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Graphics Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Sequential Art

Making a Comic in Comic Life Magiq

Comic Life Magiq is an unusual product in plasq’s software line, as it’s not meant to be a replacement for Comic Life Deluxe. As an avid fan of the latter, I wanted to see if Magiq addressed some of my wishlist in templating and layout for my web comic. For folks not familiar with Comic Life Deluxe by plasq, not to worry. There will be some comparisons with Deluxe throughout the article, but the article is designed to get you going from the ground up. There is an assumption that you already have some content available.  Make sure that before you start it is formatted and ready for print, web, or other.  The good news for those in the "iApps" demographic is that this product has some templates created for your snapshots and keepsake type items so you can play with your photos and create dynamic photo and scrapbook albums. These templates already have what you need in terms of a layout, fonts, and captions. All of these can be further customized.

Let’s briefly look at the GUI. The first thing I recognized as an Apple ProApps user was the "I am a serious program" gray background, which sets the tone for Magiq’s introduction. It could possibly be intimidating to those familiar with Deluxe. But once you get passed that who-rearranged-my-furniture feeling, the GUI does make sense. The top has a navigation strip for browsing pages and some general options.

The toolbar on the left contains most of your custom options for each item selected within Magiq. It also has a wonderful feature in the enigmatic button named "Focus." When something is selected within Magiq, you hit the Focus button and it will lock down everything in your document except that isolated item. From there you can safely modify it without interfering with other parts of the comic. This is a great boon for content creators who have many objects and items. In order to get back to the whole document, simply click the button. The "Front" button duplicated the "Arrange" menu item in Deluxe (an identical feature of the same name in Adobe apps.)  This allows an object to be pushed forwards and backwards in order to have the right overlapping desired.

The bottom toolbar has word balloons, captions, FX lettering, and templates. It is set as a default to "ALL" which I like to keep on. However if you don’t have as much screen real estate, you can select individual views by clicking on the icons representing the different components.

The toolbars to the right contain your templates and panel layouts, the browser, and thumbnails of the selected content of your browser.

In the middle is your workspace. Like Deluxe, most everything in Maqiq is drag and drop. Here I already selected my template, and dragged a layout over from Panel Layouts.

 

One important word about the browser:

It will not automatically refresh. Which means any new content added will not show up.  This can be easily remedied by clicking this icon located in the upper right corner.

Let’s make a comic!

When you open Magiq, pick a blank layout to start with.

After it loads up and you see the GUI, go to Comic Life Magiq>Preferences. I set my "New comics filter images" to 300 dpi.  I want to make sure when I do my export that the image will be of good quality. Going from 300 to 72 dpi should be a lot cleaner than going 72 to an even lossier 72 dpi.  Also from Preferences, you can turn off sounds should you not find them amusing. Also, you can customize the library browsing, and units of measurement.

Next, go to File>Page Layout. From here you can select from a plethora of media sizes which have been expanded greatly from Deluxe. The Tao of I.T. Al is a custom layout of 600×600. I created this setting by setting the size I wanted and then applied it. To make it a template, simply go to File>Save As Template.  It will then show up at startup with your other templates.

When done, go to "Panel Layouts" in the right toobar and select a layout. Start dragging images from the browser, also on the right. If your folder is not showing up, you can drag it into the browser. And good news for those who like organization…it remembers this folder whenever you relaunch the program. As you drag your layouts and pictures, don’t worry If it is not exactly right. We can further modify it.  Notice when you click once on image, you see panel editing handles.  Clicking twice creates the image handles. In either case, you get this outline with tools:

The top purple arrows allow you to rotate. The bottom green arrows move the selection. The green handles around the image resize it. 

What is most interesting is the bottom orange tool, which calls up this popup toolbar:

This toolbar allows you to edit the paths on your objects, much like a vector graphic program (like Illustrator) would.

  • The first icon is the Shape chooser, which brings up a popup menu where you can turn your object into a variety of polygons.
  • The second is the selection tool, which is pretty much like every selection arrow tool known to man.
  • The third icon is the line bending tool, which allows you to grab a point and turn it into a convex or concave curve.
  • The fourth is the Line/corner smoothing tool which smooths out paths by straightening lines and rounding corners.
  • The fifth and six icons are the Add Point and Remove Point tools respectively. The last two are the Add Part and Remove Part Tool, which will come in handy later when we get to word balloons.

When you select your image, you’ll notice this icon to the upper right of your selection: 

 

When clicked, this will open up a graphics palette that will allow you to manipulate your images.

The Graphics Palette contains the following choices:

  1. Colors contains various color correction and manipution tools, as well as inversion and cropping.
  2. Cut-Out contains tools for cutting out parts of the image, chroma keying, appyling shapes, and masking options.
  3. Warp adds distortion effects similiar to photoshop and liquifying tools.
  4. Skin (pictured above) is interesting as it allows you to paint some textures into a graphic. Here I took some "flames" and applied them to the background to make it look like the building caught on fire. Filter is the familiar photo filter options. Paint allows you to paint several types of brushes directly on top of your image. "Reset Layer" will reset the image back to its former status. When you are finished, click done and it will return the edited graphic back into the normal Magiq GUI.
  5. Filter, although it sounds photoshop-esque is in fact various blur tools.
  6. Paint contains paint tools, including a 3d tube brush, which allows you to draw on top of your image. Right here is where you want to paint a mustache on your cousin.

Once the images are fully tweaked, it’s time to add some dialogue and captions. Simply choose the balloon or caption desired and drag it onto the canvas.

The default font is Lint McCree Intl bb 12.0. To select a different font, simply go to the left toolbar and select the "T" icon. There is an expanded list of fonts provided by Magiq, but you can also access your System fonts by selected that option at the bottom. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way to reset the default font. My workaround is to copy and paste balloons already have the desired font settings.

To those familiar with Deluxe, the feature of adding a connecting balloon appears missing. However, it’s been put into the popup toolbar accessed by the orange icon.

To add, simply hit the green "plus" symbol and an additional connected balloon will appear. This can be moved into a different position with a simple click and drag. To remove the additional balloon, select it and then hit the red "minus" symbol.

To make extra tails, do the same thing by clicking on the Add Part tool. To remove, click on the Remove Part and then the tail.

Note here that you can edit the balloon paths much like any other object in Magiq.

When you are done, go to File>Export. You will see a plethora of tabbed options with various configurations. You can send it to Email and Flickr (which has options for permissions on viewership.) HTML creates a webpage with thumbnails of your comic whichcan be used "as is" or be taken into your favorite HTML editor and be further manipulated. Image gives you the options to export as JPEG, GIF, PNG, or TIFF. You can also export it to iPhoto, iWeb, or as a PDF.

Congratulations. You have a comic!

If I had one gripe, it is that Magiq does present a problem to Deluxe users as you cannot open a Deluxe document within Magiq. If you have a large backlog of Deluxe documents, this creates a problem should you need to re-open Deluxe in order to back up and edit your comics to another medium.  For now you need both programs if you plan to migrate.

Categories
Featured Illustrator Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Software Tutorials

Getting Started in Adobe Illustrator’s Livetrace

One gazillion years ago (I call it 1989) I used a rather nifty application called Adobe Streamline.  It had the ability to convert pixel-based bitmapped images into a vector graphic image.

But why would you need that?  It is due to the adage of while you can shrink a low-res image, you can’t enlarge it.  That’s because a bitmapped image is made up of pixels.  Blowing them up only creates larger pixel areas creating that all-too-familiar crappy Youtube video look.  With vector graphics an image is drawn through points and calculated lines.  I like to tell my classes that it is like the computer is drawing with math by playing connect-the-dots.  The downside to vector graphics is that if an image is too complex, this creates more and more areas which become clunky for the computer to redraw.  Simplistically, if it’s complicated image and you want photographic detail it is best to go with bitmap.  For images which are simpler in terms of line and color such as type, web graphics, or logos then vector-based artwork is usually the way to go.  With programs such as Illustrator, you could always export to bitmap.  With Adobe Streamline, you could take an image and convert it to a vector-graphic.  It was clunky, and the interface sometimes left much to be desired, but it did the job.  Unfortunately, it dropped off my personal radar around the mid-90s, although it’s last incarnation was 4.0 released back in 1997.  Around Adobe CS2’s release, a function in Illustrator called Livetrace turned up.  It turned out to be the same functionality of Streamline, but in a much more elegant execution.

Let’s say you want to make a logo that you just placed into Illustrator out of this stock photo for your studio "Baker Street Design."  You want the image simplified for use in black & white, grayscale, and color.  Right now in its bitmapped form it would be tedious to go in and redraw and recolor it only to have something that would be as equally tedious to re-size without it aliasing all over the place.  But, it’s got the basic elements and look you want.

Here I’ve brought the image in Illustrator CS4 (although the commands and look are basically the same in CS 2 & 3.)  It is a good strong contrast image to start with.  I select the image and hit "Livetrace" at the top: 

 

Below left is the original image, and below right is one with the default settings which is a "Simple Trace." 

It’s not quite the look I’m going for, so I go to the Livetrace options menu in the top left area of the menu bar at the top.   I select "Photo Low Fidelity" which knocks it into what looks like a posterized image in Photoshop: 

 

Right now there are still too many colors.  So I adjust the Threshold slider to reduce the amount of colors to taste. 

 

Here, after some experimentation, I knocked it down to 11 colors.

However, I don’t like the color of the lamp glass, and would like to play with it.  I select the image and then hit "LivePaint" at the top. 

As you can see, there are a lot of areas of color shapes, including the background.  All the individual color areas now have been converted into a vector shape which can be painted with the LivePaint Paint bucket tool in the toolbar menu.  I select a bright yellow for the color version of our logo and paint the glass areas.  Notice the red line which indicates the vector shape you are painting.

tip:  It’s worth your while to examine your image zoomed in to make sure you do not miss a tiny vectorized area.

So, it is looking pretty good, but ideally we would like just the lamp and not have this big off-white area around it getting in the way of our future logo plans. 

To do this, select the white arrow tool from the toolbar.  This allows you to select points and areas instead of the entire piece.  I draw around the spots I want to eliminate and hit delete, careful not to hit any areas that I want to keep.  To check your work, hit the black arrow selection tool and select your piece to find areas where you may have missed.  You may have to go back and forth several times. 

 

Voila!  After cleanup you have a finished vectorized graphic which you can further manipulate in Illustrator and/or recolor as needed with LivePaint.

Categories
ArtWorks

Marketing Monday:planning your show strategy

Now is the time to start thinking about your next seasons shows. It is also a time to start taking action to move away from what I call “random acts of buying” and start moving into a position that starts to reduce the random nature of your sales cycle.

Here are 3 key points to help you reduce those random acts of buying and review your past year from a more holistic point of view:

Look at your sales history

  • Use the 80/20 rule– Find what part of your inventory accounted for 80% of your sales. Try to determine if it was price point or the character of the  item. How can you develop other items in your inventory that can also fit into that category. What was the ratio of other sales to the 20%…what was their price point, what did they represent? Are the lower sales of your high end work supported by the 20% sales of your hottest selling items?
  • Identify the high points and the low points – Look at the details of the peaks and valleys, try to describe their characteristics. Use a checklist of predetermined factors such as item, price point, geography, demographics,weather, your impressions of the buyers (the crowd). Try to describe, in relative general terms, the buyers that accounted for both peaks and valleys. For example  did you have returning customers, try to describe their characteristics.
  • What trends do you notice– Now is when you take the information from the last two points and step back to a broader perspective. Try to find patterns that can relate to specific shows and look for relationships between patterns. If patterns do show see if you can find what is behind the pattern.
  • Review each show from the past year– have a rating system that will help you rank the shows against specific criteria. Also look at other more subjective criteria like what the quality of work was compared to yours, what were the people attending like where they shoppers, lookers, or…

planning your show strategy

Define your ideal

Recent research into neuro-psychology is showing that indeed the degree to which we achieve our life vision is determined by where we put our attention. The Law of Attraction also says that where you put your focus, your energy, determines what you attract. So by having clarity around the elements that make up your business vision you will have an image in your mind each piece of your business puzzle and how well it fits into the whole of your vision. The more clarity you have around these elements the more focused your intentions can be and hence the easier it will be to navigate through the year.

If you place the descriptions and images of your perfect buyer, perfect show and perfect season side by side you will be able to have a better image of what you want to attract. Moreover, describing these three elements in physical here and now terms makes them real and slowly merging them into your consciousness. Many, I mean most, really successful people use this approach, they include: Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup For the Soul) Brian Tracy, Napoleon Hill ( Think and Grow Rich), Steven Covey and Andrew Carnegie.

Define the perfect show
Just as we develop profiles of our perfect customers during the branding process you can also apply the same approach to shows. Write out a list of the characteristics that you want in a perfect show. Keep this in mind as you develop your profile:

Perfect Shows=joy+profit+community

Here are a few ideas to get started

  • Demographics– these are the objective descriptions of the show, things like location, age of attendees, genders, income, logistical factors like load in and out, etc. What types of other artists will be there what mediums
  • Psychographics – look at the show as if it were a person ( it actually is a collection of people) List the motivations the promoters would have, do they match yours? Does the show appeal to a specific lifestyle or value that may be important to you like greenness or sustainability….  What are the attitudes, values and opinions of attending artists. What are the attitudes, values and opinions of the potential buyers attending the show.
  • Problems– think about the issues, challenges,  needs you want the show to address for you to want to apply for .
  • Attitudes and treatment– how do you want to be treated at your ideal show, are there amenities,  what factors would put the show as your absolute must.
  • Accessibility – what would the load in load out look like, think of availability of help, of traffic management, of parking etc.

Remember the shows that you left feeling like you had just been through WWIII. While great learning experiences they sap your energy and chop away at your confidence. Having an image of a show that would cause you to leave revved up and excited can help you recognize the ones to re-apply for.

Define your perfect season
Just as it is helpful to define a perfect buyer so we can recognize them or make sure we go where they are, it is also helpful to do the same for shows, like we did above, and for our sales cycle or season.  Now the equation above looks like this:

Perfect Shows+Perfect season=joy+profit+community

  • Travel-How much do you want to travel? How far are you willing to travel? Do you want to travel groups of shows? Does your inventory allow it?
  • Sales– What were the high and low points of your sales over the season? Use the information in the last two points to describe what accounted for your peaks and your valleys? What is the 80/20 breakdown
  • Building your list – How many buyers and potential buyers did you add? What approach did you use? What was their response to your request for their information?
  • Shows– How many shows were you juried into? What were your submissions? How did they fit into your ideal preferences?
  • Community– did you build any close relationships with buyer? With other artists?

Believe in yourself, trust your process and don’t look for perfection

  • Focus on your own power to succeed by keeping your intentions in your consciousness.
  • Trust in your ability to engage your buyers and your ability to build a following.
  • Maintain a mindset of abundance and keep that vision always by your side.
  • Do not hold out for perfection, doing so will all but guarantee that you will continue to stay where you are.

Finally our equation looks like this:

Abundant Mindset+Perfect buyers+Perfect Shows+Perfect season=joy+profit+community+abundance

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ArtWorks

Marketing Monday: a double header

This week will be double header to make up for the site being down most of last week. Both are focust on the internet and how you can use it as a tool to improve or at least stabilize your sales

a double header

Know what you want

This is starting to sound like a broken record but it can’t be over emphasized…start spending some time designing you road map for 2009 by getting to know yourself and what you want your businesses to do. I am bringing this up because today’s Marketing Monday is about the “internets” those tubes that Alaska Senator Ted Stevens described to the Senate last year. Before you take a leap into the “tubes” go back and read Friday’s article and know that the Internet is only a tool and as such it is only going to work if you know how you are going to use it and its’ many facets to help you.

Get familiar with the internet

Having a working knowledge of the internet and how it can be used to your benefit is one of the most important things you can do to help you succeed. Regardless of your political preferences one of the key elements of Barrack Obama’s successful campaign was well focused use of the internet to spread the word.

  • Set up a blog

Blogs are ideal for artists and other creative professionals for several reasons not the least of which is that they are extremely easy to set up and to update regularly. They also are the best way for to get found by search engines. Static web sites have fallen by the wayside in favor of the dynamic nature of blogs and the opportunity they present to let your buyers connect with you on a more intimate level…and no you don’t have to be an expert, nor do you have to write everyday pouring your heart out. Start with the free program Become a Blogger it is an excellent program and at a good price (free!!!).

  • Learn to use Social media

As I have written often Facebook is not just for kids, in fact recent demographics show that 35-55 age group grew 179% over the past 10 months of 2008. Facebook has become THE networking for small business owners to find and communicate with their followers. There are many other tools emerging every day that can help you stay in touch with your buyers learning to effectively use these tools can go a long way to increasing your sales. Besides Facebook, Twitter is probably the easiest to set up, both will help you if used consistantly as part of an overall strategy.

  • Start collecting e-mail addresses

You should already be collecting name and address information from your buyers now you need to also collect e-mail addresses. A buyer’s e-mail address is going to be one of your primary touch points with your buyers. You will use e-mail to keep them informed about your work, to send them a newsletter and to let them know your show schedule. You also need to develop and prominently display your privacy policy. Your sign up sheets, receipts, and locations in your booth. As we show you how to develop a strategy we will introduce you to time saving ways to automate your stay in-touch program.

 

Why asking a blind date to marry you on the first date is like asking for e-mail address.

Imagine this scenario…
You have been set up with a friend of a friend on a blind date. Arrangements were made to meet over dinner at a local eatery. You arrive early get a table for two and watch the door. You’re curious and wondering what this new person might be like…soon you notice someone walking around the tables as if looking for something. You pop out of your seat and wave the person over and ask…”are you_____?” and the answer is yes.

And so the evening begins…

after the initial awkwardness you both discover some shared interests, and start to feel the beginnings of a connection. As the empty plates are removed and you find even more common grounds, you think to yourself I might like to know this person better.

After you have gotten your coats you stand together outside the restaurant to say goodnight when you start to feel a tension in the air. You look into each others eyes as you feel the magnetic energy  of the excitement of your shared interests and values pull the two of you together in a strong embrace. Suddenly the warmth of excitement is interrupted as this new person whispers..”we have so much in common I feel like I have known you forever… did you feel the something?”, you reply ” ya I felt it too”, Then before you could finish your sentence the other person says” since we have so much in common…. how about moving in together? I have room you can move in with me this weekend.”

Shocked you step back saying,” I, I, I, don’t know, we don’t even know each other that is an awfully big step! Let me think about it” and you turn and get into your car and speed off glad the person doesn’t have your number.

Imagine it differently….
Imagine this scenerio if your date had not asked you to move in after knowing you for little more than an hour! It might have turned out differently and may or may not have ended up with the two of you living together or eventually marrying.

Engage and build trust

The first scenario is exactly what happens when you ask a buyer to give you their e-mail address before you have helped them understand the value you will bring into their life.

Once you have engaged your buyer, talked to them about what brings them into your booth and why they are drawn to your work you have increased their comfort and trust level. Only then do you have a better than 50% chance to get their contact information. It may take a courtship over a season or a couple of purchases and that period can be shortened by increasing your transparency and letting your buyers get to know you, the number one way to do that is a blog. The number two way is to have your contact information on everything that touches your potential and actual buyers, doing so shows your willingness to invite them in and in turn allowing them to get to know you better.

 

 

 

 

 

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Parallel Desktops

Why switching to Mac was the right move for me

I’m now at the four month mark in my move to Mac. It didn’t start out as a switch; when I bought my MacBook in the beginning of February I was really looking for an excuse to play with some new technology. I was satisfied—not excited mind you but satisfied—to use Windows as my operating system. I had my development environment on Windows and was well versed in all the ins and outs of it. I custom built my PCs myself, mildly over-clocking them to get better performance and being very comfortable in trouble shooting virtually any class of problem. I was a pretty hardcore Windows guy.
 
What started as an addition to my little technology family evolved pretty rapidly though. Not only did I find the Mac intriguing and fun to use, I found myself enjoying my Windows machine that much less. The MacBook went from a curiosity to a cool toy to my preferred personal productivity tool in a very short period of time. After a couple of months I hadn’t really switched though, my MacBook was really just my trusty sidekick and Windows continued to do the heavy lifting for me.
 
I would sit in front of my Windows machine and do my development work and then slide over to the MacBook for virtually everything else. Email, web browsing, news feeds, blogging – all of that became the domain of my MacBook. This worked great until I realized that I was simply not enjoying working on the Windows machine any longer. It’s not that it suddenly became more difficult to use or my machine’s performance was poor, I just didn’t like using Windows. It became the older commuter car that I took to work every day while the Mac was an open top sports car that I couldn’t wait to drive on weekends.
 
I was fascinated by the Mac Pro and the power it had. OS X screamed on my little MacBook and I wondered what it would perform like on a Mac Pro. It met or exceeded my relatively high expectations. Three days after I got the Mac Pro was the day I technically switched to Mac. Why? Because after transferring my files from my Windows machine to my Mac Pro I shut down the Windows XP machine. Turned it off. Stopped using it.
 
Yes, I do fire it up occasionally if I need to transfer something I didn’t get the first time but I now use my two Macs throughout the day, occasionally use the Ubuntu machine and simply bang my knees into the powered down case that holds Windows. It is also much quieter in my office now.
 
I spent 17 years using Windows, a couple more if you count the experiments with the dreadful Windows/286 & Windows/386. Man real mode sucked. I was a heavy DOS user before that. On Windows I went through 3.0, 3.1, Workgroups, NT 4.0, 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, 2003 Server and Vista. I had spent countless hours honing my skills with the platform, both as a power user and professional software developer. How would it be possible for someone with my background to switch to a completely new platform and walk away from all of that history?
 
I’ve been wondering about that lately and have come to a conclusion. I was just tired of Windows. There was nothing about it that really excited me. I waited 5 years for Vista to come around and when it did I was unimpressed. There was nothing that really stood out. The Aero interface had some cool visual effects but other than that Vista was more of a pain than anything else. It was really slow on a two year old machine I have (which had the Vista Capable logo), the security was oppressive and even though it had been building up for years the graphics driver situation was a mess for many months after its release.
 
When I started using computers back in the early 80s it was a passion of mine. I would immerse myself in the technology, staying up until the wee hours learning everything I could. I would lose track of time very easily, wondering why all of a sudden it was so dark (or light) outside. For many years now that passion has been gone. I could get a glimpse of it by purchasing a new machine and spending a few days optimizing it but within a week or so the excitement would wear off.
 
It’s now four months later and I’m still looking forward to the cool things I can do with my Macs. I have learned a lot in a relatively short period of time but I have so much that I’m looking forward to mastering. More than anything I’m glad I switched to Mac because it has rekindled that passion.
 
Computers are fun and exciting again to me.

Categories
Parallel Desktops

Common Myths for the Macintosh

There are lots of reasons that people don’t want to switch from Windows to Macintosh. I assume the most common reason is simply because Windows works for the people that are using it. The old adage "If it ain’t broke don’t fix it" tends to apply here. These people are not upgrading to Vista either, they’re staying with Windows XP or even Windows 98 and are just fine.
 
There are however an increasing number of people that are moving to Macs now – many of them people like me that hated Macs at one time. I believe there are lots of reasons for this, not the least of which is that people that are running Windows XP are faced with an upgrade to Vista as their next logical step and feel that maybe it’s okay to consider a Mac since they have to go through a full operating system refresh anyway.
 
One of the reasons I was not interested in Macs for a very long time was that I clung to many facts about the Mac that I felt eliminated it from contention. Well, as with many things in life it turns out the facts that I knew about the Mac were either hopelessly outdated or simply myths. What I wanted to do was tell you the ones that I was aware of and often cited when I dismissed Macs in the past.
 
Mac’s only use a single mouse button
I’m not a Mac historian, my history with the Mac being very recent but I’ve read that Mac multi-button mouse support has been around for some time. You may look at the MacBook keyboards and only see a single mouse button or a Mighty Mouse and think that it’s not supported. The reality is the MacBook track pad has an ingenious way of supporting right mouse clicks that I find better than having the extra little stub that is a right mouse button.
 
You simply press two fingers to the surface and click the button and it emulates a right mouse click. While the Mighty Mouse (which I personally detest) only appears to have a single mouse button it does indeed support right clicking. I just plugged in my Logitech mice and happily right click whenever I need to.
 
There are not that many applications for Macs
Windows does indeed have far more applications written for it than are available for Mac. What you have to do is look at the quality of those applications though. Many of the hundreds of thousands that are cited for Windows were written back in the 90s and few have been updated. Sure, most still work but that doesn’t mean they are still relevant. I have found no lack of software for my Macs – virtually anything I have needed is available in native Mac format.
 
Frankly, as a Mac n00bie I was shocked by the volume of quality Mac software available, especially on the consumer front. The number of Mac titles for business software, especially in the vertical markets for small businesses, is much smaller though.
 
Macs are closed machines that cannot be expanded
I have personally swapped out the memory in my MacBook inside of about 5 minutes. I upgraded my MacBook’s hard drive in another 5 minutes. That’s about all you can physically do with any laptop, whether it’s a PC or a Mac. My Mac Pro upgrades were even easier. That machine is designed to make expanding common hardware about as easy as it gets. It took me less than a minute to install a 1TB hard drive – so little time I grabbed my video camera and filmed how easy it was:
 
 
Sure, I can’t overclock my processor and the number of graphics card drivers that are supported by OS X is significantly smaller than Windows but to say I can’t put non-Apple replacement parts into my Mac is just not the case. The Mac Mini and iMacs are limited in their upgrade options, but the same holds true of the Windows machines from Dell and HP that have the CPU and display all packaged together.
 
Macs don’t work well with Windows machines on a network
I’ve got a GB switch at home and a variety of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Ubuntu and now Mac machines on it. Sharing files between the machines is very simple. My Macs can see my Windows shares and my Windows machines can see my Mac shared folders. I shared my printer attached to a Windows machine with my Mac and it was able to use it just fine.
 
Macs are more expensive
This is the one that I struggle with a bit. Yes, the Macs are slightly more expensive than PCs in general, but you have to look at what you are or more importantly not getting when you buy a Mac. Low cost PCs are often subsidized by bundled application software that is included with a new machine. When I recently bought a little HP that would eventually serve as my Ubuntu workstation it came so loaded with crap and Windows Vista that it barely even ran out of the box. The average consumer that isn’t a techie would be hard pressed to clear up all of the stuff that bogs down the average new PC.
 
For techies it’s a different story. You can go to places like Newegg and build a high performance system that has exactly what you want on it – nothing more, nothing less – and adjust expectations on price accordingly. But doing that means you are your own technical support clearing house. When the motherboard in my newly built gaming rig wouldn’t post I had to call the manufacturer and work through a series of steps before we found that the board was shorting out. I needed to RMA it myself and undergo the same process when the replacement arrived days later. It took me the better part of two working days to build up that machine.
 
That said, I did that because I enjoyed doing it, however that time comes at a cost. Is your time worth anything to you? If it is and you don’t find joy in doing this kind of technical troubleshooting then getting a fully tested and serviced machine that works out of the box is incredibly valuable. You get what you pay for in this case.
 
Macs can’t run my Windows software
Well, that of course is not the case. I can take a legal copy of Windows XP or Vista and without spending any money use Bootcamp (which comes with OS X) and boot into Windows if I have to. It’s standard PC hardware so it runs great. Better yet, grab a copy of VMware Fusion and run the Windows applications side by side with your Mac apps.
 
I haven’t tried playing any high-end games on my Macs yet. This blog has burned up my remaining free time so they are out for now, though that’s the most common complaint I’ve heard that I can’t refute. Perhaps someone can jump in here and clarify that one. Can you play high end games like Crysis on Mac hardware and get decent performance?
 
Macs are mouse centered machines. You constantly have to grab the mouse.
Macs not only have excellent keyboard support, the use of shortcuts is profound. About the only thing I’ve found that doesn’t work as well as Windows is the use of mnemonics in dialog windows that make it easy to jump to a field in a large form with lots of items in it. When a dialog pops up inside of a Mac I find that I generally grab the mouse.
 
On the other hand shortcuts on the Mac are consistent between applications and liberally sprinkled throughout. If you have ever seen someone that really knows the Mac well use a keyboard to do some work it’s an exercise in humility. It’s like productivity++.
 
So there you have it, the myths that I clung to that kept me from seriously considering a Mac for so long. I’m sure there are other reasons that people think switching from Windows to Mac is a bad idea – I’ve seen enough flame wars on the topic to know that it’s a religious issue for many.

Categories
Parallel Desktops

Common Myths for the Macintosh

There are lots of reasons that people don’t want to switch from Windows to Macintosh. I assume the most common reason is simply because Windows works for the people that are using it. The old adage "If it ain’t broke don’t fix it" tends to apply here. These people are not upgrading to Vista either, they’re staying with Windows XP or even Windows 98 and are just fine.
 
There are however an increasing number of people that are moving to Macs now – many of them people like me that hated Macs at one time. I believe there are lots of reasons for this, not the least of which is that people that are running Windows XP are faced with an upgrade to Vista as their next logical step and feel that maybe it’s okay to consider a Mac since they have to go through a full operating system refresh anyway.
 
One of the reasons I was not interested in Macs for a very long time was that I clung to many facts about the Mac that I felt eliminated it from contention. Well, as with many things in life it turns out the facts that I knew about the Mac were either hopelessly outdated or simply myths. What I wanted to do was tell you the ones that I was aware of and often cited when I dismissed Macs in the past.
 
Mac’s only use a single mouse button
I’m not a Mac historian, my history with the Mac being very recent but I’ve read that Mac multi-button mouse support has been around for some time. You may look at the MacBook keyboards and only see a single mouse button or a Mighty Mouse and think that it’s not supported. The reality is the MacBook track pad has an ingenious way of supporting right mouse clicks that I find better than having the extra little stub that is a right mouse button.
 
You simply press two fingers to the surface and click the button and it emulates a right mouse click. While the Mighty Mouse (which I personally detest) only appears to have a single mouse button it does indeed support right clicking. I just plugged in my Logitech mice and happily right click whenever I need to.
 
There are not that many applications for Macs
Windows does indeed have far more applications written for it than are available for Mac. What you have to do is look at the quality of those applications though. Many of the hundreds of thousands that are cited for Windows were written back in the 90s and few have been updated. Sure, most still work but that doesn’t mean they are still relevant. I have found no lack of software for my Macs – virtually anything I have needed is available in native Mac format.
 
Frankly, as a Mac n00bie I was shocked by the volume of quality Mac software available, especially on the consumer front. The number of Mac titles for business software, especially in the vertical markets for small businesses, is much smaller though.
 
Macs are closed machines that cannot be expanded
I have personally swapped out the memory in my MacBook inside of about 5 minutes. I upgraded my MacBook’s hard drive in another 5 minutes. That’s about all you can physically do with any laptop, whether it’s a PC or a Mac. My Mac Pro upgrades were even easier. That machine is designed to make expanding common hardware about as easy as it gets. It took me less than a minute to install a 1TB hard drive – so little time I grabbed my video camera and filmed how easy it was:
 
 
Sure, I can’t overclock my processor and the number of graphics card drivers that are supported by OS X is significantly smaller than Windows but to say I can’t put non-Apple replacement parts into my Mac is just not the case. The Mac Mini and iMacs are limited in their upgrade options, but the same holds true of the Windows machines from Dell and HP that have the CPU and display all packaged together.
 
Macs don’t work well with Windows machines on a network
I’ve got a GB switch at home and a variety of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Ubuntu and now Mac machines on it. Sharing files between the machines is very simple. My Macs can see my Windows shares and my Windows machines can see my Mac shared folders. I shared my printer attached to a Windows machine with my Mac and it was able to use it just fine.
 
Macs are more expensive
This is the one that I struggle with a bit. Yes, the Macs are slightly more expensive than PCs in general, but you have to look at what you are or more importantly not getting when you buy a Mac. Low cost PCs are often subsidized by bundled application software that is included with a new machine. When I recently bought a little HP that would eventually serve as my Ubuntu workstation it came so loaded with crap and Windows Vista that it barely even ran out of the box. The average consumer that isn’t a techie would be hard pressed to clear up all of the stuff that bogs down the average new PC.
 
For techies it’s a different story. You can go to places like Newegg and build a high performance system that has exactly what you want on it – nothing more, nothing less – and adjust expectations on price accordingly. But doing that means you are your own technical support clearing house. When the motherboard in my newly built gaming rig wouldn’t post I had to call the manufacturer and work through a series of steps before we found that the board was shorting out. I needed to RMA it myself and undergo the same process when the replacement arrived days later. It took me the better part of two working days to build up that machine.
 
That said, I did that because I enjoyed doing it, however that time comes at a cost. Is your time worth anything to you? If it is and you don’t find joy in doing this kind of technical troubleshooting then getting a fully tested and serviced machine that works out of the box is incredibly valuable. You get what you pay for in this case.
 
Macs can’t run my Windows software
Well, that of course is not the case. I can take a legal copy of Windows XP or Vista and without spending any money use Bootcamp (which comes with OS X) and boot into Windows if I have to. It’s standard PC hardware so it runs great. Better yet, grab a copy of VMware Fusion and run the Windows applications side by side with your Mac apps.
 
I haven’t tried playing any high-end games on my Macs yet. This blog has burned up my remaining free time so they are out for now, though that’s the most common complaint I’ve heard that I can’t refute. Perhaps someone can jump in here and clarify that one. Can you play high end games like Crysis on Mac hardware and get decent performance?
 
Macs are mouse centered machines. You constantly have to grab the mouse.
Macs not only have excellent keyboard support, the use of shortcuts is profound. About the only thing I’ve found that doesn’t work as well as Windows is the use of mnemonics in dialog windows that make it easy to jump to a field in a large form with lots of items in it. When a dialog pops up inside of a Mac I find that I generally grab the mouse.
 
On the other hand shortcuts on the Mac are consistent between applications and liberally sprinkled throughout. If you have ever seen someone that really knows the Mac well use a keyboard to do some work it’s an exercise in humility. It’s like productivity++.
 
So there you have it, the myths that I clung to that kept me from seriously considering a Mac for so long. I’m sure there are other reasons that people think switching from Windows to Mac is a bad idea – I’ve seen enough flame wars on the topic to know that it’s a religious issue for many.

Categories
Parallel Desktops

Switching to Mac takes the right mindset

Contrary to what some of my friends now think, I don’t actually recommend that everyone run out and get a Mac. Even though I’ve personally been delighted by my Mac experience I know there are others that simply cannot move to a Mac from Windows. If people aren’t willing to make changes to the way they do things chances are their switch will fail and you will likely hear no end of grief from the person that’s getting the machine based on your recommendation.

 
Changing an operating system is a fairly jarring event for most people because the tools they are used to working with are often in different places. Nothing seems "natural".

 
I equate it to driving one of the cars that my brother’s company imports from Japan. They are right hand drive high performance cars, yet I am able to operate them fairly well by simply jumping in and driving off. Acceleration, braking and steering work the same as any other car I’ve driven so that’s not a problem. Operating the gear shift on a manual right hand drive car is a little odd because I have to think about it – usually my right hand operates the gear shifter, not the left. Then there are the little details that always throw me off, like trying to make a lane change and turning on the windshield wipers since those controls are on opposite sides of the steering wheel from their American counterparts. My muscle memory is not trained well for it.
 
In much the same way, OS X and Windows are similar at fundamental levels but different on the surface. Here are a couple of the key differences that I’ve found between Macs and Windows that trip users up and frustrate them:
 
Keyboard Shortcuts in Text
Command vs Control is the biggest; Control-C is copy in Windows, Command-C is copy in OS X. It takes a little getting used to. More difficult to adjust to is Option-Right arrow in OS X to move a word to the right; it’s Control-Right in Windows. Since the Option/Alt key is sandwiched between the Control and Command keys I have a difficult time getting to it even now, three months in.
 
I think this is in part because the key in that location on a Windows keyboard is the Start key, the worst key in Windows. Why is it the worst? Try playing a full screen, high speed combat game in Windows and then accidentally hit the Start key. The application minimizes (which is usually a disaster), the game is running in the background and you’re watching your display adaptor try to figure out what to do as it switches graphics modes.
 
So here I am in BF2, piloting a Blackhawk full of my buddies – we’re ripping through a town at building level when I accidentally hit the dreaded key, the screen flickers and I’m staring at my Start menu. I can hear my buddies online in the background yelling out "WTF?!?" and "DUDE! WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!?" When I am finally able to get back into the game we are inevitably flying into the side of a building or mountain. Everyone dies. Yay Start Key.
 
Needless to say, experiences like that have made my finger’s muscle memory avoid the Start key region like an iPhone wants to avoid a Blendtec blender. I don’t want to go anywhere near it. I think that’s part of the reason I can’t seem to hit that key on my Mac’s keyboard.
 
There are two other keys that I’ve found difficult in the transition: Home and End. In Windows Home takes you to the beginning of the current line; in OS X that key scrolls the current window to the top. To get to the beginning of the current line in OS X I hit Command-Left Arrow. I’m still tripping up on that.
 
A Different Approach to Menus
Another area that Windows users will struggle with is the way the Macintosh handles menus. In Windows each application gets it’s own menu and it is physically attached to the window itself. On OS X there is only one menu and it is parked at the top of the screen; it changes as you change the focus of applications.
 
While this may seem like a trivial difference it starts to show up as an issue for me because I have dual monitors. If I have an application window parked in the right monitor I need to move the mouse cursor all the way over to the left monitor in order to access any menu options for it. Not everyone will be impacted by this because I think having multiple monitors is a bit rare, especially for recent switchers.
 
That’s All?
These are just two quick areas; in the past I’ve touched on others as well. There are also differences in window resizing, drag and drop support, quitting applications, file management (don’t assume that dragging folders in OS X has the same effect it has in Windows – it does not), installing and uninstalling applications, etc., etc. On top of this are different applications, peripheral support, etc. Thanks to Eric’s comment yesterday I stumbled across this site: Mac vs Windows. Lots of information in there on the differences and it appears pretty objective.
 
These changes all translate into challenges for new users. I believe that my switch to Mac has been successful in no small part to the attitude I had when approaching it. I was excited about trying out something new because as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was pretty bored with Windows. I was ready for something new and fresh and the Macintosh provided that for me.
 
For this reason I’ve decided to stop pushing a Mac on my wife. It’s going to be a lot easier for her to make the transition if she really wants one. Something tells me that the next time her machine slows to a crawl or gets infected by a virus she will have a boost in her motivation.
 
In the meantime I’m going to enjoy using my Macs.

Categories
Parallel Desktops

Why I bailed out on Windows and switched to Macintosh


It’s kind of funny how things work out. When I originally bought my MacBook three months ago I viewed it as a complimentary machine. Something that would be added to my menagerie of computers. I had been using Windows for so long and it’s use was so deeply embedded into my workflow that I couldn’t imagine another OS displacing it as my primary operating system. I just wanted something new and different.

 
 

So what was wrong with Windows?

 

I guess after 17 years of Windows I became more than just a little tired of it. I watched new versions comes out with only incremental improvements in usability and more often than not, changes to things that just took some getting used to. Windows became larger and larger, more memory dependent and requiring more processor just to be functional. I accept that great new features and functionality will come with a larger footprint but it didn’t feel like I was getting that much great stuff out of it.

 

 

I was really hoping that Vista would reenergize my Windows experience but it did not. It was… meh. It felt like Microsoft was simply wrapping more and more layers of security on top of Windows, not really improving the Windows user experience. I loaded Vista on to my HP nw8440 laptop, a decent, high end machine that had 2GB of memory and a good graphics card. Vista ran fine from a performance standpoint but had some serious stability problems. Windows XP ran like a champ on the machine but Vista would lock up on me at odd times and if the machine ran for more than a day it could not be shut down – I would have to hold down the power button for an extended period of time to get it to turn off.

 

 

In October of 2007 I went out and bought a little HP Slimline PC. I wanted a nice little low power usage machine that could run Ubuntu for me. As power machines go this was not one of them: A little AMD 64 X2 dual core processor and 1GB of memory. It was all of $550 at the time – clearly a bargain class machine – and I had so many BestBuy credits from other purchases that my cash outlay was only a couple hundred dollars. It came with Vista capable logos all over it and had Windows Vista Home Edition installed on it. I knew I was going to wipe out the OS and install Ubuntu over it but I decided to play with it as a Vista machine for a bit. What a mistake.

 
 
Vista was dog slow on that machine, nearly unusable. It may have been because HP had so much extra crap on the machine to subsidize the cost but damn – it seemed like a waste of money. I considered just taking it back to BestBuy and getting a refund. Instead I went ahead and installed Ubuntu on it and lo and behold the machine’s performance was excellent. It is a great, complimentary machine for my purposes. The latest version of Ubuntu (8.04, Hardy Heron) is fantastic on the little HP. It looks even better and performs as well as the previous version I had.

 
 


The Last Straw

 
 

The last straw for me was the issue of viruses. I had run for years without virus protection on my PCs because I knew how to take care of my machine. Sure, I put things like Norton Anti-virus and PC Tools on my kid’s and wife’s machines but that was because they didn’t know how to stay out of trouble. I did so I knew I was safe.

 
 
I only installed software from well defined resources. I never even looked at attachments from people. I felt streetwise and here it was, 17 years into Windows and I had not gotten a single virus on my own machine.

 
 
Then, early this year I was doing some research on a programming issue I was having. I Googled up some web sites that appeared to have an answer and clicked on one that looked reputable. Even though I had popup blockers installed the site managed to open a popup on me. I closed the popup and left the site but before I knew it popups were happening to me randomly, even when the browser was not loaded. Clearly my machine had been infected by something.

 
 

I installed PC Tools and it found and eradicated the problem, some class of Spyware / Ad Malware crap. Rather than take the chance of that happening again I left PC Tools on and running. This unfortunately was a problem because now when I ran Visual Studio and went into a debugging session my machine slowed to a crawl. So I had to disable PC Tools in order to do my actual work. This was tremendously frustrating and happened to coincide with me looking at a MacBook.

 
 


The door was open and the Mac stepped in

 
 

Now that I’ve converted to using Macs for everything I am really enjoying it. You can read through my blog and see how this has developed over time – lots of ups and a couple of downs.

 
 

Funny thing is, I run into people all the time that are Mac users and they have similar stories. They were frustrated PC users that tried out and fell in love with Macs. When you ask people why they like their Macs more than Windows (if they have switched) many will recite the Apple line "it just works". Either Apple has figured out a way to get people to recite their marketing messages to others or they managed to tap into why people really like the machines.

 
 
Yesterday my youngest daughter had a friend over to work on a school project together. She brought her Dell laptop and was trying to access our wireless network. After setting everything up properly she just couldn’t seem to connect – she got a good signal but could never seem to get an IP address from our wireless router. I ended up disabling the wireless networking tool that Dell provides and used the native Windows version – this worked after a couple of minutes. When I attached my MacBook to this network it worked flawlessly the first time – as did my oldest daughter’s Mac when she connected it.

 
 
Just this morning I had my MacBook sitting on my lap and typing up this blog entry while waiting for my wife at the doctors office. A gentleman came over and asked some questions about the machine; he was considering getting a Mac for himself after his daughter was accepted to a graduate school and she decided that she was going to get a Mac. It was an interesting conversation because I immediately started to show off some of the Mac’s features, firing up VMware Fusion and loading up Windows XP to show how quickly it runs.

 
 
 
In three short months I’ve gone from curious about Macs to a newbie user to a switcher that promotes Macs to strangers. I guess my conversion to the dark side is now complete.

Categories
Parallel Desktops

Mac: After two months of Mac, here’s why I switched

When I started this blog two months ago I began recording my initial thoughts on obtaining a Mac. While I am not a card carrying Mac fanboy (it does have issues like any piece of technology), I wanted to try and summarize why I like the Mac so much now that I’ve been using it heavily for the last two months.

I have been a Windows user and software developer since 1992, and a DOS user and developer since 1984. I used to hate Macs and as recently as 9 months ago my avatar on one of my forums was John Hodgman (the PC guy from the Mac ads).
 
Now I really enjoy using my Mac and am drifting away from Windows as a platform. Here’s why:

 
User Interface
The biggest draw for me is the way the Mac UI works. For me the user interface is about usability, integration and aesthetics. From a usability standpoint the Mac interface does not force you to see all of the options directly from the surface level. Most of the applications have very light menus and options. Initially I thought this meant that OS X was a light weight – what I learned was that I just had to spend a little time digging and suddenly a much larger number of options were available. UI folks refer to this as progressive disclosure. I refer to it as clean and uncluttered.
 
In OS X I can pull down a menu and while it is displayed press the Option key and suddenly my menu choices change to reflect more advanced options. The Command key modifier opens up a huge array of options, especially in text editing surfaces. If I want to enter characters outside of what’s on my keyboard I have memorable key shortcuts to get to them, like Option-E, E or A to create é or á. Want the Registered Trademark ® symbol? Option-R. In Windows I needed to hit Alt-0174 or use the Character Map application.
 
This use of the Option/Alt key as a base modifier is a key difference with Windows. The Alt key in Windows is used primarily in short-cuts for menu mnemonics. This is also one of the areas I dislike on OS X: in most editing surfaces I can use the keyboard almost exclusively but as soon as I need to access a dialog window (preferences, etc.) I have to use the mouse. In Windows I have mnemonics to jump between settings or I can tab between controls, moving the focus from one item to the next.
 
Well it turns out that I should not have been so frustrated by this. Windows users that miss the ability to tab through their dialogs on Mac will find that there is a simple setting that gets almost the same behavior in OS X. I found a great little article by Alex on the Lowe Tech Labs site. If you go into System Preferences / Keyboard / Keyboard Shortcuts you can set the keyboard to work with All Controls. Alex created a nice video that walks you through it. I still don’t have the mnemonics I’d like for quick jumps but at least now I can tab through web forms.
 
Before I got my Mac I was concerned about Right-Click mouse support. I remembered when all Mac mice were of the single button variety and it was something that seemed crazy to me, given the value of having at least 2 mouse buttons. Well, right clicking is very much available and useful on a Mac and in fact I use a 5 button Logitech mouse every day.
 
On the aesthetics front OS X Leopard is just a really nicely designed OS. Though some don’t like it, I love the Dock’s 3D look and the "fit and finish" of the surfaces are really clean. There seems to be a very high level of attention to detail in the OS, though I feel someone missed the UI boat on Disk Utility. Even though I think Windows Vista has made huge improvements in the aesthetic quality of the user interface it doesn’t have the crisp look that OS X does.
 
From an integration standpoint Macs have amazing drag and drop support. A good example of this is how I put images in this blog. Very often I will grab an image for a product I am writing about. I simply click on the image in a web page and drag it to my Desktop. Since I use Blogger I click the Insert Image button and in the resulting dialog I drag the image from my desktop to the Choose File button. No navigating through a directory tree to find my file, no specifying the directory I want to save it in.
 
Performance
OS X runs really quickly on my Mac, a 2.2GHz MacBook. For a 5 pound machine, it rips through most tasks incredibly fast. This speed is apparent in most, though not all, of the applications I run. The well written apps, and that includes all of the ones Apple provided with my machine, are very snappy. I have found a couple of dog-slow applications so it is possible to write inefficient code of course, though they have been very rare for me.
 
When I started using my Mac I opted to give Safari a try. Safari has been the bane of my existence as a web developer so I was quite skeptical of whether I would be able to use it full time. Though I have Firefox and Opera on my machine too, Safari is extremely fast and it is now my default web browser. Pages literally snap open and large, complex tables render very quickly. The fact that I am using Safari as my default web browser is probably the biggest shock to my system.
 
The only place where I have seen a dip in performance is when playing videos. The MacBook does not use a dedicated graphics card like the MacBook Pro so when I use Flash based applications or play video the CPU tends to spike a bit. This is only an issue when I am running a lot of applications at the same time though. At any given time I am running a Safari instance with at least half a dozen tabs open, Mail, TextMate, Adium and NetNewsWire. Very often I’ll throw VMWare Fusion and a Windows XP VM in there too and it all runs great on this little machine.
 
The performance issue for me goes beyond just the speed applications run.
 
My MacBook boots up pretty quickly, though I rarely restart the machine. I don’t restart it because the sleep function is perfect. I’ve had many laptops running Windows over the years and had difficulty getting machines to actually sleep correctly. Sometimes I’d close the lid thinking the machine was asleep and try to open it later only to find either the battery was drained because it didn’t really sleep or that the machine had rebooted when entering sleep mode, requiring a restart when it was opened.
 
After two months with my MacBook I have not had a single problem with this aspect of the machine. I close the lid and it goes to sleep and uses so little power that after letting it sit unplugged from power for an entire evening I see hardly any drain on the battery. I open it up and within 2 seconds my display is active and about 5 seconds after that it has reestablished network connectivity.
 
Compatibility
Since I have not been able to move completely to Mac for everything – specifically my development environment – I still need to run Windows occasionally. By loading up VMWare Fusion I can run Windows XP in a window and can load Microsoft Visual Studio and get excellent performance. I can use Unity mode and have Windows applications share the desktop with my Mac applications.
 
Portability
This MacBook provides the perfect balance for me. Large, bright screen, excellent keyboard for touch typing on, a built in DVD burner and a nice low price. My battery life has been outstanding and with the Sleep capabilities I mentioned earlier I don’t hesitate to just snag the machine off my desk and take it with me.
 
Even the little things that Apple promotes pretty heavily, like the magnetically attached power cord come in handy. When I was out visiting my parents recently my Dad rounded the table and tripped over the cord and it just popped out. No thunderous crash, no bent adaptor.
 
While my Mac’s white surface has been well maintained the palm rests are already starting to show signs of wear. Not excessive, but it is noticeable.
 
Software Availability
Over the last 2 months I have downloaded nearly 50 different applications and utilities, though that’s not even scratching the surface of what’s available. The range of applications is staggering and covers just about any category I could think of.
 
As I set up my Mac I searched around for applications to take the place of my old Windows standard apps and found things like iStat Menus, CSSEdit, Pixelmator, VLC and many more.
 
When you look at what is included with OS X, especially iLife 08, out of the box the machine is ready to roll. Though it took me a little time I’ve nearly weaned myself off of Picasa for iPhoto and I’m still playing with iMovie, though I’m more comfortable with Windows Movie Maker at this point.
 
One of my favorite applications comes with OS X though and that’s Time Machine. Seamless hourly backups of my machine that took minutes to set up and just happens without me doing anything. I love it when computers do the work for you.
 
The Compromise
The closed nature of the Mac means that my choices are somewhat limited, unlike the PC where I can tweak the hardware all I want. Unless I want to violate the terms of the EULA for Mac OS X, I’m only going to be running it on Apple provided systems. I can purchase aftermarket hard drives and RAM to save some money but newer motherboards, processors and graphics cards are off limits. This hasn’t been a deal killer for me because the hardware that is provided works really nicely and I never have to worry about driver compatibility issues.
 
So there you have it. After two months I still find the machine fascinating. I don’t hate my Windows XP machine, nor the Vista laptop or Ubuntu workstation I also have at my desk. I just don’t use them all that much anymore.
 
I’m having too much fun exploring my Mac and scheming to get a Mac Pro.
Categories
Parallel Desktops

VMWare Fusion and Visual Studio 2008 Express Edition

I’m traveling right now and don’t have access to all of my normal development tools but since I do have my handy MacBook I figured I would try a little experiment. Here’s what I have set up right now:

 
Windows XP SP2, fully patched
 
I allocated 1GB of RAM to the VM for Windows XP and it worked great – plenty of headroom to run applications. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating since I know based on the comments that a few people that are Windows folks are considering trying out a Mac:
 
Windows runs really well, even on my lowly little MacBook. I did bump my memory up to 4GB, which I think is really important, but standard Windows applications (not games mind you – not even attempting that on a MacBook) work great.
 
To maximize screen real estate – really important on a MacBook – I run Windows XP in full screen mode. This still allows me to access spaces easily. 
 
I was able to get Visual Studio 2008 Express installed without any problems. Early in the setup VS08 rebuilds much of it’s library, so it’s a chance to see the impact it has while running full bore. On my machine during peak compile times the CPU ran a steady 50% utilization. I jumped into other Mac applications, including Safari while it was working and experienced no noticeable degradation in performance.
 
Once I had VS08 up and running it ran really smoothly. I didn’t stress it too much – just a couple of browser based applications – but it was able to load them up in IE and I could run through the debugger just fine. During these minimal tests the CPU barely broke a sweat.
 
To give you a sense of what’s possible to run on a little MacBook, here I am using Spaces to run NetNewsWire, iTunes, iChat, Safari and finally a full screen Windows XP (lower right) with Visual Studio 2008 Express Edition loaded and running.
 
What’s great about this is that I can rapidly switch between environments. Windows performance – even in a VM – is snappy. I notice a little window "tearing" when dragging windows quickly. I think that’s probably a function of the way graphics are handled on a MacBook – no dedicated video card. The MacBook Pro does have a dedicated video card so it may not have this issue.
 
One thing I have noticed with the MacBook is that I do take a pretty decent CPU hit when viewing flash based sites. It’s not nearly as bad with QuickTime video (interesting, huh?). When I speak to friends that have iMacs or Mac Pros they don’t see any CPU hit when watching Flash based stuff.
 
Based on the results I’ve had I think I’m going to try loading up VS05 with my current product build into a VM and see what the performance is like. My project has gotten pretty large and uses some aftermarket controls for UI, so it will be a good test. I also am debugging my application using SQL Server Compact Edition so it’s a pretty tall order.
 
On my Windows XP development box – a beast of a machine with an EVGA 680i mobo, Intel QX6700 processor, EVGA 8800GTX video and matched Corsair memory I take a significant CPU hit when VS05 decides to refactor my code while using certain design surfaces. 
 
I have no doubt the MacBook will also strain under that burden but it will be interesting to see if it is still useable when that happens

Categories
Parallel Desktops

VMWare Fusion – Windows Detox

 


While I’ve made great progress in getting native Mac applications to replace my Windows apps, the one area that I have not been able to make the move is in development environments.