Mac Switch Question of the Week
July 11, 2005 2:01 AM   Subscribe

Add me to the growing list of people planning to make the switch to a Mac. To those that have made the jump, how hard was it? And is it a losing proposition to buy now, with Intel-based machines coming around the bend? I know this is an AskMeFi FAQ, but I have some specific questions.

Yes, it's a good idea to read the answers to simillar questions asked before. And I have, here, here, here, and here. And there are "switch" blogs, and "switch" books, but still. Mac stats change quickly, the Intel announcement is still reverberating across the web, and most importantly, AskMeFi seems to excel in giving great real-world answers specifically tailored to a hapless member's particular situation. So please humor me.

Where am I now? I'm sitting in a room with six Dell PCs with XP and one G4/350. A friend gave me the G4 for free for my daughter, and I find myself using it for odd things more and more often as my PCs tick me off. I spend a lot of time on the web, and do very basic web design, but I'm not a power user, I don't think. Mostly I work in straight HTML (how 1995 of me!), write, and dabble a bit with audio (podcast) and video.

Software: As you might imagine, I'm more afraid of the software issues than the hardware ones. I use Office (for work), Photoshop, and PageMaker (never upgraded to InDesign, if that's what the successor is called), and HomeSite (don't laugh) for HTML. I'm pretty sure HTML editors are abundant on the Mac, and some of the PC apps I use, like QuickTime Pro (basic video editing), Audacity (audio editing), and iTunes, are actually better on the Mac. Should I just bite the bullet and add Office and Photoshop to my shopping list? I guess I should go for iLife, to get GarageBand for my podcast and iMovie for my videoblog. Is the iWork Suite any good? (Since I guess PageMaker is dead on either platform.)

Integration/Transition: From what I can tell, a Mac will play fine with most PCs. Get to shared folders, print on shared printers. I figure I can leave all my documents, photos, and stuff on my PCs, and grab 'em over the network if I need them. But I think I'm screwed in one department: moving my iTunes library (and linked iPod) to the Mac. Yes? No? Any other pitfalls of the "moving over" part that I should be prepared for?

Hardware: Ah, the fun question. Firstly, am I dumb to buy now, with Intel-based Macs due next year? If not, then what? I was this close to picking up a Mac mini with 512MB RAM and a 20" Cinema Display today, but I knew that monitor was unfairly swaying me. I don't think my HTML work or e-mail will tax anything, but I do want to mess with Photoshop, with audio and video. From what I can see, most new Macs can do it, but since Apple puts so much emphasis on form factor, I really don't know functionally what's best for me. For what I was about to blow on the Mac mini setup, I could get a 17" G5. Or a 14" iBook. With a hardware budget of about $1,500, what would you get?

Yeah, that's "More Inside" all right. But hey, past questions were hard to answer for lack of detail, so... what the heck. Mahalo for any insights!
posted by pzarquon to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I havent "switched", but I have an iBook for mobile stuff, and a PC for home stuff. You should be fine moving your itunes library across (according to the Apple forums), you just copy file files, Export your library, and then import it on your Mac. I havent done this yet, but thats how I've been told to do it.

I would wait for the Intel Macs....Macintels......whatever, but I'm unsure of the release date.

Software hasnt been an issue at all for me. Certainly not compatability between Win and Mac versions of stuff. Office documents dont always come out how you expect though.
posted by lemonfridge at 2:58 AM on July 11, 2005

I made the switch to a new 15" Powerbook about a month ago. I say do it sooner rather than later. For me it's a productivity thing - I'm working much cleaner and more efficiently than ever, and I think my bloodpressure has dropped a couple of points, after not having to deal with stupid XP quirks.

It's not perfect. Firefox sometimes hangs, but it's great to be able to open a console and do a unixey 'kill -9' on the process.

I'm also still not grokking the Dock completely. It seems counter-intuitive that dragging an item off the dock onto the desktop makes it go "poof".

Macintels are not coming out until late 2006, and even then, new software will continue to work on the current PowerPC macs for some time. I'd buy now, but of course, I'm biased - this is coming from someone who just shelled for a couple of grand on the current model.

On the display - word on the street is that the Apple Cinema Displays are severely overpriced compared to the Dell displays, which have been reviewed by AnandTech or Tom's hardware (can't remember which) to be almost identical in quality. A friend of mine picked up a nice Dell flatpanel, severely discoutned by monitoring for manufacturer rebates.
posted by Dag Maggot at 3:13 AM on July 11, 2005

I'm not a switcher - I work cross platform.

You can cross upgrade to the current version of photoshop. In the meantime, you can use iPhoto, GraphicCoverter (sharewave, but I think it comes with new machines) and the Open Source Gimp.

Office - neo office, pages which will edit word docs, and even apple's very basic text edit will open/produce word docs. It's not perfect, but for basic text, it's fine.

Pagemaker's available, but indesign is soo much better

There are a ton of inexpensive - expensive HTML editors...including Freeway, Dreamweaver and others.

Video editing - you'll get the full iApps (iDVD, iMovie, garge band) which are much better than just 'quicktime.' Suprisingly iTunes is pretty much the same.

Your music can just be copied over...I'm not as sure about yoru playlists and xml. You might just be able run, copy and figure out where the key files go and they should work...but there are also utilities that can extract that from your pod.

Should work fine for most sharing. Not sure with the shared printing. But all your windows shares are accessable.

Sure'll be sitting on your hands for the minimum of six months...and maximum of a year. Figure they're either going to come out with SUPER high end machines...or super low.

Large LCDS are cheaper elsewhere
posted by filmgeek at 4:13 AM on July 11, 2005

The 14" iBook and 20" Cinema Display are both crap value. I'd suggest either a 20" iMac or get the Mac mini and a non-Apple monitor.

Apple will still be selling PowerPC Macs in mid 2007, so you can expect a PowerPC Mac bought today to be obsolete a couple of years after that, or about the same time as it would have been anyway. That said, Intel-based Macs could be unveiled as early as January (There's some dispute here, but it's as valid an interpretation as any other).
posted by cillit bang at 4:34 AM on July 11, 2005

I'm one of the suckers who bought a 20" display a while ago.... I love it, but if I were buying today I'd seriously consider a Dell display. I have to say though: it looks great, better than the Dells to my very untrained eye, and it certainly looks better on my desk. Major downside is lack of TV inputs to the display, which is probably what would sway me now.

Software: I don't use Office at all, with the exception of MS Excel every now and then. If you don't need a spreadsheet, I'd seriously recommend Mellel, a great Mac wordprocessor which has, for me, been perfectly interoperable with Office, and which is exceedingly well-designed and pleasant to use. If iPhoto is too limiting, check out iView Media or Media Pro: both of them are more robust photo management apps.
posted by josh at 5:38 AM on July 11, 2005

Well, I wouldn't wait for the Macintel computers, unless you're going to buy a laptop. All the information I've seen (rumors, mostly) says the Powerbooks will be the first to use the Intel processors. That means the desktops will be a cycle later, perhaps another six months to a year.

In any case, unless it's a matter of weeks until Macworld or the World-wide Developer's Conference, it's never a good idea to wait. Get it now, get to working, and then upgrade in three years when the new units are even more mature.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:20 AM on July 11, 2005

Just to shine some light on the timeline, from the WWDC Keynote this year:

By June 6, 2006 (or, in a more general sense, WWDC 2006), Apple will be shipping Macintel products on at least one of their lines.

By June 6th, 2007 (or, again, WWDC 2007), Apple will have the transition "mostly complete".

The transition will be "totally done" by the end of 2007.

In terms of PPC vs. Intel and the waiting game, remember: 100% of the Mac marketshare is in PPC right now. It's going to take many, many years to knock that down to even 50%. No developer looking to survive is going to cut PPC off the second Intel boxes begin shipping.

For $1500? I'd buy an iMac G5, in all honesty. Fabulous piece of kit.
posted by Remy at 6:28 AM on July 11, 2005

If you just copy over your iTunes library, the first time you run iTunes on Mac you can direct it to assimilate that library. If you put it in ~/Music/iTunes you won't even have to direct it.

I am not sure about your iPod, though. My guess would be you would just plug it in and iTunes would see it, as it has done with every iPod I've plugged into my Mac.

For $1500, I'd buy an iMac G5, just as I did for my mom.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:26 AM on July 11, 2005

If you think your video and graphics interests will remain strong or grow, consider making sure your new rig will be able to take advantage of the Core Image/Core Video features that recently debuted in Tiger; they’re quite impressive, definitely Mac-only, and will no doubt be the source of many innovative new features in up-coming iApps and 3rd-party graphics software. More info/specs here.
posted by dpcoffin at 7:47 AM on July 11, 2005

Might want to emulate OS X on your PC first to see how you like it?
posted by JPowers at 8:02 AM on July 11, 2005

iTunes on a Mac will "see" a PC formatted iPod, but not vice-versa (a PC won't talk to a Mac formatted iPod).

That being said, I found mine worked much better on my Powerbook (I switched 18 months or so ago) after I reinitialized it on the Mac.

If you've got anything on it you want to preserve (instead of just syncing your full library or something), I'd suggest using a freeware/shareware utility to suck everything off of it, and then using the iPod Updater to reinitialize it to Mac format.

I was an Office (particularly Outlook) user and went the Mac Office route also, and it works fine, but I've often thought since that I could have (and could still) easily get along without all of the Office Bloat, using Thunderbird for mail and a few other apps for the rest.

Remember that if you keep your PC around, you can always "go back" for a handful of tasks you're not ready to move to the Mac. You can even use Remote Desktop Connection (free from Microsoft) to open a desktop on your PC in a window on your Mac.

I also agree with not waiting for the Intel stuff -- I love the Mac, but version 1.0 of anything from Apple is seldom a good idea. By the time you wait for the next iteration, you'll probably be in a timeframe where it's time to replace a model you bought now anyway.

Aftermarket LCDs work fine on the Mac, and are much cheaper than Apple's. The Dells are nice, but even an inexpensive monitor with a DVI connection should suit you well on a DVI based Mac (most of them, anymore.)
posted by nonliteral at 8:08 AM on July 11, 2005

I switched a few years back and bought a Powerbook. I've since sold it and bought a 20" iMac G5 (thanks justgary!) and an old used snow iBook G3.

The switch wasn't extremely difficult. There were a few things to get used to (I'd never used a Mac before) like the "Mac can't merge folders" thing I've mentioned in previous threads.

For software, I use BBEdit for HTML, Mellel for word processing (though I have Word and Pages, too--prefer Mellel). The best app I own is DEVONThink, which kicks serious ass if you work with words in any indepth way. Irreplaceable, in my book.

For FTP I use Transmit. For pictures I use iView Media Pro. For surfing the web I use Safari 2.0 and SAFT--together, they kick Firefox's ass hands down.

I agree with the user above: unless you're buying a laptop, buy now.

If you're not averse to used machines, you can get dual G4s for the same cost as a mini and they're more upgradeable. If space isn't an issue, I'd go that route over the mini.
posted by dobbs at 8:29 AM on July 11, 2005

I just switched back this weekend, though I still have my Dell tower.

A couple of years ago, I had a G4 tower, which I really liked. But when it came time to buy a new unit, I went with a Dell because of a huge discount my company gets on the machines.

This weekend, we purchased a G5 17" iMac. It came pretty well equipped, with built in Bluetooth and Wireless, as well as everything needed to get up an running.

Check with your company, if you're not a student, there may be an agreement for a discount for you with Apple. Most Fortune 500s are setting these agrements up for "Employee Purchase Programs" through Apple.
posted by benjh at 9:24 AM on July 11, 2005

Response by poster: Mahalo a nui loa, thanks a lot, everyone! The impulse buyer in me certainly likes the don't wait for Macintel advice. And I really appreciate the cold splash of reality on the 20" Cinema Display. Like I said, the "ooh, shiny" effect was definitely messing with my judgement. I think the only reason it's a contender is because I wanted to just stick everything on one Apple Credit account. The iTunes answers are also encouraging. Just to be sure, your "copy it over and assimilate" solution works even with DRMed, AAC stuff? I have no problem making the Mac the new "home computer" for my iPod.

I'll have to look up the cross upgrade for Photoshop. And I know I can live without Office if I tried... I think that'll just be one of my Mac crutches during the transition.

It's the hardware that still vexes me. I guess a 17" G5 is a better deal than a Mac mini and 20" Cinema Display? This will be replacing a Dell 8400 tower and a 17" CRT, so I don't care too much about saving space, and as far as plugging things in, it looks like the G5 is more accomodating, yes? Is it relatively okay to say that a machine with a G5 inside has a slightly longer usability lifespan than one with a G4?

I appreciate the advice to "try before I buy," but trust me, I'm sold on Mac. I was a Mac person since my first SE30. I've gone PC because of work, but I always, always wanted a new Mac. Heck, I've got an Apple logo sticker on my HP tablet! So as you can imagine, this step is one I'm really looking forward to taking.

Y'all are great. Seriously.
posted by pzarquon at 10:20 AM on July 11, 2005

Yes, 17" iMac would be a better bet than a mini with 20" cinema display. My suggestion would be to get that, and then up the memory yourself.

My iMac G5 17" I just purchased this weekend replaced my Dimension 8300.

One thing I love... the new iMac comes with Bluetooth built in by default, and Apple now sells packages with the wireless keyboard and mouse. So sitting on my desk at home is an Imac with one power cable plugged into the wall, and a keyboard and mouse. No wires. My sync cables are stashed in the desk drawer. My phone is syncing by Bluetooth, and my iPod gets plugged in when I go to bed, and gets unplugged when I leave in the morning.
posted by benjh at 11:55 AM on July 11, 2005

Q: 12" iBook, PowerBook, or iMac? Why?

One of the Mac challenges is that they're so much more about form factor than performance, afaict. I'm not typically a "power user", but I'd like to be able to run Natural Painter and SketchUP and suchlike once in a while...
posted by five fresh fish at 1:25 PM on July 11, 2005

Response by poster: Late update? Got an iMac G5, 2GHz, 512MB RAM, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Loving it! The transition was easier than I thought. Even the iTunes/iPod move went relatively well. Already mulling a Mac mini for the wife (who does only e-mail, web browsing and iTunes). Thanks again for all your great advice!
posted by pzarquon at 3:36 PM on July 14, 2005

« Older Hey, man, you have tickets? Anyone? Need two to...   |   Classical Music For A Wedding? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.