Apple Quest

A once hard-core PC user contemplates the exciting world of the Mac

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New Realizations

After a couple of weeks of pouring over Apple fan pages, blogs, and forums, I've become permanently hooked. Unfortunately, while I became enamored of these amazing computers, I also came to the realization that it is almost impossible for me to own one anywhere in the near future. With college right around the corner, anything and everything finances-wise will go towards supporting tuition, room and board, books, etc. That leaves precious little for any personal items, let alone a $2000 computer. Once I'm out of college and working for my own at a non-minimum-wage job, I'm sure I'll be able to set aside my own funds for a computer, but that could be four, six, eight years in the future. I really don't want to wait that long to get my first real Mac experience. I feel that NOW is the time to jump on the Apple bandwagon. Apple's transition from PowerPC to Intel chips signifies an major sift in the direction of the company, and I want to be there from the start of this new era. (And I also want to jump in before Microsoft releases Windows Vista, and I forget all about Apple and OS X. Hopefully not though.) So here's my solution. I've taking a page out of Stefan's book over at Make Me Switch, and setup a PayPal account where you can help me make a dent in the price tag of a new Apple computer. You might say it's corny/cheap/unethical/sneaky/despicable, but I say it's worth a shot. It worked for him, it may work for me. So, if you feel inclined to help out, please do! There's a PayPal donate button on the left column, and you can pay with any major credit card or a PayPal account. If you don't feel like donating, that's ok by me too. Please DO spread the word to friends/family/others in the Mac community if you think they'd be interested in donating!

This is all in the initial stages, so I'll be sure to update soon with more information on goals, the computer itself, etc. Thanks!

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Quick Thanks

I just wanted to take the time to thank all those at who have taken the time to read and comment on my posts. Your advice has been very helpful to me. That is exactly the thing I was thinking about when I spoke of the "Mac Community" in an earlier post: a well-connected group of Apple lovers who are willing to reach out and help others with anything and everything Mac-related. Thanks again, guys!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Follow Up: Apple Ads

Recently, I've been watching a lot of the World Cup, and in nearly every game I see, there's been one of the new Apple ads during the halftime break. I have seen them on other channels during other programs, but the other channels don't feature them as often as ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC have during their World Cup coverage. Great ads + great marketing campaign should = good news for Apple. I know I certainly enjoy the commercials, and they've had their effect on me. (I especially like the one with the boxes and the one with the pie chart :P)

Monday, June 19, 2006

At the Apple Store

So this past weekend, I took a trip down to the local Apple Store to play around with some of their computers for a while. All my blogging about Macs has got me itching to get my hands on a computer and to start playing around with it. So, I made my way around the store, checking out the different models and playing with Photobooth, surfing the web with Safari, and checking out FrontRow. Anyway, I learned a great deal on this little trip. First and foremost, I think I've decided which model of Mac I'll get, when and if I ever do. Let me run through the different models I test drove, and tell you what I thought of them.

Mac Mini:
This little computer really intrigued me. I'm amazed that Apple fit everything they did into that little box; it must be packed all the way to the aluminum case. The price also caught my eye. The Mini is significantly cheaper than any of its Mac counterparts. True, this is due to the lack of keyboard, mouse, and display that normally come with a computer, but it's still a fairly reasonable price for a nice system. One of the drawbacks I saw with this model is that it doesn't offer the same specifications as some of the more expensive models. The fastest processor is a 1.66 GHz Intel Core Duo, with a cheaper 1.5GHz Intel Core Solo model as well. These low performance specs seem to agree with the concept that the Mini is a "stripped-down" version of the iMac. I wouldn't be using this computer recreationally, but rather as an essential tool for college, so I think I'd need the computing power. Also, I think that I'd rather have a laptop than a desktop.

I didn't get to play with the G5 much; there was only 1 in the store and I wanted to check out some of the newer computers. In contrast to the Mini, this system seems to be aimed at the professional computer user who needs a lot of extra computing power and expandability options. This did appeal to me, but I don't think I'll need ALL that much in my next computer. It's also still using a PowerPC chip, and I really want to make the switch using an Intel machine. And again, I don't think I'm looking for a desktop.

Intel iMac:
This is, without a doubt, the most unique desktop computer on the market. I liked the all-in-one design, and the way the screen just floats in the air is gorgeous. I think I also have a thing for slot-loading CD/DVD drives. I did see the all-in-one design as a possible problem spot though, seeing that future expansion might be severely limited and that a part failure might cause headaches on my part, trying to access and repair that part. But that's what Apple's amazing tech support is for, right? :) This model seemed to strike a nice balance between the Mini and the G5, as a computer that can handle nearly everything you throw at it, but doesn't yet approach unnecessarily fast speed. One thing I didn’t like in particular was the keyboard. In all of the Apple desktops I’ve used over the years, the keyboard has been their most limiting factor. Either they’re too sticky or the make my hands hurt after typing something. Luckily, that’s easily swap-out-able. Something that’s not so easily swap-out-able is the screen. To tell you the truth, it didn’t really impress me. Maybe I was standing too close or something, but I felt like my 2 year old LCD at home looked much better than that. I also didn’t like the thick bezel around the screen itself, even though it is a necessary part of the computer. And just to repeat, I’m not really focusing on shopping for desktops. On to the next model.

This is where I started to get excited. I’m really looking for a computer that will perform in the college environment, and I feel like a laptop would be the best choice for me. I also hadn’t had any playtime with a Macbook since they were released, so this session was very informative. The first thing I noticed was the lack of some sort of clasp to secure the lid down. The magnet idea is innovative and all, but I’d still like the security of something mechanical to make sure everything stays where it’s supposed to when it’s supposed to. I can just envision a pencil wedging itself in there in my backpack and wreaking havoc on everything. There’s also no express card slot in this laptop like there is in the Macbook Pro, which I found kind of odd, since there aren’t many ports on the computer to begin with. Some of the sacrifices Apple is making for the sake of simplicity are starting to get on my nerves a little bit, but I guess that’s why they develop several different models. Before I actually started playing around with the Macbook, I had seen pictures of it on Apple’s website, and I was a little hesitant on how well the keyboard would function. It looked a little strange to me, but once I got in and actually started typing some things, it didn’t really seem to be much different than any other keyboard I’ve used (and certainly much better than the stand-alone keyboards Apple produces for its desktops.) The clincher for the Macbook was its case. I just didn’t like it. It rubbed me the wrong way or something. The ultra-glossy outer coating reminds me of some cheap children’s toy, and the inner surface around the keys looks too milky or moldable or something. The edge where the inner meets the outer felt a little sharp for my tastes, and the thick display bezel didn’t impress me either. So all-in-all, a Macbook would probably be usable, but it’s definitely not my first choice.

So what is my first choice? Well, I’ve done a pretty nice job of narrowing it all down for you, so by now, I’m sure you know I liked the Macbook Pro the best. Everything about this computer just seemed to meet my wants. Maybe I’m attracted to the beauty of the sleek metallic exterior, who knows. The Macbook Pro includes all the bells and whistles: everything that comes with the Macbook plus an express card slot, a mechanical screen clasp, more visible stereo speakers, and additional ports and such. The 15” model looked like the perfect size for the computer I had envisioned; the Macbook’s 13” was just a little too small for me. The display bezel is also much smaller than on the Macbook, and the edges are rounder, less harsh, and generally more aesthetically pleasing. The keyboard on the Pro is also less foreign looking than the Macbook’s, and includes a backlight sensor that illuminates the keys when the surroundings get dark. Unfortunately for me, the price tags on these systems are more than double the cost of the lower-end Macbooks. But, the Pro’s pack much more punch in terms of processor speed and the amount of RAM that comes installed. The extra money might be worth it to buy a computer that doesn’t make me cringe when I look at it, has more expansion possibilities, has a larger screen, and can handle more than the Macbook. Ideally, I’d get a Macbook Pro; practically, I’d get a Macbook; realistically, I might get neither, but it’s always nice to dream.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

And now, the bad side...

So with all these great features, why don't I have a Mac yet? Well, there are still some large obstacles I have to overcome before I actually buy my first Mac. I'll try to explain more here:

I know that Apple has championed OS X as being the easiest-to-use operating system, but after 6 or so years, I have become rather comfortable with the Windows operating system and its inner workings. Since much of the difference between OS X and Windows XP (as I see it) is interface-related, I think that it may be a little difficult to switch to a whole new way of thinking about computers. I'm a little hesitant to switch because I worry about the significant changes in use and how that might affect my productivity.

More Choices:
As I said in an earlier post, although the Windows community has a wider range of products (generally), the Mac community is of a higher quality (generally). But maybe the decreased availability of software and hardware for the Mac would be a hindrance to a former Windows user. Now I know the Mac prides itself on being very Plug-and-Play friendly, and accepting all hardware devices and the like, but some things were just designed to run on Windows. I plan to study engineering next year, and one of the largest debates I've been having with myself is whether or not a Mac would be suitable for all the engineering-specific software I plan to be running on my computer. I'm sure there is a Mac counterpart for almost anything in the Windows world, but if there isn't will I be left high and dry, without a software solution? These issues may become meaningless with the switch over to Intel processors, but this still remains one of my biggest considerations.

This is probably the single greatest deterrent in my purchase of an Apple machine. Dollar for dollar, Macs are more (usually much more) expensive than their Windows counterparts, and it's easy to see why. There are umpteen companies that manufacture and sell machines that run Windows; Dell, HP, Gateway, Toshiba just to name a few. To my knowledge, there is only one company that makes and sells Apple computers: Apple. Competition between Windows companies drives down the prices, while the "monopoly" Apple has on selling Macs means that they can charge a premium for their product. And maybe this is rightfully so. They do pack their computers with all sorts of hardware and software advances, such as the iSight camera, MagSafe power connector, iLife suite, etc. With all these features added for free, maybe the higher price is justified. We'll see. Either way, I'm on a fixed income (currently little to nothing), and any large investment in a computer system will be significant for me.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Windows on the Mac

And finally, one of the things that attracted a Windows user like me to the Mac world was the recent development of a proper program to run Windows XP Pro on a Mac. This program, put out by Apple itself, is called Boot Camp, and provides a comprehensive solution to driver and Windows installation issues. This development is really appealing to me because I could still use some of my favorite programs that only run on Windows while still having the Mac in the background.


I think one would be hard-pressed to find a computer company that cares more about their customers than Apple. Their products all feature high-quality development and an unrivaled attention to detail. Each computer in the new intel Mac line features built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, and most come with SuperDrives and built-in iSight cameras standard. The effort Apple has put into the new intel Macs also shows that they are willing to take risks to better their products and provide continued advancements for their customers. On the software front, Apple continues to provide significant advancements in OS X with every new release, such as the slew of features included with the current "Tiger" release. One can only imagine what great things will be included in the upcoming "Leopard" release. Apple's software titles, such as the entire iLife suite, are also the target of many new developments that seek to enhance the applications' features and usability.

It all works (together)

And when I say "all," I mean ALL. All the software is integrated together, and it all works well together with the software. Because Apple produces the hardware, operating system, and a good percentage of the software, they can be sure that all three of these pieces work together seamlessly. This couldn't be clearer to see than in the introduction of the iSight camera into the cases of the new intel computers. With this device, one can make a movie, engage in video chats, and set one's user picture all with this amazingly integrated device. On the software front, it's easy to see how iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, and iDVD are all integrated to share photos, music, and videos between programs.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Apple Community

One of the things my Mac-using friends have told me over the years is that their Mac has some of the best software and hardware in the computing world. And of course, as a PC user, I was a bit incredulous. After all, there are many more PC users and developers than there are Mac ones, right? Well, that may be, but that says nothing about the quality of those products. It might work to the Mac's advantage that they have a smaller, tighter community of loyal followers, so that developers have a better idea of the type of things users want. Two pieces of software that have been brought to my attention of Apple enthusiasts are Adium and Growl, a chat program and system notification utility, respectively. Simply reading some of the things that were said about these products makes me want to use them. And truthfully, which would you rather use, an ad-ridden AIM client or a beautifully crafted program that you can customize to your heart's desire?


Apple makes the best looking computers in the world. Simple as that. Everything from the computer enclosure to the appearance of the operating system is sleek, aesthetically pleasing, and downright beautiful. The new Macbook Pros are, in my opinion, the most visually pleasing laptop computers currently on the market. Everything from the superb aluminum exterior, automatic backlit keyboard, and MagSafe power connector to the magnetic clips for the screen that automatically engage when the laptop is shut, is just gorgeous.

Mac OS X is also something to gawk at. The visual themes, program layouts, color schemes, and extras such as the "genie" minimize feature all add to the computing experience. No detail seems to be overlooked. Even things as simple as icons are designed to please the eye, and are expandable up to 128x128. Genius.

Why the Mac?

So why did the Mac finally catch my eye? To tell you the truth, I was a little surprised myself when it first happened, not to mention my friends, who were utterly shocked, having known me as a gung-ho Windows person for years. After a couple weeks of pondering my sudden change in computing polarity, I think I can break it down into a few key areas. Over the next few days, I'll be posting some of the things about Apple that have drawn my attention. Of course, I'm not a real Mac user yet, I'm only talking based on the things I've read on the internet, hear from friends, or experienced in my limited contact with the Mac, so please comment if you have more insight to add!

Monday, June 12, 2006

It's all about the ads

If I had to pinpoint the one moment I officially became a Mac enthusiast, it would have to be about a month ago when I saw Apple's new advertisements. These ads were put out (I assume) to gain publicity for their new product line of intel computers. One of the things that struck me most about these ads is that there seems to be an emphasis towards a younger, "hipper," generation of computer users. The Mac, which is played by a younger actor and seems very down-to-earth, wearing a t-shirt and jeans and describing the "life stuff" features of the Mac. The PC, which is played by a middle age actor (who is hilariously funny and makes appearances on the Daily Show), is much more business-like and uptight (and a little out-of-sync), and wears a suit and tie. I was really surprised that one of the ads actually recognized the PC as being better at office-type stuff (spreadsheets is what it said specifically).

I guess this reveals the direction Apple is headed for the meanwhile. Their target audience appears to be those in their late teens, twenties, and early thirties, who will be the ones that will make the most of the new suite of iLife applications. As for business people, apparently the Mac is not the machine for you. Shrug. Apple's emphasis on their target generation is also apparent in their promotion for college students, which will reward them with an iPod nano for purchasing a new Mac, in addition to their normal education discounts for students. Apple is obviously trying to establish a new generation of loyal users by choosing this target group. All I can say is that they must have a spectacular advertizing team, because they got to me. And if Apple can convert me of all people, they've been successful in their campaign.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Me and Mac: A History

Well, let me start out this blog by saying that I used to be an exclusive Mac user. The first computer I ever operated was some version of the Macintosh SE, which my dad would bring home from work and set up on the dining room table. I loved that little thing. It was all contained in one little package; the computer, keyboard, and mouse came in a carrying case the size of a small TV and it only required three connections to hook up: mouse to keyboard, keyboard to computer, computer to wall outlet. The computer also came with twenty-some diskettes which contained all sorts of black-and-white games such as Klondike, Tetris, Shufflepuck, Stunt Copter, Wheel, Baker's Dozen, Pyramid, MacSlot, and Mombasa, which occupied me for hours.

When I was in elementary school, my dad finally invested in our own computer. This computer was a Macintosh Performa of the 6200 series, which had a separate monitor. This computer was state-of-the art when we first bought it, with color graphics, games, word processing, internet connections, and even a built-in TV tuner. I used this computer loyally for homework assignments, playing games, and surfing the web for years. Unfortunately, the technological advances of the Performa were quickly eclipsed by developments made in the computing industry, particularly in Windows machines. By the end of elementary school, my freinds' families all had Windows computers with much better games than I had ever played on the Mac. Needless to say, I was jealous.

In 7th grade, after much begging and pleading, my dad bought a Compaq tower running Windows 98. This appeased my desire to play the games I had been yearing to play for the past couple years. The Performa was relocated to the basement and the Compaq took its place in our study. Since then, we have completely gotten rid of the Performa and bought newer Dells to replace the old Compaq. I became a full-blown Windows user and completely disowned the Mac, which I thought of as primative and insufficient to meet my computing needs.

I have had continual interaction with Apple products, though. Up until high school, the only computers I have used in school have been Macs. Macs still have more widespread use in the high school than PC's, which are used almost exlusively for the programming and keyboarding classes.

In the summer of 2005, I made my first purchase from Apple in almost 10 years; I bought an iPod. The 4G iPod was great, but four weeks later Apple released the 5G iPod which also played videos. I was a little angry that I had missed the boat by just a month, but I was soon given a reason to by one of these new music players. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), some delinquent stole my iPod (and twenty bucks) from my easily-break-in-able gym locker, leaving my broke and musicless. I decided to reinvest in another iPod, since I had enjoyed my first one so much, and since I would get double the use out of it since it had video playback capabilities.

Recently, as I started preparing myself for college, I began looking back at Apple as a possible option for a computer I could use in the coming years. One of the things that really caught my eye was the introduction of Intel processors into the Mac. I see this as a real benefit to the Apple computer line, increasing power and computing ability far beyond that which was achieved with PowerPC processors. I have also recently begun to realize the beauties of OS X, an operating system that had frustrated me in the past. Additionally, the difference between what a PC and Mac can actually do isincreasingly becoming smaller, which leaves the deciding factors at how easily these things can be done and how nicely these features are integrated within the operating system.