Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Journey to the Dark Side 5: Love at first iSight-iPhone

One of the most frustrating aspects of working with my new Mac was not being able to sync the contacts and dates that I had in my phone with the computer. I had tried all sorts of work arounds including buying a $40 piece of software called The Missing Sync which was supposed to take care of the problem. It didn’t and now I have to try and get my money back.

Thanks to a friend in Apple, I was able to get a nice discount on the iPhone and it arrived yesterday. I had been impressed with the simplicity of the interface and I was not disappointed.

First of all the iPhone is a beautiful piece of industrial design, sleek, efficient and extraordinarily easy to use. That last point is what I have been looking for in a phone for years. Until this summer I had gone through a series of Palm Treo’s which have small touch screens but are very bulky and poorly designed for human use unless you have hands as big as mine. I then switched to AT&T and got a Samsung BlackJack which I have learned to hate because nothing is straightforward on it. True it is a beautiful slim little phone, specially after using the bulky Treos, but it runs the Windows Mobile OS and you are forced to drill through layers of screens to perform the simplest tasks. When my BlackJack would no longer sync with my Win XP machine and would not connect to the Mac, that was the kiss of death.

Secondly, but most importantly, the iPhone just works. Without reading pages of instructions, I simply plugged my iPhone dock into the USB port, docked the iPhone and iTunes did all the rest. Within 10 minutes I had synchronized all my contacts and calendars and had, as a matter of fact, received my first phone call! I can’t tell you how many times I have searched the manual for the Samsung BlackJack in vain looking for answers to the simplest questions. The iPhone is profoundly intuitive: the graphics make it clear what steps to take to perform whatever task you want from calling someone to looking up a website. Let me repeat: it just works!

This is why even the hardened PC lover like Gary Baker admitted that the iPhone is revolutionary. That’s not because it is the perfect product by any means, but because it reverses the trend of most phones which require the user to adapt to all sorts of sophisticated operating systems and proprietary interfaces. Apple, on the other hand, seems to have started with the consumer and asked,” What do I hate about cellphones and what do I want mine to do right out of the box?” this is what is revolutionizing the cellphone industry; consumers will no longer stand for clunky bricks that make you learn a whole new language before you can use them effectively. While I realize that there are some weighty issues with the iPhone, the overall user experience is “Why haven’t my other phones just worked like this?”

I know that there is much more to learn about the iPhone but I don’t have to dread wading into a thick manual to try and figure it out myself. I now feel like I am ready to rock and roll on the new platform. Running Vista on the Parallels side is another matter and one that I will talk about as I dig into it. For the time being I have enough on my hands getting projects back on track in the new year on the Mac...and earning enough money to pay for all this beautiful but expensive technology!

Journey to the Dark Side 4: Leaping to Leopard

After many frustrating attempts to get my audio mixer (MBox 2 Mini by DigiDesign) to work with the Tiger (Apple OS ZX 10.4), I decided to make the leap to the Leopard Apple OS X 10.5. The install disk came with the computer so there was no extra cost. Boy and I glad I did upgrade!

I must give credit to the Apple Care consultant who told me that this month or next the third party vendors would all be releasing their upgraded drivers for the new system. I had enough of trying to make the DigiDesign software work as advertised with Tiger; after all I had bought the system with Tiger precisely because I would be able to work on my new laptop! Let me add my voice to the growing chorus of infuriated Pro Tools users who have been abused by this software company for years. A pox on them and the horse they rode in on; we are stuck with expensive hardware that will only work with the advertised systems for extra dollars, e.g. they finally came out with drivers for Vista but demanded $50 more for the upgrade!

The install to Leopard was pretty uneventful except for that heart stopping moment when during my first attempt to install, it told me that I couldn’t upgrade because I didn’t have OS X 10.4 installed! I just rebooted and tried again, successfully. See, this is a computer problem, not just a PC problem. After about a half hour of cooking, the system was ready to go and some of the results were really pleasing. For instance, I was able to find and connect successfully to my old HP printer that was networked to my home system’s PC running Win XP. Even though I got a brand new Epson multi-function printer for $5 after rebates, I still have over $100 in HP ink to burn off and I won’t just throw that away.

More about my Leopard experience and a new phone is on the way!

Journey to the Dark Side 3: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

After complaining about the problems I was having making the transition to Mac, I decided to make the switch to Apple Care which gave me immediate access to a great help desk experience. After 20 minutes talking with a lovely young lady, we decided that a lot of the problems that I was having came from two sources:
Third party vendors like Samsung (makers of my unsyncable BlackJack), DigiDesign (makers of MBox 2 Mini and Pro Tools LE) and Microsoft (makers of Office for Mac).
One of the most complicated migrations in history: I had no old computer to transfer from since the whole thing had been fried by my cup of tea. Only the hard drive survived and the transfer software just didn’t know what to do with it.

I am getting a handle on the address and contacts crisis by using a $10 program called Outlook2Mac. It helped me to migrate these critical settings plus my essential mail folders from Outlook. The rest of the files, like documents, pictures and music, I have had to painstakingly drag from a number of drives to the desktop on the Mac. More on the problems with iTunes later.

One critical issue is that I have not been able to connect to my aging HP OfficeJet G85 (yeah, the one that Gary and I bought when XP came out and we had problems with compatibility then!)

I am feeling a lot better now that I have decided that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train!

Journey to the Dark Side 2: The Good, the Bad, the Confusing

Right now the biggest hurdles I have are:
Getting used to the new environment both on the keyboard and on the desktop.
Frustration with not being able to: Sync up my old computer hard drive and get my working files on to the new machine...Being unable to sync my BlackJack phone with all my contacts and calendars to the machine...and not having any phone support.
Let me elaborate on that last point: the benefit of AppleCare is that you get direct phone help and quick turnaround on any repairs from Apple. I really overestimated my ability to figure out this machine when I bought the Micro Center coverage which was also more expensive because of the accidental coverage. The result: I am going to drop the Micro Center coverage and go with the AppleCare. I need help and lots of it!
Finally I am concerned that my hard drive is not big enough to handle both of the operating systems and leave room for files. 120 Gigs gets mighty small when you cut 40-50 Gigs out for Vista on Parallels leaving just 80 Gigs for the Mac System.

Next time around I’ll talk more about the switch to AppleCare and .... maybe even an iPhone!

Journey to the Dark Side 1: Migration

On Thursday, December 20, 2007 the journey to the Dark Side began at Micro Center in Madison Heights, Michigan. I decided to shop there because they had an “open box” 15” MacBook Pro that someone had exchanged for a larger laptop but had never been used.

Basic stats: 15” monitor, 2.2 Ghz Core 2 Duo processor, 2 Gigs RAM, 120 Gig hard drive, video card with 128 MB RAM on board, and 800 Mhz front side bus and this system came loaded with the previous operating system Tiger OS X 10.4 but had the install disc for Leopard. Accessories and software: Parallels to run Vista and the Mighty Mouse (a wireless, bluetooth mouse). I also opted to go with a three year care plan through Micro Center because of an accidental damage coverage that AppleCare didn’t cover. (That was a very bad idea for reasons I’ll explain in just a moment.)

First impressions:
This is truly a beautiful machine with clean lines. Keyboard has a nice feel and I haven’t felt the kind of heat build up that make the Dell Inspiron difficult to work with after a while.
Culture shock: Things just aren’t w here they are “supposed” to be and that is the hardest part to get used to with the machine initially. E.g. there is no backspace; the delete button is the backspace and the delete but it only goes in one direction, back! Another example is the Mac Command button which functions pretty much like the Control button on a PC except that there is also a Ctrl button as well!
There are lots more things to get used which I will chronicle in other blogs but that really is the least of my challenges right now.

Migration Stagnation
The most serious problem I have right now is that I cannot use this beautiful new machine for any serious work because I cannot get the software in Parallels to transfer all the content and settings from my Vista drive. There is address and calendar software on the Mac but my phone (Samsung BlackJack) won’t sync! There is trialware on the machine for iWork (kind of like MS Works) and Office for Mac 2004 (which is lacks a Publisher like software.) Like all trialware they are crippled but pretty functional. I plan on using them as much as I can to try them out. So right now the MacBook Pro is like a dim-witted starlet, pretty but not much use!