A software-developer-meets-OS X love story

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My partner’s coworker is in the market for a new family computer, one that he can use not only for his job as a software Q&A specialist, but also for his hobbies working with digital photos. He needs to access Windows systems but prefers to work on Mac OS X, though he’s unsure about OS X’s ability to support the developer tools he needs to use. And he wants something portable, but admits that most of his work would be done at a desk.

He sent an e-mail message to some folks in the office asking for suggestions. My partner, who is a software developer, quickly replied and told him to forget about going portable and buy an iMac already. My partner says that too many people think they need to be portable when they don’t. Case in point: her father, who computes nowhere else but at his desk, has a 17-inch HP Pavilion on a stand on the desk, and it never moves.

Sometimes a laptop does make more sense for the work you need to do. But if most of your work will be done at a desk, why pretend that you need a laptop? You can get more power from a desktop system. And need I mention the iMac’s enormous, beautiful screen? (I realize that not all people like the current iMac’s screen, but I do—a lot.) The huge screen makes working on our photos in iPhoto easy and fast.

The apple of our eye is a 2.8GHz 24-inch iMac that we bought last May. We upgraded to the 1TB hard drive, and it has 2GB of RAM. We all use the computer: I connect to my work machine through a VPN client and remotely control my desktop through Apple’s Remote Desktop; my partner does the same, but controls her Windows machine through Microsoft’s free Remote Desktop Connection for Windows XP; our kids play games and we watch TV shows or Netflix movies on our iMac. What’s more, we use Parallels to run all our Windows programs, such as Quicken. (The Windows version of Intuit’s personal finance manager has more features than the Mac version.) And we store all our pictures and mini family movies in iPhoto. (And we’re contemplating buying Adobe Photoshop Elements for processing our pictures.)

As a software developer, my partner loves the fact that Mac OS X is developer-friendly, thanks to its FreeBSD underpinnings. After more than a decade in the software industry, she’s getting her master’s degree in computer science, and she sometimes does homework on a Mac. She can load all kinds of developer tools on the Mac and never has to stop what she’s doing to click on a button or close a warning box because of some presumed security breach, as she does with Microsoft Vista. In Vista, she spends more time dodging security warnings than she does developing. She says that the higher price of a Mac is nothing compared with the time she saves by using one. OS X just lets her work.

Other OS X perks my partner loves are—believe it or not—the scheduling feature in Mac OS X’s Energy Saver preference pane. I know—it seems so silly. But to put your machine on a schedule in Windows XP, you have to go through too many steps, one of which involves finding some executable system file on your machine. Yuck. She also thinks Time Machine is the most useful feature built into an OS—no more figuring out problems with third-party backup software. Time Machine makes things easy.

My point? The iMac is a pretty cool machine. Ours has everything we need, and we’re a family made up of people who have very different computing needs and preferences. And my partner recommended an iMac to her coworker without any nudging from me. She’s a developer who does a lot of work with Windows and Linux, so she understands the awesome power of Mac OS X.

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