Mac or PC?

But I want nerdy AND pretty!

But I want nerdy AND pretty!

I once had an IT guy say to me, “If you’re the kind of person who would buy a Mac and the first thing you would do is install Firefox, then you should really be using a PC.”

That was back when I had just got an iBook, which is now of course simply ancient Mac technology. It was my first ever college computer and sure enough, one of the first things I had in fact done was installed Firefox. I was already feeling dubious and insecure and this man’s words echoed in my head…maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be a “Mac user.” Macs were (can you believe it?) in the minority then and I had continual compatibility issues throughout my college career (one of my most repeated phrases was,”well I can’t do that, I have a Mac…). This is now a distant memory since Apple has taken over the world, and software and hardware support both platforms usually, but at the time I had trouble finding a printer or even a mouse from a third party distributor that would be compatible. After a few years I switched back to a PC because I didn’t want to ever be unable to open a file from my Professor again. Knowing me and my horrible timing, I switched from Mac to PC just as everyone became Apple fanboys and started using them like crazy. Ironically now I have the opposite problem, having to endlessly convert files I get from my colleagues using Macs back to PC format. Again with my horrible timing, I upgraded to Vista…right before the debut of Windows 7. Needless to say it’s been a bumpy road for me in the computer purchasing department, so now I’m soliciting advice. Unfortunately now that I’ve used both I think the decision is even harder, I didn’t all in love with Mac so it isn’t as simple for me as “once a Mac, never go back.”

Five years post Mac to PC transition I’m looking for a new computer again and trying hard to resist the Apple craze…with little success. I have already put my foot in the door again since using the iPhone4, and it’s hard to resist their sleek, nearly mindless interface. If Macs (and everything Apple, really) were not so ridiculously expensive I would have bought one already.

The problem is that I as a consumer sit squarely between the two kinds of people each brand has targeted for marketing.  I’m literate and knowledgeable enough about computers to get frustrated by Mac’s oversimplification and lack of customization, but I’m still shallow enough to appreciate the beauty, efficiency, and unification built in to Apple products. I do enough data analysis and image quantification to need lots of computing power and specialized software, which in the past was not always available on a Mac (but now that’s changing). I’m a semi-hipster student with dark rimmed glasses in true Mac fashion, but I spend less of my time in coffee shops than in laboratories.

In science it seems like everyone is a Mac user, and these days I’m not convinced that a Mac can’t do all the same things as a PC. Then again, perhaps the age of Mac is declining since the demise of its genius founder, and PC’s are on the rise as the best and brightest. After all, I hate what they did to iTunes lately…

I toyed around with the idea of getting an iPad and a cheap work PC. I could have beauty and portability with me at all times, saving the chunky number cruncher laptop in the lab with all the data. This is more or less the setup I have now, except it’s a tiny iPhone instead of an big iPad, and the PC only lives in the lab because its hard-drive gets all clicky sounding and threatens to die when I move it around too much.  Unfortunately this solution is pricey, and being as I have a very small disposable income, I balk at shelling out the money for an Apple anything, even if an iPad would be cheaper than a MacBook Pro.

On the PC side of things I figure I have two options, not all of them feasible. I hesitate to buy a computer with a brand new Windows 8 operating system, especially if it’s touted as “going to” revolutionize Windows operating systems. My gut tells me I should wait until more people try it out and I’m sure there isn’t an upgrade around the corner ready to eclipse it a la Vista’s cousin 7. So first option would be to simply buy a new laptop with the old Windows 7 system, and be just as outdated as I am right now, albeit faster. Second option, give Windows 8 a go.

Last and final option: beg my next lab to buy the computer for me, decision made! Unfortunately this is a pipe dream, with lab grants all the more scarce it’s not so much of a given that new graduate students get new computers, like some other lucky people I know.

Maybe I’m just too scared to take the Mac leap again…what oh what should I do?

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