I've gone to the dark side

After spending three days trying yet again to resurrect a PC that had no hardware problems and oddly enough not even any viruses that any of my usual tools could find, AND wrestling with one PC that constantly doesn’t want to recognze the USB, I’ve decided to go over to the dark side.  I just ordered a Macbook Pro and two iMacs for my house.  That oughta do it.

The ones I bought are used and slightly old, but are still Core 2 Intel-based systems, so I’ll be able to run Snow Leopard.  They could probably also use some more memory, but I’m curious how they’ll run on “just” 2 GB of RAM.  Speedwise, they’re equivalent to what I had in the house.  It’ll be interesting to see how much more MacOS gets out of essentially the same hardware.

Since I’ve never actually used a Mac, I’ve now watched the “moving from a PC to a Mac” movies on apple.com, and I’m reading up on ifixit.com, macosxhints.com, and versiontracker.com.

I’m excited and scared all at the same time.  It will bug me to have to buy new copies of software that I already have licensed copies for on Windows, and I’m not sure what to do about that.  (Office, Quicken, Dragon Naturally Speaking/Macspeed Dictate, Final Cut, etc.)

----- Signature and Disclaimer -----

Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Evangelist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.

13 thoughts on “I've gone to the dark side

  1. andriven says:

    So….I’d definitely bump to 4 GB RAM if not higher (if you like to run lots of VM’s — am typing this on a MacBookPro with 6 GB RAM).

    And….here’s my general software list I offer to people switching over….


    -Netnewswire – free – excellent RSS reader/weblog publisher
    -Adium – free – better than iChat in lots of ways with the sole exception of video/audio chat
    -TextWrangler – free – excellent text editor….set it as your default. Smultron is also free but I prefer TextWrangler
    -Transmission – excellent – BitTorrent client for your legit BitTorrent stuff
    -Mail – free – the builtin OS X Mail client is really quite good…now with Exchang support
    -Transmit – shareware (but worth it) – probably the best file transfer client on Mac (SCP, SFTP, FTP, S3) – CyberDuck now has some of this and is free but Transmit is frankly better
    -iWork 08 – paid but 30 day trial – better for most purposes than MS Office and faster/lighter too (maybe not for corporate use with macros and whatnot)
    -SmartReporter – free – nice SMART status monitor
    -Menumeters – free – good little app for bandwidth, cpu, disk and memory monitoring
    -Memory – max to 4 GB or 6 GB if you can
    -Perian – free – lets you place lots of video codecs inside QuickTime
    -Flip4Mac – free – lets you play M$ specific codecs inside quicktime
    -Unplugged – free – handy power notifications
    -Camino – free – nice native Mac browser based on Mozilla engine (my default browser….I use Safari next and then Firefox).
    -Growl – free – good systemwide notifications (Adium integrates with it very nicely)
    -QuickSilver – free – a must-have for application launching and much much more (even if you don’t explore this much now, make sure to come back to it….is a major productivity booster)
    -MenuCalendarClock iCal – free (if disable extra features) – turn off the builtin menu clock and use this for a nice calendar dropdown
    -Shimo – free – dunno if you use Cisco VPN but if you do this is excellent
    -VMware Fusion – paid with free demo (but can get for $40 if you look) – Windows OS + apps….need I say more? (more stable than Parallels and more polished than VirtualBox)
    -Tinkertool – free – lets you tinker with lots of hidden settings (that you’d have to adjust using the Terminal otherwise)
    -Handbrake + MetaX – free – lets you rip and label your DVD’s nicely for playback on your computer or iPod
    -SmartSleep (if using a laptop)  – lets you toggle the sleep modes (worth doing so you can wake from sleep immediately unless the battery is low)
    -ie4osx – http://www.kronenberg.org/ies4osx/ nice way to run IE 6 on your machine (Intel only) for sites that require it (how I run PE most of the time)-
    -msgfiler – nice way to file messages in mail using the keyboard
    -Dockstar – gives multiple mail notification badges

    That’s the stuff I use every day…..there’s a lot more out there though.

  2. cpjlboss says:

    I’m actually thinking I can go Windows-free. What things have you found that you needed to run Windows in a VM? And why on EARTH would you need to run more than one?

    Maybe I’m just missing something.

    BTW, that’s an awesome app list.

  3. andriven says:

    Ah….various things….

    -Outlook – even with Snow Leopard’s Exchange support, there are some things that can only be done in Outlook (server-side rules for instance).
    -certain hefty web apps — some require IE (a hefty Siebel one by a particular storage company actually 😉 and either ie4osx works or I just fire up a Win98 VM (all of 64 MB of RAM) for true IE6 or fire up a 256 MB XP VM for Win IE 7/8
    -storage simulators — both for NetApp and EMC (I work with both to varying degrees…accreditations/certifications with both actually)
    -Linux experimentation
    -VMware lab environments – ESXi and/or ESX, VirtualCenter (has to be on Windows Server)….I have my VCP and do a good bit of VMware consulting
    -Vizio every now and then (although I generally prefer OmniGraffle)
    -Office 2003 sometimes for Excel/Word docs with really complex macros (Office 2004 has decent Macro support, Office 2008 and iWork have no macro support (iWork for obvious reasons, Office 2008 b/c macro support was intentionally dropped)

    That’s about it….

    And….I was very happy when MenuMeters came out with a Snow Leopard compatible release….can’t live without it. I could also add Last.FM to that as well (quite a good Mac client).

  4. rob says:

    dealmac.com is a good bargain-announcing site to bookmark if you find you need to “accessorize” your new arrivals, whether you need hardware and/or software.

    (dealram.com is the sister site where you might do your RAM shopping…)

  5. BrentOzar says:

    I switched a couple of years ago for that same reason – simple maintenance tasks were just painful. I’m still pleasantly surprised by how much easier things are to accomplish on the Mac.

    You’ll want to use Time Machine for backups. It’s insanely, absurdly easy. It’s saved my bacon more than once. Want to buy a new Mac? Just do another backup (only takes a minute to update your existing one), then turn on the new Mac and plug in your Time Machine drive. OSX detects it and during the setup process, asks if you want to copy your profile & everything over. Bam, done. Same thing with hard drive upgrades – just pull your old drive out, put in the new one, install OSX and it’ll pull everything from Time Machine automatically. It’s the way backup software should be.

    The only downside is that since it’s a closed ecosystem, they want you to buy their gear if you’re going to back up multiple Macs in one house. You’ll either need an Apple Time Capsule, or external USB (or FireWire) hard drives, or one of the new IOmega StorCenters with Time Machine support. You can’t just back up to a network share – well, technically you can, but it’s unsupported and a bit of a hassle.

    Have fun though! You’ll never look back.

  6. logicrules2 says:

    Aren’t computers wonderfully making our lives easier? If my garage toolbox worked the same way I wouldn’t get anything done there either.

    Some other two cent thoughts,
    I use SuperDuper instead of Time Machine. This allows me to backup all to external disk and then boot from the external disk.

    Don’t forget apps and browsers that will help block virus, malware, phising etc. from your web browsing, email attachments, etc. Safari isn’t secure enough for me.

    Take a peruse through Apple Support forums for common issues. It does happen.

  7. sfoskett says:

    You and me both. I am very happy since my Mac switch. As a hacker it pains me to admit it, but I got sick of messing around with barely-working hardware/OS combinations. Now I’m stable.

  8. subaqua says:

    Welcome … After years of Linux and some Windows I made the switch a couple of years ago too.

    One app I will recommend is Omnigraffle Pro. I find it much nicer to use than Visio and there is still decent compatibility with Visio + lots of free stencils:


    One tip which may or may not be useful … If you use IMAP for email and if you also have millions of email messages in your Inbox hierarchy like me (decades of UseNet and other mailing lists), I find that I can keep TimeMachine happier by excluding the redundant IMAP hierarchy (~/Library/Mail/IMAP-[your IMAP mbox specifier). Apple’s Mail App rocks, searching my entire hierarchy is very fast. At least in Leopard, I found that TimeMachine walking my email hierarchy slowed it down considerably.


  9. andriven says:

    I’ve gone back and forth between Time Machine and SuperDuper or both. I’ve recently just been doing Time Machine (before that had been doing Time Machine and occasional SuperDuper backups).

    Also, TM backups are definitely better in Snow Leopard for me….not bad even with a ton of email in Mail.

    Ah…I should have listed SugarSync in there as well — has been better than DropBox for me overall and gives me that second level of protection for important stuff (i.e. business docs) beyond Time Machine.

  10. joeljet says:

    I love my Time Capsule and Time Machine backups, they are great for so many reasons. However, I have had issues with it and Apple doesn’t always have answers.

    My biggest beef is significant in that it involves useless backups. Time Machine coalesces backups such that only changes are sent every hour or so. This is fine by me and extremely efficient after the initial backup.

    However, this means that the one file that contains all of the backups, a .sparsebundle file on the Time Capsule, is a point of vulnerability. On two occasions I have had to do a full restore of a system from my Time Machine backup and the .sparsebundle was corrupt in both instances. Mounting, verifying, and repairing the .sparsebundle in Disk Utility or the third-party Disk Warrior netted zero success. The complete restore in any shape or form was unsuccessful. I should note that I worked with Apple support the entire time and they were apologetic in recommending that I blow the .sparsebundles away and start over.

    Being in this industry for a very long time, I still had another copy of my data but it is always annoying when the sexy solution doesn’t pan out. I love Time Machine backups for the efficiency and I have used it successfully on an ad-hoc basis to restore files or directories, but one would be wise not to bet the farm on it.


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