Walking on Air: Apple’s New Mac Laptop

Apple’s ads with Bill and Steve are cute, but oh, how they miss the point!

I began computing on a giant gray metal, wall-sized machine with toggle switches. Then I learned BASIC programming on a dumb terminal at the University Library. As soon as I got a job I bought a politically incorrect PC from IBM. It was a $2,000 PC with 64K of memory, one floppy drive and green monochrome monitor. How I loved that DOS machine!

Or rather how I hated using typewriters. Since jobs for women tended to include them, and I’d taught myself on an electric typewriter when I was 14, I was stuck!

When Windows 3.0 and 3.1x arrived, I did like the graphic interface, but it was downhill from there. In 2008 when my Dell started deteriorating one program at a time, apparently from a problem with a part of the Windows operating called “Winsock,” I began seriously considering a Mac. I didn’t need the commercials. I had over 25 years experience with Microsoft operating systems driving me out the door.

Make no mistake. I knew DOS and Windows. I was a Novell CNE. But each version of Windows got progressively worse, IMHO. Winsock was the last straw.

Here’s what I think the Apple ads should be telling everyone. (1) The MAC Is Fun! (2) The MAC Does Everything You Need It To.

Let’s take each of those two points all together, OK?

I opened up my new Air. It was so cute and light. As soon as it went on for the first time it talked. Yes! It talked. “Hello,” it said, “Would you like me to show you around?” I nearly dropped it in surprise. But then I answered. “Indeed I would,” so it did. The setup was totally simple and flawless.

Then my Air said, “Would you like your picture taken?” I looked up at the screen and there…was me. NOOOOO! I’d never seen my face on a computer screen. I nearly dropped the darned laptop again. Seeing myself up-close and personal was unreal. I tilted the laptop and my head, and sure enough my face tilted. It was a mirror image of me. I decided to be brave. I said, “yes” A light and a timer went on. One. I smiled, big teeth showing. Two. Three. It flashed. And there was a photo. Of me on the screen.

So here’s the thing. The new app on the dock along the bottom of the screen that looks like a Photo Booth takes pictures just like a camera. You drag photos from the Booth to IPhoto, the app with a camera icon. IPhoto asks if you want to name the photo. You click “Name” and an outline of a square and a cartoon caption appear on the screen. You drag the square over the face and type in the name in the caption. That’s the new face recognition feature. You can also input places. It takes IPhoto awhile, especially with baby faces, but eventually it recognizes faces, and it suggests a name. You click the “agree” checkmark or you type in the correct name. Names remain hidden until you want to scan through all your photos of the same person.

But here’s the cool thing! There is an Address Book app with a little @ sign on the tan cover. Along with automatically typing an address (or even bunch of addresses from a group folder) into your emails that you write with Mac Mail (the app that looks like a postage stamp with a flying eagle), your Address Book will also suggest names of people for your photos when you begin typing a name onto a caption in your IPhoto app!

Are you following? NOT ONLY DO MAC APPS  (or “accessories” to you PC users) ACTUALLY WORK—THEY WORK TOGETHER. If your jaw is dropping. I repeat. THE APPS ACTUALLY WORK and THEY WORK TOGETHER.

You wouldn’t believe how much time this saves and how many new things you can do with a MAC that you couldn’t with a Windows PC. In addition, my Air is so smart I feel like it is my Personal Assistant. From the get-go it automatically filled in blanks in forms on the Internet with any information that I gave it about me in the setup and any of its apps. Even the design makes it mine. Click on one of the many app icons down on the dock, and they jump up and down like they’re saying “How high?” Even the teeny printer bounces. The first time an app icon did this, I waved back. I couldn’t help it. I felt immediately it was my little friend.

Yes, MAC apps are friends: not enemies like Windows “accessories” to its monopolistic crimes against users!

Sister and brother Windows sufferers, how much money have you shelled out for expensive software to do what Windows wouldn’t on your PC. Apple has worked with app developers to provide all kinds of things you need, most of them free or low-cost.

For example, a free program called Skitch lets you cut and paste any picture from an email or from the Web. Drop the image you want onto your desktop, and it will automatically turn into a .jpg file. Skitch has a snapshot button that inserts a perpendicular line extending downwards and a horizontal line extending towards the right from wherever you put your cursor. You then drag your cursor diagonally down to resize the photo into any shape you want. Release the cursor to take the picture. Click another button at the bottom of the Skitch box, and you can drag the .jpg anywhere–into an email or your iPhoto albums, or you can just leave it on your desktop or put it in a folder. Using my Air and Skitch, I made a .pdf presentation file with 24 photos and text documents in less than hour!

If you just want to grab a photo “as is,” just click and drag it off the Internet or other source onto to your desktop or an app like Word or an email. The photo turns into a .jpg automatically. Need to find photos (or music)? Try the LimeWire app (the one with the tiny round green cut-open-lime icon). Oh, I could go on and on!

But to return to the very beginning of my relationship with my new Air, here’s also what I liked:  the intelligent design of the whole interface. The desktop wallpaper is a night sky. When you hook up Time Capsule, the automatic backup machine for Macs, the screen shows a series of index cards (each with a dated backup). The cards stretch out through a 3-D universe and then finally vanish into a black hole. A slider lets you navigate back through time.

Another surprising trick is the way when you hit the yellow button to minimize a program; an invisible hand whisks programs away like a magician drawing a handkerchief over his top hat. The minimized program icon sits on the right side of the dock until you click it again. The whole experience is like an entertaining magic show. I don’t dread going to work anymore now that I’m on Air.

Dell just put out a “luxury” laptop, a pricey ultra thin laptop to compete with the Air. The Dell “Adamo” costs more than an Air. It’s ugly, with a stripe down the cover that makes it look like an old two-tone “sixties” family car. And you can bet: it doesn’t have Apps That Work, let alone Apps That Are Fun And Work Together!

Well, yes, a couple of email drafts did vanish when I made an instinctive Windows keyboard command, and we had to use Time Capsule to find them. Apple’s backup system is so easy even I could use it to find and restore a single file in seconds. The hardest thing about switching, if you’ve used a Windows PC, is to learn the different keys and keyboard commands used for the MAC.

So save yourself the heartache, my friends. Check out Apple’s video on switching at http://sn.im/pc2mac.  Then get yourselves a mentor who knows the good stuff to download and all the tricks to transition to using a MAC, and switch today.

[Many thanks to Susan Pomeroy, my MAC mentor, Internet guru, and the friend who kept telling me to try a Mac all these years! My gratitude forever!]

Copyright © 2009 Nancy K. Humphreys

1 comment so far ↓

#1 KonstantinMiller on 07.06.09 at 5:04 pm

Hello. I think the article is really interesting. I am even interested in reading more. How soon will you update your blog?

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