Nigel Harris's Mac Diary: Who wants Windows on a Mac?
For nearly two decades, accountants have given a wide berth to the Apple Macintosh, favouring the more mainstream PC. Encouraged by some of his clients, Nigel Harris decided to buck the trend. This is the story of his new computing life.
Windows on a Mac? Not for me, thanks
One thread which has come up many times in the comments posted on this blog and in my initial research on Macs is whether or not to run Windows on the Mac (by creating a virtual Windows machine on the Mac using something like VMWare) as well as Mac OS. The question I suppose is why? The beauty of the Apple Mac is that you have hardware and software specifically designed for each other, working together in perfect (well, almost) harmony. Start running Windows on it and who knows what will happen!
Of course, if you need to run Windows applications you haven't got much choice, especially if you need them to support clients running Windows. But it seems to me that in that case you might as well save yourself some hassle - and a stack of cash - and just buy a Windows PC. For me the beauty of the Mac is that it's a Windows and Microsoft-free environment, and for the time being my iMac is going to stay that way, so I'm not installing VMWare and Windows any time soon! Fort he time being I have all the MS Office-compatible programs I need, and once I get online no-one cares whether I'm using Windows, Mac OS or Linux, so I can run things like Google Docs and any online accounting package equally well from my office PC or my Macbook mobile. And despite reviews I have read elsewhere, the Apple Safari browser is fine for accessing the firm's online Outlook so when I'm away from my desk I can still access the same essential data.
Of far greater urgency is my huge iTunes library on my PC. Apparently you can't just migrate it from one machine onto another, but a quick Google search reveals that there are lots of cheap utilities that by-pass Apple's restrictions and enable you to copy iTunes files between machines of all sorts, so I'll have to try one out. Anyone got a favourite one? Is there a free iTunes utility that enables you to copy the contents of your iPod onto a new computer?
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Office needed - but which one?
The next decision is software for day-to-day use. I need a Microsoft Word-compatible word processor, but which one? I’m not a power user by any means but I need to be able to exchange Word documents with PC users, and use features such as change tracking and comments.
1. The obvious choice would be Word itself. As far as I can make out, Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac is not simply a Mac version of the PC program but something that has developed in parallel. Reviews seem to suggest it’s slow and prone to crashing, and – more importantly – it is not 100% compatible with Office 2007 for the PC. Entourage, the Mac version of Outlook, doesn’t seem to be fully compatible with Outlook either, so I think I’ll avoid this option.
2. If I’m going fully down the Mac route I ought to look at Apple’s own iWork ’08, which has similar components to MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint. It is cheaper than Office, but then it lacks Outlook. It certainly looks good, although reviews seem to suggest it is more suited to home users since it has far fewer features. In exchange you do get full Mac integration, which has to be worth something. One to think about.
3. For the moment I’m going with Open Office, since it’s free and gives me time to assess the options. On the plus side the Word Processor looks and behaves like Word on my PC and I have had no problems exchanging files with PC users – all the formatting and editing features seem to be compatible, although I am having trouble with the word counter. I suspect that when I ask Open Office to track changes in documents the word counter is counting both the original text and the changes – I have just been editing down a draft article and as I delete stuff the word count keeps going up!
So I’m open to suggestions – what would readers recommend?
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The Mac is back!
Sorry Alistair and other readers, the Bank Holiday turned into a week off! But when I returned there was my shiny new Macbook. Even better, it's the latest 2009 model and not an older 2008 model (not sure what diference that makes!). I did pay a bit extra for 2GB of RAM in the replacement, seemed like a false economy to cut corners, especially if I decide to try to install Windows.
First things first, I plugged it in and left it, and, yes, the charger works fine and the battery is up to 100% and happy to run the Macbook out in the garden away from the mains, so that's solved.
The next job was to run the inevitable updates - took about an hour to get everything up to the latest versions, but that's also fixed.
So let's see what we've got here. The display is certainly bright and crisp, no complaints there. I can see it's going to take a while to get used to the desktop and finding everything, but the keyboard looks like the first big hurdle. There are no delete, home or end keys, which I use frequently on my PC so looks like I'm going to be using a lot of function key combinations to mirror tasks I'm used to.
While the trackpad is neat and plain, there's ONLY ONE button! - so no right mouse clicking. I'll have to see what a difference that makes. There seems to be an awkward drag and click combination that sometimes accesses extended menus though. Scrolling is great, just run two fingers up or down the trackpad - in fact it's so easy I already keep trying to do it on my Dell laptop in the office! Definitely a feature they should add to Windows PCs. The scroll area along the right edge of some trackpads doesn't seem to work all the time and just frustrates me.
Next job - try to do some real work on the Macbook.
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I was like a child opening a Chrismas (Ed - are we still allowed to say that in the UK? OK then, Holiday) present. Nice white shiny MacBook, comfortingly brand new in the original Apple packaging and security tapes all in place. Fired it up and it looks great...but wait, the battery still says 0% and it has been charging for hours! Yep, it's a duff machine.
Ran the recommended diagnostic tests and Ebuyer have agreed it's a hardware problem, so a courier will collect it next week and with any luck I'll have a replacement by the Bank Holiday. Ho hum!
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How it all started
I have an increasing number of clients in the creative and music industries, and one thing they all have in common is the Apple Mac. I was visiting a recording studio recently and during a break I wandered round and spotted musicians and engineers using 14 MacBooks for various jobs, and all looking pretty smart (the MacBooks that is, not the musos).
Meanwhile I have been struggling with my Asus EeePC as a portable note-taker and Web browser and have been considering dumping it for a proper laptop.
Discussing this with my musician friends I was persuaded to consider a Mac as an alternative, and was bombarded with tales of how great they are: reliable, never get viruses, easy to use - and dead gorgeous to boot. In the end I was won over and decided to start this journey from PC to Mac, and to share it with you. Will it be a romance like the story of Peter Andre and Jordan, but with silicon chips instead of implants? Perhaps that's not a good comparison after today's news of their break up. I'm hoping for a happier ending with my new relationship.
The first obstacle you face when you visit the Apple website is, of course, the prices. A basic MacBook starts at over £700, and the ultra thin Air model is some £1,300. You need a £1,400 Pro model to run Windows - something in excess of twice the cost of a decent Microsoft-powered notebook PC!
I had a quick flirtation with mini PCs and larger netbooks, but some of these are as expensive as the MacBook and come with all of the disadvantages of a desktop PC in terms of Windows and hardware problems. No, I'm going to stick to the Apple plan.
Problem solved by the excellent www.ebuyer.com where I managed to find a 'last year's model' 13-in MacBook for just over £600, nearly £100 less than Apple's price for the current equivalent becasue its only got 1GB of RAM, which isn't going to be a problem for the uses I have in mind. It does have an Intel Core 2 Duo chip, 120GB hard disk, DVD re-writer and the latest Mac OS X. Looks like a bargain, and as a regular shopper at ebuyer.com I feel pretty confident that it will be exactly as advertised, not some refurbished rubbish.
So the order has been placed and I await the arrival of the kit that will see me take my first tentative steps in this brave new world. I'm going to let you know how it goes in this blog, so watch this space.
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I'm a partner with Burton Sweet, chartered accountants & business advisers, and run the Shepton Mallet office down in beautiful Somerset. Despite the name, Shepton Mallet is actually the home of Glastonbury Festival! I trained in audit and corporate tax with Grant Thornton and came to my current position in 1991 via small local practices...