Going Mac – first impressions, part 2

It was great to log into my blog stats last night and see that my first “Going Mac” post garnered so many hits.  Apparently, the post was linked by a few Mac sites, and my visitors jumped from about a dozen of my friends and family to several hundred total strangers!  🙂  Anyway, I also got a lot of comments on my post, and I’m glad you’re all apparently enjoying my little adventure.  It must be fun for Mac users to see PC users make the jump.

So, last night was my second night with the new Macs, but since I’ve had so little time with the machines so far, I’m still on my “first impression”.  For those of you catching up, here are links to the story so far:

Switching Sides…
Going Mac – first impressions…

So, I have the Mac Pro set up and fully connected to both the internet and my old PC.  But the iMac, the computer I bought for the wife and kids, is still not connected.  Time to get that going, and let me tell you, although I’ve been a computer user, hacker and tinkerer for almost 30 years, and consider myself an expert in many respects, networking is my Kryptonite.  I dread approaching any networking task, because for some reason, I just don’t “get” most of it.  But I’d heard that Macs were different, that Apple had made networking truly easy and painless.  I had experienced some of that on the first night, when I had found it so easy to network my new Mac to my old PC.  So, how hard would it really be to get an Airport-equipped iMac to share the internet connection of my Mac Pro?  As it turned out, it was basically effortless, as you Mac folks already know.  Set up Internet Sharing over Airport on the Mac Pro with a couple of clicks, set up a network connection on the iMac to receive the connection with a couple more clicks, and presto!  My wife is marvelling at how the iMac is fully functional with exactly one cord (the power cord) coming out the back of it.  I quickly set up different user accounts for the wife and kids (and one for myself), and tell them their computer is online.  The only thing not working there is e-mail, which I haven’t set up yet and which I’m not going to until the weekend, when I have time to transfer all their old e-mail, address books and settings, which I plan to do with a nifty little $10 utility called Outlook2Mac.  I know there are other, free ways to do this, but this is the simplest and fastest way to get it done, and at this point in my investment, $10 is a drop in the bucket.

(A Mac buddy of mine is now telling me I’ve hooked up my iMac incorrectly – it’s piggybacking on the Mac Pro, when it should be getting its connection off my hardware router.  I’ll have to fix this when I get home today, but hopefully that shouldn’t be too hard either.)

Now it’s back to the Mac Pro.  I decide I want to start getting my music on the machine.  I have a collection of over 600 CDs, and a 60GB iPod already loaded up with a bunch of that.  What could be easier than connecting the iPod and getting all my music from it?  Well, it turns out that Apple doesn’t make everything so easy.  Did you know that while you can move music from your computer to your iPod, you can’t move music from your iPod to your computer?  I’d love to hear the justification behind that, and if someone says “DRM”, I’m liable to punch something.  These are my CDs, I burned the mp3 files myself, and I have the right to move them anywhere I damn well please.  Oh well, surely there’s a way to do this anyway, in spite of iTunes lack of sanction – and there is.  The answer is Music Rescue.  There are a number of programs out there that do the same thing, but this is the one I used, and it worked like a charm.  This ability should really be built into iTunes, but as long as it’s not, there will always be hacks around it.

After offloading all my music from my iPod, I play around with iTunes for a while, and enjoy listening to music without having to try and hear it over the din my PC used to create.  But iTunes is nothing new for me; I’ve used it on the PC for a couple of years already.  I do note how much more responsive and smooth it is on the Mac.  Being a huge music lover, this is good stuff.

Now I’m ready to try a game.  I want to test the graphics hardware, something I haven’t really done yet.  I have the Mac version of Call of Duty 2, and I’m going to crank all the options up and see how it performs.  A comment on installations:  back in the day, I used Atari and Commodore computers, and I was an Amiga user for several years.  Those computers “installed” programs similar to the way a Mac does today – you just drag a large file, which contained the executable code and data all in one file, to wherever you wanted it on your hard disk.  When Commodore went bankrupt and I bought my first PC in 1993, I had to get used to the whole idea that an installation wasn’t just moving a single large file where I wanted it.  It involved actually running an installation program that dumped many files all over your computer.  I hated it back then, I got used to it over time, and now that I’m able to once again “install” programs with a minimum of fuss, I realize I’ve merely suppressed my hatred for PC installation methods all these years out of necessity.  The way that PCs handle program installations is just plain stupid.  A program should contain all the data it needs inside a single large file, and that’s how it is on Macs apparently.  Hurray for them, and hurray for me getting back on a platform that understands this.

Anyway, I get COD2 installed easily, run it, crank all the settings – and wow.  Silky smooth graphics with everything turned up.  I didn’t run an actual frames-per-second test, but you know it when your game is running over 60 fps, and this one was.  Today, I’m going to install World of Warcraft, which is something I play almost every day.  My PC gave me 20-30 fps with WoW.  Yeah, not too good, I know.  I expect the number to be much more impressive on the Mac.

One final note:  I have a Logitech G7 wireless gaming mouse on order from Amazon, and it can’t come soon enough.  For everything else that Apple does right, they sure don’t know how to make a decent mouse.  Never have, and I wonder if they ever will.  At least the mighty mouse is better than the hockey puck, but it’s still not a good mouse, and I couldn’t play COD2 for long with it.  Jerky and unresponsive, it’s too small and difficult to handle, has no weight to it, and doesn’t track well.  And what is Apple’s phobia with mouse buttons all about?  Just make a regular mouse, please – it would be the final touch on an otherwise outstanding machine.

Oh well, even Apple isn’t perfect.  But they get closer than most.

So, them’s my first impressions.  I am enjoying my new Macs a great deal, and I plan to spend much of the weekend digging in and learning all about how they work (and playing World of Warcraft at a smooth framerate).  I bought myself a couple of good books (Switching to the Mac and Mac OS X Tiger, both from the excellent Missing Manual series), and I’m sure I’ll find no shortage of things to learn and discover.  That’s it for now, but keep checking in – I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about the new Macs in the future as well.  Thanks for reading!

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