Miscellaneous

Why Change to a Mac From Windows?

I spend a lot of time on my computer, so I want it to be as fast as possible. To improve productivity, I meddle a lot with the OS, oftentimes tweaking it to make it run the way I want. Macs are built pretty solid, have a gorgeous screen, and have a pretty solid OS, so I made the switch to a Mac from Windows in Sep 2009 (Find out why I switched to a Mac).

One thing I noticed about OSX is that everything is centered around the ⌘ key. I’d say about every keyboard shortcut that I do requires the ⌘ key…so much so that I’m pretty sure my ⌘ key will get worn out pretty soon. Anyway, onwards with my observations about the Mac.

Firefox was a basic, essential software that I couldn’t live with, and was installed first. Then I realised my old keyboard shortcuts in Firefox didn’t work anymore, but I did a search and found my answers:

  • Address bar (or location bar, which explains the shortcut): ⌘+L
  • Search bar: ⌘+K (Don’t know why it’s K…beside L I guess?)
  • Go backwards a page: ⌘+Left
  • Go forwards a page: ⌘+Right
  • Cycle tabs backwards: Option + ⌘ + Left
  • Cycle tabs forwards: Option + ⌘ + Right

Interestingly, the trackpad allowed you to do a 3-finger swipe left/right to go backwards or forwards, which was immensely useful, but I was going to use an external keyboard, so I couldn’t rely on that all the time.

Next, Finder – Explorer’s equivalent…somewhat. It’s fun to use, but has several major differences in usage. For instance, I appreciated that the Enter key no longer runs or opens the application. The Enter key in fact is a shortcut for renaming the file/folder, so that’s a bit different, but in a good way. To execute a file in Mac, you just have to hit Command+Down. Takes a little bit of getting used to, but an appreciated difference. Here are other differences in Mac when you’re coming from Windows:

⌘ + Q = Quit
⌘ + W = Close window
⌘ + O = Open a file in your application
⌘ + P = Print
⌘ + A = Select All
⌘ + X = Cut (Only seems to work with text, not files/folders)
⌘ + C = Copy
⌘ + V = Paste
⌘ + S = Save
⌘ + Z = Undo
⌘ + Shift+ Z = Redo
⌘ + Y or Space = Quicklook
⌘ + Tab = Cycle forward through windows
⌘ + Shift + Tab = Cycle backwards through windows
⌘ + H = Hide application
⌘ + Option + H = Hide other applications
⌘ + Option + 3 = Screen-shot whole screen
⌘ + Option + 4 = Screen-shot region

I quickly came across a quirk though: There wasn’t a way to quickly create a new file wherever I was. So, if I was at /Some/Directory/Deep/Deep/Down, most probably working on my files inside, and I wanted to create a file there, I couldn’t. I had to open the application that I wanted, create my file, and save it to the location that I wanted. Slow. So I searched again, and found NuFile – http://growlichat.com/NuFile.php! Problem solved =)

Next difference I came across – files could not be moved (or cut and pasted). So that took a bit of researching, but I found out that moving files can be easily done with Quicksilver! It’s a fantastic application. I use Launchy a lot while in Windows, but Quicksilver brings it to a whole new level. File indexing is super fast, and I can search for a file almost instantly because it would have already been in the Quicksilver file catalogue, whereas Launchy has a lagtime. Speed of searching is super-quick as well!

In the process of learning about Quicksilver, I also found out that you can do very fast screen captures with it (screen or region), scale those images, and even save them into a different format, all with Quicksilver and a few keystrokes! iCal is another application that I want to explore, because of it’s useful calendaring features and the great thing is that Quicksilver has a iCal module. So I can type something like “Lunch with Bob, 3pm, Craig Street” and have that entry appear in iCal!

The other productivity boosts were to do with the Mac’s incredibly fast sleep/hibernate feature, and wake-up time. It completely beats any Windows machine. In addition, connecting to your wireless network is almost instantaneous – I can open the lid of my mac, see the screen blink on instantly, and viola, I’d be connected to the Internet already. There was no way I could achieve that with Windows.

One thing that I was looking for, though, was the ability to turn off the monitor on my Macbook. In Windows, I just wasn’t able to do so with my Thinkpad. Well, in Mac, it’s possible – just hit Control+Shift+Eject, and your screen will be turned off. Neat 😀

In Windows, one of the keys I hit alot is the Windows key. In the past, I didn’t buy Toshiba notebooks because they had a funny keyboard configuration that put the Windows key at the top right (they’ve since changed it I think). In the Macbook, there’s no “Mac key”, but there’s F11 (or Fn+F11, depending on your settings). Hit that, and all windows will hide, and you’ll be brought to your desktop. Alternatively, if you’re using the new Macbook Pro’s, you can do a 4-finger swipe upwards.

There’s going to be a whole host of features that I’m sure I’ll discover in OSX, but so far it looks like a pretty solid OS. The only complaint that I have with it is its cumbersome Finder app. Explorer is much more flexible IMHO. This isn’t an isolated case too – the presence of a popular Finder-alternative called Path Finder is only testament that Finder’s features are lacking. I want to try using Path Finder, but it doesn’t integrate fully and replace Finder, so I might hold off that for a bit.

That’s it for this post, but look out for more posts on Mac and OSX!

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Miscellaneous

Why a 20-year User of Windows Made The Great Move to a Macbook Pro

I have a Lenovo Thinkpad X60s, which had been a great machine, but it was getting old and slow. My Thinkpad served me well for the past 3 years, and went through pretty much everything. I used it daily, carried it to school, work, home, everywhere. It’s size and heft made it a very portable machine, though I never did like how the screen looked — it was much too dark and matte for my liking. My dear machine even travelled from Singapore to the United States without any problems. Throughout the whole 3 years, the only problem I faced it was a motherboard issue that caused some problems with charging the battery. That was solved pretty quickly since I had a 3-year warranty.

lenovo thinkpad x60s laptop
Lenovo Thinkpad X60s laptop

I figured that it was time to search for a new machine. I had several in mind:

  • Lenovo again
  • Sony VAIO
  • Apple Macbooks

The new Lenovo Thinkpads that I considered were either the X300 or X200. The X300 was too expensive for its performance. While I did appreciate portability, I didn’t want to sacrifice too much performance for it. The X200 was pretty okay actually, and I was interested after looking at its specifications. Then I looked at the actual notebook, and I wasn’t that pleased anymore. The X200 is a widescreen machine instead of the X60S, and besides that, has an extremely ugly bezel surrounding its LCD.

Lenovo Thinkpad X200 laptop
Lenovo Thinkpad X200 laptop

The Sony Vaios were beautiful machines, but after looking at reviews online, I wasn’t sure if it had a good enough build quality (complaints of hardware problems, heat problems, keyboard defects), and customer service (unresolved complaints).

The Macbook Pro looked pretty good, especially with the new refresh, which introduced a 13″ Macbook Pro, and an in-built SD card reader. The unibody frame just looked so good too. It also had a GORGEOUS screen. Colours just leap out of the screen. Its configuration was twice as fast as my Thinkpad too, and offered a bigger harddrive and double my RAM. The only gripe that I had with the Macbook Pro was it’s weight — it was nearly a pound heavier than my Thinkpad X60s. I figured that if that was the only drawback, it was worth giving up for a better machine though.

Apple Macbook Pro 13 inch
Apple Macbook Pro 13 inch

My next other concern was software. However, I tried out my friend’s Macbook, and the new Macs ran virtualised Windows really well. If that fails for whatever reason, BootCamp (which is just a dual boot environment) would ensure that I could just run purely Windows on my Macbook Pro. So I took the plunge and got a Macbook Pro. Apple had a promotion where you get a free iPod Touch and a printer when you get it, and I had a student discount too, so it was a pretty good deal.

So far, the Macbook runs perfectly, and everything feels so integrated, and really fast. There are certain changes that need to be made to OSX to make it faster in terms of productivity, and I’ll post my findings in an another post soon. Look out for it!

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