Going Windows Free

by David Dennis


It's taken about four years so far, but I am approaching the conclusion of the slow process of moving all my personal computing to Apple based tech. This technically began with my purchase of the first generation iPhone, but really became a goal when I bought my first ever actual Mac, a MacBook Air, at about this time of year in 2008. It doesn't feel like it was all that long ago. This isn't a deep, personal journey, but it is one that affects life on a day to day basis in numerous little ways, and I do feel some anticipation for it's completion. With the replacement of my Windows based gaming machine essentially if not actively complete, I feel like I'm pretty much there. I am a bit of an early adopter, and what some people might consider a 'power user' (though I don't really like that term. I like to try and make the most out of the things I have, and will always trial if not fully embrace every feature and utility that comes with my gadgetry. I have iTunes serving my media library across my home (including my Windows rig), to my iPad and AppleTV from a Mac Mini. This is also the machine that my mobile devices wirelessly sync to every time they are put in their docks on the table at the side of my bed. I use a combination of iCloud and Dropbox for all of my file storage, backup automatically and hourly to a Time Capsule and so on. A number of these gizmos were bought for purpose and in order to get the most out of every penny I've spent. While it could be argued that some aren't strictly necessary or there are cheaper alternatives available, and this is true, ease of use and compatibility are important concerns for me.

So time has come around to seriously look at retiring my gaming machine as it stands. I am playing fewer, and getting less satisfaction from computer games these days (something that I've blogged about before, that comes and goes to a point). While I am not going to suggest that I will not play computer games anymore, I am no longer prioritising that hobby in terms of time and resource investment. My primary reason for maintaining a Windows desktop PC is for gaming purposes, due to superior support in popular titles (particularly when considering older games). This is less of a concern in the last few years, and Mac support for games is becoming commonplace; it may even be rare for a title to launch without Mac support in a couple more years. I do not however want to give up the large-screen 'desktop' experience', useful not only for gaming, but photo processing and so on.

My first instinct (and the 'plan' that I've had in mind for some time) was to purchase a 27" iMac, which is an excellent machine for not only those games that I might choose to play in the future but also lends itself and it's phenomenal display to aforementioned tasks like photo editing. It could also serve in place of my Mac Mini as the machine available for media service and syncing my devices. This remained a very tempting option.

I have however been considering the role of my MacBook Air. Since the arrival of the iPad, it has seen significantly less use; where I might have sat with it on my lap and used it to browse the internet or interact with social media my iPad has been used almost exclusively instead. So the Air has been relegated to those times when I wanted to compose a lengthy blog post, or make a significant edit to my CV or such. It has even written some old-school mailed-out letters to friends in a number of countries. Those uses represent only a small portion of the time that I spend interacting with technology. Similarly, when I have been engrossed for a period in gaming (Skyrim springs to mind) the convenience of using the machine that is immediately available can on occasion trump even the iPad.

So after a certain amount of thought, I began to seriously consider that the utility of the MacBook Air and the desktop PC ought to be performed by one machine, which would by necessity be a powerful notebook, with enough power and screen size that I could use it for gaming when the mood struck, and still be portable enough to write blog posts when I visit the in-laws in Scotland or am staying with friends for a few days. Retaining the Mac Mini would also mean that there is still a web browser available connected to the TV (which while not essential, has been occasionally useful - especially on websites that continue to use flash extensively).

So the object of desire switched from a big shiny iMac, to a slightly less big MacBook Pro, which while larger is still comfortable to use on my lap, and equally at home on my desk (particularly important when the precision of a mouse is required). The launch of the retina model, which is even more portable and has a simply astounding display, really sweetened the deal with just that little extra temptation. This is the first post composed on it.

In an amusing coincidence, no sooner than I got home with my new machine Steam launched the Dawnguard expansion for Skyrim. It feels fitting that my Windows machine gets to spend the next few weeks helping me explore a little more of my favourite game of recent years before being retired; the old dog's swan song before my desk is cleared for it's new part-time occupant.