Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why even consider a Mac? (Part 2)

In my last entry, I gave you some back story on my decision making process for getting a Mac. In this entry I will continue where I left off and also get into a few more specific reasons. And since my Mac hasn't arrived yet, I will also bring up a few apprehensions based on some of the research and discussions with others I've had on the subject. If you want to skip the back story and go straight to my reasons for buying a MacBook pro, click here.

So the iPad was what started me down the path of making the move toward a switch. I have always been into technology so it wasn't much of a stretch for me to pick one up. As I alluded to in my last blog entry, I almost called it quits because of my frustration and I want to provide a little more insight into that because it actually taught me a lot about Apple and in the end made me a stronger customer.

Let me take you back to April of 2010. I purchased my iPad and was quite thrilled to play with it. I got it home and out of the box... It was awesome for the first week or so. However, it started asking me to synch with ITunes every time I turned it on or hit the home button. Since I bought it from Best Buy, it was still within the warranty so I took it back in hopes of a replacement. Unfortunately there were no iPads in stock so they couldn't help me-- talk about a sad day! At least they gave me a no hassle return. Fast forward a week and still no iPad to speak for.  I decided to look at other options. In the end, I went straight to the source to place my order. I called Apple and explained my frustrating dilemma (most of which I chalked up to being an early adopter). They seemed to have sympathy for me and told me I'd be first in line for a new one, shipping out the next day. Little did I know that meant straight from the factory in China! After talking to the customer tech, I was under the impression that it was going to be arriving at my house the next day or two. I had tasted the iPad goodness and needed my fix badly!

I then decided to call back customer service and see if there was anything they could do to help me understand why I wasn't going to get my iPad immediately. Instead of the usual 3 or 4 escalations to get someone who could actually help, I only had to escalate once- and both individuals I spoke to were "native English speakers", a huge plus in my book. After spending a few minutes politely describing my frustration, the customer service rep asked me if there was anything they could do to help. I was hopeful (but doubtful) and simply asked them if they could throw in a case for my troubles... and much to my surprise they did! Apple immediately rose to the top of my customer service experience after that. My second iPad was on it's way, along with a free case, which I think retailed around $30.

That was iPad #2, but there is more to this story as I am actually on my third iPad! Not long after leaving the shipping docks of somewhere in China,  iPad #2 crapped out on me, sometime around November/ December of 2010. Ironically it had the exact opposite problem that the first one had. I could no longer synch it with my computer. At all. The only reason I learned of this issue was because iOS 4 for the iPad had been released and I wanted to upgrade, but no dice! To add injury to insult, I had not once backed it up so a lot of my purchased apps had to be Downloaded again (which was somewhat painstaking, and will potentially be the subject of a future rant).

When my second iPad had issues, I was able to try out the Apple Store at Easton (A suburb of Columbus, OH) which lead to another positive experience. I took the iPad in and the "genius" gave it a quick diagnostic. A few minutes later he emerged and informed me I needed a new one. I was glad he didn't make it any more painful than it needed to be, no questions asked. Naturally it was around the holidays, so there were no iPads available  to take home that day. Fortunately, I only had to live without it a few days- the replacement was shipped free to my home. I am now on my third iPad with no issues so far. Third time's a charm, eh? I did purchase one year of Apple Care and I think that was a very good idea, though my iPad parts and labor were covered the first year. I plan on getting the 3 year Apple Care for my new MacBook- fortunately I have some time to decide if I want to do that.

In summary, my iPad experience had a big play in my decision making process. It wasn't just the awesome capabilities, portability, and stunning screen. What really impressed me was the way Apple treats their customers and I hope they continue to do so. Since my iPad experience, I have visited at least 2 other apple stores including those in Ann Arbor, MI and San Francisco, CA. I've have had very positive experiences despite the hundreds of other customers in there. Well done, Apple!

Now onto more specific reasons on my decision making process, since I did promise those. These are more or less in rank order. I will try to enumerate them with a bit more brevity though may take a tangent or two along the way.

1. I am an avid camera and video geek. It is generally known (amongst that particular geek subculture, anyway) that Apple provides much more stable and intuitive software when it comes to making a multi-media master piece. One reason is that apple largely controls the hardware it supports. Thus, things that cause problems with high end HD editing on PC platforms due to chipsets, drivers and other issues don't tend to occur as much on Macs. How do I know this? I visit a lot of video forums (such as dvinfo.net), speak with people who do it professionally and academically, and they all use and love The Mac. I also have a fairly high end PC (an intel i7-920), but despite that I experience frequent lock ups and crashes when working with HD video, especially if it is encoded with H.264.

2. Similar to reason #1, I want to be on a solid portable platform that I can record and mixdown music on. I have been using my iPad for some basic recording but I still go back to the PC for editing. The PC is also  stuck in the basement and consequently, not an ideal place for recording music.

3. I am active with my Church and help with many technical things including our web site, taking pictures during activities, creating videos, and helping lead the music. Our resident sound man / professional video guru is quite the Mac expert and creates professional quality videos  for the Church. I'd like to be able to learn the "Mac Way" and potentially help him out once I am up to speed.

4. I see what Apple has done in the mobility space and I am a firm believer that the industry is heading this way. As a manager of technology (including mobile solutions) I want to gain more insight into Objective C, which can (for the most part) only be developed on a Mac. I plan on getting some development experience under my belt with this platform. Additionally I have a long background of developing Microsoft technology and I have noticed a niche of developers moving to the MacBook pro. It can run Windows 7 as well as any PC and the build quality is superior. I just have to decide on Parallels or VMware Fusion.

5. Before I ventured in to Windows, I was a Linux user. I totally love the command line and learned all about Unix in my early college / late high school days. I hosted a Linux web server in my dorm room for some time and learned the language of the web (perl script, html, and later javascript) first, on that platform Having said that, Mac moved to a Unix platform when they went to the latest version of their operating system- OSX. I am very much looking forward to utilizing the command line (which I do as well in the PC, but it's not quite the same).

So those are pretty much my top reasons for going Mac without getting into some of the more obscure techie talk. I could write another post or two about the new 35nm Sandy Bridge quad core cpu with hyperthereading, the 10 gb/sec thunderbolt ports that essentially give you the ability to have external pci devices; high end internal video cards in the MBP, aluminum unibody, etc. Those all factored in to my decision as well, but the above reasons, along with my experiences to date with Apple (I didn't even mention my iPhone) have made my decision a pretty easy one.

You can probably tell that my expectations are pretty high, and you'd be right. But I am not naive, especially when it comes to technology. Thus, there are a few areas of apprehension and I know it will be tough as I pick up the new platform. The reality is, I will  never leave the PC platform either- I will continue to use it for work since that is the corporate standard. Here are some of the challenges I'm anticipating:

1. The new keyboard and all the commands. I usually am not a big mouse person and know most of the common shortcut key combos on the PC (alt f4, cntrl c/x cntrl p, cntrl a, alt tab, shift alt tab, cntrl home and end, cntrl arrow, etc). I recently learned there isn't even a home or end key on the mac. I know that is going to take some getting used to. Before I buy a USB keyboard or install a mapper, I want to get immersed and give it a shot the way Jobs intended it. We'll see how long I can last :)

2. The way that the windows icons on the top left (opposes to top right) work, particularly the lack of a maximize to full screen button. I heard this was fixed in Lion but I am guessing there will still be some differences. When I played around with the Mac at the apple store, I found myself scratching my head a bit especially when it came to the mouse and the window icons.

3. Probably the biggest concern is what I call the Steve Jobs factor. "who needs flash?" and most recently "who needs USB 3.0?"... Now that Steve has stepped down I do hope Apple changes its tune on some of these things. They are defacto industry standards and there doesn't seem to be a good reason not to adopt them- at least not that I have heard. To help mitigate this concern,  I went 17" versus 15" was because of the expansion port, hoping that a component manufacturer will introduce USB 3.0 (I think Lacie is working on one already). Sure, thunderbolt will kick some serious butt... That doesn't mean the industry is going to wildly adopt it. Especially if it is primarily a Mac thing. It shouldn't be, as Intel is supporting it and  they have basically said no USB 3.0 chipsets on their boards. For now.

Well folks, there you have it. I hope you have enjoyed reading my saga, and maybe it will help you in you journey as well! Stay tuned for more.  My next Mac Adventure entry will probably be when I unbox it sometime next week, assuming all goes well.


  1. Good stuff Greg, have fun. While you're learning Objective C, it might be interesting to play with Mono at the same time to compare productivity vs. stability, functionality, etc. I'm looking forward to see what Xamarin does in terms of bringing portability of code between WP7 and iPhone.

  2. Thanks Mark! I remember playing with mono several years ago. I compiled some code from a library class that I had written to do some basic data processing for market research data. It worked pretty well once I got all the windows specific stuff out of there (there were some issues with how I was reading in directory/ file paths). I am sure I'll be puttering with it as well. Have heard much about Xamarin- will have to check that out.