The Mac/Thinkpad Shuffle

by Jonathan Gennick

No, it's not a new product from Apple. The Mac/Thinkpad shuffle is what
you do when you buy a new iBook for your daughter so that you can redeploy her
Thinkpad to the family room, so that you can redeploy the six-year-old and broken
family-room PC to the, well, to the dump.

Yes, the new iBook arrived, and Jenny opened the box Wednesday evening. She
was thrilled.

Look out! Jenny's got a knife!

The adventure begins! Jenny carves into the newly delivered
iBook box.

It's the first Mac in our family since I sold my Powerbook way back in 1993.
Here are some of our initial thoughts and reactions:

  • Jenny likes the iBook case material very much.

  • She was momentarily upset at having only one mouse-button. I think I could carefully saw that button into two halves, but
    she wasn't too interested in my, er, suggested hack. Really, Apple ought
    to offer two buttons as an option. I'm sure the design is modular enough
    that they could offer two trackpad configurations.

  • You should have seen Jenny's eyes light up when I went to the iTunes store
    and began playing song samples. She didn't know what she was missing. And
    it all just worked. I've never run iTunes before, and I was playing song
    samples in less than a minute. No setup. No configuration. No registration.
    Just fun.

  • While transfering Jenny's files and other data, I found I can get just
    as frustrated using a Mac as I can using a Windows PC :-)

  • Apple's icon and GUI design are awesome. No Teletubbies on that screen.
    The icons are very pleasing to look at. Well done.

  • Why on earth does the extension adaptor for a two-prong power adaptor terminate
    in a three-prong plug? What's that about? Ease-of-use does not include hunting
    around one's office for a grounded outlet.

  • Sadly, doesn't seem to play well on the Mac. Having to use
    X11 is no bother at all. But the fonts, they render terribly. We opened
    a couple of Jenny's files, and the text was awful to look at. The good thing
    is though, that does at least run on the Mac. She's at least
    got access to her files. We both really appreciate that.

  • Hmmm... I just now opened Appleworks, typed in a few words using the default
    font, and the results there are not very appealing either. Interestingly,
    that font, Helvetica 12pt, renders better, though larger, in
    than in Appleworks. A further oddity is that clicking on the bold and italic
    toolbar buttons in has no effect at all. More research is
    indicated here.

  • Jenny's had some trouble adjusting to the trackpad. She tends to drag her
    palm across it while typing, with the result that her cursor flies across
    the screen, window focus changes, etc. She and I are both big fans of IBM's
    little, red nub. Oh well. Can't have everything. She'll get used it eventually.

  • Jenny was completely baffled (at first) by the slot-loading CD drive.
    It was a bit funny watching her try to put in her first CD. She was looking
    right at the slot, but couldn't find the drive. Such are the small joys
    of fatherhood :-)

  • iMail did an awesome job of importing Jenny's old email. She used to use
    The Bat!
    (which, by the way, I
    recommend unhesitatingly to Windows PC users
    ) I had to export each of
    Jenny's folders from The Bat! one at a time. To my very pleasant surprise,
    iMail loaded the entire resulting directory and subdirectory of Unix mailbox
    files in one, fell swoop, and preserved the hierarchical structure into the
    bargain. I was most pleased with how easily that went.

Despite a few rough points during the configuration and setup process (I was
in iHell for just a little while), and despite a few adjustments she's had to
make (one button mouse, trackpad rather than Trackpoint, etc.), Jenny is a very
happy teenager. When I offer to take back the iBook and let her keep her Thinkpad,
the answer is a resounding "No!" And Jeff, my nine-year-old son, he's
completely lost eyes for Thinkpads. He could care less that Jenny's giving us
her old one. He wants an iBook too.


2005-01-28 07:02:52
Trackpad fix
There is an option in the system settings under keyboard and mouse (I think it's in their) to set the trackpad to ignore stray hits -- it is VERY helpful in stopping most cases of random trackpad-mouse-cursor-flying-across-screen-moments.
Jonathan Gennick
2005-01-28 07:04:45
Oh, and one last thing
I also very much like the small, thumbnail images that you get when you minimize windows. Those are really helpful when it comes to finding the "right" window to un-minimize.
2005-01-28 07:15:54
I've just recently started using NeoOffice/J on my iBook, a port of OpenOffice to OS X which doesn't use X11. The fonts are more cleanly rendered and the menus turn up in the menu bar which leaves more screen space for the text window.

I'm not going to recommend this too enthusiastically because I haven't used it enough to know how stable it is yet, but it might be worth a try.

2005-01-28 07:27:14
" She was thrilled."

Heh, not so thrilled with having her picture taken by the looks of things!! I'm sure the ibook made up for it.

2005-01-28 08:29:16
Mac addicts can't stop proselytizing...
..."Hare Krishna, Ha-a-are Ha-a-are"

I liked it much more when Jonathan Gennick was just an Oracle expert.

2005-01-28 09:20:42
Mac addicts can't stop proselytizing...
MY DAD Is not a mac addict! you shouild have seen him trying to get the network running! he wasn't too fond of it then!
2005-01-28 09:24:19
Trackpad fix
hey, thanks for the suggestion, it helped me out a lot.


2005-01-28 09:37:57
Two buttons and AbiWord

I like AbiWord for word processing, and it deals with MS Word files just fine: . Besides, if they're plain MS Word documents, TextEdit can read and write them just fine!

And I prefer two buttons on my mouse as well -- so I use a MacAlly two button mini-mouse on my iBook (though any USB two button mouse will work, really, even those from Microsoft):

2005-01-28 10:16:42
Mouse buttons
On desktops (or when using a mouse on a laptop), I think two buttons are a must. On a laptop trackpad, however, I could do just fine with ZERO buttons, since I always tap instead of click. This is where I prefer the control-click (or control-tap) over a second button.

Using the pinky of your left hand to hold the control key and the thumb of your right hand to move the cursor and tap-click, you can do a "right click" without removing either hand from the keyboard.

You can do the same with "nubs," of course, but not with PC laptop track pads: You have to remove at least one hand from the keyboard to do a right click.

2005-01-28 10:19:57
OpenOffice & Fonts
Which X11 server are you using? I've noticed massive disparities among them. I'm currently using XDarwin (the download version) with all of my Library->Fonts mapped so that xfs picks them up. Much nicer (don't have a link right off hand, but you can probably find the info on
2005-01-28 11:17:06
Trackpad fix
I'm not a Mac laptop user, but I've heard great things about SideTrack enabling 2-button functionality on PowerBooks & iBooks.

Myself, I'd just buy a USB scroll mouse. I find trackpads of all kinds significantly inferior.

2005-01-28 14:14:02
switcher's guides
Jenny, two URLs that may help you with your switch.

This first one is geared to new Mac mini owners but it applies well to all Macs, Ars Technica.

The second is a number of bullet points about using a Mac,
Tao of Mac.

And my own advice, you will find that certain tasks when done in OS X will seem strange in their method but will soon come to realize that this is the way things should have been done all along. Also, if you think you can do something a certain way with a Mac, 9 out of 10, you can.

2005-01-28 15:04:53
I'll recommend it as well and a little more enthusiastically. I use it regularly as a replacement for Microsoft Word and it's excellent. While not fully aquafied, it does use standard Mac keyboard shortcuts for everything, uses all your standard Mac fonts, and plays friendly with the printing system.
2005-01-28 16:51:41
Mac addicts can't stop proselytizing...
Alright, so you're both Mac addicts. In denial. :)

Your dad (if indeed you're who you say) is a darn good technical writer. He always spellchecks what he writes. And so should you.

2005-01-30 05:46:33
A few other programs
Mellel for word processing. GraphicConverter for graphic files, Fetch for FTP, iComic for comics, Acquisition for peer to peer file transfer, BBEdit for editing, or SubEthaEdit. All these are good programs and should be in the dock along with Apple's own programs. I would have suggested Watson 2 years ago, but alas it is now a dead program.
2005-02-01 02:24:46
Mac addicts can't stop proselytizing...
Don't be so crude, vainst1k... what would a spellchecker say of yuour nickname? ;)
2005-02-01 08:18:34
iBook Results
I am interested in an iBook, mostly for the OS X. I'm worried about your comments regarding OpenOffice however. Can you expand on those comments?
Jonathan Gennick
2005-02-01 09:38:36
iBook Results
First off, I hated even saying anything negative about OpenOffice to begin with. It's a good product. We use it a lot. And I know a lot of people have worked hard to evenget it to run on theMac at all. That said, here's all I can tell you:

OpenOffice doesn't run as a native, Mac application. I had to download and install an X-Window server from Apple's web site. This is a minor inconvenience. Neither my daughter nor I are particularly bothered by the fact that OpenOffice doesn't "look" like a standard, Mac app.

Things got worse though, when we opened some of her existing, OpenOffice files, of which she has many. The text was unpleasant to look at.

Worse, when we try to apply italics or bold to a piece of text, the text does not change appearance. I'm guessing that the italic/bold settings are being applied, but visually we don't see them.

And that's pretty much all I know at this point. My daughter's gone back to school, and I've promised to buy her iWork, which I need to get around to doing.

Despite the problems, it's fortunate to have OpenOffice on the Mac at all. At least she can open her files, save them as RTF (or in Word format), and import them into iPages. And, because everything's on the mac, she can convert files at her leisure.

2005-02-04 02:03:22
Tune Open Office
For better font rendering try to set the colours of X11 to Millions in the Preferences and / or follow the instructions here

Alternatively you can use the Java version.

2005-02-04 13:44:05
Give NeoOffice/J a shot. It's a Java app, ported over by Mr. Patrick Luby ( Since it's java, it uses the installed Apple fonts, offers easy printing, and uses the Mac menubar & command keys. It's much more Mac-like than the X11 version. It also offers easy cut and paste. The current version is based on OOo Ver 1.1.3 The speed is comparable the X11 ver.

Here's the link, I think you'll like it.