How I Became a PC: Five Steps from Mac to Microsoft

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that I’ve been changing the computer regime over here. It isn’t that I don’t love the shininess of my MacBook. It isn’t that, given the money and all that, I’d just go out and buy a top-of-the-line Mac… because, honestly, I’d consider it. As important as specs are to me, the shininess of the Mac is hard to resist… or would be, if the following things weren’t a factor. The more I’ve thought about it, the less sense it makes for me to get another Mac, in spite of the fact that’s just about all I’ve used since the late 90s.

So how does a decades-long Mac user end up putting together a PC? The progression was slow, but read on and learn. Most of these are pretty geek specific.

  • Price me out. My MacBook can’t hold its weight anymore. A new MacBook starts at about $1,000. Other laptops, however, with far better specs, running Windows or Linux, can be purchased for half that much. So, with the Mac, what I’m really paying for is the logo and the shiny factor, not the performance factor. And since I’m doing a lot of graphic design these days, not to mention gaming (which will be addressed below), specs are a lot more important than they used to be. There’s a point where you examine the specs of the machines side by side and really have to ask yourself how much the Apple software is worth. Because that’s where the price tag is. Oh, sure, there’s the iPad. But seriously, there’s no way that can hold up for what I need. At the moment, the iPad is a sort of peripheral gadget–you either have a use for it (and the extra money to buy it), or you don’t.
  • Annoy me with video and gaming. Essentially, the MacBook hates Hulu. We troubleshot this for a few days and, after thinking it was our network, discovered the computer just can’t handle video playback. Since Hulu is one of the primary methods of television delivery, this is beyond annoying. The staggering and starting, the general grumpiness, just doesn’t cut it. Add to that the fact that, even when it was new, World of Warcraft looked like crap on it (“Wow, honey—Dalaran looks so beautiful from here!” “… all I see is a big purple nothing… oh wait that… oh, no, that’s nothing… just more blobs”) since I had to keep the settings so low to even manage my way around. With Cataclysm coming out there’s just no way it’ll cope. In fact, the latest patch simply refuses to work on my MacBook. So what’s a gal supposed to do?
  • Make it impossible for me to breathe new life into it. Yeah, yeah, I know. You don’t buy a Mac if you plan upgrades beyond memory. These things are made sleek, sure, but they’re also made to be almost impenetrable save by their genius staff. But even if I wanted to go in and improve the performance and extend the life of my computer (because that’s what I’d like to do, given a choice), I can’t. It means the only other option—if I want a better performing Mac—is to suck it up and buy a new one. And we’ve already established that I don’t have that kind of money.
  • Make it difficult for the gimpier geeks. I’ve got carpal tunnel. I can’t use a normal keyboard. Typing on the MacBook is a special kind of torture for me, so I have to buy ergonomic in order to avoid the pain. Does Apple have a version of their delightful aluminum keyboard with a gentle, ergonomic curve to it? Nope. And the newest Magic Mouse… don’t get me started on the kind of pain involved using that (seriously, did they try to make it painful? Is this some strange torture device?). And as far as dictation software goes, up until a few months ago the only option was MacSpeech which, in my opinion, is nowhere as good as Dragon—even though they’re built on the same engine. Now there’s a Dragon for Mac. But on Windows, Dragon costs about $40-$50, while the Mac version is $179.99+.
  • Lose exclusivity to Scrivener. The one program I kept my MacBook around for—beyond gaming and music and everything—was Scrivener. For novel-writing types, like myself, Scrivener is simply a dream come true. I’m not organized by nature, but the software has a way of giving me just enough in the way of organization to really impact my writing process. Since I started using Scrivener in 2007, I’ve written six novels (even sold one). And until recently, Scrivener was Mac only. However, this past week Scrivener for Windows went into Beta. For me, that’s the last bastion, the last hold out. Now there’s nothing holding me back from going PC.

So, clearly the evidence is against the Mac here. Instead of buying and out-of-the-box deal, we’re building a computer (because, taking a page from Apple, many desktops and laptops out there–like Dell–are just as bad when it comes to the difficulty of upgrading). Between the generosity of friends of ours and various parts we’ve accumulated, we have the makings of a pretty sweet little PC. And sure, Vista used to be a huge deterrent in the Windows world, but since we’re building our computer, that won’t be an issue.

The new computer will kick the ass of my MacBook (which isn’t really a fair fight, considering this will be a desktop)—but it will also allow me to improve upon it for years, saving potentially hundreds of dollars; I’ll be able to play WoW with my husband again, write to my heart’s content on Scrivener while using a great ergonomic keyboard, and mod the heck out of the case (steampunk, anyone?). Not to mention it feels very empowering to know the ins and outs of your computer, and being able to root around inside of it.

Yes, I will miss the world of Mac. I will probably stand longingly at the windows of the Apple Store from time to time, and think of bygone days. But until I can justify a purchase like that, let alone the lack of flexibility among other things, I’d say I’ll be hanging out in the world of the PC for a while yet.

[Image: CC Robert S. Donovan via Flickr]

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