Sometimes when you use a product that nearly drives you crazy, you wonder if the vendor can ever get back your business. I would have to say that Vista was the product that almost caused me to give up on Microsoft. I had battles with my Vista laptop from the day I brought it home until the days before I replaced it with a shiny new HP Pavilion laptop powered by Intel's new i7 processor.
During this whole time my white Intel based MacBook with OS X stood tall. For the first year of my life with Vista, my MacBook was always in my backpack. When the Vista laptop would have trouble booting, I would reach over and grab my MacBook and often find out what I needed before Vista recovered.
Still I have to give Microsoft credit, they slugged away at Vista and made some huge improvements to it. However, even with the changes, Vista is nowhere close to OS X. When Snow Leopard shipped, I installed it on MacBook, and really saw little improvement other than some disk space that I recovered. Eventually Vista got to the point that I did not have to carry my MacBook as a backup.
To be fair, some of the problems that I had with Vista might have been caused by having a laptop that was limited to two gigs of ram. However, I did not think that was a problem when I bought it since my MacBook only had two gigs of ram.
I am a hardware junkie who pays attention to processor families, and when Intel announced their new i-series processors, I decided that my wife and I would get some new laptops. Her 12" aluminum PowerBook was ancient and starting to make some strange noises. In addition to a next generation processor, I wanted some more hard drive space, a quieter laptop, and again I was after a 15" screen that would be friendly to my old eyes.
My wife's system was the priority, and I was willing to buy her one of the new unibody MacBooks but only if Apple would come out with the new processors. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I remember one of Apple's best reasons for switching to Intel was so that Apple customers would not have to wait for the latest and greatest processors. So I wonder what the excuse is now that IBM cannot be blamed for not shipping processors on time?
When I started seeing Windows machines with i-series processors in Staples stores, I questioned my Apple friends who seemed surprised that these systems were actually shipping. As is always the case, the Apple folks had no idea when there would be new Apple laptop systems.
When Staples announced a sale where I could end up with a 14" i5 laptop for my wife and a 15" i7 laptop for me for a total cost of a couple of hundred dollars under the price of one 15" MacBook Pro with an outdated processor, I decided to go for it. For those interested the total price for the two laptops before taxes will be $1549 after getting a $100 cash back rebate. I will also get a rebate back from my credit card and some coupons from Staples. My cost for the two machines will be under $1,500 before taxes.
We picked the two machines up on Tuesday night, and I have been working when I have time at getting them both up and going. It took just a few minutes to get both machines out of the box and hooked to our Airport wireless network. Windows 7 is a huge improvement in this regard.
Applying updates and loading software has taken a little time but it has not been onerous. Of course, it is not as easy as with a Mac, but to be fair I did not even try the Windows migration assistant. I did not want all of the software on my old machine (particularly Outlook), and I was curious if I would run into any hurdles that might be a problem for others. My wife's system is a different story since she is going from a Mac to Windows.
Before I did anything, I went to Microsoft's web site and installed their free security suite which lets me ignore Norton. That is also a new benefit in the Windows world.
Then I used Internet Explorer to download and install Firefox. Then with Firefox, I downloaded and installed Thunderbird 3. I used one of my USB memory sticks to bring my addresses over from Thunderbird. Then it just took a few minutes to set up my six email accounts. Five of them are IMAP so getting my mail going was no big problem. At the same time I brought over the certificate that I use for signing and encrypting mail on one of my accounts.
Bookmarks were not a big deal, I sent myself an email with the dozen that I need. I could have used another method, but I just wanted to bring over a few bookmarks. I then installed MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007. Then I downloaded Picasa for my pictures and Google Chrome which I use sometimes. During all of this I installed Flash and approved an automatic Java update. Before I went to bed that evening I started both systems on their MS updates.
By the next morning, all I had to do on my system was to install TweetDeck and get some printers going. My Brother 5250DN required downloading a driver, but the installation went flawlessly and even duplex printing worked without a problem. The drivers for my HP6100 series printer came with Windows 7. It also worked fine the first time. I finally installed the finicky NC real estate software that I use.
Then I brought over all of my data and the library of pictures that I wanted with an external USB drive. The final pieces of software were SnagIt and CutePDF writer which is a free piece of software that lets me print PDFs from any application just like a Mac does out of a box.
All of this probably took me about three hours, and all I have left to do is put Thunderbird on my wife's system and install her printers. I am not looking forward to getting her Mac address book into Thunderbird but fortunately she just has a relatively small number of email buddies. Her two email accounts are both IMAP, so I might just go through her emails and use Thunderbird's add address feature.
I actually took my new laptop to work the afternoon after I picked it up. The only problem that I uncovered was the lack of a Windows 7 driver for the old Konica-Minolta printer in our office. It might just take a little more looking, but it is not a huge issue for me, since my Macs did not work on it anyway.
To be very honest, I have found Windows 7 to be an immensely pleasing surprise. It is stable, fast, and enough Mac-like that I doubt that my wife will have any problems using it.
I am truly amazed at the progress which has been made. My new laptop wakes from sleep very quickly. In two days of using the two machines, there has been no crash or system hang. Windows 7 has worked flawlessly.
My new laptop is so quiet that I can once again hear the tapping of my keys. It is very fast, and so far I am exceptionally pleased with it. Even creating the two Windows 7 recovery disks was a piece of cake.
I love the Mac-like Windows 7 task bar at the bottom of the screen. The little rectangle on the right side of the task bar that toggles to the desktop is easier than a keyboard combination.
As much as I love Macs, I would have a very hard time recommending that someone currently shopping for a laptop buy a Mac. If you use your laptop for a long time like my wife, it would be a crime to spend your money on a last generation processor when you can get the newest processors for much less.
Windows 7 has really closed the gap with OSX. It is an impressive operating system. I think Windows 7 will certainly help Microsoft's reputation in the world of operating systems.
On another note I recently signed up for Microsoft's free Office Live workspace. I installed a piece of software that lets me easily save a document that I have created using one of Microsoft's desktop applications to the free online storage. It is a nice bonus, and the price is right.
Microsoft still does some interesting things, and I suspect Windows 7 and aggressively priced hardware are going to go a long way towards protecting Microsoft's base of users.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes Apple to come out with their own i-series laptops. Even then I seriously doubt that you will see an i7 processor from Apple with a 15" LED screen for under $900. My bet is that the only i-7 laptop from Apple will be a top of the line PowerBook with a 17" screen.
I can remember the days when Mac laptops were great values.
In the world of today's laptops, I think that day is long gone, and I am sad to say that.
While lots of folks might be excited about placing an order for their iPad, I am pretty excited at the great technology that I got in my new HP i7 laptop. I suspect it will be able to handle my computing needs for a long time, and it came at a very reasonable price.
I will be providing more updates as I get more familiar with the machines. I am sure there will be glitches, but right now I am a very happy customer, and I am enjoying my new computer which is functioning perfectly.
The warm glow is enough to give me some spring beach dreams.