Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Monday, June 30, 2008

Biting the Apple

Going For a Mac Instead

Perhaps a year and a half ago... maybe even two years ago I decided I was going to somehow get a new computer. I wanted a notebook - laptop - computer. My reasoning was that I wanted to be able to work on my writing whether I was at home here at my Gnomestead Apartment or at the Parental Homestead across the river. I also wanted the option to work at the museum where I volunteer at or the library. I also do some web management and have been known to do some other computer work where it would be handy to actually be able to show people stuff in their own home rather than scribble it on paper for them and then translate it to computer at home to then print off and show at home.

So I had reason to get a notebook computer. This decision was perhaps a greater one than for most as I am on a small fixed income with a bit of addition from those few outside jobs I mentioned - those jobs are not under the table. I considered going to a company like Dell or MDG to buy the computer on credit. They say that they will extend credit to almost anyone and talk about "a buck a day" on at least one of their advertisement themes. I did talk to a friend about it and she suggested that I instead wait and put the money aside and that a larger down payment might mean smaller payments or lower interest so I started adding a bit of money each month to the money I already had saved up. I had saved up a fair amount for a DVD player-recorder-re-recorder for my computer and I added to that sum for the new computer would have that built in. I looked to save up for a notebook which would have that and priced out the lower priced ones that would suite me.

After all I already had a functioning desktop model, I could wait and save money. I then got a bonus for some work I was already doing that added to my fixed income. I put half of that to savings. The savings for the computer could also be emergency money for... emergencies.

I realized that perhaps I might be able to get a nicer computer and started looking at tablet computers before I remembered discussions I had with my cousin about the Apple Mac. I knew about it of course. I have been around computers from before there were personal computers. But my cousin talked about things like how robust the Apple was in regards to things like viruses. My good friend's husband bought a Mac Power Book before they went to Japan and they liked it enough that when they came back, they bought an Apple desktop computer system.

I looked at the prices on the MacBooks - the entry level 13" ones - and compared the new OSX Leopard operating system with the new Windows Vista and with the Intel MacBooks being able to actually run Windows XP or Vista if I wanted as well as Leopard, I was sold. Eventually I had the money and the courage to spend it!

I bought the MacBook. (image to left - image from Apple Canada) It really seems to fit what I wanted. I am not sure if I should have gone for the 160 Gb hard drive instead of the 120 Gb one that I got, but I realized that I could get a 250 - 500 Gb external hard drive for the $200 price difference between the two models. I think if there was a choice in the stores locally I might have gone for the black one rather than the white one, but only the much more expensive 15 inch ones were available in the black.

I found it easy to move over to using the Apple and OSX Leopard after using Windows 98 and Windows XP. Granted I learned about computers in a rather organic manner. I grew up with them. I started learning on machines where you used punched cards with your program punched into them one line per card and fed into a card reader by a technician and graduated to using terminals both on campus or via modem with acoustic-couplers - you literally rested the telephone handset into a cradle with a speaker and microphone to connect the modem to the phone line. Directly connected modems were not common. Luckily at the time nearly all handsets were the same. Later the personal computers came out. Radio Shack's TRS-80, Apple II's, and Commodore Pets followed the earlier kits of Altair 80-80's and their like. then the Commodore VIC20 and Commodore 64 and... eventually the Compac, and other machines running CPM and then cam MSDOS and the IBM and IBM clones. I can't forget the Texas Instruments computers and Hewlett Packard ones as well. The XT and others ended up taking a large chunk of the market from the Mac, Amiga, and the Atari which ran on Motorola processors. Eventually, at least in America it was the PCs and the Macs that were left.

With learning the various operating systems as they were introduced and the various keyboards and other control devices - I used GUI's similar to windows using a Joystick because mice were very expensive and not something one casually bought when you were just getting used to a new system like GEOS. So I learned how to switch from one thing to another with minimal instruction. Perhaps that made transition easier?

On the other hand... I am mostly using EXACTLY the same software I use on my desktop PC for most of my usage with the exception of some new software I am learning. For instance, I am writing this blog entry using the ScribeFire Application for the Mozilla Firefox Browser here on my MacBook. It is identical in appearance, function, and capability to the same software that I use on my Windows XP Desktop computer. The biggest differences are that the screen is a bit difference in proportion and that the keyboard feels different and does not have a numeric keypad. I do have a mouse for the MacBook, but choose to use the trackpad by choice. If I were to shift down two screens and activate "Remote Desktop Connection" I would be able to access my PC via my wireless network and router and could run Firefox on my PC using my MacBook keyboard, trackpad, and monitor and there would be no difference.

For most of my office type work I use Open Office on the PC - it is a good alternative to the MS - Office line of software and even has some advantages. It is one of those pieces of software that you can pay for essentially by donation and it is worthy of donating to. I use Open Office on my PC and there is a variation for my Intel Mac called NeoOffice which is nearly 100% identical to the Windows version.

That takes care of 90% of my usage.

The other 10%... Well I am not 100% converted. I still use my old faithful venerable copy of "Adobe Online" on my Windows XP box - but I use it via Remote Desktop Connection from my MacBook so it feels like it is running there and I can use it anywhere in my apartment. I could experiment with accessing it via the internet, but so far... haven't felt too compelling a need for that possible security weakness. I still could install Windows XP or Vista on the MacBook. But I don't know about taking up room from my 120 Gb internal hard drive... that was where I was contemplating whether that decision to chose it over the 160 Gb drive was wise or not springs from. However if I get the right external drive... I would install Windows XP on it and then either used the built in "boot camp" utility in Leopard to boot up as a Windows computer or one of the available for purchase programs that would let me run Windows XP concurently while running Leopard. Then I could run the few programs I go back to the PC for.

I think I shall get back to this subject later and tell you more about the transition to working on an Apple. It isn't all apple blossums like some might lead you to believe.

~ Darrell.

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