Monday, November 10, 2008

Style over substance?

I am in the market for a laptop and find myself leaning towards a Mac. I've never really used one before, and for some reason I feel the need to justify the switch to myself using something more than "because they're cooler".

I don't need anything fancy (in fact I'll probably get a reconditioned used computer, whichever kind I decide to go for), just internet, word processing, and maybe website development.

I know there are lots of MacUsers* in the blogosphere, so please let me know of any convincing reasons for switching!


*A postdoc in my PhD lab in Glasgow subscribed to the MacUser magazine. The rest of us always said it sounded like a support group for Scottish drug addicts.


  1. i have a mac and i love it, but, like you, my only real reason is "because it's cooler" so yeah. i mean, being cool is good i guess? right?

    oh, wait, i just thought of another reason: lots of PIs and scientists use them. so, like maybe it will make us better scientists?

  2. Noooooooooo! Don't do it! Don't go over to the dark side!

    Sorry, I'm on my second drink (empty stomach).

    I guess it really depends...when I started grad school everyone said you should really have a Mac if you're into imaging (which I am)...but Macs scare me. I like to be in charge (I'm a bit of a control freak) and I never quite feel like I am when navigating on a Mac...may be just a familiarity thing for me.

    Since having joined a grad program however, the leading imaging software is developed for PCs...Mac compatibility is WAAAAAYYYYY behind for this particular package. But that's just what I do. If you're not into imaging maybe not a big deal and the coolness quotient is definitely higher for Macs...but I have to say that they are TOTALLY alienating the geek demographic with their ads.

    I strongly self-identify as a geek so PCs for me, but you should go with whatever makes you happy.

    By the way, I've added you to my blogroll -- hope you don't mind -- also hope you don't mind if I've told you this's getting hard to keep track!

  3. I can think of lots of convincing arguments for not switching too. NO right click - arrrrgggh!! Those awful self righteous and patronising adverts are another to me too.

    I love love love the iPod and would dearly love an iPhone, if those cheapskates in Canada would let me at one for less than a 3 year deal. I would also certainly consider a mac in addition to a PC if budget were permitting. As it isn't I just bought myself a Dell XPS 1530 and I can report it is tremendous. This was the first laptop I bought since 2001, so you can imagine it was quite an improvement.

  4. I LOOOOOOOVE my mac. I LOVE IT.

    Here's why - contrary to AA's sentiments, I feel like I have ultimate control over my mac. It's unix based operating system, so all the innards of what's going on are exposed to me and are under my control. Muhahahaha. And because I do most of my work in Linux/Unix, I can run a lot of my experiments natively on computer. Macs are computer dork heaven.

    Of course, I understand if this is not most important to you. Onto to what non-computer hack type people care about :).

    Right clicking is also pretty easy to get around. Plug your 2 button mouse in, and voila. Right clicking.

    My husband uses his mac pretty much only for documents, email, and web-surfing, and his reason for loving his mac is just that it crashes less. And Vista is supposed to suck. And it's pretty. And there is a lot more useful shareware out there for macs (in my opinion). For example, my husband fell in love with Papers (an academic paper organizing software) pretty much overnight, and it's written by some enterprising random people and pretty inexpensive.

    Anyway, I could go on and on. I just love it. My parents and parents-in-law also just got their first macs, and have had little trouble transitioning. They're great - things just work. You just have to get used to how some things are different, but once you do, it's so much less frustrating.

    Good luck! Go with your heart ;).

  5. I have a PC for work (not by choice) and have used Macs since 2005-ish. I think the stability is vital - I sometimes have to restart the freaking PC for no reason and it drives me nuts. I don't remember the last time I restarted my PowerBook. There are problems with any system, I think, but I vastly prefer using Apple's platform. It'll be a slight transition should you decide to do it, but I think you'll adapt quite quickly. :)

  6. ohohohohoh... *all excited*

    I switched from pc to mac this summer. Main reasons; a) that there are not many viruses so I do not have to worry about that, b) the nice design and the fact that everything came with it.

    Have I changed my mind? nahh.... a bit. Or, I realize that I need to LEARN my mac in order to really use it. Now, I am the programmer girl in unix/linux/html but obviously I need to learn my new mac programs... maybe Christmas will have a break? ;)

    [and no, I did not put in linux on my computer but their own opsystem. I thought it was better to start like that since it's been awhile since I used my programming skills to other than "write simple sequence analysis programs ;) ]

  7. Vista definitely doesn't suck,I've been using it on two different machines for the last 6 months and it has been completely stable with no problems at all and it is a very nice piece of software to use.

    Now Papers, I would definitely like to try that. I'm sorry that the authors of that refuse to port it to PC. They may say that it is not worth the time, but EndNote is the best we have and it is not really good enough and there are so many of us using PCs (and not gonna change!) that there must be a big profit to be had.

  8. I am a Mac user for six years and would not even consider using anything else -- I buy mac desktops for my students and postdocs, and they all love them -- even those who were used to a different platform prior to coming to work with me, have ended up buying macs for themselves.

    Honestly, I think they work better, both in terms of operating system as well as general-purpose applications and integration among them. So, given the type of use that you are describing, I would say go ahead and get a mac. The are definitely more expensive, although, by the time you equip a PC comparably, I don't think the difference is significant.

    However: what has to drive the purchase ultimately is not the "coolness" factor, but whether the computer will do you what you need. IF there is a specific piece of software, package, application, that only or primarily runs on one platform, and that you need for your work, well that has to be the overriding consideration. So, if there is a specific application, environment and development package that you need to use, and that only (or primarily) exists under Windows (for instance), then this determines your choice -- in this case I would go with a Dell Inspiron.

  9. I'm a recent MAC convert. I bought mine in the Summer of 2007. And I must say, I can never, ever go back, if for no other reason than the stability. I've had mine for 16 months, and it has never crashed yet. I used to run Windows on it under parallels, but I've long stopped using Windows programs on it. For me, the software I use is not available for PC. I love the total control I have. And with a wireless optical mouse, I dont miss the fact that the touchpad doesn't have right click. I don't like using the touch pads anyway. It's blazing fast, and I can open a gazillion programs without problems (that's probably because I bought as much memory as I could afford for it). The brightness of the screen self-adjusts to the light conditions, it's fabulous.

    The software is so clever. If you ask me, MAC's are way more stylish, and have way more substance than PC. You pay for it though. But I could never go back. It's like going from dial-up to broadband internet. There is no going back.

    And did I mention the stability? Can you imagine never having to restart your machine? I haven't done so since Jul '07. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. If you want more specifics, let me know.

  10. I love my mac. I'd never go back to a PC. I converted sometime in 2005 (I feel like I'm in some sort of support group) and think it's wonderful. The OS is much more intuitive and has a lot better programs than a PC (for the latter see Papers amongst others). I'd say go for it :-)

  11. GET A MAC.

    Stability, intuitive OS (unix-based for the geeks among us), excellent software, no blue screens, etc, etc. I am never going back.

    I can introduce you to hundreds of people with Ph.D.'s in computer science who would say the same thing. Who knows, you may even already know someone who can pull that card some time in the future ;)

  12. I have a mac after years of PCs going all virusy on me. There are disadvantages to Macs ... certain videos which I can't watch on my Mac (stupid Netflix) but in general the customer support you get from Mac is way better than what you get for a PC. But ... my real reason for getting a Mac was that I thought it would last longer before going kaput so it would be a better investment. This is not really true. No matter what computer you get, I think you have to assume that after 3-4 years, you'll end up buying another. So personally my advice would probably be to get a PC. But Macs are super cool, and I'm likely to disregard my own advice when I buy my next laptop.

  13. another thing, it is nice to not having the screen freeze up on you....

    .... but to be fair, I have a PC at work and my old pc laptop still works, which is good for me since some of my "safe internet things" don't have applications that work with Safari :( That's not me though, it's them!

    Look for what you need. And a mac will be more expensive, but when you factor in the extra memory, programs etc for the PC I ended up with like 200USD in difference and I thought it was worth it.

  14. Wow, fastest comments accrual ever! Apparently this issue is much more important than politics, religion or creationism. Or even tea. ;)

    I make it about 8-4 in favour of the Mac. Hmmm, lots to think about. I should have mentioned that we have a desktop PC that I use a lot, but now that Mr E Man is getting more into email, Facebook etc. (he didn't even have an email address until 2 years after he met me!) it is difficult to get on it!

    My friend has a data recovery business and hasn't had much business from Mac users, but then again he says that when they do go down, it is much much harder to retrieve the lost data. He prefers PCs for that reason.


    Still leaning towards the Mac. I think my sister has one so maybe I can play with hers at Christmas before deciding. My boss is unlikely to let me use his, even though I let him play with my iPhone. (He "lost" his blackberry a few weeks later and let's just say he didn't expend too much energy looking for it - he went straight out and got his own iPhone!).

    Thanks all for your advice!

  15. p.s. thank you AA! I've been enjoying your blog too. I don't think you will find many bloggers who do mind you if add them to your blog roll, but thank you for letting me know!

  16. OK, I think this should pretty much end the argument...

  17. I am in the market for a new laptop too, so I am interested to know what you decide. My laptop died a horrible death a few weeks ago, and my life has not been the same since. Thank goodness for my iPhone and NPR on my shower radio or I would be out of touch with the world.

    I use a Mac at work but have always had PCs at home. I don't know which one I hate more.

  18. Massimo, that's pretty cool!

    Dr A, I'll let you know, although it will probably be after Christmas.


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