Sunday, September 23, 2007

Taking my first bite of Apple (for quite a long time)

I've been threatening for a long time, but the moment has finally arrived, and I've bought an Apple Mac.

Back as a student, we developed Modula 2 programmes using the Metrowerks compiler on Macintosh 512 in QUB's Drill Hall (now knocked down and replaced with the Seamus Heaney library). Before that, I'd used the original Macintosh, and even had a quick play with Hypercard (that needed two floppy disks - both the internal and external floppy drives - to opearate).

Having finally outgrown a BBC Master, I remember visiting CEM - purveyors of fine computing equipment in Belfast - to look at the Macintosh LC. In the end, I bought a Dell 486 (450MHz) instead ... and although rarely powered up, it still works today - dual booting to either Windows 3.1 or Slackware Linux (all sharing 80MB of hard drive and a poxy amount of memory).

It took a long time before I upgraded, this time to a 3GHz Dell Dimension, with 18.75 time the RAM I had HDD capacity in my first Dell! But I've looked on as Macs have developed, and the hankering after a Mac has stayed with me. So I've dipped my toe in the water with a Mac Mini - the cheapest way to get a feel for what they've done to Finder since those student days.

And so I'm learning and adapting. Why have they moved around the " @ | ~ keys on the UK keyboard? Why does hitting Home or End not take me to the beginning or end of the line? I long for a Windows key so I can type Windows -> R(un) -> Calc to quickly launch the calculator without having to use a mouse. (And yes, I do launch Word and Excel with Windows -> R -> winword or excel!)

Why do I have to turn on tabbed browsing within Safari? Why isn't it there by default? And I'm sorry, but despite the well-argued rationale for keeping a straightforward user interface, I miss the right mouse button and its context-sensitive menu. Oh, and why does Blogger not support Safari for WYSIWYG editing?

I hadn't realised that the Mac Mini came with Airport (wifi) built-in. Good news, since all 4 ports on the DSL router were already in use. But how was I expected to know that I needed to prefix the hexidecimal WEP key for the wifi SSID with a dollar sign?

The adventure will continue. And I'll keep you posted. If anyone can point me to a decent Windows -> Mac FAQ/tips guide, I'll be grateful. At some stage, I'll start to experiment with Parallels and getting Windows running alongside MacOS in order to support those applications that don't exist in the Apple orchard. I'll let you know how I get on.


Rob Elkin said...

I can't remember any good articles, but here are some heads up:

Command (apple) key and left and right will take you to the end of the line.

Command+sapce will allow you to launch things quicker than in windows, although if I was you I would get quicksilver, install it and assign command and space away from spotlight and on to quicksilver, it is more than just a fantastic application launcher.

Command and , in safari will open preferences, go to tabs and there are your options. Tabs should be turned on by default anyway and so type Command and t to get a new tab.

Right mouse button does exist, go to system preferences and keyboard and mouse settings and set preferences in there if you have a mighty mouse, normal mice should have right click by default but check in there if there dont.

Drop me a line on msn/email if you need a further hand.

ruthEbabes said...

Regarding blogger.... it works better on firefox for WYSIWYG editing

John Self said...

There's definitely no right click on the MacBook Pro - because there's only one button below the trackpad!

My other minor niggle, apart from some of those you've outlined, Alan, is that there's no 'hash' button (I can't even type the symbol!) on the MacBook Pro. I am guessing this is part of their drive to keep the keyboard as basic as possible, but it's incredibly annoying when you occasionally need it.

Coke_Shy_Hero said...

On the MacBook Pro, try the "keyboard and mouse" settings panel. You should find "Tap trackpad using two fingers for secondary click". Check this to do just that (and give your mac the two fingers).

Phil O'Kane said...

i dont think i could ever get used to a mac - small things like those would get to me too much. I need the 'home' and 'end' buttons to bring me to the end of the line. I would have go use a usb two-button mouse, and just so many other countless problems i would come up against.

i want a laptop with nice wireless - it wont be a mac though.

Anonymous said...

Actually you can use the single mouse button in the conventional way. Hold down "ctrl" and press the mouse button and it acts as a left mouse click.

Another useful tip is to enable debug mode in safari. At command prompt (terminal) type:

defaults write IncludeDebugMenu 1

Restart safari and you will have an extra debug menu. One of the options (amongst many) is "User Agent". This lets safari pretend to be other browers. And that can be very handy at times.