April 11, 2012, 9:56 AM — That's right, I packed it in. My MacBook Pro is now on the shelf. In a while, it goes on Craigslist -- not because it's been obsoleted by the latest version of Mac OS -- Mountain Lion as mine will work okay (some MacBook Pros will not). Instead, there's a cushy comfort zone that's dangerous for a product reviewer to fall into.
Apple sent some machines a long time ago to my lab. Try them, they said. They were damn seductive and had populist agendas going for them. They combined elements of open source, Microsoft Office, and a slick look-and-feel. They tasted of Unix, and I've been using Unix since 1979. Mostly, to borrow a highly overused phrase, it just worked. That was at Mac OS X (10.0), which had just changed over from a long stretch of OS9. There was even a bundled OS9 compatibility mode for legacy software.
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Mac OS then moved onto Intel hardware in a move that surprised many. Early software allowed Windows to work on it in virtual machines -- or by a dual-boot arrangement. If your business was IT, one machine could cover both operating systems, Mac and Windows. Yes, you had to buy the Windows licenses, but it was one machine.
Support for Apple software among major vendors was at the time, minimal, because of Apple's prior use of the PPC processor. Handily Apple included a processor instruction translation capability that allowed Intel and PPC software to execute concurrently in the same machine; that capability was lost at Mac OS 10.6.
No one wanted the expense of supporting two platforms when sales of Apples were small. Now, Apple is on a somewhat level playing field with Microsoft in terms of mainstream software support. For me, however, it was time to change.
Day one: What to use in lieu of the Mac?
I coveted the MacBook Air. Nice machine. It's light weight if bereft of specs comparable to bigger machines. I had to keep the weight down. I needed a fat hard drive and a lot of memory. I could choose between Linux and Windows, or both with VM technology. It boiled down to 8GB of memory with a 200GB+ hard drive. WiFi with 802.11n had to be available. Bluetooth would be nice but optional. Same went for an internal CD/DVD. I download most stuff these days and have a USB 2.0 based hard drive that stores a terabyte. Good battery life might be nice.
The list narrowed down to a Lenovo X120e. It has a smaller screen, but the keyboard is great for a touch typist. I decided on Linux Mint 12, the Gnome/Debian version, as the base. Windows 7 or 8 would probably live in a virtual machine, as well as other virtual machines I already use. I found one on eBay at a very reasonable price, then outfitted it with more memory and a fatter hard drive, still well under budget.
Day two: App compatibility
Work production requires something that saves in the Rosetta Stone of document formats, the ubiquitous .DOC file. Microsoft Office on the Mac translated to LibreOffice, which behaves in many ways like Microsoft Office -- especially in the word processing department. Linux Mint includes it.
But Apple Mail is a lifeblood, as Outlook will likely be for Windows users. I already use a Zimbra email server appliance that comes from TurnkeyLinux.com. There's no Microsoft Exchange or Gmail or other mail server in the picture. Zimbra admins can transfer mail and folders from Apple Mail to Zimbra IMAP (a webmail protocol) that in turn, can be used with a Zimbra desktop application. This would be major. I live on email.