Confessions of an Apple nut

I’ve been immersed in the Windows world for 30 years: top 1% of Windows experts at the Experts Exchange last time I checked, a SeniorNet PC tutor, a web programmer, and in a reversal of the usual scenario, my grandchildren treat me as the family IT guru. Despite that investment, a limited retirement income, and the Apple “hardware tax” barrier, I’ve migrated to the Apple universe, and I won’t be going back any time soon.

Why? Apple get away with overcharging for their hardware because they can, users like me keep coming back. The alternative might be cheaper, but for millions of us, it isn’t worth the sacrifice. 

It all started in 2010 when I succumbed to the hype and bought an iPhone 4. I was smitten in milliseconds. Before I knew it, I’d ponied up for an iPad and a MacBook Air.

iOS: Apple’s phone and tablet operating system.

The phones

Notwithstanding the outrageously overpriced iPhone X with its irksome notch and which I wouldn’t have a bar of, I can still buy a new iPhone 6S, 7, or 8 for a reasonable price. They leave the competition for dead. It’s not the hardware, it’s the operating system, its interface, its applications, and its seamless integration with other Apple devices.

The tablets

My iPad Pro 12.9” is beautiful. With the improvements to already good usability made with iOS 11, including split screen multitasking, and with a Magic Keyboard or Smart Keyboard Cover, at a pinch it can replace my mobile computer. iOS is more intuitive than the competition, it looks better, and there’s a better range of apps available. It just works.

MacOS

The same usability standard applies to Mac computers: everything just works. iMacs and MacBooks aren’t cheap, and the Mac Pro cost is eye-watering, but if you look at Windows machines with comparable specs and build quality, they’re not cheap either.

On the plus side; MacOS is free, and Apple’s hardware maintains its value better than the opposition. If you’re like me, and upgrade every year or two, you can get a very good price for the old machine.



The iMac’s 27” 5K screen is simply breathtaking. I’m not aware of anything in the Windows world to match it right now. But the LG 5K display I’m using right now is designed for my MacBook Pro, and its screen is identical to that of the big iMac. I love it.

And my 2017 MacBook Pro 15″ screen is no slouch either. I’m even coming to appreciate the much maligned touch bar.

The Apple downside

Having said all that, as already said, this stuff is expensive, and if you order your Mac, iPad, or iPhone with extra RAM, a faster CPU, gruntier VRAM, or with more storage than a base model, Apple really rip you off on price. With a new iMac 27”, you can easily upgrade the RAM yourself, but upgrading the SSD is a major mission, and on a new MacBook, upgrading either is almost impossible.

They charge at least double the price you would pay for equivalent upgrades if you could do it yourself with off-the-shelf parts.

On top of that, in some markets, including here in New Zealand, their hardware prices are even higher than in the USA. I don’t know why.

It’s the little things

You get some good freebies. Safari is an excellent browser from a privacy point of view, and has a great “Readability” mode. The excellent Works office suite, including Pages and Numbers, is free.

iTunes seems to cop some flak, I find it excellent, and with recent updates it synchronises all your music between devices including ripped personal CDs.

Unlike Windows, MacOS doesn’t come with bloatware. That seems to have become an increasing problem with Windows over recent years.

Most devices now come with Retina high definition screens. They are breathtaking. And MacBooks have the biggest and best trackpads in the business.

Text editors

I’ve written a review of note taking programs in my last post, click right here.

I spend a lot of time doing what I’m doing now, writing shit that nobody reads. On the Mac, the iPad, or the iPhone, I can do that in applications that are nice to use; pleasant to look at, easy to export from, and using the excellent Markdown system for formatting text.

I could use Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, even the free LibreOffice, but they’re far more powerful and complex than 90% of users need. Bear Notes, and Ulysses are my apps of choice and there is nothing in the Windows universe to match them.

Here’s a sample Typora note:

Security

For years everyone’s been warning that the big bad malware pushers are coming for your Mac. It hasn’t happened. If it does, in Windows or on the Mac, there are easy ways to recover. That’s another story. Think images and backups.

I moved back to Windows recently, because I needed to get reaquainted as a SeniorNet tutor.  The constant hassle of updating and running anti-virus and 3 anti-malware programs got old very quickly. It’s a pain, and if you don’t want to be hounded by ads, it’s an unnecessary extra cost.

Windows

I’ve been using Microsoft OS computers since the dark ages of MS-DOS, I graduated to Windows 3.0, soldiered on through 97, 98, and XP. Vista was a dog, but updates fixed it over time, Windows 7 was passable, but it’s been all downhill from there. Marrying the PC operating system and the mobile system within Windows 8 and 10 seemed like a good idea initially, but to my mind they just haven’t pulled it off.

I bought one of the first Microsoft Surface notebooks with a removable screen thinking to replace a MacBook and an iPad with one device. I sold it within weeks. Just didn’t gel as a tablet.

Windows 10 annoys me. It’s clunky. Your mileage may vary.

Unless you’re prepared to reinstall Windows every year or so, or regularly restore it from a previously created image, it gets bogged down with junk. Sure, you can run free programs and utilities which help, but most people don’t, it only helps a bit, and on the Mac it isn’t necessary.

What do I miss from Windows?

Just one thing. A near perfect text expansion utility. In Windows there’s a wonderful free tiny program called AutoHotKey. I can set it up so that if I type, for instance, mmsw, the program converts it to “Microsoft Windows”. mmob prints my mobile phone number. hhome, my home address. It works seamlessly throughout Windows OS and applications. Even though it’s free, it’s powerful; you can set up complex texts including inputs from amongst others, Alt, Ctrl, Return, and Shift keys and combinations of them.

Apple has had text expansion available in your Keyboard Settings, but it isn’t as capable, and it doesn’t work consistently through the system, or in all applications. Even though it works on your Mac, iPad, and iPhone, the syncing between those devices has been erratic. (Note “has been“; recent updates to iOS and MacOS seem to have fixed that.)

There are commercial text expander apps available for MacOS and iOS, but they’re expensive, or they’re not compatible between devices, and they are limited by Apple’s security walls at various levels in the system. In Windows, developers can delve into the darkest depths of the code, but Apple put limits on how deep developers can go.

What would you miss?

Unless you’re a gamer, or a slave to an obscure Windows-only third party program, I suspect that you would miss bugger-all.

Apple’s MacOS

Steve Jobs once said that nobody needs a touch screen on their computer. I thought he was just making excuses, and trying to force us to have both a Mac and an iPad. After a lot of usage of both touch-free Macs and touch-friendly Windows machines, I’ve concluded that, as usual in technical matters, Steve was 100% correct for 99.9% of usage scenarios.

Sure, there are design pros who will drool over Microsoft’s gorgeous Surface Studio with its fabulous tilting touch screen, but it gives Apple a run for it’s money on eye-watering price, and it still has that clunky operating system.

For me, Apple’s smooth-as-glass Magic Touchpad for the Mac, along with my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are beyond good enough to remove any need for a touch screen on my Mac. And if you really do need touch on the Mac you can connect your iPad to it by USB connection and use as a second display with the free Duet app.

Confession

I do have one of these. Just in case.

:o)