Switching off Windows

Becoming increasingly frustrated with the ‘normal’ daily problems associated with Windows and in need of a change, I decided it was time to move to a different OS. So what’s the new candidate, Linux? No way. I still believe that Windows is far superior to Linux as a desktop operating system. Linux has it’s own niche areas in which it excels (security/network auditing being the obvious area), but for general everyday computing, it’s just far too half-finished and lacking in collaboration between applications; there is always something that can’t be done, doesn’t work properly, or an issue which requires hours of troubleshooting, etc. No, what I need is something I can use without worrying about compiling, dependencies and library versions; something I can switch on and use immediately-—word processing, photo processing and home movie editing would be nice. The choice has been obvious for a while now—switch to Apple and OS X. As a matter of fact—although many Apple users don’t realise it—OS X is based on a powerful BSD core; that means advanced users can drop in to the terminal and still use many of the tools which make Linux so powerful.

I know many people think that Apple hardware, while very pretty, is horrifically over-priced and I think they’re right. However, until Apple realises that releasing OS X for installation on general hardware is a good idea, there’s no choice (Okay so it has been hacked; I’ve used it, and it’s slow / unstable). I decided to go for the 20” Core 2 Duo iMac; the 17” is too small for serious photo work and the 24” is just too large for my desk! 

Now you would think Apple actually want to sell their hardware; I supply the money and they supply the product. I assumed this was how all businesses work but no, not Apple. I initially intended to buy in-store, but after trying two different ones (both deciding to give me different prices!), I changed my mind and ordered online. After a bunch of delays (due to overwhelming demand, apparently), I finally took delivery of the iMac—‘only’ three weeks after I tried to buy in-store.

So what are my first impressions? On the hardware side of things I have no complaints—there is adequate connectivity with built in Bluetooth, Ethernet LAN, and WiFi. It has two FireWire400 ports, Three USB2 ports, and an optical/phono hybrid audio output. I have stripped the three SATA hard disks out of my old PC and loaded them in to external USB/FireWire enclosures, which gives me 3x more storage than Apple's 500-GB disk upgrade (which would have cost 6x more). The iMac itself runs very quietly and smoothly even while under full load (video encoding, for example) and the screen quality is great with no dead pixels. In an effort to keep my desk tidy, I decided to go with the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, which work very well. None of the issues I’ve experienced with Microsoft Bluetooth input devices have shown themselves as of yet.

Moving on to the OS and the included/bundled software: As most people will know, OS X has a very pretty interface, but is it functional? The short answer to that is yes—though, it has taken a little while to get used to the operational differences compared to Windows. The most frequent mistake I make is right-clicking on files to copy/cut/paste. I also find myself right-clicking in the finder to create a new text file; hopefully, I’ll get used to opening TextEdit! I find the dock incredibly intuitive and much more convenient than the QuickStart bar in Windows. Bouncing icons as a notification are a nice touch. iCal, iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes and Safari (the Web browser) are all great apps that integrate very nicely with the OS. 

One week after the switch, I’m settling in and have started to dig out useful applications to replace those in Windows, which I had become so used to. Next week, I’ll take a look at some of those essential for any sysadmin and maybe a few fun ones too! If anyone reading can suggest an app or two, then leave a comment.

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