Making a Mac-User Out of Me?

I took the first step today. The first step, that is, towards getting ready to get something I’ve honestly been craving since it was released: a Mac mini. I’m not sure how it happened, really, that I’d end up wanting a Mac. Until I got my current job, it had been years since I’d worked with a Mac on a regular basis. And even then I was so used to using Windows that I really didn’t know everything I could do on the Mac I used at work, which was a G4 desktop machine. And I only worked on it for a few months before a lateral move to a new position caused me to switch back to a Windows-based laptop.

I didn’t realize that my current workplace was an all-Mac shop until practically my first day on the job. I’m sure something should have tipped me off beforehand, but it didn’t. I worked on own laptop for a while, but eventually the last few Windows hold-outs were brought on to the same platform as everyone else, and we were issued iBooks. Thus I began to work regularly and intimately on the Mac platform. I had to admit, it worked beautifully. It probably helps that I’m surrounded on a daily basis by an office of Mac-enthusiasts, and that our sysop is a veritable walking encyclopedia of neat Mac-related tips and tidbits. If there’s a neat app or tip to use with your Mac, he probably knows about it, or knows where to find out about it.

Gradually, I began using the iBook for work-related stuff even at home. On a daily basis, I probably use it more than I use my PC. So, between work and home I spend more time with the Mac platform than with Windows. I dipped a toe in the Mac-pool when I got an iPod. Now I’ve taken the first step toward making what whill probably be a significant switch to Mac.

What’s the first step? Well, for me it’s buying a KVM switch.

I think it was John who first clued me in to what KVM switches are, thus exploding my last physical/psychological obstacle to considering the Mac mini. Evidently KVM switches are getting more column space in tech journals, as the Mac mini gains in popularity and Windows users like myself consider making at least a partial switch to the Mac platform.

Q: Last week, you wrote that Windows users who bought Apple’s new Mac mini computer could just unplug their monitor, keyboard and mouse from the Windows PC and plug them into the Mac. But is there a way to share a single monitor, keyboard and mouse between a Mac mini and a Windows PC?

A: Yes. It’s called a KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) switch, and it allows you to run two or more different computers from the same monitor, keyboard and mouse, switching between or among the computers at will. It not only works with a Mac mini (and some other Mac models) and a Windows PC, but it also allows you to hook multiple Windows machines, or multiple Macs, to the same screen, keyboard and mouse. One big maker of KVM switches is Belkin, at www.belkin.com.

A two-computer KVM switch has three sets of plugs, usually labeled Console, Computer 1 and Computer 2. You plug the monitor, keyboard and mouse into the Console plugs. Then, you connect the video, keyboard and mouse connectors of one of your computers into the Computer 1 plugs, and the ports from the second computer into the Computer 2 plugs on the KVM. After that, you just use a switch or button on the KVM to select which computer will be active on the central monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Since I was working downtown today, I decided to take advantage of the lunch options around me. While I was out, I happened to walk past a Staples. I figured I’d duck in and take a look at their computer supplies to see if they had KVM swiches by any chance. My luck must have been in (or these things are more common than I thought they were, which is not surprising since just weeks ago I didn’t know what they were), because I found one that I think will work. I should be able to use the same monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers with both computers.

Chances are I’ll order my Mac mini next week. I’d go to the Mac store near my office, but I want the 80GB variety with 512MB of RAM. So, unless they do that upgrade at the store (and maybe they do) I’ll order it and have it shipped to my office. After all, it’s small enough to carry home on the train without any trouble.

Funny. I’m still incredulous that I’m seriously contemplating making this switch. In fact, today I think I went beyond contemplating. I committed to it.

Last week I stumbled across an article about someone making much the same switch, and since then it’s been emailed to me from at least three different sources. It title simply asks the question: “Why Does Windows Still Suck?” The author recounts his SO’s experience with a virus on her laptop.

She got online all right. The DSL worked great. For about four minutes.

Then, something happened. Something attacked. Something swarmed her computer the instant she tried to move around online and the computer slowed and bogged and cluttered and crashed, and multiple restarts and debuggings and what-the-hells only brought up only a flood of nightmarish pop-up windows and terrifying error messages and massive system slowdowns and all manner of inexplicable claims of infestation of this worm and that Trojan horse and did we want to buy McAfee AntiVirus protection for $39.95?

Four minutes. And she was already DOA.

OK. Fine. I’m sure lots of PC-users have had their trouble with viruses, worms, etc. I have. I remember at least one occasion when all I could do was pop in the restore CDs and start over again. But that was back when I didn’t really bother with anti-virus software and firewalls. Now I have both, via a subscription to Norton Internet Security. So, I shouldn’t have any problems, right? Not if the author of this article has his statistics right.

This exact same scenario, with only slight variation, is happening throughout the nation, right now. Are you using a PC? You probably have spyware. The McAfee site claims a whopping 91 percent of PCs are infected. As every Windows user knows, PCs are ever waging a losing battle with a stunningly vicious array of malware and worms and viruses, all aimed at exploiting one of about ten thousand security flaws and holes in Microsoft Windows.

Nintey-one percent? That means that less than 10 percent of PC are free from spyware & viruses. That means mine, despite the precautions I’ve taken, is probably among those affected, though I wouldn’t know it from my computer’s performance. It seems to work like it always does. There are the occasional irritating problems, like the one I wrote about just last week, which still remains unsolved, and may well be unsolvable, short of breaking out the restore CD’s and starting over again. *shudder*

So, I think the fix is in. By the end of next month, if not sooner depending on how long the Mac mini takes to ship or whether I can get it at the Mac store, I’ll be on the verge of making a switch.

Have circumstances conspired to make a Mac-user out of me?

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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One Response to Making a Mac-User Out of Me?

  1. Meri says:

    KVM switches rock. I have one here so I look at my work laptop (Win XP), main uni computer (Debian Linux) or the house network firewall/router (barebone Debian Linux) through one set of peripherals. And there’s still one slot open for a Mac Mini, when I eventually get around to acquiring one!!

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