Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Menagerie of Computers

I was recently asked what computers I personally run in the office and at home.

I exclusively use a Dell Optiplex D420 1.06 Ghz Core Solo with 1 Gig of RAM running Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon Linux. The total weight of this 12" laptop with a 3 hour battery is 3lbs 4oz. Boot times average 40 seconds from power on to network connected. I run only open source software for all work that I do - OpenOffice 2.3, Firefox 2.008, and Evolution Email 2.12 connected to our corporate Exchange Server.

My wife (a graphic artist) uses a Macbook 13" 2Ghz Core Duo with 2 Gigs of RAM running OS X Leopard. The total weight of this laptop with a 2 hour battery is 5lb 2oz. Boot times average 35 seconds from power on to network connected. She runs a full suite of Adobe CS3 products.

My daughter (a high school student using Microsoft Office, instant messaging and multi-player role playing games) uses a Lenovo T61 2Ghz Core 2 Duo with 2 Gigs of RAM running Vista. The total weight of this laptop with a 2 hour battery is 5lbs 4oz. Boot times average 60 seconds from power on to Ctrl-Alt-Delete sign-on. Power on to network connected averages 2 minutes total with a clean Vista install. Although it's not a Gibbon or Leopard, Vista is certainly a resource consumptive beast.

Early this week, I installed Leopard on our Macbook. The ugrade from Tiger was automatic and effortless. One great feature is that Macs with Leopard can now search for files on Windows and Linux machines. From my wife's Macbook, I was able to search files on Ubuntu and Vista seamlessly using the Spotlight application. Our entire household is now sharing and searching files over our 802.11a wireless network. To enable Windows and Linux to search the Mac, I had to enable SMB Filesharing in Preferences, Sharing.

So what did I think of the new Apple Leopard OS X operating system?

As a CIO, I am most concerned about reliability, security, and interoperability. As a technology user, I care about simplicity, intuitiveness, and getting my work done efficiently. I evaluated Leopard wearing both hats.

Most users do not have time for training, so I explored Leopard's new features without the benefit of any instructional materials to evaluate their intuitiveness. My first exercise was to use Finder to explore PDFs, documents, spreadsheets and presentations via Cover Flow and Quick Look, two related document preview features that I think of as "sip" and "drink". Cover flows shows the first page of any document or multimedia file. Quick Look enables a detailed review of the entire file without having to launch an application. These worked well for all my file types.

I then moved on to the Spotlight feature to search files all computers in the household. Mac, Windows and Linux were instantly searchable.

Generally, I keep my Mac desktop uncluttered, using the Dock to manage applications and the Finder to locate needed files. The new Stacks feature enables me to create a "fan" or "grid" of my most commonly used files and automatically organizes my internet downloads. I found Stacks helpful in that fewer keystrokes are needed to retrieve commonly used files.

As part of a project to assess flexible work arrangements (see my blog entry on Flexible Work arrangements), I've recently been testing video teleconferencing, instant messaging, and groupware presentation tools. Since the new iChat features promised enhanced collaboration tools, I was eager to test drive the new remote desktop and document sharing capabiltiies. I found incredible clarity with the Mac to Mac videoteleconferencing tools which incorporate the H.264 video and AAC-LD audio codecs. Shared powerpoint presentations and shared desktops worked well over Google Talk and AOL's AIM.

Finally, I tested Time Machine, a backup and restore system similar to snapshot features I've used on IBM/Lenovo laptops. Having the ability to restore any deleted or reverse any accidental edit worked perfectly for me and will be very popular among users.

So, how would I rate these new features as a CIO? During all of my testing, Leopard booted, performed, suspended, restored, and shutdown without a hitch. Security of OS X is strong because of its Unix foundation. Interoperability of iChat and Spotlight across operating systems was excellent.

As a technology user, I found the new GUI features easy to navigate without training. As with previous releases of Mac OS X, the operating system hides the complexity of Unix in a way that enhances my ability to focus on work rather than the OS. My only complaint is one that I've voiced before: I want to install Leopard on non-Apple hardware, so that I can have OS X support on my 12" road warrior Dell subnotebook. In the meantime, I'll continue running Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon, as it's the closest thing to Leopard that runs on a Dell. Steve Jobs - when's the subnotebook coming?


Unknown said...

Just had to say that out of all that technical lingo nothings says "Geek" to me more than- "I explored Leopard's new features without the benefit of any instructional materials to evaluate their intuitiveness."

Keep up the good work! (and blog.)

Unknown said...

Matches my experience with Leopard exactly. OS X is ready for the big time. Don't forget the remote desktop sharing via iChat - that is a killer feature for IT support.

Also, it runs great on this 4-year-old powerbook. That's got to be worth something.

Mark Singh MD said...

John, Very excited to see you are blogging. I knew it was just a matter of time. It's alway great to get insight from someone with your vast experience!
Mark Singh

Unknown said...

I loaded up Leopard last night. I bought my Mac October 5th, so was lucky enough to get a 9$ copy.

I booted with the disc in, clicked a few "continue" buttons, once it started loading the software I went to sleep. I expected to wake up to a load of more options to click through, but when i did wake up it was booted and ready to use.

I havent had a chance to play with it yet. I can't wait though.

I hate being on my work computer, (some junky old Dell, 1.7Ghz) I keep mousing into the corner for my window switcher.

Dani Iswara said...

great to know some physicians have already use Ubuntu Linux :)

Dani Iswara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wes Parker said...

Steve Jobs delivered your wish John, the MacBook Air. I guess its time to place your order!

Love your blog and your pearls of wisdom. Much appreciated!