Please help my friend Tom and Susan McAnulty. Sue is battling through a second occurrence of Large b cell non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Plus Tom’s brother died the day before yesterday and they are underwater with costs associated and relating to all of this, I’m asking you as a personal favor to please go to the fundraiser at http://www.gofundme.com/chegak and consider donating a few dollars if you can. Thank you so much!
Editing help for this post by Richard Groff and by Empty Sink Publishing
First let me say that while the Mac App Store is filled with good and helpful software, it’s not always the low-cost place that the iOS App Store usually is, nor is it the monitored ecosystem where most of the information about the apps fully explains what they can do. You also often find outdated apps, and some great examples of this are apps I found while trying to kill the startup sound.
Every time you boot up a Mac, it makes this sound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ1mpI01evk
And it makes this sound loudly, so if someone is snoozing on a couch or a bed near your computer, they’ll be woken up or at least disturbed by it. I thought for sure there was a way to change, delete, or disable the sound (as Windows has allowed you to do forever). When I couldn’t find any obvious way to change this behaviour, checked the Mac App Store for a solution.
Here are the results I got in the Mac App Store for apps that said they would turn off or quiet the startup sound. If you look at the reviews, there are lots of people who came looking for a solution to the same problem I had, only to discover that they work only in OS X Snow Leopard, a four-year-old version of the OS, but nowhere does it say that—except in reviews from disgruntled users. So using the Mac App Stores means hoping someone got burned before you did and took the time to write a review of the app, warning others to stay away from it. It’s not unlike the Android App Store, which often has apps that don’t work with all flavours of Android. Unlike the iOS or Android App stores, however, the average price of a Mac app is much higher than the usual $.99 to $1.99 for your average iOS or Android mobile app. So I was still stuck with this obnoxious sound. Could I simply change the sound? Find a WAV file I liked and stick it in there so the startup sound would either be quiet or something I liked? Alas, no.
I called Apple about it and the first thing they did was recommend buying one of the apps (that no longer work with OSX Mavericks). They then give me a piece of code to run in Terminal, but it didn’t work. I found another Terminal command on Reddit that actually worked for a week and then somehow the startup sound reappeared. I’ve still not found any way to get rid of it.
The Mac App Store as a whole was surprising insofar as so many apps are outdated but still available, as well as the cost of some of the software. Being so accustomed to buying iOS apps, the Mac App Store prices can be shocking. Grand Theft Auto 3 for iOS is only $4.99, while the Mac version will run you $9.99. Some $5 iOS apps go for $35 to $45 for the Mac. Of course, the Mac versions don’t run on mobile devices; they’re full versions of software packages like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office for Mac
. Here’s is a sample of photography software on the Mac App Store and, as you can see, there are free apps and some for $2.99, but quite a few for $79.99 and up to $129.
What you need to be careful of when buying in the Mac App Store is to make sure you aren’t getting a less-updated or less-feature-rich version of the software by not buying it directly from the manufacturer.
You can sell your own apps in the Mac App Store, with Apple getting a 30% cut of your sale price. So software makers will often put a version of their program in the App Store with some of the features stripped out, so it pays to compare the App Store version with the version the manufacturer sells on its own webpage. You might lose the ability of software automatically updating itself, but you’ll often gain a few dollars in savings or more features. All in all, the Mac App Store functions as a distribution centre for fully functioning software packages that you’d often be paying full price for regardless of where you buy.
I’m not that comfortable talking on video, but when I do, it works fantastically well and it makes me feel like I’m on the Jetsons
. I’ve got exactly three people who I regularly FaceTime with and two of them are my mom and my brother. No matter how uncomfortable I am with the idea of someone seeing me as I sit there fidgeting, you can’t say no to your mom,.
Getting back to the camera, it’s easy to use, works well in low light, and it’s the first webcam I’ve actually ever used. It’s amazing how well it works, even if I am uncomfortable with people seeing me twitch and tick, and it works equally well on my Mac, my iPad, or my iPhone—even when I’m using bandwidth data with my cell phone instead of wifi. I’ve had conversations with people that seemed as if they were standing next to me and only rarely had a lag or connection issues. It’s funny because I’ve been paranoid about accidentally broadcasting myself for years. Once, early in my career, I was using my laptop during a Webex conference, and because I was working out of my home office and it was summer and I was in an un-air-conditioned room, I was working shirtless in my sweatpants. I was exploring the Webex interface and hit a button and WHAM! Suddenly I was there looking at myself, shirtless and bedraggled, on the webcam that I didn’t even know my laptop had. Nor did I know that some offices were broadcasting to other offices via webcam. Luckily, I hadn’t actually appeared on their screens. The software thankfully stopped with a dialog box asking me to confirm whether I wanted to broadcast via cam or not. I hit “no” as quickly as possible and then for years afterwards kept a piece of paper taped over my laptop’s webcam, both to prevent me from accidentally broadcasting myself and to prevent hackers from enabling my camera without my knowing it. Not that there are packs of hackers who are looking to get footage of mid-forties nebbishy Jewish guys working on Excel sheets!
iPhoto is fun to play with and easy to use. Editing pictures is a breeze and the effects are pretty much automatic. You can really explore the creative side of owning a Mac without having to know a lot about image manipulation and editing. It also creates great videos. I made one for YouTube to help out some dear friends, Made in low light and very much off the cuff, I did only a slight bit of editing and it worked fantastic. Exporting the video was fast and the USB 3 connection makes moving large files around a pleasure.
In one word—WOW! I’ve never had a USB 3–enabled device before and the difference in speed from USB 2 when moving data is amazing. I moved 100 gigs of media files from a drive through a USB hub onto my desktop in about ten minutes.
People who are Mac users swear that you don’t need to use antivirus software with a Mac, but that’s not something I’m ever going to be comfortable doing. Just weeks after putting this thing online, in fact, the largest exploit ever affecting Macs was discovered. Though there are generally fewer viruses out there coded for Mac, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there, or that there’s stuff in the wild that hasn’t been found yet. Because I’m running Windows in a virtual machine, I have to be careful about malware or viruses cross-contaminating when sharing folders between the Windows virtual system and the Mac. Just last week a buddy of mine got caught out when one of the largest ad networks was distributing ransomware. In this attack, he had his entire hard drive encrypted and was using an external drive to back up to and was using a hot backup, meaning that the backup drive was supposed to be connected to the computer at the time of infection. Usually this means that the external drive also becomes encrypted with the primary drive. the goal of the virus authors is to do everything they could to get to all your data so that you have nothing left to install a backup from , so that your only option is to pay them to decrypt your drive . Because if you have a perfectly up to date backup of your system you can reinstall the operating system from the point before the infection and simply go about your business So if it can get at your external drives where you’re likely storing your backup’s it will , and it will encrypt that as well. Either you pay €300 or you have an encrypted drive that you can do nothing with. One way t avoid this and this is something I’ve done is to get something like Carbon Copy Cloner for mac. and have this program run an image of your hard drive daily or weekly, however often you’re comfortable with it, and you store that on a different, removable drive that your Apple Time Machine backups are on, and if the worst case scenario comes to pass, you simply take the cloned hard drive image and lay in back over the encrypted on, have it overwrite the infected on
Why am I worrying you about windows infection vectors when you obviously are here to hear about macs?
Because almost all the people using Mac these days are also running Windows in some form or another. And Windows viruses , especially infective ones like Ransomware that encrypt your hard drive, can and do leak through and infect Mac’s. When my buddy wanted to see if his infected computer’s backup was ok to use, he couldn’t trust looking at the file on his windows machine. Even though he was pretty sure that all the virus itself was gone and only the encrypted files were left over, he couldn’t be 100% sure. None of the antivirus software is able to catch ransomware signatures as they aren’t carried like classical viruses. This encryption occurs by having the virus creator send you a file that looks like one type of file, say a PDF file, but that extension is another type of file that essentially makes you the agent of infection by having you execute the command on your computer that tells the computer to run the script that and if that was the case and he plugged in the drive with his last usable backup into it, it would promptly encrypt that too. So he brought it to me, as I run windows on a virtual machine, if for some reason the infection is present on that drive and makes it’s way onto my virtual windows desktop, no big deal, I nuke that instance of windows off the virtual machine and create a new one, two minutes later I’m back in business. But what people often do when setting up a VM for windows on a mac is that they allow file sharing between the two systems so that one can move files downloaded on one through to the other. When this file sharing is set up, if the infectious agent was present and activated on the windows side,and I did not take steps to completely and totally isolate the windows Virtual machine from my mac folders it could have and would have gone right on and encrypted my mac hard drive, as well as any external drives that it found connected to that and I would be left in the exact same helpless state as my friend . As it was , all i had to do was view the drive on my computer to the extent that I needed to , in order to see that it was not encrypted, once we saw that we knew that the crypto ransomware had not affected that backup and he wouldn’t have to either pay up or start from scratch again losing all his backed u material. We initiated the operating system and complete drive reimaging from the drive, it took about 4 hours that were terrifying as at any moment we could have gotten a message saying that one tiny element had gotten corrupted and therefore made the backup useless.
Even though there’s about only one mac virus for each 99 windows virus.
With every new user like me the system becomes more attractive to virus writers. If the current level of arrogance with mac users believing that they are above being fooled into clicking on a hidden extension that looks like something harmless and innocuous like a word document or a PDF or JPEG file that turns out to be an executable or script of some sort, the mac system is only going to be a riper juicier target. , as careful as you are, no one looks at every incoming email that looks legitimate. i’ve seen infection via UPS tracking links in email, what looks like efax inbound faxes, voicemail to email, a PDf that says .PDF but when you look at the full extextensiona right clicking for the source there’s actually another extension ending, and thats only associated with one virus the Cryptowall virus. It’s not that mac users are as careful as they say they are or more intuned with what links are good and what links aren’t, it’s that the numbers are with us, as of this moment it doesn’t make sense to target mac users because the vast majority of computer users aren’t using OS X. in fact, only %6.36 of all computers are running OS X worldwide but that doesn’t mean that as they become better technology and the fan base grows that some industrious person won’t leverage the next huge virus on mac users. If your computer isn’t significantly slowed down by running an AV, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t in my mind that you shouldnt for peace of mind and to prevent yourself from becoming a transmission vector.
All in All
I’m impressed and happy with my purchase. I’m interested in becoming a power user and learning the ins and outs of the OS, and I’m tremendously looking forward to Yosemite and its interoperability with my mobile devices. Do I think it’s worth the 2K? I’ll have to see how long I’ll be using this computer, how much it costs in upkeep, how much goes wrong with it after AppleCare runs out, and how many of the future operating systems this computer will be capable of running. I’m also interested in seeing how functional it is to use as a business machine in group settings when everyone else is using Windows. Will I end up just booting into Windows the majority of time I’m doing office work, or will I be able to simply export whatever it is I’m working on in a format that’s usable by Windows? There have been a few times when I’ve had to find alternate versions of software that I usually use in Windows. I found this great link which led me to a lot of the stater apps that I would need and I found it to be a great place to start figuring out what apps I needed to get started that I could get for free..
Deciding What to Buy
The first thing that put me off and almost scared me away from Macs altogether, is that there’s no getting into the guts of the current line of Macs (unless I went with the Mac Pro, which was out of my economic reach). There’s no swapping out components, and if there was one thing that still held me back besides finances, it was this. It was likely that for the first time I was about to make a major investment in a piece of technology (aside from my cell phone and tablet) that I myself couldn’t personally maintain if I wanted to. If it got dusty inside, I wouldn’t be able to blow it out. If a cable became disconnected from a drive inside, I wouldn’t be able to pop it back on.
Even though Steve Jobs said, “It just works,” that little line of propaganda still wasn’t enough to not scare the willies out of me when buying a Mac. I realized that not only was I unable to service the Machine myself because it would require specialized tools and a specialized skill set, but just by removing the back of the computer, I would void the warranty. I wouldn’t be able to swap out a new hard drive, upgrade the graphics card, or fix a minor issue—everything has to be done by Apple or Apple-certified technicians.
One thing that served as a lifeline in keeping me in the purchasing mode was the idea that for a couple of hundred dollars I could buy into Apple Care and for the first three years, at least, anything that broke because of wear and tear would be covered. But for the last ten years, I’ve become used to replacing, upgrading, adding, and fixing my own PC. I doubt that there are any current components in my Windows desktop Machine that were there when I got it ten years ago. It’s probably not at all the same Machine it once was. I doubt there’s anything I haven’t switched out at least one time. I’ve been able to replace parts as they needed upgrading or as they broke, and I’ve never had to take it to someone who said it was going to cost me $500 to $1,000 to repair it. Not that I’m an expert at fixing my own equipment, because I generally buy the components and use other people to do the dirty work, but I’m sure that if it ever came down to it, I could do the work myself (and have on some occasions, actually).
Aside from that fear, I was worried about finding the software I needed, getting used to a bunch of new keyboard shortcuts, and learning how to use a whole new operating system. Would I be buying a $2,000 box and end up booting into Windows all the time, using the Mac OS merely as a novelty? I decided that if I was going to do take the plunge, I would use Windows only for opening files that couldn’t be opened by the Mac for at least six months (other than when I needed to use Windows for business reasons). Otherwise, I would be learning and using OS X. If I had to use Windows, it would be dual-booted in Parallels, running alongside OS X. I also looked at Vmware, which looked just as good, and there are other more complicated but free alternatives out there.
I knew I wanted an iMac, but I really couldn’t afford to buy one with all the RAM I knew I would need to effectively run Windows in a virtual Machine and not have a sluggish system. I needed a minimum of 16 gigs, and maxing it out to 24 or 32 would be best.
I was struggling, because what I could afford was the 21-inch, but maxing the RAM out to 32 gigs would add another $600 to the starting price, and I wanted a terabyte drive, too. I didn’t want to even think about buying all of that without Apple Care, and I was working with Canadian dollars. I had a small discount through my business, but it wasn’t enough for me to go the way I wanted to. It was then that I remembered about Apple’s certified refurbished computer program. I’d already bought refurbished iPods and iPod touches from them. so I could take the same money that would have bought me a new low-end 21-inch iMac with 16 gigs of RAM (and I wouldn’t be able to add any additional RAM) and use that savings to get a 27-inch refurb, which was suddenly affordable. This would allow me to buy the minimum amount of RAM (8 gigs) configuration and supplement it with store-bought RAM at my leisure.
So, after talking it over with folks in the Apple and Mac communities on Reddit ad nauseam, I eventually settled on a refurbished 27-inch iMac with a 3.2 Ghz quad-core Intel I5 chip and a 1-terabyte ATA drive. This was the only version of the iMac that had user changeable RAM. Not paying for Apple’s $25-a-gig pricing for RAM made buying store-bought RAM an affordable alternative to get me where I wanted to be. I added a SuperDrive and Apple Care and, with the discount for the refurb and a business discount on the drive, the whole package ran me about $2,064.00 Canadian. So on my next payday, when I had a little more money to spend, I went to cruicial.com and ordered an additional 16 gigs for less than half what Apple would have charged me.
The Mac Itself and OSX Mavericks
The computer arrived about four days after I ordered it. The screen is big, beautiful, plays high-def movies (it may not be a retina screen, but I’m not that picky; it’s certainly better than any screen or TV I’ve ever owned). The clarity is fantastic and the amount of screen real estate allows me to run both Mac and Windows software each in nearly full-sized Windows. Plus, as a media consumption device, it’s amazing watching movies on it! And since it’s an Apple product, it naturally came with iTunes preinstalled. It also came with Garage Band, iPhoto, Photo Booth, iMovie, Keynote, Pages, Numbers, and iMessage, as well as FaceTime. I’m not using any extra disk space since my music, TV shows, and movies are all in the Cloud. And I’ve got home sharing set up so anyone in the house can view or listen to any of the media I have.
It’s been quite an experience. The keyboard shortcuts are, as Johnny Ives might say, very familiar but at times still entirely different. It’s taken a while to get used to pressing the command key instead of the control key.
Turning it on for the first time was stunning. Instead of the crunching sounds and array of screens when a PC boots up, it booted to the registration screen in 12 seconds for its first boot (yeah, I timed it!). After completing the registration, which pretty much involved associating it with my existing iTunes account, I powered down and then back up to see how long it took for a full boot to the normal operating screen and again it went from off to ready-to-use in about 10 seconds. The system came clean, with no bloatware preinstalled; just the Apple apps as noted above. After a few brief online tutorials about using the interface, I found I was able to negotiate my way around the system with ease. Setting up my WiFi connection was no problem. Internet connectivity was great, if not better, than my Windows box. I found it easy to keep the desktop neat Although Spotlight is a great way to search the computer, I found Alfred was even better. (If you’re interested in Alfred, I suggest that you buy it from them directly, since the App Store version has less basic functionality. I haven’t found much to dislike about either the Mavericks version of OSX or the Mac itself.
What Is “Other”?
One thing that took a little figuring out was finding out what exactly was on the hard drive. At one point I looked and discovered that in only two months I had already used 236 gigs of the 1,000 I had had available, and I got a little nervous that I was eating up hard drive space so quickly. I hadn’t done a great deal of hard-core work on the computer and didn’t have nearly the amount of files I had on my Windows laptop and here I was suddenly looking at almost a quarter of my hard drive space gone within eight weeks of turning the thing on. What I wanted to know was what all those files were.
Apple has a decent way of visualizing how much space is available on all drives.
As you can see, accessing “About This Mac” and clicking on “Storage” shows how much space is being used and by what type of file. But what do they mean by “Other”? It could be software that wasn’t downloaded from the App Store or zip files that you’ve downloaded and extracted but are still sitting in your Download folder. It could be stuff that has file extensions that don’t fall into any of the above-named categories. Apps like Disk Doctor can help to flush out temporary and trash files, but what if some of the “Other” files are things you need to hang on to or can safely be deleted? I found an app called Disk Inventory X that looks at your drive and
gives you a visual, colour-coded representation of your files.
Clicking on a colour shows exactly what files are hogging space. In my case, it was relatively easy to discern what was needed and what had to go. Over 100 gigs were media files, most of which came from an old iTunes account I had before I immigrated Canada from the States. I don’t remember why I didn’t just move the iTunes account to Canada. At the time I probably didn’t realize that I could, or it could have been that iTunes didn’t have that functionality back then, but I had a bunch of purchased and downloaded TV shows that I couldn’t play through my current iTunes account unless the actual media files were present. At some point I must have copied them into my iTunes library when I could have simply pointed iTunes to my external drive and allowed them to play from there without using up my valuable Mac primary hard drive. So I deleted them and remapped their locations to the external drive where i had space to burn, and suddenly the “Other” files were only taking up about 100 gigs and that seemed much more manageable. I still have 55 gigs of “Other,” but at least now I know how to figure out what they are, so it weighs on my mind a lot less.
I found Apple’s word processor, Pages, easier to use than Microsoft Word. Its ability to export documents in Word, PDF, Plain Text, ePub, or a Zip file is extremely helpful, especially when you need to supply a file to someone with an alternate OS. I found it easier to insert media with Pages than with Word, but also found it a bit limiting in that you can’t simply import a picture sitting on your desktop. Instead, it must be imported into iPhoto first and then placed from their into the document. Images are easily resized and moved within the document. Pages opens and saves Word documents, retaining all formatting, pictures, links, and video, so you can hand the file back to someone using Word and they won’t see a difference. Instead of the incredibly cluttered top bar in Word, Pages keeps it simple with a small set of options on the top and a sidebar that has a few other options. I have yet to run into anything that I could do in Word that I can’t do in Pages, and the interface is much cleaner and easier to use.
Apple’s stock mail program is functional but disappointing, and it’s disappointing not only compared to its iOS version, but also compared to Outlook. It writes in what Outlook users will recognize as Rich Text as opposed to HTML. which means that when you add an attachment, you have to be careful about where your mouse is, because from the sender’s perspective the attachment goes inside the body of the text as opposed to neatly attached near the subject line. While iOS Mail easily recognizes complicated e-mail set-ups Apple Mail does not. An example of this is my personal e-mail account, blei.org, a business e-mail account that resides on Yahoo! servers. In other words, I have a special place within my normal Yahoo! e-mail centre that allows me to check blei.org e-mail and there’s a special IMAP or POP ability to have those e-mails sent separately as their own account. In any of my iOS devices I simply put in my personal e-mail address, atbleidotorg, under the Yahoo! e-mail section of the iOS Mail setup, and put in my password. iOS Mail automatically recognizes that this is an account that resides on Yahoo! servers (even though the domain isn’t yahoo.com) and automatically sets up my incoming and outgoing e-mail accounts without my having to do anything extra. Apple Mail does not recognize this. I had to get the specific IMAP settings for the account through Yahoo! business e-mail, and they were well hidden. Yahoo! has specific IMAP settings for Apple, and it isn’t just a general IMAP setup address. You must use “Apple.imap.mail.yahoo.com” and “Apple.smtp.mail.yahoo.com.” If someone on Reddit hadn’t been kind enough to ping me this information, I might still be looking for it today. That’s more a criticism of Yahoo! than Apple, but if you’ve found your way here through a search and happen to be looking for these settings, there’s your answer!
When I set up the e-mail account for iOS Mail, it automatically set up the Notes feature (that I love!) on iOS, and those Notes sync among all my iOS devices, which at the moment are two iPhones and an iPad. When I set up the account on my Mac through IMAP or POP, at no point would it give me a Notes account, nor would it allow me to import the ones I already had on my iPad or iPhone. Since this is my primary account, it means all the Notes I’ve used on my iOS devices are essentially missing from the Mac. When I sync a gmail account to the Mac, those Notes accounts come through just fine, but any of my other non-gmail accounts do not.
Editing help for this post by Richard Groff and by Empty Sink Publishing
I still don’t know exactly the moment I decided that I was going to go for a Mac, but I remember when I verbalized it. I did it in the most stupid and stereotypically Apple fanboi–like way to maximize my wife’s future opportunity to deride and mock me over this moment, when during a discussion/mild argument that accompanied the announcement that I was to be the proud owner of a bouncing baby Mac—along with the costs that would be associated with this pronouncement—my wife said something along the lines of “Do you know what sort of Windows computer you could buy with half that amount?” I looked at her and said, “I’m not putting another Windows computer in this office,” saying it like a political activist talking about population control. “I won’t bring another Microsoft child into this world!” God! I can be obnoxious! But I did move to a Mac. It’s been four months now and, looking back, I’m sort of checking in with myself on how I’m doing with the technology.
I started using Windows at version 3.11. Before that, I mostly played on a Commodore Vic 20 and all my programs were in BASIC. So I go back a ways using technology. I remember my dad Gary and I sitting up for hours programming the VIC 20 to make a bird flap its wings and fly around the screen. When I say hours, I mean literally five to six hours sitting in the bedroom in front of the VIC, typing in commands as we watched on the monitor: our 17-inch colour TV.
That’s pretty much all I can remember about programming the VIC, but we it took 15 pages of code to get that bird to flap its wings around the screen. Games like Asteroids and Poker were loaded from a cassette in a modified tape recorder. There were no disk drives yet, no USB ports, or, if there were, they were being used by DARPA and not mere mortals in Flushing Queens, New York!
I used MSDOS for a brief period, and then took the jump into Windows 3.11, staying with Microsoft though Windows 7. I was a firm Windows user as far as my computers went, and for over 20 years I never considered moving to or testing any alternative operating system—not Linux, not Ubuntu, and not OSX.
While the use of Microsoft Windows products didn’t extend to my mobile work (as neither my tablets our phones used any version of Windows (more on that later), I’ve worked for a number of large corporations with extensive online presence for the last 17 years of my career, and they’ve all been on a Windows/Outlook standard, and so have I.
Let’s face it: Corporate America is Microsoft territory. Microsoft Word, Outlook, and (most frustratingly) most of its accounting, time-sheeting, and invoicing systems run applications that are functional only through Internet Explorer, an applicationt hat the tech world almost universally agrees is a bloated dinosaur, a Typhoid Mary in its security holes that allow viruses and malware to creep in and allow hackers access to your network, all the while stealing precious IT minutes that turn into hours and days in its continually obsessive updating that many users universally ignore or turn off.
In fact, one of the most ironic things about my move to the Mac is how much time I still spend updating Windows. And although I’ve moved to a Mac, none of the rest of my family has, nor has my company, and since I’m the administrator of our little home network and everyone else is on Windows (and although my company finally had to move from Windows XP to Windows 7 when Microsoft stopped supporting it), not only did I have to install Windows in a virtual Machine on my Mac, but I’m the only one in the house who isn’t on XP. I’m running Windows 8.1. So no one else in the house is getting updates to their copy of Windows except me.
Here I sit, now a Mac user since July, and yet every day I still load Windows, find an update or three waiting for me, and sit by while updating my virtual Windows that cost me a very real $109. My IT guys went through the trouble of upgrading the entire company, so I didn’t want to be the guy who connected up to the work servers from his personal computer that didn’t have the latest security update or patch and then dump a load of malware or viruses on it, making me the enemy of every IT person who works with me.
I hate to admit it and I’m only now, after years of therapy, willing to admit this, but at one point I had gotten so deep into the clutches of Microsoft that I actually went out and bought—and used—a copy of Microsoft Bob!
My previous exposure to Macs was limited to sleeping over at someone’s house where they used a Mac, a series of girlfriends who used Macs, and my brother, who uses a Mac as well, and my exposure was limited to checking e-mail or doing a quick web search, and I have to say that, even considering myself an expert in technology, the most I thought about it was “How can anyone work using a mouse with one button on it? How can you operate a point-and-click based OS without the ability to right-click and the functions that gives you?
I wasn’t sure who was the bigger snob: me for thinking like that about an entire operating system that obviously did quite a bit more than just have an annoying mouse or Apple for their hubris of building a system that could function with just one giant button, and that at the time couldn’t run a good 75% of the software that people were using for business on a day-to-day basis? There was a Mac version of MS Office, but it seemed like a mere nod to interoperability. But I realized that, having never given it a fair shake, I was probably missing something. Macs back then were used mostly by people in visually creative fields. It has always been the computer for graphic artists, not business people, as I was at the time, having held an executive position for ten years with a media research firm in New York.
Along the way, however, a few things happened that got me leaning towards Macs. The first was a gift from my company of a first-generation iPad not long after they came out. This faintly Star Trek–like device had so technologically advanced that my grandparents would have found it indistinguishable from magic. By the time I got it, the App Store was teeming with applications that actually did useful things, not just cutesy widgets, but dependable tools that could serve your every need in a small mobile device, most notably those that deal with learning disabilities. I have dyslexia, and it manifests itself not only in math, spelling, and writing, but—to the annoyance of anyone who’s ever had to work closely with me—my organizational abilities. It’s called executive dysfunction, but the iPad makes dealing with that much easier. I have one place centrally located for my schedule and communications, keeping me more organized and allowing me to structure my day better.
To say I was enamoured of the iPad wouldn’t do it justice. To say that my wife hated the thing would be like saying that the Wicked Witch of the West was only mildly perturbed with Dorothy or that The Terminator was “slightly prone” to violence. When it comes to operating systems and technical things, how much I like something is usually inversely proportional to how much my wife dislikes it. I’m still not sure to this day if the OS wars in my house began because of my goat-like bleating over how in love I was with the iPad or my wife’s incessant harping about its “closed” system, Apple’s child-labour issues, it’s insane intellectual-property litigation, and the cult-like obsessive nature that Apple users have about their devices. In fairness, I’m pretty sure I didn’t so much drive my wife to using Android, as much as I catapulted her into it. Many people say that opposites attract, and with my wife, it’s not so much a case of being opposite as much as being being oppositional. For two people as much in love as we are, you’d never guess it by our technology and how much we vehemently disagree on our platforms. She is the tomayto to my tomahto. As much as I like the Kindle, she became disenchanted by hers and started using Kobo. She eventually got her first tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, and then a smartphone, also a Samsung Galaxy. If you’ve got a good thing going with a tablet, it only makes sense to get the phone that goes with it, right? And not long after the iPad came into my world, I found myself explaining to her about why, with 6 months left on my BlackBerry contract, I absolutely needed to get an iPhone that would work in conjunction with the iPad.
There still weren’t enough reasons for me to consider moving to a Mac computer, though. I still had the a Windows bias, and I wasn’t aware that Apple had moved away from the single-button mouse and now offered both a Magic Mouse and a Magic Trackpad (lots of magic floating around Apple).
It was with the announcement of the release of iOS8, watching Tim Cook talk about the future of the Mac—specifically Yosemite, and how it would bring a seamless integration interconnecting all Apple devices—that I knew I’d finally be able to do some of the cooler things that my Android-using wife had been able to do for years. Widgets would finally be coming to Apple mobile devices, and I’d finally be able to use a Swype keyboard with them. With Yosemite and iOS8 communicating with each other, if a call comes in on my iPhone, I’ll be able to pick it up on my iPad or Mac. I’ll finally be able to answer texts on the computer, not just from other iOS users who are using iMessage. And with my iPhone on the same WiFi network as my other Apple devices, I can have a word processing page open on one device and immediately pick up the same document on any other device. I also knew that Apple had been using Intel chips in their computers for a while now, making them capable of also running Windows. Being a corporate lackey, I knew there was no way I’d be able to make a clean break from Microsoft, and I didn’t really want to. With my Mac, I can dual-boot Windows and Mac OS X using Parallels or VMWare. I decided I wanted to run Windows simultaneously along with OS X, but that meant an additional investment in RAM—not an insignificant amount in the Mac world.
So I’ve been a Mac owner for about three and a half months now, and here’s where I stand:
The Dreaded Mouse
The iMac now comes with the “Magic Mouse,” an interesting piece of kit that is a completely multitouch-sensitive device in the shape of a mouse, that has a set of unique gestures. If you happen to be someone who rests more than one finger on the mouse, that’s actually a gesture that brings you to another screen on the desktop, and it’s something that I’ve had to train myself not to do. Even though it’s still one big button, it’s quite configurable, so you can have left- and right-click. Unfortunately, about only 4 out of 10 times will it fully recognize that I intended to right-click, and that gets really annoying when you’re clicking a link, meaning to open a new tab or window versus clicking a link as a left-click and losing the page you’re on. I may just end up putting a normal Windows mouse on this.
The Apple Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard
This is another interesting bit of technology, but if you get one, first spend a few dollars and get a protective silicone cover so crumbs and spills don’t get in the keyboard. I found some very inexpensive keyboard covers on eBay. It took me a few shots until I found one I was happy with, but at an average cost of $1.99 to $3.99, you can afford to be choosey.
It doesn’t have a numeric keypad on the right hand side for number entry, but Belkin has a bluetooth wireless numeric keypad you can pick up for about $49 (more on that in the next section).
The keyboard has a much lighter touch than most keyboards and I actually find it difficult after a few months of using it to migrate back to a normal, big-button keyboard.
You do have to keep an eye on the battery life of both the keyboard and the mouse. They do last a good long time (about two months on the mouse and at least three months on the keyboard). I’ve had to change the batteries on the mouse twice between July and October. When the battery starts getting low (about 15%) the mouse starts functioning very strangely.
Belkin Wireless Keypad
This is the numeric keypad “missing” from the keyboard. It matches the design of the keyboard with the same brushed steel finish. I’ll be honest with you: this is one where I should have read the reviews before purchasing it. I’d used it for a while before checking them out, and they are quite dismal. Although most product feedback tends to come from people who are unhappy, some reviews are from people who had great success with it and others are from those who have had lingering connectivity issues and data entry errors, as well as a short battery life. It’s working fine for me so far, but I’ve used it for less than a week, and being forewarned, I’m not leaving it powered up when not in use. One of the tricks I discovered from the Mac Help pages is that you have to set it manually to a US ANSI keyboard type for OS X to recognize it. In order to be as productive as I can be I’ll either use this, something like it, or I’ll end up getting a full keyboard, since I’ve come to rely heavily on a numerical keypad when doing actual data work and programming. I simply can’t do this with the number keys above the letters on the main keyboard. Changing how I type data is too drastic a change for this old dog!
In the next few posts you’re going to see me discuss moving from PC to mac. This is a decision I made around June 2014 when some dedicated computer funds came through my life. I had been using PC’s exclusively for 20 years, since MS DOS went to Windows 3.11, I was a Windows user, however I had been using an iPhone and iPad for years already, and then I saw the summer 2014 Apple keynote where they first announced OS X Yosemite, and the functionality that would be coming with Handoff and Continuity .
The next few posts are going to go over the decision and experience of making that move. So the whole design to buy this computer and to move to a new and unfamiliar operating system was predicated on the side that in three to top four months this new operating system would come together that would tie my iOS devices to my computer, and some of the cool things that my wife had already had access to for awhile through her android phone and tablet would come to pass on my side. Meaning SMS bridging to taking phone calls from my iPhone on my iPad and computer. Finally the day drew near and I knew that the next afternoon after the fall event to announce the iPad Air 2 Yosemite would be dropping from beta to an approved available OS on the app store. This was the big day, this was why I had argued with my wife over spending $2,000 on a mac computer when a quarter of that would have put together a very perky PC.
If you’re going to be buying refurbished mac. Beware. Sometimes the soul of the last owner is still in the machine.
What I didn’t get a chance to cover in my forthcoming posts was a little glitch that came up along the way, and which caused me to have to bring the computer into a certified Apple repair place. I only became aware of it as I was readying my system to move from OS X Mavericks to OS X Yosemite. Getting Yosemite you’ll soon see was the whole Yosemite concept that brought me to thinking about buying a mac and tipped me over the edge to finally make the costly investment and to adapt to a new OS for my personal user.
As I was trying to do some disk diagnostics in anticipation of loading Yosemite the next day I tried to boot into any of the diagnostic option’s that require you to hold the option button while booting, and when I did, all I could see was this .
What this is you may wonder is an indicator that there was a was a Firmware password on the computer. Of course I didn’t understand what it was at first, at first. My mac has two types of passwords that i set up when i got the computer. One is the password for my personal user account which is an admin account and is the password I use to log into it, and then there’s another password that I set up when i first activated the computer, and this is an overall master master password that i created that could be used to reset any user profiles password if any user who had a profile on this computer forgot or lost their password . I put in both of these passwords to see if it would unlock whatever the hell this was, but none of them worked.
I then called apple support and asked them what I should do. It was then that they informed me that even though Apple has a very stringent and well regarded refurbishment process there is nothing done in the refurbishment that would clear out a firmware password set by the previous user.
That was surprising, and disturbing, Surprising because you would think in the process of making the computers set to like new condition, the drives are wiped clean and a new operating system is installed removing any trace hypothetically of the previous user and set to factory default settings, however there’s nothing apparently in the refurbishment process that wipes away any previous firmware password setup.
It was disturbing because with the firmware locked out , other than operating the computer in it;s normal user mode , I could do nothing administratively. I couldn’t perform any data rescue if disk went bad, I certainly couldn’t upgrade the operating system to Yosemite , I couldn’t perform any diagnostics , and without getting this fixed I’d also forever be locked out of the settings to deal with the hardware programming and configuration settings. Apple told me the only way this could be taken off my computer was by an Apple repair technician. The nearest one to me had a 4 day wait, though Apple told me it was about an hour of work. I had no choice, I had to pack it up and send it on it;s way.
There was nothing to be done from my side. There was an old fix for this that involved pulling out some of the ram sticks and rebooting the computer, but as the operating system had been updated, that little trick had been taken away. The only way to take it off was I was told with a tool that Apple kept pretty securely locked down and gave technician’s on a case by case basis
I found this quote which explains it well
“Only Apple’s engineering staff can truly remove the lock (each firmware lock has a unique code attached to it, and the engineering team generates a separate boot disk image to match that .”
I got my computer back and fixed, and have been subsequently able to load Yosemite and do all the great things I wanted to do with it. But beware, when I found out the thing with the firmware password, i thought outloud to the Apple phone support person that this must be a very rare thing to occur, and she told me that it wasn’t as rare as I thought, as not only was I not the first person that had ever called her with this issue, but that there were very clear instructions in the Apple intranet for support personal directing support people who had users with this issue to take their computers in for repair. So Apparently if there is a firmware password and you have a refurb, more than likely this will occur,. This still hasn’t turned me off from the idea of buying refurbished products from the Apple Store, but I would definitely check for this in the future.
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