Closing the door on Windows, welcoming the Mac

A month or so back, I wrote a piece — “Does the OS matter anymore” — positing in essence that the generic nature of key applications is such that the underlying OS matters less and less all the time.

Around the same time, my Sony Vaio running Windows XP bit the dust even earlier than the 24-month life span I’ve come to expect. It had already shown signs of “age” with frequent reboots required and countless inexplicable hangs. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So instead of buying my nth Windows machine, I purchased an Apple PowerBook G4. That was 60 days ago.

In case you’re busy and don’t have time to read the entire column, I’m not going back to Windows. While Microsoft doesn’t make any particular effort to help the transition, and Apple could do more, the bottom line is that I’m able to get my work done more efficiently with fewer crashes and have already found “richer” programs, such as Apple’s iWork Pages (word processor) and Keynote (presentation), which I expect to offer me more than their MS Office counterparts.

My previous column on the topic apparently touched a nerve, as it subsequently was syndicated to publications from Europe to Australia. While reader response was overwhelmingly in agreement, it is important to mention the comments of one corporate developer. He said that his firm relies heavily on the automation capabilities of Microsoft Office that are based on Visual Basic for Applications — not something you’ll find today, that I know of, on Mac or Linux. If you are in that category, you likely are stuck where you are for the present.

Despite my personal attempt to jettison Windows, my company and my customers are still tied to Windows systems and file formats, so “Job 1” was to interface with same.

Fortunately, many systems already offer (supposedly vendor-neutral) browser-based interfaces. Cranking up Apple’s Safari browser, I was able to access virtually all applications without problem, including MS Exchange via Outlook Web Access. To access server-based applications, I downloaded the Citrix OSX client, and within minutes was working away.

Tied to MS Access, a Windows-only application, I knew that I needed to run a virtual Windows environment on my Mac. I tried the low-cost iEmulator 1.7.6 (from the company of the same name), and while I could get Windows 2000 to load, I got nothing but bizarre disk access errors from the applications I tried to load. I bought Microsoft’s Virtual PC 7, and my problems were solved.

While I originally planned to load XP as my “base” after scanning Internet message boards, Windows 2000 seemed the way to go — and would meet my needs. On to this I loaded Office 2000 Pro (again, enough for my needs) and, to boot, the latest version of MS.Net Framework Beta 2.

Everything worked fine. Best of all, the Mac hard drive looks like a network drive to Virtual PC, allowing me to access data from either system.

So what don’t I like? The battery life is short — about two hours — and the machine runs quite hot. Of course, these are some of the reasons that Apple has linked up with Intel. Finally, full Office Outlook connectivity is a challenge, but more about that in a future column.

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–Tolly is president of The Tolly Group, a strategic consulting and independent testing company in Boca Raton, Fla. He can be reached

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