Embracing Change

My previous blogs have been about my move from Windows / Android based tech to an all Apple world. This post is not so much about the move from one eco system to another; but how much the move has affected me.

I recently started a new job. As with any new job, you get a computer to work on. However, unlike everywhere else I have ever worked I was given a PC with Windows 7 and an iMac with Snow Leopard  (OS X 10.6.8). At home I exclusively use my MacBook Pro, this is the first time I have ever had an opportunity to use an iMac. Although the majority of the applications I have to support are available for both Windows and Mac, I find myself using almost exclusively the iMac. The PC sits there behind me not doing much. I only use it when I have to do a web conference as the plugin seems to work better on the PC than it does on the iMac. I think it has more to do with the plugin not working properly in Firefox and this is true for both the the PC and iMac

I was speaking with a friend of mine about the two computers I have available to me and how I do as much as possible on the iMac. If six months ago someone had told me I would be all Apple, all the time and would look at Windows based PCs as something archaic and not worth the effort to even turn on.

Just a few months ago, PC stood for Personal Computer and/or Politically Correct. However, now PC stands for Portable Crap and/or Politically Correct. Whenever I have to work on my fiancée’s laptop I find it slow and clunky. Her laptop is only 3 years old, it still works and does everything she wants it to do; but just logging on seems like an eternity. Before moving from Windows to OS X, I never fully understood how long it takes to log on to a Windows based machine. Even at work when I log on, I am already working on the iMac, while the PC is still loading up after logging in.

Why Can’t Geeks Get Along?

apple_vs_android_vs_windowsI was talking with a friend recently about my purchase of a MacBook and how I was two-thirds of the way towards being full on Apple for my daily tech needs. This kind of shocked my friend, as he is as devoted to Windows as I was and is no fan of Apple. His phone is an HTC Desire and his tablet is, well his tablet is really a Kindle e-reader. He told me I was making a big mistake changing my ecosystem and I would rue the day I went full on Apple. He even asked me if I liked the taste of the Kool-Aid I was given. His attitude bothered and annoyed me. I let him know in no uncertain terms, I had not drunk any Kool-Aid nor had I joined any cult. I had made a choice and was now following through on that choice. I explained to him, the decision to switch completely to an Apple world was not some spur of the moment idea. If it had been spur of the moment, my smartphone would have been in the garbage heap months ago and my laptop would have already been the paper weight it was always destined to become. I understood his point of view, as until a little while ago, I agreed with everything he was saying to me; but I was still annoyed.

What does it mean when someone says Apple users have drunk the Kool-Aid or joined the Cult of Apple? I did not join a cult, drink any concoction, nor did I choose form over function. I made an informed decision on what I wanted from my technology and proceeded from there. Once I knew what I wanted from my tech products, I looked at which brand could best serve my interests. If I thought I could have gotten everything I wanted from Microsoft, I would have gone full on Microsoft.

I have used the aforementioned descriptions when talking about Apple users in the past; but now that I am now an Apple user, I think those kind of statements are foolish and just narrow-minded. Just because someone has bought into a certain brand, why are we labeling them? No one ever says an avid Microsoft user sipped the Kool-Aid or is part the Cult of Microsoft. I think we label Apple users the way we do is because for the most part, they are avid supporters of all that is Apple; more so than a Windows or Android user is. They stand for hours if not days in line awaiting the newest latest product launch. Many of them replace their smartphone on a yearly basis when the newest model comes out. Who really cares? It’s their money and if they can and want to change their smartphone, tablet, laptop or any other piece of tech on a yearly basis, let them. I may think it’s a waste of money; but it’s not my money, so who am I to judge them? If devotion to a product is why we are labeling Apple users, shouldn’t we be labeling Android/Microsoft users instead? If we look at the number of people who use iOS vs Android or Windows vs Mac, it is the Android/Microsoft users who have drunk the Kool-Aid and joined a cult.

I often read on tech sites the verbal battles between iOS and Android fanboys bashing each others choice of smartphone. I’m pretty sure in the not to distant future we will be adding Windows Phone fanboys to the fight. In these epic verbal battles, each side is boasting how the smartphone they bought is the greatest and anyone who doesn’t own what they own, are fools to have wasted even one cent on product X. If you are an Android based smartphone user, you think iPhone users are fools because everyone under the sun knows the fill in the blank model of Android based phone is soooooo much better.

What difference does it make to anyone what product/brand the person has chosen? Is my user experience lessened because someone, whom I have never met before and in all likelihood will never meet, is not using the same product as me? I think these fanboys are not so much trying to convince others they made a poor choice; but rather they are trying to justify and convince themself, their choice was correct.

Each electronic gadget I buy has its own pros and cons. There is not one wonder product on the market that will fulfill everything I want out of a gadget. It is my job as the consumer to decide which product gives me the best bang for my buck. That is to say, which one comes the closest to fulfilling all I want my gadget to be able to do. What may be important to me, may be less important to some else and vice versa. The most important thing when buying a computer, phone, tablet, or any kind of tech is to be happy with your purchase. It should not matter who the manufacturer of your gadget is, as long as it does what you want it to do. I explained in earlier blogs why I am making the switch from Windows/Android to full on Apple, so I am not going to rehash my reasoning. What I will say, is that so far I do not think my tech experience has been lessened because I am using a Mac over a Windows-based PC.

In the end you may not like my product choices or may even think me the fool for what I have bought and plan to buy. I really don’t care one way or the other. I am not going to try to convince you to follow me in my pursuit of all that is Apple, so do not try to convince me that Windows or Android is better. The only thing you can do, is be happy for me because I’m happy with what I own and in turn, I will be happy for you, even if you are still using Windows and Android. Continue reading

Saying Buh-Bye to Samsung

I am the owner of a Samsung Galaxy S1 (i9000). When I got the phone, I loved it. I loved swiping to text (I still do), I loved that I could swipe to unlock my phone. I loved that I could put an external SD card and bring almost all my music with me. I loved that it was sleek and light. Yes, at the beginning I was in love my phone. I was a proud Samsung smartphone owner and laughed at my friends who owned iPhones or any other smartphone. Today the love I once had for Sammy has been replaced such animosity that I am counting the days until my contract is up.

My complaints with Samsung have nothing to do with the Android ecosystem. People call the Android world fragmented, others say Android phones are not as well made as iPhones. I have even read people saying there are not enough apps for Android smartphones. The not enough apps makes me laugh because Apple may have 750K apps in its store and Google may have just 600K in its store; but my question is do I really need all those apps? How many am I really going to need or even use for that matter. The only apps I am probably going to install will be something to track my 3G activity and a good Sudoku game, anything after that is bonus. No, my grievances with Sammy has nothing to do with the number of apps available, nor how the Android market is fragmented, or even the sturdiness of the phone. When I write of the sturdiness, I mean, I’m not afraid of what is going to happen to it if I drop it, not the internal workings of the phone.

I am not a new consumer of Samsung products, though the SG1, likely will be the last product I ever buy from Samsung. In addition to the SG1, I have owned a laptop, and a feature phone. What I have discovered when owning these products, that regardless of all the hype that surrounds them, they are utter pieces of crap. I am convinced that Samsung is Korean for crap. Let’s break down each of my purchases.

The laptop I bought, was directly from the manufacturer. The very day I brought the laptop home, it crashed and gave me a constant blue screen of death, the infamous BSOD. Every time I tried to install something it would crash. I complained to Samsung, who proceeded to take it back and keep it for two months. When it was returned it to me, I was told it had been fixed. I bring the laptop home, I turn it on and yes it does boot; but the first program I try to install on it, the machine gives me a BSOD. WTF!!!!! I call Samsung and demand my money back for the glorified paper weight they have sold me. It was explained to me that because my return period had passed, I could not get my money back. I ask them to replace the computer because in the two months that I had owned it, I have used it for a grand total of 5 minutes. I was told I could either return it to them for another repair job or live with the problem. Wow, nice customer service. I basically took my loss and went out and bought an Acer. Strike One!!

Like the dumbass that I am, I bought a Samsung feature cellphone. If memory serves me correct it was part of the SGH series. Anyways, at first the phone worked fine, but after a few months, it started to act strange. It would shut off or reboot itself for no good reason. I lived with these idiosyncrasies for about 18 months, but finally I had enough. As I did not have a contract, I was able to get a new phone at my expense. Strike Two!!

In September 2010, I was in the market for a smartphone, to replace the feature phone. The Samsung Galaxy (i9000) had just come out. When I received the phone, I was in awe. It was beautiful, it was light, it was fast, it was more than I could have imagined. However, over time awe turned to utter and complete disappointment. The first disappointment came from using Kies. Kies, for those who don’t know, is Samsung’s version of iTunes. I’m no fan of iTunes; but compared to Kies, iTunes might just be the second coming of the messiah. Kies would not see the the phone attached to my computer 9 times out of 10. If I tried backing up data from the phone via Kies and then did a test restore, I would be told the backup was corrupt and the restore had failed. Really? The backup was done less than 5 minutes ago and already it was corrupt? I am also extremely disappointed with Samsung itself. Since I bought the phone, I have received exactly zero, none, nil, zippo, nada firmware upgrades from Samsung. Any upgrade I have done, has been me going on the net, finding out how to do it and then praying that I don’t brick my phone. This last problem is indicative of the kind of customer service Samsung gives. Stee-rike 3!! YOU’RE OUT!!!!

Today, when I look at Sammy, it is with derision. The phone responds to my touch when it wants to. It reboots itself at random, even during a phone call. It freezes up sometimes, that I have to take the battery out to fix the problem. I can’t remember the last time I went a whole day without having to pop the battery out. Sometimes when it is booting up, it freezes on the “S” of the Samsung logo and I have to pop the battery out a few times to get it to finally boot properly. It has a tendency to call people all by itself. I watched it one time call the same person 10 times in a row. I kept having to hit hang up, before the call could be completed, but because it does not always respond to my touch, the call went through a few times and I had to apologize to the person and explain that I wasn’t stalking him. Sometimes I receive text messages, I open the app to view the message and right away the phone closes the app and returns me to the main screen. When this bug happens, I know this will happen five times before I am able to read the message. This same SMS bug can occur when I’m trying to send a text message.

If you couldn’t tell by now, my days of buying a product from Samsung are done. I even amaze myself that I almost bought the Galaxy Tab last summer. I am so thankful everyday that I did not, especially when I look at Sammy and remember my other poor experience with Samsung products. I think I had a momentary lapse of reason when I considered purchasing a Tab. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the Tab actually crashed out of the box, in the store three straight times. See? Samsung is Korean for crap. As I recently told a Samsung rep who was trying to convince me of the virtue of a the newest Samsung HDTV, I would rather be hung naked, dripping with honey over a bear cave than spend even one dollar on something from Samsung.

Even if I am bitching about my phone, there are a few things that I will miss. I will miss my widgets because I love widgets that give me the ability to personalize the phone and conform it to my needs. I will miss not having a memory expansion slot, thus allowing me to buy a cheaper model with less memory and adding my own at a cheaper price. Regardless of the things I will miss, there is so much more that I won’t miss about the phone, that I am more than willing to sacrifice a little personalization, for a more enjoyable smartphone experience.

Today, Sammy and I await the end of my contract. Sammy is on death row and there will be no last-minute pardon from the governor.

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.

Saying Hello to AL

As of yesterday, I am the proud owner of a brand new MacBook Pro. It is the 13″, 2.5Ghz model, with 500GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM. I didn’t choose the retina display for a couple of reasons; cost and necessity. For what I use my laptop, the extra cost of retina display was not worth it to me and thus I didn’t want to spend a few hundred dollars more for something that would be nothing but eye candy for me. I chose to go with the base 4GB of RAM because my last Windows laptop had 3GB of RAM and I had no problems, so I decided to go with the 4GB. However, I do have an extra grace period to change my mind about the configuration because I bought it just before the Xmas holiday’s, I may still go back and change it for the 8GB model. I also decided against the very slim and beautiful MacBook Air for the simple reason that whatever model I bought, I would be unable to modify the configuration, no hard drive or ram upgrades. To me, this was a big negative for the MacBook Air. If I can’t upgrade the hard drive or at least add more RAM, that is a deal breaker. Another major sticking point with the MBA was the price, I thought for what you get under the hood, aside from an ultra fast SSD hard drive, the price was not worth it.

Unlike most people who get new computers, the first thing I don’t do is install anything on it. The first thing I do, is give the machine a name. My previous laptop was Beasty2K7, its predecessor was Beasty2K. To break with this tradition of naming my machines BeastyXX and to start my life as an Apple user, I have decided to name my MBP, AL. On a side note, my iPad2 is called George, and my Samsung Galaxy phone is called Sammy.; but sometimes I refer to it as “You piece of sh*t!!!”.

As I am going to go full on Apple with my technological purchases and to complete my collection of gadgets, my next purchase will be an iPhone5 in one form or another once my current contract is up in a couple of months. Of course if I think an iPhone6 is coming out not to soon after my contract is up, I may stall for that; but as I don’t have to think about that for the moment.

I’m quite excited to unify my ecosystem. An ecosystem whose applications can synchronize with little or no effort and some can even be interchanged between gadgets is a major motivation for making the move. I’m particularly excited to unify my mobile technology. I have already started to download on to my iPad some apps that I think will be good to have on an iPhone. These are applications that I downloaded while they were temporarily free, so I took advantage of getting them. At worst, I’ll delete if I don’t think I need them or like them.

Although I will be going full on Apple for my technology, I won’t completely abandon my Microsoft roots. I will still use the Office Suite, Gmail for my mail and cloud services. So, as I close the door on my Microsoft Operating System life, I open the door on my new life with all that is Apple.