I'm a computer guy. I've been programming since the early 80s, starting with BASIC on a Commodore Pet. I've worked on HPUX, BSD and various other *nix as well as Windows since 3.0. My new work provides Apple laptops, but I've never learned to use a Mac. How hard can it be?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

First web resources

I did a search for 'switching to mac' in Google, and there are a number of resources that come up, of course.

The first one I read was from LifeHacker: Hack Attack: A guide for switching to a Mac. I found this one somewhat helpful.  For example, it confirmed what the funky little backslash-single-quote-looking icon is (the option/alt button), that the command button is roughly a mirror of the Windows control key.  It also mentions something two or three of my new co-workers were talking about when I was at the office today - closing apps.  It also has a number of links to further reading about various topics.

I think they mentioned the need to go to the Apple logo and pick the force quit option.  First of all, it turns out that Mac has a three-fingered salute too - instead of Ctrl-Alt-Delete, it is Ctrl-Alt-Esc.  It doesn't give access to as many functions, but it does take you straight to the Force Quit menu, which lets you pick any app and kill it.  The article also talks about using Cmd-W to close the active window (but it doesn't close the app, so if you close the last window for the app, the app will still be in memory) and Cmd-Q to close the active app entirely.

The next thing I think I'll read is actually an Apple support page with what appears to be a fairly extensive tour of Mac Basics.

New 'pages' added

Blogger allows me to link to other pages on the right side (or set them up as tabs), either pages I create within Blogger or links to other web sites.  I've added three so far, which you can see over on the right:
  1. Keyboard shortcuts - simply a list of shortcuts I've figured out or learned that I find useful; since I am a touch typist, I much prefer to keep my fingers on the keyboard as much as possible, so knowing good shortcuts is very helpful.
  2. Gestures - similarly, a list of track-pad gestures I've figured out or learned
  3. TBL: To Be Learned - things I know I need to figure out how to do on the Mac; I know there are plenty more, although I've certainly figured out a bunch of the important ones already, so this one will definitely get updated...
I'll probably add another page of apps/sites that I find useful, and not just for Mac learning/usage, as well as some kind of link to helpful Remedial Mac resources, of which I know there are many.

And we're off!

I stopped by the office today to pick up the laptop.  It is a MacBook Pro.  I know this because it has a label below the bottom of the screen that says so.  Had some really nice conversations with the new boss, a new co-worker and some new co-workers whom I've known for years and worked with before.

So far, I've gotten logged in, changed the password, put it on my home wifi, installed Chrome, installed LastPass, and started playing a bit.  LastPass doesn't auto-fill the Chrome login, but it still is working at least in some sites within Chrome, such as Facebook.

Logged into Gmail and while answering an email started looking for the 'end' key.  And the 'home' key for that matter.  So here are some shortcuts I've figured out...  I understand some of these can be changed, but I haven't gotten into the preferences/settings at all yet, except to change the password.
  • Scrolling - two fingers up or down
  • Two fingers left or right (at least in Chrome) - back/forward in URL list (doing this by accident will probably suck if you're in the middle of a long email or other post...)
  • Command-up and Command-down jump to the beginning or end of the text, Command-right and command-left to the beginning or end of the line
  • Option (or alt) left and right seems to do a word at a time (up/down seems to go a line at a time)
  • Three fingers left/right seems to move among maximized windows, the desktop, and something called the dashboard.  Not sure what that is yet.
  • Going to take some time to get used to the command button - C, V, X, Z, A all seem to do the expected (copy, paste, cut, undo, select all), but the command button isn't in the 'right' place on the keyboard.
My co-workers were talking about the convoluted sequence for screenshots, and I've already determined that my favorite text editor (TextPad) is Windows only.  Going to have to look at text editors at some point, but I'm not convinced I'll need one to the same degree I have, in my new role.  We shall see.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hands On Keyboard ... errrrr ... Trackpad

At a friend's house in Salt Lake City yesterday, I had a few minutes to play with his MacBook.  He imported all the pictures I took of his daughter's wedding photos from my camera into iPhoto.  He was trying to get iMovie to import the two videos I took, but it wasn't working and then he got a phone call.

Figured I'd see what I could figure out.  Clearly, the red, yellow, and green balls that are similarly laid out to the minimize, maximize and close buttons in Windows, if on the opposite side of the window, do similar things.  I assume red closes and green maximizes, though I didn't have occasion to try either.  I did find that yellow minimizes, though.

I figured out, having seen David do it, that sweeping three fingers up from the bottom of the trackpad displays the ribbon of application icons across the bottom of the screen.  

Also played a little with scrolling using the trackpad.  Seems as if it is done with two fingers, and is the opposite of scrolling with the side of a Windows trackpad: two fingers swept up scrolls the page up where on Windows it would be like moving the "thumb" in the scroll bar to scroll the page down.

I couldn't seem to find the two videos in iPhoto.  Figured out how to go back and forth between iPhoto and iMovie using the ribbon.  I assume there's an easier way, akin to the Alt-Tab function in Windows.

Couldn't figure out how to get iMovie to recognize my camera, although the machine and iPhoto both did very quickly...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

3-2-1 Contacts

I've stored contacts in Microsoft Outlook since a year or so into my first computer industry job out of college, in the mid-90s.  I don't think it was even called Outlook yet.  

I started out doing computer support for the gas & electric utility where I lived.  One of the things I did was automate the management of the remote dial-in machines, running ReachOut on Windows with 56k modems.  As a result of that work, I moved into the group at HQ responsible for standardization and software vendor management, initially to build out remote access for the entire company using what I'd built for the region I'd been in.  We were way ahead of our time on things like instant messaging, hardware & software standardization, and software distribution and we were pushing vendors on both hardware and various types of software.

One of the things we did was to move the company from Banyan VINES, a network operating system with its own email and calendar software, to NT and Exchange.  That's when I started using Exchange to store my contacts and calendar.  Even when I was contracting and didn't have an Exchange account anywhere, I used Outlook at home.  I have contacts in Outlook today, I kid you not, that were first created in about 1995 and have been migrated among various Exchange servers and home copies of Outlook over the years.

I got my first smartphone, a Blackberry, around 6 years ago.  I even got my company to pay for it.  We were really a startup then, with maybe 20 employees, tops, and when I was upgrading my phone they decided not to pay for Blackberry enterprise service, so I got Just Another Flip Phone.  A couple of months later there was some snafu having to do with my not checking email often enough.  I couldn't get email on my JAFP, so they decided (not to say realized) that I should have a Blackberry and agreed to pay for both the service and the phone, since I sure wasn't shelling out for a new phone.  They got off pretty easy- I talked AT&T into giving me the discounted price even though it had only been a couple of months since I got the last Razr.

A couple of Blackberries later, I switched to an iPhone 3GS and have been on iPhones ever since.  Of course, with the smartphones I've always had a connection to the Exchange server at work, with all my contacts automatically synchronized.  I never really had to think about it much, other than to bring them all home once in a while so they'd be in my home Outlook.

Friday afternoon, on my way home from my last day, I deleted the Exchange account on my iPhone that linked to my now former office.  I'm certainly not saying I hadn't thought about this already - I uploaded a copy of my exported Outlook contacts to Google Drive not more than 2 hours before - but since I hadn't done anything about it, it was a surprise to get a text message from my brother a couple of minutes later, labeled only with his phone number!  

It used to be I knew by heart every phone number I dialed more than a couple of times.  I still remember the phone numbers of some of my junior high and high school friends' parents, even though I haven't called most of them in 20+ years.  I don't think I've actually ever dialed my brother's cell phone number, so I only know approximately what it is.

So here's the other thing I did while procrastinating from packing the other night:  figure out how to get all those contacts from an Outlook PST file in Google Drive back into my iPhone, using either iCloud or Gmail.

I had done a couple of searches and made some initial attempts at this over the last few days.  As I said, I was well aware that this was coming.  iCloud's contacts page seems to allow you to import a single contact vCard at a time.  I have hundreds of contacts in Outlook.  One at a time would be very unpleasant, especially since as far as I've been able to figure out so far, Outlook doesn't allow you to export vCard, only import.

I had seen something on the web about using iTunes to sync from Outlook to the phone and then switching to iCloud which should then sync the contacts to there.  I didn't really want to get into this last night, but the VP of Ops and IT refused (not unreasonably, to be fair) to leave my email account active for a few days now that I'm no longer an employee.  I did not propose, however, to spend 4 days in Utah visiting friends with LW without having those friends' contact information.  

I suppose I could just have put their information in the phone directly, but that's not really the way I'm likely to go.  I didn't even think of it, for that matter, until just now.  

The IT guy suggested the Outlook to iCloud option, so that's what I decided to try.  Here's how to migrate existing contacts out of a Microsoft Exchange server to iCloud in bulk, for an individual user, via Outlook.  Something similar applies with Outlook Express as well.

Oh, I should mention that if you have iTunes set up and syncing to your iPhone from your work computer, you can skip some of these steps.  Jump straight to the "Connect your iPhone" step, #5.

Step 1: Export the contacts from Outlook to a .pst file

Outlook makes this pretty painless.  The hardest part is finding the right place to do it for your version of Outlook.  In Outlook 2010, the way I found was to go to the File menu and pick Options, then select the Advanced pane and find the Export button.

This will bring up a screen where you can choose whether to import (yes, after clicking the export button) or export and what.  Tell it you want to export to an Outlook data file (.pst), pick the Contacts folder, tell it to include sub-folders, give the file a name, et voila.  Oh, make sure you save it somewhere you'll be able to find it.  The default is like 16 levels deep, so I put it in the Downloads directory.

Step 2: Get your backup file home

In my case, this involved Google Drive, but email, Box, Dropbox, or a USB stick are all options.  Pick the method of your choice, and it doesn't even have to be one I've mentioned!

Step 3: Import the contacts into Outlook

There are a couple of ways to do this, and it depends on what you want. 

My preference would have been to import the contacts, using the aforementioned Export button, which would have given me the option to merge and update duplicates and left me with just the one set of contacts folders.

Unfortunately, I had a little trouble getting my home Outlook to recognize the .pst file.  I wound up only being able to get it to open the file using the Open data file option and telling it the .pst was a 97-2002 Outlook file.  At least it opened, but that forced a little more of step 4...

Step 4: Merge, clean-up and dedupe the contacts (optional)

In my case, I had to select all the contacts in each contact folder in the newly opened file and drag them over to the main contacts folder in Outlook.  It asked me whether to create a birthday in the calendar.  I don't really care about that in this case because I'm not planning to use that calendar, but it wouldn't copy them if I told it not to.  Whatever.

Since I had to drag them in, there were more duplicates than there might have been otherwise, so I spent a little time going through and deleting duplicates, adjusting some and deleting a few that I really don't need anymore... e.g. contacts with no valid information or for people I don't really know anymore. I also did some other cleanup, such as making sure everyone was being displayed an sorted correctly.

Step 5: Connect your iPhone

This one's easy.  Connect the iPhone and bring up iTunes, if it doesn't come up automatically.  Update to the latest version if you want.  I knew I'd been procrastinating long enough, so I didn't bother.
Step 6: Set the phone for local sync of contacts

I had the phone set up to sync contacts to the cloud, so when I went to the iTunes info page for my phone (more on that later), I didn't have the option to sync with outlook.  Go to settings on the iPhone, find iCloud, and turn off contacts.

Step 7: Sync contacts from Outlook via iTunes

This is the first bit of real magic, as far as I'm concerned.  It would've been nice if I could have uploaded the contact .pst file directly to my iCloud account, or even better, just told the phone to copy all my contacts from the server to the phone, but this is what does that.

Select your phone in the iTunes device list.  Go to the Info page.  Click the checkbox to tell it to sync contacts, and pick Outlook.

Click Apply.

Wait for it to sync and then notice that your phone now has all your contacts!  Hallelujah, we're making real progress!

Step 8: Set the iPhone back to iCloud contacts

Now, the final step, which makes it all worthwhile.  Go back into settings on the phone and back to iCloud.  Turn ON contact sync.

That's it.  In a little while, if you log into iCloud from a web browser and go to contacts, there they will all be!

At this point, if I stop procrastinating and pack, I can fly to UT for a long weekend with my Lovely Wife and have both the contacts I'm likely to need AND all the others safely in my phone.  Where they belong.

P.S. Incidentally, I wrote a lot of this post using Blogger for iPhone while en route to SLC, in airplane mode.  I copied the text out to Notes, just to be safe, but Blogger is actually capable of working in disconnected mode.  Bravo.

P.P.S.  It took me a few days to finish this, since LW and I have been in UT.  I'll update this further to add screenshots and maybe additional notes in a few days.

Friday, August 16, 2013

It's Greek to Me

I've been using computers for at least 30 years.  I remember writing games in BASIC on a Commodore Pet at the Lawrence Hall of Science when I was about 12.  I've used various flavors of Unix including BSD and HP-UX.  I've been using Windows since 3.0 and before that DOS and CP/M.  Word-star, Word Perfect, Emacs, GNU Emacs.  Word, Excel, etc.

I've programmed in BASIC, Pascal (UCSD and Turbo), Scheme, C, C++ (again, a couple of different flavors, at least), a bit of Assembler and some Prolog.  Java, of course.  And those are just the ones I can remember at the moment. I've been a sysad, a software engineer, and 8 different kinds of consultant.  In my family, we have 3 iPhones and an iPad, so far.

For some reason, I have never been able to learn to use a Mac.  Ever.  Now, to be fair, I've never tried very hard.  I've always gotten disgusted with something and gone back to things I know.  Lately, I've been wanting to learn to use a Mac.  It can't be that hard, and I feel as if it's this hole that needs to be filled.  I figured if nothing else I'd know how to use it in case I came across one again, and in my copious spare time, which is to say none, perhaps I'd write some iPhone or iPad apps, just for the heck of it.  Hell, I almost bought a MacBook a few months ago, but decided to go with a couple of professional lenses for my Canon.  That should give away another of my favorite activities.

So, today was my last day at the company where I've been working for 7 years.  OK, OK, 12 days shy of 7 years.  6 years, 353 days.  That should clear up any questions as to whether I'm a numbers guy.  I'm going to go with 7 years, though... close enough.  And, don't get me wrong.  The fact that I know my exact start date and can quickly compute for how many days I worked there shouldn't be taken as an indication that it was a drag.  As I said, I'm a numbers guy.  No, it was a great experience, I learned a ton, met and worked with some great people and customers.  I even accomplished 3 of the 5 goals I had for the job when I took it.  The other 2 are more ephemeral and haven't yet come to pass, but there's still time.

I start at my new company on September 9th.  They use Macs.


OK, well, at least I already decided I want to learn to use them.  Once I actually start, I'll have 3 weeks before our user conference in San Francisco, where I suspect I'll either be introduced as the Director of Product Management for Analytics, or I'll give a presentation on something we're starting to put together.  Either way, I need to have some idea what I'm talking about by then, so I need to drink from the fire hose, not just sip.  I don't want to be fighting with the Mac.

I am going to pick up my new laptop from them about a week and a half before I start so that I can spend a little bit of my vacation getting used to the new (to me) OS.  Yeah, I know.  This is supposed to be a vacation.  Well, in addition to being a numbers guy, I'm obviously a computer guy, so I don't mind that much.  Besides, it was my lovely wife's idea.  Yes, you read that right.  LW actually suggested that I get the laptop early and spend some time getting used to it.  Wait.  What?

I created this blog because I thought it would be funny to write about the process of learning to use this thing.  I know it's not going to be all that hard, since I'm basically FORCED to do it so won't just give up and go back to the usual suspects, but I've definitely got a bit of a block there.  And, who knows?  Maybe this blog will be useful for some other poor soul who's sooooo used to DOS/*nix/Windows that they've never learned the first thing about a Mac.

I know there are resources on the 'Net that will help, and I'll be linking to those and commenting on them.

We'll see how it goes.