I’m Converting to Mac… I Think

(Not long after posting the below post, I wrote this one after converting to Mac. Check it out when you’re done reading this.)

So, I think I can say I’m ready to convert to a Mac. I’m not 100% convinced because frankly I’m just frightened about it. But I think I’m going to talk myself into it in this blog entry. Here we go…

I’ve been using computers since the days of, well, since before there was a Windows, thanks to my Dad and his entry into the computer industry in the early 80’s. First I was using VMS on a DEC Rainbow and PDP 11. I was using MS-DOS, then I was using Windows 3.51, then Windows 95, then Windows 98. I was an MSCE in Windows NT Workstation, Windows NT Server, then Windows 2000 and Active Directory. I upgraded to Windows XP, and now, I have Windows Vista.

I currently run Vista on a ThinkPad T60p. Vista is slightly sexier than XP – which isn’t saying much at all! All along the way over the past few years, especially the past 2 years, I’ve been growing more and more impatient with Windows and more and more intrigued and impressed by Mac OS and its flexibility to work with Windows, even in parallel. Most especially over the past couple years as Apple has clearly been doing some very new and impressive stuff, slowly encroaching on Microsoft’s enterprise market share – albeit totally puny. And I’ve always stuck to the same message of “but I need Windows for business – I just couldn’t convert.” Today, however, I had such a terrible and ironic meltdown that I think the Gods, as well as the stranger next to me on this train ride, are telling me it’s time to convert. Check this out…

Being that I run Vista on a ThinkPad T60p, I naturally have to reboot often. And it’s only been getting worse. But, being the Windows guy that I am, I tolerate it. I tolerate it like I tolerate back pain – I just accept it. It comes with the territory! So at 7:30 this morning I’m at Penn Station waiting for my train back to Boston, trying to get online. No go, and Outlook is freezing for some unknown reason, along with other apps like Winamp, for no apparent reason. So, whatever, I close the lid and stuff it into my bag and go back to my BlackBerry where I can actually be more productive. Imagine that – I’m more productive on my BlackBerry than I am on a $2000 laptop running Windows Vista. When I boarded the train and sat down at a table diagonal to another gentleman, I saw him reach into a manilla envelope and pull out his Mac Air. (OK, he didn’t really pull it out of an envelope). So I break out my massive, stealth black ThinkPad (powerful as she is) and plunk her down on the table. I crack it open and notice that Windows has decided to start fresh. OH – OK. Chalk it up to not putting it to sleep properly – because apparently closing the lid is just too much for Vista to handle properly. So I wait about 6 minutes for it to start this service, that service, that app, this app, yada yada. I kill the usual processes that otherwise would require me to reboot in short time, and then I’m on my way. Hah! Take that Mac guy with your shiny white glowing apple – staring at me with it’s, it’s stem.

I proceed to plug my Verizon Wireless PC card in, run VZAccess manager and attempt to get online, which works for about 10 minutes. Outlook is trying to connect, and I proceed to Firefox where I can catch up on some reading about some of the stuff I picked up at this week’s conference. I put my headphones on, start Winamp, and crank a little Soundgarden. I’m rockin now!

Then it all came to an end. Every app froze. I couldn’t click anything. But the mouse moved so that was a good sign! I know this pattern, I just have to wait. So I go to the snack car and get a cinnamon bun. Upon my return Windows was still frozen and all my apps were pale white. But the mouse still moved, hooray! But I can’t click the start menu. OK, fuck it – hard shutdown (an activity that always frightens me because it’s just SO not good for a hard disk). BIOS posts, Windows comes up, and I login. Suddently I see Windows Vista has decided to install IE again, along with many other programs. I can’t see anything but this install process – not even my tropical golf course wallpaper. Then Vista only confirmed what I feared was happening – it was rebuilding my Windows profile. All my personal settings were gone – just, gone! My startup items, gone, my wallpaper, gone, and then I clicked to my Documents folder – empty! My Music, empty! My Pictures, empty! Holy crap! (Thankfully I use Mozy Pro and I can get it all back if it’s really really gone)

I just had to stop for a minute and laugh. I just, laughed! Here’s this Mac guy with his sexy Air working away and looking so calm and collected, even smug, but – productive. And here’s me – not able to do a single thing – no work cuz Windows doesn’t want to play nice. I take off my headphones and I engage the enemy in a discussion, a diplomatic discussion. I want to know more about his culture, the state of his nation – Mac nation.

Turns out he’s a senior business consultant, and a technical one at that. He told me he was a diehard PC guy for many years – let me say that again – he was a diehard PC guy. Now, he’s using a Mac! I gave him some more airtime and let him sell me. And he just about closed the deal. We spoke for a good 15 minutes and he almost totally convinced me. He answered all sorts of my questions about dual booting, about the Intel processor, about the speed, the efficiency, the graphics, the this the that. What we concluded that there is nothing stopping me but fear. I feel like a kid who’s afraid to dive off a rock into a lake, while all my friends are there swimming and having fun, but I’m too much of a sally to jump in with them.

Then, I picked up my BlackBerry I notice my friend and advisor to CitySquares, Randy Parker (founder of Constant Contact), was on Google Talk. We get to talking about the same topics. And he too convinces me – puts all my concerns to rest, aside from just the emotional barriers. He emails me some articles about Leopard, about how fast Vista is on a Mac – how’s PC World actually says that the fastest machine they’ve ever run Windows on is a Mac!!!

After these conversations and collecting some of the data I need, on top of data points I’ve picked up on over the past couple years, I needed to just think about it all. Meanwhile I decided to reboot the laptop nice and proper like. When I did, my original profile came back, thank heavens! But some of my settings are gone and I can’t use my Aircard now. I don’t care. I’ve given up.

So here I am now, on the train, typing this entry into Windows Notepad because I’m afraid to use anything the else. And when my train pulls into South Station I think I’m doing it – I’m going to run to an Apple store and get some advice on converting from Windows, and running Windows in VMware or whatever, Parallels or something, that might even be built into Leopard (cuz you can do that on a Mac!). And if that doesn’t work – again, according to PC World Vista runs faster on a Mac!

So that’s it, I’m doing it. I’m making the plunge. And ya know, I’m excited. I’m ready to leave PC land and go to Mac land. The irony here, aside from my experience this morning with this friendly passenger and his Mac Air, is that until about a year or so ago I was a long time, loyal, passionate Windows Mobile guy (starting with my first HP iPaq). After growing frustrated with windows Mobile day after day, month after month, year after year, I converted to BlackBerry. I’ve never looked back. I love my BlackBerry Pearl!

I’ve always said, I’ll never get a Mac, yet here I am, about to get one. Ya know what’s most exciting about this folks? The most exciting thing about this is that now, I can get some work done. Apparently when you put a Mac to sleep, it goes to sleep. When you wake it up, it wakes up. When you boot it, it boots, fast. When you tell it to do something, it does it. Viruses on a Mac? Are you kidding? I am genuinely excited about getting back to work, and OK, on a very sexy Mac with it’s shiny glowing little apple.

To be continued…

Continued here.

Loving Xobni

I read about Xobni a while back on TechCrunch. I was immediately intrigued but I wasn’t able to get my hands on it. I recently downloaded the beta and less than 48 hours later, I’m already huge fan! It’s a little buggy and I think it might be bogging Outlook down a bit, but it’s still worth it. I read somewhere this week that Bill Gates himself demo’d the damn thing – and it’s not even a Microsoft product. Holy crap is that a feather in the cap! After mentioning it to my pal Don Dodge he told me he knows the founders and spoke very highly of them, and he too uses the software. I invited a few colleagues to install it (I was limited to 5 invitations), and one of them, my sales manager, said he’s already totally diggin in.

Anyway, if you use Outlook I highly encourage you to check out Xobni. It will make you 30% more productive right out of the gates. One feature I like already is the “schedule time” feature. It grabs my schedule and sticks into the body of the email message. No longer do I have to manually decipher my availability in my calendar and then try to explain it in an email message. Instead, the message is automagically created and reads like this:

Hi Scott,

Here is my availability for the next few days. (All times are Eastern Standard Time, GMT-05:00.)

Wed March 05, 11am to 1:30pm, 2:30 to 4pm

Thu March 06, 9 to 11am, 11:30am +

Fri March 07, 9am to 2pm, 2:30pm +

Sat March 08, all day

Sun March 09, 9am to 3pm, 6pm +

Mon March 10, 2pm +

Best,

Ben

All that with a single click!

Again, it is a bit buggy, but it’s a beta. Either way, I’m freaking lovin this thing. If you are an Outlook user, especially a poweruser like yours truly, get Xobni!

Mossberg Likes Leopard, But I’m a Windows Guy, I think.

So Mossberg digs Leopard, and the review is pretty cool. I gotta tell you, I have an IBM ThinkPad (OK, Lenovo ThinkPad), and it came with Vista preinstalled. For the most part, Vista is OK. No real complaints, but nothing to really rave about either. I also have Office 2007, which I really love. But lately I’ve been becoming more and more intrigued by OS X, and frustrated with Windows. I’m tired of long startups, long shutdowns, long hibernations. I’m tired of freeze ups, driver problems, security alerts. I’m tired of sluggish Windows program switching, and resource allocation. Then I see Mossberg’s review in the WSJ today, and I see his video on the site, man I get so angry. OS X is so freaking elegant. I want it! But the reality for me is, it’s quite a major conversion, and I am not convinced that OS X is a business OS. It’s a great consumer OS and experience, but for an enterprise? I don’t think so. Well, maybe some day Microsoft will release a version of Windows that has the elegance and simplicity, and efficiency, that Mac OS X has. That will probably take them 5 years. Or, maybe another Linus Torvalds will appear on the scene and disrupt the whole Operating System world with something even better, and compatible for all things, hardware and software. I’m really reaching though aren’t I.

Choosing Drupal

So today we hired our first full time engineer. (for those of you who expressed interest in the job, thank you!) And in doing so we came to a resolution about technology, and then some actually. We decided to choose Drupal as our platform of choice for the future Citysquares.com. After much deliberation, debating, discussing, and consulting with ourselves and with others, about going with an MVC framework (e.g., CakePHP, Symfony) vs. Drupal, we finally opted for Drupal. The primary reasons are as follows:

  • Body of work and knowledge. There’s a huge Drupal community, and it continues to grow and grow.
  • Modules, modules, modules. Holy crap there’s a lot of modules.
  • My blog is built on Drupal. Ok, that had nothing to do with our decision, but I’m just a big Drupal fan from experience.
  • Scalability. Time Warner’s media sites are all built on Drupal. Sony Music sites are all built on Drupal. US magazine’s site is built on Drupal. ‘Nuff said.

There are many technical reasons too, many many many. But I won’t get into that – that’s very boring and this blog isnt meant to be boring.

What’s interesting about our decision is that by choosing Drupal, and choosing to work with the Drupal community that unavoidably comes with it, we are, in essence, choosing community. We are allowing ourselves to tap into a community, while bringing communities online, and eventually enabling other communities to bring themselves online. Argh!

This is actually deep stuff, to me anyway. In a more idealogical sense, choosing to go with Drupal is an indication of who we are as people, and as a company, and not just an indication of technical choices and skill sets.

I’m really starting to get into this whole concept of open source in business practice, in management, and almost as a mantra.

I don’t know, it’s heavy stuff and I’m really wrestling with it right now. More to come on all this, as I sort it out better in my head.

Google Reader Going “Offline”

Wow wow wow, now I’m really impressed. I’ve long searched for an RSS reader that is a) free and b) simple that provides offline reading capabilities. I’m not a fan of the version built into Outlook 2007 – not at all. In fact, although I imported my RSS feed (OMPL) into Outlook (from Google Reader), I don’t believe I’ve ever even used the Outlook RSS reader.

I was just catching up on some blog reading and I noticed a new link in the upper right corner of my browser that read “Offline.” I clicked it and a tidy little window popped up explaining that I can now read my Google Reader subscriptions when I’m offline! Well hello there!

I use Firefox and it prompted me to install Google Gears (beta). Check it out:

Enabling Offline Web Applications

You can enable offline mode for Google Reader by installing Google Gears.

This is an early release of Google Gears (BETA). After installation, please pay attention to the warning dialogs and grant access only to websites that you trust.

More Information
Google Gears (BETA) is an open source browser extension that enables web applications to provide offline functionality using the following JavaScript APIs:

Store and serve application resources locally
Store data locally in a fully-searchable relational database
Run asynchronous Javascript to improve application responsiveness


Developer site
Frequently asked questions
Developer Forum

Very cool indeed.

So this opens up a whole other topic now doesn’t it? In fact, it’s something that maybe should have been discussed at this weeks Red Herring East conference that I just attended – the topic of the problems facing online applications such as Google’s competitor to MS Office. The biggest reason people say those solutions won’t work, or at least not anytime soon, and/or that they won’t hurt Microsoft’s market share, is because there is not real offline model. Well, not so fast. And surely no one ever truly thought there would never been an offline solution, it’s just that Google hadn’t come up with one – YET.