This post reflects my first few hours on a brand new Intel Mac Mini.
I'll be writing, then, gradually about my new Mac and about the discoveries I make living with OS X Tiger (10.4.8) -- without running into the arms of the Microsoft Mac Business Unit ("MBU"). We already have a Mac in the house, so I'm hip; but having to cope with being productive I find forces me to learn a great deal more in a short time when there's no escape. After about 12 hours, I've already got three decent-sized epiphanies to report...below.
My intent is to show how easy or difficult an unplanned & unscientific individual migration can be -- data and all -- to a new Mac. These reports, you'll wager, will be worded to provide maximum pain to Microsoft, but they can aspire to nothing like the ascendant heights and internal truths, the hilarity, of "Cancel or Allow". My findings apply to individual migration: they will prove little in context of a workgroup or enterprise migration to Mac, but it's a start.
Y'all know I'm a Linux man -- high, wide & handsome -- and due to consulting clients working in Windows, I have spent 75% of my last 18 months in Windows XP. Skype, my killer app, is now largely caught up on Linux, but hardware config on Linux is just too hands-on still (exept for SLED 10, Linspire, Xandros & Mepis) and remains a time-suck (for me). Gary (Edwards) says it's the super-duper multi-media-Pro motherboards designed for XP where Linux can't get at the hardware (I cannot doubt it). And there are other problems on Linux, like the file incompatibilities of the different builds of OpenOffice and StarOffice on different Linux platforms (Ubintu/Debian us among the worst offenders).
I'll be in OS X now probably about 95% of the time and that means an experimental dip into a pure-Web 2.0 experience! Gmail and Google Docs & Spreadsheets will be my pallets for all document authoring outside of blogging (which is TypePad).
My alt system set-ups will remain two machines on the side, connected through a KVM switch: a dual-boot IBM ThinkCentre Pentium 4 running Linux (Ubuntu 6.05) & Windows (XP-SP2) alongside an old Compaq iPaq Celeron quietly running some old Linux TFTP & file server (for Cisco VoIP and light backup). VNC and VMWare would be best, but I change Linuxes every 3 or 4 months so cannot keep up with each permutation.
The single Samsung SyncMaster 191T (getting a little fuzzy by now) has DVI and VGA inputs, so the Mac Mini goes into the DVI and the KVM switch into the VGA hole.
I've always enjoyed the recent OS X's Dashboard, its smooth look, and the flexibility of Widgets for checking the air temperature before the dogwalk, checking my American Airlines flight status or checking the time o' day in Frankfurt at a quick glance.
Coming from XP and Linux I was ill-prepared for Tiger's useful desktop search tool called "Spotlight". It's an example of Apple competing head to head with Google on software tools that are intuitive, seamless and real time-savers.
If you're into Twister, the keyboard command-combo for calling Spotlight is Command+CapLocks+4, then SpaceBar.
Spotlight is hiding on the right extreme of the OS X taskbar -- a small blue sphere with a magnifying glass icon. Click it and the Spotlight textbox drops down for you to enter a keyword or phrase.
It looks like the Apple designers went back in their thinking to Eric Freeman's work under David Gelernter, his Lifestreams Project (a PhD thesis at Yale in the mid-1990's) and re-thought the fundamentals of the file-folder, file-system metaphor used on the desktop. They have put together something flexible and humane that works in the ad hoc way our minds work under the anxiety of frantically trying to find a lost piece of work of which we hardly remember the name or contents. (Eric has written some great -- truly great -- books for O'Reilly with Elisabeth Freeman under the Head First series.)
Upon search in Spotlight, we get the choice of either a list view of all relevant items as well as document icon view (the latter is shown if you click to enlarge the image). Spotlight searches within the contents of PDF files, and not just the title or metadata.
(Vista probably has something like this called SearchLight -- I don't even know.)
Google Docs & Spreadsheets
I'm sorry but I'm just so over fat-client office suites. I so am. That includes OpenOffice.org. Sick of 'em! I need collaboration, redlining. I need outlining that works (it doesn't yet, anywhere). I need simple features, not too many (my publisher does the important formatting in Adobe Illustrator). Whitepapers? I'll author final versions in OpenOffice on Linux with my patented custom mirrored page Styles (double-sided left-right page formatting to save paper), but that's not authoring per se. And it's well less than 10% of the heavy lifting -- which, these days is done with several eye-balls simul-like. I need what Office 2.0 has but is only 25% ready. But I can't wait. Googbye, cruel shrinkwrapped software.
Google Docs & Spreadsheets (what I call "Gdocs") is getting there, and it gets there quietly, under your nose. Changes to the beta happen without fanfare and without notice. Only a little link, "New Features", shows up in Gmail. If you haven't used Gdocs in a few weeks or months after last year's early disappointments, try again now.
In addition to the improving general stability and strong UI, there are two things I need to point out that have improved:
(a) redlining; and
(b) Upload via E-mail
Redlining is just about good now. I haven't tested it yet in a long & rigorous collaborative editing session, but you'll know when I do. Also, I'm not sure what registers as a change...how long between saves constitutes a red-linable event, but will find out.
Upload via E-mail
Upload via E-mail is a clever feature that just seems to have appeared out of nowhere. Google gave me a special e-mail address #$875PaulIsDeadfirstname.lastname@example.org (one I'll have as hard a time remembering as our WEP encryption password on our WiFi router). This I can use to e-mail HTML, ODF, RTF Word, spreadsheet and other kinds of documents into my Gdocs space where I can share, edit and store them. The upload e-mail's subject line becomes the document title. It's a way you can bulk-convert up to 500k of documents at a time by making multiple attachments.
Now, my friends at Google will probably disagree with me on this. One of the reasons they have been less than enthusiastic about ODF plugins is because they see the world through the lens of their metadata that they generate in their mission-critical Web Index. Document formats don't compute -- much -- against the value of the algorithms and the ad business. When we shift to the topic of office suites -- Google's "Office 2.0" in particular -- they still don't care much about the document format war because even if their ODF compliance is limited for a long time and their interop with Word is limited too, they see a world where many people are living within Gdocs and interop is less of a concern within that hermetic environment than it is in the transitional cases we are currently helping through the migration process. What I'm trying to say is that if you spend a while in Gdocs, you may get the inkling I did at the confidence Google feels that the sheer convenience of Gdoc's integration with Gmail is going to overwhelm any migration frictions that may arise due to their incomplete ODF compliance (and strange use of HTML).
I welcome comments, if there is going to be any public discussion at all. Meanwhile, I'll air out this theory some more over the next few weeks as I feel what it's like to live in Gdocs predominantly while looking at some of the other candidates including Virtual Ubiqity, ThinkFree and others.
Issues with Gdocs
Styles are still pretty much FUBAR.
My particular issue is that invoking Heading 2 from the Styles drop-down gives me a variety of two different font sizes in what looks like a pattern of nesting a smaller heading font beneath a larger one, above (despite my use of Heading 2 in all cases).
More, as we go.