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.

Conclusion

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: