Why I've Joined the Cult of Mac

By James Turner
June 7, 2008 | Comments: 8

So, I finally gave in, after decades of refusing to purchase Apple hardware. My wife's laptop bit the bullet last week (a design flaw courtesy of Toshiba that's been the cause of several class action lawsuits...) As I've done before, she got my current laptop (an HP Pavilion) as a "hand-me-down" (although I don't think you can call a Core2 Duo with 2GB of RAM "roughing it"), and I went looking for my early Father's Day gift.


My criteria were simple: It had to be fast, under 6 lbs, have a 15" screen or better, a 512MB dedicated graphics card (no shared RAM!), and be a well-supported name-brand vendor.


I was able to find a few systems made by obscure companies with mixed online reviews that met the requirements, but nothing I'd really want to plunk down serious cash for. There was only one laptop I could find that met all the requirements, a MacBook Pro.


Now, I've never been one for the Mac world. I've used them on occasion, but I've really spent most of my proprietary-OS time on Windows machines, starting with 3.1 and working my way all the way up Vista. The reason was simple, I refused to buy hardware that I couldn't upgrade easily from third parties. All of my desktop boxes have undergone major surgery at one point or another, I even went to 4U rack mount systems for a while so I could get inside them easily. The Mac has always been a "don't touch the guts" architecture, and I didn't like having to go to Apple for everything.


Well, like many people buying MacBooks these days (they're the #1 - #10 best seller laptops on Amazon), what made the difference was the move to Intel hardware. Let's face it, a laptop is, for the most part, not a user-upgradable computer anyway. Apart from adding more memory or a bigger disk, you're pretty much stuck with whatever was in the box when you got it, or that you can plug in with USB, FIrewise, E-SATA, etc. So the whole "Apple Lock In" issue doesn't weigh as heavy on a laptop as on a desktop.


And since the Intel-based MacBooks can run Vista or XP like a dream, I'm not even locked into OSX. I can run Leopard alone, use Boot Camp to dual-boot Windows (or Linux), use VMWare Fusion to run Windows applications inside OSX without much of a performance hit (from what I'm told), or even scrag Leopard altogether and make it a pure Windows box. My friends all rave about the OSX experience, so maybe I'll stick with it and Fusion, but I'm not locked into it.


In retrospect, moving to Intel and blessing dual-boot configurations with Boot Camp is going to prove out to be a huge win for Apple. In the same way that Firefox and Open Office let Windows users get a feel for open source without abandoning their existing OS, making the Macs Windows-friendly lets Windows users dip their toes into Apple waters without giving up the ability to run Windows if they need to.


So I'm going to officially be one of the Cool Kids now... See what peer pressure can do to you?


And yes, for all of you about to flood this posting with comments about how Laptop X or Y would have been a better choice, I'm sure there are some cool ones I missed out there. But I did spend about 3 days investigating, so I feel pretty good that if my new (well, factory refurbished) MacBook isn't the perfect choice, it's certainly a darn good one.


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8 Comments

James, welcome. MacBook or MacBook Pro. I moved to Mac last year, started with the MacBook but quickly realized I needed a MacBook Pro for work. MacBooks are the "gateway drug" to MacBook Pro. You'll take a slight productivity hit while your brain remaps muscle memory to account for the Apple key, but you'll never have to deal with using anything like Cygwin ever again.

The points you argue pro-Mac are not very strong. You're simply saying that having Intel hardware was the selling point? Almost *every* modern laptop is equipped with Intel hardware. If that's the only reason you bought a Mac you overpaid. I can't speak for your own experiences, but I see no reason to invest in a Mac over any other name, for at least the reasons you seem to have. I can understand the feeling of being free from a Microsoft operating system, that's for sure, but as a whole (i.e. operating system independant) I have found Macs no superior to any other well-built laptop. So, after all that, I guess I just don't understand why you've joined the Cult of Mac, peer pressure aside.

Just speaking as an application developer, the dual-boot, spin up VMWare, and you're off and running in Windows/Linux idea leaves me cold. You may've been told that it doesn't have a big performance hit, but for me, VMs always do mean a performance hit. I suppose this depends solely on what you use the laptop for.

Ken - Actually, the whole point is - James won't care about the potential performance hit using Windows, because once you don't *have* to use Windows.... you won't. The "cult of Mac" exists for a reason, and it's not the pretty white macbook cases.

I've had my Macbook for 2 years. I found that using Boot Camp to install Windows and then using Parallels to access through the Mac is a good way to go.
I used VM Ware for a little bit, but every time I started VM Ware, Windows wanted me to activate. I find that Parallels is more stable, and I am able to do anything I want.
Of course, I don't crunch a googolplex, or frag demons, but I do use Photoshop and Indesign with no problems.

I've had my Macbook for 2 years. I found that using Boot Camp to install Windows and then using Parallels to access through the Mac is a good way to go.
I used VM Ware for a little bit, but every time I started VM Ware, Windows wanted me to activate. I find that Parallels is more stable, and I am able to do anything I want.
Of course, I don't crunch a googolplex, or frag demons, but I do use Photoshop and Indesign with no problems.

I spent years as a macphobe on the PC side of the PC vs. Mac debate. I watched programmer friends and tech-savvy colleagues switch, one by one. And still I held fast to my anti-Mac ways.

But then I started a new job and they simply handed me a Mac Book Pro. I had to get over my anti-macness right quick. Also, I realized that in the modern tech world, being ambidextrous is mandatory. As a tech professional I can't afford to be a dinosaur on the wrong side of the divide.

And then I realized that I loved the Mac. I mean really love it. It just works. With a few tweaks I can still have the system level granularity that I always liked about the PC. And, with VMWare I can still run Windows only apps.

My next personal computer will definitely be a Mac.

Well - after years of only being able to dream about macs I finally could afford 2 of them - an ibook and a mini - dream fulfilled, now I could switch to Apple and forget the so-called operating systems ...
Then came reality: the ibook in one year spent more time being repaired than all my ibm thinkpads together in 12 years; the slot-in dvd-drive still doesn't work reliably - finally I got fed up with Apple "No-Service" and bought an external USB-drive; reading the apple forums I found that mine was not an exceptional case.
OSX also turned out to be not quite that great - there are lots of nifty things there, but after a while you begin to notice the drawbacks, and there are a lot of them, too.
The good thing is that now I have firsthand experience and can compare - so I'm back on Linux and Windows, and happy there now. My girlfriend has the Ibook, as long as it will last, to use for email and web-surfing, and the mini sits somewhere in the closet, in case we still find some use for it. Apple will not see single cent from me anymore; if the machines break, we'll throw them away - my next personal computer will definitely be anything else but a Mac.

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