Critical Section

I Switched! [temporarily]

Sunday,  12/07/03  11:00 PM

Windows LogoApple LogoSo, for the past four days my [Windows] laptop was down, and I switched to using my iMac as my "main" computer for a few days.  Overall the experience was pretty good.  I thought you might find a brief review interesting.

My "usual" Compaq laptop is a 2GHz P4 with 1.5GB RAM, running WinXP Pro.  My iMac is the original "lamp", with a 700MHz G4, 512MB RAM, running OSX 10.3 ("Panther").  The biggest hardware difference is screen resolution; my laptop has a 15" screen with 1400x1050 pixels, and when docked I have a 21" 1600x1200 external monitor.  The iMac's 15" screens has just 1024x768 pixels.  The lack of screen real estate was actually the biggest drawback to the [temporary] switch.

The real estate issue was greatly ameliorated by the single coolest thing about Panther - Exposé.  Hit F9, and poof, all your windows are visible simultaneously, making selecting the one you want trivial.  Hit F11, and poof, your desktop is visible.  I really loved Exposé, and miss it back on Windows.  Hopefully Microsoft will copy Apple on this one!

I have Office X on the Mac, and it's quite comparable to the Office XP I've grown to know and, er, like.  I'm a pretty experienced Mac user so the Mac-ish-ness of Office X didn't throw me; actually I liked it!  I had to use the online help every once in a while to figure stuff out (yeah, the Mac has one of those "clippy" pseudo-natural-language processors, too), but overall it was cool.

I use email a lot, and so I used Entourage a lot (the Mac equivalent of Outlook).  This worked fine, no problems.  I was able to setup my four email accounts in no time (taking care to leave messages on the server, so I could get them later on my PC), and poof, I was getting email.  In fact, I was getting spam!  So I found SpamSieve, a nice little Bayesian filter which integrates nicely with Entourage.  Seemed to work just about as well as Matador, the spam filter I use with Outlook.

Another thing I do a lot is surf, and so I used Safari (Apple's standard web browser).  I have to say, I really liked it a lot.  Unlike Mozilla (on either platform) Safari pretty much renders all pages exactly like IE on Windows, for better or worse.  I didn't encounter any sites which didn't work or looked funny.  And I really liked tabbed browsing.  This made a big difference since I had so little screen real estate.  On Windows I don't miss it, because I can space out a bunch of windows.

And of course I needed an RSS reader!  So I tried NetNewsWire, which is the most popular Mac client, but I didn't like it.  Your mileage may vary, but I found it was much clunkier than SharpReader.  So next I tried AmphetaDesk, but this didn't play nice with Panther.  Then I tried Shrook, and I liked it!  In some ways it is cooler than SharpReader - maybe because it is so Mac-ish.  Anyway that's the RSS reader to use, and once I had all my subscriptions entered I was off and reading.

The other thing I spend lots of time doing all day is coding (under Visual Studio), and this I could not do on the Mac.  Well, I could have installed VS under WinXP under Virtual PC, but I didn't.  So that part of my experience was incomplete.  I've messed around with Xcode a little but not enough to compare it, and anyway I don't have any "real" coding to do for Macs, so it wouldn't be a good test.

Oh, and what about performance?  Well, the Mac's specs were quite a bit worse than the PC's, but I really didn't notice any difference.  Programs launched quickly (especially Safari, which I launched a lot), the screen was responsive, network access was fast.  I was able to keep lots of stuff up and running without any degradation, despite having less memory.

Wrapping up?  It really was no big deal.  I was every bit as productive on the iMac as I was on Windows.  The one thing about Macs, you can pretty much figure out what to do because they're simpler.  Everything sort of seems to make sense.  If I'd have had a bigger screen, I might even have found the iMac to be better.

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