Monday, October 29th, 2012...4:52 pm

2 weeks with a Mac

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Wow!  Look how much time has gone by since my first post this month!  It’s been busy here – lots of projects to plan for, one of our librarians just had a new baby (yay!).  And, after working here for 10 years, I finally have a Mac at work.  So I’ve been busy running it through its paces.

With so many of our faculty and students showing up with Macs these days, I wanted to know more about how they adapt to our work environment.  I’ve used Macs at home since 1987, so I’m pretty familiar with the interface.  But I’ve always used a PC at work.  By switching to a Mac, I expect to be able to better understand how Macs can be used by law students, faculty, and staff as an ed tech tool.

The Good

  • It’s fast. My old PC was pretty decent, but the iMac is much faster.  I wasn’t expecting that.
  • It’s bright.  The screen is much nicer than my PC.  I’m enjoying the crisp colors.
  • It can do (almost) anything a PC can. The programs I use most often are Chrome, MS Office, Acrobat, MindManager, SnagIt, and Camtasia, all of which run on Macs.
  • With Parallels, it can do everything.  The only day-to-day program I can’t run on the Mac is our Voyager desktop software.  With Parallels, problem solved.
  • They aren’t (that much more) expensive.  When we research new computers, we usually find that while lower-grade PCs are often cheaper, PCs with similar specs are about the same as a Mac.
  • The Magic Mouse is magic.  Its trackpad surface is easy to use and works much like a scrolling mouse, with a few extras.

The Bad

  • Why can’t I print? Mountain Lion isn’t totally compatible with our network printer/copier/fax.  Our IT people had to work pretty hard to get it to connect.
  • Where is my network drive again?   I have to manually add our network drives when I want to access them (maybe there’s a work-around I’m missing?).
  • What just happened?  I love the mouse – except when I manage to somehow make a gesture that sends me to a random program or widget.  I think this issue is special to me because I have the same problem with my home laptop.  No one else I’ve talked to has this issue.

I’ve only just started to see how far I can push the Mac.  I still have to learn more about some of the latest features of Mountain Lion (how well does the dictation feature work, for example?).  Earlier versions of Parallels seemed slow to me.  So far, Version 8 seems fine, but I haven’t used it much.

We all have a list of technologies which would be great to explore hands-on, but are just too expensive to purchase or to integrate, even with the best justifications.  Yet, without direct experience with the technologies, it’s difficult for educational technologies to make informed recommendations.  Getting a Mac was of those rare opportunities to directly experience a technology I’d only been able to discuss in the abstract..  The other day, a faculty member asked if she should get a Mac – a question I’ve been asked fairly often.  Before I got my work Mac, I could discuss the benefits of the interface well enough, but I wasn’t as sure about what day-to-day issues she might experience trying to use a Mac in our law school.  Now that I have a Mac, I can give more informed answers.

That said, even hand-on experience only goes so far.  It turned out that not only did the faculty member want a Mac, but she wanted an MacBook Air.  To go to China.  I’m pretty sure the library budget won’t cover a new laptop and a trip to Beijing any time soon.

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