and as soon as I saw it, I immediately knew that it was the device for me. I had previously used my netbook for armchair and bedroom surfing but the form factor didn’t make me want to do it for long. The tablet is such a nice device to use for idle surfing, reading books, social networking, email and calendar applications. A common comment from people is “well, it is just like an oversized iPod touch isn’t it?”. Well, yes it is but that is a positive. Many people don’t see the point of it but it is all about the form factor for me. It has encouraged me to read more which can only be a good thing. I hardly put mine down when I am at home – except for when I am using my Mac that is! It is also good for reading on the way to work on the train.

Again with the iPad though, I have read some really quite nasty comments from people spitting bile about it (again, often from people who have never even seen one, never mind used one). I mean, it is only a gadget. If you don’t want one then don’t buy one but why criticise the pleasure of those of us who have got one? It has even encouraged me to complete the set and upgrade to the iPhone 4 in January and I am already longingly looking at the Macbook Pro.

But hey, these are just my opinions. I know folks who have very different ones. Horses for courses and all that.

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