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#736: Migrating to Unibody MacBook, Favorite Widgets, TotW: Mouse-Free Finder Navigation


Happy Tuesday,

I’m writing today from our new store in Manchester, NH. Our grand opening on Saturday created a line of thousands of people, and our staff handled the crowds with aplomb. We gave away over a thousand gifts, took a few trade-ins, and did a few repairs, but perhaps the most amazing thing was the incredible number of Tech Tails readers who immediately recognized me from the photo at left.

The technical services team is busy getting our service facility fully assembled and ready to handle the anticipated high volume of repairs once the greater Manchester area beings to learn just how complete our end to end Apple solutions are. I hope you’ll come by the store to say hello if you’re close by; the store is only a few hundred yards from the highway.

It’s somewhat trying to see friends’ photos of the incredible autumn scenery back in Vermont as I spend so much time inside the mall. I do terribly miss the Mad River Valley and Owen, but this new adventure for our company and our customers is completely worthwhile. So much is learned every day, and I need to compile all of this new knowledge for the next big step.

As always, thanks for reading, and keep in touch.


  Migrating to Unibody MacBook  

I really liked the way the new MacBooks looked as soon as I saw them and definitely like the performance upgrades. The other thing that stood out, of course, was something that wasn’t there—a FireWire port. Though I am a big FireWire fan, I’m going to leave the discussion and debate about that decision for others. Instead I’m going to talk about how the lack of FireWire affects one of the greatest features of Apple computers: Migration Assistant.

As Mac users, we take easy and (mostly) painless migration of data from machine to machine for granted. Put the source machine in Target Disk mode, fire up Migration Assistant on the destination machine, grab a FireWire cable, and with a few mouse clicks you are done. Try it on a PC sometime… it’s an exercise in frustration that could take days and cost hundreds of dollars in software and consulting. Migration Assistant really is a great and amazing thing.

The key to this process has been Apple’s Target Disk mode, which converts an Apple computer into a FireWire hard drive that will appear on another Apple’s desktop and allows quick easy data transfers, among other things. The one caveat is, of course, that you need FireWire on both machines!

So how to migrate data onto your new MacBook without FireWire? Apple’s solution is a new version of Migration Assistant. One of its new features allows you migrate data between two machines that are booted up—no FireWire mode needed. Connect the two machine via ethernet (or go wireless!). Fire up Migration Assistant, follow the instructions, and off you go… with a few things to keep in mind. The source machine must be running at least 10.4.11 to install and run the new Migration Assistant. And of course, there can be no underlying OS corruption.

We have done quite a few of these transfers in South Burlington using various methods. Ethernet and wireless both work, but usually need some fiddling to work right… and sometimes, big stuff is needed like an OS reinstallation. The process can also be pretty slow if you are used to FireWire. We are talking “overnight-see-you-in-the-morning” slow. If the worst case happens and you can’t get it to work directly, you can image the target machine on a USB hard drive and migrate from that.

To be fair, we mostly see results like this when migrating from PowerPC machines that have been upgraded from an OS older than Tiger. Time does march on, and making the move from a PowerPC machine running 10.2 to an Intel machine running 10.5.6 is likely to be an undertaking no matter what. And I’m sure Migration Assistant will improve as well. So while I bemoan the loss of FireWire on the MacBook, I’ll get over it, and it’s nice to know there is a solution in place.

  A Few of my Favorite Widgets  

Dashboard is a feature of Mac OS X that I’ve never felt I really used to its fullest capability. That said, every now and again I decide to plunge into the widgets section of the Apple downloads page and surface with a couple of new gems. I recently found two widgets that have been great for time management.

The first widget is called QuickCal. If you use iCal to coordinate your life you need this widget. It’s just a text field, much like a google or wikipedia widget, that sits on your Dashboard. What it lets you do is add events to your iCal by typing them in plain english. For instance: type into QuickCal “Budget Meeting Saturday at 2pm until 3pm.”

Then it will create an event called “Budget Meeting” that will span the next Saturday from 2pm until 3pm. It’s that simple. By clicking on the upper right corner it will change which calendar it will add the event to. The only downside I’ve found so far is that it doesn’t seem to be able to create repeating events, but this is easily changed in iCal itself later on. I highly recommend this widget if you are often adding random events to your calendar.

The other widget is called Minutes. This is nothing more than an extremely simple yet elegant timer. I find using a timer helpful in managing my attention while studying (or writing blog posts) and it’s taken me a while to find a widget I really liked. What I love about this one is its super simple interface; it’s just a dial you drag to the number of minutes you need.

´┐╝It has multiple skins, which is a nice touch, and multiple alert types. You can have it start to play iTunes when using it as an alarm clock, or just have it play one of several alert noises (I rather like the bell which sounds like a gong). My favorite though, is that it throws an alert on top of whatever you’re working on. It can also give you just this alert without the sound.

Basically both of these widgets are very good at what they do. They are both incredibly simple without a ton of fancy options, but still manage to be as feature rich as you’d like. I use them both frequently and think you should check them out.

  Tip of the Week: Mouse-Free Finder Navigation  

I met a customer the other day who used only icon view in the Finder, and she was having a lot of trouble finding what she needed in the various folders filled with hundreds of items. When she handed me the laptop, I immediately switched to list view by pressing Command-2, and she was mesmerized at this capability. It was almost too much to handle when I showed her column view by pressing Command-3.

While navigating the Finder in list view, you can use the arrow keys to go up and down the list. If you come upon a folder, you can use the right arrow to show that folder’s contents; conversely, you can use the left arrow to hide the contents of that folder. While in column view, you can use the left and right arrows to move between columns.

When you find the file or folder you wish to open, you can use the Command-O keyboard shortcut. If you want to delete a file, use Command-Delete.

We write often about keyboard shortcuts in our newsletters and on our blog.

You can check out all of these articles by clicking here.

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