I’m not a Mac, nor a PC

28 10 2008

I’ve been using a Mac laptop for work since October 2006. Even two years later, every time I go to a work event, internal or external, people ask me how do I like it, and why I do it, as many still link IBM to PCs or Thinkpads. Others just assume that I’m a big Mac/Apple fan, as I also carry an iPhone and sometimes an iPod shuffle.

As some of you know, Apple’s ongoing ad campaign stereotyping Mac and PC users has been fought back by Microsoft’s ads “I’m a PC”, which were ironically made – at least in part – using Macs. All this discussion created an artificial dichotomy between PC people and Mac people. Apparently, you can’t be both, the same way you are either a dog person or a cat person.

When people ask me if I’m a Mac, I wish I could answer in Portuguese, or Spanish, like in “Eu estou Mac”. It’s not a permanent state of mind. The reason I prefer to use a Mac as my work machine is mainly because in an Intel Mac I can run both OS X and MS-Windows, and I can’t do it in a PC.

I really don’t get the fanboyism around Mac products. I do think they are more visually appealing than their PC counterparts, but they are far from perfect. Sometimes I have the impression that some Mac users use it as a way of saying: I’m a Mac, therefore I’m better than you, and just ignore or dismiss a number of Mac annoyances.

My MacBook Pro freezes from time to time, and has poor battery life and wi-fi performance compared to my Thinkpad. It feels uncomfortably hot to actually place on your lap, and it gets cold like ice after a walk outside during winter time. I can’t close the lid without putting the system to sleep. I tried InsomniaX, but the machine was so hot after a while that I was afraid it would damage the screen.

There are things Macs do better but the same can be said of Windows. For example, every time I need to write text in Portuguese, Spanish or French, I switch to Windows. The Mac way of dealing with accents using a standard US keyboard is just cumbersome. To write an “a” with a tilde, as in “São Paulo”, you have to type “Option + n” in Mac OS. In Windows, you just type tilde. No matter how much of a Mac fanboy or fangirl you are, you gotta admit that “Option + n” in not intuitive. The acute accent (as in “passé”) is “Option + e”, and the circumflex (as in “château”) is “Option + i”. That’s ok if you only type them once in a blue moon, but not ok if use them all the time.

Also, there are some freeware or open source programs that are only available in Windows. One of my favourites is the super-useful Bulk Rename Utility, very handy to rename digital photo files and adjust timestamps. Other good utility only available in Windows is IrfanView, with its batch conversion feature, free for non-commerical use. The list goes on and on.

Of course, by the same token, there are lots of utilities only available on the Mac side, like Skitch, a nice tool to annotate screenshots, and, of course, Apple’s Keynote, the best program to create presentations out there. Movie editing is also much easier in the Mac using a combination of iMovie and iMovie HD, compared to Windows Movie Maker.

Finally, there are areas where both sides could do better. As an example, the Mac OS Finder and Windows Explorer could borrow some features from each other, as both come out short in easy of use.

All in all, I slightly favour the Mac, due to the combination of SW & HW integration and overall user experience, but it’s far from being a slam dunk. I still think that the Thinkpad is a better piece of engineering, just not as pretty. The switch to Intel was a major factor in my buying decision, as it basically mean that I don’t need to give up on one in favour of the other.

Of course, I admit I may be the exception, or just a bad Mac user, so please let me know if I’m missing something here, and if there’s any easy way to address the Mac issues I mentioned above. Being a person who likes both cats and dogs, I just can’t see why you have to love or hate Windows or Mac OS X.

Flashback: Hawaii

23 10 2008

I’ve been away from home for most of the month of October, first on vacation in Hawaii, then a swing through East Asia to speak at Singapore and a day-trip to Hawthorne, NY, for a client event. I wish I could blog every day – not that there’s anybody there to read, but I’d like to keep a record of things that are in my mind, for my own navel gazing reasons. I managed to update my status in Twitter/Facebook with some frequency, but blogging, despite being deemed as passé by Paul Boutin (WIRED magazine), is still my favourite form of 2.0 communication. Boutin is missing the point: the 2.0 communication space is definitely more fragmented now, but blogging still has its space. His article is similar to people predicting the death of newspapers, radio, TV and movie theatres in the past, each time a new media appeared. Blogs will evolve too, and may even converge or integrate with social networking sites, but Twitter, Flickr and Facebook simply are not replacing it, just allowing you more choices depending on what you want to communicate or your specific preferences. Of course, my guess is as good as anybody else’s.

It was my first time in Hawaii. I loved it. It’s interesting in so many levels: natural resources, friendly people, unique history, great food. I wouldn’t mind going again. Here are some random shortcuts from the trip that may be vaguely related to IBM or Web 2.0, and some subtle evidence that cyberspace is actually here:

1. It’s a wiki world out there

First thing I saw when I left the plane was the sign to the Wiki Wiki bus. It’s kind of bizarre to see things and places called wikis, but it’s all Ward Cunningham‘s fault 🙂 .

Not sure if’s readable, but the last picture is mind boggling for IBMers: a place called “Wiki Wiki Java”, that has nothing to do with computers. It’s like the first time I came to North America and thought that a hardware store would be the place to buy computers.

2. IBM Honolulu and the Beehive

I swear I was not thinking about work, but our hotel was very close to the IBM office, a very cool building resembling a beehive and sporting the logo used by IBM between 1956 and 1972 (if you are a history buff, you may like to check-out all the logos IBM has used throughout the years):

IBM Honolulu - The BeehiveIBM Honolulu - The BeehiveHawaii - IBM

3. Hawaii Superferry and Twitter

We took the ferry to Maui, and I found it to be very comfortable, especially if you’re travelling with kids. Free wi-fi is available aboard, and they use Twitter as a communication tool, something that would make Bernie proud of. They even have a “Twitter Us” link in their website.

Hawaii SuperferryHawaii SuperferryHawaii Superferry - Honolulu

The full set of pictures is in Flickr, but here’s a friendly warning that there may be way more pictures and rainbows and sunsets than a normal person can handle there. I’m using Flickr as my photo repository, so the majority of pics there are not that interesting. Here’s the preview: