Life is Different in Mac Land

A dear friend of mine, and I call him that in spite of all the arguments we’ve had lately, has been considering the idea of getting a Mac. I think part of the appeal to him is that Macbooks are lightweight, versatile and well, he’s probably heard more than a bit from me telling him to just dive in and drink the kool-aid, but we’ve run into a few problems that have caused him to drop names at me like, “Mactard” and this drives me insane, and oddly enough, he finds this amusing. I think the guy gets a kick out of seeing me get passionate about the things I love.

When I first got my mac, I was confused about some things. My macbook is the first mac I have ever owned. I’ve used a couple, but those were always in school labs because Apple donated computers to public institutions for years. I had never had to seriously live with Mac OS before and I didn’t understand how to do very simple things and once I was told how to do it, I felt like a complete idiot because it seemed so obvious to me afterward.

One of the first issues I ran into was installing software.

In Microsoft land, you download the file, double click on the file, read through a lot of crap, tell your Anti-Virus that it’s okay or shut it down before you even bother to double click, and then you click okay and customize a lot of settings so that the application, supposedly, in theory, only installs those components that you actually use. To uninstall software, you have to run the uninstaller, then go behind it and clean out all the remaining pieces of the application that the uninstaller did not remove and then, sometimes you have to go into the registry and take out the registry entries for that software because those do not get uninstalled with the software.

In Mac land, you drag the disk image to the applications folder. To uninstall an app, you pick up its folder out of the applications folder and drag it to the trash.

Yes, really. I’m not kidding. Some apps will ask for you to type your admin password, but most just drop right into the applications folder/Trash with no fuss.

In Microsoft land, I never bothered with “backups” per se. I maintained copies of the stuff I deemed to be important in the cloud, or I kept them on discs that I’d burned if I didn’t trust the cloud to take care of it. I never really found a way to back up my operating system in a way that would restore it all if I blew up a hard drive. I understand that there is back up software that you can buy, but I never bothered. If I blew up a hard drive, it was probably time for a new install of Windows anyway and I would just be prepared to ask my wonderful husband to set aside his entire day to argue with the install process because I simply did not have the patience.

In Mac Land, we have this wonderful thing called Time Machine. And yeah… you plug in an external drive, set it up to be your time capsule and time machine handles the rest. When you blow up your hard drive, you plug the drive into the USB port and it restores your system to the point you tell it you want it restored to and you’re done.

This is where the story gets back to my friend. You see, he was curious about what he was supposed to do if his hard drive failed and I said, “Buy a new one. Install it. Plug in your time capsule and restore your system and off you go.” and he said, “What if I don’t have a time capsule?” and I said, “That’s why you have install discs that come with the laptop. Plug them in, they boot up, off you go.” Then he said, “Well what if I have to boot from the CD-ROM? How do you change the boot order in the BIOS?”

The response I gave him caused him to call me a petulant mactard because what I said was something along these lines, “Macs don’t have BIOS and why in the hell would you want to change the boot order anyway? You just put in the install discs and they do their magic.”

He got frustrated and asked me how one changes the boot order again and insisted that macs had to have a BIOS or something like it because computers didn’t work without it. I explained that Macs did have EFI, but that Mac OS itself talks to the hardware. Eventually, I told him what he wanted to hear, sort of, “Key combos, but I still don’t understand why you would ever need to do this on a Mac. You’re not a developer, you’re going to use it primarily for word processing and web surfing. You will never need to do this.” and here, we ended the conversation because it was safer for our friendship.

I’m still bothered by this though, and it’s not necessarily that I have to be right, it’s that coming over to the Mac is a completely different world and I certainly wasn’t prepared for it and my friend clearly wasn’t understanding this very important aspect of Mac computing. Nothing in 16 years of windows computing prepared me for how different things are over here. First of all… if you need to do it, it probably works exactly like you think it SHOULD. Not like it did on the PC, but say for example, you think you ought to be able to drag and drop something to a certain place, but you don’t know for sure. On a Mac, it’s pretty likely that your guess of how it should work is right.

If you think there should be a setting for you to change on something, there probably is and it will be right where you expect it to be… Click on the App name in Finder –> Preferences –> go to town. These settings were almost never in the same place twice in any PC app I used.

But best of all about the mac, probably better than anything else, is that for the first time, I am unafraid of using the power that is beneath my fingertips. I am playing around with developing scripts for my Mac. I am entertaining the idea of learning Cocoa. I am inspired to do these things, because I know that if I screw it up I have Time Machine sitting in the trenches ready and waiting to cover my ass. I never had this kind of freedom with windows, nor did I ever have the time. I was too busy fixing problems, trying to diagnose what I could until my husband got home and had to spend his entire weekend figuring out if the articles I found were of any use at all or if my computer was completely fried.

My Mac has also given me back something that I never really had in abundance before. It has given me time. My computer no longer blue screens when I’m in the middle of working on my novel. I don’t lose four hours of writing that I can never get back anymore. I just plug in my time capsule while I’m working on the book and let it run and even though I have this safety net in place, I’ve never had to use the time capsule to get back my lost novel. Now, I am not spending at least two hours of my day doing computer maintenance. I’m spending that two hours watching a movie with my family.

So… yeah, that’s me. Mactard at your service.

No regrets, never looking back.