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.

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.

Goin’ Mac & Maybe Never Goin’ Back

I have used a desktop/laptop with an OS made by Microsoft since I can remember. Whether it was MS-DOS or the last one I used, Windows 7, I have stuck with Microsoft through thick and thin. Even when one of the laptops I bought came with Vista and there was no way to retrograde it to Windows XP. Until about a year ago, I bashed everything and anything that was Apple. In my mind, I would prefer to have no computer, no mp3 player, or any other electronic gadget if it was made by Apple. My first computer was a 486 with MS-DOS 6.22 and a Windows 3.1 overlay. My first mp3 player was a Zune. My first smartphone was a Samsung Galaxy S1. In short, if it didn’t come from Apple, I had no problem buying it. Critics be damned.

Macintosh Classic

Macintosh Classic

Before anyone starts to think, I am some kind of nut case Microsoft fanboy. My disdain for Apple began years earlier, long before anyone ever coined the term fanboy about a product. One of my first jobs was working for the City of Montreal. The person in charge of  I.T. services was a devout Apple user and thought anything from Microsoft was pure evil. I was forced to work on a Macintosh Classic. It had a screen, that was grey and white, it was slow, it was ugly, the keyboard sounding like a horse galloping.

Hmmmm.......

Hmmmm…….

Out of the blue, it would also give me error message I could barely understand, in the forms of little bombs. I could be typing, staring at the screen, or just thinking evil thoughts about the vile machine and a bomb would appear. Why was I cursed to work on this machine? All my friends were using Windows and never seemed to have problems. How could this tech geek not see the light? Didn’t he know Apple products were expensive, no one was making software for it, at least not any that most people used. I swore to myself right then and there I would never have anything to do with Apple.

Twenty odd years ago I may have been against Apple; but with age comes wisdom and the willingness to try something new. Although I swore against Apple, I did buy an iPad 2 about a year ago. When I bought the iPad, I was traveling a lot between Canada and Europe. I would always bring my trusty laptop with me; but it was big, heavy, and most of all loud. When I say loud, I mean vacuum cleaner loud. The tablet market was really starting to come around, so in my opinion, this would be the perfect compromise. It would allow me to stay connected to everyone and everything; but without all that weight. I had my decision down to an iPad 2 and a Samsung Galaxy Tab. I went to the store to try the Galaxy; but the salesperson told me there were none in stock.. In my disappointment, I wandered over to the Apple section of the store. As I was examining the iPads, the salesperson I had spoken to earlier, came over to tell me they had just received an order of Galaxy Tabs.  I walked over with anticipation to test drive a tablet, I was 99.9% sure I was going to buy. Well, the first app I tapped on, crashed. I figured that was a one-time thing, so I tried again, and the app crashed. I figured, all right, I’d reboot. Hey, I come from a Windows world and that is the solution offered 95.96% of the time. Well, low and behold I tapped on the same app for a third time and it still crashed. All of a sudden, like an epiphany, I knew I would be buying an iPad. Thus the seed of looking more closely at Apple’s line of products was planted.

That planted seed has now grown into a tree, which has me preparing to radically change my whole ecosystem of gadgets. What started with an iPad a little over a year ago, now includes a MacBook Pro. In a couple of months when my contract is up, I will be replacing my Samsung Galaxy S1 with some iteration of the iPhone 5.

Why did I have the change in thinking towards Apple? I could have very easily decided to buy a Windows-based system, get a Microsoft smartphone, and maybe change my iPad for a Microsoft Surface, thus staying with what I knew. There are two reasons I am making the switch. I am at a unique point, where I can and need to replace all my daily tech gadgets within a very short period and thus standardize my experience. The second reason I’m making the switch, comes down to economics. I have gone through three laptops in the past 8 years. The costs of these laptops were less than what I would have paid for one from Apple. However, in the time that I have changed my laptop for a variety of reasons, my brother has used the same one. His only expense since his initial purchase was to add some more RAM. Friends of mine, who own Macs, have told me similar stories. Although I may have saved money in the short-term, I have spent far more in the long-term.

Out of the box, the MacBook experience is excellent. I can understand why people praise how simple Apple products are to use. Within 5 minutes of having turned on the machine, I was up and running.  Everything I would basically need was ready and waiting for me. There were a few applications I wanted to download and install; but after about 30 minutes I was basically set up.

Now that I have the machine up and running, I am faced with learning a radically new OS. From the limited experience I have had so far, using my new laptop, may take longer than expected. While the journey may be long and arduous, I think it will be worth it. At worst, I’m used to changing my computer every few years.