OS X – Documents Directory gets cloaked !


A curious thing happened with Leopard !

Suddenly my Documents folder went AWOL ! I can see it in the sidebar but not in the main finder window. Not much is written about it. But finally found a cure !

  • /Developer/Tools/GetFileInfo -a Documents/
    • If the folder shows a V attribute as in “aVbstclinmedz”, the directory is hidden !
  • Then use the SetFile command to reset the invisibility bit : /Developer/Tools/SetFile -a v Documents/

Worked for me. All’s Well That Ends Well

switching to mac, the missing blog !


Sorry, couldn’t resist ;o) In the span of a week I made the switch to mac, with all my ~50 GB of various files, mailboxes et al !
My main machine is a macbook pro 17″ with 3 GB memory and 200GB disk. The other machne is the macbook pro 15″ with 3GB memory. I have two because I am working on distributed protocols and state machines for time sync(IEEE1588v2), adhoc networks(DYMO,NHDP), distributed discovery(mDNS,p2p,SCTP) et al.

Notes on my Close Encounters of the mac kind in three acts !

[Update : April 05,2010] Wow, 3 Years have passed since I wrote this blog ! I now have the 2009 MacBook Pro with 300GB Disk and 8GB memory]

[Update : Am updating the log as many of my colleagues are moving to mac]

Prologue : Resources to read, people to see, blogs to visit, …

Before you do anything, read the book “Switching to Mac : the missing manual book essential”. Chapter 1 How the mac is different is priceless for newbies
My suggestion is first open the mac, install the OS et al. Do nothing else until after you have read the book. So open a bottle of good cab or merlot, get a glass & the book and sit in front of your mac and don’t get up until you have read the book and practiced the stuff. Reading without working on the computer will not help.
There are too many short cuts and too many key-mouse combinations. You need not know all of them. Just get the basics and possibly jot them down in an index card. Read the book once, internalize the basics and revisit the book after a few months when more advanced features will make more sense.

Act 1, Scene 1 : Programs to gather

These are the programs I have, in addition to the ones built-in.

  • Parallels VMWare Fusion 3.02 (essential if your company uses Outlook for meeting et al)
  • Aquaminds Notetaker (macbook pro comes with OmniOutline. I spent a week with it but liked the NoteTaker better)
  • [Update] OmniFocus – _ use this for task management.
  • Mathematica (I use this for doing all kinds of stuff)[Update : Not anymore ;o()
  • VPN Client (If you are a corporate person and need to connect from home)
  • Thunderbird (for e-mail)
  • Office 2004 2008 or equivalent
  • Mindmanager or openmind Mindmanager for Mac
  • You might need a DES card if you are used to Windows login to corporate LAN from remote
  • Get a couple of 2GB or 4GB USB sticks (These are for daily backup. As this is a new OS with it's own quirks, you'd want to backup daily, alternating between the USB sticks) I have 2 of Kingston 2GB and 2 of imation 4GB sticks
    • [Update] 32 GB Sticks !
  • Buy a spindle of good quality DVDs to backup. I am using the Taiyo Yuden from http://www.supermediastore.com/taiyo-yuden-silver-thermal-8x-dvd-r-media.html. The gory details of good backup is at http://adterrasperaspera.com/blog/2006/10/30/how-to-choose-cddvd-archival-media/
  • If you do not have a DVD writer, get an external one. I bought the IDE Samsung writemaster DVD and a USB case – both from directron. You can easily assemble them and viola ! you have a USB DVD writer !
  • Get a good mouse – I have the Logitech MX510 and also the MX518s
    • [Update] Microsoft Wireless 6000
  • [Update] Get couple of Firewire 400 or 800 1GB disks. macsales have some good ones.
  • [Update] Backup to one using TimeMachine
  • Backup to the other one using SuperDuper!
  • Upgrade the memory. macbook pro comes with 2GB. You can order with 3Gb or buy the 2GB memory and install them. Basically it needs the 2GB DDR2 PC5300 200P SODIMM. I got it from Crucial.
    • [Update] 8GB from macsales !

Act 1, Scene 2 : Install & configure

  • Create a folder called “Downloads” in your home folder and configure Safari to download files there. During the install process you’d encounter updates and these need to be downloaded somewhere. Desktop is the wrong place for them
  • The installs are much easier and smoother than Windows
  • Make sure the data folders are off of your home/Documents. This is important from a backup perspective
  • By default the scroll arrows bunchup at the bottom of the scroll bar. I changed them – “system preference -> appearance -> scroll bar -> keep top and bottom” helped a lot. It might confuse the normal mac users !
  • mac has the “keep in dock” and “open at login” feature. I have Console, Terminal, Mathematica and Notetaker on “open at login” and Cisco VPN, XCode and Safari as “keep in dock”
  • After all programs are installed, check the LAN connectivity first. Usually it is better to test wired connection and best if you are at your office
  • Once you have the wired connectivity, add your e-mail accounts and make sure e-mail connectivity is fine
  • Now it is time tio check wireless connectivity. Usually it is a breeze, for corporate folks, PEAP is the best bet. LEAP, LEAP-FAST et al might require little more work
  • Make a note to test remote connectivity, say from home. You do not want to test connectivity first time from a hotel, especially when you need that file urgently just before a customer meeting.
  • Would be a good practice to test connectivity from a couple of wireless hotspots or free wireless stations and familiarize yourself with the settings, windows et al

Act 2, Scene 1 : Backup files from the Windows machine

  • This is an important step.
  • First, do backup (to DVD) than a network transfer, that way you have a full set of extra copies of all your files
  • Second, do only what I call, just-in-time/on-demand restore. That way you will have only the files you need. All 20 backups of the last year’s ppt is really not required (I am talking hex here!).
  • In short you have an opportunity to cleanup and reorganize. I did this with my ~ 8 years worth of pack-rating ! Am enjoying the simplicity !
  • But make sure you have a copy of all file shandy – I have them with me, in my computer bag, in case …
  • I used a copy of NERO and took time to organize and backup my folders – To Read, Research, mail files, …
  • For some reason all the dates of the files will be lost. So if you want to preserve the dates, zip them (without compression) and burn the zip files. I kind-of liked the dates, especially on my 10 year old files.
  • Keep in mind – OS X is case preserving but case insensitive

Act 2, Scene 2 : Moving in

  • Once you have installed all your programs and have a copy of all your data files, turn the power off of the Windows machine and no comebacks !
  • It is easier than one would think.
  • Keyboard is a little hard to get used to – especially the lack of a forward delete. The keyboard is a little mushy as well. I like my Dell E1505 better in that sense.
  • Start using the mac for your daily work. Fix things that do not work, copy files as you require.

Act 3 Scene 1 : First week in the new home

Act 3 Scene 2 : The good

  • mac is absolutely delightful to use – more elegant and fast.
  • No question, windows is clunky and complicated in more than one ways. I can count at least 50 and counting …
  • More native UI, the unix-y feel, lighted keyboard !
  • The dashboard is a welcome change ! That concept floored me ! The widgets when you need them and out of the way most of the times ! Widgets ranging from piano theory to TV countdown to IP subnet calculator ! Though I am not sure I want the TV countdown widget !
  • cocoa – lots of good fonts ! Still remember the Bitstream fonts for Wordperfect !
  • Installing is much easier and cleaner – application as folder trick is an extremely powerful abstraction.
  • No registry, no uninstall, very clean indeed. The registry is a big molasses in Windows
  • No IRQs !

Act 3 Scene 3 : The bad

  • There is no docking station and neither is macbook pro built for one. The LAN and monitor connectors are at the side and while there is a DVI connector, it is cumbersome to connect to external monitor.
  • Lack of the forward delete key as well as separate home/pgUp/PgDn/End keys are a little backward. These make life easier, especially in a laptop. Definitely a flaw
  • Couldn’t find a zip viewer. When I click a zip file, it expands them to a folder. I just wanted to see them. Remember my just-in-time recovery, so I want to select and copy the files

Act 3 Scene 4 : The Ugly

  • They have a supplies button in the printing window and it takes you to apple store. Talk about being moronic. Didn’t’ expect this from Apple.
  • The spell checker takes a little time to get used to. I never thought I will miss the wigglys in word ! I liked Right-clicking a wiggly and getting a list of recommended words. I need to experiment with spell checker more
  • Took me a little time to find how to use the home/PgUp/PgDn/End keys. Finally found the Clover key combination

Act 3 Scene 5 : The Unexplored

  • flippy triangle or disclosure triangle is interesting
  • power of spotlight – haven’t yet reached that mode to leverage its power
  • Used to use function keys a lot, not anymore
  • Haven’t yet found a use for color coding files to track usage

Epilog : Lessons Learned a.k.a. Tips & Tricks (in random order)

  • Backup and do a just-in-time/on-demand restore
    • If you are moving to mac, take this opportunity to copy all files to DVDs and then restore files only as and when you need them. This way, you have a good backup plus reduce clutter a lot
      I bet, you will need at most 5-10% of your old files.
  • [Update] Backup using Time Machine. Also keep a SuperDuper! backup handy
  • Buy extra power bricks and keep one in the office, one in you bag and one at home.
  • Backup the documents and downloads folders, daily, alternating between the USB sticks
    Backup is important as you are working with a new OS and there are possibilities of mistakes
    I am lucky in the sense that I have two macs – as I am developing protocols like precision time sync, ad-hoc wireless network, p2p and distributed discovery
  • If you re a geek, like me, you’d want to see the boot messages. So turn startup messages on
  • Get the 3GB memory – either from Apple or from elsewhere. It is worth it, especially if you are using parallels.
  • Turn firewall on
  • Learn and use the outliners in mac – for some reason mac has much better outliners. I should know ! During the years I have used many – from Lotus Agenda to Packrat to Ecco to… ;o(
  • As I had mentioned earlier, there are tons of keyboard short cuts. Internalize only the basics and after you are comfortable with the machine, one can learn more.
  • Organizational best practices
    • Most of the companies do not support mac (AFAIK. Am happy to be wrong)
    • You need a strong,participatory mac support group with a high EQ!
    • Start a well categorized Wiki and let people add best practices as they find. Soon this will have all the hard-to-get information and the collective wisdom in a central place.
    • In addition, have a support mailer for folks to ask questions.
    • Archive the mailer with a newsgroup front end so that people can refer to it before asking questions
    • Be friendly with you IT folks. Even if the official policy is not to support macs, they can tolerate macs and help to coexist. Butting heads with them will not benefit anybody.
    • Buy and Install parallels. VMWare fusion is also a good choice. I run Outlook and IE under parallels. Calendaring without outlook is very difficult in an exchange world, at least in the beginning. One needs IE for web pages that work only with IE/WIndows.
    • Did I say, get used to the elegance and speed ?

Tri-lingual – OS/X, Ubuntu and Vista !


I don’t know what one would call a person who works on 3 operating systems. Anyway I am about to join the dark side (or the enlightened side depending on your POV) – just got my MacBook Pro ! So now I can compare OS/X, Ubuntu and Vista ! Time will tell which one I will stick to most of the time …

Couple of quick reason to go the mac route :

  • I am working on an implementation of DYMO and associated Ad-Hoc wireless network protocols on mac
  • I really need a good development system for my algorithmics and other work. Eclipse is good but not great (IMHO); Visual Studio is great but very limited (need to work on network drivers natively, need to be cross platform et al) ; XCode 3 looks like a good combination. I can do development on the mac, and run it on mac as well as Ubuntu. At least that is my idea, let us see how it pans out …