PC + Mac = Hassles

While I’m cleaning out my closet, might as well come clean with this little factoid. I’m a small-S switcher.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw away thousands of dollars worth of investment in my PC platform to become a Switcher. I guess that makes me a switcher.

My inability to commit to the House of Jobs stems from several issues.

Firstly, there was the fear of the unknown. I’d played with a friend’s Macs (yes, plural) a few times, but what if I didn’t like it? What if I couldn’t cope? What about gaming? What if I couldn’t get all the tools I needed? (In order… I do, I can, OSX is not really a gaming environment, and I’ll get to that a bit later).

Secondly, as mentioned, there was my existing investment in my PC platform. I think I must be one of the few people in the world who actually owns all the software on his PC. That includes over 60 games and the Adobe, Macromedia and Microsoft Office suites. Not pointing the finger, just that in my past self-employed life I didn’t want to run the risk of losing everything over a dodgy copy of Office (of course, there’s a whole school of thought that even a legitimate copy of Office is “dodgy”, but I digress).

So I took the easy way out. I bought a Mac mini. Quite honestly, I wanted one from the moment I saw them. I couldn’t justify the cost (even that small cost), particularly configured with the options I wanted (more RAM, Wi-Fi, larger hard drive, maybe Bluetooth), well, that kicked the pricetag into iMac territory.

Then the HOJ released the 2005 series of the Mac mini. Suddenly the price was much closer to “reasonable” for a machine that was specced almost exactly as I wanted. And I had money in the bank. AND I was being handed the OSX support jobs at work by a couple of the other tech support staffers, by virtue of the fact that I’d uncovered a curious Mac-only bug, and thus was handling most of our Macolyte userbase. That pretty much sealed my doom, and gave me the intellectual justification to spend nearly $1000 of our investment account on a computer that I really, really… wanted.

So it was, that one fateful night I bundled the family into the Rocket and traversed the city to Chadstone to purchase the Apple Store’s lone 1.42GHz, 512Mb, wireless, 60Gb, combo-drive equipped Mac mini. Unpacking it was a joyous affair, in that sad geeky kind of way (is it sad because non-geeks don’t “get” it, or because we geeks find such joy in unpacking new toys? Once again, I digress).

The Mac mini is often referred to by the acronym BYODKM (Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard, Mouse). There are a couple of issues with this, particularly if you’re not a switcher, but trying to play both sides at the same time.

No, that was not a double entendre.

The immediate solution was a relatively complex one. Fortunately, my LCD has both digital and analogue inputs. By connecting one input to each computer and using a convoluted set of button clicks, I could switch between inputs. The input solution was worse. I knocked off the USB keyboard and mouse from one of the other PCs in the house, and juggled them with my existing keyboard and mouse. This, at least, enabled me to actually use the Mac.

I then proceeded to start installing software. Setting up Eddie (as opposed to Zaphod, my PC) to check my personal email was pretty easy. Getting my head around files that mount themselves as disks was interesting. Moving my iPod to the Mac was disasterous (that deserves it’s own post). Physically switching back and forth between systems was painful.

I needed a KVM. Reviews of various KVMs really didn’t help that much. In the end, I bought a boxed one from a Dick Smith in frustration. Dick Smith Superstores have a fourteen day, no questions asked return policy. Exactly fourteen days later I returned the KVM. It was either that or repeatedly apply a large heavy object to the KVM. It was awful. At first, I thought I could live with it’s little ideosyncracies. Like switching back to the PC and refusing to switch back if the Mac turned the screen saver on. Then it started timing out the mouse and keyboard on the PC. I’d switch between PCs and the mouse and keyboard would cease to work. Sometimes they would start to work a few minutes later, sometimes it required unplugging all the USB cables from the back of the KVM (being USB powered) to reset it.

The next-to-final straw was provided when my previously anti-Apple father arrived to take the family out to dinner for my son’s birthday. He was hoping to have a look, and play, with this little Mac that was actually a BSD-Unix box, but found me in the study with my hands buried deeply inside the guts of my computer desk trying vainly to reconfigure some out-of-sight USB cables to try and reset the KVM, and muttering death threats because it appeared that both the Mac and the PC had locked up, with unsaved work on both, due to the KVM’s recalcitrance. The final straw was the fact that none of the “extra” keys on my “multimedia” keyboard were being recognised by either computer when connected via the KVM.

A week after switching back to multiple keyboards and monitor fiddling, I walked into OfficeWorks and walked out with their only KVM, and a half price Microsoft Elite Keyboard and Mouse set.

The KVM works perfectly. There’s something deliciously wrong about plugging a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse into a Mac.

Really, that only leaves the lack of tools for the Mac. I posted this from w.bloggar on Zaphod. In spite of the fact that I prefer using Eddie for most day-to-day tasks, and having lots of cool little widgets at my fingertips, do you think I can find a good blogging tool for OSX?

Ah well. We switchers can’t be choosers.