I admit it – I’m a Mac guy

I’m an engineer, a computer scientist by degree. Way back, the same year Ronald Reagan was elected president, I was a freshman at the University of Illinois. There were no “PCs,” and computers filled rooms. They were mysterious machines, operated by wizards speaking in tongues, with black robes and pointy hats in poorly illuminated rooms.

That’s mostly accurate – computers DID fill rooms, and not everybody could operate one. I could, though. Compared to today, I might as well have been a monk, writing with a quill pen, dipping and crafting a copy of some part of the Bible. We used punched cards to write programs, and a mysterious set of arcane statements of JCL to convince the computer to tell you where some of the problems were in your program. At some point, when the stars aligned, your program would run and you’d find out that you could indeed make the computer smarter than you in playing Tic-Tac-Toe. I was a GENIUS!

The advent of the Personal Computer and WWW have made computing much more accessible to the lay person. You don’t have to “know computers” to do cool things with them now (but they’re still better than you at Tic-Tac-Toe).

Now I work with a lot of people with similar backgrounds, and for some reason most of those people do one thing significantly differently than I do – they all buy Windows-based PCs. Some run Windows, some run Linux, but whatever they are, they aren’t Macs – they’re “real computers.”

Not me, nope, I’m a Mac guy. I’ve had PCs, my company uses PCs, heck I run VMware on my Mac at work to be able to effectively use Outlook and Exchange at work. But at home, it’s all Mac’s baby – all Mac all the time (we did have a brief experiment with Windows that was particularly bad timing – remember Windows ME?).

So why did I go the Mac route? It’s simple – I live with other people (a wife – a Pharmacist by trade,  and a few kids – one has left but 2 are still at home) and they’re NOT engineers. They are “regular people” which really means they are “NOT computer people.” These NOT computer people think computers are hard to use and are mysterious devices from alien planets. People who can make computers do things are thought of having magical powers (when really all they do is this).

Right now, active in my house, there are:

  • 3 MacBooks of various vintages (an aluminum Unibody one (c. 2008), a white plastic one (mid-2008), and a white plastic Unibody one(mid-2010);
  • an iMac Aluminum (c. late 2009);
  • a MacMini (Intel, c. 2007 or so, give or take); and
  • Often my work computer is home as well (MacBook Pro c. late 2009)

My family likes them because they “just work.” I don’t worry about all the crap that Windows users worry about. Maybe because the bad guys target the larger market of Windows users (think guns, fish, barrels), maybe it’s really harder, I don’t know. What I do know is that I spend less of my “computer guy” time messing around with that. One of my friends (Bob, an Electrical Engineer by training) just switched to Macs because he spent what he thought was going to be an hour (from 8PM to 9PM) to clean up some viruses and spam that turned into a full day’s work (8PM to 5 AM before he gave up, doesn’t sound like fun).

I like that it has a built-in local backup strategy – it updates each hour for a full day, each day for a month, and weekly until you run out of space. Plug in the drive, turn it on, and voila, it works.

I like the coherent design in the Mac products – things work together as if it were planned. That’s probably because someone actually DID plan it. I’m fond of the cleverness of the physical design in the products, and when various people do teardowns (like iFixit does), I can see exactly this cleverness. Cleverness in design often translates into complexity in construction or de-construction, but that’s a cost that isn’t seen to the user. (The fact that those teardowns help me avoid paying someone to do something simple, like install a larger disk or more memory in one of my computers, is a nice benefit).

I’m no fanboy, I really don’t take everything they say and believe it without trying it (like the latest one – “You’re holding your phone wrong, it’s not our fault”). If I try it and I like it, then I’ll get one; if not, then I’ll pass. I had a USB Mighty Mouse and threw it away (I did buy it, but not on purpose – it came with a computer I bought) – it was crap; it was so bad that when the wireless one came out I passed – didn’t even try it. I now have a Magic Mouse (came with the iMac noted above) and I like it enough that I have a 2nd one in my bag for when I travel. I have an iPod nano but I don’t have an iPad – can’t figure out what I’d do with it, though it is kinda neat. But I use a Microsoft Natural Keyboard (the kind where the keys are split down the middle).

I write this here not to justify myself to anyone, but rather to provide some background for future posts where I talk about Mac stuff and not Windows or Linux stuff. You’ll see me recommending products/services that I use on a Mac that work well for me, and complaining about stuff that doesn’t. YMMV.

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