I’ve been a happy penguin for years now, but my personal laptop (Asus M3000N) died last thursday. Took it for a checkup, and the motherboard is busted. It’s nearly 3 years old, so no point in getting it fixed. Happily, I was promised a new laptop by my employer, MediaLab of UIAH. MediaLab is full of designers and new media professionals, and virtually everyone here uses a Mac. So I was given a brand new MacBook: 2.16GHz, 2GB, 140GB, DVD-RW, WLAN, Bluetooth, IR remote, iSight, and the works.
Obviously, since I’ve worked for years on Linux using ion, I wasn’t going to be very happy with a track pad and a conventional windowing environment, even if it was designed by people who understand something about usability. So my first tasks were to build ways of running Linux on the machine.
What I’ve seen of Macs, they have remarkable energy saving capabilities, plus they plug into practically any peripherals out there. So I figured that at least for now, I’d be happy running Mac OS X natively, and then Linux as my working GUI in a virtual machine. So I went ahead and downloaded and installed the preview versions of both VMWare and Parallels.
Here are the tips I got from experienced Mac users at MediaLab:
- Do not pay for a .mac account, but get the free account anyway. That way you’ll get an account for iChat, and it doesn’t matter that the .mac account expires in 60 days.
- Use two fingers on the track pad to scroll.
- Get a developer account at connect.apple.com. It will allow you to download XCode and other beta and preview software. And you should install XCode and MacPorts, which will allow installation of POSIX software onto the Mac.
- For installing software, remember to drag-and-drop.
The last piece of advice was maybe the most important one. Basically most Mac software comes in a dmg file, which is a disk image. It will be mounted automatically if you use Safari, and it will usually contain an icon of the software, plus some graphics that apparently are meant to tell you that you should drag the icon into your Applications folder. Right. Well, the first application that I happened to download had some extra magic in it, so it was enough to just drag the icon on top of an installation action to the right of it. This confused me quite a bit, since no other software did that – they had similar graphics with arrows and symbols, but nothing happened no matter where in the area I dragged the icon. Double-clicking on the icon just ran the software, so it wasn’t immediately apparent whether or not the software was installed. OK, so here are the different installation scenarios:
- dmg with a drag’n’drop application icon in it: either run it directly to evaluate it, or drag’n’drop it to Applications
- dmg with pkg in it, or a pkg file: double-click the pkg, it will run an installation wizard. Just keep pressing Continue.
- zip file: it will open semi-automatically, and usually contains a pkg file (double-click that) or a simple application that you drag’n’drop onto Applications
- tar.gz file: will contain source code for a program – no idea how to handle this, yet.
Well, I managed to install Firefox, VMWare Fusion Beta, Parallels for Mac, OnyX, XCode Tools and MacPorts. I also installed both Ubuntu and Windows XP Professional onto both of the virtual machines, so I can start testing how they perform.
At the end of the day, I installed BootCamp which allowed me to repartition the hard drive and make room for Windows XP. I might be able to use that space for a stand-alone Linux later on.
The final challenge for the day was getting the data from my old laptop’s hard drive, which I’ll write about tomorrow.