by Mike Shea on 13 March 2007
It's about sixty degrees today and the strange time change shift lets me sit outside and write my first article from the deck of my new house on my new MacBook. I've never owned a personal laptop before so it's nice to take the opportunity to see what it's like to combine nature (as natural as a townhouse back lot, but at least it looks out over woods) and technology.
I have now had my MacBook for three weeks and I love it. My only regret is not considering the MacBook Pro a little more, but the MacBook does just fine. There isn't any one single area I can point to and say "this is why Macs are better than PCs." It isn't any one particular feature, although there are a lot of nice little things, but it is nice to have a single computer that is designed from top to bottom, hardware and software, around human beings rather than re-factoring human behavior around the quirks of a PC.
The Mac "Just Works" most of the time. There are a few things that don't, however.
Front Row just plain sucks. It runs slow, hangs at odd times, and sometimes just grinds my entire machine to a halt. It doesn't help that I'm usually using Front Row when my wife and I want to watch Heroes. It's hard to explain why I have a new Mac if I can't get the fracking thing to work when we want to watch a show.
iPhoto and a lot of the iLife applications seem to hog up a lot of memory. I'm not a fan of iLife and don't plan on buying any upgrade to it when the next OSX comes out.
The next OSX is going to run me $130. I just got a new mac and I'm already going to have to pay for a new OS. At least it has some features I want like Time Machine. I can't think of a thing I would get with Vista.
I'm tired of waiting for Apple TV and, without high-def movies or shows, it has little advantage over DVDs or broadcast TV but I'm still going to spend $300 on it because its Apple. I hate myself.
I'm tired of waiting for a widescreen iPod. I'm almost on the verge of buying an 80gb Video iPod but I know that ten days after buying it, Apple will release a new widescreen one that runs like an iPhone.
Most good software costs money. There seemed to be a lot more opensource alternatives for basic things on a PC and there is a lot of opensource on the Mac but most of the best programs cost money. TextMate, BBEdit, Yojimbo, and any decent word processor takes cash. On the other hand, I don't mind spending money on a program that works well.
Where the hell is my IrfanView? I miss being able to easily convert, resize, or resample an image. I can do most everything I want with Preview but there are a few basic functions that require a much larger application than I am willing to install. I miss having just a simple image editor on my Mac.
I know I'm supporting evil. Apple is Evil, there is no doubt about it. Steve Jobs talks a lot of anti-DRM talk, and that's all good, but he still wraps independent music in DRM when no one forces him to do so. The money I pay for my Mac, the money I pay for iTunes, it all helps fund DRM. I'm part of the problem.
It wont' work with my stupid HP 1018 Laser Printer. I hate having to boot Windows just to print a PDF.
I'm sitting outside on the nicest day so far this year typing up an article about how much I love my mac.
Downloading and installing applications is very easy.
I love watching the functionality of Quicksilver for Mac grow. This really is a pretty powerful app even though I spend more time learning and tweaking it than I save by using it.
I joined a new club. It's nice to watch Mac Break or the Merlin Show and actually know what the hell they're talking about. No one ever felt special owning a Windows XP machine but, gods help me for saying it, I like being part of the Mac culture.
The MacBook has the first touch pad I've ever liked. It's still no actual mouse but with its large size and its multi-touch capability, I use it a lot more than I ever used a touchpad on a Dell.
Viruses? Trojans? Spyware? Firewalls? What's all that IT mumbo jumbo? It is so nice to use a computer and not worry about half of South Korea trying to use my system in a zombie attack against Yahoo. People shouldn't have to be IT security engineers just to use a PC.
It all works out of the box and it's well designed enough to remove my desire to tweak. The layout is nice, the taskbar is nice, everything is well designed out of the box. I did end up tweaking my system a little, but more just for fun than because I felt like my system needed to be rebuilt. Anyone who looks at a typical windows desktop, all cluttered with icons and pasted with images of ugly babies or mountains, should know how horrifying that type of UI really is.
Wireless connectivity "just works". I was up and online within 20 minutes of opening the box. It finds networks and connects very easily. Even Bluetooth devices work really well and really easily. It also doesn't require any sort of external tumor-like dongle for bluetooth or wireless connectivity. It's all wired right in.
I have a huge new selection of excellent text editors. I love text editors. It is the primary productivity app I use regularly. I write blog entries, short stories, email, and all sorts of other stuff in text editors first and then format them with other bloaty software. Macs have at least three really good text editors: BBEdit, TextWrangler, and TextMate. The kids these days seem to prefer TextMate and I'm going to try it out for 30 days before buying it. Textwrangler is free but seems to lack the markup capability. BBEdit costs money as well. Textmate has the simplest default interface, something I love, but it lacks an ability to edit directly to an FTP site, something I love with TextWrangler. I guess there's nothing wrong with having three text editors, but I'd prefer to have one perfect one. Note: I just found out how TextMate will search for links from Google directly, saving me all of the time of hunting down hyperlinks to topics in this article. It also automatically marks up links in Markdown, my new favorite way to write articles.
I love that OSX is really a Unix variant. Any OS that has Rsync built in can't be far off. It even has crontab! I love that all of my l33t Unix skillz transferred right over to my mac. It's like having the most powerful OS underneath the most beautiful OS.
When I first bought a new fountain pen, my beloved Pelikan M-1000, I ended up writing about two or three short stories just because I wanted to use the pen. With my MacBook I've written 10,000 words of The Gray Wolf, my new novelette. I won't say that my mac made me any more productive, but I am writing a lot more than I was.
I spend a lot of my time in Safari and I don't really see a need to go to Firefox. Once I enabled tabbed browsing, it ran exactly as I would expect any browser to. All of my favorite sites seem to work fine.
iTunes still handles all of my multimedia. I actually spent $20 on Cover Scout to hunt down album art for all of my music and audio books. It took a good couple of hours but now my stuff looks great in that fancy gitchy album filter. Cover Scout was a recommendation on Mac Break.
Media Fork lets me rip all of my DVDs to H.264 which is a real standard, I believe, and plays in iTunes. Yes, it would be nice if Xvid played in iTunes, but I'll live with h.264. I'm a long way from digitizing all of my DVDs, there's no reason I can't just grab one off the shelf and play it if I want to.
Two things I'm not nearly doing as much of include Everquest and Warcraft. I wanted to kick my PC Gaming habit over the next two years and, if these past three weeks are any indication, I'm a lot closer than I thought. I hate booting up my PC. I hate swapping the DVI cable from my MacBook to my PC. I love Warcraft when I'm actually in it but most of the time I'm more comfortable with my Mac hooked up. I can't say why, but I just like it.
Half of my fun with my Mac has been reading, listening, and watching all of the various sites, podcast, and video casts from the secret society of Mac evanglists. Below are my choice cuts:
Macbreak Weekly: This regular podcast is one of my favorites. Leo Laporte leads a great show with a lot of fun personalities. It's a great show and one I'd recommend to anyone inside or outside of the Mac circle.
Macbreak: A somewhat less regular video podcast, also led by Leo Laporte. This one often spends more time on things one can actually DO with their Mac. A lot of Merlin Mann's original Quicksilver introductions came from here.
This Week In Tech: The last of my Leo Laporte recommendations. This one isn't just about Macs but it includes a lot of Apple news and acts as a great barometer of what's flowing through the tubes of the internets.
The Merlin Show: This is Merlin Mann's new show. He broadcasts it in HD which looks great and does a lot of productivity interviews with people he knows in many walks of life as well as some instructional shows on Quicksilver. The show is just getting its sea legs but so far it's great and the price is perfect.
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