My New iMac: Nice, But Not Without its Snags

By  |  Monday, March 29, 2010 at 4:41 pm

My new 21.5” iMac arrived on Friday. I spent the weekend transferring files from my old machine and installing the applications that I wanted. The experience was overwhelmingly positive, but it wasn’t as seamless as it could have been.

Unpacking and setting up the machine was a breeze, and its quality was excellent-even though I purchased it from Apple’s refurbished Mac store. (I saved around $200.)  The machine booted up, instantly recognizing the wireless keyboard and mouse. It then asked me if I wanted to migrate from another machine.

I lacked the necessary cable, so I opted not to use the transfer wizard; I had already shared folders on my old Mac. Files transferred over the air through my home network, and everything went smoothly–until I tried to set up my machine for work.

I installed Office 2008 Home and Student Edition. It was far cheaper than the business edition that Microsoft sells. The main difference that would affect my work is that Home and Student ‘s edition of Entourage 2008 lacks Exchange support. No problem I thought–until I tried to set up Apple’s Mail application.

When Apple shipped Snow Leopard last year it hyped Apple Mail’s support for Microsoft Exchange. That factored heavily into my decision to purchase the less expensive Office. It saved me over $100, but ended up taking up a lot of my time this past weekend.

First off, Mail only supports Exchange 2007. My employer still uses Exchange 2003–it is one of many businesses that has not upgraded yet. (Exchange 2007 only runs on 64-bit server hardware.) Using either Mail or Entourage to sync with Exchange was no longer an option.

Luckily, my account allows for POP 3 access. I decided to use Mail and iCal synced with Google Calendar in lieu of Exchange. Mail didn’t like that option; my inbox was too large for it to handle even when the settings were correct. My old e-mails were archived from Entourage, so I went ahead and attempted to reduce the size of my inbox.

That proved to be more of a hassle than I had anticipated. Both Entourage and Mail timed out while attempting to remove messages from the mail server to the point that both applications froze. I had to log into Outlook Web Access (OWA) and do it manually.

That process would have taken me hours (there is no “select all” option in OWA) had I not found a neat trick to select an entire page worth of e-mail by pasting a special string of JavaScript into my browser’s address bar. That only worked in Safari, not Firefox–more time wasted.

Eventually, Mail synced with the Exchange server via POP3 once my inbox was sufficiently small. It wanted to delete files from the e-mail server by default, a setting that I noticed and changed in order to keep my iPhone synced with Exchange. The iPhone supports Exchange 2003 using ActiveSync (hint to Apple: all of your products should work the same way).

After all of that, my iPhone no longer downloaded new e-mails from my Exchange account. I had to remove information from my settings in order for it to work again. Google came in handy to locate that workaround.

By this morning, everything was working as I had anticipated. That was until I needed to use my calendar. iCal refuses to add calendar invites to my Google Calendar, which syncs with my iPhone.

Instead, iCal created a separate calendar called “home” that accepts my appointments, and iCal integrates everything into a single calendar view. iCal’s consolidated calendar does not sync “home” appointments with my iPhone, and I’m not about to spend $99 per year for Apple’s MobileMe for it to do so. The lack of synchronization is disappointing.

That is not to say that I am disappointed with the machine; it is aesthetically pleasing and powerful. Movies downloaded from iTunes look great on its LED LCD screen and I’m able to run Windows 7 through Parallels. I even like the iMac’s “Chiclet” keyboard–it’s faster to type on.

I do have another gripe, however. It’s nice to have a wireless keyboard and mouse, but they eat AA batteries. I’m now wondering how many batteries I’m going to have to cosine to the landfill this year. Apple deserves kudos for eliminating toxic elements from its products, but batteries aren’t good for the environment either. How about a Powermat type charging system instead with renewable batteries?

That said, the Magic Mouse takes some getting used to. It’s lack of a middle mouse button forced me to change my Exposé settings – changing how I work. It has some neat bells and whistles like gesture capabilities, but those features are also probably why my battery is down 25% after just three days.

Had I been provided the option to customize my order, I would have opted for a more traditional wired mouse. I also would have bucked up for the business edition of Office 2008. But one of the downsides of ordering a refurb is that you give up the ability to configure your machine.

Overall, I’m very happy. My last home-built Windows PC was not nearly as easy to set up (ask me about motherboard grounding issues). But it is fair to ask whether a person that is less tech-savvy been able to work through my issues so quickly? How about someone who had switched from Windows? Apple’s work to provide a better experience isn’t finished.


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12 Comments For This Post

  1. kidTruant Says:

    You may already know about this, but if not… definitely download MagicPrefs app. It’s a free menubar and preference pane app that allows you to GREATLY customize your new magic mouse. Bitly Link:

  2. David Worthington Says:

    I’d also like to note that importing my inbox from Entourage to Mail also failed.

  3. David Worthington Says:

    @kidTruant thanks! somebody mentioned this to me last week, but I forgot about it.

  4. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    > everything went smoothly–until … [Microsoft]

    You have the wrong “edition” of Office and your Microsoft mail server is 7 years out-of-date. Those are classic Microsoft problems, not Apple problems.

    > I’m now wondering how many batteries I’m going to have to
    > cosine to the landfill this year.

    I have to replace mine every 6 months. You can use rechargeable batteries.

    You may find that putting the wireless keyboard in your lap is very comfortable on your wrists and makes the wireless aspect really worthwhile.

  5. David Worthington Says:

    @Hamranhansenhansen thank you for your suggestions. I purchased the “wrong” edition of Office, because Apple said that it supported Exchange in Mail 4.x. My previous experience with Apple’s Exchange support was with my iPhone, which worked well with my configuration. Many businesses still use Exchange 2003, and Apple should improve its client support.

  6. Don Bean Says:

    Simply put, Mac Mail does not work. Have a three month old 27 in iMac. Tried both Mail and Thunderbird. Cannot sent or receive emails, a fairly simple task. Have had four sessions with Apple Tech support, the last one a 1 1/2 chat with a senior tech person. Went line by line, trying this and that and still no email capability. Have to use a $199.00 PC Netbook to have email capability. This is absurd when dealing with a $2000.00 computer.

  7. IcyFog Says:

    Hey David is that a Mighty Mouse you have or a Magic Mouse?
    It’s disappointing to read you had so much trouble migrating your mail accounts. I typically just use web-based mail.

    Anyway, several months ago I bought an iMac for my sister, and setting that up for her was a breeze. We were able to set up her new Mac, registering it, etc., faster than we were able to tear down her PC.
    Afterwards, she was like wow I can’t believe how easy that was. Why didn’t I switch before now?
    I don’t know I said. I’ve been trying to tell you.
    I also bought the Apple Care and the One-On-One service too. She’s really enjoyed learning about Apple and Macs that way. Apple also tranferred all her old PC files to her Mac for her too. She’s loved everything about her Mac, and there have been no complaints so far.

  8. Kevin Says:

    “Many businesses still use Exchange 2003, and Apple should improve its client support.”
    – Since when does apple cater to business user needs. I have two Macs at home, and administer a windows domain at work and have not misgivings about the two always playing nicely.

    – Sounds to me like a perfectly good Mac that works just as specified, however David didn’t read what was specified, cheaped out on the version of Office and paid the price with a long day of creating a workaround.

  9. David Worthington Says:

    @kevin Read it again. Mail also choked on a large inbox and failed to import everything from Entourage. Furhter, iCal has limited syncing.

    If Apple didn’t cater to business user needs why did it include Exchange support at all?

  10. Kevin Says:

    David, that’s a good question for Apple. In a perfect world these would all work together, but both Apple and Exchange are closed systems. Exchange is supported by very few clients and even fewer of those do it well because its not a well documented ecosystem, so that you have to buy Microsoft’s clients (Office is where the real money is after all). I don’t lay any blame on either side, its part of the game they both play….we’re just stuck in the middle.

  11. Marcus Says:


    It seems like you are complaining about your lack of understanding’s system requirements and compatibility, along with your personal decisions not to use the standard migration techniques (Migration assistant, etc.) but there is very little in this article that actually is dependent upon the fact that you happened to purchase a new iMac.

    If it wasn’t for your concerns about the wireless mouse and keyboard hardware, you basically could have written this article about your experience formatting and re-installing OS X on your old Mac, and attempting to setup Mail/calendar synchronization in a new way.

    It seems like poor journalism to use such a misleading title for this article, and unfortunately I have to say this article seems out of place on the otherwise excellent site.

  12. Rob Says:


    I presume you meant “consign.”