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.

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:

Clock
Calendar
Calculator
Weather

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 Editor.app
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.

Caveat:
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.