Life with my Mac continued

      1 Comment on Life with my Mac continued

It has been about two months that I have lived with my MacBook. I had planned to write sooner but I realized that I was still suffering from Windows Comparison Syndrome. Well I have moved on to Windows Companion Syndrome so it is time to write again.

The MacBook has become my constant companion. Its relatively small size, near silent operation, and incredible battery life has allowed me to carry it with me everywhere. At school I use it as a replacement for paper. The other day I was at a meeting where everyone arrived with about six pages they printed from an email we all received. I just forwarded the email from my school account to my Mac and had the pages in front of me.

I took it with me to a conference in Prince George, BC. I bought an extra battery so that it would last the six and half hours of flight time. I loaded it with some Divx encoded movies and my entire MP3 collection. I picked up some JBL noise cancelling headphones. I was able to make the trip with a single battery!

During the conference I used the Mac to take notes. There were over 500 people and many people had laptops but almost no one used them. At the closing banquet I would have people come up to me and ask if I was taking dictation at the meetings. I was the only person who used a computer to take notes. I have 27 pages of notes from the conference waiting to be incorporated into a report.

My Dean leaned over to me at a meeting last week to say she was getting a Mac too. At Dawson I have been the only person at a meeting using a computer at the table. I suspect this will start to change.

The purpose of a laptop is to provide most of the functionality of a desktop in a package small enough to carry and with sufficient battery power to last through a three-hour meeting or longer. Yet many people did not see the laptop that way and neither did the manufacturers. Instead the laptop was looked on as a replacement for the desktop. The result was machines with processors that needed to too much power, large hard disks, and 15-inch or larger screens. The result was that up until recently most Windows based laptops had a battery life of no more than two hours, had fans that were disruptive in meetings, and were so large you couldn’t see over them at a meeting.

The MacBook seems to have the perfect balance. It is actually has the most powerful processor of all my computers. I use Microsoft Office on it and it runs all the Java development software I use in my classes. With my reading glasses on the 13.3-inch screen is very clear. Its sleep mode is perfect and is always available when I open the lid. The MacBook Pro suffers from desktop replacement syndrome and the MacBook Air’s processor is a touch too slow and the hard disk is too small (but I wouldn’t refuse one even if it ate crackers in bed).

Notice that I have for the most part praised the Mac hardware. The OS is another story. My take on the Apple approach is that as long as you want to do it the Apple way then all is well. Veer off the Apple path and its worse than Microsoft DOS 3.3.

I use Vista on my desktop machines. The Microsoft approach, as I interpret it, is that they want their interface, which I call the operating system’s ‘veneer’ to cover virtually every aspect of the computer. Years of DOS versus Mac comparisons seems to have driven the MS architects to stamp out the need for a command line interface everywhere. They were so good at that they needed to invent Power Shell to satisfy the legions of Linux users who needed their shell-scripting fix when they needed to manage a Windows server.

I don’t have the time or the interest in memorizing arcane commands that must be entered at a command prompt. I want a dialog box with checkboxes and radio buttons. What makes Office 2007 the best version of Office is that now most options are visual and not hidden behind the text of a menu (I was stupefied to see that Office for the Mac 2008 is nowhere as graphically intensive as the Windows version). I sure as hell do not want to ever type (see my previous blog on the Mac for a description of what this is):

defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles YES

Even worse is the fact that Apple does not want you to know about these command lines. If anyone knows where there is a central repository of these commands then please let me know.

My take on the Apple ‘veneer’ is that it was designed to cover only what Apple’s architects felt were the tasks a typical consumer would perform. Work outside the lines Steve Jobs and company have drawn for you and end up in the land of command lines and shell scripts.

When I use my Mac at meetings, cruise the net, write blogs, or do anything that Apple wants me to do all is great. But when I stray outside the lines I come to realize that those cute Mac vs. PC ads are backwards. The weight-challenged actor is really the Mac and Drew Barrymore’s boyfriend is really a Vista machine.

One issue that particularly bothered me was the inability to synchronize email, calendaring, and contacts with my PC. I consider Outlook superior to Mail, iCal, Address Book and especially Microsoft’s own abomination called Entourage. With the announcement of the iPhone 2.0 Apple also introduced a rebranding of the .Mac online service call now to be called MobileMe. This new service will support synchronizing between Outlook and the Mac. I’m waiting for it go live and it should be worth the $99 a year.

So it comes down to the right machine for the job. The Mac will be my portable companion and Vista will rule my desktops.

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About Ken

I am the Program Coordinator and Chairperson of the Computer Science Technology program at Dawson College in Montreal, Canada. I am also a Program Consultant to and part-time instructor in the Computer Institute of Concordia University's School of Extended Learning.

One thought on “Life with my Mac continued

  1. Dominic

    Hey Ken,
    I remember you in class laughing about my Powerbook and telling us that long time ago you were a Mac user. Glad to see that you left your gold old PC and came back in the powerful world of Unix.

    Dominic

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