Saturday, 16 January 2010

Have you got a light Mac?

No, but I've got a dark brown overcoat

But hold on.... I do have an iMac

Every-time I walked past the big, welcoming, not to mention expensive Apple shopfront on Bahnhofstrasse over the last few months those beautiful screens have been calling to me and I have to admit more often than not I had to go in just to wiggle the "magic" mice.

Carol had noticed this phenomena (how could she not) and decided to keep me on the straight and narrow by getting me an iMac for Christmas.

So how is to be a Mac man after so much resistance in the past. I'm starting to see why people enjoy playing with macs, but I am not sure if I would want to work with one (yet).
My first impressions (3 weeks on).


Beautiful looking Hardware - Screen, say no more, Mouse is Magic, Keyboard is tiny and usable (travel is a bit shallow, don't think touch typists would like it). Machine is quiet & fast.
DVD drive that scratches your DVD's with its beautiful aluminum casing!! Amazing that people have complained about this since the previous iMac and it still isn't fixed. In fact those sharp edges can catch the odd digit if you are not careful too.

I keep missing characters on the keyboard (now I know why it is so small). No forward delete (it is fn-Bksp), Backslash (Sh Alt /) even @ had me confused for a while being slap bang in the middle of the keyboard. Checked out the Help (no help) Eventually I built my own table by holding down things and wandering around the keyboard.

Fast & stable: some of that will be the hardware but start-up happens so fast you wonder if it has actually started & Shutdown is just poof and its gone. Given the stability (no crashes yet in over 3 weeks) just instantaneous stand-by & wake-up are all that you need.

Networking in a PC (SMB) environment worried me a bit, it shouldn't have. I think it works better than on the PC. I'm even using SmartSynch Pro on a PC to back up the Mac to my File Server. Network printing also works well once you have the correct drivers. HP seem to stop Mac support earlier than PC.

Functionality in oodles

Don't know where to start and need a manual to do it.

Now to invite Death Threats :
It all feels a bit dated and after playing with Windows 7 I am really not so impressed. The Dock seems to get in the way (I've tried putting it everywhere). Pretty smooth rolling icons might look good in the showroom but Icons that move when you are trying to click on them makes you feel frustrated and not a little bit sea-sick.

Its not that the UI is difficult to use (after a few days) but it is difficult to find the advanced stuff because it is all hidden to keep everything "clean". e.g. how do you move up and down file hierarchies? Up/down buttons? No; Address line to click on the correct point in the path? No; How about a hidden button on the window title (actually on the name) which you access with a right click which exposes a list, Duh. And where did I find out this info, in the help? No, in a book I had to purchase.

What is this with All for One One for All Menu bar thing , very strange if you are used to each window having its own menu bar. And why are all the Menus so ugly (Windows 95 or what)?

For the guys who led the whole WIMP (windows, icons, mouse & pointer) thing they sure do love their keyboard shortcuts.

One thing I like as an old UNIX hack is if you've got fed up with clicking around to find something there is a perfectly serviceable terminal app that gets you to the UNIX OS that is the foundation of MAC OS X. Want to put a directory list in a file "ls -l > x.txt" will do the trick. Unfortunately if you didn't have the Unix shells (very powerful versions of what the PC calls cmd) burned in to your brain at an early age then you will need another manual. Try looking up bash, the default shell name, in Mac help :-) And if you are going to play Unix have you thought of Linux?

Virtual PC
Running the a PC OS on the Mac, using VMWare Fusion allowed me to shut down my PC workstation in a couple of days and I have not gone back. Migrating the PC to fusion was nearly automatic and it is a perfect copy of my original PC from which the migration of things like mailboxes could take place. The weird thing is running it on that lovely Mac screen and having it run MUCH faster than running it on my, admittedly 5 year old, PC. It hardly seems to effect the Mac performance. The cool thing, I can now upgrade to Windows 7 with no risk (just another virtual PC file) and run both on the Mac simultaneously .... I'll have to see how much that slows the machine down. Wonderful piece of software.

Built-In Apps
Mostly toys and expected utilities
I was looking forward to iPhoto and it looks it was fun for 5 minutes but I have already moved (back) to Photoshop Elements, Why? Can't use my server based photo library directly. With PSE all the meta-data is still there in the photos and will stay there and get updated accordingly. For newbies with no family iPhoto is probably OK.

I hated iTunes on the PC it was sooo slow using my NAS based Music library. I used Winamp on the PC, my absolute favourite player. On the Mac iTunes is faster but it still isn't designed for managing large libraries. Worse still it can't play loss-less FLAC files. I am using the buggy but wonderful SongBird.

Mail, Calendar and Address Book are OK, but why are they all separate. Trying to stay away from Entourage (Outlook replacement in Mac Office) so I can give the Mac apps a fair chance.

Safari (the browser) is OK but I soon went over to Firefox, not because I used it before but because I could not set the destination for downloads at the time of download in Safari.

Getting Help
Help is crap, terse and not very er ... helpful.
So many functions are hard to find and not documented you really do need a manual unless you want to go through life oblivious of half of the OS features. I bought "The Missing Manual" appropriately titled and its looking good (only had it two days). I find it strange that Apple famous for ease of use needs manuals to get going. I don't think I ever bought a Windows manual.

So am I happy with my iMac?
Yes, very. I AM HAVING FUN.

Could I become a mac only person?
Maybe, but their are of lots of reasons the PC still has appeal.
1. Much cheaper hardware, I reckon an equivalent PC cost 2/3 of the price and peripherals from Apple are very expensive.
2. Range of applications. For instance, It took me a while to find a FLAC music player (i-tunes doesn't support FLAC) and the only one worth considering is buggy and unstable (although otherwise an excellent set of features). There are literally dozens of FLAC players on the PC. Another example, No personal finance packages that can handle multiple currencies and are easy to use!
3. Windows 7 is the best PC OS so far and at the moment I am leaning that way. That may be familiarity but I guess only time will tell and just in case my MAC makes a great PC.

Carol's original intention was, of course in vain, for I am a now Mac person (I have the stickers) and have to walk in through the the doors of the grand shop each time I go past to pick up some overpriced dongle or some piece of software to help my Mac work the way I want it to.

Just in case anyone thought this was my first move, here is Ian's computer history
(W for work):
ICL1904S (originally ICT, at Uni) Commodore PET (1981), Superboard II, HP85, DEC VAX (W) Dragon32 (1982), PDP-11, Sun 2 & 3 Workstations (W) AtariST (1985, almost an early Mac with GemOS but I also ran a Unix like OS called Minix predecessor to Linux), Various UNIX / Windows Homebrews (Interactive/UNIX) & Linux (1990), PC (1991, reluctantly for business purposes). From then on it was various LINUX and Windows PCs as I built up the the Home network from 1995 Onwards. Since 2004 been pure PCs (client & server) until Imac (2009)

p.s. joke from Bonzo dog band - Big Shot, album - Gorilla, 1967 (well that's where I heard it first)

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