28 Feb 2011 Podcast 277 : Jumping Ship! I’m Now a Mac User!
Firstly, I really need to apologize for the hiatus since the last Podcast episode was released on January 25, over a month ago. I know that some of you have probably been concerned that I’d given up altogether, but that certainly isn’t the case. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that I have been up to Hokkaido on a reconnaissance trip for a possible new tour in 2012, where we’d visit landscape locations and travel along the west coast up to the northern most tip of Hokkaido, visiting fishing villages and the like. I’ll be doing a Podcast on the resulting images and new locations found very soon, so stay tuned for that if you are interested.
I had hoped to get a quick episode out in the four days that I was back from Hokkaido, before I left for my Winter Wonderland Workshop, but unfortunately I put my back out towards the end of my reconnaissance trip, and ended up spending most of my four days just trying to get better! Anyway, I was fine for my Workshop from Februrary 13 to 24, and it was the best ever. I’ll also be reporting on this very soon too.
My plan right now is to try and push as many Podcasts out in the next two weeks as possible, as I will be leaving for another month after that, for my Antarctica Expedition with David Burren. I believe there are still a few places left on this tour too, so although there’s not much time left to arrange it, do take a look at the LuminOdyssey Web site at luminodyssey.com if you’d like to join us. Also note that today we’ve announced details of a shorter trip with an early return option, for those that are interested but couldn’t make a full month to do so. The shorter option is just two weeks, and you can find details here: http://luminodyssey.com/ant2011a
Anyway, on to today’s episode – I know I’m going to upset some Windows users with this, but believe me, I have used and loved Windows for more than 15 years, so I’m going to try to make this as objective as possible, but I have decided to jump ship to Mac. I bought a MacBook Pro in January and have spent the last six weeks or so using it as my main machine, and getting used to it. Today I’m going to tell you why I have made this decision and let you know what I like about my new Mac.
Firstly, let’s get the tough bit out of the way quickly. Here are my reasons for leaving Windows.
Probably the most frustrating thing from a productivity perspective is the slow startup of my Windows machines – I have a 2.66GHz quad core CPU and 8GB of RAM in my old main computer, and when I first loaded Windows 7 it was like a rocket. Much better than Vista, although Vista also ran very fast for a while after a clean installation of the OS, but therein lies the main problem. It’s great for a while, but then as you load your production software, your Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite software, and all of the other applications that you need to actually use your computer, it starts to slow down.
Sure, my new MacBook Pro boots much slower too now that I have these applications installed. When I first got it, it turned on in 11 seconds from cold to having a usable desktop. Now that takes just over 40 seconds from a cold boot. My Windows machine took almost a minute to boot when it was just installed, and although I don’t recall exactly how long, it took probably around two minutes to boot as I installed my applications. The bigger problem though is that despite the fact that all I did was continue to use it, in the months following that clean install, it got gradually slower and slower. I am no sloth with a PC, and I know how to keep them tweaked for optimal performance, but still, it really became such a drag as I continued to use it.
This was the same for my main Windows machine and my Dual-Core Notebook PC. It got so bad that I literally had to go upstairs to my office and turn my Windows machine on before breakfast, just so that I could use it more quickly after breakfast as I started my workday.
To compound this problem, the hibernation function of my Windows machines broke after I installed Windows 7 and I was never able to fix it on my main PC. This means that whenever I turned off my PC, I had to totally shut it down. Had I been returning from hibernation, this would have been much quicker, but that just wasn’t possible.
No Native 16 Bit Printing on Windows
Another big factor for me was that there is no native 16bit printing on Windows. Since buying my Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6350 large format printer, with the ability to print in 16bit, I have been forced to use Photoshop for printing in 16bit, because Canon only produced a print plug-in with 16bit output for Photoshop, and there’s nothing for Lightroom. Furthermore, the plug-in only works with 32bit Photoshop, so I wasn’t even able to print from 64bit Photoshop, which introduces further restrictions on the size of the files you can create and print.
In Lightroom, I can save print presets that include paper size, margin sizes and my printer profiles etc. In Photoshop I have to set this up afresh every time I change my settings. I could have printed in 8bit from Lightroom on my Windows machine, but that is really dumbing down my printer, and I don’t want to do that. Lightroom on the Mac on the other hand, has 16bit printing built-in, because the Mac OS supports 16bit printing natively, and Adobe simply tap into that, totally solving the problem.
No Sleep for USB Hard Disks
Another thing that had become a bit of a bugbear for me was that Windows will not put external USB hard disks to sleep. I have a couple of external hard drives that I wanted to make use of, but when I plugged them into my Windows machine they were spun-up all the time, until I turned them off. This puts way too much stress on the external hard drives, and I really wouldn’t like to trust my data on a drive that is spun up all the time the computer is turned on, even though I do make regular backups. I tried my external USB drives on my Mac Mini though, and it puts them to sleep when they are not in use, which is exactly what I wanted Windows to do, but it won’t do this.
One of the reasons that I didn’t switch to Mac earlier was actually similar to the reason why most people stick with the same camera system. With a camera system, we generally have a large investment in lenses, which make it impractical to change bodies, which can be thought of as the platform or at least the base of the ‘system’.
With Windows, I’ve got a lot of small application that I have invested in, which all mount up to a fair amount, but by far the largest investment in software for me is the Adobe CS5 Master Collection. I figured that buying a brand new license of the Master Collection at almost $2,400 was just too much, but then I did a bit of research online and found that Adobe will allow you to switch platforms, if you complete an online digital signature process promising to uninstall the software on the platform you have, and destroy the media, and not resell it etc. The process as far as I’m aware, totally invalidates the license numbers that you originally bought, so really, don’t do this if you intend to try to cheat the system. I don’t think it will work.
Because I actually bought my CS5 Master Collection from B&H, but I don’t have a US Adobe Store account, it was really complicated to switch. I spent a total of about six hours on the phone, and although I came across or probably created some very confused individuals, all but one of them were very patient and professional, and we got the switch done. All it cost me was $6 in postage fees for them to send me the Mac version, and they even put a 2011 table calendar in the box, which I’d have paid $6 for anyway, so all in all I’m incredibly happy with Adobe’s handling of the switch and their flexibility.
Reasons for Liking My New MacBook Pro
Let’s move on now to talk about some of the reasons why I’m really enjoying my new MacBook Pro. Some of these are simply a retort to the problems that I was having with Windows, but others are things that I was not aware of until I switched, and I’m pleasantly surprised by.
Fast Boot and Wake-up
As I mentioned earlier, even now my Mac has all of my production software installed, it still boots in around 40 seconds from a cold start. The other thing that I was really looking forward to though, and was not disappointed with, is that when I’m done with my Mac, I simply close the lid, and this puts it into a very low level sleep mode in just a few seconds. You can leave it like this for a few days if necessary, but then when you want to use it again, you just open the lid, and the desktop is there, instantly. There’s no waiting for the BIOS to run checks, no time for the data to be read in from the hard disk, nothing. It’s just on, waiting to be used. This is the biggest frustration fixed right there.
Multi-Touch “Magic” Trackpad
I am really enjoying the Multi-Touch Trackpad on the MacBook Pro. So much so, I actually bought the stand-alone “Magic” Trackpad instead of a mouse for when I’m using my Mac at my desk. It takes a bit of getting used to, and I believe that this technology is not just Apple specific, but it’s certainly new to me. Basically there are things like being able to swipe with two fingers to scroll horizontally or vertically, three finger swipes move you back and forward in browsers or through thumbnails in Lightroom. Four finger swipes switch you between applications and you can even pinch to zoom or rotate images etc. in some applications. Lightroom for one responds to zoom-in and zoom-out pinch actions.
Slick Multiscreen Management
The OS management of multiple screens is very slick. Even if you leave application windows on a second screen, the OS brings them back to the main screen when you unplug the second screen, so there’s no need to plug the second screen back in to find your applications, like I used to have to do in Windows. I’ve not had to use it yet, but there’s also a button in the display properties to “gather windows”, which I imagine you need to use if the automatic gathering of windows doesn’t work.
Problems No More
Of course, being able to print in 16bit directly from Lightroom is bliss, and I am also now using my external hard drives without worrying about them being spun-up all the time. Now, when I’m not accessing data on these external drives, I’m very happy to see them spin-down and go to sleep, saving energy and wear and tear on the disks.
What Don’t I Like About My New Mac?
OK, so what don’t I like about my new Mac? It’s ironic, but the worst part about my new Mac so far is Microsoft Office. Yes, as I needed to work with Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, I decided to buy Microsoft Office for the Mac. I could have managed with some Apple software, but I could not find a good way to migrate all of my Outlook mail from Windows to the Apple Mail application. I found an application that supposedly converts Windows Outlook databases to mbox files for import into Apple Mail, but this failed to export large chunks of my mail database files, and pretty much all of my Japanese mail was corrupted in the export, basically leaving me without a solution.
MS Outlook for Mac is a Piece of Crap!
Unfortunately though, Outlook for the Mac is a big piece of crap. Microsoft should be seriously ashamed of this app. You think they’d invest more R&D dollars into this app than most of the other stuff they work on, trying to win over the Mac users, but I guess they figure that the only people that need their applications on Mac are people like me that they’ve already lost anyway. They didn’t bother to try to get any kind of functionality parity between the two platforms. The Mac version feels like something that a bunch of students threw together on the weekend over beer and pizza. I found a number of ways to crash it without fail, within a few days of starting to use it. It really is abysmal.
Now I’m actually only using Outlook on the Mac to access my mail Archives, which I could not import into Apple Mail. I’m using Apple Mail as my default mail client now, and I’ve set up my mail accounts as IMAP, so that everything I do in Mail gets picked up by Outlook when I do have to open it. Once I can figure out how to import my old Windows Outlook mail into Apple Mail, I’ll remove Outlook from the system.
MS Word for Mac is Much Better
Word is actually a lot better. Microsoft obviously thinks they have a chance of winning some customers with this one, and I must admit, I do like the functionality of Word, even on the Mac. There are some critical problems too though. Sometimes, and I’ve still to figure out when or why, but command C and V don’t copy and paste all the time. When it’s not available, even the shortcut keys don’t appear in the Edit menu, and this is a real pain.
Excel works but is very clunky. You also can’t do the final paste of a cell with the enter key and you can’t paste the same data to multiple cells at the same time, like you can in Windows. PowerPoint isn’t all that bad either, although I haven’t really used it all that much yet, but for what I have done with it, it seems OK.
Other Idiosyncrasies, but Generally Great!
Other than that though, I really can’t think of anything that I don’t like about the Mac. There are things that took a bit of getting used to. The print dialogs for example are very different to Windows. You have to use a pull down in the middle of the dialog to switch between the Page Layout and other dialogs for example, but once I figured out what I had to do, it’s really not a big deal. Also, the printer drivers have an option to simply use the last settings used again, and this seems to work between applications too, which is really useful.
Most Applications Available…
Most of the applications that I relied on in Windows are available for Mac too. Dropbox and Evernote for example, both have Mac Clients. FileZilla, my favorite FTP client, and SplashID, that I use to save all my passwords are also available, and of course Firefox is available for the Mac, so I was able to sync all of my passwords and bookmarks from Windows using Firefox Sync.
ProShow Producer, the application that I use on Windows to make photo and video slideshows is not available for the Mac, which I knew, but is still a little disappointing. I would really like to keep all of my applications on one platform and not have to start windows for anything like this, but my Internet Banking also requires Windows, so it seems my Windows machines will not be retired for a while yet. I imagine I’ll end up using some sort of virtual Windows solutions at some point, but for now, I’ll keep my Windows boxes handy.
Another thing that has taken a bit of getting used to, but more because I’ve moved from a desktop to a laptop as my main machine, is that I only have 500GB internal storage on the MacBook Pro. Although that’s enough for a few week’s of heavy wildlife shooting, it means that I can’t keep a copy of all of my image archive and documents on the machine all the time.
I’ve now set it up so that my archives are on those external USB drives which now sleep when not being accessed, and I have bare drives that I drop into an external bay to make a second backup to. These second backups will be my off-site backups as soon as I figure out where to do that, now that I don’t have the office from my old day-job to put the disks in.
I might just post them back to my brother in the UK for now, and always keep a second and third copy of the current year in my bag when travelling. Then, at the end of 2011, I will buy two more large drives, backup all of my photos and data to them, and send a fresh copy back to my brother. This will probably be cheaper than signing up for a dedicated service, but that would mean of course that I’d need a third copy locally to protect against multiple drive failures, but I need to figure this stuff out anyway. The biggest thing is that I have to connect drives to see my archives now, and that’s new for me, but I’m getting used to it.
When I first got my iPad, I found that it was giving me more time with my wife, because I started to be able to do so much more, like reading magazines and mail, right there from the sofa, next to my wife, rather than having to go upstairs to my studio office. This has continued now that I have a laptop powerful enough to do everything that I want, again, right there next to her, or at least in the living room, sitting at our dining table. I had a Windows laptop too, but because of the start-up times, there was a greater hurdle to actually picking it up and using it. Now that this hurdle is gone, I can literally do pretty much anything I want, anywhere I want. It’s still necessary to put myself in my studio when I need some block time, but I’m able to be downstairs with my wife so much more now than before, which is really nice.
In conclusion, although I am in some ways sad to move away from Windows as my main platform, I’m really happy with my decision to move to Mac fulltime. Like the iPhone and iPad, there’s something about Apple Hardware and the Apple experience that sets it apart from others. In some areas, there are quantifiable benefits, but in others, it simply feels better. Now, I’d better sign off for today before I start to sound too much like the Mac Fan-Boy that I never wanted to become.
Transcript and Images: http://mbp.ac/277
Mar 2011 Antarctica Expedition: http://luminodyssey.com/march2011/
Details of new 2 week option: http://luminodyssey.com/ant2011a
Music created and produced by UniqueTracks.
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