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March 12, 2005

Back into the Mac fold?

In the world of personal computers, I was a Mac person before I was anything. We bought a Mac SE in 1987 for Jen to finish her PhD, and I actively avoided PCs until I went to work for CICNet in 1990.

The next machine we bought for ourselves was a Gateway Pentium 133 in 1996; Macs were too expensive, and I'd had a work PC at home while I worked at CICNet, so I already had software and files in the PC world.

Jen had a iMac at home for a few years while she worked at Georgia Tech, but it was running OS 9, and was underpowered.

And then I an DV iMac for a year or so while I worked at CNN. I installed OS X on it, but it didn't have enough memory, and was pretty much a toy.

But lately I've started hearing about a number of interesting pieces of software that exist only on the Mac. Quicksilver is one; another one is DEVONthink, mentioned in a wonderful essay by Steven Johnson

And the recent introduction of the Mac Mini has started to kindle my curiosity for the Mac world again.

Well, thanks to a wonderfully innovative program by the Office of the CTO at EarthLink, where I work, I'm getting a chance to rediscover the world of the Mac.

The CTO's Office at EarthLink had a wonderfully simple but brilliant idea: we're a high tech company, and we live or die by trying to get good products to consumers before our competitors do. Some of the most interesting ideas and products in the consumer space are being put out by Apple. Exposure to good design, good products, is good inspiration for employees. Put those together with the recent Mac Mini, and the result is a loaner program: tell the CTO's office why you'd like to have a Mac Mini for a while, and they'll get you one (or put you on the list.)

So Thursday was like a mini-Christmas, except that Santa was a man without a beard carrying a very small box.

I got the lower-end Mac Mini - the 1.2Ghz model, 40 gig drive, 512 mb of memory. (1Gb would be better, of course, but that's pretty expensive.) They did spring for the Airport Extreme and Bluetooth options. They threw in an iSight video camera, an Apple keyboard, and a Bluetooth wireless mouse.

I’ve got two PCs in my office – a 2.4Ghz Dell P4 - my main machine, and a Dell P4 laptop – but only one monitor (and a single input monitor at that.) So I took the monitor off the Dell desktop, and have decided to try to live mostly on the Mac for work. I’ve only been at it one day, but so far, it’s very interesting. More on my first impressions later.