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John’s Background Switcher for Mac Goes Live!


John's Background SwitcherWhile John’s Background Switcher has always been a Windows application, I’ve actually been a full time Mac user for the past 7 years. In that time I’d almost forgotten why I originally wrote JBS as I wasn’t using it myself. Also, frequent calls for me to write a Mac version fell on deaf ears as I knew it took me years to write the Windows version and I’d have to start from scratch again. Plus I’ll be the first to admit that working on JBS for Windows in my spare time and giving it away for free was becoming harder and harder to justify and motivate myself to do given competing demands on my time.

However all that changed in May and I decided enough was enough, it was time I built a Mac version. It’s taken countless late nights and weekends, waking up at 3am with an idea knowing I’ll never get back to sleep so walking to my desk and starting coding. I even spent a 2 week work trip in the USA coding into the wee small hours in the hotel while fighting jetlag. It was the last thing I thought about before sleep at night and the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning.

Mac applications are held to a higher standard than Windows apps so I took the opportunity to rethink a great many parts of JBS. Any photo sources that couldn’t give beautiful high resolution backgrounds were dropped and I made sure that every picture shown is presented at its highest possible resolution and as crisp as possible. JBS on Windows chooses a source at random (e.g. Flickr or Facebook) then creates montages from that one source, whereas JBS on Mac chooses from all active sets in all sources at once. It just makes more sense that way. I took dozens of similar decisions along the way.

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Every piece of user interface, every button you click, action you take, every detail has been scrutinised again and again until I was happy with it. There are countless little details nobody will ever notice but I know they’re there and I resisted any temptation to compromise on anything. Except the name. I’ve never had much imagination with names so I just stuck with “John’s Background Switcher”.

To the many beta testers who helped me make JBS for Mac as good as it is by giving me honest and at times brutal feedback, I offer my most sincere thanks and promise that I owe you an infinite number of beers for all time. You know who you are!

JBS for Mac is currently only available on the Mac App Store and rest assured that if you buy a copy you’re not just buying John’s Background Switcher for Mac version 1.0. You’re investing in a host of cool updates I have planned in the future (which will be free) as building JBS for Mac has re-invigorated my enthusiasm for software development. Plus, if you want to make JBS better, tell me what you want it to do and I’ll build it! Windows users need not be too upset however. JBS for Windows will always remain free and where appropriate I’ll back-port fixes and enhancements from Mac to Windows. But the Mac version going forwards will be my primary focus – I’m a die hard Mac user after all!

So go read all about John’s Background Switcher for Mac here or get it directly from the app store. 🙂


My First Mac OS Upgrade


I can’t believe it’s been nearly 2 years since I became a Mac user. In many ways it seems like it was just yesterday but it also feels like I’ve been a Mac fanboy forever. My initial impressions of how easy to use Macs are, how the software allows you to be creative, how fast, reliable and fun they are and a whole bunch of other clichés Mac users go on about has turned out to be completely true!

Six months after I bought my MacBook Apple released a new version of their operating system called ‘Leopard‘. I read about how amazing it was and all the incredible new features but to be honest wasn’t really in a rush to upgrade. I loved the existing version – ‘Tiger‘ – and didn’t see any compelling reason to shell out £89 to get the new version knowing the inevitable hassle of either rebuilding or upgrading my computer (well, in the Windows world at least) so I was content to stay put. Until the other week.

I’m a big fan of Apple’s iLife and iWork suites and they generally release a new version every year. This time iLife 09 actually required Mac OS X Leopard which meant if I were to upgrade I’d need to bite the bullet and install Leopard, making it quite an expensive endeavour. Fortunately Apple pre-empted this and came up with the Mac Box Set containing iLife 09, iWork 09 and Leopard for the bargain price of £149. I put my order in and it turned up a couple of weeks ago. So now for the interesting bit – my first Mac OS upgrade!

The Mac OS X Leopard 'About' DialogWell the news is – there is no news! I decided to do a clean install and back up everything first. This was done by backing up my entire hard drive with SuperDuper! (and taking a couple of copies for good measure). I then blanked my hard drive, installed Leopard and after about half an hour was up and running. I re-installed all the software I use, restored all my documents, pictures, music, video etc. from my backup and in a matter of a few hours everything was back as it was, I had more space on my hard drive and Leopard was running as smooth as silk.

I’ve reinstalled and upgraded Windows many many times over the years and something always tends to go wrong. There are usually problems getting new drivers for graphics cards and sounds cards, something critical like the network connection won’t work so I have to go online on another machine and try to find the drivers and so on. It normally takes many hours – particularly installing the software – and installing Windows is always painful and runs about as smooth as sandpaper on teeth.

I’ve said before that the cool thing about Macs is that “they just work” and it turns out that upgrading or re-installing Mac OS X is exactly the same. As for Leopard, there’s nothing revolutionary, it just add a load of handy improvements on something that was already great – quite unlike the upgrade from Windows XP to Vista which turned something pretty good into something flaky, slow and unreliable. iLife and iWork 09 are much of the same – steady improvements and some cool new features. Just the way things should be!

Oh, on the subject of Macs, my Mac conversions statistics (i.e. the number of people I’ve persuaded to buy Macs now I’m a Mac fanboy) have been pretty good over the past couple of years – just recently my brother has turned from the dark side by getting one of those cool new all-metal MacBooks. Maybe you’ll be next! 😉


You Can Take Your iPod Touch v2.0 Software And Shovel It


Maybe I’ve been spoiled over the years by free software updates on the various iPods I’ve owned but when Apple charged £12.99 for their ‘January Software Update’ on my iPod Touch I was a bit ticked off. Since it included a few new applications I paid the money and subsequently haven’t used any of them at all – a stock ticker, note taker, email client, weather app and mapping application turned out to be completely useless to me as I use my iTouch for playing music 99.9% of the time. Don’t get me wrong though, I still love my iTouch as much as I did when I wrote this article saying how much I loved it.

There’s been a lot of furore over the new App Store where you can actually buy 3rd party applications for your iPhone and iTouch so I thought I’d go and have a look. I’m sure there are some fun games and other interesting things there, but when I plugged in my iTouch I was presented with the following message:

A message about the iTouch v2 software update

So if I want to even try out some of the free applications I actually have to purchase new software do I? And I’ll bet that if someone buys a brand new iTouch today they’ll get the 2.0 software included for free, just like those bought after the January software update I mentioned above did. No thanks Apple.

Out of curiosity I clicked the ‘Learn More’ button to see how much they were trying to squeeze out of us iTouch and iPhone owners but smiled when I was presented with the following:

The iTunes store is unavailable - what a shame!

Mwa ha ha – serves them right! I’m certain Apple will make a fortune from the myriad applications on the App Store that they’ll be getting a cut of the sale prices from, but it just seems a bit avaricious to me to charge for the software update to run them. So on general principle I won’t be upgrading my iTouch to the 2.0 software and as a result I won’t be trying out any of the no doubt wonderfully pointless applications. Sorry John, but sometimes I have to draw the line somewhere, even with Apple!


Coffee, Apple And Subliminal Messages


Now that I’m predominantly working from home I am unrestricted in the amount of good coffee I can drink and the amount of singing I can do while listening to some of my favourite music. (In an office full of people it’s not really a good idea to burst into song unless you’re starring in a musical or can actually sing – I qualify in neither of those categories).

For the coffee I use my wonderful Gaggia Classic machine using freshly ground coffee from my local coffee shop (it’s one of those places that I love going to as the beautiful aroma of dozens of types of coffee fills the air when you walk in). And for the music I use my recently-bought iPod Touch (which is still a great piece of kit) wired up to play through my stereo.

Anyway, I just went downstairs to make myself a latte with some Hawaiian Kona as I’ve done many times before. The fun thing about making a latte is that you can create a pretty pattern like this one, although I don’t bother because every time I’ve tried I’ve completely failed. Until today where I managed to somehow create this:

Coffee and Apple combine

If I’m not mistaken I’d say that’s a pretty good representation of the Apple logo… I’m beginning to think I like my iPod and Macbook just a little bit too much and worry that their iPhone ads on TV are starting to get to me… 😉


Finally, A Device From The World Of Tomorrow!


I’ve always had a fairly active imagination. When I was a kid I used to imagine having a tunnel in my back garden that lead to Australia – seems a touch impractical now I look back – how would I keep the molten lava from ruining my mother’s plants? Anyway, sometimes I like to let my imagination run away with me even today and one scenario I often consider is if I found myself sent back in time 20 years – what would I do?

Since I’m not the money-obsessed type I don’t bother with betting on the result of sporting events to make loads of instant cash. I also don’t feel the need to track down any old foes and sort them out “once and for all”. This is mainly because I don’t actually have any old foes. The temptation is also there to track the young John Conners down and tell him about some of the important things in his future as well as what choices to make to guarantee him success (such as telling him all the women that fancied him but because he was too stupid to spot the signals he completely missed out on). But again, it’s not something I’d do – he has to learn these lessons himself – he can kick himself when he’s in his 30’s looking back like me!

Or maybe I’ll drop in on the then down-on-her-luck J.K. Rowling and give her some motivational words that one she’ll change the world in a way that nobody else ever will!

One thing that I probably would do however is drop in on my mother. 20 years ago my brother and I were at school during the day and she’d have been on her own in the house – which is when I’d pay her a visit. I’m not entirely sure what I’d say to her but I suspect it would be the truth and for her not to tell anybody else that I’d dropped by.

My iPod TouchWhatever I decided to do, I now know the one thing I’d bring with me. It’s a device that can prove to anybody that I’m from the future, it would let me listen to music when bored waiting for a bus and come in handy if I wanted to show my mother photos from her future (and to prove I am who I say I am). It is in fact my new iPod Touch. I think if I went back in time a mere 5 years people would think I was from 100 years in the future as it really is an amazing piece of kit.

Not only is it extremely thin and beautifully designed but the way it operates is like something out of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Rotating it around 90 degrees and seeing the picture or album cover rotating too looks cool on the advert but it looks amazing when you see it in the flesh.

I have mine synced with a good selection of my music and all the photos I’ve taken over the last 7 years (which live in Apple’s iPhoto on my Mac). It’s so cool if someone asks what I got up to at New Year and I just show them on the iPod. Or if they want to see some of my landscape photography I can hand it to them. Combining it with a telephone in the iPhone is just awesome – although the 18 month contract is just not worth it for me, I’ll wait for version 2. Also, since digital mobile phone networks didn’t exist 20 years ago it wouldn’t be much use in my time travelling adventures!

Technological improvements happen slowly, people who talk about revolutions in technology are either salesmen or over-excited techies. But if you compare consumer electronics in 5 year intervals over the last 20 years then you really can see the giant leaps and bounds that would blow people away if they could see ahead. I’ll be interested to see what the 53 year old John Conners who travels back in time 20 years has to show me! But I’ll never tell. 😉


Goodbye Windows, Hello Mac!


I’ve been a Microsoft Windows user since Windows 3.1. I remember the day I upgraded to Windows 95 and it felt like going from the stone age to the iron age – the Start Menu seemed like a great idea and it looked fantastic – my world was changed forever. I’ve been using Windows ever since and as soon as the latest version – Windows Vista – was released, I installed it and started using it day-to-day as I mentioned before.

Initially I liked Vista, I was impressed by some of the cool animations and effects, I liked the icons and there seemed like a few decent improvements over XP. It was quite snappy and everything appeared to work rather well. Of course, as is to be expected of Windows, things degrade over time. It’s slowed down a lot, various pieces of Microsoft software crash from time to time and the “Do you want to perform the following action?” dialog that pops up often from UAC just gets annoying and seems like a poor solution to spyware and viruses after a while. Frankly, I think Vista is a huge disappointment and my disappointment was about to get a lot bigger.

While attending the Future of Web Apps conference in London I noticed a lot of attendees used Macs. My friend John Topley, who I was attending with, has been trying to get me to buy a Mac for years and had a MacBook with him. As he started showing me the software you get with it I was blown away. It was absolutely clear that a lot of the new GUI (Graphical User Interface) in Vista is directly copied from Mac OS X – except it makes more sense in the Mac as all of the GUI conforms to the same rules. Straight out of the box there’s a bunch of useful software to let you create music, video, photo books and a host of other things you have to pay for with Windows. I looked at the Mac vs. PC adverts and they started to make sense – Windows machines are work-orientated and pretty dull on the whole, whereas Macs seemed more fun and creative at heart. And I’d lost count of the number of bloggers out there who’ve switched from PCs to Mac and never looked back.

My MacBookJohn then wrote ‘The Case For The Mac‘ on my site (a very good read) and I was sold. I finally ordered a MacBook with a view to replacing my Vista laptop and desktop. I didn’t want to write about it immediately as I decided to live with a Mac for a month or so to really get a feel for what it’s like. That time has come.

Quite frankly, I’ll never buy another PC. Everything they say about Macs is true – “it just works”. You get so used to having to tweak Windows to get things to work correctly, from graphics cards to the registry to a hundred other things. Not so on the Mac. One of the first things I did was connect to my home wireless network which was a simple case of picking it from a list, entering my WEP key and that was it. I went on holiday the other week and brought my MacBook and my Dell laptop running Vista. To connect to the local wi-fi on my Mac took perhaps 10 seconds start to finish and I was surfing the web. To do the same on Vista took 5 minutes. I had to connect and re-connect about 6 times before it would stick, each time I had to go through a 3 step wizard and I got sick of hitting the same buttons over and over again. I started to get frustrated with Windows in a way I never did before. I was being asked a load of questions it should know the answer to – and the Mac was smart enough to make these decisions itself.

A photo of me from Photo BoothI’ve had tears running down my cheeks making crazy photos with software called Photo Booth that comes with a Mac. You use the built in camera to take your picture but it applies some mad effects live that you can preview, like the one pictured right (I don’t really look like that). The software isn’t particularly useful but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and you just wouldn’t get something like that bundled on a PC.

As I mentioned you get lots of useful, creative software bundled with a Mac, called iLife. The software all integrates really well and lets you create music using Garage Band (there are hundreds of loops you can use to create very professional music – oh, and you can sing or record your own instruments too), manage and edit your photos in iPhoto, play music in iTunes, make movies with iMovie and there’s a host of other things that are fun and creative. The software is very well thought out and easy to use, taking the power of great GUI design to a level I’ve never seen before on Windows. For the first time in a long time I’ve felt a surge of creativity since getting my Mac – suddenly I want to try and write music, create a movie and do a whole bunch of other things I’d never have thought about on a PC.

I’ve often wanted to create a DVD you can play on any DVD player with a slideshow of some of my photos – that way I could send it to my dad and he could see my holiday pictures, etc. Can you do this on Windows out of the box? I’ve never been able to – so I’d have to go and search and buy some software and it’s just never been worth the effort. Can I do it on my Mac? Easy, I can go from start to finish in a couple of minutes and it’s really obvious how to do it. And that’s just one of a hundred common things you’d want to do that would require buying more software on a PC that comes as standard on a Mac.

The MacBook itself is really well thought out. Having a magnetic power lead means if someone trips over your cable, it just pops out and doesn’t drag your MacBook onto the floor. This has saved my skin several times already! When you shut the lid it goes to sleep, but a little light on the front slowly dims and lights up to indicate a heartbeat so you know it’s in sleep mode rather than off. Open the lid and it springs back to life – do the same on a Vista-powered PC and it springs back to life after a little while, but then it has to re-connect the wi-fi and all in it can take a couple of minutes. That’s not good enough.

The lid of the MacBook doesn’t have some rubbish catch you need to slide across to open, it’s magnetic. The built in camera is pretty impressive and “just works”. They even look incredibly cool (and I love that the Apple logo on the lid lights up when you use it). It’s amazing how beautiful design can influence your thinking.

I read the OS X Missing Manual to really get to grips with all the shortcuts and differences between the Mac and PC but within a week or two I was quite at home on my Mac. I doubt you could switch from a Mac to a PC and be as settled so quickly.

Regular readers know that John’s Background Switcher 3 is just around the corner (a few days away to be precise). They’ll also know that it’s written on Windows but I’ve got a Mac now, does that mean it’s dead? Well no.

Visual Studio 2005 on a Mac

I also bought Parallels which allows me to run Windows applications inside my Mac – the best of both worlds. I installed Windows XP (because I trust XP) and can run Visual Studio 2005 alongside my usual Mac software. In fact the last few beta builds of JBS 3 have been built on a Mac and you’d never know! It just works.

I find myself going into work – where I use Vista – and cursing at how slow it is, being frustrated at how it forgets all my folder display settings, gnashing my teeth every time I’m asked to confirm that I really do want to run an application I’ve just launched (like Visual Studio 2005), swearing every time software hangs or crashes and getting annoyed in a hundred other tiny ways. They’re just little things, but they add up and I find myself thinking “it’s much better on a Mac”.

So far I’ve managed to persuade one friend to buy himself a Mac and you might be next! The thing is, you just need to sit down and use one for 5 minutes to realise that you’ll never want to go back to a PC again. Do believe the hype.


The Case For The Mac


Hi, it’s John here. No, not John Conners, but John Topley. I’m the friend who persuaded John to attend the Future Of Web Apps conference that John’s been blogging about recently. For reasons best known to himself John has decided to turn over the keys to his blog to me. Which means I’ve got a golden opportunity to take her out for a spin, but what to write about? As I’ve been nagging John for some time to buy a Mac—you may have seen my slightly tongue-in-cheek comments to that effect scattered throughout his blog—I thought I’d try to present a (hopefully) intelligent list of reasons as to why you should make your next computer an Apple Mac. I promise that I’ll try not to come across as an Apple zealot (hey, I don’t even own a black turtleneck sweater), with the proviso that I do find it hard not to be enthusiastic about Macs. If all I do is annoy you then I’m sorry, and rest assured that this blog will soon return to the scheduled programme of great photography tips, articles about which hairdryer you should buy and all the other weird and wonderful musings from the world of John Conners.

At this point you may be letting out dark mutterings to the effect that I’ve got some nerve and don’t I know that this is a Windows heartland and the home of legendary Windows software John’s Background Switcher. In fact, I might not be as deep into enemy territory as it first appears. I’ve actually been using Windows for about fourteen years and I still use it at work. You know, for pie charts and spreadsheets and stuff. I’ve written software for Windows, both for fun and professionally. I quite like Windows. I used to like it a lot, but since switching I now officially only quite like Windows. I certainly have a lot of respect for the ubiquity of it and its legendary backwards-compatibility. However, I think the Mac is a better computer for people who really care about their computing experience, in the same way that a BMW is a better car than say, a Toyota, for people who really care about their driving experience. Sorry John, I guess I just lost you the PC-owning Toyota drivers from your demographic! Never mind. Anyway, here are eight top reasons you should buy a Mac.

  • Macs are beautiful. The great Alan Kay said that “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware” which is what Apple do, beautifully. I’m not naïve enough to believe that Apple design and make everything in their computers, but they take charge of the most important bits. I’ve always loved Apple’s industrial design but Jonathan Ive and his team have kicked it up to another level in recent years. Apple give you attention to detail that you just don’t get from PC manufacturers. For example, my PowerBook has a column of five lime green LEDs on the underside of the battery that light up when I press a little button, so I can see how much charge is left without switching the computer on. The MacBooks have a magnetic power connecter that will disconnect if you trip over it so that the Mac itself isn’t dragged down onto the floor. When I eject a CD or DVD from the slot on the side of my iMac, exactly half of the disc is ejected with exactly the other half remaining inside the computer. Somebody has actually thought about how much of the disc should be ejected and designed accordingly. The precision of the engineering is breathtaking. This fanatical attention to detail also carries through to the box that the Mac comes in and to the documentation it comes with. The whole experience has been thought about and the result is that the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Macs aren’t cheap. It seems odd to tout the price of Mac ownership as a virtue, but that’s not actually the point I’m about to make. One of the arguments that’s always wheeled out against the Mac is that they’re expensive. Yes, it’s true: Apple don’t make low-end computers in the same way that the prestige German car manufacturers—Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz & Trabant (joking)—don’t make low-end cars. Some people just don’t seem to understand that this is an acceptable way of doing business. Hey, if you want to pay £250 for a cheap PC then more power to you, you’ll almost certainly get more bang for your buck than ever before. However, thanks to the relentless march of Moore’s Law, the high-quality Mac has never been more financially accessible either. You can pick up a cool little Mac mini for £399. Further up the price scale, there have been various comparisons that have shown that price-wise the Mac comes out equal or even less than a PC kitted out with equivalent features and quality of components. So you might say that a Mac is relatively inexpensive but never cheap.
  • Macs foster creativity. The Mac includes a piece of software called GarageBand that lets you make your own music by putting together a whole range of musical samples into a sequence. Or you can plug in a keyboard and play something. Or plug in a microphone and record something. This is the sort of thing that professional musicians did twenty years ago with Fairlights that cost £60,000! Oh, and if you like the result you can export it to iTunes. Macs make it easy-peasy to organise your fabulous holiday photos and turn them into a slideshow on a DVD—accompanied by your GarageBand composition from earlier—that you can use to bore your friends and family to tears with. All of these iLife applications work together properly. And if you’re really serious about photography like Mr Conners, then the Mac is the platform of choice. I probably don’t need to mention that Photoshop started out on the Mac, but more recently Apple’s Aperture and Adobe’s Lightroom have been slugging it out in the professional photography software stakes.
  • Macs don’t let you down. Like it or not, Windows is (in)famous for going wrong. I’m not talking about the Blue Screen of Death here. I lose respect for people who are still making jibes about Windows crashing, because in my experience Windows has been a rock-solid for years. No, what I’m talking about is the curse of malware. I wouldn’t dream of hooking up a Windows PC to my broadband Internet connection without having the holy triumverate of firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software in place. On my Macs I just use the built-in firewall and that’s it. No system is perfect and Apple do release the occasional security update, but it’s nowhere near the torrent of Windows updates that come down the wire every time I boot Windows XP. Irrespective of whether this is because most computers run Windows or whether Mac OS X really is a more secure by design, Macs give you peace of mind. And it’s nice to know that the operating system isn’t wasting resources by constantly having to monitor itself to see if it’s under attack.
  • Macs run Mac OS X. Mac OS X is a great operating system. It’s a bit of a mongrel in the sense that it’s taken different bits from all over the place, but like a great chef, it’s combined all those ingredients into a delicious new dish. You get all the power, heritage and command-line tools of FreeBSD UNIX, the amazing development tools and APIs from Steve Jobs’ NeXTSTEP adventure, as well as the drop-dead gorgeous Aqua user interface. Aqua has benefited from being five years ahead of Windows Vista in terms of eye candy—which means that it’s more subtle and requires less hardware. I can get the full Aqua experience with all the transparency, drop shadows and animation with a 64 MB graphics card on my PowerBook. Windows Vista simply can’t do that. Some people have actually installed Vista on their MacBooks and report that not only does the laptop run hotter than under Mac OS X, but the battery life is reduced too. Remember, this is straight test of running the two different operating systems on the same computer. Finally, Mac OS X is easier to buy. It comes in two flavours: home or server and you can buy a five-user family pack for £139. That’s the cost of the full version, not an upgrade disc. Contrast this simplicity and transparency to the six different versions of Windows Vista, not including the forthcoming server versions. Windows Vista Ultimate currently retails on at £313.48 for a single license.
  • Macs rock if you’re a software developer. Java, Python, PHP and Ruby are all built in and Ruby on Rails will be in the next version of Mac OS X. You also get a Developer Tools disc that contains lots of extra goodies such as GCC and the various bits you need to start writing your own Mac software, including a decent IDE. Plus you’ve got all the oh-so-handy UNIX stuff only a Terminal window away, including Vi and Emacs; talk about being non-partisan!
  • You can run Quicksilver on a Mac. Quicksilver is “a unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data.” What the heck does that mean? Just think of it as the closest thing we have to those control-your-computer-by-thinking gizmos that we’ve all seen in sci-fi films. Quicksilver is free software that thanks to its plug-in system can do practically anything. I can press Ctrl + Space and then start typing some letters from a URL and Quicksilver will complete it for me. Hit Enter and I’m in a web browser looking at that site. Or I can type browse and it lets me scoot through the albums, playlists and artists etc. that are in my iTunes library. Or how about this: I can type the name of a file, hit the Tab key and Quicksilver will present me with a list of things that I can do with that file e.g. Copy/Move/Rename/Open With/FTP etc. I can access my clipboard history, Address Book, command line and Gmail all from within Quicksilver with a few keystrokes. To see it is to not quite believe it, and then you see it some more and then you want it.
  • You can still run Windows. It’s easier than ever before to run Windows and Windows software on a Mac. When Apple announced they were switching to Intel processors in 2005, many of the Mac faithful got upset. They liked the fact that their beloved Macs were differentiated from PCs right down to the non-x86 architecture PowerPC processor they used. However, moving to Intel has worked out just great. The latest Macs use Intel’s brilliant Core 2 Duo processor which is perfect for running virtual machine software such as Parallels or VMware. I often run Windows XP on my iMac in a Parallels virtual machine to which I’ve allocated 256 MB of RAM. It flies along and is no slower than running Windows on the bare hardware. The latest version of Parallels comes with a thing called Coherence Mode. It’s a wacky name for a killer feature. Essentially it lets you forget that you’re running Windows in a virtual machine because it presents your Windows programs as if they’re native Mac OS X programs. So you can have Excel 2007 nestling amongst iPhoto and GarageBand. Talking about mixing business and pleasure! You can even set it up so that clicking the Parallels Dock icon opens up the Windows Start menu. It’s like they took Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder out of the Ebony and Ivory video and replaced them with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Now everyone can get along in perfect harmony!