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Cybernaut

Praise for Windows 7

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Given Apple's unfortunate decision to launch their new line of MacBooks without a Firewire port, as well as the fact that I can almost get two very good PC laptops for the price of a MacBook Pro with Firewire, I'm seriously thinking of switching back.

It's a tough decision to make because I love Apple. Their operating system is the best, and I like the way their computers are designed. Once ridiculed as a computer system for people who don't know anything about computers, the company has succeeded in combining power and simplicity to set a new industry standard.

I like the fact that I don't have to worry much about viruses or spyware, that it's easy to add new software and keep it updated, and that it almost never crashes. I like iWork and iLife. I like the colour scheme, the fonts, the ease of navigation, the ability to customize, the intuitive menus and buttons, the sensible file system, the drag and drop functionality. Everything else pretty much sucks by comparison.

But I just can't justify paying their prices right now. When my old eMac finally kicks the bucket - it's almost five years old and is impossible to upgrade - I will have to make a quick decision.

My wife and I have decided to get a laptop (or possibly laptops), so we can get rid of our bulky computer desk. And while we would both prefer Apple, we also agree that price is definitely a factor.

I don't need a high-end gaming machine - I have an Xbox 360 for that - but the ability to edit video is a must. Other than that, 99 per cent of what we'll be doing is surfing the web, answering e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, organizing photos, and the occasional video chat. You don't need a $2,149 MacBook Pro for that.

And besides, from what I've seen so far the Windows 7 operating system beta is already far better than Vista. Microsoft obviously mimicked a lot of features that put Apple OSX on top for so many years, so it won't seem like such a big deal to switch over.

While Windows 7 obviously needs more work before its final release, most reviews are generally positive. It's still not quite up to Apple standards, but it's closer than before and the money we'll save - or the second laptop we'll get - more than justifies the switch.

But what really set me leaning towards a PC laptop this time around is a review on Gizmodo (www.gizmodo.com) that compares the Apple Dock with the Windows 7 Taskbar. The writer called the Taskbar "the most important Windows UI change since Windows 95, and it will dramatically change the way you use Windows. And it's better than the Mac's Dock."

Them's fightin' words to Mac users out there, but after looking into it more closely I have to agree. Like the Dock the Taskbar is clean looking and hides itself. It's a little harder to tell what programs are open, and it doesn't have the same magnification effect as Apple, but it makes it much easier to navigate open windows and manage applications, and provides helpful preview thumbnails.

Another feature that got high marks is the use of menus. Apple's Dock lets you do things like remove programs or force quit, while the Taskbar promises to go one step further by allowing you to do other functions as well, like hit the play button on your music player or access contact lists in your e-mail.

The biggest drawback is the fact you can only "pin" one work folder at a time to the Taskbar and navigate from there. Perhaps that's something Microsoft remedies in the final release, given all the things we use folders for these days.

Microsoft could also borrow a few other OSX ideas, like allowing customized shortcuts to folders and programs on the left side of Finder windows, but generally they copied everything that's important.

Getting back to price, it makes sense to switch back. For example, the 2.4 GHz MacBook sells for $1,749 with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB of DDR3 memory, a 250 GB hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics card.

By way of comparison, I can get a Dell Studio 15 laptop I've had my eye on for $1,479 with a similar processor (2.2 GHz instead of 2.4), 4 GB of DDR2 memory, a 320 GB hard drive, and a ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3450 graphics card, not to mention a bigger, high definition screen, Blu-ray player, an HDMI port, and Firewire. If I got a regular resolution screen and optical drive I could get it for $1,249.

The Dell's memory is not as fast, but there is more of it. The graphics cards both have their advantages and disadvantages, although the Nvidia is probably slightly superior for gaming. Nothing to quibble about over $500 though.

It's not just Dell that's making a compelling case to switch back. HP, Acer, Toshiba and others are offering similar great deals. A little research, and a willingness to accept an inferior operating system, could save you a lot of money.

Apple is still the best, but with Windows 7 it's not the only option anymore.

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