It was on Februay 15, 2010 that I ordered both my wife and myself HP laptops running Windows 7. About a week later I reported my first experiences with Windows 7.
I actually was pretty surprised with the hostility that showed up in some of the comments to that post. I did not intend to offend the Apple world by once again purchasing some Wintel gear.
I wanted a fast processor in a laptop and had gotten tired of waiting for Apple to deliver one.
It has been a year since I placed the order, so do I regret not waiting for that MacBook with an I7 processor? Actually I do not have any regrets about my decision to spend money on non-Apple products.
My wife really needed a new laptop. Her old Mac laptop had gotten so slow that even she had noticed. Initially I was going to buy just her a new Mac laptop, but in February 2010 I just could not see laying down good money for outdated processors from Apple.
When I found out that with rebates we both could get new laptops with the latest processors for less than the price of one Mac with an outdated processor, it did not take me long to place the order.
I was surprised that I got accused of being a shill for Microsoft especially considering that I had called Vista a Quagmire in a not very old post. And just because I bought HP laptops for us, did not stop me from using Macs. In fact this fall I ended up buying an I5 iMac because much of my work is still done on Macs.
I continue to use my old dual G5 tower and an even older Dell Pentium 3 desktop that runs Ubuntu Linux. I am pretty pleased with my technology set-up, but I think some of my observations on Windows 7 might be of interest to Mac people who would never consider dabbling in the world of Windows.
First off Windows 7 is an exceptionally reliable operating system. It is just a few days shy of a year since my wife and I both started using Windows 7. There have been no problems either hardware or software related with the systems. That is no as in none. That is a pretty heady accomplishment for a brand new operating system running on new processors.
The systems have not crashed, locked up, or misbehaved in way that I have been able to determine.
In the year's time I have migrated my dedicated Mac using wife to the Windows world. Would she still like to be using a Mac?
The answer is probably yes, but she also realizes a bargain when she sees one, so she is very happy with her HP laptop and saving some money. She does claim to still miss her Apple address book, but her real problem is that she doesn't use an address book enough to really remember it in the Windows world. She had years of hardly using her Mac address book for it to become second nature.
Our systems are set up very similarly. My primary browser is Firefox, but I also use Chrome, and once in a while I have to use IE to print some GIS maps that our county has posted. We both use Microsoft Security Essentials which is free, less intrusive than Norton, and also less of a resource hog.
Neither my wife or I have been bothered with viruses or any malware in the last year.
We use Thunderbird for email, Picasa for photos, Snagit for image captures, Word 2007, PowerPoint 2007 and Excel 2007. I also use RealFast for my real estate forms.
Since I have dual Gmail personalities, Firefox is logged in under one ID and Chrome under the other. The reasoning behind this is keeping alive separate photo storage that I maintain in Picasa Web Albums.
I share files with Dropbox as does my wife. Dropbox is actually part of my workflow since I will often first download my photos from SD cards to my HP I7 laptop.
Any that I want to use in a post that need only minor editing I will fix in Picasa and save in my Dropbox which also puts it on my three Macs, the dual G5, my 2006 MacBook, and my new I5 iMac.
If there is a file that needs more work than I like to do in Picasa, I will save it in another Dropbox folder and work on it with Pixelmator then save it back to Dropbox.
Much of my work is writing or web pages. I do a lot of my writing in the mornings at the kitchen table. The HP I7 laptop is my favorite machine for that since it has a 15" screen and a full sized keyboard.
I often do my web site work in the afternoon or evening. Then I usually retire to my upstairs office and also download any photos to my I5 iMac where I might take another look at several of the best ones. My new iMac has iPhoto 09 on it. I made a mistake and put iPhoto 10 on my MacBook so I am not fond of doing iPhoto work on it. I also have Aperture on the iMac but I rarely use it. I have pretty well quit using Photoshop.
All of the blogs that I work on are done through a browser interface. With a browser as an interface, it really doesn't matter to me which system does the writing.
However, I am working on a book which I write on the iMac using Nisus Writer Express. When I finish a section I do take the time to open it in Word 2010 on the Mac and save it also as a Word document. I have enough effort into the book that I don't want to take any chances of losing it.
Our Windows laptops seem to perform just as well on our networks as my Macs. I certainly haven't seen the problems that I had with Vista. The HP laptop also gives me the ability to print double-sided brochures on our color laser printer at the real estate office. Unfortunately when they installed new software, it locked out Macs. With no new drivers readily available and with me as the only Mac user, no one was interested in fixing the problem. I finally removed the old Mac desktop that I had in the office last fall.
One measure of the success of moving my wife to Windows is that it has been months since she started her old lamp shade iMac. It was the system she used in our second home. I have started it a couple of times just to make sure it works but that is it. She now prefers to carry her HP laptop. Her old Mac laptop had not been travel worthy for a long time due to its battery.
I still prefer using a Mac over a Windows machine for most things. And there is some software on the Mac that I think is better than what is available for Windows computers.
However, there is no doubt in my mind that Windows 7 is a very good operating system and that you can find a very decent computer for much less than what you can in the world of Apple.
If you just want email, browsing, and sharing basic pictures, I would have a hard time recommending a Mac purchase unless you just want a Mac or have been using one for a long time.
We have no trouble printing to our wireless network of HP and Brother printers. In fact I think I have more trouble with my MacBook printing than I do the Windows laptops. Sharing files with DropBox is a piece of cake.
While I haven't timed it, I believe that my I7 HP laptop will boot more quickly than my I5 iMac but the difference is hardly worth arguing.
Those who said that my I7 HP Windows 7 laptop would slow like a typical Windows machine were wrong. It has turned out be a very good experience. I have actually helped a couple of people buy HP laptops identical to my wife's I5 machine.
I would never suggest that anyone who is happy with their Mac go out and get rid of it and buy a Windows 7 machine, but if you are faced with aging Macs and a limited budget, you might be surprised at how far your dollar will go in the Windows world.
Switching one machine to Windows does not mean that you have to start hating Macs or stop using them, it just means that you have a few options that you didn't have when you were only using a Mac.
I do find wireless networking still something more of a pain on Windows computers, but it has improved greatly even with the not so new networking gear that I run. Even my aging MacBook has a habit of deciding that it does not have an Airport card once in a while when changing network locations. I have to pull the battery and generally reconfigure the Airport card.
I long ago got to the point that computers are tools to get my job done and not part of a religious experience. Apple makes very good but sometimes very expensive computers. If you can afford to live in an all Apple world, I am happy for you.
For the rest of us, you can find happiness in a mixed platform world. Sometimes success is measured by keeping old gear going long after the manufacturers would have us retire it.
We are finally into some great weather on the east coast. After some cold damp weather along the ocean shores, the sun feels great. It is really nice to have afternoon temperatures into the sixties and see some signs of spring even if we might face a little more winter.
Unfortunately there areas in North Carolina and Virginia where the lack of winter snows and rain have made for very dry conditions.
As the weather gets warmer and the boat rides longer, I might just have to forget about computers for a few days. I hope everyone get their needed rains, but I sure hope there is some sunshine for a few winter busting days on the water.