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Apple Switch Blog

You've seen those Apple Switch commercials and they're pretty convincing. But you have questions. How does the Mac OS X really compare to Windows? How easy is it to switch? What's the deal with the one mouse button? The guys at All Too Flat have the same questions. Follow this blog as we explore the ins and outs, ups and downs (strikes and gutters) of switching from the PC to the Mac. If you have any questions for the team email

Happy First Anniversary1-5-2004 12:00 AM
Stephen mentioned that it is the first anniversary of the Apple switch blog. I can honestly say that I have been very happy with the switch to a Mac. I recently upgraded to OS X 10.3 (Panther) and I've been very impressed with it so far. Expose, Panther's graphical way to switch between windows, is absolutely amazing. Anyway, here is a list of some of the more important switching tips from the past year:

Also, I suggest you install TigerLaunch. It'll put an icon in your menu bar that lets you run applications. You can customize it to list whatever applications you want. It's kind of like the "Start Menu" in windows, except without all the clutter.

Finally, here are some really useful Mac-related links:

Matlab!10-25-2003 12:00 AM
I finally broke down and bought Matlab. I got the student edition (6.5 release 13) which installs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The OS X version is basically identical to the Linux version, just that it is compiled for mac. The installation documentation says that DarwinX and OroborOSX (X11 and an X11 window manager) are required and will be automatically installed when Matlab is installed. I guess they released this version of Matlab before Apple came out with it's own X11 window manager. Anyway, I wanted to use Apple's X11 because it's faster, and after googling I found a few pages that deal with installing and running Matlab using Apple's X11 window manager. After an hour of hacking around, I finally got Matlab installed and running. Here is the modified installation process for the student version of Matlab on OS X:
  1. Launch Apple's X11 program
  2. Pop in the installation CD, open the .dmg disk image, and run the mac installation program.
  3. It will skip the installation of DarwinX if X11 is already installed
  4. It will install OroborOSX, and then run the application. The application will say "Launching DarwinX", but it will eventually timeout. Click on "quit" when the timeout message appears.
  5. At this point, the matlab installation program is still waiting for OroborOSX to open. Eventually, after a minute or so, a "Do you want to continue to install matlab" message will appear, and you can click yes.
  6. The installation of matlab is pretty straight forward. The only thing is that you should deselect the option to link the binaries to "/usr/local/bin" because you don't have write access to that directory.
  7. After installation is complete, you need to modify the script that launches Matlab so that it opens X11 instead of OroborOSX. Browse to your matlab installation folder, and then open the "bin" folder. Right click on the "LaunchMatlab" application and select "Show Package Contents". Next, open the "Contents" folder, and then open "" in TextEdit. Replace the line:
    osascript Contents/launch_oroborosx
    #osascript Contents/launch_oroborosx
    open -a X11
    Save and close the file.
You can also run Matlab from the Terminal by running "[matlab-directory]/bin/matlab". You might need to setup the DISPLAY variable though (see the 3-6-2003 blog entry). Finally, I did the following to aide in running Matlab in Terminal:
  1. link matlab to /usr/local/bin so that it is the path:
    ln -s [matlab-directory]/bin/matlab /usr/bin/local/matlab
  2. insert an alias for a no-frills Terminal-based matlab into .cshrc:
    alias mat "matlab -nodesktop -nojvm -nosplash"
Other Notes:
  • The student version of Matlab R13 does not require that you install the "Jaguar" patch.
  • You need to be an administrator to run the installation application
  • iSyncing8-4-2003 5:48 PM
    In the past couple weeks I've been migrating from Microsoft Entourage to Apple's iApps (Mail, iCal, Address Book, and iSync). The transition has been fairly smooth and the only real problems that I have with Apple's suite is that (1) the todo items cannot have notes attached to them, and (2) you have to use Palm Desktop to read your Palm notes because there is no Apple software that does it. (syncing to Stickies would be great).

    The main reason for this transition was so I could buy a mobile phone that I could iSync. I ended up getting a Motorola v60i from Cingular. I also bought the Cingular "data connection package" that contained a USB data cable and some PC software. I connected my phone to my PowerBook using the USB cable, but unfortunately iSync couldn't see my phone. After perusing some online boards I figured out that the USB cable I had was probably not up to spec. That is to say, the manufacturer probably cut corners to make the cable cost efficient and thus only works with PC's. Anyway, I read that people had success with the Motorola-brand cable (SKN6311), so I ordered it online from eBay. About a week later I got the cable. It was the SKN6311A cable, but it still works.

    Anyway, using the new cable I was able to detect my phone in iSync. When I tried to sync, though, iSync sort of just hung. After about 10 minutes of waiting, I force-quit iSync and restarted it. Of course it couldn't open because it was still trying to find the USB phone. So i rebooted (boo! hiss!) my PowerBook and when I started iSync it informed me that my iSync library was corrupt and that I would have to sync everything from scratch. I did and then everything synced like magic.

    So the moral is that after some Windows-esque software behavior, I am now able to sync my mobile phone, iPod, Sony Clie, and PowerBook. I guess I can also use my mobile phone as a USB modem, but I need a 14.4 connection like I need a $100 cell phone bill; that is to say "not so much".

    Installing MySQL and PHP7-4-2003 1:54 PM
    Yesterday I installed MySQL and PHP on my powerbook. First, to install MySQL I downloaded the mysql OS X installation package. The package requires OS X 10.2 and will install MySQL into "/usr/local/mysql". If you're running 10.1, then you'll have to follow these instructions from Apple.

    Now for PHP. A stripped down version of PHP (MySQL support and some other stuff) is included in OSX 10.2. You activate it by typing the following commands in the terminal, which I got from this reference:

    cd /etc/httpd
    sudo apxs -e -a -n php4 libexec/httpd/
    echo 'echo "AddType application/x-httpd-php .php" >> /etc/httpd/httpd.conf' | sudo sh -s

    If you're not running 10.1, then you'll have to follow the instructions in the above reference.

    Finally, everybody likes a nice GUI interface so I installed phpMyAdmin into my web directory.


    Built-in Apache Web Server6-15-2003 6:00 PM
    Mac OS X comes with the Apache web server already installed. To activate it, you need to turn on "Personal Web Sharing". The default web directories are different in OS X than in a standard UNIX configuration. The root directory for the web server is "/Library/WebServer/Documents" and the cgi-bin directory is "/Library/WebServerCGI-Executables". Personal web pages are located in "~/Sites". Finally, the configuration files are located in "/private/etc/httpd". I had to change the httpd.conf file so that it allowed .htaccess files.
    Terminal Copy and Paste6-2-2003 4:42 PM
    Okay, here's the scenario. You're on a shell terminal and you want to copy the output of a command into a Word document. The problem is the output has more lines than the terminal, so you can't select all the text that you want to copy. What do you do? What do you do?

    The answer is to use pbcopy. This little program will copy its input into the Mac clipboard, then you can paste the clipboard into Word. But that's not all! You can do the reverse with pbpaste, which will dump the contents of the clipboard to the terminal output.

    For example, say we have a paragraph of text in Word and we want to capitalize all the words that start with "t". We highlight the text in Word and copy it, and then we run this command in the terminal (you gotta love Perl regular expressions):

        pbpaste | perl -p -e 's/\bt(\w+)/T$1/gi' | pbcopy
    Now when we paste into Word, all the "t" words will be capitalized. Amazing!
    iTunes 4 Music Store5-4-2003 12:05 PM
    Today I bought my first two albums from the iTunes 4 Music Store. Two pretty old Kool & The Gang albums. An album, regardless of the number of songs, is $9.99 and an individual song is $0.99. Actually, I saw an album for $7 somewhere. Anyway, that's great if the album has more than 10 songs, cuz then you're getting a discount. But if the album has less than 10 songs, then you might as well buy each song individually for 99 cents each. Apple discourages you from doing this by having one song that is only available when you buy the entire album. Pretty sneaky.

    Anyway, the Music Store is integrated pretty seamlessly in iTunes. After confirming the purchase, iTunes will download the music into a "Purchased Music" playlist and add it to the music library. You can then edit the ID3 tags to your liking, and pretty much do whatever you want with it.

    Slow Upload Speeds with DSL4-22-2003 12:17 AM
    I tried uploading some files and noticed that all my uploads were as slow as molasses. And the transfer speeds all dropped to nothing and the uploads timed out. Fortunately, I had this problem before on my PC, so I knew how to fix it. The problem is with DSL and MTU settings, which is basically how much data the network tries to send at once. If it tries to send too much, then it fails. My default settings were too high, so I had to lower them. Lowering them on the PC was as simple as downloading a little app to change it for me. It was a little trickier on the Mac, but not too bad. Basically you have to edit 3 system files. Apple's Knowledge Base has the walkthrough for it. One thing they neglect to mention is that all of this has to be done as root or with `sudo`.
    Kind of surprising this is such a tough thing- you figure a lot of people have DSL... oh well. Now you know how to fix it.
    Matlab Virtual PC Benchmark4-21-2003 11:55 PM
    Ken and Kate want to know how fast Matlab runs under Virtual PC. So, here it is. I ran the "bench" command in Matlab R12 on my 1 GHz TiBook (using Virtual PC to run Windows XP) and my Dell Desktop Pentium III 800 MHz (running Windows ME*). Here are the compiled results from both tests:

    Compaq Alpha 21264A Tru64 667 0.961.591.361.581.720.63
    Pentium III NT 867 1.431.751.051.431.750.94
    Dell Pentium III WinME 800 1.592.201.161.531.432.58
    HP PA-8500 HP-UX 552 1.182.801.352.062.253.73
    Pentium III NT-SGI 500 2.633.222.342.793.101.13
    Athlon Linux 600 1.632.902.212.442.933.92
    Compaq Alpha 21264A Tru64 667 0.951.601.291.563.647.00
    Pentium III NT 450 2.772.332.612.914.521.74
    SUN UltraSPARC-II Solaris 450 1.452.553.993.953.572.97
    SUN UltraSPARC-II Solaris 450 1.422.844.013.953.803.59
    SGI R12000 1.615.423.222.904.192.51
    SUN UltraSPARC-II Solaris 360 1.552.824.944.534.413.19
    Pentium II NT 266
    Pentium III Linux 450 2.432.513.753.514.955.75
    TiBook w/ Virtual PC & WinXP 1000 5.264.852.723.104.435.14
    IBM Power3 AIX 200 1.522.882.773.604.6622.25

    And here's a nice graph showing the relative speed of all these computers:

    As we can see, the 800 MHz Dell is about 2.5 times faster than the 1 GHz TiBook emulating WinXP. Here's another page that compares Matlab natively over lots of platforms. There's a TiBook in the R13 table.

    *Incidently, I got a blue screen of death from WinME when I tried to change the formatting of one of Matlab's benchmark figures.

    Installing Windows XP in Virtual PC4-19-2003 11:33 AM
    Well, I guess there are going to be times when you need to use Windows for one reason or another. So, I decided to install Windows XP using Virtual PC. Virtual PC is a PC hardware emulator that lets you run a PC as a Mac application. What's neat is that it is a PC emulator, so you can install any PC operating system (like Windows, DOS, Linux, BeOS, etc). You can create and run multiple PCs and save their states and return to them whenever you want.

    I started up Virtual PC and created a new PC for XP. I popped in my Windows XP CD and started the PC, but I got the message "No OS found on disk..." I made sure that the PC was to boot off the CD, but that didn't seem to help. I figured that my XP CD wasn't a bootable CD, so I needed to create a boot disk, which is an interesting problem because my PowerBook doesn't have a floppy drive. I hopped on the net and searched around and eventually found this site, which has a lot of different boot disks. The XP "boot disk" normally consists of around 5 or 6 floppies, but this site had compiled the essentials onto one disk. I downloaded the boot disk exe on my (real) PC and ran it to create a boot floppy. Then I used WinImage to create a floppy disk image file (.ima format) that I could use in Virtual PC. I copied the .ima file to my Mac and used Virtual PC to mount it as a virtual floppy disk. I restarted the Virtual PC and it booted off the floppy. I followed the instructions and navigated to i386 and ran winnt.exe to begin the Windows XP installation.

    The XP installation took a total of about 2.5 hours (most of it was copying files). I pretty much followed this guide to install XP with the most compatible settings. I selected FAT32 for my hard disk format because it is the most compatible with Virtual PC. I ran through the normal installation without any problems.

    Next, I used this guide to optimize XP for Virtual PC. This pretty much meant turning off all the rizzle-razzle features like shadowed cursors and fading menus. Finally, I installed "Virtual PC Additions" which allows for better integration between XP and OS X. You can do neat things like put a start menu in your dock, create shared folders between the PC and OS X, better mouse integration, and others. The most impressive thing I saw was when I copied a file to my XP desktop by simply dragging and dropping it from Finder! Pretty neat.

    Oh yeah, the name of my virtual XP PC is Balin.

    More on Wireless Networking4-15-2003 6:58 PM
    I'm writing this Switch blog entry in Bryant Park in NYC. There is an awesome organization called NYC Wireless that sponsers/organizes free wireless networks around the City. Yesterday I went to Tompkins Square Park. In both cases, I simply opened my laptop, clicked the network icon on the menu bar, and selected my network. Trivial. Speeds around 100kbps (or at least that was the fastest server I could find from which to download. It might be faster!)

    Wireless Mobility4-15-2003 11:44 AM
    I took my PowerBook to work today and opened it up expecting to have reconfigure the wireless connection. I looked at the menu bar wireless icon and it said "connecting to ECE-Wireless." Amazing! It seemlessly switched between my home wireless network and my work wireless network. I opened up the Network Preferences to see what had done that. It turned out that in the Airport preferences under "After restart or wake from sleep", I had selected "Join most recently available network" and "remember network passwords".
    Palm sync "OS X" installer 3.5.3 compatible4-15-2003 10:13 AM
    That's what I Googled for this morning. For some reason, there is an update to the Palm OS that is not compatible with non-Palm hardware, such as Samsung and Handspring. It seems to only be a problem with OS X and Palm desktop 4. For some reason, this little installer 3.5.3 kept getting installed on my handheld and a message said "not compatible" and i had to delete it by hand.
    There are 2 things to do to fix this problem. The first is delete the .prc file, which is in ~/Palm/Palm OS Updates/v3.5.3/*.prc . You might have to be an admin to do this (see sudo in last entry to do without logging out). You also have to delete the backup installer file, or else it will try to put it on again and again. The easiest way is to search your hard drive for "install" and it's the file called "installer 3.5.3" in your Palm backup directory. Good luck!

    Note from Ton: I don't have this problem with my Sony Clie.

    root Access in OS X 4-15-2003 8:58 AM
    The theory goes like this: There is a root password on yr OS X machine, but you don't know it. But sometimes you have to run as root (root is the UNIX user with super-permissions to do anything). Solution? Prefix any command you want the word `sudo.` You will have to enter your password, but then you can run anything as root. Pretty neat.
    If you get the error message "User xxx is not specified in sudoers file. This incident will be reported." Then you have to modify a special file that determines who is or is not priveleged to use sudo. If you are a non-admin user and you want to sudo, this will probably apply to you. (Warning: UNIX required) First you login as the admin. Then you launch a terminal window. Since you are now admin, you can sudo, so run `sudo visudo`. visudo will let you safely edit your /etc/sudoers file, which controls the permissions. Please Google for `vi` if you are unfamiliar with this editor because it's tough if you've never used it. Simply add your name to the list with whatever permissions you would like (for all, just copy the root line). For more details, see the sudoers man page.
    Mouse Gestures Via Cocoa Gestures4-14-2003 11:46 PM
    This is pretty cool. For me it's the killer-feature for any web browser: Mouse Gestures. Originating with Opera and implemented later by Mozilla, mouse gestures make for unbelievable control over your web-browsing experience. You hold down the right mouse button and move the mouse in a pre-set pattern to execute a command. For example, hold the button and slide the mouse right to go back. Slide left for forward. Draw an "h" for home. Close tabs. Reload. New windows. It's amzing.
    No Mac browsers come with this by default but you can get a cool program called Cocoa Gestures that let you define your own gestures in any Cocoa-based program, such as Safari or Camino. You define the stroke and the command, and voila! Mouse gestures!
    Unfortunately the most useful gesture ever can't be done, which is right-click-down on a link to open in a new window, but whatchagonnado, eh?
    Syncing an i300 Palm Phone4-14-2003 11:18 PM
    No, the i in i300 wasn't an iJoke. That's the name of my Samsung palm-pilot phone. Following the instructions from earlier in this blog I installed Palm Hot Sync (without the desktop) and then the Entourage conduit from Microsoft. I couldn't configure the conduit for a long time. It just wasn't an option. (This Mac isn't so easy). After a long time I ran Entourage for the first time since installing the conduit and closed it. After that, the setup worked.
    The conduit has an amazing option to have the "Handheld overwrite desktop once, and synchronize after that." Genius!
    On a way crappier note, there is no AvantGo support for OS X. AvantGo lets you download web pages to view offline later. I read the New York Times every day on the toilet this way. Sucks it doesn't work. Evidently there is a UNIX version though, and it might be possible to set up that way. But that's for a different blog entry.
    Oh, and in case these last 2 blog entries made me sound like a typical Mac user (i.e. I can't read), let me point out that the other "switcher" in the ATF team spent 25 minutes Googling for "linux shutdown" tonight before he could leave my apartment and it made him miss his R train :)
    iNot as User-Friendly as You'd Think4-14-2003 11:12 PM
    I've been having serious Mac issues for the past 2 days. First one was installing Safari Beta 2. Safari is Apple's web browser. It's really trim and quick, and beta 2 was supposed to have tabs (a la Opera and Mozilla) which are tough to leave once you've had (kind of like me :)
    Downloaded the new Safari. Because it is a beta, I didn't want to delete my old version, so I renamed it "Safari.bk" and copied the new Safari to my Applications folder. I ran it and the old one started. Odd. I tried again. Same thing. I moved the old one to the desktop. Same thing. I moved the old one to the trash. Same thing. I re-downloaded the new one and reinstalled. Same thing. WTF? Finally, for lack of anything better to do (and about 20 minutes later) I emptied my recycle bin. That did it! Huge!
    Now this doesn't seem so user friendly to me, now does it? Pretty crappy if you ask me. Not sure if this is an OS X issue, or a beta version of the software issue, or an inode thing (see my last entry). Either way, poo.
    On the other hand, Opera recently announced they are working on an OS X version of their browser. Huge!
    Strange Behavior4-12-2003 1:58 PM
    I had my first instance of strange behavior today. I rebooted my PC while my Mac was connected. When it came back, I tried browsing the PC shared drive again, but it couldn't find it. Everything started going very slowly. Everything on the whole Mac slowed to a crawl. I ran top but found no culprits. It might have been Finder (whatever that is). So I reluctantly rebooted for the first time. This solved my slowness issue and everything was fine again. Except iChat re-appeared in the Dock. I had deleted it yesterday, and now it's back. Go figure?

    Cool OS X fact for unix nerds: Mac Aliases (AKA Windows shortcuts or UNIX soft links) point to inodes (like unix) and not files (like Windows). That means you can change the name and location of your file and the alias will still find it!
    File Sharing on your LAN with OS X and a PC4-12-2003 1:54 PM
    All the documentation on the apple site said this was easy with OS X, but I couldn't figure it out. I assumed the problem was with my PC though. I right-clicked on My Documents and shared it. Then I went to Finder and command-K to connect to some location. I put in the IP addess of my PC (the local address, not the internet address, so it was and nothing happened. Then I rebooted my PC and turned off my PC's firewall and tried again. Boom! Browsing my PC's drive. Huge huge.
    Going from the PC to the Mac? That's another story for a later date. Which reminds me, I burned a CD on my Mac yesterday. You have the option to pick which filesystem you want to use. I selected Mac, which was a mistake because I can't view the disc on my PC. You need to use a DOS file system to vie w it in both places. Makes sense.
    iBoring4-11-2003 12:40 PM
    I dunno... this iLife is kind of boring. Plug in camera. Pictures go in iPhoto. Look at pictures.
    Where's the Spanish dialog boxes? Where's the "What would you like Windows to do? (a) Open camera in Photoshop (b) Open in Windows Fax Viewer or (c) Crash."
  • Get digital camera working? Check.
  • iSo iFar iSo iGood...4-11-2003 10:21 AM
    Digital music and photos are done. No problems. No issues. No crashing. No reboots.
    To get files off my old PC I wanted to use the network. In Mac Control Panel, you click "run FTP server" and thats it. Connected and transfered files. I guess it's kind of a crappy server (no users or permissions, just opens up your whole drive, but perfect for my needs as long as I firewall the Internet).
    Using an ipod with iTunes is amazing. Possibly 10 times better than the PC iPod. This is the first real noticably amazing thing, I think. Plug it in. That's it. No 10-15 minutes to load crappy-ass Musicmatch with hopes that it doesn't crash. Just keep it plugged in and everything is beautiful.
    Here's the To Do list (in no aparent order):
  • Digital Camera
  • Office / Entourage
  • Palm pilot / Contacts / Palm Apps (Vindigo, AvantGo)
  • Quicken (and Palm Quicken?)
  • Mozilla (or possibly Camino)
  • x11 / Fink /
    After all that is done, we start installing Linux on the ol' Dell. But that's a subject for a different blog.
  • Installing the Internet4-10-2003 8:18 PM
    Instructions to set up the internet (this time with AirPort): Click "airport."
    2nd ATF Member with a Powerbook4-10-2003 8:16 PM
    The second member of ATF is making the Switch. I'll try to stay as original as I can and not repeat everything Ton already said. Assume that I did everything he did already. So far my box is exactly the same as his, except I didn't get the DVD-R.
    Burning a DVD, revisited4-4-2003 9:54 AM
    Burning my first DVD using the Finder was a disaster. So, I looked around for some burning software and I got Roxio Toast Titanium 5.2. Under "Other" there is an option to burn a DVD. So, I loaded up a DVD with some MP3's and burned it. There were no "copying files" or "preparing files" steps, as before. The burning only took an hour, and the optional verification step took about 15 minutes. I also learned that my DVD drive has "buffer underrun protection", but I haven't tested that feature out yet.
    Cron and Schedules System Maintenance3-28-2003 12:22 AM
    So one of the cool things with OS X is that it really is UNIX. It has all the UNIX programs that you expect. For example, "cron" is a UNIX program that can schedule the computer to automatically run commands at specified times. The cron process is used to schedule maintenance to clean up and log various aspects of the system. The cron process uses a "crontab", which is a text file stored in /private/etc on the Mac (on other UNIX systems it's in /etc). Here's what the Mac crontab looks like:
    # /etc/crontab
    #minute hour    mday    month   wday    who     command
    #*/5    *       *       *       *       root    /usr/libexec/atrun
    # Run daily/weekly/monthly jobs.
    15      3       *       *       *       root    periodic daily
    30      4       *       *       6       root    periodic weekly
    30      5       1       *       *       root    periodic monthly
    How does it work? There are three commands run using this crontab, "periodic daily", "periodic weekly", and "periodic monthly." These commands run basic system maintence, like rotate log files and delete temporary files. The numbers on the left indicate when the commands should be run. From the left to right, the columns are the minute, the hour, the day of the month, the month, and the day of the week that the command should be run. Reading this crontab, the "periodic daily" command is run at 3:15 am, the "periodic weekly" command is run at 4:30am on Saturday (for day of the week, 0 means Sunday and 6 means Saturday), and the "periodic monthly" command is run at 5:30 am on the 1st of each month. Now I don't know about you, but my computer, along with myself, are usually asleep at those times. So, the system maintenance really wasn't being performed at all. I edited the crontab so that the maintenance will be run at times when my computer is more likely to be on (every day at 10:15 pm, every saturday at 11:30 pm, and every 1st of the month at 12:30 am). Here's what the new crontab lines looked like:
    # Run daily/weekly/monthly jobs.
    15      22      *       *       *       root    periodic daily
    30      23      *       *       6       root    periodic weekly
    30      0       1       *       *       root    periodic monthly

    Making PDFs3-25-2003 7:43 PM
    This is neat. So the OS X window manager is based on PDF's. That is, the instructions to draw a window on the screen use the PDF standard. What's neat is that printing also is based with PDF's. There's a "Save as PDF..." button in the print dialog so that you can save anything into a PDF file. That's need for Acrobat.
    Burning a DVD3-24-2003 7:12 PM
    I burned my first DVD a few nights ago. I wanted to backup some of my files before I left for a trip and figured that it was a pretty good excuse to burn one (I had previously backed up my MP3s on my PC, but I had problems with that because Windows doesn't like files with quotes, question marks, and some other characters that are allowed in OS X). Anyway, I basically wanted to backup my home directory, which was conveniently sized to just fit onto a DVD-R.

    I popped in the complimentary DVD-R that came with my Mac. A dialog box popped up and asked me what I wanted to do with the disc. I selected open in Finder and the drive whirred for a little and an error message came up, "Sorry, you don't have enough space on the boot drive to mount this disc for writing." Hmm...I checked my disk space and there was 3.7 GB free on my Axe, my boot volume, and 9 GB free on Beard, my second volume. I figured that I probably needed about 5 GB free on Axe so that a buffer could be created for the DVD. I freed up some space by moving some files around and popped the DVD-R in again. This time the DVD appeared on the desktop and I opened it up (4.4 GB free!). Dragged and dropped my home directory into the DVD and it started copying files...around 23,000 files totaling 4.3 GB. And when I say "copying files", I mean copying to the DVD-R buffer on the hard disk. This took about 1.5 hours! Unbelievably slow. After "copying" the files, I had to burn the actual disc. I selected "burn disc" from the File menu and it "prepared" the files and started burning the disc. I don't know how long it took to burn the disc because I fell asleep, but I know it took at most 2 hours. Oof...I guess that's what happens when you burn a 4.4 GB DVD at 1x speed.

    A pretty frustrating thing happened next. When I woke up the DVD was mounted on the desktop and I browsed the DVD to make sure that everything was okay. Then when I went to eject the DVD nothing happened. Huh? I tried all the methods...hold down the "Eject" button on the keyboard. When I dragged the DVD into the trash can (which in Mac lingo means eject [I never understood the rationale behind this]), an error message came up that said the DVD was still in use. I was getting pretty frustrated because I had to leave to catch a plane. I ended up restarting the Mac and was finally able to eject the DVD.

    Yeah, so that was my first experience burning a DVD. In summary, it took 3.5 hours to burn 4.4 GB, and I had to restart my computer to eject the DVD. In comparison, the equivalent amount of data will take at most 1.5 hours to burn on to 7 CD-R's. I guess the main problem, at least with the software provided with the OS, is that there is no way to write a DVD without buffering all the files needed for the DVD. But maybe there is software out there that does that (like Nero or EZ-CD Creator does when it burns a CD-R for the PC). In theory, you could also create a DVD master disk image using the Disk Copy utility. Maybe it's faster that way. I don't know, I'll try it next time.

    Porting UNIX Code3-14-2003 12:54 AM
    Over the weekend I ported a UNIX computer vision software package to the Mac. It's the in-house software that I use at work, and it's written in C, TCL/Tk, and Java. There are about 200 programs and several of them use X11 to view image sequences and render 3d images. The package has it's own installation shell scripts that utilize Makefiles to compile the package on the target platform. In order to install this package I needed to first install Apple's X11 application and the X11 SDK. I also had to install TCL/Tk (using the Fink installer) because for some reason Apple only provides TCL (a scripting language) and not Tk (a programmable GUI interface using TCL) in the OS. The standard GNU development tools like make and gcc come pre-installed on OS X.

    I only encountered two problems when I tried to compile the UNIX code. The first problem was easy to fix. One of the header files contained definitions for two external global variables, sys_nerr and sys_errlist. These two variables were also defined in <stdio.h> on the Mac, so the compiler issued an error about multiple definitions of external variables. Getting rid of the definition in one of the package headers solved the problem.

    The second problem took me about an hour to figure out. I kept getting weird errors about how the linker couldn't find a global variable in one of the package's compiled libraries. After some debugging, I figured out the problem. Suppose that there is one object in a library that contains a few global variables and a function. Also, there is a second object in the library that has a function that uses the global variables in the first object. The linking error occurs when a function in the second library object uses the global variables in the first library object, AND the program does not use the function from the first library object. The linker doesn't load the first library object because the function within is not used in the program. Thus, the global variables in the first object are not loaded for the second function. Apparently, the linker doesn't look for required global variables when determining which objects to load into the program. I checked the man pages for gcc and ld and couldn't find an option that fixed this, so I fixed the problem by moving some definitions around.

    These were the only problems that I had with porting the UNIX code. I was especially surprised that the X11 programs compiled without any modifications. I haven't tested the package completely, but all the programs that I've used work, as do the 3d graphics and image viewers.

    X113-6-2003 11:47 PM
    Okay, I think it's time to kick this blog up a notch. You know what I'm talking about...Increase The Geek!

    I installed Apple's X11 beta today. Apple combines the X11 client and server into a single package that is pretty easy to install. For those of you who need a refresher, X11 (or the X Windows System) is a UNIX windows-based interface package. It has a client-server model; the client requests something be drawn on the screen, and the server does the actual drawing and receives the raw keyboard and mouse input and passes it to the client. The cool part is that the client and server don't have to be the same computer. So it's possible to remotely log on to one computer and have a X application display it's window on a different computer. Neither of these computers have to be your computer, which makes X great for practical jokers (nothing like having a boobie picture pop up on your co-workers's screen right when the boss walks in).

    Anyway, the Apple's X11 package installs the libraries, binaries, and SDK into /usr/X11R6, which is a good place for it. To start the X-windows server, I ran the X11 application that was installed into the Applications folder.

    An xterm popped up. That was neat. I ssh'd into my computer at work and tried opening an X application...nothing happened. Hmm...oops, i forgot to setup the DISPLAY environment variable. But I don't know my IP address (i.e. I'm too lazy to log onto the router and look it up) and I'm behind a firewall so I don't think the environment variable will work. The solution, is to use the "-X" option in ssh to forward X11 through the ssh session. After I logged out and logged in I was able to open X applications from my computer at work and display them on my mac at home (granted, it was pretty slow because it was through a cable modem). Things seem to work most of the time. Mouse button support is a little weird; if you don't have three button mouse, you need to hold option or command (apple) to emulate a middle button or right button click. In emacs I wasn't able to paste using the real middle mouse button (I have a 5-button Microsoft IntelliMouse), but I was able paste using the emulated middle button. On the other hand, i wasn't able to get the font menu using shift-emulated-middle-button, but i was able to get it using shift-real-middle-button. Weird, but that's what you get with a beta. Here's a screen shot of my mac displaying a few remote X windows. From the top left, moving clockwise, there is an xterm window, an emacs window, a plot made by gnuplot, and an image.

    Note: If you add the following to the end of your "/etc/csh.login" file then you will be able to launch X11 apps from Terminal:

    if (! $?DISPLAY) then
        setenv DISPLAY :0.0

    Reader Email 2: Encrypted Disk Images3-6-2003 11:42 PM
    Here's an email from Gabe McIntyre about creating encrypted disk images for storing sensitive information:
    I was reading your switch adventures blog and noticed you had discovered the wonders of booting with the "T" for firwire funciton. Yes this is quite a security breach for the mac, but no more than any hacker could get into your computer, and copy files via an open port.

    I don't know if you know about this great little app that's standard on osx called Disk Copy? It is really great. You can make yourself a small virtual hardisk that is encrypted with a password of your choice.

    Start of Disk Copy from applications-> utilities folder Select make new blank image then give the volume a name, size and tell it to encrypt the volume then fill in a password and you get a mounted drive that needs an encrypted password to be opened which you can place your files into. You can even compress the files on the drive when your note using them!

    Reader Email: xPod, Firewire Target Mode, and Freezes3-3-2003 9:48 AM
    I got some reader email last week (it's good to know people are actually reading this). Here's a letter from Ted Roby:
    I have a few comments about your switch blog. Please take these as you will:

    1. The xPod app: I seem to recall this application is just an unsupported third-party utility to get at the mp3's, and was not created by Apple. Apple intentionally left the mp3's hidden when the iPod is mounted as a Firewire drive. If Apple intended to have the mp3's visible, I'm sure they'd have done quite a fine job on the interface, including giving you all the file data (song names and such) you could possibly want. I'm not saying I agree with Apple for hiding them.

    2. FIrewire Target Disk Mode being a "huge security hole": I would say being able to boot up a Mac with the Cmd+S keystroke in order to become root without a password is just as phenomenal. Regardless, ALL startup key options can be completely disabled with a simple security program Apple has released. It is an easy to use interface that changes the security level of the system's Open Firmware. With this option, anyone halfway concerned with security, can put their computer back into a state where opening the case and physically accessing the drive is required in order to circumvent security measures.

    3. Finder freezing up when adding a new wireless network connection: I've had this happen to me. I did not have to reset my Powerbook when it happened. Instead, I used alt+cmd+esc to open the Force Quit Applications window. From there I clicked on Finder and then the blue Relaunch button. If Finder is not the culprit, then Force Quit whatever other application is giving problems. Nine times out of ten, this solves the problem with no ill effects. This is because of OS X using bsd-style processes and protected memory.  

    Self Inflicted Kernel Panic2-28-2003 12:16 AM
    What is a kernel panic? Basically it is a fatal error in the underlying UNIX Operating System called Darwin. Usually if an error occurs in the Mac GUI, it will not affect the underlying UNIX OS. If the computer logs you out automatically for no reason, then that's probably a good sign that the Mac GUI crashed. You can log back in and the computer will be fine. On the other hand, a kernel panic is a lot worse. It is sort of equivalent to a blue screen of death in Windows. The difference is that Windows gives you an option to return to the (unstable) system, while Darwin requires the computer to be rebooted. Fortunately, kernel panics are pretty rare.

    Anyway, I found a Slashdot article that tells you how to create a kernel panic by moving a directory into the same location as another one of the same name. Here are the commands that you enter into Terminal (if you try this you may want to save your work and exit all your programs):

        mkdir ~/mydir
        cd ~/mydir
        mkdir mydir
        mv mydir ..
    BANG! Instant kernel panic. Here's what the error screen looks like...It's cool that the message is in several different languages. I haven't gotten one of these when using the system normally...knock on keyboard.
    Digital Camera & iPhoto2-22-2003 10:55 PM
    I finally connected my digital camera to my Powerbook. I have a FujiFilm FujiPix 1300 that I connected to the laptop via a USB connection. I turned on the camera and the computer crunched for a little bit and then it opened iPhoto for me. The camera appeared on the bottom with an "Import" button. The contents of the camera also appear as a drive on the desktop. Yeah, so it worked without any problems. Pretty neat.
    A Second Monitor2-20-2003 8:33 PM
    I finally attached my 19" monitor (from my old PC) to my Powerbook. There's a weird digital video connector on the Powerbook so you need to use an VGA adaptor (included) to connect a regular monitor. I opened the display control panel and hit the "Detect Displays" button and the monitor flickered a little bit and then came up in 640x480 mode. A second display options panel appeared on the monitor, but all of the resolutions were grayed out. I had to check the "Show modes recommended by display" on the main display options panel and then I selected 1280x1024. Next I fiddled with the monitor arrangements options so that I could move my mouse smoothly from one monitor to the other. It's actually a little bit of a disaster. The actual monitor is about 6" above the desktop (the top of the physical desk, not the virtual kind) and the powerbook display is about 1" above the desktop. That leaves about 3 inches of overlapping monitor space where I can drag windows back and forth between the two monitors.

    In other news, I finally finished importing all my MP3's.

    Really Big Files2-18-2003 8:13 PM
    My friend Kate was having some trouble saving a 2 GB Adobe Photoshop file on her Mac, so I did some research and found that the maximum file size for the Mac OS X file system (HFS+) is 2 GB. So I guess the next logicial question is what do you do if you want to master a DVD? The DVD master is bigger than maximum file size of the system! I guess the DVD software breaks it up into different chunks? I think this is a little odd since Apple touts the Mac as a multimedia-movie-making-DVD-burning computer. Anyway, here is a table with some information about the Mac OS X file system (HFS+) and various Windows file systems (NTFS, FAT32, and FAT16).

    NameMax File SizeMax Volume SizeMax No. of Files per Volume
    HFS+2 GB2 TB231
    NTFS (implementation)16 TB256 TB232-1
    NTFS (theoretical)16 EB16 EB232-1
    FAT324 GB32 GB4177920
    FAT164 GB4 GB65535

    1 TB = 1024 GB
    1 EB = 1,073,741,824 GB = 1 GB GB

    iPod as a Hard Drive2-14-2003 9:29 AM
    I met this guy on the plane the other day. He just got a PowerBook G4 too and he was watching movies on it. Anyway, I pull mine out and we start talking. I show him the desktop screensaver program and he absolutely loves it. So he plugs in his iPod to my computer and it appears as a hard drive on the Mac. You can browse the iPod hard drive, but you can't see any of the MP3's without a special utility program. Anyway, I copy over the program and then he tells me that I can have any songs on his iPod. I open that utility program that's on his iPod (I don't remember the name, xPod maybe) and it lists all the mp3 files, except that there's no artist or album information. So actually, the utility was pretty useless because you can only see the file names and browsing 20GB of MP3 file names, sorted alphabetically in a tiny window with 8 lines is a little of overwhelming.
    Guest Entry by Ben: PC laptop on AirPort2-12-2003 2:08 PM
    Last week I noticed an AirPort (Mac wireles router) box in the recycling bin of my aparment. I assumed someone in my building recently set up a wireless network. So I bought a wireless netowrk card (LinkSys from Circuit City. Cost $60, which is a lot, but I knew I could return it if it didn't work). Went home, plugged it in, installed the drivers, and found 2 networks in range. Awesome!

    Unfortunately they both required WEP passwords, so I had to knock on doors until I found the owner. We agreed to split the ISP cost so she gave me her password. Which was not the WEP password I needed. The PC needs a 40-bit key, which can be entered in ascii or hex and she didn't know it. After some Googling, I found the solution: Run the Mac Airport Admin utility, and one of the menu options is "Network Equivalent Password." I entered that into my PC network setup (without the '$') and VOILA! PC on the AirPort!

    Evidently one downside is that a PC can't configure the router, but I hear there is software out there that does it. And seeing as it isn't even my router, that shouldn't be an issue...

    Programmable Function Keys2-10-2003 8:53 PM
    So the Powerbook G4, like most computers, comes with the 12 standard function keys along the top of the keyboard. Apple has conveniently mapped most of them to common system functions (brightness controls, mute, volume, numlock, multiple screen switching, and eject). This leaves 4 keys, F8 through F11, that are unmapped.

    I really wanted to map these keys to control iTunes playback. Y'know, when the phone rings I want to be able to stop the music with a single keypress. Unfortunately, OS X doesn't have a native way of customizing the unused function keys (on the other hand, OS 9 does). I did some searching online, and I found a page which describes how to customize shortcut keys for iTunes playback in OS X. It involve using a free program called Youpi Key to customize the function keys to run an AppleScript telling iTunes various commands. Anyway, I followed the instructions online and it works really well. The Youpi Key program looks pretty customizable, so you can make a keyboard shortcut that basically does anything you want.

    It's Also a Firewire Hard Drive2-9-2003 2:22 PM
    I was at my friends house the other day and he wanted some files off of my laptop. The total size was around 6 GB; way too big for burning CD's and I didn't have any DVD-R's. I read somewhere that you can start up a Mac as a firewire hard drive. That is to say, you can plug it into another computer using the Firewire port and it will act like a hard drive. (This, by the way, is a huge security hole. Imagine restarting a Mac as a hard drive and copying all the files off of the hard drive. You don't need to login or open up the case.)

    Anyway, I restarted my powerbook and held down the "t" key (here is a list of other magic startup keys.) The "t" is for Firewire Target Disk Mode. The computer booted up into a dark blue screen with a giant yellow firewire symbol bouncing around (I guess we at All Too Flat are making an effort not to dangle our prepositions, so that should probably read "The computer booted up into a dark blue screen around which a giant yellow firewire symbol was bouncing.") There was also a battery bar on the bottom. I plugged my Mac into my friends Mac, both of my hard drive partitions appeared on his system, and we were able to copy the files over. Awesome.

    Note: I haven't tried connecting it to a Windows machine. It should probably work, as long as Apple's implementation of the hard drive emulation isn't some sort of proprietary drive format that only OS X understands.

    Note 2: I just read off the Apple site that Firewire Target Disk mode only works when connecting to other Macs (OS 8 and later).

    Transferring email from Microsoft Outlook to Microsoft Entourage2-2-2003 1:53 PM
    I finally figured out how to transfer my email from Microsoft Outlook to Microsoft Entourage. You would think that since they are both Microsoft products that you could import all your Outlook information into Entourage. Of course you cannot. I found a web page that had a description of how to import Outlook or Outlook Express email into Entourage. Here is the process:
    1. Import your Outlook email into Outlook Express (I was using 5.5)
    2. For each mailbox, select all the messages and then drag them into a folder in an explorer window. This will create an individual .eml file for each piece of email that you selected. You may want to select "View Detail" in the explorer window if you have a lot of emails, otherwise Windows will slow down a lot as it tries to add new icons and resize the window. Also, if you are dealing with a lot of emails or attachments this may take a while (~ 10 minutes).
    3. Zip each folder of .eml files and transfer them to the Mac.
    4. Unzip the .eml files on your Mac. You can drag the .eml files into Entourage and it will import each .eml file and place each email in its own folder. The web page said to only drag about 150 at a time, otherwise Entourage may crash. I was importing a lot of email (on the order of 25,000), so that didn't sound very feasible. Instead, I wrote a TCL script that concatenates all of the .eml files in a folder into one .mbox file. (Here is the globeml script).
    5. After globbing all the .eml's into a .mbox, drag the .mbox file into Entourage to import it.
    Doing it this way even preserves the email attachments. The only downside is that all the emails will show the current date in the "Date Received" field. The "Date Sent" field will be correct, so I had to change my mailboxes so that they showed the "Date Sent" field instead of the "Date Received" field.

    Update 03/04/2003: You need to use the Terminal to run the "globeml" script. For those of you unfamiliar with UNIX, I converted the script so that you can run it from a window. Copy the "eml2mbox" script into the directory with the .eml files and then double click it. The Terminal will open automatically and run the script on the directory. Here's the script eml2mbox.

    Latex-in'1-28-2003 9:00 PM
    Installed TeX today. There's a pretty informative site (albeit very ugly) called Mac-Tex that has a list of all the different TeX packages and frontends available. The best frontend package that I found (which was free) is called TeXShop. It has an editor and viewer built-in. I had to install the actual TeX engine first, but the instructions given on the TeXShop page are pretty good. I downloaded the teTex distribution and installed it using i-Installer, which I guess installs TeX and TeX-related applications (e.g. image conversion) from the internet. Anyway, the teTex installation went smoothly. I opened up TeXShop and was able to layout a test document and a 40-some-odd-page manuscript. I had to change the typesetting method to "tex to ghostview" (the document I'm working on has EPS images that the default "pdftex" typesetting can't handle). Great! Now I can work from home...ummm...
    Crash!1-28-2003 2:11 PM
    I crashed Mac OS X today! Well, not really crashed, but I hung the system. I was adding a new wireless network location for the wireless network at work. I set the location to automatically connect to the network. So I hit "Apply Changes" and the computer sat there with the little rainbow spinning disc...and sat there...and sat there...

    I think it might have something to do with the intermittent wireless connection (the base station is pretty far down the hall and behind two doors). Anyway, the connection must have cut out in the middle of the connection process. I took my laptop closer to the base station and the problem didn't fix itself, so I had to reset the computer. ctrl-command-power. Bong! Crunch...crunch...crunch...everything's back to normal. Weird.

    Burning Music CDs1-27-2003 12:05 AM
    Tonight I burned my first CD using iTunes. Actually, it was two CDs. Anyway, you can only burn CDs from a playlist (as opposed to selecting songs by browsing the MP3 library). So I had to create a new playlist and drag the songs that I wanted into it. Then I clicked the "burn CD" button in the upper right and inserted a blank CD. iTunes informed me that the playlist was too long for a normal music CD, so it gave me the option of either burning an MP3 cd or creating a truncated version of the audio CD. It would have been nice if it could create multiple audio CDs from the playlist. Oh well. Anyway, I split up my playlist into two and burned two CDs.
    Importing MP3s into iTunes1-24-2003 9:02 AM
    I discovered a neat trick in iTunes last night. iTunes (should I capitalize that "i" because it's at the beginning of the sentence?) has something called "Smart Playlists", which is a playlist composed of mp3s that follow a set of rules. For example, I can make a "Breakfast with the Beatles" smart playlist that looks for MP3s with "The Beatles" as the artist. The cool part is that the playlist automatically updates itself. So if I add another Beatles album to my collection, the songs will be added to the playlist automatically. You can also do things like make a playlist of all songs from the 1960s (assuming that your MP3s have the year information in the ID3 tag), or make a playlist of the all the most recently played songs.

    Anyway, the cool thing I discovered was that I can make a smart playlist that lists the songs that were recently added to the library. Now finding those imported MP3s without ID3 tags is really easy.

    Fink, UNIX, and MP3s1-22-2003 1:21 AM
    I installed Fink today. Fink is a package installation program used to install UNIX programs that have been ported to OS X. This includes libraries like X11 or the jpeg library, and programs like emacs or abiword. All the software installs into the /sw directory so that it doesn't overwrite the existing OS X shell commands in /usr/bin. All you have to do is select a package that you want to install and Fink will download it, along with all the required libraries, compile it, and install it for you. The default interface is a clunky terminal-based application. I didn't like it so much (required too much relearning of keys) so I installed FinkCommander, which is a GUI interface for Fink. (As a test I installed "ntop", which is a program that shows network activity).

    Anyway, I installed Fink so that I could install an mp3 ID3 command-line editor. There were two ID3 editors listed in the fink package list. One has a GUI and the other was strictly command line. In Fink they are classified as "Unstable", which means that the OS X port has not been completed yet (but I suppose means that someone is in the process of porting it). I tried to install them and Fink couldn't find the source files on the server.

    Oh well, I did some more searching on the internet and found another id3 editor. I tried to compile it using gcc, but the program required the <termio.h> header, which isn't present on the system. I looked around the include directories and found <termios.h> and <term.h> but these didn't seem to have all the information that the program wanted from <termio.h>. One of the annoying things about OS X is that if you're coming from a "true" UNIX environment (e.g. FreeBSD or Linux) you'll notice certain things are missing. Certain options on the basic shell commands are missing (e.g ls -b). I'll write more about this in another entry.

    Anyway, I searched some more and found another ID3 command line editor. This one was perfect, and it conveniently included a Makefile. I untarred the source and ran "make" and it compiled without a hitch.

    So why all this hassle for an ID3 editor? I want to import my old MP3s into iTunes. Unfortunately, not all my old MP3s have ID3 tags, and this is what iTunes uses to build its database. When it finds a file without an ID3 tag, it sets the name of the song to the file name. Then you have to go back and manually change each entry with the correct artist and title. This can be a big pain if you have a lot of files (I have about 8GB of old MP3s). All my old MP3s are stored with a file name like "artistname-songtitle.mp3". So I wrote a TCL script that parses the file name and enters the information into the ID3 tag information of the MP3. It prompts the user to verify that the information is correct for each MP3. Now I can import the MP3s into iTunes without worrying about "losing" the MP3s in the database because the artist or title information is absent. Doing it this way is about 5 times faster than using just iTunes to edit the ID3 tags.

    Printer Setup1-19-2003 11:33 AM
    I installed my Lexmark Z52 printer today. I opened the "Print Center" application and it asked me to auto-detect my printer. I did this and after some "auto-detect crunching" an additional dialog box came up and asked me to find the printer. So I selected USB and the list showed my Z52 printer, but I couldn't select it because the drivers weren't installed. I hopped onto the internet and grabbed the drivers off of Lexmark's website and ran the installation program (I had to logout and login as administrator because the installation program wasn't smart enough to switch users). Now when I selected the printer the "add" button became highlighted. I calibrated the ink jets, cleaned the nozzles, and the printer is ready to go. On to printing those ATF memberships...

    In other news, I figured out a way to import my email from Outlook into Entourage. I still have to test it a little more and write a script to automate it. More on that later.

    Microsoft Money --> Quicken 20031-17-2003 1:04 AM
    Moved my finance records from Microsoft Money to Quicken 2003. It was actually really easy. In Money, I exported each account as a "Loose" QIF file. I copied them over to the mac, and then created each of the accounts (they have to be exactly the same names). Finally, I opened each account and imported the appropriate QIF file. It looks like all the transaction information was saved correctly.

    Money doesn't let you export budget or bill information, so I had to enter those into Quicken by hand.

    Look Ma, No Wires!1-16-2003 10:33 PM
    I installed a wireless network last night. I got a Linksys Wireless/4-port switch combo router. To connect to the network, first I had to turn on the airport card (I read on the internet that battery life drops is very much dependant on the number of active network adaptors because the adaptors have to try to routinely poll the networks even if they aren't connected to anything. Thus I created several network locations that turn off any unneeded adaptors). Then I opened the "Internet Connect" application, and created a new network location with the name and password of the network. I had some problems getting the password to work. The WEP key in the router is generated using a pass-phrase. Apparently the translation from pass-phrase to key is not the same for the Linksys Router and Apple's Airport. I tried the raw hex key, but that didn't work either. After some poking around on the online knowledge base, I found that you need to use a "$" before the password if you are entering the WEP key in hex. (I also read that they added the additional options for the password format in the more recent version of the AirPort software). Anyway, with that done, the network is working great. I'm not exactly sure where the signal cuts out, but it seems to work upstairs, the kitchen, and my housemate's room.

    I also discoverd that I can setup a Computer-to-Computer wireless network if I want to transmit data between two computers w/o a wireless hub.

    Wheelie-mouse and a cool trick1-15-2003 2:25 AM
    Plugged in a wheelie-mouse and it worked. The "Mouse Settings" appears next to the "Trackpad Settings" in the Mouse section of the control panel. The right mouse button brings up the context menu and the wheel scrolls most of the windows. I still need to download the drivers to make the other buttons functional.

    Cool thing: hold down the shift key while clicking the close or minimize buttons at the top of a window. Also works if you hold down shift while restoring a window from the dock.

    Dwalin reborn1-15-2003 2:22 AM
    The new Dwalin is born. Reinstallation of the OS X software was a easy enough. I inserted the CD and restarted while holding down the "c" key. The first thing I did was to partition my hard drive into a 15GB drive for the System and Applications and a 40GB drive for data. The actual partitioning took a few seconds (doesn't formatting in Windows take a long time?). Then I followed the screens to install the system. I went downstairs to make some ravioli and when I got back the system was installed and the computer had already rebooted and was waiting for me to enter my information. I guess that's one nice thing about a computer and OS that are created by the same company. Don't have to mess around with drivers and worry about incompatibilites.

    Next, I reinstalled all the Apple applications and OS 9 Classic using a different installation program on the same CD (Don't let the name fool you, it's actually a DVD).

    I upgraded the system software and then installed norton antivirus. Oh I should mention that I'm setting up my system to have an administration account and a regular account. I think one of the problems that I encountered before was that I was running programs as an admin user, thus the programs could potentially corrupt the system files. From now on I will use an admin account to install programs (if necessary), and my normal account for everything else.

    I installed Office, again. I had backed up my emails and contacts on my PC before I reinstalled, so recovering all my Entourage data was as simple as copying the files back into the "Main Identity" directory. Opened up the program and all my preferences, emails, and everything were there.

    Installed Palm Desktop again. I wasn't able to "auto-detect" my settings using their setup program, so I just created a new user and then copied the appropriate files into the data directory. Then I did a few syncs to bring everything up to speed.

    Now all I have to do is import my pictures and mp3s again.

    Zap the P-RAM1-14-2003 10:10 AM
    I also zapped my PRAM last night. PRAM is parameter memory that Apple uses to store some system preferences like the time and the trackpad preferences. To zap the PRAM you have to reboot while holding down the apple-option-p-r keys until the system chimes twice.

    I think you also have to restart 3 times, or something. Anyway, my system was still acting funny afterwards.

    Adventures with Norton Antivirus1-14-2003 9:29 AM
    So last night I got Norton Antivirus in the mail (I had the foresight to order it a week ago, just in time for this crisis), and popped it into the drive and opened the program from the CD. Now apparently the executable on the CD is a mac classic (OS 9) program so the system tried to start the OS 9 emulator...and...and...nothing happened. That is to say, the window just sat there and the progress indicator didn't move. Okay, crap, definitely not good.

    Plan B, it's a bootable CD so that if your system gets infected you can start up on the CD and run the antivirus program. I restart the computer and hold down "c" (for CD-rom) to boot up off of the Norton Disk. The computer boots into OS 9 and everythings fine until the system crashes right before it's done (Error 11). A few more iterations of this and a quick trip to the knowledge base at Norton and I discover that this critical-last-ditch-effort-to-rid-your-system-of-a-potentially-data-destroying-virus bootable CD is in fact not bootable with certain macs, namely the Titianium Powerbook, the eMac, and the 17" iMac. WHO MAKES A BOOTABLE CD THAT ISN'T BOOTABLE? Answer: Norton.

    Okay fine, plan C. I load OS X and try to install Norton Antivirus. A dialog appears and asks for my administrator password. It doesn't accept it. I try again, same thing.

    Plan D: I set my startup disk to OS 9, and reboot. Upon seeing the Mac OS 9 desktop my first reaction is "Whoa, what the heck is this?" You really take the prettiness of OS X for granted. Finally, I am able to run Norton Antivirus. Hooray! I scan my disk and it finds no viruses. Well, that's a relief.

    Verdict: My system is corrupted.

    Unstable System or Virus?1-13-2003 12:07 AM
    Woah, experienced some major setbacks today. There is something definitely unstable about my system right now. Whether it is a corrupt file or a virus, I don't know. I did download a lot of programs recently, so it's possible that the mac was infected. I'm supposed to be getting Norton Antivirus tomorrow so maybe that will shed some light on this. Anyway, here are the problems that I faced today:
    1. Tried to install the "Developer Tools" using the OS X Installer (the Installer program, provided by Apple, that handles .pkg files). The program crashed.
    2. Tried to install "Fink" using the OS X Installer. Same Problem.
    3. Tried to re-install the Apple applications from the System Software DVD. The DVD uses Installer, so of course, it crashed.
    4. Created a new test user to see if the crash was due to a corrupt preference file. I logged out and tried to log in using the test user. Computer hung during the log-in process. Hit apple-option-esc, the computer got stuck in an endless blue screen (ha ha, the mac BSOD). Had to do a hard reset by taking off the keyboard and pressing that little button in the depths of the laptop. I did this twice.
    5. Tried to delete the test user. It doesn't report an error, but the test user is still there, as is the test user's home directory.
    6. Downloaded the new version of Safari (the Apple web browser) and tried to install it, but couldn't mount the disk image. Not only that, but one of the child processes, hdi_agent, of Disk Copy went into a weird memory race condition where it continually ate up more and more RAM. I finally killed the process after it reached around 280MB. (Thank god for top)
    So, that's where we are right now. At the beginning of the day I wanted to write a script that helps to automatically add id3 tags to mp3s. I found a nice UNIX program that handles id3v2 tags, which uses the id3lib library. That meant that I had to install Fink to install id3lib. Fink is an installation progam that automatically downloads and installs programs ported to OS X from UNIX (e.g. Gimp, latex, tetex, etc, etc). Fink needs gcc, which is provided with the Apple Development Tools.

    Things I might try later:

    • Checking system for virii.
    • Checking directory structures for permission problems.
    • Try installing a .pkg file from the terminal (if possible)
    • Calling tech-support.
    • re-installing OS X.
    • Switching to Linux.

    Watching DVDs on a TV1-11-2003 3:24 AM
    Tonight I went over to a friends house and we used my PowerBook to play a DVD on the TV. I used a 1/8" stereo to RCA converter to connect the headphone jack to the TV, and then I used the S-video to RCA adaptor to hook up the video signal. Hit play on the DVD and it half worked. That is to say, we could hear the movie but not see it. I double checked the connections and saw nothing wrong with them. Then I opened up the display preferences and hit "Auto Detect". Suddenly, the TV screen flashed and my desktop and dock were on the TV. The computer was using the TV as a second monitor! The image was blurry and the resolution was pretty crappy, but what do you expect from a TV. I hit the "switch screen" button and both the TV and my screen showed the same image. In the process, my monitor had changed it's resolution to be the same as the TV's. I opened the DVD player (it had exited because the resolution had changed) and watched the movie. I guess in theory I could have dragged the DVD window into the TV but things are tougher when you can't see anything because you're behind the TV.

    In other news, I found a really good IRC client called X-Chat Aqua which is a port of X-Chat, a UNIX X11 program. It's still in the beta stages, but it has the same feel as mIRC.

    Background + Screensaver1-10-2003 4:28 PM
    Last night I downloaded a program called Desk Effects that lets you run a screensaver as the background image. Not only that, you can also run another screensaver as the foreground image, displayed transparently in front of all the windows. The foreground saver is kind of obtrusive, but the background saver is amazing. It's very cool with the screen savers that slowly pan and fade images (e.g. cosmos). Also pretty cool with this very realistic aquarium screensaver.

    Throw in some transparent terminal windows and you're all set.

    Clie Memory Stick & Mac OS X1-9-2003 1:21 AM
    My Clie has a memory stick slot and it is possible to mount the memory stick as a drive on the PC. Then I can download images or movies directly to the memory stick. Unfortunately, Sony doesn't provide this software for the Mac. There is a third-party company that sells something called "The Missing Sync" that can mount the Clie as a drive on the Mac, but it's $20. Supposedly you can also use the software to make iTunes and iPhoto recognize the Clie as a mp3 source and a photo library. Except for memory-stick feature, the Clie syncs fine using the most recent version of HotSync.
    Syncing Entourage and a Palm Handheld1-9-2003 12:06 AM
    So I decided to avoid the whole importing-email fiaso for a while. I can live without my old emails on the mac, but I definitely need to be able to sync my palm handheld with entourage. (I have a Clie SJ-30) My plan was to sync my handheld with my PC, then sync my handheld with my Mac. Thus, my contacts, to-dos, calendars, and notes would be transferred from the PC to the Mac.

    I downloaded Palm Desktop 4.0 from and installed it without any problems. Oh wait, there was one problem. I had to restart my computer in order to activate HotSync. Not really a problem, but I wanted to see how long I could go without restarting the system. (The uptime was 4 days) Anyway, I had read online that if you sync with Palm Desktop and then install the Entourage Conduit and then sync again, you will get double entries for all your info. So, after restarting I immediately downloaded the Entourage Conduit from Microsoft, and installed it. I configured the Entourage conduit so that the Handheld overwrote Entourage and hit "sync" on my handheld...

    Great, everything looks like it worked. All my to-dos, notes, and calendar entries were there. But wait, some of my contacts were missing. About half of my contacts had been imported into Entourage. That made absolutely no sense. I tried syncing again but still no change. I hit the Microsoft website and looked for some info on the conduit. In a tutorial page I noticed a "Synchronize Private Records" option in the conduit configuartion window that I had ignored before. I looked at some of the contacts on my palm and lo-and-behold, some of them were "Private". So I checked the "Synchronize Private Records" option and re-downloaded my handheld to Entourage. BOOM! Problem solved.


    The Program Has Unexpectedly Quit1-8-2003 9:59 PM
    My first application crashed today. The StuffIt Expander (a file decompressor) died and a message box appeared that said:

    StuffIt Expander has unexpectedly crashed. The system and other applications were not affected.

    You gotta love protected memory.

    Microsoft Office v.X1-8-2003 1:17 AM
    Installed Microsoft Office X tonight. I'll be honest, I've been dreading this one. Why? I'm pretty entrenched into using Microsoft 2002. I have all my contacts, to-do lists, calendars, email, and notes in Outlook. I've read that moving these files to Entourage (the OS X equivalent of Outlook) is somewhat tedious and there's no straight forward way to do it. Entourage has some limited data importing capabilities. It can import from Apple Mail and Outlook Express, but it can't import from Outlook. There is a way around this by exporting files in Outlook using CSV (Comma Separated Values) files. Obviously this sounds *a little* sketchy since we are talking about emails here (and don't emails have commas and quotes and what happens if you forget to close a quote, etc, etc, etc). Hopefully this won't be a big pain (meaning, this will be a big pain). I know that there are scripts out there that can help, but most of them aren't free.

    Anyway, I installed Office without a hitch, and I even upgraded it to 10.1.2. Entourage looks pretty nice. It has the same feel as Outlook but doesn't look exactly the same. It has a lot of different views that are available with one click. You can look at emails sent at a certain times, recurring calendar events, and stuff like that. And there is a custom view button that is kind of like the "Outlook Today" view, except customizable.

    NES Emulator1-6-2003 11:52 PM
    I got tired of moving mp3s and jpegs, so today i moved over my NES ROMs. I was using Nesticle on the PC, and I looked around and I found a similar Nintendo Emulator called RockNES for the Mac. It's okay, definitely not as fast as Nesticle. The screen flashes when there are a lot of objects and the screen is scrolling. RockNES also changes the screen to 65k colors, and fortunately when you exit it changes the colors back to whatever you had before.

    I also tested my Gravis GamePad Pro USB. I plugged it in and it appeared in the device list, started RockNES and it worked fine. (Joystick support is disabled in the free version of RockNES. You need to get a shareware plug-in for RockNES in order to enable joystick control.)

    Importing Old MP3s1-6-2003 3:27 PM
    So I have about 10 GB of old MP3s from back in the day. The problem is that most of them don't have ID3 tags. Last night I started importing some of them. I started off with some ID3-less Beatles albums. After importing, the songs appeared in the library without any album or artist information. I selected the group of songs and added the artist, album, and genre by editing the ID3 tags (using the "Get Info" command). Then to enter the track numbers, I selected the first song and edited the track number. A neat thing about the ID3 tag editor in iTunes is that there are "Next Song" and "Prev Song" buttons so that you can move between mp3s easily while entering the information. Another nice thing is that the keyboard focus stays the same between songs. This makes changing a bunch of song names or entering track numbers easy. The focus even stays the same if you close the editor and open it again.

    I did encounter a bug with the way iTunes handles track numbers. At one point I noticed that I had entered the wrong track number. I changed the track number to the correct value and the file name changed to "02 01 Some Song." Apparently when you change the track number iTunes will blindly add the new track number to the beginning of the file. That was annoying. I fixed the file by changing the song name, "01 Some Song", back to "Some Song".

    I was pretty impressed with how quickly iTunes could search the mp3 library. As you are typing in the search field, the results appear on the fly. Navigating the library using Genre, Artist, and Album names is very fast too.

    iPulse1-5-2003 10:45 PM
    I installed a monitoring program called iPulse. It kind of looks like a fancy speedometer. It shows the memory usage, disk usage, cpu load, memory pages, and network traffic in a little window that is always on top. The window is transparent so you can see things going on underneath it.
    Images and iPhoto1-4-2003 10:13 PM
    I copied my digital pictures over to the Mac and then imported them into iPhoto. Importing copies the images into the iPhoto library sorted in directories by date. The first time I imported all the images at once. This was a complete travesty because it meant that I had to manually assign the images to each album. I got frustrated with that so I deleted all the images and started over. On the second try I found an easier way by just dragging a folder into iPhoto. This will automatically import the contents of the directory and place the images into a new album.
    Playing MP3s with ITunes1-4-2003 6:04 PM
    I added my mp3s to the Itunes library. I selected the directory that I wanted to import using the "Add to Library" menu item. It took a while (there were about 6GB of mp3s) because itunes had to copy all the files into its own directory structure. There's an option to turn this off, but I figured I might as well let Itunes handle the directory structures. I deleted the original mp3s.

    Plugged in my mp3 player and it was good to go. I have a Nomad IIc with an expansion card. Both the internal and external memory cards appeared in Itunes and I could copy to them without any problems.

    Copying Files1-4-2003 10:40 AM
    My PC has two ethernet cards. This makes transferring files between my PC and my Mac very easy. (I guess in theory you only need one card, but the second card makes it nice because I can surf the web while files are being transferred) I connected the two using a crossover ethernet cable. My second PC card has an IP of The Mac automatically selected a different subnet, so I had to manually change the IP to Then I setup an FTP server on my PC and ftped to it from the mac. So easy. Now i'm transferring my mp3s via 100 Mbps Ethernet. This may take a while...

    Incidentally, the name my PowerBook is Dwalin.

    Another nice thing about OS X is that there are hot corners for the screen saver. you can set a corner of the screen so that if you put your mouse there for an extended period of time then the screen saver will turn on, or you can set the corner so that the screen saver never turns on. That's really handy if you're trying to babysit a download.

    FTP & IE Bookmarks1-4-2003 9:50 AM
    Installed Transmit, a nice little FTP client.

    Migrating Bookmarks IE:
    This took longer than expected because the mac IE didn't import favorites like I expected it to. Thankfully, Apple had a nice page on importing favorites. In IE on Windows, I selected "Import and Export" from the file menu. I went through the wizard and selected "Export Favorites" and "Export to File". I named the file "Favorites.html." Next, I transferred the favorites file to the mac and put it into the [home directory]:Library:Preferences:Explorer directory . The favorites are now available in IE. I saved the old favorites file because there were some nice links in it. Also, I had to repopulate the links bar, by dragging the links onto it.

    Upgrades & Opera1-4-2003 12:52 AM
    Upgraded my OS X software to 10.2.3 using the "Software Update" control panel. This was pretty painless. All I had to do was restart after the installations were complete.

    Installed Opera 6. Looks about the same as on Windows. When I downloaded the installation program and ran it, it created a virtual disk on the desktop. I had to copy the Opera folder in the virtual disk into the Applications folder. Then you have to "Eject" the disk to get rid of the virtual disk.

    Installing the Internet1-4-2003 12:29 AM
    Instructions to setup internet: plug in ethernet cable connecting laptop to cable modem.
    The Plan1-3-2003 7:04 PM
    One really nice feature with the PowerBook is that if you close the lid it will automatically go to sleep (instantly), and if you lift the lid it will automatically return to life (instantly). And when I say "instantly", I mean in less than a second. No really, none of those "Returning to windows" screens.

    Here the plan for switching to the Mac (in no particular order):

    • Setup Internet Access
    • Update the OS X system files
    • Install internet applications (FTP, Opera, etc)
      • Migrate internet settings (bookmarks, etc)
    • Install Microsoft Office
      • Migrate Office XP settings to Office X
      • Migrate outlook data to entourage
    • Copy Documents (mp3s, movies, files, etc)
      • Itunes
      • IPhoto
    • Migrate Peripherals
      • palm
      • digital camera
      • MP3 player
      • printer
    • Migrate other software
      • Microsoft Money --> Quicken 2003
    • Install other Mac Software
      • Virtual PC
      • BBEdit
    • Install UNIX Software
      • fink
      • latex
    • Install Development Software

    The Box1-3-2003 4:21 PM
    My G4 Powerbook came today. This blog will detail all the steps that I took to switch from a PC to a Mac environment. Hopefully it won't be a difficult process. Here is the contents of the box:
    • 1 GHz G4 laptop w/ 512 MB RAM, Superdrive, built-in Airport card, 60 GB Hard Drive, 64 MB ATI Graphics Card, and 15.2" screen
    • Nifty square power transformer
    • Long cord attachment for transformer
    • Modem cable
    • Software Restore CD
    • Hardware Test CD
    • Blank DVD-R
    • Airport Installation CD
    • DVI to VGA adaptor
    • S-Video to RCA adaptor
    • Various Documentation & Warranties
    • 2 Apple Stickers
    I took the laptop of the box and plugged it in and turned it on. The first thing that appeared was the registration screen. I had to enter my name and address and other information and then it asked me to setup my internet. I was at work, so I skipped that section and it told me that i still need to send my information apple at some point.

    Next I played with the system preferences. I really didn't change anything dramatically, but I did put the dock on the right side of the screen (since the powerbook has more horizontal screen space). One thing that is missing is a way of running any program from the dock (like the programs menu in windows). One way around this is to add the "Applications" folder to the dock. I did this by dragging the "Applications" folder from the hard drive a spot in the dock next to the trash can. Now when i ctrl-click (otherwise known as the context menu, or right mouse button for windows users) all the applications appear in a menu. You can also hold down the mouse button to get the same effect. In actuality, all that is happening is that the dock is showing the contents of the applications folder in a menu. You can browse the hard disk in the dock by doing the same thing with the hard disk icon.

    If you don't want an item in a dock you just drag it out of the dock and it disappears in a cloud of smoke (literally!)

    I also turned on the option the clicking and drag-lock option for the track pad. The drag option is pretty nice. To drag-lock something you double tap on the track pad, the trick is that you have to drag your finger on the second tap. this will lock it into dragging mode, so you can lift your finger if you run out of space on the pad. Finally, to finish dragging you tap the track pad again.

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