Mac Mini: A Week Later

Last week I posted about picking up a Mac Mini for dev work.  After a week of use (I only powered up my PC to play TF2 last night), I've come away with a better feel for the Mac Experience.

As much as the Apple Fanboys tout OS X's intuitiveness, I have to say that Macs would be easier to use if they were my first computer.  That might sound strange, even derogatory, but there are a lot of things that don't translate well when coming from a Windows-centric view. Like I had mentioned last week, the whole deal with the home and end keys has been a struggle. For example, even after a week, I still find myself trying to use them in Microsoft fashion to go to the beginning or end of a line. I'm slowly, but steadily breaking myself of the habit.

The other issue I had is what is termed 'mouse acceleration'. This controls how quickly the mouse moves on the screen. Instead of being linear in nature, there is some 'ramp up' time to moving the mouse. This has some advantages in making very precise strokes with the mouse (something that would be very useful in say, Photoshop), but isn't very helpful for general mouse use. This is another instance of just getting used to the OS, but is an annoyance nonetheless. I overcame this issue by swapping mice with my three year old son. He was glad to get my white HP mouse and I was glad to get his black Microsoft mouse that let me install a driver to get the acceleration I was used to.

One thing that I really enjoy is the consistency in the menus. No matter what app I'm in I can expect the same menus in the same place. Apple seems pretty strict about its user interface guidelines, in this case it pays off to have apps that behave the same no matter what. I had used Safari a little bit because of some fickleness with Firefox and had to find out how to change some of the app settings. I found this by going to the 'Safari' menu and selected 'Preferences'. When I was back in Firefox, I wanted to change where downloads ended up (why the desktop by default???) but couldn't find it where those options are in Windows (Tools --> Options). My memory immediately went to Safari and I thought 'why not?' and there it was: under 'Firefox --> Preferences'. Very nice.

All and all it has been a good experience.  Despite the initial frustrations in a new world, I find OS X a nice change of pace--and it's not just the glossy buttons and the smiling Finder icon.  It's just a joy to use.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the hardware and how it performs.

Posted on Mar 11
Written by Wayne Hartman