Mac Switchback 4

I’m a Mac guy. Bought my first one in 1987, replacing my trusty old Apple IIe, and stuck with the Mac through Apple’s subsequent travails. Heck, I even owned a Mac clone. Somewhere along the way, though, I gradually migrated to Windows machines. I fell in love with IBM’s sensual trackpoint, got comfortable with Microsoft’s increasing respectable operating system releases, and wondered occasionally when I’d come home again. Inertial of one form or another always kept me on Windows… until now.

With a little help from my Wharton research budget, I bought a Powerbook and assorted goodies, and I’ve spent the past few days migrating things over. The experience isn’t entirely familiar — my last Mac ran OS 9 — but I’m getting used to it. Overall, the machine is great, and I’m quite happy I made the switch. But I’ve had my share of annoyances.

First and foremost, damn is this thing slow! I have the fastest laptop Apple makes, a 1.67 GHz G4 Powerbook 15″ with 2 GB of RAM. And it still drags. Things that felt instant on my two year old Windows laptop (like opening a new tab in Firefox), take a noticeable beat on the Mac. Opening applications and many other activities are beachball city. It’s not un-usable slow, but it’s annoying-slow. I can only hope that, come 2007, those Intel chips will give Apple the horesepower to build a laptop that runs as fast as it should. If so, I’ll be one of the first to buy one. If not, I may rush back into the arms of my old friends at IBM/Lenovo.

Moving data isn’t quite as painless as I hoped. Several hours of futzing with Automator, BBEdit, an FTP application, and QuickKeys failed to produce any automated way to change the line breaks in my Eudora mailbox files so they open in the Mac version. So, moving over my 775 MB of mail files is taking forever.

For some reason, multiple USB 2.0 hard drives either failed to show up on the Mac desktop or took forever (at least 20 minutes) to mount, despite working flawlessly with my Windows laptop. I thought “it just works” networking was an Apple strength, no? That made moving files much tricker than it should have been. I also haven’t been able to get the Powerbook to print over the Internet to a networked printer with an IP address, which my Windows machine found painlessly.

And some things that should be trivially simple still elude me. For example, is there really no way to pull the trash can out of the Dock and put it on the desktop? Having to control click and select “move to trash” whenever you want to delete a file is a pain. I know, RTFM, but this seems like the sort of thing one should be able to figure out.

Then again, so far I haven’t had any of the annoyances that randomly popped up on my Thinkpad, like the machine suddenly deciding (on two occasions, a year apart) that its modem driver prevented it from entering sleep mode. So I really shouldn’t complain. I just wish my Mac was perfect, rather than merely great.