MacBook First Impressions

I got my MacBook on Friday and have been poking around in it all weekend. I had asked a few questions here and gotten some great responses (thanks, guys!).



My first move was to do what I do on my windows machines: partition the HD to keep my data separate from my OS. This way if I need to upgrade to Leopard, it should be even more painless (perhaps that's just my Windows mentality though I did read it on a few Mac sites as well).

In any case, this website gave a great step-by-step method for doing exactly what I wanted. It works flawlessly so far. I've got it split 25GB/50GB on my 80GB drive (you lose some in the formatting and splitting). I install everything to my primary and download files there. All data (pics, torrents, music, etc.) goes to the other drive.

Once that got setup, I had to choose how to set up my dock. For a windows user, this is one of the weirdest parts of the Apple OS. It's like a taskbar + start menu. I have it along the bottom of my screen just because it looks asymmetric on either side. I like symmetry. I have it scaled down with magnify on mouse-over and also set to auto-hide (which I never did with my taskbar in Win). It's an interesting design paradigm that has its advantages and disadvantages. I like being able to launch programs from there (something I hated in windows: the quicklaunch can only handle a couple icons otherwise it's too small and cluttered). I dislike minimize in OS X. Why does it add the window to my dock?! It should just alter the program icon in the dock so that if I click it, boom, it's back. It's not like I'm going to launch it again.

Dashboard is stupid. Thanks for wasting my RAM. I immediately found an app to disable the bastard. Like I'm desperate to know the weather every damn second or to have some fancy ass calendar for no reason. The date is up there in the top right and iCal is at your fingertips. Anyways, Dashboard is a waste.

I'm using Camino for browsing. Not a fan of Safari. It's ok but I can't get it fullscreen?? WTF?

Digression:
Those 3 window buttons are very weird for a windows user. The red X doesn't close the app; it just closes the window, the app itself is still running. So I have no window interface for closing the app? Why? I definitely prefer the Photoshop paradigm to the Gimp one OS X seems to use. When I'm working in an app, I like it to fill my screen. Less clutter, more workspace. Also, to the green + button: you're a fickle asshole. Sometimes you fill my screen, sometimes you get 10 pixels wider. Can we get you to always fill my damn screen??? I hate you green + button. I can drag the bottom corner to make the window bigger so make my window bigger already! Ok, ranting over.

Camino is nice but it could use a keyboard shortcut to cycle tabs and better extension support. I might flip to Firefox if there's an extension I can't live without but for now I'll survive. There are a few options though, it might be ok.

I tried BitRocket at Gil's suggestion. It worked quite well so I'll stick with it until I find a reason to abandon ship.

iTunes has been very kind to me. My main box is a Windows PC upstairs on my 2nd floor. It has my iTunes with all the songs I've been ripping to it. I was really hoping I didn't have to repeat it on the MacBook. Good news, iTunes sharing works flawlessly between the 2 machines over my WiFi. All the songs are upstairs, I hit my Shared library and, bingo, I can play all my songs. Bonus: I have the Airport Express as my home router/wifi base with AirTunes. From my MacBook, I can fire up my PC library and then route the output to my sound system over wifi. Sweeeeeeeet!

iPhoto is quite cool. I'm not sure I'm ready to abandon my PC photo filing system. I'm going to need to become a bit more used to this interface and add Photoshop for the Mac. I do like the keywords and integrated slideshows. I can see myself switching in the near future.

Terminal has made its way to my Dock. It rules.

Finally, there's Finder (the system explorer for us windows users). The Application folder in Finder is so important it should really be its own application. It's so vitally essential to the OS but its placement in the Finder window totally underplays how crucial and how often you're tooling around in there.

Hardware-wise I love the machine. You really do need more than 512 MB of RAM. top is telling me I'm using almost that amount right after I finish booting without having done a thing. I love the white look. I'm in the honeymoon phase where I'm babying it but Ben like the swirly pattern the screen makes when you press the LCD display. Time to duct tape gloves on the little rat... Screen is gorgeous, photos look awesome. I haven't had a chance to spin a DVD yet but I'm really looking forward to it. I love the two-finger scroll-wheel substitute, I love the two-finger right-click (I should film a movie with that name). I don't like Shift+Ctrl+Option+OpenApple/squigglythingy (command?). 4 is one keyboard "shifter" too many.

Still investigating iChat, iMovie, iDVD and how to eject a disc with that eject button....

Sorry for the mega-long post. I'll put it behind a cut if someone reminds me how to do it.

Posted by vinny9 on April 2, 2007 with category tags of

17 comments
You should check out quicksilver as an application/document launcher. It works way better then the dock or anything else. It's a bit weird at first, but it will rock your world.
   comment by dustin (#1) on April 2, 2007


Use Command + H for all for "minimizing needs". It hides the window instead of minimizing, and you know from the little black arrow that the app is still running.

I also had to get used to Command + Qing everying instead of X-ing it away. A couple keyboard strokes never hurt anyone, though.
   comment by Gbrowdy (#55) on April 2, 2007

how is the mac terminal anyway? Is it bash, or some proprietary flavour? Is there a big learning curve to being productive in the mac *nix environment vs linux? I guess the directory structure is completely different, but are all the built-in commands still there?

I also found the gimp paradigm (many floating toolbars on your desktop instead of one big window with many toolbars integrated into it, like MS Office) to be a bit weird at first. Now I've come to prefer it. It works especially well with an X-mouse, or focus follows mouse configuration. That way you can layer some of those toolbars and only keep parts of the ones you want visible.
   comment by KingCasey (#194) on April 2, 2007

Quicksilver:
Looks interesting. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Tash will appreciate it (she hates having separate users, grrr). Hopefully, it will complement the dock and will be transparent to her.

Shortcuts:
Yeah, I'll learn them slowly but surely, I guess. It's new habit to build.

Terminal:
It's bash. In reality, I could pretty much ignore OS X if I wanted to and just do stuff from Terminal but that would be missing the point. OS X is a nice toolbox with hammers and screwdrivers but with Terminal it's like having a secret closet where you can keep the sledgehammer and scalpel. It really is *NIX implementation (other than some config stuff). Mind you, I've barely gotten my feet wet and haven't really had to dig deep.

Dustin: How do I make a post with text behind a cut, again? There's some tag or something, no?
   comment by vinny9 (#33) on April 2, 2007

Dustin: Never mind, got it...
   comment by vinny9 (#33) on April 2, 2007

I think that all the little buttons in the window corner are extraordinarily dumb, and I never use them. Command-Q to close, Command-H to minimise, and God help you if you want to resize because your rant is spot on – the green + is about as helpful as a kick in the Jobs.

That said, I much prefer using keyboard shortcuts to using the mouse anyway, and I generally find the ones on a Mac far more intuitive than the ones on Windows (what is it to close down an app in Windows? Alt+F4? What the hell is that all about? Hard to remember, hard to do without contorting your hand).

I disagree about Dashboard. Use it all the time, and love having a dictionary/thesaurus a mouse-click away.

Oh, and re: Apps folder, do you have a shortcut to it in your Dock? That way you can access all your Apps without even having to open the folder-- just click and hold.
   comment by goodladd (#144) on April 2, 2007

I was debating putting the App folder in the Dock. I going to hold off for now. I'm using it like crazy because I'm just getting my system off the ground so maybe it is a good idea to do so but I can't see myself leaving it there in the long-term. I guess I can just remove it when I'm done fooling around.

As for Dictionary/Thesaurus:
You can extend the Firefox search bar to search a variety of your favourite dictionaries. Since my browser is open 100% of the time, I don't need Dashboard eating resources even when I'm not using it. In fact, without even looking it up, I'd imagine there are very, very few Widgets that can't be supplanted by a Firefox extension. (Hmmm. Maybe I will be switching to Firefox...)
   comment by vinny9 (#33) on April 2, 2007

Re: keyboard shortcuts. That's always been one of my biggest complaints about using a mac. So many of the apple KB shortcuts are based around the apple key, but I find it's in a very awkward place (do you get at it with your 3rd or 4th finger? do you move you whole hand to get a pinky on it?). I much prefer the pinky on the CTRL button behaviour of other OSs. ALT-F4 is one of the few instances of ever using the ALT key, and that's a good thing because it's in a stupid place.

   comment by KingCasey (#194) on April 2, 2007

The apple command key is right next to your thumb, which is sittting on the space bar. Use the thumb.

Also, something I love about the mac is the exposé. I love being able to clear the desktop by shooting my mouse into a corner, or switching between windows by having all of them appear on my screen. But I seem to be alone in that.
   comment by LePhil (#198) on April 2, 2007

Apple shortcuts:
Years of doing scales on a piano allow me to use my left thumb on the apple key and reach the left half of the keyboard fairly easily with the same hand. Right-side shortcuts require me to release my mouse/move off the trackpad, or learn to use my left pinky and index. I don't think I've come across one of these yet so for now Apple button is fine. But like I said above, I don't know if I'm going to get swamped trying to recall "Uh was that, Ctrl-A? Opt-A? Cmd-A? Shift-Ctrl-A? AAAAAA--" /me suicides

Expose:
It's cute but I like Win-M to get at my desktop. I'll look for a non-Fkey shortcut at some point (not that I keep a lot on the desktop). To switch between apps, I'm still an Alt-Tab (now Apple-Tab) kind of guy.

I'm really enjoying all this feedback. I feel like I'm learning a lot. I'll post another update after a few more two-finger explorations...
   comment by vinny9 (#33) on April 2, 2007

There is also this sweet App called Ancient Empire Lux. Check it out.
   comment by Gbrowdy (#55) on April 2, 2007

I don't use the fkeys for expose, I've made my upper and lower right hand corners 'active' so that by moving the mouse into a corner will either expose the desktop or all the open windows. Easy to do in the sys preferences panel.
   comment by LePhil (#198) on April 3, 2007

Yeah, thumb on the Apple key for sure – if you're trying to use your third or fourth fingers, no wonder the keyboard shortcuts drive you nuts!

I use Expose a lot, too, especially the reveal desktop option (which I activate by sweetly caressing the sides of my Mighty Mouse).
   comment by goodladd (#144) on April 3, 2007

Quicksilver is totally invisible unless you hit its hotkey, so it won't distract other users. It has many different things in it, but the main use is as a quick-launcher for everything (in the places you configure it to look). Hit the hotkey, then type the first few letters of any app or document and you can open it, without screwing around in the finder or apps folder.
   comment by dustin (#1) on April 3, 2007

I just had to add a new symbolic link to my data drive for iPhoto's pictures. Instead of Users/[user]/Pictures, I had to redirect it to /Volumes/[drive2]/Pictures after doing a sudo ditto. Strange that iPhoto didn't create stuff where I expected (according to that link).
   comment by vinny9 (#33) on April 6, 2007

Oops, I mean instead of Users/[user]/Pictures it was at Users/Pictures.
   comment by vinny9 (#33) on April 6, 2007

MacBook
2 GHz, 2 GB RAM MacBook, showing the speed of the build in apps. and
MacBook vs. iBook G4
MacBook Intel CoreDuo 2.0Ghz - 512Mb - 60Gb vs iBook G4 1.33Ghz - 1Gb - 40Gb
   comment by kazan on May 13, 2008

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