Life with Mac Week One (or Rather Weak One?)

It's been a week since taking the plunge; here are some more impressions based on my noodling around.

• The interface is ugly compared to the Aero Glass look of Vista/Win7. Seriously. I tried the Graphite option and the traffic light colored gems turned gray and I didn't know that color scheme would have that effect until I blegged my Facebook peeps.

• Normally I'd type Alt+0149 to get a bullet at the front of this sentence, but I can't find where bullets, etc. are at. Is there an analog to Windows' Character Map?

• These leads to a biggie: The lack of a Start button as Vista/Win7 has really sucks. My laptop is a Vista in which has a double-stacked Task Bar/Quick Launch. Vista introduced the ability to search for programs and documents from the Start button. My self-built desktop runs 64-bit Windows 7 Professional and Win7 introduced a radically changed Task Bar which manages app windows and what not better than anything else. When I read about it, it didn't make much sense and photos don't do it justice, but once you get the hang of it, there's no going back. The Mac interface is just a joke.

For starters, the disconnect between program windows and the menu bar at the screen top leads to confusion as to which program is running. I don't know if it's a bug or a feature, but Cmd-Tabbing cycles thru open apps like Windows Alt-Tab, but releasing the combo results in only the top bar changing; it doesn't bring the selected application to the fore. I've got Firefox open full screen now and Cmd-Tab doesn't nothing to get me into another program; only the menu bar changes. (A program called WindowFlow brings a ersatz Alt+Tab w/preview style to the Option+Tab combo, but it's not perfect and frankly blows compared to Aero Flip and Aero Peek in Win7.

• This leads to the Dock, a monumental waste of space, especially on this 13" display whose problem isn't the size, but the lower resolution. The two Dell lappies I own have WSXVGA (IIRC) screens with 1680x1050 resolution; the MBP has only 1280x800 pixels and that 20% bite makes screen real estate a premium item and the Dock is a giant space hog - no relation to the band Space Hog, the singer of which is Liv Tyler's baby daddy - with its giant cartoony icons sitting there to not frighten the skittish Mac users. They occasionally bounce to show they're happy (or something needs your attention) and have a little dot to show they're active. Perhaps this is less annoying on larger displays, but after 6 months on Win7, it looks really outdated.

Tired of having to click the magnifying glass in the upper-right, I PMed a particularly strident Mac...erm...devotee - she's the one who's dumped me repeatedly for now swearing enough fealty and asked, "I HATE the way when you minimize an app and there's no way to bring it back up other than hitting Expose and clicking it. Cmd-Tab doesn't work and is there a shortcut key combo that can bring up Spotlight? On Vista/Win7, all I need to do is hit the Windows key and start typing; Mac is go click corner. Lame. The Dock is lame compared to the Win7 Taskbar, too."

She replied, to my great surprise, "You are complaining about everything I complained about. There are no key combo's, really and no directions. You're expected to play and learn. Don't be frustrated. It takes about two weeks before you're somewhat comfortable."

What the heck? Isn't THE major selling point for Macs their dead-simple ease of use and ability of non-technical people to pick them up? ORLY?!? Poking around and using a link to Leopard shortcuts - I've got "Snow Kitteh" - I found that Cmd+Spacebar brought up Spotlight, Mac's Swiss Army Search window.

• Micro Center's "Why Your Next PC Should Be A Mac" page has this paragraph:

Every Mac is created with the guiding principle that computers should be easy to use, so you can spend more time doing what you love and less time figuring out how your computer works. If you've never owned a Mac, you may need a little time to get used to it. But within a week, you'll be amazed at how easy it is to maneuver through basic tasks, and you and your new Mac will get along like old friends. Because all Mac applications are designed to work in the same, intuitive way, you'll quickly pick up iPhoto, Mail, or any of the other software that comes with your Mac.
Yeah, right.

• Finally, one selling point from a format-agnostic acquaintance was that he found his Mac lappy to be better suited for recording music (he's an ambient trance techno cat) because Apple takes more care with their audio subsystem hardware. Considering the serious teething pains I've had with my Windows machines, interfaces (Line 6 TonePort DI-G; Lexicon Lambda; E-Mu X-Board 25), and their various driver hassles - that the freeware ASIO4ALL totally smokes Lexicon's drivers is pathetic - I'm down with a computer that allows me to take off my propeller beanie and start working with some Propellerhead software. (Note: I don't have any; just making a punny.)

Since all I have for software is GarageBand, I fired that up and tried plugging in both the MIDI controller and Lambda interface and was frankly surprised to see both come online and function without any drivers, the Lambda displaying its name in GB. I didn't record anything - that I don't get yet - but this is a nice development. The X-Board's controller knobs don't work, but the basic keys and pitch/mod wheel features do.