Bye bye Bill

I've always been somewhat equivocal when it comes to choice of desktop operating system. For reasons of convenience more than anything else my personal and business workhorses have until now run on Microsoft OSes. I was a reasonably happy XP user for years - even if the experience of using it wasn't exactly a pleasure, it never got in the way of what I was trying to achieve.

Last summer my main office PC expired, and I had to get hold of a new one in a hurry. I plumped for a Dell - their service was exemplary and the PC itself is a nice piece of kit at a very reasonable price. But like a new girlfriend with an STD it had a dirty little secret that only started to bite once it had inveigled itself into my daily routine. That dirty little secret was Vista.

Vista has plagued my working day for the past 6 months, and my productivity has suffered. I've soldiered manfully on thinking that I could learn to overcome or work around the barriers Vista put in the way of my work, and loathe to write off the expenditure.

I was wrong. I know this subject has been done to death, but I cannot fathom how Microsoft can invest the time, money and effort they have into an nth generation operating system and produce something that is so god-damned awful to use productively. It. Sucks. Hard. I could install XP on it, but that's not a sustainable strategy.

So I'm joining the ranks of Apple Mac users, for lots of reasons not least that it will be a joy to be able to work with a Unix-based desktop OS, and to have my development platform of choice availble natively on the move. Add in no more UAC, TextMate and the beautiful display and I'm wondering why it's taken me so long to see the light.

Must say big thanks to Ann for helping me decide what exactly I needed. I'm off to order my MacBook Pro now, having resisted the temptation to head into Glasgow tomorrow to visit the Apple Store in person.


Indeed, the UI coming from Microsoft and other publishers for the Windows platform is generally bad. And it's getting worse, in my experience of using Windows over the past 11 years.

You might find Add-on Management "Improvements" in Internet Explorer 8 an interesting read. Particularly the comment from Microsoft about IE8's UI design being more or less baked in. Despite its obvious and extensive failures. Which are detailed in the comments. Which they read as "people like the technical improvements". Hmm...

Personally, I think XP could be saved. The fundamental guidelines and conventions XP has are great, imho. They were developed upon the commercial success of Windows 95. They arose from what works in practice.

The problems are bugs in the code and apps which think "standing out" is more important than this weird "usability" thing you hear about from time to time. Much the same problems as modern website development, I'd say. I reckon it could be fixed, if only there was the will to do so.

Posted by: Ben 'Cerbera' Millard at April 6, 2008 1:33 AM

Great post - I feel like I could have written it myself almost word for word.

Vista has tipped me over the edge too and once I actually manage to make a decision on which mac, I'll be joining you.

Posted by: Fraser Edwards at April 7, 2008 11:06 AM

Dan, great post and good to see Twitter in action!
I am so jealous. Unfortunately, my pc isn't *bad* per se, and works fine with XP and firefox. I don't demand much of it really so I have not been able to justify buying a Mac...when I bought my pc laptop I couldn't jusify the extra cost for a Mac, so I'd be really grateful if you could give me an indication of spec and cost when you get yours. I'm sure I can find a way to justify it now!
Are you REALLY going to resist going into the Apple store in Glasgow???

Posted by: Tessa at April 8, 2008 9:08 AM

@Fraser, after a lot of good advice I went for a 15" MacBook Pro, intending to use it on the move and hook it up to my screen, mouse and keyboard in the office. If all goes well with the Mac and the business I'll reward myself with a Mac display for my desk in the summer. :-)

@Tessa, I did resist, just couldn't spare the time to go into Glasgow. It also means I have 7 days to wait for it to arrive, during which time I can prepare to transfer all my stuff. If I'd come home from the Apple Store with all that schwag I'd still be playing with it now!

The Mac itself cost 1300, once I'd added a keyboard, iWork, rucksack and come other bits it was about 1500 in total.

Posted by: Dan at April 9, 2008 5:25 PM

Great move, Dan! I got my MacBook Pro about six months ago and I've not looked back.

Posted by: dotjay at April 15, 2008 12:23 AM

Dan, it might be a little late to point this out, but students get about %15 off at the Apple store, so it might be worth finding one next time! If you haven't already bought an "AppleCare Protection Plan" (3 year extended warranty), you will be able to pick one up for 50 instead of 300 if you can get your hands on a student card.

I have a new iMac which I use at home these days, and I personally think it's one of 'the' best pieces of technology that anyone could own at the moment. You get Apple's outstanding OS with their attention to UI, a UNIX terminal, and the ability to use Windows too. I would only suggest using Boot Camp to install a native dual-boot copy of Windows if you *need* to play fullscreen Direct X games. Otherwise, if there are any Windows programs you just can't live without, I would grab yourself a copy of VMWare Fusion (or Parallels), as this will allow you to run Mac and Windows applications side-by-side with drag-and-drop support, etc.

I see you've mention TextMate, which is brilliant (Intype is a good PC alternative), but I have to ask you to give my new favourite editor a try. Panic have released an OS X application called Coda, which combines a syntax-highlighting text editor with an FTP client, a terminal for SSH, documentation for that PHP command you can't remember how to use, a visual CSS editor and split-screen live-refreshing previews with Firebug-like functionality all integrated into a lovely, _useable_ interface. It's great how much more productive you can be when you don't have to constantly Alt+Tab between applications to publish or preview your work. It's just ashame that I can't take my Mac to work. ;)

Posted by: Chris Burke at April 30, 2008 12:34 PM

Thanks for the tips Chris. Too late on the student card idea, but I also realised that I could have got it for 17.5% less from Dixons at the airport - I'm there every week but it never occured to me to check the prices there.

Will definitely check out Coda, sounds ideal for the way I work. I'm still slowly migrating to the Mac, but loving it so far.

Posted by: Dan at April 30, 2008 2:30 PM

I have had no major issues with Vista, though it is a hog. Of course I am doing far less web design than I used to too.

I was forced to use a Mac while working at the paper here in Juneau... it was not enjoyable and really dinged my faith in Mac. But I have to admit that the machine was a old one with little memory and running a fairly new OS, so that was part of the problem. Also Morris Comunications builds all internal apps for Windows and we were one of the only places still using Macs so that hurt as well.

But the only way to get a Mac here is by mail order and I hate that as well, windows we can at least see in the stores here.

One of these days I may dish out for Mac when I actually find a store somewhere... Like technology? Don't move to Alaska!

Posted by: LSW at May 1, 2008 12:40 AM

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