August 03, 2013

Computer Madness in my Office

It's been a wild and woolly few days in my office when it comes to computer madness.

At the beginning of the week I ordered a refurbished Mac Mini from the Apple Canada online store. (Check out the Apple Store refurbished/clearance section here.) It's the latest Mini iteration, with 4GB of RAM and a 1TB HD.

I haven't used a Mac in some 20 years, not since a Japanese System 7.1 on an ancient monochrome PowerBook 145B. A student of mine in Tokyo hacked the 7.1 interface so that the menus came up in English, for the most part.

I've continued to eye Macs, but Windows just kept getting better over the years. Windows 2000 was a major step in stability, while XP and 7 have been rock solid. And generic Windows boxen have been, and still are, way cheaper than Macs. And, I must admit, I was put off by the proselytizing, cultish attitude of so many Mac users.

But there are cool programs on Mac that I've been wanting to try, and I'm basically agnostic when it comes to the OS wars. I've happily run an Ubuntu Linux box for years in addition to my Windows machines, and Red Hat and other Linux flavours before Ubuntu. Not that I use Linux all that much, but I've always enjoyed playing around with other operating systems.

I recently added a Samsung T24C550 HDTV/monitor to my office, so had an extra screen to plug the Mini into.

So I took the plunge. I tracked my order via FedEx, and it was to arrive on Friday, Aug. 2. Great.

I got up Friday morning, and my main work Windows 7 box was wonky. I rebooted, only to get a dreaded BIOS message that the primary HD was fried. Well, the error message was somewhat more technical, but that was the gist of it.

Cue Twilight Zone music - obviously the Windows box was not happy that a Mac was arriving : -). I wasn't too upset because I use Image for Windows to image my entire HD once a week or so, I just wasn't looking forward to the PITA (pain in the ass) and time of having to install a new HD and reimage it.

I took the opportunity to replace the crashed 1.5TB HD with a 2TB unit, as I shoot a lot of photos, and gradually more video, so extra space is always welcome. I got the HD installed, and the image running, and then got to work on setting up the Mac Mini, and getting acquainted with it.

One issue, ugly, jagged fonts, was resolved with a bit of Googling. Turns out that often combo TV/monitors are not set up for optimal computer use. Sure enough, the "Sharpness" setting on the Samsung was at 50, when turning it down to 0 makes fonts look much nicer. Apparently the built-in Sharpness function and the Mac's own font shading/smoothing don't like each other.

The last day has gone better. I have my Windows 7 box back up and running (thanks Image for Windows!), and I have the Mac to play with. But it was pretty intense there for a couple of days.

Posted by Paul at August 3, 2013 07:59 PM