Monday, July 27, 2009

We Welcome a New iMac to the Family

It’s Saturday afternoon. I’m wondering where it is. Could the FedEx online tracking be wrong? The truck’s been out for delivery for about six hours now. They must have unloaded every package possible long ago. Oh, wait. What’s that white truck across the street? Is it? Is it really? Yes, it is!

Inside a plain brown corrugated cardboard outer shipping box is what I’ve been eagerly anticipating for a week. It’s a brand new Apple 24 inch iMac shipped with custom options from the factory.

What’s perhaps a little silly about all this anticipation is that it’s taken me a year to actually order one of these. In fact, I’ve been on the PC side of things for about 10 years after well over a decade as a Mac only user. Why the change of heart yet again? What is it I hope to achieve with a Macintosh that I can’t with a PC? Why now?

It all comes down to two things. How decrepit your current computer is and what you are planning to do from now on. Notice I didn’t say what you are actually doing. The choice of the iMac is more for the future than the present.

I’ll explain. The whole reason I switched from Mac to PC in the first place was incompatibility with the corporate world I was deeply immersed in at the time. The PowerPC Mac I was using was in need of replacement. The processor was too slow, the hard drive was too small, and the memory was laughable tiny even after a couple of upgrades. The cost of further upgrades was approaching the cost of a new machine, so I figured that was the perfect time to switch to a more corporate computer.

Now fast forward to this year. The Compaq desktop Windows PC has slowed with every browser and system software update. It takes up to 20 minutes every morning for it to power up, load all the software in the tray, check for new virus definitions and update the virus software. You wouldn’t dare bring in email or go searching the Web without those updates. When we go out for lunch, I run a full system virus scan. That may sound like overkill, but it finds something at least once a week.

In addition to the maintenance time needed and the slowing performance, the processor fan is starting to make crunchy noises. I’ve already replaced a disk drive and a monitor. A new fan wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But the truth is that “grandpa” is getting tired. Today, a fan. Tomorrow, a power supply. The next day? Hey, the keyboard is getting a little sticky and the wireless mouse needs more time to charge every day. No, it’s really time for a replacement once again.

But why switch back to a Mac? I’ve eyed my wife’s MacBook Pro with envy for a year now. I used it to record some audio reports using GarageBand. The audio quality was startlingly good and the process of recording and editing was nearly intuitive from start to finish. I would have done more, but there was no way to get enough time on that computer.

Therein lies the explanation. You can get a wide range of software to do just about anything on a PC. But the Mac comes with creative multimedia tools already installed and ready to use. They’re also tightly integrated as a system. With a PC, it’s up to you to make all those disparate functions sing together in harmony... if you can.

So, the iMac is an investment in the future. In my opinion, that’s a creative future full of interactivity and multimedia. It’s a world that I want to be part of as a matter of course, not as a heroic process of kludging together pieces of this and that. I think that Apple is, and truthfully always has been, way out in front of Microsoft and others in evolving toward the future even when the status quo seems to be working just fine. So, Mac it is.

Now, do the results live up to the anticipation? Here’s how it went down on Saturday. Within 15 minutes after arrival, the iMac was out of the box and on the desktop with power, broadband and keyboard connected. Minutes later, it was on and connected to the Internet. The wireless mouse (an upgrade) worked fine with no adjustments needed. There were no other connections. It’s one integrated unit with software installed and running as soon as you can see the screen light up.

Granted, there was some customizing required. Gmail worked immediately because it’s Web based and the Safari browser comes ready to run. Email needed to be told what mail servers to use. I’ve got 4 POP mail accounts I need. Oddly enough, the computer never once asked me anything about connecting to the Internet. It found the LAN connection and configured itself. I could have used wireless also, as it comes built-in.

The rest of the weekend was spent playing around with the dashboard widgets, so I’ve got weather radar, forecasts, time, temperature and stock prices at a click of the mouse ball. I’ve also installed the Talking Moose for company, the Firefox browser just because it’s familiar, Stuffit Expander for downloading programs, and Flip4Mac to view Windows Media videos online. Oh, yes, and a favorite photo to use as a desktop background.

That’s it. There was no trial-ware and no junk-ware offers to fend off. In fact, there’s no clutter at all. All the programs are on the dock at the bottom of the screen. The only other object on the desktop is the Macintosh HD in the upper right hand corner.

Now it’s Sunday night. As a test of how useful the new iMac is, I’m writing this on the TextEdit program that automatically checks spelling and grammar as I type. That’s an immediate improvement over WordPad on the PC. Grandpa is snoozing away on the typewriter return. Haven’t needed to turn him on all day. That’s pretty amazing in itself. I recall it taking several days to be able to use him productively in his prime. It took about week after that unfortunate disk crash to get everything back in order. We don’t need to say any more about that.

Now to post to Blogger and then get back to exploring all these new programs. Wow, look at all that space on the desktop. Did I mention this machine has a 24 inch monitor? I’m sure we’ll find some way to put it all to good use.

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