Should I Make The Apple Switch?

apple_mac1Every once in a while I get the urge to switch from a Windows PC to an Apple Mac. Usually that urge comes on when I have Windows applications that don’t respond or crash, or when the operating system just runs really slow. Recently my wife’s computer was working so badly I told her I needed to wipe the disk clean and reload Vista, and she responded with, “… maybe I should get a Mac”. After getting Vista re-installed and updated, I had a heck of a time getting her new Epson Color Printer/Scanner to work with the PC (it had a WiFi interface). I had to reboot the PC, uninstall the Epson drivers, reinstall them, fiddle with the printer, etc. Finally, I hit the right combination to get the printer working, but it really shouldn’t have been that difficult. So, should I blame the problem on Microsoft Vista? Or maybe the person who wrote the Epson printer driver? I don’t know.

Of course, the “grass is always greener on the other side” seems to come into play…. would a Mac be better? The last time I owned an Apple computer was in the late 80’s (a Mac SE and a Mac IIcx), so I have no idea how well or reliable the Unix-based OS-X works. After doing some Google searches, I found a lot of comparison between Macs and PCs but most of the info was 5+ years old.

So far as could I live with a Mac (or non-Microsoft Windows based machine), I think I can for my main home computer. I primarily use my home PC for the following:

  • Web page surfing and Googling
  • Dealing with Emails (local client application)
  • Running a Web Server for testing web pages (I’m a web site developer)
  • Some Photoshopping of images for web pages
  • Record TV shows using a TV Tuner card
  • Syncing with my Zune
  • Scanning images with my Canon scanner
  • Running Visual Studio 2005 for developing Windows Mobile Smartphone applications

Most of the items on my list I know I can do using a Mac, but the last item would definitely require a Windows-based machine. Of course, I could always install Microsoft Vista on the Intel-based Macs and either have a dual-boot system or run Vista inside an emulator shell.

My biggest concern is being able to sync with my Zune and also be able to record TV Shows with a TV tuner card. Are there any Mac users out there who can comment on this? Also, are there issues with the Macs that I should be concerned about? What about former Mac users who have switch to the Windows PCs?

Update (23 Feb 2008)

I’ve done some research and have learned a lot about Macs. Some important facts:

  • Macs DO cost more than PCs, period. I can build a very good system that runs fast with Vista at a much lower cost than an iMac.
  • There’s much more options in the PC world for machines and accessories than the Mac world. Lots of different choices with laptops, Desktops, Hybrids, etc. The Macs only have a few fixed models available.
  • Not all Peripherals on the market for PCs will work with the Mac. In fact, it seems that very few will work with the Mac.
  • A Mac Mini is the cheapest entry point into the Mac world, as you can use your existing monitor, keyboard, and mouse from your PC. The cheapest Mac Mini shipped by Apple have 1 GB of RAM and a 80 GB 5400 rpm disk drive, and a Intel Core 2 Duo processor, so they have less memory and disk space than most PCs. From what I’ve read, you need at least 2 GB of RAM to run the new OS X Leopard operating system effectively with no lag time.
  • Upgrading a Mac Mini is possible by the user (adding more memory or changing the hard drive), but it voids the 1-year warranty. Also, opening the case to do the upgrade is very difficult and time consuming for most users.
  • BIGGIE: There is no Zune Software for the Macs. The only way to use a Zune with a Mac is to install Windows XP or Vista on it. You’ll need to do a dual-boot or run Windows in a Virtual Machine (VM Fusion or Parallels) which is an additional cost. Not good.

I do have to say that the Apple web site is very nice, and offers lots of good information on their products, but it just seems to me I can build a better system buying quality components myself at a much cheaper price.

Now, I’m a big UNIX users from my past jobs so getting a UNIX-based system is compeling. Also, I do like different technology, so that is another plus to getting a Mac system. I’m just afraid that I won’t like the Mac OS because it will be so different from Windows. So, I’ll probably see if I can get a cheap Mac Mini from eBay so I can experiment with the Mac system and determine for myself if I can effectively use a Mac for my personal use.

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14 thoughts on “Should I Make The Apple Switch?

  1. Bob Davis says:

    Here is the solution to your problem. I have a friend who has two son’s, one works for MS & the other works for Apple. The Apple son got him a Mini Mac. He now can switch back & forth between both system’s using the same monitor, keyboard & mouse. The Mini Mac is reasonably priced & won’t break your budget. Enjoy the best of both worlds.

  2. zunetips says:

    Bob: I agree with you, in that the Mac Mini would be a good way to explore the Mac world first hand. The Mac Minis are still pricey compared to what I could build myself with PC components. I’ve been looking on eBay for used Mac Minis, but they are still pricey.

  3. Bob Davis says:

    http://www.usedmacmini.com/
    Another site to check out

  4. zunetips says:

    Bob: Thanks for those links. Obviously, the Macs hold their value. The cheapest NEW Mac Mini I could find is from amazon.com at $595 (1 GB RAM, 80 GB Disk), and used ones seem to go for close to $500 (from what I’ve seen on eBay). I’d like to get an Intel-based one so I can run Windows Vista on it, and Duo 2 Core if possible. I’ll probably upgrade the memory since that would be a cheap upgrade, and stick with the 80 GB drive for the time being. I’d also like to get the latest Leopard OS. However, I’ve been reading that Apple is coming out with an updated version of the Mac Minis and iMacs in April/March…

  5. Scentsy says:

    Don’t do it! I say stick with PC and wait for Windows 7. You’ll be glad you did. The reviews and tests are nothing but good for Windows 7.

  6. zunetips says:

    Scentsy: I hear ya! I actually loaded the beta version of Windows 7 on a Dell Mini 9 Netbook laptop and had a chance to work with it for a little bit. Although it generally still looked like Vista, it did seem less bloated and ran reasonably quickly on the low-powered Intel Atom processor and slow Solid State Drive. So it does look very promising.

    I just have an urge to check out the Mac OS to see if it fits better for my personal needs. Of course, there’s the coolness (or newness) factor also. I’ll probably visit a Mac Store and see for myself how good/bad/different the Mac OS is compared to Vista. Or, maybe I’ll come to my senses and just forget about! 🙂

  7. Chris Rees says:

    It’s honestly been a long time since I’ve used a Mac, and I am a little biased towards PCs, but I would say give Mac a chance. I remember when Mac OSX came out and I helped set it up on the computers at my middle school. It was decently fast and kept everything rather organized since Mac uses the top bar for your current application’s menu basically. Also, makes are much better for graphic design and I wouldnt see why using it for a server would be a problem.

    For your Zune, as you saw and posted in your update, it would be best on a Windows machine since we all know that Apple and Windows love to keep their technology to themselves. I also have to agree with what others above me have said and suggest waiting for Windows 7. Like you’ve seen it is exactly like Vista and it is extremely fast. I run a 2.00ghz dual core and I dont think the computer has ever lagged on anything at all.

    Anyway, for a closing statement, I would just like to reiterate what I originally said and try a Mac. If you can try one without buying one (using one at a school maybe?), then that might be your best bet. You wouldn’t get to do any heavy testing, but you would get a nice feel for it. Overall switching over should be fine as long as you have a Windows computer for stuff like your Zune.

  8. zunetips says:

    Thanks for everyone’s comments. Yesterday, I went to a local Apple Store and had a chance to see a Mac Mini in operation, and talk with an Apple employee to showed me the ins and outs of the Mac OSX. It was pretty cool, especially since the Mini Mac he was using had a slow hard drive (5400 rpm), a 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (which is what I have in my Vista machine) and only 1 GB of RAM. It was surprising snappy, with windows popping up quickly and flipping around. I did feel a bit like a “traitor” in the Apple Store, since I’ve been using the Windows OS for so many years. Also, with a Mac there’s no building your own computer with purchased components. In fact, you can’t open the Mac Mini to upgrade the memory without voiding the warranty.

    I do have to say I was very close to buying a Mac Mini at the Apple Store before leaving, but I hesitated because my current Vista Desktop PC system is working perfectly fine. For my Vista system I’ve fine tuned the OS, have a 7200 RPM 250 GB drive, 2 GB of memory, and a TV Tuner card with MPEG-2 hardware compression. Once in a while I’ll get a lot of disk drive thrashing or general slowness of my PC which requires a reboot, but I don’t get severe crashing or the Blue-Screen-Of-Death like my wife is getting this week (after I reloaded Vista on her HP machine).

    So, I’m a bit torn whether to switch or not. I like to try something different, I like Unix, and I like the apparent speed and stability of the Mac OSX. Cost is a big factor in my decision, since a 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB of RAM, DVD/CD+RW, and 120 GB hard drive in a Mac Mini will go for around $725. Even if I get a Mac to use as my home personal computer, I’ll also need keep my Vista PC around for TV recordings and Zune syncing. So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

    I’m leaning towards getting the Mac Mini and using it as my main home system, and keep my Vista machine as a TV / Zune server machine. We’ll see if I can last the day without ordering one online!

  9. Bob Davis says:

    Before you buy a mac check out this barebones Quadcore at Tiger Direct. If it’s a money thing this is most bang for the buck I’ve seen.
    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/item-Details.asp?EdpNo=4481557&sku=B69-1014

  10. zunetips says:

    Bob: Wow, that does look like a good system. You get a lot for your money. Definitely worth considering as a hardware upgrade for Windows 7!

  11. Bob Davis says:

    Yeah, with a PC you really get more option’s. Don’t become a “Steppford Wife” & walk lock’n step with all those people who think Steve Jobs is a God. That Quad computer in a Mac would cost over $2,500. You will never see Mac’s that are affordable.

  12. Bob Davis says:

    I was wrong on the Mac price it’s $3,948. Hhttp://store.apple.com/us_smb_78313/configure/MA970LL/A?mco=NzQ3Njkzere’s the link to check it out.

  13. zunetips says:

    Bob: Macs are definitely pricey. I do think they have great package styling (especially the MacBooks), but even then they don’t always seem to be using the best internal components. After working with a Mac for a few days, I still can’t get over how blurry the displayed text is on the screen. What’s amazing to me, is that Mac users think Windows’ ClearType text is fuzzy, and the Mac font smoothing technology is sharp and clear! Maybe my eyes are just too old. I was really expecting the Mac OS X to wow me, and that the higher cost for a Mac would be justified, but I don’t believe that now. With all the headaches with Vista installation, drivers, hangups, etc., I think it still is the most polished OS.

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