Closing My Windows: Back to Mac for Me

“Put your money where your mouth is.” I live pretty heavily by that rule, mostly because it’s usually ends up satisfying some curiosity or another. In my case, I wanted to answer the question, could I really leave my Mac for Windows?

The short answer: absolutely. However, doing so had its highs and lows. Despite these highs, however, I’ve decided that going back to Mac OS is the right thing for me at this time. I emphasize those last words because ultimately it’s about whatever works for you. Once it stops working for you, or once you find something better, then it’s time to move.

Reasons for Leaving Apple

This is not a short list. After all, wasn’t I, just a few years ago, praising the wonder of Mac OS X? And then I bought an iPhone. And an iPad. And I loved them all! So why would ANYONE, especially ME, leave Apple?

Apple Logo with a No sign

Maybe it was the feeling that I couldn’t tweak my hardware or software. Perhaps it was because anything branded with that logo suddenly experiences a 10-fold price increase. It could be that I was simply sick of being lumped in with Fanbois. (Actually, that had nothing to do with it.) Possibly, it had to do with the fact that Windows was becoming a far better OS, seemingly by the minute.

But if I had to narrow it to one word, it would be “boring”. Apple isn’t exciting. It isn’t fun. Apple is… like my Toyota. Reliable. It’ll get me from point A to point B without any excitement whatsoever. The thing is, in the process, allow me to do my work. It’ll do what I expect of it and rarely surprise. Sure, I could have one of those now-ultra-sexy-Kias, or a Ford, or a Mazda, all of which are tons more fun to drive, but the fact is that I’d ultimately end up at the shop more often with one of those than I do with either of my Toyotas. Time spent at the shop means time taken away from other things (and money out of my pocket).

But I was ready for some excitement.

Open the Windows!

So I was ready for some fun, and Windows offered that, while at the same time offering me the opportunity to get real work done. After all:

  • the managing director at Wicked Window Productions worked exclusively in it (to the point of telling me, “If you get a Mac you just won’t be able to work with us”);
  • my technical writing work is done exclusively in Windows (RoboHelp, mostly, with some FrameMaker, Word, and Excel on the side);
  • my favorite writing application at the time, Scrivener, now had a Windows version. (Scrivener was, after all, THE reason I bought a Mac in the first place. It was the first truly perfect writing application I found.)

Fluttershy saying Yay to the Windows Logo

And Windows, to me, was the old name with a new style. I use Windows 7 every day for work, and I really like it. Windows 8 (and better yet 8.1) offered me a chance to learn something new while relying on something I’m still used to.

I Love the Smell of Hardware in the Morning!

One of the best parts was hunting down hardware and putting the system together, something I hadn’t done in YEARS. As sad as it may seem to some of you, it was fun. Exhilarating, even. The excitement of building a PC–when not diminished by having done it hundreds of times–is much like the excitement of finishing a script: there’s a deep satisfaction at its completion, and a wide-eyed wonder at what it can be.

My PC

In case you’re interested, here were the components:

  • Case: Fractal Design R4
  • PSU: Cooler Master M2 Series Pro 720w Bronze
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z87x-UD4H
  • Processor: Intel i7 quad core 4770k
  • Heatsink: Noctua NH-D14
  • Fans: Noctua NF-A15 PWM 150mm Premium Fans (2)
  • Wireless: Asus PCE-N15
  • RAM: 16GB Corsair XMS3 (2x8GB 1600MHz ), low profile (Motherboard handles up to 32gb)
  • Disc: LG 14x Internal BDXL Blu-Ray Burner Rewriter WH14NS40
  • HDD: WD Black 7200 RPM 1TB

Total cost (not including OS), about $1200.

After that, I installed the OS, the drivers, and any necessary software.

Cracks In the Windows

Doge is Scared, and So Was IThis was when I got one of my first irks. Driver compatibility. I had installed an updated driver from a manufacturer’s website which completely blew up the system. (Not literally, of course: the magic smoke has yet to emerge.) Luckily, Windows has a phenomenal roll-back feature that allows you to roll all changes to a previous point in time. Problem solved. Besides, I didn’t know of any actual benefit to the updated driver, and don’t to this day. It was then that I figured it was best to let Windows Updates take care of any driver issues.

Over time, there were other quirks: the system started slowing, updates would fail, iTunes wouldn’t work just right with my iPhone (I know, you can say it’s an Apple issue, but it worked fine with my MacBook, so I’m calling it a “Windows” issue because I’m not about to part with my iPhone), boot times became longer and longer (I’ll blame the anti-virus for this one)…

The biggest one had to do with Windows 8 itself. I just never felt like I could find my stuff. The Start feature just didn’t work for me, probably owing to the fact that I didn’t have a touch-screen device. (Quickly, show of hands: How many people own a touch-screen desktop?) Then there were a few very odd sound issues with my BD-RW, as well as video playback issues that I couldn’t figure out, so I couldn’t view (or back up) movies. There were other fairly minor issues, but… they were big for me. The annoyances in Windows became worse to me, faster, than the annoyances in MacOS.

My PC ran into a problem

Now, some of these irks could have been solved by buying an off-the-shelf PC. After all, why do I need to find drivers for a Lenovo Y410 when Lenovo has already supplied them all? And I could have switched mobile platforms. I mean, what’s going to work better with Windows than a Windows phone, right? But then I’d have to get rid of my iPhone and iPad, and I really would rather not, since waaaay too many of my tools are there and lack appropriate replacements on either Android or Windows Phone.

So again, going to my car analogy, it’s pretty much a given that if you like driving, you’ll enjoy a Ford Focus or a Mazda 3 far more than will a Toyota Corolla, with its spongy steering, and its seats that completely separate you from the feeling of the road. But as far as repair costs go, Toyota Corollas have among the lowest overall costs–because they’re so rarely in the shop, comparatively speaking, even with very high (150,000+) mileage. And boring though they are, that’s why I like them. Time in a repair shop is time not spent doing anything else of value.

PCs are the same way. At first, they’re fun and exciting and shiny! But then they start needing maintenance if you want to keep it running in good shape. Yet time spent fixing little things here and there, little annoyances that aren’t really all that big, but which pile up, is time not spent writing, not spent producing. And I need to produce. I need to perform. Even if it costs a little more up-front.

But Macs are SOOOOO Expensive

It’s true that PCs can be found which are cheaper than Macs. Good ones, at that. And although this story isn’t at all about the hardware, given that Mac OS is largely married to Apple computers, it needs some attention.

All Macs are made of gold, right?

For starters, the price myth has been debunked time and time again. The fact is that for the same hardware, Macs are usually about the same cost as PCs, sometimes higher, sometimes cheaper. But the price argument misses the point in this case entirely, because it really is a matter of “you get what you pay for” in both accounts.

To continue with the car example, if you need to get to point A to point B, you don’t always need a Mercedes where a Toyota would do. But sometimes you’re looking for more than just travel, you’re also considering the overall ride. Likewise, it’s true, you won’t find a $400 Apple laptop running Mac OS X. If you want an Apple laptop, your options start at about $750 (if you include refurbished which, from Apple, I always, always recommend), and you can’t really tweak them after they’ve been bought. You get what you get.

When talking price I’ve often heard, “Well, I can get a processor that’s twice as fast, and more RAM, and a better video card, for less than that!” You absolutely can. Here’s the deal, though:

It’s not about specs. At all.

Specs don’t matter at all if the software that sits on top of them, the software you interact with every day, doesn’t perform.

It’s all about performance.

I don’t care if I have a 3.5ghz quad-core Intel i7 4770k with 32 GB of RAM and an SSD, if it routinely drags for whatever you’re doing, then what’s the point of all that power? If you can give me the same performance for what I do on half the processing power and half the RAM, then what difference does it make to me?.

So yeah, Macs are expensive, and their specs might not impress some people. So what? I have a 7 year old Mac sitting at home that’s more usable than any Windows PC of that era.

Performance. That’s what it’s all ultimately about.

So, You Think We Should All Switch to Mac?

Mac Fans EVERYWHERE!

No. Not even a little. Microsoft offers many, many great things with Windows. Some of them–snap-to-place windows, for example–are small, but immensely useful. Others–like the availability of games–are HUGE advantages over Mac OS. And for some people–a LOT of people!–this is exactly what they need. Heck, some of their tools are beyond compare! But on the whole… the annoyances on the Mac are less important to me than the annoyances found on Windows. For some people, it’s the other way around. And for fanboys (and girls) in each club, they’ll try to couch it in a way that makes it seem like some deep, philosophical, and even ethical struggle for that which is good and right with the world.

Sorry, but if I wanted to get all philosophical, I’d switch to Linux.

What About Linux?

It's Linux, Punks!

What about it? OK, I’ve thought about it, too, but for me it boils down to this: I need to work with others, regularly. Having the same applications goes a LONG way toward this. The vast majority of those people I’m working with don’t work in Linux, and may not be able to work well at all with it. If it was just me, just my computer, or if I was sure to be working with other open-source individuals, or if I was a sysadmin, then sure, Linux would be a fine choice. But for now, it’s simply not.

(And yes, I know I’m pretty much countering my entire “Get out of the way and let me work” argument from before. After all, Linux is KNOWN for letting, and in some cases demanding, that people tweak it. Here’s the deal though: I actually like *nix environments. I don’t really like Windows environments.)

Conclusion

Here’s the deal: I’m selling my PC and getting a Mac. Yes, it’ll be more expensive (between US$700 and $2000 more). No, it won’t be as expandable. Yes, it’ll be a laptop, which means I’ll have to pay for a battery replacement in about 4 years (thanks to their terrible idea of gluing batteries into the system). Despite all this, however, despite all the inconveniences, it’ll be what I’m most comfortable with, because its quirks and bugs annoy me less than Windows’s quirks and bugs.

There's always room for operating systemsReally, that’s all it boils down to. I just prefer one environment over another.

Now, am I dumping Windows altogether? Not on your life. Windows will stick around, in Parallels or Boot Camp. After all, there are still PC-based games I own and want to play! I also really, really like the general direction Microsoft is headed, even if they’re not quite there yet. And I really do love Office, plus there are still tools I own for Windows which I don’t yet own for Mac.

So don’t take my switching as my proclaiming one platform to be superior to another. Far from it. Take it as what it is: a proclamation that I found what works for me, that I’ve determined what’s important to me. That’s enough. And if I’m ever in a situation where someone needs (or wants) me to switch, I’ll have exactly no problem doing so… provided they foot ALL costs.