Switching Tips – from Leopard to Vista

I’ve been a Mac user since 1990. I do all of my work on a Mac. And I know them in and out. And having to use all OSes in my field of work, I can make an educated decision that Apple products, to quote Steve, are “really great”.

So when it came time to get my wife a new laptop to replace the Titanium PowerBook 677Mhz, of course I was thinking of another Mac. The primary use is transcribing audio tapes (Word), then blogging, photos and other family stuff. Laptops can handle that pretty well. And we also use it on family trips so I can remote pilot back at home, etc. No heavy lifting.

Competition

I was going to buy another Mac. Really, I was. It was almost going to be the $1300 Aluminum 13 inch MacBook. Then I saw a Dell at Best Buy. More ram than the MacBook, same storage and processor. Much less dough. For $550 I picked up the Dell Inspirion T3200. My wife had been a PC user her whole life so switching back for her would be no problem.

Apple folk will swear up and down that Apple hardware is no more expensive than a closely configured PC. So lets do some comparative shopping right now.

Apple Aluminum 13 inch MacBook

  • Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2GHz
  • 2GB DDR3 Memory
  • 160GB hard drive
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics
  • 13″, 1280×800
  • Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard, iLife 08

Dell Inspirion T3200

  • Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core @ 2GHz
  • 3GB DDR2 Memory
  • 160GB hard drive
  • Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
  • 15″, 1280×800
  • Windows Vista Home Premium, MS Works 9

That’s without nit-picking the details (dell has more ports and larger screen, but shared video ram and Vista, etc). If you want to split hairs, feel free to use the links above. It looks like the Apple is better. I don’t think $750 better, but better nonetheless. Wow, I just realized it’s over 2x the cost! $100 per inch.

Software

It took about three days to find adequate software to mimic the previous setup. Like so:

  • Usage: Mac / PC
  • Web Browsing: Firefox / Firefox
  • Photo Management: iPhoto / Picasa
  • Instant Messaging: Adium / Trillian
  • Email: Mail / Thunderbird
  • Blogging: iPhoto+Mail+blogger.com / Picasa
  • Remote Pilot: VNC / ??

Finding and testing programs is one thing. What about moving over all your stuff? Photos, passwords, mail, etc etc. This is how I pulled it off. It went quite well.

Web Browser

This wasn’t too hard because we’re used to (and prefer) Firefox. Installing Firefox was easy of course. Then to not skip a heartbeat, I installed Foxmarks plugin on the old Mac. Foxmarks is a free add-on for Firefox that syncs and backs up your bookmarks and passwords across multiple computers. Then chose the option to copy over passwords. Then I installed it on the PC’s Firefox and synced down. Perfect! All bookmarks and logins are remembered. WHEW.

Photo Manager

Weeks ago I was so happy because I bought a nice Canon camera that captured video as MP4 (h.264) .MOVs. Sweet! Now they import into iPhoto without fuss and are smaller than AVI.
And here I am, now with a PC. Murphy. Luck. Whatever. Moving on…

Sadly, there is no free equivalent of iPhoto for the PC. And in some ways thats a good thing. Picasa is probably the closest. And after trying a dozen, it’s the one I settled on.

iPhoto keeps it’s own secret storage facility masked by the OS as a sinlge file in your User’s directory. Picasa keeps an eye on a directory in your computer. This is both good and bad.
It’s easy to replace files with picasa, such as re-encoding a video. Doing that manually in iPhoto is a nightmare. Video files don’t store meta info such as the date taken.

In iPhoto, I filtered all photos by month. Then created that month’s folder on the PC. Over the LAN, I drag and dropped from iPhoto to the mounted drive (and the month’s folder). This took many night because the TiPB is so dang slow.

After importing the existing photos from the old mac, Picasa made quick work of it. Very very fast! Afterwards, I used QTAmateur on my iMac to batch convert all the old huge AVIs into smaller but visually identical MP4s. Again, directly over the LAN with a mounted share. Launch Picasa, and it updates automatically, re-reading the dir contents.

But wait… Picasa does not import video from the camera! DOH. So I use MS’s built in function to grab the photos and place them automatically into a folder. Launch Picasa, and it updates automatically – again.

Instant Messaging

On the Mac we were using the multi protocol, and awesome, Adium. They do not make Adium for other platforms. But Trillian filled the hole quite well. Since both AOL and Yahoo! store the buddy list contacts on their end, there was no export/import work to do. Just log in and chat. Nice!

Email

I really liked Mail.app on the Mac. But no equal for the PC. I installed Thunderbird. Since all of our accounts are IMAP, moving over was a breeze. I just had to set up the accounts and wait a few minutes. Done!

Blogging

My wife uses blogger.com. I think their RTE majorly sucks really really bad. Google programmers should be ashamed. (Ask me how I really feel). But the nice thing is that posting articles to blogger can be done right inside of Picasa with images. How cool! But only 4 images… don’t get me started. WT…. why only ffoouurr?? It’s just crazy.

4 Replies to “Switching Tips – from Leopard to Vista”

  1. Actually the macbook one is WAY better,

    Core 2 Duo > Dual Core
    2 Gb DDR3 > 3 Gb DDR2
    NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics > Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator X3100

    but again, maybe its TOO GOOD for your needs

  2. Indeed the processor is about $140 more for the mac raw price at new egg. We’re talking $70 vs. $210.

    The DDR3 vs. DDR2 ram is $40 per GB vs $8 per GB at Newegg.

    The video is harder to compare, but we’ll say $100.

    So the Mac has $295 for better components. Then we’d have to see if the LCDs are of a different quality.

    Regardless, MACs are always more expensive, but this is not an apples to apples comparison. For what you are doing, this will be fine. I hope you have a nice keyboard for all that transcription!

  3. It is a full size keyboard. Easy to type with.
    The screen is 15″ @ 72DPI, so it’s easy to read. The MacBook is only 13″ but same amount of pixels – which makes text (and everything else) smaller on screen. Higher quality images, but harder to read text.

    And so far so good. We still prefer iPhoto, Adium, and Mail. But it is certainly usable.

  4. If you are looking for multi protocol chat client on Windows, try Miranda.
    Vista has a builtin Mail, Photo and calendar application, why not using that for your daily usage.

    How about your Adrress Book database?
    You can use plaxo to sync between mac and PC 😉

    Cheers, I am using Mac BTW, and wont ever back to Windows.

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