The Frustrations of Learning

As simple and quick the initial out of box experience was with my MacBook. This statement can not be said for what has followed.

Searching

The first thing I do when I buy a new computer is transfer the files from the old machine to the new one. I do a search on the old hard drive for specific file extensions and copy all that correspond. My old hard drive is formatted in NTFS. What this means, is while OS X is able to read the drive, it can’t search it because it is not writable. So what was normally  15 minutes of copying from one drive to another when I used Windows, is now turning into long and arduous task.

I have discovered after doing some research that I have a couple of options available to me. I can spend 15$ on a piece of software that will mount the drive in such a way that it becomes writable, thus allowing OS X to search the drive or I can modify some configuration files. I have no intention of spending 15$ nor am I going to start modifying configuration files on an OS that I know very a little about it. It took me a couple of years to feel confident enough to go into the registry on my Windows machine, so modifying configuration files on a brand new machine is not going to happen in the near future.

By being able to buy an application or modifying configuration files, to mount the drive properly is something in my opinion Apple should allow natively. Is there some reason they don’t think people should be able to write to a drive in NTFS? If so, I’d be curious as to what it is.

Shortcuts

Before I vent on keyboard shortcuts in OS X, I will say, ⌘+Spacebar to open Spotlight for searching, opening an application in a couple of key strokes is absolutely amazing. It might just become my new BFF or would that be BKF. That being said, there are some shortcuts from Windows that I miss or others that are similar between the systems; but act in very different ways.

Keyboard minus cryptic symbols

Keyboard minus cryptic symbols

The first frustration I had with trying to learn keyboard shortcuts, is they would show me cryptic symbols that were not to be found on the keyboard, except for the ⌘ symbol. As for , , , and ^, I had no idea that they meant. I don’t know about anyone else’s Apple keyboard; but mine is pictured on the right. I don’t see any of those cryptic symbols on the keys they are supposed to represent. If someone wants to know, the symbols represent Option (), Caps Lock (), Shift (), and Control (^). What I find even more mind-boggling, was why on earth Apple chose the ^ symbol for control, when the very same symbol is  on top of the number 6 key?

Instead of showing me something like ⌘T, just write ALT-CMD-T or if that is too much work, put the symbols on top of the keys they are supposed to represent. A pull down menu in application made for Apple looks like Egyptian hieroglyphics.

I also have a problem with ALT-Tab or as Apple writes it, +Tab. In Windows, this key combination scrolls you through your open applications and whichever one you stop on, that is what come to the front. On an Apple machine, I do not understand the point of using ⌘+Tab, it seems to work similarly; but does it the Apple way. If I have minimized the application, rather than hid it (⌘+H), I just get the top menu off the application and the only way to get to the application is to go down to the dock and click on it. Really? Minimize might be the most useless thing I’ve seen in quite some time if it hinders you in that way.

The “CTRL+Key” was my go to key in Windows. However, in OS X this key combination doesn’t always act the way I want it to. My brain hasn’t learned yet, that it can’t do everything that it did before, even if it can still do some of the things it did in Windows. In the meantime, when I want to jump a word left or right, I end up jumping a desktop in the direction I push or I’m constantly asked if I want to leave a page I’m working on. Which while writing this blog, has happened more times than I care to remember. The problem I’m having is that sometimes I need to use  “⌘+Key” to do something, other times it is “alt/option+key” to do something, and sometimes it is “control+key” to do something. While in Windows it was always CTRL+Key. Isn’t just having one key like CTRL+Key, do all the work a simpler way of doing things?

If anyone reading this, needs to learn about OS X shortcuts, you should have a look at http://www.danrodney.com/mac/.

Applications

There are quite a few applications that I used while in my Windows world, that are not available under OS X. If they don’t exist, I have to find their equivalent; but some of them don’t always seem to work quite as well as what I had in Windows. For example, I was quite surprised that Google does not have a native chat program for Apple users. Other applications that I used to simplify my daily tasks, like mail checking without having Outlook or webmail page open, don’t exist.

Mail
The native mail program that comes with OS X, has its good points and its bad points. I do like the fact that I can just enter in my email address and it can configure the rest for me. This one single point, is amazing, as you don’t have to search for what your POP and SMTP server names are. I can’t believe that didn’t exist under Windows. For all that I like about it, I do not like that for certain accounts it constantly asks for my password. It asked it so often, that I had to modify the Keychain Access for those accounts; in my opinion that is a security flaw as to stop this, I had to grant all applications unlimited access to these accounts.

Firewall
The Firewall that comes with OS X works and doesn’t work at the same time. All non-Apple applications that I am allowing to accept incoming connections from the internet do not cause a problem when I open them. Ironically, every time I open iTunes, the firewall asks me if I want to allow iTunes.app to accept incoming connections. Each time I accept it and have verified that it is in the allow list.  You might wonder why I would want to turn on my firewall, when my router should protect me from the outside world. Well, I move around a lot with my laptop and access networks that I have little or no confidence in. If I can add one more bit of protection, I’ll take it.

Anti-Virus
One thing I’m at a crossroads with, is anti-virus. Using Windows, I wouldn’t dream of not having an anti-virus; but after speaking with my brother, he said he doesn’t have one and never has had one. I’m not sure if I’m ready to surf the net without one. In the end I wasn’t able to throw caution to the wind and have decided to install one. Better safe than sorry.

Saving
My biggest beef by far is the way files are saved. It took me a while to figure out that I was not obliged to save in one of the root folders. I have worked on various operating systems and this is the first time I was not given a tree structure view or at least a clear way of choosing what folder I wanted to save to. However, now that I have it figured out, it is more a former annoyance; but every time I save something, I think about the initial frustration I had.

Other Frustrations

I already mentioned I try to do as much with a keyboard as possible; but as part of the change from Windows to OS X, I am trying to use the track pad more, as it seems to be what Apple wants me to do. I have no problem with Apple trying to steer me in that direction; but I do not like the way the pad is configured. I had to re-train my brain to learn that on a web page, down was up and up was down. On webpages, scrolling right is to go back a page and scrolling left is to go forward. It feels unnatural, until I realized that was how the iPad was set up. However, on a computer it just seems weird. Why can’t Apple let me choose what direction I want to swipe or scroll in for things to happen? Is it because Apple does not think a person is capable of making this choice for their-self or is it because they  want everyone to be the same and conform to the Apple way?

I’m not a big fan the way applications are installed. Every time I install something I have to enter my password. This reminds of Vista; but unlike Vista I was able to turn this annoying confirmation dialogue off, unfortunately due to the nature of OS X or an unwillingness on the part of Apple to let people do what they want, I can’t turn this off. However, each “padlock” I open, I do not close it when I’m done. At least I can save myself the time of having to type my password each time I want to modify a setting. If I’m considered the administrator of my machine and I need a password to log on, I should not have to be entering a password each and every time that I want to install or modify something on they system.

Overall

As easy as the first few minutes with the MacBook was and how easy it was to have up and running, the following days learning the system, have been somewhat frustrating. I know many of these frustrations are linked to my learning a new OS and not being able to have things like I did under Windows. I expected this; but I did not think it would be so radical. However, not one of the frustrations I’ve experienced is a deal breaker and I plan on plodding along. Even though I do have complaints about the system, I am enjoying it. We’ll see what happens now that everything is installed and setup.

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3 comments on “The Frustrations of Learning

  1. Just to explain the “^” as the symbol for “Control”, it’s a bit of UNIX lore. UNIX users and documentation used the circumflex as a shorthand way of saying “Control”, particularly in the documentation for emacs and vi. So, to interrupt a running program from the command line, the documentation would sometimes say “type ^-c” (and yes, the instructions are case sensitive. Writing “^-C” means the chord “shift-control-c”). This form of shorthand goes back, as far as I’ve seen, to the early days of UNIX back in the early 1970’s, so it’s been around a while, but part of a fairly obscure cult for a long time. It was certainly there in 1982 when I first used a UNIX machine.

    But what does this have to do with the Mac? Well, OS X (formerly known as MacOS) is actually BSD UNIX under the covers, which was what the NeXT machine used when Apple bought NeXT and brought Steve back in 1997.

    There’s your obscure trivia lesson for the day :-).

    PS: What I’m not sure about is the symbols for “shift” and “option”. I’ve got two of the older generation Macintosh keyboards (one that came with the Macintosh Plus, as well as the next-gen ADB keyboard that came with the Macintosh SE family) and neither have those symbols on the keyboard anywhere.

    • Thanks for the information about the ^ symbol. Makes a little more sense now, considering what OS X is based on. However, for a company that purports to be easy to learn and user friendly to the max, you’d think someone at the Apple brain-thrust might have said, hey why not just say CTRL+whatever.

      There’s a part of me that thinks a bunch of guys might have been sitting around after a little to much “partying” and thought using ⌥ for Option and ⌘ for command would be funny. If I remember correctly, there was the Apple logo in place of the ⌘ on the keyboard when I was using the old Macintosh computer.

  2. The ADB keyboards added the Apple logo alongside the ⌘ (although it never appears in keyboard “chords” in the documentation that I still have around). As for why that symbol? I suspect it was simply to be “different”, because PC keyboards at the time had “control”, and Apple was trying to make the Macintosh be different where they could. By omitting “control” and putting ⌘ on instead, it made it visually clear from the keyboard that this was a different machine (as if the “tan toaster”, all-in-one look wasn’t enough). This is a guess, BTW, I don’t know this for sure. But “thinking like Apple” could lead to that conclusion

    As for your other comments, I agree completely. Part of being in the Apple universe means “thinking like Apple”, and that isn’t always based on common sense. Apple can let style win out over function from time to time. Why they used a symbol for a key that isn’t actually printed on the key cap is certainly a valid question. A few hundredths of a penny of durable paint would certainly have solved that problem.

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