Friday, January 19, 2007

My First Mac

A few days ago I received a Mac Mini I ordered directly from Apple Canada. I could have bought one locally but I was curious about how they're mail order would work.

Although the advertised prices make the mini look relatively cheap, by the time you upgrade the memory and hard disk to reasonable amounts, and add a mouse and keyboard it's ended up almost twice as expensive as a comparable PC.

My first chuckle came when the mouse and keyboard arrived in a box about six times the size of the box the computer came in!

Less of a chuckle when I found that I couldn't use the wireless keyboard and mouse until they were set up - which you couldn't do without a wired usb keyboard and mouse. This wasn't a problem for me since I had spares, but if this was your only computer (or if you only had an older PS2 keyboard/mouse) you'd be pretty frustrated. It might be nice if Apple's web ordering system warned you about this when you ordered a mini with a wireless mouse and/or keyboard.

Other than that, set up was quick and easy. It recognized my Samsung SyncMaster 215TW and set the right resolution automatically - something Windows handles but Linux never seems to be able to.

Of course, the first thing it did was start downloading updates - a good thing, I guess, but not something I like being bothered about. I was sad to see that the updates required a restart. I guess it's not just Windows anymore that wants to restart all the time. I thought maybe the first update was an exception, but the next one (a day later) also required a restart. Updates on Linux don't seem to require this unless there's a kernel change.

For the most part it connected to our Windows network with no problems. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to access network drives and printers but not too bad.

Next, I downloaded some software - Firefox, TextMate, and Parallels. This is where I really felt my unfamiliarity. On Windows, installing software is generally pretty easy - you run the installer and it does its thing. On the Mac I found it quite confusing. You download a ".dmg" file (disk image?) When you open that you see some files, and an icon appears on the desk top (the "disk"?). Now what? Firefox comes up with some graphic which I think is telling you to drag the program to the Application folder. It might help if there was a text explanation as well as the cryptic graphic. Of course, I made the mistake of running programs from the disk images which gave me grief because they were then running (even after I closed the window - another Mac / Windows difference). Experienced Mac users are probably laughing at my newbie confusion, but it's far from clear or consistent.

Eventually I got my programs installed. I haven't played with TextMate yet, but I've heard a lot of good things about it so I'm keen to give it a spin.

One of the first things I did was install Windows XP with Parallels. I could have used Bootcamp to dual boot Windows but having to reboot to run different software is pretty ugly. Parallels did a great job of installing Windows with no interaction (except for putting in the second cd).

It seems ironic that virtually the first thing I do with my Mac is install Windows! But since our business is all Windows software, it's a crucial feature.

I had downloaded the new Parallels release candidate since I liked the sound of the new "coherence" mode. It's awesome. I have my Windows task bar (set to auto hide) at the bottom of the screen, my Mac menu at the top, and my dock (also set to auto hide) on the left. Suneido seems to run fine. Our test suite runs as fast (if not a bit faster) than the brand new dual core PC I bought recently. It's pretty impressive to have OS X and Windows programs sharing the screen seamlessly.

I'm still having a little trouble getting used to the Mac mouse and keyboard. I keep trying to right click on things! And I keep trying to use Ctrl+C for copy instead of Apple+C. At least with Parallels Windows programs seem to accept Apple+C. And Home and End scroll to the top and bottom instead of going to the beginning or end of the line. Apple+right arrow seems to be end of line, but Apple+left arrow doesn't seem to work, at least in Firefox. Some of this is probably configurable.

Now I just need to install Ubuntu in Parallels and I'll have OS X, Windows, and Linux all in one wonderfully compact system.

Disclaimer - calling this my first Mac is stretching it a bit. I've worked with everything from Apple II's to Lisa's to Mac's, but I've never actually owned one for myself.

No comments: