First 30 Days with a Mac

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Random Thoughts

black macbookI have been using computers for about 25 years, and have owned a variety of different platforms. Over the last 15 years I’ve owned nothing but PCs running DOS, then Windows. I had never owned an Apple product (and never thought I would), and really didn’t know much about them. In high school I learned Pascal on an Apple IIe, then wrote for the school paper using one of the very early Macs. Several years ago I worked for a magazine publisher and there were many Macs there that the designers and editors used. I was around Macs then and picked up a little, but was never really that intrigued.

About 2 years ago I saw an iPod and was completely blown away. I had heard about them but never really thought that it was something I would want…. until I held one. So I bought one the next day and have been thrilled with it ever since. After my iPod experience I became interested in Apple and started following Apple news and products. Then I saw a Jobs keynote where he showed the iMac, Front Row and Dashboard and I must say I was more than a bit intrigued. It looked like such a beautiful platform that really focused on style and elegance. For several months to follow I read a lot about Apple and the Mac and listened to the Maccast.

About a year ago I decided I was going to buy an iMac, but already had a desktop PC and didn’t really need to replace it, and didn’t have room for 2 computers on my desk. So I continued to follow the Apple news and wish that my PC had as much style. Then the Intel news dropped followed by BootCamp and knew that I was ready. But knowing that I wasn’t going to get rid of my PC, I still couldn’t really figure out how to accommodate 2 desktops. Then the MacBooks were released, and I knew that would be perfect for me.

One of the first things I noticed when I first saw a MacBook was the keyboard. I worried that the chicklet style keys would feel strange. But after initially visiting the Apple store and trying the keyboard, I found that it was very comfortable, and would not be an issue. Another thing that stood out was the display. I have seen and used lots of laptops, but the MacBook was one of the best I’d seen. Everything was very sharp and clear. Another surprise was the white power adapter and remote that came with the black MacBook. I really wanted black, and felt that if I were to pay extra for black, the parts should all be black as well.

I went to the Apple store in Cleveland with the intentions of buying a MacBook, but unfortunately they didn’t stock the configuration I wanted (1 gig RAM, 120 gig drive black MacBook). I left a little disappointed, but went right home and ordered it from the Apple site. A week later I got the shipment from FedEx and the box was so light I wondered if the computer was actually in there. But I opened it up, and sure enough, there was a beautiful matte black notebook. The box also contained the power adapter, the Front Row remote and box of DVDs.

So I booted up my new Mac and went through the setup. Everything was very simple and straight forward. Within a few minutes I was up and running and on my way to learning the OS. I already had a wireless network in my house so the first thing I wanted to do was try to get on the network and try to surf. Before I even had a chance to find the network setup, I got a dialog that listed 6 wireless networks that I could join! I have used several wireless notebooks in my house before and never saw any other than my own. So I selected my network and was instantly on the Internet with no fuss. Soon I had my calendar set up and imported my contacts so the basics of what I needed was done.

The next step was my iTunes music. I have an external drive that I use for my music on my PC, so I tried plugging it into my MacBook and instantly it recognized the drive and I was able to launch iTunes, select my library and start playing music. After a few moments I was happily browsing my iTunes library, but I was a bit disappointed in the speakers. I don’t expect much from speakers on a notebook, but these are not loud enough and generally don’t sound very good. In the next few days I also found that my MacBook doesn’t always recognize my USB drive when I plug it in. I never had this problem on my PC, but then I never unplugged it from my PC once it was initially set up. I also found that I can’t write to that USB drive. I posted a question about this and someone replied that it might be due to the fact that it’s formatted as NTFS, so I’m going to try reformatting it as FAT32.

The next device I tried was my digital camcorder. I plugged in the USB cable and it was not recognized. I tried a reboot and still nothing. I did a little research and found that I needed the firewire cable instead, so I ordered that and once I plugged it in, it was instantly recognized. I tried importing and editing some video using iMovie and it worked beautifully. But I must say that my problems with the USB drive and the fact that I needed a special cable for my camcorder left me a little frustrated. I’ve also experienced two lockups and get what I’d call the equivalent of a Windows blue screen. I had no devices connected at the time, and I was running only Apple software. I’m very tolerant of computer idiosyncrasies, but I somehow expected that these things would never happen on my Mac because so many profess that “it just works”. In my very limited experience, I’d have to say that it’s on par with a typical Windows PC.

I’ve now imported most of my data with the exception of Quicken. I was ready to buy Quicken for Mac but in reviewing my needs I’m wondering if I really need it. I can do so much with my bank online that I may abandon Quicken altogether. But for web, email, pictures, video and music (which is the core of what I do at home), my MacBook is turning out to be a great machine. I’m booting up my PC less and less and hope to be all Mac very soon. I’m loving the Mac OS and I’m starting to wish we used Macs at work… but that’ll probably never happen. I’m also starting to consider the iMac again and replacing my Dell with a dual boot iMac.

There are 21 comments on First 30 Days with a Mac:

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  1. Brady | Oct 11 2006 - 05:33

    It was like reading something I would have written….I started with the iPod….then podcasts..all the while researching Mac computers..then got my first Powerbook last xmas..I LOVE my powerbook!! I love the MacCast…

  2. Dale | Oct 11 2006 - 06:32

    Congrats on taking the plunge!

    When I switched I did so cold turkey from Windows. I then spent the better part of a month learning everything I could about the OS, my iBook, and Apple in general to make the most of my experience.

    I now own 4 Macs, and perform support and services for friends and family with Macs. I’m totally invested, and love every minute.

    I’ll be getting myself a MacBook shortly, as well, and am looking forward to it.

    All the best on your new Mac path.

  3. jrsh92 | Oct 11 2006 - 06:51

    I think that there are some issues with the new hardware… Run software update, and check it fairly regularly, Apple tends to fix broken stuff.

  4. scottmc | Oct 11 2006 - 08:22

    Very similar to my own story…I had a System 7 Mac at work many years ago, but haven’t owned a mac until the very same halo-effect convinced me to pick up a Macbook a few months back. I’d been KVM’ing between it and my last home-built PC until the PC bit the dust last week. I’m trying to figure out now whether I should sell my Macbook (which I’ve been using like a desktop anyhow) and pick up a Mac Pro to replace to both machines. (My initial plan was to wait until Leopard for my next mac…)

    I’m a little nervous about taking the plunge, it’s certainly a step up Mac-investment wise, and since I’ve been using the machines together for audio and don’t quite know how well one machine might replace both for relatively fussy audio…but it should be an interesting journey if I pull the trigger this week and go for it.

    But I agree that platform is a refreshing change from a Windows world dominate by rebooting, IRQ conflicts, and myriad other inelegances.

  5. Jason | Oct 11 2006 - 08:37

    Thanks for telling your story – it is very similar to mine… from buying an iPod mini 2 years ago as my first Apple product, followed by an Airport Express, an iPod nano, and finally, my MacBook I purchased a month ago. I’ve too worked with pc’s all my life and still do for work. The MacBook replaced a home dell laptop my wife and I use.

    So far, I am very pleased with it. I did have some technical issues with the power adapter and 3 random shutdowns, but I think my expectations for not having problems were on the high side – at the core, it’s all pc parts. However, design and finish are above anything else out there and I think the OS could even sell the computer alone. Customer service is also exceptional.

    I am looking forward to Leopard. My coworker showed me Vista the other day and I had to fake my enthusiasm to keep from sounding so negative. To be honest, though, it was very ho-hum.

  6. C Sporn | Oct 11 2006 - 10:49
  7. Brajeshwar | Oct 12 2006 - 07:36

    I am a recent Mac convert too and I know I will never go back to Windows! ;-)

  8. Havok1327 | Oct 12 2006 - 08:15

    Very good read. I will echo the 1st comment, I was reading this saying to myself this is me. I bought my iPod about a year ago and have kept up with Apple every since. When the new iMac were announced I had to go pick one up. I absolutely love it! I still use my PC for gaming, but I use my Mac for my everyday use.

  9. nick | Oct 12 2006 - 08:00

    im 99% certian that you always need a firewire for a digital camcorder. thats not a mac quirk, thats life, pc or mac

  10. Dave | Oct 12 2006 - 09:03

    Great read, I’m a recent convert myself with a one month old white macbook. I was hesitant but Parallels virtualization sold me figuring whatever I’d miss in OSX I’ll have covered with the other OS’s. However, I’ve found plenty of great OSX software so far and haven’t yet had to switch into Windows XP.

    Occasionally I do get a few issues such as the little green light next to the camera coming on which seems to mean the camera isn’t working but it goes away on the next bootup. Also my USB drive usually indicates when it has been unmounted but doesn’t on the macbook after ejecting it. All my files on the drive have been fine so I’ve gotten used to this.

  11. Aaron | Oct 12 2006 - 09:46

    I liked you story. Very similar to my own. But i must that i am having problems with the transition. I’m not very computer savvy, but i do spend alot of time on in front of one because of school work. I dont like laptops and so bought one of the new iMacs and the damn thing has locked up on me a few times. i also find that i have to go looking for obscure little pieces of software when i used to just downoad the first thing available for my pc. I just cant stay mad at it because it is so sexy sitting on top of my desk.

  12. Ernie | Oct 12 2006 - 09:33

    I’ve never been a good Mac user. Since the introduction of OSX, I’ve been intriqued. I used a Macintosh II a LONG time ago for some basic image manipulation, and it felt very Amiga-like, but less inviting. It’s funny how the “It Just Works” ad campaign still lives despite not being heard from in any formal context in about 5 years (maybe more?). This write-up lets me know that no, it doesn’t “just work” at all, and in fact things that I personally expect out of my computer (USB devices recognized automatically, for example, don’t always work. Honestly, my Ubuntu laptop works better than that, and I’m not a huge Linux (Debian, in the case of Ubuntu) fan in general, but at least with Linux, if something isn’t working quite right, I can get into the guts and try a fix.

    Seriously, if all I wanted to do with my PC is surf the net, then I could do that on my PDA, my phone or even my PSP. If all I wanted to do was write a document, then again, the PDA will to the job. I’m more interested in what Apple has become known for, which is rich media applications.

    A couple of questions:
    If I buy a MacBook Pro, how do I (for example) hook up my Cable feed to the laptop for use in FrontRow? Is that even possible?
    I currently use (for my primary desktop) Windows XP Media Center Edition. How well does the Apple line fare against that in basic functionality?

    All of that said, I am an iPod owner (4G) and am wonderfully happy with it. If Apple came out with a slate-form tablet Mac, then I would definately pick one up.

  13. Menthol | Oct 12 2006 - 09:22

    Last august I got my first MAC… a macbook pro 17″ .

    I love it but with reservation. Embedded videos on websites do not seem to work seamlessly.
    Otherthan that I have not even touched my PC since.

  14. greenknight | Oct 12 2006 - 09:07

    I’ve heard if the computer market was split four ways then there wouldn’t be any viruses since wouldn’t be a big enough market share for any one virus. Well let’s see, linux = servers, Apple = media, Windows = Business Platform (let’s face it that’s what they do best), Net bsd? research, anyway, if microsoft loses market share that could happen.

  15. Noah Brimhall | Oct 12 2006 - 10:51

    A really great story. I’m a long time Mac user, but it is alway nice to hear the thoughts of someone who is new to the platform.

    The story said, “But I must say that my problems with the USB drive and the fact that I needed a special cable for my camcorder left me a little frustrated.”

    The fact that Macs can read any PC drive format is a big bonus since standard PCs can’t read the Mac’s HFS+ format. I do hope that MacOS X will start supporting NTFS in the future.

    The Firewire cable shouldn’t be considered a “special cable” for a digital camcorder. It should come standard with every camcorder (it has with every one I have every used) and is a much better than USB for transfering digital video. Part of the reason iMovie works so well is the exclusive use of the firewire cable.

    Good luck with your next 30 days!

  16. Timbo | Oct 12 2006 - 10:18

    I went through an almost identical switch about 6 months ago. When it came to Quicken, Quicken for Mac was bundled on my MacBook, so I tried uploading my Quicken (Windows) data, but was frustrated by the many features missing in Quicken for Mac that I relied on in Quicken for Windows (e.g. support for foreign currencies).

    So I instead invested in Parallels Desktop for Mac, installed a Windows XP virtual machine and then Quicken for Windows. I now enjoy the full Quicken for Windows experience on my MacBook, for the price of Parallels Desktop.

    Hope that helps!

  17. one1step1 | Oct 12 2006 - 10:34

    Now we need Morgan Spurlock to do a ’30 days’ episode about switching to the Mac. Hmm.. could be a good ad campaign.

  18. SIlas of Hoboken | Oct 12 2006 - 01:52

    What? Did you guys drink the kool-aid or something?

    First off, iTunes, though cute, DEMANDS to be the ONLY MP3 player on your system. Even though, you tell MP3 files to open with other applications, (VLC/MacAmp), it still automatically defaults to iTunes.

    Second of all (something Mac trainers in Mac stores HATE when I ask), OS X has NO built in Picture Editor. So you mean to tell me that NOW I have to shell out MORE money on …. Photoshop? An application NYU students spend 4 years learning? Great! Another 300/400$ down the tubes? AND DON’T EVEN SAY, iPhoto. Let’s put it this way, If I can’t add lettering into a photo, no less change a pixel from black to white… it’s not a photo editor ok? Paintbrush has been packaged with Windows since the 80’s all right?

    Don’t EVEN get me started on right-clicking,ok? No self respecting person can do anything useful, no less play WoW, with a one button Mouse.

    Regarding the price tag… I like my kidney where it is, thank you very much.

    From Palm Pilot Support to Internet compatibility (, and I mean, the dood HAD to spend money to buy a cord for his camera… My Canon v530… STILL doesn’t just… WORK…. either. Just LIKE A on PC, I TOO HAD TO SET UP DRIVERS!

    It’s Kool-aid Propaganda, kids. That’s all. So have fun with your 3000$ gum ball machines, and have a nice day.

  19. Keith Selbee | Oct 12 2006 - 06:37

    Good to see others are in the same boat as me! I’m loving my MacBook more and more every day! Some others have made comments about the firewire cable for my camcorder. I have a Canon Optura 600 which is a pretty decent camcorder, but it did not come with the firewire cable… only USB which does work on my PC just fine.

  20. Nathanael | Oct 13 2006 - 07:05

    SIlas: 1. iTunes, if it plays them – who cares?
    2. Pic Editor: Download a free picture editor off the net..for FREE (i.e. the Gimp) text and everything…
    3. Right-Click: Get a 3 button mouse (like the one from your WINDOWS PC) and voila – right-click!
    4. Price: To quote my father-in-law: “You get what you pay for.” Just look at HP’s computers – yikes.
    5. Support: The mac is great, not perfect. We want better palm support too. That’s what Parrallels is for.

    The bottom line is, for bit more money, you get a Computer that looks great, and runs any OS (Windows, OSX, Linux, BSD etc.), allowing you the best of all worlds. How can you go wrong?

  21. NestMac | Oct 16 2006 - 05:14

    Ourselves, Mac users, are proud of the machines we own, and the OS that we use. The Mac’s do not only look good, it’s perform better than the PC’s.
    I switched 15 months ago, no experience on Mac’s, but I was determined to get away from the freezing capabilities of the PC’s, the always looking for drivers and all the crashes and restarting after installing new software. I was always angry with the PC, trying not to crash. My wife say to me one day that after the switch she didn’t hear me fight we the machine(I’m on a Mac now).
    I’m a proud owner of an iMac G5, a 2 month old MacBook and iPod Mini and a second Gen. Nano. Besides of the day to day use, photography and photo editing(PS CS2) is the most use on my Mac’s.
    For all of us switchers, we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I heard many people that are running Windows on a Mac, via Boot Camp or Parallels, but I don’t going to infect my Mac’s with that.