I will begin this review of miniMax0r by stating that prior to my purchasing miniMax0r I had not ever used a Mac before, outside of the old Apple that was once in my classroom where the game was on a 5 1/2" floppy and had to boot the computer. While it's true that I have recently had a wonderful experience with Ubuntu and there is some crossover (if only in feel/user experience) between the two OSes, I came to OS X a total n00b. (For those of you in Tuscaloosa, a n00b is l33t for "newbie"). In less then a week, I was proficient on the environment through the utilization of the help files as well as Google. While perhaps deterred for a bit, I nevertheless either found the correct, OS X way to do things or found a very usable, suitable, livable workaround.
Let's begin at the beginning. Installation/Upgrade
My first task upon acquiring miniMax0r was to upgrade from Tiger (OS X 10.4) to Leopard (OS X 10.5). The "upgrade" was free in so much as the upgrade DVDs hadn't shipped to my local CompUSA store pre-Leopard launch date to update the existing inventory of Macs. As I didn't want to wait an additional two hours for this to be performed in-store as I had already had the memory upgraded from the standard 1 GB to 2 GB. The installation went as smooth as the quick time video discussing the upgrade and features of Leopard said it would be. I inserted the DVD, pressed Install and went to town (literally!). I think my install time clocked in somewhere around 1hr 45min which was under the 2 hour time that the video said it could take.
Since I hadn't used Tiger before, I really have nothing to compare the new features to.Spotlight Helps
Spotlight is a wonderful tool that I can't imagine living without. This is how indexing should have worked from the get-go on PCs. The help files contained most of what I was looking for despite my esoteric search terms (for instance, I was able to search and understand how OS X burns CDs in about 45 seconds, article reading time inclusive) and if there was something that wasn't in the help file a simple Google search provided the answers. I will avert for a moment here and say that Preview/Quick Look is the best thing since sliced bread and that Cover Flow is great when looking through directories of media. Documents are another story, but the thumbnails provided (when available) will, when viewing them at a smaller size (as I do) gives you at least an idea of how a document is laid out. An added benefit is the native PDF support. Imagine, if you will, being able to read a multi-page PDF without ever having to open Acrobat. A dream come true!
I do however, wish that miniMax0r would have come with a cheat sheet for commonly used keyboard shortcuts and basic Mac idioms, but oh well! For instance, I didn't know that it was Option + Command + esc for the Force Quit window. That would have come in handy on several occasions.Drive Support
My first real order of business was to get my external drives connected to miniMax0r. As discussed in previous posts, the Source Forge hack didn't work. This cost me something on the order of five days to get everything transferred and formated correctly. I was very unhappy that OS X does not natively support ext3. In fact, I have worried that if something were to happen to miniMax0r what it would take to get the files off of the drives if I went back to say Ubuntu (which I do plan on building a Ubuntu production box at some point).The Dock Anchors the Ship
I think that the idea behind stacks is great, but I have a few gripes. First of all, it appears that you can only add stacks on the right hand side of the dock. This is retarded. It's my computer and I want to put a stack where I want to on the dock, not only where Apple says it's ok. Also, I wished that stacks looked like this by default:
My other grip with the dock is that I think you should be able to stick it on the side of you screen (which you can do) and still get fans on stacks. This is where placing stacks anywhere on the dock becomes much more important. Also, it would be nice if you could have three docks (side, side, bottom), whether they are keyed to each other or not makes no difference. The reflective dock is nice as is all the transparency. Even though there's got to be a performance hit having it all turned on, it's still infinitely more efficient and faster then Vista---shinny, reflective dock included.
I don't like having to search for Applications and I refuse to litter the dock and my desktop with shortcuts. I do however think that it's cool that all you have to do to uninstall an application is drag it to the Trash but I don't like how you can't set Leopard up to skip the Trash entirely (unless you use rm). Which brings me to another point: it appears to me that the terminal is just an emulation and it seems that file moving/copying takes longer on the command line then it does through the GUI. Please to explain this you clever, bright individuals who are reading this post and laughing at my ignorance. Also, for the brief time that I was running Samba, the transfer both to and from my XP laptop was so slow that smoke signals in the middle of a hurricane would have been faster. I find this astounding because Samba ran like a charm and there were no latency issues under Ubuntu. Please to explain this too.Being Serviced
I like how OS X does a lot of the leg work for you, but I don't care to be treated like a dunce. It's nice to be able to enable/disable services such as apache, sshd and samba via a check box with zero
latency, but I wished that this could be done from the command line. I have noticed that on the Mac, a lot of things that were routine to the command line in Linux are incorporated into the GUI with OS X and you are left no other option. ehowton
was right. This bothers me.
I don't understand how to use/utilize Automater.Spaces
I like using Dashboard and absolutely adore Spaces. While not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination (I think that Red Hat 6.0 has Workspaces---same damned thing) I do like Leopard's take on them. First of all, let me say that I have worked in a few environments that offer Workspaces and always worked off of one desktop stacking apps on top of one another much like in Windows. With Leopard, I use Spaces to stay organized (sorta). I currently use two spaces: one for web browsing/composing post/other daily tasks and the other for iTunes and watching DVDs. Of course, if I'm going to be working in Photoshop or some other some such tool, I'll create more spaces. I know that spaces eat up resources but at the same time I want certain apps running for speed of use of said app.
But besides organizing by division, Spaces shine by allowing you to move windows from once space to another seamlessly whether you do so by holding a window to the edge of the screen and change to the next space or if you use your hotkey to show all current spaces and drag and drop from there. Add to this the Control + SpaceNumber and now you've got three different ways to navigate Spaces. Expose/Show All, though not as useful to me are a nice compliment and take their backseat to Spaces gracefully and graciously.iTunes
In a previous post
, I mentioned that I didn't like how much real estate iTunes takes up when fully expanded and that I don't like how it isn't skinable. I still have and maintain those gripes, but as ehowton
predicted, I have come to like iTunes for what it is. The searching really just seems to work, even for whole albums. Of course, if things aren't tagged correctly, you're SOL, but that's life. I like all of the sorting options for the lists. I do miss the size and skins of Winamp; I think I most miss having the slider bar, timer, feedback indicator and aesthetic VU meter. I have stared into these for countless hours with Winamp; not so with iTunes. I can't stand to look at the response meter in iTunes because it has peaks and updates too slowly and is not aesthetic; furthermore, it makes the timer disappear and lacking the skin there are no soft blues to rest my eye upon. I'm not entirely fond of how iTunes forces you to add items to the library before allowing you to play them nor do I care for how it arranges the music that it rips. Also, I can't stand how you can't just SHIFT + ENTER to enqueue items into the current playlist. Nevertheless, iTunes and I are getting along much nicer and quicker then I ever thought that we would. I suppose the rest just comes with time. Coverflow is nice both in iTunes and in Finder; however, I am upset at the amount of album covers that iTunes does not fetch despite their presence on Amazon.Open Office
Though not an Apple tool, I did want to comment on this briefly. Currently there is not a stable release of Open Office for OS X that natively runs on Acqua the OS X windowing manager. Ergo, Open Office's solution is to run on X which is great. It takes a non-trivial amount of time for the X term/Open Office to load, but once loaded it works like a charm. However, over the past weekend I had a bit of a scare. Whenever I would attempt to launch Open Office, X would not start, meaning that I could not use any of the tools because the graphics weren't loading. I attempted uninstalling and reinstalling Open Office. No go. I did the same with X11. No go. Finally, I removed them both and rebooted, reinstalled X11 and then Open Office. This resolved my issue.
I can't wait for the Acqua port to have a stable release.
While on the subject of office software, during the time I was troubleshooting Open Office, I took a look at Pages, Apple's word processor/layout tool and was quite impressed. It looked like it could actually compete with InDesign. I just dont see how Apple does that and more in their office suite that they are selling for $79.Input/Output
I absolutely love the new keyboards! It's just like typing on a laptop, but without all the cramp. The Mighty Mouse is what it is my gripe being that because the cord is so short and stiff between the mouse and the keyboard that ultimately you wind up with the mouse running into the keyboard while you still need to move things to the left. :(
I can't remember if I had to download a driver for my Samsung ML-1710 printer or not, but it works just fine with OS X. What doesn't work fine (and I don't exactly
expect it to) is my scanner, the HP Scanject 5300C. In fact, it doesn't work at all. Granted, I bought the thing in 1999 (I think that's right) and there have always been drivers for it in Windows (98, XP) but it doesn't work out of the box with OS X. HP claims that they are slated to release drivers for it "within sixty days" and that they will automatically be included in one of Apple's Software Updates, but that remains to be seen. For the past two (or three) years all I've used my scanner for is a copier (for checks whence paying the bills) so it's not a huge
loss, but still I want my copies. Replacing the scanner will cost me about as much as it did to make the initial purchase: $250. This sucks!
I am also not happy with the fact that miniMax0r does not provide connections for surround sound but rather leave you with just the one 1/8" stereo connection. Thankfully my speakers have a built in 3D engine (of sorts) for just this occasion; however, when listening to MP3s that are from the days of yore that were recorded in mono or certain pop songs where the backups and exclamations are isolated within the tracks, the back does not match the front like I have been spoiled with on my previous two systems, first with the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Platinum eX as well as the dual headphone jacks on the HP. Nevertheless, if it really starts to bug me I can purchase a patch cord to resolve this issue.
Well folks, there you have it: my gripes and praises for Leopard and the Mac mini!