Posts tagged #tech

A Newbie's Journey Into Mac vs. PC

So now that I've been able to play around with the new MacBook Pro for a little while, what are my current thoughts? Have I changed my mind (yet again) and decided to go all Mac? Find out after the jump!

Before I begin, I need to say that I've only had my MacBook now for about five days. During that time, I've - for the most part - used it as my main computer. I've downloaded some stuff and watched videos on YouTube before bed using the ASUS Windows-based gaming laptop, but everything else in those five days (writing, web browsing, even a teeny bit of gaming) has been done on the Mac.

The war between Mac and PC has been going on for quite a long time. Thus, most of us computer nerds become very attached to the operating system we use - classic fanboyism (of which I have been guilty of just like everybody else). But is there any truth behind the claims of either side? In my five days with a Mac, I've seen that some of the points of argument do, in fact, have some validity. Below are a few things I've noticed, but keep in mind: I'm a 25-year Windows user who has only used a Mac for five days. I'm not entirely unaware of the fact that there are probably things about the OS that I'm missing, or simply don't understand yet. This is just me jumping straight into Mac OS X with a Windows mindset.

The UI

The GUI (Graphical User Interface) in Mac OS X - I'm using the newest version, "Yosemite" - is much prettier than Windows has ever been - especially when you consider how horrible Windows 8 looks. But not only is it prettier, it's actually a little bit easier to get around in. The dock at the bottom shows you your most recent or favorite programs (referred to as 'Apps' in the Mac world), while the top of the screen is a menu bar which acts as a set of controls for whatever program you're currently running or have active. Pretty simple. That's not to say that Windows is complicated; it's actually pretty simple itself, as long as you stay on the desktop screen.

While working within the Windows system settings, things start to get a lot more complicated for most users. Mac OS X is much better in this regard. Instead of throwing a whole bunch of stuff at you when you enter something like Control Panel on Windows, OS X simply has System Preferences. Opening this up simply shows you an orderly list of icons that will let you change whatever you want about your computer's settings. There are dedicated sections for your desktop, devices, application behavior, networks, etc. Control Panel has this too, but Mac OS X's version of it just seems a lot simpler to navigate and find exactly what you're looking for (OS X's Spotlight Search helps with this, as well). On a Windows PC, it's easy to get lost in Control Panel if you don't know what you're doing. 

File Managing

Being able to place your files in different locations of your computer's hard drive is an essential piece of knowledge if you do any kind of work on a PC or (now, in my case) Mac. Windows, in my opinion, wins in this department. Mac OS X's Finder is not really as intuitive for me as Windows Explorer. To me, Finder feels kind of primitive and more like what I remember of Windows 3.1 and 3.11. That's not necessarily a bad thing (especially if you've had experience running older operating systems), but when you get used to the simplicity of working within a file structure the way that Windows offers, using Finder feels like you're taking a trip back to olden times.

As an example of the "less intuitive-ness": Finder, upon first opening it up, doesn't actually show you your hard drives. Isn't that kind of essential to be able to manage your files? Instead, it shows you a simple directory structure of Applications, Documents, Pictures, iCloud Drive, Music, etc. A similar structure is present in Windows Explorer, but in it, I can also see my hard drive(s) and manipulate them as I see fit. With Finder, being able to see the hard drive and monkey around with the actual file structure is something one has to enable. Again, not a terrible thing (nor is it hard to find), as there are a good bit of users who will simply use the standard structure within Finder to move their files around. Me, I like to put files where I want them at all times. But at least the option exists. Once Finder is configured properly, file management becomes a lot easier to mess with. Windows Explorer, however, works the way I need it to right out of the box. 

Also, don't try to merge a folder by clicking and dragging in Finder! For some reason, this will wipe out the contents of the folder you're moving into. I have no idea why this is the case. If you want to move a folder into another folder, you have to do a 'copy/paste.' I found this out the hard way. 


One of the biggest issues I used to have with the Mac is program availability. Basically, things were available for Windows computers that weren't available for Apple machines, and vice-versa. The gap has narrowed considerably over the years, but there are still more programs available for PC. However, my experience with applications has been good so far. Everything I have needed has been available. There's even one program I've been using and love on the MacBook, as well as the iPad, that is only available for Apple hardware: a film script and novel manuscript program called Storyist. It's a powerful and great little program, but there are definitely alternatives on PC such as Final Draft (also available on Mac, but much more expensive).

Installation of Applications

This is one area where Mac OS X kicks Windows in the gut, watches it writhe on the ground, and starts kicking it some more. In other words, the process of installing programs is lightyears ahead of Microsoft's OS, particularly in Yosemite. A lot of it apparently has to do with the fact that Windows uses a DLL structure underneath the hood, whereas Mac OS X doesn't, or so I've read. 
Want to install a program? Download it, open up the file, drag the program into the Applications folder, and viola! You're done!
Seriously... that's it. No install wizard or nuthin'.


I'm a pretty serious gamer, but is the Mac as good as Windows for gaming? In my case, no. I have the Iris graphics chipset, which isn't strong enough to handle modern games that well. There is a version of the MacBook Pro that comes equipped with an Nvidia graphics card, but that one was way out of my price range (it's an extra $600 for that option) and didn't align with my intentions for the laptop.

Like with everyday applications, there's also a point of availability - or lack thereof - when it comes to games. For example, I loaded Steam onto the MacBook to see what stuff I had that was compatible. Out of my 157 Steam games, only 40 were built to also run on Mac OS X. In my opinion, that's a pretty dismal number at 117 games that aren't playable on Mac. And we're not talking indie games, here; we're talking 117 "triple-A" titles. So even if one can afford the higher-end Mac with the Nvidia card, they'll quickly find that their options are severely limited. With that one, Microsoft shakes off the application installation beatdown it took from Apple and delivers an equally brutal beating. But again, this only applies if you're a gamer. If not, an Apple machine could very well be the way to go.

Just as a side-note, I chose to test the MacBook's gaming capability on an older game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. For those of you who remember, this was a game that was also available on the original Xbox (which is the version I originally had) back in the day, so it's got some years to it. On the MacBook, it runs great... until it starts to burn your legs off! I've heard that the MacBook Pro has a high heat threshold, but I was still uncomfortable with it getting that hot; I can only imagine how hot it would get if I tried playing a modern game. 

I was also testing what the battery would do when playing a game unplugged from a wall outlet. I was not impressed with the results. I played KotOR for a total of thirty-six minutes (according to Steam), and the battery had gone from 86% to 52%. That's 34% in thirty-six minutes. My iPad Air does much better than that with games that are much more graphically intensive. So games are a no-go while on the battery.

Battery Life - Everyday Use

According to Apple, the MacBook Pro will usually get around nine hours on the battery during normal operations. This is fairly accurate, and really good since I bought the laptop for writing and such - not very intensive applications. Personally I was able to get more like eight and a half, but that's still pretty good. It's much better than what my ASUS gets; normal operation outside of gaming will only get me about four hours out of that laptop (so technically, it's a no-go while on the battery when it comes to gaming, as well).

Final Thoughts

Could I survive on a Mac? Sure, although I think I might become frustrated in some areas fairly quickly. 
My overall opinion is this: Both are good for what they are. Windows can get relatively complicated in some areas - even with the "dumbing down" of Windows 8 - but the Mac simply won't do as much in the long run. Are you a hardcore gamer? Don't buy a Mac for that reason. If you're someone that focuses on productivity, getting an Apple machine is the furthest thing from a terrible idea.
For someone like me who has been a Windows user all his life, I like more about the operating system than I don't like, and it's fairly intuitive. Also, you can't beat the connectivity between all your Apple devices; that's a big plus.
That being said, the PC is still my preferred platform, and I think for anyone wanting to get the absolute most out of a computer, that's the way to go. However, I believe that it would do folks a lot of good to actually learn about the inner workings of both types of machines. "Knowledge is power," and all that.

Posted on December 9, 2014 .

Josh Did What?! Pt. 2

Just a quick update on the lack of Apple hate. Read more after the jump!

First of all, I just want to say that I absolutely love my iPad Air; it seems as though I can’t go anywhere without it. As I got into it and fiddled around, the idea of the Apple ecosystem really started to interest me. Sure, there are connectivity programs like DropBox (which I started using in conjunction with my iPad), but even that requires that I write a document, drag the file over to my DropBox folder, and then open the file. From what I had read, that wasn’t the case within the Apple world - at least, not most of the time. There, one lived in a magical world of wizardry where documents synced with an iCloud drive (also known by its true name: The Freaking Internet!) and would “just be present” within a program. These rumors of wizardry proved to be true.

As I write this document in Pages, I’m not doing so on my iPad Air; I’m doing it on my new, 2014 MacBook Pro with Retina. That’s right, folks: the guy who downed apple for over twenty years went out and bought himself a Mac, and he now owns a total of four Apple products (with a fifth [iPhone 6] on the way in March).

Why did I buy a MacBook? Mainly to have the experience of learning an entirely different way of computing. I had actually used a Mac a little over a year ago in college, but that was only because we had in-class assignments for English class, and the only computers in the classroom were iMacs. At the time, I really didn’t think too much about it; Macs were the “enemy,” but I had to do the work, but we were using the Mac OS version of Microsoft Office. So once I actually got the program open, everything was familiar to me. I did my work; I moved on.

Portability was another reason for picking up a MacBook. My Windows 8.1-equipped ASUS gaming laptop is an absolute beast in terms of power, but equally as much in heftiness. It feels like I’m carrying around fifteen pounds whenever it’s in my bag. The MacBook Pro, however, is extremely light - not quite as light as a MacBook Air, but ten times lighter than the ASUS. That’s partially due to the fact that I bought a 13” MacBook, as opposed to the much larger ASUS at 17”. I’m not downing the ASUS - it’s a great computer - but I don’t play games all the time. I wanted an alternative that I could write with (as well as other tasks) that wouldn’t be quite so heavy. However, I still have a laptop with Windows whenever I need it.

So what do I think of the laptop so far? I’m not really sure yet, since I just bought it. So far, I can really only say that it’s very different. Having an iPad smoothed the transition a little, but it’s still different enough that I have that “fish-out-of-water” feeling. At the same time, though, it’s pretty exciting! Like I said in my last article, I just love computers. Getting to play around with the second most used operating system in the world is - I’m sure - going to be a trip.

So what crazy or radical thing am I going to do next in the wonderful world of technology? Am I going to try straight-up Linux? Am I going to turn my gaming desktop into a Steam Machine and run Valve’s OS? What about switching exclusively to Mac? To answer all those questions, I can honestly give a definite answer: no. 
1) I don’t really see the appeal in the Linux OS; 2) I also use my desktop for mixing music, so turning it into a 100% dedicated gaming computer is out of the question; 3) I don’t think I could ever go completely over to Mac; the facts there still haven’t changed. Not everything I use is readily available on the Mac, and I still like to upgrade the hardware in my PC. Changing out graphics cards and things like that are never going to be an option with Apple.

So there you have it - I drank the Kool-aid. I’m a part-time Mac user now. However, Windows will always be my preferred platform for a lot of tasks (namely gaming).

Of course, I also said I would never buy a computer with Mac OS. Yet here I am, a little over three weeks since the last time I made that statement (to Nic), typing an article on a MacBook Pro. 

Posted on December 6, 2014 .

Why do people want an FFVII remake so badly?!

Love it or hate it, Final Fantasy VII is probably the most popular game in Square’s Final Fantasy franchise. Released way back in 1997, Square used clever marketing tactics to basically dupe people into buying their huge-budgeted game. These tactics basically involved NOT showing any gameplay during ads and commercials, only CG cutscenes, and not really letting anyone know what they were buying. I remember thinking every time a commercial was shown, “People think this is awesome, but they don’t really know that it’s an RPG.” Around this time, RPGs weren’t rare by any means, but RPG fans weren’t exactly turning up in droves, either. For a lot of American gamers, FFVII was not only their first game in the series, but was also their first RPG. Because of this, FFVII carries a lot of nostalgia. I don’t consider myself a “VII hater,” but the game is, to me, nothing special. The three games released before it were much better and so were the three games after it, in my opinion. That’s not to say that I’m some kind of retro guy that says only the 8 and 16-bit games were good (FFX is probably my 2 nd or 3 rd favorite in the series). FFVII’s plot really involves nothing more than chasing the main antagonist, Sephiroth, from one place to another. Literally, that’s all you really do. Several years ago, as a way to show off the PlayStation 3’s graphics horsepower, Square released a tech demo that recreated the opening cutscene of FFVII using real-time, in-game graphics. This tech demo ended up looking better than the original game’s opening. Check it out: Pretty, huh? What Square didn’t realize was that they were opening up a can of worms that fanboys have been gobbling up for the 6 years since that tech demo was released. Anytime a new Final Fantasy game is either reviewed or revealed, fanboys come out of the woodwork, crying and moaning, “Where’s the FFVII remake?!!!!?!!!!” Instead of remaking FFVII, Square has opted to create full remakes on the Nintendo DS of older FF titles like III and IV. In my opinion, remaking the older titles makes more sense than FFVII. By remaking the older titles, Square can add a new perspective on games that originally were only perceived on a 2D playing field. FFVII already had 3D graphics, albeit mostly on pre-rendered backgrounds, but the older titles were all sprites and mode-7. If you’re going to remake a game, there should be a good reason. What would be the reasoning behind remaking FFVII? “Because it’s AWEZOME!!%)!)%!*%^” That’s not good enough for me and it’s apparently not good enough for Square, either. Recently Square CEO, Yoichi Wada said that he believes that if Square remade FFVII, the Final Fantasy franchise “would be done with.” In my opinion, the Final Fantasy franchise is already done with, but that’s a different article for a different time. But in all honesty, I can see what he’s saying. Wada went on to say that until the company makes a Final Fantasy that exceeds the quality of VII, a remake will never happen. While I don’t necessarily agree with Wada’s comments that a Final Fantasy hasn’t lived up to VII’s quality (VIII-X were all better games, in my opinion), I understand what he’s basically getting at: “We don’t want to make that game right now. We know you want it, but we don’t.” So there you have it, folks. An FFVII remake is inevitable at some point, but it’s just not going to happen right now or in the foreseeable future. I honestly wish that Square would spend their time developing some decent new IPs rather than putting all their energy into new Final Fantasy games, or give us sequels to some of their existing properties. A sequel to Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, anyone? How ‘bout that?! -Josh Source: IGN
Posted on June 26, 2012 .