1 year of Mac: The switching part

The difficult part about switching to a Mac was the decision. If you haven’t read the top right part of this blog, now is a good time. As stated in my profile: “In college years I was a Linux geek, but then work obligations forced me to change to Microsoft Windows…“. So I have quite some good experience with other operating systems. But then, driven by my curiosity about the Mac philosophy and the influence of some of my work colleagues and project partners, I decided to give Mac OS X a try.

This decision could have been disastrous, because it meant buying a computer that was supposed to last the next 2-3 years while I’d end my PhD. And if I’d end up not sympathizing with Mac OS X, this would make these 2-3 years quite difficult…

So, I prepared myself and made intensive research on the subject just to make sure that I wasn’t going to fall on a huge trap. And with that research, I concluded that switching to Mac can be quite peaceful. Even for those that still have to collaborate with colleagues that use other operating systems.

And my first experience was quite good. I spent some days getting used to the new environment, but as soon as the “engine got warmer”, the performance was increasing by the day. If I had to summarize my experience, I would say the following figure says it all:

Working with Windows, most of the days, was like playing Russian Roulette… you’d never know what you’d get. Some days, the productivity would be nice, the others it would be close to zero, because I’d ended up spending all day fixing some stupid annoyance typical of the Windows environment. Then, when I switched, the productivity line went down a little bit while I got used to the new environment and philosophy of work, but as soon as that initial fear passed by, I was going up the hill of productivity full speed ahead. And this was not only at the level of work. At the personal level, using the iLife applications, I was able to reunite with old photos, movies and musics with ease.

The other reason why my experience with the Mac has been so sublime has a whole lot to do with Quicksilver. But the complete post about this wonderful application will have to be postponed to another day, because it deserves its own special post. But to sum up, as you see in the figure, using Quicksilver changed my view of usability. The speed at which I perform some tasks now is amazing, all because of the simplicity of this small, yet powerful application.

So, if you’re thinking about the possibility of switching to Mac OS X, my advice to you: Do it!! it will take some time to get used to the differences but in the end you won’t regret your decision. Specially if you’re switching from Windows :-)

How to get those MP3s you want for free

In order to save some money from MP3 purchases, you can always try to find some other means of getting those MP3s you want for free. Of course not all those techniques are legal, but what did you want? It’s for free…

Lifehacker has made a nice post that gives some advise on this area. For example, you can try searching the MP3 you’re looking for in the Web. If that doesn’t work for you, you can always download the music you want from MySpace. How about borrowing your friends’ CDs or using the web? Another possibility is to grab the audio from a video. The quality is not the best but most of the files are audible.

What are your techniques to get MP3s for free?

1 year of being a Mac newbie

It’s been a year since my first Mac has entered my life. I have to say the experience has been overwhelming and I never thought that switching from Windows to a Mac would improve both my personal and professional use of computers so much.

Through the next few days, I’ll be reporting my one-year experience with a series of posts addressing the most important aspects that I’ve come across with and the lessons that I’ve learned.

Stay tuned!

1 year of being a Mac newbie

It’s been a year since my first Mac has entered my life. I have to say the experience has been overwhelming and I never thought that switching from Windows to a Mac would improve both my personal and professional use of computers so much.

Through the next few days, I’ll be reporting my one-year experience with a series of posts addressing the most important aspects that I’ve come across with and the lessons that I’ve learned.

Stay tuned!

Off-topic: Google adWords

Can anyone explain to me how a blog about being a newbie user of Macs ends up with a Google ad like this?

I wonder if Google’s adWords selection algorithm is as basic as pairing the word MP3 with some post from my blog that also had the word MP3.

Sorry for the off-topic…we’ll be back to our regular programming in a few moments :-)

Interesting and valid research: why some men never have a girlfriend

If you’re one of those that lost faith in yourself because you can’t seem to find the right woman for you, don’t despair. A new study shows that there are valid scientific reasons for that:

  • Number of people on Earth (in 1998): 5 592 830 000
  • …who are female: 2 941 118 000
  • …in “developed” countries: 605 601 000
  • …currently (in 2000) aged 18 to 25: 65 399 083
  • …who are beautiful: 1 487 838
  • …and intelligent: 236 053
  • …and not already committed: 118 027
  • …and also might like you: 18 726

So, basically there are 18 726 women in the world that are right for you. But before you say: “Well that’s quite a lot! I might get lucky!” consider that’s 18 726 in 6 000 000. Which means that your chances are quite slim. As the author of the study concludes:

“At first glance, a datable population of 18 726 may not seem like such a low number, but consider this: assuming I were to go on a blind date with a new girl about my age every week, I would have to date for 3493 weeks before I found one of the 18 726. That’s very nearly 67 years. As a North American male born in the late 1970s, my life expectancy is probably little more than 70 years, so we can safely say that I will be quite dead before I find the proverbial girl of my dreams. Come to think of it, she’ll probably be dead too.”

DIY: how to create an invisible cable holder in less than 5 minutes

In my work desk, I have these loose cables coming from below that allow me to connect some of my gadgets to their corresponding chargers:

One is for connecting my Nokia N80, the other is to connect the Bluetooth headset Nokia BH-210. The grey USB cable is connected to a 4-port Hub where I connect some other gadgets such as my printer, a mouse and the iPod dock that you can also see on the image. This way, I can have all of these connected to my laptop by just using one USB port.

The problem with these loose cables is that they are loose…obvious, right? And because of that they’re always falling, which means that then I have to go under the desk to fetch them and gently putting them back on top of the desk, hoping that they won’t fall again.

What I really wanted was a way to maintain them easily accessible (and obviously not loose), yet not visible, in order to garantee a pleasant view of my desk.

I’m pleased to report that I achieved my goal, and the best of all is that I did it using simple objects that you can find anywhere and under 5 minutes.

What you’ll need:

  • A hole punch
  • Some duct tape
  • An old business or credit card that you won’t be using anymore (plastic ones work better)
  • A scissor or other cutting uttensil

Got everything? Good, let’s start…

Step 1: Use the hole punch to make one hole for each wire on the business card. I’m using 3, as explained above, but this hack will work for any cable, such as network cable, laptop charger, etc…

Step 2: Using the scissor, cut a small passage between the edge of the card and each hole, as shown on the picture below. This will allow you to place the wires in the right place and still prevent the charger connector from falling.

Step 3: Using the duct tape, place the business card under the table and slide all the wires through. Some of the cables (such as USB) can be somewhat heavy, thus you’ll be needing a strong enough duct tape to hold everything together.

Step 4: Marvell yourself with the beauty and simplicity of your new invisible cable holder:

I hope this will help keep you desk more organized too :-)

A banjo as a brain surgery instrument

Yes, that’s right…the title is correct: a banjo can be used as a valuable brain surgery instrument.

Eddie Adcock is one of the pillars of Bluegrass Music. Recently he realised that a new found tremor in his hand could threaten his ability to perform professionally. So, he underwent brain surgery to treat the hand tremor and to test the success of the procedure, he played his banjo throughout the entire operation.

Surgeons placed electrodes in Adcock’s brain and fitted a pacemaker in his chest which delivers a small current that shuts down the region of his brain causing the tremors.

Don’t believe me? Check out the video:

Source: BBC News

Open Office 3 for Mac

As soon as I knew that a new version of Open Office was available for Mac, I decided to test it to see if they finally were able to create a valid competitor of Microsoft Office. Obviously, I don’t expect an open source initiative (even with the dimension of Open Office) to reach the same level of completeness as Microsoft Office (hate Windows or not, fact is that Microsoft Office is an excellent tool). But at least, I would expect it to reach a certain level of compatibility.

First, let’s have a look at the things that I liked in this new version:

  • Speed – version 3.0.0 is in fact a lot faster than the previous version (2.4.1) I tested on my Mac. The launch app loads quickly and opening files is quite fast. The only thing that is not so smooth is window resizing.

What, no more good things?
Nope, that’s it!

Now, for the problems I encountered:

  • Native look – it still doesn’t feel like a native Mac application (except for the speed). The looks still resemble a poorly-designed Java application. Also, Command + Shift + Left Arrow (Home) or Right Arrow (End) don’t work as they should. Instead of selecting text from the beginning/end of the line untl the end/beginning of the line, it selects text word by word.
  • Still no support for track changes – For me, this is one of Word’s most important tools. When exchanging documents with colleagues, I often have to use track changes to suggest changes in parts of the documents and insert comments. So, a word processor that doesn’t have this feature is quite useless to me. Other users may survive without this feature, though.
  • Integration Open Office Word – I decided to create a document in Word to test the integration between the two office suites. In this document I inserted the most common formatting that one can use (bullet points, headings, comments, track changes, tables, etc…). As I said before, no track changes support, which results in track changes text appearing as simple text with a different formatting (but no way of accepting or rejecting changes). And simple bullet points result in the strange symbol that you see on the image on the right. Even the integration between iWork’s Pages and Microsoft Office is better.

For now, I haven’t tested other Office applications such as Excel and Power Point, but as soon as I have the time, I’ll have a look at it.
But, bottom line, my first experience with this new version of Open Office was not a good one. So, I guess we still have to wait a bit longer for a version that comes along and shakens the Microsoft Office’s throne.