Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mac'ing It: Two Months In

As discussed in earlier posts, I recently made the switch back to NEXTSTEP Mac OS.

A couple months in, I'm settling into the new environment. For the benefit of those that are considering a change, here are the key apps and tidbits that I've settled on.


I use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone my internal drive to a partition on an external firewire drive once a week or so. This partition is fully bootable in case I ever have trouble with the internal drive, or have a botched install or OS upgrade.

For incremental backups, I use the Mozy on line backup service. Free for a couple Gb of off site backup, and working well.

When I upgrade to Leopard, I'll be using TimeMachine to backup locally to the aforementioned firewire drive (different partition for the TimeMachine backups), and keeping Mozy for off site backups

I also figured out how to keep directories in sync between my Mac and our PC file server. I use Foldershare, which is a amazingly useful P2P directory sync program that works between PCs and Macs. Only down side is a 10,000 file limit for an sync pair, but it works very very well (at least after I turned off encryption). Other downside is that it is such a clever and appropriate use of P2P, that I wish I had thought about it.

Useful Utilities

Every Mac user should have Growl installed. A unified system notification service, which lots of apps use to post message ("New Mail", "New IM", "Backup Started", etc.) Having some challenges with Leopard but working well with Tiger

Workspace clutter is a huge problem on Macs (too many windows everywhere). Sticky Windows provides a great solution in letting you configure certain apps to auto collapse to tabs on the side of the screen when they are not active. Great way to manage support apps like Address Book, IM tools, iCal, iTunes, etc, and significantly cuts down window clutter. Highly recommended.

One of the most useless legacy features of the Mac is the stupid menu bar at the top of the screen. It may have made sense back in 1984 with the first Macs with limited screen resolution, but even the NeXT machine back in the day knew enough to get rid of this thing. With a large resolution screen, it is a pain in the ass and a waste of screen real estate.

Since it is up there, may as well make good use of it. iStat menus puts a lots of system stats on the menu bar (CPU, memory utilization, etc.)

One of the things I miss from Windows is being able to Alt-Tab to a particular document (vs an application). Witch is a nice tool that replaces this functionality on the Mac.

Quicksilver is a must (see my earlier post)

Plaxo also has an amazingly nice service for synchronizing your Mac Address Book and iCal calendar with your Yahoo address book/calendar and your Google address book/calendar. Extremely useful, and a must have. After the disaster that was Plaxo's first attempt to become the addressbook for the internet, they've got it right this time.

Disk Inventory X is a nice tool to see what is taking up all the disk space on your system.

iStumbler is a great tool to show you your local wireless networks, bluetooth devices, and bon jour connections)

1Password is an interesting password manager with good integration with Safari and Firefox

VNCViewer (free VNC client...use it to remote connect to our home PC file server)

Productivity Applications

I've been using NeoOffice (a Mac version of OpenOffice) for Excel/PPT/Word type things. Works reasonably well with good interoperability with the dark side, but a huge memory hog. Good news is that I don't use Vista (under Parallels) for anything other than occassionally using Internet Explorer when I run into a site that doesn't play well with Firefox or Safari. OpenOffice for the Mac just didn't work for me.

I recently purchased Apple's iWork '08. Numbers isn't quite up to Excel levels yet (even for advanced basics). Keynote and Pages seem nice, but I haven't done a lot with them yet. Dirt cheap compared to Office.

For outlining and clipping management, I'm using Notebook. Very useful and works for me to keep my thoughts and web clippings organized (to do lists, notes, outlines, web clippings, annotated audio recordings, etc.) Having first used Notebook in beta under NEXTSTEP 15 years ago, great to see Jayson still advancing the app. Must have app for anyone that works primarily in the digital domain.

Twitterrific is a nice Twitter client that I'm just starting to play with

Adium is the multi-protocol IM tool of choice

Physical Things

After a lot of research, I ended up with the Tom Bihn Empire Builder laptop bag, with the fancy Tom Bihn absolute strap. By far and away the most useful and best designed laptop bag I've ever had. Extremely intuitive (things just appear where you expect them to be). The strap has a slight elastic give that makes it easily the most comfortable strap I've ever used. Can't recommend this bag highly enough

One nuance of the Tom Bihn bag is that there isn't an obvious slot for your notebook in the bag. Tom Bihn does sell a padded "Brain Cell", that looks like it is designed to let you drop your laptop from a 2 story building. I got one of these, but it was just too bulky in the bag for me. Even when I took it out, it was sufficiently bulky that I may as well have kept it in the bigger bag and carried the bigger bag around. I ended up returning it.

In its place, I purchased a Waterfield sleevecase. It fits in the Tom Bihn bag perfectly, and easily comes in and out when all you want to do is take your laptop around. Incredible service and shipping times too.

I do have an Apple wireless mighty mouse in my bag. Don't use it that often, but it is nice to have (and works well)

I recently upgraded the laptop to 4Gb of memory ( Firefox is an amazing memory hog, and NeoOffice sucks it down like only a bloated Java app can. Of course, if you are running virtual machine(s) in Parallels, you can never have too much memory.

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