Tag Archives: Software

Thoughts on Chrome

I’ve been using Google Chrome as my main web browser on my home computer, which runs Windows XP.  While I will say that I really like it, there are some features I miss from Firefox.  I miss my extensions and plugins.  That’s the one nice thing about an established browser, even if I do have to add on to it.  I have that option.  Specifically, I miss the Gmail notifier.  I suppose I could just download the one from Google to run in Windows, even when the browser isn’t open, but that’s one more thing running and I like to keep as little running as possible.  I also miss Twitterfox, my Twitter client, though I have downloaded Twhirl, which seem to work pretty well, though I find it to be a bit more than I need.  I like the simplicity of Twitterfox.  Other than that, I don’t really regularly use the other extensions I have installed (web development stuff, FireFTP, etc).

I love the homepage feature of Chrome, showing the most frequently visited pages.  I also like the speed.  It seems very streamlined and small.  I like the multi-threading with a new instance for each tab.  That makes buggy sites easy to kill without killing the whole browser.  It’s a promising browser. That being said, it can be a little buggy and sluggish at times.  For the most part, it’s quick.  I like that it uses Webkit, because Gecko just isn’t as standards compliant as I’d like it to be (for instance, my blog looks noticeably better with a Webkit browser than a Gecko browser).

I hope Google keeps up development on Chrome and that it becomes more mainstream with support for extensions or plugins.  I wish there was an option to open or save certain files (Quicken files for example want to be downloaded and not opened directly).  I like how it uses Windows Media Player as a plugin right inside the browser.  It could be a real contender and it’s kind of fun to have browser wars starting up again.  Now if only they’d release a Mac version (as I type this in Firefox on my MacBook Pro).

ResNet 2008: Last 2-3 Days

I’m not good with titles, but that really sums up what this is about.  I wrote about Friday already, now here’s Saturday through today (at least so far).

Saturday was the PDS sessions.  I learned about my DISC profile, which was a very worthwhile session.  It actually gave me some insight into what kind of person I am and what kind of manager I am.  It should help me quite a bit at work, once I go through and read the information more closely of course.  The second session wasn’t quite what I thought it would be and I wish I had signed up for the session on dealing with difficult people (since my job is 90% dealing with difficult people).  It was about balancing your life, which is something I think I do pretty well already.  While I might check my work email quite a bit at home when I’m not on vacation, it never gets in the way of enjoying my time away from the office.  So that session wasn’t really worth my time.  I was thinking it was more about balancing everything at work, which is something I could use some help with.  Maybe next year they’ll have something like that (I should suggest it).

Saturday night began the conference.  There was an opening reception with a lot of appetizers that were all really good.  There were some desserts and some really good juices, a lemonade made with some kind of mint and an iced tea with something in it that I just couldn’t figure out.  There was also a large spider, which I can’t include a pic of because I used my phone to take it and I can’t send picture messages from it up here.  During the reception, they had arranged for an Irish dance school to give us a little show.  The kids were young, but they could dance.  It was like a little Michael Flatley dancing with his people.  It was fun, but I forgot my camera and my phone camera just couldn’t cut it.

Following the reception, I went downtown with a bunch of people to a bar called Dolan’s Pub.  They had a live band called Barnacle and some pretty good local beer from Pump House in Moncton, NB.  The band played all covers, but it was a great mix of everything, including Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Great Big Sea (a Canadian band from Newfoundland), Sublime, Steve Miller, and a bunch of American 80’s music.  People were dancing.  Now there was a bachelorette party there and they wanted the bachelorette to do some crazy things.  I won’t go into details, but let’s just say there was some undergarment removal and a table dance involved… at our table.  I didn’t get back until 1:30 or so.

The next day was the keynote.  Stephen Downes gave the speech.  It was a great speech.  The guy looks just like David Crosby crossed with Arlo Guthrie.  He was a riot… at least for the first half.  He had this neat comment system on his website that he showed us.  It would display comments for 10 seconds and then move to the next one.  We had some fun with it, but some people were a little mean.  The best comment was “Did you play in a band with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash?”  The second portion of his speech was about Web 2.0.  I have already been to 2 or 3 sessions on that alone and this just wasn’t necessary for a bunch of people who are likely intimately familiar with it.  The first portion was about new ways of using the web and what young people expect of the web and internet services nowadays.

There were also 2 presentation sessions.  I attended one which was ultimately about a re-org of the department, but really hit on some good points on how to make the department great, including losing the various groups within a department and getting it to work more as a single entity than as a bunch of smaller groups.  The second one I attended was about making the Helpdesk better, but again was more about a Helpdesk re-org than what I thought it would entail, as the description mentioned a discussion of hiring and training and those were only minor points.

That was followed by the Geek Olympics.  I ended up on a team again this year and our team won (I did it last year and we came in second by just a hair)!  We had people from Stony Brook University on Long Island, Cal State in Chico, and NC State on our team.

This morning was the presentation I was working on with Sean Ward of Bowling Green State University in Ohio.  It was called “The Pros and Cons of Computer Requirements (or lack thereof)”.  It started out as a panel of 4 and ended up just being the 2 of us.  We went through our presentation in about half an hour or so, but there was a lot of discussion, which we hoped would happen.  It ended up being a pretty good presentation if you ask me.  I then went to a presentation about ConPortal, an open source web-based scheduling and time clock system originally created at Pomona College, but added to by Bucknell University.  It’s something I hope to implement, perhaps this year, though maybe next after I start requiring training (unless I require training towards the end of Winter Break).

The rest of today was left to do whatever.  I went for a walk with Sean and other guy from BGSU downtown, over a cool foot bridge that goes over the St. John river (it used to be a railroad bridge), and to a liquor store to buy some beer.  I didn’t find Péché Mortel as I had hoped, but they did have the whole Picaroons lineup.  I bought a bottle of each of the six beers they had from Picaroons and will be taking them back home with me.  The walk totaled about 7 miles, including 1.6 miles carrying the beer (I’m not going to try to put that in kilometers, even though that’s the official measurement here in Canada).

Now is time for rest and relaxation.  As we’re on our own for dinner, I’ll be headed back downtown, but my feet hurt and I need a break.

Wikis, Blogs, and Forums Oh My!

We’ve been working on a new project at work to bring more engagement from our users.  To do this, we’re jumping on the buzzword bandwagon and incorporating some Web 2.0 technologies into our department’s web presence.  Being one of the youngest and least resistant to change, I’ve been taking the lead on this.  I figured I’d post some of my experiences with some of the various tools I’ve been using.  Everything is still a work in progress, but once it’s complete, I’ll post some final thoughts.

The biggest part of the new stuff is the wiki.  If you don’t know what a wiki is, it’s basically a dynamic website editable by anyone (who has an account).  We’re using this to write up all sorts of documentation and make it easy for others to post documentation that they have.  We’re looking to build a huge knowledgebase of all the information people from various departments have.  We’re not currently limiting it to IT-related stuff because people have other questions (and we get calls about pretty much anything from the people on campus).   I started playing with MediaWiki, probably the most popular wiki software available, used by Wikipedia.  It was easy to install and get started, but configuring user accounts and doing any maintenance and configuration required playing around with MySQL commands rather than incorporating it all into a nice web-based GUI.  I gave up on that and tried TWiki.  This just didn’t work well at all and I was never able to get it up and running.  So I gave up and looked into PHPWiki.  This was just ugly and not robust enough for my needs.  I finally decided to give a tool suggested to me by the Frymaster, Deki Wiki from MindTouch.  This was a very user-friendly, easy to configure and maintain wiki.  It’s all PHP/MySQL based, and open source.  It looks nice, it doesn’t use some crazy wiki markup like MediaWiki (imagine that, actual HTML to write for the web), and we have people using it already.  If you’re just setting up a wiki and don’t know what to use, give DekiWiki a try.

The blogging software was a no-brainer.  I’m using WordPress here and it’s so simple, I just set it up for work.  I’m using the latest version with the latest version of K2 (though I edited the CSS to give it the look I want, along with a very awesome header/title image).  Not much else to report about that because I didn’t even have to think.  I’m probably going to turn this into the front page for our department site.  We’ll have news about new technology on campus, new services, security/virus alerts, and weekly random tech tips based on the calls we get.

Finally, the forum… I first played around with PunBB and while it’s nice, there’s not as much along the lines of support for it on the web and it doesn’t do everything I wanted it to (like integrate with Active Directory/LDAP) without add-ons (I like extensible software for my own purposes, but for something like this, native ability trumps extensions and plug-ins).  So I setup PhpBB3.  I found a nice theme (I can’t recall what I’m using) and played with the title and colors and it looks great.  I haven’t played with the AD integration, but it has that ability.  It has a lot more options, such as polling and better user controls.  It’s a bit big and intimidating at first, but once you get used to where everything is, it’s easy.  PunBB had a simpler administrative control panel, but you couldn’t do as much.  We’ll likely use this as a tech support forum where people ask questions and others can help answer or we can or we can point them in the right direction.  And it’ll all be archived for others to search.

So that’s about it for now.  This should all come together towards the end of the summer.  I’m hoping I get to completely replace our current website with the new stuff I’m playing with.  The fun part will be migrating stuff from my test environment to the production server.

Pidgin Forked

My favorite IM client for Windows and Linux, Pidgin, has been forked. Reading through Slashdot, I came across an article stating this. I found it quite odd that Pidgin would fork. Anyway, I actually took issue with the “feature” that caused the fork.

Upon upgrading to version 2.4.0, I found that the text input box was set at 1 line, and I could not resize it. Apparently, this is a new feature. The input box is supposed to grow automatically as you enter more text. Personally, I would find that extremely distracting. However, instead of giving in to the actual users of Pidgin, the developer, Sean Egan, simply argued why this feature is important and the good it will bring. He and only a couple others went on to explain that IM is meant for small messages, yet people who write code use it to send code back and forth quickly rather than use email (which is something I have used it for). In what could have been an easy fix with version 2.4.1 and a user-selectable option to allow resizing of the text input, the developers allowed it to be forked to FunPidgin (as of this writing, that site is also not working, so here’s a link to the project page), which is simply what my idea for 2.4.1 should be – Pidgin 2.4.0 with a re-sizable text input area.

It seems that this fork was completely unnecessary and the developers (aside from the one who forked off) are being stubborn and arrogant in telling people how they should and should not be using IM. I find it quite annoying, actually, that the developers chose to go down this path rather than simply giving in and making it an option. But the beauty of open source software is that you can easily fork off when the developers pull this kind of crap.

Anyway, here’s a link to the actual discussion (which was posted to their bug tracking system) and to the Google cache of that in case it’s still Slashdotted.

Different, but better, type of review of Ubuntu Linux

I came across this “review” of Ubuntu Linux 8.04 Hardy Heron this morning.  The reviewer doesn’t go and review it as a Linux user.  Instead, he sits his girlfriend in front of it and has her perform a series of twelve tasks.  He didn’t tweak the install at all.  He only created an account for her.  He added no software.  This is simply a base install.  Basically, he wanted to rate the usability of the new version.  The article made for a great read.

Now, the comments are split about 50-50 with half saying that this was a great read and a great experiment in the usability of the “most usable” Linux distribution.  The other half weren’t so kind.  They went on saying that if she wasn’t used to Windows, she’d be able to use it just fine or that if she wants a usable *nix, she should use MacOS X.  It’s the stuff you hear over and over from the zealots.  It’s stuff that just doesn’t need to be said.  The fact remains, however, that the vast majority of people who would care have used a computer before (very few people in the civilized world have not) and the vast majority of those came from Windows.  It’s a good test, if you ask me.  His conclusion is that it’s not ready for mainstream desktop use.  I agree with him, though I’ll take it a step farther and say that it’ll never be ready for mainstream desktop use.  That’s not a bad thing.  I like Linux for what it is and what it does, but because there are so many different distributions and so many different window managers and desktop environments, without a lot of tweaking, it’s just not for the average computer user.  Sure, distributions like Ubuntu do most of the tweaking for you, but you get only the tweaks they deem necessary.  Without a nice budget like Microsoft of Apple have, it’s not an easy task.  The best suggestion the author makes is having an initial window open up (much like in Windows and I think MacOS X) that asks you what you want to do.  It’d be a nice welcome screen that lists various tasks and helps new users find what they want.

I originally found the article on Slashdot.

5 Months-ish with the MacBook Pro

It’s been just about 5 months now that I’ve been  using the MacBook Pro as my work computer.  It’s not my primary computer at home, but when I don’t feel like being tied to my desk or I am away from home, it is my computer.  I am quite familiar with it, though not an Apple expert, by any means.

I have gotten used to everything as best I can and there are still a few things that annoy me – some related to Apple, some not.  I’ll start with the stuff that’s related to Apple.

First, I should preface this with the fact that I use an external keyboard at work.  It’s easier on the hands and I have the full number pad.  I don’t like the command+c and command+v  key combinations for copy/paste.  It’s a much more cramped position than CTRL+C and CTRL+V in Windows, though I am glad there is a key combo for that, I use it all the time.   The other issue I have is with deleting files.  Everything goes to the trash can automatically, which is nice because I can recover stuff from network and removable drives without having it automatically delete and gone forever.  However, I can’t delete a file using the “forward” delete key.  I have to use the “backspace” delete key.  That’s just weird and confusing.

This one is something I’ve complained about many times before and the comments left were “Expose rocks, it’s so much better than Alt-Tab”.  Wrong… well, at least in my case.  I Alt-Tab quite a bit.  I use it to get between programs and windows.  I still am not 100% used to Command-Tabbing to the program and then Command-Tilda-ing to the window.  That’s not intuitive and not easy.  Expose is cool and all, but I have to grab the mouse, drag it to the hot corner, and then drag it to the window I want, and if I’m not on the correct virtual desktop (yes I use Spaces), then I still need to Command-Tab.  Perhaps I should stop using Spaces?  I don’t think so.

The last thing that annoys me is the lack of a “Start Menu” (I know the Start Menu is something that Windows haters love to hate).  The thing I like about the Start Menu is easy access to all my applications without having to open Finder, choose Applications and then go to the one I want.  With the Start Menu, it’s all in a nice easy menu.  Personally, I think Applications should be a sub-menu of the Apple menu.  I like the Dock, it’s nice and easy to access all my more frequently used applications.  I generally use Spotlight to find the applications I don’t use as frequently, but sometimes I like to look through the whole list of them.  For some reason, I remember this being part of MacOS at some point (might have been pre-OS X).

Print Screen… Why the heck is there no Print Screen button on the keyboard?  Instead, there are some crazy key combinations that do, admittedly, perform some nice functions (taking a snapshot of an active window or the menu bar or something like that, or taking a snippet of a window, or doing the whole damn screen).  But when I want to quickly take a screenshot, I have to remember what those keys are (and I don’t, so I have Apple’s OS X keyboard shortcut page bookmarked).

Now onto the non-Apple stuff…

Entourage… The new version (2008) is better than the previous.  It looks better and fits in better.  That’s all fine and well, but it’s still not Outlook.  I know it was never meant to be Outlook, but I don’t understand why.  So if someone from Microsoft or who knows someone (or knows someone who knows someone who knows someone) at Microsoft, find out for me.  It’s really annoying and really pointless.  Just face the facts… not everyone is or has the option of using Windows, yet they are in an Exchange shop (like me).  I do like everything else in the new Office 2008, but Entourage still annoys me.  The biggest issue I have with it is that it will not sync my distribution lists on Exchange with Entourage, but it did grab all my other contacts from Exchange.  I had to sit and re-build all the distribution lists I had because of that.  The next version of Office for MacOS should have Outlook, not Entourage (which is really some crazy combination of Outlook and Outlook Express).  Still somewhat on the topic of Entourage is My Day.  I was originally under the impression that it was part of Entourage, yet it runs as it’s own application.  That surprised me the first time I ran it.  I do use it and refer to it often, but it should be part of Entourage, like the “To-Do” panel in Outlook 2007.

Firefox… I’m still on Firefox 2, mainly because I am not willing to play with beta software.  I know Firefox 3 should fix some of my issues, but I doubt it’ll fix all of them.  My biggest issue is the looks.  It looks like a Windows app.  That’s going to be fixed.  That’s good.  I don’t know why it wasn’t originally themed to look like an OS X app to begin with.  I hate that it doesn’t use the Apple widgets.  That should also be fixed.  My next biggest issue is that I use Firefox in it’s own virtual Desktop to avoid clutter.  When I Command-Tab to it or click on it’s Dock icon, it brings me to Firefox, but doesn’t give the window focus.  That’s stupid and really annoying.  Every other app I use works normally with that.  I have gotten used to having to click on an app before I can click a link or something, but when I click on an app’s icon or Command-Tab to it, it should have focus, that’s why I did that to begin with.  Finally, the Home and End keys do not work in web forms in Firefox (like the one I’m using to write this).  Instead, I have to hit Command-Left or Right Arrow, and even that doesn’t work all the time depending on the page.

So those are all my issues so far… now here’s what I like.  The keyboards (external and laptop) are really nice, though I wish the external one had extra plastic as I find myself leaning and accidentally pressing the Control key.  They have nice feedback and have a great feel to them.  I have finally gotten used to the ambient light sensor and I love it.  The battery life is awesome.  The wireless easily (more easily than Windows) connects to the enterprise Wi-Fi connection at work.  Fast user switching is nice and slick (I like the box rotating and wish that’s how Spaces worked).

However, I still stand by my notion that this is neither better nor worse than Windows.  They are both simply different tools to perform the same tasks.  If I knew nothing about computers, maybe the Apple would be more intuitive, but I know plenty of people who switched from Windows and had a very hard time figuring out the Apple way (one with an iMac even said that she needed an external optical drive, not realizing it was a slot fed drive on the side of the thing).

Someday, I’ll switch my primary home PC to Ubuntu Linux and I’ll write a review on that.  That will be a big project, though, and I am not sure when I’ll have the time for it (I need first backup Susan’s data onto my computer, reformat hers for XP Pro, then backup my computer to hers, and do the switch… hers needs to be done first so that she’s not without a computer).

MPAA Forced to Comply with GPL

In an awesome bit of irony, the MPAA was forced to comply with the GPL.  The MPAA had created a toolkit for universities to use to spy on their students.  Basically, it was a piece of spyware that the universities could install on their network.  The software allowed them to check to see if the students were illegally sharing or downloading movies.  The toolkit was based off Xubuntu, a port of Ubuntu, a distribution of Linux a free and open source operating system released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).  The GPL requires that any changes made to the source code of GPL’d software be made available along with the compiled software.  The MPAA, obviously not wanting some nosy student to figure out how their toolkit works, decided not to make the source available.

Not being happy with this, Ubuntu developer Matthew Garrett decided to contact the MPAA and ask them to remove the link to the toolkit or make the source code available to be in compliance with the GPL.  After several attempts to contact the MPAA without response, he contacted their ISP, explained the issue, and had the link removed.  The University Toolkit site now no longer displays a link for the toolkit.  Only the links for the usage guides remain.

Discussion at Boing Boing, Slashdot, and Gizmodo

Apple’s Leopard = Microsoft’s Vista?

I came across an article (technically an opinion piece) this morning while reading through Slashdot.  The article basically says that Leopard is just as bad as Vista (calls it Leoptard, which I found amusing).  Now, I have no problem with Vista, so you might think I have no problem with Leopard either.  I disagree with most of what this guy was saying.  However, there were a few things that I did have in common with him.

First, the crashing.  Yes, Leopard crashed once a day on me… before I installed the Parallels update (released earlier this week), which seemed to fix it (though now Parallels crashes on it’s own, but at least it’s not taking the whole OS with it).  That’s probably what this guy is seeing.  I hadn’t seen Leopard crash without having Parallels running.

Second, the eye candy.  Yes, the new Dock is probably annoying to those used to the old Dock.  However, I like it.  I hadn’t used the old Dock regularly enough to get used to it.  I think it’s slick and shiny and nice.  I think the little blue dots that denote the open applications could be a bit darker or more visible, but I don’t have a problem seeing them.  I actually think, when comparing the 2 Docks that the old one is ugly.

Third, the stacks.  Ok, I’ll bite.  They suck.  They’re annoying and I don’t see why that works better than clicking on the Dock icon and just having that folder open in Finder.  I have also found the stacks to be a little less responsive than they should be, even with 4 GB of RAM.

Fourth, consider any .0 release as “beta”.  That’s annoying.  Sure, with Windows, wait until SP1 is released and things are better.  That shouldn’t be the case.  I heard the same thing about OS X.  Wait until the .1 release is available before upgrading.  Why can’t they just make it and have it just work?  I installed 10.5.1 and I didn’t notice a whole lot of changes.  In fact, I had a change that didn’t work at all.  I went to my brother’s house where he has an Airport network, using Apple’s hardware for his wireless network (as opposed to my home network which cost a whole lot less for a Linksys wireless router).  Anyway, I added his network to my preferred networks and saved it.  Big mistake.  I rebooted and the computer wouldn’t allow me to login.  I had to go in via “Safe Mode” (holding Shift while booting), remove the network, and reboot again.  Then it allowed me to boot (only after removing applications that start on startup, like a MS database thing that installed with Office and iTunes Helper, which isn’t an actual application so I couldn’t put it back).  For sake of truly figuring out what it was, I re-added the applications that start on startup and left the wireless network out of there and it worked.  Added the wireless network and it didn’t work.  Perhaps Leopard just doesn’t like Airport networks?  I have my wireless network saved and it starts up and logs in and connects to the network just fine.

Finally, I’m still waiting for better Active Directory integration.  The Apple people I’ve spoken with say “It just works”.  It doesn’t.  There are things that still just do not work properly (like giving me all my network drives without having to map them myself, I only get my personal drive, but not the department shared drive unless I map it myself, which I did permanently in the Dock).

I would have to say that most of his problems are stupid whining and the crashing is probably related to use of Parallels.  He should download the update and it should then work just fine.  However, since I also have few issues with Vista, I guess I’d say, sure it’s like Vista, but neither are overly problematic.

A week with Apple

I’ve now been using the Apple for a whole week. I’ve spent as little time on my Windows box at home as possible (basically I’ve only been using it first thing in the morning and last thing before bed because it’s always on and I have to pack my laptop for work). I’ve been trying to get used to the Apple as much as possible and have found it to be a great little computer. There are still some nuances that I will have a hard time getting use to.

I mentioned before that I use Alt-Tab in Windows a lot. It’s great because it rotates through all the open windows. The Command (the key with the apple on it) Tab on the Apple only switches between open applications. I learned yesterday that you can switch between open windows within an application by hitting Alt-Tilda. However, that application has to be the active one in order to use that feature. It’s quite annoying. I would prefer to just “Alt-Tab” between windows.

Another thing about this particular laptop (and probably all 15″ MacBook Pros) that I find annoying is the ambient light sensor. While I like the feature as it saves my eyes and battery life, it also has an annoying habit of adjusting the brightness on the fly. It’s very sensitive. I noticed that there’s a sensor in each speaker that both have to adjust together to work. I noticed this by putting my hands on one speaker and see nothing happen (tried with the other speaker as well). I got it to work by covering both speakers, which are located on either side of the keyboard. The sensor is nice except that being on either side of the keyboard, it notices shadows from my hands when using the keyboard and dims and brightens while I’m typing (it’s done it about 10-15 times now while writing this). I imagine that’s just the way it is and not something that can be fixed (it’s not annoying enough to have me send the thing back to Apple).

I started using Spaces. I love it (though I have used virtual desktops in the past both in various window managers and desktop environments in Linux and with certain NVidia drivers in Windows. The nice thing about Spaces is that it makes it easy to assign certain programs to certain virtual desktops. It keeps my space less cluttered. The only thing I have an issue with is when switching to Firefox from another application using the Dock (I keep Firefox open all the time), it switches to the proper desktop, but does not switch focus to the active Firefox window (though it does make Firefox the active Application in the menu bar). It works properly for all other applications, just not Firefox. I’m hoping that either 10.5.1 or Firefox 2.0.0.10 (or 2.0.1 or whatever is the next version of Firefox) fixes this little bug.

The only other issue I have with OS X is that when a window is not active, I can’t click on something in that window and both have that action happen and the window become active. For example, in Windows, I can click on a link in a Firefox window that’s not active and have that link open along with Firefox becoming the active window. Here I have to click once to bring Firefox to focus and a second time to click the link.

So once again, it sounds like I hate this computer. That is not the truth at all. I really like it, but there are some things that will take a lot of getting used to.

Thoughts on MacOS X Leopard

While I have no experience using any of the previous versions of MacOS X on a regular basis, I have been using Leopard since receiving this laptop on Tuesday. Here are some initial thoughts after using it for a couple days.

First thing is what’s on my mind right now – the wireless network configs. I don’t like the default settings, nor do I like how it was the only part of System Preferences for which I had to hit Apply to have the new settings take effect. The default settings have it ask you to connect to a wireless network everytime AirPort turns on (generally when the computer starts up). While that’s nice and all, I use a wired connection at work, the primary place I’ll be using this laptop. It’s just one thing I don’t need to see popping up. I like how in Windows, it does let you know wireless networks are available, but it’s just a small bubble that goes away on it’s own. In OS X, you have to click Cancel to get it to disappear. Another default setting, which was a default in Windows XP that they got rid of in Vista, is how it automatically adds any network you connect to to your preferred networks list. That not only forces it to connect to wireless when it sees a network with the same SSID, but it can be a security issue, if someone creates a network with that SSID to get people to connect to it. Luckily, there was an option to disable automatically adding them. I turned that off as soon as I found it (and it turned back on because I didn’t hit Apply, thinking that hitting OK in previous window was enough). The preferable way is how Windows Vista handles connecting to a wireless network. When you connect to it, it asks you if you want to save it to your preferred networks list.

Another thing I’m really used to with Windows is the Start Menu. While many Apple users probably depise it, I think it’s helpful for someone who has a lot of programs that they run often, but don’t keep running. I could make my Dock super long, but that can get ugly. We’ll see how it goes though. I have the most common programs I use in the Dock and the rest I access through Finder in Applications. It takes a few more hits to get there, but I get there. The Start Menu puts everything I use regularly at much easier access with fewer clicks.

That leads me to discussion of the Finder. There are things I like about Windows Explorer which are nicer than the Finder. The first is how I can expand and collapse directories in the left pane (though there is a view with the Finder that allows you to do something similar, though not quite as nicely, if you ask me). The second is how when I drag a file into a directory, it just puts it where I drop it. I’m anal and like organization. I have to go and say sort by name to organize things alphabetically. The last thing I’ll pick on Finder about is when you arrange by anything, it puts the directories in with the files. I like the way Windows puts the directories at the top of the list, making them easier to find (though I can see myself getting used to the Finder way at some point). I did a sort by Type and it put the directories at the end. That’s something I don’t ever see myself getting used to.

It’s very easy to pick out the flaws in anything. In fact, it’s far easier to pick out the flaws than it is to pick out the nice features. I like Leopard. It’s doing a great job at what it’s supposed to do, even though it is different than the Windows way. I like the Dock. It’s fun, it’s slick looking, and it makes sense. It’s an easy way to get around some of the things that are flawed about the Start Menu and taskbar in Windows (though Microsoft would piss off their customers if they changed things that drastically). I am also getting used to the menu bar and am starting to like how when applications are written specifically for the OS, certain aspects are kept uniform. For example, finding the options/preferences/customization menu for different pieces of software could be like finding a needle in a haystack in Windows applications. Here, it’s always called “Preferences” and always found in the menu with the same name as the application (perhaps that menu has a more general name, but I don’t know it). I also just discovered while writing this that I can access recent items (which includes applications) from the Apple menu. This removes my specific need for the start menu.

Back to some flaws/frustrations. One thing I use in Windows all the time is Alt-Tab to switch between different windows. The nice thing about using that in Windows is it switches between actual windows. There is a MacOS equivalent using the Apple key and Tab. However, it doesn’t have the same functionality. Instead of switching between windows, it switches between whole applications. This isn’t so bad except when I have a smaller window hidden by a larger one. I realize I could just use the Window menu, but it’s nowhere near as fast as what Alt-Tab does. This happened a couple times to me today when using Firefox.

Another thing I like, though I had something similar with Vista, is Spotlight. It’s a great way to find what you need and find programs quickly without having to go through the Finder. The search function in the Vista Start Menu does the same thing though, so I was used to it. I don’t know it Spotlight also searches metadata, but the one with Vista did, which was a nice touch.

Expose is cool, though nothing super special (I like the switch between windows thing that Vista has, which is a bit more fun). The Dashboard is cool and a bit nicer than the Windows Sidebar in Vista (which needs a bit of work to be more functional). I’ve heard the Parental Controls in OS X are nice, though I have no kids and no reason to ever try them just yet.

So, a conclusion… since I know this has sounded mostly bad, my experience has been anything but bad. There have been a few frustrations, but the experience is really not a whole lot different than using Windows. I know all the Apple folks are gonna be like “just wait a couple months and you’ll see that it’s a gazillion times better than Windows”. Maybe for you all, but I really doubt I’ll feel that way. It’s another tool. It’s nothing special. I like it, I like Vista, I like Ubuntu (which someday I’ll get on my home computer to use exclusively on that and give me something else to write about). Regardless of all that, this is a nice computer and a worth replacement for my previous laptop (which I did really like, even though it wasn’t as sexy looking).

And to just ward off any naysayers about what I’m calling this computer (an Apple, not a Mac) in this article and in response to the comments in the previous one, I call computers made by Apple, Apples. My reasoning for this is in part the silly television ads that Apple had with the PC guy (John Hodgman) and the Mac guy (some really unfunny guy). PC stands for Personal Computer. This definition could mean any computer used for personal use, desktop, laptop, office workstation, whatever. It means “not a server”. The term PC (not “Personal Computer” but PC) came to mean IBM-compatible. It has an x86 architecture. A Mac was a computer with Motorola hardware and then PowerPC. However, upon switching to Intel x86-based hardware, the Mac was now a PC. Thus, I don’t call a new Apple a Mac as that is now a misnomer. If Apple stopped perpetuating this silly PC vs. Mac thing, this would be a non-issue, but Apple decided to perpetuate it with their silly commercials (and a really crappy actor to play the role of the Mac). So to anyone who thinks that these computers are still called “Macs”, that’s not the case. Do people that walk around with a Dell laptop call it their PC or their Inspiron? Do people who walk around with HP’s call them their Pavillion? No, it’s their computer, their laptop. I get the feeling that people call their Apple computers “Macs” because it makes them feel better, like a higher class of computer users, not a lowly Windows user. It’s a PC because it uses PC (IBM-compatible) hardware. For those of you calling me a switcher, that’s not the case. I use it all… Windows, Linux, and MacOS (and I know there’s more and I’ve used more… like BeOS (which I like better the OS X) and I briefly toyed with QNX).