Thursday, June 4, 2009

first blush

This is my first post as a Mac. Yes, I'm writing from my MacBook Pro 17'' beauty.
And my topic is about the first blush. I intend to journal my doings as I wade into macworld over the next days (weeks?  months?).

the box
First off, I LOVE the box it came in. I've ordered many computers in my day, and many other electronics as well. The thing that hit me about this was that the box was made for the computer. Sure it was in an outer cardboard box like anything would be. But once inside, most computer vendors would do some engineering work to create packing material that precisely fit the computer, giving it a snug and comfortable ride. Not apple. What they did was custom design an entire box for the MBP's temporary home.

macbook pro box
macbook pro
pull here for macbook pro
macbook pro accessories
The next thing that happened was me feeling like an idiot. After I took the MBP out I felt like an idiot because I couldn't get the lid open. Then my son, who was manning the video camera suggested that I turn it around. Sure enough I had it backwards. It's because I was mesmerized by the apple I think, which was right-side up facing me. But it is supposed to be right-side up when it's open, facing the world. Free advertising.

((insert picture))

opening scene
The opening video was impressive I must say. Microsoft has over the years tried to make their opening video friendlier and more colorful. But it just can't compare to the opening scene of Star Trek, which is what the opening of my mac remind me of.  Nice.  And for the record, the Microsoft one still sucks.

Then of course it was the keys. The last generation of macbookpro, which I saw all over New York City yesterday, had silver keys. They're beautiful, especially when they're backlit on a airplane. But they can't compare to the black backlit keys of this model. As I sit in my office right now, well lit enough with leaking sunlight through the shades, it is dark enough for the mac to light the keys. Or maybe it's always on. Dunno.

The next thing that happened was my wife's parents came to pick up my grandmother to take her back home. But before they left, they wanted to see the pictures of our trip to New York (my daughter and I just got back this afternoon--it was a special trip for her 15th birthday). So I ran my Canon A620 straight to the video port on the HDTV and did the slideshow thing. And then Jill asked me if there was a way to show them a youtube video on the HDTV. I told her that we would need a computer. Then she had a new idea--how about I hook my new apple up and use that? I think she planned it all along.

That proved simple enough. However, the thing went letterbox on me, and it went dual-home also (translated for non-displaylaureates: my desktop was split up onto two monitors--the laptop screen was the first one and the HDTV was the second one; I could drag windows back and forth to either; but the HDTV screen's picture didn't go all the way to the edge--the picture was in a "letterbox" in the middle of the screen with black bars on the sides). This was disconcerting to me, and it became irritating as I scoured the keyboard for the display toggle button.

On a Thinkpad it's fn+F7. On a Dell it's fn+F8. And on those models there is a little blue picture in the top corner of the function key letting you know that pressing it cycles the display mode from laptop to external monitor to both and then back to laptop. Not so on the mac.  Instead I discovered that you get a little picture of the display up in the bar at the top of the screen (whatever that's called). When you click on that picture you get a dropdown menu. From there you can choose the screen resolution of all your active displays (laptop, HDTV, etc.) and choose a few other options. But one thing was disconcerting. I haven't yet figured out how to get a true mirror mode. My mac is 1920 x 1200. My HDTV is 1920 x 1080. When I went mirror mode it got all funkified on the laptop display. I'll probably figure this out, but I'm still not happy here. On my Thinkpads I have a COOL utility that ships with it called Presentation Manager. When you press fn+F7 like I mentioned before, instead of cycling though the display modes, you get an onscreen popup menu that you can choose which way you want to go. And you can save your settings so that with one click you can choose between mirror mode on an HDTV or an extended desktop on an external monitor that is an odd resolution, or several other settings. It also has a discovery mode to help you get the perfect settings on a brand new monitor the first time--such as when you show up to do a presentation at a client on their projector or supersize conference room monitor. Anyway, I'm sure I'll figure this out on a mac, but until then I still like the Lenovo Presentation Manager best of all.

But all things considered, it was very easy to hook up the MBP to the HDTV. I just plugged in the mini-to-VGA cable I bought with the mac, plugged that in to the VGA cable that remains connected to the back of the HDTV, and the MBP automatically found it and started sending video to it. No fanfare. It just worked.

Ok. This is a BIG warning to all new apple users. When you log in the first time to your new mac, you get a super fancy video that makes you feel like someone's in charge who knows what they're doing.  It's the one I talked about before that looks like Star Trek. Careful. It asks you what language you want and where you are located, and how you're going to use the computer (to satisfy apple's snoopy side). And then it asks if you have an apple store id. Well, if you ordered your mac online you definitely have one because that's the only way you can order online. If you have an iTunes account, then you have one, too. This id spans the apple domain.  Since I did had an apple store id, I proudly entered it and put my password in for it. That allowed apple to retrieve my personal information and fill in the rest of the blanks for me. All good so far.


I finished the login and setup process and opened Finder.  I noticed something strange.  On the prominent "places" location, basically the home page for the local computer, instead of having my name or an abbreviated version of my name, I get my apple store id.  But I DO NOT WANT MY APPLE STORE ID AS THE NAME OF MY HOME FOLDER.  My apple store ID was something I had to use for the apple store, which contained the ubiquitous number-in-the-login because someone had already used the id I wanted.  I looked and looked for how to change this only to find that this is a huge issue.  Everything is coded to that short name.  Even though my "account" on this computer is called "Steve Coan" the short name, which is unchangeable AT ALL is my apple store id.  This is terrible, apple.  

I finally found this apple knowledge base article that shows you "How to change user short name or home directory name", which is actually a misnomer, because the truth is that you can't change this "short name" at all without jeopardizing the stability of your system.  So what you do is:
  • enable root login, 
  • login as root, 
  • navigate to the /users folder, 
  • rename the folder to the new short name you want, 
  • create a new user matching the new short name, and 
  • when the system objects because the folder already exists, tell it to recycle it
This supposedly "will correct the ownership of all files in the Home folder, and avoid permissions issues with the contents".  I'll try that next.

Well, that's about enough for the first blush.  I am struggling through my acquaintance with the apple keyboard as I edit this post (control, option, command what?).  Some of the key combinations I already know, like cut, copy, and paste.  But some of this stuff drives me nuts like the fact that there is NO DELETE KEY.  And that the backspace key is actually labeled "delete".  Oy! Heh, I just realized that if you're a long time mac you may have no idea what I am talking about.  :)  But on the flip side I love the trackpad, which I am surprisingly comfortable with after a few trips to the apple store to experiment.  More later.

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