I’ve been a Mac user for nearly two years now. I’m seriously debating going back to Windows. Part of me doesn’t want to, feeling like I should make the jump entirely away. But a variety of reasons are making Windows appealing again, including cost, multi-monitor support and removable batteries.
I used to run a Windows desktop with three external monitors (see My Multimonitor Setup: Three Screens For One Computer). I loved my setup. I could have my email front and center, important as I do so much in email. Over on a side monitor, I could bring up a browser to check on some article I was reviewing. On another monitor, I could validate some strange search situation I might be reading about in that article. And back to my central monitor, I could easily bring up an editing window to write a blog post.
In addition, I used to use a Windows laptop. My last one was a Vista machine that kept crashing. That pushed me to the Mac. And soon after that, my desktop crashed. I began relying solely on my Mac. It let me run both Windows XP and Mac brilliantly. In the office, I’d have Windows running on an external monitor and the Mac running “down below” as I call it on the laptop screen (see My Mac & Windows Under VMware – Awesome!). On the road, I use the wonderful Spaces program on the Mac to toggle between my Mac “side” and my Windows “side” effortlessly.
I loved the simplicity of having a single machine. I was no longer trying to copy over all my date for long trips away. I’d just shut the lid and go. Life rocked.
Over time, it’s been rocking less. One problem is that I still missed having my three screens. I went from two 20″ screens and a 22″ wide screen in the middle to only the 22″ and a 15″ laptop. I explored some options to add a third (see Multiple Monitor Solutions For The MacBook Pro), but I never implemented these. In particular, I just worried that adding more displays to my laptop would be more of a processing drain.
Processing drain? Well, the Mac runs slower these days, it feels. I suspect the Mac is just like Windows. That over time, junk of all sorts builds up, and a clean install freshens stuff up. In the past, I got that freshening usually either through a computer crash (inconvenient!) or purchasing a new computer every two years.
Meanwhile, the Mac is hot. I mean burning hot. I’ve got a stand now that suck wind out from underneath to the degree I feel it could double as an aircraft engine. That helps, but what a pain. And when I’m traveling, I worry I’ll set light to my seat-back table on an airplane or my hotel desk.
I also have found VMWare to be more sluggish. If I let it auto-protect, it decides to do a backup whenever it’s damn well ready to do it, bringing everything to a halt. I finally had to shut that off. I’m also feeling like I’ve gone back in time, since my dual processor machine is devoting one processor to Windows and one to the Mac. Meanwhile, my connectivity within VMWare just sucks. For some reason, pages take forever to load in Firefox (or Chrome), regardless whether I’m in bridged or NAT mode.
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.
But then there’s the cost. I keep thinking how nice a quad-core machine would be, even though I suppose I don’t need that much power, if I’m going cloud based. For the Mac, that’s like $2,500+. Oh, it comes with a beautiful 27″ monitor. But that’s another issue. I don’t know that I want one large monitor.
One thing I’ve realized is that Mac users are “maximizing” users. What I mean by that is that if you use a Mac, you’re putting windows all over the place, manually dragging them to the size you want, sometimes losing track of what’s open so that you need that F3 key that gives you an overview of everything.
On Windows, I think you tend to maximize the programs you’re using. OK, maybe it’s me. But still, rather than drag a bunch of stuff around on one huge monitor, I want to maximized and togging between stuff between multiple monitors using the Windows taskbar, which I think is better than the Mac dock.
Really, I want a Mac Mini that has a quad core and that could support three monitors. They don’t make that. I can get a dual processor that supports two monitors. If I do that, I still feel like my Windows experience will be slow.
Alternatively, I can get any number of nice Windows machines with tons of memory, quad processors and half the price. And I’ve got plenty of monitors sitting around. I’m swimming in extra monitors.
This brings up Windows 7. That old Vista laptop. Imagine that, putting Windows 7 on it makes it work just fine. And it feels better. It may be tha that the Mac got me through the Vista years.
So, I’m still debating all this. Now if Mac made a quad processor laptop that could run three displays, I’d have no debate. I’d even pay the premium — except for one issue. Non-removable batteries.
I used to do 11 hour flights. Often I’d have power, but still, having a spare battery is helpful. These days, my longest flight tends to be 6 hours. Having two batteries makes a huge difference. Oh, sure, the new Macbooks have a 7 hour battery, supposedly. I don’t know if I believe that. I do know the many occasions I’ve found being unable to juice up, say coming off a flight and having to go right into a meeting or a conference. Having that removable, fully-charged battery is a life-saver.
As I contemplate this, all I can think is why don’t I have more choice with my Mac options. Do I really have to abandon them, because they don’t let me run three monitors as easily as I could do on Windows? Am I just not getting that I should use one or two big monitors instead.
In the end, I ultimately might just go with what I know, what works, the easy way — back to Windows, back to multiple monitors and stick with my Macbook for trips.
Postscript: See My MacBook Pro Goes Multimonitor: 4 Monitors At Once!, with thoughts on me still struggling at the end.