Thursday, January 27, 2005

Week with a Mac

I have been using the eMac several hours a day for almost a week. It's time to stop playing and start talking about the experience.

First up: I'm having the time of my life. I chose the eMac over the other models because it fit my budget and needs -- I wanted an all in one to save on clutter, but the iMac was too pricey. The eMac isn't my favorite looking Mac but that's more than made up for by the quality of it's construction. It's simply stunning how well made it is; not a single flaw. Compared to PCs, Macs are expensive, but I've never seen any PC that impressed so much – before even switching it on! Even the keyboard is ultra-heavy, flex-free and stable -- even the shiny Apple logo on the front is optically perfect. The one button mouse drove me crazy so I substituted a Windows mouse that I had lying around. That works fine, but it sure looks suddenly ugly compared with the rest of the setup.

Using the thing.

It does take getting used to; like switching to a foreign car where the turn signal stalk is on the "wrong" side. Everything that I want to do – file management-wise – is still available but the more advanced features are more hidden, and the terminology is definitely different.

In Windows, if I attach my USB card reader then immediately another six drives appear in Explorer – nothing happens at all on the Mac. However, when I insert a card, there it appears as a new "Volume." It's the same with CDs and DVDs; the drive is invisible but the media appears.

The other interesting thing that took a little getting used to was the way applications are displayed; There's only ever one menu bar at the top of the screen that changes to reflect the application that's currently in focus. All too often I would close a window (thinking I'd closed the app) and go on and do something else while the app was still running in the background.

After a while I just figured, "What the hell," and left all the apps I normally use running all the time. Despite my initial reservations, this doesn't seem to slow things up at all. Right now I have Safari, Mail, iCal, Address Book, iTunes, Text Edit, Stickies and Photoshop all running in the background but with no windows showing. Marvelous!

Apart from Missing Sync (for talking to my Pocket PC) and Photoshop (which I'm still evaluating) I haven't needed to buy any software to cover my regular chores; all of the built in apps are really top rate (with the possible exception of Apple Works) which appears to have been ported from OS 9.

I don't think I'll ever get bored with how "posh" everything looks. Even formally crappy looking websites that I visit. All that blarney from Steve Jobs about how the people at Apple are "artists" seems to be true. It's like there's a tiny graphic artist with excellent taste inside the box who's redoing everything before you get to see it.

There are a few shortcutting programs that I had running in the background in Windows that I sorely missed at first; One was called Wonderful Icon for opening apps using the keyboard, the other was AutoCorrect Plus which would complete words for me. I haven't found any identical replacements, but I did find a real donationware gem called Butler that I'll gladly pay for. It's a system-wide menu, combined with a pasteboard, quick searcher, iTunes remote – you name it. It's absolutely freak'n brilliant! It's one of those super-flexible OS extensions (like Standalone used to write for the Newton) that really feels like it's only limited by your imagination.

One more thing to note before I finish up for today: In all of the past week – in all the playing and tweaking and installing this, that and the other thing – I haven't broken a thing. Not one frozen app or crash of any kind.

So, do I have any regrets? Not one. Am I impressed with the Mac? Can a duck swim?!? And this from the lowest-end model in the range (apart from the mini).

Now though, I'm lusting for a Powerbook – so I can take it everywhere with me...


Blogger Steimes said...

I would use firefox, that way you get the autofill and you get a very very flexable browser.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Andrew Burke said...

Thanks for the advice. The thing that AutoCorrect Plus did for me was to complete or correct text in any field. For example "hh" would become "http://www." and 'im" would become "I'm." Great for a two finger keyboarder like myself. I have downloaded Firefox and I'll try it soon; at the moment I'm using Safari with the Pith Helmet addon. I'm so used to Maxthon riding on top of IE6 that it's taking a while to learn a whole new set of shortcuts...

10:32 PM  

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