apple, technology, windows

taking the plunge with apple

Let me state right up front, this turned out to be a much longer post than I had antic­i­pated. My apolo­gies for those accus­tomed to short-form, non-rambling blog posts.

If there was any doubt that I am truly not anti-Apple, I think that can now be laid to rest. As of yes­ter­day (around 1 pm to be exact), I took the plunge and pur­chased not one, but two Apple com­put­ers. I know peo­ple jok­ingly say “Come to the Dark Side,” but that always sounded so/too nefar­i­ous to me. I’ll just say that after doing a con­sid­er­able amount of research, I actu­ally went against my ini­tial instinct and decided on Apple. I’ll get to what I picked up in a moment, but I feel that last sen­tence needs to be fleshed out a little.

Ever since 1999, my clos­est friend, Dotch, has been an Apple guy. I have fond mem­o­ries of him clear­ing (and clean­ing) space on his dorm desk in unbri­dled excite­ment and antic­i­pa­tion of the place­ment of his new Mac. I, too, was excited about a com­puter. My dad bought me a lap­top from Radio Shack. I don’t recall the model num­ber, but it was a Tandy. It had no hard drive — just two floppy 3.5″ disk dri­ves — and a mono­chro­matic blue/grey screen. It must have weighed about 12 pounds. I loved it. Not because it was some early marker of my affin­ity for Microsoft prod­ucts. It was just what I had, and it worked for me. (Along with my fancy dot matrix printer.)

Fast for­ward 21 years, and I’ve pri­mar­ily used Windows-based com­put­ers at work and home, notwith­stand­ing a two-year stint with a firm that sur­pris­ingly pushed for the use of Macs. Though I’ve always been a bit of a gad­get guy, I would say in the last six years or so, I’ve become very inter­ested and in tune with technology–both per­sonal com­put­ing and mobile devices. Add to that, in the last five years I have taken a deep dive with pho­tog­ra­phy. So much so, that I am actively work­ing on mak­ing pho­tog­ra­phy my full-time voca­tion. Now, be it the gen­eral tech­nol­ogy arena or in the cre­ative fields (includ­ing pho­tog­ra­phy), one can­not escape the rather acute divi­sion between those who use Win­dows ver­sus those who use and Apples. I pretty much have held the opin­ion that the Mac camp has been the vocal (read obnox­ious) camp, never miss­ing an oppor­tu­nity to trash a Windows-based com­puter as being unsta­ble, and those who used them are akin to those liv­ing in the Matrix. I think, over time, Win­dows users got rather prickly and defen­sive and started to retort that Mac users were cult mem­bers that needed a com­puter dumbed-down. I think most of you know all the var­i­ous barbs tossed one way or another, so I won’t bother to rehash them all here. I will admit, though, that the Mac evangelists/zealots plucked my nerves. I don’t like arro­gance, and so often Mac users would approach me with a rather holier-than-though vibe. I can­not say that my inter­est or open­ness in con­sid­er­ing Apple for my per­sonal com­put­ing needs was not impacted by this aver­sion for what felt like inces­sant self-aggrandizement. It’s even more pal­pa­ble in the pho­tog­ra­phy world, where a Win­dows com­puter user is often met with barely dis­guised eye rolls and incredulity of skill or tal­ent. I kid you not.

Now that you have that con­text or back story on angst about com­puter oper­at­ing sys­tems and hard­ware, here’s the rest of the story. For the bet­ter part of 2010, I’ve been in denial about the sad state of my Toshiba 17″ Satel­lite lap­top. The com­puter runs well enough. I upgraded the lap­top to Win­dows 7 ear­lier and the year. Where I was hav­ing prob­lems was when I attempted to process my dig­i­tal images. I shoot with Nikon DSLRs and use Nikon’s pro­cess­ing soft­ware, Cap­ture NX2. Prob­a­bly since the early sum­mer, I have been pulling my hair out as I waited for one sim­ple edit to process. Some­times the cir­cle would spin for sev­eral min­utes. Other times, the pro­gram would time out and force me to exit. When I was able to stay in the pro­gram and per­form edits, I would spend as much as 30 — 40 min­utes mak­ing adjust­ments to an image. All that effort, though, would be negated when I would go to save the file and be informed that my sys­tem was out of mem­ory. In chat and text par­lance, WTF?!?! I ini­tially assumed that the prob­lem was sim­ply that the files were so large that it was tax­ing the system’s resources. I also blamed the soft­ware. I’ve heard from fel­low pho­tog­ra­phers that their expe­ri­ence with Cap­ture NX2 was not that great. Finally, I wised up and checked the RAM on my lap­top. A pal­try two giga­bytes run­ning Win­dows 7 and every­thing else. How did I miss that? Shrug. Well, the last straw as when I pur­chased four giga­bytes of RAM, but dis­cov­er­ing that the sys­tem (32 bit Win­dows) would only accept, or rec­og­nize, three of the four giga­bytes of RAM. Sigh. It took every­thing I had not to ascend to the attic and give that Toshiba a good heave-ho out of the win­dow. For­tu­nately, my wife’s cooler head pre­vailed and she sug­gested that it was time to upgrade to a new com­puter.  Hav­ing the green light from your spouse for tech­nol­ogy pur­chases is always a good thing.

After think­ing about the opti­mal sys­tem or setup, I decided that I’d like to have a desk­top setup ded­i­cated for my pho­tog­ra­phy and a lap­top for every­thing (but pow­er­ful enough to do some image pro­cess­ing on the fly). Per­haps another piece of con­text is needed here. I am fru­gal. Not cheap, but fru­gal. I really hate mak­ing large pur­chases, even when needed. I am capa­ble of even­tu­ally pulling the trig­ger on a large pur­chase, but in what can only be explained as a calm­ing exer­cise, I think about and research the item to death. Accord­ingly, I started in on my research about what would be the best setup for me.

It didn’t take long for the ele­phant in the room to appear — Apple. The ques­tion was sim­ple. Was I will­ing to throw Apple into the mix? The fru­gal­ity in me spoke first. No! They’re too expen­sive. I quickly started comb­ing through web­sites try­ing to fig­ure out what were the highest-rated Windows-based lap­tops and desk­tops. Sony VAIOs looked attrac­tive, but I’ll be damned! They’re just as expen­sive as Macs. In fact, once I set the min­i­mum spec­i­fi­ca­tions for my new com­put­ers, the price of pretty much every desk­top — by any man­u­fac­turer — started become level with Macs. Win­dows lap­tops were still less expen­sive, so I wrapped my mind around the idea that I could still get more bang for the buck with a Win­dows desk­top and lap­top. I hadn’t decided on a desk­top, but I did hone in on a lap­top. As late as Mon­day evening, I was con­vinced that my next lap­top would be the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition.

This lap­top is rated very highly by just about every rep­utable tech pub­li­ca­tion and web­site. I read and read about this com­puter until my con­tacts went dry. I scanned for videos about the HP Envy and any com­par­isons to other com­pa­ra­ble lap­tops. Inter­est­ingly enough, almost every side-by-side com­par­i­son was with the Apple Mac­Book Pro. I wasn’t really focused on some­thing beat­ing the Mac­Book Pro, though. I just wanted con­fir­ma­tion that this was a solid laptop.

Fun­nily enough, on Mon­day I joined some co-workers who wanted to run to a mall near our office for lunch. I specif­i­cally joined them so I could wan­der into the Apple store. I don’t really know why, because I’ve had my hands on Mac­Books and iMacs plenty of times. There was really not much any of the in-store geniuses could tell me that I either didn’t know, or hadn’t heard before. I think there must have been some part of me that was almost look­ing for an excuse to nix Apple from the debate. The price tags alone can scare most peo­ple away. There is def­i­nitely a hefty price for admis­sion into the Apple club. I walked away from the store unmoved. Or so I thought. After work, I went to the local Micro­Cen­ter store to check out the HP Envy 14. The web­site indi­cated that there were five HP Envy 14 Beats Edi­tion lap­tops on hand. That’s it! I’m going to get my computer.

A quick side­bar about retail expe­ri­ences. One thing the Apple Store and Micro­Cen­ter have in com­mon is that both places are always packed. How­ever, Apple stores are light and sleek, so the crowds are a lit­tle eas­ier to man­age and nav­i­gate. Micro­Cen­ter, on the other hand, is like shop­ping at a bazaar. The store is large, but it some­what dark, packed to the gills with prod­ucts (includ­ing the cen­ter aisle lit­tered with boxes of desk­tops and mon­i­tors on sale).

I walked over to the Win­dows lap­top area and made my way first to the Sony VAIOs. Did I men­tion these Jimmy’s are expensive?Dayum! I walked around to the next area to find the HP lap­tops. Though I didn’t see the HP Envy 14 Beats Edi­tion, there was an HP Envy 14 on dis­play. It is essen­tially the same lap­top, phys­i­cally other than color. I gave the Envy 14 my usu­ally once-over, includ­ing typ­ing some non­sense to get a feel for the key­board. I didn’t like, or appre­ci­ate, that Micro­Cen­ter has acrylic bars across the lap­top that pre­vent you from pick­ing them up or even clos­ing the screen so you can gauge the dimen­sions of the unit. I was sad­dened that I was dis­ap­pointed with the Envy. It was nice, but just seemed a little…umm…cheap, which was a bit ridicu­lous since the com­puter costs $1200. After gloss­ing over some other brands, I made my way over to the Apple sec­tion of the store. Though a bit cramped, every model was avail­able to expe­ri­ence and try out. I moved from the Mac­Book Air to the Mac­Book Pro 15″ and 17″ mod­els. I turned the cor­ner and put my hands on the Mac­Book Pro 13,” which was on sale for $200 below list price, before mak­ing my way to the iMacs. If you haven’t seen a 27″ iMac before, good luck walk­ing by it with­out gaz­ing. It’s pretty amaz­ing. The screen is bril­liant and HUGE. After tak­ing that lure hook out of my cheek, I walked around to check out the 21 1/2″ iMac.

For the next 45 min­utes, I walked back-and-forth between the Win­dows com­puter area and the Apple sec­tion.  Exhausted after the bet­ter part an hour cir­cling two depart­ments, I came home.  Look­ing back, I think my mind was made up when I left the store, but I wanted to talk to my wife about options and do a lit­tle more research. (Obses­sive, I know.)

Yes­ter­day, joined by a col­league from my office, I went back to Micro­Cen­ter and strode directly to the Apple sec­tion. I saw the same woman from the pre­vi­ous day, Veron­ica Gar­cia, who offered to help me. I asked a few ques­tions about the dif­fer­ences between the Core 2 Duo proces­sor and the new Core i3 proces­sor in the iMacs.  I then told her what I wanted:

Mac­Book Pro 13″

iMac with the 21.5″ Display

All that was left to clar­ify was that I wanted Apple­Care for both com­put­ers and 4GB of addi­tional RAM for the iMac. The funny thing about me is, once I’ve decided, that’s it! The deci­sion has been made. Don’t try to up-sell me. I’m polite, but I don’t like to make small talk as if I’m still delib­er­at­ing. If the sales­per­son needs to inform me about use and care, that’s cool. Oth­er­wise, wrap it up please.

I am pleased with my pur­chases. I have yet to take the iMac out of the box, because I want to set up the office space for it first. I did open the Mac­Book Pro last night. I was so excited, it felt like being a kid on Christ­mas. My cheeks were tight because I was grin­ning so widely and my heart was rac­ing. I’m a man­ual reader, so I didn’t turn on the com­puter for prob­a­bly 30 min­utes after unbox­ing. I did even­tu­ally turn it on, though, and played around with it for a cou­ple of hours. The com­puter is def­i­nitely high qual­ity. Every­thing feels solid and well-designed. The screen is bright, though it will take some adjust­ment using a 13.3″ screen after using a 17″ lap­top for three years. (Not to men­tion, I have two 22″ mon­i­tors on my desk at work.) The only thing that kind of tripped me up was the touch­pad. I’m famil­iar with the pinch and zoom ges­ture, but I found that I kept pinch­ing or zoom­ing my screen. That was a lit­tle frus­trat­ing, but I’m sure that issue will dis­ap­pear after using the lap­top for a while. I intend to write a more sub­stan­tive impres­sions piece about the Mac­Book Pro and the iMac after I’ve used them for a lit­tle while. I did write this entire piece on the Mac­Book Pro, and it was a com­fort­able expe­ri­ence, inter­mit­tent touch­pad zoom­ing notwithstanding.

Who woulda thunk it, even a week ago? I’m a Mac guy now. Huge thanks to my wife for all her sup­port. Thanks also to my friends for putting up with end­less ques­tions about Apple over the last few days (and, undoubt­edly, going for­ward). Finally, thanks to all of you for sac­ri­fic­ing your eye­sight to get this far down in the post.

I leave you with this plea or admon­ish­ment. If any of you ever catch me going off the deep end about the great­ness of Macs or poo-pooing Win­dows com­put­ers, please shake me! It’s still just a tool. The only rea­son that I may become emo­tion­ally involved with my Macs is because of the hefty ran­som that I handed over to get them.

technology, windows

windows, why do you try me so?

My very close friend, Dotch, has been an Apple/Mac afi­cionado since col­lege. I still get a hearty chuckle reflect­ing on him clear­ing space and pol­ish­ing the cor­ner of the dorm desk for his first Mac. Over the years, he’s stayed true to the brand, and I’ve never once heard him curs­ing at his computer.

Fast for­ward to the last few weeks with my (knock on wood) trusty Toshiba 17″ wide screen Satel­lite lap­top. The machine itself has been hum­ming along for nearly two years. What’s been giv­ing me increas­ingly giv­ing me fits, though, is the buggy Win­dows archi­tec­ture. (I’m run­ning on Win­dows Vista Home Pre­mium.) It begin with an occa­sional hic­cup here and there with pro­gram com­pat­i­bil­ity. I bought a few Win­dows Vista mag­a­zines and the tips pro­vide in them seemed to tweak out the goofy stuff. Recently, though, I’ve been nag­ging lit­tle prob­lems. I could see if this was a one off thing. Maybe some­thing hap­pened that my sys­tem didn’t like.  How­ever, the sys­tem alerts has been show­ing up with some fre­quency. It seems like nearly every time I point my cur­sor down to my sys­tem tray, I get the hour glass. A cou­ple dou­ble clicks later…this stu­pid alert. 

Windows Explorer Not Resonding

What the…? COME ON!!!!! 

Notwith­stand­ing Dotch’s tes­ti­mo­ni­als for the last 20 years about Apple prod­ucts, I’ve been rel­a­tively neu­tral on the plat­form issue. I’m not really one for peer pres­sure or so eas­ily enam­ored with Apple prod­ucts. Sure, they’re pretty, but, hereto­fore, had not dis­cerned a dif­fer­ence in util­ity between the two plat­forms . So when I’ve receive a dis­tinct, almost incred­u­lous, “WHAT? You don’t have a Mac?” from fol­low pho­tog­ra­phers, I brushed it off. I enjoyed a quiet chor­tle, observ­ing that all these Mac own­ers are run­ning programs–Photoshop or Lightroom–that run on PCs in lieu of Apple’s Aper­ture. What’s the big deal?

At the sake of being redun­dant, this…

Windows Explorer Not Resonding

…is becom­ing a BIG deal!

Start­ing out in this busi­ness is costly enough with the expense of “pho­tog­ra­phy equip­ment.” How­ever, as I acknowl­edged in a pre­vi­ous post, in the age of dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy, a com­puter is just as much pho­tog­ra­phy equip­ment as are the cam­era bod­ies, lenses, lights and fil­ters.  I’m a very patient per­son, but I have a low thresh­old for equip­ment that doesn’t per­form as designed. I can’t blame Toshiba, really. It’s the unsta­ble Win­dows OS that I’m learn­ing deserves all the crit­i­cism heaped upon it by Apple and count­less num­bers of tech­nol­ogy writ­ers. After all these years, I think I’ve reached the end of my rope with PCs. A Mac­Book Pro just may find a home on my lap in the near future.