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.

4 thoughts on “Mac Switchback

  1. Gen Jun 30,2005 2:50 am

    Kevin,

    I switched last year, and I’m much happier with the Mac, especially for things like the wireless network support as well as the instant on from sleep.

    Wrt your comment about the speed- I agree. The Macs ought to be faster and I think that’s one of the key reasons Jobs switched to Intel.

    Wrt moving mail, you might want to try Eudora Mailbox Cleaner.
    http://homepage.mac.com/aamann/Eudora_Mailbox_Cleaner.html

    Wrt the trash can placement, I guess it’s a matter of perspective. I think long-time Mac users (well, at least long-time OS X users) understand that the trash is on the Dock. Moving it off the Dock may be possible, but in general I think Mac users want their experience to be different than Windows, rather than similar to.

    It’s not perfect, but I think that things like Spotlight, Dashboard, excellent wireless support, Print-to-PDF from any browser (I LOVE THIS FEATURE) the Mac is easily my preferred platform (and this is after almost a decade on Windows starting with Win95.

  2. Jeff Harrell Jun 30,2005 9:27 pm

    Respectfully, I think your dissatisfaction with Firefox is a problem with Firefox, not your Mac. The Mac version of Firefox is a spectacularly crappy program. Ditch it and use Safari instead. You’ll be much happier.

    (For the record, the reason PowerBooks are slower than Power Macs has nothing to do with the CPU. It’s principally the hard drive that does it.)

    No, there is no way to move the trash can out of the dock. You also don’t have to use the context menu. You can just drag things to the trash can, just like you always did.

  3. Kevin Werbach Jul 1,2005 8:50 am

    Thanks for the responses guys. The speed issue isn’t just Firefox; it’s pretty much universal. For example, most of the time I click on the Apple menu it takes a second or two to drop down, which is just plain annoying.

    And if Firefox, which I use all the time, sucks on the Mac, that’s another strike against the platform. Safari doesn’t have all the extensions I use, and it means changing my browsing habits at a minimum. The program I use even more than Firefox — Eudora for email — also seems worse on the Mac than on Windows, in various small annoying ways. I finally got all the mailboxes moved over, so at least I can now use the Mac as my primary machine.

    The trash can isn’t a big thing, but I wish Apple would leave the choice to me. In quickly scanning the line of icons in the dock, it’s not obvious which one is that trash can, which makes it take slightly longer to find it.

    In general, though, I guess my problem is that I’m not seeing the big advantages I expected from the switch. I’ve had two crashes so far that required removing the battery to restart (holding down the power key didn’t seem to shut down the machine), and about the same frequency of force quits I had with WinXP (one or two a day). Wireless support seems worse than my Thinkpad — the Powerbook doesn’t recognize my Linksys access point — and apparently I’m doomed to having problems with my 6 or 7 USB hard drives and keychains, because Macs don’t like them. Print to PDF comes with Acrobat 7, which I own on both platforms, so that doesn’t feel like a Mac advantage, and I have yet to find a real use for the Dashboard. Spotlight sounds nice in theory, although the vast majority of what I search through is email messages, which I can do already in Eudora.

    I wish I wasn’t so cranky, but given that I was a die-hard Mac user for a decade, and everything good I’ve heard about OS X, I’m really surprised I’m not having a better experience.

  4. Tomikk May 10,2006 12:56 pm

    You have probably realised this by now, but mozilla never intended mac OSX users to use firefox. It is dire on the mac platform. HOWEVER and a big one, they created a browser which is based on firefox code, designed from scratch for the mac. It is called camino, and can be found at http://www.caminobrowser.org/

    I use camino all the time; it is awesome. Another browser for the mac to try is shiira; similar to safari but with much more customizability, and with some extra very useful features. It has one problem, which may not affect you. If you use macromedia fireworks, and have shiira set as your default browser; fireworks has trouble recognising it. But that s extremely minor.

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