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Episode 2 – Can a PC Guy Become a Mac Guy?

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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.

Reader Response

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!

Comparison Shopping

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.) 


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About Bruce Kratofil

  • In addition to Parallels, VMWare is coming out with their own virtual desktop software for Macs. You can download a free beta copy here:

    Fusion Beta Program

  • Mike B

    Just remember if your planning on doing Vista, you will need Ultimate or Business as the other versions do not support the virtualization that Parallels uses so when it comes time to install, voila! No dice.

    Food for thought.

  • Bruce Kratofil

    Mark — do you use Office and Dreamweaver on an Intel Mac, PPC Mac, etc? And I assume that’s the Mac version and not under Bootcamp/Parallels.

    On the Boot Camp vs Parallels – I think I would favor the latter so that you don’t have the inconvenience of rebooting. Parallels itself isn’t that expensive (it’s the extra license for XP, which comes into play either way) that the time savings would make up for the cost fairly quickly.

    On the crossgrades — for awhile, at least, I’m going to be both a Mac and a PC guy. If I like it enough, I may make a total switch sometime down the road, but have no real idea about that.

  • Ryan Eibling

    Boot Camp is fine but it’s not very convenient to reboot every time you need to run Office. On the other hand, Parallels rocks! The new beta available to registered users supports a mode where the virtual windows machine kind of runs in the background, the Windows taskbar is shown right on your OS X desktop and Windows apps run as if they’re just another OS X application. They still look like Windows apps and you can sort of see the trickery going on when you move or resize one of them, but they show up in the dock and for all intents and purposes can be used like any OS X app. The performance is great and has no noticeable effect on anything else I do while Parallels is running (20″ Intel iMac, 2GB memory).

  • Actually, the rumor mill thinks that the release of OS X 10.5 might be sooner than expected.

    BTW, I use both Office and Dreamweaver on a Mac, no problems here. Good luck with your choice.

  • Bruce, have you read any info on running Boot Camp yet? It may cure your dilemna about having to repurchase software.

    It’s supposed to be bundled in the next version of OSX (Leopard), which itself will be bundled with a new Mac… just a question of when it comes out, which may not be in time for your conference.

  • K

    A number of companies offer “Crossgrades” which is to say the next time you upgrade, you can shift from a pc version to a mac version and vice versa. You could check that out should you ddecide to stay with the mac.