Takin’ A Bite Out of the Apple: The Little Things

As much as an earlier blog of mine, bestowed praise upon the MacBook Pro, I will admit to a few annoyances with the laptop. Annoyances I do not think I will be able to get over, no matter how long I keep the MBP.

For years, when I would buy a new laptop, I would get one with a 17 inch screen, as I found this an ideal size for a laptop. My first foray into an Apple laptop is a 13 inch MacBook Pro. The difference 4 inches can make on a viewing area is incredible. I find myself having to increase the viewing size of some web pages, emails, or even when using Excel. I am ever so grateful I didn’t go with my first instinct to get an 11 inch MBP. I think if I had gotten one that small, I would have tossed it out the window, within hours of bringing it home.

The problem with the screen size, is not so much with web sites; but rather when working in Word or Excel. I have to increase my viewing size in Word to 125%, just so I can read what I’m typing. When I had a larger screen in Excel, I would often lower the viewing percentage, normally to 85%, so having to dramatically increase it, is a new phenomenon for me. Almost every email I receive, I am increasing the viewing size. Excel, I have found that viewing at 150% gives me the right viewing size. However, this is not something I can blame on Apple or anyone else for that matter. The screen size was my choosing and I will live it, because the only alternative would be to replace it with a MBP with a larger screen and I’m not ready to do that after 6 weeks. I could buy a monitor; but I don’t think I could justify the cost for the amount of time I would use it.

My biggest displeasure with the MBP, is the keyboard. It might be the worst keyboard I have ever had the misfortune to use. I find it stiff and not very conducive to touch typing. When I say touch-typing, I mean I type about 90 words a minute with an error rate of 6 words. The touch-typing numbers are from when I was using a Windows-based laptop. I am still doing around 90 words a minute; but I my error rate has almost doubled, if not tripled. The problem I am having, is that I find I have to really push down on the keys to get them to register. The longer, I have to spend holding a key down, the slower I type. I often find plenty of red squiggly lines in my paragraphs, because letters didn’t get touched long enough. Before moving to Apple, most of my errors were spelling mistakes, reversed letters, misspelled words; but now on top of those errors, I am getting the missing letter typo as well. In fact, while typing this paragraph, I have had to re-type certain words because for it wasn’t picked up when I was typing. What I should have done is just left the paragraph as it was with the missing letter errors for everyone to see and just corrected my spelling errors.

I really ca not hide my utter disappointment in the keyboard. In the past, when I was looking for a new laptop, the first thing I did was test the keyboard and often would pass on a laptop, simply because I did not like the feel of the keyboard. The problem with an Apple laptop, is I can configure or at least select my screen size, amount of RAM, HD size,  and a few other bells and whistles, there is no choice in keyboards. I found all the keyboards as being the same, across the different models. I could use a Bluetooth keyboard and I think it is a great keyboard, that I use it from time to time with my iPad; but I don’t want to have to lug around a laptop and a keyboard with me.

I would have preferred if Mountain Lion would allow me to show known file extensions by default, and not hiding them when I save a file. I like to see my “pdf”, “doc”, “xls”, “txt” at the end of files. I should not have to uncheck the “Hide file extension” box each time I save a file. I have selected the option in settings to show file extensions; but then it shows me alllllll the file extensions and for lack of a better word, uglies up Launchpad. I don’t need to see after every application “.app” in Launchpad.

I have tried over the past few weeks to give the Mail application a chance; but I think it might be the biggest piece of doggie excrement ever pre-installed on a system. If I could go more than one day without it asking me for a password to either send or receive an email, I would take back all I just said about it. I just tried to send an email via Gmail and received a pop-up asking me to enter my password. Really? All of a sudden after all these weeks of using it to send email, I have to enter my Gmail password again? So, I did a little test. I closed the application, re-launched it, hit send on my email again, and without even blinking an eye my mail was sent. Uhhhhhh, WTF????!!! I’m sorry; but I really don’t know how else to express my dismay over this application. I would use Thunderbird, if I could get it to show up in the Notification Center; but as I can’t, I suck it up with Mail.

Some of my complaints are minor faults; but are faults none the less. The file extension request is an esthetic thing  and more a user preference than anything else, so I can ignore that annoyance. The size of the monitor, could be solved by buying a bigger laptop, so that one is on me; but the other two problems I have, come directly from Apple and its design team. I’m not sure if others have had the same complaints as I do with regards to the keyboard; but the typing experience on an MBP keyboard is horrid. As for Mail asking for your account password almost daily I know is a common problem, as I have read in plenty of forums people complaining about this problem and have done so for a few years already.

For a company that wants to make sure the user has the best experience possible, I would think someone would have found a way to fix the Mail problem years ago and would have done something about the keyboard issue. However, one thing I have learned from reading in the forums is that Apple will fix your minor problems; but when it comes to OS issues, they are very slow to react, if they react at all.


All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others
George Orwell (Animal Farm)

The above quote is from Napoleon the pig, in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, as he is trying to explain how all animals are the same; but some might be slightly better than others. Much like in the fictional world of Animal Farm, this holds true in the very real world of software available to Apple and Windows users. Microsoft’s Office for Mac may look and feel like the one designed for Windows; but it seems to lack some of the bells and whistles that make Office a great product, at least in my opinion.

I have said it over and over, I love my Apple products, even if I’m not a fan of everything Apple. For now, my biggest complaint with using my MacBook, is the difference in applications that exist for Windows and Apples users. I know most of the big applications people use are available; but they seem to be the lite version.

With the NHL lockout over, my friends and I can now get back to the business of watching hockey (Go Habs Go) and getting ready for my hockey pool in a couple of weeks. I keep all my stats and draft preparations in Excel. I have used the same format for years and never had a problem creating web queries when I used the Windows version of Excel. However, I’m not using Windows anymore and now have Excel 2011 for Mac. Creating web queries with Excel for Windows is easy and there are plenty of things you can configure to make sure your data is properly formatted. The Excel version for Mac, is not so easy to create proper web queries, limited in formatting option, and is a 13 step process:

  1. Go to a Web page that has the Web tables that you want to put in Excel.
  2. Highlight the Web address in the address field and choose Edit→Copy.
  3. Switch to Microsoft Word and open a new document.
  4. Launch Word if it’s not open already.
  5. Paste URL into Word
  6. In Word, choose File→Save As.
  7. Click Format and choose Plain Text (.txt) from the pop-up menu that appears.
  8. Type a filename, replacing .txt with .iqy as the file extension.
  9. If you encounter the File Conversion dialog, select the MS_DOS radio button, and then click OK.
  10. Click the Save button.
  11. Open Excel.
  12. Choose Data→Get External Data→Run Saved Query.
  13. Open the .iqy file you saved in Word.

Oh… My… God!!! That is absolutely exhausting and time-consuming. There are 30 teams in the NHL and I had to do that 30 times. Well, I would have had to do it 30 times if I had done it on my MBP. My fiancée wasn’t at home, so I used Excel on her Windows computer to set up the queries. It still took almost an hour to do everything I wanted to do; but I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken me if I had done it on my MBP.

I am somewhat at a loss why there is such a difference in the versions. I have found similar problems when I use Word for Mac. It looks the same, it feels the same; but with a few subtle differences. It is entirely possible, the functionality I want is available in the Mac version; but it is different and I am unable to find it. I have tried doing searches on the web for my various problems and the only solutions I find are for Windows’ Excel. I really can not believe I am unable to do web queries any simpler than how I described it above. The only thing better in Excel for Mac, is the copy/paste feature. In Excel for Windows, if you copy something and then type something in a cell or hit ESC, you lose what was in the clipboard. In Excel for Mac, I can copy a cell, type something else and then paste what I copied. I have never understood why Excel forgot what was copied the moment you typed something else.

Then there is Outlook for Mac. Although I don’t use it very much, I still have an email account that needs to use it. I have two problems with the version of Outlook for Mac. The Outlook for Mac version, does not let me delay the sending and receiving of emails. As soon as I open Outlook, it receives and as soon as I hit send on my email, it is sent.  This is no good to me for two reasons. I like to keep some emails on my provider’s servers, so I can access them via webmail wherever I am. The auto-receiving, is not my biggest pet-peeve with Outlook; but rather the auto-sending. I do not like to have my emails sent as soon as I hit the send button. There are times where I have written an email and after a few minutes, decided what I had written was not what I wanted and made some changes. In Outlook for Mac, the only way to make sure mail is not sent automatically is by taking Outlook offline. I wouldn’t mind so much taking Outlook offline, if I didn’t have to do it every time I opened Outlook.

I have used Outlook for at least 10 years. It was a way to get my email from my original account. Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of emails in my pst file. I have been able to import the pst files from one version of Outlook to another. The last version of Outlook for Windows I used, was Outlook 2010, as part of the Microsoft Office Suite. With Outlook 2011 for Mac, I am unable to import this pst file because the version is too old or at least that is the message Outlook tells me. However, I went to a friend’s house to see if he could import it on his Windows’ Outlook 2011. It was, wham bam thank-you ma’am, the file imported without a problem.

It’s not just the main stream applications that I have a problem with; but I miss some of the smaller applications I had, that made my life easier. If anyone reading this is a Windows user, I would recommend these programs: POP Peeper (email checker), SuperCopier (used to efficiently make copy/move files), or even MS Paint which comes pre-installed with Windows.

In the end, I will use what is available to me and make the best of it. I just feel that some of the cross-platform applications for Mac, is like buying a knock off name brand piece of clothing. You think you are buying a Dolce & Gabbana; but in fact you are really getting Dulce & Cabana. It looks the same, it sounds the same; but there is something a bit off about the product. I have a theory why some applications available to both Windows and Apple users are the same, yet different. When I encounter problems like those in Excel and Outlook, I think it’s Microsoft’s way of having fun with Apple users. It’s their way of saying, you should have bought a PC. Of course this may just be my conspiratorial side coming out. Until someone can prove to me otherwise, I’m going with that theory.

The Mac, is the Mac Daddy


I have had my MacBook Pro or as I like to call it, AL, for almost a month now. In the beginning, there were times I questioned my sanity in deciding to change to a MacBook after years of being a Windows user. I couldn’t get it to do what I want, I couldn’t figure how to close applications properly, I kept confusing minimizing and hiding applications. Like any new relationship, there was a feeling out period and there were times that I thought to myself, this….. is….. not…. worth….. it….. I WANT A DIVORCE!!! In the end, all the early frustrations and sanity questioning has been worth it.

I love my Apple products and haven’t the faintest idea how I could have held on to my Apple hate for all these years. I don’t think I’ve become an Apple snob and praise all that is Apple.  Rather, I’ve seen what can happen when an operating system is designed with the user in mind, rather than being designed with the computer in mind.

The MBP is so much more than I could have hoped for.  The computer is lightning fast, quiet as a mouse, the battery life is amazing, and I am learning to love using a trackpad again. The Apple trackpad, might be one of the things I appreciate the most on the MBP. On my previous laptops, I hated the trackpad; but on the MBP I can two finger swipe to the left, four finger swipe up or down, two finger tap, three finger tap, two finger scroll left, right, up, down, clean my apartment. Ok, maybe not clean my apartment with a swipe of the trackpad; but you get the picture. The trackpad that was once the bane of my life on laptops, is now my new best friend.

I never knew that boot up times shouldn’t go on and on and on and on, even after logging in. More often than not, I would log in to my laptop and go do what I had to do and hope by the time I came back, the system was ready to start accepting some kind of input. Even those times I just put the laptop to sleep, it would be slow to wake-up. It was almost as slow as me, before my first three cups of coffee in the morning. Don’t even get me started on the ease of installing and uninstalling applications. Drag, drop, done.

Aside from my day to day use of the MBP, the one exterior component I find an absolute god send, is the MagSafe power connector. I have a tendency to trip over my laptop’s power cable when I’m at home or move my laptop without realizing the cord is wrapped around something. On my old laptops there was the danger of either bending the power nib or worse yet, snag the cord of the the laptop while walking by and watch helplessly as it crashed to the floor. Now I can skip, jump, drag my feet, or sashay around the laptop because the MagSafe pops off the MBP as easily as a magnet being pulled off a fridge.

As of late, something odd and refreshing is happening when I work on a Windows machine. When I sit in front of a Windows computer to help someone, I find myself looking for my Apple keys and having to take a moment to remember what key combination to use or worst of all, I try swiping on the track and nothing happens. It is then, that I remember what system I am sitting in front of and bemoan how limiting Windows is at times. I know there still is a lot Windows can do, that OS X can’t; but the way Apple has made their system user-friendly is ridiculous. In this sense, ridiculous is awesome.

Is the MacBook a perfect computer? For me it is; but for others it may not. It all depends on what you want. My overall experience so far, has been great, save for the annoyances with a couple of built-in applications; hello Mail and Reminders. The problems I’m experiencing with these two applications, I’ll save for a future venting of frustrations blog. Regardless of these two annoyances, the ease and simplicity of what Apple has created is amazing. I could not have asked for a better start to my new Apple way of life. I am looking forward to many more years of enjoyment and more than likely, adding a few more Apples to my basket of gadgets.

Ménage à Trois

Apple Love

Wikipedia defines a Ménage à trois, as the following:

… a French term which originally described a domestic arrangement in which three people having sexual relations occupy the same household – the phrase literally translates as “household of three”. In contemporary usage, the meaning of the term has been extended to mean any living relationship between three people, whether or not sex is involved.

Well, I am not having any sexual relation with my tech products; but I am having a love affair with my three tech devices. George the iPad, Al The MacBook Pro, and Yves The iPhone Five. These three techs keep me connected 24/7, whether I’m at home or on the road. I no longer have to worry if something I entered on my computer has synchronized to my cell and my tablet or any other combination thereof. The ease of synchronization between devices is what I have longed for, these past years.

The word ménage, is also French for cleaning. I feel as if I have cleaned house with my three main tech gadgets. I have swept aside my Windows and Android devices to come under the unified banner of Apple. Do I think Apple is the greatest and best thing ever invented? No. I do think it is the best means for me to get all that I want out of the technology I use.

As in any new relationship, the early stages are beautiful and whatever faults are found, can easily be overlooked. Over time these minor problems can become annoyances until one of two things happen. Either you decide to live with the annoyance or it bothers you so much that you decide to change. I have chosen to live with these annoyances, each day I am adapting and learning. Most of my annoyances, are in fact my fault as I am still new to the Apple world and still have a Windows mentality of doing things.

A few of these annoyances are when I try to close an application, when in fact all I’m doing is closing a window within the application. Minimizing when I know I should hide the application/window. If anyone reading this blog can explain to me the point of minimizing, I would love to hear it because to me, minimize in OSX is one step above useless. However, my biggest annoyance and this is one that I will never get to used to, is the on the fly system changes. I understand why I have to enter a password before I want to make changes to the system; but I can not for the life of me understand why changes to the system are committed without any confirmation. I find this practice dangerous, as the user can click on something without even realizing it and have the change applied.

When I look back at how I managed my technological lifestyle, I ask myself what I was thinking.  Prior to unifying under the Apple banner, my laptop was Windows-based, my cellphone was Android, and my on the go machine was an iPad. Ensuring that all the information I needed, updated everywhere was somewhat of a bitch. Although I did use Google Calender to keep track of meetings, I always had to log into it, to see what was happening when I was on my laptop. Now that I have iCal, at the click of a button I can see what I have coming up for the coming week. I have my personal and professional Gmail calendars, and my Facebook calendars all in one place.

Regardless of the above mentioned annoyances, I am absolutely loving my Apple experience. If I had only known before what life could be like if all my tech gadgets were under the same banner, I would have made the move years ago. It’s no longer me working to get my technology to get along with each other; but my technology seamlessly getting along without any input from me. I’m no longer embarrassed to go sit in a café and do some blogging, surfing or whatever on the net. I wasn’t embarrassed by the kind of laptop I was using (HP with Windows 7); but rather the mere fact it sounded like a vacuum cleaner.

I’m hoping this love-in with my tech will go on and on. I am now looking at new products I can get from Apple that will enhance my user experience, like an Apple TV or Time Capsule. Although everything Apple TV can offer me I can do through my XBox 360, the last vestige of Microsoft technology in my home. I’m not sure I can justify buying a Time Capsule, when I can buy a WiFi drive for half the price and do my backups that way. The only thing I have done, is add 4 more gig of RAM. I probably should have gotten 8Gb of RAM when I bought the computer; but for some reason chose not to. I don’t need the extra RAM at the moment; but rather I’m planning for the future. It was spend 100$ now to upgrade from 4 to 8 or spend 200$ or more in a few years time.

Regardless of what more I may want, buying something new is not something I foresee in the near future. I am just going to sit back for the moment and enjoy what I have and continue each day to learn more and more how good life is when one is unified under one tech banner.

The iPhone is in the House!!

The circle of going Apple is now complete. First came George “The iPad” 2, a little over year later came AL “The MacBook” Pro, and just days later, Yves “The iPhone” 5 completed the circle. Maybe a triangle would be a better analogy, as I only have 3 gadgets. Regardless, my move from Windows/Android is now complete and I am now full on Apple.

I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was going to wait until my contract was up before making the switch to an iPhone. However, fate chose another path for me. I was on my way to the Apple store and passed by a Bell store and went in for a little chat. My landline, internet, and cable are from Bell,. My cell contract was with another company; but I would be adding a 4th service with them so it was only natural to see what kind offer I could get if I signed up for a cellular plan. To quote the Godfather, Bell made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. From start to finish I think the process of getting my number ported having the phone set up and running was about 30 minutes. It took me longer to get my account number from my previous provider than anything else.

Yves the iPhone

Yves the iPhone

One of my first surprises when powering up the iPhone was the lack of or should that be non-existence of bloatware installed on the phone. The MacBook had no bloatware and now the iPhone. Just the lack of not having to fight my phone/laptop to get rid of useless crap made the move worth it.

I have all my music copied over. I did get a little frustrated when I wanted to convert some mp3 files I had on my SG1, I used for ringtones and notifications. I found many sites explaining how to create a ringtone; but not one stated I had to change something in preferences first. It took a 3-year-old post in the Apple forums to find the answer. Once again, iTunes stupidity shines through. Instead of allowing me to choose version x,y, or z, to create a file; I have to change preference settings each time I want to convert a file. Wouldn’t it be simpler to ask what format I want to convert to each time, and not make changes in the preference menu?

Although I did figure out how to do it eventually in iTunes, I did find a web site that converts any file in a few seconds. If anyone reading this wants to quickly, easily, and without having to install anything on their computer create ringtones, have a look at http://makeownringtone.com/. It can convert to/from a multitude of formats, you can choose the length you want, the start and end point for your file, and a host of other options are available. This is the easiest way to make a ringtone/alert file for Apple products. Even though I know how to do it in iTunes now, the above site, will be my go to way of making tones.

As you can guess, ringtones and notifications have already been assigned to those who need them. I’ve already had people test text/call me and each time, the specified tone sounded. This is the opposite of what was happening on the SG1. The SG1 would sound the correct ringtone maybe, just maybe 1 out of 20 times. The only thing the SG1 did correctly was emit the correct sound when receiving a text message.

Everything that needed moving from the SG1 has been. I have factory reset the SG1 and now it sits and waits to be used again. I think the SG1 will become my out-of-town phone. I am not allowed to go carrier free on the iPhone until my contract is up. If I had bought the phone at full price from Apple for 650$ + tax, I could put any SIM card I wanted into the phone. I just couldn’t justify spending all that cash just so I could change SIM cards when I’m out-of-town.

There are a few things I do miss from my Android phone days. I miss the lack of or rather non-existence of widgets. I had widgets setup on the SG1 for just about every task I did multiple times a day and for a couple of my social networks. I still don’t understand Apple’s aversion to widgets. How can something so great be rejected so whole heatedly? I am waiting for a jailbreak to come out for my version of iOS because there are some things I have on my iPad that I want on my iPhone. For example, pushing one button to quickly kill all open applications is a dream or to configure the phone so when connected to certain wifi networks, it should not lock. However, the most important thing missing for me, are the toggles. I used toggles for turning on/off wifi, 3G, Bluetooth, and to quickly enter airplane mode. These are the kind of things the notification center should have. It’s great to have the weather; but how many times a day does someone check the weather? The notification center has so much potential; but Apple for one reason or another has decided to not use it properly. This is the one time, I think Apple should take a page out of Android’s playbook. The Android notification center does kick the iPhone’s ass.

The iPhone may not have toggles and widgets by default; but I couldn’t be happier the SG1 has been laid to rest. I know I’m just a jailbreak away from getting the phone to where I want it. Some of you may think I should have stayed with an Android phone if I wanted such personalization. However, even on the SG1, I rooted the phone to do all that I wanted to. I look at jailbreaking as just another form of rooting on Android.