25 June 2007

Switching from Windows

Ever since I got my Mac in Sept of 2006, I've been thinking about switching from Windows to OS X.


Here are my top 5 reasons:


The OS X is just easy to work with. The UI is simple and clean, and most of what you want to do is already right there in front of you. Being a Windows / Linux user for years, it actually took me time to get used to that simplicity. I was used to going hunting in menus for the exact option I wanted. OS X does have its quirks, but it is much more streamlined than Windows. Let me give you some examples.

Installing a program is in most cases as simple as dragging the application icon into your Applications folder (indeed, this is how I installed Office 2004 for Mac!). The first time I tried to install an application, I honestly had no idea what to do, because that was just too simple! Even when programs use an installer, the installer UI is the same for most applications, so it is a very consistent process.

Likewise, deleting a program is as simple as dragging it to the Trash (or right-clicking, then Move to Trash). No registry to clean (or leave dirty, as a lot of Windows programs do). Only a sparse few programs that I've run across have uninstallers.

The trackpad on my MacBook is another thing that I find amazing. Specifically, I mean the scrolling. Using one finger moves the mouse, but using two will scroll just like a scroll wheel, and it also works for sideways scrolling. That is a very insightful feature, and one that I use heavily on the road. (The whole right-click issue is rather annoying, however.)

Heck, the System Preferences application (much like the Windows Control Panel) even has a Search feature to make it easy to find things. Say you are looking for Parental Controls. Just type that in the search field, and it will shine a spotlight on the User Accounts field, which is where you setup parental controls for accounts.

I could go on and on about this (as if I hadn't already), but nothing can really show you the elegance of the OS X interface like using it can.


Well, even the most beautiful UI is pointless if it doesn't perform well. OS X has been very responsive. I've installed and uninstalled quite a few programs (something that inevitably causes a slowdown in Windows). I have Folding at Home running on my Mac (which keeps my CPUs at 90-100% usage all the time), as well as at least 8 other programs running all the time when I'm at my desk (QuickSilver, iTunes, iTerm, X11 for Mac, Safari 3, iStat, Mail, iChat, and often TextEdit). Granted, I have a lot of RAM (2GB), as I thought I would be working through Parallels in Windows a lot. (The truth is, I only run Parallels to see what a page looks like in IE or to run Visio, both of which are infrequent.) As I'm typing this article, running the mentioned applications (Parallels aside), I have more than 1.5 Gig free memory, which is less than half a Gig used. MacBooks now come with 1 Gig of RAM by default, and the MacBook Pros come with 2 Gig by default, which is enough headroom to do most anything.


Just about anything you name, the Mac can integrate with it. Here at the office we have a file server that serves Windows file shares, which I connect to, and use to store documents for the office. We have mostly linux servers, which I am able to connect to and administer with default Mac utilities (although I now have other free programs that I prefer). I won't bore you with the details, but the Mac integrates into most any enterprise infrastructure as well (MS Active Directory, Novell, Kerberos, etc.).

Software Options

I can boot my Mac into Windows XP or Vista instead of OS X. I can also run those OSs and others alongside OS X with Parallels or some other VM software. The same cannot be said for the reverse case (you cannot run OS X on a PC or in any flavor of Windows, by design on Apple's part, with the exception of $500 developer versions). The Mac gives me lots of software options. However, after I gave OS X a good honest try, I didn't want to use anything else.

Hardware options are another issue that I might address in another blog entry, but suffice it to say that this is a non-issue for your average user. Power users have the option of the Mac Pro for internal cards. Computer hobbyists (people who like to take their computer apart on a regular basis) will probably prefer the flexibility of the PC, regardless. I used to do that all the time, but nowadays, I just want it to work so I can get work done!

The Future

I've seen Microsoft's idea of the future (e.g. Vista) and I have to say that I'm not impressed, and I don't want to go where they are going. And I'm not talking about the features, because Windows Vista has a lot of "new" features that OS X has had for years. I'm talking about end to end encryption/DRM that drives the price of hardware up, the performance of your computer down, and user-friendliness out the window. I'm talking about shipping products that are incompatible with hardware that worked on the previous iteration of Windows. I'm talking about Microsoft generally not having a pulse on what is most usable, but having a good pulse on what is most profitable. Microsoft has also dropped OpenGL from Vista, which causes abysmal performance on some 3D games and professional apps (specifically, ones that are most portable to other OSs like Linux and OS X).

It may be that one day down the road, Apple will miss the boat and I'll be switching back to Windows. But for the moment, a Mac running OS X is where the best user experience is found, and that's where I'm going to be found.


I still want to have a PC to tinker with, test hardware, experiment with Linux, etc. But for my everyday work and play, the Mac is definitely the way to go. I don't have to worry about viruses and spyware (for the moment). And it lets me do everything I normally do and do it with minimal fuss.

My last holdout for Windows XP at home is my copious amount of games. When I get an iMac, I'm going to setup a dual-boot on it so I can still play them. Also, EA Games announced at WWDC 2007 that they will start developing games for the Mac again, including their top 5 games, and all their top sports titles. Eve is working on a Mac client (though it's through emulation), and WoW (which I haven't played yet) already has a Mac client. So, the plan is to dual boot XP for older games, and get Mac versions of any new games that might interest me.

I also am starting to like Mac application development, and I plan on developing an SSH client for OS X.

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