Trying to switch…

Trying to make the PC -> Mac switch and hitting some snags

I’m fairly platform agnostic. My first computer was a TI-99/4A, which was followed by a Mac SE, then a Powerbook 100, then a half dozen different PCs. I develop software for a living and have done so for IRIX, linux, Windows 95, 98, NT, XP, CE and now OS X too, so I know what I’m doing around computers.

I also do a lot of music and video stuff and even run a little indie label. A few years ago, I inherited a Titanium Powerbook 450 from a company I was working for that went under. It sat around my house for a while until one day when I was getting really frustrated with my main PC. I was trying to do some music editing on it and it was just not working. The audio was stuttering, it was crashing. This was an XP machine that I’d tuned for audio. I didn’t connect it to the internet, it wasn’t on a network and I almost never installed software on it. Yet one day it just stopped working right. I spent days trying to update drivers, check for IRQ conflicts, I even went out and bought a new firewire card. Nothing worked.

I spied my long ignored powerbook sitting on a table. On a whim, I hooked up my audio interface to it and installed the drivers (this was OS 9 days) and BOOM, everything worked! Most of the software I used was cross platform already, so I decided that my next computer would be a new powerbook. I decided to wait until everything I used was OS X compatible (I’d had my share of issues with OS 9). Finally, that day came and I bought the 12″ PB that I’m writing this on now. It works. Always. No problems. I run a ton of video and audio software on it, I connect it to lots of peripherals, and it never complains. I’m convinced that this is the superior platform for multimedia authoring, hands down.

I still was running a business though, and I was running that on my old Vaio P3 450 MHz laptop, but I was using that machine as little as possible. A major reason was that I used it to download my e-mail and occasionally surf the web which required me to have virus software that slows it to a crawl and makes it really painful to use.

This week, all three PCs in our house that are still plugged in stopped working. All for different reasons. I decided that I’d had it. I was tired of spending hours figuring out what was going wrong with the PCs in our house. I was going to switch off that old Vaio laptop for my old trusty Ti Powerbook. If I could do that, then I’d switch my wife too.

Now theoretically, it shouldn’t be that hard. The only software I use on my home PC is Outlook, Word, Excel, Access and My Mailing List Manager (an old postal mail list manger I use for my version of CRM). I already had a copy of Office 2004 that I’d purchased but not installed. I figured that it would take care of the e-mail, Word and Excel, which would be the majority of what I do.

Here is where it gets interesting…

This is currently no way to import Outlook PST files into Entourage. Microsoft is promising a tool, but it doesn’t exist yet. By searching the web, I found the way to do this:
1) Install Thunderbird on your PC
2) import your Outlook mail into Thunderbird
3) copy that folders that Thunderbird creates to your mac

Step 4 would be to import that mail into Netscape Mail or Apple Mail and then import that into Entourage, except right here I realized something very important: Maybe it is a bad idea to use a mail program that makes it hard to get your mail out of it. I’d learned a similar lesson months ago when I got an iPod and had to re-encode all my WMA files into MP3. So right here is when I decided that maybe I’d just use Thunderbird on the mac instead of Entourage. So step 4 for me is to use Thunderbird.

Using thunderbird would be awesome if it worked, but, for me, it just doesn’t. See my post on the thunderbird support forums if you care. So after trying to make Thunderbird download all my mail unsuccessfully for a while, I just gave up. I’d already set up entourage to pull mail from one of my accounts. I decided that if I could export the messages that I’d already downloaded into thunderbird, then I would just use Entourage (which is a pretty good mail program). Yeah, so I couldn’t. Entourage will only allow you to export mail in their own proprietary archive format. That is fucking stupid and extremely lame. That alone means that I won’t use Entourage 2004. I’d never tried the Mail program that comes with OS X. I started it up, set it up, immediately hated it and vowed to never start it again.

So now I’m stuck. There are other mail clients for OS X, of course, but they aren’t free and I don’t feel like installing each of them so that I can test them out. I’m hoping that someone will help me out with Thunderbird because I think that is the app I want use. I’m just bummed that it doesn’t work for me.

More later as I progress on my own personal switch campaign.

The Real Christmas for Mac Heads

Apple announced a slew of new stuff at MacWorld today

Since I’ve become a mac head once again, I look forward to MacWorld like the first day of Chanukah. When people ask me about buying an Apple product in the closing months of a year, I always tell them to wait until after January, because it is almost guaranteed that the landscape will change after Steve Job’s keynote. Today was no exception. Here is my take on the new Apple stuff and the stuff I was hoping was going to be announced that wasn’t.

For the first time, most of these announcements were leaked. In the past, Apple did an awesome job at holding back the leaks so as not to steal the thunder from Steve. Apple themselves tipped their hand and gave credibility to the leaks by suing the websites that had them. This was a big mistake since beyond giving the leaks credibility, it always pissed off a lot of very loyal mac users.

First off, the new stuff:
As many expected, Apple did release a new flash-based iPod, the iPod Shuffle. It doesn’t have a screen. In the interest of interface simplicity, it just plays its entire contents on shuffle or non-shuffle play. That is pure chuzpah on the part of Apple, and a feat of marketing genius in making its possible defect as its main feature! iPod proved that features didn’t always win the race, user interface alone could make a product super-successful. The Shuffle will put this to the test. Apple is entering a very crowded market and competing on brand and simplicity alone. The thing that I don’t understand is the size; on the website, it sits next to a pack of trident and looks pretty small, but around the necks of the models on their site, it looks feaking huge! Much bigger than many of the competing flash-based MP3 players with a lot more features. From a gambling perspective, the Shuffle was the biggest gamble Apple took today and it will be really interesting to see how it plays out.

As widely reported on various mac user sites, Apple introduced a sub $500 machine called the Mac Mini. It was widely thought that this machine might be Apple’s attempt to invade the den as a media center and it is kind of close, I can definitely see people using it that way. The one big omission was an IR port on the front of the device for a remote control. It is possible that bluetooth will make it not necessary, but only if someone introduces a bluetooth remote soon. Also, there isn’t anything on the page saying that the machine is quiet and the exhaust port on the back implies that it has got some fans in it. If it is loud it won’t be showing up in too many media cabinets just yet. Also, missing was a TV tuner, but a lot of 3rd party options are already available for that. The machine itself is pretty beefy for the price, but I would have liked to see more RAM standard. I don’t know anyone with only 256 MB of RAM in their machines anymore. It is possible that it was the only way to be the $500 mark. Also keeping it as a non Media Center right out of the box is the omission of multi-channel and optical audio out. I think that Apple really meant this as a cheap add-on machine for those who were afraid to abandon their PCs or as an extra machine for those with older Macs. I think a lot of people (myself included) will be looking at this as a possible media machine, but you’ll need to spend another few hundred bucks for a TV tuner and better audio to make that happen. I just priced out a top end system with the 1.42 GHz processor, a Gig of RAM, a superdrive and bluetooth and Airport extreme and it comes in at $1253. That is probably more than most people need, but it is still relatively cheap.

As also widely leaked, Apple announced a new productivity suite named “iWork“. This includes a new version of their presentation app, Keynote and a new word processor called “Pages.” While this isn’t the Office killer a lot of people expected, it definitely will be an answer to the many people who just need a word processor and not the entire office suite.

Now we’re out of the leaked stuff. There were a couple another announcements that definitely got me excited. I hadn’t really thought about that fact that iLife ’04 is now a year old, but it is a new year and Apple has created another major release of the iLife suite, iLife ’05. Since there are several new versions of products in the new iLife, I’ll mention each briefly. iPhoto 5 looks like it is aimed straight at Photoshop Elements with new organizing, sharing and editing options. iMovie HD‘s main new feature is (you guessed it), HD support. This is pretty cool for a low end app. Also it is supporting some of the new flash based MPEG-4 video cameras and it some magic movie feature that will make a movie for you. iDVD 5 adds some very cool new features, HD DVD support, Editable map view, moving drop zones (with editor!) and finally disc image archiving. As a frequent iDVD user, this makes me very happy, but I’d still really like multiple audio streams or 5.1 support and multiple angle support. I guess that is a lot to ask of a low-end DVD tool though. Garage Band 2 further blurs the line between itself and Logic Express by adding multi-track recording and music notation viewing and editing. They have raised the price to $79, but that is still a steal given the depth of the tools that they are selling.

It has been a while since Final Cut Express 2 came out and I’ve been expecting an update. Well, here is Final Cut Express HD, which adds HD support to Final Cut Express. While that is pretty cool, even cooler is that they are now bundling LiveType and Soundtrack with it which used to only be available with Final Cut Pro. The inclusion of these tools makes upgrading a no-brainer.

Now, here is the stuff I was hoping for, but didn’t hear…
A G5 Powerbook! An Apple/Motorola Cell phone! DVD Studio Express!

Overall, I’m pretty excited. I’ll definitely be upgrading my copies of iLife and Final Cut Express and I’ll be working through plans in my head to turn the Mac Mini into a real media machine for my den, even if I can’t really afford it right now.

So thanks Steve and the Apple Gang and Merry MacWorld to everyone!