Last summer I started a series of blog entries that turned out to be my most commented upon posts. It was about my transition from PC to Mac. It's six months later—here's the report.
There were barriers to making the transition earlier. A big one was cost. Like just about everyone starting out in the profession, I was pretty much broke and living hand to mouth. The premium of a Mac was too much of a barrier. So I learned Windows. I never knew different. Anytime I had to work on a Mac, I was disoriented and frustrated. Why can't this thing behave like a computer should? Where's the right mouse button, for crying out loud?
I never understood this alleged superiority of Macs for photography. My Photoshop seemed to work just fine. And I couldn't stand the arrogance and the cult-like attitude of the Mac crowd which reached its apotheosis in the Mac-PC guy ads. Who could possibly like that smug, hipster poser dude? I identified with the dork.
If I were to look at myself now from a year ago, I would be shaking my head and mutttering, “They got him. He's joined the cult.”
The Macs I have now are the best computers I've ever owned. The moment I handled my Macbook Pro I realized that it was faster and more powerful than any desktop I ever owned, and the screen was equal to my high end CRT display and much easier on the eyes. A week later I ordered a Macpro to replace the desktop.
I had a Getty Images windfall that month, so I could afford this. I got a book, and started figuring out the OS. And I quickly realized, for what I do, the Mac is way better. Adobe applications are lightning fast. The file organization structure took some getting used to, but now when I use a PC I'm annoyed that I can see only one drive and the contents of one folder at a time in an Explorer box.
There are annoyances, and some were costly. My laserprinter (Canon 5550) didn't speak Mac, so I traded with Robin. Hers didn't play nice either, so I had to order a replacement printer. My digital voice recorder was history. I'd go into a computer store or Office Depot and look at how many things only plug into a PC.
The OS is still not completely natural for me. It is still a problem for me to tell where I am. On a PC, the active window is where you are. No confusion. The signal strength for which program is active is much weaker on a Mac. I have, more than once, been printing out DVD disks, and find that I've been printing out email messages instead on my disks.
Some programs, like Quicken for Mac, break up the elements of the program into a bunch of separate boxes, so you really have no idea where you are, and not a great chance of getting the right thing active without launching into someplace unexpected. In Photoshop the first thing I do is punch the F key to go to full screen mode, which gets to be a bother when you've got multiple files open. I've since gotten Parallels and Windows XP to run my old Quicken program, as well as my old Word 97 and Excel 97 programs. I tried the later versions of both, and hated them. These seem to run better and with less complaint in XP on the Mac.
Networking seemed to be much easier for me on PCs than Macs. Once you went through the arcane procedure to set up network shares, they were cast in concrete and always there. On Macs it's been a much more hit or miss affair, with several visits by expensive techs to set it up properly. And I can only go one direction in file transfers—I still can't dump files from the desktop to the laptop via the network. One day, for no apparent reason, the file transfer system broke down completely. I'd be a gigabyte into a transfer, and I'd get the “You don't have sufficient permissions” error. The next day the problem was gone.
I can still crash both computers regularly. For a time, my Apple Mail program would fritz out, until I deleted a message in the Inbox that must have had some distasteful code. On the laptop I've been converting a batch of old videotapes to DVD through iMovie for my mother in law (John Ciardi lectures from 1982, when she brought him to the University of Northern Kentucky). After about every fifth tape the entire computer crashes with that faded out screen and that polite message about a catastrophic crash, in a tone that tries not to be unduly alarming, that you must restart the computer now please.
Then there was the whole mass storage debacle of trying to set up a RAID box, then a JOBOD box, and then anything that would use a sata cable. I stumped a lot of experts on that one.
I am still getting used to how Macs handle file organization. On PCs you have to be organized and know where you put things. It's something the computer asked of you all the time. “Where do you want this to go? Is that really where you want it to go? Really? You sure now?” Macs seem geared to a kind of intelligence that doesn't care where anything lives. It is still a mystery to me how file downloads over the web are handled. There's no dialog box asking me what to do with a file download. It just happens, and it goes wherever it goes, and sometimes something pops up and tells me what to do next, or it doesn't. I operate on a kind of faith that everything will turn out well in the end.
Nonetheless, whenever I have to fix something on Robin's machine, I mutter ever time, “I'm going to get you a Mac and make this easier.”
And every time Robin uses my laptop, she finds cause to yell, “I hate your computer! I don't know how to do anything!”