Hell freezes over: Windows fanboy buys his first Mac

Remember when Apple first shipped a iPod that ran with Windows? Their website read “Hell Freezes Over,” their way of alluding to the fact that they had until then largely ignored the Windows world.

I did the same thing to Apple Mac computers for decades, considering them mostly overpriced, consumer AOL-grade toys with no substance, pitched at the terminally chic and elementary school kids. The more my daughter and my cousin Marshall became Apple-droids, slavishly extolling Apple products, the less the computers appealed to me.

Finally, after decades in the Windows camp , I bought a MacBook Air last week. And my big revelation? It’s a pretty decent Windows 7 machine, thanks to desktop virtualization.

I have always wanted a very powerful, lightweight laptop. Windows-based ultrabooks are appearing to compete with the MacBook Air, promising speedy startup and performance in very thin form factors. Aside from the fact that ultrabooks are first-generation, their main problem today is that they are really fugly. I just didn’t want to blow $1000 on an ultrabook that felt more like an experiment than a complete machine.

So, courtesy of my broker who gave me an Apple gift card that made the MBA price competitive with an ultrabook, I took the plunge and bought an i5-equipped machine with a 256GB SSD.

Yes, the out-of-box experience is great. But what really worked for me is the fact that OS X found my HP wireless printer and the scanner, setting up both. If you’ve ever installed the HP Windows drivers, you know what a miracle this is. And, no, the reversed mouse/trackpad scrolling in OS X Lion is not natural and Apple is being just as arrogant and insensitive to users as any big company can be. The screen is nice — but the keyboard has very little travel and is a bit uncomfortable. All in all, I think Apple makes a nice machine. But at Apple’s price points, its margins must be very high — the machine feels extraordinarily over-priced.

But the reason I am keeping the machine is that SSD. It’s fast. I can boot to the OS X desktop in about 15 seconds. Windows 7 64-bit under Parallels boots in about 25 seconds. I wait less for Parallels to launch Windows 7 and bring up Outlook in a virtual machine that I do on my ThinkPad T410 (circa late 2010) with its first-gen i5 and 7200rpm mechanical disk drive. In a word, SSDs are a revelation. No more machines for me without SSDs.

The biggest problems for a Windows user using a Mac with desktop virtualization are the complexity of the setup and the keyboard interface. Parallels does a good job of picking defaults for when you allow it to set up the Windows vm “like a Mac.” But it still requires a lot of tricky work to set up Office apps to use (in my case) a Windows Live Mesh synced folder (which is then synced to the Mac desktop). I didn’t want shared drives between the two OSs — I wanted both to sync to the cloud.

For a Windows user coming from decades of using the OS, the biggest adjustment is returning to a TTY-era keyboard mapping, which is how OS X strikes me. Control, Option and Command key combos are complex — for example having to use Option+Command+spacebar to open a Finder window in OS X versus Windows+E for a new Windows Explorer window. I still can’t find a “show desktop” keystroke for Max OS X. I miss the Home and End keys in Windows — and can’t find equivalents to PgUp and PgDn in either the virtual machine or on native Mac OS X apps.

Bottom line: I am taking the machine to work tomorrow — to force myself to see if it can be my work machine. If I don’t come home ready to kill, then my love affair with ThinkPads may well be over.

Stay tuned.








5 responses to “Hell freezes over: Windows fanboy buys his first Mac”

  1. […] you, I just love my MacBook Air. (I know, I know…officially you don’t have a bias towards Apple products. The fact that […]

  2. […] machine is my delicious, over-priced and not-upgradeable-when-you-need-more-memory-and-disk MacBook Air. That means I run Office 2013 in a Windows virtual machine. So, performance is important. While […]

  3. […] Hell freezes over: Windows fanboy buys his first Mac Suing Lenovo, chapter 1 […]

  4. […] only recently that I bought my first Mac laptop, which despite some limitations – most notably the keyboard – has turned out to be a […]

  5. limeduck Avatar

    I agree the keyboard shortcuts are pretty poor in MacOS. Sometimes I think Apple is at war against the keyboard too – they’d rather we click our (single button) mice, caress our touchscreens, and lovingly whisper to our magical aluminum friends. That said, if you sweep four fingers up on your trackpad, all you windows will fly away and you can see the desktop. Sweep four fingers back down to return to the window(s) you had. Maybe multitouch gestures are the new keyboard shortcuts?

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