iMac three months on….

By popular demand, well DC asked at least, I hereby give the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about how life has been working with an iMac for the last 3 months.

After a lifetime of working exclusively with Microsoft software dominated PCs, we took the plunge and purchased a 21.5″ iMac on 16th February this year. Picking up on some of the questions I raised back then:

  • Operating system – definitely faster and simpler. Cannot comment as regards security but nothing seems to have gone wonky yet and it’s nice not to have to worry about anti-virus software or the OS reminding me all the time that it’s out of date or I’m not protected! The few things I have had to deal with I have managed to do without too much incident but I’m definitely not used to how it works yet and have sometimes found myself staring at the screen and asking it what it thinks I should be doing next. I think part of why I’m not tinkering in the engine room is because I’m able to do everything on the iMac without needing to mess with the engine but there’s also an element of being scared to try because I really have no idea what I’m doing.
  • Hardware – screen is great, mouse is superb, keyboard is very good but would be better with numeric keypad. Still have a lot of learning to do of keyboard shortcuts. All the gubbins in the box behind the screen appears to do what it should do. No problems with disc insert, play, eject yet.
  • Intuitive? I think this is a fair comment but a tad overplayed by Mac-heads. Computers are too complicated for “just do what seems right” to be the answer to all problems. I need to get into the right folder or application first before I can “just do it!” and even then some of the choices are badly worded leaving you uncertain which button to click. Definitely better than a PC but not a simple as some would like you to believe. Nevertheless, I’ve not been left confused and frustrated for long periods.
  • New desk? Nope, didn’t go to Ikea, didn’t buy new desk. Yet.
  • Mail. A bit primitive but works plenty well enough for us. Having trouble with small size fonts turning up when least expected and also working out stupid simple stuff like how to make text bold or italic?? (apart from cmd B).
  • Safari. Tried very hard to like it but gave up and am now very happy back with Firefox. Biggest issues were the lack of search menu bar and apparent inability to use favicons in the menu bar. I could forego the favicons but the search menu is a must have. I do think Safari renders the pages better than Firefox though so I await a Safari release that works just like Firefox.
  • iWorks. Seems okay but have not played with it much nor have I created many documents from scratch. Certainly handles Microsoft documents well enough for us. To be honest, I’m so used to Word and Excel that iWorks hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance of getting a good review were I ever forced into using it in any serious way.
  • iPhoto. Is a joke. One of those photo apps for grandma to play with looking at pics of the grandkids. Used it for about 30 minutes and never touched it since. Then tried Aperture 3 and regretted it. Extremely difficult, not in slightest bit intuitive and buggy as hell. Complete waste of money. I’ve ended up with Photoshop CS4 and am now very content with my photo app.
  • Dashboard. I still think this is a good idea but I find myself not using it simply because I’m not used to using one and forget it’s there. So I’m still writing notes on paper post-it notes and sticking them to the screen when I should just open the dashboard and write one of the virtual ones! Or I’m checking the weather via Google instead of looking at the weather app. I think this will grow on me but it will take time to change old habits.

As far as everything else is concerned, I’m very impressed with iMovie. Have not used it a great deal but the few times I have I just plugged the camera in and everything happened as it should do. Far and away better than the buggering around on the PC. Have not touched Garage Band yet. Photo Booth was fun for about 30 minutes and has not been opened since.

If you read the lists people have made about the difficulties in converting, I’m probably suffering about 50% of them. Biggest minor annoyance is using the ctrl key instead of cmd and having to press fn-backspace to do a forward facing delete. I don’t think a delete key is too much to ask. Generally, knowing whether you need fn, ctrl, alt or cmd needs a bit more work! Little stuff like how to “print screen” are irritating. Still don’t know how to do that by the way!

Biggest annoyance, after Aperture, is the fact that after you ‘eject’ something that is plugged in the back you cannot reconnect it without unplugging it and plugging it back in again. That’s really stupid. Also stupid is having something called iDisc when it’s not your hard drive but something else that requires me to set up a ‘mobile me’ account….blah blah…..all very Microsoft!

Had a problem with time taken to go to ‘sleep’. Used to be instant and then went out to 20 seconds for no apparent reason. In the end it turned out to be a rogue item left in a print queue and when deleted everything was cool again. I like the sleep function very much, big improvement over the PC.

I’m definitely not making best use of the machine yet as I really don’t have the time to spend simply learning how the thing works because when I do have some computer time I’m too busy doing real things like writing this post or whatever! Things like working with multiple windows and generally navigating around a multi-programme work space. I’m tending to have all windows max size and then using ‘Expose’ or cmd-tab to see what’s open. ‘Spaces’ looks like it might be useful but have not tried it yet. Similarly, with all those sexy things like Automator or boot camp I have no idea what I’m doing,

So, overall impression is very good and nowhere near as difficult as might be expected. I’ll try to do more updates and thanks to Dave for the prompt this time.

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18 thoughts on “iMac three months on….

  1. With Print Screen, you usually click ALT first then Prt Sc at the same time, then copy it to whatever you’re doing, but I’m not sure if the Mac is required to do it differently, being a different machine and with the way the patents go.

    You can write yourself a Post-It: “Look at the Dashboard” :-D.

    It sounds like you’re getting it under control even with the time constraints. A Mac seems like another world but one that I want to hear about.

  2. To get rid of the annoying iDisk, put your cursor in the leftmost column of Finder. Hit ctrl-click (I use the trackpad, so not positive which mouse button). At the bottom of the box which opens, the bottom choice should be “Open Sidebar preferences.” You can then select what you want or don’t want to see there.

  3. DC, exactly what I did yesterday but thanks for the tip anyway! It was annoying for the period leading up to me finding how to remove it from the ‘menu’ though. These are the little things that will make a difference but you need plenty of time to play around with it to find these things.

  4. Yeah, with time these will come naturally. When these things bother you enough, you can start exploring the wonderful world of free or shareware utilities and other small bits of code that make your machine act exactly as you wish. If you want to play it conservatively to make sure you don’t add something that doesn’t work so great, you could choose to stick with 3rd party code that is listed on the Apple support page, or reviewed by MacWorld or another trustworthy site.

  5. Did you try any low-end alternatives to iPhoto? I’m still using it (sad, I know, but I’m a point and click guy.) I’m looking for something better maybe around the 100 euro mark or something.

  6. DC, you tried GIMP?

    http://www.gimp.org

    Yes, I know the name doesn’t conjure up images of professionalism and I suspect one of the people involved used to work in the Computer Centre of a large high street bank when I did – he was responsible for writing Utilities called:

    In fact, see if you can guess them, I will give the expanded names:

    System Log Utility
    System Log Analytical Generator
    Bit Checker

    Personally I use paint.net which is a fantastic product and has more features than I know what to do with but is Windows only.

  7. As Ian says below, a few people have recommended GIMP so I’m sure it’s a good one. Looking at the screenshots it looks very similar to Photoshop. Alternatively you could try Adobe Elements, which gives a good number of editing gadgets as well as the simple navigation & filing that is popular with iPhoto.

    I’ve just spent too long getting the hang of Photoshop to bother with learning anything new that won’t be as good in the end anyway. I also have a very low tolerance for any software that treats me like I’m stupid.

  8. Bring out the GIMP!

    I have to check it out for that reason alone. Thanks for the tip. A friend of mine got the suits at his unnamed employer to adopt an in-house-developed system called Requirements Information Management System. Still cracks me up.

  9. If you eventually want a virus/anti-phising etc suite, definitely forget Norton. It is incredibly slow and gets in the way, even with their complete overhaul of the Mac version.

    I use Intego. It’s fast, unobtrusive, not resource hungry, and doesn’t choke on my fairly large music library. Lots of user settings so you can lock down your machine as tightly as you want. The full suite includes parental controls.

  10. I don’t have a mac so can’t input on anything. I do have malwarebytes and SuperAntispyware along with AVG for virus….these all can be used for iMacs also. Good follow up is what we here call dancing the Security Tango but for you the Macarena. (check out AskNick dot com and look for Security Tango on the side bar) It works really great. Enjoy your new Mac :)

  11. Tom uses GarageBand all the time. We were listening to the music he has produced just this afternoon. It’s really good for a 12 year old. I can’t see
    the appeal to adult though. Unless you want to sound like a slightly impressive schoolkid whose given virtual games a miss and been messin in his bedroom with tunes and stuff.

  12. Given the geekiness of the guy I’m guessing it was womenkind in general.

    Personally when it comes to Women I prefer the Rod Stewart method of thinking.

    Only lost a flat in Zabki up to now!

  13. I have a guitarist friend in Krakow who puts all backing stuff for his Duo using his Mac, I’ll find out from him what he uses if you want.

  14. Ian ..becareful with your Mac. I just heard that they are not as vulnerable as they thought and got hit with viruses. Eventually they find away to get to everyone. No one is sacred.

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