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What are the real elements that separate a MAC from a PC?


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#1 of 218 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted January 05 2007 - 11:14 PM

For months I have been posting countless messages asking
about various benefits of a MAC over a PC. Honestly, I have
been struggling to buy a Macintosh over the years, but every
time I have opted to purchase a PC for two reasons....

1. Everybody owns a PC. It is the dominant format and
will forever be dominant for most consumers.

2. Software. I have so much PC software that I don't want
to give up. My most favorite chat client and other programs
I use on a daily basis are exclusive to PC.

Now that Macintosh can run Windows via Parallels there seems
to be very little reason not to switch to Mac.

As I look to purchase another PC in the next few months I
am once again considering a Mac.

So my question is this....

What key elements involving the Mac OS and the way it
handles files and basic everyday operations impresses you the most?

In other words, and as an example, I have a friend that just
bought his first Mac. He sent me an email telling me how much
more he likes it over his PC. He failed, however, to be specific.

Just on the surface, when you start playing around with the
interface, immediately impresses you?

What is it that a Macintosh does above and beyond Windows
that would instantly embrace someone?

 

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#2 of 218 OFFLINE   Ed Moxley

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Posted January 05 2007 - 11:47 PM

I was a Mac person for many yrs.(about 12-13 yrs.)
Then they came out with OSX. I don't like OSX. The user friendliness, that Macs were known for, disappeared. The older Mac OS' didn't bury stuff so deep, in the system. Macs were very easy to troubleshoot. About 90% of a Mac's problems could be fixed, by trashing the preferences, for whatever app or hardware, you were having problems with. Then, when you reopened the app, or rebooted (after hardware problem), it would automatically rebuild a new set of prefs, and all was good again.

When OSX came along, you had to completely relearn the OS. The new OS was nothing like the old ones. I'd still be using a Mac, if they were still using OS9. OSX is pretty to look at though. A lot of folks love OSX. I'm sure you'll get some people here, praising OSX. Even with the few crashing problems OS9 had, it was still a lot more stable, than Windows, until XP came along.

Another big advantage Macs had, was no real problems with virus' and malware. In all the yrs. I've owned a Mac, I've never had a virus! I'm thinking that may change now, with having Intel processors, and running XP. The XP side of it can, and surely will get virus', and probably affect the Mac side of things.

The new Macs, than can run OSX and XP, seems to be an ideal setup. I've always felt that everyone should know how to use both, a Mac and a PC. You, having never used the older Mac OS', can probably slide right into OSX, and never know the difference, in ease of use.............
Good luck!

I probably didn't tell you exactly what you were looking for, but it's hard to put your finger right on the differences, and explain them. It's hard for me anyway. You can nit pick at things, like putting "bullets" on a form, was extremely easy. Hold down the Option Key, and type the number 8 (Option-8). No easy way, that we've found, to do bullets on a PC. No big deal, unless you're doing graphic arts or desktop publishing.............. Posted Image
Samsung HL61A750 (LED DLP)            Onkyo TX-SR805
Oppo BDP-83 Blu ray                                  Polk Audio LSi9
Polk Audio LSiC                                  Sony SS-MB100H
SVS PC12-NSD (Sub)                       ...

#3 of 218 OFFLINE   Kimmo Jaskari

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Posted January 06 2007 - 03:07 AM

Mac OS 9 was so technically inferior they had to let it go. Perhaps it wasn't excessively crash prone, but it didn't as I recall even do real multitasking (pre-emptive; Mac OS 9 and below had cooperative multitasking as did Windows 3.x - ugh), and memory protection between apps (stuff that, among other things, keeps one app from crashing all the rest) was missing. Memory management in general was pretty godawful, and then you had those fun situations where extension warred with extension (not that I've personally had to debug Mac OS 9 much at all.)

Anyway, compared to even Windows NT, the inner workings of Mac OS 9 sucks, which Apple realized and so they needed a far more robust foundation to build on, and they picked a unix variation for that and tacked the Aqua GUI on top of and presto, you have Mac OS X.

I'm not sure I can really enumerate either what makes the Macs different, I have used them only a little, but it is quite different, especially in the long run. It looks a lot better than plain Windows (though you can dress Windows up a lot if you get addons) but it also acts differently. Many things in Mac OS X are quite elegant and it does add upp to a nice experience. Also, security-wise, you need to be a great deal more "on the ball" with Windows - get protective software, patch religiously, etc.

Bottom line - with an X86 mac, you get both a great Mac and a great PC, so there is no reason not to get one if your focus isn't PC gaming. For gaming, PC's still reign supreme. You can game on an X86 Mac with Windows on it, but the graphics hardware is rarely up to the PC state of the art - and if it is, you have paid a crapload of money for that Mac. Posted Image

You may want to take a look a this Informationweek article. It discusses Mac OS X vs Vista a bit.
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#4 of 218 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted January 06 2007 - 04:57 AM

If you go with a Mac, I highly recommend getting a book about OSX or subscribing to MacWorld magazine. Not because you NEED a book to use the OS, but because there are so many "hidden" tips and secrets that can improve your efficiency. For example, I just learned about how to better use the spring loaded folder feature (turn off the auto setting and use the space bar to spring open the folder instead), which was always sort of a frustrating thing if my dragging precision was off.

As far as what makes the Mac OS different or better, my accolade is ultimately for a third party app (Butler, but there are others like it) that allows me to launch programs by hitting a keystroke and then typing in the first couple letters of the program name. Personally I don't like to mouse to everything and prefer keeping my hands on the keyboard as much as possible.

So this ultimately hits on why I like Macs - the plethora of third party apps - many of them free or for nominal fees - that enhance the OS or programs like iTunes. Usually I'll use an app for awhile, then find something I would like it to do, that it doesn't do natively. A visit to Versiontracker inevitably yields some options to allow me to do what I want.

For example, I wanted to be able to see what was playing on iTunes (I have a lot of music and I don't always recognize the artist or track name) while I'm working without having to switch away from what I'm doing. There are several apps that place that info in the menu bar, so all I have to do is glance up to see what's playing. The aforementioned Butler also has universal keystroke commands to control iTunes without switching to the app, so I can stop, start, go back or forward, change volume without ever leaving my current program. If you also maintain the default save location of your iTunes Library, you can start playing any song by keystroke, the same as with launching apps.

So to sum up, I like Macs because I can inexpensively customize things more to my liking than I ever could with Windows.
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#5 of 218 ONLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 06 2007 - 09:15 AM

Ron, I don't think you're going to find the silver bullet answer you're looking for. For most people, it's an emotional or style choice rather than a bullet list of features. Having played with my wife's Mac some, I find that it's different; not always better, and sometimes worse. But the whole of it is a different feel. And in many ways, it just looks better.

There are little features that work better such as pop-up windows: dragging a file over a directory causes that directory to automatically open, so you can continue to dig to the file location you want to move. There's no equivalent in Windows.

But it's worse in other ways: you can't cut/paste files in a Mac as you can with Windows to move them from location to location. And the weaker keyboard shortcut system (as far as I can tell) hinders me.

Still, I may buy an iMac this year for my next PC. There are a few reasons.

The emotional reason is that I'm tired of Windows. It's dull. The joy of computing is gone for me from Windows. Nothing substantial in my experience, except stability, has changed in 10 years. I just want something different. I'm also weary of the dominant mediocrity of Microsft. I want more excellence in my life.

Second, I'm interested in hobbyist video editing and iLife is a great program suite for me. For $99 I don't know of program suite for Windows that supports the quality of video editing (still and motion) and DVD creation (menus and burning).

Third, practically, I don't do work at home anymore. I don't run "professional" apps (Matlab, Mathematica, CodeV, Visual C) anymore. So there's nothing a Mac can't do for me anymore.

Fourth, and most importantly, the Mac is no longer a one-way street. If it turns out I don't like OSX, I can install WindowsXP and run it as an expensive PC.

The key issues holding me back are: significant price premium, uncertainty of OSX's true superiority to WinXP, inferior video card / gaming options, and fewer choices in free/shareware.

#6 of 218 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted January 06 2007 - 09:31 AM

Quote:
you can't cut/paste files in a Mac as you can with Windows to move them from location to location
Right click on a file and you get "Copy (file name)"; go to another folder and you have the option to "Paste Item."

Quote:
dragging a file over a directory causes that directory to automatically open, so you can continue to dig to the file location you want to move. There's no equivalent in Windows.
That's the spring loaded folder feature I mentioned.

And maybe it's the particular types of freeware/shareware I'm looking for, but there certainly seem to be more available than I was ever able to find for Windows.

But I do tend to agree that one OS is not necessarily better than the other. I use both platforms at work and there are certain things I like better on Windows. I ultimately chose Mac for myself for the same reasons Dave mentioned.
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#7 of 218 ONLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 06 2007 - 10:08 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Yee
Right click on a file and you get "Copy (file name)"; go to another folder and you have the option to "Paste Item."
I said "Cut/Paste", not "Copy/Paste".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Yee
And maybe it's the particular types of freeware/shareware I'm looking for, but there certainly seem to be more available than I was ever able to find for Windows.
I've not looked at Mac shareware extensively, but my experience is there is endless freeware and shareware for the PC. For the Mac side, there are very good apps, but a smaller selection.

#8 of 218 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted January 06 2007 - 10:12 AM

Quote:
I said "Cut/Paste", not "Copy/Paste".
Oops. Sorry. Yeah, that's missing, but now that I have a better handle on the spring loaded folder thing I don't think I'll miss it so much.
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#9 of 218 OFFLINE   JeremyErwin

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Posted January 06 2007 - 03:35 PM

One of the nice things about MacOSX is that underneath, it's BSD. That means that there's a lot of linux and unix software that has been ported.
Want a numerical analysis program? Use "octave"
Want visualization software? Use "OpenDx"
Want a c compiler? Use "gcc"...


The macintosh side is also pretty easy to program-- there's a free IDE-- Xcode, and Objective C lends itself to creating GUI programs.

But maybe you have to be a hacker to appreciate such things.

On the other hand, if you don't like unix, it can be left alone. Just don't open Terminal.app.

#10 of 218 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted January 06 2007 - 07:13 PM

Quote:
What are the real elements that separate a MAC from a PC?
Steve Jobs. He's a much better showman than Gates.
Quote:
What is it that a Macintosh does above and beyond Windows that would instantly embrace someone?
It looks very pretty and is more streamlined. Which is fine until you need to access areas that have been streamlined into the deep dark recesses of the OS. I think it's probably easier for the casual computer user. I've had no problems interfacing with Mac workstations on campus. But I like feeling in control of my operating system, and understanding how it ticks. OS X hides the insides more.

OS aside, I'd miss the vast selection of programs available for PC. Some industries are Mac driven, but there's usually a rougher PC knock-off or port that will get the job done too. Some fields that aren't Mac driven are comparatively very limited in ports and knockoffs. My roommate's a musician, and he's got a Mac laptop (iBook? Powerbook? Hell if I know...) for certain programs that were designed for macs. But as often as not he'll be looking to do something I already do on my Inspiron notebook, and the apps just aren't there for him.

One thing I do think I'd like in built-in Widgets. He makes pretty handy use of them. But apparently, Vista has them built-in too, so that might become a moot point.

Here's the real question: What has driven you to "stuggle" to buy a Mac over the years? Is it the buzz? Is it the cool factor? And, if it's sometime more concrete, is that something enough to seal the deal?

Also, do you like the start bar/menu? That's the thing I find I miss the most when using a Mac. Those bouncing icons just aren't the same.

#11 of 218 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted January 06 2007 - 09:48 PM

Quote:
Here's the real question: What has driven you to "struggle" to buy a Mac over the years?

Curiosity would be one factor. Windows boredom another.

Moreso, I think it's the fact that lately, I have had so many
problems with my Windows based PC. I get lots of blue screen
crashes and I find myself having to constantly reformat or
restore my drive from backup because I installed a program
that is incompatible with another.

My hopes, with a Macintosh, is that all programs will work
more fluently with each other and that there won't be any
sort of blue screen crashes......

....of course, since I'll be running just as many Windows programs
inside parallels, I don't expect the situation to improve.....

And this is the problem....

I have too many Windows programs. My entire business runs
on Microsoft Outlook (for email) and Office that integrates all
my contacts and appointments with my PDA and Blackberry.

I can't see running that fluently under Macintosh. Even if
you guys tell me that Parallels will do a great job running it,
I still have so many Windows programs that I'll essentially
be running a "Windows inside Mac environment" setup. In
that case, I think I'm still better off getting a PC.

 

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#12 of 218 OFFLINE   Paul_Sjordal

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Posted January 06 2007 - 11:46 PM

I provided IT support for Macs for years, but changed jobs to a PC-only company back in the MacOS 9.x days, before OSX came out.

One of the big differences is price. Due to economy of (small) scale and the fact that Apple has no direct competition within the Mac market, Macintosh products are more expensive than their PC counterparts, pound for pound. Not only are they more expensive to buy, but they can be more expensive to repair depending on what breaks. At least these days Macs use the same RAM, CPU, hard drives, etc. as most PCs, so the only thing Apple can gouge you for is if you need to replace the motherboard or the case.

Another consequence of this niche monopoly is Apple itself. If you think Microsoft can be draconian, you haven't spent enough time watching what Apple does with the Macintosh community.

The major upside to the monopoly is that you don't have to worry about compatibility issues, seeing as all the parts come from the same company. With PCs, you never know if using part X with part Y will cause application Z to blow up because the developers of application Z never tested it with both X and Y in the same machine.

There is also an advantage to the small size of the Mac community: there's a lot less malware written for the Macintosh platform than for Windows computers. The Mac market simply represents too small a target for most malicious programmers to bother with. Back in the OS 9.x days when I was providing support for Macs, viruses appeared "in the wild" at a rate of about one every other year. I imagine it's very similar nowadays, but I can't say for sure.

If you regularly read a Mac tech news site, you can actually get away with not running antivirus software at all. You can just install and run the AV software when an actual outbreak occurs.

I don't know how things are under OSX, but in the OS9 days, I can tell you Macintosh's reputation for stability wasn't entirely earned. By the time of OS9, the Control Panel and Extensions folders (they don't mean anything in OSX) had become so bloated that stability on an OS9 computer was about the same as you would find on a Win95-98 computer of the same era. A lot of those problems had to do with the fact that the platform was maintaining backwards compatibility going all the way back to the earliest Macintosh models. OSX should have cleared a lot of that up.

The G4/G5-style cases (I think they're calling those "Mac Pros" now) are a true joy for a computer tech to work on. Every computer case should be so easy to get in and out of. Apple compensates for that by making their laptops a nightmare to work on. Not only are they a pain to get in and out of, but Apple engineers have some compulsion to fill the interiors with thin sheets of metal guaranteed to shred your fingers. I must have bloodied my hands on every third or fourth Mac laptop I worked on.
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#13 of 218 OFFLINE   JeremyErwin

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Posted January 07 2007 - 02:40 AM

Quote:
I don't know how things are under OSX, but in the OS9 days, I can tell you Macintosh's reputation for stability wasn't entirely earned. By the time of OS9, the Control Panel and Extensions folders (they don't mean anything in OSX) had become so bloated that stability on an OS9 computer was about the same as you would find on a Win95-98 computer of the same era. A lot of those problems had to do with the fact that the platform was maintaining backwards compatibility going all the way back to the earliest Macintosh models. OSX should have cleared a lot of that up.

It did. OS9 is obsolete, uses an older user interface, and doesn't run most mac software... OSX is essentially Nextstep (Jobs's old unix variant) with a lot of improvements, and a mac interface. It should not crash.

#14 of 218 OFFLINE   JeremyErwin

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Posted January 07 2007 - 02:43 AM

Microsoft also has a well regarded port of Office to MacOSX. Entourage (the mail client) may be fully compatible with whatever customizations your office has done to Outlook.

#15 of 218 OFFLINE   Paul_Sjordal

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Posted January 07 2007 - 11:11 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeremyErwin
Microsoft also has a well regarded port of Office to MacOSX. Entourage (the mail client) may be fully compatible with whatever customizations your office has done to Outlook.
I can't say enough good about the Macintosh version of MS Office. Microsoft has the largest team of Macintosh programmers outside of Apple, and Office is pretty much their crowning glory. I was pleasantly shocked to discover that even my most convoluted MS Office macros developed on Mac Office worked seamlessly with Windows versions of Office.
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#16 of 218 OFFLINE   Kimmo Jaskari

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Posted January 07 2007 - 11:36 AM

It should be emphasized here that one can do a lot to freshen up the user experience of running Windows XP with fairly easy means. If the Aqua user interface from Mac seems holy grail-ish (I personally love it and use it on my Windows XP desktop) one just needs to get StyleXP from www.tgtsoft.com and then find a little freeware program called YzShadow to make windows show drop shadows. Boom, a Mac-lookalike though you are still using your old Windows apps (of which most will adapt the Aqua look and buttons by default.)

Since StyleXP just enables using unsigned Windows visual styles (that can also be done by patching a DLL in windows, but StyleXP is much easier) Windows is just as responsive and usable with it, and there are a lot of different styles to choose from on any number of skinning sites.

Stuff like spring loaded folders may be useful, but personally I'd very rarely use it - I prefer using a real multi-pane explorer replacement which allows moving and shifting files around with ease.

Out of the box, the Mac probably does have the edge over Windows look and feel. I've always admired the Apple designers, they do fantastic work on both the software and the hardware. Still, plain XP with a bunch of assorted must-have addons and you have a pretty cool computer too.
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#17 of 218 OFFLINE   Andrew Pratt

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Posted January 07 2007 - 11:58 AM

I use AquaDock on my XP box to get the Mac toolbar. Its freeware that works very well.

#18 of 218 OFFLINE   JeremyErwin

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Posted January 07 2007 - 12:56 PM

InformationWeek did a comparison of MacOSX and Windows Vista The gist of the article was that MacOSX was still more polished than Vista, and that Vista hardly represented six years of real effort.

However, what most impressed the reviewer about MacOSX was not the eye candy, or even some of the innovative features, such as Spotlight, but instead how these features fit together. Windows can be tweaked to look like MacOSX, but it can't really be tweaked to feel like it.

On the other hand, I ditched windows before I even tried 2000, and my idea of a power system is unix-like. Whenever I need to do something that the GUI won't let me do, I open up a bash shell...

#19 of 218 OFFLINE   Ken Chan

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Posted January 07 2007 - 02:36 PM

The difference is that Apple is committed to a better customer experience. This includes the physical hardware, the OS, the included apps (iLife), their services (iTunes store), and the APIs they provide to third-party developers to make cool stuff (more coming with Leopard). I'm not sure what motivates Microsoft Posted Image They probably honestly want to do better, but they're repeatedly hampered by... something. Of course Apple is far from perfect, but compared to Windows: given the resources that Microsoft has, you'd think they'd do a better job, at a better pace.

Quote:
Everybody owns a PC. It is the dominant format and will forever be dominant for most consumers.
Forever is a long time. I will speculate that there's a 50/50 chance Windows will lose its dominance in our lifetime.

Quote:
In all the yrs. I've owned a Mac, I've never had a virus! I'm thinking that may change now, with having Intel processors, and running XP. The XP side of it can, and surely will get virus', and probably affect the Mac side of things.
With dual boot, the XP partition can get infected, and then alter the Mac partition, since it has free reign over the computer. It would have to be specifically written to do this, and do all the work itself, since the Mac partition is foreign. But with virtualization like Parallels, the guest operating system (XP) "runs in a box" and can't affect the host (Mac), unless there's a specific bug/exploit. For example, there's a feature to copy/paste from the guest to the host, and if there's a bug that copying a certain thing causes an overrun, then maybe something is possible. But it's unlikely.

Quote:
the weaker keyboard shortcut system
You can create custom keyboard shortcuts for any app's menu items. Another nice thing is the way the Option key works with some items. If the menu is visible, pressing the Option key will change some items and show how they will work differently. For example, under the Apple menu, Restart and Shutdown have ellipses (Restart...) which indicate that you get a confirmation dialog. But if you hold down Option, the ellipses go away, meaning that choosing the item will cause the action immediately. In the Finder's File menu, Close Window becomes Close All.

Quote:
significant price premium
Apple choses not to play at the low end, so yes, the cheapest Mac you can get is the compact Mac mini, which is more expensive than the cheapest PC. Comparing the iMac is tricky, because it is also compact with a built-in LCD. But at the high end, you can make direct comparisons, and (today) the suggested Mac Pro is two-thirds the cost of an equivalent Dell workstation ($2499 vs $3662). Now obviously you can play games with configs, sweet spots, coupons, and whatever, but apparently, sometimes the Mac is cheaper, sometimes significantly so.

#20 of 218 ONLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 07 2007 - 03:22 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein
I have too many Windows programs. My entire business runs
on Microsoft Outlook (for email) and Office that integrates all
my contacts and appointments with my PDA and Blackberry.

I can't see running that fluently under Macintosh. Even if
you guys tell me that Parallels will do a great job running it,
I still have so many Windows programs that I'll essentially
be running a "Windows inside Mac environment" setup. In
that case, I think I'm still better off getting a PC.
Ron -- you're asking about things on which your day-to-day business and livelihood depends. And you've been asking them for a year (?) or more now. If you're truly interested in shifting your business to the Mac, spend the money and just get the answers you need. Two possible routes:

- Buy a Mac and the necessary software, invest the time to set it up, and see if you can shadow your business needs on it. For about $1000 you can get a Mini, Office, Parallels, and get going with an extra mouse, keyboard and monitor you (presumably) have on hand. If it doesn't work, then it was a somewhat expensive business expense. But at least you learned something. And if it does work, well, questions answered. Posted Image

- Hire a Mac IT consultant, and task him with designing a system, hardware and software, to meet your business requirements. This ought to take less than 10 hours, so again under $1000, and only a few hours of your time.

And tell us what you learn! Posted Image


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