The Great Migration: XP to OS X

After 15 years of solid MS/PC use (with occasional Linux flirtation), I decided I wanted my computer to be an appliance, not a science project. This is my log of the difficulties I encounter. I like my MacBook, I do. But there will be no gushing here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Damnit, iTunes, Stop Stealing My Whole Internet Connection

Most of the problems I've had with OS X so far have had to do with file sharing with Windows. One of the worst has been when file sharing has throttled my internet connection, leaving me without email and the web until the file sharing is done. Now this isn't really a problem with Windows or OS X, but OS X has a solution: traffic shaping. You'll need OS X 10.4 for this to work, and this specific solution applies only to file sharing with Windows, but the lessons learned could certainly be more broadly applied. I've taken the following predominantly from Mac Geekery, but I've adapted it to my own needs.

Okay, so open a Terminal (Applications --> Utilities -->

Remember, Terminal is extremely powerful and can do pretty much anything you ask it to do without first asking you if you're really really sure and then offering you an Undo option. So be careful. That's the only caveat I'm doing. Don't blame me. I am not an expert.

Type the following:

sudo ipfw pipe 1 config bw 50kbit/s

You'll want to set the "50kbit/s" to something appropriate for your own internet connection. This is the amount of bandwidth you are allotting to Windows File Sharing, so it should be small enough to allow plenty of other traffic on top of it, but large enough so that you can still get files at a reasonable rate. Okay, press return, and you'll be asked for your administrator (not root) password. Enter it.

Next type:

sudo ipfw add pipe 1 dst-port 137-139

Press return. And that's it.

If by chance you screw up or decide this is a terrible idea later, type this:

sudo ipfw flush

And everything is undone. Phew.

This can probably all be more elegantly executed and I will update this as I read further on traffic shaping.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dashboard: That Thing I Set to Pop-up Accidentally When I Mouseover the Top-Right Corner

I'll admit it, I do use a few Dashboard widgets (hey, new user, if you don't know what Dashboard is press F12 now.):

iCal Events
AirPort Radar
Album Art Widget
Moon Phase Widget

As well as a few more prepackaged ones:


But, as MacWorld notes, Dashboard can be something of a resource hog, and like any other resource hog, you want to be able to turn it off when encoding video, playing graphics intensive games or using Photoshop. Luckily, besides the method MacWorld details above, there's also a widget for it.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Stop Dashboard Widget. The irony is readily apparent here, but go ahead stop Dashboard, and then try playing Civilization IV on your MacBook. I think you'll agree that it's less insanely slow than ever!

Tell me about widgets you find actually useful in the comments.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Play Nice Children: Mounting Windows Shared Folders

One thing you'll notice right away is that finding shared files on Windows machines with OS X is less than straightforward for long-time Windows users.

Assuming you've got a shared folder setup properly on a Windows machine on your network, it goes like this:

1. Open Finder
2. Click Network
3. Click the desired [Windows Workgroup]
4. Click the desired [Computer Name]
5. Click Connect
6. Select desired [Shared Folder] from drop-down
7. Click OK
8. Open Finder
9. Click [Shared Folder]

And what's so "less than straigtforward" about that, I hear you asking? Nothing at all, if you don't have a password on your shared Windows folder. But with the addition of a password, let's start again from step 6.:

6. Select desired [Shared Folder] from drop-down
7. Click Authenticate Again
8. Click Name panel
9. Type [Windows Login]
10. Press tab
11. Type [Windows Password]
12. Click Remember this password in my keychain (but only the first few times, until you learn)
13. Click OK
14. Select desired [Shared Folder] from drop-down again (if it's not the only one)
15. Click OK
16. Open Finder
17. Click [Shared Folder]

And this might all be tolerable if clicking "Remember this password in my keychain" actually worked, but you'll quickly learn to skip step 12, because OS X refuses to remember this password. I've read that this is supposed to provide better security, but then why pretend to offer the option in the first place? My search for a simple method for opening a shared folder led to a complicated setup process, but luckily for you, I'm about to walk you through each step.

Using Applescript to Automatically Mount & Open Windows Shared Folders (On OS X 10.4.7)

That's right, we're gonna learn Applescripting today, but not really.

1. First go to Finder --> Applications --> AppleScript --> Script
2. In the Script Editor paste the following in the first pane:
tell application "Finder"
if (folder "[Shared Folder]" exists) is false then
mount volume "smb://[Windows Workgroup];[Windows Login]:[Windows Password]@[Computer Name]/[Shared Folder]"
end if
end tell
tell application "Finder"
open "[Shared Folder]"
end tell
Replace the words in brackets with your own information. For a shared folder that's not password protected, simply omit "[Windows Login]:[Windows Password]@".
3. Eject the shared folder if it's currently mounted, then click Run in Script Editor to test your script. If you've done this properly, a Finder window will open with your shared folder in the top left pane.
4. Now, saving the file (more involved than you'd think):
a. Click File
b. Click Save As...
c. Type a name
d. Set "Where:" to Desktop
e. Set "File Format:" to application
f. Select "Run Only" check box
g. Unselect "Startup Screen" check box
h. Click Save
5. Eject the shared folder, then double-click the file you just saved on your desktop, you should see the same results as in step 3.
6. Congratulations, you've just knocked 16-17 steps of keyboarding and mousing down to one double-click.

This could become annoying (and desktop cluttering) very quickly if there are more than a few shared folders you regularly use. My solution to this is Quicksilver, but that's an entirely other post.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Jim, it turns out if you start your iPod (video) on a PC running Windows XP, you should avoid attaching it to a Mac and subsequently allowing that Mac to run the iPod Updater. You'll end up with a corrupt file system.

We'll have updates as we get them here in the studio.

Next post will include a walkthrough of a fix for this, assuming I've got one.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

So I Just Grab That Square with the Three Diagonal Lines?

For the record, I will never ever stop wanting to be able to resize windows from all four corners and all four sides. Any ideas?

Copy! Merge! Replace! Panic!

Unlike countless other individuals (and another) easily found with a cursory googling, I did not fall prey to the type of copy/merge/replace confusion/disaster so tragically recounted in the forgoing links. But I have had a hell of a time keeping files on my old desktop synchronized with those on my new MacBook. What am I talking about? I'll start over.

In Win XP when you copy/cut & paste or drag & drop a folder from say the C: drive to your backup on the D: drive, the default behavior is to replace all files of the same name, but retain all unique files in the destination.

Meanwhile the default behavior on OS X (with Finder) is to delete the entire destination folder and replace it with the source.

(And here is a more eloquent description of the difference I'm talking about.)

Now, let's not argue about which is better, or whether I should expect OS X to behave like XP. I don't care, and I don't. Let's proceed from the assumption that I want the functionality of the XP behavior.

Well, it turns out there is no native method for what we'll call the XP Merge in Finder, nor anywhere else in the OS X GUI.

There is meanwhile a very very unbelieveably large cottage industry of file synchronization and merge utilities all with price tags that seem outrageous for a function I used to get built in, not to mention hassle free.

But so a not so cursory googling led me eventually to SyncR (third app from the bottom), a magical app with all the functionality of the XP Merge plus extra options like synchronizing both ways. Plus SyncR is incredibly intuitive. The source directory is called... Source. The destination is called... Destination. Which weirdly, is not the case with other free apps (this one looks pretty good until you find out the configuration window is too large and therefore uncloseable in 13" MacBook).

So but problem solved: use SyncR, but also tell Apple to get off their asses and work this functionality into Finder.