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The 30 day MacBook Pro challenge week 3: Can a Windows user become a Mac convert?

10 Mar 2017

This is week three of the series that asks if a Windows user can love a mere Mac in just 30 days. You can read week 1's blog here and week 2's blog here.  For this one, I’m looking at a few Apple functionalities, the App Store and how the MacBook handles a couple of games.

I’ve been reading many articles about what apparently makes Macs great, and the one thing that jumped out at me is the fact that Macs are resilient towards cyber nasties.

As a cybersecurity editor I’ll concede: most of those threats are for Windows and Android, but Macs aren’t as bulletproof as they’re made out to be.

While I would love to really put this MacOS to the test by deliberately downloading malware, I can’t because a) that would be a dumb thing to do on a work computer, and b) I don’t think Apple would be very happy with me.

Mac has had its share of bugs: Xagent, KeRanger, Backdoor.MAC.Eleanor, Fruitfly, and macro malware to name a few. While I’ve only installed consumer-grade Avast (which overrides Gatekeeper’s security capabilities), I’m glad there’s something there to protect me.

Apple informed me that the safest place to download apps is from the Mac App Store. Apple reviews each app before it’s sold through the store. Apple can quickly remove it if there’s a problem.

App developers can also get a developer ID from Apple for digitally signing their apps. This ID allows Gatekeeper to screen apps. If malware developers try to sell an app, Gatekeeper blocks the nasty from ever being installed.

The problem is, many of the apps I need aren’t available on the App Store, and I still had to go through a website to download both Chrome and Firefox. Huh? Does Apple really want that much control over their in-house branding, or am I, in all my newbie ignorance, just blind? Update: It turns out I'm just blind, as the Windows Store isn't much different.

Moving on to the App Store itself. I was actually rather underwhelmed by the content - I suppose I had this perception that it would be more like Google Play where every vendor of every software app under the sun was on there. 

For testing purposes, one of the first apps I downloaded was the iTheory Driving Test New Zealand. While I’m not going to review the app itself (although at first glance it looks good and even fully qualified drivers could do with a refresh) I did find that the install process was smooth and immediate. Authorising purchases with a mere fingerprint touch was pretty cool too.

I also downloaded GTA San Andreas and Lego Star Wars Saga just to see how they stacked up in the games department. One look at a MacBook and ‘gaming’ isn’t the first thing that jumps out at you, but I wanted to see how well it could cope. 

Conclusion: When you crank the resolution up to full specs, it actually looks and sounds really damn good.  To push the CPU usage up a few more notches, I created a Game Centre account and installed Call of Duty Black Ops. There were a few laggy freezes here and there and the MacBook itself generated a fair amount of heat, but otherwise it was playable.

Mail is Apple’s native email consolidation app. It’s basic and does what it needs to do; no complaints there. Out of habit, I’ve been sticking to email access through my Chrome browser at work, mainly because Google Hangouts is an important part of my work.

There are heaps of native Apple apps on this machine that I haven’t had a chance to use yet, such as Time Machine and Migration Assistant. There are others I’m still trying to figure out, such as Dashboard. I don’t see any immediate use for it in my life, but I’m sure others might.

I briefly mentioned the Touch Bar and how it works with Pages, Photoshop and Lightroom, but it’s also easy to toggle sound, brightness, take screenshots, access desktop views and many other handy features that the F keys used to handle.

In terms of trackpad gestures; they are many and varied. Truthfully I can’t remember them all but luckily Apple gives a basic rundown when looking at the trackpad settings in the system preferences and there’s plenty of information on the WWW. As for the Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse, it has been a week and a half and their batteries have only discharged by 20%.

I also finally understand why people say they’re attending a ‘Keynote’ instead of a presentation; why ‘Let’s FaceTime’ is almost a complete synonym for “let’s chat”, and why ‘take a screen grab’ is actually becoming more commonplace than the word ‘screenshot’. You have to hand it to Apple and its fans - they’re transforming language too.

All that said, we’re three weeks down and I’m getting into the swing of things. Week four is the last round of serious testing (Windows and Mac go head to head) before I deliberate on the final conclusion. Let’s make it count.