Why I bailed out on Windows and switched to Macintosh

It's kind of funny how things work out. When I originally bought my MacBook three months ago I viewed it as a complimentary machine. Something that would be added to my menagerie of computers. I had been using Windows for so long and it's use was so deeply embedded into my workflow that I couldn't imagine another OS displacing it as my primary operating system. I just wanted something new and different.

So what was wrong with Windows?
I guess after 17 years of Windows I became more than just a little tired of it. I watched new versions comes out with only incremental improvements in usability and more often than not, changes to things that just took some getting used to. Windows became larger and larger, more memory dependent and requiring more processor just to be functional. I accept that great new features and functionality will come with a larger footprint but it didn't feel like I was getting that much great stuff out of it.

I was really hoping that Vista would reenergize my Windows experience but it did not. It was... meh. It felt like Microsoft was simply wrapping more and more layers of security on top of Windows, not really improving the Windows user experience. I loaded Vista on to my HP nw8440 laptop, a decent, high end machine that had 2GB of memory and a good graphics card. Vista ran fine from a performance standpoint but had some serious stability problems. Windows XP ran like a champ on the machine but Vista would lock up on me at odd times and if the machine ran for more than a day it could not be shut down - I would have to hold down the power button for an extended period of time to get it to turn off. 

In October of 2007 I went out and bought a little HP Slimline PC. I wanted a nice little low power usage machine that could run Ubuntu for me. As power machines go this was not one of them: A little AMD 64 X2 dual core processor and 1GB of memory. It was all of $550 at the time - clearly a bargain class machine - and I had so many BestBuy credits from other purchases that my cash outlay was only a couple hundred dollars. It came with Vista capable logos all over it and had Windows Vista Home Edition installed on it. I knew I was going to wipe out the OS and install Ubuntu over it but I decided to play with it as a Vista machine for a bit. What a mistake.

Vista was dog slow on that machine, nearly unusable. It may have been because HP had so much extra crap on the machine to subsidize the cost but damn - it seemed like a waste of money. I considered just taking it back to BestBuy and getting a refund. Instead I went ahead and installed Ubuntu on it and lo and behold the machine's performance was excellent. It is a great, complimentary machine for my purposes. The latest version of Ubuntu (8.04, Hardy Heron) is fantastic on the little HP. It looks even better and performs as well as the previous version I had.

The Last Straw
The last straw for me was the issue of viruses. I had run for years without virus protection on my PCs because I knew how to take care of my machine. Sure, I put things like Norton Anti-virus and PC Tools on my kid's and wife's machines but that was because they didn't know how to stay out of trouble. I did so I knew I was safe.

I only installed software from well defined resources. I never even looked at attachments from people. I felt streetwise and here it was, 17 years into Windows and I had not gotten a single virus on my own machine.

Then, early this year I was doing some research on a programming issue I was having. I Googled up some web sites that appeared to have an answer and clicked on one that looked reputable. Even though I had popup blockers installed the site managed to open a popup on me. I closed the popup and left the site but before I knew it popups were happening to me randomly, even when the browser was not loaded. Clearly my machine had been infected by something.

I installed PC Tools and it found and eradicated the problem, some class of Spyware / Ad Malware crap. Rather than take the chance of that happening again I left PC Tools on and running. This unfortunately was a problem because now when I ran Visual Studio and went into a debugging session my machine slowed to a crawl. So I had to disable PC Tools in order to do my actual work. This was tremendously frustrating and happened to coincide with me looking at a MacBook.

The door was open and the Mac stepped in
Now that I've converted to using Macs for everything I am really enjoying it. You can read through my blog and see how this has developed over time - lots of ups and a couple of downs.

Funny thing is, I run into people all the time that are Mac users and they have similar stories. They were frustrated PC users that tried out and fell in love with Macs. When you ask people why they like their Macs more than Windows (if they have switched) many will recite the Apple line "it just works". Either Apple has figured out a way to get people to recite their marketing messages to others or they managed to tap into why people really like the machines.

Yesterday my youngest daughter had a friend over to work on a school project together. She brought her Dell laptop and was trying to access our wireless network. After setting everything up properly she just couldn't seem to connect - she got a good signal but could never seem to get an IP address from our wireless router. I ended up disabling the wireless networking tool that Dell provides and used the native Windows version - this worked after a couple of minutes. When I attached my MacBook to this network it worked flawlessly the first time - as did my oldest daughter's Mac when she connected it.

Just this morning I had my MacBook sitting on my lap and typing up this blog entry while waiting for my wife at the doctors office. A gentleman came over and asked some questions about the machine; he was considering getting a Mac for himself after his daughter was accepted to a graduate school and she decided that she was going to get a Mac. It was an interesting conversation because I immediately started to show off some of the Mac's features, firing up VMware Fusion and loading up Windows XP to show how quickly it runs.

In three short months I've gone from curious about Macs to a newbie user to a switcher that promotes Macs to strangers. I guess my conversion to the dark side is now complete.


Anonymous said…
Hope that this is not your last post on your blog about your conversion :(
Keep this blog up, please.

Anonymous said…
"I guess my conversion to the dark side is now complete."

I'd say rather that your conversion away from the dark side is now complete...

Anonymous said…
Good post. Not meaning to nitpick, but the phrase is "lo and behold," not "low and behold."
David Alison said…
@Anon: No, not the last post. I'll keep writing about things I find for my Mac.

@Shad: :-)

@Michael: Not nitpicking at all - fixed. Thanks man!
Anonymous said…
Well Shad beat me to it. You somehow got away from the Dark Side and joined the Rebellion.

8 years ago I felt like I was alone in a wilderness of Windows users. It's fun watching other switchers reactions to OS/X.

To paraphrase an old saying, Once you try (OS/X & Macs) you won't go back!
Anonymous said…
Nitpicking is allowed! Sweet!
"...the machine performed excellent." should read "...the machine performed excellently."
David Alison said…
Anonymous said…
Awesome post. I really feel like we've been sharing the same experiences. I bought my first Mac (MacBookPro) basically the same exact time that you bought your MacBook, and I found your blog at the same time as well. Great blog, can't wait to hear more.
Anonymous said…
I've been using Macs since 1986. Since the first iMac in 1998 I've been helping people switch from PCs. The amount of people switching is really accellerating. Now many of them have 2-3 Macs in their home and are helping others switch as well. I've now lost count. It's a good time to be a Mac user. OS X is the best OS on the market hands down.
Anonymous said…

I've been enjoying your blog for the past couple of months after I first saw it on digg. I switched to OS X in January, but am still having trouble getting used to the UI. I guess I'm still in the habit of wanting to maximize every window. As a longtime Windows user yourself, I'm curious how you've "coped" with this. Like you, I also have a MacBook (i.e. smaller screen) and perhaps this is why I'm still trying to maximize everything.

Anyway, thank you for keeping such a excellent blog! While I sometimes feel like a stranger in a strange land, you've been a great guide.
David Alison said…
@Ryan: thanks for the nice comments! I appreciate it.

@Anon: That was probably the biggest motivation for me to get the Mac Pro that I did. I need lots of screen real estate. I found that while I was focused on using the MacBook's screen that Spaces really helped a lot - it made me feel like the screen was significantly larger. Another thing you may want to consider is going out and picking up an external monitor. I tried hooking one up to my MacBook (you'll need a mini-DV adaptor to do it) but it's the way I would have gone had I not gone the Mac Pro route. Hope this helps!
Anonymous said…
Bud Says -

Been promoting Macs since 1984 ( yes, I'm that old ).
Only now are some listening, of course things have changed - quite a bit -
Most of my professional colleagues are using Macs due to their ability to operate across platforms - Windows and Unix -
People need to let others know of the alternatives. Yes, I've used DOS and Windows during those many years - My professional experience and livelihood have depended on the Windows "juggernaut", but IT Professionals can do better for our respective organizations. - Please continue to help to get the word out and educate those who are still in the "Microsoft Comfort Zone" -
Unknown said…
As a former Windows user, one thing I love about the Mac is the way it handles applications.

Installing and managing applications in Windows is a game of hide-n-seek. Every software application seems to handle it differently, but all seem to add menus to my Start menu and fill up my desktop with icons. In fact, most applications create a minimum of three icons: one for the application, one to uninstall the application, and one for help. The end result for a casual (i.e. non technical) user is a mile long, ten level deep Start menu and a desktop covered with useless icons (thank goodness for Window's built in Unused Icon Removal Tool).

Worst of all, to remove an application, you have to locate the uninstall icon or use Windows Add/Remove feature. Both of which seem to leave useless pieces of the application scattered across on my system.

On my Mac, installed applications are in the Application's directory (quickly accessible from the Finder window) and unless there are some special utility functions I might need to run, there is only one icon.

My Mac hides all the pieces and details of the application from me--and treats the application folder as the application. If I want to look inside I can (right mouse click and Show Package Contents), but I don't ever really care to do that. I have no need to sift through the files to find an exe. Just click the folder and it runs.

Best of all, to remove an application from my Mac, I simply drag it to the trash. Easy and intuitive.

I love my Mac. Thanks!
Anonymous said…
Your salvation back to the good side of the force is almost complete young Jedi. MS was / is always (another pre 1984 computer user) referred to as the evil empire amongst us. Seriously having used both MS and Mac (not Linux tho') here's a tip to help switchers unlearn Darkside habits.
The desktop should be used as such ie as you would take several manila folders (folder) from your filing cabinet (hard disk) and place them on the desktop, this is how you should use a windows based OS. MS Explorer is not an efficient file management tool and exposes users to the accidentally drag a folder to and let go in the wrong spot and lose it syndrome. To help those who may not understand this in a "short" post - discover "spring loaded folders" aspect of the Mac OS. This is not fully implemented across XP and below (haven’t used Vista yet).

Indeed, do not maximize everything - operate as a physical desktop. At the end of the day or work flow - file things. I find this analogy approach helps switchers and aged new computer users. Incidentally I have my PC set up in a similar way to my Mac and fellow users often ask ( in the office) how did I do that?

Nice piece, always difficult to get across the "it just works" (not quite always especially for tinkerers of course) message.
Anonymous said…
Well done. The Mac is like trying to describe the flavor of something.
Don said…
David, how's it going getting the wife to switch? I would so love to get a Mac Pro for the office but that is my wife's main machine (XP) and she is content with it.
David Alison said…
@Don: Funny you should ask - I was just thinking about my post for tomorrow and was going to write about it. Stay tuned!
Anonymous said…
@Anon and David:

Here's an interesting comparison of window management philosophies on Windows and OS X.
Anonymous said…
wait! here's a
better comparison.
Fred said…
Hi David
I have been promoting macs since 1984, sometimes I've been feeling alone.
Thinks are changing and I'm meeting more and more switchers.
The most interesting ones are, like you, ex-Windoze power users who can, much better than I do, explain why Macs and MacOSX are the good choice

All the best and keep up the good blogging !
Anonymous said…
The DARK SIDE is Microsoft Windows.

You have switched to the light.
This is why life is much better than before.

Once you were blind.
And now you can see - the better side of computing.
Anonymous said…
While I love my Mac, the industry standard is still Windows. I'd love for that to change, but some major things are going to have to happen in order for that to occur.

I've made my switch, but I still use XP at work.

Good article David, keep em up.
swissfondue said…
For many years, I was the lone Mac user in my neigbourhood. In the last year, the number of switchers has increased significantly. It is now seen as not ony cool, but also a sound decision to own a Mac.
Steve Hearn said…
I can echo your post here.... I made the switch in December 2007 when I treated myself to a new iMac. I have had some issues with the Mac and those are not my fault but all in all I prefer the Mac as it really does simply work and the hardware on the iMAc is all in one unit and so saves a lot of space in my studio, which is a real plus. Together with the no need for virus software (as yet!) I am pleased I made the move.
David Alison said…
@Steve: Unfortunately with the increasing popularity of Mac I'm sure some clowns will make it their mission to build Spyware, Trojans and other crap that targets Macs but for right now I'm really enjoying not worrying about it.
Xcalybur said…
I really think you are going to like VM Ware Fusion 2.0 when it comes out. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgjQd1gtkKM to see a video of some of the beta capabilities.

Oh, and 2.0 is free to 1.x customers.
David Alison said…
@Chris S: very cool video - thanks man. Looks really interesting.
Anonymous said…
Nicely written article.

I have been an Apple user (and PC at work) since the Apple IIc. My first Mac was the Mac Classic at work.

I am using a MacBook at work on a KVM switch with a Dell PC. When ever the Dell goes to la la land for 20 mins or so (a known bug that was "fixed" is SP2.... yea right. :-) )I pop over to the Mac on the same screen. :-)

PS. vs ""I guess my conversion to the dark side is now complete."

I'd say rather that your conversion away from the dark side is now complete..."

Welcome to the Force young Jedi. Remember to have pity for those still under the influence of the Dark Side. ......... :-)

Anonymous said…
Speaking of The Rebellion, John Doerr of the Silicon VC company Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers has publicly stated that he considers Steve Jobs, "Supreme Commander of the Rebels".

See for your self in the video announcing the iPhone Software Developers Kit. http://www.apple.com/quicktime/qtv/iphoneroadmap/
(John Doerr comes in at 1:12:33)

Unknown said…
I saw this on macdailynews.com today and luv it! If you or other new Mac users are unaware of some free utilities my favorite and best choice overall is called OnyX.
I've been using it for 5 years and for 4 different flavors of OS X without a problem.
Good luck!
Anonymous said…
I remember when I have switched last year from PC to mac. That was a little bit the same situation, to search a machine which just work well, without crashes, viruses and so.

I love my mac and older mac, like the previous G4 and the older iMac.

I have tried for the first time Vista, and I really dont like it. Its the same OS than the previous XP. Baaah. Stupid slow machines which can't do nothing :D


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