Catching up from deep within the Hole

So what’d I miss?

Yes, it’s been over three months since I last stained your collective retinas with dubious opinions and even more dubious word choices. But Mr. Damage said at least three of you were threatening violence if a new MacHole didn’t appear, so here be me. Be careful what you wish for.

A few interesting things have happened in the Wide World o’ Mac since my last post in early September. New MacBook Airs, iOS 4.2, AirPrint, FaceTime, and the announcement of a Mac App store, just to name five. But you’ve already read about and/or used these things, so why should I write about them? Because I’m usually two or three months behind the news cycle anyway, you say? That hurts. It really does.

No, I’m going to even farther back in time this time and tell how once upon a time there was a time I needed a new mouse and my parents (who are bona fide old timers) needed a new iMac that would last until the end of time (theirs, not Time itself).

Aren’t you glad I’m back?

First off, I acquired an Apple Magic Mouse  at full retail price from Best Buy (I had gift cards to use, people). Had I waited for Black Friday, I could’ve picked one up from Other World Computing for under fifty bucks. But if I possessed that level of prognosticatory abilities, I’d be typing this Hole from my office on Moon Base Six instead of in Dallas. If you haven’t yet tried a Magic Mouse, I highly recommend purloining a colleague’s for a test drive. The glass touch pad top surface is just awesome, giving you (or me in this case) a combo of mouse and touch pad.

Of course, that’s also the problem with it.

The Magic Mouse lets you do all sorts of things with the touch pad. But the one glaring thing it doesn’t do is let you configure it. Besides some rudimentary settings like the usual tracking speed, double-click rate and Magic Mouse-specific items such as two-finger navigation enabling, there isn’t a lot to change up in the standard Apple preferences pane. Which became a real issue when I kept accidentally side-scrolling when using apps like InDesign, Photoshop, and Word. I’d even succumbed to errant vertical scrolling (the Magic Mouse’s entire top surface is scroll-responsive) given my habit of dragging a finger over the mouse when moving it to the keyboard. Yes, lifting my hand high enough to avoid this is too strenuous for my dino-forearms. Back off.

Luckily, developer Vlad Alexa had the answer in a custom preference pane called MagicPrefs. MagicPrefs adds all the features you’d want when configuring your Magic Mouse, plus a lot you might not have thought of (and that I haven’t even tried yet). In my case, I mainly use it to turn off horizontal scrolling in certain apps and to globally narrow the width of the vertical scrolling area. Just these two little tweaks have made my use of the Magic Mouse nearly accident-free. Other options include customizable two-finger, three-finger and four-finger clicks; customizable “taps” (which are noted as being difficult to use); multi-finger swipes; and dragging and pinching. And it does all this without any kernel-hacking voodoo or CPU hogging.

Oh, and did I mention it’s free?

On another front, I managed to convince my parents to get a new iMac on Cyber Monday. They had been using a 17-inch G5 iMac purchased in January of 2005 just before I loaded up the family and moved to Texas. That machine technically still worked fine, but it was also technically obsolete. And its sweet 256 megabytes of RAM didn’t help matters. Or that it couldn’t be upgraded to the latest versions of, well, anything given its non-Intel architecture.

My parents mainly use their computer for e-mail, iPhoto, and watching videos of the grandkids (they have eight; only three are mine). High amounts of power are not required or, given the price of said power, desired by them. However, given that their G5 choked on processing even YouTube- or Vimeo-based files, and that they were missing out on video chatting, a new machine was in order. Especially since I’m the one who has to troubleshoot the machine from afar.

And so, a base model 21-inch iMac i3 arrived on my doorstep just hours before Mom and Dad showed up for a post-Thanksgiving visit. I must say, having not spent any real time on an iMac since, umm, ever, the machine is quite nice even in base form. It sports a 3.06GHz Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. Sure, I’d fill up that hard drive and overpower the RAM and processor in about 10 minutes. But my parents had a whopping 80GB of files on their old machine, so I think Mom’s good for another 53 years of photo taking. Assuming advancements in robotics allow her to live until she’s 119 Willard Scott-amazin’ years old.

Of course, the real challenge wasn’t setting up the machine, since Apple makes the process fairly easy—especially because I already had a FireWire cable with which to transfer all the files. The challenge is teaching my parents the different UI of an iPhoto that’s now four generations past the copy they were using. A challenge that was not helped by Apple’s bizarro tweaking of elements like editing and emailing. I won’t rant about those things here, but they seemed like change for the sake of change, which is vastly different from change for the sake of betterment. Or butterment, depending on what you’re doing.

In the end, everything got squared away and my parents are back in lovely Independence, Missouri, sending me photos of the children I see every day in my own house. My mom even learned to scroll with the included Magic Mouse (I did not install MagicPrefs for fear of option overload) with about two seconds of practice, so there’s that. She vows this is the last computer they’ll ever buy. I hope that just means I’ll have to buy them new machines in the future as opposed to the alternative. Because I doubt this machine will power through the Star Wars-esque holographic IM’ing that’s coming in 2016.

Hmmm, maybe I should’ve had them get the i7 after all.

Later,

Fox

Comments closed
    • Jason_Fox
    • 9 years ago

    Thanks for all the kind words, everyone. I’ll try to be a more frequent poster, but life isn’t exactly slowing down at the moment.

    I did forget to discuss the size of the Magic Mouse. I wouldn’t mind it being a bigger or curved. I’ve used a Logitech MX700 at home for years and still like how it feels. (And even though I’m left-handed, I’ve always used my right hand for mousing, go figure). But I haven’t had the issue some of you mentioned of resting my hand on it and causing unwanted input. I see your issue, but for some reason I don’t do that. Maybe it’s my years of driving a stick shift and hovering my hand over the shifter that does it (don’t want to rest your hand on the lever and wear out the shift forks prematurely). I dunno.

    Later,

    Fox

    • voodootronix
    • 9 years ago

    Nice to see a different school of journalism/writing on here, enjoyed muchly.

    • barich
    • 9 years ago

    Why not have saved some money, upgraded the RAM in the G5 iMac, and let them use the software versions that they were already comfortable with?

      • demani
      • 9 years ago

      Well, the cost of the RAM (DDR isn’t so chap anymore), the cost of a webcam, an OSX upgrade, and the machine is still running like a dog when it comes to some internet stuff (like the mentioned YouTube and Vimeo)- the extra expense includes a new warranty to boot (and RAM can be upgraded later without tossing DIMMs) makes it a pretty easy upgrade to recommend. The PPCs just don’t have a lot of value anymore. We can barely give away the G5 Quads we pulled out of our FCP suites, and they’d still be decnt for many things (though not for the same items that don’t have optimized software).

      • FuturePastNow
      • 9 years ago

      If they use the machine to watch videos of their grandkids, sooner or later those vids are going to be in HD, and a single-core G5 isn’t up to that challenge.

    • BiffStroganoffsky
    • 9 years ago

    Back into his hidey-hole goes Mr. Fox. Perhaps he will let us know if we will be having another six weeks of winter (or the iPad2 release date) when next he pops his head out.

    • Flatland_Spider
    • 9 years ago

    Jason, you should install Yellowdog on that old G5 iMac and tell us what you think.

    I see lots of Windows to Linux pieces, but not a lot of OS X to Linux pieces.

      • StashTheVampede
      • 9 years ago

      OSX to linux: what would be the gain? I’m a user of both (work: linux, home: osx/win) and I can’t foresee too many things gained in that kind of transition. Flash wouldn’t be *any* better, the CPU/GPU still lags to do most video playback from many sites.

      Even the installable packages could have some issues since most distros are focused on x86 (yes you can d/l source and recompile for PPC).

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 years ago

        Speed is about it, but that’s really most apparent on old G3 and G4 boxes. A G5 will most likely not be appreciably faster in Linux than it would in OS X.

    • Corrado
    • 9 years ago

    I tried the Magic Mouse and HATED it. I am just too used to resting my hand on the mouse. With the MagicMouse you need to hold it like you’re holding a cello neck arching your hand, so as not to trigger the touch sensitivity. I got myself a Magic Trackpad and love it much much more.

      • ImSpartacus
      • 9 years ago

      Same here, I already need a tall mouse because I have big hands.

      I use a Logitech Performance Mouse MX (MX Revolution RIP) and my hand just swallows it.

      The Magic Mouse is a neat idea, but it’s ultimately a first gen product.

      • KoolAidMan
      • 9 years ago

      Same, I now have a SteelSeries Xai plugged into my iMac. Same one in my gaming PC so it works out.

      I do love the Magic Trackpad though, I actually use that more than the mouse on my Mac right now, super super nice.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 9 years ago

    Should’ve just set your parents up with Windows 7. It’s just better : )

    *yes, I’m a Microsoft fan posting on a Mac blog. Notice I said fan, not fan boi. Mind the difference.

      • jdaven
      • 9 years ago

      Why does it matter to you which OS his parents use? Millions use both and they are both good.

      I never understood why people ‘need’ others to buy what they like to feel okay with their purchasing decision.

        • esterhasz
        • 9 years ago

        It’s part of growing up – finding your place in society and developing your personality through juxtaposition with other people’s tastes and opinions. Put yourself out there and see how others react. I’m always glad when I see that people care at least about something, even if it’s the ol’ pcmaccaroni…

    • derFunkenstein
    • 9 years ago

    Glad to see you back here, and I can stop creeping you on Twitter. :p

    • SomeOtherGeek
    • 9 years ago

    Jason, who said you could come back? Mr Damage? He is mentally unstable and should be ignored at all costs!

    Seriously, missed ya and your farther attempt to convince us that Mac is actually a good thing. 😉 I loved the writing and wit. Keep at it.

    • Jigar
    • 9 years ago

    Hello there fox, It’s good to read your blog again. 🙂

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      well i see you get #1. well done sir!

      Yo, jason. I was missing you. I thought you were comin over?!? I had the steaks already to go and everything! I’m not used to being stood up!

        • anotherengineer
        • 9 years ago

        ROFLCOPTER

        Sweats missed the boat for #1 again 😛

        and PC >> MAC

        edit – ooops my mistake, the Mac is a PC now with x86 cpu, just the skin and OS is different 😛

        I wonder if someone can put Ubuntu on a Mac?

      • dashbarron
      • 9 years ago

      I like your reading your articles Fox, and now that I have an iPod I’m offically a cultist and care. Yah for semi-relevancy!

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