May 292008

Mom's 20" iMac arrived yesterday at around 5:15pm. Both of us were as giddy as little kids on Christmas; practically literally bouncing up and down at the front door waiting for the (cute!) FedEx guy to show up. Scheduled delivery was supposed to be by 4:30, but because he had to deliver to Grosse Ile first, he was delayed. We set the box aside and relaxed, trying to finish the Panera salads I'd picked up. I scarfed mine down, while Mom gave up and took hers upstairs to the sewing room where we set it up.

There wasn't a whole lot in the box, and everything was packed tightly and efficiently: iMac, power cord, keyboard, mouse, two small booklets (Everything Mac and Everything Else), two backup DVDs, and a mouse-cleaning cloth. Setup was incredibly easy: I put the iMac on the desk, plugged in the power, ethernet, printer, and keyboard cords, then plugged the mouse cord into the keyboard. Done.

I parked Mom in front of it for The Great On-Turning and she fired it up. After the short but pretty "Welcome to Leopard" intro movie, Mom entered her Apple ID and personal information, registered for her free 60-day trial of .Mac (no credit card required, so you don't get billed automatically when the trial is up), then used the built-in camera to take her picture for her account photo, after multiple posing attempts.

She was so nervous about breaking anything or doing something wrong that every time I stopped her to suggest or explain something, she jumped. It was cute, but I felt kinda bad for scaring her. I kept reassuring her she couldn't hurt anything, and she eventually relaxed. I activated the right mouse button, which was off by default, then walked her through the basics of getting around in the OS: how the Dock works; that the menu bar for programs is always at the top of the desktop, and changes to reflect whichever program is active at the moment; identifying running apps by the blue dot under them on the Dock; how to quit a program instead of just minimizing it, and so on.

I went downstairs to her old computer to put her old stuff onto a thumb drive, and by the time I came back, she'd already mostly figured out how to create an appointment in iCal. I showed her the rest of the process and she made an all-day event spanning my and Aaron's trip to Alaska. Luckily she didn't have much to transfer from her old computer; just pictures, documents, and bookmarks, to the tune of about 688 MB. Transferring them to their appropriate folders was easy enough, but I got stuck at getting her pics to appear in iPhoto. I'd bought her a copy of Missing Manual: Mac OS X Leopard so she'll have a reference for figuring out how to do things while we're gone to Alaska, so I downloaded the iLife crash course PDF from the Missing Manual site and that told me how to import the photos, which turned out to be so easy I would have figured it out on my own if I'd had a bit more patience. In a bit of an ego boost, Mom remarked that she was amazed at how well I knew my way around a Mac based purely on book learning, having never owned one myself. Yet.

We also set up the Mail app for Gmail, which was just a matter of creating a new mailbox and entering her Gmail address and password. Done. It automatically started importing all her email from Gmail which, after the first 800 messages, we decided might not be such a great idea after all, and stopped it. I also discovered that Apple and Yahoo don't play well at all together. You can't import Yahoo mail into Mail, and you can't add a Yahoo account (which is what Mom uses) to iChat.

This lead to the first install of a third-party app: the Adium multi-service chat program (like Trillian for Windows). I downloaded the adium.dmg (disk image) file, which automatically opened up a little window displaying a cartoon depiction of picking up the Adium duck mascot and dragging it to the Applications folder. I did that right inside the window in question, and Adium was installed instantly. While trying to drag it from the Applications folder to the Dock to create an alias (shortcut), I accidentally dropped it on the desktop, which removed it from the Apps folder. Thinking it was an alias, I deleted it, which uninstalled the program. To get it back, I just dragged the icon from the trash back into the Apps folder, then dragged it properly to the Dock to make a shortcut.

Merely reading about how easy it is to install and remove Mac apps just doesn't prepare you for how amazing it is in practice, coming from 15+ years of Windows use. There's no lengthy installation or removal process, and no registry entries to worry about. The entire program and all of its support files are contained in a single package represented by its icon. Unlike in Windows, you can drag that icon into any folder on any drive and it will still run when you click it.

After getting her set up in Safari and iTunes (she has NO music files at all, and only a couple CDs!), and some more general poking around, I ran the software updater to get the small patches installed, prior to the big 10.5.3 patch which was released yesterday. Mom asked me to run that before I left so she would be forced to finish the quilt she was commissioned to make. I didn't get to show her the Spotlight search function, or see if her new printer/scanner would work properly when turned on (waited til after the 10.5.3 install for that), but I'm sure she can figure it out from the book. Heh, for the next week, she'll have to!

Her old computer is ready for the dumpster once I return and wipe or destroy the hard drive. It's a 10+ year old Gateway tower with 384 MB of RAM and a 15 GB hard drive, with Ubuntu Linux generously installed on it by my friend Alex over Christmas, after the Microsoft police caught up to her borrowed copy of XP. It's been adequate for her until the last couple of years, but even her modest computer needs have finally exceeded its horsepower. Even with Ubuntu's small overhead, it's dog slow, and Ubuntu's lack of drivers prevented her from using the scanner function of her printer. Firefox under Ubuntu also wouldn't properly load certain websites, and even IE under WINE emulation didn't work for every site, like her bank's online services. I do worry that she may have the same problem with Safari or Firefox on the Mac, which may require Windows and Parallels or Fusion just to run IE, but I'll cross that bridge when I'm forced to at gunpoint.

Mom and I were just totally enthralled by the whole thing, and I haven't been this excited about a new computer since building my gaming rig in 2003, and by an operating system, of all things, since the first release of Win95 and then WinXP. Although honestly, since the Mac hardware and software are effectively one entity, there's little distinction between the hardware and the OS. All in all, as corny as it sounds, it was a great experience, and I can't wait to get my own.

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