Oct 12, 2007

10 Reasons Why I Use a Mac

So I've been using a Mac in some way or another for just about a year and a half now. I had long been a user of Windows and even DOS. About 4 years ago I started to experiment with Linux and liked it, but was deterred by how difficult it was to do what should be simple, like watch a DVD. I had long been a Mac hater. Like most Mac haters, it was the culture more than anything that turned me off. The other big reason I hated it was because I thought it didn't have any power for anyone that wanted to get "real" work done.

Now that I have switched to a Mac, I am amazed at how much I love it. It's not perfect, mind you, but it is by far the best experience I've ever had on a personal computer. As much as I love it, I am astounded when I see people buy a computer without taking into consideration a Mac. So I thought I would list 10 reasons why I use a Mac to see if I can illustrate why it should be considered. This is not meant to be a marketing post for Apple. It's just a way for me to explain why I will stick with Apple over Windows.

1. *nix
The number 1 reason I love my Mac so much is because of the BSD Unix that it runs on. This not only provides me with the memory management, file system, and folder structure that is characteristic of such a system, but it gives me the ability to harness the power of a true terminal / shell. Although this may not be a big deal for most users, it's a huge deal to me. I love my bash prompt. iTerm is almost always running and I love it because I can simply and quickly accomplish many things that make everyday use of my computer more pleasing and more effective.

The other fantastic benefit of using a traditional Unix folder structure is that I no longer have to deal with the Windows Registry. If I backup my home folder and my computer completely dies, I can restore my home folder and I'm back up and running, preferences, settings, and all, in no time. You would never dream of doing this in Windows.

2. Nagging
I can't stand Operating Systems that want to tell you everything they are doing... constantly. Windows will not leave you alone no matter what you want to do. I often sit in meetings with people trying to demo something on Windows. It literally takes them as much as 10 times longer to do something than it should because they have to confirm that they really want to do something. Windows also constantly wants to brag about how it does something for you. The little popup in the bottom right corner wants to inform you every time Windows accomplishes anything. I'm sorry, but this is annoying.

For the most part, OS X only notifies you if something goes wrong. I don't get a popup for everything and anything it does. It's clean and it leaves you alone so you can do your work.

3. Organization
When I switched from Windows to a Mac I wanted to copy photos, music, and documents to my Mac. Then it hit me, I had no idea, despite my best efforts to organize, where all that stuff was! Sure, I had "My Music", "My Documents", and "My Pictures" folders but almost every app I used on Windows put their stuff anywhere they liked on my hard drive. It was a nightmare trying to figure out where everything was. In fact, I just gave up and started over bringing this stuff to my Mac from it's original source.

iLife (iTunes & iPhoto in particular) has changed everything. All my music is now well organized. My documents are all in one place. My photos are all neatly organized and easily accessible. That is how it should be. My "Home" folder has everything that I want in it. I can quickly and simply find everything that belongs to me on my computer.

4. Stability
My first Mac was a Mac Mini G4. My wife still uses this computer and it is the main computer that the family uses to browse the web, manage finances, and maintain music, photos, and home movies. This little box has NEVER locked up or forced us to reboot. The only time it is rebooted is when we shut it off when we go on vacations and when we install updates that require a reboot (about once a month). That's it!

I would never dream of having this stability on Windows. When using Windows, I had the habit of making sure I completely shut it down when I was finished using it. Then when it was time to use it again, I had to wait for it to boot. Routinely as the day went on, I would have to reboot to regain speed that I was losing as the day progressed. Again, this is just not going to allow you to be effective in your work.

5. Automation
Part of using a computer is repetition. We do the same things all the time. Sometime those things are monotonous and just take too much time. Enter Automator, Applescript, and the shell. I love to find ways to work smarter. These tools on the Mac help me do that by automating repetitious activities. For example, one of the tools I use leaves little "buffer" files all over the hard drive. (Note, this is an Oracle product...) So, at 8:00 every morning, an Automator task automatically launches, finds all of these pesky buffer files on my hard drive, and deletes them for me. I have also used Automator to setup development environments, swap my command and alt keys for me when using a Microsoft Keyboard, mount network folders, backup Podcasts, and manipulate large amounts of images all at once.

6. Simplicity & Usability
OS X and accompanying applications excel at letting you do things that should be easy without any hassle while not completely taking away full control. For example, when I plug in my digital camera, iPhoto detects it and lets me download my pictures into my library by pushing 1 button. It even alerts me if I, for some reason, had already downloaded that picture before so that I don't get duplicates. This seems like such a simple thing, but I can't tell you how many times I've had to try to sort out duplicates and try to find lost photos on a Windows machine.

This is just an example. Simplicity is one of the hallmarks of OS X. It's in Apple Mail, iPhoto, iTunes, etc. It's what made the iPod what it is. I not only appreciate it, but it's the first thing I notice that is missing when I use Windows.

7. Control
OS X puts all the controls for my machine in one place, "System Preferences". When I first started using OS X, I was constantly looking for the "Control Panel" equivalent. I couldn't believe that everything I needed was in the "System Preferences". Well, after a while I realized that System Preferences is a very simple interface where I could easy find network settings, display settings, keyboard settings, etc. It was all there, neatly organized for me and, most importantly, easily accessible. Here's the test. Without using the Windows command prompt, how many clicks away are you from knowing your IP Address. I can tell you, it's a lot more than the 3 clicks I use to find it in OS X.

When problems do arise, and they do, I appreciate that I can always bring up my terminal and quickly get to the guts of my system to fix problems. This requires a little bit more know-how, but since I have the knowledge, I appreciate it. This isn't so with Windows. When you have a problem, there just aren't available (in the OS ) the tools that you have in OS X.

8. Security
I can keep this one really short. No viruses, no trojans, no zombies, no spyware, no worries. I've never had to even think about security since moving to a Mac. And I don't have to run a resource heavy virus scanning tool. It's a whole new world on OS X; it's a breath of fresh air! Sure, there are still security risks. But OS X takes care of the majority of them for me, so much so that I don't even worry about it.

9. Quality
Again, I can keep this one short. Using OS X is like moving into a new house. Everything is clean and crisp. It looks nice and feels nice. Everything works the way it should. You don't feel like you have to constantly fix things that are broken. It just works and works great.

10. Applications
Most OS X applications I use are fantastic. They are well built, simple, powerful, and fun to use. My favorites include Quicksilver, Journler, iTerm, TextMate, Adium, Skim, Voodoo Pad, and of course the iLife suite. Not to mention the oft overlooked applications that just come with OS X: Mail, iCal, and Address Book. I love the consistent user experience, integration, and quality that I get with these applications.

I should also note that it is marvelous to not have to deal with Windows Installer. Most apps install simply by dragging an icon to my Applications folder. This stumped me when I first switched to a Mac because I was used to applications needing to install components all over the hard drive and registry. Not anymore! Click and drag... wonderful and liberating.

I've really hyped up what I love about my Mac in this post. OS X and being a part of the Apple culture does have its flaws. In addition, there are things on Windows that I miss (window resizing and decent Family History software to name just 2). But for the most part I will use my Mac over a Windows PC any day.

I hope this post was helpful to some of you who may not have considered a Mac, or are contemplating buying a new PC in the future. I have not listed all of the things I love about my Mac, but I offer these these things to ponder and consider. Good luck making your decision!

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