New Computer Adventures

I’m nearly there. My new 27-inch iMac is set up and nearly ready for work.  It’s been a long road. Here’s how it happened.My current desktop, modeled here by Tigger, is an Apple Power Mac, specifically a 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon (silver tower) from early 2008. It was a free replacement from Apple for my similar 2004 tower that had a meltdown caused by design flaws, so I haven’t had to actually buy a desktop computer since 2004. I love Apple! But this one is now eight years old and getting increasingly buggy. Every morning I would start it up with apprehension: sometimes it wouldn’t start at all, sometimes it did but wouldn’t connect to the internet and I’d have to restart more times. Standard Apple programs like Mail were doing increasingly weird things. I knew it was time for a replacement, and by buying at the end of the year, I could get a good tax-deduction on this coming April’s taxes. Looking at all the current models available, I didn’t like the current desktops at all. Plus, my Apple monitor is also from 2004, and I thought I should replace that too. The obvious answer was an all-in-one iMac, and I was drawn to the 27-inch model. My current monitor is 23 inches, and a bigger screen is always good. Plus, with the new super-high resolution (5K) it’s billed as the best-looking screen available anywhere. I know from experience that it pays to get the most speed, memory and storage because as time goes on you always need more, so I went for the high-end model, about $4,000. A lot, but if I could get at least five to six years from it, worth it to me. I ordered on Dec. 27th, and it arrived last Friday, Jan. 6th. I was busy with work that day and only had time to unpack it and turn it on to make sure it worked. It did. The screen was amazing. It was like Christmas all over again.

Saturday I got started. The iMac comes with only a few extras, this wireless keyboard is one. They’ve made it smaller by taking off the number pad, but I never used that anyway, and pushing things together more, but the feel is similar enough to my current Apple (wired) keyboard that I had no trouble with it. One new key is at lower left, Fn for Function. This allows you to turn OFF the preset functions of the top row of keys, opening them up for use as shortcuts in various programs, but by hitting the Fn key, you can still use those keys for things like sound and brightness control. Nice idea.

It also comes with a wireless mouse, right, which I hate, and won’t be using. I don’t know whose hand it’s designed for, but certainly not mine, and it’s slippery and awkward. I much prefer my Logitech 2-button and scroll-wheel mouse, also wireless, and only $12.99. Fits my hand perfectly with rubber grips on the side.

My first adventure was seeing if all my existing hardware would work with the iMac, never a sure bet. I’m lucky, most of it does. My large-format Xerox printer does, connected by Ethernet. My all-in-one printer/scanner from Brother does, wirelessly, though the wireless connection is somewhat iffy at times, I think a problem with the printer, not the computer. My Epson Perfection V600 Photo scanner works fine, connected by USB. Several external hard drives for backup and storage all work, connected by USB, as does my Wacom tablet, occasionally needed for things like drawing thought balloons. Only my large-format scanner from Microtek won’t connect, as it uses Firewire, which the iMac doesn’t have. I rarely use it, so this is not too important, and I can still use it through the old desktop Mac if I need it. I’ve ordered a Firewire to USB connector, but they don’t always work, so we’ll see how that goes.

Next I set up all the included software I’ll be using to my liking: Safari, Mail, iTunes, iPhoto, Contacts and general Preferences. That took some time, as did moving in data, photos and music from the old desktop to the new one. I have thousands of photos on the old machine, many I didn’t really want to keep, so I went through them all first and just copied the ones I wanted. That took time. Music was quicker, as I wanted all of it. Contacts also came through fairly quickly using export and import functions. The iMac is running the latest OS, Sierra (10.12), which is pretty different from 10.8, what’s on the old desktop, so there were a few glitches, but I figured them out. I also had to move tons of existing work files and other data of all kinds from old to new, which took a few hours.

Next began the more difficult task of transferring purchased software. As you can imagine, fonts are important to my work, and I have a few thousand of them. I need a way to organize them that I can remember, and turn them off and on easily. I’ve been using the Suitcase app for that for many years, and through many versions. Suitcase Fusion 5 is the one on my old Desktop. The current model is Fusion 7, but looking into it, that wouldn’t work with other current software I wanted to use, Adobe Creative Suite 5. That’s also outdated, and proved the biggest challenge to get on the new machine, more on that later. I decided to try moving Fusion 5 to the new machine to see if it would work. Mostly it does, but is missing some auto-activation features that make my life easier, so at some point I may have to upgrade. After moving, I had to refill all my font sets, but I’ve done this many times and have things organized to make it easy: one folder of fonts in Documents for each font set. There were a few loose ones I had to chase down, but mostly it was easy.

Next up was Microsoft Word (Office). I hate Microsoft, and they proved as annoying as ever. My current version, Office 2008, will not work on the iMac. I had to buy the new 2016 version. I hate giving Microsoft money, but I need Microsoft Word because most of the scripts I get for lettering use it. There are workarounds, but they would slow me down too much. And I occasionally get an Excel document I have to open, too. Sigh. $160 for the new version.

Other programs or apps I was able to install without problems or additional cost include Dropbox, Fetch, Firefox, Fontlab 5, Superduper, Toast 9 Titanium, and Vuescan. Norton Antivirus wanted an additional $20 a year to protect an additional machine, which I thought a good deal. My financial program, Quicken, had to be replaced with the new version for $50, also a good deal. The last one lasted eight years.

Next was getting Adobe Creative Suite 5 on the new machine, the biggest challenge, and one that was not entirely successful. Adobe did what I think was an extremely annoying thing a few years ago by moving to a subscription model for their very popular software, including Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat, Dreamweaver, and many more, but those are the ones I use. One reason I haven’t upgraded my OS for years was to keep CS5 working for me. I love it, it’s been the perfect version since it came out. I knew that I could get a software patch from Apple that would ALLOW me to run CS5, but neither Adobe or Apple support that, and I’d heard varying reports of how things would run in Sierra. I didn’t want to have to go with the current Creative Cloud versions if I could help it. Didn’t want to pay the monthly subscription fee. So, I got out my original install discs and did a clean install of CS5 on the iMac, which took about two hours. (The iMac has no disc drive, but I have an Apple Superdrive which connects by USB for that.)

At first everything seemed good. I could open all the programs. I thought I was home free, but…not so fast. As I started working with Illustrator, my everyday workhorse program for lettering, I discovered a major problem: I couldn’t save a file! I could do all the work, but unless I could save it, it was useless. This was frustrating and disheartening, particularly when I found it was not true for the other programs, they could all save files just fine. Only Illustrator had the problem. I tried many workarounds and fixes, all I could think of, including deleting Preferences and copying my original software from the old desktop to the new, and nothing worked. After a long day of this, I had to admit defeat. There are other programs that try to do what Illustrator does, but so far, from what I’ve heard, they all fall short. I would have to subscribe to the new Creative Cloud version of Illustrator, and that’s what I did. Since I only needed the one app, it would be $20 a month, or $240 a year. About $5 a week. Not so bad, I guess.

One of the things I THOUGHT I wouldn’t like about Creative Cloud proved to be a non-issue. The program downloaded onto my own computer, and is available at all times, whether I’m online or not. Yes, there’s an online cloud service for work done, but I can use it or not, as I like, and I probably won’t. The interface is somewhat different, but similar enough that I didn’t have too much trouble setting it up for the way I like to work. I haven’t done any new paid work on it yet, so it’s still possible there will be more glitches I haven’t run into, but so far so good. It feels pretty comfortable, and the larger screen on the iMac gives me more room for tools and palettes, a good thing. Auto-activation for fonts from Suitcase won’t work unless I upgrade that program, and that could be a problem, so I may need to do that, we’ll see.

One big job left: reorganize my studio, putting the iMac where the old computer is now, and rearranging all the hardware and wiring. I’ll be doing that tomorrow. By Monday I should be ready to get back to work and back to other things I enjoy doing, like writing for this blog. Hope to see you back here soon!

7 thoughts on “New Computer Adventures

  1. Joie Simmons

    If you ever have a problem on this new mac (I’ve had this happen on Sierra) where you can’t open or save Word files. Quit Word and deactivate all of your fonts in Suitcase. Then you can re-open word and start activating fonts again and work normally.

    This doesn’t make much sense, but it works.

  2. Bram

    Interesting. Can’t imagine working without the full keyboard, I always wind up buying that. And I love that wireless mouse; less so for the wireless-ness (which can be problematic), but the design and functionality.

    I fear you’re in for some unpleasant revelations with Quicken. I feel they’ve managed, every year, to understand less and less about how actual human beings manage their finances and what they need to do it.

  3. Jamie Hickson

    Thanks for sharing this, Todd.

    It’s always interesting to see what other creators setups are like,
    along with the types of systems, hardware and programs they use.

    I wasn’t aware that the newer iMacs don’t have a disc drive.
    We use them at the print shop where I work, and our newest one is
    almost 3 years old, and it has one.

    Which model of the Brother All-in-One do you have..?
    I’m hoping to add one here at home for scanning original art
    from the guys I do comics with.

    As someone who has used Illustrator for many years, how did you
    keep up with the changes to the newer versions…?

    Was it a stepped learning “curve”, or did you benefit from
    any tutorials, etc..?

    I’ve faked my way thru with Photoshop for so long, but I really
    need to switch all my lettering over to Illustrator.

    Good luck with the new system.

    – Jamie

  4. Todd Post author

    It would be hard to do that now, as I have new projects coming, but I don’t know when, or whether I can talk about them. Sorry.

  5. Todd Post author

    Brother model is 8890DW. The wireless connection isn’t always working right, but maybe that’s fixed in newer ones. The scanning area is not large enough for tradiional comics art, at least in one scan.

    Illustrator changes are generally gradual, or involve things I don’t use, so they haven’t been a big issue. Setting up my work area preferences takes time, but once that’s done, I’m good. I rarely use tutorials, I like to figure things out as I go.

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