In this installment, I will discuss my requirements, and initial thoughts and recommendations from others. In later blog entries I will talk about my initial purchase, first time use impressions, software I added (and what I did not), surprises (good and bad), what I like about my new platform, and anything I do not.
I tried to do a requirements analysis. Knowing that people tend to think of desires as requirements, I was careful to ask myself questions. For example, when I thought, "I need Microsoft Office," did I really mean, "I need a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation system," or, "I need something that can read Office documents"?
First, I wanted a listing of all software on my computer. "System Information" (under Accesories, System Tools) gives you this information. A much nicer tool is Belarc Advisor.
I like it better because its html-formated output and organization makes for easier reading. I used it to make sure I didn't forget anything. If you are like me, you have a whole bunch of software that you used to use and no longer do. Next,
I made my list. Requirements.
- It just works. What I mean is, I want it to work consistently without heroic efforts on my part. An example, which—I didn't mention as one of my reasons for ditching Windows, but it was, is problems I had with my Sony Vaio notebook PC. Four out of five times when I shove in my Orinoco Gold wireless card it just works. But, one in five times (and I am just guessing here, but being generous) the "New hardware found" message comes up and even if I point it at the working driver it does not know what the device is so does not know what to do. I unplug and replug the card. I restart the computer. And finally it works again. I just want it to work. I also do not want to scour the Internet for drivers to get the system working. I want it to just work.
- Not Windows. No, really, for the reasons I mentioned in the previous blog entry. The registry is too easily corrupted. It gets too big. It is a terrible idea. There are too many mystery processes running for me to be able to trust Windows ever again.
- Complete compatibility with MS Office. I need to be able to exchange documents of all kinds with clients, all who use MS Office. I am not willing to go back and forth trying to find a common exchange format. That common exchange format is not PostScript. It is not PDF. It is MS Office.
- Interoperability with a Palm handheld. I use it a bunch for everything it does including the obvious (calendar, etc.) and the less obvious (eReader, Documents to Go, Expense). (I will talk about trying iSync vs. Palm Desktop, in a future entry.)
- Secure Shell (SecSH) and Secure Copy (SCP). I have Windows clients for these (SecureCRT® from VanDyke Software and freeware WinSCP). I use them to maintain my web site and to send e-mail from networks that block port 25 (such as hotel networks).
- QuickBooks, which I use for my company books. My account wants me to and I want to keep my accountant.
- PGP. Maybe. I've talked about this many times before. I use it for encrypting email and securing files. Virtually no one I email to cares about securing email. But, somehow I cannot give in on this. I think I need it.
- A backup mechanism. But not what I was doing. I was doing incremental backups every night using an automated process copying onto CDRs. It worked very well and I was able to restore files I needed to recover. But, I have a large pile of CDRs now. I now need to purchase a shredder that does CDs. (But, that is not part of this requirement list.)
Possibilities. It seemed to me that I had two possibilities.
- Linux notebook and Linux server (for back-ups, file storage, etc.)
- Mac notebook and Linux server.
"I am fully satisfied with the ShuttleX. Anything that's going to be close to my head has to be quiet, and i know of no quieter box."
"I may be the newest Mac convert here, so I should speak up, perhaps. I got a 15" powerbook back in March, and I am still amazed by how wonderful the whole experience is. For me the key items have been:
- "Suspend and resume—close the lid, open the lid. It always works. I've never had that experience with a linux or windows laptop. Suse Laptop suspend support actually does seem to work well though.
- "Wireless support—always works, and it is not confused by, say, resuming in a different network environment. Close the lid at home, open the lid at work. Open the lid at gymnastics while watching the kids, finds a nearby net. I always had to fiddle with strange scripts to convince Linux to switch networks, and XP couldn't hold on to a single network while sitting on the table.
- "Printing—just works. You say 'print' in a new network environment and you get a popup of available printers. It even seemed to know which ones were duplex capable. (To be fair, it didn't know about the duplexer on my HP1320 until after I installed Tiger).
- "Software—I have not yet learned great Mac skills, although I am starting to like the Finder. ...
- "I have Office:Mac. You know what? It doesn't give me the creepy feel I get from using Office on a PC. I can't explain why, but it seems fairly sensible and pragmatic. You have to work with people who use Powerpoint or send you Word documents. It just works. (To be fair, I have had fairly good luck with OpenOffice as well, on Linux.)"
Final Decision I finally decided on "Mac notebook and Linux server." Looking back at my requirements, here's why.
- It just works. As far as I can tell this is something the Windows strives for and Apple gets. This may be subjective, but this is what people report. I did not hear this about Linux notebooks. Understand, I am not saying Linux systems do not work. They do, and keep on working. As I said earlier, I don't want to ever again have to wrestle with a notebook PC to have it work. I just want to use it.
- Not Windows. Okay, this was an easy one for either a Linux or Mac notebook.
- Complete compatibility with MS Office. The jury was still out as to whether I use MS Office on the Mac or OpenOffice. I am attracted to OpenOffice version 2, but do not have a version for the Mac.
- Interoperability with a Palm handheld. Palm Desktop runs on a Mac and iSync, I was told, will support Mac.
- Secure Shell (SecSH) and Secure Copy (SCP). I "back-burned" this, but have since found that both are already on on the Mac under a terminal window. It's UNIX. It works.
- QuickBooks. There is a version for Mac. It will cost money. I can run it under Microsoft Virtual PC 2004, which also costs money. I need this, but may come up with a "Plan B."
- PGP. There is a version for the Mac.
- A backup mechanism. There will be a way to do this, I assure myself. I will wait.
While I have a Linux system at home—running on an old used-to-be-Gauntlet platform PC my friend Allen sold me 5 years ago&mdash I figure I need something quiet enough to put in my office (the other is in the basement), and one with larger disks. Boy, I would really like a Shuttle. For under $500 I can get a system with a big disk on which to put Fedora. I might even need one.
Meanwhile, someone suggested I just buy a large 300 GB disk to stick in my existing Linux box, or just get a USB/Firewire external disk. I may buy a new Linux system in the future, but for now I am sticking with the old reliable one and I did purchase a large external drive for backups and synchronizing files. I'll not talk more about this, as this is really about the bigger step of moving to a Mac.
I went a bit crazy for a few days comparing iBook and PowerBook. I compared and compared. Money was important, but so was weight. The 12" PowerBook is 3 ounces lighter than the iBook. That was not the only reason, but I went with the PowerBook G4. I found it in stock at the local CompUSA at a decent price, and picked it up along with a 250 GB LACE external disk.
Next time I'll talk about my initial setup and use, what I found, and my initial migration.
|Side note: I noticed that I referred to this computer as "my PowerBook." Little things like that are telling...|