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Alright so recently, I've heard some good stuff about Apple. I used to adamantly resist Apple products, but it looks like they're at the point where they're more mainstream but still have their traits that got them so big (stability, ease of use, etc). I've used Windows since I was 5 (now 18). Started off with MS-DOS, moved up through the ranks 3.1, 95, 98, then jumped to XP. I know all the stupid things about Windows - nobody needs to tell me about all the spyware, crashes, etc!

But up until now I've stayed with PC's. My Dell Dimensions 8200 works pretty good after several layers of protection (router firewall, Windows firewall, BlackIce firewall, Firefox, several anti-spyware programs, Norton anti-virus, no unnecessary downloads, etc), but now that I need a laptop, I don't mind having a change. This won't be my primary machine, so if I don't like it as much, it won't be the end of the world. So here's my situation.

I'm a student at UC Berkeley. I need a laptop because I commute on BART 1 1/2 hours each way, and I could definitely use that time to do work. Next semester, I'll be taking a class which requires me to use MatLab, which is some sort of engineering application. Plus, my family has been looking into a portable DVD player. I figured I could kill a lot of birds with one stone, so this laptop would have to play DVD, run MatLab (which...I think is for Windows), and of course wireless internet (B/G), word processing, etc. I NEED it to be 12" or so, because the seats on BART won't allow anything bigger to open up unless I catch the front seats with no obstructions (rare). I also need a long battery life, as it will need to play whole DVD's on trips and work for the entire 3 hours of commute per day. I have tons of MP3's, but I will manage the space efficiently (iPod user also) so I don't need a 100GB HD or anything. More RAM is good too. I'm okay with integrated audio/video, but I would like a fast processor so things don't take forever.

I've narrowed the choices down to IBM, Toshiba, and Apple. Dell was always a player because they're cheap, but then I realized you really get what you pay for. What do you guys recommend from the Apple lineup? Can I still use a majority of the programs I use on Windows? Mainly Streets and Trips, Winamp, Folding@Home, AIM/GAIM, Photoshop 7.0, few others.

Thanks for any insight in advance. Sorry if these questions were answered elsewhere, I didn't do a search because I came up blank on what to look for. I should have, seeing as how I'm a mod on another forum and I'm always telling people Search is your friend

(Mr. fearlessfreep24 sent me over here )
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