Move to Mac, Part 3

9 Sep, 2005 | ComputersTdp

In this part I’m going to discuss what software I’m using for what and why. You might want to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

I was pointed in the direction of Server Logistics for easy installations of Apache, MySQL, PHP. I have to say that it was all they were supposed to be, quick, easy and simple installations.

I tend to use Winamp for playing my MP3s and WMAs on my Windows machines, mainly because it’s small and relatively resource light, but also because it can be minimised to a taskbar icon and can be controlled with keyboard shortcuts (which I find much easier than using a mouse for controlling playback). There is a somewhat flaky (I’ve heard) version of Winamp for OS X, but the good news is there are some add-ins for iTunes (such as Synergy) that let you control it via your keyboard. Not too sure what to do about my various WMA files though, most of which are protected so installing iTunes on my PC and converting them didn’t work, and buying some specialised software seemed a waste. I’ve got a copy of Freecorder, but that would mean converting them one at a time, and that was going to take forever (I had 186 files). At the moment, I think I’ll burn the ones I don’t have on CD (i.e. downloads from the Napster store) and re-import them as MP3s on the Mac, then rip from the original CDs for the rest. The only negative is it won’t play OGG Vorbis files, which some of my stuff was ripped in (during one of my Open Source kicks), there are a few plugins, but they don’t work with Quicktime 7 yet.

I grabbed a copy of NeoOffice/J for word processing which is a port of Open Office (I had a quick look at some of the text editors included with OS X and wasn’t too impressed). As I use Star Office as my main piece of Office software it should make the transition a little easier, but it seems to be pretty slow, and it’s not visually that stunning. I’ve got a trial copy of iWork with the pre-installed software and Pages seems to be an easy, attractive and fairly speedy app, so I may splash out on a copy when my trial runs out.

My password storage has been taken care of with Wallet. I use a free program called Access Manager on Windows, which is excellent, but the free options on OS X didn’t look or work right and I decided that I have so many passwords to remember it was worth paying for something that did the job well. I chose Wallet over Web Confidential purely because it’s more usable and it also happens to be cheaper.

For code editing the choices seem to be almost endless, but through recommendations and price I narrowed it down to two: Text Wrangler and skEdit. The latter costs $20 while the former is completely free. BBEdit was mentioned but at $129 (at least) for the license, those guys need to wake up and get real. Text Wrangler seems a little quicker to use and has so many customisable options it’s bewildering. SkEdit looks nicer and I do like the site function that lets you see all files within a folder. The jury is still out on which one I’ll use.

FTP looks to be a one horse race with Transmit being a great-looking and well featured app. I’m still a little unhappy that a) I’ll be buying an FTP app (having always gone with free options before) and b) I’ve had to leave behind my newly discovered WS_FTP. I’ll keep that on the Windows machines and I haven’t yet made up my mind if I’ll simply move the files back to the Windows box and upload from there.

OS X comes with a DVD player, but it was having problems recognising the movie-only rips I made using DVD Shrink on my PC, not to mention the fact that it doesn’t play any other media files. I’ve currently got MPlayer, Xine and VLC installed for testing, but MPlayer is already losing the battle, refusing to play the ripped DVDs too. VLC is doing the best so far and unless I find a serious fault that’s the one I’ll be sticking with.

While I’ve been having problems with keyboards I’ve installed Chicken of the VNC to let me control my Windows machine via the VNC server I have installed on it. After some initial problems with some of the compression protocols being unsupported (you can switch them off in options), it seems to do a fairly reasonable job.

The search for screenplay software yielded some nice results. There’s a template for Pages and the Open Office template that works with Star Office also works with NeoOffice/J. The great find though was Celtx, a free package available for both Windows and Mac. I haven’t had much chance to play but it looks good and seems intuitive.

I’m also using Sidenote to let me make quick notes and simple to-do lists. It’s small, light, hides away when not needed and is easily accessed, which makes it great for grabbing chunks of text or making notes. I’ve got mine starting at boot, which is easy to do via System Preferences>Accounts>Login Items.

That only really leaves graphics, and there doesn’t seem to be a light-weight, vector-supporting package like Paint Shop Pro for the Mac, so it looks like I’m going to install the GIMP, but it’s not a quick and easy install as it relies on some Unix/Linux sub-systems which aren’t installed as standard on OS X, you can find a guide to installing it here or you can try the pre-packaged

So far then, the hardest part of my Mac experience has been finding equivalent applications and a lot of time has been spent downloading and installing as well as transferring my existing files, but it’s handled it all without a grumble. I’m looking forward to getting down and using it in day-to-day activities.