The iMac: Week 1

So last week, I got my very first Apple. I bought a used iMac with a 20-inch screen, 2 GB of memory, and a 250 GB hard drive. Not the most powerful machine, but it’ll handle later versions of OS X if and when I upgrade it. So how is it?

First, get it out of your head that I’m going to trash all my Windows boxes, buy a Prius, and start drinking iced coffee. Not happening. OS X is interesting and fun to use, but I still like my Start button. Yes, I’m aware of Finder in the menu bar at the top. What’s nifty is the icon bar at the bottom. Out of the box, it has Finder (obviously), Safari, iTunes, and a few utilities. I later added iWork and Firefox. It’s very similar (and probably what prompted) the pinned taskbar icons in Windows Vista/7. (Put that back. Do you hear me, Ballmer? I want my Windows 7 interface back!) Only funner.

Like I did with Windows, I eschewed the built-in browser for Firefox. Safari was a bit wanting, even after installing Snow Leopard. I want the familiar , and I never use Safari on my Windows machines anyway. (Yes, it’s installed.) Firefox installed fast enough, and after consulting the help menu, I was able to get it listed in Applications and down in the icon bar.

Oh, and the Help menu? It’s actually helpful. Type in a question how to do something, and occasionally, it does it for you. Awesome.

OS X is a Unix variant, so it has a lot in common with Linux, except… Well, there’s a reason Linux is not a prevalent home operating system. Apple names your drives and network connection with friendly names. My hard drive is called “Hard Drive.” Simple, eh? Windows calls my laptop’s “C”. Another simple idea. What does Linux call your hard drive? “dev/sba1”. Huh?

There are some things I miss from Windows. I’ve gotten to be a hotkey kind of guy. I use Ctrl-C and Ctrl-X  to copy or cut text or even files and Ctrl-V to paste. I’ve gotten really good at Ctrl-Z, which undoes that mistake you just made. Can’t do that on Apple.

And iWork doesn’t quite measure up to Office. (Office for Mac is usually where iWork and Office for Windows get a lot of their new features.) But Office had a ten year head start, with both well ahead of OpenOffice, the open-source alternative. I’ll continue to use Pages for now, but likely, I’ll be using a stray Office 2010 license and running it over WINE.

The piece I want to play with is iLife. Photo management and GarageBand. Neat toys to play with.

But what do I like best about this new machine? The iMac was pitched with needing fewer wires. And it does. It’s an all-in-one unit. You get the screen and the speakers. And the speakers, ladies and gentlemen, rocked my nuts off. As soon as I had all my iTunes transferred over to the Mac, I cranked that puppy up. When I get a little more time on my hands, I’m popping Casino Royale, Star Trek, and Iron Man in and turning the volume up full blast!

Platform Promiscuity

With my new job, I’m not only neck deep in all that Microsoft has to offer (except for those sweet, sweet MSDN subscriptions), but I’m also finding myself working a lot with Linux, the open-source, community-built Unix-like operating system that does everything Windows and Macs do, except for free. (Usually.) Which means I’m now, by job description, bi.

I mean bi-processorial. I work in two platforms – Windows and Linux. And I plan to bring this form of computing deviance home.

Back in the summer, the old tower reached the end of its useful life span. I’d expected it to be the laptop that would go first, but the tower began wheezing and grunting just trying to load a wireless connection. One day, it started blue-screening on a regular basis, something it had never done in five years. Yes, Windows-bashers, most PC’s don’t blue screen on a regular basis. If they do, you need to look at where you’ve been on the Internet.

The bottom line is it was time to move to Windows 7. How was it? It’s definitely not Windows Vista. For one thing, the User Access Control is nowhere near as annoying as it is in Vista. It took considerably less time to setup than it did to reimage the PC. When it came time to replace the laptop, I took it a step further. I installed Windows 7 Pro on the new machine. The only thing I had to add in terms of drivers was the touchpad. Apparently, left to its own devices, the Dell touchpad will interpret your thumbs being in the same room as the keyboard as a mouse movement and send your cursor flying all over the place. A quick visit to Google revealed the glaringly obvious solution: Use the Dell driver, stupid.

Hey, what can I say? They spoiled me with not having to load drivers for the wireless, the video, the sound, etc.

But what of the old tower?

It is sitting in the corner quietly collecting dust, waiting for its fate. There’s nothing wrong with it, except we ran all the CRT monitors out of the house when I bought my flat screen. Nita uses a laptop. AJ has a flat screen, as do I. What possibly could we want with the old glass boat anchors we had sitting around?

Well, now I need a monitor. Why? I have found use for the old tower, assuming I remember to get some canned air to clear it out. For I now have an Ubuntu disk. So, what, you ask, is an Ubuntu disk and why would I want to use it on a tower?

Ubuntu is a user-friendly version of Linux that works great as an alternative to Windows or Macintosh. Plus, you buy one distribution of Linux, you can pretty much use all of them. And let’s face it, it’s been quite a few years since I seriously got my geek on. Linux is still very much a nerd’s OS.

But I don’t stop there. I have said in the past that I didn’t want a Mac because I can’t jusify what is now an Intel box running BSD Unix (a cousin to Linux) with a pretty interface.

Well, kids, I now have two reasons to want one.

First off, if I’m going to be running a Linux box with all the bells and whistles that make it not all that different from the boxes powered by Windows and OS X, why not go all the way? Why not get a highly-proprietary Intel box running BSD with a pretty interface? Lots of people like the pretty interface. And besides, if you’re going to go with two platforms, why not all three?

Of course, someone out there is probably suggesting I find a way to get an Amiga box. Remember Amigas? Well, dude, that ship sailed a long time ago for the Western Lands, never to return to computing Middle Earth.  Nor do I plan to run Chrome, which is dependent on an Internet connection or SCO Unix, which managed to litigate itself into irrelevance.

But why not go for all three? We have an annoying tendency to get stupidly tribal about things: Our religion, our politics, our cars, even the type of computers we own. One of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard was when someone wanted to lecture me about how ATT was the best wireless provider out there. This, of course, I found humorous because, while ATT claims to cover 97% of America, I apparently live in the other 3%. His rationale? Until a couple weeks ago, you could only have an iPhone on ATT. To him, the Apple trademark was all the reason one needed. To me?

Steve Jobs is a technology CEO. Therefore, Steve needs to earn my respect on an ongoing basis. So does ATT, which it consistently fails to do.

But then I’ve always despised any tribe that would have me.