Sunday, April 01, 2007


10 Favorite Things About My Mac

Now that I've had a Mac again for a couple of days, I've been discovering all of the things that I like about the new system. There's definitely no buyers regret here. But I thought it might be worth listing a few of the things that either surprised me or especially please me as I switched back to a Macintosh for the first time in a decade.

My first computer was an Apple -- an Apple ][ -- and even though my professional life made it such that I didn't really feel that an Apple fit into it, with the latest batch of Intel based Macintoshes and the direction of the computer industry I'm able to go back to the brand that first got me into computing when I was a very young kid.

10. It Runs Windows.

That may strike the Mac purist as silly, but it's the reason why I was able to switch back. For a variety of reasons, it's important for me to have access to a Windows machine. I need to be able to access Access databases, for example, and professionally I work in a Windows world. And while I haven't pushed the Windows side yet, it runs it at as well as other machines.

9. A hidden UNIX

I've never had the patience to go ahead and install Linux -- it's perhaps so customizable that it's more than I really want to deal with. I like the software, I like computers, and I'm a programmer, but I'm less interested in infrastructure and more interested in getting things done at a higher level. And with the UNIX underlying it I'll get all of the power of a UNIX system when I want it, but without the hassles that you have to go about if you're dealing with the bazillion Linux distributions and the like. And besides, if I ever really wanted to go that route, I still could.

8. Easy access my other Windows machines and files

Moving files between the various machines -- both Windows and Mac -- was easier than I thought it would be. The networking was as straight forward as if I had added another windows machine. I had figured that it might be a challenge -- but the networking was just done. Like reason #10, it just further justified one of the things that I think we're seeing -- for many reasons, operating systems matter far less than they used to.

7. Two fingered scrolling

It's a shiny, beautifully machine -- but one of the things that I had gotten used to on the Windows side was a multiple-button mouse with the scroll-wheel. My fingers haven't quite natively learned the habits yet, but one of the things that I was thrilled to discover was that the touchpad was able to recognize multiple fingers on it -- and pulling two fingers was equivalent to the scroll wheel of old. Except it could work in all three directions. And having multiple fingers on the pad also meant that I had the equivalent to the right mouse button as well. Some of this will take some adjustment time -- but it's not adjusting to something because it is better or worse, but just that it's different.

6. Auto-adjusting screen brightening

I didn't even notice this at first -- until I realized that the screen got lighter or darker if the room light when on. It's not just a matter of controlling the brightness if I needed to -- it's that it'll do it for me, which most of the time will work just fine.

5. Keys that glow when you need and want them to

This is related to the previous item -- but not quite the same thing. If you're like me, there will be times that you work with your computer mainly in the dark. Late at night, or perhaps in front of a TV, or whatever. I know my keyboarding skills fairly well, but every computer keyboard is a little bit different, and the Mac's keyboard is different from a Windows keyboard so there are times where it is useful to have a second check.

4. Migrating iTunes

I've been a Windows iTunes user for several years, and I've been happy with my iPods. And while I'm not a fan of DRM, and I'm celebrating the idea some elements of the recording industry is recognizing that DRM creates more problems than it solves, I was thrilled that it wasn't that difficult to copy over my iTunes library from one computer to another. And I was even more impressed that if I copied over my iTunes library files -- iTunes Library.itl and iTunes Music Library.xml -- it would remember not only all of my playlists and ratings, but also my last play time and number of play counts, two things I use in many of my smart playlists.

I suspect that there's a way that I can take advantage of this and regularly sychronize the two libraries a bit more -- but the basic was certanly a good start.

3. The Dashboard

The Dashboard was one of those things that I had seen when I had looked at Macs at the Apple store and thought was pretty cool. I've seen similar sorts of things on other systems -- you get these tiny applications or widgets on things like customized google front pages, or in various sidebar applications. But having it something that I can access by a key press -- or even better, by customizing it so I can run my mouse to a corner, is very nice. And it is useful to gather all sorts of things -- weather, system performance, my mailbox.

2. Expose

Now this, unlike the Dashboard, I hadn't seen in any of my Mac demonstrations. I hadn't seen the description on Apple's website. I'm certainly someone that can easily fill my screen with multiple windows. And with a little bit of customization I can make it so I can easily shoot my mouse to a corner, and then quickly pick out the application and window that I want to go to next. And it's a far more efficient mechanism than Microsoft Vista's Flip 3d -- which might be showy, but Expose looks to be a whole lot more efficient for switching from one application to another.

1. Magnetic attaching power cord

My biggest complaint with my last two laptops was that I was having problems with my power cord. It had even be the cause of many of my (rare) repair calls. The MagSafe connector is one of those things that I wish every electronic device that was in a setting where you had to frequently plug and unplug -- or ran the risk of tripping over -- had. The power adapter has nothing to do with any operating system -- but it's enough right there even if you only used your Mac as a Windows machine.

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