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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.

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The Mac, is the Mac Daddy

TheMacDaddy

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 Good, The Bad, and The Getting There

Well, it’s been a little over a week I have been a proud Mac user. Well, I don’t know about proud, because of some of the things I have to search for answers to, are things I can do blindfolded, with one hand tied behind my back, dangling 50 feet in the air if I was on a Windows machine. I feel as if I’m learning to use a computer all over again.

I have finally begun to master the gigantic Macbook Pro trackpad and no longer move the cursor by mistake while I’m typing. I’ve learned that instead of holding my hands straight in front of the keyboard, I have to type on the computer at an angle. The right hand is at about 5 o’clock and the left is at about 7 o’clock. I wish there was a quick way of turning off the trackpad for those times I don’t need it, when it becomes more of a hindrance than anything else.

Although I find the trackpad to be on the large side, I do see the benefits of such a large pad. It allows for many more movements to be configured on to it, for performing routine tasks. I have configured the trackpad for pretty much all my swiping needs. Well, I’ve configured it as much as I’m allowed to by Apple. I must tip my hat to Apple for the little videos that go with each type of trackpad configuration. I thought it was ingenious to show people exactly how to move, rather than describing how to move.

I’m still moving between desktops when all I want to do is move one word to the right or left. This might be my biggest frustration to date. Sometimes I even look down at the keyboard before doing the move one word left or right and there is a part of me saying don’t touch the “control” key; but there is 20 odd years of experience over-riding that urge and when I tap the “CTRL” key, I curse myself for having not listened to my little voice.

I still miss some of the applications I used under Windows. I’m still surprised, there are so many applications not available to Mac users. Even though I have been able to find some, for the most part the ones I really want are not available. I don’t think it is a problem with the App Store, as the small programs I have downloaded did not come from the App Store. I find Microsoft Office for Mac  similar to the Windows version; but with some of the best parts taken out of it. I sometimes think I’m using MS Office lite. I tried to use Open Office; but I can sum it up in three words, I hated it.

I absolutely love the batter life on a MacBook Pro. Over the course of the Xmas holidays I spent more time with it unplugged than plugged in. I could not believe how long I could go between charges. I also like that I can lie in bed and have the backlit keyboard. My fiancée can sleep and I can see what I am typing and don’t have to peck and poke at keys in the dark, hoping I hit the right one. I don’t understand why more laptop makers did not do this. It seems like such a brilliant idea. However, I’m not a fan of the keyboard itself. I do a lot of touch typing and I am very particular about my keyboards. Whenever I would go laptop shopping, the first thing I would test, was the feel of the keyboard. The problem with Macs, is that all the keyboards are the same. I could go with a wireless Bluetooth keyboard because I do like the feel of that keyboard; but that seems kind of silly.

I’m still amazed how easy it is to install applications downloaded outside the App Store. There’s no next, click here, click there, click on that, no click for me puppet, click for me. Just drag and drop into Applications. Could anything be simpler? Never mind I had to confirm with two people how to delete an application on a Mac. I thought the first guy was pulling my leg, until I asked my brother how to uninstall something and he told me just drag it to the trash. Wow, wow, wow. WOW!!!

There are a couple of features I’m still not sure exactly what they are for. For example, what is the point of Launchpad? Any application you may want to run can easily be launched using Spotlight. I know what Dashboard is for; but it seems like a waste being its own page. It would be better if the widgets could go directly on the desktop.

If I had to rate my experience after one week, I think I would give it an 8 out of 10. The two lost points are because sometimes I feel Apple wants me to do things their way. Apple limits customization to changing the desktop background only. Points are also lost because of frustration learning to things the Apple way. I know these frustrations in time will give diminish; but for now they are present and accounted for on an almost daily basis.

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