As some readers know, I made a decision back in August to go “all in” with Stompernet. Stompernet is a membership community site for elite internet marketers, where we provide best-in-class training on a wide range of internet marketing subjects.
My primary role in Stompernet has been to develop and deliver the training on pay-per-click, with some additional contributions on SEO, analytics & conversion, copywriting, infoproduct marketing… I get to do a lot of fun stuff.
Anyway, this isn’t a post about Stompernet. It’s about how I became a Mac user, and why I think nearly everyone reading this should follow along as soon as you can.
Andy Jenkins and Brad Fallon, who started Stompernet last year, are both Mac users. Most of the Stompernet faculty (some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with) are also Mac users. Andy “hinted” that I just might want to get one too.
My Windows laptop was in the early stages of death by overuse, so I figured I’d go get a Mac, and if it sucked, I could just stick it on a shelf and wait for a reason to use it. Cash flow not being a huge issue in my world, but still being a cheap bastard, I went out and bought the lowest-endest model of the new MacBook laptop.
My expectation was that the Mac would prove to be a “toy computer,” and that I’d be shopping for a top-of-the-line Windows Tablet PC soon enough. With XP, not Vista. Damn, but that Vista is slow.
“Damn, this sucker is fast!”
A couple things impressed me about the Mac right away. First of all, the time it took from powering on to actually having full control of the desktop environment was only 23 seconds, compared to several minutes on my Windows PC.
I repeat: the cheapest Mac you can buy was fully booted in 23 seconds. Which was nice, because if it did turn out to be a toy computer, at least it wouldn’t take long to boot when I actually needed to use it.
But if you do one amazing thing, I’ll usually give you a chance to impress me again. Since handling the mountain of email was by far the most time consuming task in my work day (2-3 hours easy just to clear the email in the morning), I decided to fire up the Mac email client and see what it could do.
I should probably mention that I use(d) Outlook on my PC, with years worth of mail filtering rules and stuff to make it go faster. Even with all that, with the huge volume of email I need to sort, I was at 2-3 hours PER DAY just dealing with email.
So how did the Mac do? I started work at 8:00am just like every day. At 8:00:23 I was in the email client, setting up my account. By 9:30am, I was done. Done with email for the day. Zero in the inbox. All replies sent. Everything filed. This includes the time I spent setting up folders and mail-filtering rules.
Random but important note: Apple’s built-in junk mail filter uses Bayesian whatchamahoozies to learn, and it learns fast. I didn’t have to go install some extra thing to get an intelligent junk mail filter. I get a false positive every couple weeks.
Plus, Apple actually realized that they should apply your mail-filtering rules BEFORE running the junk mail filter – so unlike Outlook, it didn’t randomly dump “known good” emails into the junk folder.
Once I figured out how to use “Smart Folders” I got my email processsing down to about 45 minutes a day. If you’ve ever tried to use folders on Outlook/Windows and given up because of the time it takes for Outlook to “prepare the requested view,” you will appreciate the Mac mail application even more. It just works. Instantly.
“Ok, now what?”
My second day, it took less than an hour to handle the mail on my Mac… as it has every day since. So, there I was, stuck with a Mac because I needed it for email. The mission then became “how do I move all the stuff I do on Windows to the Mac?” Here are my solutions:
- Web browsing – Firefox for Mac works just fine, and Google Browser Sync let me move all my bookmarks, saved passwords, cookies, and all that crud over to the Mac. Problem solved, except for “what do I do if I need IE for some reason?”
- Recording & editing audio & video – Ed Dale sent me a list of cool apps that he runs. Easy enough to replace everything going forward, except I have a huge archive of stuff that was edited in Camtasia on Windows.
- All those little Windows apps (EDGE Diagrammer, HTML-Kit) that I am addicted to… what to do, what to do? Microsoft Office is kind of important – you can get an older version for the Mac, and iWork is so much better for presentations, but still – a lot of other people are using Office, so I need it.
Getting My PC Onto My Mac OS X System
Sorry Mac die-hards, I still need Windows. Not all the time, but I need to be able to use some stuff that you can only find on Windows. Not because Windows is so great but because so many people use it – I MUST be able to check web sites in IE. Not an option, it’s part of the job.
I had a Windows desktop, but sliding the chair back and forth wasn’t working for me. I wanted to get my Windows stuff into my Mac. You have some options for this:
- Boot Camp – basically, you set up a separate hard drive partition with Windows running on it, and you can boot up your Mac into Windows instead of MacOS. This is possible with the new Macs because they run on Intel-type hardware. I tried it. I didn’t like it. Why? Because even on a Mac, Windows takes too damn long to start up.
- Parallels – this was what the Apple store guy recommended. The Parallels software allows you to run Windows in a window, on your Mac, while still taking advantage of the Intel hardware. This was much better. I could fire up Windows in about 10 seconds, without leaving my Mac work environment. Unfortunately, USB audio support was weak, and I couldn’t record in Camtasia under Windows.Fortunately, you can hack Parallels to use a Boot Camp partition and boot into Windows when needed. Problem semi-solved… until…
- VMWare Fusion – released shortly after I got my Mac, this software solved all my problems with Windows in one shot. Their converter software cloned my Windows laptop and turned it into a virtual machine I could run on my Mac, in a window. USB support has been flawless – I can record audio and video. I can even watch videos, DVDs, TV, etc. in Windows in a window on my Mac.
If a Mac can do all that, can it make me mobile too?
I travel a lot, and do a lot of off site stuff locally. Because of that, my Windows laptop had become my primary computer. Unfortunately, this meant half an hour of switching cables, packing USB drives, and all that crap every time I wanted to take the computer out with me… and another half hour setting it all back up so that I could use a full size monitor and everything at my desk.
Over the years, I have tried many different “sync” solutions, to let me keep a laptop and desktop in sync with Windows.
With the Mac, I was able to buy a desktop model (iMac), get a .Mac account, and sync everything up – email (including filtering rules!!!), calendar, contacts, and the holy grail – files that I am working on.That’s right, with .Mac, I have an iDisk that lives somewhere up in the sky, and I can store all my files on it for $99 a year.
Now, when I want to take off and go somewhere, I just grab my laptop bag and walk out the door. That’s it. No copying files, no lugging USB drives. When I get where I’m going, I connect to the Internet, and everything syncs up without me touching a single button.
iPhone Completes the Package:
I had been using a Windows Mobile “smart phone” for a while, but since I was already in the Apple store to buy the “Leopard” upgrade for MacOS, I picked up an iPhone. Now, my email, calendar, and contacts are flawlessly synced up with my phone, and unlike my Windows phone, it all actually works.
Now, this isn’t all necessary for everyone. Some of us never leave our office. Some of us don’t want our phone to remind us of appointments, have the right phone number and email address for our contacts, etc. But for those who do need it, Mac + iPhone makes it all so easy. Everything just works.
Upgrading to Mac OS X Leopard & “Spaces”
There are a lot of cool features in Leopard. At the moment, I am so focused on one feature, that I can’t even remember what else they added. I’m talking about “Spaces,” which is a set of 4 virtual desktops that you can set up in Leopard.
One of my Spaces has Mail on it – always open, never in the way of other work. Another has my web browser – always open, never in the way. A third has my old Windows laptop, running full-screen with VMWare Fusion – instantly available, never in the way. The fourth Space is my “workspace” for video projects, writing, coding, etc. – in other words, it’s my desktop.
My Apple Mighty Mouse (got the bluetooth version) has a pair of side buttons. I configured it so I just squeeze the side buttons to bring up a view of my Spaces, so it’s easy to switch between them. I like the Apple mouse. It looks like a one-button mouse, but I can left click, right click, middle-click, scroll, just like my old Windows mouse. Which, BTW, I could also use.
Going Mac, Step By Step
If you are using Windows now, and want to switch over to enlightened computing, here’s a step by step guide of how I would do it, if I had to start from scratch:
- Get the right Mac. If you never travel with your computer, get an iMac. The low end version works great at around $1200. If you do video editing and stuff you’ll feel the difference if you upgrade the memory. If you do need to travel, get a MacBook – whichever one feels right because even the cheap one runs circles around your Windows box. If you’re going to “clone” your Windows system, get a hard drive that will absorb your Windows hard drives with room to spare. If you decide to get two Macs (laptop & desktop) get a firewire cable so you can just transfer the applications and settings from one to the other – this was a huge time saver for me.
- Keep your Windows stuff by cloning your Windows PC. I highly recommend VMWare Fusion. I used the instructions provided by VMWare to clone my physical machine. Follow the instructions carefully – when you first start up your virtual machine, Windows may try to get you to activate your Windows license, but don’t do it yet. Install VMWare tools first, then activate Windows. Windows can only be activated so many times before you have to buy another license, which I had to do via Windows Genuine Advantage because I didn’t follow the instructions, and had already activated my license a couple times with Parallels. VMWare will give you a complete Windows PC, inside of your Mac. Google Browser Sync will move your Firefox bookmarks and stuff across for you.
- If you are a mobile power user like me, get a .Mac account. Like I said already – .Mac allows you to sync up all your stuff. If you add a mail filtering rule while you’re using your laptop in some lonely hotel room, that rule will be in effect on your desktop when you get home. If you use the iDisk, your files will all be up to date. iDisk is really cool – it keeps a local copy and syncs up the changes. Way cool.
- If you want your phone to be part of the solution, get an iPhone. And be glad you waited until they dropped the price. It’s powerfully strange to use a phone to browse the web, and have it actually look like the web. It’s powerfully weird to read and answer emails on a phone, without it looking like SMS messaging. But it’s really nice. Everything syncs up. Everything just works. Added bonus: you can sell your iPod because the iPhone does that too. With iTunes I can grab a podcast or video and watch/listen on my phone, on a plane, in a taxi, wherever.
Reasons To Stick With Windows
There are a few reasons why you may want to stick with Windows:
- Your boss paid for the computer and won’t get you a Mac.
- You pay for the computer, and can’t afford to get a Mac.
- You like waiting 10 minutes for your computer to boot, because it gives you time for a cup of coffee.
- All of the great things a Mac will give you aren’t important because all you do is surf the web reading blogs.
- Steve Jobs is an arrogant bastard. (and Bill Gates isn’t)
That’s all I have for today. Back to SEO in a couple days… in the meantime, Aaron Wall has posted some nice new videos.