Tag: windows

Switching to Mac – The Journey Begins

It’s been about 7 or 8 months since we picked up a MacBook for Christine, as an early Christmas gift.  Seeing how easy the transition was for her inspired me to make the transition myself.  I’ve always wanted a Mac, and seeing as how I’m a “designer” or “coder” or whatever you want to call it, it seems fitting that I have one.

After getting her MacBook, Christine never turned on her Windows laptop again, except for me to reformat it to give to her little brother, Ryan.  Was it that simple? It couldn’t be. There’s no way switching could be that easy.

Important files are kept in some form of Google docs, or an external hard drive. E-mail’s kept on web-servers.  Could it be that easy? Turn off old computer, turn on new computer?  For Christine, it was.

For me? It’s going to be a little more complicated.

For starters, I’m just about 30 years old.  I started using PCs when I was about 5 or 6. That puts me at 25ish years of PC experience, primarily with Windows. (Albeit I started with DOS, but I don’t think that counts.)

Can someone who knows Windows as well as I do switch to Mac and OSX so easily, as my wife did?  I’m going to find out.

I plan on buying myself a Mac Pro and 30″ Cinema Display.  Pretty big for a first personal Mac, right?  I think I’ll survive, and here’s why:

As you may, or may not, know, I’ve been contracting for a local University the last 6 weeks or so.  When I first arrived, they gave me a pretty old under-powered PC to use.  I quickly outgrew it, and had to seek something else.  There were no “better” Windows machines around, so I grabbed a 20″ iMac.  It’s a few years old, and has its problems, there’s no question about that.  At first, I was lost. I didn’t know what did what, or how to do the things I’d grown so comfortable with over the years on Windows.  I got angry quite often (still do, in some cases), and had to look things up.  Simple things, that most Mac users would laugh at you for.  But I’m learning.

Here’s how I know I’ll survive when I get my own Mac at home: when I go home, and turn on my monitors to look at something on my PC.  I dread it.  I won’t be one of those “I’ve switched, now I’ll bash Windows” types.  But I legitimately dislike having to use Windows at home.  I like the Mac.  I’d probably like it even more if it was newer, and didn’t have hardware problems that cause it to freeze and crash a bunch of times (4 reboots required thus far, today.)  I don’t hold that against the Mac though, it’s fairly old, and probably on its last leg.

I’m going to try to document the things I learn as I make the transition from part-time Mac user to full time, as well as photograph my new set-up once I get it.  I’m pretty excited, and much more at ease now that I’m sitting at a Mac most of my days, while doing work.  I’ve been learning by immersion. It’s a good way to learn, and I’m lucky I get to do it without having to spend money on a Mac, to learn I didn’t like it. (Which, thus far, is not the case.)

New Computer – Migration In Progress

I finally gave in, and purchased a new computer yesterday. Namely, the one I’ve had my eye on for the last few weeks. I splurged, and bought it yesterday, from CompUSA. Smartly, over the border, to save on tax. Specs: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 quad-core processor, dual 320 GB hard drives, 3 GB RAM (PC5300), 16x LightScribe DVD drive, Vista Ultimate (with Media Center), built in wireless networking, wireless keyboard and mouse. I also upgraded the video card, to support dual DVI. I, easily, let the sales rep talk me into the top of the line video card. (GeForce 8880) As we know, I can’t live without dual monitors these days.

My old PC will now live in the living room (P4 single core, 3GB PC3200, 1.6TB storage) as a music share. Though I learned a valuable lesson, when you read online that “displaying a PC on a TV (even an HDTV)” that it’ll look horrible, they’re not kidding. At 800×600, the screen’s barely readable, via DVI. Luckily once iTunes is started, the TV will be shut off, and iTunes will do its thing.

In migrating from my old XP box, to the new Vista box, there’s a few things that are obviously different. I had the intention of installing XP over Vista when I got the machine home. However, I think if I never give Vista a chance, I’ll never get used to it. Sure, it’s got some quirks that you have to adjust to, but so did XP when it came out. Here’s how I migrated, which may help you:

My migration had two major necessities, 1) to get all the extra junk off my old machine (programs/files), 2) get that extra junk onto the new machine (programs/files)

What I did was the following: as I uninstalled a program from the old PC, I installed it on the new PC, one by one. The good part of this was that the new machine was much faster than the old, so the processes finished about the same time. Perfect. Some important things to remember, before uninstalling an application, that may slip your mind:

  • If your application requires user settings, see if there’s an option to back up those settings. (ie e-mail applications, FTP clients, browser favorites)
  • If your application needs to be downloaded from the internet, install it before you uninstall the old one, in case you need a serial number

The biggest, and most helpful thing I found in my migration, was an application called MozBackup. What MozBackup does is simple, it takes all your settings from both Firefox and Thunderbird, and dumps them to a file. You then e-mail that file (or copy it over) to the new computer, and install it. It captures everything! Though it warns you that some extensions might not work, I didn’t have any issues. Firefox captured: bookmarks, links, extensions, cookies, cache, and display settings. Thunderbird captured: all my e-mail settings (43 e-mail accounts settings), all my saved/archived messages, and e-mail signatures. Amazing. If you have to move from one PC to another, and use Firefox/Thunderbird, definitely download MozBackup. It’s free, and worth every penny.

I’ve still got more work tonight to do, installing video processing applications, mostly. One note to make: TivoToGo does not work with Vista. There’s supposedly some hacks you can do, to make it work. Luckily there’s a VIIV option available, that works with Media Center, that I downloaded, and it worked. However, if you don’t have Media Center on your Vista PC, you can easily still get to your Tivo:

Open up trusty Firefox (or IE, if you’re dumb), and type in: https://<your tivos ip address>/nowplaying/index.html (if you don’t know your Tivo’s IP address, you can get it from the settings on your Tivo itself)
Username: tivo
Password: your media access key (gotten/set at Tivo.com in your account)

This will allow you to download files directly to your PC from your Tivo(s). I’ve found, honestly, that the download speeds going direct from Tivo-PC are faster than if you use Tivo’s software. I haven’t found a way to get files to the Tivo just yet. (Sidenote: if you have video files on your PC that you want to watch on your Tivo, you can easily convert them using Videora Tivo Converter to something Tivo can understand. Though you’ll need to upgrade your TivoToGo software to the Plus version. I think I paid $30 or so, and is was worth it. Hopefully Tivo fixes the Vista issues, so things work as expected.

The most important thing to remember when you’re moving from one PC to another- be sure to copy all the data you want to save, before deleting it. If that means copying it to more than one location, to ensure you’ve got it, do it. I’d rather have two copies, than zero copies.

Next project after software installations are finished: ripping every CD we own to the “old” computer, and hooking it up the audio system. That’s a project in itself.

One Monitor? Two Monitors? More?

Ever since I started using a dual monitor set up at home (two 19″ Samsung LCD monitors), I can’t live without two monitors. When I started my new job here, they gave me a fairly beat up old laptop. Which is fine, I can cope with 15″ to look at. The bad news was the max resolution is 1024×768, which I stopped using a number of years ago.

So I brought in my own 17″ LCD to use in conjunction with Windows XP’s fancy “extend my desktop” feature. Combined with Realtime Software’s Ultramon, makes for an excellent workspace (even at different resolutions.)

However, I found something that comes in handy as well. If you’re off to a meeting, and can only bring your laptop (and not the second monitor), don’t use the “disable secondary monitor” option in Ultramon. What I’ve started doing, is leaving it enabled while I’m off with the laptop. Why? Easily, to cause less clutter.

Windows XP still thinks you’ve got a second monitor attached, as does Ultramon. With some handy keyboard shortcuts (I’ve got mine set up as Control + > and Control + < to move windows to the other monitor), you can still dump programs you’re not using to the other “monitor”, even though it’s not connected. This allows you to easily move things you don’t need in front of you, to clear up your one (less than optimal resolution) monitor. Handy little trick, if you’re stuck with just a laptop.