Over the years I have worked myself into a technology solution that might be described as revolving around Apple but by no means dependent on the whims of Cupertino. It works well for me, and lets me have the best of both worlds without being tied to any particular technology vendor. How I got to this point, and how my solution works is something of a twisted story.
When I started using Apple computers back in 1982, it was not very hard to use an all Apple solution. The only non Apple hardware I had was an Epson MX-80 dot matrix printer. Times changed, the Mac was introduced, and I went to work for Apple in 1984, but lots of business software came out for IBM compatible computers. While I was working for Apple, the experience I had using and selling MS/DOS computers gradually faded into the past. Macs and Apple peripherals from printers to scanners and even cameras dominated my life.
Even during the years at Apple when there was a concerted effort by the company to provide DOS compatibility, Apple was vehemently anti-Windows internally. If you wanted to demonstrate Windows compatibility on a network, you had to be pretty creative with your local budget dollars. We managed to get a few PCs in our Reston office. They were invaluable in helping us learn what our customers' faced in getting Macs to work in their enterprise.
I sometimes felt like our work with Windows computers was a skunk works project. We actually ended up driving a lot of Apple's ActiveDirectory solution with a system engineer on my staff doing much of the development, but the reality even then was that Apple was a consumer company at its heart. Our enterprise efforts were just a holding action until Apple could find hits that would free it from the need to pay any serious attention to the enterprise.
Most people would agree that I bled rainbow colors in those days, so it would be no surprise that my family's personal technology and my own remained 100% Apple. I was even pretty happy with a Nokia cell phone that I synced with my Mac. When I was happiest, the Nokia was on Cingular which eventually got bought by AT&T. Then there was my departure from Apple just shy of my 20th anniversary and just after I reached the magic age of 55 at Apple.
Within a month after leaving Apple I bought a 15" Aluminum Powerbook. It got a lot of use, but that same fall I also bought a Dell Dimension Pentium desktop. Probably some of the reason I bought the Dell was Apple deciding they no longer needed my services, but I also really wanted to see how the majority of the people using technology got along in their daily tasks. For about six months I didn't have a job, so learning about Windows XP and Linux was a way to make myself more marketable. It was an interesting experience and was my start in blogging. I did purchase my trusty dual G5 PowerMac in December of 2004. I am still using it and the Dell. I sampled a lot Linux over the years before deciding to stay with Ubuntu.
Both my next two jobs were in the government space. I eventually got tired of being the only person in the room with a Mac so I bought a Dell laptop in the fall of 2005. Eventually I gave up the world of a consultant for a job with benefits. I became the VP of sales and marketing at an email services company. The Dell laptop turned out to be a necessity with that job. There were a couple of apps that we used which just would not work on the Mac so through some of 2006, I came to work carrying both a Mac laptop and a Dell laptop. By that time I was pretty proficient with Windows XP. Eventually I managed to get most things working well in my new workplace, but I had sort gotten to like having two machines on my desktop.
In the summer of 2006, I bought a new MacBook. My aluminum PB had sucumbed to a number of problems, including a bad lower memory slot and flaky ribbon cable, neither of which were covered by extended warranties. In the fall of 2006 we moved to coast, and I started looking for a new job. I wanted something where I did not have to live and breathe technology.
Somehow I thought that was real estate, and just as the the market was tanking, I ended up becoming a REALTOR®. I did not understand at the time that I sticking my foot into a field which had the potential to require an even greater use of technology than selling computers, networking or cloud services.
By then I had loaned my Dell laptop to my youngest daughter for final years of college, but I was able to get by the first nine months as a REALTOR® using my MacBook and my old Dell desktop at home. Our office provided us with an ancient Window XP desktop to use while on duty so that helped.
Eventually when I got to the point of writing contracts, I decided that I needed a new Windows laptop so I bought a new Vista laptop just when Apple was introducing Leopard. It was a lesson in Windows humility. There were some challenges with XP, Vista was a nightmare. and I eventually concluded that it as quagmire.
I bought the Vista laptop because it was a cheaper solution for generating forms than anything else. Supporting myself on Vista was a time whirlpool. If anything Vista made me appreciate Macs more.
During all this time I continued to do my website and creative work on Macs. My Windows computer let me access one of our MLS systems which required IE and let me create approved real estate forms. It also let me print on our office printer which I could never make work on my Macs after some security software was installed on the printer.
In the winter of 2009 I was hoping that Apple would ship some new I5 and I7 laptops at a reasonable price. Considering the tough state of the real estate market, spending money on a premium laptop like a Mac seemed like a gamble especially when it stil had an old processor. Of course I was also to the point that I could no longer take Vista even though it had improved somewhat.
After listening to a lot of technology people whom I respect, I ended up buying both myself and my wife new Windows 7 laptops. In about a month, we will have used those two laptops for a year without any problems. Windows 7 has proved to be a great operating system that might even be more reliable than OS X.
I have ended up helping a couple of folks get I5 laptops similar to my wife's HP. Neither has expressed any regrets. I also convinced my daughter to stay with Macs because I thought it was right for her. If money had been no object I would have bought both my wife and myself Macs. But as it ended up, we both got very good systems, mine an I7 and my wife's an I5 for less than the price of one I5 Mac which didn't ship until months later. Of course all my real estate software worked out of the box with Windows 7. My son's company is all Windows so he long ago stopped using a Mac. He also loves gaming so he has a souped up Dell I7 desktop with a solid state drive at home. My youngest daughter is still using a desk lamp iMac.
A week or so after I bought the HP laptops, I ended up choosing a Droid as my smartphone. I was completely frustrated with AT&T's service in our area. Three years of it had been a lesson in dropped and missed calls. I only managed to get 50% or less of the phone calls when I was in my home, and the idea that I would pay AT&T more to fix their problem by installing something in my home just drove me up the wall.
Through all of this Apple peripherals including monitors have mostly disappeared. I have added HP, Epson, and Brother printers to my technology solutions. I have an HP AIO printing/scanning/fax solution and an Epson scanner. I live with a mixed wireless/wired network. It has a fair amount of old network equipment in it, but with some help from my son, I manage to keep the network running.
This winter I finally gave in and bought a new I5 iMac. The old Dual G5 was getting very slow in spite of a number of hard drive upgrades. While I am pleased with the speed I have gotten with the new iMac, I stll believe it could be a better product. Both my Windows I7 laptop and my old Ubuntu Dell boot faster.
The one thing that I have on every piece of hardware is Dropbox. It is a great utility. I spend a lot of time in Firebox, an increasing amount of time in Chrome, and a little time using Safari. I useTweetDeck on my Windows box and my Macs. I have the latest version of Office on the Mac, but I am stuck on Office 2007 on Windows. I use Thunderbird for most of my mail on Windows, but I do access my Gmail with Chrome. My Linux box runs little more than Firefox with an extra tab for Gmail.
On the Macs I run Apple's Mail client, but I find it getting a little creaky. I have used Powermail in the past so I might go back to that eventually. Right now I am using Dreamweaver and Rapidweaver, but I am evaluating other solutions. I do use Pages for some brochures. For word processing I use Word on Windows, OpenOffice on Linux, and Nisus Writer Express on the Mac. I have given up Photoshop on the Mac for Pixelmator. I manage my photos on Windows with Picasa and on the Mac with iPhoto 09. I find the most recent release of iPhoto an abomination so I am looking for alternatives.
I really like SnagIt on Windows, and while I have it for the Mac, I rarely use it there for some weird reason. It is a great tool on Windows for creating directions on a map. Building my Housevision.us services site pushed me back firmly in the Mac world because I could not find an inexpensive Windows CAD solution that fit my work style so I now use MacDraft PE.
I have made lots of movies on the Mac, but I have also done some recently on Windows because of some trouble getting iMovie to work with YouTube.
MobileMe is not a service that I find worthwhile even though I am still paying for it because I have a couple of family members who just don't want to change their email addresses. I am still bent out of shape over Apple taking down some photo sites that I had there for years. I now store all my photos on Picasa web albums though I still maintain a presence on Flickr. I will sometimes do photo editing on Pixelmator on the iMac, save the photos to my Dropbox, and them import them to Picasa on my I7 Windows laptop and then upload them from there. The uploads seem to go faster than on the iMac, but I have not sat down with a stopwatch and timed it.
Living in a world of IMAP email, Microsoft Office, and Dropbox makes it relatively easy for me to be platform agnostic. Even the brochures that I do with Pages, I save as Word files and modify them in Word on Windows and eventually print them on our doubled sided color laser printer at the office which I cannot get to work with a Mac.
The fact that I don't use Macs for everything is not a slam against Apple, it is just a response to Apple's expensive pricing, and the fact that not everything that I need can be found on a Mac unless I run Windows on a Mac which I don't want to do. It is also just the way things happened.
For a variety of reasons I have chosen to have Windows hardware for Windows and use my Macs as dedicated Macs. While I could easily run Windows on the new I5 iMac, I have no need to do so. I would rather have the redundancy from the extra hardware. I also like the feel of competence that I get from being able to use multiple platforms. When I was still doing duty at the real estate office, I was often pressed into service to solve Windows problems.
Fortunately after my recent home network repair, all my technology tools are working well and doing what I need them to do. I like having three screens on my desktop. The integration between My Tracks on my Droid and my Google maps is just icing on the cake of my technology world. I am happy that I no longer have to use the somewhat flaky i-gotU software on Windows to do my GPS tracks.
I don't ever expect to give one vendor all of my business. I would far sooner have them compete for my business. I expect over the short term, Apple, Google, and Microsoft will all continue to find me both someone who users their products and a critic when something needs improving.
Over the long term, I am not placing any bets, but I sure would like to see Apple focus a little more energy and competitiveness on their laptops and desktops. I think there is still a big place for them in the world. I hate to see Apple give up that space completely to Windows vendors.
The recent news on developers and smartphone app intentions is a pretty good sign that no one has the market sewn up. That market will be interesting to watch.
I am happy to report that we finally got a normal storm this winter and that Wednesday morning we woke up to 54 degrees Fahrenheit. That is a nice change from the snowstorm we saw last weekend. Even this winter's weather has not shaken my belief that the Southern Outer Banks is a great place to live. It was nice to make it to 59.7 Fahrenheit on Wednesday. I even ordered the seeds for my tomato plants. It's almost time for the great tomato race to start.