Not Exactly Doing Wheelies

I’m cooking in someone else’s kitchen this morning. Where are those darned hot pad holders anyway? I am so disoriented.

Fred and his old PC: a stuntman like a bat out of hell standing on top of a speeding Corvette, steering deftly through traffic, maneuvering the wheel through the sun roof with his feet, cap on backwards, a wireless mouse in one hand and a beer in the other. YeeHaa!

Fred and his Mac on Day One: A cowered little man clutching the wheel with both white-knuckled fists, barely able to see over the dashboard (or is it the dock?) and unable to see out the Windows anymore. He can’t change gears and is lost on the back roads in an unfamiliar neighborhood of a foreign country moving at 3 mph and without a clue where he is headed or how to get back where he started.

I’ve installed Firefox and Google Earth, letting the machine stick stuff where it will. Both programs ended up in “Devices” apparently, and show up as such on the desktop. Where do they go and can I just drag them where they belong. (And does this account for why I had such a hard time finding FFox when I booted up this morning?)

I’m writing this post in Google Docs since NoteTabPro is PC and I’m not messing with Parallels and XP just yet.

Set up was painless and it was sheer joy to see the monitor boot up for the first time about 2 pm yesterday. It is very, very fast (including the internet DSL for which the slower PC was a bottleneck apparently.) I was disappointed to find firefox for mac lacks some of my favorite extensions and that the bookmarks toolbar shows text only.

I opened up Mail and gave it my gmail account. I’m not sure what I’m doing, but it seems if I can use Mail as a front end for gmail, it will let me search and find and add notes and such through SPotlight. Another thing to explore.

Today I have to try to get docs and music and such off the external hard drive and drag them to the right places in my Home directory.

I’ve bored you long enough. I’m about to see if I can get this thing up to 5 mph. I’m not exactly burning rubber in all four gears yet. But time’ll come.

Eating the Elephant

I’m really very sorry that accounting for my daily computer hygiene is about as interesting as describing trimming the toenails. But the PC to Mac transition is what consumes me in the recent past and especially in the near future, and this daily slice of life is what has filled these pages in Spring 2002, so why quit now?

UPS shows the Mac (tower, monitor, and InDesign upgrade software) in Knoxville since Saturday morning. Just sitting there. Still scheduled for delivery tomorrow. Drumming fingers….

Just to prove I’m not totally geekly, I did attend the Roanoke Writers Conference on Saturday and found it worth giving up a day of my so-called life. I met Cara Modisett for the first time (after numerous emails)–editor of Blue Ridge Country Magazine, and we tentatively arranged for lunch and the grand tour of Floyd’s recent changes.

Also I met fellow radio-essayist Janice Jacquith who lead a session on–guess what?–doing radio essays. She inspired me (once I get used to the mac-ish way of doing things) to put more of my stuff online in audio format AND to get some stuff back to WVTF who stopped their regular Friday essays some months back but do them now on an irregular and unpredictable schedule.

I spent some time chatting with Gene Marrano, who among many other freelance involvements hosts “Studio Virginia” on the ROA NPR station and also writes for the Star-Sentinel.

I met Darrell Laurent, owner of the Writers Bridge who told me I looked just like he thought I would (is that a good thing?).

First and last sessions of the day were on blogging and on internet research, conducted by Keith Ferrell, former editor of Omni Magazine; we’d met a couple of times at coffeehouse readings in Rocky Mount. He still makes his living from writing, and has been significantly impacted by the shift away from printed books (like Britannica for which he once wrote a lot.) So there. I do get out some.

Oh, and I traded chain saws last week, so after more than 25 years of owning Stihl, I now will be hefting a somewhat smaller and easier-to-start Echo 400. I haven’t had much chance to use it, what with the ice and snow. And given my recent woodlot mishap, I’m not as carefree traipsing off into the woods alone. But next year’s woodpile isn’t where it needs to be, so I’ll have to pull myself away from the Mac long enough to tend to creature comforts and necessities. Hey, this new hardware and OS is a necessity too!

I have three writing deadlines for the end of this week and they are all done, just have to send them in. I anticipated the crunch and finished one on “the story of stuff” for the FLoyd Press, one on Geothermal Energy and another on the PC-Mac Conversion Experience for the Star-Sentinel. That gets me through til the middle of February when I’ll have to come up with other topics–these, perhaps the first assignments done on the Mac.

Speaking of which, I’m wondering what to do about “office” programs. I didn’t get iWork from MacMall with the hardware purchase. I’m thinking I don’t need much in the way of spreadsheet and there are online and open source versions I could use. I don’t need Powerpoint so much either. But I DO and WILL need a word processor capable of saving in *.doc format. I’m looking seriously at SCRIVENER  with an eye toward doing longer pieces in the future. I like the outline function too since that is the way my brain works.

So I’m clucking around here getting the nursery ready for the new baby, alien life form that it will be. I’m so obsessive I even vacuumed and dusted off my desk! Dear me, fatherhood will make a fella just a little wacky.

MacIntimidated But Moving Ahead

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Generally, I’m a cautious person, especially when it comes to doing something where the stakes are high, my base of knowledge is low AND most particularly when there’s a good bit of expense involved. All three conditions exist with my current critical point, and yet I’ve decided (with some waffling still) to make the transition to MAC sooner rather than later–in weeks rather than months.

I’ll still have short term and long term projects underway that are computer critical, but the current PC desktop will be upstairs in Ann’s room if I have to revert to my old ways of doing things.

If I think about this excessively, I’ll wait too long and fret too much and this thing that should make me technologically satisfied will end up making me miserable. So I’ve decided to bite the bullet and make quick work of it, and start the process towards purchase this week. But I wish I had more answers. Pardon me while I ruminate…(and please feel free to offer rants, opinions and donations!)

Current PC programs I’d like to not have to replace:

  • Academic version of Adobe Creative Suite (esp Photoshop CS2 and InDesign CS2)…I’m wondering if I will be able to load them on the MAC, since this seems to be a one-machine license. And is there an upgrade path or will I need to make a new purchase (>$1500) of this software for the Mac? Yikes!
  • MS OneNote 2007 purchased a year ago. I’m using it to create a rough draft of the next book. I don’t find any Mac equivalents and would probably want to run it on the Intel Mac Processor.

Additional PC Software I’d like to run on Mac until or unless I find Mac replacements (and I’m open to suggestions if you know any!)

  • Ecco Pro 4
  • NoteTab Pro
  • Notezilla
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking 9

Which Virtual machine software: Parallels or VM Fusion?

I’ll need to buy a fresh copy of XP. Which version?

I assume the current Comtrend ADSL2 modem and D-link DI-624 router on my desk will be plug and play wit the Mac. Right or wrong? And I purchased Network Magic a couple of years ago; it really has worked well with the home network. Should I inactivate it and let the Mac do its work finding other computers (PC desktop and IBM laptop) on the home wireless ystem?

MacPro comes with 2Gb RAM. Buy 4 Gb more from 3rd party (cheaper)?

I won’t spring for MS Office replacement. Will I be happy with OpenOffice? And should I get a .mac account the first year?

What downloads will I want the first week? Top of the list is Quicksilver–sounds like it is a good match for my style of navigation.

Do I get a second internal 750Gb hard drive ($$$) or use the WD750 external for backup, even though so far it has not done well connected to the PC for the two weeks I’ve had it?

What kinds of problems will I have the first day/week that I haven’t even anticipated yet and might avoid?

And I assume I’ll be wise to get the 3 year extended warranty. Yet more $$$. Just do it.

Computer Pros in Roanoke: here I come.

Hard Driven, Time Wasted

Yesterday was a day lost. Partly, it’s my fault to have become distracted in news stories, new software toys and clouds moving past my window.

But mostly, it was the Plug and Cuss hardware that came yesterday from B&H–a Western Digital 750Gb MyBook Studio external hard drive. It will serve to replace the LaCie that died in the power outage a few weeks back and then become the external backup for the Mac, when–not if–that happens first half of this year.

But there were problems. No big surprise there.

It comes formatted for the Mac. The VERY meager setup sheet had an KnowledgeBase ID # for Windows use. It left out some crucial information. It was not at all clear for such as me who doesn’t routinely partition new drives. And when that was done, My Computer still didn’t find the new drive.

It would have to be formatted, which of course removed the pre-installed software. But suffice it to say, after considerable grousing about the cost-cutting benefits Western Digital made at my expense, the drive worked. Mostly.

It hung once, but rebooting fixed it. The default front-light condition is on constantly. And since this is a three inch shining bar, it quite dazzles in a dim room. I’d be happier with a minimal light to say that the power is on.

So that process consumed several hours. And I looked back on the day feeling I’d done absolutely nothing. But at least now my data is (relatively) safe. And I will try to make a habit of turning the external drive on only long enough to do my morning backups, then off again. We have a long winter of power outages ahead of us.

Get a Clue: Interclue

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I have my geekly moments, and have installed (and then uninstalled) more shareware and freeware than I care to remember. I download one in a hundred I read about, and keep one in twenty of those. So the odds of finding and keeping are remote. But I think this one is a keeper–a firefox add-on called Interclue.

I’m finding it especially useful for quickly browsing news items without having to open tabs just to preview the first couple of paragraphs (though this little pop-up window shows far more than just that.) I like to keep the small (resizable) window “pinned” in place while I move quickly through potentially interesting items in the Interclue panel. Here’s a bit of the program’s description at LockerGnome:

In a nutshell, Interclue creates a little icon next to a link when I mouse over it. I can control how long it takes it to appear, so that it and its brethren (sistren?) don’t bug me too much. If I want to see what the link’s about, I just mouse over the icon, and a synopsis of the page with beaucoup options too numerous to mention appears in a separate window. I can cruise the window, click on links therein, open the original page or, by simply removing my cursor, cause it to go away — or, if I want, I can “pin” the window where I want it (it’s resizeable, of course) and all further mouse-overs will open there.