TapMigrating to Mac (Part 1)

As I said earlier, the internal debate about which system to switch to has been decided and I have bought a Mac Pro (base specification + an extra 2GB memory) with VMware Fusion for virtualisation. Not that there was anything wrong with Ubuntu that I discovered but I needed new hardware and this was good value and has a reputation for quality and reliability. The alternatives were big name PC brands like Dell who wouldn’t guarantee that anything but Vista would work (or sell it without an OS) or independent box builders who don’t seem to stay around long enough to provide backup.

My first impressions were, not surprisingly, very good; Apple have the capacity to Wow! you at first look. Then came the period of terror when I wondered if I would ever get used to it. After three weeks (one of which I was away) I think that I am mostly over that but a few things are proving a bit difficult. I am not getting on very well with the Mighty Mouse. Having configured it to get rid of the Dashboard popup every time I press the scroll nipple too hard and configuring a proper right click, I still have problems controlling it. Scroll; forward is ok but keeping it smooth on the way back is quite hard, and some applications require you to be very accurate. I may need to get a third-party rodent.

Some little things:—I wish full-screen really was full not just big! The desktop icons are a bit big for you to have many on the screen. Command(Apple)-X, C and V are a bit awkward for Cut, Copy and Paste. Giving the machine a sensible name was tricky (I am still not sure I have done it right). I would like my mounted disks to reconnect when I log back in.

I struggled for ages trying to get the TimeMachine backup system to write to my NAS until I discovered that it is not supported, so now I have put on a spare FireWire external drive (called Tardis 🙂 for this. Using it for just account files rather than the whole system uses very little space.

The sleep system is very good but had an unfortunate side effect. The power consumption in sleep mode is so low that it triggered my Intelliplug to shut down, switching off power to all peripherals. This should be a *good thing* but one of these was the aforementioned FireWire disk. When the system was woken up it refused to recognise that a drive was even connected. I tried everything; unplugging, switching on/off and rebooting in various orders but finally what fixed it was using the other FireWire socket on the drive. I don’t know if the first one was damaged or if it was something else as I haven’t tried switching back and now have the drive on permanent power.

A surprising thing I have noticed is the number of updates I have been getting. I expected the initial batch after first switch on because it would be impossible for them to ship fully patched systems but I have had 13 since then in ones and twos including 3 to firmware. Also an unexpected number of them require reboots, even ones for the Safari browser—not the unix style at all. Otherwise they do install very easily and I am impressed with the Sudo based admin password system. It is much easier than keeping a separate Admin account.

A major change from the initial ideas was to scale back the virtualisation to just a single XP guest. I realised that my plan based on a guest machine for each functional task was going to prove very difficult to maintain as there were a number of applications that would need to be on all of them to make it usable. The overhead of keeping them all up to date was going to be too much. A correspondent has also pointed out CrossOver Mac which works a bit like Wine for Linux i.e. allows Windows applications to run in the OS X environment as separate windows and without needing an XP guest (or licence). None of my troublesome applications are on their compatibility list but I am told that WaveCorrector works fine so I will give it serious consideration when I have completed the migration.

What I will do now is detail the application migration using the categories I used in the initial proposal post. You may ask why I don’t use more of the standard built in programs—well, I am used to others and, anyway, I still have to use a PC at work so the more that is common the better.


  • Firefox. Very few problems, though some extensions are clearly not relevant. I thought that one of my favourites, HtmlValidator, was Windows only but on a second look there seems to me a Mac version so I will give it a try. I hardly used IEView (and I should test using a genuine Windows version anyway) but losing AutoHide will be a shame.
  • CuteFTP I haven’t bought the Mac version yet as I thought someone said that seamless FTP was built into Finder but I haven’t been able to locate it.
  • Zoom search engine generator. Installed in the XP guest but not yet tested. I am hoping that it will be quite a bit quicker.
  • HTML Tidy Not tried yet. I mostly use it in the FireFox plugin and in the (sadly missed) NoteTab.


  • Thunderbird. Remarkably easy. Some extensions are not relevant but transferring the mail and configuration was just a matter of finding the profile and copying it across. The official guide and this blog post helped a lot. To quote the cliché “It just worked.” The only minor detail I had to tweak afterwards was to locate the Signature files. This is an application that is very sensitive to inaccurate mousing. See below for the Enigmail extension.
  • PopFile anti spam system. It works fine but it was not easy to install—I have written a separate post about this.
  • Pop Peeper minimal POP server status. For the moment, I have installed this on the XP guest. This is not entirely satisfactory as I need it more often than I have the guest running. I am wondering if there is a Thunderbird option to download the titles only from a POP server (which is what this program does). I use it to let Mary know that she has mail waiting as I am connected a lot more than she is.
  • Exodus Jabber IM client. I am using the built in iChat at the moment. This works fine but doesn’t open my rooms automatically when I login.

Document processing

  • OpenOffice for word processing and spreadsheets. I have installed NeoOffice, the Mac dedicated version of OpenOffice and I have found no problems so far.
  • PaintShopPro for picture editing. I haven’t done anything here yet.
  • NoteTab for plain text editing. I have been using a combination of the built in TextEdit and vi but I miss the real thing as it was so fast and flexible. Hint: to convert from a Windows file to a Mac one, use the terminal command tr -d '\r' < input > output. Most programs ignore the differences but some, like shell scripts, are fussy. Oh, and by the way, the # key is Alt-3 hidden behind the £!
  • Adobe Reader. The built in Preview seems to be adequate.
  • OmniPage Pro. OCR. Installing the printer/scanner drivers also put on OmniPage LE but I have not tried it yet.
  • CutePDF pseudo printer driver. All applications I have used so far have a native “Output as PDF” feature so I haven’t needed it.
  • DjVu image viewer. Not tried yet.

Family History

  • Family Tree Maker for Windows. Installed in the XP guest but not tested yet.
  • Resource File Viewer. Installed in the XP guest but not tested yet.
  • Ged2HTML. Not tried yet.
  • Some home grown software. I haven’t tried compiling my own code yet. I suspect the only problem may be the user interfaces.

Music preparation

  • Rip—Exact Audio Copy with Accurate Rip. Not tried yet. Without direct access to the CD-Rom drive I can’t see this working very well.
  • Digitise—Wave Corrector. Installed in the XP guest and it works fine for editing files except for a little graphical display lag. I haven’t tried it for analogue recording. This is an applications that requires rapid and accurate scrolling and I am finding that difficult with the the supplied mouse.
  • Encoding—LAME. Multi-platform but currently only installed in the XP guest for Wave Corrector.
  • Edit—Audacity. Not tried yet but it looks easy.
  • Library & Tagging—MediaMonkey. Installed on the XP guest with no problems. I have no intention of getting into iTunes.
  • Control—Sonos Desktop. The Mac version was installed. The version on the supplied CD didn’t work at all, a known problem with Leopard I think but I can’t recall the details. The downloaded version was fine.
  • Download—µTorrent. Bittorent (which I always thought was only a commercial port of µTorrent) has a Mac version but it is very lacking in facilities compared to the Windows version. I am also having router firewall problems so it is not tested properly yet.


  • Garmin MapSource. I have tried to install it on the XP guest but it doesn’t seem to work. This needs more investigation.


  • As this category primarily mirrors the church Windows system, it will remain on the Windows legacy system.


  • AVG anti virus. Although it will have very little use I have installed it on the XP guest and it works fine.
  • ZoneAlarm firewall. Installed on the XP guest and works with no problems. The OS X firewall configuration is a bit opaque. I tried switching it to the most secure mode and all my access to the NAS and other network shares stopped working so it is obviously *too* secure. I will need to look into it more to see if it is possible to configure it but it doesn’t look as easy as ZoneAlarm.
  • GnuPG encryption. The dedicated Mac version was installed using the excellent instructions at Zeitform. Only the base product, Preferences (for configuration) and DropThing were installed but I will probably add FileTool later. The Enigmail Thunderbird extension interfaces to GnuPG seamlessly and also provides key management. The only glitch was at the Windows end. I found that the GUI application wouldn’t export all my existing keys in one go (bug) so I will have to use a command line instruction.
  • PINS password manager. Installed on the XP guest with no problems.


  • I haven’t tested it for my own software, but I have installed the optional Xcode developer kit on the Mac which should provide all the facilities I need,
  • MinGW Minimal GNU for Windows with compiler etc. I will need to install this on the guest if I am to continue to maintain Windows versions of software I have written.
  • Tortoise CVS versioning system. As above.


  • Backup4all. Installed on the XP guest but not tested yet (tut tut). The Mac TimeMachine backup mechanism is running and seems to do the job but I have gut worries about a full system recovery using it.
  • Pen Drive Manager—replicates and backs up memory sticks. Installed on the XP guest and it works seamlessly but I can’t see this TSR type program working with CrossOver Mac!?
  • WinZip. Installed on the XP guest because it may be needed. OS X has a built-in facility though I have not tried creating ZIP files yet, except via the command line

Other software

  • Eraser—file and disk blanking system. Not considered yet.
  • FreeUndelete—File recovery. Not considered yet.


  • 2 x 1280×1024 LCD monitors running an extended desktop. During the migration I am using one screen on each system. The dual head graphics card on the Mac should give no problems although the Mac desktop is geared up to wide-screen.
  • The Mac Pro is reputed to come with a high quality sound system including digital in/out but I have not tried it in earnest yet
  • SCSI connected Canon Scanner. This will probably remain in limbo though I will leave the interface card and software on the legacy system.
  • External NAS for music store and backup. No problem except as noted above for TimeMachine.
  • Network connected Canon MP600R Printer/Scanner. The supplied Mac drivers and software installed without problems, though a lot of the utilities have not been tested.

That is many of the applications covered but, except for mail, browsing and a little document processing, I haven’t migrated the workload yet with all it’s associated data. Watch out for the Part 2 update in a few weeks time.

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