Thursday, August 26, 2010

What's so great about Apple's Imac Computer?

Well, as some of you may know, I have had a successful career as a Network Engineer. Of course, I am now a full time Real Estate agent, but for 15 years of my life, I was at the top of my game with computer networking. So, when it comes to computer problems, I usually know how to get the answer I need to fix the problem. That brings me to a recent situation that occurred at home. 4 years ago, I purchased an Ibook G4 from I was very excited. I was a PC person my whole life and I had wanted to make the switch to Apple. I was familiar with Apple since I supported Apple products in my career, but never really owned one or used one as my primary computer. Anyway, It arrived in the mail and I was really taken back, the packaging is just stunning. Everything from the beautiful white box with the colors on it, to the carefully packaged and wrapped components. Each piece of the device was meticulously placed in the shipping box so that when it got to me, it was safe, sound and ready for startup. For the first few days, it was love at first site. This new eBook cost me just over $1000.00 back in 2006. It was worth every dime.

Jump forward a few months and I’m not feeling so happy. I am just starting my career as a real estate agent and my brokerage hands me all my training materials on a CD-Rom with Microsoft Publisher files. Now, I have office installed on my Windows Computer in my closet, and publisher is on there too. It was at that time that I realized not all products using Microsoft software are compatible with Apple machines. The files I needed to access were not readable by any piece of software currently on my Mac. No problem I thought, ill just buy publisher for Apple. Right? Wrong!. There is no version of publisher for Apple. Now how am I supposed to read these training files if Apple wont read publisher files. What am I supposed to do? Well, I had to get my old Windows machine out of the closet and power it up so I could read the files.

A few days later. I go to log into one of the websites I use for business. It’s a Real Estate based website. It says right on the main page that the website is best viewed with Internet Explorer, which is the browser that comes pre-installed with Windows. (Actually it’s integrated into the Windows operating system, but that’s not important here). Well I am not using Windows Internet Explores; I am using Safari, the Macintosh browser. I log into the website and I start to notice that some things look strange, while others just flat out don’t work. For instance, I enter information required for a report that I am getting paid to do, and there is no “Submit” button. The button was there when I used my Windows machine but it doesn’t show up on my Mac machine’s Safari browser. Again, It was then that I learned that websites written specifically for Internet Explorer would not work correctly on Macintosh machines. I tried other browsers but the same thing happen. The next day, I went to Best Buy (don’t get me started on them, I hate that store), and bought a brand new Windows XP laptop for $399. I gave my Ibook to my partner and that was the last time I used it. About 30 days later, Macintosh introduced the MacBook, with the Intel processor, which would allow you to run Windows or Windows based applications on your Macintosh. Great, now they tell me!

I used my Windows machine for 4 years. I had to reload it 4 times, lost my hard drive twice, got numerous viruses, dealt with it slowing down a little bit more every day, etc, etc. The usual stuff that we deal with when we run Windows. A new computer was calling my name. I used my computer daily for work. In fact I am on it for about 16 hours a day every day. It makes me plenty of money so I have no problem with shelling out enough money to get exactly what I want to make my job easier. In the past year, I had been using my laptop with a second monitor hooked up to it so I could have more screen space. I need the space to keep multiple pages up at once in order to fill out my reports. As I started shopping for computers, I knew I needed a large monitor. I also wanted a camera so I could start using Skype. Another thing I wanted was a lot less wires and power cords in the computer part of my desk. I had a cord for every USB device, a power cord for the computer and the monitor, and I needed a power strip hanging off my desk because my outlet has two sockets but I needed 3 power chords for my computer, monitor and desk lamp. I spent about 30 days looking at computers and the choice became crystal clear after a few days. The Apple IMac 27 inch priced at $1699.00 plus tax. It was a work of art. A 27-inch monitor with the computer built right into the monitor. No tower to keep under my desk. Also, it had a lot of features built right into it that I needed. For example, it had a built in SD Card reader for my camera memory card, which I use every day for business. The DVD Reader/burner was also built into the monitor. It also used only one power cord since the monitor and computer were one device. The Imac came with a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. I purchased a wireless number keypad separately. I looked at this for almost a month. I went back and forth and looked at the Windows machines too. There are matching Windows machines that do the same thing. They were about $999.00. But, there were some big differences. For one, the biggest monitor you could get with a Windows “All-In-One” machine was 23 inches. As I compared that to the Imac 27 inch monitor, I realized that I needed all the screen real estate I could get. (Ha, that was a real estate joke. I’m too funny!). 23 inches for screen space wasn’t enough. Next, the All-In-One machines had the typical appeal that is meant for gamers. Black plastic trim, flashy software packaged and lots of brand names working together to bring you a device that just doesn’t compare to the Imac 27inch. It just wasn’t working for me. I wanted the Imac.

I thought about it long and hard. 30 days and 30 nights. At this point in my career, I didn’t use publisher files anymore. In fact, I created all my own files for the last few years and made sure they were saved in formats recognizable by software packaged used by both Windows and Mac. Also, $1699 was a lot of money to spend vs $999.00. Did I really need the Imac? Yes. I was sure if it when I saw a special online that said if you are a student, you can get $100.00 off the n new Imac27 and you can get a free 8mb iPod touch when purchasing an IMac. I was sold. Off I went to the apple store. I got my new Imac 27, my free iPod, and I purchased MS Office for Mac 2008. When I got home, I also downloaded Quicken for Mac so I could transfer my money management data over from my laptop. I also had to purchase software to edit PDF files since I use them a lot and the software I currently own was for a Windows machines. In all, I spend about $2300.00 on this venture, but I would be able to do my work much faster and have a lot less clutter. Really, I got exactly what I wanted.

I open the box and again, the packaging is a work of art. Yada yada yada, I plug in the machine and start working. I spend about 24 hours transferring over my email from Outlook to MS Entourage, included in Office for Mac, my personal finance info from Quicken Windows to Quicken Mac, links to my saved documents, links to my saved website shortcuts and all my favorites from my internet browser. I was all set. I was ready to work. Bring it on baby, Show daddy how you want it!

Ok, here is where the trouble starts. I bring up my real estate websites to start working. I notice on the very first one that it doesn’t look right. Some of the buttons are missing and some of the pages have words on top of other words. What is going on? The next day, I try two other websites, and similar stuff starts to happen. I then powered on my old Windows laptop and the websites work find on my Windows laptop. I go back to my new Imac and again, I have the same problem. Wait. Wait, wait. This is the same problem I had almost 5 years ago on my Mac g4 that was not running the Intel chip. This new Imac IS running the Intel chipset. It’s been 5 years. There is no way that this problem still exists right? Ummmm Wrong!. I started logging into forums and found out that websites made specifically for Internet Explorer will not work correctly in the new versions of Macintosh safari, Firefox, opera, or any other standard code browser. If it’s made superficially for IE, you need a Windows Machine to view it correctly. No freaking way!. So now what? I have now spent $2300.00 on a machine and software only to find out that 11 of my 12 real estate websites can’t be used on that machine. This machine is for my work. If I can’t work on it, I can’t use this machine. This is exactly what happened to me with the Ibook g4. Same problem, 5 years ago. I was livid, I was shaking, I couldn’t see straight. I started to get a huge headache. I was in a very bad place. Ok, now what?

The next day, I thought about this some more. It’s all I could think about. I went down to the Mac store and signed up for someone to talk to me at the genius bar. (That’s what they call the support people there) The support person told me that yes, there are some website out there that are not viewable correctly on a Macintosh machine but the number of websites is very small, somewhere around 11 percent. Well, 10 of my websites are in that 11 percent. That’s 90 percent of the websites I use for work. He confirmed that there was nothing I could do other than return the machine. There was a 10 percent restocking fee and the office for Mac software was not returnable if it was open, which of course it was because I installed it. Another problem was that I couldn’t not return the software purchased and downloaded online, like quicken and Adobe Acrobat. What a nightmare. I told the genius about my whole situation and his answer was “You know you can buy “Parallels” and install Windows on your machine. Then you would have all your applications working on your new Mac”. Well I told him that if I wanted a Window machine, I could have gotten one for $999.00. The whole point of this was to be off Windows entirely. I was not going to install Windows on the flagship machine of Apple. It would be an abomination, this was a huge mess. I went home and wanted to disappear somewhere. This was the biggest mistake of my life.

The next day, I got an email from apple asking about my visit to the store and if I was happy with my purchase. Well, opportunity was knocking, so I answered. I answered the email with all the anger, frustration and rage I had inside for being duped again by Apple into buying something that would not work in the every day world. That email resulted in the manager calling me back and offering to take the whole thing back, software and all with no restocking fee. He could make it all disappear. I had another 9 days left to return the computer. So, I packed it up and got it ready to go back to Apple. But, before I returned it, I wanted to take one last trip to Fry’s Electronics to see what my other options were.

I went to Fry’s Electronics, which is where I want to be buried when I die. It’s my favorite store in the world. They have everything I need in life from Home Automation products to Guitar supplies to home theatre stuff. They sell Apple machines there so I told the Apple expert about my problem and he confirmed that everything that I was told was true. I’m screwed. I told him I was going to return my machine to Apple and that I wanted to see what he had in an “All-in-one” machine. While I was frustrated with the Apple, it was very sleek, had only the one cord, and took up so little space on my desk even thought it was a 27 inch monitor. The look was amazing and I wanted the same thing in a Windows machine. We looked at some different options, but it was still a problem if I wanted a monitor bigger than 23 inches. Since that was the largest monitor size available in an All-in-one machine, I would have to buy a computer tower or desktop and a separate 27-inch monitor. That would mean more power cords, a monitor cord and other wires going across my desktop. I didn’t like that idea. So in my last ditch attempt to make all this work, I asked the salesman at Fry’s, what would you do in this situation? He said, I would install Parallels, then install a virtual Windows machine and use just the Windows applications that I needed when I needed them. I said, no, not a tall, no way. I’m not installing Windows on my Apple machine. That was it, I was leaving. I know when its time to fold and bow out gracefully. I walk toward the exit, steaming mad and thinking that I was never coming back here again. Who needs this place? Wait, are they putting out new items in the Home Automation section? Let me just see whets over there.

At some point, before I got to the exit, I thought about what the salesman said. I could install this Parallels software, whatever that is, and then install Windows, and just use the Windows applications that I need like Internet Explorer, when I need them, and then shut them off. What was he talking about? Would that mean I can have my Mac and when I wanted Internet Explorer, it would be available to me? Why don’t I want to use Windows on my Macintosh anyway? Would it hurt my Mac pride? Could it get any worse? I did leave the store but I went directly to the Apple store. I asked the salesperson there about Parallels and he told me the whole story. I purchased a copy of Parallels for $60.00 and then I went to Best Buy and purchased a copy of Windows 7 for $200.00. (Apple doesn’t sell Windows OS). I went home and started installing software. First, it was the Parallels software. Parallels sets up your Virtual Machines. You tell it to set up a new machine and then tell it what Windows OS you want on it. Then, you tell it where the Windows install CD is and it will install Windows into this virtual machine. What does that mean? It means it installs Windows on a part of your drive and when you want it, you open it, and when you don’t, you can close it with no changes to your Macintosh system. So, it installed this. And, on the bottom of my Mac, on the” Dock” (Which is like the Windows Start Bar), I now had a folder called “Windows Applications”. I clicked on that folder and all My Windows programs were now available to me. Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, etc. This is called “Coherence mode”. One of the many ways to use the software. You could also do the “Full screen” mode, where the entire screen looks like Windows, acts like Windows and really, it is Windows until you shut down the Windows Virtual Machine, then it closes the virtual machine and you are back at your Mac desktop. I don’t need it to run like this so I used the first mode. I started doing my reports for work and sure enough, it all worked. Now, I had my Imac, my 27-inch monitor, my application on my new machine and my Windows applications’ that I need for work. Everything was here and it all worked almost floorless form that point on.

I went back to the store and told the salesperson about what had happened when I got that email from Apple and how mad I was when I answered the email. I asked him to apologize to the store manager for me next time he was there and to let him know that I was all up and running and satisfied. He said he would relay the message. In the end, I got the computer I wanted. I got rid of the wire clutter, I was able to work on my reports again and I now have the opportunity to install other virtual machines, maybe even a server. What did it cost me? Well for the computer, the software, the Parallels software and the new copy of the Windows OS, about $2600.00. Was it worth it? Sure. But, I could have purchased a flat screen TV, a new living room sectional sofa, and got wall to wall carpeting in two of my bedrooms for the same price. Is this solution for everyone? Not at all. I urge you to think about what your needs are before you buy a new computer and make sure that they are met before you get caught up in the look of what you are buying vs the functionality.

Like everything else in life, it really just comes down to that age-old question. Do I want something with substance or do I want something with style? Hmmmm…….

1 comment:

  1. LOL....I have a mac at work...I could of warned you early
    I enjoyed the story though :D I am truly glad you found your peace!
    I personally settled for the HP TouchSmart PC Desktop all-in-one myself..yep the measly 23"