Thursday, September 27, 2007

No ADSL and my Mac - a reminder of how it used to be

The last two and a bit weeks have been hard: our broadband ADSL failed over two weeks ago. We’ve had a little intermittent service but not much to speak of. Lots of calls to the provider and them in turn with BT.

In my opinion BT are still a big bad monopoly. Turns out they only provide ADSL on a ‘best effort’ basis. No service level agreements. Anything they need to do takes 48 or 72 hours. Most of the delay has been my ISP arguing with BT and me waiting for BT to do something.

I know realise how dependent we are on broadband. Even our fridge started to run out of food because we usually buy our groceries on line and have them delivered.

Interestingly while a lot of my neighbours have wireless access all the networks are now secured. That is a change in the last year.

To make things worse I have no modem on my Mac. When I was buying it I thought ‘when do I ever use a modem?’ And talking of my Mac....

It is nearly two months now since I switch to a Mac. I’m still glad I made the move but I’ll admit there are a few things about the Mac which are annoying me - lack of short cut keys is probably the most obvious.

The Mac is simpler to use but a lot of this simplicity comes because you simply can’t do the things you can with a PC. The Mac makes a lot of assumptions about how you want to work. That makes it simpler but when there is something you don’t like it is hard to avoid. For example, I’d really like a bigger mouse pointer but I can’t find any option to change the size of the icon.

My productivity has definitely fallen. This is largely because I have to learn, or re-learn software applications. It is also because I have to hunt down software to use. I’ve had to give up BlogJet so I had to find another piece of blogging software. After looking around the net I chose MacJournal. Its good enough but it does blogging as a secondary function. It is really journal software. The people who made BlogJet have now produced a Mac product but this too seems aimed at those keeping a journal.

I tried to avoid this problem in part by buying Microsoft Office for Mac. But it turns out the Mac version is quite different to the PC version so I’m having to relearn a lot of it. I used to use Visio on the PC but there is no Visio on the Mac so I’ve had to spend time looking for a Mac equivalent.

So I’ve been evaluating OmniGraffle and ConceptDraw. Both lack the extensive sencils of Visio and some features but both have other features. Annoyingly neither integrates to Word very well. I can’t insert a picture the way I can on a PC, and if I export a graphic picture it tends to appear blurred in Word - at least when I print it out. If I want a good image I have to use Apple PICT format which apparently is an old Apple format. Seems Microsoft haven’t updated Word.

Which is why being on the Mac feels like going back 5 or 10 years. I’ll probably buy OmniGraffle quite soon but in the mean time I keep getting e-mails from OmniGraffle and ConceptDraw making me offers and asking my views. I mentioned the integration and graphics issues to Omni Group who surprisingly replied in person. That’s how I know the image and integration problems are Microsoft and Apple issues.

And while I’m talking about Mac software I should mention RapidWeaver from RealMacSoftware. This is replacing my old copy of DreamWeaver and CityDesk.

I could solve some problems - like the image problem - by dumping Office. Apple actually have a word processor of their own, Pages - although I didn’t realise it was a word process for six weeks. But Pages doesn’t integrate with Endnote the software I use for tracking references. So you solve one problem and get another.

Perhaps the reason this all feels like going backwards is because I have to find and learn new software. With only a couple of exceptions I haven’t done this for most of the last 10 years. The other reason is because I’m finding a whole new software ecosystem.

But actually all this gives me hope.

In the Mac world Office does not dominate. Microsoft doesn’t supply everything and there are many small software companies carving out their own niche. Pages may be trying to compete with Word head on but MacJournal and BlogJet prove that there is a living to be made from producing niche specific word processes. Just when I thought word processes were a commodity I find they are not.

That all gives me hope for the future - and makes me wonder if I’m missing a niche somewhere.

1 comment:

  1. hi AK,

    was chatting to someone about patterns the other day, and got me thinking of you (and our discussions over beers in the old days ;)) ... and find out what you were up to :) and end up here!

    good to hear youve shifted over to the mac,
    after youve been there awhile you will loath PC
    - i think as macs as linux with a decent UI and applications. rather than comparing to windows.

    mac office - new version to be released jan 08, but compatibility is always an issue - interesting thing i think, is mac office is never a straight 'port', sometimes leapfrogs (in some ways) PC version.

    alternative are there:
    - iWork08, but the (new) spreadsheet is very much 1.0 software :)
    - openoffice and variants

    anyways, will see if i can remember to pop by every now and then.. but the webs a large place :)


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