The day finally came when my not so old government owned computer at work was replaced by a contractor owned computer. The process we lovingly refer to as being ODINized was happening in my office. My ‘old computer’ was only two years old (a nice white iMac) and worked for what I needed it to do. I often ran OS X along side Win XP under Parallels and thought I could probably use a little faster CPU and more memory. So, I was looking forward to the new system which improved both aspects. I won’t get into the details of what works and what doesn’t other than to say that I’m not a happy camper yet.

What I do want to talk about first is the new iMac. I like the aluminum finish. I never really thought the white with thick clear casing was all that attractive. Distinctive? Yes. Attractive? No. This system has the glossy screen. A lot has been written just on the switch to glossy screens, but I have to say that I liked them when I first used one on my 17″ MacBook Pro and I love it on the new iMac. I also now understand why Steve Jobs likes to wear black shirts. The reflectivity is high, but not distracting to me. The reason is that when you are focused on the screen the background reflections are out of focus. It is even more true with my old eyes which have a very limited depth of field. I simply do not see the background when looking at screen content. The machine is fast(er) and the doubling of memory from 2 to 4GB really helps with Parallels and Win XP – but I knew that from using my MacBook Pro. What really sucks on the new iMac are the speakers. They sound terrible for anything other than the Beeps, Boops, and Groans of the system event sounds. For music just don’t bother – they suck completely. The sound on the old white iMac was not this bad. I wish there was a headphone jack on the front, sides, or bottom of the iMac. Since I have to use headphones for quality sound I hate having to turn my monitor slightly so I can reach the back where the headphone jack is. For some reason I can’t quite do this by feel (it is the the outermost hole on the back and I can feel where it is) while it is nestled in with the other things residing on my desk.

The new iMac also came with the standard ODIN software load which included Office 2008. I have a lot of documents, spreadsheets, and powerpoint presentations built with Office 2004. There is a lot not to like about office 2004, but I really dislike Office 2008. Two things in particular really stand out for me. First was the fact that Office 2008 decided it needed to reformat the column widths and row heights of my 2004 spreadsheets. Now I know that all of my 2004 sheets had a different geometry and that moving one of them to a windows version of office caused problems with fonts and cell sizes, but I cannot afford to resize all of the spreadsheets I’ve created in the last 5 years. I do not even know whether the new column/row geometries are even compatible with the windows version of office now. The second thing I do not like about Office 2008 is all of that useless crap at the top of the screen. With the old system I could put all of the tools I need in my own custom single-line tool bar and use most of my screen area for content. With Office 2008, I have to have some tools in a tool bar and some in that header area where the title and menus are located. Then there is that worthless bar of buttons (I think it may be called the Elements Bar) that helps the brain dead with their access to tools I never use – forms, styles, … . The elements bar cannot be turned off. You can collapse it, but you can’t make it go away. The amount of wasted space at the top of the work area has easily doubled (with the bar collapsed). If I wasn’t before, I certainly now am convinced that Micro$oft is hell bent on writing software for the most idiotic user. They shun the needs of normal competent users (let alone power users) because they fear that an idiot and potential new customer might stray across a product of theirs that has been customized by a person who can think independently and has customized the GUI to suite their needs, likes, and habits. They worry that this chance encounter might scare the new customer away. As you might guess, I ripped Office 2008 out by its tonsils and reinstalled Office 2004. … And then spent the next hour patching the patches to the patches that were patched by the previous patch.

I guess this is why I stilll write my own software.