Category Archives: apple

Macs seem to sell themselves (and users help)

As I mentioned in my post last week about switching to a Mac, I’ve had a number of posts in the back of my mind, many of them observations that I’ve made since taking the plunge.

Today’s is about how the Mac seems to sell itself. And all of us Mac users tend to help. :-)

I’ve got two examples from my own recent experience (I’ve actually got more, but I’ll keep it down to two here).

I was over at my sister’s house for Thanksgiving, and her and her husband had a couple of friends over to join us. One of them brought along his Macbook Pro. My brother-in-law mentioned that he had just installed a new printer, and it was on his wireless LAN, but some configuration thing must have been messed up because none of his (windows) computers could see it.

His friend, just for grins, opened his Mac and went to the printer setup area, and within seconds it discovered the printer on the network, and installed it. He printed a web page…and while my brother-in-law was in the next room picking up the print, his friend called over to him “it looks like your cyan ink cartridge is low!”

Pretty funny…but the important point here is it just worked, without any CDs or complicate configuration. You know what he asked for for Christmas? Gift cards for the Apple store, so he can buy a new Mac.

The second example is a coworker, who has a nice video camera, and has played with some movie editing, but has not been able to successfully burn a video DVD from Windows (it always ends up with problems on his DVD player). He’s going home tonight with a DVD created with iDVD – and he said if it actually works, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll get a Mac for himself.

I think Apple is in the middle of a bit of a perfect storm at the moment. People I’ve talked to, while not necessarily disillusioned, are not generally impressed with (or excited about) Vista. It seems there is no “wow” factor making the average Joe want to take that step, unless he’s buying a new machine where it comes already installed. And even then, I’ve got some friends (Tom is one of them) who have new laptops with Vista, and are trying to figure out how to switch back to Windows XP. So while usage remains obviously strong, I think loyalty to Windows is waning.

At the same time, it seems that – especially at home – the Mac has plenty of software available for it. Mention just about any common task that we all do with our computers, and while there might not be as many Mac apps as Windows apps, there are typically enough to choose from. And I think this may be the case even in the office, but that will be the subject of another post.

And finally, the Mac has the reputation of being easy to use and trouble-free.

I think all of these things have come together to form quite a force. When I mention to people that perhaps they should consider a Mac, and they hear that even I use one :-), probably 80% of them at least consider it. And that, I believe, is a pretty big shift from where things were say 5 years ago.

Using a Mac…why oh why?

As some have noticed, and others have gloated about :-), I’ve been using a Mac (specifically a Macbook Pro) as my primary machine for about a month now. I’ve been a died-in-the-wool Windows guy every since Windows 3.0, and scoffed at all of the people playing with their silly Macs. Well, I guess they showed me, because now I’m using one. I’m even writing this post in MarsEdit.

Don’t get me wrong – I still like my friends in Redmond…but this experience has opened my eyes to some extent to how the “other half” lives.

I thought as a Windows user for so long, I might have a different perspective on the Mac…so I’m going to write a few posts (well, at least one – lol) talking about the whys and hows of my experience. So let’s get to it…and this post will be about “why oh why did I switch to the Mac?”

It all started with Windows Vista, actually. As a Windows guy, I was all excited when it was released, and installed it on my work laptop as soon as I could. Hmm…didn’t seem to get much faster, and I didn’t have a cool enough video card to run Aero, but hey, it was shiny and new. And the power management worked way better than XP ever did.

But then I got home, shrink-wrapped copies of Vista Ultimate in hand, and contemplated upgrading my home machine (which was running XP). This machine was the one I use for my photography, and it’s running Lightroom, Photoshop, and some other apps. Vista wasn’t such an obvious choice here, specifically for three reasons:

1. There were no Vista drivers yet for my Epson R2400, which I use for proofing and some print jobs. Eh? When is the last time a currently-available Epson printer didn’t have drivers for the latest version of Windows? Hmm.

2. The Spyder color calibration device I was using didn’t have Vista drivers either, and the manufacturer wasn’t planning to support it. I was less upset about this, because I was thinking about replacing this device anyway.

3. Color management on Vista – and this is the biggie – is apparently totally broken. From an article on Digital Outback Photo:

As you use Vista, you are occasionally interrupted by the OS as it confirms you have the admin-level privileges required or confirms certain actions. As a user-interface effect, Vista dims the screen slightly while offering the user a password dialog. Unfortunately, this dimming of the display clobbers the calibration curves in the graphics card and they are not replaced.

Are you kidding me? This is a total show-stopper. Combine this with the fact that it’s never 100% clear in Windows if your display profiles have been loaded (since only color-aware apps use them), and it seems it’s a total crapshoot.

Hmm. My photographer friends with Macs never seem to complain about their color management. Something about “I don’t know, I calibrate it and it just works.”

So I filed that away, and decided I’d just live with XP for a while.

But then I found myself with a shiny new iPhone, which I got for free at the Office 2.0 conference (and subsequently fell in love with, much to my surprise). Suddenly I started seeing Macs everywhere – conferences, coffee shops, you name it. I’d ask people about them – and every person I can remember said they loved it. I’d turn on my Vaio, and wait a couple of minutes for Vista to boot, and all the while admire their fancy Macbook Pro awaking nearly instantly from sleep (because I’ve rarely seen anyone actually turn off their Mac).

Then I stumbled across the page on the Apple web site where they have all of the Mac vs. PC ads, and (I can’t believe I actually did this) I watched the whole series of them. And you know what? They were fun. And Mac is clearly much cooler than PC.

So I thought, what the heck, and pulled the trigger. I knew lots of people who could help me if need be, and I figured worst case, we’ll use the machine for testing and such at NewsGator. So the evening Leopard was released, I cruised over to my local Apple store, and went home with a shiny new Macbook Pro, and a Leopard t-shirt.

And the moment I was sure I made the right decision? Right after I calibrated my monitor, created a profile, and selected it in OS X – and the whole screen updated immediately to reflect the new profile. Ahh…confidence.

Since then, I’ve observed a great many things…and I’ve got a few blog posts in the back of my mind about these:

  • Macs sell themselves, and Mac users sell even more
  • It’s totally possible (even advantageous) to use a Mac at work
  • Mac apps are different
  • Apple stores are different

I’m writing this in MarsEdit. I’ll preview it on the web in Safari. I’ll then get back to my email in Apple Mail. And you know what? I don’t miss Windows. At least not yet.

iTunes Wi-fi Music Store

Everyone knows by now that the most visible feature of the iPhone’s recent software update is the iTunes wi-fi music store. When I first saw that, my thought was “ho hum”…I mean, I’m excited that Apple is changing the mobile game and updating devices with new features, but I had very little interest in buying songs from my phone.

Ha. Apple clearly knew better than me.

They completely nailed the interface. It works, it’s fast, and it’s fun. I was sitting around over the weekend, just browsing through the store. Tapping the “preview” buttons, tapping the “buy” buttons…it’s all so easy. And being one tap away from new music, on your device, is something that’s very cool – and cool enough it’s a little hard to explain exactly why. And knowing it will sync back to your PC, and there’s no downside to buying on your phone vs. buying from your desktop, really takes the last bit of worry away.

So nice work, Apple. You gave me a feature I didn’t want, made it easy for me to play with it even though I wasn’t interested, and you convinced me.

iPhone and Exchange Server

I’ve been using an iPhone for a while, and it’s definitely a whole new experience on a phone. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit, but perhaps I’ll write more about that later.

I have it connected to our corporate Exchange server, and the first thing I noticed was that when I would delete a message on the iPhone, it wouldn’t get deleted in Exchange.

Technically, the message gets marked for deletion in Exchange via IMAP. The problem is, it just sits there in that state until eventually someone does an EXPUNGE command on your mailbox. And even worse, when you connect Outlook to Exchange via non-IMAP methods (like whatever the default is), the message just shows up with no indication it was marked for deletion.

Well, Shawn at fresh logic studios has built a small app that will periodically run an expunge against your mail account on Exchange, and this completely solves the problem. As downloaded, it runs the command every 5 seconds; I recompiled it to instead run every 5 minutes, so as not to get my IT guys too unhappy with me.

So a HUGE thanks to Shawn for writing this – it’s a lifesaver! Highly recommended.

UPDATE 7/14/2008 – I notice a ton of traffic coming to this post over the last few days; this post was written when the only way to connect your iPhone to Exchange was via IMAP.  Using the iPhone 2.0 firmware, you can use Exchange ActiveSync, which doesn’t have the same issues as described above.

Apple’s laptop design

Omar writes about Apple’s laptops:

Apple has always made superior laptops. They just work, aren’t ugly with dozens of panels, protruding pieces of plastic and boneheaded design placement like my microphone that is located right near my loud fan.

I had a new iBook for a week or so for the recent demo we did at the Consumer Electronics show. I have to agree – it looked good, and it felt good. Apple knows how to design hardware.

However, it did take me at least 5 minutes (no, I’m not kidding) to figure out how to plug the power cord extension into the power adapter. Apparently their target demographic knows to poke and pick at every seam in the plastic, waiting for some kind of cover to pop off?

That was my only complaint though, and only because it made me feel stupid!