Monday, June 07, 2010

Journal of an iMac Virgin #3

I've now had my iMac 3 months and I'm not giving it back. That said I have given my Magic Mouse back and got another one.  More about that later

I think at the last count three people have bought an iMac following my long debate about getting one and then my very enthusiastic reaction.  If there are more of you out there do let me know!

If you didn't follow the debate about what should be my next computer at the time, you'll find the links to all the previous posts on the topic of PC vs iMac are at the end of this post.
For the record I bought a 27-inch model with a 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB shared L2 cache; 4GB (two 2GB SO-DIMMs) of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; four SO-DIMM slots support up to 16GB; 1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA hard drive; ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics processor with 256MB of GDDR3 memory; Built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g compatible; Built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) wireless technology;  Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45 connector); Slot-loading 8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

The software included was
  • Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard (includes iTunes, Time Machine, Quick Look, Spaces, Spotlight, Dashboard, Mail, iChat, Safari, Address Book, QuickTime, iCal, DVD Player, Photo Booth, Front Row, Xcode Developer Tools)
  • iLife (includes iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb, GarageBand)
The Design

Still a joy.  No box.  More space - enough said?

The Screen

I noticed I had to decide at the beginning how big I was going to have my browser screens as having the complete screen width is just plain batty.  I guess my browser window is sized to about 20".  However it's nice to know I can go bigger if I want to
  • Pros:  I've not revised my view at all about the screen.  The 2560 x 1440 pixel is  simply amazing.  Colours are wonderful.  Glare and reflections are not an issue if you get it sited right.  I really love the dock and have mine located on the right edge of the screen.  TV programmes downloaded and played through iPlayer and DVDs look fabulous in the HD screen.  Watching a slideshow of my photos makes me think I'm a brilliant photographer!
  • Cons: I've noticed a couple of pixels which seem to have changed.  Tiny, tiny pinpricks which are bright green.  That said it's not a big issue because this screen has just got so many pixels.  So long as no more develop!  I still haven't worked out how Expose and Spaces work.

The Silence

 I'd had problems with dissipation of heat with previous computers and fans which didn't work properly and/or were not sufficiently robust for the rest of the configuration (ie couldn't cope when people actually used a computer a lot!).  The track record for my three of my recent computers was that the big Evesham blew up because the fan couldn't cope, my Sony fried its graphics card and the fan on my HP was incredibly noisy and sounded as if it was ready to start flaming me when less than a year old! With all of them I became convinced that the issue was skimping on the quality of the components that don't sound sexy - like fans.  I was even more convinced of this when I saw a computer enginner's computer and realised he'd added in two extra fans and drilled the box to make it work acceptably with the heat that it could generate.  So my buying decision was very focused on design and component quality re heat dissipation.
  • Pros: It just is.  Silent.  Completely.  You'd be hard put to know it was on. I've NEVER had a computer this quiet before.   Plus no fans means no heat - which is a massive bonus as sitting in a room which is not easy to keep cool in hot weather has just become a lot more bearable.  If it's got a fan working I really am not aware of it.  The back of the iMac where the heat comes out is slightly warm to the touch and that's it.
  • Cons:  I can hear the ancillary LaCie backup drive when it kicks in and does its back-up once an hour.  It's actually really quiet but now sounds positively noisy by way of comparison with the iMac!

The Keyboard

I love the minimal keyboard.  Bear in mind I asked for the one which has the number pad so mine is wired rather than wireless - which is OK, it's not a big deal for me as I usually use it on my desk.
  • Pros: No reverberation so no tenosynovitis problems.  Great - it's just like using a laptop but with a proper sized layout!  An amazing number of functions which have a keyboard shortcut - so no chance of learning all those any time soon!
  • Cons: I've had to print out all the keyboard commands and I'm still learning them.  This is partly because the number of keyboard shirtcuts is completely staggering!  The one thing I wish they'd do better is create some sort of facility within your apple account where you can save the keystrokes for the keyboard shortcuts you use the most.

Magic Mouse
  • Pros:  I love the multi-touch area of the Magic Mouse.  I tried going back to my old Microsoft wireless mouse at the one point.  That lasted about half an hour and I was back with the Magic Mouse!  I've not had any twinges from my tenosynovitis so I'm declaring it ergonoically sound as my hand really screams and demands strapping if it's not treated properly
  • Cons: I had a problem with my bluetooth wireless Magic Mouse.  It suddenly started to cut out followed by the development of a completely insatiable appetite for batteries (new batteries required every day).  I had my charger on non-stop.  I was trying to work out why this might be and realised that the functionality of a magic mouse is sooooooooooooo far in advance of other mice that it's hardly surprising that it's power needs were higher.  If you're familiar with the finger actions on an iPhone then you'll know what a Magic Mouse does.

Audio / iTunes

  • Pros:  The speakers are located at the bottom of the screen.  They work absolutely fine for me (and I'm quite fussy about sound) and reduce clutter for those who need more space.  Great to have the automatic link up with iTunes all there and ready to rumble.
  • Cons:  I'm guessing that they might not satisfy those who are VERY fussy about their sounds.
SD card slot
  • Pros:  Nice to have it
  • Cons:  How can I put this?  I wonder how many iMac users have had to undo a paper clip to rescue their SD card from the CD/DVD slot.
Software: Dock
  • Pros: Love it - especially the genie effect.
  • Cons: I'm using it over on the right handedge of the screen and sometimes find it wants to interfere (with browsers popping up) when I have the cursor at the right hand edge of the menu
Software - Time Machine

  • Pros: This works fine with my brand new LaCie d2 quadra 1TB hard drive for creating back-ups.  Everything works automaticallyand I don't have to do a thing.
  • Cons: none to date

Software - Systems Preference

  • Pros: Nice and simple and well laid out.
  • Cons: I keep feeling like there are bits missing from this.  It's probably just that I haven't found them yet!
Software - iWork

Last time I wrote I was still using Google Docs for most things and had not really tried iWork.  Three months later I've tussled with a few times - and I'm getting mightily frustrated trying to work out where things are.  I'm finding it a lot less intuitive than Office.  I'm currently trying to decide whether I can hang on until the Mac Version of Microsoft Office 10 given the way release dates tend to go backwards.  What's deterring me is the spread of ratings on Amazon for Office 8 for Mac - never has one product garnered quite so many diverse views!
  • Pros:  not many.  I'm not impressed.  However they do have a particularly good set of templates though - very superior compared to Office (if you're into that sort of thing - which I'm not).  Plus I'm also very appreciative of the fact they can create pdf files easy peasy. If I could just get my head round how it works I supposed I could grow to like it more.
  • Cons
    • I hate, hate, hate the menus and the fact they can't be adjusted in size.  In accessibility terms they are a complete nightmare and probably account for why i'm having so much difficulty getting to grips with the software.  Apple needs to introduce an option to enable the menu to upsize as well as the workspace. 
    • I've been using Microsoft Office for 15+ years and it's very difficult getting used to new software - particularly when it doesn't do what I want it to do!  I'll definitely be continuing to use Google Docs and buying a the Mac version of Microsoft Office 10 when it is released. 
Software - Apple menus generally
  • Pros: I love the fact that the menu at the very top of the screen automatically changes to which ever product you are using.
  • Cons:I can't see a lot of stuff.  The font size on a 27" screen is tiny!  It's also not amenable to being increased.  I can increase the workspace using the zoom function but the menu items all stay the same .  I really don't quite know why Apple has not addressed this.  It's a major deficit for those of us with visual problems (I've got 'odd' cataracts - which was one of the reasons for getting a very big screen)
Link to my Printer/Scanner
  • Pros: Works fine now the correct drivers have been included.
  • Cons: This took a bit of sorting out but I think this might have been for a variety of reasons.  Not least the fact that the printer didn't appear to have software for the mac!  Software for Mac still a tad more limited than for Windows.
Repairs / warranty

Soooooooooo simple it was unbelievable.  I had a new mouse within 48 hours of reporting it faulty. Rang them up, somebody intelligent answered.  We tried a few quick fixes, none of which worked at which point we moved on to getting a new one sent out to me.  I then had to return the faulty mouse in the bag sent to me - and that was it.  A complete doddle - and very impressive. All backed up with meticulous online documentation.  Very impressive - and another one of the reasons why I bought Apple has been evidenced in practice.


Overall, although there have been and are some niggles, I'm definitely a convert to Apple.  So much so I can't imagine going back to a conventional PC.  Where's the fun in that?

I might however have to seriously consider buying more Apple equipment and I've got my eye on an iPad.  I do now completely understand why Apple is now bigger than Microsoft!

Links to posts in the PC vs Mac debate on this blog to date:


Elisabeth said...

for desktop font size: in the FInder go to View>Show View Options. You can set font size and icon size, etc.

Robyn said...

Pardon me for being smug. ;)

Sophie said...

Great to read as I am on exactly the same path as you, bought mine at the same time. So far I love my iMac. Just a few niggles for me: the mail program is a bit limited I find. I've had it crashing (well, looping) a couple of times due to (I managed to find out) too large attachments. Had to reinstall accounts.
I have the same issue with the tiny fonts on the screen. I often use the zoom for web sites (and my eyesight is perfect) or reading mail. My mouse requires new batteries once a month - quite hungry I think.
Besides that I love it and enjoy the screen quality constantly.

loriann said...

I am glad to hear that I am not the only one rescuing the SD card from the wrong slot. Thoughtless moment gone bad.
Glad that you are a convert.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks Elisabeth

I'm afraid that only changes the size of the font in the workspace (eg the names of the files in finder as opposed to the names of menu items). It still doesn't alter the size of the font in the menus - which is still too small.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Robyn - I knew you'd sit and read this post with a big smaile on your face! :D

For other readers - Robyn was awarded a 27" iMac by her husband on the strength of my blog posts!

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Sophie - good to know that I'm not alone on these issues.

The font size thing I'm sure they will fix in time. The 27" screen is relatively new and it's maybe less of an issue for younger eyes!

Doubtless there will be a fix for the batteries issue. In the meantime at least I now know that all my batteries are now charged all the time!

Robin Neudorfer said...

We have been Apple fans for 18 yrs. Love my MacBook Pro and iPhone. Can't imagine how difficult life would be without them. (absolutely no viruses)

José said...


My first "serious" computer was an Amiga and I would have sticked to it if it still existed.
Apple although more accessible nowadays, has always been quite expensive here in Portugal, especially during the 80's and until lets say 2000 or so.
I've never used an Apple, but I'm aware of its possiblities, namely for those working with graphics (who doesn't remember Quark Express during the early time of desktop publishing ?)
Once I though about buying a Mac mini to substitute my old PC.
We'll see what the future holds.
I do think that Microsoft has some plans ahead and that Google will soon be a major contender in terms of hand-held devices through its software.
The recent fact that Google stopped using Windows (don't know if fully or partially)is another positive upgrade for Apple's market share.


Julian Merrow-Smith said...

Katherine, you can change the screen resolution in system preferences > display ; you might have to play with a few different set ups and of course you'll lose some real estate but it will make everything bigger, much bigger if you want.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Wonderful. Many thanks Julian - problem fixed!

I've now got it at 1920 x 1080 which is the same ratio but the menu is much better.

It would still be nice if the menu bar changed size in sync with the workspace as an option!

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Jose - I well remember the old days too however Apple have moved on an awful lot since then

Take yourself off to your nearest Apple Store if you want to see why people are so impressed with Apples these days. Or read the link - PCs versus Apple Mac - for artists (Part 2)

Or take a look at the online one for Portugal

Lisa McShane said...

Hi Katherine -
Well I've had my 21" iMac for a few weeks now and I love, love, love it! The only software I've purchased so far is the Office for Mac. I know the reviews were mixed but it works fine for me, since I've only known PC's.

My challenge was finding the right financial software. Not to overstate this but I was waking up thinking 'what financial software am I going to get that will work?!?!?' Yes, it was making me crazy! So I finally settled on iBank for my business finances. It's simple. I demo'd quite a few: about a dozen!

I also bought the book Mac OSX the missing manual and that's helped with mysterious things like closing applications, organizing my files and keyboard shortcuts.

Oh - and I know I need to get Photoshop Elements for Mac but...I've been using iPhoto and it's been working great so far.

So I'm glad you went through the Mac v PC puzzle - it helped me!

ujwala said...

delighted to hear that you are happy with you decision.

for converting anything into a pdf you need to open the document and choose print from the application menu and in the bottom right hand corner you get a pdf drop down menu with many options.

i know that the app automator is supposed to record your keystrokes and make a "macro" out of it. i've not really used it though.

i skipped a gen of os and now just havent got around to using spaces or expose but spotlight (magnifying glass on the menu bar - comp and content search) which is also new is very handy. will look out to see if you discover the spaces/expose to be useful.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks - I love the way you get to produce pdfs really easily with Apple - it's become a major reason for loving my new iMac. Makes life so much simpler!

Kimberly Santini said...

I love it when I can say "I told ya so!" welcome to the Happy Apple Club!

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thank you Kimberley

I'm not so happy right this minute as I've just spent a frustrating afternoon trying to burn two tiff images to a disc. I ended up with two discs so I guess there's a bit more I need to learn! I can only blame myself as I hadn't checked how to do it properly and you know how it is when you're doing it to a deadline!

Betty said...

I’ve only met one person that has gone back to a PC and for this, we are no longer friends  all joking aside, I completely agree with most of your pro’s and con’s. Although, I don’t know how much more silent you can get on a computer…yes it does make a tiny whisper when the backup drive kicks in, but we all make a little noise when we breathe every now and then, right? The Keyboard is fantastic. 99% of the PC’s keyboards either required a hammer to stroke a key or were ultra-sensitive and a slight breeze could set it off. I love the speakers as well and I am huge on sound. I was a bit worried about it, but it is serving me well. I have loved my mac since day one and could spend hours exploring tricks that other people on blogs have taught me to do. The images and clarity of sending myphotography .are amazing and it is so easy even a 5 year old could do it. Plus, if you have any questions you can actually reach someone at Apple customer service, and not be on the phone for hours. Go Macs!!!

Joanne Licsko said...

From experience, tweezers are the best for getting the SD card out of the CD slot.

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