Monday, June 29, 2009

Introducing... Ezekiel

No, we haven't found another cat.

This is Ezekiel:

- my new Mac mini. It arrived on Sunday by a fairly complex route (If you're interested... Richard ordered it from Amazon UK a couple of weeks ago, as they had the best price. Macs are extremely expensive in Cyprus. It was sent to the office of his sailing friend, who was in the UK for a couple of days last week. Richard was in Egypt for the past week, and flew back on Sunday. His sailing friend collected him from the airport, and passed over the Mac mini, plus various essential connectors. )

If it looks small for a computer, that's because it is. Amazingly small. Here's where we put it, initially, on top of my previous computer, Elisha:

Why the exotic names? Well, thereby hangs another tale. Our first computer was originally lent to us by an organisation we were working for at home, about 18 years ago. Their computers were all named after Old Testament prophets, and the one I had was called Elijah. When we finished the work, we were given Elijah to keep. It went with us to the USA, and - with a few modifications here and there - back to the UK, and then to Cyprus. It probably lasted about nine or ten years before it finally gave up the ghost in July 2000. By that stage it had become my computer. Daniel and Tim were given my parents' old one (which, naturally, we named Samuel, after the boy prophet) and Richard had a laptop.

We'd been given some extra Christmas money which we hadn't used, so we went ahead and bought another PC, for my use. The obvious name was Elisha (the prophet who succeeded Elijah in the Old Testament, and who was greater than him in various ways).

Elisha has served me very well. It, too, has had various organ transplants over the years, but has been remarkably reliable. It ran Windows 98, and then Windows 2000, and has never needed re-installing.

But the rest of the family went over to Apple Mac notebook computers about three years ago. And slowly started working on my resistance, telling me my next computer would have to be a Mac. Elisha carried on working, and my general philosophy is that if it ain't broke, there's really no need to fix it, and certainly no need to replace it.

However, Richard started to get concerned that Windows 2000 won't be supported much longer, and will then be potentially dangerous to run. And in the past month or so, I've found it running more slowly; I even had programs - reliable ones, like Firefox - suddenly lock up on me. And then, three weeks ago, I saw - for the first time ever on that computer - a 'blue screen of death' when I closed it down. I was able to re-start, and in fact it's been fine ever since. But it did alert me to the fact that, at nine years, it IS an old computer. And I really didn't want to get to the stage I did, nine years ago, when trying to rescue files and information from the old computer was extremely difficult.

And I had a lot of accumulated birthday and Christmas money sitting in a bank account. So I finally gave in, and said I would have a Mac mini.

And when it arrived, I felt it should be called yet another prophet starting with E. The obvious choice was Ezekiel, whose book in the Old Testament is fairly metaphorical and graphical, full, so to speak, of bells and whistles.

So much for how the Mac arrived and how it got its name.

Yesterday afternoon, Richard attached it to my monitor, mouse and keyboard, and switched it on. We downloaded Firefox, using the built-in browser (Safari). We installed the Canon camera software (from CD) and Picasa for the Mac, and checked that I could upload photos. We installed Neo Office, and Avast! anti-virus, and Yahoo! Messenger, and KompoZer. All of which worked fine, to my great relief. We even installed our little webcam, and waved at Tim in the UK, who happened to be online at the time. Oh, and we installed Crossover Mac, since I have to use Internet Explorer for our online banking in Cyprus, and also wanted to continue to use Quicken.

By then I'd had quite enough of installing and clicking and moving files, so we gave up and I read email, and looked at Facebook, and generally got used to a different computer. I was very glad I had read, a couple of days previously, Real Live Preacher's thoughts on the Mac, because I found exactly the same (minor) problems as are mentioned in that article.

This morning, Richard plugged Elisha back in again. I then moved all my documents, and websites, and photos, and Quicken data to my external hard drive which I hadn't used much at all, other than for video editing. Tim told us how to transfer all the Firefox settings from PC to Mac too (and if you want to do it, here's how: use START then RUN on the PC, and type %APPDATA%\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles - with exact upper and lowercase as given. I couldn't even find the backslash key at first! Having done that, a bizarrely named file appears, which had to be copied onto the external hard drive. Then, back on the Mac, the contents had to be copied into ~/library/Applications support/Profiles)

This afternoon, it was back to the Mac. We did that Firefox thing, and suddenly Firefox looked as it used to on the PC, with all my bookmarks and sites on the top bar, and the same selection of home pages, and even the Firecat add-on skin.

Then we installed the printer and the scanner, and ArcSoft Photo Studio (all from CDs), and I moved all the documents I wanted onto the main Mac hard drive, and checked that everything worked. To my astonishment, it did. And while navigating around the hard drive isn't the same as Windows, and I found myself in a bit of a muddle once or twice, I mostly figured out what to do.

I was slightly shocked to see that I had already used up 30 gigabytes of a 120 gig drive. That does include 10 gig of photos, but even so, it seems a lot. On the PC, my main hard drive was only 9 gig, and the larger internal hard drive was about 30 gig. I struggled to keep the main one to have less than 8 gig stored on it, but the larger one never had more than about 20 gig on it (including the photos). I had thought a Mac would use less space for its operating system and software, but apparently not.

My only worry - and this is what I really intended to blog about - was that the Mac Mini was still sitting, a little precariously, on top of the PC. A place where cats like to sit. So I suggested that, perhaps, we could move it to the shelf where the broadband router sits.

We had a look at the back of the computers, where there was an extreme muddle of wires:

Thankfully, Richard understands wires. So, after switching everything off, he started dismantling everything, in preparation for removing Elisha and moving Ezekiel. The shelf where the router was sitting was on an old white TV unit, perpendicular to the main computer desk, with the printer on top.

Unfortunately, we discovered that the cables for the speakers and (more importantly) the screen were not long enough to reach around to the place where we put the Mac.

So, I suggested, we could move the white unit to the place where Elisha sat, just shifting the desk a little to the left.

So we moved the wires again, and moved the unit in place. It looked good, and we realised that the scanner could go next to the printer - which is where we had wanted it to go before, but it couldn't because it, too, had a wire that was too short.

So Richard started plugging things in again:

Everything was fine, until he came to plug in the router again. And discovered THAT wire was too short for its new position, since the phone socket is in the wall behind the desk. He did contemplate going to the office to get the tools he would need to build a longer wire... then realised he could make an extension using the phone wire.

Looks nice and tidy, doesn't it?

Except that the phone wire didn't work. He had wondered why there was so much phone wire lying around... perhaps it was faulty all along.

Then I thought I might move a little unit where I keep computer CDs into the corner where the printer unit used to be. And when I'd done so, Richard realised it would be the perfect place for the router, back approximately where it was, so the wire would be the right length.

Of course, it may be a problem if one of the cats decides to sit there, but it's not such an obvious place for them.

So here's how it looks:

The printer looks ENORMOUS compared to the little Mac. And there are a few untidy-looking wires for the router hanging down there - but no doubt I'll get used to them in time.

My desk has more space now, too, since the scanner is no longer on it. Instead I have the external hard drive sitting in the corner. There's much more room for the mouse, and - no doubt - for the kind of paperwork clutter that seems to accumulate on desks when one isn't looking.

It's hard to get it all in the same shot, but here's my best effort:

- and as I come to the end of this lengthy post, I realise it's the first thing I've done properly, on my own, using Ezekiel (ie uploaded photos, reduced their size, imported them to Blogger, and written a post). Doesn't seem to me that Macs are much different from PCs, really, other than the few minor irritations mentioned in the post I linked to.

Oh, and one other thing. My PC had a little digital clock in the bottom right-hand corner. I kept track of the time using it, more than I realised. There is no such clock on the Mac, and for some reason I didn't put on my watch today. I have glanced around at the clock and see to my horror that it's after 11pm. I usually switch the computer off by about 9 or 9.30, so I can wind down before sleeping. Evidently I need to move the wall clock, or wear a watch more often.

Update five minutes later: Tim read this post, and then pointed out to me, over Instant Messenger, that there is in fact a clock which is in the top right of the screen rather than the bottom, and not so obvious, if only I set it correctly.

What a relief.


Steve Hayes said...

I hope you enjoy it. Most of the people I know who have Macs are quite enthusiastic about them, but I worry that they are not only expensive, but also that they probably won't run the programs I use most. Many of them are DOS programs, on the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" principle too.

dan said...

Wow mum.

Hope you enjoy it. Some things in Mac are pretty annoying and stupid, but it works, pretty much.

Here on the ship I'm using Windows XP about 8 hours a day for work, and then Mac OS for "fun" stuff, and also some work (video editing, etc), so am pretty much bi-lingual, I guess, now.

Which do I prefer?

Well, honestly, neither of them :-)

I know, picky picky. Mac is great, as long as you don't want to do things differently to how they think you ought to. Most of the time, they think fairly well, but still, sometimes, it's annoying. The latest versions of OSX (the operating system) are even better (ie, when you're browsing around your files, just pressing "space" quickly previews it.

Windows I still find much buggier, and likely to crash. But Mac isn't immune to that either. It just depends how hard you push them. Securitywise, I don't like Windows at ALL, Mac is OK, by default, usually.

Strangely enough, once it's up and running happily, I still prefer Linux for day to day use.

I dunno. Some hidden geekiness stuck inside, I guess.

The way that most every normal thing "just works" in Mac is quite nice, however. :-)