The Big Switch - PC to Mac - Part 1

I've always been a bit of a hybrid computer user. By that I mean I am pretty much at home on both Windows and Macintosh platforms. Two years ago I made a vow never to purchase PC hardware again based on the effort it involves in installing / upgrading / configuring / etc anything to do with a PC. However - I continued to predominantly use Windows (Vista / 7) for a number of reasons - to list a few:

  • Most of my work is viewed by people using the Windows operating system seeing as this is by far the most popular OS - it made sense to text and view websites on the PC
  • All my software licenses (Adobe Production Premium, Adobe Web Premium, etc) are for the PC platform
  • In the past I used to do a lot of multimedia work utilising Director and often making Director talk to the system or peripheral devices - these sort of antics are so much more versatile within Windows

Recently I have done less and less Director-based work. I was also getting more and more frustrated with Windows Vista and Windows 7 (which, in my opinion, is as bad as Vista for crashing and silly glitches). I was spending most my days fighting with the Windows OS, trying to get it to do the simple things I wanted it to do. Things like opening a program form the ridiculously named 'Start' menu - for some reason most programs would not run by clicking on them. I had to physically locate the .exe file the shortcut pointed to and open it from there. Why this happened I don't know. I had also lost the will to find out. Copying files was also ridiculous - it would sometimes take literally hours to copy just a few hundred megabytes. Other times Windows would cite me 'days' as the estimated time.

The final straw however was when the fully licensed and legit version of Windows 7 I ran on my MacBook using Bootcamp suddenly started to tell me it was not valid. All day, every day I was constantly reminded of this erroneous fact via a popup at the bottom right of the screen. My attempts to call Microsoft and resolve the issue resulted in being competely unable to contact anyone at Mircosoft. At all. I would constantly get referred back to my vendor or to a 'buy a new licence of Windows 7 now' webpage. My choices were a) pay another £150-odd for an OS I had already spend £150 on or, the more drastic approach b) sod it off and move over to Mac OS entirely. I chose to sod it off.

This wasn't going to be a cheap switch but I needed to upgrade a lot of my software and hardware anyway so decided to take the plunge. My plan was to do the following:

  • Purchase a brand new 27" iMac as my main workhorse to replace my almost useless Dell running Vista
  • Invest in a Time Capsule to handle day-to-day backups from the iMac and act as a WiFi base station (I had no ends of issues with communication between my PC, Router and Airport Express)
  • Continue to use my RAID 2 ReadyNAS to archive old projects
  • Upgrade (memory and HDD) and reformat by MacBook for use on the road
  • Use OSX Snow Leopard on both iMac and MacBook as my main operating system. The iMac would then have XP and Vista running on Bootcamp / Parallels partitions whilst the MacBook ran Windows 7 under bootcamp
  • Cross-platform upgrade my licenses of Adobe CS
  • Smash a thousand shades of living hell out of the pathetic Dell piece of crud that had been maing my life hell for so long

I have run out of time now but I will blog soon on how the Big Switch went and the teething problems I ran into.

Windows Live Writer Beta...

After trying to embed video into a blog entry earlier I soon discovered that this blog engine (BlogEngine – current version at the bottom of this page) won’t handle the <embed> code in the online editor. As quick as a Flash I was bending Dave’s (very patient) ear to this fact via MSN. He calmly suggested I download Windows Live Writer Beta. After a quick moan about Microsoft (which Dave cheerfully absorbed) I bit the bullet and installed WLW Beta from: http://download.live.com/ 

I am using it now and I have to be honest – it seems fairly good. (My computer is running a little slow but I can’t be sure that's because of WLW or some of the other programs I have running – I am doing some very heavy vector work on multiple files this morning). After installing a simple wizard asked me for my blog URL, username and password and that was it – I was up and running.

WLW Screenshot

I am able to edit in rich text mode or the HTML source and can even switch to a full preview of the blog entry, using my CSS styles, during editing. It also features a spell-check and loads of other useful tools. Most importantly I can now embed the YouTube video code that the standard online editor wouldn't allow.

The only annoying thing I’ve come across so far is that adding an image seems to be unnecessarily complicated. It allows you to add all sorts of styles (drop shadows, margins etc) to your image but I would imagine any serious blogger has all that set up in their CSS. It also imported it at an odd size and I had to wade through some settings to get it to place it at the size I originally wanted.

Overall though – not bad. I’m sure I’ll work out the little annoyances in time. Seven out of ten.

Silverlight? Leave Flash to the Experts...

I try to avoid being negative on my blog but I realise that its been sliding that why over the last few articles. I promise I be more positive in the future...

I have been noticing more and more pro-Microsoft sites (the ones that bang on about the latest laptops and Internet Explorer patches in the same way Apple-worshippers go on about Safari updates and the MacBook Air as if it was a gift from God) have started asking me to install 'Sliverlight'... Absolutely not! There is no chance I am going anywhere near this rival to Flash. Why do Microsoft have to keep inviting themselves to other people party's? They must have taken one look at the latest Flash Player statistics, saw the figure: '99% Penetration' and just couldn't resist a piece of that action. They have done this before.

Look at Internet Explorer. Back in the 'good old days' most users I knew used to install Netscape Navigator rather than use Microsoft’s IE. It was by far the superior browser, came with all sorts of other groovy web apps such as an email client, and was free (unlike Outlook). Microsoft soon cottoned on to the fact that if they could control the browser they could essentially control the internet. The used all sorts of dirty tactics to gain superiority over their better rivals and even had legal action taken against them so users could still be given the illusion of browser choice. Now, what PC users are left with is an operating system with the web browser integrated into almost everything. This is one of the reasons Windows has so many security risks. Most users now can’t be bothered to install anything else and you even come across websites where developers haven’t bothered testing on anything other than IE. And even this wouldn't be a problem if Microsoft hadn'yt seen fit to bastardise CSS. Somethig there were only able to do after they'd won the War of the Browsers.

I'm hoping that people shy away from Silverlight and don’t give Microsoft the chance to get a foothold on interactive and streaming content (because we all know that’s what they are after.) Yes, Silverlight seems to have a good technical spec but Adobe Flash is extremely good, has been number one for years and is the web standard. We don’t need yet another pluggin to install on our browsers.

Another reason to stick with Flash is because of the existing knowledge-base. The design industry has been using Flash for years and Flash content is of a very high quality. It seems to me that currently the only people authoring in Flash are Microsoft-sycophantic techies. Whilst these people are no doubt highly skilled at coding they don’t seem to have the design flair that makes Flash content of such a high standard.

So Microsoft - if it ain't broke, don't fix it! (Your time would be better spent fixing all your products that ARE broke!)