My First Mac

Looking for a new laptop I decided to get a Mac, a MacBook Pro 13″. First I was hesitating, cost, unfamiliar OS and the fear of the lack of interoperability left me doubtful. The problem of price sort of solved itself as I stumbled over a coupon code on the web and so I could save about 150€ (~$212 as of 25th January). I had to act quick and decided to get it before the offer would expire.

A couple of days later the MacBook arrived. The unpacking, the packaging being premium to say the least, reminded me of boxing day as a child.

The first boot // iApps

I carefully — yes, carefully — pressed the power button. After watching the welcome video I entered my iTunes account information so the Wizard could import personal data like my name, my address and phone number. Pretty convenient.

The Desktop and the dock, filled with a lot of shiny icons asking to be clicked, showed up. I spent the next hour playing around with the Apps of the bundled iLife ’09 and soon realised that I had absolutely no need for any of them.

  • I don’t play and instrument, so I don’t need Garage Band,
  • I don’t shoot films, so I don’t need iMovie
  • I don’t need to author DVDs, so I don’t need iDVD
  • iWeb, really?

Don’t get me wrong, they look decent and while I don’t need them right now you never know when they could come in handy and I’m not going to uninstall them, for now.

Dashboard // Exposé // Spaces

The Dashboard didn’t seem very useful to me and I didn’t even bother to try using it. This changed when I heard about and wanted to use iStat Menu. The 13″ screen isn’t that big and every inch of menu bar space is precious. The screen size limited the potential of this app and so I had to look for another way to display system information. The folks behind iStat Menu had made another app to display system information, iStat Pro, a Dashboard widget. is when I started using the Dashboard. To be honest I didn’t really use the Dashboard, I used iStat Pro. Then I had to track a package I ordered and read that you can add elements of a web page to the Dashboard via Safari. A quick and easy solution to track the package. I don’t see myself using the Dashboard all the time, but it’s cases like this that make it a really useful addition to the OS.

As a Windows and Linux user I was using alt-tab This constantly, it is part of my workflow and my favorite way to switch between applications, or should I say windows and that’s the catch. The OSX equivalent to alt-tab, cmd-tab, doesn’t work in the same way it does in Windows or in Gnome/KDE on Linux. It switches focus between applications, not windows. So if I had either to get a third party software or to use the mysterious art of Exposé-fu. If you don’t know have any idea what Exposé does, it basically shows thumbnails of all currently opened windows on a single space. It is easily accessible by a dedicated key (F3 without fn.) or by a three-finger gesture on the multitouch trackpad. Once you opened Exposé you can choose between windows either by clicking on them or by navigating with the arrow keys and hitting return. It’s a different way of moving between windows but I got used to it. One of the coolest things about Expose is that it’s not only accessible on your desktop but you can also use it while using cmd+tab which results in it displaying all windows of the particular application. Or you can use it will viewing the Spaces overview.

Spaces are different workspaces on which you can place windows on, it’s just like the multiple desktops on Linux. Although I use spaces, I’m not really happy with it. It’s great tool to organise your work and applications but it doesn’t offer any customisability. For instance you can’t assign a hotkey to move the active windows to another space like I’m used to from Linux. You have to drag a windows and use a hockey or you have to drag it to the border of the screen. It’s a little annoying but I can live with that.

There’s one thing though that’s really disappointing…

F/LOSS on the Mac // Software I bought

I’ve been using a lot of F/LOSS software on Windows, and of course I’ve used mostly F/LOSS software on Linux and still use on my server. The free software scene on the Mac is kind of dead, I don’t know if it was ever alive in the first place. You really don’t find that much OpenSource software on the Mac. Widely used examples of OpenSource software on the Mac are Adium, and libpurple-based IM-client, and VLC, the latter with an unknown future because of the lack of Mac developers.

So what do you do if you’re looking for some handy, small apps and there is no F/LOSS? You buy it. There are lots of independent developers on the Mac and they sell tens of thousands apps, ranging from note taking applications to bitmap graphic editors. It really doesn’t bother me to pay for software, if I think it’s worth it, but some of them are just overpriced in my opinion. Luckily most, if not all, developers offer demo and trial version of their software for you to evaluate.

Two examples of Software I bought, Socialite, a social network client, that I’m using for Twitter, Digg and Google Reader. And CoverSutra, kind of a remote app for itunes that sits on you desktop and/or your dock. It’s currently on sale with 75% off the regular price.

Conclusion

I don’t regret getting a Mac, but I’ve realised that the grass isn’t as green as it looks from the other side of the fence. It’s been only two and half months and maybe it’s only because it takes more time to getting used to how things work on the Mac. It’s a different OS, it’s a different world and becoming familiar with any aspect of it will take a while and I’m confident that I can manage not to through it out of the windows any time soon and you can expect a couple of reviews and things about the mac that are on my mind soon. So stay tuned.

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3 thoughts on “My First Mac

  1. Nice to hear about your first mac experiences. I’ve recently done the same thing and bought the same MacBook last summer. I’m also missing some of the features that GNU/Linux offers, mostly the extent to which you can actually customize your system for your everyday usage. But my overall conclusion is way more positive than yours. First of all, it took me some time to get used to OS X and its different approach of handling files. As time went by I found some nice features in the OS X software suite. Try Automator, for example. It’s basically writing (simple) scripts with a GUI. I agree that on a mac there aren’t as many free and open source apps as we’re used to on a linux system. Still, many of those apps can be used through MacPorts. I figured there are lots of nice features in OS X and I didn’t find another OS yet, that looked so good and, what’s definitely most important, just works. I very seldom have a crashing programme and basically never have to reboot. When I come home I open my MacBook and without ANY delay I can access my computer.
    I hope you’ll find the right apps for your needs and stay happy with your MacBook. Oh, and by the way, try F11 :-)

  2. I tried Automator once but couldn’t get it to do anything I wanted. But I didn’t spend much time trying, was busy doing other things. Once I can be bothered I’ll look into it.

    I’m still using Inkscape and Gimp. I tried about every alternative there is but didn’t like any of them, all lacked something and Illustrator and Photoshop are just too expensive for a casual user. But this is a whole different story and I’m probably going to write about it on one of my next posts.

    I knew about F10. I’m using active edges to do that.

    You probably know that already but if you’re in cmd+tab and press arrow-up, or click on a dock icon of a running application while in Exposé the windows of that app are displayed. Or you can just click and hold a dock icon outside of Exposé.

    Oh, and thank you for your comments.