posted by Andrew Youll on Wed 31st Aug 2005 16:24 UTC
IconI recently bought a Mac Mini, And I thought I'd talk about my experiences in the transition from Windows XP to Mac OS X.

I personally have used Windows since its 3.11 days, back then I was only a child and I thought Paint was great, but since then Windows has come a long way. For the past year or two I have been constantly thinking about Apple Macs and how much I'd like to have one. Well, recently I took the plunge and bought a Mac Mini.

First the specs:


- PowerPC G4 1.25Ghz
- 256MB DDR333
- 40GB HDD
- Combo Drive
- ATi Radeon 9200 32MB
- Mac OS X 10.3 Installed (Upgraded to 10.4 via Upgrade DVD Supplied in Box)
- Apple Keyboard
- Apple One-Button Mouse
- 160GB External USB2.0 HDD
- 17in HP f1723 TFT Monitor @ 1280x1024

Yes it's the older Mac Mini, but because of this fact I was able to get it cheaper from a local retailer. The system did come with 10.3 installed so I had a quick adventure into Mac OS X 10.3, but after about five minutes I promptly put the Upgrade DVD into the drive and was on my way installing 10.4 Tiger; the installation took about 35 minutes, after which I was presented with a desktop that looked virtually identical to the 10.3 desktop except for one new addition, the Spotlight dropdown icon.

Many people who own what some call "Series A" Mac Minis have complained about the Mini being slow when they upgraded to 10.4 Tiger, but for me it seemed faster than before. After the initial sweep of the desktop I promptly loaded the Disk Utility and formatted my external HDD to HFS+ so I could store applications on it, instead of using the 40GB internal HDD. If I hadn't read the external HDD's formatting for Mac OS X user guide, I probably would have spent a while searching for how to format the HDD.

Personally, the last Mac I had any experience with was when I attended High School. They had some Macs running OS7, and even then I'd only used the Macs at school for brief periods of time, so a few things were strange for me on OS X 10.4, like un-mounting a Volume by dragging it to the trash can. It is strange at first because you begin to wonder what the Apple developers were thinking when they came up with the concept but after a while it does begin to make some sort of sense.

Next, all applications having a single shared toolbar was at first hard to get used to because of a decade of using Windows, Linux and such where the toolbar is an integrated component of the application window.

The infamous one-button mouse? Yes I could have gotten a mighty mouse but I decided to go for the one-button approach, and even after a week with the Mini and Mac OS X, I still find myself occasionally clicking on different sides of the mouse even though there's only one button.

Application installation: For the vast majority of applications this involves double clicking on a *.dmg file (Disk Image); Mac OS X mounts the image as a drive and then you just drag the Application to the Applications folder, or in my case onto my External HDD. Un-installing involved dragging the application from the Applications folder to the Trash can, I personally prefer this over the Windows way of installing and un-installing applications, but that may be personal preference.

The control panel in Mac OS X is called the "System Preference Panel," and it's well laid out and easy to understand. One thing I miss is a general Systems component like in Windows, you click "System" and get information about the system, and such, but Mac OS X's equivalent application "System Profiler" is accessible via the Apple icon selecting "About This Mac" and then click "More Info.

Things that I'm happy to see included with Mac OS X: Firstly a DVD Player. I understand that Microsoft can't include a CSS decoder in Windows because all the DVD software producers like Cyberlink, etc would claim unfair business practices because it was decreasing the number of possible customers for their products, kind of like what happened with WMP in the EU.

Another welcome inclusion is the "Disk Utility." Yes, Windows XP includes CD-Burning capabilities, but to me, the Disk Utility just seems more advanced, as it supports ISO burning, where as Windows XP's integrated burner does not.

Expose is to me a great feature of Mac OS X, allowing you to view all windows instantaneously, allowing you to access the application window you want quickly and efficiently.

Dashboard is in theory a great tool, but personally, in the time I've owned this Mac Mini, which is roughly 2 weeks almost, I've used dashboard once or maybe twice, and that really was only for the dictionary and for the Wikipedia widgets.

Spotlight is just an amazing tool even though I've only owned the Mini a short while, it has helped in a few situations. I will be the first to admit I'm the sort of guy who puts car keys down only to find three minutes later I can't remember where I left them, so this feature is a great help.

RSS integration with Safari: With me being an OSNews editor you may think I live on the site. Well, I don't, so the RSS reader built in does allow me to be notified of new items when they're posted. How does it do this? Well I bookmarked the OSnews RSS feed and added it to the Safari Bookmarks bar, and in the bar it displays "OSnews (#)" and where the # is it displays the number of new unread items.

Safari is a great browser; page rendering is good thanks to its khtml based backend,one thing that should get sorted is the webkit well after all the image problems Safari has of late, namely the "Image Of Doom" which makes Safari and all other webkit based applications crash.

The Email application included is very good, and the spam filtering is decent. It reminds me quite a bit of Evolution with Spam Assassin, and though I would have liked it to pick address automatically of people that you email, that's really just a small thing that is just my personal preference.

Now application transition: What applications that I used on Windows XP have I replaced with applications on Mac OS X? Well, for MS Office 2003 Pro, I've replaced it with MS Office: Mac 2004 Standard & Filemaker 7 Pro. In general, Office: Mac 2004 does what I want, and supplies the functionality I use on Windows XP with Office 2003 Pro, Filemaker 7 Pro was surprisingly very easy to learn and re-write some of my old Access DBs into Filemaker 7 Pro DBs, though one thing I can't find thus far is queries, but I'm sure they're there. FireFox 1.0.6 I've replaced with Safari 2.0. I've already talked about what I think of Safari so onto the next application: Sonic RecordNow DX. On Mac OS X I'm using Roxio Toast 6 Titanium, which is not entirely compatible with Mac OS X 10.4, so you have to download patches from Roxio, but all in all a good solid CD Burning suite which supports Mac Only CDs, PC & Mac CDs and hybrid discs. WMP10 I've replaced with QuickTime, iTunes and MPlayer OS X 2. They're pretty decent to use, but it's a pity there's no single multimedia application like WMP10 in Mac OS X.

There are a few applications I have yet to get replacements for, namely Photoshop CS (yes there is Photoshop CS2 for Mac OS X, I just have to get around to buying it), and also ActiveSync for my iPAQ rx3175. I purchased PocketMac Pro, but as of yet haven't received my serial number for it.

There are a couple applications I can't really live with out, and as far as I know have no Mac OS X version or comparable program, Ulead PhotoImpact XL, yes there's PhotoShop CS2, but I prefer the PhotoImpact interface to PhotoShop's. The other application I can't really see there being a replacement for is my CAD suites and Schematic Diagram applications I use for work. Hopefully Somebody will be able to prove me wrong and help me find these sort of applications.

GUI transition, what are my thoughts on the GUI? well I like it, being brought up on Windows, KDE and such I personally would have prefered a start menu approach but thats basically because thats what I'm used to, but finding applications in Finder isn't all that difficult to get used to. In terms of adapting to the GUI, I've begun to use keyboard shortcuts more and more, I personally thought the one buttoned mouse would be a hinderence to the OSes overall useability but in fact it has little bearing on its useability in my opinion.

The power and sheer flexibility of the Mac OS X GUI is what amazes me, everything is so dynamic, you can drag virtually anything, anywhere you want, from dragging menu components to the desktop, to dragging a text file into another text file and its contents being copy and pasted. To me this is where Mac OS X's NeXT heritage shines through as alot of this NeXT had in the 1990's, but not in such an appealing interface.

The Dock... to me the dock is kind of like Windows Quick-Start menu in the taskbar coupled with actually being the task bar, this is a great Idea as it saves on space.

So far I haven't really come across any media files or such that are un-useable, only media I can not access is Yahoo's Video Launch service, but thats due to it requiring Netscape 4.7 being installed when accessing using Mac OS X, which is a bit sad when you consider how old Netscape 4.7 is.

Overall I'm enjoying using Mac OS X, and I think I could use it exclusively, except for those applications I think I can't live without and the fact that I have a huge Windows Games collection so I will always have a Windows/x86 machine, though maybe in the future It'll be an Intel-Mac dual booting to Windows for gaming.

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