Schizophrenia, as it were.
Mikhail Bulgakov. The Master and Margarita.
At the end of last year I had the question of buying a new laptop. His result was the purchase of a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a retina screen. This article reveals the reason for this choice with all its history. Therefore, it does not claim to be the truth in the last instance, is not a prediction, the result of any research other than my own, and so on and so forth.
Why did I need a new laptop?
To tell you the truth - my old Sony VAIO F1 bought 4 years ago, in January 2010 (anyone interested can read its review) is still a good and productive machine with its first generation Core i7 processor, 6 gigabytes of RAM and 16.3" fullHD resolution matrix. It was purchased at Sony's brand store in Las Vegas during CES 2010, where it was unveiled. It runs Windows 7 Home Premium, which I was completely happy with as an operating system. Over the years I have replaced its hard drive (due to intensive work, and the laptop was working 14 hours a day, the old began to "crumble") and keyboard (as if some strange way stopped working immediately, both shift keys in two years after purchase). Optical drive, it is worth saying, I had to use the only five times, one of which was to test the drive Blu-ray (I specifically took a friend's movie disc).
After 4 years of more than intensive use the wrist of my right hand had polished a part of the front panel near the edge, also the touchpad started to work strangely (or maybe it was always so weak - after working with ultrabooks, where it is excellent and, moreover, after working with macbook, where it is excellent, the feeling could get dull), but in practice I almost never used it anyway.
So why the replacement issue? My previous laptops I've replaced far more often, the previous HP Compaq 6710b lasted almost two years. It is all about the technical progress and peculiarities of my work:
- I wanted to switch to IPS-matrix, the old one has already irritated me by the end of 2013 for its low brightness (do not forget that already in 2012 IPS-matrixes began to appear in laptops in large quantities).
- As strange as it seems, I needed USB 3.0 - accessories and peripherals supporting this standard started to appear at work, but there was nothing to use all these features with. Which is wrong from the point of view of our work.
- New webcam. I remember one of the reasons for buying a new laptop last time, was the desire to have a webcam in the laptop. Especially when it became the de-facto standard in the industry, and netbooks (read the cheapest laptops) began to be equipped with it. In 4 years progress has gone a long way and the quality of the webcam on my laptop was no longer satisfactory to me. Regular viewers of our teleconferences have probably noticed the image quality, after replacing my laptop.
- Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band. A lot of Wi-Fi devices have appeared in our office and the users of computers supporting this range have got an advantage - their Internet access was always stable. In the new office, after the move, this problem seems to have been solved. But the bad luck, as they say, remained. And at home in the new apartment, where you are surrounded on all sides by neighbors with wireless routers, it is going to be very crowded. In that case the 5 GHz Wi-Fi is the way out of the situation - for a couple of years this solution will suffice.
- Open the lid - work. In a time when not only Macbooks but also Ultrabooks are turned on and off quickly, it is enough to open or close the lid, using a laptop that goes into hibernation (or out of it) for a minute, or even another minute, was unbearable.
Where to Start?
As a starting point for my research, I took the Asus UX31A ultrabook I liked exactly one year ago. The main result of last year's experiment a month ago was the realization of several things for me:
- A laptop with a 13-inch diagonal is more than adequate for work. I have always used 15" laptops with high resolution. The exception was the VAIO F, which had an even higher diagonal, but also increased the resolution. Now two pages of a document opened simultaneously on a laptop no longer surprises anyone, although 4 years ago it was rather an exception. A year ago you could see the same thing on 13 inch ultrabook screen. True, if I remember correctly, I still had to increase the scaling of fonts in the Windows settings.
- A Windows-based notebook (ultrabook) is quite realistic to turn on and off quickly (with the operating system loaded). In general, point 5 from the list of reasons to change the laptop is fulfilled by hurrah.
- A new laptop should take only the SSD. The consequence of the previous point.
- It is quite possible to work with a notebook without a mouse. If there is a large comfortable touchpad. Ultrabooks have one.
- The laptop is able to work 6 hours of battery life (they say more in the specifications, I'm guided by my own experience). Whereas my 16-inch "monster" could barely survive for an hour and a half.
- The more the ultrabook looks like a MacBook Air, the better it sells. Nothing has changed in a year, by the way - the most interesting ultrabooks are made by ASUS. The aluminum lid, of course, is not as impressive as MacBooks, but it still looks better than most ultrabooks from other manufacturers.
But here is the trouble - during the year the situation has changed, Windows 8 with its schizophrenic idea to be both an operating system for tablets and computers entered the market. At the same time Intel redefined the concept of "ultrabook". As a result, all new ultrabooks got touch screens and Windows 8. Of course, there are modifications without touch screen, but the flagship models, equipped as much as possible (switching from the flagship Sony laptop to something more simple seemed to me a kind of technological blasphemy), all as one have become touch screens. I began to prepare myself morally for Windows 8, calming myself with the fact that "somehow people live with it. Also I started to look at Asus 2013 year Ultrabooks with Haswell processors, when I found a price list with new VAIO Pro, which were already available, and where prices were starting to be the same as Asus's ones. It's a Sony! - I habitually exclaimed and started to write an e-mail inquiry.
This is no way to live!
A few days later a brand new Sony VAIO Pro was already in my hands. It was the senior modification from those, which are available in our market - with 256 GB SSD and touch screen. The Zenbooks were still cheaper in this configuration. But I was still attracted by "Sony magic" and was warmed by the carbon fiber case. I could cherish it until I took it in my hands, because outwardly it was not so impressive, and for sure was worse than Asus's aluminium, though it was rather a matter of taste. The Sony's magic was gone as soon as I saw the power button. The big round key in the end, which glowed green when turned on, was gone. In its place is now the usual rectangular plastic key in the upper right corner of the panel. It is obvious that with such a thickness of the case there is no possibility to place any button in the trunk, but I am sure that the genius designer who invented it could find a way out. Theoretically, he could offer the same solution now, but it was killed off considering it a wasteful redundancy. All in all, it's very sad, and not surprising that the Sony VAIO story ended the way it did.
The story of two weeks with the VAIO Pro is a chronicle of the struggle with Windows 8. It feels like those who designed it hate their users. But the root of all the problems with the new Windows lie, in my opinion, in a single incorrect hypothesis. I have mentioned it more than once or twice: the attempt to combine a tablet "for work" and a computer in one device fails. The success of the tablet iPad, which is, no matter who thinks or
thinks, the most popular tablet in the world (and in fact has created this market, despite a decade-long history of Windows tablets since Windows XP Tablet Edition, which was the first laptop in my life), lies in one simple idea: in its architecture a tablet is closer to a phone than to a computer. Period. So it should have an interface like touch phones, a processor like touch phones and less weight and size than the most portable computers.
It is clear what the Microsoft architects were guided by in this situation - they already have such tablets, and they wanted to make "something more different". Besides the biggest partners of Microsoft are the same multinational companies like Dell, HP, Asus and so on, for which the Microsoft software is the standard of work. Hence this crazy idea of "tablets for work" was born. But god be with them, transformers with detachable screens (let's not bemoan the billion of other people's money written off in losses with the first generation Surface tablet, which had a version for ARM processors that turned out to be spectacularly useless at all). But why the laptop needs a touchscreen no one can explain. Everybody just smiles enigmatically.
But the main problem (for me for sure) lies not even in the touch screen notebook, and not in the absence of the Start button, cynically drawn in the update (like we have it back - there it is), but not even a clickable. And in the fact that Windows 8 gives the user two interfaces - one for "tablets", the other for "computers". At the same time not working properly in either one. The need to install two versions of Skype: is that not direct evidence of schizophrenia? The system defaults to the tablet version of Skype. That means that when it starts up, Skype takes up the whole screen. Whereas we're all used to it being a service program that constantly hangs in the background and takes up a modest column on the screen. And yes, I know there are as many as two screens in "tablet" Windows! So multitasking for Microsoft in 2013, when Windows 8 came out, is down to two apps. While there is no taskbar in the tablet version. Curtain.
Installing the "desktop" version of Skype is worthy of its own song. But who can explain me: why a Windows 8 user authorized in the system (Microsoft ID or whatever it's called these days - the company is changing its name so often in recent years that it's hard to know what to call it, the last such "renaming" was SkyDrive, which is no longer SkyDrive), and still authorized in it, the second time, now in the browser, must log in again to download Skype? This is not schizophrenia, gentlemen, but sheer paranoia. The fact that Windows 8 and Skype are owned (and developed) by the same company strengthens the impression.
But we could get over this too. It would seem - log in to desktop mode and work as before in Windows 7. But no, some awkward touch on the touchpad and out of nowhere, like a nightmare, this "tablet" interface pops up again. And you, concentrated on your work, you constantly have to twitch and feverishly remember what to move or press this time. Obviously, it does not add love to Windows 8.
Don't get me wrong - I, like all of you, have seen the criticism of Windows with each new version of this operating system. As a rule, everyone used to "swear" about the next hardware requirement increase. I remember that Windows Vista (not a very successful version of Windows) used to require at least 2 GB of RAM for comfortable work. Now, when they put more in phones, it looks absurd, but the criticism was over the top. In contrast, I was just in the Windows Vista days, and bought an HP Compaq 6710b which had 2 GB of RAM, so even with this relatively controversial operating system, I was happy with everything. Similarly with Windows 7. With it there was no particular problem, except for "generic" - such as system registry, which gets contaminated with whatever you can and forced once a year to completely reinstall the system. By the way, I've never reinstalled Windows on my previous laptop. And it was only because its resources were initially excessive - 6 Gbytes of RAM in 2010 seemed to be out of the question. In fact, I failed to occupy more than 5 Gbytes of RAM.
My point is that I was never a Windows fan. As long as I could work with it, I was completely satisfied with it. But in the case of Windows 8, I realized that I don't have the energy or the will to go to war with it. I don't need a war, I need a laptop to give me the ability to work. And yes - I know there are special utilities to get it back to the "old" look. Or that you can turn something off by hand here, then flip a switch there, and just deal with that one. But as you get older, you become more and more conservative. And there is less and less desire to fiddle with something there, and more and more you want your notebook to just work the way you want it to work. And not as someone wants. The life is short to spend it on the constant completing of Windows (or Android).
To all those who give advice on how to "tame" Windows 8, I want to ask a question: if all users want everything back "as it was before", isn't that direct evidence that the developer of the system made a fatal mistake by turning "the wrong way"? Microsoft has partially acknowledged these issues by bringing back the same Start button in the Windows 8.1 version. In general, if you are ready to coexist with Windows 8 somehow, I can recommend you a series of useful articles by Sergei Shamanov, posted on our site. I, alas, will not need them anymore.
But if you have to choose and the choice is difficult
Thus, the situation with the choice of a new laptop on Windows came to a standstill, and I began to think about buying a macbook. After all - I'm probably the last IT journalist who has never used or owned a macbook until now. They look great in their aluminum cases, they're thin, lightweight, long battery life. And their prices are going down not so, depressing me every time before the sale of the previous laptop, pace (not least thanks to the aluminum cases). And here our poppy breeder Sergey Makarenko has thrown some wood on the fire, offering help in choosing, learning "and in general".
In the end my resistance was broken in just a week (or something like that). In fact, the main psychological challenge was having to come to terms with the increased purchase budget. Because the sum of $2,000 (which is how much the modification recommended to me cost) was not initially in my plans. In the end, I settled on the ME865 modification, which is a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a retina screen, a 2-core Core i5 processor (the only step back from my previous laptop), 8 gigabytes of RAM and a 256-gigabyte SSD.
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The adaptation process went much faster than I expected. In fact, 80% of my work is done in the browser, including email. The rest is spreadsheet and document work, photo and video processing. The system itself was very easy to learn. And it is very convenient. Apple's success hinges in no small part on the simple fact that the company has elevated usability to the rank of a religion, and is steadily following this path. Not to mention, for the first time since DOS, I feel in complete control of the contents of my computer. One of the incomprehensible things that always irritated me about Windows (with time, of course, the feeling dulled by hopelessness) was that the installed (and system) programs created and generated some incomprehensible stack of files. And to understand what these files were, why I needed them (and whether I needed them at all) was absolutely impossible. The MacOS doesn't have such a problem. The work with the touchpad, on the other hand, is really very good. All these multi-touch gestures make life very nice. And it makes working enjoyable and efficient. After a week I could easily do without the right mouse button on the touchpad and I got used to the traffic light with a cross in the upper left corner instead of the right one.
The browser situation has been solved perfectly - same old Chrome, remembering (viva the cloud storage!) all my important passwords and settings (where I've allowed to save them, of course). The office suite issue was solved pretty quickly - all buyers of new Apple computers get the iWorks suite for free, so I got Pages, Numbers, and Keynote right away.
Of course, Numbers loses out to Excel - there is nothing to talk about. But hand on heart, I've used only two formulas in my entire life in tables: calculate the sum and calculate the average. And I look at tables more often than I create them. Pages is also much weaker than Word. The only thing I lacked in it was character counting (a journalistic peculiarity). Then I found this setting. But it didn't have character counting, including spaces (also necessary for work). Funny fact, but this feature appeared in the first Pages update, which came within a month after I switched to MacOS. Thus, some of the problems were solved. Photos and video remained.
Video turned out to be easier and more complicated at the same time. The iMovie program comes with the operating system for free, just like the Windows Movie Maker I've been completely happy with for the last 4 years (for the last few years, Live Movie Maker, I tell you that Microsoft is not all right with renaming). Mastering iMovie took longer than I expected - editing my first video took not a couple of hours, as I hoped, but 12. The result can be seen here, at the very end. In my opinion, it came out pretty good. And after mastering it things will go faster. But I got a lot of templates for video, beautiful transitions libraries and even music library with cleared copyrights to use. All these advantages are obvious.
Everything was more complicated with photo processing. Of course, I could have pirated Photoshop, but there is a kind of both foppery and a conscious respect for the work of others, not to keep any pirated programs on your computer. After several obscure editors, my choice (on the advice of Pasha Urusov) came to a wonderful program Pixelmator for only $30. It took me probably a dozen hours to master, but on the whole, I am satisfied with it. Lacking except that a couple of clever filters that are in "big" Photoshop, and which I used. As for the rest, using applications, excessive in their capabilities for the task in front of you, apparently, is the wrong approach. Little by little I am beginning to understand how people live and feel fine without MS Office and Photoshop. And not just feel, but use their computers specifically for work.
The end is the beginning
To conclude this text, I have only to thank Microsoft for doing everything in their power to get me to use MacOS on my MacBook. No one could have done a better job than Microsoft. Yet another confirmation of the thesis that Microsoft's greatest enemy today is itself. Let's see if the new CEO will be able to fix something, but I personally feel sorry for him - he is facing Herculean tasks. And if in a few years something really does change in Windows for the better, then I am glad that I will wait out this whole difficult period in a quieter harbor. I need my computer and operating system to work. Not to fight with them.
P.S. If you liked this text, there is also its April 1st sequel - "Sorry, Microsoft: Why I didn't like my MacBook and went back to Windows 8". Have a great time!