…without the hardware?

MacOS is awesome, kinda, and I find the hardware that it is generally installed upon to be very good. This article started as a full blown review, but somewhere along the line it morphed into this thought experiment. Let’s see where this goes, shall we?

The Hardware

I know several Mac users – they use anything from the iToys to the MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros. I am writing this on a MacBook7.1, the 13″ version, and the hardware is very cool. It is rare to find this level of build quality, and general “feel” from a laptop. Yes I know “this is not a laptop…” but it is.

The type response of the keyboard is very good, and I find the key spacing to be near perfect. Some quirks here, the Return/Enter key is oddly shaped and placed, and I hit ‘\’ time and again. Also, where are the Home and End buttons?

A good impression all around, even though the MacBook feels a little fragile and scratchable. To my eye it says “I am an office drone” more than “I am on the road a lot.” The size, weight and form factor of this model lends itself to being very portable.\\

Yeah I hit those keys again…

Also – Industry leading battery life. Tres Cool

I almost forgot to say something about the touchpad! I like/hate it. Like the feel of it, and the multi-touch. Dislike STRONGLY the way clicking works. You have to press down on the pad to click – doesn’t tap-click by default. I am sure you can set that up, but I have yet to come across a user who has done this.

Moving Along

Right, now that I have ogled the hardware somewhat, let me move on to the OS.

I have spoken to several Mac Users, at least one of them a self confessed ‘Mac Fanboy’, and the verdict is that they love the Mac – dislike the OS.

(I just got an SMS informing me that our Tier1 providers Mail Servers got listed on SORBS. It’s gonna be one of those days…)

Back on topic – I guess you can get used to the quirks that are riddled around the OS. One of them – try hiding your desktop Icons. You need an app for that. Hyde, which is now free, does the hiding of your desktop for you. I wanted to make a nice screenie for this article, but since this is not my Mac, I wanted to hide the smattering of icons riddling the desktop – couldn’t.

Get to the terminal – you have to go via Finder, Applications, Utilities. This is true for several applications that do not live on the dock by default.

Good news is that most popular applications that you install get a shortcut on the dock, and you can add others there.

This leads me to the dock. There is a reason that so many Linux Desktops copy the look and feel of the dock, and why there are Windows applications for it. It looks good, and feels awesome. Yes I said a piece of software “feels awesome.” Stop snickering!

Where problems begins is when you try and do something out of the ordinary, or even quite ordinary, it either gets expensive – or you have to fiddle.

Install Thunderbird for instance. You get a DMG, or disk image, when you download software for Mac, and generally they get plonked on your desktop, where you can’t hide your icons. Sure you can add them to the dock – actually trying it I find it quite easy – but you have to know how to do it. (ack – the absence of an END button is beginning to irritate me…) I know many users that have a ton of DMG’s on their desktop – that they cannot hide without an app – that do not know how to add them to applications or the dock.

There are minor niggles like these scattered around the OS – I am confident that most users will adapt to them very easily.

Problems In Paradise

There are some major problems lurking though – let me regale you with a story of migration from Windows, and this led me to have this particular Mac on my lap this morning.

David, from Thinktank decided to migrate from his PC to this Mac. This makes sense for him since Thinktank is a Mac shop. He uses (used) MS Outlook for his mail – and now uses MS Entourage for mail.

When he came to me asking to help him migrate his mail from PC to Mac I knew from previous experience that we were in for an adventure.

You see, migrating your Outlook PST to a Mac is fraught with peril.

Unless you BUY an app, which does not always work – some of them do not import your attachments – you have to do either of the following:

METHOD ONE

Open a GMAIL account, sync your Outlook with Gmail, and then do the same on your Mac – simple, in theory, but how many professionals do you know that have mailboxes less than a couple of Gigs? David has an 8Gig PST. Yes.

METHOD TWO

Install Thunderbird in Windows. Import your Outlook PST. Go make coffee – maybe go out for lunch – and then copy the mail store onto a flash drive. Remember to have it formatted in NTFS.

Now, import the Thunderbird mail store into Mac mail, and then into Entourage.

This sounds easy, if contrived, but try and actually do it. It is a pain. Not all of your mails get transferred in this manner, the reason is unclear.

Also, printers. Printer support is a hit and miss affair at best. I have quite a few clients who had to buy new printers when they bought a Mac – and in a cruel twist had to keep their old printers around because the new one was not supported in Windows 7.

MacOS an Commercial Option?

Question – if MacOS were to be sold alongside Windows 7, would it be able to compete?

The hardware experience lends a lot to the MacOS experience – take away the excellent Hardware, what are you left with?

Lets look at what you get before you start buying extra software.

  • A better mail client – Win 7 has none until you download Windows Live Essentials.
  • Better Support for Apple peripherals.
  • Questionable support for other peripherals.
  • Worse Third Party Software Support.
  • Less Vulnerable to Viruses.
  • Performs better on the same hardware.
  • More applications installed by default – and they are more useful too.
  • A better browser.

Look. MacOS is coming along in leaps and bounds in the industry. More and more third party vendors are beginning to support it. Once you are bought into the Mac ecosystem you will be certain that your iPod, iPad, iPhone and iMac work together rather well.

Buy a new Mac, and the migration goes almost flawlessly.

Windows 7 is good. MacOS is better, but has some shortcomings – the routing table gets screwed from time to time. One user this week complained about that to me, and at the office moving between networks and Lans can get some applications to become confusilated “Are we connected, Aren’t we?”

Summary

I spoke to a woman this week who travels Africa a lot. She uses a Macbook – for the battery life. Like many IT geeks who use Macs the hardware factors heavily in their buying decision.

If I ignore the market dominance that Windows have MacOS might just have a shot – but the market is heavily in favor of Windows. Third party support is heavily in support of Windows. Users Know windows.

As an IT guy I’d opt either for Windows or (my personal choice) Linux. To learn a new way of doing things might not seem like a major issue, but I have an uneasy feeling whenever I want to do something out of the ordinary – like troubleshooting a WiFi network.

Ooh, Hyde has finished downloading – I’ll show David later how to hide is desktop icons…

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