Mac Mini – One Month On

Well, I’ve had the Mac for four weeks now, so it seems like a good time for an update.

I’m now using the Mac as my main computer, and rather than switching inputs on the monitor and having to remember which keyboard and mouse to use, I now use the Microsoft Remote Desktop Client to run the Windows PC in a, err, window. The client is a beta, and likes to use a US keyboard layout, but it’s reasonably stable and usable. This lets me get at the applications and data I need quite easily.

While I’ve still got my primary email address running from Outlook on the Windows box, I’ve moved a very busy email list to a new address that I use with the Mac Mail application. It’s quite a usable client, and I’m more or less used to it now. Once I’d found the keystroke to send a message in the same way that Ctrl+Enter does in Outlook, I began to feel comfortable.

As far as web browsing goes, I’ve reverted to Firefox. Safari isn’t actually bad, but I found I was missing the assorted plugins, especially Greasmonkey, which I find very useful – some of the scripts that customise Flickr are so nice that I couldn’t do without them. There is a Safari add-in called Greasekit, which aims to run Greasemonkey scripts, but I found that most of the ones I wanted to use didn’t work. I’ll keep an eye on it, and may return to Safari at a later date.

On the office apps side, I’m finding NeoOffice hideously slow. It takes a long time to start, a long time to open my spreadsheet, and a long before it responds to commands. So I gave iwork’s spreadsheet another go. After a bit of bashing, bending and tweaking, I managed to recreate the text formula that broke the first time. I’ll play with that for a few days, then decide if I want to keep using it and pay for it (I’ve got about five days of the trial left).

I’ve even been using iTunes to play my music. As the Mac has a lot more power than my elderly Windows box, it’s quite happy playing music while I do other things at the same time. And the little remote control is nice – I can start and stop the music or control the volume while sitting across the room.

I’m also finding Spotlight useful. This is Apple’s desktop search, which is a fundamental part of the system. All documents, emails, applications and other bits and bobs are automagically indexed. This involves a bit of thrashing when the machine is first set up, but after that doesn’t seem to have any significant effect on performance. In use, you just type the first few letters of what you’re after (say L I for Lightroom) and you immediately get a list of matching items. It usually lists applications first, which works nicely for me. While you can put commonly used applications on the Dock at the bottom of the desktop, where they can be launched with a click, this makes it easier to find things that you use less frequently.

There’s a lot to like about the Mac, and so far, I haven’t found much to actually dislike. I’d like a better Live Messenger client – Microsoft are apparently working on one, but there’s no release date or details of features we can expect. I’d like an equivalent of Microsoft Money – there are some personal finance applications, but a distinct lack of ones that do the important bit of downloading statements from my bank. That may be a long-term case where I’ll keep a Windows virtual machine. And I’d like to be able to decided on some office applications. The new Microsoft Office, which is due out this week, might do it, but I’m not sure yet.