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From PC to Mac: An Epic Journey (Part III)

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It’s that time again! I’ve had a few days to play around with my Macbook and I wanted to log my impressions up until now.

A brief synopsis of what’s happened thus far: I’ve received my Macbook, commenced unboxing it, and started it up last week in a video podcast you can find here.

Without further ado, here’s the latest entry in my ongoing series, “From PC to Mac: An Epic Journey!”

Using the Mac is quite a different experience. The general attitude and style of the system is very minimalist. But I’d say the best way to describe how I’m feeling is like going to the pool at the beginning of summer. You don’t really want to jump in right away because you know its way too freaking cold, so you ease in, bit by bit, until your body adjusts. The same principal applies when using a new OS. I know if I jump right in, I’m in for a shock, so I’m easing into it, bit by bit. Analogies aside, it’s been mostly a pleasant experience thus far.

Today I just want to share a few of my discoveries and general disposition about using my Macbook.

Using the OS is simple enough. In fact, that might be one of the drawbacks to using a Mac: it’s too simple at times. Coming from the right-click, start menu world of PC, it’s definitely an adjustment using the Mac. “Right clicking” is accomplished on a Mac by placing two fingers on the track pad, and then clicking your mouse button. It’s not a bad method, but it does take some getting used to. Also, general navigation is a bit awkward, as programs don’t have their options at the top like Windows. Instead, they’re located on the menu bar up top, and that menu bar changes depending on what program you have active. This really threw me for a whirl when I was trying to change some preferences around in iTunes, and didn’t know where my options were!

Another roadblock I hit was internet connection. I needed to find my Mac address so I could put it into my router’s access list, but was having a difficult time finding it. Typing “Mac address” in finder only resulted in .Mac gibberish that was of no help. Eventually, I noticed that in the network settings they have an “Airport ID” listed, which is set up in the standard Mac address format. I put that id into my access list and connected right away, but it was a bit of trouble to find it simply because they decided to call it something else. Ultimately, I guess it was my fault, because it was sitting under my nose the whole time, just under a different guise. Aside from that, internet connection was a breeze, and the wireless connection was quite speedy to boot; much quicker than my other laptop’s wireless card would allow.

My next step was to try and edit the video I took when unboxing my Macbook in iMovie. I was really excited to try it out, and wanted to make a nice video on my Mac to post to the site. Unfortunately, the Macbook not only let me down, but fell into the dirt, and got stepped on by rabid Windows fanboys wearing rusty cleats. I’ll tell you why, and to be honest, it’s not entirely Macbook’s fault. The camera I was using is called the Flip, and it’s got some on board software that installs when you connect it to your computer. The software is just some 3ivx codec, but it also includes a program you run from the camera itself that you use to import and edit the video with, all of which is Mac supported. So I install the codec and proceed to push the video to my machine for editing, but for some reason iMovie refused to recognize the video file type, which was .avi. So I scoured the internet for media converters, but couldn’t find any free ones. I also tried Doctor Divx, which did absolutely nothing for me. So, in my frustration, I went to my desktop PC, plugged in the camera, and about 10 minutes later I was uploading my video to the internet. As I said, though, it might’ve been just the quirky nature of the camera, but even so. Windows Movie Maker had no problem getting it done painlessly.

After the video editing came transferring all my music and photo’s to iTunes and iPhoto respectively. Swapping music over was as easy as drag and drop, easy and uneventful. It was actually iPhoto that totally rocked my socks across the room. I had my photo’s somewhat organized on Windows, but uploading to iPhoto totally streamlined the process. Basically, I’d import the folder of photos, and iPhoto would set up an event for that folder and organize it in a very lovely fashion. It even took the times the pictures were taken from the metadata and gave a time frame for each event! I was very impressed to say the least, and my photos are well organized and easy to access.

Let’s go back to the music thing real quick. iTunes functions the same on Mac as it does PC for the most part, but here’s something I found interesting. Playing music through my desktop’s speakers at high volumes resulted in a scratchy sound at certain points, like the speakers couldn’t handle it. And they’re decent speakers too, with a nice subwoofer for some kick. However, playing music with the same speakers through the Macbook resulted in a crisp, clear sound at the equivalent volume level. And it’s strange because I do have a pretty nice sound card in my desktop. I’m not sure why it’s like that, but it made me very happy to say the least.

Something else I noticed while browsing through my iTunes library is that my music took up almost half a gigabyte less on my Macbook than it did on my desktop. I checked to make sure I wasn’t missing any music or videos, but they were all there, so I’m not sure if Mac processes music files more efficiently or what, but I found that extremely interesting.

Along with the Macbook came a tiny little white remote. At first I didn’t think I’d be using the thing, but now it doesn’t leave my side when I’m at home. I’ll be going about my business in my apartment, will want to change a song, and I never have to stop, go up to my Macbook to change it, browse through other music, or even bring up a music video in Front Row. Simply put, Apple knows what’s up by including this little gizmo with your Mac.

Also worth mentioning is that I can share out my iTunes library from my Windows desktop PC, which is hard wired to my network, and my Macbook, which is connected wirelessly, can pick it up and stream the music from the desktop. And all I had to do was enable sharing in iTunes, and iTunes did the rest. If I wanted to, I could just keep all my music on my desktop or an external hard drive and save space on my Macbook!

Some other things I’ve made note of while using my Mac is that its widgets are extremely useful. Most widgets I’ve seen are not only obtrusive, but generally have only marginal functionality. On a Mac, your widgets are accessed via the dashboard, and are but a keystroke away, so accessing them is a snap. They’re there when you want them, and out of sight when you don’t. You can include web snippets, like The Bit Bag, weather, flight trackers, even daily Leopard tips and tricks. The possibilities are endless, and viable. That’s what’s impressive; I’m actually using these things. Let me give you an example: My girlfriend is flying in from Hawaii to visit. I set up my flight tracker to monitor her flight for changes and arrival time, then use the Google maps widget to check for traffic around the airport and plan my route accordingly. Perhaps later on we want to check out a movie? I’ve already got my widget set up for the local theaters, so seeing what’s on for tonight is a snap. It’s all very easy and very functional.

Another pleasurable discovery is that installing programs is simpler than tying your shoe. Simply dragging the file into your applications menu installs it, and I’m not going through a bunch of bothersome menu’s or configuration options. It’s incredibly quick and streamlined. My tip of the hat to you on that one, Apple, well played.

At the moment, I’m very smitten by my new Macbook. It’s really starting to work its charm on me, and is a very functional device. While it’s still too early to give a final summation, early prognosis reveals a very viable competitor to the Windows market, something all Mac owners have already known for years.

Stay tuned for my next update! More discoveries await!

R/

Chris

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