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Calling All Apple Users

On December 21 of 2008, my Dell Inspiron 4300 desktop computer turned seven years old.  That's 49 in dog years and probably 204 in computer years.  Let me tell you a little about this machine.  It's got a 40 gig hard drive, which is darn near full.  It's got 512 megabytes of what was once smokin' hot RAM, but which nows seems to wheeze and cough when asked to do much more than boot up.  It's running Windows XP (Service Pack 2, but only because I upgraded a couple of years back) on a Pentium 4 chip at 1.7 Ghz, and it's got several USB ports, all of them USB 1.1 (except for the entra ones I installed myself, which were supposed to run at 2.0 speeds, but didn't until I installed the XP Service Pack).

This computer has been wonderful to me.  [Knocks on wood.]  It has never crashed.  [Knocks on wood again.] I've written many, many books and stories on it. And it only occasionally does annoying stuff, like shutting down programs that I'm still using or closing Internet Explorer while I'm in the middle of looking for a site.  That said, I'm ready for a new computer.  I am SO ready for a new computer.

I had convinced myself for a while that I was going to get an iMac, that I was finally going to make the big jump over to Apple.  I'd heard all the horror stories about Vista and I wanted no part of any of that.  Then we had to get a new computer for my girls and because we couldn't afford an Apple for them, we got another Dell desktop.  Yes it has Vista.  And to my surprise and delight, Vista has been fine.  More than that, it's been great.  The girls love it.  I love it.  [I've heard the Windows 7 is just about ready to come out, but the other day when I tried to go to a site and read about it, my computer closed IE.  I tried again.  Same thing.  Every time I went to that site, it closed IE.  Every.  Single.  Time.  It's like it knew what I was thinking.  Creepy.]

Anyway, now I'm back to trying to decide between a new iMac and a new Dell.  The iMac costs more by quite a bit and I've been using PCs a long time, so I have lots of old software that I'd have to abandon if I made the jump.  But I'm ready for an OS that doesn't need to be handled like a pinless grenade. 

So, all you Apple users out there (Stephen Leigh, I'm talking to you!), this is your chance.  Proselytize away.  Convince me.  Talk me down from the Windows ledge.  Why should I switch?  Why is it worth the extra hundreds of dollars?


( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 10th, 2009 02:08 am (UTC)
Oh! I'll tell you why you should switch. :D Because I am absolutely hopeless when it comes to computers, but I have a MacBook and I LOVE it. It's so simple even I can use it. I don't have to worry about glitches, gremlins, or weird computer ideosyncrasies. And it's smooth and fast. :D (Before I got this, I was a Dell fan too. And now I'll never go back. :D)
Jan. 10th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jen. I have played with Macs at the Apple store up in Nashville (a drive of 90 miles, so not something I can do all the time) and there is an elegance to them that's lacking in PCs.
Jan. 10th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
Well, I have always been a Mac girl, though I've used PCs in office environments. As far as I'm concerned, the Mac slaughters anything else. You unpack it and you turn it on. You load software if you need to, you hook up with your iSP and that's the end of the discussion. It goes and it goes and it goes and it goes and you never have a problem. But if you do, it gets sorted. I am currently on my 9th Mac incarnation. I will never change.
Jan. 10th, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
A strong endorsement. Thanks, Karen. I actually started on a mac way back in the mid 1980s. That's what was used at my place of employment at the time, and I found it pretty easy. Once I had to buy a computer myself, though, I switched to PCs because of the cost. May be time to switch back.
(no subject) - karenmiller - Jan. 10th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - davidbcoe - Jan. 10th, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 10th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC)
Hey, David! Where's that soapbox? Drag it over here, would'ja? Here's PART ONE:

Apple is (in my admittedly limited experience) inherently a more stable platform. You have the same company writing both software and designing the software. The interface tends to be very similar across all programs, so that learning one teaches you a great deal about using another. Everything is drag-and-drop across programs.

Need to do anything with photos or video? There's a reason that the vast majority of graphics companies use Macs. The iLife suite comes on every computer. iTunes you probably already know; Garageband is a sweet little recording-studio-in-a-box. iPhoto is a good organizer for photos, but probably not enough for your level of expertise -- you'll want to pick up Aperture. iMovie is an easy-to-use video editor. iDvd allows you to create DVDs of your slide shows and movies. iWeb is a template-driven webpage design program. You also get Safari (browser), Mail, Address Books, iChat, and a bare bones but very quick word processor called TextEdit. All that (except Aperture) comes with the Mac. Add comparable programs to your Dell, and you've increased the price...

You need cross-platform compatibility? Then get MS Office for Mac ($149.95, if Nancy's university can't provide you a free copy). Or, get iWork ($79). Keynote blows Powerpoint out of the freaking water (as a teacher, I use Keynote in every class, and I know whereof I speak). Pages blows MS Word or Publisher out of the water for page layout program, and is a decent (and unbloated) word processor. Excel still spanks Number's butt in sheer number-crunching ability, but Numbers is getting better and blows Excel away in the appearance category.

Currently, there are no viruses, no spyware, and only a few trojan horses out there targeting the Mac OS -- that almost certainly won't always be the case, but when there are thousands of Windows viruses...
Jan. 10th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Steve. Knew you'd have a lot to say about this, and given that I respect you and your opionions as much as I do any writer in the world, I was looking forward to your reply. Questions:

Okay, the very first one that comes to mind: You say that the software writing and design come from the same company, but what aobut when I start going off the reservation for, say Nisis, or MS Word, or Adobe programs like Lightroom, Dreamweaver, and Photoshop? Will I start to encounter problems then? If I choose to use iWeb do I have to start my webpage all over again, or will it allow me to edit my old Dreamweaver pages? That's a big one for me. The word processing thing is easier, because most programs can work with existing msword docs. But I expect my website pages are going to be trickier to transfer and I have A LOT of work and time invested in my site.
(no subject) - sleigh - Jan. 10th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - davidbcoe - Jan. 10th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 10th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
I don't care what anyone else says, Apple is a cult. I haven't had your success with Dells, but my Toshibas have always rocked. At half the Mac price.

My daughter's iBook crashed every two months for three years.
Jan. 10th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
It may be a cult, but it has a lot of satisfied adherents. And given that I'll never be a Moonie, this might be my only chance to belong to any sort of cult...

Thanks, Sam. I know that many people feel this way about Apple, and I appreciate your willingness to take the "counter" view in this case.
(no subject) - scbutler - Jan. 10th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - davidbcoe - Jan. 10th, 2009 11:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 10th, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)

You're a novelist. To me as a writer, the program Scrivener is reason enough all by itself to be on the Mac platform. There's nothing, NOTHING comparable to it on Windows. (Simon has said that his yWriter is similar in design, but two acquaintances who have tried both assure me that's absolutely not the case...) I'd love to sit down with you and show you Scrivener. It has changed the way I approach writing a novel (for the better, I think...)

CONSUMER REPORTS has for six years running placed Apple as #1 in Customer Support, and #1 for Least Number of Repairs. There's good reason for that. I won't tell you you'll never have a problem with your Mac (that would be a mistake, and I've certainly had a couple issues over the decades myself), but statistically you're less likely to run into issues.

Apple tends to do Industrial Design right -- and there's a reason that Apple designs seem to get copied by other manufacturers. To me, the interface just feels better. It's a lot of little things that seem small but add up (for instance, why in hell would you want to put the Shut Down command under "Start"?) Mind you, Apple does make the occasional blunder (the 'hockeypuck' mouse of several years back was one...)

I've had the G5 iMac on my desk for four and a half years now -- in computer years, it's ancient. Yet it's still capable of running the current system (and is). I've never had to defrag the disk. I've never had to run a virus program on it to slow it down. I've never had to re-install the system to get rid of spyware. I've never had to take it to the shop. I've upped the memory from the 1GB I originally put in it to 2GB; that's it. Didn't have to buy a sound card for it: it had one. Didn't have to buy a wireless card; it had one. Didn't have to buy bluetooth; it had that. Didn't have to pay extra for a DVD burner; it came with one. And so on...

Would you pay more for an Audi than you would for a Chevy? Yep, you would.

But y'know what, I'll bet you that if you outfit your Dell comparably to an Apple iMac -- both in terms of hardware and software -- the difference in price isn't going to be as much as you think.

But YMMV. If you wanna talk about it some more, give me a call, my friend!
Jan. 10th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
I have noted the Consumer Reports ratings, being a faithful subscriber. I'd love to know more about Scrivener; people talk about it as if it's the Grail.

The cost is greater for a Mac, and you're right: I'd pay more for a better product (there's a reason I drive a Honda rather than a Dodge) but actually the machines I'm comparing are both customized to my specs. I'm getting more RAM with Dell (probably needed because Vista is so cumbersome) equal hard drive size and comparable features in all other respects (the Dell screen is actually larger) and I'm still paying several hundred more for the iMac.
(no subject) - sleigh - Jan. 10th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - davidbcoe - Jan. 10th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sleigh - Jan. 10th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - davidbcoe - Jan. 10th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sleigh - Jan. 10th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 10th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC)
Let me expand on the analogy I used in PART TWO. When you went out to buy a guitar, did you get the cheapest guitar you could find? My bet is that you went out and tried several guitars, and bought not the cheapest one, but the one that sounded and felt the best to you.

That's why the bass I use regularly cost about 2 grand, not $200.

That's what you should do with your computer, too. As a writer, you're going to be living with it for several years each and every day. It's a tool -- but you want a tool that fits you like a glove and does what you want it to do in the way you want it to work.

No matter what it costs (within reason and budget, of course).
Jan. 10th, 2009 03:39 am (UTC)
But... I wouldn't buy a Mac because I like Macs. You should buy a Mac because you like the way it looks and feels and interacts with you. Go to a store and play with one for a few hours. Or find a friend who has one and steal it for a day.

You should also go and do the same with the Dells/Gateways/Toshibas/whatever. Spend time with them.

Seriously. This is a decision you're going to have to live with for YEARS. Make sure that the Macs are calling to you far more loudly than the Dells. If they are, then get a Mac. And if they aren't, then stay with Windows.

You'll still be my friend. :-)
(no subject) - davidbcoe - Jan. 10th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sleigh - Jan. 10th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 10th, 2009 04:52 am (UTC)
Apple/Mac users swear by their systems (some might say fanatically so). I have always used a PC for my own use and the few times I've dealt with Macs, they've always seemed foreign but that may just because the interface was so, well, foreign.

My suggestion, if you can wait, is to pick up a Dell once Windows 7 has been out long enough for Microsoft to write the first dozen or so patches (never get new technology first...less reliable and more expensive than waiting).

I suppose, if cost was a factor, that it would depend on how much PC-only software you had that was still in compliance with a Windows 7 machine. If you don't have a lot of that, then run over to the Apple store and test run one for an hour or so (no need to rush into these things as you'll be living with it for a long time...kinda like marriage... ;)) and see how it fits.

Last time I checked...Apple will run MS word processing software, so that shouldn't be a problem. The only other consideration is cost where you can buy a snazzy PC for around $500 (they're giving them aways nowadays) and aren't Macs going for about $1,200+?
Jan. 10th, 2009 01:28 pm (UTC)
Considering that Windows 7 just went public beta, and that it was almost two years from the time Vista went public beta to its official release, David's computer might be a decade+ old by the time that happens... :-)
(no subject) - davidbcoe - Jan. 10th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 10th, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'll echo that bit about Nisus -- Nisus is my word processor of choice: much better look-and-feel than that ugly, bloated thing called Word (and far cheaper). I don't use any of the MS Office programs except Excel at this point, and if the latest version of Numbers announced on Tuesday has grown up sufficiently, I won't even be using that.
(no subject) - davidbcoe - Jan. 10th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - sleigh - Jan. 10th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jan. 10th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
Right. I need to sit down and play with a Mac again. Sounds like fun, actually.
Jan. 10th, 2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
It's SOOO worth the extra hundred dollars. Just do it! You get much better software right out of the gate, and you can still get Microsoft Office if you want it (and the best writing software in the world--Scrivener--is Mac only!). Plus, they just work.

I got my first Mac three years ago and still have to use PCs at the office. I hate having to use them, because the Mac is so much nicer.
Jan. 10th, 2009 12:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I should also say (knock wood) that I lost several PCs to viruses back in the day, and it's a great relief to have to worry about that FAR less.
(no subject) - bondgwendabond - Jan. 10th, 2009 12:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondgwendabond - Jan. 10th, 2009 12:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - davidbcoe - Jan. 10th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 10th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks to all so far for all the comments. This has been enormously helpful.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 11th, 2009 01:01 am (UTC)
Thanks, Heidi. What I find amazing is that Mac users are all so enthusiastic. I truly mean this in the best way. As a Windows user I'm fairly typical. I admit that I use XP, but I don't rave about it. Mac users love their machines, and that has to count for something.
Jan. 11th, 2009 01:53 pm (UTC)
What can I say that other people haven't? Well, a couple of things. I'm a computer consultant and I take my work very seriously, so I actually go through the pain of trying out new operating systems all the time. Granted, in this environment, 90% of that means playing with odd forms of Linux, but I've serviced PCs since the early 90s and I've seen the technology come and go. I've prayed for Windows to be one of them that goes, but that's a pipe dream. Your experience with your beloved XP machine is extremely unusual. But in counterpoint, my 10 year old Mac is still doing WWW browsing and word processing for someone as we speak, and it never crashes.

I've used nothing but Mac for any serious work since the Mac Classic the wife and I pooled our small resources together for in '92. I was tempted briefly by Windows until I had to service a network of "Windows for Workgroups" PCs and ran screaming. Microsoft has improved, but not much, and this is because it has some technical flaws that it just can't get out of because they are built into the substrate of the operating system.

Mac had the same problems, but "fixed" them by tearing out the bloated broken operating system substrate and replaced it with an elegantly designed and highly stable version of BSD UNIX. Linux also "fixes" these problems by making the operating system extremely secure and stable, also by (reverse-engineering) UNIX. Microsoft has failed to do this on every count, and even threw out the first glimmers of reform with Windows 7 by saying they will scrap the "microkernel architecture" they had been talking about. Now, I believe in giving people a second chance, but Microsoft has been given well over a decade and failed.

So, Linux is cheap, stable, and has a good browser and word processor. Why not switch to Ubuntu on commodity hardware? Unfortunately, the problem with Linux is that it's not only designed by committee, but by a committee of committees, so none of the interfaces are the same, and clipboards may or may not work across applications, and all sorts of other cruft gets found by the poor user in just trying to use their machine, especially when the committees start passing the buck on who will support a driver for hardware "X". Microsoft is a little better in that it has been designed by a marketing department and a focus group (Ok, I'm stretching the truth, but I'm getting to the core in as few words as possible) because they desire sales over any other factor, and try to give the consumer what they ask for. Apple on the other hand, emphasizes the human interface with the iron fist of the enlightened despot, and that's where the real advantage is.

Once your fingers "get" the mac interface, and you get adept on calling up exposé and dashboard, and once you've spent some time moving data between similarly-designed applications, you'll find the machine becomes an extension to your work, not a hinderance. You will find yourself no longer thinking about the machine, and start thinking through the machine. Everything sleigh said is accurate. I have a tin ear and can't actually meet the guitar analogy, but I know that if I had to trade in my Henkel and Sabatier kitchen knives for a set of run-of-the-mill serrated blades, I would probably give up cooking. Mac users feel the same about switching back. It's not that Mac is so much better, but using a Mac makes you aware of why the alternative is so much worse.

My old "Technology and Values" prof postulated that the ultimate goal of technology is to disappear: to do its work without interfering in the work itself. I think he was right, and I would hold up the "Human Interface Guidelines" at Apple as a prime exhibit in that dock of evidence.

On the other hand, what works for you is the ultimate test. If you "grok" XP and Vista, by all means use them. Again, the test is "does it help or hinder your ability to work?" Your time, joy, and comfort is worth money. Don't sell it short.
Jan. 11th, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your take on all of this, Sizz. Very interesting and quite helpful. Ultimately, I don't yet know which matters to me. I actually spent some time last night playing with a mac and intend to play with my girls' Vista machine later today. The money is a factor, but it will not be THE factor.

Again, many thanks.
(no subject) - sizztheseed - Jan. 12th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - davidbcoe - Jan. 12th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 46 comments — Leave a comment )


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