My First Mac: One Week In

For those of you that know me, you know that in the past I’ve avoided Apple products like the plague. Well last weekend I took the plunge and got a Macbook Pro.

For years I argued that:

  1. I didn’t want to be part of the “walled garden
  2. The price was far too high and I could get a lot more bang-for-the-buck elsewhere
  3. I’m very productive in Windows, and the switching costs were going to be painful – this is for keyboard shortcuts, applications, etc.
  4. The Apple Store “Genius Bar” experience is annoying

The Big Decision

Macbook Pro

As the year clicked over to 2014, my Lenovo T420 turned about two years old – pretty much the time where you start to notice your laptop is getting slow. First I looked at the new Lenovo T440s. They looked pretty awesome, but the keyboard layout changed (not for the better) and by the time I was done putting in an SSD harddrive and bumping up the RAM it was going to cost about $1,800. So then I started looking at HP, Samsung, and Dell – didn’t find anything good there, as expected.

Then I started to look at Macbook Pros. Over the last year everyone at BlueFletch got a new Macbook and said what a great experience it was. I was still unconvinced, so I decided to ask some more questions. A couple of them in particular were always “windows guys” (like me) and I wanted to know what the transition was like. The feedback I got was:

  • I love my Macbook
  • The hardware is great, especially the trackpad and gestures that come with it
  • There is a learning curve with keyboard shortcuts
  • Running Windows in a VM is “the fastest I’ve seen Windows run”

I was still hesitant and narrowed things down to the Lenovo T440 and the Macbook Pro. One issue I had on Lenovo’s website was that the T440 said it could support up to 12 GB of RAM, but the only option on the site was to order one with 4 GB (clearly not enough for what I’m looking for). I used their “live sales chat” feature and the nice gentleman I was talking to said that they do support up to 12 GB, but their RAM is on backorder. First of all their site shouldn’t make me think the 8 GB and 12 GB upgrades aren’t even an option on that model, and second of all I wasn’t messing around waiting or ordering RAM separately – I wanted my new toy now!

That day I decided I was all in on a Macbook Pro. Best case scenario it would be an easy transition, I’d end up with great hardware, and I’d never look back. Worst case scenario is it would kill my productivity and either I’d live with the bad laptop for two years or go back to my Lenovo (using the Macbook only sparingly). The reality will likely be somewhere in the middle. Either way – it would be a great learning experience.

One Week In

It’s been a week and so far I can say I’m pretty happy with my decision. There’s definitely things I’m still getting used to, but overall I think I made the right choice. I was going dual-computer with my Lenovo and Macbook on Monday, but by Tuesday I didn’t open my Lenovo at all.

Things I Like

Dropbox

  • First I want to point out how easy it is setting up a new computer (any new computer) compared to a few years ago. Dropbox, Chrome, and Firefox sync all of my files, add-ons, and preferences. Why can’t Windows do this so that I can easily copy my preferences from one account to another.
  • Thanks to a recommendation from a few friends, I used VMWare to run Windows 7 (none of this Windows 8 junk). It was easy to setup and works very well. I am almost exclusively using the full-screen mode and haven’t ventured into using Unity yet. I do all of my MS Office work (Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint) in here.
  • Having access to the terminal is wonderful.
  • spotlightSpotlight is excellent for both finding files and opening applications. I no longer have a need for Launchy.
  • The hardware really is excellent. I looked at my old screen next to my Macbook’s retina screen and wondered how I survived so long without it. It’s just like watching a non-HD channel and switching to the HD-channel. EYE OPENING. The sound and microphone are also superb, which makes for much better video conferencing (e.g. daily standup meetings).
  • Using multiple desktops is great, and switching between them with a four-finger-slide on the trackpad is a breeze. My current setup is: 1) Evernote and Adium, 2) Windows VM, 3) Chrome and Firefox, 4) Anything else I’m working on (usually terminal and/or Android Studio).

Pain Points

  • The one thing everyone warned me about: the keyboard stinks. And it’s true! No page up/page down, no delete (windows forward-delete, that is), no home/end. I don’t like it. It’s also very confusing when switching between OSX and the Windows VM: command-C and command-V to copy/paste in OSX, then control-C and control-V to copy/paste in windows…or a mix of the two if I’m copying and pasting between those windows. Fortunately, I found KeyRemap4Macbook, which allows me to do cool things like remap the F12 key to forward-delete, remap F10 and F11 to home and end (respectively), and remap my caps locks key to automatically open Spotlight.
  • Finder (the equivalent of windows explorer) is a piece of junk. Right off the bat I could tell it was awful: clicking the return key renames a file. There’s also no easy way to edit the path. If anyone knows of a good replacement, PLEASE let me know. I have trouble just navigating to the folder I want to get to, even before I want to do something “complicated” like move a file to another directory.
  • Along the lines of keyboard shortcuts, using the menubar with the keyboard is really tough. In windows I know I can click alt-F to get to File, alt-E to get to edit, etc. In OSX I have to click control-F2, then navigate around with my keyboard.
    menubar

What’s Next

I plan on using my Windows VM for Microsoft Office, and OSX for pretty much everything else: web browsing, development, Evernote, IM. The multiple desktops feature really excels with this. Dropbox is already installed on both Windows and OSX, so I’ve got all of my files in both environments. Finally, I want to use this as a learning experience: get more familiar with the terminal, and maybe do some iPhone development.

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3 comments on “My First Mac: One Week In
  1. RJ says:

    Function + up/down is Page Up/Down, and Function + left/right is Home/End. Even after a year of Win8/OSX in Parallels, I still find many of the same things frustrating as yourself — mostly Finder and the single menu bar. Oh! and screenshots.

    If you choose to Boot Camp it, check out Trackpad++ to get those multi-touch gestures in Windows. Oh, and if you want an EVEN EASIER way to setup a new box, check out Boxstarter, a daemon that automates NuGet and Chocolatey (“the apt-get for Windows”).

    Feel free to shout if you have other Macish questions! = )

    – Sent from my Macbook Pro

    • Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll have to checkout Trackpad++.
      And you’re right, screenshots are a pain in the ass when I’m in my VM. I’m also having Paint.net withdrawal if I need to mark up a screenshot.

      • Jeff says:

        Yes! PDN is one of the apps I still go back to my VM for.

        What’s the hangup with screenshots? Cmd+Shift+4 works like a charm, and when I want to do something fancy I do Cmd+Shift+5 (for Skitch).

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