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A foray into Mac land, from the perspective of a Wintel guru

By Andrew Pollack on 12/22/2003 at 09:24 AM EST

If you're wondering where I've been for a the last several days, it has been total immersion in this the eMac. I thought I'd share some thoughts on this, since usually we only hear about these machines from their faithful -- nearly cultlike -- followers.


I was an Apple user back in the early 1980s and used to the fullest extent the Apple II Plus, IIe, & IIc. Later, I did some support work with an Apple Macintosh SE and was reasonably comfortable with System 6, System 7, and System 7.5. Since then, I've not touched one of these machines for any but the briefest moments.

Why did I buy this one then?

First, because the Apple machines have gotten increasingly interesting from a design perspective at the same time their pricing has come down to the realm of the WinTel box. Add to that the increasing number of questions I get from customers about how their web pages will look from Safari or older versions of IE that run on the Mac, and finally questions about Notes client deployment on Macintosh. I decided having one around as a support box was a good plan. Besides, I wanted one.

What did I choose, and why?

I went with the eMac. This seemed to be the same in terms of the internals as the iMac -- differing only in terms of the supplied monitor. I didn't see spending $600 more for a 15" thin screen. My new eMac is a 1 gigahertz G4 processor, came with a 40gb hard disk and 128megs of ram. I know, some of you wintel types are saying "1 Gigahertz, that's slow, I'd never buy a 1 gigahertz machine. My new one is 2.2gigahertz!" But you'd be wrong. You can't just compare cycle speed on a processor if you're talking about totally different instruction sets, totally different processor architecture, system board pipelines, RAM access, etc. Suffice it to say that Porsche makes some four cylinder sports cars that routinely outperform big V-8's. I boosted the ram to the 1gb max before I even plugged it in, but in terms of the hard disk -- that's what networks are for. No need for more space.

FYI: Andy at Powermax was really great, and helped me understand the various options, then handled the transaction.

First Impressions:

Of course, being an Apple I expected an installation that was easy. I got that. It picked up my IP network, got itself configured, and was ready to use in about five minutes. Interestingly, it found my Windows networking shares faster than my new Windows XP machines do. The supplied one button mouse lasted all of 15 minutes before I yanked it and plugged in a Logitech scroll mouse. So far, that's the one big negative -- there is no excuse for shipping a nice machine like this with a mouse that doesn't scroll. The keyboard, like the mouse, is insanely sweet to look at, very smooth to operate, and barely functional for me. If I keep the machine and not relegate it to someone else in my house, it will have to get a new keyboard. That may just be me, as I have these huge firefighter style hands. If I place my fingers on the "home" keys, my thumbs overlap on the space bar and its difficult to type. A split key keyboard is a must.

Lotus Notes on the Mac.

I found three major shortcomings with Lotus Notes on the Mac. First of course, is no Designer. That totally blows but everyone knows that. The second was the font size. I followed the instructions on Ben Poole's site to fix that, then sent a button to my Mac customers that handled it with a short bit of code. The third remains a pain and is the biggest reason why I haven't totally switched. The scroll on the mouse is totally ignored by the Notes client on the Mac. Our Mac using friends know this already and have been whining about it for a long time -- but to me it was news, and not very welcome. On the plus side, I was able to program a mouse button on my Logitech mouse to act as the "escape" key, so that gave me an effective right-double click to close windows.

Living with Mac

Well, I have no idea if I can do any real work on it yet, but as a toy it is amazing. Expose makes switching applications very smooth and natural, and the integration with iTunes is awesome. I'm not really much of a music buff, but iTunes has me hooked and I haven't spent a dime on it yet. I thought it was just another pay for music system. Its not. The iTunes player (yes, I know its out for the PC too) is really well designed. After a few minutes of understanding it, I set it up to load in my music CD's. I have about 20 -- right, not much of a music buff. Basically, it opens the cd tray, you put in a cd and wait. It opens again and you switch and close the cd tray. While working on the pc the eMac accepted and categorized all of my music by author, album, and genre. Then it searched my network and imported all my MP3's and categorized THEM by the same. I'm also enjoying perfect quality "radio" stations over the net. It was so cool that I downloaded it for my PC, and after spending a few hours fixing codecs, drivers, and interrupts is now working quite well there too -- and the machines share their library of music. Next I'll add my kids pc's and give them a weekly allowance at iTunes (like $2) to download their must-have bubble gum music du jour.

All in all, its a sweet machine and really feels comfortable to work with but otherwise its an awesome jukebox. More later.

There are  - loading -  comments....

format, macBy Jon Johnston on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
I like the new format better than the old, but your borders don't show up in the browser I'm currently using- Firebird on WinXP. Macintosh - iTunes is neat, but when you get to iMovie and iDVD, and start to use them, you'll see what the machine is truly for. Happy New Year! Jon J.

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