winmac

Switching from Windows to OS X

Since I got an iMac at home, I have the pleasure of using it with an otherwise Windows only home network. I used to run only Windows machines because Mac has always been a bit too pricey for me. But with Windows Vista being a bit of a disappointment and Windows XP was getting to be a bit outdated, late last year I found some courage to switch over to the Apple platform.

There were a few issues I ran into in the beginning when I first got the iMac. Coming from a Windows background, adopting OS X is not as easy as Apple has advertised. For example, Windows users are very used to the Windows key on most modern keyboards and the main function is to bring up the Start menu. However in the case of OS X, the equivalent Command key does not provide the same functionality. This can be problematic when your wireless mouse decides not to work and there is no way to shutdown or restart the machine unless you magically know the shortcut keys. In the case of resetting the Mac, it is Control-Command-Eject. Here is a link to the official OS X keyboard shortcuts: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1343

There is also a lack of tabbing to cycle through the application controls in Mac applications. On Windows, one could tab their way around a Windows application to get to certain buttons or dropdowns. This functionality is quite important if one does not want to switch between the keyboard and the mouse. However tabbing in OS X is not universally implemented.

I also tried to run VMWare Fusion on the iMac. It was working fine on the surface. But later I found out that it caused problems with the SMB client on OS X. SMB client can be used to access Windows network shares. There were times I tried to stream music or video files from my Windows Home Server to the iMac, the SMB client would hang. Of course the player stopped playing the media, but what is more severe is that Finder would also stop responding. When that happens, “force quit” would not be able to restart the Finder, and your menu bar would also not be functional. After I uninstalled VMWare Fusion, the problem went away. This could be a problem with the version of VMWare Fusion I ran but it is hard to believe that an application can cause Finder to hang.

Another aspect of OS X that is not as superior as Windows is that the menu bar is static on the top of the primary display. At first, I thought of nothing about this as you can do the same with the task menu in Windows. However, technically that is not the correct comparison. The task menu in Windows actually gives you the Start menu and the programs that are currently running. The menu bar in OS X gives you the Apple menu, and more importantly, the application menu. This becomes a problem when you decide to hook up a second monitor to your Mac and drag your applications to your secondary display. Now your application is on one display, the menu for your application is on another.

Despite all these problems, I love the iMac. The 24″ screen is gorgeous. The design is world class (aluminum vs plastic). The OS is speedy. Backup and restore using Time Machine is seamless. Exposé makes switching between applications easy. The Apple keyboard layout is universal across all Apple computers, and that makes switching from one Mac to another does not force you to learn a different keyboard layout. And the cost…. if you like me who don’t mind getting refurbished Macs directly from Apple, you could save a lot of money.

Applications I tried on the Mac are intuitive and easy to use. I have almost completely cut my dependency on Windows applications except for Microsoft Money because I still haven’t found an easy way to export the information to another Mac application. Also, VPN to work is still a bit easier using a Windows machine. For tasks like these, my MSI Wind running Windows 7 fits the bill perfectly.

I am still learning my way around OS X. If you have any nice tips to share, I would really appreciate them.

6 replies
    • Kam
      Kam says:

      Oh yes, I love QuickSilver. I can’t think of a better program launcher out there. On the Windows platform, I use Launchy and it works similarly. Thank you for sharing the link.

      Reply
  1. IchiBaru
    IchiBaru says:

    The Mac menubar was designed based on some of the principles of Fitt’s Law, particularly the one on corners and “infinite” targets being easier to reach than ones which had variable placement and distance. Since the menubar is always in a constant location and the Apple menu is always on the top-left, I can instinctively wave my mouse to the top-left corner and be relatively certain that I’ll activate the Apple menu. You can be certain you’ll get to the menus by flicking to the very top of the screen. I can also “supposedly” glance at the top left corner of my screen and see what app is currently being used.

    Like you said, this doesn’t quite work out too well in modern multi-monitor environments where I can position the menu bar in either monitor and not have certain elements on corners. And of course Windows behaves very similarly now-a-days with the “Start” button on the bottom-left corner of the task bar but once-upon-a-time, cough, Windows 95, cough… the “Start” button was actually a couple of pixels away from the very edge of the corner, so you couldn’t actually flick blindly to the bottom left and activate the start menu.

    Not saying either way is better, but giving a UI-take on things.

    Reply
    • Kam
      Kam says:

      Thanks IchiBaru, I like the theory of Fitt’s Law, but I dislike how Apple implements it in a multi-monitor setup where I have a disjointed experience when I need to access a menu of an application which is currently displayed in a different monitor as the monitor the menu is being displayed. I think it would make more sense if the apple menu bar is dynamically repositioned to the monitor where the application is getting focus. But I could very well be totally missing the point of Fitt’s Law here at the same time :P

      Reply
  2. Saku
    Saku says:

    Windows vista is a disappointment but I feel that Windows 7 may be able to compete with OSX. Same as you, I also installed windows 7 on my netbook Lenovo ideapad s10 which works greatly and really enjoy the interface.

    Reply
    • Kam
      Kam says:

      Yes, Windows 7 is a worthwhile OS. Actually I tried running OS X on my MSI Wind before. But some of the dialog windows in OS X do not fit in the 1024 x 600 screen. Windows 7 on the other hand can fit very nicely. As much as I like to have a portable Mac, the less than ideal usability in that resolution defeats the friendliness of OS X.

      Reply

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