08 February, 2008

Mac: part 1 The convergence of the operating systems

First, let me apologize for being away so long. As I have previously reported on this blog, I am in the middle of doing school related tasks. But I have a lot of technology stories to cover and so over the next few weeks, I hope to catch up. We're going to begin today with the topic that has engendered much passion on both sides of the issue. Yes, it's that age-old argument, PC or Mac. Most of you know that I bought a MacBook Pro for school and I have to tell you I love it! Now hold on, before you fire up those angry e-mails saying, "but PCs run more applications." Before you even think of calling me a turncoat, let me describe computing in the ideal world.


In an ideal world, wouldn't you like to be able to run any application you wanted, regardless of which operating system it was made for? If you could have your ideal computer, wouldn't it always boot up without fail? Wouldn't it be less susceptible to viruses than your computer of today? If you could deal with an ideal company, would you deal with a big conglomerate that only makes software, or would you want the company you deal with to also have intimate knowledge of the hardware you're using because they made it? In an ideal world you shouldn't have to worry about system requirements in choosing software to the degree that we do today. All you should have to do is go through the simple act of putting the disc in question into the appropriate drive. Yes, you heard me, That's All You Should Have To Do. Now do we live in an ideal computing world? No, of course not but the day is coming because frankly, my experience with the Mac as shown me that it is possible not to have to make certain choices. Today though as I said, we are not at the "ideal world "stage of computing. So let's take a good look at where we are with the Mac today.



Let me state for the record that my MacBook Pro provides the best mobile computing experience I've ever had! Why is this? The answer is very simple I did not have to choose between Windows and OS X. I run them both simultaneously and seamlessly using a program called "Parallels". "Parallels" doesn't just allow me to run Windows on a Mac. You can actually do that without purchasing anything apart from your own copy of Windows using a program called "Boot Camp", which is free in the newest version of OS X "Leopard" the advantage to "Parallels" is that it allows me to integrate all by Windows applications directly into my Macintosh experience. In other words, using the Mac, I can run Windows applications just as though they were made for the Mac. rather than having me try to explain how parallels works, watch this video.

So this means I do not have to abandon needed Windows applications while at the same time, I can simultaneously take advantage of all the easy to use Mac applications. The latest version of "parallels" does in fact support DirectX for improved gaming. Before you e-mail me and say, "This game doesn't work on parallels", I said improved gaming, not perfect gaming. It is also no longer necessary to drag files between the two operating systems to choose which application can open them. So that's how I run my Mac. I like choice. Ask yourself why we choose between operating systems. Why is there a great debate? Why can't each individual to decide what is easiest for them and work that way? That time is coming and "parallels" and other software like it offer a glimpse into the future when operating systems will look the way each user needs them to but still be able to run the applications they want.


The Mac itself is tremendously well built. MacBook Pro's are aluminum and glass, not plastic. The keyboard is backlit for use in the dark. Although I don't type, I do find this feature useful for seeing what I'm doing in the dark. There are also a number of accessibility features that are a great improvement over those found in Windows. If you're familiar with Narrator, you may find as I did that the Macintosh Voiceover utility is an incredible improvement. OS X also includes a far superior magnifier to that found in Windows. The Windows one sits at the top of the screen, while the OS X equivalent can magnify the entire screen. This means you don't have to look in one particular area at to get a better view of what you're working with. And it will even work on the Windows apps you run. Probably the easiest thing to do is to devote an entire blog entry on accessibility between parallels and OS X. This I will do next time but for now, just know that one day, the convergence of the operating systems will happen! "Parallels" and other such solutions are a good stopgap in the meantime. You do however, need to make sure that you're running an Intel Mac with at least 2 GB of RAM for parallels to be responsive in a timely manner. When setting up Windows in this fashion, you can then devote 1 GB of RAM just Windows. I run Windows Vista this way on my Mac. I'll have more information about installing adaptive software used in Windows on the Mac in my next entry, "Accessibility and the Mac"