Posts tagged “macs”.

Navigating the filesystem

January 28th, 2011

Thomas Brand over at Egg Freckles:

Yesterday’s Mac trained users on how to navigate the filesystem, while modern operating system like Mac OS X discourage its use. The gap between the abstraction of user space, and system space is widening. As computers become more like appliances the underlying operating system is becoming harder to access.

The question – is this a good thing or not? – can largely be answered depending on what type of person you are.

Geeks have been talking about Apple products as appliances since the beginning. To Apple, it’s part of their philosophy: computers for the rest of us, whereby “rest of us” means “those of us who aren’t willing to dive into the nitty gritty.”

I feel Brand’s apprehension about operating systems, with the iOS devices and with the new version of OS X, moving away from the ability to navigate the file system. I’m a folder-and-text-file kind of guy, too. When I got my first OS 9 Mac, it was a joy to dig into the System Folder and poke around at what was in there. This is probably why people ask me to help them work out software and hardware problems at work and at home. My brain is comfortable in a file system environment.

But golly, I’m surely in the minority. And so is Brand. We navigate the file system because it brings us the joy of discovery. For most people, they recoil in horror.

“Where did that file go?”

Brand says OS X provides too many options to find that file:

On Mac OS X Apple has hidden the Hard Drive icon and replaced it with a pre established list of shortcuts that offers speed of access at the price of user confusion. Should I go to the Dock, or the Finder’s sidebar to launch my application or open my file? How about a Spotlight search? With so many possibilities it is no wonder Mac OS X users are often confused about where their files are located.

But maybe the problem is that, either way, you’re forcing them to think about a certain file in a certain place in a certain folder. Right now, OS X fails to make that file easy to find, no matter how many UI schemes Apple introduces. People don’t care about where the file is, because they aren’t interested in organization or structure. They just want to work.

This is what makes iOS devices so popular: you don’t think about where the file is, you think about which app you’re going to use. And with iOS, apps couldn’t be easier to find.

Maybe it’s about expectations. I didn’t expect to go anywhere near the file system when I bought my iPhone. But I bought a Mac expecting that tinkering is a part of its operation. As long as Mac OS X has it both ways, where you have dashboard-style navigation cues for regular folks and the geekiness of the file system for the rest of us, I won’t put up too much of a fight.

Macs @ work: Dueling Macs

June 28th, 2010

Yummy Gum office

App Storm has a bunch of nice-looking Mac work setups. The little shelf with the Macbook Pro is genius.

This one made me think of how stale the 30″ Cinema Display, with the plain aluminum frame, looks these days. It makes me think of OS X 10.4 Tiger. The new displays scream Snow Leopard.

[Via Minimal Mac.]

Seven days of System 7

May 6th, 2010

Seven Day of System 7

Low end Mac users are masochists. There’s no easy way to take a classic Macintosh and do modern, enjoyable work without some pain or effort involved. Everything is a project.

Now, for most of us that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s why we work with classic Macs. Either that, or we know low end Macs so well that using anything prior to OS X comes as second nature. Also, it’s a hobby.

With this in mind, and as I shared on The hello Show this week, I’m undertaking a bit of an experiment: spending an entire week with nothing but my low end Macs. Specifically, I’ll be using:

…as my main computing machines.

I’m leaving my new 21.5″ iMac switched off, using my iPhone 3G for phone calls only, and relying only on Apple products that were released in the 1990s.

I’ll call it Seven Days of System 7.

That’s not totally accurate. I’ll also be using OS 8 (on the PowerMac) and OS 9 (on the iMac). For portability, contact management, and calendar duties, I’ll use my Newton MessagePad 110 and eMate. And I might pull out my iBook G3 and boot into OS 9 for some portable Macintosh.

The experiment, inspired by Morgan Aldridge’s and Riccardo Mori’s experiences, will be me attempting to get by – or even be productive – on non-Mac OS X machines. This includes any writing, web browsing, scheduling, graphic design, and web development. For the week, I’m setting up a special page here at Newton Poetry that will be a sort of proto-blog – where I can post updates through the week. The entire thing will be made on my PowerMac G3 sporting Adobe’s classic HTML editor, PageMill.

Right now, I’m collecting other applications that I might need through the week, including:

  • Claris Organizer for my to-dos, contact management, and calendar, synced to my Newton
  • Corel Graphics 8 for design work
  • PhotoShop LE for image manipulation
  • Panic’s Audion and iTunes 2 for music
  • AppleWorks 6 for spreadsheets or heavy-duty word processing
  • BBEdit Lite for text editing
  • The latest build of Classilla
  • Adobe PageMill for web stuff
  • Panic’s free version of Transmit for FTP’ing
  • A bunch of games for recreation, including SimCity 2000, WarCraft II, and (for the first time) Marathon

Because it’s only a week-long experiment, I won’t need much more than that. I’m not going to do any heavy graphic design lifting, or attempt to do a whole lot. It’ll simply be a week to see how easy it is to be productive and live day-to-day on low end Macs.

There are a bunch of sources I have to credit for the help, including my podcasting pal David Kendal (for the links to Panic’s free offerings), System 7 Today for some game ideas, UNNA for Claris Organizer, and eBay for PageMill and WarCraft II.

The experiment will take place in the next week or two. In the meantime, if you have any ideas or software to try out, let me know.

Most of all, wish me luck.

Apple TV as odd-product out

March 19th, 2010

Apple TV

The Apple TV has had an interesting history. Starting out, it accompanied the iPhone as Apple’s “next big thing,” even if its spotlight was dim in comparison with the iPhone’s.

From then on, it became a “hobby,” and now I wonder if it’s even that.

Consider this. On the Store, the “above the fold” shot looks something like this: store homepage

Notice anything missing? The Macs and iPods and Touch devices are all there in the circle. But no Apple TV. In fact, to find any mention of the Apple TV anywhere on the Store homepage, you have to look under the “For iPod” section:

Apple TV under iPods

Deeper in the store, the Apple TV gets a mention, but under Mac Accessories. So is the Apple TV for iPods or for Macs?

What gives? If Filemaker Pro and Apple’s printer bundle can get a graphical mention on the Store homepage, why not Apple TV?

I put together a current Apple product lineup grid, showing the available desktops, notebooks, touch devices, iPods, and what I call “Misc.” – which just means anything that isn’t any of the above categories:

Current Apple product lineup

The “Misc.” section is a mish-mash. Displays, peripherals, networking and backup products – and the Apple TV. One could argue that it belong with the iPod, but I consider iPods portable music devices. And the Apple TV isn’t quite a Mac, either, even though it runs a version of Front Row and connects with an iTunes library.

No, it’s just kind of out there on it’s own. It has no rock-solid home in the current Apple lineup.

On the other hand, imagine if we added some other category. We’ll call it “Entertainment,” and then add all the other items under “Misc.” as a kind of peripherals-only section:

Hypothetical Apple product lineup

For “Entertainment,” we have to imagine the Apple TV as its own category – perhaps a harbinger to things to come. Of what? There have been rumors of some sort of Apple television. Maybe they’ve been waiting for competition. Maybe they’re striking a deal with Netflix and Boxee right now. Maybe there’s a flatscreen TV out there with an Apple logo on the back, waiting to be released.

It’s just speculation, and I don’t consider it a worthwhile rumor for the time being. Apple, now, seems focused on its Touch devices – specifically the iPad. The Apple TV is surely stuck in some development limbo. One could even argue that the fourth-leg of the Apple stool is now the iPad instead of the Apple TV.

We’re also seeing the Apple product lineup gain some complexity, with the Apple TV fitting in nowhere that makes sense. Remember when Steve Jobs returned, and he cut everything Apple was doing at the time (killing the Newton, say) down to the very minimum? He filled in the final slot in the G3 lineup at the iBook launch in 1999:

Mac G3 lineup

Back then, you had two consumer Macs and two pro Macs. In the G4 era, things became a little less simplified with the PowerMac G4 Cube (unless you want to lump it with the regular PowerMacs) and the iPod. But even then, you could fit products in definite categories: consumer Macs, pro Macs, smaller iPods, and full-sized iPods.

Where does the Apple TV fit in all this? Nowhere neatly that I can figure out. And Apple quarantining the Apple TV from the Store homepage seems to send a message. “If you really want an Apple TV, you’re going to have to dig.”

Thanks for listening

March 4th, 2010

The hello Show podcast

Just a little something I was playing around with while teaching myself how to do the double-stamp thing.

We’re celebrating our fifth show, with a sixth recording on Monday.

Get your iTunes podcast link and subscribe. And thanks, again, to everyone for supporting the show.

On my Mac hobby

March 2nd, 2010

Almost five years ago, I acquired a new hobby. It started when I purchased my first Macintosh computer, an iBook G4, and it’s been chugging along ever since.

I have many other hobbies: writing, comic books, traveling, working out, politics, and sometimes playing some video games. But the one I’m probably most recognized for is the Mac hobby.

Someone asked, on a little experiment I ran last week, whether they thought my Macs would “possess” me. By this, they probably meant, “Don’t you think this is getting out of hand?” Or, “when will you stop acquiring and dinking around with Macs?”

To which I would answer: no, and maybe never.

I’m not sorry about my hobby. The Macintosh, both old and classic, interests me in ways that have long reflected my personality. I’ve been a computer geek for 15 years, and messing with Macs fits perfectly into my lifestyle.

The first possible question, the “getting out of hand” one, probably refers to the amount of Macs I own, and there I’ll give the questioner some credit. By now, I’ve reached a certain limit, where anything new that comes in replaces something I already have. I don’t want any more Macs. To make room, I’ll replace the ones I have with one I want more. Out with old, in with the new.

But every once in a while, someone will walk in an ask, “How many computers do you need?” Truth is, I don’t need any of them, any more than you need four pairs of blue jeans or seven guns hanging out in a (hopefully) locked safe. It’s not about need.

There are a million different hobbies out there, each with their own culture and lexicon and history. I think each and every one of them – from velvet Elvis paintings to horses – is fascinating in their own way. My roommate is interested in World War II, so he watches TV shows about the war and plays a video game that lets him re-experience the battles in his own way. World War II doesn’t define him. It’s simply what interests him.

Another friend switches hobbies like he switches underwear. Something will catch his fancy and, zoom, off he goes to collect and learn all he can about it. Then something new comes along and, zoom, off he goes to that. Maybe his hobby is hobbies.

Here’s the thing: as a creative professional, I feel like I can get my work done best on a certain computing platform. And it’s fun to use, and has a compelling history, so that I’m interested in more than its practical aspects. Also, the older models are interesting in their own way, and they give me an affordable way to mess around with computers.

Fact is, I rarely pay for the Macs I acquire. More often than not, they’re gifts or eureka finds. Just my luck that I can get my hands on something I love to tinker with. My grandpa used to get bikes at yard sales, fix them up, and sell them in his front yard. Sometimes people would stop by just to give him their old bike. He made a little income, got to fiddle with chains and tires, and spent time in his old garage tinkering by himself.

I do this with Macs.

Some women love to take their credit card and go shopping just for shopping’s sake. For them, it’s an activity to do with friends and they – hey! – get something on the other end. Their closets are full, they spent a bunch of money on stuff they really didn’t need, and they’ll do it again next weekend. Shopping can be a hobby.

So can anything. That’s the great part about life: we can be unapologetic about our interests because they’re our interests. Having a hobby is never having to say you’re sorry, unless your hobby is hurting other people. In that case, look into professional wrestling (look, another hobby!).

Now, hobbies can become destructive. If you don’t have any money, you probably shouldn’t go shopping just for shopping’s sake. If my Macs distracted me from any of the other fun and wonderful things I enjoy, it would be a bad thing. When all you care about is your hobby, not only are you boring, but you’re hurting yourself.

But I can tear apart an old iBook or figure out a way to install some Newton software and read, write, spend time with my girlfriend, and get out of town on the weekend. I think I live a well-rounded life, dominated by nothing more than anything else. Sometimes it feels like I’m interested in too much, because the world fascinates me to no end. So I have to set limits.

The question a hobbyist has to ask themselves is, if I lose all this stuff, will it matter? Or is it the doing that’s enjoyable? Honestly, if a fire were to consume all my hobby Macs tomorrow, I wouldn’t shed a tear. They’re just things. In fact, I had the Mac of my dreams for an entire year, and I sold it. Just like that. I had it, and then I didn’t have it, with no regret involved.

The things I would miss in a fire are the things that I really care about, like – oh – my pictures and identity and stuff. Everything else is replaceable. It’s just a hobby.

Hobbies can lead to other hobbies. Lately, I’m learning how to make a podcast, and learning how to make and manage web sites. Because I love to learn so much, my hobbies sprout new hobbies, and maybe I’ll stick with them and maybe I won’t.

Whatever. It’s what I like to do. So the number of Macs I own becomes pointless, as long as I’m enjoying them and they don’t crowd out my roommate’s living space. You won’t understand my hobby any more than I understand your “American Idol” obsession, or your garage full of car parts, or the time spent on FarmVille, or your bookshelf full of books (well, I do understand that one).

Are they destructive? No? Then carry on.

Hobbies don’t define us. They help define us, as in, “This is part of who I am and what I enjoy doing. But it’s not the whole me.”

John Gruber and Merlin Mann, in their South By Southwest talk last year, said the moment you know you’ve got a blog topic is when you talk about something so much your friends tell you to shut up about whatever it is you’re talking about.

That’s what I did. I started a blog about retro Apple stuff, and it gives me an outlet for my hobby. Best part: I don’t have to shut up about it. People actually read what I have to say. It’s one of their hobbies, too.

So I’m not alone, even though sometimes I feel like I am, since my circle of friends roll their eyes when I start in with Mac stuff. It’s probably why I glob on to people who are interested. I remember seeing a G5-era iMac in a Chelsea market a few months back, serving as the store’s register/inventory home base, and struck up a conversation with the owners. That happens rarely, but when it does it’s memorable. Online, I can have that conversation every day.

You’ll have to pardon me when I do start mentioning Mac-related things that interest me. I’ll do the same for you when when you dig out your Beanie Baby collection and start talking about thread counts and quilting and riding your Harley on a warm summer’s day.

In the midst of all that, I’m sure we’ll find something talk about.

iMacs at work: what a view

November 23rd, 2009

iMacs, with a view

Talk about a view.

And yeah, the stuff outside the window’s nice, too.

I like how the iMacs are floating, with the stands taken off and the main screen held up by a swivel bracket. There are some more detailed shots at the Contemporist, where this came from.

[Via badbanana.]

Mac-themed iPhone wallpapers posted

January 27th, 2009

PowerMac Cube G4 iPhone wallpaper

Just a fun heads-up: I created a bunch of Macintosh-inspired iPhone wallpapers over at my Flickr account and on the iPhone Wallpapers Flickr group. I took a bunch of recent Macs, like the G4 Cube above, and paired them with their marketing slogans, or a simple label, all on a clean white background.

Now you can carry around your favorite G3, G4, G5, or Intel Mac around with your iPhone. My iPhone is sporting the PowerMac G4 right now, just because I love the slogan so much.


How many Macs are too many?

September 16th, 2008

Getting out of hand.

I don’t know, but I think I’m getting close. This doesn’t even show the two Mac SEs and the iBook G3 clamshell. Getting out of hand, much?

More Mac users? Let’s embrace them.

September 11th, 2008

A ChangeWave survey of 4,000 Americans shows that more PC buyers are more likely to buy a Mac in the next 90 days than any other brand, which is great news for us Mac fans: more users, more Apple goodness, more switchers coming to the bright side of computing. This quote from a ChangeWave official is pretty telling:

“Apple’s reached the tipping point,” said Paul Carton, ChangeWave’s research director. “Where the early adopters and the discretionary spenders were leading the charge, now as we go into the 30 per cent range [for planned purchases], the change to Apple looks permanent. What we have in the end, actually we’re sort of there now, is that buying an Apple is as normal as buying a Dell or an HP [computer] in America.”

Buying an Apple considered “normal?” Wow. And with Apple selling record levels of Macs, this “tipping point” everyone’s talking about is seeming more and more likely.

Which means there’s a ton of new Mac users out there who may have never been faced with OS X or a single-button mouse or the Finder – rookies who, like me, will have to relearn a few things they’ve been pre-taught by Windows machines.

I think we, as the Mac community, should reach out with open, embracing arms and help out the switchers. Don’t leave it up to Apple, who only interfaces with customers at their retail locations, or on their web site (where I learned most of what I know about Mac operations). Let’s figure out a way to hand new Mac users the keys and help them learn how to drive their machines.

First, Mac users are a passionate bunch. No duh, right? But we ought to transfer that passion into a helpful coaching of recent Mac buyers. These are folks who probably bought an iPod, wondered how they lived without it, embraced the OS X gloss, and took a real risk by stepping away from something comfortable (Windows, Dells, HPs, etc.) and into something only vaguely familiar. Working an iPod is easy. Working a Mac is still intuitive, but a little more complicated – and we Mac veterans ought to be there to help them out.

I think back to my own Apple initiation in the winter of 2005. Two years out of college, into my first career, I started to shop for my first computer. At a graphic design conference, I remember asking a panelist about his 12″ iBook G4 – how he liked it, whether it was worth purchasing, the usual – and that was the first thought I remember having about making the switch.

I grew up with Macs in school, learning typing and Sim City on Macs in middle school, and eventually working on PowerMac G4s while working on my college newspaper – right when OS X was first coming out, and the new iMac, and my co-editor at the time made the switch. For a while, after graduation, I didn’t think much about Macs anymore.

But then that ’05 winter came and, while shopping for a laptop, I kept coming back to Apple. The Dells and the HPs and the Toughbooks (I was worried about sturdiness in my first PC) were nice, but they all seemed the same. The clean, white iBook kept calling out to me. I take forever to make big financial decisions, so after weeks of agonizing over which laptop model to purchase, I lept into the Apple pool and bought my 14″ G4 iBook.

I remember the day it landed on my apartment doorstep, and how excited I was to tear open the box and start fiddling around with it. It was so new, and so fresh, and yet so easy to grasp. I was hooked.

When I take on a new hobby or interest, my tendency is to take it as far as I can go. I bought Apple Confidential and read up on the history of the company, I soaked up all the how-to articles on Apple’s web site, and – that December – I stumbled on a working Bondi Blue iMac at my recycling organization’s electronic waste site. That’s when my passion for classic Macs began. My G3 clamshell iBook goes everywhere I do, my Newton 110 ignited a whole new world for me, and my Mac SEs let me play that old classic, “Oregon Trail.”

I said all that to say this: Macs hook you. Macs give you something to talk about with other Apple fans. They’re an automatic hobby, and they inspire a dedication that, soon, a whole new group of Mac switchers will adopt for themselves.

This is our chance, then, to reach out to these newcomers and welcome them to the fold. A site like MyAppleSpace is a good way to connect with new Mac owners, and there are plenty of up-and-coming blogs and sites that can help guide Mac newbies. Apple users give gracious answers to even seemingly silly questions, and we should strive to help even more folks learn to love their new machines. Especially these days when, as we hear more and more, Apple products are having a hard time living up to the high expectations ascribed to them.

Strike while the iron is hot, as they say, and friends – the iron has never been hotter.

The most searched for post on Newton Poetry has been my tutorial on how to install a classic Airport card in a clamshell iBook. The comment section of that article gets a new post even months after I posted it, and I think it’s because people need to know more nuts-and-bolts information about how to make their Macs their own. And God bless ’em, even little things like a non-working router doesn’t get the DIYers down. These are the folks we can help, and once they accomplish their first DIY Mac project, they’ll be hooked for life.

So that’s what Newton Poetry is going to help with. We all have our interests, and things we’re good at – let’s use them to help spread the Apple virus.