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Friday, October 30 Front Page >> Random Rants >> Thinking about going 100% Apple, Part One

Mar 03, 2008, 1:10am

I'm thinking about doing something that even a year ago would have seemed impossible for me. I'm thinking about going all Apple for my computing products at some point in the not too distant future. Being a "Windows" guy since Windows 3.0 and before (well before that, I actually used a Mac a lot - back in 1987-1989!!! And there was DOS days), this is a pretty major step.

This is going to be a three part article / review / commentary on the Mac. I'll start with some history and "the bad stuff" as it were. Then I'll talk about the neutral / wish it were better stuff, and in the third part, posted in a few days, all the great things about the Mac and Apple as a computing platform, from my eyes and experience.

Why I bought an iMac

I came into some bonus money last October and with it, I bought what I thought would be a curiosity "toy" - a 20", 2.4ghz Apple iMac (the new aluminum ones). I bought it slightly upgraded too - the the 2.4ghz Core 2 Duo, 500gb hard drive version, with the Bluetooth Mighty Mouse but only 1gb of memory. Then I immediately bought the wireless BT keyboard (I wanted both the wired and wireless) and locally bought two 2gb memory sticks (how's this for cheap - $68 each stick, whereas Apple would have charged me $350 for each 2gb stick in a 4gb configuration! Tip - never, never upgrade your memory via Apple if what you buy has upgradable memory.

My plan for the new iMac was to make it purely a podcast station - doing both audio and video podcasts for the CoffeeGeek website. I would continue to use my Windows XP-based PCs for my day to day writing, design and photography work areas (desktop currently is a 4gb, Core 2 Duo 2.83 something with a kick ass video card, 2 raid-enabled 500gb drives, built in memory card reader etc etc.; notebook is the diminutive Fujitsu P1610 Core Solo with 2gb memory).

My last Mac experience was 2001-2003 or thereabouts, when we had a couple iBook G3 notebooks for displaying our WIPS software, and I remember not liking them much because nothing I worked with on a normal day to day basis "worked" well on the iBooks - they were slow, pokey, heavy, and incompatibilities frustrated me.

Getting the iMac late 2007 model with OSX 10.5 installed, I didn't expect many of my previous problems with OSX and Macs to be resolved (I haven't stayed up on Mac's development path). I basically wanted some great free audio tools (GarageBand for podcasts) and easy video tools (the legacy iMovieHD 6 (or is it 7? whichever, not the most recent version, which is a rewrite and sucks)). In fact I guess you could say I fully expected to have all my old problems once again with this system, and my initial intent was to keep it isolated, and away from the house's network of devices.

What problems did I expect? All the problems I had with the iBook, like - my Windows systems wouldn't be found by the iMac; my Windows computers wouldnt be able to see the Mac either; my printers wouldn't work; I'd have networking issues; I wouldn't be able to play .wmv files; most of my music library is in high quality .ogg format; software would be glacially slow, and the list goes on.

Then something funny happened along the way. I really started to enjoy using the Mac! I started to enjoy and appreciate many things the Mac did easily compared to my PC / Windows environment. And I noticed many (but not all) of my previous problems and concerns were a thing of the past.

In this first part of a three-part review / opinion piece, I'll focus on problems I'm having with the Mac, and OSX 10.5.x.

Sorta bad, and really bad!

Okay, first, the things that still don't work / have problems with / incompatible. The list is surprisingly short

Office Problems - as in Microsoft Office. I was determined to not buy another copy of Microsoft Office. I have bought about a dozen copies or upgrades of Office since 1995, and I'm fed up paying for them. I have an old Mac:Office I bought back in 2001 that, naturally, doesn't work with the Intel based iMacs. I tried a demo of Office 2004, and didn't like it. I tried a demo of the new Office 2008, and it sucks bad - worse even than Office 2007 for the PC (which royally sucks bad if you're a long time Office user - I have lost so much productivity time trying to find menu options in the latest Windows Office program, I've uninstalled it and rolled back to Office 2003).

I would have gone for OpenOffice, but last time I checked, it wasn't compatible with Leopard or Intel Macs, or there was problems with Java, or something. So we went for iWork, (I say we because of something else that happened, that you'll find out about in Part 3). I bought the 5 license version, $89 or something like that. It's a slick package, with almost all I want from the word processing app (which doubles as a fairly easy to use desktop publishing / layout app) ditto for Numbers, the spreadsheet program, and ditto for Keynote.

But there's several glaring problems with iWork. First and foremost for me, there's no autosave feature. Even Google Docs autosaves. I've lost long articles in iWork because of the lack of autosave, and a problem I had with my iMac (pulled cord o' death syndrome, mentioned below). Second biggest problem? While you can save documents in the .doc format, it's a two click affair to do it, not just a "save as". You have to export, find the .doc format, and export that way. You can't just set .doc as your default save format. Bad Apple. .doc is nearly universal in the business and consumer world. There's a few other problems, but they are minor.

Ogg Vorbis support - there's none in iTunes or anything Apple does. You have to install VLC player and codecs to get them working. And there's no equivelant of dbPowerAmp, one of my fave audio programs for the PC. Ogg is vastly superior to any other lossy audio format I've ever heard (to my ears at least), and I have most of my music in 7 or 8 Quality .ogg files. Why Apple doesn't support more codecs in iTunes.... well, I know why (control and greed), but it still sucks.

WMV and Real support are horrible to this day on the Mac. Again, VLC can help with .wmv, as can some third party clunky downloads (you have to pay for), but for Real? You have to install the real player - there's no Mac equivalent of Windows Media Classic (a third party app) player that can play Real Audio / Video without the realplayer intrusions. Many of the sites I go to for video (CBC, BBC, others) use .wmv or .rm formats, and they're a PITA on the Mac.

iTunes Gaaaah, you're so frustrating! Some things about you are awesomeness (interface, ease of use, store, podcast integration, iPod marriage, Coverflow, search, sorting, smart playlists, light system resources overhead, etc), but some things just blow so bad (lack of codec support, lack of video format support, DRM Suckage, AAC format, super slow conversion to iPod Touch formats, etc), you're the biggest love-hate relationship I have with the Mac.

.iMac Costs Money? And it's forcefed to you? Probably the worst "intrusion" stuff on the Mac. .iMac costs too much ($100 a year is too much for what they offer. Most I'd pay is maybe $5 a month). If that were all, I wouldn't complain, but what bothers me most about .iMac is how it's force fed to you in various programs and even the Finder. It's the only sharing option in iPhoto. It sits there in the left pane of Finder, even if you don't have an .iMac account. It's the main sharing option in iMovie, iWeb, and other apps. They keep reminding you that you must be lame because they have this kewl thing called .iMac integrated into all mac software, and you don't have it cuz you're too cheap. Nyah Nyah. Look. I have a Flickr pro account and like it very much. I have my YouTube account, and use that for video. And I have my own servers, why can't I easily upload a goofy iWeb-built websit to it? Stop the force-feeding, or make iMac much more robust (ie, double or treble the storage capacity) and cheaper. it should cost no more than double what Flickr Pro costs.

Pulled Cord o' Death Syndrome - my own phrase, but a situation that others have experienced with the current generation Macs (last one is the long thread!). Basically, my Mac would randomly just power down. I could be doing nothing, or I could be working intensely on on a video editing. I could be downloading via bittorrent a missed episode of Amazing Race, or I could be writing an article in iWork Pages. Incredibly frustrating. I eventually did a full reset of something or another, and the problem hasn't happened for about 12 days now. Next time it happens, it's going into a repair depot.

That's pretty much all the bad stuff - the last is the worst, but in the last two weeks, it hasn't happened.

There are other nigglies and such that could have made the "bad" list, but I've saved them for Part 2 of this thought-pattern view of the Mac, the "Neutral stuff". And by the way - Apple Fanboys? You know who you are - please, no hating allowed in the comments. Trust me, I have lots of good things to say about Apple, the Mac and OSX coming up soon.

But if you have some good solutions for any of the above, I'd love to hear them.

10 comments | reply

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