Column

Another Mac Convert

I was part of the Apple IIe generation – we installed them in the school I worked at in the 1980’s. They seemed great, but somehow the DOS computers that started to creep in seemed to allow us to do more in the background, and the techies decided that this was the way to go. I learned some Unix along the way, and that helped me create some smart databases in 1990 in my library, but I soon joined the crowds. My first computer purchase was a Windows PCc, and for more than 20 years I stuck with PCs. I could get ‘under the hood’ if I needed to, and I understood the way they were set up and how to bend them to my requirements if I needed to. However each new PC I bought seemed to be less open to my intervention, and that little bit slower than the last one, even though I maxed out on the Dell options for memory, Ram, dual core etc etc.

At work it was also all about PCs and MS Windows. On our workstations, we used Windows compatible software. In 2000 I went to a firm that had recently merged several offices in different cities, and they had Macs in some and PCs in others. My task was to find a document management system that could manage precedents on both. And we were in luck because at that time a couple of companies were working on web based solutions that could apply across all platforms, and thus met our requirements. But the choice was limited, and the IT people gradually made every office go with the Windows PCs. There were still many legal software applications that were not Mac-compatible, and this added to the IT team’s arguments in favour of MS.

About 3 years ago I was heading home to Melbourne, and one of the airport tax free stores seemed to offer a good deal on MacBooks. On the spur of the moment I lashed out and bought one, to teach myself the ins and outs of the Mac system. It took a bit of learning to use the shortcuts on the left of the screen rather than the right, and to work the dashboard, and to understand the Finder, etc, but it did seem easier to use. My brother had always used Macs, but I was a bit scared of not being able to get ‘into the works’ as I saw it, and it seemed odd to accept a ‘closed’ operating system; my experience with the MacBook suggested that it did not appear to need any tweaking anyway.

Despite this experience with the MacBook, on our main home computer I stuck with the Dell/Windows option, and cheered when Windows 7 came along. Yet soon after installing it, the system seemed to be slower than before, and the frequency of essential updates seemed to grow. I was almost too scared to start up the computer every morning, unless I had a good 10 minutes to wait as the thing cranked into action, or because another ‘essential update’ or another patch was waiting to be installed, shutting me down as it did its devious stuff.

Last year I was provided with an iPhone at work. Not bad, I thought, a girl could get used to this. I liked the apps, I loved the intuitiveness of the product. (In my heart of hearts I think it is really the ‘Son of Palm’, because Palm used to do a lot of these neat little tasks, albeit with a stylus and not your fingertips, but it sort of was left behind while the creative boffins at Apple forged ahead with this integrated and attractive new generation toy). And then I used an iMac in the first couple of months of this year when staying in Melbourne, and really took to it.

So after less than two years on the latest whizz-bang super Dell, we pulled the plug. The MacBook had been working away as our ‘downstairs’ computer, and always seemed to fire up straight away, so I decided we would splurge on the latest beautiful, sleek iMac using OS X Lion.

So in place of a large box for the processor, a separate Logitech camera, cords for all sorts of things going into the back of the processor, I have a sleek, all in one computer that sits very neatly on my desk, has a smart little wireless keyboard and a ‘magic’ mouse. I am so impressed by the way this computer works, as well as how good it looks, and of course now I wonder why I put up with the Windows issues for as long as I had. I have a computer that is ready to work as soon as it is turned on. It allows me to have many different functions running at once without slowing down, or hanging as I flick between applications. It does not need virus checking software. It talks to my iPhone, it happily houses my massive collection of cds on iTunes and syncs quickly with my iPod. All my files (even .pst Outlook email files) that I needed were transferred across from the PC, though I have to wait a bit for the iCloud to launch properly in November before my iMac and MacBook start to talk to each other, although the MacBook can already send files to the old non-wireless printer upstairs. I may experiment with the beta iCloud in the interim. I like Open Office, even though I realise MS Powerpoint has more features and may not be fully compatible. But I have to use it less anyway; presentations should not rely on .ppt!!

I am finding the search capability of iMail just wonderful. In fact the search capability across the whole computer means I do not need Google Desktop – vital on my work computer to help me locate those mis-filed files – anymore. I am able to edit websites easily, like iPhoto, find the Pictures file displays too small, but can live with that, and have yet to learn what Garage Band can do for me.

Sorry if I sound a bit ‘born again’ about all this. I just wanted to share my very positive experience of moving to Apple. It is not a matter of being a nerd or a geek or a Steve Jobs fan. I have not yet purchased an iPad, just to prove I am not a total convert – I will get one in good time, because everything I have read and seen makes me think it will replace my A4 note pad, and the endless printed out minutes of meetings, but I want to see the Apple cloud working. I have read the articles on SLAW about Dropbox, and iPads and the temptation is to rush out and get it now, but I will wait.

Windows, with its endless updates and patches and vulnerability to virus attacks and Trojan horses, seems to be losing its way. Many companies and corporations are run by IT depts. who are restricted to their IT choices of 10 or 15 years ago. Those who look at the workplace efficiency of their staff, the maintenance needs of infrastructure, and the future durability and longevity of IT systems might be persuaded that the initial additional investment one makes in kitting out an organisation with Apple/OS is the wiser long term decision.

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