Confessions of a Switcher (part 3)

This is part three of a theoretically infinite series.

It’s been roughly five months since I brought home the MacBook Pro and almost that long since my last update to this series. I’ve become incredibly comfortable in the OS X environment and, with a very few exceptions, can do anything I ever did in Windows. In the event I do need Windows, I can use VMWare Fusion to boot Windows XP from a Boot Camp partition with seamless desktop integration. Just today I found a solution to one of the last Windows requirements — syncing my HTC Mogul phone, a Windows Mobile device. Normally one would use ActiveSync to sync a Windows Mobile device, or pay $30 for Missing Sync. I’ve found a free product that does exactly what I need and no more: Eltima Software’s SyncMate. It syncs my contacts and calendars to the Mac’s Address Book and iCal, respectively, and can mount the WinMo file system as an external volume on the Mac for file transfer.

Here’s a current list of third-party software I’m using.

  • Angry IP Scanner — the built-in Network Utility has most of this application’s functionality; I use either or both depending on what exactly I’m trying to do.
  • Book Collector
  • ChronoSync — I haven’t actually started using this yet, but I’ve installed the trial and am checking it out.
  • CrossOver Office — supposed to allow (some) Windows applications to install and run directly in OS X, but I’ve had little success as of yet.
  • Fetch — seems to be the best ftp client for OS X.
  • Google Earth
  • Jolly’s Fast VNC — even in public Alpha, this is the best VNC client I’ve found for OS X, and (apprehensive of using an Alpha) I tried quite a few before this one. Does what it says on the tin.
  • Logitech Harmony Remote software — Web-based programming tool for my Harmony 880 and 670 universal remotes.
  • Movie Collector
  • NetNewsWire — my choice for RSS newsreader. I started with the built-in Mail application, but it couldn’t handle 200+ feeds with any stability; I tried Endo and gave it a couple of months, but eventually gave up on it after one too many crashes and system resource grabs — plus, its UI is a nightmare. NNW does what I want and does it well.
  • OpenOffice.org — the excellent free, open-source alternative to Microsoft Office I’ve been using for years, now in a spiffy new OS X-native version.
  • Opera — if you’ve been reading Project Insomnia for lo, these many years, you know I’ve been an Opera fan for quite a long time. Since switching to Mac I’ve converted almost completely to Safari. I keep Opera around for alternate-browser testing and also use it when I need to have more than one Google Account session open simultaneously, but it’s pretty much fallen off my radar in general.
  • Remote Desktop Connection — the only Microsoft software on my OS X partition is a fine port of the standard RDC client.
  • SketchUp — nifty 3-D sketching tool which I have so far been completely unable to learn. I’d like to use it to model the cabinet wall we want to build in the living room.
  • SplashID — password vault, works with the Mogul to keep all my many and varied passwords safe. Syncing SplashID between the Mac and the Mogul is one of the very few remaining tasks for which I still need Windows; the Mac version doesn’t sync directly but only imports saved files.
  • SyncMate — see above.
  • TextWrangler — this is a terrific text editor that handles code of all kinds, from PHP to HTML to Java.
  • TinkerTool — essentially the OS X equivalent to TweakUI.
  • Transmission — BitTorrent client.
  • VLC Player — for the rare filetype that QuickTime + Flip4Mac can’t handle.
  • VMWare Fusion — see above.

I’m assembling a list of useful tips and tricks, things I’ve learned by trial and error or lucky Googling. That will probably be the subject of part four of this series.

Comments off

Confessions of a Switcher (part 2)

This is part 2 in a theoretically infinite series.

Two weeks in and I am finding myself really happy with the Mac, with OS X and with life in general. OS X’s Unix-y roots means it’s very hackable and its popularity means there is lots of good open-source or otherwise community-supported software out there, plus it seems most of the software I used in Windows has Mac versions. Just a short list of the third-party (i.e. not Apple) software I’m using so far:
(“w” means used on Windows, otherwise it’s new to me)

I’ve just installed and am trying out VMWare Fusion, which pulls the Boot Camp Windows XP partition into a virtual instance running inside OS X. It seems that the only way to install some software onto the Windows Mobile device is by running an installer in Windows, and I don’t want to have to reboot into XP via Boot Camp just to do that.

Comments off

Confessions of a Switcher

This is part 1 of a theoretically infinite series.

As noted last week, upon the sad, premature soup-induced demise of my four-year-old Dell Inspiron 600m, I purchased a new 15″ MacBook Pro. I justified this to myself by noting that the MacBook Pro has been called the “best Windows notebook“, but, and here’s the first confession, after setting up Boot Camp and installing Windows XP on the first day… I haven’t touched Windows on the machine since. It’s been all OS X all the time. And I haven’t had to reboot once.

To be fair, there are still a couple of Windows applications for which I’m looking for alternatives: Picasa, Paint.NET, ActiveSync (to sync my Windows Mobile phone, which I will not be replacing with an iPhone). I know about iPhoto for the first and Missing Sync for the last; I plan to copy some of my very large photo library over and let iPhoto convince me, but I’m turned off by the nearly $40 price tag for Missing Sync. Meanwhile, I’ve set up Bluetooth file transfer between the Mac and the phone — something that never worked on the Dell — and have managed to do backups of a sort for the time being.

I really don’t know where to begin for a good Mac OS alternative to Paint.NET. OS X doesn’t appear to come with an image editor and I don’t need anything as complex as Photoshop or the GIMP. Suggestions welcome!

As a longtime, dedicated Opera fan and user I’m rather surprised at how quickly I’ve taken to Safari. I had the Windows version of Safari on the Dell as a backup and testing browser, so I was familiar with it, and I do have the Mac OS version of Opera on the Mac but it’s sitting, forlorn, unused in the Dock. I found a HOWTO on getting iChat to work with Yahoo (it already works with AIM and other Jabber services); I’ve set up Mail with my email accounts and RSS feeds; I’ve imported most of my music into iTunes; I’ve recorded three podcast segments in GarageBand so far.

To use an over-used cliche, everything — or at least almost everything — just works. Want to wake up the machine? Open the lid, it wakes up. It doesn’t click and buzz and hum and whir for a while before deciding whether this will be one of the approximately 25% of times when, like the Dell, it will refuse to wake up. It connects to WiFi almost instantly. Bluetooth, mentioned above, works the way it should; in fact, I’ve been able to pair a set of Bluetooth headphones I bought to use with the phone to the Mac, and that never worked on the Dell (or even my company laptop, a Lenovo ThinkPad).

Things work the way I instinctively think they ought to work.

The point here is that I’m really quite happy with the Mac and, contrary to my expectations, I’m having very little trouble in learning to be comfortable with OS X.

Edit to add: I think I have my first downline. I’ve been bringing the Mac to work (I always brought the Dell to work) and a couple of the other engineers have been admiring it. One in particular just spent ten minutes asking me very specific questions about “how to do stuff” on the Mac, Web browsing, email, the usual. He seemed interested.

Comments off