In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

A Mac in my future?

You may have done a double-take when I said that I’m interested in buying a Mac. Believe me, you’re no more surprised than I am! It is the result of a long and slow progression, I think. Inch, by inch, without any single calamitous event tipping the scale.

I’ve always been pretty happy with DOS and then Windows PCs. They’ve done what I wanted them to do, if not easily. We’ve gotten along pretty well. I promised myself I wouldn’t upgrade to Vista, but then I upgraded to Vista. I can’t even trust myself. It all started to go sour then.

Unlike these nut-cases who seem to take their operating systems as some sort of religion, I use what works best for me. I’ve always used Windows and it’s worked fine so I’ve seen no reason to change. Despite the ‘end of the world’ reports from some users, Vista has worked well for me. It’s at least as stable as XP was, and prettier. The upgrade included both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions in the box so after running the 32-bit version for a while, I tried the 64-bit version. I stayed with it not because I liked it better, bit rather because it seemed exactly the same. There was no reason to go back. Since the 64-bit version supports far more RAM, I added more RAM.

Vista is not as friendly as XP in one important way. It wants to do things the way it wants to. I don’t mean the user has to change the way they use the computer. Rather, as an example, Vista wants to run its own anti-spyware program and there’s no easy way to stop it. It’s called Windows Defender and you can’t uninstall it. If you disable the service, it starts again anyway when you reboot. So what I had to do is remove the service and delete the file. Problem solved? No, because every time Vista starts, I now get an error dialogue telling me Defender couldn’t start and I ought to fix the problem. I have to click OK to clear the warning. There are better spyware scanners available, and they work the way I want them to so I have no need for Defender.

The average computer user wouldn’t consider this a problem. It’s even a good thing for them. But there are others who want things to work in a certain way, and I don’t see the logic of preventing them. Take me for example. I never in the past even considered switching operating systems, but now I just might when it comes time for a new system. I consider myself fairly adept at running my own computer so you can expect me not to react kindly when Microsoft tries to force me to run it the way they want. I’ll have to research my options thoroughly though. I haven’t used a Mac enough to know if it suffers from the same “we’re doing it this way for your own good, whether you like it or not” conceit.

Don’t even get me started on the product activation thing. I have to get their permission to use the software I bought? And the ‘phoning home’ three or four times a day … thank goodness for my hardware firewall.

Vista has more than a few other similarly annoying traits. The computer is mine and the operating system should not need me to delve into the registry to make it work the way I want it to. The first thing I must do after installing the operating system, is spend an hour or two circumventing all the blocks Microsoft has put into place to prevent me from configuring the machine to my tastes. It’s one thing to have it configured in a way I don’t care for by default, but it’s something else entirely to actively work against my configuring it as I please.

Sure I could go back to XP, but I’d lose the ability to use half the RAM in the machine. I don’t want to do this, but the appeal of going back to XP is growing. Farther into the future, I could easily see running a Mac as my primary system with a Linux box for file back up and other stuff.

The current iMac. They advertise the positive aspects of it being ‘all in one.’ I see this more as a disadvantage given all the limitations it imposes.

Don’s always ready to tell me the Mac doesn’t suffer from a particular problem I’m griping about, so I had a closer look at the iMac the last time I was in Future Shop. It’s pretty sweet. So many times I’ve heard “it just works.” No fuss and no muss. I believe it too, because I have had the opportunity to use one at times and it has always been straightforward and logical.

There are only a few problems I have with switching.

The big one is cost. I could get an iMac for about what I paid for my roughly equal Dell XPS system two years ago. What’s that all about?

The second problem exacerbates the first. The iMac is not at all modular. You get a monitor, a mouse, and a keyboard. The computer itself is built into the monitor. If you want to change the monitor, you can’t just swap in a new one. Memory is easy to change, but given the small form factor, a hard drive swap would be quite an effort, and adding more internal drives is impossible as far as I know. The way this problem factors into the first is you’d better get everything you want when you buy it because you’re not going to be able to change it later, for the most part.

Apple answers the modularity problem with the Mac Pro, but as dreamy as it is, it’s even more expensive. The Mac Pro is not for me until I win the lottery … then look out!

The third problem is not Mac-specific, and not as severe as it once was. When switching operating systems, you’ve got to replace your current software with titles that will run on the new OS. Most of the time this isn’t difficult, but it can be costly. I don’t see this as much of a problem because I’ve started dumping my commercial software for open-source titles. There is often a Mac version of Windows open source titles, and even when there isn’t, there’s usually a Mac specific program that can fill my need.

The only software I’d have to purchase is the Adobe Create Suite (or at least PhotoShop, Illustrator, and perhaps InDesign and Acrobat). Lightroom has a dual platform licence. The only real problems are iMatch, my photo database, and the optical disc utilities I’ve gathered over the last few years. I’d have to keep a PC around to run those because there are no Mac equivalents for a few of them.

The cost is killing any thought of a switch in the near future. A higher-end 24″ iMac runs for $2450 and it has a quarter the RAM and less than half the hard drive space I’m accustomed to. Since I have car payments to worry about, I won’t spend thousands of dollars on a new computer any time soon.

iMac photo ©2007 Apple Inc.


Finish the fight


Got pipes?


  1. Rachel

    When I got my computer I had to fake having a small business to get XP instead of Vista. I didn’t want it because of some of the things I had heard but computer companies don’t give you a choice on your OS apparently unless you are a small business owner.

  2. Kat

    For one, Phillip has that iMac, and he came to it in the same way you describe switching to Vista: slowly, insidiously. (I double-checked that word in my dictionary. Not the little one. The big one.) You should talk to him about it though; he did his homework before he succumbed.

  3. Shawn

    I see Don is guiding you from the dark side to the white side, lol. And YES, Vista is evil. I lost a week of my life configuring a new laptop. I should send a bill to Bill.

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