Episode 2 of "Can a PC Guy Become a Mac Guy?" got snowed out. If you remember the end of Episode 1, I was going to use the coupon I got at the Apple Store to set up a one-on-one meeting to resolve the rest of my questions. The appointment was for the morning of February 14. (Is there any better way to spend Valentine's Day than computer shopping?)
But that was the morning after 18 inches of snow got dumped on the Cleveland area. Strong winds and that much snow combined for nasty conditions. Most schools and businesses closed, and they were asking people to curtail non-essential travel. I didn't get a chance to try to explain "But officer, this is essential – I have an appointment at the Apple Store!" because it took four hours of shoveling just to get my driveway cleared. So while there's no direct Mac experience this week, there's still a few things to talk about.
Last week's story caused a big response. It went online at two places, at my own website and here at Blogcritics.com. At my own site, there was almost a 50 percent spike in page views for two days, mostly reading the story but also stopping by to read the blog. At Blogcritics, it generated a large number of user comments; it will probably be the second-most commented story I ever posted there. (The most comments ever came after the "Leg Lamp Wars" broke out during an article about the "A Christmas Story" house.) I don't allow commenting at my own site, but a number of people took the time to email advice and recommendations on what to do.
In a sense, that kind of response wasn't surprising. Many people treat their choice of operating system, or their web browser, almost like a choice of religions. The first article was almost like me walking into an evangelical church service and announcing "I'm looking for Jesus." In both cases, you expect you'll find lots of people willing to help. I believe I thanked everyone individually, but if I missed someone, then Thank you!
The other thing I was able to do before the storm was some Vista comparison shopping, at a Microcenter and at a Best Buy. (Please save the Best Buy comments – I'm perfectly aware of the Best Buy shopping experience. But once you've reached a certain level of technical expertise, it's kind of fun to go in and play mind games with their salespeople.) This gave me a chance to play with Vista, and it also confirmed that it is nothing to really get excited about. If I bought a new Windows laptop, I'd just be buying another computer, something I do about every other year. However, if I bought a Mac, I'd be doing something "Different."
It would also mean doing something "Expensive" although it's somewhat difficult to pin down how much. It's easy to buy a laptop computer cheaper than the MacBook, to say nothing of the MacBook Pro. However, the gap narrows when you actually look at the smaller, road-warrior type laptops and not the bigger desktop replacement laptops. When it actually comes to matching size, weight, and specs, you may only be looking at a $200 difference or so.
Moving to a Mac was also going to mean some outlays for software; in particular I need Microsoft Office and Macromedia Dreamweaver. Thanks to all the people who suggested alternatives to Office. Unfortunately, because of the type of clients and the type of document exchanges I do, I don't think I can get away with a substitute for Office; the document needs to be able to do a round-trip from their computer, to my computer, and back again, without any worry about changes in the import and export process. I already know (through hard-earned experience) that OpenOffice doesn't do a perfect roundtrip, and the other solutions probably won't either.
There is another solution, however, and that's Parallels, the software that lets you run Windows XP as a virtual machine on an Apple. Buying a copy of Parallels and Windows XP would allow me to use my existing licenses for the software on the Mac, at the cost of a little bit slower computer. I've heard enough people say that it worked for them, so it may be a good transitional solution. This isn't going to be my everyday machine, so a little bit of a performance hit while on the road may not be bad. Anyway, it's another way around the software problem.
Do Something Soon
I've got a seminar to attend in three weeks in Washington D.C. where I'll need the new laptop. Now that the driveway's shoveled, it's time to get a move on. If it's going to be a Mac, I want to be far along the learning curve by the time of the trip. (I don't want to be reading the manual in front of my clients.)