My New Mac DesktopWow, what a day! After knocking out a few small fires, I was finally able to hit the power button and dive in to setting up my new MacBook and what a swim it was. I had hoped to post smaller posts throughout the day, but things were just too hectic — between work, the huge storm that blew through town and my intermittent Comcast connection, there just wasn’t enough time. This is the first Mac that I’ve ever set up for myself as a primary machine, so I’m really going deep into the whole experience and go through it step-by-step.

The Packaging
I have to say, when you’re sitting there about to un-box your new pride and joy, there is just a little bit of doubt and buyer’s remorse that begins to surface. “Was this really the best laptop for me?” “Can I really afford this purchase?” Well, all doubt fell to the back of my mind lifting the lid on the box.

Apple has long been lauded for the packaging of their products. When compared to Microsoft, such as in this video, it’s almost comical. Well, the MacBook is no exception to the high standards that Apple sets for it’s packaging and I sat back in awe as I opened the box.

Believe it or not, making things simple is hard to do, but you wouldn’t know it to open the lid and look into the box. Apple’s packaging is ultra-elegant. Lifting one piece of very styled styrofoam and you’re presented with the notebook wrapped in a soft pocket (almost like a pillow), a power supply, two power cords, the Apple Remote for Front Row, and a small box with CDs and manuals. That’s it. Just 5 items and everything is unboxed and ready to go.

Looking over everything, one thought became clear — someone took the time to think about this. Let me say that again. Someone took the time to think about the experience that the customer would have simply un-packaging their purchase. Having setup more than my fair share of computers, I can safely say that most companies appear to barely give this aspect of the buying experience a second thought.

For example, setting up most Wintel machines isn’t all that great of an experience. There are huge posters with warnings about the correct order to setup the computer properly and tons of small boxes and plastic bags that have to be torn through. Once everything is un-boxed, you’re left with a pile of trash and a ton of various parts, most of which have warning labels. I can see why many people get gun shy in setting up their own computers.

The user is left wondering what all the various parts are for, what has to be kept, and more importantly the user is now worried that if they don’t do things just right, they could ruin their brand new purchase. Granted, manufacturers have had to do this because setting up a Wintel machine does take a few extra steps, but it never dawned on me just how daunting just opening the freaking box could be.

That let me to think, “If Apple has taken the time to focus this closely and to this level of detail, what will the computer experience be?” After letting the battery charge for a few hours, I pushed the button to find out. 🙂

The First Boot
Regardless of the computer, the first boot always takes a little longer than a usual boot. There’s software being installed and boot routines that have to run when the machine is first powered on. For my MacBook, I was presented with a spinning circle until the first welcome message appeared. Much like a Windows “wizard” my new notebook asked me a series of questions. Each screen was brief and to the point. I have to say that it was also a little bit entertaining as the screen morphed between questions. I know that was just window dressing, but it made an otherwise boring experience kind of fun.

After entering my name, a password, it then asked me what network I wanted to connect to. Personally, I wished I could have skipped this section, but I’m a network guy and so I know I’m not the norm. 99.9% of everyone else is going to want to connect to the Internet right away, so I understand why I wasn’t able to skip this section. My gripe stems from the fact that I’m running an encrypted wireless network and the password is 63 random characters which I can’t possibly remember. Normally, I copy and paste from a text file I have saved on a thumb drive, but I couldn’t do that during the setup process. So I typed out the password so that I could go forward.

Once the welcome routine was complete, I was offered a free 60-day trial of .Mac and decided to take them up on it. I don’t know that I’ll keep it once the trial runs out, but I think it’s a good product, so I might. I like the fact that Apple offers a solid backup and web publishing service to new users. There’s more to it than that, but those two features alone are worth the $100 per year cost.

The Updates
With all that out of the way, I was eager to begin launching some apps, so I launched Garage Band, but before the application even launched, the OS informed me that I had 12 updates and patches to install. Once downloaded and installed, the system said I needed to reboot. Once the MacBook was restarted, I ran Software Update again manually and there was one more update to install. I didn’t have to run the Software Update the second time, but I wanted to know if this experience was going to be anything like Microsoft Update, which requires reboot after reboot while more and more patches and security updates are installed. I was happy to see that the update process was MUCH more simple — not to mention faster.

I just finished setting up three Dell OptiPlex computers in Baton Rouge for a client, and I can tell you that the update process was NOTHING like the MacBook update I just did. With the OptiPlex computers having the latest build available for Windows XP Professional, I had 42 updates to apply. After rebooting, there were another 22 that had to be applied and after the third time, only 8. Bear in mind that this took HOURS for these updates to download and then install. Not only that, but Windows didn’t clearly notify me of all of these updates quickly and easily.

I just happen to know that the first thing you do with any new machine is to update it with security patches and fixes. I like the fact that OS X automatically checks and quickly tells you that you have updates when you first boot into the machine. Technically, Windows does the same thing, but it takes a great deal longer and the notification is fairly subtle at best. On the Mac, the software update window appears on top of whatever you’re doing. With Windows, a little yellow shield appears with an exclamation point on it in the lower right corner of the Start bar. Talk about your muffled scream.

This is just another example of just how juxtaposed Mac OS is from Windows. I’m beginning to see why Mac users get so nuts when they’re forced to work in Windows. If I had “grown up” with an Apple experience, moving to Windows would feel like being sent to a Gulag prison.

Application Rodeo
Thirty minutes from starting the laptop, I was now up and running. All my security patches were applied and the laptop was secure and I was ready to begin finding what applications I needed to match what I’m used to in the Windows world. Some of the apps I knew about already, but there were several that I didn’t have a clue about so I needed to “reach out and touch someone.” That meant getting a chat client up and running.

Being a Trillian Pro user since pre 1.0, I knew that Adium X was the Mac equivalent, so I downloaded and installed it first. Of course installing an application in Mac OS is nothing more than a drag and drop to the Applications folder, so it was a piece of cake. Once logged in to AIM, GoogleTalk, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo, I was able to begin pinging my Mac friends to find out what they used for certain programs.

Throughout the day, as I continued to do work on my main Windows box, I installed the following applications:

Just Starting To Play
Since I was still having to work for most of the day, I wasn’t able to really “play” all that much. I kept getting distracted with work and then I’d go back to finding more applications to install. Special thanks go out to Mike Rohde, Justin Nolan, and Hal J for all their help. They were my go-to guys yesterday as I made my way through this process. Thanks guys!

One funny side note before I wrap this up though. I was so eager to try the video chat features of the laptop since it has an iSight camera built-in. Looking through my iChat buddy list, the only person I felt comfortable enough to pester was Mike Rohde. Not even telling him what I was doing, I started a video chat session. Everything worked like a champ, but what was funny is that Mike was using his PC, not his Mac. What are the odds that I would be on a Mac and Rohde would be on a PC! Too funny. LOL

What’s Next?
Now that I have just about every tool I need to get my work done, I can finally start actually doing some work on the MacBook. The only applications I don’t have right now is PhotoShop, but I can’t afford to buy an upgrade right now, so that will have to wait for the time being. Otherwise, I think I’m good to go.

The other area that I haven’t nailed down yet is my Palm stuff, but I’m going to focus on that a little bit later. I need to get comfortable with what applications I’m going to use before I start trying to sync. For example, am I going to use iCal, or the Palm Desktop? It’s those sorts of issues that I have to think through first.

In the meantime, I’m using applications and getting familiar with how things work. As an example, Mike Rohde and I dug around trying to find a character map. I use this for international characters and things like that. Between the two of us, we found this article and found the built-in tool that gives me exactly what I need. It’s little things like this that I’ll be working through as I become more accustomed to working in OS X

One thing is for certain though — I’m in love!