The Countertop Chronicles

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Computer Bleg

I generally write this blog on an Apple iMac (the R2D2 looking one) at home. Love it, and hate my Gateway PC at work. Used to have a Dell desktop and hated that too.

As I've indicated, I am leaving my current job and taking a new one. As part of the transition, the new gig is buying me a laptop computer. Generally, they use Dell's but when I mentioned the possibility of an Apple they weren't opposed to it - especially since a Macbook costs the same as a Dell and can now run Windows natively.

Tonight, i spent over an hour at the Apple store in Tyson's Corner talking with a couple of their different sales guys regarding the purchase of a Macbook for my day to day office computer. What I learned was:

The young kids on their sales staff with bleach blonde hair encompass all the stereotypes of the historic Apple types - and have no clue how to sell a computer to someone who wants to do real work with it other than graphics and/or just listen to music. Seriously kid, I'm not dropping a couple of thousand for a Walkman. He was simply unable to understand my questions or nervousness concerning the purchase of a computer - at a new job - that might run into problems plugging into a windows network.

The other sales guys - all older - had no problem with this. If they didn't know the answer, they told me so, and tried to find the answer. I really appreciate it.

Here's what I've learned. IT Guy at new job says I need a computer that runs Windows XP Pro, can plug into the MS Exchange server, and can run MS Office/Outlook.

The new Macs can run Windows XP Pro - either natively in Boot Camp mode (the computer partitions the drive into an Apple Side and a Windows Side - you choose at start up) or by running a program called Parallels which costs $79 and runs any version of Windows as well as Linux or OS2 or anything else as an individual window on the Mac.

Using Boot Camp, the Mac runs Windows real fast. Super fast. Maybe not high graphic game fast, but faster than any other business computer I've seen or used. However, its basically a Windows computer which sort of kills the benefits of having a Mac in the first place. Parallels - in theory - should be a great alternative, but the Apple store doesn't have it and the sales staff there didn't know much about it. Also, Apple doesn't sell Windows XP so I would have to go and buy it separately.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. The Apple store staff told me that the Mac can simply plug right into a windows network and that if I use MS Office for Mac - Entourage is now MS Exchange compatible and will network right in (Entourage is Microsofts mac version of outlook - but historically it hasn't been able to share files - .psts - with Window computers) as well as support blackberry's and palms. Since it sounds like the only real reason I need XP on the computer - especially if I can network in no problem - is for email and blackberry support I think I might be able to do this with a Mac.

Here's the bleg

Does anyone have any actual experience networking the new Intel Core Duo macs? Is it really plug and play easy? Are there other issues I need to be aware of? Is Entourage really seamlessly compatible? Are there other reasons I shouldn't use a Mac (don't give me the usual windows BS - I am pretty well versed in both - not a network engineer but probably more capable than 99% of the rest of the population)? Anyone have experience with Parallels? Anyone have one of the new Intel Macs??

If I do this - especially at a new job - I certainly don't want to get a computer thats going to fuck things up or be incompatible. Not when I am the new guy on the block. I've got until about noon on Friday to figure this out.

Really appreciate any insight/thoughts/advice.

Oh yeah, if I don't get the Mac I'll be getting a Dell laptop.

UPDATE (30 seconds later): Looks like the NY Times is on the same wavelength with a great article on what is happening. Of course, it doesn't really address my question. The only programs I really need - that I know of - are Word, Excell, Power Point, Outlook, and a web browser. If Entourage will work in place of Outlook, then perhaps the decision is made and i don't even need to worry about running XP.

BTW, here is some more info.

Walt Mossberg WSJ Articles

May 10: Apples New Core
June 8: MacBook Laptop Lacks a Few Features But Has Lots to Like, Low Price
June 15: New Product for Mac Operates Windows, OS X Simultaneously


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