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Stalking snow and a business laptop - Suffering From Elation
A Survivor's Tale
Stalking snow and a business laptop
Livejournal entropy - people are starting to drift apart, and one by one the journals are falling silent.

Not me though. You're not THAT lucky, haha. I've got a lifetime account so you can expect to still find me here in twenty years and beyond, screaming into the void.

So, that was kind of a dark opening, not sure where that came from! All's rolling smoothly as usual. Mum's settled in well, the dogs and cats are getting along as well as you can expect. The dogs want to be friends, the cats tolerate their presence but don't let them cuddle up or anything. I think mum is struggling with the cold a bit, which may be because she hasn't got a heater for her room yet, and it's starting to get COLD. Which leads me on to my next topic:

SNOW! I haven't seen snow since I was four, and I don't remember it. Apparently it was a traumatic experience. I dropped my lolly snake in it. D: Nevertheless, as an adult who doesn't mind losing the odd lolly snake, I'm keen to experience snow, and Tasmania has cheerfully provided. It snowed last night on Mt Wellington. Hooray! I'm working but I intend to go check it out this evening with Joey. In the meantime I'm limiting myself to stalking the snowfall via the Rose Bay High School's webcam here:


It's being all coy, hiding behind a veil of cloud. Now, I may only be a short-lived fleshbag and not an immense protrusion of aeons-old stone, but can wait, Mt Welly. I can wait.

In other news, I need help choosing a laptop for work purposes. I already have a netbook for personal use; it's an itsy little weakling that probably isn't capable of opening Illustrator, and that's part of the reason I love it. I've been gathering opinions on Twitter, but I'm getting a lot of opposing ones there which are only serving to confuse the matter. I considered talking to a salesperson in JB or somesuch about this, but Joe pointed out that they may want to sell the most expensive model they can talk me into, so I might not get a 100% unbiased assessment. Actually, I don't think I'll get an unbiased assessment anywhere. Joey recently showed me a study that strongly indicated that brand-loyalty truly is blind: people are strongly loyal to the brand they've bought, even if it was overpriced or had issues, because once they've made an irreversible choice they want to believe they made the RIGHT choice.

Plus, I think if I mention laptops on Twitter once more all the other users will rise as one to throw me off there, so I'm bringing the conversation here, where there are less of you to overpower me.

The Mac-vs-PC argument is as old as home computing, which is getting pretty old now, you guys (as are we!). Nevertheless, that's what I'm faced with. With brand loyalty issues it's difficult to make the choice. I'm not talking about my own brand loyalty, as I have none; I've always simply gone for the most power I can get for my budget. Which, in the past, has always led me to PCs rather than Macs. I'm a designer and I love the way that Macs look, so believe me, if the price-for-power was ever equal I'd have gone for a Mac like a shot. The fanboys tell me that Macs are better because they're more stable, less prone to viruses, more "idiot-proof" (excellent for me, haha) and of course they look fab. The PC fanboys tell me that PCs are more powerful, more customisable and more affordable.

I do need a certain amount of power; I'm not kidding when I say I've been known to run Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and about fifteen Chrome windows all at the same time. My i7 PC handles that just fine. I'm worried that unless I match those stats, my business laptop won't.

Price is also a concern; I really didn't want to spend much more than $1500. Whilst there is one MacBook Pro for (just barely) under that amount, it has a little 13-inch screen and the processor is a mere Core 2 Duo. Stable and awesome though Macs apparently are, can a computer with those stats handle what I intend to do to it? My computers are tools, not toys. I work them mercilessly. The average lifespan of one of my PCs is a year and a half. (Cue anti-PC joke)

Adding complication to the argument is the matter of software. I own Adobe CS4 for the PC. I don't own it for the Mac. The repurchasing cost is... whew-boy, and though I'm told it's possible to get a sort of transfer licence (where you agree to destroy your PC copy in return for an equivalent legal Mac copy), Googling this tells me that the process is equivalent to returning the One Ring to Mordor, tears and all. And I kind of need it fast.

I get stuck in this feedback loop of looking at the Macs, going "oooh shiny", telling myself I can forgive the drastic power shortfall, and then playing around on Dell's website with the extremely-customisable Studio 15 and realising I can get an EPIC workhorse for far less cost... but to do so would keep me in the 'PC cycle'. Everyone I've talked to who uses a Mac basically says they'd never go back to a PC. Everyone who still uses PCs says that's confirmation bias talking; "I spent heaps of money on it and it's shiny therefore it must be good." And I won't know which is true 'til I take the leap. I notice this, though - you don't see too many people going back to PCs after using Macs, so they must be practical enough. If Illustrator or Photoshop was locking up all the time, what designer would put up with that, shiny or no? Still, I am an intensely practical person in certain ways, and it feels like heresy to spend nearly twice as money for half the power. Decisions...

Anyhow, I've got to decide within the next week or so, as I'm flying to Sydney to do a week's worth of in-house work for 3rd Sense from June 7th, and heading briefly up to QLD after, so I'm going to need a way to make my work portable by then.

EDIT: Well crap, if there was snow this morning it looks like it's all melted now. Damn you, Mt Welly! You win again!
22 have fought ~ fight the power!
regalis From: regalis Date: May 12th, 2010 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I've worked for an apple store ( admittedly, some years ago, but still ), and i've sold PCs. i've used both, enjoyed both, but i've always owned a PC for one, simple reason; they're infinitely more affordable, more customisable, and occasionally, just plain better ( and i have no particular brand loyalty. over the years i've used dells, a toshiba, about half a dozen HP's and currently, a sony with a side of HP netbook ).

i'm not saying that macs suck or anything like that; like many, i admire the smooth, clean lines and the sharp OS, and i'm definitely a fan, but i'll never buy one simply becaue apple have never produced a laptop with what i want inside, and i've given up on desktops. i don't think you hear a lot about people who tried macs and went back to a pc because they simply don't talk about it :/ i know i've sold windows machines to former mac users, though. if want an unbiased salesperson opinion, you're welcome to email ben ( who... currently runs a harvey norman, so there's that ).
tania From: tania Date: May 12th, 2010 06:18 am (UTC) (Link)
In a nice bit of synchronity, someone who went from Mac back to PC posted a comment down below!

I'm leaning towards the PC laptop route right now, not because I see anything particularly wrong with Macs (they're lovely) but because, as you say, I can't find one with exactly what I want in it for a price I'm willing to pay. If I were buying it as a toy I'd go a lower-end Mac for sure. It's just that, this time around, performance for price has to be my priority.

Oh Mac! Someday I shall have you!

Thank you for the advice. :)
regalis From: regalis Date: May 12th, 2010 06:25 am (UTC) (Link)
i actually copped a fair bit of flack from a friend who currently works for apple corporate and is One Of Those Mac Fans when i told her i was replacing my previous laptop with the sony i have now, specifically because by way of talking to the handful of designers and photographers who patronise her store ( "they prefer macs" ) and my final word on it was "when apple produce a laptop that has what i want, then that's when i'll buy one".

HP and toshiba have some decent machines with core i7 inside right now ( and the new HP's are very attractive ).
(Deleted comment)
tania From: tania Date: May 12th, 2010 06:15 am (UTC) (Link)
I had an Asus eeePC, one of the very first (the sort that only ran Linux!). Considering how cheap it was, it was a sturdy little beast. Wound up upgrading to an Acer Aspire One for the more power plus the Windows OS factor and, while it's nice having the extra bells and whistles, I do miss the stability and simplicity of that little Asus sometimes. My Windows-based Aspire One has already developed "quirks".

I'm definitely leaning away from Macs just for price/practicality reasons right now (if I were making double the income I'd give it a go, no hesitation!). The Dell is on my shortlist, and I'll look into what Asus has to offer on the powerful end of the scale. Thank you for the advice!
earthminor From: earthminor Date: May 12th, 2010 04:54 am (UTC) (Link)
It's a heck of a lot easier to find someone to fix a PC, especially in Hobart I would hazard!
tania From: tania Date: May 12th, 2010 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)
True that. Dell also has some pretty sweet repair plans for reasonable cost - stuff like, they'll actually come to YOU to fix the machine. Crazy!
earthminor From: earthminor Date: May 12th, 2010 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I had a Dell guy come to me to fix my lappy. Was even happy to organise with my residential college to do it while I was in a lecture! He was really nice. :)

Not that that guarantees the same level of nice across all repair guys. ;p
(Deleted comment)
tania From: tania Date: May 12th, 2010 06:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, thank you, that's all super-helpful! In answer to your question, portability is the reason I'm looking at a work laptop. My current desktop is fantastic and I'm not trying to replace it, but the nature of my work means I should be able to work anyplace there's an internet connection - so why tie myself down to a desk when I can have total autonomy?

In addition, I'll have a city office in about a fortnight and I'd like a way to work both there and, if necessary, from home. As a freelancer I don't get paid sick days, so it's wise if I'm able to stay at home when I'm ill but still do a bit of work while I'm at it. So between that and needing to turn my work portable for the Sydney/Brisbane trip coming up, a laptop seems like the answer.

The point about Macs having a long lifespan is a good one. Spending more now might result in less long-run expenditure. Something to think about for sure!
c_eagle From: c_eagle Date: May 12th, 2010 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)

lolly droppins!

Good to hear we haven't lost ya to Twit or Facebark!

re: laptops, I've been extremely pleased with the performance and service on my HP dv6000, which I got in 2006 for about $550 USD on sale. It was fixed once for a minor thing, and they did it for free. Other than that it's been great!

I used to be mac mac mac like 90% of the time, until that run of TERRIBLE quality parts starting around 2001 and ending (hopefully) around 2007. It may just be too early to tell with the 2008+ ones, but while the designs are nice, the integrity of the parts SUCKED during that span. I lost 4 machines and many other friends lots many others, so that's mainly why I went back to PCs in 2006. Just gotta be sure you keep inoculated with anti-virus and do backups and yer probably fine.

Good Lux!
tania From: tania Date: May 12th, 2010 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: lolly droppins!

I hadn't heard about the poor quality parts thing - and it's handy having feedback from someone who has used Mac and returned to PC. Possibly this was obvious from my entry but there's a part of me that really wants an excuse to buy Mac (they're just so damn shiny) but the logical part of me demands a Really Good Reason to spend more for less power.

Joe is with you on this one - he says if I get a PC laptop he'll give me a 'care sheet' and help me run and regularly update all the best antivirus software. I tend to forget about that sort of thing so hopefully that'll help.

Thank you for the advice. :)
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: May 12th, 2010 06:29 am (UTC) (Link)
As I said on Twitter, I'm a Mac person, but then again we've been a Mac family since I could sit up at a computer (I mean this in the literal sense...I didn't even know what a PC was or how it worked until I was in middle school) so it just worked out that even though I did have a PC for some time (got it because it was affordable, as mentioned) I was able to inherit a lot of mac software from my dad who has the full set up, inherited other gear as well. We just "had" it, so it made the switch back to Mac a lot easier. The startup cost for someone switching their entire system over to a Mac with graphics programs included is just ludicrous. I mean if you're willing to do pirated versions obviously it's not a thing but in the professional field it's best to get the legit stuff naturally.

I think I'll always be a Mac person, not just for the layout, but for the fact that I'm not constantly having to have my computer "worked" on/cleaned out all the time like I did with the PC. That part really pissed me off because it slowed up a lot of my work as I used it for an internet box as well as a graphics machine. I don't run into those problems with a Mac. Doesn't mean they're not there, but it's night and day compared to the slow up I used to face.

There is also an option around this, and this is what I've done...I have "Parallels" on my Mac so I can operate all of my PC-based software on a PC platform while still being on a Mac machine. I use a lot of programs that just won't operate on a Mac (Visio, etc.) so I have to do this and I've had absolutely no problems. I don't surf the net on my PC platform though, and I can have both OS's open at the same time.

nipper From: nipper Date: May 12th, 2010 07:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Sure there are less of us here?

As I mentioned I have a Dell and am still happy with it. I was looking for something game-able, so went for XPS rather than plain Studio so can't comment on those much. Spec-wise they look fine.

Previously had an ASUS 12" laptop (from before the eee), was happy with that too. It was underpowered, but intended to be, kind of a proto-eee. They do make higher-end machines as well.

My favourite laptop site: http://www.notebookcheck.net

Translated German goodness! Very thorough reviews, good search as well.
aibo From: aibo Date: May 12th, 2010 07:35 am (UTC) (Link)
The PC vs Mac debate has been over for me for a while, with Macs as a clear winner. Reason for that is simply reliability, and that kicked in when you mentioned "needing a new computer for work purposes". That's the key word, work, business, serious stuff. Back when I was a system administrator I had to handle almost 100% Windows PC, and from that time I know that Windows is not something I want to use in an environment that needs o be highly productive. I surely now these days Windows 7 is a lot better than any Windows before, especial Windows 2000 already was quiet stable and well to use, and most people tell that XP was even better. Granted, however, there are other things than stability I still see Windows struggling on, the high maintenance and awareness you need to pay when it comes to viruses and vulnerability. Of course, everybody is telling me that if Macs where as popular as Windows, they would suffer the same problems. Doubt it, but even if that was the case, right now I don't have these problems, period. Also hardware and drivers, every time I need to install a new device on my Windows emulation or spare laptop I suddenly facing how much efforts its taking sometimes. If you have been running Windows all the time, you simply take that for granted to be working this way. But seen the same device (scanner for instance) you simply plug in for the first time, and all what's popping up is the application that accesses that device. That's always truly amazing me, considering how much time I have wasted with installing drivers, applying patches, etc. Take that into consideration when looking at the price, and ask yourself what an half hour of your worktime is worth that you cannot work efficiently because the drawing tablet is not working properly. Or the frustration extensive maintenance leaves that is sometimes mandatory on a Windows PC. I am certainly not a Steve Jobs groupie, no iPhone, no iPad, and the iPod was a gift from my company (which I certainly appreciate, though:-) ) But having a clear focus on what I expect from a computer in a working environment, the winner is very obvious.

Oh, and have fun with the snow!

haakonspet From: haakonspet Date: May 12th, 2010 10:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Like you, I tend to define my needs and budget and find a machine that fits into that. For that reason I would recommend either a Dell or HP (the business machines) with upgraded warranty if you can afford it and where you live is within the boundaries for Next Business Day on-site repairs. Don't let the sales person talk you into getting the warranty unless you are within the boundaries, cause they can sell it to you and then later say, "Oh you are outside of the supported area". That is speaking from the experience of working on the support/helpdesk side for computers.

As for the Mac vs PC argument, for your design needs Mac is better, however the cost of the machine and the software for it, I would recommend that it be your planned upgrade of either this laptop or your desktop, and save accordingly for both the machine and the software.

I have used both, and see the benefits and drawbacks of both machines and would like to have a Mac as part of the home network of machines, but would not make that my only machine, just like I would not have just a linux machine by choice. I would have a mix of all 3 systems available and get printers, etc that are compatible with both of them.

Good Luck on your search for the One True Laptop.
ruggels From: ruggels Date: May 12th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Does it have to be a laptop? if you are talking pure, raw power, nothing beats a hand built PC Desktop.

Apples is well integrated, but reliable, but it's a price hog, you are paying double or triple PC prices, for essentially good designs and an idiot prof OS. You're not an idiot though.

If it's Laptop, I'd look at Toshiba laptops, I'd avoid HP, though, and Dell. Acer makes inexpensive ones, but avoid some of the boutique ones like "Alienware" as their stuff is as unreliable and a 5 year old FIAT. Unfortunately you can't build your own laptop.

The final suggestion is to find an issue of PC Gamer magazine, and look at their laptop reviews and the rather informative ads inside for high and "gamer" Laptops which are generally quite graphics capable.

saitenyo From: saitenyo Date: May 12th, 2010 03:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sounds like you were already given a pretty clear assessment of the pros of each. I'd agree with that assessment, with the exception of stability. I think that is far more tied to individual computer usage than the Mac vs. PC brand debate, as I've found the PCs I've used to be far more stable than the Macs, which I will elaborate on below.

I've used both PCs and Macs. In fact I went to an art school that boasted having an "all-Mac" campus so I've used Macs quite a bit. Personally, I found them to be nothing but frustrating. This probably comes down to 2 things:

1-I'm used to having a great deal of control over my computer. The side-effect to a computer being idiot-proof is that it's also more difficult to actually troubleshoot/fix yourself if you are computer-savvy since they set them up so that it's almost a necessity to take them to a "Genius Bar" to have them fixed.

2-They crashed. Constantly. All the time. These are computers which had been reputed to "handle graphics software" better (which is a total lie, the ability to handle Photoshop and so on is a matter of RAM and your graphics card, not your computer brand) yet I my experience with them suggested nothing of the sort, whereas my home PC has crashed a total of once in the 4 years I've owned it, and my current laptop has never crashed. I don't think this means Macs are inherently less stable, as clearly there are people out there claiming they've found them to be more stable.

I think what it comes down to, really, is what you do to your computer. If a person isn't smart about web browsing, doesn't keep their computer clean, and manages to get it infected with viruses or spyware or trojans (all of which do still exist for Macs, they're just less common because PCs were previously the target home computer, but obviously this is changing as Macs become more popular) or lets un-useful background operations run all the time and devour RAM, the computer is not going to run as well.

The public computers on my campus probably crashed all the time because so many people were using them with no idea how to properly care for a computer. Even Macs are not completely idiot-proof. My friends who were really really computer-inept were not at all shielded from severe computer problems just because they had Macs instead of PCs. I had several friends who, after their college experience, swore they'd never use a Mac again. Of course, unfortunately, they'll probably still have the same problems with a PC because the problem was their computer use, not the computer itself.

Aaand I broke the character limit. Oops. Continued below...
saitenyo From: saitenyo Date: May 12th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

All of this said, I just personally prefer PCs. It's what I'm used to, I like the added control they give me (honestly using a Mac makes me feel like I'm trying to do work on a Disneyland touch-screen computer, which I find frustrating, I prefer function over form), and like you, I've already got all the software, which was no small cost, and something I'd really rather not pay for again on top of the excessive expense of a Mac.

The choice is obviously yours but my personal recommendation would be, unless you're not happy with your PC experience, I'd just stick with what you're used to and what is most affordable. Because if you're perfectly happy with PCs, there's no real reason to make the switch. There's nothing inherently "better" about either. They just appeal to different perspectives of computer usage.

As for particular brands, I always have good things to say about Dell. I've used a lot of different PCs over the years and found Dell to be the most reliable and best deal for their prices. They are well-built machines too. My newest one hasn't seen much wear-and-tear yet, but my old laptop (a Dell Inspiron...something) lasted me five years, including surviving being knocked over a few times, and being dropped on the pavement once. The casing cracked but the computer still worked fine. The computer is actually still running decently (although the monitor may have a loose wire in it, as the screen's started to flicker) and I still have it as a backup "web browsing while on stationary bike) laptop and just got the new one for more digital art power.

I was pretty impressed with my Studio 15 when I got it. My old Dell was much heavier. This one is super light despite being more powerful. It starts to chug a bit on Painter files with manymany layers (but heck, so does my custom-built desktop PC), but other than that it runs all my graphics software very well. And while Windows 7 took a little getting used to from years of XP, I admit I was kind of pleased it combined the shininess of a Mac OS with the functionality I was used to in Windows (unlike Vista...which I despise).

My one issue with the Studio 15s is that their touchpad mouse is crap. It's seriously the most frustrating touchpad I've ever used. I've tried adjusting my settings and it still feels sluggish and unresponsive no matter what I do. I dunno how much of a big deal that'd be for you. It's not been a real problem for me as I wanted an external mouse for gaming anyway and use my tablet as a mouse when doing art, so I basically just never use the touch pad.

My Studio 15, after tax, did cost more than $1500 (it ended up being around $1700 or something like that). I splurged on things like my graphics card and RAM because I wanted those to be excellent for art (and gaming), but it was still a very reasonable price all things considered. A Mac with the specs I got probably would've cost me well into $2000.

I also second ruggels' comment to avoid Alienware. They're so overpriced and not worth it. You're basically paying for the brand rather than functionality. My brother has experience with their gaming laptops and had to send the thing back to the manufacturer 3 times within the first year of owning it because parts kept burning out and breaking.

Sorry this was so long, but hopefully it was helpful!
earthminor From: earthminor Date: May 12th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, my Dell is still gunning it after several years. :)
sigmoidal_suseq From: sigmoidal_suseq Date: May 13th, 2010 04:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I know pretty much nothing about computers but what I can say is - I've never had the blue screen of death with my Mac, not even close.

Plus with the extended Apple Care plan if something does go funky I just take it into the local reseller and he makes boo boo go bye bye.

And it's so purty.
scoutlostthewar From: scoutlostthewar Date: May 13th, 2010 09:45 am (UTC) (Link)

I've had my mac for almost a year and no problems.

Compared to the Asus I had for a year before this where my motherboard broke, I woke up one day to find that I couldn't log into windows (for no real reason) and I would have to reset it once a day because it would freeze for no real reason. I had dramas with the warranty cause I got told 3 different timeframes.

I can't comment on the power you need but as far as Just Workability, Mac FTW!

Pro tip, if there is a book coop (http://www.coop-bookshop.com.au/bookshop/) you can join for $20 and get a 12% on the apple store. Better than the student discount.

Out of curiousity, what sort of power are you looking for Tania?
tania From: tania Date: May 13th, 2010 10:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Looking for an i7 (would possibly settle for i5 but it would want to be awesome in every other way) with a minimum of 3gig RAM. Preferably 4gig. HDD space is no concern as I'd only be storing what I was working on at the time; all else would go to an external HDD for longterm storage.

Just to make it all even tougher, I don't want anything bigger than 15-inch because the laptop won't be replacing my PC, the goal is a sort of work-anywhere portability - and I have enough concerns about the size of my Cintiq for portability that I'm probably going to buy a wee little Intuous to go with the laptop.

I also didn't want to spend much over $1500 - $1700 (I can possibly be talked up to $2000).

Annoyingly picky, aren't I? :(
scoutlostthewar From: scoutlostthewar Date: May 14th, 2010 12:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
You can get a 13" macbook (white) and max it out with 4gig RAM for $1439 (before any student or coop discounts)

A pro with the same amount of ram costs $1499 and with 8gig ram for $2059.

They're in your price range! Come join us in the cult ;)

22 have fought ~ fight the power!