8/29/05

PowerBook Day 1 and Following

Summary: So far, so good!

I've already talked about the reasons that led up to pitching my Windows PCs (in Dude, You're Getting a Mac!.) Then I discussed the processes I went through in determining "What next?" (in After Windows, What?). Today, we're looking at my first impressions, the things that worked, and what did not.

Installation.
Installation was fairly quick and mostly flawless. Initially, I decided to connect to the Internet via the wireless access point, just for convenience. (My desk was crowded with other things.) It did not connect! I heard how it was almost automatic but after I entered the credentials for my WLAN, it refused my connection. So, I switched to wired. (Later, I found that I did not know Mac conventions well enough to realize when there is a pull-down list. Where it asked me for the WLAN password, I should have "pulled down" to select "128 bit WEP key" as the option, and then enter the key as HEX digits. I found that easily enough later. (And it is almost automatic, and does connect easily and without thought on my part, once set up.)

I was a bit disappointed to find no "Welcome to Mac-land" video, or something like that. Generic Windows XP had one. My Windows Viao had one. I found it helpful, and wished there was one on this PowerBook, as I was completely new to it. Maybe some people find it all intuitive, but not to me and my Windows-conditioned hands. Much later, I discovered that the first thing that starts up is "Finder." Finder has "Help." Help has "Mac Help." And Mac Help has everything I needed. I found it, eventually. ("Humph! 'Master of Science,' indeed," my wife would say.) I am learning my way around, and "Mac Help," helped. I'm still learning new keyboard moves for things. Took me a long while to learn that while "Delete" is like "Backspace" on Windows. "fn-Delete" gets me a forward delete. And I'm still learning what+home gets me cursor-left, "home," and "top of document" kinds of things. Old hands, new movements. Or old brain?

Exploring.
I poked around a bit. I figured out, with the help of Help, where to find applications. I fired up some applications. I found that there was a 30 day demo of MS Office. (More on that in a bit,) I opened up the Terminal. Sure enough, UNIX!. And There was ssh and scp! They were on my must have list. I have them, and the work. There were no X applications by default. (Later I found I could install them off of the installation disk, except that it will need more space than I have. I need to figure out what to do about that later (besides kicking myself for not getting a larger disk). I suspect what I will do is move all my photos off to a Linux server (the Shuttle I want) and perhaps get rid of some applications I don't/won't use.

I did install ClamXav, an open-source antivirus program. Viruses on Macs are not a problem. But, I don't want a PC virus to get forwarded in a document from my PowerBook! And the price was right. So, I learned that I just drop the ".app" file where I want it to sit, I learned how to link to it from the Desktop or the Dock (like the Task Menu in Windows).

Mac Vulnerability.
That day, I received in e-mail "US-CERT Technical Cyber Security Alert TA05-229A," which you all will remember (just kidding) declared, "Apple Mac Products are Affected by Multiple Vulnerabilities." "Aha! Stinkin' vulnerabilities on Macs, too!" you say. Well, yeah, It's software. Remember. My dumping Windows was not because of security problems or how big a target Microsoft systems have become. It was usability, pure and simple. It took too much effort. (If you forget, go back and read "The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back," in Dude, You're Getting a Mac!.) I clicked on the little Apple logo, which I had figured out pulls down a system menu), selected "Software Update," and got the fix. I rebooted an was up and running again in short order.

I went to the Network and found "Workgroup." Of course, I do not use that default, so I looked for and found "Avolio." (Clever, huh?) I found my shares and copied over "My Documents"—the ones that I needed. Things, for the most part just worked.

MS Office.
I mentioned that it came with "Office 2004 for Mac Test Drive." So, I tested it. But, I also listened to friends and colleagues. I really, really wanted to use Open Office. I mean it is just wonderful to think of using a free replacement for the very expensive Office Suite. Recall, in a previous installment I wrote, "Complete compatibility with MS Office." Not "almost." So, while I tried it, I also downloaded and tried NeoOffice/J. It is "a fully-featured set of office applications (including word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing programs) for Mac OS X... Based on the OpenOffice.org office suite..."

NeoOffice/J is great (and free), but when I opened one PowerPoint, somethings were just a bit off. A friend suggested that it was because it was based on OpenOffice Version 1 rather than 2. I believe him. I am just not sure I can wait. There us an additional reason to buy Office, which I'll discuss next time.

Next time
And next time I'll talk about
  • E-mail clients,
  • Browser,
  • Instant Messenger, and
  • calendar, address book, etc.


My friend and colleague Greg Shipley (CTO of Neohapsis and contributing editor for Network Computing magazine) offered his opinions:
I made the same switch about a year and a half ago, when my Dell laptop keyboard broke for the gazillionth time (I literally lost count). I've always liked *NIX under the hood, but like you noted I can't turn my back on the applications. And the window manager / GNOME / KDE wars on Linux have made my head hurt. Everyone does something different.

Back to the applications: in my world, that's Word, Excel, Visio, and Powerpoint. And I do mean those apps - not an equivalent. Every year I play around with OpenOffice, and every year I think "wow, cool!" until I get a file that uses some advanced Word formatting or some Excel trick, and it just doesn't work right in OpenOffice.

But Office on OS X? While it has not been flawless, it does almost everything I need it to do. Plus, anyone who spends anytime behind the wheel of Powerpoint will kick it to the curb after 30 minutes with Keynote (the Apple presentation package). It's not even a contest.

I've now had my Powerbook for a little over a year, and it's been flawless. It's easy to patch. My applications work. Hardware just works. My corporate VPN client works fine, and I can run the MS remote desktop client to get into our terminal servers at work. Keynote makes my ridiculous speaking schedule seem less ridiculous due to the HOURS it saves me (not to mention my presentations look better!), and when I get lonely I can still fire up gcc and do stuff in a shell. nmap and p0f don't have problems compiling. Heh.

And the UI smokes everything out there.


One quick postscript on QuickBooks. I decided that for now I would leave it on my wife's (my old) PC and just use it from there. Later, if and when I get Microsoft Office for Mac, it will come with "Virtual PC," which I can use to access my old copy of QB.

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