Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thinking about a non-smug way to talk about a MAC switch.

I'm high on coffee. I think I like it. I miss it, I believe. Somehow though, I'm fighting something. I keep visualizing spirals and circles.

I'm slowly realizing that an Apple computer is really worth it. The MAC Book Pro that I have is really kicking it for me. The software, and things that I have are coming down, and I'm finding exactly what I need. I'm finding exactly what I want. At first I was worried that I wouldn't be able to find enough software to support exactly what I had done on my Windows box. Images, video, all of the things that I did on a daily basis, would I be able to do them on a Mac? I knew that there were plenty of things that were media-centric on the Mac, but what about the FLAC, MKV and other strange file formats that people love to post on the Internet?

Well, much like Windows, the MAC comes with some basic apps that allow you do things that are perfectly O.K. But if you want to do some things that are just great, you have to sniff around. I was worried before my main computer became a MAC because I hadn't seen any of the things that I used on the MAC. I was soon to find that I simply wasn't looking for them. Let's go down this road systematically. From acquisition to execution.

Finding files, for me, was mostly done on Usenet. With Windows I used XNews. It is a great program. It enables you to search, find and get exactly what you are looking for. I used it and was happy. Once I jumped over I looked for a Usenet program, and found Unison. I had to pay for it but, holy crap, did I ever get what I paid for! As I started to use it, I found that like XNews it was easy and really put every thing together. But with Unison, it was so much easier. The program segregated file types and made finding everything so much easier. It worked exactly the way I worked. Intuitive, graceful and beautiful. In many ways it was the single best piece of software that I had ever used. I'll have to digress to get to my next point and I hope you'll forgive me.

The digression I promised is this: once I have the files from Usenet, I have to compile and extract them. On Windows I was using a few different programs to do this. Quick Par put all of the files together in whatever format the poster chose to compress them in and from that, I needed to extract. I needed two, sometimes three programs to do that. Here, on the Mac, I found a single solution. There may well be a single solution on Windows but I haven't found it. After being mired in simply finding a solution to extracting rar files on Windows without having to pirate or pay I was done looking for things. On the Mac, it took less time to find what needed than it did to download it. Now, with one program that could handle everything I could possible throw at it I was ready to rock.

So, back to the main conversation. I had an easy solution, and things were good. Then something happened. From within Unison I started to see a new type of file that it recognized. The NZB. I'd never seen (or paid attention) to the mighty NZB. I did a quick search in Unison's help file for it and discovered what amounted to the holy Grail of Usenet. Things were about to get real easy. So now, because I had been able to relax when using the program, because it had been so easy to find what I was looking for, I had found an even easier way to get what I was looking for. I didn't even need to open the Newsgroups file any more. I could find or create an NZB, click on it, and Unison did the rest. MACPAR then took the files from Usenet and performed every single operation needed to translate them into something I could use. It was at this point that I began looking at my ISPs download caps.

The next part was the one that I was most worried about. Once I had all of these files, and including all of the files that I already had, would I be able to use them. I'd messed with open source video viewers, image viewers and whatnot, but I was worried. Would there be a dry river bed on the Mac where there had been a steady flow of software on Windows? (Even if wading through it could sometimes be toxic.) Aside from a true, excellent replacement for AcdSee, the answer was a resounding YES! VLC took care of the video and works just as well on the Mac as it does on Windows; stripped down versions of the crap-ware Quicktime and Realplayer were readily available and plug in to VLC perfectly. And even though I haven't broken free of the chains completely, I am playing with some really good alternatives to iTunes.

So there I was. My main media worries were abated. Five Nines across the board. Video, audio, image etc. The things on my hard drive, old CDs, DVDs -- it all worked. Next, I had to find native tools to work with text and web pages, editing and creating. Finding those tools was a bit more difficult.

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