Mac Switching update, Wed 28 Sep

  • I’ve started using Cyberduck as my FTP client. It looks decent, and it’s free. I’m used to FTP clients that hold the source and destination in the same window, though, so it might take me a while to get used to Cyberduck’s target-only view. I suspect I’d be happier with the canonical OS X FTP program, Transmit, but I’m feeling reluctant to spend money on software at this point. I think I’ve got the switching jitters
  • I have now got the Mac and PC networked together over a firewire cable. It wasn’t quite as simple as just plugging in the cables and assigning IP addresses, because OS X wouldn’t update the IP address when I pressed the “Apply Now” button. The new address only took effect once I unplugged and re-plugged the cable. But the speed of network transfers between machines is much nicer now. (Curiously, though, Remote Desktop Connection doesn’t appear to work appreciably faster.)
  • The downside of having the two machines networked together over Firewire is that argue over who has ownership of the external Firewire disk. The PC has two ports. The external disk (a Maxtor OneTouch 250GB) is plugged in to one of them, and the other one holds the cable that leads to the Mac. When I first plugged the PC and Mac together, the Mac instantly grabbed mounted the Firewire drive, leaving the PC with a “huh? where’d my disk go?” feeling. (And an abundance of dreaded “Delayed disk write” messages.) I hadn’t known that Firewire worked like that–in a kind of automatic hub mode. Fortunately, the disk has a USB 2 interface as well, so I’ll probably use that instead to clear up the confusion.
  • The .keylayout XML file I created works fine, except when OS X pops up a dialog window, at which point it seems to require something more fundamental, and it automatically switches to one of the built-in keyboard layouts. And doesn’t switch back afterwards. VERY ANNOYING. If anyone knows how to stop this, please let me know.
  • The “Do you want to save changes…” dialog in Textwrangler doesn’t appear to have a keyboard option for “Don’t Save”. I can “Save” with the enter key, and “Cancel” with Escape, but I can’t use the Tab key to move between buttons, and no keyboard action seems to activate the “Don’t Save” button. Also VERY ANNOYING. When I’m in full flow on the keyboard, I hate having to grab the mouse. UPDATE (6 Oct 2005): The “Don’t Save” button can be activated with the Apple+D key combination, provided that I’m not using the custom .keylayout xml file.
  • Thunderbird is so much sloooooower on the Mac. I should probably give a try, but I’m reluctant to do so just when I’ve got the hang of Thunderbird’s cross-platform portability. It’s my escape hatch, in case I decide to move back to the PC.
  • I don’t like the way that Safari (and Opera) hold a little “close” button inside each browser tab. It makes choosing a tab a much more delicate experience, because not only is the mouse target area reduced (Fitts’ law), but it also multiplies the number of button areas that are targets for irrevocable actions. Can you ctrl-Z to bring back a window you’ve just closed? Nope. Even if you really, really didn’t want to close it, because you were half-way through writing a long blog entry in that window? Tough luck, bub. And the more browser tabs you have open, the worse this problem gets: the “close window” cross doesn’t shrink down with the rest of the text in the tab, and thus it becomes proportionately bigger with each tab you open. This alone may be reason enough for me to abandon Safari.

I’m coming to the point now where I’ve got the hardware set up the way I want it, and I’ve got most of the basic software up and running in a configuration I’m happy (ish) with. The next step is figuring out what I’m going to do with all of my files. I know I’m still going to be working on the PC, so I need them to be available from both the Mac and PC. But then I’ve got a whole bunch of Mac-specific stuff sitting in my shiny new home directory. There’ll be a whole lot of PC stuff that will make no sense on the Mac, too.

And most importantly, I’ll need a sensible backup strategy for the lot of it.

This may well be the trickiest part of the whole switching thing: living a dual life with my data. It’s actually making me feel kind of twitchy.

Mac Switching update, Mon 26 Sep

Well, one of my major goals in working with the Mac Mini has now been achieved: I have a working local version of Movable Type up and running. My httpd.conf file is not as clean as it probably should be, and I’ve got permissions on my site and archive folders set to 777 because installing suexec or cgiwrap felt like a step too far at this point…but it’s there. Archives and indexes are building.


  • I’m using Safari more and more, and getting to like it better. One thing I don’t like is that it uses the Apple+R keystroke to reload a page, rather than the IE/Firefox F5. I don’t like this because I’ve got Apple+R bound to Quicksilver, so I have to use the mouse to reload pages.
  • TextWrangler is turning into my default text editor. I like it.

Mac Switching update, Sun 25 Sep

I’ve been using the tutorial at as a guide to getting Movable Type up and running on the Mac Mini. I’ve deviated from their setup by using MySQL as the backend database, though.

To make this work, you need a few Perl packages that aren’t installed as standard with OS X Tiger, such as DBI and DBD::MySQL. You can download these packages from CPAN (or use the cpan command-line tool), but installing them doesn’t work straight-away because Tiger doesn’t have make or a gcc compiler available by default. You get these by installing the “Developer Tools” from the Tiger install disks: pop in the first installation disk, go to the folder “Xcode Tools” and install the package XcodeTools.mpkg.

It’s all one big long chain of dependencies…

Mac Switching update, Sat 24 Sep

I finally figured out the biggest problem I was having with the MS Digital Media Pro keyboard: it was the positioning of the Zoom Slider just to the left of the keys. What it touted as a useful feature, was actually destroying my ability to type properly.

You see, on a normal keyboard, the resting position for my left hand has my pinkie and ring finger touching the side of the keyboard. My middle finger rests on the tab key, my index finger on or near the letter A, and my thumb on the Alt. With the Zoom Slider taking up about an inch of space, my left hand’s resting position was thrown off-balance, and suddenly my left fingers start striking keys off-center, and picking up the wrong keys altogether. Not good.

Luckily for me, Alan has given me a loan of an old MS Internet Pro keyboard he had sitting around in his garage, which is identical in layout (and feel!) to my old MS Internet (not Pro) keyboard, but with the added goodness of a USB connection. It didn’t quite work straight away:

  • The underlying keyboard layout must be slightly different from the MS Digital Media Pro, and so the .rsrc file I’d downloaded from Phil Gyford to remap keys didn’t work completely any more (some keys were still correctly mapped, byt the # and ~ had reverted). So I spent some time with Ukelele to create a new .keylayout XML file, and it does the job nicely.
  • The version of the MS Intellitype software I have (5.1?) isn’t fully backwards-compatible with this keyboard, and won’t toggle the Windows/Alt key mappings to match the Apple-standard layout. Fortunately Tiger has this option built-in to its own keyboard settings: just go to System Preferences -> Keyboard & Mouse -> Modifier Keys, and switch them around there.

So keyboard-wise, I think I’m finally all sorted.

Other stuff:

  • Now that I’ve been working with it for a week or so, I feel confident saying that the Mini (PowerPC G4 1.42GHz / 512MB / Radeon 9200) is definitely slower than my PC (Athlon 2500+ / 1GB / Radeon 9600 in the PC). At first I wasn’t sure if it was just the strageness of it all, but I think I’m over that now. Web pages load take more time to render, photos take more time to display. With the difference in CPU architecture, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I guessed that the Mini wouldn’t be as fast. Maybe giving it 1GB of memory instead of 512MB might make a difference, but I’m not really all that bothered, because it’s fast enough–at least, for now.
  • I’m still flipping back and forth between browsers. Safari seems to be faster than Firefox, but it doesn’t have all the Firefox extensions I am used to. Same for Camino, but with the added disadvantage that it doesn’t ask for confirmation when closing down multiple open tabs. (If anyone knows how to turn that alert on…let me know.) I haven’t given Opera a proper shake yet, but I’ll give it more of a try soon.
  • File transfers between the Mini and the PC over our wireless network (54G) are ridiculously slow. 64MB in 20 minutes is 54 kilobytes per second, not megabits. Rebooting the router temporarily brings everything back up to full speed, but that’s a stupid solution. PC-PC transfers over the network are unaffected, and as fast as they always have been. However, even if I can get the wireless connection working properly, I could do much better with a direct Mac-PC connection over Firewire. I hadn’t known that Firewire supports direct TCP/IP connections without the need for a router, but it does. That’s very cool, and will probably lead me to get a firewire hub, seeing as the Mini only has a single port.

Oh, and the Mini has acquired a proper name: Miles. My PC is called Frankenstein, or just Frank for short, because it was originally assembled from spare parts way back in 1995, and has been in continuous operation since then. (There isn’t a single original component left, though.) Abi’s laptop is called Clank, after the Ratchet & Clank videogame. “Miles” is a reference to Miles Vorkosigan, the diminutive hero of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Barrayar books. It’s a size thing.

Mac Switching update, Thu 22 Sep

  • I’m having trouble using MySQL Administrator to back up a remote database. I can specify all the backup options, and select the tables I want to grab, but it quits on me as soon as I try to actually start the backup.
  • I’m also having trouble using MySQL Administrator to restore a backup to my local instance. It just fails to open the .sql file with a non-informative “Error loading backup file”…
  • …and it won’t let me save the password for a connection…
  • …and it won’t let me save changes to any users after their initial creation…
  • …and overall, I’m coming to the conclusion that MySQL Administrator, despite looking gorgeous, is actually a pile of crap. I don’t mind doing all of my db admin from a command line; I just prefer not to. I’m open to the possibility that there’s just something fundamentally wrong with the way I’ve got MySQL Administrator (1.1.0) installed, but MySQL itself (4.1.14) is running perfectly.
  • I’ve installed Password Gorilla as a password management system. Main reason: it’s compatible with Password Safe for Windows, which is what I normally use. It does the job, but not spectacularly. Password Safe isn’t a particularly elegant app, but Password Gorilla makes it look like the belle of the ball. If you happen to know of any alternative password management utilities, let me know.
  • Minor note for the benefit of Google: After installing Password Gorilla according to the instructions, double-clicking the gorilla-1.2.kit file didn’t work. The Mac Mini’s installation of OS X Tiger comes with a 30-day trial of MS Office, and it Excel had already grabbed the .kit file association for itself. The way I got it working was to re-map the association to Launcher, an application that comes with the Tcl/Tk framework that is a prerequisite for Password Gorilla. (Right-click on the .kit file, and select “Open with”. Launcher sits in /Applications/Utilities)

Mac Switching update, Wed 21 Sep

Just some quick notes, because it’s really late…

  • Dell sent out another replacement monitor today. Even though this is still a refurb (apparently after the first 30 days, even though you’re within warranty, you’re not automatically entitled to a brand new replacement), and one of the earlier A01 revisions, this particular one actually works, and doesn’t suffer from the backlight bleeding at all. It has two stuck sub-pixels, one red and one blue, and one dead blue sub-pixel, but they’re well out of the way, and unnoticeable unless you’re using a screen utility to actually detect them. Overall: I’m happy with it now.
  • When I installed the IntelliType software to make the Mac recognize my (Windows) keyboard, I left the command key mappings at their default settings, which mapped the Windows key to the Apple clover key, resulting in a Ctrl-Apple-Option layout at the left hand side of the keyboard. In the IntelliType settings, there is a toggle that switches the position of the Apple and Option command keys, and I turned that onearlier this evening, giving me a more Apple-standard Ctrl-Option-Apple layout. Since then, I’ve found using keyboard shortcuts a lot more natural. I think it’s something to do with the natural resting position of my thumb while I’m typing…
  • When installing MySQL on a Mac Mini, make sure to grab the right version, i.e. not the 64-bit edition.
  • If you’re using MySQL Administrator and MySQL Query Browser, and connecting to your local machine, you need to make sure that you change the connecting socket (under “Advanced Options”) to “/tmp/mysql.sock”. The default value for the socket “(null)”, and that doesn’t seem to work, and you get lots of highly non-descriptive error messages.
  • Camino (v1.0a) doesn’t warn you when you try to close it down with 20 tabs still open. Grr. I only wanted to close one tab, but hit Q instead of W. I think I’ll be sticking to Firefox for now….
  • I’ve got the Dock visible again. I like being able to see at a glance what I’ve got running, without having to use the mouse to activate it. Also, I found the half-second delay before it came up a bit annoying