The Mac mini transition week three: trading pain for productivity

The Mac mini transition week three: trading pain for productivity

Summary: Having just completed my third week with my Mac mini, I'm happy to report that I'm in my happy place with my new computer. We're getting along fine. Thanks for all your help.


Wait. What's that bright light behind my Mac mini? And what's with that Angel chorus?

OK, all better now.

After three full weeks with my new Mac mini, I finally feel that I'm in a good place with it. I feel productive and happy with my new computer. The transition was rough and I'm still getting used to it but a combination of awesome readers (you guys) and some incredibly generous vendors (TechSmith, Boinx, Aquafadas, Parallels, and others), the transition was far less painful than it could have been. In fact, those apps have helped me overcome my desire to return my Windows 7 laptop to its place of prominence on my desktop perch. Honestly, without your help, I would have taken the mini back to the Apple Store and not-so-nicely told them just how they could reshelve it and restore the 800+ buckazoids to my account.

After dozens of eyerolls, nervous coughs, throat clearings, 120dB cusswords, and terroristic murmurings against Cupertino's nerd population, I've arrived at my Mac happy place.

As one of my local Mac-addicted friends asked me a few days ago at our season's end pool party, "Still think you paid too much for it?"

"That's an interesting question", I retorted.

It must have been the Leinenkugel's Oktoberfests talking that made me answer so abruptly and yet also so ambiguously. Either that or the Kraken rum fumes emanating from another friend of mine who was painlessly lamenting the final weekend at the neighborhood pool that made me answer without a second thought. Yeah, that's what it was. I absolve myself.

Now that I've had enough time and B vitamins to ponder the question, I think that his point was well made. The look on his face spoke more directly to me than his words did. His smirkish squint said, "You get what you pay for, don't you?"

"Yep, I suppose that you do".

If I were to answer him right now, I'd say, "No, I don't think I paid too much".

Aside from a few initial bumps and heartaches, I'd say that my Mac experience has been pretty good if you consider that I've gone back and forth between loving and hating the blasted thing. The transition hasn't been easy because I've needed to stay productive during the changeover from Windows 7 to Mac OS X.

Despite all the oppositional commentary, Windows 7 and Windows 8 are very good operating systems. Linux is a fine desktop operating system. In fact, I've bounced back and forth between Ubuntu (and other Linux variants) and Windows for years as my primary desktop system.

But I'm happy with the Mac mini. It's a good little system. I don't experience any delays in launching apps. Once I fixed some permissions and reinstalled the OS, I haven't had any major problems to report.

My third week with the mini has been comfortable and easy-going.

I've learned the Apple Way of doing things.

I've learned how to:

  • Fix permissions
  • Reinstall the OS
  • Install applications
  • Uninstall applications
  • Reboot
  • Add new hardware and peripherals
  • Get IP printing to work
  • Deal with the Finder
  • Eject dmg images after installation
  • Close applications
  • Use keyboard shortcuts
  • Get Adobe Flash installed and working
  • Get Java installed and working
  • Stop worrying and love the bomb

The Apple Way is interesting for Windows and Linux users. It's kind of an opposite way to do things. It's very offputting at first. Plus, I still haven't found a way to see all of my running applications. I can do it easily enough on Linux, Windows, iOS, and Android but not so easily on Mac OS X.

I suppose that will come with time.

In the "old" days, when Mac users closed applications, they grabbed them with the mouse and put them into the Trash. I wondered, at first, if they were deleting their applications. They weren't. It was a strange way to get something off your desktop, I thought to myself. Strange indeed.

I haven't tried doing that on my Mac because I'm afraid that it will delete the application.

Now that the Mac OS is UNIX-based and an amalgam of NeXT and FreeBSD, I'm not sure what to think about some of the actions of days and Mac users gone by. I do think it's cool that I can eject dmgs and external drives with the old standby, Command-E. I used to love to use that combo when ejecting 3.5-inch floppy disks from a Mac. The mechanical eject sound was cool too—Zzzzizzzrrrizzz—click. I loved it.

I'm still looking for cool applications for my Mac mini.

Here are a few on my bucket list. Please tell me what your favorites are in each category so that I might be able to try them.

  • Desktop publishing
  • Cover art creation
  • Cartoon strip creation
  • eBook creation
  • Logo design
  • Drag and drop App creation
  • Animation (SouthPark-esque) creation

That's all I can think of right now. I have a Bamboo tablet, pen, and mouse that I got for a birthday present a few years ago that I could never make work satisfactorily on my Windows system. I'd like to try it on the Mac but I don't know which application would complement it best.

I'll have to rely on you to help me find great applications for my Mac.

In any case, I've enjoyed this week with my Mac and have overcome most of the obstacles that had me down at first. Thanks mostly to you. I appreciate your help, kindness, and patience.

I'm looking forward to my fourth and final weekly report to you next week on how it's going with my new mini. After that post, I'll update you on my progress, cool applications, my creations, and anything that I find that you might like as well.

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Topic: Apple


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Ken Hess

    You are almost the master now! Keep up the good work.
    • @PogoBlue

      Thanks, I'm looking forward to the journey.
  • How to see what is running

    There is a glowing dot under running apps on the dock. You can also use Activity Monitor.
    • Ditto Plus

      Activity Monitor is found in /Application/Utilities. Or click Launchpad and start typing Activity..

      Cmd-Option-Esc will also show running applications and give you an opportunity to force quit any that are hung.

      Anyone who is Unix-savvy and knows their way around a bash shell can run top from Terminal (also found in /Application/Utilities though one of the first things I do is put the Terminal app into my Dock). There's also ps, though the switches differ from the GNU version found on Linux systems. Man pages are available, and Apple maintains the BSD tradition of great man pages.

      Oh, for command line fans, check out the man page for open, a command found exclusively in Darwin (the Apple BSD variant).

      iBooks Author is free and, well, it's free. Worth a download and try because it may be good enough fir many things. Pages has an ePub output option and integrates well, meaning drag and drop. I did do an illustrated user guide for iOS device users in Pages and was generally pleased, though there were problems with orphans and widows, especially as the document was viewed on iPad or iPhone, landscape or protrait. We will have iBooks on Mavericks and that will mean no need to have a PDF version, but it will also be another screen for which the flow trashes page breaks.

      Incidentally, I saw a quick something tweeted yesterday that suggests Pages will get a mention later this morning. The WWDC keynote did say that one will be able to work with Pages via any HTML5 browser from any where sometime this Fall.

      There's a venerable Mac-related magazine with a website and very good writers. I think you'll find one writer, Serenity Caldwell, to be an excellent source for eBook design and production issues and best practices.
  • @Mac_PC_FenceSitter

    Thanks, that helps. Wow, that's a subtle thing but very helpful!
  • One of the Autodesk Sketch apps in the app store

    Would probably go best with that.... there's also an Evernote drawing app, but I haven't tried it.
  • Still trying to figure your "issues"

    I've not had to do any of those things you had to do either with my new iMac or previous machines. They just work and work well.

    They are not Windows and should not be expected to work like that. The same goes for Linux too.
  • dtp program

    For the big guns dtp program It would have to be Pagemaker & Xpress. Anyone know of any entry level dtp programs for Mac ??
    • There are Lots

      Pages is actually a really good layout app.
      There is Swift Publisher -
      Stone Create -
    • PageMaker is long gone

      But InDesign in Adobe Creative Cloud is probably the top dog these days. Scribus is free and nearly as good as the big guns.
  • Perhaps the best way to understand the OS X vs. the Windows way

    is with a metaphor or working at a desk. In the Windows way, you go to your filing cabinet, locate your document, pull it out, open it up work on it, then put it away. In the OS X way, you open up your filing cabinet, pull out a bunch of stuff, and spread them out on your desk, shuffling them about as you need them.

    If you watch a Windows person using his computer, they will open a program, run it full screen and work on it. They will either then minimize or alt-tab to another full-screen program, work on it, and so forth. If they have to move data, they'll copy, switch full-screen apps, then paste.

    Now, if you watch a Mac person using his computer, you'll see gobs of documents open, all overlapping to one degree or another. He'll move windows around, have them side-by-side from different programs, etc. When he needs to move date, he'll generally drag and drop it from one window to another.

    I personally think this work paradigm is largely influenced by the global menu bar in OS X vs. the "tied to the program" menus in Windows. By binding your menus to your program, you are pushing your user to needing to expand the program to full screen just to have access to everything.

    I also personally think one of the biggest UI mistakes Apple has made is moving toolbars from floating palettes to document windows for the very same reason.
    • I never really thought about my personal workflow habits before

      but your metaphor really describes how I work on my dual monitor iMac system.

      Well said, baggins_z.
  • Running apps

    To see running apps you can use the Application Switcher. Hold down the command and tab keys. Press tab to cycle right; press ` to cycle left.
    Partners in Grime
    • Running Apps

      Or Magic TrackPad gesture :-)
      Maria Davidenko
  • Ken Hess

    Welcome to the Mac world and congratulations for smooth transition fro PC to Mac!Try AppStore, there is a LOT of apps. Did I understand right , that your productivity category is 'Graphics Apps'? I've heard LightRoom is great.
    I'm glad to hear you're familiar with the most stupid part of Mac OS X - The Finder. :-) Yes I said it: Mac OS X has one part, which is ...well... Unpleasant . But in its other parts... Well, 'Congratulation, you and your Mac were made for each other ', remember?(User guide introduction ).
    Maria Davidenko
  • Glad the "productivity" trajectory is up, Ken, but....

    ...based on the list of things you've done with the mini, I'm thinking you're still deep in the "PC" mode---not that there's anything wrong with that! :) And I think it's improbable that you will have your Mac "aha moment" within the next week. Actually, it may take several months (at least) for that to happen. But I'm betting it will! Please don't make next week your last "Mac report". Hope we hear from you on that subject again in six months or a year. In the meantime---enjoy!
  • Only Throw Servers/Mounted Media in the Trash

    Unless you are talking about ALIASES, you do not throw apps or files in the trash to dismount/quit them - this is will cause you to trash them. I have no idea what Mac user you were watching - this has been true since Mac 1.0. You can dismount SERVERS/CD's/DVD's, mounted media by dragging them to the trash to dismount them - that is ALL. You can throw away ALIASES of files or apps - but otherwise, throwing apps or files/folders in the trash causes you to put them in the trash. The trash (folder) is not emptied unless you select EMPTY TRASH but not a good place to put files.
  • BTW, Ken - about dragging desktop icons to the trash bin thingy

    One easy way to dismount an external storage device safely (yeah, I know. It counter intuitive in much the same manner as clicking on the start button in Windows to begin the shut down computer sequence in Windows) is to drag that external drive icon to the trash bin.

    I have found it an easier way to safely remove a USB flash drive from my OS X systems.
  • Drag and drop App creation

    Have you looked at Automator? It's in the Applications Folder. Free and came pre-installed.
  • Something to add to your app bar

    You've most likely already added the Terminal to your app bar and to see all your running apps I would put Activity Monitor there as well. Disk Utility is also good to keep on hand there.

    First thing I do in Windows, Linux or OS-X is add a calculator, simple text editor and screen capture apps to my app bar along with Terminal and task/activity monitor.