Propono (Latin): to put or set forth, to set or lay out, to offer, to place before, expose to view, display, point out, declare, represent, report, say, relate, set forth, publish, etc.

Thoughts and posts on a wide variety of topics: current events, family, politics, religion, culture, academics, science, technology.

Propono, ergo sum?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hi, I'm a Mac. And I'm a PC.

And I use both.

About three months ago, my wife and I got a new computer, having used our previous one (a very reliable IBM ThinkPad T40) for over five years. The ThinkPads are great, and are – perhaps – the best laptops in the market. They are a little less consumer-focused (i.e. no media card readers, no fancy colors, etc.), but they are reliable, dependable, nearly-unbreakable workhorses, and a favorite in the corporate world as well as for home users so inclined.

Anyway, with the Macintosh’s recent move to an Intel chipset, I figured it was time to dip my feet back in the Apple/Mac pool. I grew up on the Mac. As a kid, we had a Macintosh 128k, the MacPlus, MacClassic, etc. I used a PowerBook all through college. It wasn’t until I got my first job after college that I jumped into the Windows world. And how. Windows is great. And especially in the era (back then) of Mac OS 8 and 9, Windows offered a lot of incredibly compelling advantages. I’ve been a Windows user ever since.

Mac’s OS X, however, has had me intrigued for a long time. And, with the move to Intel chips, there was no reason not to explore the Mac again. Leopard recently came out. The Apple hardware is fantastic, if a little pricier, and – of course – very, very slick.

So, I thought I’d post some thoughts on my experience, and some thoughts on Windows Vista vs. OS X (10.5.+, aka Leopard).

First, some context:

I like Vista. I always have. I know it’s taken some lumps from some reviewers and critics, but honestly, I just don’t see it. Though a little large, Vista is a great OS. It is fast, stable, pretty, and runs incredibly well on my (new-ish) hardware. I have had no (zero!) driver compatibility issues, and all in all have been very pleased with some of the plumbing and cosmetic improvements (more on that later). I suspect that some folks who’ve disliked Vista have been running it on old or under-performing hardware, and that that may be the cause of some of their poor experience. Mine has been good. Perfect? No. But I wouldn’t expect that from any OS.

So, my Vista machine is a ThinkPad T60p 15” widescreen, 80GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, Centrino Duo chipset, and an ATI graphics card.

The MacBook Pro I recently acquired is a little beefier. 15” widescreen. 250 GB hard drive. 4GB RAM (purchased elsewhere, of course, as Apple charges an arm and a leg for RAM), 256MB ATI graphics card, Core Duo chipset.

I really want to like the Mac. And I do. But I can’t say I’ve been blown away or completely bowled over by it. It is a great piece of hardware, though the truth is I think I prefer the ThinkPad’s keyboard and eraser-head mouse pointer option (I admit it, I like the eraser head as much as the trackpad). All in all, it does very well everything it is supposed to do. It has its pros, but it also has its cons. It is also a competent, so-far reliable, fast OS, with some great features. And, I admit, the longer I use it and the more comfortable I become, the more I like it.

I think the Mac suffers in comparison with Windows, however, in three key areas (in my use and opinion):

1. File Management in general and Photo Management in particular. Yes, you read that right. I think Vista beats OSX in photo management. Why? One reason: Windows Live Photo Gallery (Beta). This is the iPhoto of Windows, and it does two things exceptionally well: first, it easily imports and organizes photos by date and by “events” in a way that makes it very easy to sort, organize, and peruse one’s massive photo collection. Second, Windows does a much better job importing photos, giving them discrete names, organizing them by folders according to events, etc. And, Windows allows you to batch rename your photos in one fell swoop, something I was surprisingly disappointed to learn that the Mac simply does not do. Mac and iPhoto, on the other hand, do import all your photos very easily into iPhoto, but they don’t allow for batch renames of the actual files (only the iPhoto copies), and if you’re an organization nut like me, that’s a hard, hard pill to swallow. iPhoto’s playlists (albums) are great, and a definite strength, as is the overall interface. But on Windows you can keyword like nobody’s business, you can update photo information at the file level, you can preview videos in the preview window, and the sorting/organizing is just better. For my dad, or someone who wants the computer to just do it all for them, no questions asked, the Mac is perfect. For someone who’s managing a huge photo library and wants/needs to be organize it in specific ways, Windows wins. Why would one ever want the native file to be named “ABC0123.jpg” when it could be called “my picture 2008-04-09.jpg” instead?

2. Software ecosystem. This one really kind of goes without saying, but you can’t beat Windows’ ecosystem. Let’s say there’s some little application you want or need to do some little something on your computer. I can almost guarantee that on Windows you’ll be able to find it, and it will almost certainly be available for free. On the Mac, you’ll probably be able to find something, but you will also most likely pay for it. This is a result, of course, of Windows’ hugely overwhelming market share relative to OSX, but it is a real advantage. That said, there are some great pieces of free software that you should look at on the Mac: Adium, for instant messaging, File Zilla (on either Mac of Windows) for FTP. My friend Rob also just pointed me to Cyberduck on the Mac for FTP. Quicksilver on the Mac (Launchy or Dash for Windows).

3. Finally, the one program I love and adore on Windows, and for which there is simply no comparable equivalent on Mac: Windows Live Writer. The Mac bloggers in the world don’t know what they’re missing, as this is one awesome piece of software. This is a blogging client that allows one to update one’s blog locally from one’s computer. It is perhaps one of the greatest pieces of software out there, and a great success story from Microsoft’s Windows Live teams. It handles photos amazingly well (perfect for a personal blog, like mine), and has all other neat bells and whistles, that are too numerous to go into here. MarsEdit and a few others are popular on the Mac, but the truth is they are not nearly as capable or robust, and they’re expensive. Windows Live Writer is one application that will keep people using Windows. Thank goodness for virtualization, though of course that always adds a layer or two of complexity.

Speaking of virtualization, it works very well on the Mac. I opted for Fusion over Parallels (opinions differ, I wanted the dual-core support), and it works fine. And, of course, the Mac offers BootCamp, for those who want to run Windows natively on their hardware, turning their Mac into a true Wintel machine.

A few other thoughts I’ve collected on using the two:

Windows Explorer vs. Mac’s Finder:

· Explorer wins.

o Sorting

o File renaming (just right-click on WIndows). No easy way to do it on the Mac. Can create an automator script, but this takes 3-4x the effort and time of just batch renaming in Windows.

· Blogging

o No Windows Live Writer equivalent (i.e. good and free)

· Photos

o iPhoto is great. Smart albums are great.

o One library to rule them all is not so great.

o Windows = keyword tagging is great and sorting by date is phenomenal

· Hotmail integration

o Windows Live Mail wins

· Virtual PCs – very nice

· Windows Home Server is a great product. Advantage Windows.

· Front Row is great. Advantage Mac.

· The Stacks are all right – but not as good as Windows’ nested folders, though I understand these are coming in the 10.5.2 update.

· Mac’s Task Bar vs. Windows Start Button and Taskbar = different paradigm. I don’t know that one is superior to the other, just different. I like both.

· Windows Sidebar. Mac’s widgets are great, but they’re not right on the edge of your desktop all the time, like sidebar is. I think the SideBar concept is superior, as they’re always accessible and visible.

· “just works” – Mac does win here. Like I said, for someone like my dad, I think the Mac is the right OS.

· “I want to tinker and customize it” – Windows is for you.

· Keychain is pretty cool. Nothing equivalent in Windows.

· What I miss: Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Mail’s hotmail integration, SyncToy, another great backup app.

· FolderShare works on both – a must-have. Though it hiccups sometimes on the Mac, which it’s never done on Windows.

· Eye candy = Vista closes this gap, but Mac still wins

· 3rd-party applications: Windows has huge advantage here. Need some random application that does some niche thing you like? You’ll find it for Windows. You might find it for mac, but you’ll pay for it, and it may or may not be that great.

· The apple logo? Very cool.

· Power management – Mac wins. Sleeps and restores like a champ, and being able to program it’s timing (wake-up in the mornings, for example) is very cool.

A few other wins for the Mac:

· iChat and video/audio chats.

· Preview, which is very handy.

· iCal is nice and clean, though Windows Calendar is essentially equivalent.

· Mail is great, unless you’re a long-time, faithful hotmail user such as I.

So, if someone were to write about “why you’ll switch back to Windows,” it would look something like this:

Chapter 1: Photos and photo management
Chapter 2: Blogging
Chapter 3: File management
Chapter 4: General productivity and ease of use
Chapter 5: software

So, some thoughts from my first few weeks’ use. I’d love to hear thoughts others have. And I know that my own opinions will continue to change as I spend more time in both OSes. I appreciate virtualization, which I find myself using quite a bit, but I also like a lot of things on the Mac. And don’t get me wrong, I like the Mac. I just think people don’t give the two a fair, neutral shake sometimes, as the OS preference issue almost takes on religious overtones, when – really – it’s about ‘what helps me get done the things I need to do?’ I mostly (especially) like having a new computer which is much, much faster than our old one.

Mac OS 10.5.2 (Leopard) v. Windows Vista

E-mail is great with .mac or gmail, but does not work with hotmail and has no vertical preview pane. Advantage: Windows.

Windows Live Mail or Outlook is awesome, especially with hotmail, gmail, or any other POP or IMAP mail service. Advantage: Windows.

Web Browsing

Go with Firefox, Safari is disappointing, and handles RSS very poorly.

Firefox or IE7 are both great options. IE7 does RSS very well, and the favorites management is superior. Advantage: Windows


The Mac clearly lags here, both in Safari and, as IE7 and Outlook or Live Mail both do RSS better. Winner: Google Reader.

IE7 and both mail clients handle RSS very well. I still prefer the online readers.


MarsEdit / Ecto: a) not that great, b) you’ll pay for them

Windows Live Writer: a) it is awesome, b) it is free. Advantage: Windows


The Mac does make podcasting easy, with Garage Band, etc. Advantage: Mac

No built-in podcasting equivalent. Advantage: Mac.


I prefer Office 2008 to the iWork Suite. This one is almost sixes, except that Outlook allows for instant previews of attachments, whereas Entourage does not (why this wasn’t included, I have no idea).

Office 2007 is awesome, as is Mac Office 2008. Especially improvements to powerpoint and outlook. Outlook is tough to beat as a personal information manager (PIM). Windows has a slight advantage because of a) preview of attachments in e-mail, and b) hotmail integration.

Boot Times

Clear Winner: Mac

Vista boots faster than XP, but it still takes longer than I’d like


Draw – great clients for both. I like FileZilla

Draw – great clients for both. I like FileZilla.

Web site building

iWeb is pretty slick. Advantage: Mac.

Instant Messaging

Adium is nice. iChat is great. Draw.

Great cross-platform options on Windows include Trillian and Digsby. Draw.


iTunes wins (platform agnostic)

iTunes wins (platform agnostic). Though some still love WinAmp and Windows Media Player. And props on the Zune desktop software – very nice!

Photo Management

iPhoto is good, but quite limited, and handles importing and renaming of native files very poorly (i.e. not at all).

Windows Live Photo Gallery is a must-have tool for any Windows user. Rename your files on import, organizes, tags are great, sort by date out of the box, etc. Advantage (sorry Mac fans): Windows.


Time machine is slick, painless, and seems to work well. For average Jane consumer, advantage: Mac.

SyncToy is another of the must-have Windows tools out there (for free, again), and is my backup utility of choice. Advantage Mac on this one, though, as they’ve made it so simple for everyone.

File Management

QuickView is nice, but the finder is still a little kloodgy.

By no means perfect, but reliable and consistent.

Security / Anti-Virus

I actually think this is where Mac is going to get hurt, eventually. Everyone speaks to its invulnerability, but in fact, it is exploitable, it’s just not as popular and fewer people have chips against it. You’ll want good security on both, and the Mac’s firewall is not on by default (oops). Probably a draw.

If one uses security and anti-virus software and practices good e-mail hygiene (don’t open that unknown attachment from that unknown sender!), one isn’t going to have issues here. There are great tools out there, and Vista actually is pretty darn secure, much to the displeasure of some. Probably a draw.


Mac: Not much of one.

Windows: Huge. This is one of Windows’ key advantages.

Home networking

Mac does this very well, though not perfectly.

Windows does this very well, though not perfectly.

Shortcuts (e.g. launchy, quicksilver)

Quicksilver is great, but I’m not sure it’s any better than Launchy or others on Windows.

Launchy is great, but I’m not sure it’s any better than Quicksilver on the Mac.


Anonymous Palm Beach Bike Tours said...

You can have my Thinkpad when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

In the two decades, I have used a dozen different brands of laptop (Tandy, Compaq, Toshiba, Dell, HP, Acer, Gateway, Sony, Apple, etc.). For the past nine years, I have been using ThinkPads as my only computer and desktop replacement. I will never use anything else if I can help it.

Thinkpads, as you noted, aren't as flashy as other brands but they are the most durable.

You're also spot-on that Macs, even with their photo/graphic reputation, have a lousy photo organizational support. Having worked at a newspaper for most of those laptop-using years, I have seen how photographers manage photos. In order to make the Mac halfway as functional as a Windows-based machine additional software was required and the integrate Mac toys were avoided.

I think the reason Mac sucks so hard for photos is that there are so many awesome third-party image tools for Mac that the serious photographers use. Thus, Mac focused their efforts on making their tools for 'normal' people.


2:16 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home