IS Department

Essential Mac Software List

Posted in Mac by Brian Russell on August 19, 2007

Came across this link on Digg, and I wanted to remember it for later. Hope any Mac users reading this will find it helpful as well.


The Switch – Part 3.1 – The Negatives… Continued

Posted in Mac by Brian Russell on May 16, 2007

This is just an add on to the last post of my switch series of posts.

As with PCs, Macs also sometimes suffer hardware/software problems.  This guy posts a years worth of troubles with his MacBook.

I found this pretty large security document from Apple to keep your OS security in check (PDF).

The Switch – Part 2 – Initial Thoughts and Judgments

Posted in Mac by Brian Russell on April 23, 2007

It has been 4 days now that I have had my MacBook Pro, so I thought it has been long enough to give some initial thoughts and judgments about my experience. A little side note first…I hate FedEx Ground. They put my Mac on the truck to be delivered, but they never delivered it to me. The website (after not being updated during the whole process of shipping…what good is a tracking number if you can’t do any tracking) showed that the driver didn’t even make an attempt to deliver. No explanation given. I ended up calling the next day and actually meeting the driver in town because he wasn’t sure he would have been able to deliver it to me the next day either. Just crazy.

I started this series of posts with part 1 which included some useful links. I suggest you take a look at them if you are thinking about switching yourself.

The Wow Starts Now

As soon as I started up the MacBook, I was wowed. I found the Dashboard right away. When I compare the Dashboard on the Mac to Vista’s Sidebar, there is no comparison; Mac wins. It is tons more useful to have them hidden unless needed. Of course, this is just my personal preference, and maybe others don’t feel the same.

I found the Expose feature on the Mac to be very useful compared to the Flip 3D feature in Vista (both are visually stunning, but Expose is more user friendly). Switching between my running applications has never been so good.

Spell checking is enabled everywhere…enough said about that.

Another thing that makes a PC user like me happy he switched is the ‘hot’ corners (or Active Screen Corners if you want to be technical about it). I set up each corner of the desktop as a hot corner that once I move my mouse to it an action occurs. It is so easy to move your mouse to a corner that it becomes part of your workflow within minutes. I trigger Expose when my mouse moves to the bottom right. I trigger the Dashboard when it goes to the bottom left. If you get a Mac, set this up immediately.

Getting Windows Up and Running on the Mac

After playing around on my Mac and the initial ohhs and ahhs, I started looking into how to get a dual boot setup working. The first thing I did after ordering my Mac was to order Parallels as well. Since I am coming from a Windows development background, I knew it would be hard to leave behind Windows cold turkey. I knew that Boot Camp would allow me to dual boot the Mac to Windows if needed, and Parallels lets you point to your Windows partition to run as a virtual image inside the Mac OS. Plus, I want to be able to play with Linux as well (haven’t you heard about the new Unbuntu being released), and Parallels will let me.

I went and downloaded the latest Boot Camp install, and started working. The instructions were easy to follow, and partitioning my drive was easy. There was a point when I inserted my Windows disk but Boot Camp didn’t recognize it. This didn’t matter because I restarted the Mac like I was supposed to and held down the Command key to boot to the Windows CD like normal. Finishing the install was like normal. I installed the drivers supplied by Apple to get the MacBook hardware recognized in Windows, and everything was working. I finished installing software like Office 2007 and Visual Studio. The great thing with Boot Camp is that when I boot into Windows, I have a Windows laptop. This isn’t virtualized or anything, it is a Windows OS running on the Mac hardware. The only thing funny is the keyboard is a little different than a normal PC (but aren’t all laptop keyboards different in the PC world).

PC vs Mac

Now that I got Windows installed, updated, protected (don’t forget to install anti-virus software), and running, I started spending my time inside the Mac environment. I did the normal things like getting connected to the internet, setting up mailboxes, and started re-arranging my applications folder to suit my needs. This is where I realized that the latest Apple commercial really was spot on. There wasn’t any crapware loaded up on my Mac. It looked clean as a whistle. The only thing that I consider to be crapware that was on the drive is a ‘Office 2004 for the Mac test drive’ folder. Considering most people need a Office product installed, this is acceptable and hands down beats Dell, Gateway, and the other PC manufacturers.

Another great thing was there were no stickers installed on my laptop by Apple. I don’t know why, but every PC laptop that I have ever seen always comes with a Windows sticker, Intel/AMD sticker, and if the vendor really sucks, a sticker of their own. Why? I should know what I bought. I don’t need stickers to remind me. One of my co-workers argued with me when I brought this point up saying that “the Apple logo on the lid of the laptop was just the same, and that they could remove the stickers but I can’t remove the Apple.” Forget the fact that every other laptop on the table at the time also had a manufacturers logo on the lid, I just think he was getting jealous. I also think he is a closet Mac lover, but since we gave him so much crap in the past for owning a iPod, he will never let it out.

Yes, I find it ironic that I used to make fun of Apple, now I have a Mac. I can only shrug my shoulders at that, I can’t explain it either. I figure I have some bad karma coming my way for that, which probably explains why I now have the nickname of iBrian at work.

Going Terminal

It didn’t take me long before I was at the terminal window learning to use Bash for the first time. I am not a Linux geek at all, so the command line is a unfriendly place for me to be at. I told myself with this new Mac that I would take the opportunity to learn the stuff I have been neglecting for a long time. This includes getting good with Bash.  Why was I at the terminal so quick?  Well, I wanted to get setup and start working with Ruby on Rails to develop a site I have been working on lately. I followed a pretty good tutorial for getting set up with everything I needed to do Rails development.

Other Applications

Of course, no OS is perfect out of the box with everything a person needs (unless you just browse the internet). So during the last few days I had to find some software to use. Besides getting Ruby, Rails, and MySQL set up, I installed Xcode so I could compile the previous stated software, Firefox for the developer extensions (and more compatibility since Safari isn’t always 100% compatible with all web sites), TextMate since I heard it was the best for Rails development on the Mac, svnX because I needed a Subversion client, and FileWrangler to mass rename photo files I had. I think that is enough for 4 days. I am sure I will get more, and I will post about them when I do. If you are looking for more Mac software, you should probably stop at the Apple Downloads page first.

Some Disappointments

This is the section where the Mac haters can point to for counter arguments if they like. First up, there is no “delete” key. Let me explain. There is a “delete” key on the keyboard, but it functions as the backspace key does on the PC. There is no key that does front delete like the delete key on a PC does. You can hold down the fn key and press the delete key to get this functionality. I sure like the normal delete key on the PC, but give me enough time and I can retrain myself on this one.

Cut/copy/paste combinations are different than the PC. On the Mac you use the Command + X, Command, + C, and Command + V for these operations whereas on the PC you use the ctrl + X, ctrl + C, and ctrl + V to do the same. This is tricky for my fingers to get used to. I keep trying to use the ctrl key like I did on the PC. Again, the functionality is there, just a little different. I have to train myself. I figure in a couple weeks everything will be adjusted in my head.

This disappointment may just be my lack of experience and knowledge, but I want iTunes and iPhoto to look at external drives and not copy over the music or photos locally. When I disconnect the drives (my iRiver or my USB keychain), I don’t want the music or photos to stay on the Mac. Maybe someone reading this can help me with this.

That is it. Pretty minor if you ask me. I am really very happy with it so far. I don’t regret my decision to get a MacBook Pro.

Continuing to Explore

I think that is enough for this post. I will check in with another post in a week or two to tell you about me development experiences on the Mac.

The Switch – Part 1 – Getting Ready

Posted in Mac by Brian Russell on April 17, 2007

I have done what I always thought would be the unthinkable, I am switching to a Mac.  This was a hard decision, but one I have been pondering for quite a while.  Ever since Macs were switched over to use x86 hardware and Boot Camp was announced, my view point has changed dramatically about the Mac.  I used to think there would be no reason to get a Mac, but Apple showed me otherwise.  They introduced Boot Camp, the awesome Mac Book Pro hardware, and a price that was comparable with similarly featured PCs.  Combine those with my dissappointment with Vista, and everything added up to a  switch.

I plan to write about my experiences with the Mac as I get going with it, but right now I am waiting for the hardware to arrive within the next couple days.  My co-workers will probably get frustrated at me for filling our blog with Mac stuff, but it will be like a train wreck for them; they know they shouldn’t look, but they just won’t be able to help themselves. 🙂

Since I am waiting impatiently for it to arrive in the mail, I decided to look around the web for some good information about switching over.  Here is what I found (good and bad):

Switched to a Mac — and back

The Cons of Switching from Windows to Mac. Ten Quick Ones.

Windows expert to Redmond: Buh-bye

Thomas Hawk Buys a Mac

How to Switch to the Mac

I will post more if I come across them…