Saturday, March 30, 2013

Using a Macbook Pro

I have just bought a second hand Macbook Pro.  I need it to create an iPhone app as Apple's application development platform (XCode) only runs on Max OS-X.

Initial impressions are good.  It is fast to boot and runs applications fast too. It has a cCore i5 with 8GB ram.  I upgraded to OSX Lion from its boot recovery partition.  Then I bought the OS-X Mountain Lion upgrade from the Mac App Store.  They are very easy to install and require no options to be entered.

What I like so far:

  • Nice hardware and design - really well thought out and executed - great quality
  • Chrome runs well so I have a familiar browser experience with all the productivity extensions I now rely on greatly (Delicious, Handy Google Shortcuts, X-Marks, LastPass,, Copy URL)
  • The two fingered swipe for scrolling up/down and right left is great

What is a bit weird - for a long term Windows user
  • The Launchpad is actually just a window that displays available applications.
  • You can use Command + Tab to display and switch to and active task.
  • You need to select an option to the get the hard disk icon on the desktop (like My Computer)
  • No right click on the touch pad - you use Ctrl + click to get this (or a normal mouse connected)
  • The Command key - its hard to know when to use this (e.g. Command + T opens up new browser tabs).  It seems to largely substitute for the Ctrl key in Windows, yet there is a Ctrl key too. . . 
  • No key for deleting the current character - the Delete key acts like the Backspace key in Windows. Fn + Delete does this, while Command + Delete deletes text from the cursor to the start of the line
  • Ctrl + Z does not undo your last action - you use Command + Z instead
  • Finding apps - there are Chrome apps (straightforward), iTunes apps (for iOS, iPhones, iPads etc), and Mac apps via the Mac OS store
  • The app menu across the top looks like its for the OS, but its for the current app you have open
  • The maximise button doesn't cause an app to fill the screen - it defaults to a size that Apple judges appropriate.  You can manually resize it by dragging the window size, which is then remembered.
  • The mouse scroll wheel works in the opposite direction Windows, but this can be reversed [link]
  • No page up/down buttons - Command + cursor buttons do this.
  • Installing applications - you download them as what seems to be then mounted as a "disk" which you then run/open and move the icon into the apps folder.
What I don't like so far
  • iMovie, Garage Band and iPhoto are all missing from applications. When I try to "upgrade them" I get a weird message telling me that I can't. It appears I would have to now buy these apps there were "free" from the app store to get them.  They were provided to the original owner, but not to me as a subsequent owner.
  • The lock in between XCode, iPhone app development and OS-X.  This is symptomatic of Apple getting people to buy most things (or everything) from them and is a cornerstone of their business model.  
So far, I haven't done much with XCode.  There is a lot of help available, but it looks like a very complicated development environment to me.  Lots of coding knowledge required, and a new language  (Objective C)

Overall, kudos to Apple for creating a nice laptop with a functional desktop OS - which Linux distros have struggled with over the years and not come close to, yet. 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

A fix for sluggish Windows 7 Explorer

My trusty Windows 7 desktop computer, which has zipped along at a pleasing speed until recently, suddenly got very slow when opening Windows Explorer.

On start up all was fine, but soon the speed of Windows Explorer degraded to the point it was unusable.  It would hang when I right clicked on a file, or just take forever to display the contents of a folder, then not display the files correctly.

I was not happy facing the prospect of reinstalling and reconfiguring Windows 7!

After some searching on the Internet I tried:

1. Using a tune up / registry cleaner - which did not fix it.

2. Setting up a new user account - which did not fix it.

3. Removing a bod context menu handler - which worked!

This post described the problem and the fix: Right click on file windows explorer freezes

I downloaded and ran ShellExView and disabled all the non-Microsoft Extensions - problem solved!