Apple PowerBook: Forever converted

May 04, 2003

Where to start, where to start. Coming from a strong Linux background, I immediately wanted to get "under the hood" of this bad-boy and tinker with Mac OS X. It was tough for me to take things slow as I usually feel extremely comfortable in front of a computer, and even though this was a Unix-based machine, on which I'm very well-versed and confident, it was an Apple and was going to require me to think differently about some things.

Let's start with the initial bootup sequence. After answering a very brief questionnaire concerning the registration of the PowerBook, the machine booted up without incident. Within three minutes of taking it out of the box, I was already browsing web sites through my home wireless network. Yes, three minutes! If this was any indication of what this experience was going to be like, I was in good shape.

One of the first things I did after I started messing around with the machine was download Safari, Apple's new homegrown browser. I must say that I'm quite impressed with it; so much in fact that it has already become my default web client on this machine. Its standards support is pretty damn good and getting better by the day from what I read. It's incredibly fast and looks great. The only thing it's really missing is the ability to restore your previous session (i.e., have it remember all the sites you had open before the browser crashed/was closed and be able to bring those back up), something Opera has been doing forever. I'll never understand why this hasn't caught on with the entire browser community as I find it incredibly useful, perhaps more so than any other single feature.

Everyone has seen the switch ads and probably thought that if you switched you would be able to easily move all of your Outlook data to your Mac. Not true. Apple nor Microsoft provide a way to move your e-mail/calendar/contacts from Outlook to Mac. Unbelievable. Either way, I knew this going in and took steps so that I could do it on my own. There are third-party programs out there that will do the majority of the dirty work, but I wasn't about to spend more money. As far as my e-mail is concerned, I have all of my sent/received mail from 1999 (when I really started getting into my digital-packrat mentality), in a bunch of different formats. Given this, I wasn't really worried about importing my current mail from Outlook because I can just grep through the .pst file if I need something, as I currently do for mail saved in formats other than .pst. As far as my calendar and contacts are concerned, I used a program (whose name escapes me at the moment) to batch-export all of my calendar entries and contacts to vCard, knowing that iCal supported this standard format. It was at this point that I realized that I had 563 calendar entries — time to clean up. I dropped the entries I wanted to keep into iCal (individually, ugh) and was all set there. The contacts were even easier as it let me import all of them at once.

One of the biggest worries I had was whether or not I'd be able to use my PC iPod on the Mac. I knew that OS X could mount a FAT partition, the filesystem used on the PC iPod, which would allow me to move files to and from the device, but I wanted to use the iTunes software and go completely Apple. I knew from research that it was possible to convert the PC iPod to an Apple iPod, but I didn' think it would be as easy as it was. I started by installing PodMaster. I used this software to move all of my music from from the iPod to the PowerBook. I then used the iPod Software Updater to format the device to the HFS+ filesystem and to install the Apple software. Next, I just copied the music files over to my iTunes Library and then sync'd it with the iPod. Good to go.

This machine is, by far, the quietest notebook computer I've ever messed around with. It just doesn't make any real noise, save the slight hum of the fan (when it's actually on).

The slot-loading Superdrive (CD/DVD burner) is incredible. I really like how it is placed on the front of the machine instead of the side. Being a slot-loading drive, the first of its kind in a notebook, it sucks the CD/DVD in just like a car CD player — very neat.

As one might expect, the PowerBook feels incredibly solid. I'm sure its titanium casing doesn't hurt (so freaking sweet!), but it's more the construction itself that makes it feel indestructible. I honestly don't think a bullet would hurt this thing; it feels that tough.

I've started to use Apple's e-mail client, Mail, because I don't yet have Office v.X (under which I would use Entourage for e-mail). There are a few things that I don't like about the program, especially the way it handles replies, but for the most part, it's a decent application. On a related note, I have the filtering software in training mode and received an e-mail from Apple regarding my registration — a simple thank-you — Mail thought it was junk and moved it to the trash. Perhaps I should alert Apple to the fact that their e-mail software doesn't like the e-mails they send out. I realize that anything could have set off the filter trigger, but you would think that an @apple.com would slip through.

In conclusion, this machine and OS X are truly brilliant and have quickly turned me into a huge Mac proponent. While Windows never really had a shot at becoming my OS of choice, Linux certainly did, and was for a very long time, but I'm afraid they've all lost to OS X — Mac interface + Unix guts. You can bet that I'll be putting all of my obsessive-compulsive energy into learning the ins and outs of this hardware and software — I can't wait.

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