Showing posts from April, 2008

Windows to Mac keystroke mapping - a quick guide

In the nearly three months I've been blogging about switching to Mac I've had countless times that readers have made comments about my posts, recommending specific techniques, tricks or applications that have helped me improve my Mac experience. Yesterday it was n45800's turn as he pointed me in the direction of a list of the default key bindings for OS X. This little gem was exactly what I needed to get past some of the keyboard issues I've been trying to adjust to.
As a touch typist I've really struggled at times to use the Mac keyboard; not necessarily the keyboard itself but the navigation shortcuts while editing text in a text editing surface. Here is a list of the most commonly used keystrokes on Windows XP for text editing and navigation and their Mac OS X equivalents:
PurposeWindowsMac OS XClipboard CommandsCopyCtrl+CCommand+CCutCtrl+XCommand+XPasteCtrl+VCommand+VSelection CommandsSelect AllCtrl+ACommand+AUndoCtrl+ZCommand+ZRedoCtrl+YCommand+YText Navigation …

Switching to Mac takes the right mindset

Contrary to what some of my friends now think, I don't actually recommend that everyone run out and get a Mac. Even though I've personally been delighted by my Mac experience I know there are others that simply cannot move to a Mac from Windows. If people aren't willing to make changes to the way they do things chances are their switch will fail and you will likely hear no end of grief from the person that's getting the machine based on your recommendation.
Changing an operating system is a fairly jarring event for most people because the tools they are used to working with are often in different places. Nothing seems "natural".
I equate it to driving one of the cars that my brother's company imports from Japan. They are right hand drive high performance cars, yet I am able to operate them fairly well by simply jumping in and driving off. Acceleration, braking and steering work the same as any other car I've driven so that's not a problem. Operating…

Why I bailed out on Windows and switched to Macintosh

It's kind of funny how things work out. When I originally bought my MacBook three months ago I viewed it as a complimentary machine. Something that would be added to my menagerie of computers. I had been using Windows for so long and it's use was so deeply embedded into my workflow that I couldn't imagine another OS displacing it as my primary operating system. I just wanted something new and different.
So what was wrong with Windows? I guess after 17 years of Windows I became more than just a little tired of it. I watched new versions comes out with only incremental improvements in usability and more often than not, changes to things that just took some getting used to. Windows became larger and larger, more memory dependent and requiring more processor just to be functional. I accept that great new features and functionality will come with a larger footprint but it didn't feel like I was getting that much great stuff out of it.
I was really hoping that Vista would reene…

The challenges of running Visual Studio on a Mac

In the week since I got my Mac Pro I have made a conscious effort to transfer everything that I knew I would need over from my Windows XP machine. I've even powered off the Windows XP machine - something I rarely do with a computer - because I wanted to make sure I didn't try to use it as a crutch. My goal was to see if I could really switch to Mac completely and one week in that has been the case, though there has been some compromise.
I use VMware Fusion to run Windows XP in a virtual machine. It works really well for the most part and when it is running in full screen mode I really feel I'm running a Windows machine, with a couple of major exceptions:
Keyboard Shortcuts: Visual Studio makes heavy use of function keys, especially for debugging. By default the critical ones I use most are F10 (Step Over) and F11 (Step Into) and F9 (Toggle Breakpoint). On my Mac's keyboard the F9 key advances the song/track in the player, F10 mutes the speaker and F11 lowers the volume -…

Playing with the Dashboard

Up to this point in time I've kind of avoided the Dashboard on my Mac. Having had bad memories of the Active Desktop in previous versions of Windows I've just avoided the genre. I played around with Mac's Dashboard a little last night and found it to be pretty cool though, making me rethink whether or not this is something I want to make part of my daily routine.
The number of widgets available from Apple for the Mac Dashboard is simply staggering. Since the widgets can be built really easily using Dashcode, Apple's development tool for these widgets, it's just painfully simple to create a Dashboard widget. The cool part is that you don't even need to use Dashcode to create a nice little Dashboard widget - you can just grab what you want directly from Safari.
Up in the Safari toolbar is the little scissors icon that allows you to select a chunk of your current web page and simply make a Dashboard control out of it. I've only just started playing with it but a…

Have you used Quicklook?

A person that goes by the handle RG-6 mentioned in the comments of yesterday's post that Quicklook was an amazing feature that a lot of Mac users either don't know about or even use. I had heard about it but I never bothered to try it out. Instead I did what I used to do in Windows if I wanted to see what was in a file - I'd open it in the program that normally works with a file of that type.
This is such a slow process. It's just a PDF file, do I really need to load Acrobat Reader? Do I have to get Excel fired up just to take a quick look at some of the values in a spreadsheet? Quicklook saves all that and is about as easy to use as it get.
All you need to do is open the Finder and select a file, then hit the Space bar. Quicklook loads a preview nearly instantly that shows you the contents of most files. Since I've been moving a lot of files between machines lately this is a great way to look at a file really quickly.
You can even select a group of files (Command-Cli…

When Spotlight stops spotting files

I have become a Spotlight addict ever since my friend Dylan recommended that I use it. So it was with some dismay that I fired it up on my MacBook and suddenly it could not find some of my key applications. I tried searching the interwebs and all I could come up with was several recommendations that I try removing and re-adding folders from Spotlight. None of that seemed to work for me.
In the end I decided to do a full reindex of Spotlight, which can take quite a while. In the case of my MacBook with a 320G drive (197G in use) it takes nearly an hour. The machine is perfectly useable during that time, except that you can't use Spotlight until it's complete. 
If you need to do the reindex simple open a terminal window and plug in the following command:
sudo mdutil -E /
Once that kicks off (you'll need the administrator's password) you can close the terminal window and continue working, though the CPU on my MacBook was pretty busy for a while.
When it finally did come back Sp…

Optimizing the dual monitor environment for the Mac Pro

Now that I've had the Mac Pro for a little over two full days I'm finding it a joy to work with. It's very fast and quiet and amplifies the Mac experience that started for me on the little MacBook. I have VMware Fusion up and running on it and most of my development environment in there and spent a big part of yesterday in Visual Studio writing code. Here's is what appears to work best for me:

Even with the dual monitors and an effective 3200x1200 resolution I still love using Spaces. Activating that through either the mouse or keyboard and swiftly navigating between spaces is now second nature to me. In Windows I always used Alt-Tab to switch between applications; while I occasionally use Command-Tab to do that on my Mac it's usually only to toggle back and forth between two applications quickly.
If you look at the image above you'll see that I've got 6 spaces to work with. I'm still tweaking that but I had a tendency on the MacBook to keep specific apps…

A Mac Pro is a Force to be reckoned with

For those that follow this blog regularly you know that yesterday I went out and bought a Mac Pro to compliment the MacBook that started my adventures into the Mac world after spending the last 24 years in the DOS/Windows camp.
I won't go into too much detail here because my first day post with the MacBook and subsequent posts leading up to this one make it pretty clear that I have been impressed enough to actually switch to Mac. But didn't I switch to Mac back when I bought my MacBook? No, not really. I was still actively using my Windows machine on a daily basis because it's where my development work gets done. I just constantly found myself wanting to spend time on my MacBook. It was new and interesting and even though I've had a couple of stumbling blocks early on I was just drawn to the machine. OS X is a deceptively powerful OS, one that combines a nice simple interface for novice users with incredible flexibility for people that want to dig in just a little. It s…

First impression of the new Mac Pro

I just finished setting up the machine and will post a little more shortly but I was really impressed with how easy it is to set up and configure the Mac Pro. I needed to add two additional drives and 10GB of extra memory (now totaling 12GB). Having come from the Windows world where I manually built my previous machines the construction and design for the Mac Pro is just excellent. I'll put it into perspective:
Time to install an additional hard drive: less than one minute Time to install 10 GB of memory (6 DIMMs): less than two minutes Time to partition and format 2TB of disk space: less than one minute (total)
I grabbed my little Canon SD1100 and shot a really quick video on how to install an additional hard drive in a Mac Pro so you get an idea of how incredibly simple this is:
The machine that I pulled out of the carton looked brand new. I could not detect anything wrong with it at all. The only slight thing I found was a tiny little nick on the edge of the keyboard; and that was b…

Already time for a new Mac

I've had the MacBook for just over two and a half months now. I've grown to really enjoy working on the little machine; so much so that I will use any excuse to spend time on it. All my web browsing, RSS feeds, e-mail, word processing, blogging, instant messaging, etc. happens on the MacBook now. If I have a meeting outside the office I snap the machine shut, place it in it's form fitting black neoprene Incase sleeve and take it with me wherever I go. It has become my trusty sidekick.
There is one thing though that always makes me grudgingly turn to my Windows XP machine: that's where I really do all of my development work. I am still committed to Visual Studio and C#. Sure, I have VMWare Fusion installed on my MacBook and it is capable of running my development environment but the screen real estate is too small for the code / test / debug cycle. For that I need lots and lots of pixels and simply adding an external monitor is not enough. 
My Windows XP machine has two b…

1Password makes it easy to remember

Just the other day I wrote about the importance of using different passwords with different systems to protect yourself against someone effectively stealing your identity. Several folks recommended that I take a look at 1Password, a utility for managing passwords to different web sites.
I've never been a big fan of password utilities. The main reason behind this is that I have a pretty large number of machines I use on a frequent basis and knowing my passwords is just something I want to keep stored in my aging grey matter. The problem with "just knowing" your passwords is that it's quite easy to become lazy and not change your passwords very often because they can be a pain in the ass if you forget them.
Writing them down is always a big no-no too so you need some place to record them. What that justification out of the way I figured I'd try out 1Password. Nice, simple install. You access 1Password from your browser menu - it places a little button labeled 1p dire…

Startup 101: The importance of knowing your sales process

I had an interesting day a little while ago. I spoke with three different friends and all of the conversations ended up going into the sales process that they use for their individual companies. I found this interesting in that each had fundamentally different businesses: a high tech SaaS based product, a service provided to attorneys and a personalized consumer product business. Yet in each case none of them really had a sale process defined and that ended up becoming the topic of discussion. Two of the businesses were just getting started and one was already pretty mature but didn't really have a formal sales process in place.

Regardless of the type of business you have I think it's really important to understand in a reproducible way how to sell your product or service. This becomes critical if you have any desire to grow your company by adding sales staff, large numbers of customers or different channels. Because I'm really an engineer more than anything else I look at …

Mac: Keeping a white MacBook clean with Mr. Clean

I had a number of people tell me in the comments of this blog that I should check out Mr. Clean Magic Eraser when I complained about the palm rests of my MacBook becoming dirty.
I mentioned this to my youngest daughter and over the weekend she went shopping with her mom and brought home a box of the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers for me. I didn't even ask her! (Have I told you I have wonderful kids?)
There's nothing really magical about a sponge with a little soap inside of it, right? It's just a sponge! Well, it has a slightly abrasive surface on the white side of the sponge and a softer one on the green side. It does indeed get the palm rests on a MacBook looking like the machine is brand new. Here's the evidence:
After: The only thing that was dirty afterwards was the Mr. Clean sponge. If you do this here are some tips: Turn the MacBook off and disconnect it from power.
Use warm water to soak the sponge, squeeze it a few times to get the suds to come out then wring out mo…

Do you use the same password everywhere?

My assumption is that if you are reading this blog it says you are someone that spends a fair amount of time on the web. Yeah, I know, brilliant observation Dave. If my assumption is correct then you have probably visited sites that require you to sign in so that you can contribute posts, download applications or in some cases even read their content. When you do that, do you use the same password on every site you sign up for?
I really love simple things and I'll try to distill my password strategy into a single line:
Don't use the same password everywhere
There, simple right? I could stop here but you may be wondering why it's important.
Because not every site you signup for is really going to safeguard your data, that's why. Some little forum that requires you to signup, or some freeware application that requires you to create an account may not protect your data like they should. No one has the time to read through every single web site's privacy policies or read t…

Mac: iStat pro Dashboard Widget

One of the first applications I downloaded and installed on my Mac was iStat menus, a wonderful little add in to the menu bar. iSlayer also produces a little dashboard widget called iStat pro.
If you like to use your dashboard and want a quick summary of the health of your Mac you should check it out. Takes seconds to download and install. It has the one thing I wish iStat menu would have: a battery health monitor.
You can download it from the Apple Downloads area.

Got a Mac? Let Alex proof your writing before you post it

I just wrote about using the text to speech capabilities with Alex yesterday and already I have found a use for "him" that is very cool and I want to share with you.
Have you ever had to write a significant e-mail that you read through several times before sending out? How about a blog post, or even a comment that will be published on the web for all to see? You know the kind: you want to make sure you are sending the right message and that it reads well. What I started doing yesterday has become something that I think I'll be doing all the time moving forward.
Highlight the text right before you hit Send or Publish and let Alex read it back to you. Does it read Okay? Is your sentence structure clear? As the author of the text you write you will probably have the tendency to gloss right over a phrase that is difficult to read because you don't see it the same way.
I've found that if I let Alex read over it I get a chance to hear what my words will really sound like …

Mac: Have you met Alex?

For all the advances in personal computing technology there is one area that seems to have advanced very little: Text to Speech. Since I have not had a personal need for accessibility features I have only watched this as a typical consumer. The first time I saw a Text to Speech feature was back in the 1980s and what's odd is that up until very recently the voices produced sounded pretty much the same.
With the release of Leopard Apple also introduced us to Alex, a new "voice" for text to speech that is extremely life like. When Alex speaks the voice introduces breaths in between sentences and has incredible inflection. Though it still sounds like a computer it is a dramatic improvement over the older voices that have been out there.
You can use the Keyboard Shortcuts feature to have your Mac simply read any text you highlight, which for users that don't have an accessibility need can use for entertainment. My favorite use is to read acerbic comments from people in blog…

Mac: Fixing the Command-Control-D Dictionary Lookup

As I posted earlier, I figured I'd try calling on Apple Support to see if I could get a resolution to my shortcut key problem for the Dictionary Lookup. I had tried numerous things to resolve the problem, finally culminating in calling Apple's support team, to no avail. 
Yesterday afternoon (2 days after I initially contacted Apple) I got a call from John at Apple's Austin Texas support group. Super nice guy, saw my support case and he wanted to see if he could solve it. He mentioned to me that he had tried it on 20+ machines in their labs and found it to be a problem on 5 of them, though there was no consistency that indicated it was a specific build of hardware.
His suspicion was that my OS X installation had been corrupted in some way. The first question he asked was whether I used Time Machine or not. When I answered yes he said "Great!" then he asked me to run an Archive and Install using my original OS X 10.5 disks.
I ran through the process which I'll adm…

Mac: Dealing with Apple Support

In my last post I shared tips I had learned from others and I got a new comment from Devburke telling me about the Dictionary Lookup Shortcut - Control-Command-D. Sounded terrific! Unfortunately it didn't work on my MacBook. I tried a couple of different things, including changing the shortcut key but had no luck.
I did what any techie does when confronted with a problem - Google it up. I found a couple of articles, at Apple and MacKB where people experienced the same thing. It appears to be a function of newer MacBooks. Since no one on the Interwebs seemed to have an answer I figured I'd try calling Apple Support. If nothing else I wanted to see if the support experience was the same as the computing experience I've had so far.
All times are EDT:
9:04am: Called and listened to an automated attendant, the kind you speak commands to. Those always worry me.
9:07am: I navigate the menus and speak with Kim. She's very nice, asks me the usual questions and we walk through the p…

Mac: Learning from others

Lately the traffic on this blog has been picking up and with it the comments on some posts. In the last couple of days alone I've gotten some really cool little esoteric tips. Here are some that I just had to mention:
Zoomerific Simon Elliot told me that Ctrl-Scroll Wheel (or Ctrl-Two Finger Track Pad) Zooms the entire screen. Once it's zoomed you can move the mouse around and it scrolls the now larger image. If I ever sit at my computer and forget my glasses I can zoom this thing so large that Mr. Magoo could easily read it.
Instant Sleep An anonymous poster mentioned that I could instantly put my Mac to sleep by pressing Command-Option-Eject. Sure enough, instant black screen. If you have ever wanted your Mac to act like it has narcolepsy, press that key combination. 
Turning a Positive into a Negative Karl C. brought up this gem: Press Command-Option-Control-8.  It immediately turns your screen into a negative image. It reverses all of the pixel colors so that black becomes white…

Mac: After two months of Mac, here's why I switched

When I started this blog two months ago I began recording my initial thoughts on obtaining a Mac. While I am not a card carrying Mac fanboy (it does have issues like any piece of technology), I wanted to try and summarize why I like the Mac so much now that I've been using it heavily for the last two months.
I have been a Windows user and software developer since 1992, and a DOS user and developer since 1984. I used to hate Macs and as recently as 9 months ago my avatar on one of my forums was John Hodgman (the PC guy from the Mac ads).

Now I really enjoy using my Mac and am drifting away from Windows as a platform. Here's why:

User Interface The biggest draw for me is the way the Mac UI works.  For me the user interface is about usability, integration and aesthetics.  From a usability standpoint the Mac interface does not force you to see all of the options directly from the surface level. Most of the applications have very light menus and options. Initially I thought this meant …