Musings on Photography

The Big Switcheroo

Posted in file storage, hardware, macintosh by Paul Butzi on September 6, 2007

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What I’ve come to think of as the Big Switcheroo is now winding slowly down to a close. Essentially all of the household computing is now done on Macs. We still need to replace one Windows machine with an iMac, but that will come soon enough. To my delight, Paula has cottoned on to the Macs without any pain at all.
Some amount of the struggle was finding replacements for various tools I’d accumulated in Windows world, especially with regard to backup and synchronizing files on multiple machines.

On all the Windows XP machines, the important stuff off each machine was backed up to one of the file servers daily, using SyncBack. So far, the replacement I’m using for the same function with the Macs is Chronosync, which does much the same thing. Chronosync seems sufficiently flexible for my needs.

For email, Microsoft Outlook has been replaced with the standard Mac mail.app, which we are finding to be pretty nice. Moving the HUGE archive of email from Outlook to mail.app was an epic struggle, involving drinking of mystic potions of dubious origin, much girding of loins, and winding myself up like a Berserker. Oh, and the help of O2M, an application that runs on windows, grovels over your Outlook folders, and spits out files in a format that can be imported by mail.app. Well, it does that, unless your folder is really big. More than, say, 4 thousand messages and all bets are off. A large portion of several days was spent in battle with the email stored on various Windows machines, breaking up large folders into smaller folders and moving the email. Of all the things involved in the switch, moving our enormous archive of email (think hundreds of thousands of email messages) was by far the biggest hassle. All the hassle was on the Windows side, by the way.

The composition window on wordpress.com, which is WYSIABNQWYG (what you see is almost but not quite what you get) if you happen to be using a browser other than Safari, reverts to HTML mode only if you’re using Safari. Since we use Safari, this was the goad needed to force me to investigate offline blog software. After a brief, abortive try with Qumana, I seem to have settled down fairly happily with Ecto which I picked because, like Qumana it runs on both the Mac and Windows platform, and at the time I picked it I was still suffering from the delusion that I might still run Windows in some places. Recently MarsEdit has come to my attention and I’ll probably check it out when I get to the fabled time when things settle down somewhat.

On Windows, I used the RSS features built into Windows Explorer. On the Mac, I dabbled with the RSS features in Safari and promptly concluded that “that way madness lies, let me shun that”. After evaluating both Newsfire and NetNewsWire, I settled on NewsFire. After a few weeks with that, I complained about it here on the blog, and several readers pointed me back to NetNewsWire, so I gave it another try. At this point, I’m sold, mostly because of its ability to display blog posts in the context of the blog, and not just text on a page.

One of our file servers is an aging machine running FreeBSD, with a large RAID filesystem. It’s getting to an age where I’m starting to think about replacing it, so some thought has been given to what I might replace it with. As it currently stands, I could replace this huge, firebreathing (the server is fairly noisy) system with a Mac Mini and one of these Western Digital MyBook Pro II external disk drives configured in mirror mode for redundancy. At current street prices and choosing the least expensive Mac Mini, this would give me a fileserver which would outperform the FreeBSD server and would be relatively inexpensive for what you get – one terabyte of fairly high performance redundant networked storage. One big advantage is that, if the building catches on fire, you grab the external disk and run. The fact that it runs a commercially supported OS and I can replace the Mac Mini just by driving to the Apple store and forking over bucks rather than by assembling the machine myself is a plus. The fact that it would be almost silent and consume about 1/5 the power the BSD machine does is also a plus. Folks who are lusting after NAS that performs a bit better (and is more capable and configurable) than the current crop of fire-and-forget NAS units might want to give the Mac Mini approach a ponder.

For photo editing, I’m using Photoshop CS3. It’s better than CS2, which is not to say that I think it’s good. I’d like someone at Adobe to explain to me why, on a machine as fast as my Mac Pro, it STILL takes forever to start up Photoshop. What in the world can they be doing?

Managing the collection of photos is being done (with some regret) with Adobe Bridge. For me, it works. It’s rather like Churchill’s comment about democracy being the worst possible form of government, except for all the others. Bridge is the worst possible tool for this job, except for all the others, which all seem to suffer from bizarre, deal-breaking defects. All of my comments about Bridge on Windows can be ported to the Mac without alteration.

For word processing, spreadsheet, etc. we’re using Microsoft Office. When Office 2008 for the Mac finally ships we will get it, although I have gazed upon Apple iWork and wondered how long before it is sufficiently refined that I can sever ties with Word and Excel. Perhaps never, but one can hope.

All of this acquisition of software tools has run up some expense, although none except the Adobe stuff is even slightly expensive. On the other hand, I haven’t had to buy, install, configure, curse at, and be annoyed by any antivirus software. This puts me very slightly ahead on cost and way ahead on muss, fuss, and general botheration.

4 Responses

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  1. Doug Plummer said, on September 6, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    You only need a Terabyte of network storage? I still struggle with the best solution for this. I still depend on the Drobo (about 1.8tb) and a Windows file server wth 4 500gb drives, both of which are about 80% full. After this next season of college shoots, I’m going to need something more.

    I find Iview more stable on the Mac side (no catalog crashes, which were a given on the Windows side). I’m using SuperDuper for my daily backups, and NeoOffice for office docs, though it is quirky and I think I’m going to have to spring for the real thing. I still do Quicken on the old machine, fearful of the reviews I’ve heard about how awful it is on the Mac.

    I found the acquisition of Mac habits easier than I thought it would be, though the other day I was printing some DVDs and printed out an email onto one because there was that lack of signal strength thing as to which program was the active one. I’m always intending to do one thing, and having nothing happen, only to suss out that some other app is in the foreground. That, and what the heck goes on when you download an app and it decides in its own merry way where all its files get dumped? I think Macs expect that no one ever cares where their files are. I have not let go my Windows neat-freak habit of having precisely organized and labelled hierarchical directories.

  2. Martin Koch said, on September 7, 2007 at 1:37 am

    When you’ve replaced your last windows machine with an iMac please tell us what you think about the reflective glass plate in front of the new iMacs.

  3. Paul Butzi said, on September 8, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    We’ve actually replaced one windows machne with a 24″ iMac. So far, so good. The machine sits in the core living area, in a room that’s brightly lit with lights on the ceiling. So far, the reflectivity of the screen has not been a nuisance. My wife says that on occasion she turns off the low hanging lights but that otherwise it’s not a problem. When I work at the machine I have never had a problem.

    The iMac is nearly silent. The screen is much larger than the screen that was on the Windows box it replaced, but overall the footprint is smaller (the windows box was a Shuttle, to give you some idea of size). Essentially, all there is to the iMac is the screen and the keyboard.

    Works great for us. We’re very pleased with it.

  4. Storage « Musings on Photography said, on January 4, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    […] the middle of 2007 when I switched to Macs, I was already leaning toward putting together something based on a Mac Mini and one of the Western […]


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