Archive for May, 2006

The Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

Steve and his reality distortion fieldI can feel myself getting drawn in by its power. Everything to do with Apple seems “insanely great” and all other platforms seem mediocre by comparison. The Mac will not only be an upgrade to my workstation, it will upgrade my entire life too. I will become 10 years younger and the worries of the world will simply melt away into a blissful dream-like state framed by shining white polycarbonate.

Does this happen to all Mac users? Is it a prerequisite to buying a Mac? Am I becoming “one of them”? Or is it simply that Steve’s vision of things is the reality and all other computer users are deluded? ;)

The RDF is well-documented, but I didn’t really believe it could affect me until now. I thought I could “just say no”. But it won’t be long now before I head over to the Apple Store and purchase my life-changing iMac, where the “buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them” and everything is exciting, incredible and “just works”. However I am very disappointed to discover that I don’t get a free black turtle-neck with my iMac purchase…

iChat AV

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

iChat AViChat AV is one of the reasons I want a Mac. Si and I have regular weekly conferences to catch up on ELATED and other work stuff, and we’ve tried everything from Egika / OhPhoneX (where do they get these weird and wonderful names from!) through to Skype and Gizmo.

They all work after a fashion, but none of them particularly elegantly. I just tried getting Ekiga up and running after a recent Debian upgrade, but I can’t get the pwc driver for my webcam to compile without chucking incomprehensible error messages on the screen, so I guess that’s a non-starter unless I want to muck around for half a day.

Skype and Gizmo aren’t bad and at least don’t involve mucking about with firewall configs, but they’re audio-only on Mac and Linux (video coming to Skype on Mac soon I hear), and on Gizmo Si sounds like he’s rustling a plastic bag every time he talks. (He swears he’s not.). His Skype also has a nasty habit of crashing his Mac. Also tried OpenWengo but again – audio only on the Mac. Though it does work pretty well.

iChat AV (if it works as advertised) will be great – plug & play, excellent full-screen quality and 4 way video chats. (though I still reckon the latency between Australia and the UK might be slightly annoying.)

Now I just need to convince my Dad in Italy, who moved from Mac to PC a couple of years ago, to move back to a Mac so I can iChat with him too! :D

Rev A? Rev B?

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

An iMac yesterdayI’ve been mulling over which Mac to buy. I think it’s going to be the iMac 20″ Core Duo.

Originally I was eyeing up the 17″ MacBook Pro, as one of the things I’ll be using it for is lugging into the living room to watch movies on. Then Si steered me towards the Intel iMacs. So this 20″ iMac is basically as powerful as the MBP, with a bigger screen, and just over half the price? Sounds good to me! Sure it’s not quite as light as a MBP at 22 pounds / 10kg (what do they put in these things?), but hey, I could do with some weight training! ;)

Good old Apple, shoving everything in 1 box. I’d have a job lugging my tower and 19″ CRT display around quite so gracefully.

So I can feel the pull of my credit card in my wallet, enticing me to part with my AUD $3.5k on the Apple Store, when Si brings up this “Rev A” thing. Allegedly, Apple’s first generation (“Revision A”, or Rev A) of any new bit of hardware is dodgy as anything, and you’re better off waiting for a Rev B, at which point they’ll have ironed out all the bugs that were in the Rev A machines.

So how true is this theory? It’s certainly a hotly debated topic. And things like this scare me a bit too, especially as I plan to be watching movies a lot. But the truth is, you never know what’s going to happen do you – Rev Bs might be worse than Rev As!

The best advice I’ve heard is, if you see something that’s right for you now, then get it. Actually the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide is a great help as it tells you how far through the release cycle a particular Mac’s likely to be, along with advice to buy or hold off (ooh it’s like the stock market isn’t it!). I see my iMac (“my iMac” – I’m already sold!) is 2/3 of the way through its cycle, so a good time to buy.

Apart from the aforementioned Front Row problems (which were due to a software bug anyway), I haven’t heard of any serious issues with these new Intel iMacs. So I reckon they’re a good bet.

Now where’s that credit card got to!

Why not Windows?

Monday, May 8th, 2006

windows.jpgSo I want to move away from Linux as my main OS. Why not just install Windows XP instead?

Well I could, of course. Though I’d still want to buy a new PC, as my current one is getting a bit long in the tooth (7 years and counting, bless it). But frankly I just don’t like using WinXP that much. I had to use it on-site the other week and couldn’t wait to get back to my nice slick Linux desktop!

I guess I just love the UNIX way now after 8 years with Linux. Not having a bash shell to drop into… disturbs me. (I did install Cygwin recently on my Windows 2000 laptop, which helped a bit. How do Windows users cope without rsync? ;) )

I also get the impression that Windows isn’t that much more stable than Linux. After all it still has a million different hardware combinations to deal with, just like Linux. The other day I booted my Windows laptop and it claimed that the network card that had been in there for weeks was “new hardware”, and proceeded to use up 20 minutes of my valuable time while I scrambled for the driver CD. Grr…!

So it wouldn’t be a step forward on the reliability front. Whereas all Mac users will tell you how rock-solid Macs are, right? (Except for Si, whose Mac seems to need rebooting every time he starts up Skype. ;) )

Anyway, I want to try something new and exciting! I’ve never used a Mac (well, I’ve used one once or twice to surf the web I guess) so it’s all going to be wonderfully different. Even if I end up hating the Mac and moving back to a PC – well, at least I tried it. In fact thanks to Apple’s move to Intel I can keep the Mac and run Windows and Linux on it too – either dual booting or at the same time as OS X. Life doesn’t get any better than that! :)

Linux

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

Tux the PenguinI currently use Debian GNU/Linux. I love Linux. Been using it on my main computer for around 8 years now. (Before that I was using an operating system called Windows – you might have heard of it!) But my plan (if all goes well) is to use a Mac as my main workstation from now on.

If I love Linux so much, why the “moving to Mac” idea? Well I’ve been eyeing up those oh-so-sexy sleek things in AppleCentres for years now. They always look like they’re “from the future”. I like that. And I love the idea of OS X being “unix-like” under the hood, so I should feel right at home. But up until now I’ve been faithful to my trusty Linux boxen.

I think what finally moved me from “vaguely wanting a Mac” to “I am going to buy a Mac” was when I recently upgraded Debian on my lovely (but battle-weary) ThinkPad T20, and the thing wouldn’t even boot into X. In fact starting X caused a hard crash (you know, the kind where you have to unplug the thing and take out the battery).

Now these things happen from time to time, but this one really stumped me. In fact I spent several hours trying to fix the problem. It’s still not properly solved (I worked around it by downgrading the kernel, but now sound doesn’t work – doh!).

That’s when it dawned on me. I spend a lot of time tinkering like this with my Debian machines. Occasionally it’s frustrating, and often it’s fun (if you like that kind of thing). It’s a great way to learn about computers too. But eventually I realised that most of the hours I was spending tinkering with Linux could be better spent doing actual work. :)

Like many people who have never bought a Mac, I have this vague idea that they are “more expensive than PCs”. But if the Mac can save me even an hour or two a week of tinkering then it will have paid for itself in a couple of years. I need a new computer soon anyway (my main machine is an 800MHz Pentium for goodness’ sake), which means I’m going to be forking out some cash whether I like it or not!

So my theory is that I waste a lot of time tinkering with Linux, whereas Macs are supposed to “just work”. For my main work computer, that sounds great. Let’s see if it’s actually true…

First post! Woo!

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

Welcome to my blog. This is my first blog ever. (New, exciting!)

I am about to “switch”(TM) to using a Mac – in fact, buying a Mac – for the first time. (New, even more exciting!)

This blog will record my progress in the strange new Mac world over time. I’ll be covering:

  • my reasons for switching
  • choosing a Mac
  • actually buying the thing
  • first impressions
  • my ongoing experiences with my Mac
  • problems and hair-tearing-out situations (this should fill up most of the blog ;) )
  • the final verdict. Will I grow to love the Mac way of life, or will I be flogging the Mac on eBay in 6 months?

Time will tell…