I’m still a PC. Just.

pc keyboardI’m inclined to use PCs. It’s how I began. It reflects what I need computers for. It speaks to how I see the computer market and audience and, perhaps most importantly, it is a vote of confidence from my experience. It’s also a bit of “yah boo!” at the ‘Mac Wankers’ who like to take the piss out of us PC users and say things along the lines of: “Dude. Bill Gates is a wanker! Loser! Macs rule!”

But after a long time, I’m on the verge of changing my mind and going Mac. But not quite. Not quite.

Key to my loyalty has been a very effective Dell laptop that has never let me down. Never let me down. (Ok. Once. Service Pack 3. Lesson learnt.) Ever since I bought it in January 2006 it has been a reliable, lightweight, versatile and frankly indestructible machine. It’s been punished. Travelled everywhere I’ve been. It does what I want it to do admirably (which is predominantly writing and net use although increasingly I’m meddling with photos, videos and sound files) and it has so far proved to be unbelievable value. It’s the third or fourth (via a few work PCs) in a succession of very reliable machines from Dell that takes me back to 1997 when I first took a laptop for University.

I bought my latest machine in April this year and in terms of sturdiness the new Dell machine isn’t as good. Vista has also been an absolute disaster. I’ve actually gone back to using the immortal XP machine. God I love her.

In the past months, confronted with Vista and the new machine, I’ve thought about making the switch to a Mac. You know me. I do my research. My major concerns relate to the fact that I deal professionally with organisations who uses old Windows machines and I need Word and PowerPoint docs etc to reach people with formatting intact.

I’ve asked Mac users: trust me, I know plenty. Many of whom who have been useful but many have not. I have an iPod. I understand that Apple make beautiful things. But it’s astonishing that so many Macists rely on evangelical statements that even your average fundamentalist Christian would shy away from because they’re so unsubstantial. When I ask why I should swap to a Mac, and whether this or that will work and whether wotsit and the other can be done, I’m not interested in answers that start with: “As Steve Jobs said…” I am as uninterested in the Book of Jobs as I am with the Bill is Right brigade.

The thing is, remember, my PCs have served me well. They’re not the crap ‘Mac Wankers’ keep telling me they are. Of course, I don’t code, or graphic design or game on any serious level. This two or one click mouse thing bothers me not. Taskbars and brushed stainless steel. Meh. Snow Leopard? I have no tangible idea what that practically means. But Macists tell me “it’s amazing”. I kind of accept that Macs are indeed better. But is one Mac, in particular, going to be better for me? That’s the answer I want. It’s certainly not going to be cheaper, after all.

I must have been into Apple Stores a dozen times in London and Brighton looking for the answers I need. On one occasion I wandered in, started meddling with a Macbook and got asked to move along because other people wanted to “experience” it. I’d been there about two minutes.

Apple Stores represent an unusually pointless experience for the uninitiated. I visit them like I visit Churches. I just look at things and admire them and watch people who know what they’re doing, doing what they want to do. As a non-believer, I just amble around respectfully, appreciate, nod, show respect and leave. It’s a pleasing pastime but not necessarily very illuminating. I’ve visited hundreds of Churches and never found faith. It’s rather the same with Apple Stores.

On my two appointments at the genius bar to get the skinny, one was excellent and most informative (and 90% got me there). The other was nonsense and, to continue my Church simile, was like taking confession whilst the priest tried to find the “Fuck Off” App on his iPhone. To the smiley unlistening, uber-euro, seemingly non-gender specific Appleton with trendy specs, an asymmetric, pedantically scruffy fringe and a faraway look suggesting a night before enhanced by hallucinogenic drugs: there’s no such Windows program as Metebelis 3. I made it up (or rather stole the name of a planet in Doctor Who). That’s why I scoffed at your claim that not only will Metebelis 3 work on a Mac, but it will work even better.

My current inclination, mostly because having bought one computer in the past 6 months I’m not inclined towards the expense of buying another, is to get Vista off my new PC and live with it for a few months and spend a bit more time learning about Macs. A few snatched minutes in Apple Store hasn’t been enough for me but now I’m back at Uni, it’s good to note they have Macs for use there. Maybe experience will tip the balance. But as I look at the latest raft of Mac and Windows ads slagging each other, I’ve got to say: if those guys could focus on details and facts, I’d find that a great deal more useful.

13 Responses to I’m still a PC. Just.

  1. Jesper says:

    Sounds like you’ve seen the light and is slowly navigating the path to salvation :-)

    Good post. I had similar thoughts when I switched to Mac a couple of years ago.

  2. MartinB says:

    So, what’s your problem statement?
    What are you trying to achieve? What can’t you achieve at the moment?

    So far it seems to be “Something less sucky than Vista, but (presumably) still in Support; ideally without a major investment of money and time. And still able to work seamlessly with MS Office-using clients.”

    (For the record, I’m mostly a Mac when given the choice. But can be more (dayjob work) productive as a PC, and generally perfectly happy as a Penguin)

  3. dw says:

    Martin: I suppose I don’t have a problem statement.

    My problem is that lots of people keep telling me that I should use a mac. :o) And I’m wondering why that is and whether they’re right.

  4. Chris says:

    If you don’t do graphic design or edit videos much of the benefit of MACs will pass you by. Load XP on your PC and be happy 😀

    (Incidentally if you do buy a mac you’ll be pleased to know they’ve graduated to Intel Chips so by and large if you get fed up you’ll be able to load Windows XP onto that too as soon as you get fed up with MAC OS :-)

  5. Chris Hale says:

    I find Mac users are a bit like golfers; when they discover you’re not an initiate they try to persuade you to get one. I’m neither a Mac user nor a golfer. The contrast between owning a PC and a Mac is also similar to the whole car/motorcycle thing. Most people with cars just drive them; those with motorcycles “live” them, enthuse about them, drive those around them nuts talking about them…

  6. Sue says:

    The conclusion I have come to is that if there were an argument for why Macs are better to get things done, we would have heard it. We haven’t.

    Currently toying with penguins myself. Rather fun (if suddenly a bit like being thrown back to DOS when I actually had to know how the thing worked…)

  7. Adrian Bunting says:

    How many people have you ever heard of going Mac and then returning to a PC because they didn’t like it? And you can run your beloved Windows on a Mac, you just won’t when you have the choice.
    If you do come to the other side, buy a reconditioned last years model, much cheaper and more likely to be problem free.

  8. Tim Rowbottomq says:

    I switched to mac a couple of years ago and I’ve honestly never regretted it. I find it a lot more reliable and a damn sight easier to use.

    There are downsides – I find word a bit more fiddly to use on the mac, but it’s not something that really gets in the way, and you get used to the shortcuts and ways around it pretty quickly.

    To be honest, you’re never going to get the full low-down on a mac until you’ve spent time playing around with it and learning how it works for you. But there’s a reason why people are evangelical about macs, which is that once you work it out, you see pretty quickly how much better your experience is.

    I started using a mac because I was pissed off with the unreliability of the pcs that I used and they’d reached a stage where everything I needed worked on a mac. I wouldn’t switch back because in two years, my mac has never let me down, never lost all my work and never crashed causing me to reboot the whole system.

    I’d be more than happy to have a proper chat about it all at some point. And for the record, I used to HATE mac twats who banged on about them all the time – but sadly, that didn’t stop my pc being shit. If your pc works for you though, there’s really no reason to switch.

  9. Bill Greer says:

    “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”
    Rollo May, Psychologist

    “Come on in, the OS is wonderful!”
    Bill Greer, Mac Wanker (official)

  10. Adrian says:

    Tom’s pretty spot on there.

    Chris less so. The “Mac’s good for video and graphics only” argument is a bit old an if you look at the number of first time family buyers easier to disprove.

    The base reality is that you can achieve whatever you need to equally well on both machines. The core of what most people do (email, bit of office apps, internet, music, photos etc) can be done on either machine.

    However some things suit your style more than others. And by style I don’t mean the looks of the machine, but how it gels with how you work. I used to be a hard card PC user and in those days (pre OSX) windows suited my style far more than Macs. These days it’s quite the reverse, and I find mac’s more pleasurable to work with than PCs, because when I use it, it just works more the way I do.

    The same way some writers might use a fountain pen and others might use a pencil. It’s about what suits your style, not that fountain pen users are all about fancy looks and pencil users are all about practicality.

    That said, it’s not that each platform doesn’t do some things better than the other. Office is better on the PC than the Mac for obvious reasons. If you’re a hard core office user, you might find the UI and interface for the Mac a little annoying. Some hard core uses (like Will Wynne use parallels and run Windows office in the Mac interface).

    The Mac I find is better at many of the little things. The polish. So installing a printer, is a matter of choosing your printer, and it just installs the driver for you off the internet. Accessing a Wifi point also just seems to work better on a Mac. Quicklook (which I believe may be in Win7 but not sure) is a little piece of brilliance and I could almost never move back to a machine without it. Installing an app is dragging and dropping it in “applications”. Uninstalling an app is deleting it from Applications. There are a ton of other examples.

    I also find SW wise whilst their is less software generally available, the indie SW (shareware) available is of a much higher standard, as Mac developers (generally speaking) are obsessed about polish. As an author, there is are few new programs such as Writeroom (http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/writeroom) for example. I buy a lot of sub $50 software and find most of it fantastic with a level of dedication to sweating the small stuff I didn’t generally find on a PC.

    There is a learning curve as the interface is different. However I believe going to Vista/Win7 is not far off the learning curve either. If you’re worried that you wont like it and don’t want to spend the money for something that may annoy you, either spend some good time in the mac store having a play, or listening to one of the sessions in the theatre. I might be able to lend you my old MBP for a couple of weeks too if you would like.

    On a final note the mac-twat thing is a bit of a strawman. It’s the same thing you get in anything, sports, north/south divides, universities. It’s a small vocal minority perorating stereotypes on both sides. When people like things they do talk about it, but no more so than anything else. There are as many mac-twats as their are anti-mac p.c. users. Roughly they cancel each other out.

    As someone who enjoys using a mac, an yes, does like it. I would suggest you give it ago, as from my experience I think you would enjoy using it. But if it doesn’t gell with you, stick to PCs. I do think it’s worth giving a shot. As I said, if you’re cautious, I think I can lend you a machine for a few weeks to try out.

    Adr

  11. dw says:

    Thanks for all these comments. They represent, to a great extent, the most sensible conversation I’ve ever had in the Mac/PC discussion.

    It is, I’d say, time to “suck it and see”.

  12. Adrian says:

    As a mate used to say “Faint heart never fucked a pig”. (i.e. suck it and see is a good plan).

    Let me know if you want any buying advise. Or SW advise once bought.

  13. Eddie says:

    Why on earth would anybody buy a Mac and instal Windows on it – isn’t that a bit like having a trophy girlfriend, wineing and dining her, buying expensive presents for her, and even showing off with her on your arm – then getting somebody else to screw her for you ¿

    Same with city dwellers, you don’t need a 4×4 so why buy one, in other words IF you are primarily a t’interweb/MS Office user, then use the tool designed for the job, which is of course a Windows based PC

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