Showing posts from February, 2008

I love Time Machine because...

...I don't have to think about backups. Usually hard disk failures and accidentally deleted data happen without thinking. I only start thinking when something that's important to me is no longer there. Time Machine just chugs away in the background, backing up my stuff every hour.'s so efficient. I'm not even aware that it's running unless I happen to glance up at the menu bar at the exact moment it's pushing out a change to my backup and the little clock is spinning for a few seconds. My system doesn't slow to a crawl, I'm not swapping disks, nothing. Backups just happen. It happened while I was typing this post!'s got a seriously cool restore interface. Yeah, Okay, I'm a sucker for cool UIs. Time Machine has one of the coolest UIs I've seen when it comes to restoring files. The animation is first rate and it's not just eye candy; when I needed to get to a version of a file that I had made dramatic changes to I could roll

Little adjustments - from Windows to Mac

There are a few little things that four weeks in to my Mac adoption are still presenting me with small challenges. Since I run parallel desktops; both a high powered Windows machine and my now trusty MacBook, I'm constantly battling with them. Closing Applications One of the little "gotchas" for me with my Mac has been closing down applications. In the Windows environment when I am done with just about any application I'll save what I've worked on and then click the little X in the upper right hand corner. My youngest daughter even uses that as a verb: "Just X the window..." On my Mac the little X has moved from the top right to the top left of every window and is now under a little red orb. Much like under Windows, when I'm done with an application I'll find myself simply closing it by clicking on the little red orb. While this closes the window it does not close the application. The menu is still alive - and with it most of the memory for the

Adobe Photoshop or Pixelmator?

I've been looking for a Mac based image editor and was agonizing about what to do. I had been a long time Photoshop user and was quite comfortable with that product but the price was so steep and my use now so casual. I really only need it for basic photo retouching and simple graphic cuts for web sites. Given that, Photoshop's price seemed really high at a retail price of $649. The lowest price I found for CS3 was $289 and I would need my wife to use her teacher discount in order to get it and the site looked a little shaky. I decided instead I would look around. My friend Bradley mentioned I should take a look at Pixelmator .  I pulled it down and installed it and was immediately comfortable with it. It's effectively a nice light version of Photoshop. It's got layers and most of the tools and if you are a Photoshop user you will be immediately comfortable with it. It's not without a couple of quirks - at times I find myself having to click several times to activ

iChat - video chats are really different

I've been using the video capabilities of iChat lately. It's the best part about having the built in iSight camera - if I see one of my contacts has video capability (which usually means they have a Mac) then I simply initiate the chat and off we go. My last company had video conferencing capabilities and they were excellent. It really made it easy to get together with people in remote offices and not make everyone jump on a plane all the time. While I'm used to video conferencing, this has been my first experience using it in my home. What's Cool The first time I got a video chat running with my daughter off at college it was an event. She didn't want to bother with it. When I finally convinced her to try it out and she saw my face on her MacBook she immediately thought it was incredibly cool. I picked up the MacBook and promptly walked around the house with my daughter on the screen. Everyone in the house was suitably impressed. My daughter even made me place th

Of Mice and Men

While I recently bought a new mouse for my MacBook and was quite pleased with it I felt something was missing. I really wanted a wireless mouse solution. I often grab my MacBook and head upstairs to show something cool to my wife and kids (they think I'm a Mac Fanboy now) or grab it for a meeting with someone. Unplugging the mouse from the USB port is not really that big of a deal but I've got Bluetooth capabilities on this machine - why not use them? My requirements were quite simple: a Bluetooth mouse that would work with Mac and have at least 5 buttons and a scroll wheel. Why 5? Well, 1 is for Left Click, 2 is for Right, 3 is for navigating to links in a new tab, 4 is to go Back in the browser and 5 is to go forward. If you haven't used a setup like that you are missing out; it's wonderful. There are wireless solutions from all of the vendors that include a dongle you plug into your USB port but that's silly - I already have a device to handle that and I want t

Safari vs. Firefox

Prior to becoming a Mac user I had a deep hatred for Safari. Why you ask? Safari was the bane of my existence as a web site developer. Since I had a Windows centered view on the world I built everything with IE and then Firefox in mind on the Windows platform. We would spend huge amounts of time getting a dynamic web site to work properly and then someone would load it up on a Mac in Safari and it would just fall apart. Things didn't line up, pages that used DHTML and more advanced presentation capabilities would simply not work. It was a mess. The only way we could get our web site to work on Macs was to request that people that wanted to use our applications just use Firefox on the Mac. It was very consistent with the Windows version and since it was free we figured it was a reasonable compromise. When I started using my Mac I figured I would immediately use Firefox for everything; it was one of the first applications I downloaded. I kept Safari as my default web browser though a

After three weeks, what's really being used?

When I started writing about my MacBook three weeks ago I figured it would be a great way to capture what it's like for a total Windows snob to open up and add a Mac to his collection of computers. What I didn't expect was that I would actually make a small 5 pound laptop my primary machine when I have some serious Windows and Linux hardware sitting right next to me. Okay, it's not really my primary machine just yet because I'm still doing all of my product development on my Windows XP system. I'm still searching for something that can even come close to replacing Microsoft Visual Studio and the .NET development environment but I can't. Since I'm also in the process of building up my next online product it would be too much of a wrench in the machinery to move everything over to Mac. Not that I haven't thought about it! When I decided I would blog about my adoption of a Macintosh, I wanted to try and capture what it's like for a Windows guy to get a

Time to back up Drifter

First off, I finally named my machine. I always name machines from some genre of science fiction, usually Star Wars because the names are short and easy to spell, but in the case of my Mac I figured I would break with tradition and name him Drifter. I have no idea why, it just came to me and stuck. Since this is a MacBook that I constantly grab off the desk and take with me places I figured it was appropriate. The reason I mention that my MacBook has a name is because it makes telling you about my backup adventures a little more entertaining. I knew I needed to backup Drifter - all of my other machines have backup strategies but they involve moving specific files around to other machines on my network. I don't do full backups of my Windows systems because I've found that with Windows it's a good idea to reinstall the OS on a fresh machine every once in a while and it's better to just reinstall the apps, then restore my data. I only backup my data. With Drifter I decid

Running applications automatically at startup

One of the features I used in Windows was the Start / Startup folder. Any shortcut I threw in there would automatically run when I started up Windows. For me that was the Task Manager, my OneNote screen Clipper and Windows Desktop Search. So how to do this with my Mac? If an application is in your Dock you can Right-Click on it and select "Open at Login". It's a checkbox so you can turn it on and off. That's the quick and easy way. You can also do it in Leopard by going into System Preferences and clicking on Accounts.  Select your account on the left and then switch to the Login Items tab. From there you can add any application without having to put it in your Dock bar - and you can mark that it will be hidden as soon as it loads!

Bumping the memory in the MacBook

I decided that I wanted to max out the memory in my MacBook since I'm running more and more on the little machine. Though 2GB is normally plenty I figured 4GB couldn't hurt. When I looked on NewEgg and started scoping out RAM prices I was shocked to see how far they had fallen. I could pick up a matched set of Corsair memory for just $95 ! Sure, I'd have a couple of extra sticks of memory sitting around when I took the old ones out but 4GB would be exactly what I needed as I started playing with VMWare Fusion . Yesterday the distinctive squeal of the UPS truck stopping in front of my house indicating that my memory had arrived. I turned off the MacBook, pulled out the battery and unscrewed the three small screws that held the memory cover in place. 30 seconds later the new RAM was installed and a minute after that the machine was flipped back over, plugged in and booting up. This install took me all of five minutes from start to finish and that was with me taking my time!

CSSEdit - what a great find!

In my quest to move more of my software development over to Mac I started looking around for a decent solution for HTML/XHTML and CSS development. On Windows my CSS Editor of choice was  TopStyle , a really great application, but there isn't a Mac version. I ran through quite a few products over the extended weekend but found one that impressed me so much I bought it within 20 minutes of trying it out. CSSEdit makes the process of testing out CSS design painfully simple and at $29 it's hard to pass up. It's got all of the helpers to guide you through CSS settings - pretty much expected for a decent CSS editor. You can use a dialog based approach or edit the CSS source directly in a full text editing surface that has lots of helpers.  The part that made me whip out the credit card though was the Live Preview browser. Point it at your HTML and start making changes in your CSS - they are reflected immediately in the preview browser. In addition it has an X-Ray feature that a

Getting away from the "Start" mindset

I've never been a big fan of lots of icons sitting on my Windows desktop; I have a few key ones, then use a highly organized Start menu to gain access to my applications. So when I started working with my Mac I adopted the same mindset: Push some key applications that I access frequently into the Dock, then hit the Finder and switch to Applications for everything else. I mentioned this to my friend Dylan and he said "Why are you doing that? Just use the Spotlight to open your applications". Spotlight? If you're a Mac user you're probably aware of the feature - hitting Command-Space gives immediate access.  Once pointed out to me I find myself using it for more and more. Dylan's rather astute observation was "Why would you need to organize everything? It's a computer - shouldn't it do that work for you?".  Yeah, I guess it should! So now when I need to grab an application that isn't sitting in my Dock I just hit Command-Space and type in

My new Mac - and the slow move away from Windows

It's now two weeks since I took possession of my Mac and I'm finding myself using it more and more. Sure, my Windows XP machine still demands a significant amount of my attention; Microsoft Visual Studio and .NET/C# is still my primary development platform. My Windows machine is a pretty tricked out rig that I built myself from Newegg (the BEST place on the web to buy hardware). QX6700 processor, GTX8800 video, dual 20" Samsung monitors, etc. I've got my Microsoft ergonomic keyboard and can touch type on it like the wind. I'm still running XP SP2 on it - mainly because my experiments with Vista on my HP laptop have been very disappointing. Both of these machines sit right next to each other. As you can see by the pic above I've really oriented my entire workspace around my Windows XP machine. Yet I find myself constantly moving my hands to the Mac keyboard. At first I thought it was the typical obsession with a new piece of technology. After spending

I almost forgot about Google Calendar!

So with Outlook out of the picture I also lost my primary vehicle for making appointments. Outlook was always on my laptop when I needed it but had one major shortcoming: not everyone that needed to see my calendar could. Sure, I could (and did) have Outlook hooked up to an Exchange server and people could see when I had free time at work, however when it came to personal things, like my wife trying to tell me about a parent-teacher night or that we were getting together with a group of friends on Saturday, we were always missing out. I have a couple of friends that switched to Google Calendar , the free calendaring tool solution that Google provides. They raved about it and so I thought I'd give it a try. As has been the case with lots of Google products I've been using lately, I was immediately impressed. It's very easy to use. The interface is very responsive and works great on IE on my Windows machines and Safari on my Mac. I even got my technology terrified wife, wh

E-mail - a grudging goodbye to Outlook

So for the last 12 or so years I have been a hard core Microsoft Outlook fan. Sure, Outlook has some issues and is a bit of a memory pig but it works really well for me. I've always been a highly structured person and used folders in Outlook rigorously in order to organize everything I do - I even use the feature that keep sent items in the folder they were sent from, effectively giving me a way to browse things in a threaded nature. When I left Vovici it was the perfect time to rethink lots of technology - e-mail being first. Since I had walked away from my e-mail address I decided to use Gmail as my primary address.  Initially my Gmail account was a throw-away, something I used as a vehicle for web site signups where I didn't care if they spammed me.  Then I started to realize that my Gmail account got a surprisingly small amount of SPAM, and it nearly always plopped it into my SPAM folder. I got nearly zero false positives too. All in all, I love the swit

Time for a mouse

My MacBook didn't come with a mouse - it simply has a built in trackpad with a single button. I remember one of my early criticisms of the Mac was that it only has a one button mouse - but you got so much power out of right clicking capabilities! Well, Mac does indeed support right clicking - and it's great for accessing sub menus much like I'm used to in Windows. Unfortunately the trackpad doesn't have two buttons - only a single large button. But how would I be able to scroll through a web page easily? Or right click when I only had 1 mouse button??? Fortunately the trackpad supports a couple of gestures that make it really easy (and surprisingly natural) to do both. I can scroll a web page by simply placing two fingers on the trackpad and moving them up or down.  If I want to right-click an item I move the mouse pointer to the item I want to right-click, place a second finger on the trackpad and then click. It only took a few minutes to get used to it - makes me wis

Just a book about sun-dried tongues

OK, off the Mac adventures for a minute. A friend of mine named Bob Ragsdale is undertaking a new venture, promoting his book titled "Sun-Dried Aardvark-Tongue Swizzle-Sticks"  exclusively through his web site. Bob has what could be described as a "dry" sense of humor. If you wonder what J. Peterman from Seinfeld would do if confronted with how to manage endangered species, you should check it out.

Mac vs. Windows

So I'm doing my thing tonight, ripping through my RSS feeds when I come across a Digg reference to a blog post a guy wrote about visiting an Apple store . I thought the article was pretty funny - I really liked the guys writing style and shared many of his experiences when visiting an Apple store. What I found amusing was actually the number of comments placed on the blog itself! The guy was inundated with "Macs suck!!!" and "Oh yeah? PCs suck!!!".  Hundreds of detailed comments by people. It's nice to see that the battle lines are still drawn! I'll be the first to admit that I was a staunch "Macs are crap, Windows is the way to go" kind of guy, but I had an agenda: I built Windows based applications that only ran on Windows machines. Macs were useless. Once I made the switch to developing web based solutions the issue of platform mattered less and less to me. I still long for writing Windows applications - I love the flexibility of the system

Mac OS X 10.5.2 is released

So I read here that 10.5.2 has been released. Cool! Click the little Apple icon and select Software Updates. 350M+ download - just a few minutes of work on FIOS. Seemed to install smoothly, though it did require two reboots. The only immediate difference is that I have a Time Machine icon in my menu bar that I didn't before. Another item I found interesting in my blog surfings was an update to Safari that is due soon . Crazy fast? Cool.

Upgrading the hard drive on my MacBook

Yeah, I know, I haven't even had the machine for a week yet and I'm already looking to upgrade the hard drive. Well, I wanted more than the 120GB that came with the machine but Apple charges so much more for drives that I couldn't justify it; not when I could simply buy a 2.5" hard drive off NewEgg and plop it into my machine. So I set off to find a decent sized replacement drive. I take a lot of high end digital photos and my current library of photos runs over 44GB. In addition I shoot some video that I want to edit on my Mac, so 120GB gets shallow awfully quick. I popped onto NewEgg and found the Western Digital Scorpio 320GB drive . Looked like a winner; nearly triple my existing space and only $179. I also picked up a small USB 2.0 enclosure from Bytecc so that I could set up my new drive properly and have a place for the 120GB drive once I removed it from the MacBook. The first thing I did was plop the new WD drive into the Bytecc so that I could configure it. T

Adventures in copying a CD

Well, I figured coping a CD would be a simple affair. I was wrong. I had a Data CD that I needed to make a copy of. How hard can that be, right? Well, a buddy online said "just use Disk Utility".  Cool - so I fired it up. Now up to this point in time I've been really impressed with the UI on the Mac. Things just kind of worked. Yeah, they took a little getting used to but overall the usability on the machine is well thought out. Apparently an engineer more versed in 0s and 1s designed the UI for this. You would think a simple button labeled - I don't know - perhaps "Copy" would be intuitive.  Instead, in order to copy a disk you go into the "Restore" tab. From there you select the Source by dragging it into the Source area. Then you select the destination by dragging it into the Destination area. Only since the Source is also the destination (my MacBook only came with a single drive) it won't let me do that. So I sat there for a while tryin

iStat is a great way to know what's up

Two friends recommended that I take a look at a utility called iStat Menus  from iSlayer. It's a nice little widget that allows you to see that status of your machine. While it can monitor a lot of different functions, the two that I cared most about were Memory and CPU Usage, so that's what's plugging away up in my menu bar. This actually helped me solve a little problem I was having. Normally my MacBook is whisper quiet. All of a sudden one day my fan started really working overtime. I wasn't sure what that was all about until I noticed that my iStat menu indicated that my dual core CPU was running at a sustained 50% utilization. That's not good - I wasn't really running anything important at the time. I slowly closed each of my applications, watching iStat to see if the CPU usage dropped and, sure enough, it was iChat. Not exactly sure why iChat was causing the memory usage but at least I knew what was up. I'm sure a Mac expert will tell you that there ar

iChat is pretty cool

I've always been a hardcore Trillian user on Windows, so I was a little skeptical about using anything else to get to my buddies on AIM. iChat, which comes with the OS, is pretty decent though. The chatting appears as little bubbles next to the icon of the person typing in the text. It supports hyperlinks and all the basics, including the ability to set people's name so I don't have to wonder who MYFO278BGF is. Since I have a MacBook with the built in camera though I got something else out of the equation: video chats. A couple of buddies that have Macs have the ability too - so we got "together" through iChat and I was really impressed - this is cool! Some of the cool things you can do is have iChat change your background out to look like you are in the mountains or any other image you have on your machine. It's not perfect but it does work fairly well. In addition you can put filters on your image that stretch it, pinch it or apply a sepia filter so you can

Installing new applications

I have yet to have mastered how to install applications into my Mac. The first one I decided to try was Firefox. I went to the web site and it recognized that I was running a Mac. I clicked on the download link and everything proceeded pretty smoothly. I ran the install program that was downloaded and after the usual warnings about installing a different application I thought I had the application installed. There was an odd little window up that had a Firefox logo so I clicked that and up came Firefox. Cool - worked great. Sitting on my desktop though was a little icon below my Macintosh HD icon for Firefox. Wasn't sure what that was about but I just went on my way. I ended up shutting down my Mac not long after the install. When I fired it back up Firefox was no where to be found! It wasn't in my Dock bar on the bottom and when I went into the Finder I couldn't find it in my applications! WTF? Turns out after I ran the installer the big Firefox logo that cam

A hardcore Windows guy gets a Mac

I have been a Windows developer for many, many years. Before I was a Windows developer I was a DOS developer. I've always been a Microsoft fan, heavily invested in doing Windows development. Really, since 1984 - my first job doing professional software development - I have been true blue Microsoft. When I would watch the Mac ads with the nerdy PC guy and the cool Mac dude I always secretly rooted for the PC guy. Last year something interesting started to happen. Many of the people in my network of friends and family started buying Macs. They were sick of the hassles of Windows, with the viruses and spyware and ever slowing performance. They seemed to be drawn in to the Apple advertising - it spoke to them. And they seemed very happy. I wrote that off as non-techies just looking for something new and easy. The Macs did look better with Mac OS X - it seemed like a really smooth operating system. But as far as I was concerned it was just a fad. Then my daughter was accepted to go to V