iMac – First Impressions (updated)

As I mentioned previously, I am not a Mac user. I use Windows and Linux for my computing needs. But now my iMac is in and I have been playing with Mac OSX Leopard for a few hours. Let me just say to Microsoft, this is where the Wow is.

The initial setup of OSX when you first turn on the iMac is as simple as you could ask for. It finds your network, wireless or wired, and prompts you to input any necessary configuration information to connect to said network. It asks you to create an account password and picture (using the built in iSight camera…more on that in a minute) and then let’s you into the desktop. It quite literally took less than five minutes to get the entire initial setup completed. Are you listening Microsoft? I really don’t need Vista taking in excess of 15 minutes on the initial startup. It’s a waste of my time and I don’t have all that much to spare.

The desktop is clean. You have the application bar at the top and the dock at the bottom. Think of the dock as a quicklaunch bar. Icons for the programs you will use the most should be here. The application bar will be somewhat confusing to longtime Windows users. See, programs in OSX do not have a menu bar with the familiar File, Edit, etc menus. The application bar changes to reflect those. This will probably be the hardest thing to learn when moving from a Windows environment to OSX. As for a taskbar showing a little button for every running program…you won’t see that here. However, changing between windows is just a squeeze of the mouse away. Yes, I said squeeze. The Apple Mighty Mouse has left and right click, a scroll ball (for smooth vertical and horizontal scrolling…a wonderful little bonus), middle click, and squeeze. If you squeeze on the two side tabs, all active windows shrink and spread out across the desktop so you can see all available programs. Click on one and it becomes the active window.

If you middle click, you get the Dashboard. This is a pseudo desktop that overlays the current desktop. On the Dashboard are widgets. Think of them as the gadgets in Windows Sidebar. I am not getting into the argument over which company or group came up with these things first, I am simply describing what the Windows equivalent would be for easier visualization. The Dashboard starts with a calculator, weather, clock, and a calendar. You can add, remove, and relocate widgets across this desktop to better fill your needs. If you don’t see a widget for something you want, there are many many more available online.

The iSight camera is simply amazing. The pictures are clear and the video is smooth with very little blurring even during fast motion. I probably played with my position in front of the camera for four or five minutes when OSX just wanted me to make a picture to associate with my user account. I was just that amazed with the quality it provided. I plan on playing with it a lot more over the weekend.

Sound on the iMac is both loud and surprisingly clear. The speakers are built into the system and are hidden behind the lower part of the bezel on either corner. There are no holes in the bezel to denote that sound is coming from there, which caught me off guard. I did not expect so much noise to come from so small a package without it sounding tinny or distorted. Somehow, though, Apple managed to put together a wonderful system capable of making happy about ditching my old Creative speakers and further uncluttering my desk.

My only gripe so far is the length of the USB cables for the mouse and keyboard. At this point I am going to have to completely redesign my desk to accommodate the skimpy length. The keyboard has maybe two feet of cable and the mouse about one. Now I can understand the thought behind the choices. If you have the iMac on a flat desk, the cables are adequately long enough to accommodate comfortable use since the mouse plugs into the keyboard’s USB hub. but if you have a keyboard drawer under the surface of your desk and you want to use the mouse on the surface…well, let’s just say you need to start working on new desk designs.

Anyway, the point is the hardware is impressive as is the ease of setup. I haven’t had enough time to really dive into the applications yet, so that piece will have to wait a few days whilst I delve into the Steve Jobs Kool-Aid…

UPDATE: Well it appears my Superdrive is DOA. I suppose it’s off to the service center next week so I can get it replaced. Isn’t that just a wonderful start to my life with an iMac. And it only cost my one of my favorite CD’s to discover the horrible truth of the refurb.

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