March 11, 2011

∴ The CrackBook Cometh

My new toy arrived last evening in a red, white and blue truck. It came built-to-order all the way from Shanghai in three days. I'm typing this on it. My Mac era dawns.

A few notes.

  • The Mac OS is dead-simple to learn how to use. There is almost no learning curve. Really.
  • This model was ordered with a solid state drive instead of a traditional hard drive. The few extra dollars were worth it, because it's lightning fast. Click the icon and a web browser opens in less than two seconds.
  • DRAM (memory) prices are dirt cheap. I tend to keep several programs running all the time, and more than a half-dozen browser tabs open as well. A memory size upgrade is well worth the cost.

I did some prep work in anticipation of moving to a new machine. Some of it will be handy for anyone making the move, regardless of platform. Here's a brief rundown of how I transfered my digital life from a Thinkpad to my new MacBook Pro. It involves four tools.

First up, Dropbox. Dropbox is a free service that lets you securely (using AES-256 encryption) store up to 2 GB of data on their server. There are paid plans available if you need more space. It gets better. After you sign up for an account, a small software application is installed (with your permission) onto your machine. It starts up every time you boot the machine. You never have to manage it. This software creates a folder on your machine into which you put your data. Documents, spreadsheets, pictures, video, you name it. On Windows the folder appears in My Documents, on Mac OS X it's in your home directory. Anything you put into that folder is automatically uploaded to and kept in sync with the Dropbox server, and any other machines onto which you've installed the Dropbox software.

Moving my data to the MacBook was almost automatic. I had to install the Dropbox software and sign in. Done. The software is smart enough to recognize that another machine on my local network is signed into my account. It synced the data from there. All of my documents were on the new machine in a few minutes.

Second, Google Chrome. Chrome is the current speed champ among web browsers. It has a lightning-fast rendering engine so pages display quickly and, best of all for last evening's project, automatic syncing of bookmarks, extensions, form data and more. I installed Chrome to the MacBook, signed into my Google Sync account and had an exact replica of the old machine's Chrome setup in seconds. My preset tabs opened automatically.

Third, KeePass (KeePassX for Mac) password vault. All of my userids and passwords are stored in an encrypted file in my Dropbox, managed by KeePass. I installed the software, pointed it at my now-synced Dropbox folder and all of my dozens of credentials were accessible.

Fourth, iTunes and a storage server. All of my music, movies, podcasts and audiobooks are organized with iTunes, but the actual data files are stored on a network-attached storage array elsewhere in the house. This isn't an uncommon practice nowadays. Microsoft sells their Home Server product and several other manufacturers offer similar wares for this purpose. Accessing the media library from the new machine was simple: I closed the program on the old machine, opened that same software on the MacBook and pointed it at the network storage drive. If you have a lot of music, movie or other media content, or valuable data you don't want to lose, a storage array like the Drobo FS (my choice) is invaluable.

There's a lot more to moving into a new machine and making it your digital home. As soon as the basics are in place, though, the rest comes along as you need it.

I'm loving this machine. It's addictive.