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Apple Techie

Mac Switching update, Sun 25 Sep

I’ve been using the tutorial at MacZealots.com 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…

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Apple Techie

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.

Categories
Apple Techie

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)
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Apple

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
Categories
Apple

Mac Switching update, Tue 20 Sep

Well, that’s my Thunderbird email now moved from the PC to the Mac. Just as with iTunes, this turned out to be quite simple:

  1. Installed Thunderbird on the Mac
  2. Located my profile directory on the Mac: /Users/martin/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/XXXXX.default/, where “XXXXX” stands for whatever random combination of letters and numbers it has chosen for me.
  3. Made a backup copy of everything in this directory.
  4. Located my profile directory on the PC: C:\Documents And Settings\Martin\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\YYYYY.default\, where “YYYYY” is a different random combination of letters and numbers.
  5. Copied all files and directories from the PC’s profile directory into the Mac’s profile directory.
  6. Started up Thunderbird on the Mac…and everything works, multiple accounts, saved passwords and all.

I had considered using the Mac’s own Mail.app for email, but I think I’ll leave that for later.

On the text editor front, I’ve installed SubEthaEdit, and I plan to give TextWrangler a try, too.

Web browser-wise, I’m still flipping between Firefox and Safari, but with Opera now being free, I’ll probably throw it into the mix as well, and see what sticks.

Next major task is to get Apache and MySQL up and running, and install a local copy of Movable Type. It’s all looking rather good, right now.

Categories
Apple

Mac Switching update, Mon 19 Sep

  • As Dave has been suggesting, under System Preferences -> Keyboard & Mouse -> Keyboard shortcuts, there is a setting that allows pressing the Tab key to move between all types of field, rather than just text boxes and lists. I had thought that this wasn’t working, when in fact it was only not working in Firefox. On the Mac, Firefox has its own tab settings, which you can change by going to the about:config page, and changing “accessibility.tabfocus” from 1 to 7. (See also: “Mac OS X Hints” on Macworld.) It now all works perfectly.
  • Thanks for Phil Gyford, I now have my keyboard mapped correctly: i.e., hitting Shift+2 gives me a double-quote, and the @-sign sits two keys to the right of my L. As James had indicated, it’s a matter of installing a custom keyboard layout. You can use Ukelele to create these, but Phil Gyford has a British-Windows keyboard layout available for download from his site–complete with instructions. Marvellous.

Two minor (yet major) niggles knocked on the head in a single evening. Good progress. But the big ticket item of the evening was moving my iTunes music library from my PC to the Mac. I’d expected this to be weird, but it turned out to be ridiculously easy:

  1. On the PC, I had all of my music in a single directory (with subdirectories), but this sat on a separate disk (E:\Music) rather than in the default iTunes music folder (My Documents\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music). Using an external HD rather than a slow (wireless) network transfer, I copied everything from D:\Music into the default location on the Mac, i.e. /Users/martin/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music.
  2. On the Mac, I made a backup of the two key iTunes library files: “iTunes Music Library.xml” and “iTunes Library”, just in case it all went horribly wrong. (These are both in the /Users/martin/Music/iTunes/ folder.)
  3. I copied the PC versions of these files over the the Mac. (The PC versions reside in My Documents\Music\iTunes\)
  4. I renamed the “iTunes Library.itl” file to just “iTunes Library”, without the file extension. (Although I’m not sure if this is critical, because looking at the file name in Terminal, the extension is back there…the Finder just isn’t displaying it.)
  5. Started iTunes. iTunes spent a couple of minutes with a progress bar updating its music library, and at the end of that process…everything was there. All my ratings and play counts were present. I clicked on music and it played.
  6. With iTunes, I de-authorized the PC, and authorized the Mac, and all the protected downloads from the iTMS opened up, too.

Wow.

Based on my experience restoring my iTunes music library from a dead PC, I should have figured that the process of migrating from PC to Mac would be similarly easy, but my gut just wasn’t entirely convinced. I love it when software works like this: you plug stuff in, copy the files, and you’re done. No complicated setup routines, no magic registry settings to hack if you want to restore your stuff after a disk failure…it just works. That rocks.

Also, after setting up iTunes, I plugged in my iPod. iTunes recognized it immediately, and started synchronizing. I don’t know why it decided to re-copy 849 files that should have been on the iPod already, but I can’t say that really bothers me, because IT’S CHARGING AT THE SAME TIME AS IT’S SYNCHRONIZING! WOOHOO! Honest, whatever flaw that was stopping my iPod from charging over USB has been bugging the hell out of me since I got it, and now it’s gone. Yay! No more stepping on the bus in the morning and finding that I’ve only got an hour of battery power left, because I forgot to change plugs after grabbing a new batch of podcasts.

Oh, and one more little, but lovely thing for the day:

  • Partially transparent Terminal windows. Rock.

Up next: moving Thunderbird email from PC to the Mac.