Moving to Mac: Keeping in touch with Windows

Ok, so I’m not 100% off of Windows, nor will I ever be. Unfortunately, some projects (even personal ones) require that I use SQL Server, and most require testing in IE. Combine that with the facts that I don’t consider myself a *NIX expert quite yet, and that I’ve already invested thousands in Windows hardware, and I’ll probably be running Windows servers for at least a few years to come.

So, how do I cope? First off, I have to sing the praises of VMWare Fusion. I’ve used Parallels, but was never really pleased with it. Yeah, it ran Windows, but it didn’t do it with much style. Once I compared the feature sets, VMWare came out to be a clear winner to me. It supports things that Parallels doesn’t, like guest OS support for multiple CPU’s, 64 bit, and (least importantly) limited support for DirectX 9.

How do I use it? Well, I’ve got a few VM’s set up on my Mac Pro… The first one is actually the VM that points to the BootCamp partition. That VM is for testing IE 7 and Vista, and general Windows computing. When in BootCamp, it’s for the rare gaming session. The next one is a XP Pro/IE 6 testing environment. It’s off a vast majority of the time, though. The last VM is a 2003 Server, running SQL Server and it’s tools. It stays on all the time, since it’s literally a server machine. It replaced a 6-year-old Celeron box that was just eating up electricity.

Also, I’m still finding that I need files off of my old Windows boxen, and OS X’s support of Windows networking fixes a vast majority of that. Sometimes I just need to look something up on my old computer or manage one of my servers, and luckily, Microsoft was kind enough to release the Remote Desktop Client for OS X. The interface for actually establishing connections isn’t quite as slick as it’s Windows counterpart (I wish it just kept a history of previous sessions), but otherwise it’s identical.

So, between Remote Desktop and virtual machines, I’m covered. Hopefully, though, I’ll be able to wean myself off of Windows completely with these tools, like a smoker and nicotine patches.


Moving to Mac: SVN, Redux

For all of you following this, keep in mind that I’m considering the baseline standard to be TortoiseSVN. I like how it works, so everything else is being compared to a high standard.

So, it turns out that scplugin doesn’t work well. After using it once, it promptly forgot my login information, with no obvious way to reset it.

I’ve been using svnX for a few days now, and I really don’t like it. It tries to dumb SVN down for you, which turns out to be more confusing than anything.

Getting desperate, I promptly downloaded RapidSVN, SVN Finder Scripts, and Syncro SVN.

I promptly un-installed Syncro SVN when I realized it wasn’t free, since I still had free alternatives out there to evaluate.

The SVN Finder scripts worked, though I like visual feedback while the actions are running, rather than just a confirmation box when it’s all done. That was, however, my only complaint. You just select whatever you want to run SVN commands on, and then select the command from the AppleScript menu. Watch the webcast on the site for more information.

RapidSVN seems to be the winner for me. I like it’s built-in browser, and the ability to selectively check-in files. After I wired it up to DiffMerge via the instructions on the RapidSVN site, everything started running smoothly. I’ve used it for about a a day now, and am not suffering from the instant dislike I had with svnX.

I’ll let you know if I end up switching again.


Moving to Mac: MySQL

Ok, first off… MySQL folks, please get that next release out as soon as possible. It sucks that MySQL won’t start automatically. Now that that’s out the way…

The MySQL GUI tools are, well, just like their Windows counterparts. They work, more or less, and get you by. On the PC, I used SQLYog. It’s a great tool that does great things. For the Mac, I found Navicat. It seems to do everything I needed it to, which includes basic structure edits, import, export and moving of data/structure across hosts. It also has niceties of some more advanced programs, including scheduled backups, GUI builders, and so on.

I think I’ve found a winner, and it turns out that for those of you stuck with Windows, you can get a version for that OS too.


Moving to Mac: Aperture

Ok, ok… So this is less of a “moving” post and more of an “introducing” type thing. Aperture has no equal. My apologies to the Photoshop Lightroom team that might be reading this, but Lightroom just doesn’t cut it.

Aperture is a great tool for those of us with DSLR cameras, and maybe, but only barely, those of you who take a *lot* of pictures. If you come home from a half-day event with a few hundred shots or you wish you could find a better RAW workflow, keep reading. Everyone else, feel free to look at iPhoto (it’s better than Picasa).

If you’re using a DSLR camera and are not shooting in RAW format, you’re missing out. Aperture has some neat features for detail recovery when you have photos with blown out whites and blacked-out shadows, but it only works with RAW pictures. Once they’ve been compressed down to JPG’s, that data is gone.

The next great feature to cover is the workflow for picking the winning shots. When you look at a project’s shots, you get to organize them into stacks, just like you might if you were dealing with physical photos or slides. The keyboard commands for quickly comparing shots, setting ratings and keywords, and everything else are great *and* customizable. Anything that you can do, you can set a keyboard command for it if one does not yet exist.

My personal favorite feature, however, is tethered shooting. This lets you hook your camera up via USB to Aperture. As you take pictures on the camera, they’re automatically sent directly to the computer (skipping the memory card on my Canon Digital Rebel XT). Combine this with the great full-screen mode, and you can very easily see if your shot is exactly what you were looking for. This is especially helpful with macro photography, as it beats previewing & zooming on the camera’s tiny LCD screen.

To see these features in action, be sure to spend a little time watching the tutorial library that Apple put up at

One more little feature to mention… It’s nice that you don’t lose any of the iLife features with Aperture… Pretty much anywhere where you’d be able to pick an iPhoto picture or album, you can do the same with Aperture, including syncing photos with your iPhone.

Now, for my gripes:

#1… I have a laptop and a desktop. There currently is no workflow for having some sort of mobile library that reports back to a desktop Mac’s library. You can always export the originals from the laptop and import them to the desktop, but that’s not how Apple software usually works. Aperture’s data is actually just a SQLite database, which makes it very tempting for me to just write my own code for pushing pictures & data from my laptop to the desktop, and then clearing out the laptop’s library. I could also try an automator or applescript, but hopefully Apple will come up with something in the next version so I don’t have to.

#2… There’s no way to archive older images. Your Aperture library is one giant package, and must be on a physical disk attached to the computer (no network storage). I’d love to auto-archive some stuff, even if it’s only the non-preview/thumbnail files to an external or network drive, yet still have access to the metadata & previews. Hell, I’d even settle for just archiving things to an archive library, a-la Outlook and old emails. My library is growing by 1-2GB per shoot, and it quickly overwhelmed my poor laptop’s hard drive (which is part of the problem with my #1 gripe). I’m about to break down and get another. I’ve already started browsing on theĀ Clever Shop List for a replacement. I’m not going to hide the fact that I love getting a new set up, it’s like christmas.

#3… Vaults. Vaults are Aperture’s automatic way of backing up your library. The weird thing is, though, that the backup ends up being larger than the library itself, and, from what I hear, it takes a LONG time to restore a lost library using a vault. Wouldn’t it be easier to just make a mirror copy of the files? Apple, are you listening? Oh, and like the main library, you can put a Vault on network storage, either. Exactly how many external hard drives do you guys expect me to buy, and how could that possibly help with off-site backups?

Overall, considering the alternatives (there are none that I know of within my price range), Aperture is a great package. Can’t wait to see what 3.0 has in store for us.