Thanks, Apple, For Pushing Me From The Mac To Windows 7

Back in December, I debated whether I should dump the Mac. As circumstances would have it, Apple itself kind of tipped me over to Windows 7, which I’m currently using. Whether I’ll go back to my MacBook remains to be seen. So far, Windows 7 is pretty compelling.

Apple’s first mistake in pushing me away was providing me with a faulty MacBook. It died two weeks ago. It turned out to be a bad logic board, in the end. As I’d purchased AppleCare, the repair was covered on my two year old MacBook.

The people at my local Apple store were very nice. In fact, they even quickly pulled the hard drive out of my machine and grabbed an important Outlook file off it that I needed. But still, I was going to be without my Mac for a week — and since I was also going on vacation at the end of that week, that actually meant a two week hiatus.

I needed another machine, and here’s where Apple failed again. I’ve been waiting — and waiting — for the new rumored MacBooks. You know, the ones that supposedly have the super-fast i7 Intel quad-core processor? The ones that failed to get announced at the same time the iPad was unveiled. The ones that failed to get announced as part of Macworld.

If the new Macbooks had come out, I’d have upgraded before my old machine died and happily carried along. My big issue with my current Macbook has simply been that I’ve wanted more processing power. I run both Windows and Mac operating systems simultaneously, and for whatever reason, the Macbook just isn’t as snappy in doing that as in the past.

Rather than buying a new Macbook, I resurrected my old Sony Vaio that’s nearly three years old. This was the machine that, ironically, drove me to the Mac in the first place. It came with Vista, which was awful. It also seemed that Vista and the Sony kept deciding that both of my batteries were faulty. My laptop would just die for no apparent reason, which isn’t a good feature to have in a laptop. Putting the laptop into hibernation also caused it to go all blue screen of death.

When Windows 7 came out, I got a copy after a few weeks and installed it on the Sony. That’s pretty much seemed to solve the battery issue (very rarely, it still glitches). So when it was clear my Macbook would be gone for a long duration, I jumped onto the Sony and started using it actively.

Windows 7 is pretty nice. OK, it gave me my first blue screen of death today. That sucked. But the new taskbar, where you can hover and see active programs, is pretty handy. Programs themselves run well.

Where things really shine is for multi-monitor support. I recently outfitted my Macbook so that I could use four monitors (see My MacBook Pro Goes Multimonitor: 4 Monitors At Once!). Now, I’m using all those monitors with the Sony. Thanks to Ultramon, each monitor has its own taskbar (learn more about this in My Multimonitor Setup: Three Screens For One Computer). I find that a little easier for keeping track of everything that with the Mac, where you depend on the dock or that F3 /Expose thing.

It especially shines in that all my Windows applications can use all four monitors. On the Mac, they’re pretty much restricted to one single monitor. If I try to use Unity mode under VMWare, things just bog down too much. A faster Macbook would probably solve this — but as I’ve said, that’s not an option from Apple right now.

Why not just dump Windows entirely? That’s what I figured I should do back when I first debated leaving the Mac in December:

I’m coming to the conclusion I should jump one way fully — Mac or Windows, but not both. I should just give up Windows. Finally wean myself off Outlook despite (as I’ll explain in a future post), why Outlook remains a killer product. I’ve certainly enjoyed learning about image programs like Skitch or Aviary that have made the piggish Photoshop Elements largely unnecessary. Goodness knows I’m overdue to abandon FrontPage 2002 (Shut up! If you want a nice, clean HTML authoring tool for a writer, not for a designer, this is still a killer program). Surely I know I should transition more to cloud-based programs like Google Docs.

I started doing that with the Mac, to go all Mac. I tested out Office 2008 for the Mac — and discovered how awful Excel is in it compared to Office 2007 for Windows. I was clearing out my mail in Outlook to experiment with using Thunderbird. I was contemplating a move to Google Calendar even though it doesn’t understand that when I want to view a month at a time, that can mean 4 weeks across months (say mid-February through mid-March).

Then the Mac died. Suddenly, I was in an all-Windows environment. I didn’t even have to drag out my Office 2007 CD since Office 2010 is available online in beta. And since I was on one platform, my older Sony was pretty peppy running whatever I threw at it.

On Monday, I tried shifting back to my Mac. After about a day, I was done. I enjoyed too much the advantages of running my Outlook calendar on one screen, my Outlook mail on another, Microsoft Money on a third screen and so on. I can’t do that on my current Mac. And I want more time to transition away from from Windows. Also, in the wake of Google’s hacking attack, I’m a little less eager to jump into the cloud as I was in the past.

I sure do miss my Macbook’s keyboard, though. Apple even replaced my worn out N key! And my Mac’s screen is so much nicer, not to mention the look of the Mac overall. I also miss the ability to scroll with multitouch, though I depend on that more when I’m traveling than when I’m using a mouse back in the office.

In another sign that the move might be permanent, I pulled the extra 2GB of memory from my MacBook last night and put it into the Sony, which uses the same type. I’ll probably use the Sony on my next trip, too — since unlike the Mac, it can actually hibernate. That means save my current desktop state and shut down into extremely low power usage. The Mac will only “sleep,” which uses way more power. It hibernates only when it’s about to completely run out of juice, which isn’t handy.

Still, I’m holding out hope. There are some Mac programs like Skitch that I love and miss. If Apple gets the new Macbooks out quickly, I might go back. The clock’s ticking, Steve Jobs. Sure, I might get that shiny new iPad. But you might lose me on your cashcow, those overpriced real computers.

Postscript: So, um, that was a short move. See my follow-up post, Steve Jobs Is The Most Powerful Man Alive – He Breaks My Windows 7 Machine From Afar.