7 days living with....the other computer (Apple Mac OS X)
First up, a confession. I don't come into this experiment as a member of the anti-Apple brigade. Not completely.
I love my iPhone and, while it's not exactly essential, I have a good relationship with my original iPad too (although I should point out that I also have much love for my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1).
But I'm a PC. Not because I'm a nerdy looking chap like David Mitchell or John Hodgman (I am, but that's irrelevant) but because I settled down with Windows when I was young. I made a commitment and I've stayed faithful ever since. Windows was my first love and will always be an important part of my life.
But recently I've had longings. Longings and impure thoughts. I blame the new MacBook Airs with their svelte figures and their alluring aluminium finish. Or maybe it's the giant displays of the 27-inch iMacs glowing from the window of the Apple Store. Either way, confession (via Outlook email, of course) to his holiness Bill Gates hasn't stemmed my cravings or my desire to taste the forbidden fruit.
It may just be a mid-life OS crisis but I cannot be stopped. I need to try Mac OS X now, at least for 7 days, or I'll always wonder..."What if?"
Instantly I regret my decision. As Ross commented when Rachel asked him in Friends whether he'd enjoyed his one night stand; “Nobody likes change”. It's all just so different. Sure, it looks swish and I seem to have stumbled on to a few motion gestures that will no doubt be useful but everything is just so....different.
Copying and pasting is a ball-ache, for example. I'd heard that the control key was relatively useless on a Mac and that you had to use the command key instead, but try explaining that to my ageing fingers and their muscle memory that have spent years mastering Windows short-cuts.
And where's the bloody hash-tag key? How am I supposed to keep my tens of Twitter followers entertained without a witty hash-tag? And I can't find the delete key either and the @ symbol and the speech mark symbols are the wrong way round. Arrrrggghh. This is all just wrong. And don't even get me started on my right-click troubles.
But I've done it now. I've strayed from the path of Microsoft and my beloved Windows. I've cheated and feel like I've been suckered in like a jet-lagged businessman after a drunken night with an exotic hooker.
Okay, so I'm starting to come to terms with what I've done. And I don't feel so bad. Sure, I'd diverged from the Windows route but wasn't I entitled to? Didn't Windows owe me big time after remaining loyal, even through the Vista débâcle? Sure it did. If anything, years of neglect had pushed me into this.
And you know what? I'm starting to get a taste for it. The changes aren't so so hard to get used to. And the gestures, once I'd found the built-in video based tutorials, seem to be coming in incredibly handy. I know that there was uproar when Lion brought in natural scrolling but, as an iPhone and iPad user coming new to the game, I have to say it's incredibly intuitive.
I also love the dock; the ease of personalising what apps are on quick offer and how folders are displayed. Although I'm not sure why every program that I minimise has to appear on it – where's a taskbar when you need one? I know that I could probably turn this setting off but I'm far too busy for that. And where do programs go when you click the X? Why don't they just bloomin' close?
The first port of call is syncing my Dropbox. I need my digital shizzle, you see? So a quick visit to the Dropbox website, an even quicker download, and I'm away. Or am I? I can't see anything happening once I double click the downloaded installation program. A check on the dock shows nothing. Is anything bloody happening here?
Finally, I remember Mission Control (three finger fun for a bird’s-eye view of all your open windows and apps) and sure enough there's a Dropbox window open saying that I have to drag the icon to the Application folder to install. What the heck? I've already committed to a double click on the installation program icon, surely it knows what I want – it's taking me for a fool here.
And it's not the first time either. I searched around for ages to find the top level of my system's properties and devices. The kind of stuff you'd usually find under My Computer on a Windows PC. I just want to see the size of the hard-drive for Pete's sake. Finally, I found the folder options that allow me to see what I want to see – it's all turned off by default.
A Mac is idiot proof, that's for sure, and I'm no idiot. At least when it comes to computing. Sure, I'd been lured in by its pulchritudinous presentation and had been slightly shallow by thinking it was cooler, hipper and less embarrassing than Windows, but I am a man who has built a tower PC in the past from scratch and installed Linux on it. Linux! That makes me a certified geek in anyone's book and I demand Mac shows me some respect and stops hiding things from me.
I'm too impatient to try and tame the Lion by myself. It took me years to perfect my Windows handling and I haven't got the time nor the energy to master another OS alone. So I sign up for an Apple Store One to One session. Kill me.
One to Ones are available for any new Mac purchaser who signs up for a £79 membership when they first buy their new Apple toy. The amount of lessons you have is unlimited for a year, although the Geniuses in Store only really want to see your ugly mug once a day. They'll teach you anything from turning your Mac on, to advanced photo and video editing (on native Apple apps of course).
Adrian is my guide and I tell him exactly what I need. (i.e. to not look like a novice). Within about half an hour, I'm on fire. I'm gesturing like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, I'm creating new desktop spaces for different tasks and I'm basically falling in love. Not with Adrian, you understand (a fine looking chap nonetheless) but with Mac OS X. Adrian has shown me the geek respect I deserve and has taught me how to completely de-idiot proof my Mac; switching on all the admin settings I need to get tweaking. If I mess it up now, it will be of my own doing and I'm comfortable with that.
On the way home from the Apple Store, I decide to get busy trying to rename the home folder on my Mac (it had been in the hands of a colleague previously with a ridiculous name - you know the chap). I found I had to mess around with a Terminal and use command prompts. No wonder they idiot proof these things – it was like my Linux days all over again.
Big meeting today in town to do some serious CES planning. And by serious I mean meeting up with the other Vegas bound Pocket-linters to discuss what parties to go to and that Dennys would be our breakfast meeting point.
The bossman, a devout Mac disciple, arrives first and sees me working away (checking Facebook) on my new Mac. What follows is an eye opening 10 minutes where he teaches me the ways of image editing in Mac OS X, or rather, the ways of sitting back and letting Mac OS X edit all your images for you. ImageWell and iPhoto are going to be lifesavers come show time in Vegas.
On the plane for 11 hours without Wi-Fi, CES bound, so I decide to get to know the inner workings of my Mac even more closely. I find that all the usual Windows device and system management tools are there but often hidden in strange and mysterious places. I've given up on the home folder renaming, by the way. It's too much hassle.
One aspect I did enjoy while I was offline so long was the ability to check my emails using the Mail app. I'd synced it up when I was online at the airport and was able to breeze through the hundreds of invites to visit PR client's “brilliant” new innovations at CES. I know, I could have done this on a Windows PC using Outlook but, come on, have you ever actually used Outlook? It's horrific.
I also messed around with some of the media apps that don't require a web connection such as iPhoto, iMovie and iTunes. The latter is on a par with its Windows equivalent, i.e. horrible – but iPhoto and iMovie have some great features. It's also brilliant how seamlessly the native Apple apps interact with each other. It's almost as if Apple would rather you didn't leave its high-walled garden....
Busy day at CES; Acer press conference and CES Unveiled. This means a tonne of pictures to edit and chuck into the Pocket-lint back-end. We shoot at maximum resolution to give us plenty of scope to crop pictures to highlight the new tech's features and that means a lot of editing before you see the final images on the site. Usually, I'd be on Photoshop or simply Paint.net on a Windows PC and, while I'm quite a well oiled machine with those applications after editing thousands of pictures for the site, I can honestly say that, on my first attempt at doing it on a Mac, it was much quicker.
Preview on a Mac, including the brilliant space-bar snap-up, is fantastic for getting rid of dodgy shots, as well as basic cropping; iPhoto is fantastic for auto-fixing (very handy given the artificial light that plagues CES) as well as resizing, dropping the exposure and sharpening, and ImageWell is brilliant for batch resizing.
To begin with, I must admit that I struggled with locating different programs, apps and folders that I needed open to work, but once I'd got in the swing of using Mission Control, multiple desktops and, crucially, hot-corners – there was no stopping me.
Something big happened today. It may not sound like much but it could well be the final nail in the coffin for me and Windows. I turned off the right click option that I set originally and settled instead for a simple double finger tap for the extra options usually afforded by the starboard push. It just feels right.
If that makes me a fully fledged fanboy, then so be it. Nothing really feels weird or different anymore, it just feels easier.
Monday was a super-hectic day in Vegas (press day) and so that meant getting stories up quickly. Without doubt, I was able to work quicker on a Mac than I ever have done with a Windows PC – and I'm still a noob don't forget. And yes, I'm also aware that I've now become one of those Mac bores that I used to loathe.
Although my Apple fling looks like turning into a full-blown relationship, there will always be room in my heart for my original, my first love, Windows.
I'll still see it at weekends (when I need to use dodgy East European software to run dodgy East European streams of the football) and maybe, if it dolls itself up nice and has a bit of work done then I may come crawling back. Windows 8 could be just the shot in the arm that our relationship needs to get us back on track. Something new to reignite the old spark.
Until then, I'm afraid I belong to Apple and have signed myself up for yet another arm of its ever expanding reach. It might have started as 7 days but this whirlwind romance has turned into something bigger than I'd expected, something more intense. I'm just not sure how to explain it to Windows...