We Did It! We Switched to Macs!


We did it. We switched from Windows to Mac. In case you missed my previous story, here was the thinking:

  • We needed new computers.
  • We had three laptops on a business lease that was expiring.
  • The laptops had significant hardware problems and we were glad to get rid of them.
  • We had three tower computers, one of them a server. One had died after being repaired earlier in the year. One was extremely old and still running XP. It had severe software/OS issues.
  •  The server, after years of reliable use had started crashing weekly.

Time-for-a-changeIt was time to replace our computers.

However, all this was happening as Windows 8 was being released. I installed the consumer preview of Windows 8 in a virtual machine and determined it was not designed for the way we worked.

  • Our desktop computers are configured with dual 23 inch LED monitors.
  • We have multiple windows open, spread between the two screens.
  • Windows 8 wants you to be using a touch screen, but when my monitors are at a comfortable distance for viewing, they are also too far away to reach over and touch without having to awkwardly bend over. Of course these monitors don’t respond to touch anyway.

But it wasn’t just the OS that caused us concerns. We had a mix of Dell and HP computers. We’ve had reliable computers from both companies as well as Lenovo in the past. But we’ve had problems with some models as well. The HP laptops were an example; we had three identical HP laptops and all three had serious technical problems. I’ve sworn to never again get an HP computer after this experience.

All this led me to investigate Apple. Apple controls both the hardware and operating system. They have a reputation for making good products and standing behind them. We got a three-year extended warranty on the Macs and can bring our equipment in to any Apple Store for service. There are no HP or Dell stores and my experience with getting warranty support from those companies involves long phone calls with India. There is no comparison between getting help from a Genius or someone unable to deviate from a scripted response.

We’ve replaced all our previous computers with two Retina Display 15 inch MacBook Pro laptops. These have Intel Ivy Bridge (3rd generation) i7 quad core processors and 16 GB of ram. We compromised with only 256 GB Solid State Drives and will rely on external storage for non-active files.

We also purchased the Time Capsule 2 TB storage (we call it the ham sandwich drive) which combines a NAS drive with a wireless router. The ham sandwich will take the place of our file server. The final addition is a 1 TB La Cie drive we’ve dubbed Orangina (due to it’s ruggedized orange shell) that will store our virtual machines. The Thunderbolt connection enables swapping out large virtual machines in a matter of minutes.

Because our consulting business requires us to support different versions of Windows software which cannot be installed on the same computer, we need virtual machines regardless of whether we had a Windows machine or a Mac. We now have Windows 8 (with a plugin that present the traditional start menu) running in a Parallels Desktop 8 virtual machine to support our Windows software.

We configure our Macs to use dual external monitors when we are at our desks. We have a vertical stand to store the Macs out of the way when we’re at our desk using the external monitors, but we could in fact open the Mac and use its display as a 3rd monitor.

Overall, we’ve been moving to cloud and SAAS solutions for several years. So Mac or Windows doesn’t matter as much as having a good browser. We use Google Chrome which is just as good on a Mac as on Windows. Safari is a fallback browser but works well too. For those few clueless web sites that only work with Internet Explorer, we can use our Windows 8 virtual machine.

So far we are liking the Apple OSX experience. Windows 8, on the other hand, is as annoying as I had expected. I did find a software solution that added back the Start Menu on Windows 8 (Classic Shell) and that has made Windows 8 a bit more tolerable. However, Windows 8 is designed for tablets, not power users sitting at a desk with multiple monitors.

That said, there is one feature on Windows 8 which is an improvement over both Apple OSX and Windows 7 for users of multiple monitors. OSX and Windows 7 or earlier gave you a single place to find your applications. The Windows Start menu was displayed on only one of your multiple monitors. Apple was even more difficult because not only is your dock displayed on only one of your monitors but application menus are always shown at the top of your display instead of at the top of the application window and that means the menu may not be on the same display as the application.

Windows 8 nicely shows the start screen on each monitor you are using. Of course the programs menu is still always at the top of the program window in Windows 8.

The menu bar and dock location isn’t really a big deal for the way I usually work. First, most OSX applications have toolbars at the top of their windows which replicate all the essential menu functions. Second, I often use one of my monitors for full screen virtual machines or remote desktops to other computers. It thus gives me the illusion that I am working at two different computers, each with the appropriate menus, Start menus and docks that are located where I would expect them on their corresponding monitor.

I’ll update you on our experience as we figure more things out. But so far I am much happier than I would have been if I had been forced to use Windows 8 exclusively on a new computer.


About Dan Sissors

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