August 27, 2003

and the mac went back
Yes, the tale is true... the 15" Powerbook has just been picked up to be returned to MicroCenter. The days of Macs and Roses are over. It was a very unique opportunity... to be able to "switch" temporarily. I did have a lot of time to formulate opinions about it.

the one bug
Only using it for a couple of months, I found the one thing that brought it to its knees. When I was using a DVI-VGA converter to display something on a projector, any jostling of the cord completely froze the Mac. This happened twice on two different occasions. Both times, I had to hold the power button down to reset the Mac, wait through boot up, relaunch and restart the presentation. Potentially very embarassing in the middle of a presentation. You'd think (especially since I was using an Apple-brand adapter) that they would actually make it so that you could screw the DVI connector into the back of the Powerbook. Not so. It has screws, but they don't reach, no matter how hard you push the connector in.

only use iTunes if you only use iTunes
Once I figured out how to SAMBA over to my PC, I told iTunes about the Music folder in my "Shared Documents" on the PC. It then proceeded to re-organize all my folders to group them by artist rather than genre, leaving lots of empty folders in the process. Sure, in iTunes, everything is viewable and sortable in the list, but on our Tivo, almost everything is unfindable. I'm still trying to figure out how to undo that mess.

it's not as fast
When I say that... I'm not talking about raw, bone-crunching megahertz power, I'm talking about myriad things. Many things are usability issues, and... if you are a Mac-o-phile, you will probably have a response for each one individually... but I'm trying to present them all together as an aggregate reason for the perceived felt slow down.
  • Editing text can be excruciatingly challenging. This is probably Microsoft's fault for establishing the standard in their Office applications, but in every Mac application I tried, drag-selecting text expands to fit the "logical" selection. Unfortunately, when you're editing HTML or trying to re-type half a word, sometimes you don't want the entire word selected. In addition, in Keynote, you were at the mercy of whatever the Mac thought you clicked on when you tried to select objects... even those that were in the templates.
  • The trackpad does not come configured for double-tap = double click. This is configurable, but it takes time to do.
  • Boot up and shut down times took forever. I literally would walk away from it and come back later to avoid having to wait for the startup. The only saving grace here is that it sleeps very well, so you don't have to shut it down all the time.
  • There's no "del" key (AKA the "forward delete" key.) I have become VERY used to being able to delete to the right of the cursor, even in mundane places like URL fields in browsers. Not doable on the mac... at least with the stock keyboard.
  • Launching most programs can take a while. The exceptions I noted were iChatAV and Safari. Maybe there's something to the fact that these are both Apple born and bred. The slowest one was "America's Army." We're talking MINUTES here. It made me wonder how people with 500 mHz iBooks survive!!
Yes, it can probably do a Photoshop gaussian blur instantaneously, but that isn't going to help me check my email.

the non-arguments
It didn't crash very often when I was using it, but yes, it did crash. Most of the time it was when I was trying out an emulator or something like BitTorrent. And there was the aforementioned DVI-VGA problem. But during the time I had it and our new HP laptop, they probably crashed about equal amounts. The HP laptop boots up in about a tenth of the time of the Powerbook, but it doesn't preserve its battery as well when sleeping. So, unlike the Mac, instead of sleeping when you are keeping it off the charger, you just shut it down. Since it boots in about 30 seconds, it's a fairly equal tradeoff.

But, I did not come solely to bash the Mac.

the fun computer
Overall, it was fun to use. Maybe that's partially because at work, Lydia and I both use PCs and it was a departure from that environment. When you're playing a DVD or surfing the web, it really shone. On this last car trip we took, we loaded it full of MP3s and iTunes-ed our way to Ohio and back. And, because it was quick-to-sleep and quick-to-wake, and because the battery lasted forever when it was sleeping (you could close the lid one day and open it the next having lost only maybe five minutes of battery life,) it was always ready to play. Many things were intuitive like CD and DVD (data) burning, the Airport, and the Home/Computer/Applications icons.

So am I ready to "switch?" No, for more reasons than one. But, now that there has been a mac in our past, will there be a mac in our future? Only time will tell. In a couple of notebook generations, if Apple has... say... a lightweight G4 iBook with a 12-14" widescreen, USB 2.0 and a combo drive in the $999 to $1299 range, we might have to take a good hard look at it.

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