I’ve jumped the fence into Apple’s backyard. I bought the lower MacBook Pro 15" model, with 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM and 120GB SATA disk. As someone who’s been on Windows from 3.11 to XP (with brief dive into OS/2 WARP) this is quite a change. I love Apple’s products, love the design, the attention to details.
I also love the uncompromising advancements and getting rid of the old stuff. Removing floppy, using only DVI connectors, removing modem - Apple usually did it first.
MacBook Pro itself is a great machine. It gets warm at times, in the top left corner and along the upper edge, but nothing unbearable. It’s inexplicable to me why Apple included just two USB ports when clearly there is plenty of space. Rest of the connections are great and I adore having DVI port on it. The slot-in drive makes very ugly noise when it’s sucking the disc in, otherwise works ok (although I used it only for Leopard installation). I’ll need to check for RPC-1 firmware, but I have little hope in that.
Speaking of Leopard, the disc I received with the MBP is labeled as upgrade disc. At first I thought that I’m fucked if I ever need to reinstall (that I would need to install Tiger first). As it happens, I needed to reinstall two days after buying. I’m happy to report that Archive and install went just fine from that disk, thus “upgrade” label could be just a gimmick. Whatever it means, I’m fine with this.
I’m not an average user. I developed web sites (part of a larger product platform) for enterprise-level clients which means various custom-built stuff for Windows platform. I need to use various Windows programs and tools from the company. I need to be able to access Windows-based servers, both through remote desktop connection and through file share. I work daily with IIS and ASP (old one), possibly .NET in future, MS SQL Server.
Thus for me, switching to Mac is a path full of challenges. And since my old Windows laptop is being sold just after Mac is bought, I needed to be able to immediately continue working as nothing happened, both home and office.
This was the most important aspect of this transition. I have lots of valuable data (to me at least) and for this to be seamless as possible, I needed to switch to MBP but continue to use Windows apps as they were, until I gradually transfer all of my habits to Mac apps. That naturaly meant using virtual machines.
There were many obstacles, but now that I mostly got it, it’s time to write about it all, as I’m certain it will help someone else.
Data and environment transfer
Even though Parallels obviously gives VMWare run for its money, I chose VMWare Fusion, for historical reasons. I’m comfortable with it and can edit configuration files by hand, if needed. I have several different VMs for various Windows installations I use. But the thing that sealed the deal was VMWare Converter, a free application that will convert physical Windows installation into VM. I expected that I will need a separate PC to run it from; no - it can do that even for the Windows installation where you start the Converter. Absolutely amazing product. It worked wonderfully and converted my entire C disk into 16GB VM (the disk itself had 25GB with 5GB free).
The only trouble here is that you need to have a proper Windows version or its activation module will completely prevent you to access the VM - you will not be able to login. For instance, Windows that came with my old VAIO was an OEM version that is pre-activated. However, that works only if used with Sony hardware. Changing that hardware (and converting into VM means changing all of the hardware) will de-activate the Windows. That means that on next login it will ask you to activate it. But when activation window opens, you’ll see message “Windows is already activated” and Exit button which logs you off. An infinite loop, with no way out.
I resolved this by installing Volume License Windows version, which does not need activation at all.
As for my old D disk, where most of my web work, photos and other stuff were - I simply copied that to a folder on the Mac, then navigated from inside of the Fusion to that folder and assigned a letter D for that folder as network drive. I’m preparing a separate post on Fusion experiences and how to run it efficiently and integrate nicely with host and other virtual machines.
In the end, I had all my data and environment I was accustomed to, from day one. I actually worked for two weeks inside the VM, while on a business trip. Things were set for slow and thorough transition to Mac environment.
Firefox and Thunderbird were not problematic. For Firefox I just copied bookmarks.html and imported it into Mac installation. Thunderbird was even easier. Ran it, created a dummy profile and then transfered entire contents of my profile form the Windows installation into Mac. That was the good bit; the bad bit is that both FF and TB are sluggish on Mac compared to their Windows brothers. They are both noticeably slower and I often find myself needing two or three clicks until the app actually figures that I clicked something. The damn interface is slooooow - one of the things I hate the most. Further, “Get all new messages” (I have 6 mail accounts) seem to be thoroughly broken in TB.
Really sad, as I love both apps. Last several days I’m surfing in Safari and more and more think about moving to Mail. Beh…
My big gripe with this switch is - what I’m gonna do without Total Commander? It’s such an indispensable tool in my everyday life, that I honestly don’t know how to work with files without it. I knew about DiskOrder from way back, downloaded it and tried the usual stuff. It stil has little problems that irks me and it dies instantly when I try to open network connection. mac file manager search offered few alternatives, none of which is anywhere close to good. For Heaven’s sake, just look at the first option - why would anyone want to use Windows Shitplorer is beyond me. It’s worse than Mac’s Finder, which is similar barely usable file manager.
Of that bunch I tried muCommander; it annoys me every time I start it because it renames my computer to XX-2, XX-3, whatever is next in line (it says that previous name is already in use on the network; bah). Open with.. option is grayed-out, which is a big no-no. Still far away from what it should be, but it has the basics done well, and it’s rather speedy and nice looking for a Java app. However, after 3 days of trying to use it I just gave up. TC spoiled me and this app needs to grow up first.
I tried PathFinder too and while it has some interesting features, this is not something I could use as file manager - two panels simply rule. As it is now, there is no definitive solution. Maybe if VMWare perfected Unity mode in such a way that when Commander is running in Unity it sees Mac volumes, not VM volumes…
What really shocked me was Adobe Lightroom. I was expecting that it will be possible to transfer the library, but I never expected it to be so easy. The library catalogs and metadata store is identical on both Mac and Windows. Thus, what I needed to do here is start Lightroom on Mac and do Open catalog from the menu to load my old Windows catalog file. A-m-a-z-i-n-g!
The original photos were across several folders, but Lightroom is great here too - simply right-click on the old folder name in the catalog (it will be in red, as unknown) and then locate the new folder. Thus my old d:\my.photos is easily transfered to \Volumes\Macintosh HD\vaio-d\my.photos.
iTunes library was also transfered easily. I copied iTunes Library.itl to Mac and removed the extension. Then copied iTunes library.xml and edited it manually to replace the paths to the files (they are on NAS). After that it was just a matter of waiting for iTunes 7.5 to complete its processing of 3500+ songs over 11g wireless. Ages…
On Windows, I used TC as my image viewer, archiver/dearchiver…Due to aforementioned missing file manager on Mac, I looked for replacements. QuickLook is nice, but it does not work for all files and there is no direct support for .rar archives in StuffIt that is Mac’s default dearchiver. Both image viewer and unarchiver on my Mac are now handled through Xee and The Unarchiver, both amazing and both freeware. Xee particularly is very good and it’s a great replacement for the equally amazing FastStone Image Viewer on Windows.
This left me with main issue - web development environment. Normally, I instantly downloaded TextMate. I worked with it for few days in the office…not bad, for a coding master. When you know your trade, this is the probably the best thing in the world. It becomes extremely useful when various 3rd party bundles are added. As currently I’m working with XSLT, Todd’s bundles and plugins are huge helper. I will need to research and find more bundles that would ease the working but it looks like a winner.
I also downloaded Coda and immediately liked the text-based CSS editor, for its instant help during typing. Reminded me of TopStylePro, my favourite Windows editor, which I’ll miss, despite it’s shortcomings. There are many nice things in there, but I need way more time than I have now to try it out. And Panic gives me 14 days…I removed it in the end; it’s likely that I’m not for the Jack of all trades-type of dev tools.
Which lead me to the fantastic counterpart to TopStylePro - CSSEdit. Brilliant CSS editor, with amazing features such as override live styles. I have yet to fully explore it, but quick tests confirmed me that I will be buying it very, very soon, if it doesn’t drive me nuts with its dumb limitation (in trial mode) of saving only files with less than 2500 bytes.
For generic editing, I installed TextWrangler. It’s fast; that covered 4/5 of my requirements for default editor.
Rest of the daily tools
From time to time I need a BitTorrent client. Nothing beats uTorrent on Windows. On Mac, I tried xTorrent, but it has this annoying register window that it’s impossible to kick away, so I moved to Transmission. Tried it with one .torrent file, things went ok.
Instant messaging? Adium, of course. Funny bit: Adium site is blocked on T-Mobile’s mobile internet and is behind the content lock. A genuine porn site.
RSS is handled with NetNewsWire. It works fully in trial mode, loaded my entire FeedDemon OPML file (subscriptions, groups and posts) and works rather well for my habits. I tried NewsFire, but immediately dismissed it for two reasons: one - it did not load entire contents of my OPML file, only subscriptions and two - in demo mode allows only 15 feeds. How in hell am I going to really test it with such severe limits?
What is it with Mac developers - where do they come up with all these stupid limitations?
That’s about it for regular stuff. There are more apps I’m testing when I can (like MarsEdit with which I’m typing this post), but are not crucial.
First week impressions
Decade of habit using Alt+Tab to switch between open apps is a tough one to get rid off (although I’m loving Exposé). Whenever I see the XP interface, I mentally switch to this Windows mode. In this light, Apple’s decision to use Apple+Tab for their feature of the same kind is very smart.
Spaces are great and I use them all the time, but the issues being discussed on Mac blogs are all so true. It annoys me to no end when Adium runs in one Space, then when I’m in another one an IM comes in, I click on the Growl’s notification, it opens IM window in the Space where I am - but! when I Command-Tab to Adium it jumps into Space 1 when Adium was first opened. Aarghh!._
However, it is great in a sense that I can put RDC in one, VMWare Fusion with my old PC stuff in second, and use the 3rd for Mac windows. Switching is instant, works wonderfully. Turned off Ctrl+arrows switching to avoid clashin' with the same keystrokes in editors.
VMWare Fusion 1.0 was slow with jerky mouse movement and frequently crashed. Unity mode also did not work properly at all, mostly just freezes the whole app. I installed 1.1RC1 which brought proper support for Leopard and works much better, VMWare Tools fully installed and runs beautifully. RC1 crashed occasionally but nothing horrible (it wasn’t not final after all). Just hours ago I installed final 1.1 version, works like a charm so far, even though it has quirks when I try to edit settings for one VM while some other is running.
Apps do crash on Mac and not all of it just works. Thing here is that most apps are really made well and in that case all seems to just work. But I have tried few apps that are horribly done, just as many Windows apps are. It’s mostly in programmer’s hands, not just OS foundations. The interoperation of apps, through Services, is what I really like and have yet to explore properly.
Software update is great. If broken by connection failure, it will continue where it left off. If you are installing an application update that requires administrator’s password, it will ask you only once, no matter how many times you stopped and continued the download.
Drivers are a mixed bag. I bought an ExpressCard CF reader from Expansys. It came with a driver disk, which I installed and rendered the thing unusable - driver was needed only for Tiger - and the error unrecoverable according to their support. I can’t believe it - driver installation script is so simple - I checked the package - that I can’t believe some Terminal trickery can’t solve it.
However, my level of knowledge of internal Mac OS workings is unmeasurably small at this point, thus I’ll probably do the reinstall. I extracted original file from Leopard install disk, the one that driver install script messes with, replaced it, but to no avail. Something else must be done too, I just don’t know what.
Rui was right - new Mac users always end up needing to reinstall in the first month. Archive and install is great though - I reinstalled Leopard and everything that I have setup continued to work, except Cisco VPN client, which needed a re-install.
Was it worth it?
Hm…let me see.
Point A: Since my wedding (March this year), I’ve been trying from time to time to learn Sony Vegas and to create a properly edited version of the whole wedding shenanigans, plus create a proper DVD. I even found a video tutorial. Not a damn chance and I was trying for hours. Looking at Jobs' iMovie and iDVD demos during keynotes, it made me drool. This is how those apps should work - simple, simple, simple.
Next free weekend will be spent doing just that, and damn sure I’ll be writing a post about it.
Point B: When I finally had a working VM inside Fusion, the thing that gave me most grief is Windows Update. Since the VLK version I installed is from 2006, there was something like 80+ updates to download and install. They all downloaded, but Automatic WU failed to install. Every single one of them. I tried then directly through WU web site, same thing. I tried with Microsoft Update, same thing. I was trying for 3 days, searching newsgroups, blog posts, whatever mentioned this problem. After 3 days I ended up on Microsoft newsgroups and some guy had identical problem reported to what someone from MS responded with links to two different downloads from MS site. He said if one does not resolve it, try the other one. I tried that other one directly (look for WindowsXP-KB927891-v3-x86-ENU.exe) and it did the trick. After installing that, all updates could be installed.
That is something I really, really hated about Windows. It’s such a complex beast, that they are barely keeping it together. The fact that WU picked 84 updates but failed to realize that I needed this one first is a nightmare. I’m used to snoop around registry, .ini files, whatever - I can’t imagine how would someone less experienced resolve this. Probably by turning WU off completely.
Point C: Which is what my wife did, who knows when. Of course, that made her laptop rather vulnerable to all sorts of attacks and after the second time I had to clean up some nasty infestation, I turned AU on and went to Microsoft Update to download everything. This went ok, only after this .NET apps she works on stopped working. Some part of it worked, some didn’t. After two days of fooling around, I deinstalled all .NET frameworks and installed them again, newest available versions from Microsoft Update site. This resolved the problem.
Another sign of the Windows complexity - I doubt even MS could figure out what went wrong in the update process.
Point D: I don’t like what I have seen from Vista so far. I don’t like the direction it goes. Mac OS becomes better and better with each release, with occasional glitches. Case in point - Spotlight improvements over Tiger are spot-on. There are more goodies, mostly hidden ones in Leopard that are giving me a good feeling about the future developments - just take your time and read John Siracusa’s fantastic Leopard review.
CoreText from way back, then CoreAudio, CoreImage and now CoreAnimation - Apple is building its API sets one step at a time.
I believe this is the right moment to switch.