I am still waiting for my copy of Leopard that I had pre-ordered to arrive. It shipped on the day Leopard came out and was slated to be here by Oct 30. When it comes to Trick or Treat today – I got no treat.

What is really annoying is that they gave me a tracking number for USPS that is not a real tracking number. They shipped Standard-Residential so I assume this was a tracking free method in the first place. But Standard-Residential is not a USPS category, so I have no idea what that is suppose to mean other than just plain ground shipping. Apple’s help says this can be three to seven business days after they ship and I am starting to wonder if they used Pony Express.

Oh well. After reading scores of articles and listening to countless Mac podcasts on Leopard it really tests your patience to have something your pre-ordered take so long – though many who pre-ordered it received it on the same day it came out.

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One of the reasons I recently bought an iMac earlier this month was that I had read that Leopard would be released on Oct 26th and would be eligible for a free upgrade to it.  If you bought a Mac after Oct 1st of this year you could request a copy a Leopard and only pay the shipping fee.  So I did this from the online Apple store last week.

I find it annoying thought that Apple waited till today to ship it and thus I will have to wait till probably Wednesday to get it.  I can’t see a good reason why they had to actually wait for today for those who ordered by preorder to ship it.  Shipping it earlier this week  would have been much more sensible, though I would guess that  they wanted to make sure that no one received it before the official date.  Though considering the post office this seemed not very likely in most cases.  It would have been nice to have Leopard up and running for the weekend so that I would have had plenty of time to explore it more fully.

Oh well.

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After two week of working with OSX I am quite impressed with it.

Coming from windows it does take some time to get use to it, but it is a rather quick learning curve.  It has been a pleasure setting up and I loved how easy it was to work with the System Preferences and how easy it was to find and to change something.  I am not a Windows basher and I pretty much like working with Vista, but OSX just seems so much more stable and integrated.  Too often under windows you get the feel that things were grafted on and though they generally work they don’t always have the responsiveness you might desire.  It just works.

There are of course several things a Windows user will at first find frustrating.  You open a program and think at first there is no menu bar available – when in actuality OSX uses a common Menu bar at the top of the screen that is used by all OSX aware programs.  This is really a much better solution and frees the real estate of program windows.

The Mac’s Command key functions much like the PC Control key, but it placed at the normal Alt key location.  Thus command PC commands like Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X, Ctrl-P, Ctrl-A etc are now Command-C, X, P, etc.  Thus I have made plenty of mistakes copying/pasting.  I am looking for a good solution to remap the keys and have it work with Synergy, but haven’t found it yet.  Though I am much more accurate in remembering which key to use when I am in what environment.

The way the maximize button works is also quite different from how it works in Windows.  Though I now understand why the PC version of iTunes never included a button to minimize to the mini player.  Under OSX the maximize button can cause iTunes to switch to the mini player or back to the full player mode. You also have to get use to being able to resize from only one location on the window.  This is one area where Windows is more intuitive in the resizing of windows.

Installing programs in OSX is also much different, but really quite an improvement.  There is much better control over where programs are installed and you are much more likely to know where files are being placed.  Plus if you decide to later move a program from one area to another it is also much more likely to still work and not break any links to it.  I use to be quite a fan of IBM’s OS/2 which was really a pretty good operating system for its time and it also had this capability.  Though you must remember that some files can be placed in other folders such as in your library folder and you must remember that dragging an application program in the trashcan will not delete these files unless you use an application that enhances the trashcan.

I really like Spotlight and how well it is integrated into the system.  This provides really good searching capabilities throughout the system.  Vista has much improved search capability, but it is not as well integrated and is limited.  I have used Spotlight a lot as I got use to OSX to easily find apps and documents. I really like Spotlight comments that allow you to tag a file.  You can then do searches that can find info in these tags.  Vista has added tagging, but it is not available to all file types.  Back in my Dos days I use to use a command shell called 4DOS that allowed me to tag files with descriptions.  I always found this invaluable and think it is odd that this hasn’t been something incorporated into OSs from the beginning.  The Spotlight tag information is placed in a .DS_Store hidden file found in the same folder.  If you copy or move the file the tagged information is retained.

The Dock is quite intuitive and is much easier to access than the Windows start menu.  It is quite fun to use when you have turned magnification on in its preferences.  Though you have to aware that closing a window that returns to the Dock doesn’t actually close it and release system resources. You have to click on it in the Dock first and select Quit to actually do this.

Well I could go on and on about Windows and OSX differences, it is just that switchers and sliders need to be aware of them.  I can easily see why Apple fanboys so love the Mac and OSX.  They really are a pleasure to work with  and if I never had to work with Windows again I certainly would shed no tears.

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Using more than one system y0u are soon run into problems keeping some things synced-up. No doubt you always want access to your internet bookmarks no matter what computer you are on. Now there are plenty of solutions to do this.

I run Firefox on both the PC and the Mac. This is my preferred browser mainly due to the add-ons. One of the excellent add-ons is a program called Fox Marks.  Once installed you can have it maintain your bookmarks on its server and it will maintain any changes made across multiple systems.  This works mainly in the background and so the only attention you need to really give it is to install in on Firefox on any system you use.

Years ago I use to use a stand alone aggregator to manage my RSS feeds. It was a pain though to import/export opml format files to keep them up to date on different systems.  Bloglines was the first to really come up with a worthwhile online aggregator and has certainly greatly improved over time.  I used Bloglines for awhile until I found that Google Reader met my needs better.  Either way they are both feature rich aggregators that you can use from any computer.

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Throughout the years I have mainly put together my own systems when it came to PCs and never worried about fancy cases or doing case modes to do a system look nicer. Components were more important to me than how the system itself looks. I have the 20-inch model with a 2.4GHz processor and the new chipset so the hardware itself is quite capable.

iMac

What I find fascinating is the system design and the attention to detail that Apple is known for in this regard. This is really a system that you can place anywhere and look really nice in any room. This can’t be said about most PC’s unless you go for a higher end gaming system where aesthetic design is usually important. Even the packaging the system comes in appears to have had a lot of attention to detail.

The aluminum skin is quite nice to look at and I prefer it to the white plastic look of the previous iMacs. They seemed to come write out of the Woody Allen movie Sleeper where everything had that white futuristic look. I haven’t used a glossy display before and this is the only option for the new iMacs. It takes a little to get use to because it is highly reflective, but once you do I find I prefer it to my other monitors. Blacks really look black and watching video on it is quite pleasing. The viewing angle is not suppose to be as good on this display, but I haven’t noticed any problems in my use of it over the last two weeks.

Apple’s design philosophy seems to be the less the merrier. The iMac has just one button on for power and it is placed on the back, but very easy to get to from the front. Even the power cord has been designed to look nice. The USB ports, firewire 400 and 800, Ethernet, and mini-DVI port are all arranged on the back in a small section. The silver aluminum base allows the power cord to easily pass through it, can tilt the monitor, and provides a convenient shelf for the keyboard.

Though what I find annoying about Apple’s peripherals is that they seem to be designed more for looks than usability. The aluminum keyboard with white keys looks like it should be in an art museum and is really quite striking. Some seem to like it and some don’t. I am in the not liking its functionality camp. It sits way to flat and I have a difficult time keeping my hands aligned correctly on. The keys though do have a nice click to them. I prefer a keyboard that accommodates your wrist easier and so use a wireless Microsoft keyboard to control both my iMac and PC. The keyboard does have an extra USB port on it so that is a nice touch. The iMac itself includes Bluetooth and their is a wireless version of the keyboard and mouse available.

The Apple Mighty Mouse is difficult to get use to if you have used two-button mice. Again the mouse is nice looking – though looks too much like a bar of soap. The scroll button is really small, but quite responsive. I have read though that most people quickly dump Apple mice in favor of ones used by the PC. I do wish that Steve Jobs would just finally admit that one button mice are stupid. Clicking a mouse and having to hold down a key at the same time is just lame. I do realize that the Mighty Mouse is a multiple button device and can be setup to act like a two button mouse, but the squeezy buttons on the side have no tactile response and I just found it uncomfortable to use.

Microsoft has major design problems with Windows, but their mice and keyboards have always been innovative and nice to work with. My Microsoft Mouse is quite comfortable to use, but it is pretty ugly. I wish Apple and Microsoft would get together on this and give us the best of both words of design and functionality.

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If you are running two separate computers as I am you could soon go crazy using two keyboards and two mice.

There are hardware solutions called a KVM switch (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) that allows you to use just one set to control everything, but these can be semi-pricey and you have to manually switch between what system they are controlling.

I didn’t need a monitor solution since I setup my main monitor to work with either system and could simply select the source at the press of a button. I did though need a good solution for the keyboard and the mouse.

Thankfully there is a great free open source software called Synergy that allows you to use a keyboard and mouse on one system to control another system via a network connection. Synergy is just plain great software and I use to use it with my main PC and a laptop. There are versions of Synergy for both the PC and the Mac and they inter-operate beautifully. Even better is that you can do copy/paste operations from one system to another. It is great to just move the mouse cursor from one system to the next and the keyboard automatically works with whatever system currently has mouse focus.

Lifehacker has some good instructions for how to set this up for a dual systems (specifically a PC and a Mac). The interface for setting up the PC version isn’t exactly pretty and a little confusing to get going. Though someone has created a GUI wrapper of Synergy for OSX that is much easier to setup.

Synergy once setup just plain works and you soon forget about it and just go to work using its capabilities.

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I have been using multi-monitor configurations for quite a while and I can now hardly deal with only having the real estate of one monitor.

Previously I had a dual-monitor setup with my home PC and now that I have an iMac I have three monitors on my desk. The inner (and outer) geek in me rejoices at having so much screen real estate, though when I am doing my work I really gets tons of use out of such a setup and can get things done much more quickly that way.

I soon found that working with my iMac I really missed not having another monitor to work with. But even I draw the line at having four monitors on my desk as being a way too excessive. Just the energy requirements can seem extravagant. Though after seeing Al Gore’s three large monitor setup and a wide screen tv I don’t feel as bad.

My main working monitor is a 22 inch HP widescreen and I thought about maybe getting a switch so that I could go between using it with my PC and my iMac. I found a much better solution. This monitor had both a DVI and VGA display adapters which and a button in the front to switch between the two inputs. This was perfect since some monitor switches have a problem with ghosting if their is not enough shield around the VGA side.

This though is one thing annoying about Apple and sometimes their willingness to choose aesthetics over functionality. Their newer machines instead of using a standard DVI port, uses a mini-DVI port – an Apple only standard. Now this can make sense on a laptop where space is limited, but there is plenty of room on the back of an iMac. Now I have to admit the arrangement of USB, firewire, ethernet connector, and the mini-DVI port is quite aesthetically pleasing since every port looks roughly the same. So since this is not included with the computer you have to buy a mini-DVI adapter to be able to connect it to an external monitor. In my case instead of just buying one DVI cable I had to add the short adapter (which at 19 bucks is about the same as the much longer DVI cable.) Regardless though this is a much better solution than a monitor switch, which would have probably cost much more to get one that wouldn’t have ghosting problems.

I have to admit how pleased and happy I was in the how simple it was to setup. After I hooked up the new cable to my monitor with the adapter, the iMac recognized that an external monitor was being used and started to use it immediately. With Windows I always had to set it up first to start using the new monitor and to stretch the desktop onto it.

OSX System Preferences does allow you to set the screen resolutions for both monitors or if you want to mirror them. You can also set the arrangement of the displays depending on whether the external monitor is the left or the right and to also set which monitor has the menu bar. The preferences for the dock allow you to move the dock, but the options are only left, right, and bottom. It would have been nice to have a little more control of this since the bottom position refers to only the first monitor.

I did have one glitch at first where the context menu would come up on the first monitor even when you had right clicked something on the 2nd monitor. But a reboot cured this.

I do love how rock solid video is in OSX. On Windows if I moved a screen with video from one monitor to another you would often get glitches until you had dropped it in place.

Another thing I love about OSX is that you can easily set the wallpaper for either monitor independently. In Windows this is not supported directly, though there is a recent freeware program called Display Fusion that allows you to do this. In OSX just right click the display and select Display Desktop Background and you get two dialog boxes (one on each monitor) where you simply select the background you want to use.

So now when I am doing Windows intensive work I can switch my monitor to work with the PC and still have access to one Mac screen and when I am doing mainly Mac stuff I can switch the monitor source to the Mac and still have one Windows screen. This works great.

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There seems to be two terms of art for those people coming from the world of PCs to Mac.

Switcher – Those who are moving totally to the Mac platform.

Slider – Those who are moving back and forth between the two platforms.

I am definitely in the “slider” camp since I make my living writing code for Windows primarily using Microsoft’s Visual Studio and Adobe’s Flash.  And while Flash and some other programs I use like Dreamweaver are available on the Mac, it is pretty much all PCs at the workplace.  I have been using PCs at home for years.  I started computing by learning basic on a school mainframe and then later owned a Commodore 64, Commodore 128, Amiga 500, and then PC compatibles using DOS and then later Windows 2.0 through every version up to Vista (yes even the horrible Windows ME).

Listening to a lot of podcasts both technical and Catholic I was hearing more and more about using Macs. I got an iPod a couple of years ago and I fast became an admirer of its beauty and ease of use after having several portable mp3 devices starting from a Rio MP3 CD player. The iPod was a gateway device for me to start seriously looking at Apple computers and with the advent of the Intel based Macs and the ability to run Windows via both Boot Camp or in a virtual machine using Parallels or VMware Fusion this was the incentive for me to buy my first Apple computer, an iMac.

Being a lifetime geek I love playing with computers, operating systems, and various programs.  Being a Catholic we often talk about the concept of both/and instead of either/ or.  So I am quite Catholic when it comes to operating systems instead of being Windows or OSX or Linux – why not both/and?

The point of this blog will be exploring the Mac and making the adjustments from being mainly a Windows users and the best interact with both.  I will deal with mostly Mac software, but also hardware as it relates to running both a PC and a Mac.

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