Road to Mac III: The Culture Shock

See also Part I and Part II

August 3rd

This is my second day with Mac, writing in TextEdit as I have not installed any other editor (yet). Still learning, do not want to install lot of junk before I find out proper ways how to do things. Time to learn how things are in the Brave New World ….

First surprises and unexpected culture shocks: How do I get around ? Let’s have a look what is on the disk. So where are my disks ? Where is My Computer icon ? How do I see the content of the Disk C: (oops, I forgot – there is no disk C:, this is Unix !). Somebody please get me back my Total Commander … Even the braindead Windows Explorer (which I never use on Windows because TotalCommander is sooo much better) would help.

At the first look, the whole windowing and menu concept is weird. I am just not used to watch up (to the top of the screen) to see which application is running. It is especially confusing, when I have no windows open. Why does the application does not end when I close all windows ? It just hangs there and unless you note the menu up there, you will miss it.

Also the “dock” concept is quite alien. Dock is a strange cross of the start menu shortcuts and Windows dock. You see both the applications that are running and those who are not running, distinguished only by tiny (for eyes of a Windoze user quite unsignificant) black triangle. And to make things even worse, from the right side of the dock, there are some minimized windows. Complete chaos! You click on an application with the black rectangle (the running application) – and nothing happens. One would expect a window popping up or something …. Did the application hang or what ? You start to fear that the whole system freezes and the screen goes blue … and then you realize this should not happen (or at least it would not be the good old BSOtD ). After closer examining the very top of the screen you find out that something did happen – there is name of the application out there, but still no windows whatsoever. How can it be ?

Even your buttons seems all wrong. You see familiar Control and Alt (dubbed as Option) but what is the pretzel key for ? And what exactly is Fn button for – is it just usual laptop thing (to make up for the missing numerical keypad etc) or is it fourth modification button ? To add frustration to the confusion, you quickly realize that the is Control not Control. Pretzel is the real Control button – because Save shortcut is Pretzel-S, not Control-S. Actually, not quite: sometimes the Option key is the control – try for example skipping in text line by word left and write: the Control-Left/Right (now I mean the Apple ctrl, not Windows Ctrl) takes you to the beginning and end of the screen. To move one word left or right, you have to use option-left/right. Oh gosh, this will be even even worse as when I was learning Emacs in 1998, I guess. On the other hand, Emacs will be really easy now <grin/>.

In addition of feeling lost, there are also some wonderful discoveries. I quickly learn to love F9 and F10. F9 quickly rearranges all open windows on the screen and allows to select one. F10 does same thing within windows belonging to one application. Now I know where the same feature in Vista comes from ;-). Alt-Tab still works, only it is not Alt-Tab but Pretzel-Tab. Plus we have Pretzel-~.

I guess it’s time to start learn how to survive in this strange new world. I start Safari (the browser), go to Safari (the O’Reilly On Line books) and find the “Switching to Mac, Tiger edition”. Time to tame the Tiger…

After some reading and mental adjustments, thing start to make sense. I learned that the correct name for pretzel key is Command – which reminds me to old Linux time when I was fluent in Emacs and had to translate the other way ;-). I even dare to open System preferences and start customizing few things.

I tried the “magnifying” dock buttons but found it very disturbing, so I have switched them back off. I really like the “menulets”. Nicely done for the battery, network, bluetooth, time. From the book, I learned how to add the Eject menulet.

I slowly work through the basics and start to be accustommed to different way how to do things. One huge jump in my productivity was when I decided that it is time stop fooling around with the trackball and get the mouse. There is nothing wrong with the Macbook’s trackpad – I managed to get the “click” emulation with knocking pretty quickly. It is actually probably one of the best trackpads I ever worked with – just try using two fingers for scrolling – it is insanely cool and practical. It is just that holding Ctrl whenever I need right click does not suit me and doing drag and drops without mouse sucks, regardless of the platform – period.

I was contemplating of getting the original – Mighty Mouse – but could not decide whether to go for classical version or newly introduced and more expensive wireless version. I was not sure what is the battery life, how it behaves – nobody from Google search results had any meaningful practical review. People were generally positive about the classical Might Mouse, but from the few cases I tried it out in Compusmart or Bestbuy, I was just not convinced. It just did not fit right into my hands, formed by by long years of using Microsoft and Logitech mice. So I postponed the buying decision – and I am glad I did.

In Futureshop I saw the bluetooth version of the same wireless USB mouse I use for almost 2 years with my Fujitsu. It is small, has very good battery life (1-2 months) and feels just right. Few days later I have got confirmation of this mouse gut feeling from real Mac authority – Leo Laporte – in MacBreak (watch it here).

Spent a lot of time playing with built-in camera. The Photo-booth is endless fun, my daughter loves it ! But let’s try to do some of the cool multimedia stuff the Mac Guy was saying they are so easy – let’s make a movie ! So let’s download some MPEG’s from my camera and burn them …

Well, not so fast. First thing I learn is that my MPEG’s are not recognized by neither Quicktime, not iMovie – here is why. It costs me $20 USD to get the plugin that can read the MPEG2. Now the iMovie understands the clips – unfortunately, there is no sounds. To get sound, I need to do some conversion from MPEG2 produced by Sony. I am luckier this time, for I can use this opensource tool. Wide variety of opensource software for Mac is a nice surprise. I can find lots of interesting links on the Web – for example here and here. After playing with all that multimedia stuff for few hours, I almost get to the point of having some sequence of scenes that start to resemble a movie. Working with iMovie is very time consuming activity and as it is almost 3 AM, I decide to postpone my first movie until

  1. I get at least some understanding of all that jazz around video formats, codecs, MPEGx differences ,
  2. I have chance to go through some basic iMovie tutorial (as I am barely just scratching a surface),
  3. I feel at least a little bit at home with basic Mac skills so that I do not have to fight with essential things and finally
  4. I will have some clearer idea about the content of the movie (like some sort of script)
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