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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Opinions on the new MacBook
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11/05/2008 12:53:29 PM · #1
It looks like I'm getting a new laptop, and will choose between a Mac and a Dell running Vista. I've been running Windows since it was invented, and I'm something of a guru with it. However, I'm thinking of the MacBook even though I've previously railed against OSX. I use FreeBSD at work, so using the Unix command line on a laptop will be sweet. There's a few pieces of specialized software only for the Mac that I'd like to try.

Any opinions on the MacBook Pro? On OSX Leopard? Aside from this, any opinions on tried-and-true Windows users also using OSX? Am I nuts? Any advice/tongue lashings appreciated.
11/05/2008 01:01:53 PM · #2
I have a recent 15" MacBook Pro (about 6 months old). Very happy with it. Haven't liked Mac's much in the past, even though I worked on the processors and we had to use them for several years. (Corporate policy to eat your own dog food)

OS X is pretty good - mostly solid and a huge step beyond Windows Vista and XP. Things just tend to work. I use this machine for most of my development work and run Windows XP and Ubuntu linux in concurrent VMFusion virtual machines, without any real problems.

Everything is a fair bit more expensive for the Mac and there are in general fewer applications available. But I've been able to find solid applications for most of the things I need to do. Apple also give away a pretty good set of developer tools for the platform. Much of the linux software I need to use for work doesn't actually work on OS X, but I can get around that problem with a VM.

I've used Windows since 3.1 and know it pretty well. This is a much better experience. A few issues with various things being Windows Only, or Windows only initially (games, Netflix) and things like Excel being seriously crippled in the recent OSX versions, but most of these issues you can work around, if you are willing to spend money (VM Fusion, XP licenses, that sort of thing)

Blogging tools, IM, telecoms, etc apps are all much better on OS X than the equivalent windows versions that I've found. Same with some of the writing applications that are out there.

The whole user experience is much better than when compared to Windows XP. I've managed to remove all of the pain of using Vista from my life for now - most of my clients have upgraded to the older versions to avoid Vista too.

Message edited by author 2008-11-05 13:04:41.
11/05/2008 01:10:46 PM · #3
I switched to Mac 2.5 years ago: The only problem I have had in all that time is that it forces me to suppress expletives every day at work, where I must use a Windows machine.....
11/05/2008 01:12:59 PM · #4
Been a windows user for 14 yers or so and am a Systems Admin in a multi OS environment. I use CentOS (an open source version of Redhat) at work and use multiple macs from time to time.

First let me say that if your using Vista and like it, hats off to you. It reminds me of "M.E." Windows 7 just rolled out in beta cause Vista is doing so poorly.

I would go for it (the mac book pro). It gives the best of all worlds with a nice gui, good hardware, and a version of bash to boot. Recently though Apple has been shooting themselves in the foot from a software standpoint. From what I understand there is a new trend not to code (or port) apps over to mac.

Even with that, I still think the mac book pro is still better than depending on Vista. The other option would be to do paravirtualization with Mac hardware and a windows OS (XP hopefully). Just buy your own ram, cause theirs is so overpriced and its the same samsung chips everyone else sells.

On a second note (or third), I cant really reccomend Dell to anyone. Although they are a super common name, their hardware isnt consistently good. Your freind may have a laptop that hes used for years, then you buy one and it dies in a year. QA is not assured. Also, their support is for the birds.

ETA spelling

Message edited by author 2008-11-05 13:19:52.
11/05/2008 01:14:23 PM · #5
Thanks, good to know. I guess I'm concerned about Excel and Office for Mac, but not overly. I use Zend Eclipse plus PHP for my work, so no troubles there. I guess I'm really jazzed about simply using SSH from the laptop without additional software. Oh well, small things amuse small minds.

I like Vista, so I suppose the switch might be more troublesome to me (I'll still be using Vista on the desktops). Plus, I'm moving to 64-bit Vista on the desktop within a couple of months, so I hope the MacBook would be able to keep up with me after that. It's writing tools and FreeBSD that I'm mostly considering this for. I hope OSX doesn't get in my way too much, coming from Windows and all.
11/05/2008 01:14:43 PM · #6
Originally posted by chromeydome:

I switched to Mac 2.5 years ago: The only problem I have had in all that time is that it forces me to suppress expletives every day at work, where I must use a Windows machine.....


My experiences with Mac/PC are similar.
11/05/2008 01:18:53 PM · #7
Originally posted by Louis:

Thanks, good to know. I guess I'm concerned about Excel and Office for Mac, but not overly. I use Zend Eclipse plus PHP for my work, so no troubles there. I guess I'm really jazzed about simply using SSH from the laptop without additional software. Oh well, small things amuse small minds.

I like Vista, so I suppose the switch might be more troublesome to me (I'll still be using Vista on the desktops). Plus, I'm moving to 64-bit Vista on the desktop within a couple of months, so I hope the MacBook would be able to keep up with me after that. It's writing tools and FreeBSD that I'm mostly considering this for. I hope OSX doesn't get in my way too much, coming from Windows and all.


I found that using Office on the Mac, with the possible exception of a few missing capabilities in Excel, to be much improved over the PC version.

I found that certain things took some time to get used to since they work "differently" than they do under Windows, so if you do switch, you should keep that in mind.
11/05/2008 01:20:00 PM · #8
I'd agree about not buying Mac brand memory - I paid about 1/4 of the Apple price when I upgraded the RAM to 4GB. Having a built in web server and things like Ruby and Python pre-installed was nice. The OS actually having ssh-agent pretty much built in was also another good feature when it comes to using passwordless ssh. I run Cygwin to get similar features under XP, but it works more cleanly on OS X.

It is the best all around portable development environment I've found and I do a lot of work on XP and Linux. The Excel issues are the only real problem I've had with software availability. We use quite a bit of VBA for business apps and that's just a non-starter (Latest version of Excel on OS X doesn't support VBA at all), so I run them in XP, which is really fast in the VM. Did mean another license for Office XP. I just run Open Office under OS X for anything else.

VM Fusion does a good 'unity' feature where it hides the guest OS desktop and hosts the windows from different operating systems natively, so the apps look like the are running side by side - only given away by the fugly XP widgets.

The multi-touch track pad is great, once you getting used to making 2 or 3 finger gestures and taps it is difficult to go back.

Message edited by author 2008-11-05 13:24:36.
11/05/2008 01:21:34 PM · #9
Originally posted by Louis:

Thanks, good to know. I guess I'm concerned about Excel and Office for Mac, but not overly.


I originally thought I would do the boot camp/parallels thing with an XP os install on my mac, just to get my familiar Word, Excel, Outlook apps--the Office for Mac suite works so well that I never bothered to go thru the hassle and expense (full, fresh XP required) to get Windows on the mac. And the Office for Mac suite is not very expensive...
11/05/2008 01:23:02 PM · #10
The Missing Manual series of books (Mac OS X and Switching to Mac) are very helpful, I found, for the switchover process :-)
11/05/2008 01:25:18 PM · #11
Originally posted by Gordon:

I'd agree about not buying Mac brand memory - I paid about 1/4 of the Apple price when I upgraded the RAM to 4GB.

Yeah.. kind of like Cisco RAM, which can be eight to ten times the price of similar modules from Siemens or even OCZ.
11/05/2008 01:25:35 PM · #12
Hey Louis!

Sorry to say I cannot speak in past-tense however I am also planning to get a Macbook Pro after some 15 years of saying I would never own another Apple product again.

The fact that they can run windows, bsd, and macos is a big perk in my eye. I only had a brief (1 hour) chance to play around one and found never having used a laptop before the track pad to be hard to get used to, the OSX seemed alright, it has some nice features. I haven't used Vista, however I took an instant shine to the apples Exposé process which placed all my apps and windows into a very clear grid, seems like it would be easier that that page flipping thing I think I saw Vista had.

The new track pad allows clicking anywhere on the surface which I found to be much more natural for a new user, akin to a mouse where the button stays under ones finger. Two fingers triggers a right click. And for those who like a tactile feeling to their buttons, the "touch" clicking can be disabled and the track pad can be pressed firmly for a tactile "click", note that click dragging in this method is hard as the button needs firm pressure which makes dragging harder.

One thing I did notice was that it seemed at random the track pad would stop responding until I removed and replaced my finger. Not sure what caused that but it doesn't seem something Mac users would put up with for very long so I'm assuming it was a glitch in the demo unit.

Sadly I have been unable to compare the new glossy-only screens to the anti-glare screens however the glossy screen did not seem to be a major set back indoors and the display was very clear looking even with reflections on it, at 50% brightness the fully lit store was harder to deal with but I could still easily read the screen and work with it.

The keyboard was the nicest I have used, I've tried some of the HP and Compaq keyboards, the macbook one was smooth and quiet with no feeling of being cramped.

Sadly the demo unit was lacking in sample media and software to try out the robustness of the system, for this I will have to check a few other stores.

I will try to keep you updated on anything else I find out or experience with the device. Cheers :)
11/05/2008 01:25:42 PM · #13
Originally posted by Louis:

I guess I'm concerned about Excel and Office for Mac, but not overly.


I do a fair amount of 'work-work' at home and use Excel, Word and Powerpoint. I bought MS Office 2008 for Mac and it works seemingly transparant with my Windows machine at the office. I e-mail files back and forth or use a memory stick. No manual conversions are needed,

I have in fact had more problems in the past with MS-Office files between different versions of MS-Office than I have between the Mac and the PC.
11/05/2008 01:28:43 PM · #14
Originally posted by Louis:

Thanks, good to know. I guess I'm concerned about Excel and Office for Mac, but not overly. I use Zend Eclipse plus PHP for my work, so no troubles there. I guess I'm really jazzed about simply using SSH from the laptop without additional software. Oh well, small things amuse small minds.

I like Vista, so I suppose the switch might be more troublesome to me (I'll still be using Vista on the desktops). Plus, I'm moving to 64-bit Vista on the desktop within a couple of months, so I hope the MacBook would be able to keep up with me after that. It's writing tools and FreeBSD that I'm mostly considering this for. I hope OSX doesn't get in my way too much, coming from Windows and all.


agreed with above posts. I find the shortcuts that i use a lot for reptative tasks are tricky. its not alt+f4 now its command+Q or things like that.

But the smooth flow of the gui will make you hate vista. Also the easy of user integration. Im not sure if you run as Admin on vista, but OSx exposes you a lot less ie. your a user that can quickly access admin as opposed to always admin.

I dont think the mac will hold you back at all. I havent done a lot of testing on vista 64 yet, but I know just the ram utilization of vista kills it. In XP 64 you can utilize a good deal more ram, which makes things run smother, so I would imagine its the same for vista. That being said, because OSX is a unix os, youve been able to use a ton of ram from inception.

Have you tried putty for ssh on windows? its pretty easy.
11/05/2008 01:30:17 PM · #15
Originally posted by togtog:

Sadly I have been unable to compare the new glossy-only screens to the anti-glare screens however the glossy screen did not seem to be a major set back indoors and the display was very clear looking even with reflections on it, at 50% brightness the fully lit store was harder to deal with but I could still easily read the screen and work with it.

I don't really understand the glossy screen thing. Alex has one of those Dell XPS product red laptops, and the only option was glossy. He thought he'd hate it -- it's kind of useless outside -- but it's turning out to be not so objectionable. Choice would be nice though.
11/05/2008 01:32:28 PM · #16
Originally posted by onesaint:

Have you tried putty for ssh on windows? its pretty easy.

I use SecureCRT from Vandyke, a commercial product. It's good... I was just really looking forward to opening a console window, typing
ssh hostname
and doing stuff. :) Easily amused.
11/05/2008 01:34:06 PM · #17
Also if you happen to be a command line sort of person, quicksilver on the mac is outstanding. Application launcher, music controller, address book manager, tea timer, unix command line all within two keystrokes. I found most of the keystrokes translate - ctrl-C for copy becomes command-C ctrl-V->command-V etc. The windows open and close short-cuts are easy enough to pick up as the hints are on all the menus.
If you switch back and forth between operating systems that can become a real pain though - particularly when everything takes so much longer on XP, once you get used to quicksilver shortcuts.

I had a glossy screened Sony Vaio as my previous laptop - great for watching DVDs. Not so good for day to day usage.
11/05/2008 01:35:44 PM · #18
Originally posted by Louis:

Originally posted by onesaint:

Have you tried putty for ssh on windows? its pretty easy.

I use SecureCRT from Vandyke, a commercial product. It's good... I was just really looking forward to opening a console window, typing
ssh hostname
and doing stuff. :) Easily amused.


I guess putty is open source. but you launch, enter hostname then terminal oens and your promted for user / pass. for me its not much more than open terminal type ssh host -l user or something. Were cheap here so open source is always our route! lol
11/05/2008 01:43:27 PM · #19
Originally posted by Gordon:

Also if you happen to be a command line sort of person, quicksilver on the mac is outstanding.

Oh, sounds great... yeah, the keyboard shortcuts would probably be a necessity for me... I'm one of those Windows users who uses the mouse as little as possible.

Gordon, is your MacBook glossy screen? Is there a choice?
11/05/2008 01:46:07 PM · #20
I've used SecureCRT, I use putty and cygwin on windows. ssh from the terminal (or quicksilver command line in the GUI) is better integrated (particularly as the OS X keychain will hold ssh keys so you don't need to bother with the whole password thing once you set up public key encryption) You can do this with ssh-agent under cygwin but it takes more fiddling. Not sure what putty uses for a key agent, but I assume there is some server you can install.

I also run tunnels for a few different license servers and a SOAP proxy to a machine I run in the UK to let me stream the BBC. It is easier doing that than the hoops I had to jump through to get it to work in cygwin. Autossh works fine on OS X. It is something of a geek dream merging of attractive GUI with solid underlying OS. Like Linux, but without the need to run and admin everything yourself.

Message edited by author 2008-11-05 13:57:47.
11/05/2008 01:49:23 PM · #21
Originally posted by Louis:

Originally posted by Gordon:

Also if you happen to be a command line sort of person, quicksilver on the mac is outstanding.

Oh, sounds great... yeah, the keyboard shortcuts would probably be a necessity for me... I'm one of those Windows users who uses the mouse as little as possible.

Gordon, is your MacBook glossy screen? Is there a choice?


I've got a matte screen. Not sure if there is a choice any more - there was when I got mine but there have been new ones out since then with some minor enhancements.

I use the keyboard to launch every application - Cmd-space then start typing the name of the app, anything installed is just right there. Or cmd-space 'stop' to stop music, browse songs, send a quick email to someone etc.

//www.43folders.com/topics/quicksilver It's shockingly more productive than finding apps with a mouse or GUI menu

11/05/2008 01:53:15 PM · #22
I have a MacBook Pro with the glossy screen. I've used it on road trips (while driving) and have had little trouble with the glossy screen. I actually quite like it, it's sharper than the dull screens and I think shows more details. I switched from Windows 2 years ago and never looked back. Office for Mac works just great and I interact with windows users without issues. Feel free to PM me if you have general questions, I'll be happy to tell you my experiences so far.
11/05/2008 02:09:56 PM · #23
Heh... "shockingly more productive."
11/05/2008 02:17:03 PM · #24
Originally posted by Spazmo99:

I found that certain things took some time to get used to since they work "differently" than they do under Windows, so if you do switch, you should keep that in mind.


There certainly was a few occasions of head scratching, or actually having to use the built-in help (which is mostly lucidly written) or searching on Google (most things were pretty easy to find, as many people have struggled along the same path potentially before you). Took a couple of days to get comfortable with some of the peccadillos of the platform, but the single impression I was left with after a couple of weeks was how often things just 'worked' the way you thought they should.

For photo editing I'm mostly using Lightroom. Tried Aperture, didn't find anything too compelling to change my mind. I don't really do pixel level photo editing any more, so don't have Photoshop.

Message edited by author 2008-11-05 14:18:16.
11/05/2008 02:33:19 PM · #25
My two cents.
As far as hardware, my black Macbook is the best notebook I have ever owned (not saying the best per say, just the best I have ever used and the includes Dell).
There is really nothing to dislike about the hardware, at least for me.

The actual os platform, MacOSX... better in some ways than Vista worse in other ways.

That's the beauty of Apple though, you don't have to use MacOSX if you don't want.
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