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Thoughts on Adding Macintosh Systems in 2012
Updated August 28, 2013

In June 2012 I purchased my first ever Macintosh - a Mac mini - to work more closely with developers I hired for another project. Shortly thereafter I bought a very high end MacBook Pro that is now my primary laptop. (Hardware specifications are at the end of this document.)

 

I did not do this out of frustration with Windows. In addition to the specific development project I wanted to reduce my overall Mac ignorance and to be able to support this increasingly used platform. (Well, OK... and buy myself some spiffy hardware. Can you say gadget lust?)

 

I've consistently said since the 80's that Mac's "cost more (than PCs) and do less (for me)". They certainly still cost more but now seemed to be able to do more too. The question was how much more.

 

INITIAL CONCLUSIONS:

         It does "more" but is still not very cost effective

o    no big surprise there

o    the "Mini" at $730 was a far better deal than the MacBook Pro at $2500

o    spending 2 to 4 times extra for a laptop (based on equivalent hardware) is hard to justify

o    well... so is driving a BMW instead of a Toyota. Sigh...

         Mac is not some kind of magic panacea that solves all my computing problems. I even periodically manage to lock up the laptop requiring a forced power off.

 

         The performance is good but not stunningly better than Windows 7 on the same hardware.

 

         The battery life is probably longer than using a Windows notebook on batteries but I seldom need this.

 

         Since I still have to move between the Mac, Windows, and various Linux flavors, I am not able to totally adapt to the Mac. This prevents becoming true acolyte.

 

         Mac and Linux feel pretty darn close (most of the time)

o    This seems mostly due to the file system and bash shell with all the familiar utilities.

o    e.g., using Ruby on Rails is essentially identical (especially compared to RoR on Windows).

o    Describing Mac OS X as a "clean" UNIX with a pretty GUI seems about right.

o    System administration (e.g., user administration) differences are maddening.
OSX is definitely not Linux!

o    That said, I am far more interested in OSX and Linux than I am in other *n*x variants - especially *BSD ones.

 

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The Mac is perfectly usable and a transition to ONLY using it would be quite feasible. It would also be easier than being bi- or tri- OS-ual as I am today!

 

         Keyboard and short-cut differences are the single biggest pain.

o    This is especially hard on a very keyboard oriented user such as myself. [Windows is very productive for me and I am extremely well versed in the capabilities. I am especially knowledgeable about controlling Windows and Windows applications from a keyboard with dramatically more efficiency than with a mouse.]

o    However, just about every new laptop brings keyboard pain due to various decisions on key positions. That's why I use almost all my laptops with a standard external keyboard.

o    Particularly maddening is the different arrangement of the four keys to the left of the spacebar:
   MacBook Pro - Fn, Ctrl, Alt/Option, Command
   Levnovo and one HP - Fn, Ctrl, Command/Windows, Alt
   Samsung and newer HP - Ctrl, Fn, Command/Windows, Alt

o    Furthermore, the minimalist approach to labeling keys on the Mac doesn't help. You have to learn that Fn-UpArrow is PageUp, Fn-LeftArrow is Home, Fn-Delete is Del (forward), etc.

o    There are even more sources of frustration when remote controlling the Mac using VNC due to weird key mappings - only the right Alt is Alt while the left Alt is Command.

         Window navigation and positioning using the keyboard are much better in Windows that OSX (and much more discoverable).

o    Both systems have a rich set of keyboard commands to move between Windows - Command-Tab/Alt-Tab between applications, Command-'/Ctrl-Tab between windows in an app, Command-Q/Alt-F4 to quit an application, etc.

o    OSX has no keyboard mechanisms to size or position windows unlike the IBM SAA CUA upper-left corner Window menu reached with Alt-Spacebar or Alt-Dash. I added Mercury Mover in 2013 to solve this problem.

         Menu bar on the top versus menu bars on Windows... matters very little. I still have to remember to look at the top to see what application is active. With double screen menu bar is only on the main screen. If the application is on the second screen this is brain dead.

         Mac "dock" moved to the left side works very well and makes better use of wide/short screen aspect ratios. [The Windows task bar can also be moved to either side (instead of the bottom of the screen) but it works much less well there.]

         ASIDE: I recently installed Ubuntu 12.10 on another system. Its GUI apes the OSX UI so much I'm surprised Apple hasn't sued them. But much of the change to the UI makes it much harder to tell what is going on or to find things. Whatever...

 

SCREENS:

         Built-in LCD is LED back-lit 1680x1050 15" non-glare. Very nice.

 

         Hardware zoom using Ctrl-Two-Finger-Drag - can zoom the entire screen and then pan by hitting an edge with the mouse. Useful for old eyes.

 

         External monitor connection is limited. Can only use Thunderbolt / DisplayPort. (No HDMI or VGA connector.) I have cables for HDMI and DVI. You can get a VGA too. There is no obvious way to use more than one external monitor - maybe daisy chain with Thunderbolt (or DisplayPort)?

 

         Most of the time when in the office I use remote displays:

o    RealVNC Personal allows display of main screen at native resolution - typically full-screen on 1680x1050 20" monitor. Biggest issue is that Windows Key and Left Alt are both Mac left Command key so to get Alt you have to use right Alt.

o    Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP) allows display of Windows screen (from VM - usually - or direct boot - on occasion) at any resolution - typically full-screen on 1920x1080 27" monitor

 

USING MY MACBOOK WITH WINDOWS:

         Strategic:

o    It was brilliant of Apple to have moved to a PC compatible platform.

o    It was also very savvy of Apple to work with Microsoft (and VMware) to explicitly allow Windows use on Apple hardware. In other words, it really works and is not just some lame fulfillment of a marketing promise.

o    If you need both Windows and OSX, it is a path of much less resistance to start with a Mac and also run Windows than to bootleg OSX onto PC hardware or (as I did) VMware.

o    While OSX is not sanctioned in a VM on other host OS, it is explicitly allowed to run OSX as a VM hosted on OSX.

         Dual-OS - separately or at the same time:

o    Bootcamp worked flawlessly to allow dual booting to Windows with drivers provided by Apple for all the Mac specific hardware.

o    VMware Fusion is able to use the Bootcamp partition to create a VM on the same file system. The VMware tools additions to Windows 7 coexist with the drivers provided by Apple for direct booting to Windows. It did take some support from VMware to get the Windows 7 Bootcamp VM stable. Until changes were made at the advice of VMware support (just having one vCPU and simplifying the logging), the Windows VM would periodically just stop running. It has been 100% stable since the changes.

o    I run Windows in Fusion much more often than I boot directly to it. It just works (after the stability upgrades).

o    I also use Fusion to run Linux and Windows XP (for a project that requires delivery there).

o    I have not tried Parallels or other virtualization software on OSX.

o    I have also not tried triple booting to Linux but I do run several different variants of Linux under Fusion.

         Accessing files:

o    Apple already provides read-only drivers for NTFS from OSX and for HFS+ from Windows 7. So you can see the file systems for either system from either system.

o    Extended drivers from Paragon Software for about $40 give read-write access to each file system from the other OS.

o    VMware Fusion Host Guest File System (HGFS) makes is extremely easy to share files from the OSX host to the Windows guest (or Linux guests).

         Backups

o    I have one or more USB 3 drives attached most of the time - even when travelling.

o    Time Machine backs up seamlessly to it.

o    Windows 7 file backups used to go to the same drive as Time Machine but now go to a separate USB 3 NTFS drive.

o    Neither network drive is not usable as a target for Windows 7 image backups but I don't really know why.

o    I should learn more about Carbon Copy Cloner to have better image backups.

 

BUILT-IN APPLICATIONS:

         Mail - usable

         Contacts - usable and synchronizable (with some effort) to Gmail contacts at Google

         Calendar - usable and easily synchronized with Gmail calendars

         TimeMachine - reasonable backup and very easy

         GarageBand - very cool digital audio workstation (DAW) for beginners

         FaceTime - why use this when Skype works better and on more devices?

         itunes - is iTunes

         Other iLife - iYawn...

iPhoto

iMovie

         Messages - why bother?

         PhotoBooth - same as on iPad

         Preview - text, PDF and photo viewer

OTHER APPLICATIONS:

To my surprise I already had Mac OSX versions available for most of my key applications.

 

         MS Office - I had Office 2012 for Mac available via my TechNet subscription

o    Excel and Word used a lot already

o    Never  bothered to setup Outlook - Apple Mail application is good enough (and extremely similar to the Mail App on iOS).

o    Also loaded Microsoft Remote Desktop client for full remote control of Windows systems.

         Chrome

o    Works better than Safari

o    Signed into my Google account, bookmarks, form-fill data, etc. are all synchronized with other instances of Chrome - this is a HUGE win.

         VanDyke SecureCRT - ssh and sftp client that I've used for many years

o    My existing license works just fine with the Mac OSX version

o    With some pain I was also able to copy my "address book" from the PC version. One bit of dementia is that I had to create a C/ directory in Applications and put LCB in it to make references to C:\LCB in some of the configuration work.

         RealVNC

o    The Enterprise VNC license purchased for Linux also works with OSX

o    Address book export and import via XML was completely painless (unlike SecureCRT)

         Emacs

o    A terminal (curses?) Emacs came with OSX.

o    I installed a free AquaEmacs that provides a Mac looking Emacs that's OK.

o    Later I found the real GNU Emacs GUI version which I prefer to AquaEmacs.

         Repository access GUIs

o    SmartSVN has an OSX version and works in Professional mode with my license

o    SmartGIT has an OSX version and works in Professional mode with my license

         Missed on OSX:

o    Eudora is still used for POP access to my own (non-IMAP) mail server. Sigh... Runs fine in the Windows VM

  possible alternative - Thunderbird. Sigh...

o    PaintShop Pro 5.0.5 is still my bit map image editor of choice, so I run it in the Windows VM.

  possible alternative - surely exists, maybe learn PhotoShop. Sigh...

         Free stuff:

o    TeamViewer - multi-platform remote control usable for Free or for $750/system or for more. We use Free.

o    Xcode 4.6.3 at this point - OSX and iOS integrated development environment

o    Skype - works but has a weird UI

o    Yahoo IM - works

o    Microsoft Messenger (whatever it's called today) - came in with Office

o    Sophos anti-virus - caused some problems when it saw viruses in email attachments in old backups on the external drive.

o    Music Manager - for Google Play music - brought essentially all of my iPod/iPad/iTunes Music to the Mac via the Google cloud

o    Oracle VirtualBox - because VMware Fusion had some fatal problems for awhile - since fixed.

         Purchased for OSX:

o    Paragon Software HFS+ for Windows - $19.95 - read-write access to HFS file systems from Windows

o    Paragon Software NTFS for  OS X - $19.95 - read-write access to NTFS files systems from OS X

o    VMware Fusion Professional 5.0.2 - $99 list - could have been $80. Paid ~$46 (to distributor) then $40 (to VMware directly - 20% discount) to upgrade in order to get virtual network editing. Warning - the evaluation version is Pro. No way to evaluate the non-pro version.

o    Carbon Copy Cloner - ~$40 - disk imaging tool that probably wasn't necessary but made it easy to create an OSX installation boot disk as was as bootable USB drives.

o    Navicat Essentials for SQLite - ~$10 - visual inspection and modification tool for SQLite databases. Used in Ruby on Rails project

o    MercuryMover - $20 - allows moving windows with keyboard commands.

         Open source

o    Already present: Python 2.7.2

o    Installed: Ruby Version Manager - rvm 1.15.8

o    rvm allows use of newer Ruby 1.9.3 than that already on OSX (1.8.7)

o    rvm and bundle used to obtain all necessary "gems" needed in rails for Ruby on Rails project. Very auto-magical.

 

TABLET VERSUS COMPUTER SCHIZOPHRENIA

Windows 8 is not alone in this clash of paradigms

 

Mountain Lion (OSX 10.8) has several gesture operations (using the touch pad) based on the iOS UI

o    Four finger drag right to "Dashboard" desktop of Widgets - Windows sidebar anyone???

o    Four finger lift to show Dashboard versus Desktop

o    Five finger pinch to desktop of iOS style Icons - Metro TILES anyone???

o    Three finger drag between screens of iOS style Icons.

o    Two finger zoom

o    Two finger scrolling by pushing the window

o    I think there are others

 

HARDWARE SPECS

Mac mini - Mid 2011 release

2nd generation Core i5-2520M @ 2.50Ghz - dual core, hyper-threaded

RAM upgraded from 4 GB to 16 GB (2 x 8 GB DDR3)

500 GB 2.5" hard disk (Toshiba)

space for a second hard disk - if you're brave

Gigabit Ethernet

802.11n WiFi

USB 2

FireWire 800

Thunderbolt Port

Bluetooth 4?

HDMI

SD card reader

ATI Radeon HD 6630M 256 MB VRAM

External USB DVD +/- RW "Super Drive"

Dual 1280x1024 19" LCD monitors: one via HDMI one via DisplayPort to DVI

MacBook Pro - Mid 2012 release

3rd generation mobile Core i7-3820QM @ 2.70 GHz - quad-core, hyper-threaded

RAM upgraded from 8 GB to 16 GB (2 x 8 GB DDR3)

1000 GB 2.5" hard disk

Gigabit Ethernet

802.11n WiFi

USB 3

FireWire 800

Thunderbolt Port

Bluetooth 4

SD card reader

Internal DVD+/-RW "SuperDrive"

Intel HD Graphics 4000 + NVIDIA GeForce GB 650M 1024 MB VRAM

15.4" 1680x1050 matte finish LCD

 

Last Updated:
Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 11:08:23 GMT-0800
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