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

Mar 07, 2008, 2:40pm

I love the new iMac. So much so that I'm considering going 100% Apple over the next year or two. It's coming down to sometimes minor issues - management of files, previous investment in Windows software, devices that work on the PC but not on the Mac (thankfully this list is very small). A few years ago, the thought of moving 100% Mac would have given me palpitations, mainly because of my photography work. Thankfully, modern day versions of Photoshop, Lightroom, Spotlight, and more make it much less painful.

This is part three of a three part "going all Mac?" review / commentary / thing that I'm posting. Part one is here, and Part Two is here, in case you missed them.

Here's the great things I've found with my new Aluminum iMac 20" model (specs: 500gb drive, 4gb ram, 2.4ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, wifi keyboard and mouse) and OSX 10.5.x:

Mac Sweetness

I guess first and foremost is "the package" - everything from the display, to the quietness of it, to the keyboard, to the mighty mouse (with right click enabled!) to the iSight, to the basic software (iLife) it's just so elegant and refined. I literally have three things plugged into the Mac - the power cord, an ethernet cable, and one two USB devices - my iPod Touch and an external drive. One more spare USB for either one of the WD portable drives or my camera or whatever. The desk is clean, both above and below the Mac. My keyboard is wireless, and my mouse is wireless. By comparison, my PC's desk area is a nightmare of cables above and below.

Mind you, I don't have a) my printers (2) hooked up to it, b) external speakers hooked up, c) my car's Phatbox cradle (for my car's MP3 40gb hard drive in the boot), d) my firewire to camcorder connection, e) my cardreader, f) my mouse hooked up to the Mac. That all adds overhead and such. And I am worried about the Phatbox cradle in particular if I go all-Mac down the road; afaik, there's no support for the Mac by Phatnoise.

iLife It pretty much totally rocks, save for two issues - one easily solved, the other not. With iLife '08, you can download a free copy of the older iMovie (which is vastly superior to the new version). And iTunes is awesome, save for the lack of crucial codec support. Most of my converted TV shows from DVD are in .avi format. I can do a "hinted" quicktime .mov of the .avis and then import the hinted movies into iTunes, but I can't import the raw .avi, divx or other formats. mp4 / h.264 / quicktime only.

Keyboard and mouse - I didn't expect to enjoy the new slate-aluminum keyboard much, being a 90wpm touch typist (how do you think I write these long articles! lol), but it truly rocks. The wired one is better than the wireless for me, but the wireless is still very comfortable. I can't believe I'm enjoying a chicklet - style keyboard! And the mighty mouse? Once I enabled right clicking (it's off by default), I've gotten extremely used to it, and the scroll ball is a wonder. It's also more accurate than a high-end logitech wireless mouse I have.

Bluetooth is painless - on my PCs, BT has been a royal pain over the years. Poor drivers, lack of support from companies like Sony, IBM, etc to update to the latest Widcomm stacks with full features, etc make Bluetooth on the PC a nightmare, and it's always been that way for me. Some things pair. Some don't. Some pair, but only limited services. Others do more. Every BT device (save for the PCs themselves) I've paired so far with the EDR 2.0 Bluetooth on the Mac have worked, and worked flawlessly. It's what bluetooth was supposed to be, and given all the Bluetooth headaches I've had over the years, this is a particularly big issue for me.

It's Fast. Mind you, I did put 4gigs of memory in it, and it is an intel Core 2 Duo chip (dual 64 bit chips) but everything from Photoshop (yes, I just bought yet another upgrade license) to movie editing is as fast as my desktop PC, if not faster. One thing that is noticably faster is accessing and importing pictures directly from my Canon dSLRs - I don't know how or why, but they seem to import about 1.5 to 2.x faster on the Mac than on my PC via a USB 2.0 connection. Ever use Windows Explorer to access your hooked up digicam? It takes freakin' forever for the initial window to populate with file names or thumbnails. The Mac, it's almost instant the start of population in the various import windows.

Networking - Gigabit ethernet and a stable N grade wifi? Awesome. Mind you, my desktop PC has dual gigabit ethernet jacks, and built in wifi too (both AP and receiver modes) but its WiFi is "G" speed. And getting the Mac on my Wifi network was extremely painless. Still, it's right next to the router, so I hooked up ethernet to it, just so my PC and the Mac are on ethernet.

Networked Printers, Network Access - I remember how much of a nightmare it was to use my PC-based printer on the old iBook G3 with OSX 10.1. And I could never "find" my PC's network, to access the drives. It's totally painless on the iMac with 10.5 Leopard. Brilliant.

User Interface - it didn't take me long to get used to the Mac's interface. I made some changes - scroll bars have arrows top and bottom, right click enabled on the mouse, but I like the "one menubar" concept, the double click the app's titlebar to minimize, etc. I'm especially loving Spaces and that zoom out thingie (press the sides of the mouse, and you see all active apps). I also have my dock on the right side, and it's awesome in its functionality.

Spotlight - Apple's built in search feature is nearly flawless, and lightning quick. It completely blows away anything XP has for searching your local system. This alone is worth the ticket price if you have a gazillion files like I do, going back 15 years in some cases.

Time Machine - initially I was unsure of this new application - I'd read some sketchy things. But with 10.5.2 Apple fixed some reported problems, and now I use an external WC MyBook USB drive to back up the Mac, and it's the most painless backup I've ever used. Sure, my PC is "raided", but at times I really notice the RAID function chomping up duty cycles on the PC. Time machine is invisible.

Front Row - I had no idea about this "mode" for the Mac, but it's awesome. Fortunately, with a .wmv plugin I've installed in QuickTime Pro, and codecs for divx, xvid etc also installed, it plays most of my (painfully) converted TV shows and movies from DVDs. I spent some time last year converting all 5 seasons of Hogan's Heroes I have on DVD to .avi format, and Front Row plays them just nicely, thank you. If only iTunes would just as natively...

iWork is Great! Sure, iWork made my "worst" list in the first part of this three part article for missing out on autosave and clunky .doc support, but other than that, it's a surprisingly little robust set of programs. Pages is the standout for me. I'm a longtime veteran of using desktop publishing applications, from my ancient days with Aldus Pagemaker (nee Adobe Pagemaker), to Quark (boy, are they gone, huh - stupid company with stupid upgrades / planning issues), to InDesign, and even to Microsoft Publisher. I've used and abused them all. Pages is nowhere near as powerful as inDesign is, but it's easier to use than Publisher, and has some very nifty features. I especially like the "Apple Designed" templates that have lots of hidden goodies. I also like the dual mode of Pages - wordprocessing mode, or layout mode. Very swifty. Inspector works awesome.

I've also fooled around a bit with Keynote, and it's slick. I remember trying Keynote when it first came out and couldn't believe how cludgy it was. Those days are long gone. I do a few seminars each year, and know the basics of Powerpoint; Keynote seems more intuitive. My only concern is, down the road, how will I be able to do a Keynote presentation with my PC when I go to a tradeshow? Cross that bridge when I come to it.

Mail, Contacts and Calendar - I HATE Outlook with a passion. Refuse to use it. Except when I have to, like when I used to have to sync all my contacts to a PocketPC device. I use Google Calendar where I can for scheduling, Thunderbird for email, and well, nothing for contacts. I avoid Outlook like the plague, because I absolutely hate how it tries to take over my whole contacts and scheduling system once you use it.

On the Mac, I was pleasantly surprised at how good its built in (and free) is. So much so that I'm in the midst of migrating all my email to IMAP status on both PCs and the Mac - so I can have universal, sits on the server access to my email. I deal with a shitload of email. I have about 15 active email accounts on five different domains, plus my gmail. Sometimes finding an old email is a nightmare. And Thunderbird's worst trait is it's terrible search function. Spotlight works in mail, and rocks. I'm looking now into ways on how I can import my legacy email folders from Eudora. I have emails going back to 1996 in Eudora folders, that I last used and accessed in 2003. Including some precious ones from my Mom. Anyone know how?

The is good too, once I found out how to make it interactive with Google Calendar. S'all good, and it even syncs up to my iPod Touch, and as a bonus I can add and edit existing schedule items, with all syncing happily. The Pretty decent from what I've seen so far. Haven't fully investigated.

Preview and PDF Hoooo boy. Gone are the clunky, cludgy, system resource hogging days of Adobe Acrobat Professional! With the Mac, PDF viewing, creating and printing is built in, and painless. And Spotlight searches them! That alone is worth the price of admission (free!). I'd happily pay for this functionality. After years of suffering under Acrobat, this is heaven.

Installing and uninstalling programs. Windows users are constantly blown away by the simplicity here once you figure it out. Want to install an application? Most are just dragging a "file" from a disk image (dmg) file or zip file to your Applications folder. That's it, toote swite, all done. Want to uninstall? No going to Control Panel, selecting Install/Uninstall Applications, run a program script, watch files being removed, registry written to, etc. On a Mac, it's a simple as grabbing the file in your Applications folder, and dragging it to the trash. Could it be this simple? It almost always is. The only application that's difficult to install or uninstall is, you guessed it, Microsoft applications like Office.

Mind you, Adobe applications can be a pain too, with their DRM.

Other Kewl Things. Other things, like Expose, the Dashboard, slideshows, all the other little tips and usability tricks the Mac does... as I continue to discover them, they just work, and work well. I like the Disk Utility. I like that I don't have to defrag my drive. I like how Mail has detectors for contact info - hover over a mailing address and walla, interface to add to your contacts! Wow! And if I ever need Windows (I have about 8 licenses of XP!), I can use Boot Camp to install a dual boot system. Freaky.


After three months now, besides the "pulled cord o' death syndrome" the Mac's been pretty much a joy to use. I found a decent bittorrent client (Transmission), am still looking for a good Usenet client (one that matches Forte Agent on Windows), and still need to deal with the crappy kludgy .doc support in Pages, but I've now bought Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Lightroom and a few other apps for the Mac, and they're a pleasure to use.

It's a fun and intuitive computer. So much so, that I bought one for Beata as a Christmas gift. Her computer was getting a bit long in the tooth, with things not working or breaking down (an old Dell system), and I thought all the things I liked about the iMac she would love. Turns out mostly true - she gets frustrated at things not working "the Windows way" but she really likes it and is liking it more every day. The .docs problem with Pages frustrates her too because of typing work she does for a Doctor (and it has to be done in .doc format), but now we have two iMacs in the house, and more products on the way.

Just a few days ago, I ordered a new Time Capsule 500gb WiFi N router to replace my wonky G router in the house, and a 160gb AppleTV device so we can stream our growing collection of iTunes music and videos to our stereo and television in High Definition. I'm still wondering if AppleTV will stream my hinted iTunes movies (the ones that are in xvid or divx or .avi original formats) like Front Row is capable of playing on the Mac - somehow I'm betting no. But in the past few months, I've been converting my high quality .ogg music to (gah) medium-high quality AAC format, and I've been using Handbrake on the Mac to rip all our latest DVD purchases, converting them to native iTunes, AppleTV and iPod Touch / iPhone format. In fact, I've pretty much moved much of my photo editing over to the Mac now, just because iPhoto and Lightroom play nicely together. I still do web development and some photo work on the PC, but my supercharged desktop PC is becoming more and more neglected.

If Apple had come out with a true ultraportable notebook in January (instead of the severely limited, un-upgradable Macbook Air), my voyage to 100% Appleland would have probably been faster. I can't do without my ultralight PC (I'm typing the last of this on my 3lb Fujitsu tablet PC), especially for travel and work. Maybe one day. Or maybe I can install OSX on this thing...

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