A couple weeks ago, I bought a Macbook Air with the intention of carrying it to school and using it as a daily laptop, replacing my Asus N82JQ, was a brick and consumed battery power like crazed, starved addict. On the whole, I am pleased with it, and it’s probably one of the best piece of tech I’ve ever bought, even though there are some issues. Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome was getting used to OS X after having lived and breathed Windows as a power user for most of my tech life.
Most of the transition has gone well, but perhaps I should talk about my pet peeve with OS X. When sorting by name in Finder, files and folders are sorted together, instead of sorting folders first, and then files, like in virtually every other OS out there. This feels like one of those insane Steve Jobs going against convention moments.
As a programmer, the the UNIX underpinnings of OS X really shines. Having tools like
diff right out of the box is really convenient, and the Bash shell is a lot more programmable in a sane way compared the command prompt and its VB idiosyncrasies.
As a portable machine, the tight integration between software and hardware lets really shines in its ability to sleep and wake instantaneously. There’s hardly any battery drain in sleep, making shutting down the system really unessential. This is a true ‘always ready to use’ system that PC makers have been striving to obtain for years with its hybrid HDD+SSD and alternative OSes have not been able to accomplish.
Despite the tight hardware and software integration, there are issues which you’d think shouldn’t happen and should have been caught in easily in a QA test that crops up. One frustrating issue is that when using a mini-DP to HDMI dongle, the colours on the external monitor appears washed out. Even more frustratingly, this issue happens only on OS X, and not when running Windows through the use of bootcamp. This whole issue deserves a post on its own, and I’ll save it for that.
Rants and praises aside, there is a significant hidden cost when moving from Windows to OS X. It might not be obvious at first, but you’re going to have to purchase new OS X specific licenses for the commercial software that you use. Even if you have one of those ‘per individual’ or ‘family packs’ licenses, they usually either cover only Windows or OS X, not both. This can be an expensive proposition if you’re going to be running a mixed environment of OS X and Windows at home. At the very least, you’re going to have to spend on MS Office for Mac.
Compatibility between Windows and Mac also adds to the cost. There’s no single file system that works across both OS X and Windows. Windows using NTFS and OS X uses HFS+, and it’s dilemma when it comes to formatting external hard drives. FAT32 is not a viable option if you have files larger than 4 GB. NTFS is the better compromise here, because NTFS is well documented due to its popularity, and if you had to connect the external HDD to another non-Mac device, chances are much higher that it has NTFS support instead of HFS+. In order to get NTFS on OS X functioning, you can either deal with the free ntfs3g and the performance penalties of running a file system in user mode, or pay for commercial drivers.
Transitioning between Windows and OS X is something that is going to take patience, and a wad of cash, but it’s something that can be done. It is probably easier for a Windows layman than a professional because there’s a lot less to unlearn. The best place to start would probably be getting used to the keyboard shortcuts and using Spotlight (like Windows Vista/7 start menu quick search) to launch apps. Things get a lot easier from there on.