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Going back to Windows is really tough

In the brief time that's passed since I completely switched to Mac from Windows I have barely powered up my primary Windows machine. My Mac Pro gets the majority of my attention and since I'm doing my development work in Ruby on Rails now I haven't even had to fire up Windows in a VM very often. The MacBook fills in the rest of my time—usually travel or meetings—with the Ubuntu machine performing some server related tasks (Subversion server and MySQL mostly).

Rather than have an extremely expensive piece of hardware sitting around and depreciating every day I decided to sell it while it still has some value. A buddy of mine on one of the gaming networks I belong to offered to buy it and yesterday I went about the process of cleaning out the machine. Since you can't really sanitize an existing Windows install the best thing to do is just reinstall/reformat Windows XP.

I spent 17 years on Windows so I know my way around, especially when dealing with arcane driver and registry issues and the inevitable errors. Why was it then that I felt like a stranger in a strange land on the machine? I was only a month and a half removed from daily Windows use. My precious Mac keyboard shortcuts didn't work and the navigation controls I struggled with initially on Mac were now ingrained into my muscle memory.

More than once in prepping the machine and ensuring that everything of value was moved off I would just jab at Command-Space (Alt-Space on the Windows keyboard), expecting QuickSilver to launch so that I could get to a program quickly. Nothing happened of course and I would sigh, my shoulders would sag and I would reluctantly grab the mouse. I tried to do simple things like copying text to the clipboard and fail (Command-C on Mac, Control-C on Windows). 

I had to open a CMD window and execute several instructions to manually register some DLLs; I reluctantly remembered that I had to go through the little CMD menu in order to paste items. On my Mac when I need to paste a string into the terminal I use the standard Command-V; Windows can't use their default Control-V command in a CMD window because the Control modified keys have significance to command line applications. It's just a mess.

All of these little things were just a frustration to me. When I was going through the transition from Windows to Mac it was easier because I had a feeling that the Mac was something I wanted to spend time on. From the minute I fired up the MacBook I was excited about using the machine; it had me at hello. On the other hand with Windows I know that I'm not going to be using it any time soon so I'm far less tolerant of things not working the way I except them to. It is a mindset thing to be sure.

I am very fortunate; as an entrepreneur and business owner I have the luxury of choosing which technologies I want to use. Since my move to Mac happened to coincide with the creation of my next venture I was able to make a clean start and not be concerned with legacy issues, especially since I opted to go with platform independent development tools.  Outside of their homes few people have that choice.

I am going to box up the Windows machine in preparation for shipping. I rotated machines pretty regularly so I don't hold a particular affection for the physical machine I'm about to send off. I do however feel like I'm sealing a big part of my Windows experience into the box and shipping that off too though.

Who knows, maybe I'll rediscover Windows in 17 years or so.

22 comments:

Ast A. Moore said...

A few blog entries ago, when I noticed you began using the em dash, I knew that this day would come very soon. Now I can say this to you: Welcome, brother!

Web-JIVE said...

I did the Windows thing since 1.0 (still have the 5.25" boot floopy!) which makes it 20 plus years now (ouch, getting old from an IT perspective).

I ditched Windows 4-5 years ago out of frustration when trying to edit a small video clip on Windows. I trudged off to CompUSA to find some editing software and that's when the CompUSA/Mac guy cornered me and showed me what Macs could do.

Needless to say, I whipped out the credit card, loaded my new dual G4 on the cart and headed out the door. Got home, used the Mac for a year then sold the dual G4 and the dual AMD box I built for windows.

Haven't looked back since! Now we have 3 Macs at the house. My daughters eMac (still going strong), my Powerbook G4 1ghz that I gave to my wife and my 18 month old MacBook Pro that I run my business on (I gave up on the dual Mac thing once Macbooks came out with dual procs).

Not only do we have the luxury of not keeping up with the legacy of Windows problems but, we have fun using the machines on a daily basis.

It's about time someone came up with a fun, stable product I don't dread using on a daily basis.

Regards,
Eric - Web-JIVE.com

qka said...

"Who knows, maybe I'll rediscover Windows in 17 years or so."

If Microsoft is still in business and is still making Windows.

My personal feeling is that by the year 2020, Microsoft will will be less relevant to the computer industry than IBM is today.

I'm not knocking IBM -they still have a lot of significant things going on - they are still king of the mainframes, and they do some interesting stuff in services. It's just that it is not mainstream. They sold their PC business to Lenovo, and with that, a lot of their visibility.

Microsoft is not doing too well in the consumer space - XBox with the red ring of death, Zunes that do not sell. They are floundering in the on line space - can you say Yahoo? They need to stick to their knitting of Windows, Windows Server, and Office. Those are their cash cows. So we get Vista (bad), Sever 2008 (initial reviews seem to indicate it is good) and Office 2007 (bad) - why change the interface that literally millions of users already know, will cost them and their employers uncountable hours and $-£-¥-€ of lost productivity?

(And I add my apologies for yesterday's comment about the YouTube video not working. It works for me today. Maybe I temporarily ittiated the YouTube gods for some unknown reason!)

Jon said...

Although I am very comfortable in Windows, I liken making me work with it to making a chef work with someone else's knives.

Sure, it'll work. I can chop an onion with your chef knife....but I prefer my W├╝stof Santoku. It fits my hand, it's balanced the way I like, and I know where the sharp parts are...and can therefore avoid cutting myself.

Making me work in Windows will have a similar effect: Profuse Cursing.

Christian said...

Welcome to the club of former windows box owners... ;-)

I still have a win2k3 server gathering dust in my office, i turned it off some months ago, when the last dev project needing it finally came to an end. i do not miss it...

All my development work is now done on my MBP with Mac OS X tools or windows, linux and parallels.

The iMac i bought for "testing" in April 2006 was like an infection. Bought 4 Macs since then (2 MBPs and 1 MacBook for my wife).

Kids' PCs are going to be history soon as well.
It shatters me when i think back to all those driver and setup problems i had to solve in the past 15 years just to have a machine up an running.

Jeff said...

Who knows, maybe I'll rediscover Windows in 17 years or so.

BLASPHEMY!!

Say 10 Hail Steves and 5 Our Wozniaks and buy 2 black turtlenecks and you shall be forgiven...

Seriously, I agree with qka. I think [hope that] Windows won't be around in 17 years.

Web-JIVE said...

"Seriously, I agree with qka. I think [hope that] Windows won't be around in 17 years."

I hope it is! Everyone needs stiff competition to keep things rolling. If Apple becomes the only game in town, the only thing that will happen is Apple will have become the lazy fat gorilla while Microsoft has become lean and energized again.

I never want to see that happen in the computing landscape again! We need Windows around, strong to give Apple incentive to do better!

Jeff Miller said...

It might be a pain to go back to window temporarily, but it is more of a pain to have to use it at work daily.

As another switcher since Oct and a Windows user since 2.0, I find I miss so much when I work on a windows machine. I remapped my work keyboard so at least copy, cut, and paste shortcuts are the same. But I really miss Spotlight which in Leopard works quite well as both an apps launcher and quickly finding files. I also greatly miss the programs I have come to love on the Mac that even when they have a Windows equivalent, just plain look ugly by comparison. (Though Evernote looks pretty Mac-like).

Even more annoying is that XP is more stable running under VMWare Fusion on my iMac then it is running natively on a Dell at work.

So many times I would love to use something like Automator or apple script at work, but there are no real equivalents and pretty much every program is for itself except VBA for Office products. Even OS/2 had system wide scripting.

Since I work both at home and at a office I so look forward to going back to my home office to work. Running VMWare Fusion 2.0 in unity mode on multiple monitors lets me do my VIsual Studio work while being able to use the text editors and graphics programs on the Mac side at the same. Best of both worlds.

David Alison said...

I completely agree with Eric (Web-jive) - it's better to have a competitive environment where these guys are pushing each other to improve. I have a feeling though that some of the Linux builds, especially Ubuntu, will be keeping the landscape competitive even if Microsoft does not recover.

@Jeff Miller: I hear you man. As I said, I'm just really lucky I don't have to make that compromise now.

aka said...

qka, if you are not happy with the new Office interface, why don't you use Openoffice instead? Personally, I think Office2007 is a great improvement and enjoy using it far more than older Office versions. Surprisingly (or not) the new Mac Office isnt quite on par with the windows version.

Btw, pasting into the command prompt does work, although you have to right click instead of ctrl+v. It is an inconsistency, but it doesn't really bother me.

I'm a bit surprised David you had to manually register DLLs on a fresh install. What happened there?

Jeff, I don't really know Applescript, but isn't VB (together with office or WSH) the equivalent to that?

Jeff said...

Even more annoying is that XP is more stable running under VMWare Fusion on my iMac then it is running natively on a Dell at work.

I have noticed that, too.

Just to clarify, I don't think that Microsoft will be gone in 17 years, but that Windows will be. For Microsoft to be successful for long, Windows needs to be killed an something completely redone with a different name needs to be released.

If not, I still think that Linux could be the OS to keep Apple on its toes.

David Alison said...

@aka: It was pretty frustrating actually. I installed XP, then did the Software Update. It pulled SP 3 and I did the reboot after that completed. Once that was done I ran Software Update again and it picked up an IE security patch. When I tried to let that install I got a failure. There was no error message as to why it failed, just that it had. The Trouble Shooter came up and I tried plugging everything I could think of into that but since it was not generating an error message with any substance it was virtually impossible to find the problem.

I tried several reboot / update cycles to no avail. I did some more research and found a KB article referenced in a forum that suggested I register a series of the key DLLs. I did that and everything worked fine - the updates installed clean after that.

Since this was a clean install where I didn't use any applications except software update after the initial install I found it a bit odd too. The lack of an error message or log entry was the most frustrating part though.

@Jeff: Agreed, that is the most likely way for MS to succeed. The reason they have so many problems today—beyond the UI inconsistencies in Vista—is that they are trying to support applications written for ancient APIs. A clean slate and complete rewrite is in order.

That gigantic software library that people claim is a strength of Windows is actually its biggest liability in my opinion.

aka said...

Concerning the whole Microsoft going down discussion, I recommend reading http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/APIWar.html. Even though its old, I still think it's valid.

David Alison said...

@aka: I read that a long time ago - and yes, still relevant. Direct link for people that don't like the copy/paste thing. Some of it is a bit dated now but the overwhelming feeling I get from MS is that there isn't a clear direction. There are too many people pulling in different directions without a clear vision for where it's all headed.

RobInNZ said...

Enjoying reading this blog and 're-discovering' the joys of switching, which I did close on 5 years ago at home now. Work in a MS oriented IT solution provider company. At least Windows Server 2003 is actually stable and fast these days. Not like NT4 (*shudder*).

I often have that issue with shortcuts and stuff too when I get home and then when I go to work again :)

The ORIGINAL paste key (shift ins) in Windows will paste into a cmd prompt. From memory there is an option you have to enable in the window menu first.

Keep it up David as Im really enjoying each return visit!!

David Alison said...

@RobInNZ: Thanks for that DOS tip - this made me scout around in my Fusion based Win XP instance and found that there actually is an option to allow the right mouse click to paste the contents of the clipboard into the command buffer in a DOS (CMD) window.

I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. I'm enjoying sharing what I find and get quite a bit back from folks in the comments.

Anonymous said...

Am I reading this correct? ALso a Quicksilver adept now?

David Alison said...

@Anon: Addicted to it already. Amazing how quickly QuickSilver integrates into the way you use the machine, and I'm just scratching the surface with it.

Anonymous said...

I could say the same thing about using my Mac after using a very functional/stable copy of Vista Ultimate. My great shortcut keys don't work. I actually have to press two keys to look for applications instead of the easy start key. Every time I have to install an app, I have to remember the name of the admin account on the mac. *sigh* I click on the X button on an app, and oh ya, that doesn't close the app like it does in Windows. I minimize an app to the dock and use command/tab to select it, but it doesn't pop up like the windows key/tab does. HMPF

David Alison said...

@Anon: Yep, they are different. If Vista works for you and you like it then you should stay with it rather than trying to make a Mac work for you. I installed SP1 on my Vista laptop and it's much more stable; I can actually shut the machine down now which I had never been able to do before gracefully and my network connection isn't dropping regularly, two things that caused tremendous frustration for me for nearly a year. That said, I really don't use the Vista machine at all since I'm personally so much more productive on my Macs.

Anonymous said...

I am a windows user because I do a lot of gaming on my PC. At work I do use an imac and it does run well. Mac's can not run the applications I need to use. I currently run windows xp professional and it is flawless. I can keep it up for a month straight without any problems. I have an image of os X floating around and it runs in vmware with the only flaw being the sound stuttering a bit. This is a driver issue because os X was never meant to run in vmware. I also run ubuntu in vmware with no issues. All of this is running on windows XP.

My primary use of my pc is gaming, internet surfing, email, and paying bills. Linux and osX can not offer this support yet. I have tried gaming in vmware 6.5 but the graphics or corrupt or it crawls to a halt on a 3 ghz dual core machine with 8 gigs of ram and a gtx 260 video card.

Yes vista does run lighting fast on my machine, but it crashes my games constantly and everything is out of order or misplaced. I might as well run ubuntu if I want this situation. It takes less power to run and is more efficient.

I do like the way os X installs programs or allows everything to exist as one package but that is the only feature I prefer over ubuntu.

If I want to dabble in other os's vmware lets me do that, but I would rather have a machine that lets me accomplish what I need with the least resistance to run properly.

David Alison said...

@Anon: It's hard to beat a dedicated gaming rig (PC) with a state of the art graphics card for gaming. I've gotten a couple of games to play on my Mac Pro (TF2 is one) but I'm kind of out of gaming now—just not something I care for.

Gaming on the PC platform has really gone downhill lately anyway; most of the best games are targeted at the console market since that's where the money is. I just wish I could use a keyboard/mouse for first person shooters on the XBox; I've never mastered the controllers for FPS games.