Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Vista and Mac - Techie Stuff!

A couple of people have commented that they are thinking of getting Macs (Jenn, Suzanne ... waving!), so I thought it might be useful to give you the benefit of my recent experience.

I really like the iMac. The Tiger operating system is very slick. It is a perfect fit for our family as I have creative techie-minded children. They love using the computer to play with photos, make movies and so on. Angel likes tinkering with websites and editing music. Macs come with a whole suite of software (iMovie, iPhoto, iWebs, Garageband) that is streets ahead of Windows in this area. We like iTunes too. When asked both girls unequivocally preferred the Mac.

Even if we didn't like all the creative bells and whistles, the Mac is good to use. It is far more stable than any Windows system, and is not susceptible to viruses or spyware. Even Tevye, who is most definitely not a computer person, is finding the software quite intuitive. (We are talking someone who only has to look at a computer for it to crash!)

The downside of the Mac is compatibility. Once my trial periods are up I will have to pay for some "work" type software, even though I have a copy of Office for Windows sitting in my desk drawer. I like the iWork software that came with the Mac, but formatting does get slightly scrambled when transferring files to and from Word. If I want Office for Mac I will have to pay £100 for it. New Macs (the ones with an Intel processor) can run Windows software, but you have to put some extra software on first (Virtual PC?). I think you also then have to install a Windows operating system on the Mac to make this work. I decided my incompatibility issues are not big enough to be worth going down this road ... but it is worth bearing in mind that it is an option. In effect, any compatibility issue can be resolved if you are prepared to throw some money at it, but if you don't want to do that then there will be some frustrations.

As for laptops and Vista ... I ordered a Windows machine as a replacement laptop partly because I thought we would still need a PC and partly because I simply assumed a Mac laptop was out of my price range. Since then I've come to the conclusion that we could have managed fairly easily without a PC and discovered that I could have bought a reconditioned MacBook for not much more than the PC. Guess what I wish I had done!

Vista and a low spec laptop is not a good combination. Our previous laptop had a slightly slower processor and 512Mb of RAM. It ran Windows XP comfortably. I added extra RAM to the new laptop to boost it up to 1Gb, and it is still running much slower than the old Windows XP machine. Frustratingly slowly. We do have it set up for four separate users which slows it down compared to a single user - but then we had four users on the old machine too. Vista definitely has compatibility issues. Some software loaded fine (Office, printer drivers), some took a bit of fiddling around to make it work (Microsoft Money) and some simply would not work at all (a Calendar program, Maths2XL) despite being Windows software. I am also having trouble reading files from the DVD I used to back up the old machine. Ugh! Vista has clearly tried to copy the Mac OS - it has gadgets where the Mac has widgets, for example - but it is still a poor imitation. Maybe on a bigger, faster (desktop?) machine it would be better, but switching old files and software could still be frustrating.


Alice said...

Thanks for a very helpful post, Kathryn!

Jenn Miller said...

Thanks, Kathryn for the details. Dh is nearly convinced to aim for the MAC conversion, but we're trying to make sure all is compatible with his work stuff. I would like a laptop, he doesn't see the we're working that out, too.

And thanks for the heads up on Vista. I've been out of the loop, so I had to look up what it exactly was. ;-) Unless I had a new Windows computer with tons of memory, I wouldn't touch the new Vista. I'm working almost at full capacity here and it's teetering!