Why I Love my Mac

Anyone who has known me in real life, and via my vehicles on the web know that I am an Apple computer fan. And passionate for my beliefs.

There are many reasons why, but top of the list is that stuff just works. Case in point, our old Epson 4490 Flatbed scanner. We bought it probably 6 or more years ago, when we needed to digitize some photographs. It was well rated for that, and it had/has good Mac support. I don’t recall it being too expensive at the time (I suppose I could look up the order on Amazon, but I am feeling lazy, so sue me,) and it served its immediate purpose well. We imported a ton of old photos, and the bundled software did a great job of fixing the glitches.

But since that initial use, it has been relegated to a dusty shelf, brought out when needed to digitize a form or file. No big deal. I just kept a copy of their scanner software on my laptop, and it was a snap to get a clean import.

Last summer, I did a radical wipe and recreation of my Macbook Pro, ostensibly to create a formal Fusion drive (750G spinning disk, plus a 240G SSD), and in the process started from scratch. Thus no Epson scanner SW installed. In the interim, I just grabbed the Wife’s MBP to grab a scan.

Today though, her laptop wasn’t available, and I needed to get a scan.

Great, I was going to spend a half hour finding the software and drivers for this well aged, long discontinued, scanner. Groan.

Or did I?

I plugged it in, fired up the built in Preview program, and low and behold, it recognized the scanner, and I was able to grab an image. Freakin’ awesome. No download, no installation, no reboot, no messing with COM ports.

It. Just. Worked.

In the windows world (old days) you needed drivers, installation, and often some magic incantation uttered over the install CD to get a scanner to work. You needed to delve into things like TWAIN, and the like.

And, God help you if you upgraded to a new service pack or bought a new computer, as you would spend tons of time hunting on the interwebs to get it right again.

Or not, and give up, buying a new scanner.

Yep, I love my Mac, even this 6 year old MBP still rocking it.

Apple Mail – Revisited

As a long time Apple person, and a dedicated Mac user, starting with Mavericks, I had stopped using Apple’s built in mail client.

I stopped using it for a variety of reasons, but essentially, the integration with Google mail really became, uh, shitty. Really weird, unreliable connections to the Gmail IMAP server, and finally I just gave up.

I also subscribe to a mailing list of some really cool Mac OS-X users, and around that time there was tons of traffic about how shitty Apple mail was.

I ended up first using Thunderbird (meh), and finally bought licenses to Postbox as it worked pretty well, and their support for Google’s mail services was quite good.

Finally, with a recent upgrade to El Capitan (OS-X 10.11.2) the experts allowed that Apple finally un-borked their mail client. It even handles two factor authentication properly. Kudos!

So, I am giving it a second try. And you know what? It isn’t bad. It is better than Postbox.


Mac versus PC – Longevity, Lifetime

I live a schizophrenic life. For work I am coerced into a PC world. Windows, AD Domains, MS Exchange, and all that lot. But for my home and personal work, I am a devotee of the cult of the Mac. My wife and I both are Mac users, and here are some observations from a long time use perspective.

Work – HP Elitebook 2560P

My work laptop was issued to me when I joined in 2012. It is an HP small form-factor laptop. It has a 160gb Intel SSD, it came with 4G ram (which I upgraded to 16 at my own expense), it is not an ultrabook (it is as heavy as my 15″ Macbook Pro).

It came with Windows 7 enterprise, 64bit. It has a lowish performance core i5 processor. Of course it has all the work mandated items on it that hinder its usability. Full disk encryption, and a bunch of startup macros that really make this thing a slug.

As the laptop is now near 2.5 years old (it is a 3 year leased system) it is beginning to show its age. The graphics chip “blacks out” for a few seconds occasionally. The boot time is now approaching the speed of a spinning disk (I have about 140G of programs and data on it, so free space is running low. And, no, I don’t have any music on the system).

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The Mac Book Air – One Year In

Last July, I splurged and bought me a Macbook Air. The product line was refreshed, and brought faster, more energy sipping processors. I had been using a monster MacBook Pro (still have it) 15″ that was loaded. Max memory, SSD boot/spinning rust extension disc, and the high resolution screen. But lugging it around was tiring.

The factor that tilted me in favor of the air was the lightness, and the battery life. Purported to be 10+ hours (I regularly get 12 or more hours on a charge), was the key point. I was honestly considering a chromebook (the google one with the retina level display), that was about 3/4 the price, but when I went to see it at the local Best Buy, I was underwhelmed.

How has it held up to a year of daily use? Quite well. It is my main home PC. I write on it, I do some light web development, and of course consumption of media. It is comfortable to use, and even when there is 10% of battery left, it isn’t a mad dash to find an outlet to charge it up (once my 15″ MBP hits 15% you get really nervous). I have taken many trips with it, so I can say that it holds up well to the rigors of travel, and it is a joy to use even on a cramped fold out table on a typical airplane seat (nb: I am a million miler on United, so I get complimentary economy plus seating).

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I thought I could live with iPhoto

As part of my migration to a MacBook Air (from my macbook pro with beaucoup disk space) I figured I would just live with the “as delivered” iPhoto.
Alas, that was not to be. I did one (small) import of photos, and I about barfed. For a program that takes about 1.5 G of disk space, it pretty much sucks when you are used to using Aperture. iPhoto lacks a lot of what I have come to expect in my photography workflow with Aperture.
iPhoto is great for built in software and casual users, but I moved away from it 3 or 4 years ago when my photo library became 60G’s of space on my disk (now it is well over 150G).
The tools for managing, cataloging, creating light boards, and albums/collections are addictive to serious photographers (I am sure there are better tools, but I am a hack, and I just like tools that work for me.
The real dilemma I have is do I buy (rent) a copy of Photoshop CC.
Fortunately, it was pretty easy to move it over and to get it properly licensed here.
So far, I am loving the MBA. I am on my third day since I charged it and I still have plenty of juice in the battery. It is astounding how liberating it is to not need to charge often. With my MacBook Pro, after an hour or so, I was looking for a spare socket to charge it.

Cleaning up my computer (Mac)

One of the problems with how well integrated and how smooth moving from an old, tired Mac to a new machine is that a lot of old cruft gets carried along. For the most part, since you typically upgrade to a faster, with more memory system, it isn’t a big deal to carry a lot of baggage.
Additionally, it is really easy to migrate and bring all your old programs, data and other items to the new system. The net result is that after 2 or 3 upgrade cycles, you have built up a lot of cruft on your system. While I don’t advocate deleting data, and I consider all my photos to be must haves, if you are like me, you probably have installed many programs on a whim to try out, but never used them after installing them. This is a good time to clean that up.
The motivation is simple, in a week or so, my new MacBook Air will arrive, and with it a 256G SSD on board. My current MacBook Pro has a 240G boot SSD, and a whopping 750G spinning disk where the data files are stored. There is about 400G of stuff on that drive, and that isn’t including my video collection (another couple hundred gigs parked on my Drobo).
Clearly, some sacrifices must be made. I know that I am not going to be able to keep my iTunes library on the MBA. But, fortunately with iTunes match, and iCloud, I can stream my collection seamlessly. Besides, I have gone to using my Spotify premium account for most listening, something that will work well for my MBA.
Instead of moving my applications, I just decided to start from scratch. That way, I can install what is important to me, and by neglecting to re-install, I can keep my foot print to something reasonable.
I have gone to using Dropbox to sync and maintain all my “working” documents, so that they are available wherever I am at. My documents directory is going to be pretty bereft of files, but I view that as a good thing.
It is going to be a busy weekend, but I don’t mind. Tripping down memory lane, one file or program at a time.

My next computer (?)

I have long been a Mac fan.  Started back in 1988 when I bought a Mac SE with a 20 megabyte HD built in. I used the heck out of that before getting deeply engrossed in FPS games and building a string of PC clones.  I came back to the Mac fold in 2001, with an iBook, and have been there since.

His Steve-ness with the MacBook Air. But will it blend?
His Steve-ness with the MacBook Air. But will it blend?

Currently I have an aging 15″  MacBook pro.  It isn’t dying, but it is showing its age.  I did rejuvenate it with a SSD, and a second HD where the optical drive used to be. But I have been jonesing for something newer. My first encounter with a Retina MacBookPro was OK, but it wasn’t lust at first site (and a well equipped 15″ version with 16G ram, and 512G SSD is about $2,800 before buying the AppleCare extended warranty).  I looked at the 13″ version and it was ok, but not blow your socks off.

Then Apple decided to spam me for Father’s day on the new MacBook Air’s.  I guess they think my furkids should buy their daddy a MacBook Air. Suddenly the idea of a powerfull-enough, but light and long battery life machine was appealing. Yes, I would have to give up the huge HD storage (almost a TB between drives on my MBP) and a bit of speed, but I would be getting a real 10hr + battery, and a very small, light package.

I can see myself springing for a 13″ MBA, 256G SSD, and 8G ram.  Probably my next computer. And it is about 1/2 the price of the Retina MBP.  The current MBP will make a fine server and media streaming box.

My first encounter with a Retina MacBook Pro

The other night, after quaffing a couple fine Czech style pilsners at Gordon Birsch (highly recommended, I might add), I wandered the 100 or so feet to the Gilbert Apple Store.  I am usually cautious at an apple store, because sometimes reason evades me and I find myself whipping out my plastic to upgrade to a new computer.

I have studiously avoided getting up close and personal with a retina display MBP, simply because I figured I would “have to have one” and then I would be $2700 poorer (I would want the bigger SSD, and the 16G ram.) Having seen one, and played with it for a little while, I can say that they are really nice. Well put together, and very very snappy.  They had one on display wit the 16G ram and the 512G SSD, loaded out the way I would like.  Applications loaded almost instantly, and it was super responsive.  The Retina display was gorgeous, but not “must have”.  I loved the thin-ness and the lightness of it.  The fact that it has no optical drive is not a detriment (my current MBP has a SSD in the disk bay, and a 750G 7200RPM spinning rust disk where the DVD drive would be).

It was nice, and a fully loaded system would do me well, but alas, I don’t feel the burning need to replace my current MBP.  With the SSD + spinning disk, it has plenty of oomph, and it has been upgraded to 16G ram, so it works pretty nice.

So call it a strong case of the “likes” on the Retina MBP, but not a “gotta have it”. Of course I am talking about the 15″ version.  I just find the 13″ MBP’s to have too little screen real estate.

Phew, things to be thankful for…

Long time Mac user here.  One utility that I just can’t live without is Alsoft’s Disk Warrior.  I have Drive Genius and MacTools Pro, but neither one “just works” as well as Disk Warrior.

A month or so ago, my wife’s iMac was behaving wonky, so I grabbed my copy of DW and off we go.  When it is done, she dutifully removed it from her computer, put the boot DVD in the case and set it on her desk.

Later that afternoon, Tate, our “puppy-like” greyhound grabbed it and ate it.  Grrrr.  Thought I wouldhave to go groveling to Alsoft for a replacement.  But it turns out I used the down rev version, and my version 4.4 is still pristine.  Woo hoo!

Good thing too, because I need to clean up my disks on my Mac Book Pro.