The Idea Dude


Monday, May 04, 2009

I love my Mac

It's been just over a week with my new Macbook. I love my Mac the same way I loved my Thinkpad x31. I think it's because of the size and simplicity. The ability to carry this around with me anywhere and everywhere.

Readers will remember, about 18 months ago, my trusty X31 (which was a small 12 inch Thinkpad) stopped working on a ski vacation. Being a developer, I bought a larger Thinkpad, a T60 with a gorgeous 15 inch screen (1680x1050) and very fast hard disk. It was to date, the best notebook I ever had. But I struggled to get excited about it. It was a tool, a big, heavy and unwieldy tool. The large extended life battery didn't help with the weight and I missed the snappy Windows XP interface. Vista for me was a drag.

By all standards, the Macbook is technically inferior to my Thinkpad T60, slower CPU, slower harddrive, smaller and glossy screen. Yet it has a fun factor that even makes me feel guilty using it (it's a work machine, I'm not supposed to have fun!). My kids will commandeer it at every opportunity, something they never did with my Thinkpad.

Probably the biggest hurdle was to find all the software alternatives that I used to have in Windows and then to relearn all the new interfaces. Did I mention I miss dedicated keys like page up, page down and delete / backspace. But it's no different from jumping from one car to another and having to figure out where the indicators and wipers are.

After loading quite a few apps, the system doesn't seem bloat or slow down the same way Windows does. Here is a list of stuff I loaded.

  • Biggest psychological move? Throwing out my Outlook PST file for Apple mail. It actually wasn't as bad as I imagined. I do all my mail via my iPhone now anyway.
  • Loaded OpenOffice in lieu of Microsoft Office. Although not as slick as Office, the open source alternative does the job for now until I figure out whether I want to spring $99 for iWorks or get the Office for Mac.
  • Swapped Windows Scintilla text editor for TextWrangler for Mac.
  • Gimp (my free Photoshop alternative) is the only disappointment, it runs under X11 and not natively under the Mac and all the keybindings are still Windows-based like Ctrl-Z to undo.
  • Skype and Messenger loaded with no problem.
  • I use Firefox and Safari now. Never missed IE except I will need that for testing our web deployments. I'm holding off installing Parallel or Fusion.
  • Figured out how to use SVN for Mac for our code repository and it's pretty neat compared to the integrated Windows version that didn't seem to work as well in Vista compared to XP.
  • Threw out Putty because I have a native Terminal app to log in to all our servers.
  • No more Linux under VMWare, I simply run Apache, PHP and MySQL. Apache and PHP are preloaded but you will have to install MySql. Note if you importing a database for a Linux system to the Mac, there is a variable in the database that points to a mysql.socket file. It's different in Centos Linux vs the MAC so you have either change the variable or create a symbolic link.
  • To listen to WMV files I use Flip4Mac.
  • To access my NTFS backup USB Drive, I use NTFS-3G. Without this utility, the Mac will only read and not write to NTFS drives. Word of warning, always eject the harddrive before unplugging. I did that earlier this year and rendered the harddrive unreadable under Vista (althought XP was fine). Seems like a flag was corrupted that was being monitored by Vista and not required by XP.
  • Password Gorilla works on both Windows and Mac so no problems there.

Any regrets? I would have loved the backlit keyboard option but at a $250 premium, not that necessary since I touch type and usually don't work in semi-darkness. Would I get the larger Macbook Pro 15 or 17 inch. I doubt it. Having a larger notebook as I learnt with the Thinkpad is not necessary a slam dunk. I did buy a dvi-vga adapter which I connect to old Dell CRT monitor which gives me another 1600x1200 display (Side note: I normally drove this monitor at 2048 resolution with the Thinkpad.). My only gripe is that the clicking noise that new trackpad makes when you press down to click. I've since reconfigured to tap and double tap instead of clicking although for some operations, the tap and drap isn't as easy to get right.

The best feature? for my daughter it's gotta be Photo Booth, for me it's GarageBand. But for day to day use, it has to be the two finger slide to the trackpad to scroll any page.

Quirks? Don't pull out your USB devices AFTER closing the computer. It reactivates the computer even with the lid shut. You'll end up running the computer in your bag which gets might hot not to mention draining your battery.

In some ways it's back to my roots, my first computer was an Apple IIe. Maybe less is more... But my experience the last week is giving me an idea why Mac users are raving fans and not simply just computer users.

Did I tell you I love my Mac.


Blogger Elisabeth said...

I got my macbook a couple of weeks ago and I couldn't agree with you more about how much I love it. My little sister LOVES photobooth and I'm a huge fan of the two fingered scrolling on the track pad, as well. I will never go back if I can possibly afford it!

4:40 PM  
Blogger The Idea Dude said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Glad you are enjoying yours as much as I am mine.

Thanks for stopping by.


10:18 PM  

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