February 15, 2005

iBook and OS X: First Impressions

Filed under: — 4:45 pm

After playing with my new iBook for a couple of weeks, I’ve had a chance to give the Mac platform a shakedown from a PC user’s perspective. Here are my first impressions:

  • Everyone will tell you that 256 MB is not enough, and they’re right. I added a 512MB chip (total 768 MB) and performance is much better. Installing memory yourself is not too difficult, although you do have to remove the keyboard and it’s a bit tricky to reassemble.
  • The UI is, as you might expect, very well done. I hate to sound like a “switcher” but it really feels like an upgrade compared to Windows XP. It’s very nice to look at, and the animation effects are so smooth and fast that I haven’t turned them off—surprising since the first thing I do with a new Windows installation is turn off all animation.
  • This is a nice little laptop—good keyboard, effortless wireless, and it’s very stable. Since my previous PC laptop was a 400 MHz Sony, the iBook doesn’t have to work hard to impress me.
  • As with every PC laptop I’ve ever used, the trackpad is an annoyance with its default settings. Fortunately there’s a replacement driver called Sidetrack that just about every iBook/Powerbook user seems to recommend. It does nice things like scrolling, but the main feature for me is preventing accidental taps during typing. I’ll probably end up using a USB mouse except when I’m on the road.
  • Setting up a Bluetooth Internet connection to my cell phone was just as difficult as on every other platform, but it works nicely now.

Overall, I’m surprised how easy it was to set up and use this machine. I really expected to be writing about all kinds of strange Mac things that were alien to me as a Windows user, but it’s really not all that different on the surface, and underneath I’m already comfortable with the UNIX core.

February 2, 2005

A crash course in OS X

Filed under: — 3:06 pm

While waiting for my iBook to arrive (who knew they shipped from Shanghai?) I’ve been trying to learn a bit about OS X so that my experience won’t be too jarring. The following are links to some introductory articles on OS X that I found useful, ranging from beginner to geek-oriented:

Update: A comment reminded me to mention one great hard-copy resource: Mac OS X: The Missing Manual by David Pogue. I’ve been reading that for the past few days also and it will be most helpful. I’ll post some more detailed impressions of the book soon.

January 28, 2005

Expose for Windows?

Filed under: — 12:15 pm

I’ve been playing with Macintosh computers in stores lately, and one of my favorite features is Exposé. Today my wife found an O’Reilly Article that mentions three Exposé-alike programs for Windows, all shareware in the $10 range. Here’s my quickie review of all three plus another option:

  • Winplosion: I tried this one and it works, although the animation is a bit clumsy (and this is a fast Windows XP machine.) You can set it to use F9 just like the Mac, but you have to press ESC rather than F9 again to exit. Worse, while it was running in the background I experienced some nasty delays—my computer suddenly couldn’t keep up with my typing. Needless to say, I uninstalled it quickly.
  • Entbloess: I read a brief review here that mentions that it (1) crashed, and (2) messed up the order for Alt-Tab switching. That’s enough to convince me to avoid it entirely.
  • Exposer for Windows: I tried to configure this one to use F9 as the hotkey, but it requires a Ctrl, Alt, Shift, or Windows key modifier, which misses the point of making it work just like a Mac. It makes no attempt to do graceful Apple-style animation when you hit the hotkey, and is slow—I actually laughed the first time I hit Alt-F9 and watched the windows disappear one at a time over a few seconds. It did speed up on subsequent uses, though, and at least it doesn’t crash or slow down the machine.
  • TopDesk: The article missed this one, but I found it in a Google search. It defaults to the Mac standard F9 key, and the animation is the best I’ve seen outside a Mac—but there’s still a disconcerting 2-second delay between the keypress and the animation. The tiled windows look great, changing color as you hover the mouse over them, and the window-opening animation is perfect. Alt-Tab seems to work normally. It’s even smart enough to know that Konfabulator isn’t a normal application that it should tile. If not for that delay and the hefty system requirements, it would be a great choice.

Conclusion: If I were desperate for this feature, I’d go with TopDesk. But that’s just the point—nobody is desperate for this feature. It’s a convenient luxury, but it’s not worth spending money or destabilizing your system, and if it’s the slightest bit slow, you may as well use the taskbar instead. So the snarky comment under the O’Reilly article that says “Just get a Mac” is, essentially, correct.

January 26, 2005

I finally bought a Mac

Filed under: — 6:35 pm

I’ve wanted an Apple Macintosh since the day they came out in 1984. I was in High School and my computer at the time was an 8-bit Atari. Barring a lottery win, there was no way I was going to afford one, so I forgot about that.

The next time I seriously considered buying a Mac was in 1992 when I saw a Performa 600 in a store. At the time my computer was an Atari ST, and I dreamed of owning a computer with better software support and better specs—32 mHZ, 4 MB of RAM, 80 MB hard drive.

Shortly thereafter I got a job working with PCs, then got a PC, and I’ve stuck with the Windows platform for various reasons. Meanwhile, Apple has kept making better machines and better operating systems, and I’ve been thinking for a while that I should have a Mac handy for testing my web sites. So when my PC notebook died, I ordered an ibook G4.

I’ve gone through ten or so computers over the years, but I must admit I’m excited to finally try a Mac. No, I’m not switching, and I refuse to enter any religious debate about which system is better. I’ve always been platform agnostic—I do as much work on Linux as on Windows—and this is one more platform I ought to have an understanding of. Besides, all of the cool kids seem to have them.

So, I’ve created a Macintosh category here and will be occasionally writing about some of my experiences and discoveries on that platform. I have seldom used Macs at all and never used OSX, so it should be interesting.

(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
Powered by WordPress