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My week with a MacBook Pro (1 Viewer)

Andrew Pratt

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I thought that now that I've lived with my shiny new Apple Mac Book Pro for a week that I'd start a blog like post with some of my thoughts about the migration from XP to OSX and what I found to date.

First let me say a word about the hardware. I went from an Asus W3J to the MacBook Pro which both cost about the same and are upper end machines from both companies. The W3J was a 14.1" glossy screen where as the MBP is a 15.4" mate finish. In my office I use in ceiling pot lights and they play havoc with glossy screens so the new matte finish works much better. Of course having a larger screen with higher resolution makes a big difference as well and IMO now having lived with the 14.1 sized screens they're too small for daily use...at least for what I used them for.

The build quality of the Asus was very good and it had a lot of features that were very 'apple' like...which isn't surprising as Asus builds the lower tier MacBook's for Apple and likely borrowed from Apple's design idea's when building their own line of notebooks. That said the MBP's are in another league with their all metal body and built in goodies like the integrated webcam, magnetic power cord, back lite keyboard, bluetooth, Wireless N and one of the best keyboards I've ever used (equal to the IBM's). That's not to say I wouldn't change a few things on the unit though as the 15" model only ships with 2 USB ports which for me is too few. I guess Apple wants us all to migrate to bluetooth devices. I ended up buying a 4 port USB hub to solve that problem so its not a show stopper just an inconvenience. The built in dual layer DVD burner has a slot load which is cool and it ejects from the front which for me is handy as I typically have documents piled beside my laptop and the standard side eject trays are always getting stuck on something or other. I also commend Apple for putting the speakers on the sides of the keyboard so that they're always unobstructed. My Asus and my wifes Dell both had the speakers mounted to the front so they typically were covered up with your arms while typing which results in lower sound quality...esp on the Asus which had rather anemic speakers to begin with. The touch pad on the Apple is solid and works nicely. One very nice feature is that if you want to scroll a window you can just use two fingers on the touch pad and it'll automatically know to scroll in the direction your fingers move. A single finger just moves the mouse pointer as it does in Windows. I know most Windows machines touch pads have dedicated area's for scrolling but its nice to have the whole touch pad for navigation.

As for the operating system itself I can see why there's so many Mac fans. It does take some getting use to as it is a 'different' way of looking at things but once you get past the initial ??? things generally make sense. The first thing you need to learn is that the Apple key replaces the Control key on a typical windows keyboard so that Control C for copy is replaced with Apple C. Its easy enough to get the hang off and for the most part the standard windows shortcuts work in OSX as well. One thing that's taking some time to get to know though is what the symbols all mean. In Windows when you browse a menu structure you'll see Alt + B etc. where as in OSX the refer to the keys by obscure symbol. Some of the keys are labeled with the symbol but many aren't so as a Mac Noob I was left guessing what some of them meant. I found a blog post with a table with them all outlined which has helped immensely. As a company that prides itself on being easy to use that's one area they need to work on.

As you may know OSX is designed from the ground up with a single mouse button in mind and its often raised as a negative by windows users against Apple. As a long time windows user I'm used to right clicking all the time so I'm not sure I could really get used to an older Mac mouse. The newer Apple mice are two button though so its really not an issue now and OSX supports just about any regular 'windows' mouse so I've been using my standard Logitech MX510 which I really like and its right click functions still call up the approp. menu's just like they did in XP.

Another oddity from a former windows guy is the Delete key. Its positioned where the backspace typically is located and it functions like a backspace...but Apple labels it Delete. To actually delete (as in forward delete) you need to press the function key as well as 'delete') I guess it makes sense given its name and the lack of a button labeled Backspace but as a windows guy it seems odd.

There's some obvious differences between how OSX is set up vs XP and I'll try to go though some of them without getting too deep into the details...for starters the application layout is different in OSX vs XP. In windows when you open Word for example you get a single window that has a standard menu toolbar across the top with the minimize, maximize and close icons on the right hand side. If you move or resize that application the top menu bar adjusts with it. In OSX the top tool bar is seperated from the application and permanetly glued to the top of the desktop. On top of that most toolbars are actually floating so that you can move them around as you like. I've always been one to maximize applications in XP but in OSX its really not required though you can easily resize windows as need be which is a good thing since OSX's maximize doens't function the way you'd expect it to since it mostly just resized to the max of the current display content not the whole screen. If you close Word in XP by clicking the "X" it unloads from Windows. In OSX if you click the Close button (red circle on the left hand side) that window closes but Word itself stays open in case you need it again. OSX is apparently very good at handling resources so these app's that aren't closed but not used apparently don't eat up much ram. You can easily close them if you like in a number of ways (Apple Q or right clicks etc) if you want to but its something that is taking me awhile to adjust to. There's also some inconsistency with that as well as some applications do close when you click the close button on the left hand side...it seems to be apps that don't have multiple windows open like the CD burning software (Roxio's Toast) but its something I've noticed in not always doing the same thing between apps. In XP Alt Tab is a staple for most of us power users and its here in OSX as well...but as you might have guessed its 'different'. For starters it uses the Apple key instead of the Alt key plus Tab to get to the same function. In XP Alt Tab brings up a listing of all the application windows you have open where as in OSX it brings up a listing of the applications you have open which means if you have an email open in your mail app an Alt Tab in XP would give you an icon for that email window where as OSX only shows you the Mail application. Once you select the app. you can then cycle though the open windows using the Apple and Tilda keys but its a pain vs the XP way in my opinion. Another annoyance is that when you select an app. using Apple Tab in OSX it doesn't automatically maximize if you'd minimized it previously? That used to bother me as I use Alt Tab a lot...but then I learned how to use Expose and Alt Tab in Windows is now hideous in comparison. What Expose does is bring up a tiled view of all the windows you have open so clicking one instantly brings it forward to your desktop. What's neat about Expose is that you can still see the content of the windows and video's etc still play in the smaller tiled windows so its very easy to find what it is you're looking for. Its also just an "F9" away so I've been using that instead of Apple Tab
I tend to use my desktop as a temp storage place when I save things I need to deal with and then remove or store away somewhere for safe keeping. In XP there's an icon down near the Start button that will minimize your app's and show you the desktop...there isn't such a beast in OSX...at least not an application like XP. The F11 function key does the same thing though by moving all the open app's to the side of the screen (all four sides) so you can see your desktop again...click any of the side's and the app you clicked comes back to life again...slick

One of the reasons that I didn't try a Mac before now was that I had too many applications that were for Windows only so I was pretty much stuck in XP. With BootCamp and Parallels now though I can install those few Windows only app's in a copy of XP and gain access to them anytime I need to without having to stay in a true Windows world. BootCamp allows users to install a full version of Windows in a separate partition and by holding down a key on a reboot you can choose between XP or OSX. Choosing either gives you a true version of either OS meaning that both are running natively at full speed. When you install BootCamp it makes a driver CD for you and automatically partitions the drive at a size you determine so its very straight forward and works slick. Parallels on the other hand works slightly different in that it takes advantage of virtualization built into CoreDuo to run a virtual copy of the OS embedded within OSX. That means that you boot into OSX like you normally would and then if you need XP you just launch it in a similar fashion you would to launching Word etc. The down side is since its a virtual copy its slightly slower and some devices don't work properly (USB 2 support is sketchy at this point) Both BootCamp and Parallels though are beta's and are improving quickly so we'll see where they end up as they mature. Parallels can already utilize the windows install set up for BootCamp so you can have both options available to you if you like...use Parallels for most of your needs and if you want to Game or run app's at full native speeds reboot into Windows via BootCamp.

I've been a long time Outlook Express user. I've tried several times to switch to a more modern email program like Outlook or Firebird but I just couldn't seem to make the switch for one reason or another. I was honestly quite worried about Apples' email client as I use email a lot and having not being able to switch before it was a concern for me going into this change over. Now that I've gotten used to OSX's Mail I'm actually quite comfortable in it and haven't really suffered from the change over. It took a bit of work to migrate my email into it from my old machine (had to import it into Eudora in XP first) but it came in fine and it sync's nicely with OSX's address book. One nice touch is that if you assign a picture to the contacts in your address book (its fun to use the built in webcam for that) the pictures show up in the emails as a header...hardly a 'wow' but its neat non the less.

I haven't tried Safari which is OSX's built in web browser as I'm a Firefox user so I just installed FireFox 2 for apple and every thing's the same there for the most part.

Installing applications is often very different then it is in Windows where installers typically do all the work moving DLL's here and there and installing registry keys etc. In Apple's world you typically get a single file with a dmg extension..simply drag that DMG file into your Applications folder and you're done OSX takes care of the rest very quickly...to uninstall just drag the DMG to the trashcan Some applications comes with an installer more like Windows but again its typically no more then click to mount the file and then click to run the install utility. I've yet to see a prompt screen asking what options I want or where to put something or other..it just does what it need to and you're off to work again.

One thing that's vastly improved in OSX is the search utility. I'm now sure how its indexing files but its VERY fast at finding information and it searches though all your files including email and documents etc. I think Vista's going to have something similar as well when its released but having used Spotlight I can see it been very handy.

I'm sure I'll have more to add later but for now that's all folks.
 

Derek Miner

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Andrew, congratulations on your new machine. I, too, have a spankin' new MacBook Pro (ten days old).

I always liked Apple's laptops, but I was disappointed that they lagged in computing power. I was really excited that the MacBook Pros had power comparable to the desktop machines, as I've always wanted to go portable with Final Cut Pro. I was thinking of waiting a few months, because I was hoping to save a bit on the Core 2 Duo version, but the Apple Store just got some refurbished units, and the $400 savings was good enough for me. I sprung for the 17" unit, so I could have the firewire 800.

Up to now, I was primarily using a G4 desktop machine, but I was holding back on upgrading to OS X 10.4. Now that I've got it on my laptop, I'm sorry I didn't upgrade before. Video performance is a lot better, and I'm intrigued by the widgets. A lot of people have raved about Spotlight, but I'm still getting used to it. I'm used to being able to re-sort searches by date, and I haven't noticed a way to do that with Spotlight yet. I do have to agree it is a lot faster than the old search, though.

As far as the machine goes, I really, really like it so far. I thought the 17" was going to be too big, but I got used to it pretty fast. I'm very pleased with the layout of the ports, althought since I actually like to put my laptop on my lap, having the CD/DVD drive in the front is a bit awkward for me. I'm also really pleased with the keyboard, which has a backlight in low light situations. Although I find the screen glares on the keys at my usual viewing angle, so that makes the keys hard to see sometimes. I'm also impressed by the new magnetic power connector. I have, unfortunately, been prey to having a laptop yanked off a table because I tripped on a cord, so this advancement is very impressive to me.

I was also happy that the machine comes with a built-in camera, because I had been dying to use Delicious Library, but I didn't want to enter barcodes manually. The scanning through the iSight is sometimes awkward, but it works pretty well when I get on a roll.

I'm really starting to like the two-finger scrolling on the trackpad. Previously, Apple had introduced the option to double-tap the trackpad to click on things, and I got frustrated with that very quickly on my last laptop. I was worried about the same type of problem here, but I've only found one quirk so far - you can also use two fingers to scroll left and right, so sometimes that will come into play while trying to scroll up or down.

Anyway, I am quite happy with my new computer, although I'm definitely an Apple fan (so I guess that means I'm biased).
 

Andrew Pratt

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All the new Core2Duo's have FireWire 800 so you didn't need to go to the 17" to get that...though I was seriously considering the 17" as well. Like you I found a great deal on a refurb MacBookPro on the Apple site which helped bring the price down below the Education price that I could have got though my wife.
 

Michael_K_Sr

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One other cool feature with the trackpads (MacBooks and MacBook Pros only) is the preference that allows you to right click by leaving two fingers on the trackpad and clicking. I generally like using a mouse, but for traveling this was a great addition in the 10.4.7 update. :emoji_thumbsup:
 

Carlo_M

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Yeah I too prefer to use mice, but the trackpad for the MBP is one of the best out there for laptops, especially with the two-finger press for scrolling function.

Supposedly Apple may refresh some of their products soon, and one thing I'm hearing might be 8 core for the Mac Pro. It might get too hard to resist :D

Actually, if they price-dropped the iMacs, or if they upped the amount of RAM you could put in it (currently limited to 3GB) I would seriously consider getting the 24" iMac because of the beautiful monitor.
 

Derek Miner

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I also discovered the trackpad can allow you to zoom. You chooose a key in the trackpad options, then if you hold that key down and drag two fingers on the pad, you can zoom in and out! I could actually take this function to the point where the word "zoom" on this page almost filled my 17" monitor. That's insane. :)

To make another comparison, I could enlarge my view to the point where Steve Jobs' head in Carlo's avatar filled my screen. :D
 

Ronald Epstein

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Andrew,

Congrats on your migration over to macintosh. There seems
to be an "awakening" amongst PC users these days as many
are moving over to mac for the first time.

As I am sure you are aware, I am one of those migrating folk.

I'm still not ready for a review as I am awaiting VISTA (released
today) to run on my mac via Parallels. I plan to continue using
OUTLOOK on my mac under those conditions as I have not found
a suitable replacement for it under mac.

I would appreciate a link to the table with all the keyboard
codes you mentioned above
.

Please keep us all posted on your discovery experiences.
 

DaveF

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(emphasis added).

I have the same trouble using my wife's Mac -- I can't decipher these symbols. Still, this is a funny comment, as this is not something Apple is going work on: They've been using these same symbols (unexplained?) for about 30 years. It is us who must adapt. :)

Good review. I enjoyed it. Nice to know Windows users can find life on the other side.
 

Andrew Pratt

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I don't mind so much if they keep using the symbols but they should at least label the keys as such so that we don't have to Google what they mean or hunt down a Mac guru.
 

Mike Heenan

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Carlo, where did you hear this about the macbook pro? Did they say anything about a possible date? I'm dyin to get a laptop but can hold off a couple months or so if something better comes down the line, lol.
 

Mike Heenan

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Ok I did a search and found appleinsider.com and there's news on the 8 core for the Mac desktop. I did find an article about the new screens for the next generation of Macbook pros, due in the second quarter of 2007, I would assume along with the new screens they'll have a performance upgrade of sorts (hopefully), so I'll be holding off for a bit till I see what happens with the new line.
 

Michael_K_Sr

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As always, these are just rumor sites, so items posted on them should be taken with a grain of salt. That said, it's just the nature of the business that something new and improved is going to be coming down the pike to replace existing technology. Thankfully I don't think we're going back to the technologically bereft final days of the PowerPC chips when laptop updates were just a pipe dream.
 

Andrew Pratt

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I waited till the Core2's were out but you'll always stay waiting for the next big thing of you don't just commit to buying at some point and try not to look back. Obviously there's times when waiting a little bit pays off but for the most part what ever you buy won't be the latest and greastest for long.
 

Carlo_M

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Agree with what everyone's said. Those rumor sites are just that: rumors. Sometimes they get it right. More often, they're wrong. And they were wrong in this case, as only new colors for the shuffle were released, nothing on the computer front.

Basically Apple has a tendency to announce and/or release new products on or shortly after MacWorld, and the WWDC. Unless I'm dying for new technology, I wait until shortly after each one to buy. But Apple hardly ever releases a PC/laptop line and then immediately refreshes, so if you buy your new Mac early enough when they product line was released/refreshed, you're guaranteed about half a year or more of being "current" :)

If the product line is mature (these current Macbook Pros and iMacs have been unchanged for about half a year) then you always run the risk of a product refresh. Such is the nature of the beast.

Heed Andrew's advice.
 

Mike Heenan

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I agree with Andrew as well, in fact I posted the same thing in another thread (in that, sometime you just have to break down and buy the thing). A few years ago I bought a top of the line G4 Desktop refurbished, and then 3 months later the G5s were announced, and then another price drop on the G4s happened. So I was a little peeved for a while but got over it, that's the nature of the beast with computers. I will probably wait another month though just to be safe.
 

Jeff Ulmer

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I'm a long time Mac user who was using Outlook until I kept running into corruption issues under OSX. One of the things that made me switch to Mail was Outlook's mailbox structure, which got lumped into one big database around version 5, making it very difficult to backup. I use a number of submailboxes to organize things, and the separate .mbox setup under mail means I can easily backup the mailboxes I want without gigs of spam or other mail bloating the file size. It also means I can archive a specific mailbox easily. I'm not sure of any functions in outlook that I haven't been able to replicate in Mail.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Andrew,

You still diggin' your mac?

Man, do I love mine!
 

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