A Windows expert opts for a Mac life

Scot Finnie is moving from Windows to Mac OS X -- for now

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Macintosh trial run

So, about a month ago I decided it was high time to do my homework on other systems in the only way I know that works: total immersion.

Beginning this week, for at least one month -- maybe three -- I'm making an Apple MacBook Pro my main work and personal computer. I've been slowly building up the software and systems I need to do this (with the excellent help of Computerworld's IT department), including Lotus Notes for Macintosh and the migration of my 13-year-old Eudora for Windows installation. I may rely to some extent on Parallels for the Mac to run some things in an XP virtual machine, especially in the beginning. But the goal, as I said, is to find Macintosh tools for everything I do in Windows.

To those of you who've been reading me for years because of my Windows expertise and insights, I'm not letting go of Windows! I will be echoing my experience on my current Windows production machine -- a dual-core ThinkPad T60 -- by upgrading to Windows Vista. I have access to four Macs, three of which are Intel-based. There are more than 15 Windows machines that I use and test with. It's a Windows world, and I'm not dropping out.

But I'm committed to giving the Mac a fair chance.

The first two weeks

I had initially planned to change over to the Mac a couple of weeks ago, but problems with the 15-in. MacBook Pro that I received from my company caused a severe delay. The machine, a 2-GHz Intel dual-core, is only six months old but had just returned from Apple repair because of issues with spontaneous restarts that were occurring two or three times a day. It's a problem that has plagued a small percentage of Apple's Intel line of MacBooks. It's not a universal experience, however. I own another MacBook Pro 15 that has suffered no spontaneous restarts.

During the first 24 hours with the machine, I came to the conclusion that the most likely culprit was a 1GB RAM SIMM that was added at the time of purchase. I pulled the SIMM on the second day. Wanting to do the legwork myself, I contacted the makers of the SIMM, a company called Edge, and initiated a trouble ticket. Two days later, running on the original 1GB of Apple RAM only, the MBP 15 was free of unwanted restarts. Edge confirmed that we had purchased the correct SIMM module for this machine and that the SIMM must be faulty. It promptly issued an RMA and offered a free replacement.

The next hurdle -- and it has proved to be a much bigger hurdle -- is Lotus Notes. IBM is promising better support for the Mac in the Notes 7.x time frame. We're using Notes 6.5.x and other than the pathetic Mac support, it's working just fine. (I may test the Notes 7.02 client in the near future though.) These are the problems that Mac users face the most -- integrating with IT systems in the corporate world. Sometimes there is no support at all for certain applications. Microsoft, for example, withdrew support for Internet Explorer on the Mac several years ago -- not that it really offered compatibility with enterprise Web-based applications anyway. There's hope, though, with the growing popularity of Firefox, which is platform-independent and works more or less the same way on the Mac and Linux as it does on the PC. (This is especially true of Firefox 2.0.)

For reasons I'm still figuring out, Notes has been troublesome on my Mac. During the first several days, I experienced frequent crashes of the Notes client. Working with my IT department, we weren't sure whether the problem was the result of issues with the MacBook Pro itself or whether it was my Notes installation. We reinstalled the Mac OS X 10.4 operating system from the ground up and then reinstalled Notes and my other corporate applications. The frequency of the Notes crashes diminished, but any crashing isn't acceptable. So we installed the Notes client on a second MacBook Pro 15 and found the problems were evident there, too. More than likely, there's something amiss in my Notes mail database or the client configuration. I figured out a work-around that keeps the client from crashing, and I suspect that it will lead us to the proper solution. But there's no joy yet.

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