My First Mac: First Impressions

So I finally got around to buying a Mac mini.  I bought it so I could decide for myself if all the Apple hoopla is warranted, and so I could port some of my software to it.  I have to say, I'm disappointed.

My disappointment began with shipping.  When I buy parts from Newegg (like the Core i7 system I recently assembled), everything arrives within three days, usually two.  So, I figured a giant company with an easy-to-manage small selection like Apple would have shipping down.  Nope.  I ordered on a Saturday -- the box didn't even leave the warehouse for almost a week, and it took 10 days from ordering to arrive.  I ordered a very straightforward configuration, one they should have on the shelf ready to go (like fast food).  I ordered the base model with iWork installed and an Apple Remote (the remote's another story).  The remote arrived almost a week before the actual computer.

If my troubles ended there, it wouldn't be so bad.  But they didn't.  This part doesn't relate exactly to my order, but three days after ordering, it was announced that Apple sued HTC for patent infringement.  If I'd known that a week earlier, I would've delayed my purchase or changed my mind.  In my view, patents are like karate: rule #1 is that they should be used for defense only.  Not to mention the fact that multi touch was mostly invented over 25 years ago, and that technology moves too quickly for 20 year patents to make sense.

Yesterday the mini finally arrived.  After a frustrating hour or two of trying to find a way to remap my model M to work with Apple keyboard shortcuts, I started playing with the 2D/3D graphing utility (props for including it, though I don't know if it's from OS X or iWork).  It crashed about five minutes in when I typed a ] instead of a ).  I went through the error reporting process and told it to send an error report to Apple.  Another dialog appeared with the same buttons ("Send", "Don't Send"), with a notice that my system contains additional information that may be useful to Apple, etc.

The original error dialog with "Send" and "Don't Send" was still visible, so this looked like a separate error reporting process.  I reviewed the information it claimed would be sent, such as the system log, and despite claiming to be anonymous, my full name (which OS X used as the default computer name) occurred multiple times in the logs, so I clicked "Don't Send" on the second dialog, but didn't check "Don't ask again."  Based on the appearance of the dialogs and their wording, I expected the first dialog (on which I clicked "Send") to stick around and let me send a less verbose error report, but instead the whole process appeared to be canceled and all related windows disappeared.  Whatever.

There were other UI-related issues, and I ended up "smoking" half the shortcuts in the Finder's sidebar and on the Dock before figuring out what I was doing and how I could restore them.  I was willing to attribute that to my own inexperience with the platform.

So now I start customizing the look and feel of the system.  I install Firefox, try to change the desktop to a dark solid color (you can pick one of several predefined and far too light solid colors, and you can pick a custom solid color to go behind a centered image, but you can't just pick black or gray #222 as the desktop color?), turned up the notification volume, etc.  I installed the latest software updates.  Of course, I found my way to the Terminal and did some ls-ing about to learn my way around the filesystem.  Then I started noticing subtle visual corruption in list boxes (i.e. random screen sections getting blitted to the listbox area), and opening the Applications list from the Dock was really slow.

Visual corruption?  Dog-slow animations?  That can't be Apple.  I switched my monitor back to my Linux PC to work for a while, then came back to the Mac, thinking maybe it was just a temporary thing.  The entire screen was corrupt, with roughly 16-pixel-tall strips of random pixmaps blitted all over the screen, instead of the regular screen image.  I clicked in the top-left corner to open the Apple menu, and slowly started reclaiming my screen territory by moving windows around and opening menus.  By this point the animated opening of the Applications stack was even slower, running at about 0.5-2.0 fps.  I switched back to my Linux PC, then back to my Mac, and the screen was corrupt again.  I got fed up and shut the thing down.

Surely my experience can't be typical, but I'll be a lot more skeptical now when I hear people say how Awesome Apple really is.  I'm still wiling to reserve final judgment until I've used my Mac a bit more, but as they say you don't get a second chance at a first impression.  So far it feels like I have a shiny $700 paperweight.