Mac Mini: replace your PC for $499! (Courtesy of Apple)
Continued from Why Pros Use Mac, Page One.
World's Best Industrial Design: Looks Great!
Mac Mini (Courtesy of Apple)
As an artist I appreciate art. Apple's industrial design has made everything they've done for the past several years just beautiful. There's even an iBook on permanent display in the Industrial Art wing of New York's Museum of Modern Art. I'm a huge fan of simple, practical design popular in Italian, Swiss, Danish and German graphics and product design. Apple's latest offerings have astounded me by going beyond the classics from artists like Dieter Rams and Massimo Vignelli.
iPod (Courtesy of Apple)
Guess what: art comes from artists, not from committees. Just as Dieter Rams made Braun synonymous with brilliantly simple design, it is the work of designer Jonathan Ive that gives us the look and feel of Apple products.
Just say no to ugly beige or black boxes cluttering your life.
No "Hillbilly Hatches" on Laptops
Most Windows laptops have several flimsy plastic covers over the connectors. Unlike the sturdy constructions of our Hillbillies, these stupid plastic covers always fall off.
Apple laptops have no Hillbilly hatches (or any doors at all), and also have no protruding connectors or screws or other crudities to catch inside cases or backpacks. All connections to the Apple Laptops are "innie" connectors flush with the surface. The Apple laptop is a work of smooth and functional sculpture.
Easy to Figure out What Hardware to Buy
Any Apple computer works great and includes everything you might need. There's no worry that you might forget some odd option when ordering and have to go back and spend more.
Likewise, some of the myth of Macs costing more than Windows PCs stems from the many stripper PCs advertised which lack basics like CD burners, firewire ports, speech recognition, video editing and conferencing software, color calibration software or virus protection. By the time you option the Windows PC to the same level as the Mac you're even. There is no "loss leader" Mac. Even the cheapest Mac Mini is far more powerful than the iBook from which you're reading this site.
I earn my living and publish this site on a machine only half as good as the crummiest Apple made today. Any Mac ought to do what you need. I have a page explaining details of which Mac does what to help you pick. Any choice is a good choice.
Its easy to know what works with what when buying third-party drives or whatever. It either works with your version of Mac or it doesn't. All the Mac operating systems are simply a number that has gone in order since the 1970s. I've had friends buy scanners claiming to work with the Windows 98, and it didn't work. Only after a long telephone call were they told "Oh, of course it works with Windows 98 - service pack II. You just need to go buy the upgrade." Give me a break, people don't need to put up with this baloney if they'd just make the easy upgrade to Mac next time they trash a dead Windows machine. Since you'll get more healthy years out of a Mac it costs less, too.
When you add up all you have to add to upgrade a PC to do what you need it to it costs more. A well drawn example was found on this sheet I picked up at a local computer store in April 2006.
Easy to Figure out What Operating System to Buy
There is just one Mac operating system. End of question.
Just like when Mercedes was unquestionably the world's finest car and every one came standard with every possible option, the Mac OS on even the crummiest Mac like mine comes loaded with every possible feature ever created by Apple.
On Windows you have to guess among buying XP professional, XP media center edition 2005, XP home, or Professional x64 edition. Good freaking luck! See if you can figure it out on Microsoft's selection page here. If they haven't cared to make the sales page helpful, how helpful do you think the actual product will be? That page not only is no help in figuring out which version of Windows you might need (hint: no one needs Windows), it told my wife she was running XP SP2, while in fact she's running Windows ME! Good luck, amigos! Click the link and play Redmond Roulette!
I tried ordering a Dell once and quickly gave up when they expected me to guess how much operating system I needed to buy.
It's sad that Windows makes itself some sort of challenge to understand. Some people enjoy this technical challenge for its own sake, and send me hate mail when I expose that they're wasting their time on the wrong challenge.
I'm a professional earning my entire living working for 10 hours a day on a kid's white plastic 12" iBook laptop. If you can't do all that on the cheapest version of Windows, why bother?
"Longhorn" was Microsoft's code name for their next operating system. It was supposed to be out in 2005 or maybe 2004. Even Microsoft can't get it to run, so they changed the name to "Windows Vista" and kept working. Good luck to Microsoft getting it to work in 2006!
If Microsoft can't get it to run, how much luck do you think we'll have?
In January 2006 Microsoft promised Vista by 2006. On March 21st, 2006 they still can't get Vista to run properly, so they are delaying its introduction to January 2007. WHOOPS! It's funny to read the press releases: Microsoft talks about being "on target" while the NY Times on March 22, 2006 describes it accurately as "Microsoft to Delay New System." If you haven't been in business you might not realize that if you can't meet a promise, you move the target to "stay on target" as Microsoft just did.
Vista is now up to 50 million lines of code. I doubt it will ever work. This article explains Windows Vista is so bad that 60% of it is having to be re-written.
As of early 2007 Microsoft was still working on it. It's just a buggy rip-off of Mac OSX. See the video here.
As of Mid-2007 it finally shipped.
When Microsoft's Bill Gates promises less crashes, easier use or delivery dates, Microsoft rarely delivers. Vista is now pushed back to 2007!
When Apple's Steve Jobs in 2005 promised Intel Macs by mid-2006 he delivered them at MacWorld, in January 2006. Early.
Steve Jobs announced the MacBook Pro laptop in January 2006 as 1.67 GHz and 1.83 machines. It shipped in February 2006 as promised, and was upgraded to 1.83 GHz and 2.0 GHz speeds, for the same price!
Longhorn was supposed to introduce a "desktop search" feature for finding things easily in your Windows computer. It still hasn't happened.
Mac OS 10.4 has had this since spring, 2005. Free. Apple calls it "Spotlight" and it's the little blue magnifying glass at the top right of your screen.
In 2004 Mac OSX already did what Vista will try to do in 2007. Here are videos of Bill Gate's CES 2006 presentation where Bill demonstrates prototype features proposed in Widows Vista. The funny part is some wise guy has kept Bill's speech, while replacing the video doing all these things in last-year's Apple Mac OSX 10.4! Caution: Presuming you get the humor, be sure to pee before you watch the videos.
Here are some things Windows Vista will try to rip off:
Widgets: These are a clunky copy of OSX' Dashboard. Dashboard allows me to tap one button on my mouse and have a ton of things pop up, like weather in eight cities, world time clocks, stock quotes, live weather radar and dictionaries. In a year Vista may have this, except it will only let these be in one part of the screen. OSX last year lets you put everything where you want it.
3-D application switcher: In a year Vista may let you throw up all your open windows on top of each other to help you select among them. You only can see the top one. Two years ago OSX added Exposé which does the same thing, but instead of piling them all on top of each other Apple's Exposé lets you see all the windows at the same time by reducing them. You have to guess with Vista.
Desktop Search, just like last year's OSX' Spotlight.
Vista also claims to add a copy of Apple's iPhoto.
You can hope Microsoft can get Vista to run in a year, or just get a Mac today.
Remember the old "Windows 98 = Mac 84" bumper stickers? Widows itself is a ripoff of the Mac visual (graphic) interface from the 1980s. Microsoft originally expected us to type commands in DOS and then Apple invented using a mouse and clicking for commands. I know. I've used all these systems since the 1970s.
Windows machines usually only come with free crappy street fonts like Arial and Times. Create a document with them and it looks like something created by a bored secretary taking a break from playing Solitaire.
Macs include, as part of the operating system, professional fonts which cost real money if you had to buy them for a PC.
For example, in Mac OS 10.4 I see Caslon, Copperplate, Didot, Futura, Gil Sans, Helvetica, Helvetica Neue, Hoefler, Optima, Papyrus and Zapfino among others included, free.
Here are some examples I whipped up in Photoshop so you can see them. A real designer would know how to make these look much better.
Caslon is a classic font often used in 1950s advertising. The numerals are cool.
Copperplate is often used on lawyers' business cards.
Didot is a great font often used for corporate logos in the art and design fields. The numbers aren't that pretty, but the lower case letters are.
Futura is used for NBC's logo, business cards and letterhead. Futura is distinctive for the pointy ends of its upper case N, seen in the NBC logo.
Gil Sans is an update based on Johnston Railway type designed by Edward Johnston and used for London's train stations.
Helvetica is used everywhere as one of the world's most perfect fonts. This is the bold style.
As I understand it Microsoft made a poor copy of Helvetica and called it "Arial" to save having to pay for the real Helvetica. An easy way to tell is to look at the top of the "1."
Of course Mac also includes the usual fonts included by Windows, like Arial, if you want that amateur look for ransom letters or what-have-you. I left this Arial example aliased as it usually looks on Windows machines for comparison. You have control of all of this on Mac, but no control on Windows. This is why the Arial "0" looks jagged, but smooth for the other fonts. This jagginess is a factor of aliasing, not of the font itself.
Helvetica is used for American Airlines' logo, most US National Parks brochures, all the maps and signage for the NY City subway system and numerous corporate logos. Designer Massimo Vignelli uses Helvetica extensively. Today he seems to be using Didot (or a similar variant) as well.
Helvetica has been so popular that it is also available as a new (neue) version, also included on Mac. Each of these fonts comes in every weight. Apple includes regular and bold for Helvetica, and four weights of Helvetica Neue, as well as condensed and oblique (italic) versions. These versions are real fonts, not synthetic approximations used in other operating systems too cheap to use real versions for each weight and style.
This is a cute old-time font which looks quite graceful for business cards and other arty things.
Optima is an unusually clean sans-serif Roman font.
Papyrus is a fun font.
And so is Zapfino! Macs come with all this and more.
Of course anyone can buy any font for any machine. I get some of my favorites from Linotype.
Some of my personal favorites are:
Univers 67 is one of a huge family called Univers. I use it for my © notices. Univers was extraordinarily popular in the fine art field for catalogs and brochure in the 1980s and 1990s as well as used for practically every high-tech companies' logos. Today most of these applications use Frutiger instead.
DIN Schriften are from German Autobahn signs. You'll find them engraved on German lenses, too.
Magic "Clear Away the Screens" and "Tile all Screens" Selection Modes (Exposé)
Apple calls this "Exposé." You just drag the mouse to a corner and it does what you've chosen in SYSTEM PREFERENCES > EXPOSÉ.
I tell one corner to clear all the screens away and show me my desktop.
Cooler still is my other corner programmed to tile every open window. When I do this every open window gets smaller and lines up next to all the other open windows. I now can see everything I have open. Just click on the window you want and you're in that program. DUH! Now that I know better I can't even work on Windows with the old crutch of alt+tab or having to click a small text box at the bottom.
Of course on Mac these tiles are all live and show you exactly what's in each window, and even move if they're playing video.
This saves both a ton of time when you're working in many programs at once, and also saves the need for a big screen. I used to need a 22" monitor to help me; with Exposé my 12" screen is so flexible I don't miss the big screen.
Easy to Type Odd Characters Like © or the "é" in "Exposé"
Just hold "option" and type "e" for é or opt + g for ©. Want an ñ or ü or ø? Use opt + n or opt + u or opt + o. Want an è? Use opt + ` and then type the e. Easy.
If you want something that's not obvious you can call up a picture of the keyboard to see what does what when you press different keys. Go to SYSTEM PREFS > INTERNATIONAL > INPUT MENU. Check KEYBOARD VIEWER which will put a little flag up in your menu bar. When you want to see what key makes what, just click the flag and select KEYBOARD VIEWER. In INPUT MENU you may select among about 100 different languages, including eight versions of Chinese.
In Windows you have to do a two-handed masturbation of holding the alt key while typing the four-digit ASCII code of the symbol. Don't know the ASCII code? Tough! Windows expects you to memorize that é is alt + 0142 and © is alt + 0169. You have to use the separate numeric keypad on a full sized keyboard. The number keys along the top row won't work in Windows.
Of course on a laptop the process is the same on Mac. Since Windows requires the dedicated separate numeric keypad keys you're really screwed on a laptop. It took me ten years to learn how to get the © symbol on a Windows laptop: You have to use the NUMLOCK command! You have to:
a.) put the laptop into NUMLOCK mode (another screwy two-finger function key which varies by brand of computer) and then
b.) hold down ALT and
c.) type 0169, but you have to type 0169 NOT on the regular numeric keys along the top row, but the
d.) letter keys on the right of the regular keyboard specially marked with teeny numbers that correspond to the numbers in NUMLOCK mode.
e.) After typing all that remember to take the laptop out of NUMLOCK mode or all your other typing will be messed up!
Now do you see why we all use Apple computers? There is a way to get a "character Map" in Windows, however since it's not easy enough for me to find when I need it I don't count it.
Most people stuck on Windows simply copy and paste a good © symbol from some other document! That's what I do when I'm on Windows.
Mac's help screens really work. Whenever I need to learn something I just punch up HELP and get the answer, even to things like how to change the clock battery in my mom's 7 year old laptop, with pictures!
Trivial Hardware Upgrades
I bought a big hard drive to stick in my desktop five years ago when my new scanner quickly overflowed the built-in. I spent quite a while perplexed by all the installation paperwork and floppy disks with different instructions for each version of Windows. I finally gave up, since I saw no Mac instructions, and called Maxtor. I wasn't even sure if it would work on my Mac.
Duh, I was told. Macs didn't need instructions so they didn't bother including them. All I had to do was pop open my Mac (no tools required), screw it in the empty slot, plug in the plugs that were already there, and I was done.
I've found that reading instructions just gets me in trouble with my Mac. I'm always better off "just doing it" and clicking OK than trying to read directions.
Today I just buy firewire drives and I'm done.
Your Mac Gets Better with Time!
I'm still amazed: my 5-year-old desktop Mac keeps getting better and faster with time!
Unlike Windows machines that crawl to a screeching halt after which you throw them away, each time I've done an easy major operating system upgrade to my Macs they run better and faster!
I'm serious: I bought my dual G4 desktop in 2000 with OS9. I upgraded it to OSX 10.2 and it did everything twice as fast. Today I'm on OS 10.4 and it runs faster still. I just can't believe these Apple guys. Apple doesn't understand planned obsolescence the way the good people of Microsoft do.
Mac doesn't crash. Sometimes an individual application, like Microsoft Word for Mac, might crash, but almost never the actual OSX operating system. For me almost never means I can't even remember when I last saw a system crash.
On the other hand, remember when Windows crashed on Bill Gates during his presentation at a press conference? The sad part is that no one was kidding. It's clear to me that Windows is designed to be buggy and get worse over time so you'll want to upgrade it. Same for Word; the last copy I used didn't even scroll properly, and it's only a simple word processor!
Easy to Delete Unused Programs
Simple: drag them to the trash.
The Mac is smart enough to do everything needed to delete or uninstall a program all by itself. You don't have to go scrounging around looking for all the program components and certainly don't have to find and run any demeaning uninstall programs as Windows users do.
It's Easy to Figure Out What Computer You Have
Just click the Apple logo in the upper right and select ABOUT THIS MAC. It will tell you the processor speed, the version of the operating system and how much RAM you have. I've never figured out how to get a Windows PC to tell me that.
Want to know more? Just hit MORE INFO in the window that opened. It can't get any easier.
You can get some of this in Windows by right-clicking MY COMPUTER and then PROPERTIES. On my wife's Dell, for instance, it leaves out important basics like the speed of her processor, but does tell me how much RAM she has . Good luck beyond that, there is no easy way to hit MORE INFO. You have to sift through obscure raw details in another couple of tabs that only make sense to an engineer.
It Listens and Talks!
Macs have understood speech and talked back for years. It's not science fiction, but sounds like it to Windows users.
Mine tells me what time it is automatically. It's a no-brainer to set up. If I wanted to hear it read your emails to me I just click EDIT > SPEECH > START SPEAKING in my email program. It freaked out my wife once when I tried it just for laughs and she heard some woman speaking, obviously to me personally!
Macs have understood speech for years. It's mostly used by disabled people, since mainstream talking cars and speech recognition came and went back in the 1980s.
Even the Wall Street Journal Loves Them
Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret said in the Wall Street Journal's November 30th, 2005 "Mossberg's Mailbox" column titled "A New Gold Standard for PCs" that "No desktop offered by Dell, HP, Sony or Gateway can match the new iMac G5's combination of power, elegance, simplicity, ease of use, built-in software, stability and security."
Free UNIX (not related to we photographers)
UNIX is a professional computer language used by serious programmers. UNIX forms the backbone of most web servers, universities, military, governments, large corporations and other highly secure environments.
UNIX programmers used to have to buy expensive commercial computers on which to do their programming at home.
Mac OSX is really UNIX with a very well thought out human interface. This also means programmers can write their UNIX code on nice friendly, inexpensive Macs instead.
Macs Don't Burst Into Flames as Often as Windows PCs
Macs are made with better quality control. They are a premium product. Maybe it doesn't matter to you, but for those of us who fly on airplanes it matters if our laptop explodes into flame due to a manufacturer skimping and using sub-optimal lithium batteries rejected by other makers.
Of course you'll need to buy software for your Mac. Most software, like Photoshop and Microsoft Office, comes in versions for Mac or for Windows. Advanced programs like Photoshop need to be bought in the correct version. Some, like Dreamweaver, have both on the same disk. Read carefully when you buy.
Of course there are some programs, like some font management programs, that are only available in Mac, and other software, like most viruses and spyware, which only run on Windows. In those instances where you can't get one for your platform you always can find a similar replacement. I use to love Breeze Browser, but got iView instead when I upgraded to Mac. I'm sure someone could send me a virus, it's just not a daily occurrence and inherent feature like it is on Windows.
Guess what: if you really need to run a Windows program on your Mac, you can buy a piece of software called Virtual PC which runs Windows on your Mac! Windows run as this simulation won't run any better than Windows anywhere else, and after you look at everything involved you might just want to get a second throw-away $200 PC instead if you only need to run just one program, but you can indeed simulate Windows on your Mac.
Many people love Parallels, which runs Windows in a separate window.
Of course you can do photography on Windows. It's just not worth the bother and specialized technical expertise required to keep Windows running. I prefer to spend my time doing photography and sharing what I know on this website instead of debugging Windows.
These are all my personal observations. Your results may vary. Nothing is perfect, Mac just seems that way after banging my head against a wall with Windows for so many years. Everything breaks, just that my Mac breaks less than one-tenth as much as any of my Windows PCs did. I beat on my Mac so hard I'm surprised it hasn't died long ago.
I was just pulling your leg about Mac being the right tool specifically for photography. It's a better tool for everything!
I also lied at the top. Of course Mac is better than Windows, unless of course you work in an IT department and personally profit from what I see as a silent collusion between Microsoft and your IT department which thrives on users always needing constant support from your department in exchange for your company having to buy "upgrades" which never work any better anyway. Remember Windows PCs in the 1980s? My 1992 486-DX 33MHz Windows PC ran faster in DOS than the Windows machines I use today, and all we're trying to do on it is send email, create word documents and surf the internet. These are trivial basics for Mac.
Some people take this all personally. I don't. I'm just trying to help you with my personal observations and I hope you find it helpful. I appreciate that you may see things differently. I thank you if you do, and please don't misinterpret this as an invitation for hate mail or proselytization.
I'm so happy with all the work I get done that I'd like to share the secret with others.