a new hope

posted by tom / December 14, 2005 /

Today was my first day at the new job. It was good — aside from learning that I won't get my first paycheck for a month, things couldn't have gone better. Everyone was smart, nice and extremely helpful. And hey: free lunch. Score.

There's a lot of half-learned technology about which I need to firm up my understanding. But by far the biggest adjustment is the new Powerbook. Yup, it's time to learn how Macs work. I've been issued a 15" Powerbook, and it's pretty sweet. DVD burner, 1400xsomethingorother screen, 80 GB hard drive. It's a beautiful machine.

But it doesn't feel like a real computer. I have a pretty deep understanding of the Window operating system. I can use it extremely quickly and efficiently. It sucks to give up that amount of skill. I'm sure I'll be able to become proficient in Mac-fu, but for now I feel oddly powerless.

I'll no doubt have plenty more complaints coming which will be answered by people more familiar with Apple products than I am. So far, there are only two that I'm not prepared to chalk up to my own ignorance. First, the missing mouse button. I know, you can plug in a real mouse. I know, it's to force designers to make good UI decisions (although the UI seems much more cluttered and disorganized than I expected — Mac Excel's menus are godawful). But it's still a huge pain in the ass to not have a right menu button available when using the trackpad.

My other complaint: the keyboard. It's not very well positioned and the action on the keys doesn't feel very good relative to the other laptops I've used. But most irritating is the absence of several keys. I like having insert available. And why have you taken away my pageup and pagedown? They're on the arrows keys, but this function key business just isn't going to fly. I can run a windows machine pretty well with one hand, leaving the other free to administer beverages, flip through channels or idly tap on the table until Charles goes crazy. These are expensive machines, Steve. You ought to be able to throw in a couple more keys.

Anyway, if it weren't for the salary cut and delayed paycheck, I'd probably be ordering a thinkpad right now. I know I'll come to love this machine, but I'm not converted just yet.

ALSO: I can't figure out the shortcut key combo that lets you switch between, say, the Firefox main window a comment popup. Hmm.

Comments

Re: mouse button, the ctrl key works as a modifier. Hold that down and you've got a right click. OR, buy any cheapo USB two button mouse and plug it in, instead left-right scroll-wheel mouse functionality.

Re: keyboard, yeah, I get that.

Re: Firefox: Cmd - ` (lower case ~)

Let me know if there's anything else you'd like to know. I'm a long time Mac guy, and I'm glad to help where I can.

Posted by: Tom Bridge on December 14, 2005 10:16 PM

Re: Firefox: Cmd - ` (lower case ~)

Ah! This has been driving me nuts! Tell me: does this work with other applications that have multiple windows?

Posted by: ben wolfson on December 14, 2005 10:43 PM

How about F10 to do the same with expose?

Posted by: on December 15, 2005 04:39 AM

Yes, Ben, it works in all Apps with multiple windows. Had to do some searching to find it, but I knew it existed. It's a system-level switcher much like Cmd-Tab/Cmd-Shift-Tab.

And yeah, F10 for Expose within an app will do the same and allow you to use the arrow keys to navigate betwixt the windows.

Posted by: Tom Bridge on December 15, 2005 09:00 AM

I've had an Apple Ti Powerbook since Jan. 2003. You will come to realize that Powerbooks are so much more awesome than Thinkpads could ever be. If you've got a problem with Excel menus, blame Microsoft since they are the ones who wrote the application. As for your two items...
1) Most Windows whiners will complain about the lack of the right mouse button until they're blue in the face (or screen, whichever comes first). To be honest, using the Ctrl as well as the Option key really enables you to have 3 virtual buttons. Plus it is much easier on the wrist. The right mouse button on Thinkpads is usually under the fleshy part of your palm near the thumb. To click it, you have to put strain on your thumb muscles when you bend it inwards which can be quite uncomfortable.
2) Insert keys are overrated. Technically every time you place the cursor in a line of text and type... you are inserting. So the Insert key really is an overwrite key in Windows. Or an insert deactivator if you will.

All in all, you'll spend less time dealing with Windows and doing more productive work... which is what they're paying you for right?

Posted by: Tomas on December 15, 2005 09:29 AM

reasonable points -- except for the last one. Honestly, a lot of mac people have this idea that PCs bluescreen constantly, wasting everyone's time. It just isn't true (not anymore, at least). Since win2k the system has been pretty rock solid.

Posted by: tom on December 15, 2005 09:48 AM

I have the exact same complaints with my powerbook. Mac zealots constantly dismiss them - "oh, control click is just the same, and using two hands to right click is not big deal..." but after year of use, I have to say the Mac OS X operating system is certanily not the user interface nirvana people make it out to be.

I also hate the fact that you can't truly maximize a window... sure, you can make it bigger, but it never fills up the whole screen, and there is always the danger you will click on whatever's behind it while trying to use the too-thin scroll bar, causing unexpected (and potentially embarrasing) windows to pop to the front of the screen and interrupt your work flow.

Seriously, this makes the windows UI look good in comparison... not an easy thing to do.

Posted by: Spike on December 15, 2005 10:43 AM

I've read that iPods interface much more smoothly with Macs than PCs. My iPod and PC were forever engaged in technological cold war (quite literally: either one, the other, or both would incessantly freeze up).

I think Beth has experienced this freeze-up phenomenon with her PC, too.

If you're using an iPod, I'd be interested to know if you notice any difference between the two.

[That said, I'm not sure you can switch between the two without wiping the 'Pod first. In fact, methinks you cannot. If so, ne'ermind.]

Posted by: Ray on December 15, 2005 01:46 PM

You could put X on it, then it would be more like a real computer.

Posted by: ben wolfson on December 15, 2005 01:58 PM

That might be a little too real.

Ray, I share your opinion of PC itunes -- it's a piece of junk. I haven't tried connecting my ipod to the powerbook yet. If it results in horrible, horrible outcomes you can rely on me to complain about it here.

Posted by: tom on December 15, 2005 02:05 PM

I got my new powerbook today and have been enjoying it immensely. Maybe too much. I don't use the insert key or the pg up/down keys, though. My one problem is that Opera for macs doesn't appear to automatically write to the HD. I'm sure there's an answer somewhere in the Opera forums, though.

Posted by: Michael (de Unfogged) on December 16, 2005 10:06 PM

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