Technically speaking, it’s the second Mac I’ve purchased (the first being for my daughter when she went to college). But this is my first Mac. It’s not the latest-and-greatest — just a slightly used PowerBook G4 Titanium picked up on Craigslist — but it’s faster than both my aging Sony VIAO desktop and my aging IBM Thinkpad T40 at work.
Why a Mac? No, I didn’t buy into Apple’s entertaining I’m a PC and I’m a Mac campaign. It’s something I’ve been planning to do for some time now. I have no plans to abandon my Windows XP or Vista machines at all; I just wanted to add a Mac to the mix. This will let me test and report on Mac-only applications like Adium for my IM site, BigBlueBall. I can use some of the best podcasting tools available. I can test my web sites in the Mac environment. And I can learn what life is like in the world of OS X.
I’ve been using Windows since the very first version, and making the switch to a Mac comes with a learning curve. What has become second nature on Windows XP and Vista, is different on a Mac. So I’m going to share my experience with others, creating a practical guide for other Windows users looking at making the jump to a Mac. One of my goals is to produce a must-have list of indispensable programs for the Mac.
It should be noted that the newer Macs with the Intel chip make it really, really easy for Windows users by providing BootCamp. With BootCamp, you can install Windows XP or Vista on your Mac, and choose what operating system you want to use. It’s the ultimate compatibility solution for those looking to replace their Windows-based PC. My G4-powered Mac doesn’t run BootCamp, but can run Windows emulation software. I don’t plan on going that route, since I still have my Windows PCs when I need those.
My laptop came with a fresh install of Leopard — the latest version of OS X. There’s a fair amount of functionality out-of-the-box. The built-in wifi made connecting to our home network a breeze. I was able to launch Safari and start browsing the Internet within minutes.
Apple provides some great resources for PC users making the switch. Switch 101 provides advice on how to migrate files and explains how to perform common tasks like cut-and-paste on the Mac. Worth a bookmark.
One of the first thing I did was check out a few of my websites. I was dismayed to see that this very blog did not display correctly. I did a little investigation and discovered the problem was linked to the Lightbox plug-in. I’ve disabled it for now, and all is well again. The experience just validated the need to test sites on multiple platforms, and not just with multiple browsers.
As an IM expert, I checked out Apple’s iChat messaging program. iChat lets you connect with a .Mac, AOL or Jabber account (including Google Talk). I tested my @bigblueball.com Google Talk account and it connected smoothly. I haven’t tested the A/V capabilities yet, but I will soon. I was more interested in checking out what many people believe is the best IM program for the Mac, Adium.
Adium is a multi-network IM program. It can connect to AIM, Jabber, MSN, Yahoo, and over a dozen other IM networks. It even connected to the IM system we use at work — IBM Lotus Sametime. I’ve used it for a couple of days, and so far, I’m very impressed. The user interface is clean and well-thought out. I’ve tested connectivity to AIM, Google Talk, MSN/WLM, Yahoo and Sametime, and it’s all gone very smoothly. If you need multi-network instant messaging on the Mac, Adium clearly is a great choice.
In addition Adium, I’ve also installed Skitch — a terrific screen capture utility from Plasq. In particular, I like how Skitch allows you to automatically upload screen caps to Flickr (much like Techsmith Jing on the PC). Skitch works beautifully as you can see here.
I’ve got about 30 GB of music on my PC. I’ve been using iTunes on my PC as my main media player, but I need to sort out where to store my music library, and how to access it from my Mac.
I also need to sort out where I’m going to dock my iPhone. For now, I’m still syncing it with my XP PC, but would I get additional benefits from switching and syncing with the Mac? We’ll see.
I’m also going to be looking at which “serious” applications to install. I’m pretty sure I’ll be using this for graphics work, so I’ll likely be installing Photoshop and Illustrator. But do I need Microsoft Office? Maybe not. And what other “must-have” programs should I get?
Finally, I need to get some form of backup working. OS X Leopard comes with Time Machine. I connected an external backup drive that I use with Windows OneCare on my PCs, but to use it with Time Machine, it wanted me to reformat the drive. Not an option. Is it possible to use the same device to backup both Macs and PCs? Needs further investigation. If you’ve got advice, please leave a comment.
So far, so good. I like the performance and I love the interface (even though I’m still stumbling around a bit). I had fun writing this — my first post composed on a Mac. I think I’m going to enjoy the Mac world.