Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 8, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

MAC UPDATE....I know you're all dying of curiosity, so the answer is: pretty well, thanks. I downloaded NeoOffice, which has crashed twice but has also successfully opened all the Word and Excel files that I transferred over from my desktop Windows box. So that's good. And the book I bought last night explained how to change associations so that Word and Excel files automatically open in NeoOffice instead of the trial version (hah!) of MS Office preloaded on the machine. It wasn't very intuitive, but then, changing associations isn't very intuitive under Windows either.

The two-finger thing for emulating the scroll wheel on the trackpad works great. Thanks for that tip. Windows seem to stubbornly open at their default size no matter how big they are when I close them, but I suppose my book will eventually explain that to me as well. Sleep mode is very impressive. The battery seems to last about four hours, which isn't bad. The keyboard isn't so hot. And I somehow seem to have installed some kind of permanent Firefox "device" on my desktop that has no function I can discern but also can't be gotten rid of. Very odd. Not sure the book is going to help with that one....

Kevin Drum 12:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Drag the device to the trash, where it will change to "eject", and then will make it go away.

It's an installation artifact.

Posted by: Kirk on July 8, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

NeoOffice will continue to crash and will be slow as hell. This is one area where it's worth getting microsoft software even for a mac (and no, I don't mean "Works").

Posted by: Nick on July 8, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Kirk: I'll give that a try. When I tried it before, the trash can turned into an eject icon, and then nothing happened. But maybe I was confused. I'll try it again this afternoon.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on July 8, 2008 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

I recommend Pages and Numbers. They work quite well with Word and Excel files.

Posted by: Michael Hessling on July 8, 2008 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin- open the Firefox installer again. When you do, it will show a big Firefox logo with a confusing arrow pointing to a folder. Drag the Firefox logo to the Applications Folder (should be on the dock if not, you can open it in the Finder). Then Firefox will actually be installed and that icon will go away or can be trashed.

Posted by: Chad on July 8, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Try and take a look at this recent column by Walt Mossberg on switching over from a PC to a Mac. Some of the comments are also very helpful.

Posted by: Michael P. on July 8, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

One of the things I admire about Kevin is his ability to get instant tech support.

Posted by: keith g on July 8, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I would recommend Pages and Numbers (and Keynote) also. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, especially with the latest versions.

Posted by: Richard A. on July 8, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Kevin, as some of the other commenters have alluded, it sounds like you are running Firefox directly from the install disk (called a disk image, ending in .dmg). The standard way of installing Mac apps is to open a disk image (mount it, like a CD), and then drag the application to your application folder or run the installer. Once that is done, you can eject the disk image and delete the .dmg file. If a file on the disk image is in use, however, like you are running an application from it, the Finder can't eject (unmount) it. Although, it should pop up with an error that the disk is in use and can't be ejected. But I'm sure that is it.

Posted by: Nathan on July 8, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Congratulations on the switch. I went over to a Mac from a Dell PC about 18 months ago with no problems at all. You can also buy 52 sessions from the Apple store, which allows you to schedule an hour with a crack staffer--for orientation or for anything you need to troubleshoot.

Safari is my browser--though, for no special reason. There are some cool widgets you can install on your dashboard too. Very useful.

Agree that Pages and Numbers and Keynote are all great programs. I do most of my editing, however, in Word for Mac because of client preference.

As for the mouse, wrist fatigue caused me to switch almost immediately from the Mac mouse to a Wacom tablet and mouse, which you can also alternate with a handy Wacom pen.

I haven't even begun to plumb the possibilities. Best of all, the Mac stability!

Posted by: paxr55 on July 8, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Hi Kevin - First, a native OS X (aqua) version of OpenOffice is in the works. There's a beta now (which I have not tried), but keep your eye here: http://porting.openoffice.org/mac/download/aqua-Intel.html

Second, OS X software installation are generall quite straightforward. In pretty much all cases, you double-click the downloaded file to open it up. Sometimes the file will be a disk image, which acts just as if you had put a CD containing the download in your drive. From there, you either double click to launch an Installer app, or, as is pretty common, you just drag the app to your Applications folder. Done. Now just "eject" the disk image (by dragging it to the trash as you'd do with a CD or directly from a Finder window) so it doesn't clutter things up.

Upshot: Most software is delivered in a disk image, which is just a virtual CD. Pretend it's a CD, and everything will be clear. From that "CD" you either launch an installer app by double clicking the "package" file or you just drag the app directly to the Applications file.

Third, I'd second (or third) the recommendation to give iWork ago. It's different than Office. Mostly compatible. Better, but not perfectly, designed (though Keynote comes damn close to perfection).

Fourth, I guess you know now that to change associations you just Get Info on a file of the type you want to change - and do it from there. You can also right-click on a file and choose Open With.. if it's just a rarely done sort of thing.


Posted by: christor on July 8, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Check out Marsedit for your blog postings.

A great little app that makes posting fun and easy.

Posted by: Stiv Bator on July 8, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Good on ya, Kevin.

Mac user since forever and having no probs with Open Office other than a tendency to load kinda slowly.

(We're soooo spoiled that 10 or 15 seconds has begun to seem like a looooong time.)

Posted by: MsNThrope on July 8, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK


While I do have MS Office/Mac installed on all my Macs, Apple Works, which comes with the computer, has word processor and spreadsheet modules that are more than OK for the average user.

Face it, many of Word's features are for publishing specialists, and never used by folks writing letters, creating resumes, etc.

Posted by: SteveAudio on July 8, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Two other things that every Mac user should know:

1) The number one resource for software is VersionTracker.com. You can use the website to find and download just about every commercial, shareware and freeware app there is. If you become a paid member, you get an app that tracks all the software on your machine, no matter who makes it, and alerts you when there are updates.

2) The support forums maintained by Apple are excellent. It is an active community of people who really know their stuff.

Posted by: jacob on July 8, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Kevin, which book?

Posted by: DavidDuck on July 8, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Widgets are quite handy, here's a widget to keep all your other widgets up to date:

If it's not already there and you're using Safari, there's a create a widget icon which is very useful: View > Customize Toolbar > Open in Dashboard (drag it on to the toolbar). Click it and you can drag a box over any element on any Web site and it will create a Widget for you.

Posted by: tom.a on July 8, 2008 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

"And I somehow seem to have installed some kind of permanent Firefox "device" on my desktop that has no function I can discern but also can't be gotten rid of. Very odd. Not sure the book is going to help with that one...."

Time to learn about disk images.

Here's the steps to alleviate the problem.

1) Quit Firefox.
2) Double-click the "device" on your Desktop to show the disk image contents.
3) Drag the app from the "device" to your Apps folder.
4) Select the "devise", and then Eject the "device" (File Menu).
5) Throw the dmg file (disk image) into the trash from your downloads folder.
6) Relaunch Firefox from your Apps folder.
7) Right-click on the Firefox icon in the Dock and select the "Keep in Dock" item.

Disk images are elementary once you get used to them, but quite confusing at first.

Posted by: Petey on July 8, 2008 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

A couple of items

1) When you have one of those items on your desktop (CD, .dmg, whatever) & would like it to "go away" you can drag it to the Trash (as others have suggested) OR select it and press the Cmd (Apple) & "e" (for eject) keys at the same time.

2) For more local and detailed assistance check into your local Apple User Group(s) which are organizations where you can share gripes and tips.

Enjoy !

"Mac OS X: Because making Unix user-friendly is easier than debugging Windows." - anon

Posted by: daCascadian on July 8, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

I use the beta OO from the poster above and I find it very stable and well-featured.

Hi Kevin - First, a native OS X (aqua) version of OpenOffice is in the works. There's a beta now (which I have not tried), but keep your eye here:

Posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on July 8, 2008 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

The biggest productivity boost, cross-platform, is a second monitor.Spaces virtual desktop is an OK alternative, but two monitors really lets you go to town.

The funny thing about the one button mouse is that it shows how limited a PC is. I can't seem to find a PC one-button mouse: it is a practical necessity for the Windows side. It is a bit of a pain trying to teach my 3-year old how to use a two button mouse.

Posted by: mcdruid on July 8, 2008 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

MS now sells a "home" edition of Office (the old student/teacher edition) for $129 - as compared to iWorks $79. Even with the higher price (much lower than before unless you were a student), Office is the best bet for going back and forth b/w PC and Mac.

Posted by: anon on July 8, 2008 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

I have to agree with those who advise springing for either Office Home Version or the iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote). I have worked in Open Office and other Unix shareware products and have not found them to be as reliable, portable, or supportable. Might as well bite the $125 bullet now and save yourself some frustration.

That's my preference anyway - maybe you like experimenting with such things.

Posted by: Dawn on July 8, 2008 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

The funny thing about the one button mouse is that it shows how limited a PC is...

The duck cannot tell. Parody or true mac triumphalism? How to tell??

Hey Kevin, which book?

Posted by: DavidDuck on July 9, 2008 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Congrats on switching to mac. Count me in with the people who say get the microsoft office suite. Neooffice is a giant pile of crap. I tried using it and it is horribly buggy and does not even have the functionality of word processing programs from the early 90s. Do yourself a favor and drop that POS. It will continue to crash and (worse) lose your files.

Posted by: Kate on July 9, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I dumped neo-office for open office for aqua, and I'm pretty happy with it. There are a few things that don't have keyboard shortcuts that should but whatever... See here.

Posted by: aphid on July 9, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

late, probably too late to the party, but I have an interesting observation to add.

I'm currently at conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia (attendees are from all over the world). The only reliable Internet access is in the lounge (Wi-Fi). During the day I'm in or passing by the lounge multiple times per day.

I have been struck by the fact that about 45 - 50% of all computers in use are Macs. So here in this profession-specific venue, Apple is dominating the market share and about 50% of the OS share.

Mentioning my observation to my wife, the response was simple: "Of course, they are all scientists."

And as to Kevin's comment on "sleep mode": sure you can do it on Windows... sorta. They both sleep just fine, but waking them is a different issue. It frustrates the hell out of me the time i have to wait for all those damned Windows process to start back up just to become functional again.

Kevin really does have some responsive tech support here. While wading through a book to use as future reference is okay, just ask. Changing associations isn't really all that arcane, its just figuring out how to can be arcane if you are approaching from a windows-centric view of the world. That's not a bad thing... its just different.

Posted by: Simp on July 9, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'll throw in my two cents: running applications from the disk image (the white disk drive icon on the desktop) is a common mac newbie mistake. But once you get used to the way Mac OSX stores applications, it won't be so "what the fuhh.."

Second, do get comfortable with organizing your dock. You can drag icons off the dock, you can move them into a preferred order, and you can right-click an icon to keep it in the dock if it has a habit of disappearing when you quit an app.

Third, the Recent Items field accessible from the Apple in the upper left is really handy.

If you prefer to make the Apple more like a windows Start button, then try out fruitmenu from unsanity. It's 10 bucks. Whoops. Looks like it's not leopard compatible. Yet. Nevermind.

Posted by: Donny on July 9, 2008 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK


Lots of people are going to try and write down what you should do, and maybe that will work for you.

Most people, I find, are visual learners however. So my "tip" is this:

Find -- and join -- your local Macintosh User Group. California is frickin' CRAWLING with such organisations, all of which will help you a great deal more than your average book.

OTOH, if you're a book guy, Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual is the best one I've found for Windows converts.


Posted by: Charles Martin on July 10, 2008 at 6:15 AM | PERMALINK



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