A Couple Days with the Apple

I’ve now had the Apple for a couple days. While I am still not used to certain things, here are some thoughts that I’ve had while using it, along with a major frustration.

I really like the computer. The keyboard on the laptop has a really nice feel to it. The keys are like a rubbery feel instead of hard plastic like most laptops. However, for whatever reason, Apple decided to make the touchpad “wide screen”, meaning it’s the same scale as the wide screen monitor. While it might sound nice to have so you can go over the whole screen without picking up your finger, the balls of my hands hit it periodically when I’m typing, clicking me to another window. While there is a setting to prevent false taps, it doesn’t work very well. It’s not that much of an issue, but I do prefer the smaller square touchpads of PC laptops. The trackpad does have a nice feature with gestures. 2-finger scrolling scrolls windows and 2 finger tapping brings up the “right-click” context menu. I love that feature, especially with the lack of a right mouse button.

I really like the ambient light sensor. My HP had one and it worked great. This one also adjusts the brightness of the backlit keyboard, which is pretty cool.

The best part of the laptop is the battery. It has a power meter on it so you can tell how much juice it has when the computer is off (or even when the battery is taken out of the computer). The battery life on this is killer. The first day I had it, I used it for about 4-5 hours, which includes installing Leopard. It didn’t even have a full charge. The magsafe charger adapter is a nice touch. I thought it’d be flimsy and fall out easily, but it’s nice an strong.

The optical drive leaves something to be desired. I feel like I’m going to scratch the discs I stick in it because it’s a tight fit. I also don’t like how I have to shove it just about all the way in before it’ll grab and pull it the rest of the way. It’s really noisy as well (most optical drives make noise, but this is particularly noisy when it’s reading a disc for the first time and when it sucks it in and ejects it).

The keyboard, aside from feeling nice, has some things missing, like a forward delete key (the opposite of backspace, which is what the delete key does), regular sized arrow keys (these are tiny), and a home and end key. What I don’t get is why there are 2 enter keys, one where it should be and one where the right option key should be located.

I had some issues with Parallels causing my keyboard not to work, but after installing the Parallels tools on the Vista VM, it seems to have stopped (that was fixed when I wrote the first paragraph).

Overall, I like using OS X, and I like the way this computer was built. I’ve basically stopped using my XP machine at home in place of this one so I can get used to it. There are some things that bug me, like tabbing in Firefox and having it skip over drop down menus and check boxes. Apparently, that’s a Leopard/Firefox thing and not a real issue though. We’ll see how it goes. I wish MS would release a compatibility update for Office 2004 so I can open all the newly created Office 2007 documents without using Parallels, but such is life. I’ll write more as time goes on…

26 thoughts on “A Couple Days with the Apple”

  1. Jim,

    Welcome to the Mac. It is a Mac, by the way — Apple just makes them. Give yourself a chance to learn a new way of doing things, the Mac way, which is sometimes worse, almost always better but certainly different from Windows. Allow the shock of the new to wear off. Some people coming from the Windows world know that way and that way only, so the value of the Mac experience eludes them. The same is true in reverse, by the way. We like to think the Mac is a better experience, but you’ve got to let the Windows way recede a little.


  2. Actually, a “Mac” is a computer running MacOS on PPC architecture. It’s a hardware difference, not a software difference. PC hardware (x86) is the same thing that’s in any computer that runs Windows. So I’m using a PC made by Apple, not a Mac.

    I like it so far. I don’t think it’s any better than Windows, it just does the same exact tasks differently. I’ve used MacOS before, but never regularly. The only other operating system I’ve used semi-regularly is Linux (though I did toy around with BeOS for a while). They all do the same things, just differently.

  3. I’m glad to hear your first impressions. The missing forward delete key is a common complaint. You’ll find there are a lot of hidden features. The books are coming out now on Leopard so I would get one as they often contain customization possibilities for PC users. Keyboard shortcuts and customizations are numerous as you’ll find as you start interacting with the support available in the Mac community of users. Apple’s iWork suite has a word processor and spreadsheet that can open most Office 2007 files. I’m surprised that TextEdit doesn’t as it opens older word files. Of course it’s not the same as Office ’08 would be. Have you tried dropping the Word file on it’s icon? As with Windows it will take a long time to get to the “expert” level. If you’re using Leopard you may have similar problems as some early adopters. Be sure to install the updates. Have fun.

  4. I don’t have iWork, not something we paid for. We’re basically strictly MS Office, though I wish I had iWork solely for Keynote. I’ll try TextEdit and see if that works.

  5. Actually, some would say you’re not on a Mac because it doesn’t have the original 680XX processor inside!

  6. A ‘function – delete’ is the same as a forward delete.
    Any thoughts on Safari?
    Welcome to the Mac world.

  7. I actually haven’t really used Safari. I’ve been using Firefox since day 1. I think that was the first thing I installed. I rely on too many extensions to use anything else.

    And yes, I know about function delete, but that’s too many keypresses. I prefer as quick as possible. It’s not like they don’t have the real estate on the laptop either, there’s plenty of room. What I think is dumb is that the 17″ has the same keyboard as the 15″ (and 12″ back when they still made a 12″ “pro” model).

  8. Apple, the company, stopped making Apple, the computer, in 1986. If it uses the Mac OS, it is a Mac computer. All personal computers are PC’s.

    If you need a Windows keyboard to operate, plug one in. If you need a multi-button mouse, plug one in. If you want to change the function of a key on your keyboard, change it. It’s not rocket science.

    It takes about a month to get comfortable with the Mac way of doing things. Go with it, don’t try to make it more Windows like.

  9. I’m not talking about what Apple calls the computer. I’m talking about when people talk about a PC and a Mac. Yes, I know PC stands for Personal Computer (which includes any computer on someone’s desk). The difference I’m talking about existed when Apple Macintosh computers ran on the PPC architecture rather than the x86 architecture, which all other PC’s run on. When Apple switched to Intel, the differentiation between PC and Mac from the common terms was gone because they were using the same hardware.

    I don’t need all those Windows “crutches”. I have no intentions of making it “Windows like”. However, I will say that the only reason this is called more intuitive than Windows is when someone has never touched a computer. For the average computer user (which I most certainly am not), if they had been using Windows for 15 years, they will have quite a hard time making the switch, almost to the point where they’ll give up. I know a few people like that (I have to support them).

    What I hate about Apple people is the arrogance that everything Apple is the best (which is most certainly not true, as there are several things I find much better in Windows, which I’ll write about when I go over the software side of things in my next post about this computer).

  10. Jim,

    Your response to Richard’s “welcome” was both incorrect and condescending. The computer is not an Apple, it is a Macintosh. Historical and prevailing usage, as well as all of Apple’s own marketing make it clear that your position is simply not arguable. You are welcome to refer to a Windows PC made by Dell Computer as a Dell, but the computer made by Apple is only referred to as a Macintosh. And, if you care about how you treat others who offer wholly positive feedback to one of your blog entries, you might want to reconsider how you use the term “actually.” As a lead-off it turns a response into a rejoinder, and as such, comes across as smug and snide. Richard took the high road by not responding.

    Christopher Fenger

  11. I explained what I meant in a previous comment. I’ll start referring to a computer made by Apple as a Mac when people stop the whole PC vs. Mac thing (which Apple perpetuated with their silly commercials). A PC is not a computer running Windows (which Apple would like us to think, at least based on their commercials). A PC in the sense that they’re using is x86 architecture, making a Mac PPC architecture. Yes, I know about what I’m talking about and my position is quite arguable as I know plenty of people who would actually side with me (and if you look above, there’s at least 1 commenter who even went so far as to take it one step further.

    Actually, my comment was meant to be smug and snide as the experience I have with most Apple-people (generally fanboys) is quite negative and made me dread the day I actually got this (I knew it was coming for quite some time, just a matter of budgets working out in my favor). I don’t buy into the “my operating system is better than yours” pissing matches that so many people get into over these things. It’s pretty dumb. They all serve a purpose, and whether you want to believe it or not, Windows does what it’s supposed to do, pretty well if you ask me. Again, I’ll be writing about my thoughts on the software side of my switch next (probably tomorrow). I have more issues with it than I did with the hardware. A little teaser for that post is how I was able to configure a lot more myself in Windows than I have been able to in OS X.

  12. About the Firefox tabbing thing…

    Go to this address-> about:config
    This is the Firefox configuration page.
    and set/add accessibility.tabfocus to either:

    3 to be able to tab to form controls or
    7 to be able to tab to everything

    And other values would limit/extend what gets tabbed to.

  13. You are welcome to use your own terminology and risk being misunderstood if you like, but your insistence that Intel-based computers made by Apple are not Macs is perverse. As for everything Apple makes being the best, sure, that’s a common enough sentiment. I would argue that everything Apple makes is (generally) the easiest to use. Ease of use is not the most important quality to everyone (cf. Linux fans), but it is probably the quality that keeps Apple customers loyal. YMMV.

  14. Geez, people, cut the guy some slack. His complaints are the same as many switchers, and not at all unusual.


    Download a little app called DoubleClick. I use it for only one thing, but it’s a Godsend. It maps the backslash key to forward delete. I agree with you that Fn-Delete is too clumsy for a key I use so often.

    You may also want to use it to map that second enter key to something else. On newer keyboards, like Apple’s small wireless that I’m using, the second Enter is gone and replaced with the Option it should have always been.

    For Home and End I use Fn-Left and -Right arrow. Clumsy, but it’ll do for now.

  15. @John

    I’ve never been misunderstood when I call the computer an Apple. I think by now everyone know who Apple is and that they make nice shiny computers. I find it funny that this argument has continued, while my point is that Apple had started the whole thing with the PC guy and Mac guy TV ads. The fact that they even do it should be enough for you. If they said Dell guy, that’d be fine. But a Mac is a PC, period. That’s the point I’m trying to make, and that’s why I won’t call it a Mac. No misunderstanding coming from me and even the least computer savvy people I know understand what I’m talking about.

    I’ll try all the suggestions the others made when I get to work (no point in pulling out a laptop for 5 minutes of use before work). Thanks for the input, I do appreciate it. I’ll probably be getting an external keyboard and mouse for when I’m at work (when I need the extra keys the most). I’ll have to find the place where I can map keys.


    If I map the backslash key to something and end up needing a backslash, how do I get it?

  16. Technically, there are not two enter keys. There’s a return key and an enter key. Sadly, OS X _still_ doesn’t correctly handle the difference. Return is a carriage return and often will activate the default button. The enter key is supposed to _always_ activate it.

    As for the windows home and, the arrow keys do it but add modifiers. Hold down command and press left or right to do home or end. For moving words, hold down option. Add shift to select as it goes. Control does weird stuff and seems to be a similar to command (not sure why they added that move modifier key with OS X).

    There’s tons of info for switchers/adders online.

  17. The Return key also says Enter on it so I assume it would be do the same (as it does the same on a regular keyboard, which has the symbol for carriage return and the word Enter). I don’t think I understand the difference or the reason that both exist (unless it’s purely a historic/legacy thing).

    I don’t need a Windows key (obviously since I’m not using Windows and I rarely use that key anyways, though the Apple key does the same as the Windows key when I’m using Parallels). I’ll get used to the keys. I don’t like Apple C/V to copy/paste though. It’s in the wrong place and requires strange manipulation of my hand to hit that combo.

    I consider myself an adder, not a switcher. I use it all for various purposes, though I suppose if I really end up liking this, I might go Apple for my next home computer (which is many many years down the road).

  18. Welcome to another way of doing things. Unlike many, I believe the Mac is a tool. Period. I happen to prefer it to other OS’s and find it more intuitive, but if you are coming from an entrenched MS background it will not be natural for a while. Most of the functions do behave a certain way for a reason, and you got it right. If someone has not used a computer much/at all, it is easier and more natural (in my opinion). I have been using them since the early Motorola days and still find them a pleasurable experience. Many IT types where I work are now using the laptops because of the flexibility with ‘Nix servers etc.

    Call it an Apple, a Mac, a Steve Jobs special, I don’t care. You will find most peeps will know what you mean. Welcome to the fold, I hope you stay, but if you don’t let us know why.

  19. @stefan

    Thanks for that link, but it’s not what I was hoping for. That merely converts the Office 2007 files to the other format. I prefer not to have to go through an extra step to open it. I can just open those files using Parallels and wait for Office 2008.

  20. @TW

    Thanks for the hint. I tried that and while it allowed me to tab to everything, it broke my ability to right click. I had to go and edit the prefs.js file to remove the new entry.

    I did find another fix. In System Preferences -> Keyboard and Mouse -> Keyboard Shortcuts, there’s an option at the bottom for tabbing that, by default, it set to tab only to text boxes and lists. You can change it to allow you to tab to all controls. I did that and it fixed the issue. That’s something that should be set by default, in my opinion.

  21. Jim,

    “If I map the backslash key to something and end up needing a backslash, how do I get it?”

    Fn-Backslash. I use the backslash key so rarely on the Mac it’s never been an inconvenience for me. YMMV, of course.

  22. Jim, the kerfuffle about what you call your new computer is indeed a storm in a teacup, but a fun little diversion nonetheless. 🙂

    The reason why it rubs Mac users up the wrong way is due to the fact that CPU architecture has very little to do with what makes a Mac a Mac.

    The first computers Apple made were indeed called Apples – the Apple I, Apple II, Apple IIe, Apple IIc, Apple III, Apple IIgs and they were clearly labelled and referred to as such. They ran Apple DOS and then ProDOS. The Mac old guard (I’m one of them) still remember the Apple II vs Mac rivalry (we all wished the Apple II would finally die already!) so that’s probably where some of the friction stems from.

    However, the first Macs were powered by the Motorola 68xxx range of CPUs and they all had Mac (or Macintosh) in their model name. Then Apple changed to the PowerPC architecture and they were now called PowerMacintosh computers and interestingly enough, their laptops, the PowerBook and iBook didn’t even have Mac in their model name at all, but they still ran the Mac OS and were called Macs.

    Most recently, Apple switched to the x86 architecture and if anything, every Mac is more a Mac than ever thanks to every model name starting (or finishing) with the word Mac – Mac Mini, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Mac Pro or iMac.

    The fact is that it is the native operating system of the computer that makes a Mac a Mac. Mac OS X with it’s platform independent heritage (NeXT OS ran on Motorola 68K and intel x86 before being ported to PPC to become Mac OS X eventually).

    Sure the Mac has always been a Personal Computer (PC) in the widest sense, but the narrower definition of PC as in “IBM PC compatible” has always been an easy way to distinguish between the Windows OS world and the Mac OS world. You are right that the Mac is now an “IBM PC compatible” computer, but it is sold with Mac OS X installed not Windows so the need for a distinction from the Windows PC world is still relevant.

    The word Wintel (for Windows-Intel) doesn’t work anymore because of AMD etc, so PC has tended to win as shorthand for a Windows PC computer and Mac for a Mac OS computer. It may not be rigorous nomenclature, but the Mac-world has used it forever, so don’t think Apple started it with their recent Mac vs PC ads!

    The other point is that Apple could very easily mean an Apple TV or iPhone or iPod Touch running OS X these days, so Mac is a much more appropriate shorthand for Apple Personal Computer running the desktop Mac OS X as opposed to the cut-down embedded OS X on these smaller devices.

    As usual YMMV, but hope this helps to explain the reaction. 🙂



  23. Welcome Jim,

    I always enjoy reading how switchers are getting along with the move over to the Mac side. In general, I’d say most people are resistant to change and find it uncomfortable for a few weeks or so depending on their experience and… youth.

    We are an all-Mac shop and hire employees who are used to PCs. We find it takes about a month or so before they get comfy with the new ways of doing stuff. What is interesting is they end up buying our Macs as used computers because they really enjoy many of the features that make using it more fun.

    Change is tough and there is a huge urge to make OSX as much like Windows as possible. We’ve seen that in every employee, at first. Then they just let go and start to adapt. It takes time but rejoice in the fact that your neurons are forging new pathways!

    PS By the way, may of us Mac diehards are also experiencing new change in the OS as Leopard has arrived and has new interface tweaks everywhere you look.

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