My Maiden Mythical Mac Month

I am cheating really, I first used a Mac in anger in 1992 as part of a University project, since then I have been a Solaris-Linux-Windows based developer (in that rough order of environments) and I kind of lost touch with what they were doing and where they were going. What is virgin status as a OS user?

Anyway, So when it came to upgrading my audio-visual equipment I came up with the plan to create a media centre machine in the lounge next to a new TV. I costed the 'build your own' Linux/Haupage/MythTV option, and decided that the cost of mistakes would be too high. So that left me with three options - dedicated hardware (Kiss), Microsoft Media Centre or a Mac Mini. To cut a year long story short I ended up waiting for the Intel based Mac Mini to come out.

In the beginning I was dissapointed, my Mac user mates had over-hyped it. Despite spending hard earned cash on some Tiger books (like the one for Tux fans) and actually reading them, I found the user interface very unfamilar. This is surprising as I was expecting some kind of cunning cross between XP and Gnome. Several times I resorted to the command line and my Linux knowledge to bail me out of 'where is that dialog box' syndrome.

Of course I expected to have issues, after all I had bought a brand new hardware/software combination. There were issues with the matchbox sized freeview decoder, Quicktime media formats, network protocol compatibility, and various software glitches in things like iMovie. But I expected that. But I also expected that I would like the Mac environment, and that is a close call.

What has grown on me is iTunes. So Easy (Eple Eple). I don't have an iPod, but still once I got past the quirky UI and 'unlearned' how to copy tracks to my mp3 player and organise smart playlists I was hooked. You don't need a Mac for iTunes, but having one with 10x rip rate is quite amazing. You put in a new CD, it starts ripping track 1 at 10x, I select track 6 to listen to at the same time, tick tick tick goes the box, the ripping continues at 9x and I listen to my track, before the end the ticking of the CD head stops because the ripper has overtaken the player. That is the kind of quality functionality I demand of my own work.

Front Row is magic, I don't let the kids touch the remote control. Just one suggestion Mac developers - plugins please.

The next big thing was iMovie HD. I took the video of my family skiing in the alps, and in a couple of hours had edited to a rather neat summary video. Smart, just as Jeff Goldbloom had adverised. Combine that with EyeTV and for my next trick I took Michael Schumacher's hot lap at Imola and cut it into 2 laps looped then added Gorillaz 5/4 over the top (sorry Martin) and I made myself a memorable piece of art, good driving good music.

The TV on demand side of things is not that special, there are lots of systems out there that do the same for less. But I got the Mac for its ability to expand and adapt over time. Having said that the quality of the TV that I watch (when I am not fighting to turn Swing code into proper MVC) has been dramatically improved by having digital recordings at the click of a mouse (even from work).

My next mission is to investigate Xcode which looks very promising. I am coming up to a laptop upgrade at work, if Xcode works well then I might investigate Steve's new portable offerings.

But what of the month...
Now I am used to the interface things are getting better. The shock of the new environment is more than that encountered when switching from XP to Gnome for example; and in my opinion a great deal of the quirkyness seems just to be there to be different (why Apple-C not Ctrl-C? I don't care which came first any more). Visually the UI is excellent, and the concepts like Hot Corners and Spotlight search are really addictive. The real winner is the applications though.

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