MacIntimidated But Moving Ahead


Generally, I’m a cautious person, especially when it comes to doing something where the stakes are high, my base of knowledge is low AND most particularly when there’s a good bit of expense involved. All three conditions exist with my current critical point, and yet I’ve decided (with some waffling still) to make the transition to MAC sooner rather than later–in weeks rather than months.

I’ll still have short term and long term projects underway that are computer critical, but the current PC desktop will be upstairs in Ann’s room if I have to revert to my old ways of doing things.

If I think about this excessively, I’ll wait too long and fret too much and this thing that should make me technologically satisfied will end up making me miserable. So I’ve decided to bite the bullet and make quick work of it, and start the process towards purchase this week. But I wish I had more answers. Pardon me while I ruminate…(and please feel free to offer rants, opinions and donations!)

Current PC programs I’d like to not have to replace:

  • Academic version of Adobe Creative Suite (esp Photoshop CS2 and InDesign CS2)…I’m wondering if I will be able to load them on the MAC, since this seems to be a one-machine license. And is there an upgrade path or will I need to make a new purchase (>$1500) of this software for the Mac? Yikes!
  • MS OneNote 2007 purchased a year ago. I’m using it to create a rough draft of the next book. I don’t find any Mac equivalents and would probably want to run it on the Intel Mac Processor.

Additional PC Software I’d like to run on Mac until or unless I find Mac replacements (and I’m open to suggestions if you know any!)

  • Ecco Pro 4
  • NoteTab Pro
  • Notezilla
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking 9

Which Virtual machine software: Parallels or VM Fusion?

I’ll need to buy a fresh copy of XP. Which version?

I assume the current Comtrend ADSL2 modem and D-link DI-624 router on my desk will be plug and play wit the Mac. Right or wrong? And I purchased Network Magic a couple of years ago; it really has worked well with the home network. Should I inactivate it and let the Mac do its work finding other computers (PC desktop and IBM laptop) on the home wireless ystem?

MacPro comes with 2Gb RAM. Buy 4 Gb more from 3rd party (cheaper)?

I won’t spring for MS Office replacement. Will I be happy with OpenOffice? And should I get a .mac account the first year?

What downloads will I want the first week? Top of the list is Quicksilver–sounds like it is a good match for my style of navigation.

Do I get a second internal 750Gb hard drive ($$$) or use the WD750 external for backup, even though so far it has not done well connected to the PC for the two weeks I’ve had it?

What kinds of problems will I have the first day/week that I haven’t even anticipated yet and might avoid?

And I assume I’ll be wise to get the 3 year extended warranty. Yet more $$$. Just do it.

Computer Pros in Roanoke: here I come.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Phred:

    The moment you install any version of Windows on any computer (Mac or PC) you are inheriting all the problems that make Windows what it is — punishment from God.

    Your best bet is to go to a Mac-only environment. You will be much happier if you do. Yes, it will require some investment in new and upgraded software but it will be worth it in the end.

    Two gigs of memory will not be enough and listen to the guys at Computer Pros on recommendations for memory chips. Some third party chips work well with Macs. Others do not. They can guide you in the right direction.

    The DSL router you are using currently will work just fine with a Mac. The Mac has its own networking built in and you can configure it to work with your existing PC and router.

    I would recommend you install at second internal hard drive (at least 750gb) as well as your external backup. The new backup facility in Leopard works transparently and will save you a lot of grief.

    Finally, do not — I say again do not — load up your new Mac with all those open source plug ins that you have on your PC. Keep your installation clean and simple and it will pay you back with dividends. Load it up with garbage and you will be right back where you started.

  2. Hiya Fred,

    I just had the chance this weekend to watch my brother-in-law use parallels . . .and it seemed pretty cool. It runs Windows through a disk image, so once you get the image set, just back it up and you’ve got it to reinstall in case something down the road happens. He also talked a little about Boot Camp, which allows you to boot the Mac into either the Windows environment or the Mac. He doesn’t use it though.

    I’m with Doug–the more RAM the better and the more HD to back-up to the better as well.

    On apps: I like Open Office and it will probably suffice for you. Quicksliver is a fantastic little program. I use it regularly to find snippets of info on my iBook. That said, the new search engine in the newer MacOS is supposed to be really fantastic, as well. Dot-Mac? Not too sure. I had one for a while, and that was ok, but I didn’t think it was worth paying for eventually, so I dropped it. I use other free online tools for bookmarks, contacts, and such now.

    Other than that-enjoy the new system. The learning curve isn’t too steep and there’s a lot out there that you will enjoy.

    Stay warm these days too!

  3. OmniOutliner is a good replacement for Ecco Pro (alas, that was a great program though). You might have a copy of it on your new Mac. Likewise, Circus Ponies “Notebook” may interest you, as may the free xPad for grabbing notes, images, and the like. There’s a lot of neat software out there for the Mac that’s free or cheap. Try the LifeHacker site. Parallels works great and is getting better, but it’s a shame to have to have two OS for a few programs, believe me. It starts bugging you after a while.

  4. Hey Fred!

    Be prepared to buy a whole new copy of Creative Suite 2 – Mac Version. Luckily Adobe and Macromedia bundle all of their products into one.

  5. Wow, that’s a lot of questions.. 😉

    here’s some info on switching your adobe licenses:

    You should be able to use your academic serial numbers to get the upgrade pricing for a regular version of Creative Suite 3.

    You will want version 3 of the creative suite. Version 2 was created for the PowerPC processors, and must be translated on the fly for the new intel processors that apple is using. (it works, but there’s a significant speed hit.)

    I’m not sure that I agree 100% with Doug with regards to the ram. More is better, of course, but for most of what you’re doing, you would probably be satisfied with 2 Gigs. (and you can always add more later, if you need it.) So unless you’re getting a discount for purchasing it with the system, I would delay the ram purchase.
    But again, more is better, and Doug probably knows your situation better than I, so take that with a grain of salt. has good prices on Mac ram.

    Router, and modem should be fine.

    If you must have windows, then Parallels with Win Xp home edition should be fine, but I do agree with Doug again (though not as vehemently). I would try running the mac for a couple of weeks without windows. Make a clean break if you can 😉

    Openoffice: clunky, but it works. you might consider iWork, but as openoffice is free, try it first.

    Omni makes good programs. has a bundle on sale for a limited time (2 days remain) with some nifty programs for a pretty good price.

    If I remember when I get home this evening, I’ll send you some links to other useful little applications that I like.

  6. When I switched to a Mac Pro from a PC, the Adobe thing was top of my list of concerns as well. The cross platform upgrade mentioned above (from CS2 on the PC to CS3 on the Mac) is what closed the deal for me.

    Mine came with 1 gig of ram, and it was too slow for my tastes (but I often have Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop running at the same time), so I added an additional 4 gig from OWC – if I recall, they are one of the few companies that make ram that is certified for use in a Mac Pro. I would never buy the overpriced ram from Apple. I have ordered ram and external drives from OWC (for Time Machine backups), and never had any issues.

  7. Good luck to you, Fred. My compliments on being willing to tackle this new trick!

    I have long been frustrated with the growing Mac-ness of the PC system, but know (from painful experience) that actually using a Mac would cause me equal (perhaps greater) frustration for a long time. Familiarity may breed contempt, but at least I’m usually functional!

  8. Thanks, Sally…I’m consoled (somewhat) by the fact that I’ll have the PC to fall back on, as well as my IBM laptop connected to the wireless while I’m whining about not being able to save a file on the Mac during week one.

    I am doing a piece on the transition for a paper I write for and will post it on FFF after Feb 8, you might appreciate it. It does rather seem like I’m converting to another religion.

    And thanks to all, I’m feeling more confident with your encouragement, links and advice. That really does matter just now.

  9. Fortunately for me, I don’t have all of the usage problems that you do, but I just now took the plunge. I ordered my iMac. It should be here about the middle of next week. Oh Boy, Oh Boy! I’m Mac-cited!

  10. I moved to Mac two years ago and don’t regret it at all. I have a clunky old laptop with some essential Windows programs that have no Mac equivalents but it never goes online, either. Programs: for pictures, I use Xee to view and ImageWell to reduce them in size. But I’m sure PhotoShop does vastly more than these two programs. Open Office is the only word processing program that I’ve found that will display MSWord documents correctly. It takes awhile to open (it is a Linux program) but it does work. Since it’s free, you can’t complain. For backups, I use Data Backup and also have TechTool Pro for analysis and repair. iPartition does a good job of moving partitions around if you want to create a new partition. Stuffit! is the Mac equivalent of WinZip and I’d recommend upgrading to QuickTime Pro – you have a lot more options than with the free version – it is only $30 for the upgrade. VLC is a good, free media player that does most tasks except *.wmv files, but there is a free version of Windows Media Player, I think. Firefox is my browser – install NoScript as a plugin to protect yourself from nasty Java script issues. Safari is a good browser and sometimes it is the only one that works for certain sites, but Firefox is a good one.
    Safari doesn’t display date windows on airline reservation sites and it isn’t good with on-line banking, either. Apple Mail is a pretty good e-mail program, but there are others out there – WordSmith comes to mind. But Mail works very well.

    The one thing you will need to get used to is that Mac is most assuredly not Windows: it is plug and play and not nearly as big a pain as Windows. I rarely have a program freeze and not respond – the solution for that is Option-Apple-Escape – the equivalent of the Windows three finger salute. To install programs, you simply download them and drag them to the Applications folder – no install or uninstall programs to deal with. No re-booting, either!! Just download, drag, and start using the program. To uninstall, simply drag the program to the trashcan. Easy as pie.

    The one thing that is very different about a Mac is that the menu bar at the top of the screen changes with the focus. If you are using Mail, the Mail tabs will appear; if you use Foxfire, the Foxfire tabs appear. This takes a bit of getting used to, but after awhile, you ask yourself, why didn’t I switch to Mac years ago??

    To shut the machine down, click on the Apple icon at the upper left corner of the screen and select the option you desire – that threw me for awhile.

    Mac is not as easy to learn as some folks would have you think – it is very different than Windows. Yes, it is a GUI, but it works very differently than Windows, thank goodness!!

    I wouldn’t subscribe to MacWorld, unless you want to know all about the iPhone and the iPod. I have a book on Mac, but I don’t use it often.

    I wouldn’t bother with the .Mac account – you can do without it. More memory is always better, but you don’t have to get it right away. I have an external hard drive that I like – more space is useful, particularly if you do music.

    If you play a CD, when it is finished, drag it to the trashcan. Sounds wrong, but the trashcan turns into an Eject button and your CD ejects. You may already know a lot of this, but sometimes the most basic things are the most important!

    I also wouldn’t go for a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse – changing the batteries becomes a pain after awhile. Do stay with a Mac mouse – I bought a Kensington and it didn’t work all that well.

    Feel free to pick our collective brains on Mac issues – Roanoke is a bit far for classes, if they offer them.

    Have fun!!

  11. Oh, one other thing: Repair. Shortly after I got my Mac, I went through Hurricane Katrina (it went across Florida before it devastated New Orleans) and the resulting power surges, even with an APC UPS, destroyed the motherboard. Apple fixed it for free, thank goodness, but I invested in a true on-line UPS after that. There is a difference between the cheap UPS models and a true on-line UPS. If you experience power surges, I would highly recommend a true on-line UPS. I have had no repair issues since buying the UPS. A very good investment, in my opinion. Mine is a Powerware 9125 – cost about $500.

  12. Instead of trying Open Office, consider Neo Office. It puts a Mac interface onto Open Office. As there is only a very small number of programmers behind Neo Office, expect it to be based on an earlier version of Open Office than the current one.

    It is donationware and expect to donate.