Move to Mac, Part 2

This article continues from Part 1

Now, I’ve played about with Linux, installed a few apps, mainly using functions like RPM, but I’ve even built a couple from source. I thought Windows had a much better way of installing apps and something Linux needed to aim for, but Apple’s approach makes that seem like something out of the Stone Age. Download, double-click, drag icon into the apps folder, voila. To uninstall: find the icon in the apps folder, right-click, select Move to Trash. That’s what Linux should be aiming for, not forcing people into the terminal window to type obscure commands.

Next was installing some of my beloved apps: Thunderbird and Firefox. Again, simple installation, but then I needed to try and import all my settings and archived mail. I’ve done this on Windows machines before, but articles I saw online suggested it wasn’t going to be as easy for the Mac. In fact, I tried things like importing the stuff via and then re-importing to Thunderbird, but that didn’t work. The Mac had already configured my network so I could access my other machines and connect to the shared drives (I’m not yet sure how to connect to hidden shares yet though), so all I did was drop into the profile folders of each application, copy the prefs.js files and move them over. For Thunderbird, I had to create one mail account (before coying the prefs.js file), then I simply copied the contents of the Mail subfolder (again, from inside the profile folder) and pasted it into the relevant place on the Mac, fired up Thunderbird and voila, all my mail and settings (except my passwords) were there.

Now one thing that was bugging me when I started writing email was that, despite picking the correct keyboard type, my @ sign was in the wrong place, as were a few other characters. Some hunting about led me to a fix that involved importing a UK keyboard layout.

Something Windows users will notice pretty quickly is that the End and Home keys don’t do what they do in Windows. Thankfully, in Firefox at least, CMD+LEFT ARROW replicates Home and CMD+RIGHT ARROW replicates End and on some apps the Home and End keys do work as expected, but it’s hit and miss.

As for whether the machine is powerful enough, well, I had it playing music from the HDD, transferring a couple of GB of data via the LAN, a bitTorrent client downloading, a 100+ MB file downloading via my browser, VNC viewer open controlling my PC, my email client open and I was still happily installing applications and surfing the web.

At the moment my main concern is getting my Mac to play nice with my mouse and keyboard via the KVM switch. I have a wireless Logitech package, but they run through PS2 ports on my KVM. The Mini hasn’t got any PS2 ports, so they need to be converted into USB. Using a Y-cable is causing problems though, partly because the keyboard does output to USB and, reading the instructions that came with it again, if you’re using USB you only need to plug in the keyboard USB connector to get both controls. Obviously I can’t do this as some of my machines will need to get the signals from keyboard and mouse, and the KVM outputs to two PS2 connectors. The problem is, when connecting via the Y-cable, I think the Mac is trying to read a mouse signal coming from both the keyboard and mouse connectors and getting confused, which leads to fun, but just plugging the keyboard in doesn’t work. I’m hoping some individual PS2-USB adapters will solve it (and those were a pain to track down at a reasonable price).

The Mini comes with an 80GB HDD, which is plenty for most of my stuff (and nice not to have to partition), but I’ve got numerous DVD rips that I was using to chuck on my laptop when I was working abroad to save me carrying the original disks (and risking damage or theft). So I yanked the 120 GB HDD from my Windows box, bought an external drive enclosure and plugged it into the Mac. As it’s formatted for NTFS, the Mac read it without me needing to change anything. Unfortunately, the USB cable from the drive is causing enough interference that it makes my speakers hum and disrupts my wireless keyboard signals. I’m hoping a better quality cable will sort it, otherwise it’ll have to go back.


  1. Stephen

    I was thinking about buying a Mac Mini, just to get a feel for how the Apple OS works. Only thing that's stopping me is, would it be ok to connect it straight to my humble Dell lap top?

  2. Lee

    You shouldn't have any problems, I'd use a wired solution as it's more stable and easier to setup, assuming both machines have network ports (the Mini does). If you don't have a hub or router, simpley buy a Cat 5 crossover cable (the crossover part os important), plug in to each port and give them IP addresses then away you go.

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