20 east – now powered by Mac!

It’s been a long time coming but I finally bit the bullet today and invested in a brand-spanking new iMac, just like the one shown above. I was initially tempted by the low price available for the 20″ older model but in the end the greatly improved spec and right up to date technology swung the balance in favour of the newest model. We aren’t ‘power users’ and the 27″ screen would just swamp the study so I’ve gone for the lowest spec 21.5″ version, which is still light years ahead of the 2yr old PC it is replacing. The PC has been making ghastly noises for some time now, similar to a car that hasn’t been serviced for 20 years, and I’m sure is about to die a horrible, hard-disc mutilating death so rather than wait for that to happen I’ve got the replacement in early.

I’ve been toying with the idea of a Mac for many years but have always been put off by the large price differential between a Mac and a PC as well as by the fact that my entire computing world was and is Microsoft biased. The idea of having to learn everything from the beginning was troublesome but there remained a strong temptation to switch allegiances. There is still a price differential, this thing cost perhaps 1,000 zlots, 1,500 max, more than an equivalent PC (just a new CPU) but that’s a lot smaller difference than the comparisons I’d made before especially if you consider the improved screen, keyboard, mouse and overall design as well. So, I can justify the price now and we’ll have to wait and see how the difference in operating systems goes.

I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at the ease of set-up. It took maximum 30 minutes to unpack, install and then get things like the router, VPN and mail working. It found the router easily and connected via both wireless (AirPort) and cable. I’ve heard these things are quite intuitive to use and so far that appears to be true. Apart from the blissful silence the most visible difference is the lack of cables and associated junk lying on, around and under the desk. The iMac itself has only one cable (mine has two if you count the ethernet connection) and that’s invisible as it goes out the back and behind the desk. Everything else is contained in the box behind the screen. The tiny keyboard and super-slick ‘magic mouse’ are both wireless using bluetooth connection and apart from looking great, take up very little space on the desktop. The only problem now is I need to go to Ikea and get a new desk as this Mac is making everything else look nasty!

The screen is plenty big enough, wide screen format and HD quality picture, everything looks great, especially photos. The mail programme seems very good and is visually a lot better than Thunderbird. Safari I’m going to have to try out for a while. It seems okay but I’m very attached to Firefox and may need to download the Mac version. I haven’t really tried anything else yet. I’m about to transfer an few photos and documents so I can check how iPhoto and iWorks operate. I’m pretty sure iPhoto will be nowhere near a good enough editor so I expect I’ll have to invest in Aperture or Photoshop eventually. Dashboard is a very handy feature.

So, if things get a bit wonky around here you’ll know I’m having trouble adapting. In the meantime I’ll be grateful for any tips you Mac experts have to pass on.


17 thoughts on “20 east – now powered by Mac!

  1. I made the switch about nine months ago, except I went from a Thinkpad to a Macbook Pro. Up until last May I’d spent the last… oh, I guess nearly 18 years using Windows and quite a lot of that time using various Linux distributions. Still, there some Mac things that I had to get used to.

    Tips, hints, tricks, links, etc:

    http://osx.iusethis.com/ …Find equivalents for the PC software you’re used to using.

    (More apps) This will blow your mind: http://www.apple.com/downloads/ …A simple spot, from apple.com, with their stuff to download and loads of 3rd party stuff that they like. This really is a GREAT link.

    The keyboard: http://www.switchingtomac.com/tutorials/an-introduction-to-the-apple-keyboard-symbols-and-shortcuts/ …Switchingtomac.com is a good site, period.

    General switching comments: http://the.taoofmac.com/space/HOWTO/Switch

    Know that ⌘, (command comma) will almost *always* bring up the preferences/settings for a given application.

    More keyboard hints: http://rixstep.com/2/20040510,00.shtml

    More “new Mac user” stuff: http://paulstamatiou.com/10-things-every-new-mac-owner-should-know

    Yet more “new Mac user” stuff: http://www.pcmech.com/article/5-os-x-tips-for-former-windows-users/

    I would also recommend a few RSS feeds:


    I can recommend the following apps because I use them quite a lot:

    – Firefox (Chrome, Safari, Opera… all good. But they just don’t stack up against FF). http://www.mozilla-europe.org/en/firefox/
    – VLC, the world’s greatest video player. http://www.videolan.org/vlc/download-macosx.html
    – All iWhatever Apple-produced apps. iTunes, iPhone, iWork (Numbers, Pages), iMovie, iWeb.
    – Path Finder. The “regular” Finder is poor in comparison. This isn’t Norton Midnight Commander file browser idiocy, this is just a really, really, really well-made file browsing GUI. http://www.cocoatech.com/ …Costs $30 or $40. WELL worth it.
    – TrueCrypt. If your data absolutely, positively MUST be secure. http://www.truecrypt.org/
    – Adium (chat program aggregator). Dump your AIM, MSN and GG accounts into one nice app. http://adium.im/
    – AppFresh: searches for updates all the apps you have installed and usually will download and background install the updates for you after you run it. Very nice. http://metaquark.de/appfresh/
    – (Semi-advanced) NoobProof, the firewall front-end/GUI. http://www.hanynet.com/noobproof/
    – (Semi-advanced) Little Snitch. A firewall that monitors OUTBOUND traffic. E.g. software on your Mac that is trying to communicate with the outside world. http://www.obdev.at/products/littlesnitch/index.html
    – Xee, a simple photo/JPG viewer. http://wakaba.c3.cx/s/apps/xee.html
    – VirtualBox, a free and VERY good virtual machine environment. I highly recommend this though you will find it irritating to hear the WinXP startup sound on coming from your Mac. http://www.virtualbox.org/
    – TimeMachine, Apple’s built-in file backup program. You really don’t need anything else unless you have some VERY specific needs that are VERY inflexible.
    – Quicksilver: there is no real Windows equivalent as far as I know. I love this because I have a hotkey combo set up (⌘1) that I hit whenever I want to start a new app. Then I type the first few letters of the app’s name. E.g.: FI …and hit the return/enter key. Annnnd Firefox has started up. Once you get used to this it is very efficient. http://quicksilver.en.softonic.com/mac

    Enjoy and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

  2. …But since the “pray” comment showed up and the other one did not all I can say is: wordpress, eat my big ass.

    Basically, there are loads of great sites out there with all kinds of excellent tips, hints, etc on them. If you are looking for ANY info feel free to email me at exocet at gmail dawt com and I will be happy to quickly respond with any help I can provide.

    I’ve spent about 18 years using various MS Windows flavours, roughly 10 years using various Linux and BSD distros and nearly a year using MacOS X which, really, is just another BSD distro.

    I will quickly suggest the following apps: Firefox, TrueCrypt, iPhoto, iMovie, iWork (the suite), VirtualBox, VLC, Time Machine (built-in!), Quicksilver, Path Finder (gotta pay for it), NoobProof and Little Snitch (firewall stuff, the former is free and more important of the two, the latter is not free), Adium and Appfresh.

    I do highly recommend Photoshop. Nothing else comes close… if you have the cash for the app.

    KB info: http://rixstep.com/2/20040510,00.shtml

    Switching links: http://the.taoofmac.com/space/HOWTO/Switchhttp://paulstamatiou.com/10-things-every-new-mac-owner-should-knowhttp://danwarne.com/mistakes-made-by-new-mac-users/http://www.switchingtomac.com/tutorials/the-mac-way-what-every-switcher-needs-to-know/http://www.apple.com/support/switch101/

    Apps: http://osx.iusethis.com/ and http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/

    That’s the most important stuff from the original post.

  3. I’m really happy for you, Ian. Incentive to write more, eh? I hope so. You are one of the few humorous AND intelligent bloggers that I can find (and I search a lot of tags to find this kind of stuff). I found one of your friend’s blogs (lady in Belgium?) that I enjoyed as well.

    Now get writing! :-D


  4. Brad, I’m terribly sorry but your HUGE comment has not appeared anywhere. Normally it would either be published or be waiting for me to approve but it is neither. I’ll bet it was full of useful Mac stuff as well, eh? Darn!

    Jeannie, very kind of you and yes, I hope it inspires more writing. PS – more duck photos coming this morning! Agree with you on Pinolona’s blog, wish I had more time to read it all.

  5. Ian, I know exactly what you mean. As a long time Windoze user I have regularly been bombarded by the religious fervor of Mac people trying to get me to convert to their brand of washing powder. So, it is something I want to try and avoid doing myself. If I stray too much from factual and balanced reporting I hope you’ll pull me up on it!

  6. Once you go Mac…

    Ehhhhxcellent, Scatts. I’ll be interested to hear your impressions a little further down the road.

    Brad’s posts really nailed it. Lots of new stuff for me to check out – thanks Brad!

    Except for power users, I think it was a good move to go with the lowest spec level for the screen size you want. Apple vastly overcharges for more memory or larger hard drives from the factory. At least on my older Macbook, I quadrupled my memory for $50 in about 10 minutes, versus the $200 the Apple store charges for the same upgrade. Instructions with pictures are easy to find on the web. More complicated, but similar advantages to upgrading the internal hard drive. Or since it’s a desktop, you may be happy with a much cheaper non-Apple eternal drive, which are really cheap for 1 or 2 TB. Lots of room for photos!

    One thing I would recommend against: Norton. I tried their latest suite which was designed specifically for OS X and I still got system conflicts fairly often. Nothing damaging, but I got so sick of it I uninstalled it. A quick search will reveal similar frustration from other users.

    If you play music on good quality speakers, you will hear a difference in quality between 256 kpbs mp3 (PC) and 256 AAC (Mac). If you consider yourself a serious listener, you may even wish to go higher. There are utilities that will convert music you loaded onto your PC into the correct format for your Mac. In my opinion, it’s worth the extra effort to start over if you still have your CDs because of the improved sound quality. It may be a good idea to read a little about the compression options before you begin, to save the need to re-do anything.

    Anyway, have fun! –dave

  7. Interesting on the sound bit, not according to this


    I have a OSX Virtual Machine that I use to break into my Ipod Touch whenever Apple update it, I find it not intuitive at all but that’s from years of Windows use and having 2 mouse buttons.

    I think any modern O/S is fine – I really don’t understand why people get worked up about them.

    For the record I am an IT person who used to work on Unisys, Vax and Tandem mainframes, Unix mini’s and now work on Windows Servers running databases. We didn’t have graphics in the good old days…..

    Hope the learning curve is not too steep, sorry about the football last night, I may be over in May for the end of the football season so maybe meet up?


  8. Ian –

    Another subjective opinion, as is mine. Too bad the article said nothing about what quality of playback equipment was used.

    Here’s another opinion from a Dutch guy who tried to be objective as he could:


    As he described in his article, I have experienced the drop outs or compression errors in both mp3 and AAC at 128 kbps. Definitely not acceptable. The difference at 256 kbps is much more subtle, I can definitely hear the difference on my home stereo or in my car. AAC has a much “fuller” sound to my ear, yet that’s not an objective word either. And it’s more obvious on some kinds of music, and not others.

    Finally, I though this was really interesting. It seems if you grow up with annoying little earbuds from the iPod, you may actually prefer “flatter” sounding music:


    Yep, Scatts. You’re definitely going to need that external drive if you keep on with lossless encoding.

    Cheers –dave

  9. Good Luck with your new Mac, Scatts. I’m still using a PC and recently had withdrawal syndrome when I was off line for more than 2 wks while it was in the shop. Luckily they fixed it but was looking while waiting to decide if I want to switch to a laptop if the desktop could not be or worth be repairing. Right now my only pro would be the convenience of the portability.

  10. Pingback: iMac three months on…. | 20 east

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