Donald J. Patti

Why I dumped Bill for Steve (first betrayal, then new love)

In Technology on 2 January 2009 at 6:48 pm

There are a few times in your life you have to make big decisions that you KNOW will dramatically affect the rest of your life. You make them with some trepidation, you make them with the promise of a brighter future, but you make them anyway.  One was the decision to pack everything I owned into my Jeep Wrangler and head East to a new life in Maryland back in 1994 (good decision). Another was asking my wife to marry me in ’95 (great decision, don’t anybody remind her I got the better end of the deal), and yet another was to move the family for a promising job thousands of miles away (good decision, bad outcome).  Though not quite as significant in my life as those three other decisions, I made another monumental decision two months ago that may well have just as much impact.

[For those of you looking for juicy gossip on gay love, I’d suggest visiting another blog.  As much as the title might be mis-leading, this blog entry isn’t about a romantic relationship, sorry.  If, however, you’re considering a switch from Microsoft to Apple, or your an Apple-head, read on.]

Okay, back to the story and the big decision. [I did tell you this blog is called “Nash Ramblings”, didn’t I? You didn’t expect something short and to-the-point, did you?]

I was just starting a new job and getting settled into my position, when my employer asked me a simple question – “Bill [Gates] or Steve [Jobs]? PC or Apple?” Now, this may seem like a trivial question, much like “McDonald’s or Burger King?”, “coffee or tea?”, “thumb tacks or push pins?”.  And sure, I can hear your snickers traveling over the wire right now, vibrating my keypad and jiggling the power cord so much the pretty little power indicator is blinking like Rudolph’s nose.  “Who cares what kind of computer you use” and “how pathetic is your life that this decision could be life-changing?”, you chuckle.  But for me, a thirty-year veteran of computing with over two decades of heavy desk time with IBM/HP/Toshiba PC’s and Microsoft operating systems, this question held the potential to rock the very foundation of my World.  Would I, a Microsoft devotee, actually consider a move to Apple? Why was I hesitating to blurt out “I’ll take the PC” to continue in my comfortable, cozy computing cocoon and instead thinking, “I’d like the Apple”?

Here’s why…

  1. Vista. I know this is already a public relations disaster for Microsoft, but I’d like to echo my hatred of this operating system so that the folks at Microsoft can realize how badly they messed this one up. Let’s start with those stupid “permit or deny” messages that keep me from moving a file from one folder to another – my own files, mind you, not another users – without saying, “permit”.  Then, let’s try to figure out why you had to re-label control panel utilities, printer configurations and modify application navigation.  Was there anything wrong with the phrase “Add/Remove Programs” that existed since Windows 95, if not earlier?  Did any of your focus groups include a single, solitary experienced user?  Did you really have to scrap 90% of my historic knowledge for a UI that benefited the 5% of your user base who is completely unfamiliar with Windows XP?  As you can see, I hate Vista, so a switch to another OS – any other OS, was possible.
  2. Office 2007 for Windows. Preferring to create a two-headed hydra, Microsoft not only introduced Vista, they published the drivel known as Office 2007.   Gone are the pleasant menu and toolbars that I memorized from Word 6.0 from the early 90’s and in its place is a series of cryptic icons that fail to categorize tools in any logical fashion.  What I could once do in a couple of keystrokes or a few mouse clicks took me up to 5 minutes to do in Word 2007 as I looked up how to add a page break, adjust a section heading, insert a table of contents or insert a table. No longer could I hit “Alt-F-S” to save a file or “Alt-T-O” to show the options menu.  Again, I must ask Microsoft, where was the logic in stripping your product of it’s most elegant feature – the Microsoft menu bar?  Didn’t any experienced users complain that this was madness before the product was shipped?
  3. Apple’s move to Intel chips. A few years back, Apple made the bold step of abandoning their Motorola chips for Intel.  To non-techies, this was not a big deal and made little sense, because Motorola is a brand name that we all know and respect.  But to Apple, the Motorola chip’s design was limiting their ability to make software compatible with PC’s, not to mention having a similar affect on their software developing partners.  With the move to Intel chips, it’s much easier to build operating systems and applications that can port to other platforms while using suppliers partial to Intel-oriented technology, making the costs of building and supporting the Apple product lines much lower for Apple and the vendors who work with them.  It also signaled Apple’s willingness to go head to head with IBM, HP and Dell rather than operate on the fringes of the computing World.
  4. Compatible files and compatible applications. In the past five years, since the move to Intel chips and OS X (version 10, a Unix-like operating system), file compatibility and application compatibility have improved dramatically.  I can now open my MS Word files on my Mac, edit them using iWork Pages or Open Office and send them back to a friend using a PC to read and update. I no longer have to wonder if they’ll be able to read my files or edit them, because software vendors have worked hard to make them compatible. 90% of the files I create can smoothly transition back and forth, and 90% of the features I cared about in Microsoft Office are available from one product or another on the Mac.
  5. Virtual Machines. About ten years ago, software developers created a virtual machine software for running Microsoft Windows on the old Mac OS that was slow, clunky and poorly integrated with peripheral devices like printers and external drives.  I can’t remember the name, but I tried it once on my Mom’s Macintosh and declared it inadequate.  Since the advent of VMWare’s Fusion and similar products, the virtual machine on the Mac has come of age and it’s now possible for me to run the half-dozen Windows-only applications essential for my job.  Microsoft Project not available on the Mac? No problem – boot Windows XP (yes, it’s licensed and legitimate) from VMWare, open the file stored on my Mac, update it, print it as a PDF and distribute it to the project team.  Too cheap to buy a new version of Adobe Photoshop that I bought four years ago for my PC?  No problem – boot Windows XP, update the graphic I need for a family greeting card, save it as a jpeg and use it in Mac OS.  Though they’re far from secure and Mac purists are probably upset that I still need to use Windows on occasion, virtual machines make it possible for me to switch to Apple, use the tools required for my job and keep my library of old software products that still work just fine.
  6. Changing work responsibilities. A half-decade ago, I was managing people and leading projects, but I was also still coding.  Back then, it was important to know that the code I wrote would work smoothly on 90% of the desktop machines on the planet – the Microsoft population.  For those of you who still code, the prospect of testing and re-testing on multiple platforms is almost as irritating as testing in multiple browsers, so the thought of adding yet another complication to the software development process was unappealing.  Now, I’m older and I don’t code any more, so I simply don’t worry about whether my code will port from one machine to another seamlessly.  And, with the addition of Java to the Mac environment along with the embracing of W3C standards in web browsers, I’d worry a heck of a lot less if I still did code.
  7. Helpful people. I’d be lying if I implied in this article that my transition to Mac as entirely trouble-free, because it took me about two weeks to become competent enough with the Apple to rival my abilities in Windows.  Along the way, my boss tolerated the “how the heck do I…on the Mac” questions while he patiently helped me to adjust.  He easily could’ve thought me incompetent and fired me. Similarly, a friend of mine who works at Apple (oooooh, how convenient), Scott H, helped me to map Windows applications to their Mac-based counterparts (“Windows Explorer” is now “Finder”, “The Dock” replaces the “Start” menu, “Preview” can open Acrobat PDFs, etc.).  Without their help and patience, I’m sure I would have made the move, but it probably would’ve taken a week or two more.  Thanks, gents.
  8. The Intuitive UI. Thus far, most of my reasons for the switch to Mac have been anti-Microsoft, but there’s one BIG reason to make the switch to Mac rather than the switch from Microsoft – the easy-to-understand user interface (UI).  Apple did something that Microsoft failed to do with Vista and Office ’07 – it created and maintained the intuitive user interface that’s existed on the Apple since the first box-shaped Macintosh rolled out in the early 1980’s.  Sure, enhancements have been made, but they’re additions more than radical changes.  The apple menu option still appears in the top left corner of applications to navigate the entire system, and the main desktop can still be just as cluttered or organized as the first hard-drive equipped Mac’s of years past.

So, it’s now been two + months and I’m a happy Mac user.  There are a few features I miss from Windows, but not many, and while it’s possible I’ll make a jump back to the Windows OS some day, the seas of change will have to be equally stormy to push me off of the Apple and on to another.  To Microsoft and their founder, Bill Gates, I close with the message, “You started well, but handed the keys off to the wrong driver(s).  Fix your mess, or we users will fix it for you.”  To Apple and their founder, Steve Jobs, I say, “nice operating system, beautiful computer.  And, Steve – don’t even THINK about dying.  Who in the World will lead Apple, but you?”

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  1. Don,

    Glad to have you in the Apple fold. We (Fuller & I) jumped to Apple when we got tired of fighting the incessant diseases that constantly infect the windows environment. And we were constantly on the battlefront using the latest technologies such as stealth mode on our router, the myriad of virus checkers and sanitizers, you name it, we tried it. It dawned on us one day that 2/3rds of Fuller’s time was spent eradicating malware, rescuing data and rebuilding machines. It was difficult for him to concentrate on much more given the constant learning and fighting to stay clean. So, we went to MAC OSx. And boy are we happy. Fuller’s time is re-directed to our business. I have had no problems with MAC. Although I have not tried parallels, I still am able to use Windows documents such as word, power point, excel, and etc. I first used Open Office because the documents “seemed” to be more compatible with Microsoft Office, but once I started using pages, numbers and keynote, I have never looked back. I have to export the docs to make them compatible with Windows, but I have no problems with compatibility and with Windows special features in pages.

    I’m joining the Apple Corps user group and am sure to find out the many adventures with the MAC. I love Bill Gates because he is so generous, but I am very disappointed in the business model of Microsoft. I’ve been a Steve Jobs fan since he first came out with the MAC.

    Happy Apple Computing!

    • Thanks, Michele, for the reinforcement. I certainly haven’t walked away from Microsoft completely, but I have noticed less maintenance time on the Mac, as well. I also haven’t made a full shift to the iWork suite, partly due to unfamiliarity and partly due to compatibility concerns. Some time soon, I’ll be brave and try to run an entire project using this tool set, but not until the risk is low enough that it doesn’t jeopardize deliverables and deadlines for the client.

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