in Projects, Programming, Technology

Trading Bandwagons

photo from rulmartins.net Up until 2007, I had resigned to being on the  Microsoft bandwagon. Working with Microsoft technologies during the day paid my salary, and Windows XP delivered my TV at night. Being a Seattle native (and lover) – it seemed like a safe choice. In the last year, I’ve switched to a new faster moving bandwagon – Apple and Google.

The jumping off point for me was Windows Vista. Technology (particularly the internet tech that I pay attention to) has been moving so quickly – by the time Vista was done, it was a big disappointment. It just felt like the same old stuff in a shiny new package. The funny thing is, I can remember thinking “wow, how will I ever extract myself” from Microsoft if I decide to do so? It actually has been really easy.

I had tried Vista at work, and was not impressed – so when it came time to by a new lap top, I went for a MacBook Pro. Macs now run on the same Intel chips as most PCs, and there is great virtualization software (I happen to use Parallels) that lets you run Windows XP or Vista on your Mac quite easily. This was perfect way to learn the UNIX based Mac operating system through immersion, while still safely being able to do the Windows stuff I need. Now, I mostly just fire up Vista to maintain some code I’ve written, and access a couple Excel spreadsheets.

Getting stuff done seems faster and easier on the Mac. This is mostly because it comes with much less bundled software than your typical Windows laptop. Also, installing and uninstalling software is a much cleaner process. Because there is no registry, and applications are more tightly constrained to their own folders on your hard disk, you don’t get the sense that your computer is getting slower with every app you install.

Impressed by Macbook, I also took the leap to an iPhone. I’m not going to enumerate how freaking revolutionary the iPhone is – I just love it. Apple doesn’t deliver my TV yet, but it won’t be long.

The next major switch was going from Hotmail to GMail. I had used Hotmail for around 10 years. The last 5 or so it gave me an icky unprofessional feeling to use it as my primary address, but I stuck with it. The reason I finally switched was because you have to pay Microsoft for POP access to your mailbox. So even if you dutifully try to use Outlook, you can’t use it for Hotmail unless you pay. I’m not crazy about the much touted GMail AJAX interface. It gets the job done a bit faster, and with quicker search capability. IMAP or POP (free and lots of storage) work great with Apple Mail or Outlook – for free.

Another pain point for me was maintaining a calendar. The calendar attached to hotmail was unusable (why I kept trying to use Outlook). However, Google Calendar has been fantastic. Unlike GMail, the AJAX interface for Google Calendar has impressed me. My favorite feature is the “quick add” text box. You simply type “Meet TA for coffee at 9AM friday” and it creates an appointment at the right time.

I prefer Google bookmarks to delicious or Lookmarks because of their close integration with Google search and Web history (though I’m still waiting for a sharing feature). I bought Pages for the Mac, but for the technical writing I do – I reach for Google Documents more often because they are so easily shareable. I take research notes to prepare blog posts in Google Notebook. I’m sure I spend more time in Google Reader than probably any other app or Web site because I wanted a server based place to organize all my feeds.

The Apple and Google bandwagons aren’t linked in any significant way. Switching to Google tools just made the switch to Apple easier (as it would to Linux). I still live in Seattle and suspect I will continue to do work (directly or indirectly) for Microsoft. It won’t be long until entire businesses can switch the way I have. I hope for, but don’t bet on, Microsoft keeping their bandwagon in the race.

Are you thinking of making the switch? Add a comment below!

UPDATE: Here is a good argument for sticking with Windows XP (read to the bottom)

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