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December 2006 - Vol. 6, Issue No. 87   Happy Holidays!

By Scot Finnie

In This Issue

  • Living with (or Without) Internet Explorer 7
  • More Detail on Windows Vista
  • The Microsoft Gods Must Be Angry
  • Acronis and Other Image-Based, Drive-Backup Utilities
  • 15 Things Apple Should Change in Mac OS X
  • Turning Over a (new) Apple Leaf? Part II
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    Living with (or Without) Internet Explorer 7
    I've received reports from many Scot's Newsletter and Computerworld readers about compatibility issues between IE7 and, especially, Web-based ASP products and proprietary or customized enterprise apps. It's been a five-year run for IE6; the Web developers who serve the business world appear to have moved in for the long haul.

    As a result, my best advice for most business users of Internet Explorer at this point is to stick with IE6 for a while, or switch at least temporarily to Firefox 2.0 or Opera 9. If you've made the switch to IE7 and don't want to go back (and I can't blame you; I prefer IE7 too), the compatibility issues emphasize a key drawback of the new IE you should think through. By upgrading to IE7, you've lost a key safety net that Windows-based Firefox and Opera fans enjoy: They can always fall back on IE6 to load a site or Web-based app that doesn't work correctly in their preferred browsers. But if you're using IE7, you can't just fire up IE6 for compatibility reasons. You're stuck.

    I talked to Microsoft's director of IE product management, Gary Schare, about this issue. Microsoft has just last week began offering an answer that lets you keep IE6 at your beck and call while you run IE7. I've tested it, and the solutions, which relies on virtualization, works fine.

    Microsoft made its desktop virtualization tool, Virtual PC 2004 SP1, free for download earlier this year. It's not my favorite virtualization tool, but it works fine. Grab Virtual PC 2004 SP1, an 18.2MB download.

    The key part of the equation is a virtual machine appliance supplied by the IE7 team that consists of a modified version of Windows XP SP2 whose sole purpose is to run IE6. It's a free 495.8MB download (requires WGA online validation) that times out on April 1. Schare says the IE7 team hopes to renew the program with a new virtual image after the first times out. There's no charge for the use of Windows XP, by the way. This is a pretty good deal.

    For more information, check out this entry in the Microsoft IE development team's IEBlog, IE6 and IE7 Running on a Single Machine.

    Problems Uninstalling IE7?
    I'm recommending that business people (and anyone who runs into Web compatibility issues with the new browser) latch onto this IE6 on XP/Virtual PC trick or uninstall IE7.

    Removal of Microsoft's newest browser is initiated from the Control Panel's Add or Remove Programs applet. Some pre-release versions of IE7 registered their Add/Remove entries in amongst the Windows Software Updates toward the bottom of the installed programs list. So if you don't find an IE7 program entry, be sure to click the "Show updates" check box to make that area appear and then scan the Windows security updates area. People often mistakenly think they can't uninstall IE7 when, in fact, they can.

    I've had excellent success uninstalling both the betas and the final version of IE7 from five of my PCs. The only problem I'm hearing from Windows XP users is that they can't find the IE7 entry in Add or Remove Programs. I have one report that IE7 can't be uninstalled from Windows Server 2003. At newsletter distribution time, Microsoft hadn't gotten back to me yet about Windows Server 2003. So far, the IE7 uninstall process seems a lot better than the similar but problematic IE 5.5 uninstall process prevalent in the late '90s. But I still don't really have enough data. If you're having issues with uninstalling IE7, please tell me about them.

    Be advised: Many people who ran the betas of IE7 and who installed the final code over any of those betas are having trouble uninstalling IE7. And the reason often boils down to this simple fact: They performed upgrade installs of successive betas of IE7.

    I've probably written this piece of advice to Windows users more frequently than any other since Windows 95 emerged: Do not install beta software over beta software. Do not install the final code over a beta installation. Always uninstall a previous beta version before you install any newer version. I've seen very experienced people do this and get into trouble. Beta software is not meant to be upgraded. You may get away with it sometimes, but sooner or later this practice will have negative consequences.

    Schare reports that all your important settings, your bookmarks, the Links bar, and other user data will be preserved when you uninstall IE7 and reinstall IE6. The only trace he could think of is that a handful of default IE7 bookmarks will remain in your bookmarks, but you can delete them manually. So, the point is, there's little reason not to uninstall previous versions of IE7 (this does not apply to IE6) before installing the final version of IE7.

    During IE7 Uninstall: Ignore Affected Programs Dialog
    There is, however, one part of IE7 uninstall process that you may need additional guidance on. During uninstall, a dialog pops up that warns you that some of your applications might in some unspecified way be affected by removing IE7. People who frequently install new software on their systems are especially likely to encounter this dialog. I asked Microsoft's Schare whether this should be a concern to people looking to uninstall IE7, and he quite honestly said no, that IE7 users can ignore it.

    The mysterious yet inconsequential dialog is initiated by the Windows Package Installer, the tool that supports incremental installation of system files for Windows Update and many other Microsoft software updating processes. Update.exe, the primary file behind the Windows Package Installer, lives in something of a version-control nightmare (once referred to as "DLL Hell"). A big part of what it does is identify and manage dependencies among different software elements and their multiple versions.

    Because Internet Explorer is installed directly into Windows' system files, the Windows Package Installer is the designated tool for managing IE7 install, update, and uninstall processes. So, doing what it's supposed to do, Windows Package Installer fires up a dialog that shows you all the products that have been installed in Windows since you added IE7. All it lists are possible dependencies, not known dependencies.

    For there to be any threat at all to the more recently installed programs the warning dialog lists, those programs would have to explicitly require a specific IE7 system file to operate properly. That's a highly unlikely scenario; it's just not smart for third-party developers to require such a specific version of Internet Explorer. It's especially unlikely for the near term, since IE7 hasn't been out long enough for software developers to create products that have inappropriate dependencies. But Schare says he believes that, even years from now, you may safely ignore this dialog when uninstalling IE7.

    Back to IE7: If you're going the other way and are about to install it for the first time, this software updates your Windows system files. I recommend taking a System Restore point or, better yet, making a backup of your Windows installation or entire drive prior to the installation.

    All previous major iterations of Internet Explorer (such as versions 5.5, 5.0, and 4.0) have presented significant problems for a percentage of the people who installed them. Because so many use Internet Explorer, a problem that affects even 4% of its users is a very large number of people. So far, IE7 is less problematic than many of its predecessors. But don't underestimate the power of an altered Microsoft browser to create problems.

    In the end, a product that is an absolute standard that upgrades and then is no longer a standard can be a very frustrating product indeed. The only inherent problem with IE7 is that it's not IE6. Don't let that bite you.

    Keep IE7 from Coming Back
    There is a simple, though somwewhat unintuitive, way of saying "no" to IE7 in Windows XP's Automatic Updates and making that preference permanent. These steps can also be easily adapted for use with Windows Update and Microsoft Update (in those setting, remember to always choose Custom and click on all options to reveal details). These instructions assume that IE7 is not already on your computer. If it is on your computer, you must uninstall it first. Here are the steps:

    1. Change the Automatic Updates Control Panel setting to "Notify me but don't automatically download or install them." From now on, you will need to closely monitor every update that Microsoft wants to install on your computer. You will also have to pay attention to available security updates and ensure that you initiate their installation. Once you have permanently blocked IE7, you could go back and make Automoatic Updates more automatic, if you choose. But the time is past, I think, when all of us will be comfortable allowing Microsoft to choose every update for us.

    2. Wait for the yellow shield icon to appear in your system tray that signifies updates are available.

    3. Click the yellow icon and, if prompted, choose the "Custom Install" option, which will bring up the "Choose updates to download" dialog.

    4. Look through the entire list of available updates for an entry that contains "Internet Explorer 7" or similar. As with WGA, this entry is usually the very last item, often found in a long list of other updates. Remove the check mark beside this IE7 entry and click Close. (If there are other security updates waiting to install too, leave their check marks in place; they will install.)

    5. A moment or two after you click Close, another box will open labeled Hide Update. Add a check mark beside "Don't notify me about these updates again." That should do it.

    Hopefully I've offered a strategy that will help you deal with it while enjoying the browser you prefer.


    More Detail on Windows Vista
    Last month I pointed you to my final review, A Hard Look at Windows Vista, co-authored by Preston Gralla, who writes extensively for Computerworld.

    At that time, I was still researching a story that addresses Microsoft's Software Protection Platform (SPP), Vista's beefed up anti-piracy measures. This past summer, Microsoft denied that there would be a "kill switch" in Windows, but that was apparently semantic distinction. Instead, Windows Vista's SPP invokes "Reduced Functionality Mode," something of an understatement. After 30 days, the only thing Vista will let you do is access the Internet for an hour at a time, presumably for the purpose of paying up — that is, re-buying your copy of Vista. Because if you buy an illegal copy of Vista, it's your fault. This Computerworld story gives you full detail, directly from Microsoft, about Reduced Functionality Mode. It should be required reading for all would-be Vista users:

  • The Skinny on Windows Vista SPP and 'Reduced Functionality Mode'

    Another Computerworld story, authored by the former Editor of Linux Pipeline, Matt McKenzie, delves into Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Vista. It is well worth a read:

  • Vista and More: Piecing Together Microsoft's DRM Puzzle

    Microsoft has only deigned to give me gold code for a single installation of Windows Vista. My requests for a larger sample product IDs have been acknowledged but so far not acted upon. For comparison sake, when Windows XP shipped, I was given 20 installations of Windows XP Pro and five installations of Windows XP Home. That permitted me to thoroughly test XP and to research problems that readers have and report back with help and solutions.

    Because of the single installation, I immediately decided Vista must go on my production Windows machine, a 2GHz Core Duo T60 15-inch-LCD ThinkPad with a SATA-150 hard drive, 2GB of RAM, and ATI Mobility Radeon X1400.

    A not-so-funny thing happened as I was getting set to do that. Read the next section to get the rest of the story.


    The Microsoft Gods Must Be Angry
    Last month I announced to Scot's Newsletter readers that I was Turning Over a (new) Apple Leaf, at least on a trial basis. I bought a MacBook Pro 17 and started my migration process. (The second part in the Apple Leaf series appears later in this issue.)

    No sooner had I migrated the last key application, Eudora, from Windows to the Mac, than the Windows machine started acting up. Other than migrating my Eudora installation, the main thing that changed on my system was that I uninstalled IE7 for XP and ran Microsoft's Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor. Unfortunately, I was not able to prove or disprove that either one of those events was the precipitating factor.

    The symptoms were a little odd. First my ThinkPad refused to network. Then the program icons for several applications (including all the apps in Microsoft Office 2003) lost the file-associated icon images. I checked and rechecked NTFS file permissions and ownership, that was not the problem. New errors were appearing each time I rebooted. Finally, I resorted to one of the recent backups I'd made of that computer's disk with Acronis True Image 10 Home disk-imaging backup utility. Since stuff like this rarely happens to me, the coincidence of my moving to a Mac and my main Windows box heading south left my wife Cyndy (and others) smirking at the irony.

    But running a restore from Acronis was a mistake, and it wasn't Acronis' fault. You see, I was totally unaware of an early-adopter issue with SATA-150 (150 Megabytes per second) hard drives and restoring from image-based backups — at least on ThinkPads. After running the Acronis Recovery routine, everything appeared to come off smoothly — except for the minor detail that my machine wouldn't boot. (For the record, the error message was "Missing Operating System.") My USB-connected external backup drive became the C: drive on restart. I tried three different boot discs, and none of them could see my internal SATA hard drive. And then, strangely, the ThinkPad's disk diagnostics, running from the "hidden" partition on the SATA drive, had no trouble seeing both SATA disk partitions. That's when I knew I was into something truly strange.

    Lenovo support ran through a lot of stuff I'd already tried, but then they had me go into the SATA area in the BIOS setup screens and change the SATA entry to compatibility mode. That did the trick. I was able to both restore the ThinkPad from Lenovo's recovery partition and also resurrect it from my Acronis image backup. Plus, Lenovo pointed me to an Intel-supplied SATA driver that Lenovo offers that lets you leave the faster SATA setting in vogue while performing image-based installs or restores.

    For more information on Serial ATA (SATA) standards, see the site.

    So, I guess it wasn't the Microsoft gods after all.


    Acronis and Other Image-Based, Drive-Backup Utilities
    There was a time when Norton Ghost and PowerQuest's Drive Image were the big players among image-based drive-backup utilities. But PowerQuest's product was purchased by Symantec several years ago, and the last few versions of Norton Ghost haven't been that great. As a longtime but infrequent Ghost user, I had been soldiering on with Ghost 9 until I started to run into problems with its lack of support for hardware. I recently got fed up and started testing alternatives.

    For those of you keeping score at home, that leaves me with only two products made by Symantec in my regular tool kit: Norton SystemWorks (although I never install it, I just run it from the CD) and PartitionMagic, which Symantec has reportedly decided to abandon development of for Vista.

    Back to disk imaging, the first alternative I tried was Terabyte's Image for Windows. I'll probably get mail, but that's a terrible product! It's not just that the UI is bad, and it clearly is. If I'm going to pay for a product, I'd like a unified install that doesn't expect you to go back for bits and pieces. It looks like freeware they decided to charge for.

    I ditched IFW pretty quickly in favor of Acronis, and while True Image 10 Home doesn't do anything all that special, it works, and it's very easy to understand and configure.

    Next up, I'll be taking a look at Paragon Software's Paragon Drive Backup 8.0.

    Which one do you swear by? I'm interested in your experiences! Drop me a note and tell me what you've found.


    15 Things Apple Should Change in Mac OS X
    By Scot Finnie and Ken Mingis

    Even in its Spring 2005 10.4 Tiger version, Mac OS X is a noticeably better operating system than Windows XP or Windows Vista. But it's not a perfect OS. There are some things about the way the Mac works that aren't as flexible, usable, or convenient as Windows. With perhaps one exception, this isn't about making the Mac work like Windows. It's about making the Mac all it can be.

    There are many new features and functions that Apple should — and probably will — add to its operating system. This story doesn't offer a list of missing features. Instead, it's about the little things already in OS X that need refinement or rethinking.

    15. Display Today's Date. For all their convenience features, one of the most obvious data points that neither the Mac nor Windows offers is your basic read-out of today's date. Apple has the structure it needs to display this information. You probably already know today is Thursday or Friday. What you're more likely to be unsure of is whether today is December 7 or December 8. On the Windows side, you can get this information as a pop-up if you hover your mouse pointer over the clock in the taskbar. But until Vista, Windows didn't even have its own calendar. People use their Windows XP clock-settings page to check dates on a calendar. As a result, they often wind up accidentally changing their system dates — which these days can trigger a nasty WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) anti-piracy warning.

    Apple has a couple of choices. It could, and we think should, add a basic six-digit date area to the clock displayed on the right side of the main menu bar. It might read Dec-07, or for outside the U.S., 07-Dec. Considering all the other programs that append icons in that area, Apple should feel no compunction about using this space. Lose the day of the week if you have to, or make it optional. The second choice is to make the iCal icon in the Dock dynamically display today's date at all times. It does this automatically whenever iCal is running. Why not just make it dynamically displays today's date at all times?

    14. Place Widgets on the Desktop. The Dashboard is very nice, but its all-or-nothing approach is frustrating. We want to be able to drag and drop individual widgets to the desktop. Granted, we don't want many widgets on the desktop. We might like more if they weren't so large. The Dashboard looks great, but while we nip in to use the calculator now and then, it doesn't get as much use as it might. There are also some read-out-type functions (how hot is my Core 2 Duo?) I might like to have that just wouldn't be all that useful when you have to actively pursue them to see them. Windows Vista's Sidebar is slightly better than Dashboard because it can optionally display at all times, or you can put Sidebar Gadgets on the desktop.

    13. Get off the Fence about Context Menus. Apple should fully enable context menus in Finder and other Apple software. The Mac should never rely solely on context menus in even tiny facets of the user interface. That's a mistake Windows and third-party developers make on that platform. But context menus are useful process shortcuts for more experienced users. No one is forcing anyone to use them either. So there's really no reason for longtime Mac users to be upset about this change to OS X. To each his own favorite way of working.

    12. Documents and App Instances on the Dock. The Dock does an excellent job of launching and tracking launched applications. Its only weakness is tracking launched document windows and program instances. While it is possible to right-click a running program on the Dock to see and select among open windows associated with that program, that's the only way you can check this — and some applications don't support it. We'll say it again: Context menus should never be the only UI for accessing something. The Dock is elegant in all other regards, and even a little ingenious. But in this one way, it falls down.

    11. Managing Window Size. Window management is tough enough without giving the user only one corner that he can drag to change the window's size. Microsoft Windows lets you drag any window edge on all four sides, in addition to dragging two sides at once from any of the four corners. There are times when dragging a single window side eliminates what is two adjustments on the Mac, a window resize followed by a windows move. When you've used both operating systems, it becomes clear that Mac window resizing is less convenient. On the other hand, the Windows way of doing things requires precision mouse control, which can also be tiresome.

    Here's a thought that's simple and solves about 80% of the problem. What if Apple made both lower corners of Mac windows draggable? What if all four were? Either of those minor improvements would be quite welcome.

    10. Click the Tiny Dot. Larger screens and increasing resolutions mean that screen elements in operating systems must be designed to be a bit larger. Apple's window-management buttons, which are those colored round mouse targets in the upper left corner on program and folder windows — the ones that close, minimize, and toggle between sizes — are minimalist. The problem is that on high-resolution displays, they're just plain tiny. They spur the kind of over-control of the mouse pointer that can lead to repetitive-stress injury. Apple's tendency with notebooks is to use less expensive, lower-resolution screens, which means the problem isn't pronounced there. But systems that use high-res external monitors can quickly turn these buttons into pinheads.

    9. Backspace and Delete Keys. The world holds millions and millions of computers that have Backspace (delete left) and Delete (delete right) keys. Most editors and writers who've been exposed to Windows PC keyboards that have both of those keys can tell you that moving to a Mac notebook that has only a Backspace key (called "Delete" on the Mac) can be frustrating. Yes, yes, we know that Fn-Delete performs a delete-right operation. But that's not a good solution for touch typists. The rest of the world long since accepted that IBM makes the best keyboards. Why can't Apple accept the standard? No one is complaining about the Apple key!

    In case other ex-Windows users are frustrated by Mac notebook keyboards and especially the lack of a delete-right key, we highly recommend a freeware Preference Pane called DoubleCommand, written by Michael Baltaks.

    Using this program we were able to transform the \ key to Delete forward. Holding down the Function key and pressing the key delivers the backslash symbol, so you haven't lost that ability. DoubleCommand also let's you make Shift-Delete perform a forward delete. There are many other adjustments that you may like too.

    8. Printer Setup. The process of configuring printers in OS X is confusing. It's almost as if Steve Jobs never actually tried this himself, because the way the printer-configuration screens work is quite un-Mac-like. Apple, you can do better than this.

    7. Consistent User Interface. Open iTunes, Safari and Mail. All three of these programs are Apple's own, and they're among the ones most likely to be used by Mac OS X users. So why do all three of them look different? Safari, like several other Apple-made apps such as the Finder and Address Book, uses a brushed-metal look. iTunes sports a flat gun-metal gray scheme and flat non-shiny scroll bars. Mail is somewhere in between: no brushed metal, lots of gun-metal gray, and the traditional shiny blue scroll bars. Apple is supposed to be the king of good UI, and in many areas, it is. But three widely used apps from the same company with a different look? Sometimes consistency isn't the hobgoblin of little minds.

    6. Laptop Screen Dimming. Yes, you can change the way your screen brightness behaves in the Energy Saver, setting it to dim before the computer goes to sleep. Or you can set it to use a lower brightness when on battery power. (It's one way to help get more juice from your laptop battery.) Unfortunately, setting that preference doesn't always "stick," meaning your screen will dim in about three or four minutes, regardless of how you set it or whether you're on battery power or AC. Sure, you can hit a key or tap the trackpad to bring it back to full brightness. But do you really want to have to do that every few minutes while watching a DVD?

    5. Managing Finder's Columns View, Problem No. 1. The Finder's "Columns" view, which offers a hierarchical display of successive folders, has many nice touches. For one thing, it's instantly understandable. It also scrolls to the right automatically as you click into each succeeding level. But there are three annoying aspects. The first is that sometimes the column areas open up too narrow to read their folder and file contents. Apple puts grab points only at the bottom of each column. The entire column separator should be grabbable. At the very least, there should be grab points at the top and bottom.

    4. Managing Finder's Columns View, Problem No. 2. The second problem is that the columns should automatically attempt to open to a size that fully (or more fully) displays the names of the folders and files they contain. If you depress the Option key while you drag one of the grab points left or right, the Finder will expand all of the columns in unison, which is some help, but not ideal.

    3. Managing Finder's Columns View, Problem No. 3. A third problem can occur when the Column view Finder window opens as part of an application dialog. In this setting, as you tunnel down a deep folder hierarchy, you may find that the left side of the Finder window has been pushed off the screen. That's because the starting point is anchored by the location of the application dialog box. Sometimes you may find that the button you need to press (like Save, Open, New Folder, whatever) is actually somewhere off- screen once you've navigated to the proper location in the folder hierarchy. While this doesn't happen often, it's ugly when it does.

    2. Finder's Hobbled Cut Command. As far as we can tell, there's no way to Cut a file in Finder. The common usage in Windows is to use Edit > Cut and Edit > Paste to move a file from one location to another. The Finder does make it relatively easy to perform drag-and-drop moves, but there are times when that can be awkward, especially on smaller-screen Macs. In that case, being able to cut a file in one window, navigate to another window, and paste the file there is a handy alternative. While Finder offers the Cut command on its Edit menu, it doesn't work on files. And if you use keyboard commands instead (Command X and Command V, for example), it leaves the original file in place — or in other words, it becomes a Copy, not a Cut, operation.

    1. Dynamic Finder Refresh. One of the best features about the Mac is that most changes you make take effect immediately and dynamically update all open windows. In many places in the OS, you don't have to click "Save," "OK," or reboot the computer for changes to take effect. The one place we've found that not to uniformly be the case is in the Finder, where changes you make (such as file renames) don't always dynamically update already open Windows. If at all possible, Apple should make the Finder dynamically update 100% of the time. But if the Mac's maker can't do that, it should bite the bullet and — anathema though it may be — add a Refresh option to the Finder.

    Do you have your own list of Mac pet peeves, or do you want to take issue with ours? Send us email.

    Ken Mingis is Computerworld's online news editor and Macintosh channel editor. He's also Computerworld's resident Mac expert and reviewer.


    Turning Over a (new) Apple Leaf? Part II

       - Supreme Notebook: MacBook Pro 17 Core 2 Duo
       - Update on MacBook Pro 15 RAM SIMM
       - Last Leg of My Mac Migration
       - Selecting Mac Software
       - Real People, Real Jobs

    So you want to know what it's like to switch to the Mac? I've got the worst-case scenario. I've got serious pain. But I've also got success. Read on.

    Last month I initiated a three-month trial of the Mac as a total replacement for my primary Windows machine (Turning Over an Apple Leaf? Part I). That computer is asked to pull double duty as a work and personal machine. It's also the only computer I run email on. And it's the one machine (other than backup) that contains all my data files. There's a package of other apps and utilities that run on this machine that I don't run elsewhere.

    In Part II in the series, my my new Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro 17, completing the initial migration from Windows, selecting Mac software, and getting started on real living with OS X:

    Supreme Notebook: MacBook Pro 17 Core 2 Duo
    I now have three MacBook Pros: two 15-inch Core Duos and a brand new 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro 17 with a 160GB hard drive and the glossy screen. I love this new 17-inch MacBook Pro. The screen is glorious. The performance is top-notch. It became my primary computer about 10 seconds after it first booted. Going back to my ThinkPad T60 Core Duo may be a very difficult decision when this Mac trial is up. If OS X doesn't mesmerize me to the point that I lose all interest in Windows, this piece of hardware might just do that all on its own.

    Although moving Eudora to the Mac was painful, the moment it started working and I stopped having to tweak things to keep them running right, I settled into the MacBook Pro 17 and Mac OS X 10.4.8 as if I was born to them.

    My only complaint is that the spacebar squeaks whenever I press it. Whoop-dee-doo. I'll head to the nearest Genius Bar and see if I can get Apple to replace it free of charge — whenever I get around to it.

    Why can't Dell, HP, or even Lenovo build notebook hardware this good?

    Update on MacBook Pro 15 RAM SIMM
    In the first installment of the Apple Leaf series, I relayed my experiences with a spontaneous reboot problem concerning the Apple MacBook Pro 15 my company gave me. I wrote about pulling the add-on 1GB SIMM and how after a few days, I had not experienced another spontaneous reboot.

    As it happens, that 1GB SIMM continues to lead an unlucky life. My IT department checked it in and then it was misplaced — permanently. So even though we had an RMA on it, we weren't able to send it back to Edge, the company that sold it to us last spring. So, of course, they didn't send us the replacement SIMM.

    Instead, we purchased a new Kingston Technology SIMM from PC Connection. I've had a lot of good experience with Kingston memory. I can also recommend a low-cost vendor for Mac RAM SIMMs, a company in New Hampshire called DMS charges quite a bit less for its memory. I bought a 1GB from DMS for the MacBook Pro 15 that I own, and I've had zero trouble with that memory or that machine.

    Anyway, the Kingston RAM did the trick. I haven't had a spontaneous reboot since the moment I pulled the RAM SIMM, on the second day I had the machine. It's been about six weeks. Apple computers are picky about RAM. Don't buy expensive Apple RAM, but it pays not to chintz on RAM for a Mac. Get a solid recommendation, or just get the good stuff.

    Last Leg of My Mac Migration
    I mentioned some pain. That pain has a definite identity: It's my 14-year-old Eudora Email for Windows installation. You see I had 1,500 Eudora mailboxes, over 500 mail-filtering rules, and my only address book — in total over 2GB of personal data that I had no intention of parting with. If I was moving to the Mac, that mail store and its continued use was coming with me, or I wasn't moving to the Mac. And therein lay my biggest trial in migrating to the Mac.

    So what's the big deal? Eudora was written first for the Mac. Surely Qualcomm includes importers that allow you to migrate Eudora from Windows to Mac, right? That would be a no. All Qualcomm offers is a pair of poorly written, 12-year-old knowledgebase articles whose instructions don't work at all. I called Qualcomm tech support and got a know-it-all who didn't know squat. She insisted that the solution was offered from a website called and that Qualcomm doesn't offer any other tools or instructions.

    There are literally scores of interesting products listed on the site. I'm sure many of them are great. But when it comes to converting Eudora mailboxes, there are few solutions. I wasted a lot of time researching them all only to discover that none offers an ideal solution. (I'm defining ideal here as being able to open my mail and read it after the migration.)

    Through a lot of trial and error, and based on tips posted in forums and elsewhere, I discovered that if I followed a specific set of steps using Bare Bones Software's free TextWrangler text editor, I could correct the two main issues with this conversion: Macintosh end-of-line conversion and the text identity of the Eudora's files.

    Everything in Eudora is a text file, but unfortunately, the Mac wouldn't recognize that fact, even when I manually set the Macintosh four-letter type and creator codes. The only thing that worked was to open all my mailbox and other Eudora data files (such as address book, rules, settings, and so on) in TextWrangler. Then I would convert the line endings to Mac format, save the file in TextWrangler. That save step was the key. When I didn't save in TextWrangler, the Mac wouldn't recognize the files as Mac files. Period. They'd be grayed out in all application Open dialogs. Other text editors I tried (except TextWrangler's big brother, BBEdit) weren't able to perform this deed.

    I came up with some shortcuts along the way, but in the end, after several days of trying other methods (including dabbling with AppleScript and other batch processes) I wound up opening more than 1,200 mailbox files one by one and putting each through a nine-click process to save it in the proper format for the Mac. I haven't done anything that mindless since the last time I did mail merge using WordStar running on CP/M in the early '80s.

    Let me just say that anyone who doubts my sincerity in giving the Mac a fair shake doesn't know what he or she is talking about!

    Why only 1,200 mailboxes? I winnowed it down from 1,500 by performing some some consolidation in my Windows installation beforehand. When all was said and done, something like 25 folders just didn't make it through the conversion. That problem was usually caused by a specific message, often with some strange embedded file. Thankfully, none of the mailboxes that didn't make the transition was mission-critical.

    With the mailboxes done, I set about resurrecting my Eudora rules. Along with cutting back on my number of mailboxes, I also cut my rules by about 15%. The translation of the mailboxes had done a forced renaming of about 50% of my mailboxes, and that messed up the rules. So that wound up being another five-hour job. All told, I spent four full days while on "vacation" making the transition.

    I'll spare you the rest of the details, but if anyone else is facing the exact same switch, write me and I'll pass along the process in more detail. Or, better yet, wait for the new Mozilla/Eudora team to create the open-source version of Eudora, code-named Penelope.

    When it was all done, and my main Mac became my primary machine for Lotus Notes and Eudora email, with the corporate VPN running fine and everything else I need to get my job done in place or planned for, that's when this test formally began.

    Let me sum up the experience so far this way: The transition was a little rocky, but once over that hump, my Mac experience has been superb.

    Selecting Mac Software
    The applications I use the most are Word, Excel, and PowerPoint from Microsoft Office 2004 for the Mac; AOL Instant Messenger; Lotus Notes; Qualcomm's Eudora; Spamnix for Eudora; and Mozilla Firefox. I'm using iChat on the Mac instead of AIM, but I'm using the Mac versions of all the rest of the programs. And with the exception of Lotus Notes, they're all pretty great.

    I've also got Parallels on the job, and TextWrangler is my text editor. I purchased Coriolis Systems' iPartition for dynamic partitioning. I'm using Microsoft's free Remote Desktop Client 1.0.3 (although I'm searching for a Windows-to-Mac and Mac-to-Windows host solution). Computerworld's Ken Mingis recommended Shirt Pocket's SuperDuper, the Mac backup solution, and I like it a lot. Of course, I grabbed Stuffit Expander first thing.

    I'm not completely set on a list of second- and third-tier software products. But I am close to deciding on an FTP client. It's come down to Yummy Software's Yummy FTP and GlobalScape's CuteFTP Pro for the Mac. I've used CuteFTP for years on Windows. I'm planning a face-off test with these two FTP clients to see which one is better. Each has advantages the other lacks. It would help if I could find any useful way at all to convert my Windows FTP bookmarks to any Mac FTP client. Even CuteFTP doesn't have a way to go from its Windows to Mac clients and bring your bookmarks with you.

    Interestingly, the other software I still need to select is largely Web development oriented. Here are some of the tools I need to find. The Windows product I use is in parentheses.

  • HTML editor (HomeSite)
  • RSS FeedReader (FeedDemon)
  • Screenshot utility (SnagIt)

    Of all the apps I have left to pick, the one I dread the most is the HTML editor. I adore HomeSite, even with all the stupid things that Allaire, Macromedia, and now Adobe have done to it over the years as it has been gobbled up by bigger software fish in company purchases. There is no other HTML editor like HomeSite available for the Windows or the Mac. I've spent some time looking for something like HomeSite for the Mac recently and have become royally discouraged.

    In case you have software recommendations for me, or want to comment on any aspect of this story, please drop me a line.

    Real People, Real Jobs
    Some Macintosh folks took umbrage to a sentence in the conclusion to the first story in this Apple Leaf series. I wrote:

    I expect to wrap up with a final assessment [on] whether the Mac is a viable alternative for real people with real jobs.

    Like this one, the first Apple Leaf story was republished on the Computerworld site and it was referenced on and by numerous blogs around the Internet, including the Apple Blog, CNET's Blogma, and the MacUser blog. In most cases, commenters to these blogs took the opportunity to read that one sentence and get spitting mad that I was apparently dissing the Mac. Reading it out of context, I can understand their ire. But it really wasn't meant that way.

    I posted a comment to the MacUser blog post, "Another Windows guy looks at a Mac," which was a reference to the "real people, real jobs" sentence above. (MacUser is run by Computerworld's sister publication, Macworld.) This is part of what I wrote in response:

    Of course real people with real jobs use Macs! And have done so since the beginning (1984). I was one of them in the '80s. As a writer, I chastise myself for using hyperbole — when, clearly, the Mac side of my audience didn't get it. The sentiment I was conveying was actually a gentle chiding of Windows users, some of whom may tend to think that there's no software on the Mac. If you read the whole story, and connect the dots, I think you'll see there's a connection to other things written in the story that support what I'm saying. I agree, the hyperbole was too subtle though.

  • Another Windows guy looks at a Mac - Derik DeLong, MacUser

    The word hyperbole means "obvious and intentional exaggeration." To say that my hyperbole is too subtle sounds a little like a contradiction in terms. But I think my exaggeration just didn't go far enough — and so wasn't obvious.

    One of the surprising things to me as a recent (if temporary) Mac convert is how much software is available for the Mac. There's a rich community of Mac freeware, shareware, and trialware. In fact, it's been a lot of fun to dig around and find programs that work for me. The quality of this third-party code is generally better than the quality of comparable Windows freeware and shareware, too.

    But this wasn't always the case. In the middle 1990s, I went back to the Mac after about four years with Windows. I was forced to go back by a job. This was not a good time in the history of the Mac or Apple. Steve Jobs was in between stints at Apple, the Mac community was drying up, and almost nothing about the Mac was interoperable with Windows. Even common file formats weren't fully compatible. So a lot of more experienced Windows users tried Macs long ago, and gave up on them. Those people may be pleasantly surprised 10 years later by how well the Mac integrates with Windows and the business world today. My two cents is that the improvement is part of a continuing trend. Apple has made a lot of good moves over the past couple of years.

    There is still a question, however, whether all Windows business people will be able to do what I've done. There are some business apps that don't have mainstream counterparts on the Mac side. Some enterprise apps don't run on the Mac. Some Web-based enterprise apps won't run without Internet Explorer, which no longer exists on the Mac. For those people, though, the Parallels virtualization tool may well be a bridge that connects the Mac to Windows.

    But I have managed to make the change surprisingly easily. With a little perseverance, many other businesspeople could too.


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