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Thinking about switching to a Mac?

A lot of PC owners are looking at an Apple Mac for their next machine. By Robert Jensen

My original plan was for this to be a straightforward review of Apple's updated 24-inch iMac that was announced in April. In such cases I ask the manufacturer for a review unit, they send it to me on loan, I TEST it for a few weeks, write my review and finally pack everything back in its box and ship it back.
Well, this time it was different. Despite my having built a new PC back in December and spending about $1,000 on some pretty nice pieces to go into it, to be honest, I was tired. Tired of the constant whirring from all the fans needed to keep it running cool. I was weary too of waiting several minutes for the thing to boot up, load the firewall, antivirus and other necessary software to keep my computer safe while online. Finally, I've long since run out of space in my office and having a full sized ATX case, backup power supply, external drives, monitor, speakers, cable modem, router and about a mile of various cables, power bricks and what all making a rat's nest behind my desk was causing me some aggravation not to mention a serious lack of elbow room. Every time I wanted to change out anything I had to spend too much time untangling cords or tracing them back to their sources.
I wanted out! I wanted simplicity back in my life.
So when the two boxes from Apple arrived, a 24-inch iMac and 1TB Time Capsule, I cleared away as much of the existing clutter as I could, unpacked the new goodies, spent all of 10 minutes setting them up, sat down and. . . I fell in love. This isn't some unconditional love affair, there have been some problems, but I really like the lack of clutter (which will be a little less once I save up for the Apple wireless keyboard and mouse). More than that - I LOVE the quiet! No constant fan noise (the Mac has fans too but unless I'm doing something processor intensive they are usually inaudible). The clutter of wires is almost nonexistent now, power cord to the AC outlet, wire to the keyboard, that's it! If I had stuck with the Apple Mighty Mouse there would also be a wire from the keyboard to the mouse but I am using my Microsoft Wireless Laser Notebook Mouse 4000.  No more ugly rats nest of cables. The Mac just sits there, quiet and elegant, taking up slightly more space than my 20-inch monitor alone would, and folks, that's it! Well, there is the Time Capsule and it's two wires as well (AC and Ethernet to the cable modem, which has its two wires also) but that is tucked away out of sight. The clutter is dead! Long live the Mac!
Another less annoying thing is the lack of all the red, blue, and green lights emanating from various sides of my PC case. Ever try to catch a nap when your office is as lit up as the main strip in Vegas? Now I have only a single LED on the Time Capsule and the row of lights on my cable modem both tucked away and forgotten about.
I have to tell you that after spending not much more than a single day with that loaner iMac I made the decision to buy one. Here it is, a month after I received the review unit. It went back to Apple a few days ago and now sitting on my desk is a shining new 24-inch iMac - that's all mine! The office is a much more peaceful place now. I find I don't have a headache anymore from the background fan noise and other than some looming deadline I don't feel the stress I used to feel before whenever I entered my office.
I've even turned my $1,800 iMac into my alarm clock with the free program iTunes Alarm . I can even set it to wake me at a different time every day to a different radio station from anywhere or one of my iTunes Playlists. I tossed my old clock radio.
I should mention that all hasn't been smooth sailing in moving from the PC universe to the Mac universe. Hence my decision to turn this review into more of a story of my journey. Hopefully, it will enlighten those of you who've been thinking of getting a Mac.
Switching from Windows to the Mac " The Gotchas
One note first. Everything I'm writing about here is for running on Intel-based Macs using Leopard (OS-X 10.5).
If you own something else then these tips might not work for you or there might be an alternative for your machine.
First step - Update your Mac: After starting up your new Apple computer for the first time you'll want to click on the Apple icon that in the upper left corner of your screen, the menu will drop down and you can select 'Software Update'. Hit 'Ok' and install all the updates it finds. Once the update is done you'll probably be told to restart your computer. Go ahead. Then go up and run 'Software Update' again to check that there aren't more updates to install. If there are go ahead and install them, restart if it says so, and check again until no more updates are found. You'll most likely only have the one update/restart cycle, two max. If you were to skip this first step the Apple OS would tell you about any new updates.

Available space

Now, I recommend you don't recycle your PC just yet since you'll want to have everything on hand as a backup or maybe you're going to hang onto it and integrate your Mac into your existing PC network.
Second step - Transfer your photos, music, documents and other files to your Mac: The next thing you'll want to do is transfer data from your old computer to your Mac. This is where a little preparation will save you loads of time and headaches later.
Check the size of your PC's 'My Documents' folder by right clicking it and selecting Properties. Depending on how many files are in the folder and sub-folders this could take some time. Hang on till Windows gives you the total size of the folder. On your Mac right click (CTRL/click) the hard drive icon in the upper right corner or your desktop and select 'Get Info'. In the new panel that opens check the 'Available' space left on your internal hard drive. Here is the amount of empty space on your Mac's hard drive, if the folder size of your My Documents folder on your PC is close to ½ the size or more of the empty space left on your Mac then consider getting an external drive and copying the files to that instead of to your Mac's hard drive. Filling up a hard drive will slow down your computer so keep only essential data you use often on it like your iTunes music folder. If you download a lot of HD content (podcasts, TV shows, movies) or have a very large collection of music or photo then keep these on an external drive too.
As of this writing you can pick up a 1TB external USB drive for less than $150 on sale or a 500GB drive for less than $70. If you bought an Apple Time Capsule to go along with your new Mac I recommend you keep that strictly for Time Machine backups. You'll thank me later when catastrophe strikes and you have deleted or lost some important file or folder, even if it was weeks or months ago.
Our First Gotcha!, File System incompatibility - Another advantage of buying an external drive is to make the transfer of data as quick and painless as possible but here is where we hit our first 'Gotcha'.

MacFUSE gives you full read/write capability of Windows drives on your Mac.

Depending on your version of Windows your PC's internal hard drive will be formatted in either FAT, FAT32 or NTFS. If you use Windows XP or Vista chances are its NTFS. You can find out which by opening up My Computer and right clicking on the header where it says Name/Type/Total Size/ Free Space (not necessarily in that order) and selecting File System from the drop down menu. NTFS is the preferred file system because of its improved security as well as being able to access files larger than 4 GB, which is necessary if you do any HD video work or want to make backup copies of your Blu-ray discs.
Our first Gotcha lays in compatibility between Apple's Leopard operating system (used on all new Macs) that uses what is called Journaled HFS+ formatting for its drives while Microsoft Windows' uses NTFS formatting for its file system. HFS+ can read and write to FAT and FAT32 drives but can only read from NTFS drives. Right now that's not too much of a problem since you're only transferring files to your Mac but if you plan on using your Mac to write files to any external drive that's formatted in NTFS (or you are going to include your Mac into your home network which might have hard drives using NTFS somewhere in it), well you're going to have problems. The way around this is to install the free MacFUSE from Google and the free NTFS add-on for it. Or, you could buy a solution, MacDrive 7 ($49.95) Either way gives you full read/write capability on your Mac.
First Gotcha - SOLVED!

Look for the next segment of this article next week - Transfering your emails and address book - The Gotcha's Part 2


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Robert Jensen has spent most of his 55 years in photography, from the age of 11 when he got his first camera (a Kodak Instamatic) to the present, shooting professionally. From 1971 to 1997 he worked in retail selling photographic equipment to people of all skill levels. For most of that period he was also a manager.
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