FAQ about working with an Apple Mac


Word is getting out at the office about me using a Mac, and at least once a week now, someone comes over to my cube to ask a few questions. Here are the most common ones:

Q: Is that your personal computer, or your work one?
It’s my work one, and it’s the only computer I use.

Q: Is that a normal Microsoft keyboard & mouse, and a normal Dell flat panel?
Yes. These days, Apples use the same peripherals as regular laptops.

Q: So how’s it different from a normal laptop?
Aside from OSX, the engineering of the laptop itself is just awesome. The DVD burner loads via slot – no gimmicky sliding plastic tray. The power adapter has a magnetic connection that just pops loose if it snags on something. The keyboard glows at night, so you can see each key and its corresponding letter/number. The tiny webcam above the monitor blows everybody away. Everything you want is built in, instead of being optional, and since it’s a standard piece of hardware, all of the drivers work perfectly from the get-go.

Q: How much did it cost?
Around 10-15% more than a similarly equipped Dell laptop on our corporate discount, with the exception of add-on memory. Apple marks up memory like crazy, so it makes sense to get that from Crucial.com or another high-quality memory vendor. We get our Microsoft licensing for Windows and Office through our Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, so there’s no extra cost for software licensing over and above what we’d pay on a Dell.

Q: It runs Windows and Office?
Yep, there’s a Mac version of Office and Outlook (called Entourage). Since it can run both Apple OS X and Microsoft Windows simultaneously using Parallels or VMware, it can do everything I need to do at the office.

Q: Are you on the domain?

My Windows virtual machine is, but my Mac isn’t. I could add it to the domain, but I didn’t see any advantages to that, so I’m an island for now. I can access everything on the domain, though – the Mac just prompts for my username & password once, and saves it in my keychain for reuse each time I try to access a domain resource again.

Q: Do you really use that many Mac programs?
Surprisingly, yes. When I first started to switch, I vowed to try to switch over to Mac entirely. I do my email, remote desktop, Word, Excel, presentations, network diagnostics (ping, traceroute, etc), instant messaging, iTunes, and more all in the Mac side of things. I do run Windows to use SQL Server 2005 Management Studio, VMware VirtualCenter,
and IBM Director, and I couldn’t do my job (or at least as good of a job) without those tools. On the weekends, though, I take my Macbook Pro home and I don’t even start Windows on it. There’s even a Mac client for our VPN.

Q: What about that iLife, iDVD, iPhoto, iWeb, GarageBand stuff?
I don’t actually use any of that stuff. I blog using the Performancing tools for Firefox, and I manage my photos with Flickr, but that’s about as close as I get to creativity. I admire those artsy folks, but I’m not one of them.

Q: How long did it take before you were productive?
What the hell are you talking about? I’ve been productive for years! Oh, wait, you mean with the Mac, sorry. It took about two weeks, and I couldn’t have done it without the excellent book Mac OS X Support Essentials. It answers a lot of tech support questions that you’ll experience along the way – things that seem obvious in Windows, but are just handled a little differently in OS X. Not saying OS X is better or worse, just a few things are different, like where your files are stored or how to set an IP address. This book is aimed at technical users who need to solve specific problems, not a how-do-I-get-started approach.

Q: How long is the battery life?
I turn the display brightness way down when I’m working off the grid, so I get around 3-3.5 hours.

Q: What are the drawbacks?

  • There’s no connector for a docking station, so I have to plug/unplug the same six cables every time I bring the machine into the office. (Power, audio, USB, ethernet, video, USB2 hard drive).
  • Microsoft Entourage (the Outlook equivalent) doesn’t do a very good job of detecting free/busy time in the company calendar, or scheduling meeting rooms as resources. Fortunately I don’t schedule many meetings myself.
  • Syncing with a handheld is easier than Windows – but only as long as you have a supported handheld. My Cingular 8125 isn’t supported, but thankfully I use Direct Push with our Exchange server anyway, so that doesn’t really matter to me. It might matter for some folks, though.
  • Since only 3 of the 10,000 employees use Macs, it’s much harder to get peer support. For example, the authentication on our Cisco wireless access points doesn’t seem to like Macs, and the network guys don’t have the time to find out why. I’m guessing I could figure it out if I spent enough time on it, but I don’t roam with my laptop anyway (I use my 8125 for meeting notes) so I haven’t taken the time either.

Q: Would you recommend buying one?
For home use – yes, absolutely. For office use – a qualified yes, but check your applications first. If you spend most of your day in a Windows app like, say, the SAP GUI, then it probably makes sense to stick with Windows.

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • Brent,

    Codeweavers is working on Crossover Office for the Mac. It is in Release Candidate 2 right now. If you pre order, you can get it for 20 bucks off with 15 months of support. The RC2 version is also available in a 60 day trial.

    I’m using RC2 and it runs Outlook 2003 with no issues for me. I haven’t run into any problems with other Office apps either, except for Access which simply won’t run.

    Food for thought. You can run your apps natively on CxO without a need for an OS license and better performance.

    Another alternative is the next version of Parallels which runs your apps in Convergence mode. This still has the same overhead as running any virtual machine but it makes it appear as if your WinXP apps are running natively on the Mac. Its just trickery but it keeps you from having to swap between desktops.

  • Yeah, I’m running the beta of the new Parallels with Coherence mode. The Windows licensing doesn’t affect us because we have a Microsoft Enterprise agreement – we get one price for each user, and that one price gets Windows, Office Pro, Sharepoint, SMS, etc.

    Coherence works fine, but it’s not quite seamless yet. When you alt-tab, you get different lists of apps depending on whether your keyboard focus is on a Windows app or a Mac app. I know, it sounds picky, but I alt-tab back and forth all the time, and it’s just one more little barrier standing between the two platforms. Don’t get me wrong – I’m really happy with Coherence.

    I don’t like Codeweavers because it lags so far behind the Windows release versions. For example, I’m running Office 2007 on my Parallels machine, but I couldn’t do that with Codeweavers because it doesn’t support 2007 yet. And wow, 2007 is fantastic.

  • And by the way, it’s great to see you toying around with it too! It’s funny to think that the two of us are using Macs, of all people.

    For other readers – Rick and I worked together a few years ago in an all-Windows shop.

  • Yes of all people you should be ashamed we have lost another person to the dark side see the light like come back ………

  • Macs are like fashion items you need a new one every year only artsy farts people should use them…………….

  • My general thoughts on laptops and desktops, especially after Windows 10 came out, are (such to the old tune about “ice cream”)…
    “I scream at my screen… they all suck! WTF!”


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