Peter M Howard ::

On Switching, Part the First

09June2006 [mac]
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This is the first part of some bits I’m writing about migrating from Linux to Mac. Herein, I discuss my initial setup and the couple stumbles along the way. I’ve more to say about reasons for migration, about my current setup, about open source software, and about my experience cutting a video on Final Cut Studio. Later entries will all be posted to ?bits=mac, so they will be found somewhere central.


Got home a couple weeks ago to find these boxes just inside the door. The smaller box, containing Final Cut Studio, was about as heavy as the larger 17” iMac.

Couldn't Wait

With uni the next morning and a bunch of work needing doing, I tried putting off unpacking… But couldn’t help myself.

Old, Meet New

I wasn’t able to simply switch over directly, so set the sleek new white box up next to my dying old laptop (which has been running on life support, necessarily plugged into an old external monitor and getting its network juice from the back of our windows desktop). Fortunately the iMac doesn’t need a lot of space.

Booted up and was pleasantly surprised by how easy the initial setup was. Annoyingly, I couldn’t get onto the wireless at first, so I had to wait till I’d logged in… The screen in the setup, for whatever reason (simplicity, I assume), only allowed me to enter a ‘WEP Password’, which wasn’t a lot of use as our network used a HEX key rather than a plain text password. Turns out throwing a ‘$’ in the front is enough to sort that, but I couldn’t learn that till I logged in and loaded up the network preferences…

Of course, the first thing I do whenever I log into a new computer is fiddle with the preferences to suit, so it was straight into System Pref’s. Again, very easy - set up the Mighty mouse to work as a right-clicker, the Finder to alphabetically sort icons (the single most annoying thing about OSX at uni!).

Then it was Software Update, had some 350MB of updates available, so installed those. Reboot necessary. (Interestingly, the next day there was another 100MB of updates available; I’m not sure if they were there before but it rebooted too soon, or if I just got lucky and some four new updates were released overnight.)

Then, and only then, I could start migrating settings and files from my laptop.

First up: email. Slight problem: my local mail server’s address just lives in /etc/hosts as I’ve not bothered to set up DNS. OK, Terminal > nano /etc/hosts… Working, but can’t write. Try ‘su’, can’t get the password… Strange. Some searching and I find that the root user needs to be activated in the NetInfo Manager (bonus points for security though). Done that, su, nano /etc/hosts… Add my local mail server, load up and all working.

I later learn that as my local user is an administrator, I’m automatically in sudoers, and can just sudo to make any ‘root’ changes. I’m not entirely sure about the security of that (seems a little dodgy; I liked it better when I thought the computer was protecting me from myself), but I’m using it now and have disabled the root user again…

And on soon noticed a significant problem: my IMAP connection to my local server kept dying on me… It’d work for anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes, then die. Couldn’t figure it out for a while (restarting Mail tended to fix the problem); was starting to look around for alternative mail programs, but couldn’t find any that integrated with Spotlight so searched for solutions instead. Eventually discovered that Mail was opening an inordinate number of connections to my server, overloading courier, which would boot the connection. There is, unfortunately, no way to change this behaviour in Mail… But fortunately I control my IMAP server, so I was able to boost the ‘MAXPERIP’ setting in the courier config from ‘4’ to ‘20’. Mail still occasionally fails on me, but it’s far less often and occasionally restarting Mail isn’t a big problem. Apparently boosting this setting can cause significant slowdown to the server, but as I’m the only local user it hasn’t been problematic yet…

Having got email working I started bringing files across. Mostly worked without a hitch until KDE slipped up while moving some files onto a network share that was no longer mounted, sending them into the ether. I didn’t lose a great deal as I caught it fairly quickly, but lost a document I was writing about how great the migration was going, which was, well, ironic.