Upgrading the disk in a LaCie d2 Quadra

Following on from my post about upgrading one of the internal drives in my 2008 Mac Pro, I moved on to upgrading the disk inside my LaCie d2 Quadra external drive this morning. Once again pretty straightforward thanks to SuperDuper, my Voyager Q and a Philips screwdriver. If you’ve got one of these LaCie drives and you’d like more space for whatever reason (and the existing drive is out of warranty), then dive in because in less than ten minutes you’ll be enjoying lots more free space.

The LaCie d2 Quadra is a solid and well constructed external unit which actually makes replacing the drive inside it very easy because all the parts are machined to fit together just so. You won’t be struggling with screw holes that don’t line up or bendy bits of plastic as the case is a nicely machined piece of aluminium (or aluminum depending on your side of the Atlantic!).

1. Ok first step is to remove the four screws at the back of the unit. You’ll discover that these screws hold on both the back and front bezels as they go right the way through the case!

(Click images to enlarge)

2. Having removed the front and rear bezels, next remove the thin masking plate that covers the ports on the rear of the device. Take care to do this gently and to not bend it.

3. Turn the unit on it’s side and remove the two screws that hold the internal assembly in place.

4. Now you can slide out the whole internal assembly which is basically a mounting plate, a circuit board and the drive itself.

5. Turn the assembly over and remove the four screws that hold the drive onto the mounting plate.

6. Next you can gently slide the drive off the SATA connector. I found the best way to do this was to just rock the drive slightly from side to side while gently pulling it.

7. From here on in it’s pretty much a case of reversing the procedure starting by gently sliding the new drive on to the SATA connector then re-attaching it to the mounting plate. The screws really don’t have to be that tight as the drive barely vibrates and isn’t going anywhere once re-fitted.

New drive fitted and ready to go back in the case.

8. Slide the whole internal assembly back into the case, making sure that the two screw holes on the side of the assembly line up with their corresponding holes in the side of the case.

9. Secure the assembly inside the case using the two screws on the side.

10. Replace the masking plate over the ports at the back, again taking care not to bend it.

11. Replace the front and back bezels and secure them in place using the four long case screws.

Everything back as it was, only with more space!

That’s it, pretty straight forward eh? The procedure for cloning my existing 1.5Tb drive in the LaCie on to the new 2Tb disk was much the same as for the internal drive upgrade I just did. I popped the 2Tb drive into my Voyager Q, created a single Mac OS Extended (journalled) partition with a unique name then used SuperDuper to copy everything from the existing LaCie drive to the new one. Finally I ejected both drives, did the hardware swap, powered up the LaCie with the new drive inside and renamed the volume back to the original name (so that I don’;t have to change any backup routines, etc).

Choice of Hard Disk Drive

It’s worth noting that the LaCie d2 Quadra is a passively cooled drive enclosure, i.e. there is no fan to pull air through it. For this reason I have stuck with a Western Digital ‘Green’ SATA hard disk – the WD20EARS SATA 3Gb/s 3.5inch IntelliPower 2Tb 64Mb to be exact. I have used WD Green drives before and found them to be both very quiet and not too hot, plus they are plenty fast enough for data and backup drives like the LaCie.

Update 05/December/2012

I have been using Western Digital ‘GREEN’ drives in both my Lacie Quadra (Firewire) drive and in a number of Synology NAS devices. While they have performed well, I have had two failures out of eight drives in the past year – that’s a 25% failure rate. These have not been catastrophic failures resulting in data loss, rather drive errors found by software like Drive Genius or S.M.A.R.T. utilities. Western Digital make it very easy to return drives, they have a long warranty period and seem to be very quick at replacing drives without any argument, so I am happy to continue using WD drives. However, I am now looking at moving from their ‘GREEN’ drives to their ‘RED’ drives for storage that is external to my Mac Pro. The ‘RED’ drives are around 25% more expensive than the ‘GREEN’ drives, e.g. current price of a 2Tb RED drive on Amazon UK is £90 compared with £74 for a 2Tb GREEN drive, but the RED drives are optimised for NAS and external storage as opposed to power saving.

Advertisements

AVG Link Scanner removal problem

I have at least two failings… that I know of! First is that I like trying new software on the Mac. Second is that I’m a little bit OCD about everything on the Mac working as it should. Actually those two shortcomings of mine probably don’t sit happily together because trying out software inevitably means you end up uninstalling stuff a lot of the time and that’s where problems can easily start under OS X.

Ok I don’t know what possessed me (and you can reprimand me in the comments below for being such a wuss) but I decided to try out AVG Link Scanner for the Mac, just to see if it was any good. Ok I know that viruses for the Mac are a rare item, but the threat from malicious web sites is a bit more real and I figured… well a little bit of extra protection couldn’t hurt surely? So I installed AVG Link Scanner thinking it would happily warn me if ever I accidentally clicked on a link that would take me to somewhere that would steal my Mac’s soul! After a few weeks trying it out, I decided that it wasn’t for me and set about removing it. At this point I would normally turn to my trusty CleanApp, but seeing as AVG Link Scanner comes with an uninstaller I decided to use that instead. I always prefer to use the developers own uninstall routine if there’s one available as I figure they will know all the ins and outs of what needs to be removed. So I ran it, gave it the password it asked for and it happily told me that it had uninstalled the product successfully. End of story… or so I thought.

Next time I had occasion o reboot my Mac (to get rid of a stubborn “Firefox is already open, please close Firefox” problem, when Firefox wasn’t even running), I spotted that the AVG Link Scanner cleanup hadn’t done it’s job. There sitting in my console messages were four lines that read:

18/11/2010 06:12:34    com.apple.launchctl.Background[275]    launchctl: Couldn’t stat(“/Library/LaunchAgents/com.avg.LinkScannerAgent.plist”): No such file or directory

18/11/2010 06:12:34    com.apple.launchctl.Background[275]    launchctl: Couldn’t stat(“/Library/LaunchAgents/com.avg.LoaderAgent.plist”): No such file or directory

18/11/2010 06:12:34    com.apple.launchctl.Aqua[276]    launchctl: Couldn’t stat(“/Library/LaunchAgents/com.avg.LinkScannerAgent.plist”): No such file or directory

18/11/2010 06:12:34    com.apple.launchctl.Aqua[276]    launchctl: Couldn’t stat(“/Library/LaunchAgents/com.avg.LoaderAgent.plist”): No such file or directory

Obviously on bootup my Mac was attempting to launch components of AVG Link Scanner that were no longer present, so why hadn’t the uninstall routine cleaned up properly and prevented this from happening? First thing was to launch Lingon and check that there were no launchd entries anywhere that might be triggering AVG. Kinda unrelated in a way, but I felt it best to check. Everything looked fine, there was nothing relating to AVG in the launchd entries anywhere. Next it was off to check my ~\Library\LaunchAgents folder just to check nothing was amiss – all looked just fine, there were no AVG plist files as I’d expected. Ok, so now I figure the problem is that launchctl has a list somewhere of the agents it thinks it needs to start on bootup, and that list hasn’t been updated to say that AVG has been uninstalled. But where to find that list, and when (if) I do – how to edit it to remove the duff entries for AVG Link Scanner?

Well typing the error messages above and/or various keywords into Google proved a bit fruitless. Most of the hits related to cases where the thing that launchctl was trying to load did actually exist, whereas in my case they don’t.

Now this is where I have to disappoint my readers (reader?) because as yet I haven’t found the solution. Perhaps I’ll give Apple a call today and see if they can shed some light on it but I suspect a question like “Where does launchctl find it’s list of what to load and how can I edit it?!” will be met with either a deathly silence or something along the lines of “Apple does not support this sort of action”. If that’s the case then I’ll probably email AVG and see if they can’t shed some light on it – in fact I’ll do that now anyway. Sure I know it’s not ‘hurting’ my Mac because it still boots just fine and the above messages are really just a warning that something’s out of line, but I’d like to get to the bottom of it all the same and when I do I shall add the results below.

What it does go to show though is that uninstalling software from your Mac isn’t always as straight forward as it seems, even if the app comes with it’s own uninstaller!

I’m being tempted away from my Mac…

XP desktopMy step-mother has a Sony Vaio laptop that has to be about 5 or 6 years old and runs Windows XP. Her needs are simple, but she comes from a generation that really doesn’t get computers. She refers to the hourglass timer as a ‘christmas cracker’ and has no idea that Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer are entirely different animals. When I built the laptop for her I loaded it with all the necessary security software, but for someone who doesn’t have the intuition about what one should or shouldn’t do (or rather click on), then it’s a recipe for disaster (aka repeated ‘support’ calls).

Every so often I completely rebuild the laptop, but it’s only a stay of execution and it’s becoming obvious that she needs something a bit more modern, a bit more simple and a bit more robust. So I’m thinking about an iMac, a Mac Mini or perhaps even an iPad. Email, a very small amount of web browsing and online shopping, being able to look at photos and the odd brief document are all she needs and it seems that any one of these devices will serve her well. To this end I picked up an iPad for her, the thinking being that it was the one device that would do all of the above, be intuitive to use and free her up from locking herself away in a room (much to my dad’s dismay) when she needs to ‘compute’.

It’s a 32Gb WiFi model and I’ve been using it to see what it can do before offering it as her new computing partner (of course she’ll still need a PC/Mac running iTunes plus a wireless router, but that’s another story). I have to say that having had no intention of buying one myself, as I already have my Mac Pro and iPhone 3G, I am now rapidly changing my mind. Firstly, I read a lot of RSS news feeds using Vienna on the Mac. I do occasionally use Google Reader but Vienna gives me the clean interface I want and if you want a free (and ad-free) news reader for OS X then this would be my recommendation. But then there’s NewsRack on the iPad. I can laze on the sofa in the lounge and flick through my RSS feeds so easily, browsing in detail the articles I’m more interested in, or adding them to InstaPaper for later. Yes there are other news readers for the iPad, but NewsRack has a clean and intuitive interface that just seems really natural when you’re coming from an OS X (or even Windows) based reader. What’s more it does this whole Google Reader sync thing if you feel the need to read news feeds on multiple devices, plus has many other features besides.

Then there’s the mail app on the iPad. It works exactly the way you think it should and I find I can process 95% of my mail here, just resorting to the Mac where I need to do something a little more complicated. The result is that I can now go for days without using the Mac to do these routine things. There’s other things too… Weather Pro HD gives me detailed weather forecasts rather than having to use WeatherDock on the Mac. Osfoora HD on the iPad is now my preferred way of monitoring Twitter, while Nambu is my choice when on the Mac, and if I want to read a PDF I’ll generally be doing it in GoodReader on the iPad rather than in Preview on the Mac.

IMG_0013It’s not that the apps on the Mac aren’t any good, in fact they’re the best ones I’ve found in my years of Mac usage. It’s just that I don’t have to go and sit upstairs in front of the Mac to dip my toe into the computer world. What’s more, I’ll often find that when I start using the Mac just to do a quick email for example, I’ll often get sidetracked and then ‘waste’ an hour or two doing something I hadn’t intended to. With the iPad I pick it up, do the email or read the news then put it down. Having said that, the games on the iPad are pretty distracting!

Now don’t get me wrong, the Mac Pro is still great, and for content creation the iPad doesn’t come close. For starters, the WordPress app for the iPad is a bit of a lame duck if you ask me, and I’d far rather use the WordPress dashboard on the Mac to create or edit blog posts. Similarly, for photo editing and processing, long documents, spreadsheets, downloading, listening to music (even though SnowTape and Spotify can run on the iPad), and for many other more involved tasks, the Mac is still king.

So, when my step-mother takes this iPad off my hands will I be tempted to spend the money on getting one myself? Do bears sh*t in the woods?! Hell yeah…  Of course I could just recommend she gets a cheap Windows 7 laptop for her needs and keep this one, but I suspect the whole Windows support cycle thing will just start afresh, and I’m not sure my nerves could take it. Besides, if she has the iPad then there’s always AppleCare to ease my burden 😉

By the way, in case you’re interested here’s a few of my favourite iPad apps (note, clicking on links may prompt you to open iTunes):

  • WeatherPro HD – detailed weather for your location for the next seven days.
  • Pages – I’m just a sucker for being able to write stuff wherever I am, and as a Pages user on the Mac…
  • Life Browser – iPad Safari is good, but in many ways I prefer this.
  • Instapaper – great way to save web pages for later consumption.
  • NewsRack – elegant and intuitive RSS reader with all the right features.
  • Evernote – wouldn’t be without it, whatever device I’m using. (I think my brain is backed up to Evernote!).
  • DropBox & SugarSync – love ’em both and can’t decide which I prefer.
  • Osfoora HD – does all a Twitter client needs to do for me on the iPad (and lots more besides).
  • Magic Piano – I’m no impresario but this makes me sound like one!
  • GoodReader – is to PDFs what FireFox is to the web.
  • IMDb – how cool to watch a film and be able to learn more about it as you watch?
  • eyeTV – let’s me wirelessly stream recordings on the Mac to my, ahem… the iPad. It can do live TV too, but I’ve got a TV for that. (Note, you need eyeTV on your Mac for it to work).
  • tChess Pro – attractive and challenging chess game with all the features I need to remind me I’m rubbish at chess!
  • Angry Birds HD – ok you have to catapault various types of birds into pigs. Sounds daft, but it’s very entertaining and the sound effects are just lovely.
  • Words with Friends HD – sort of a multi-player (across the web) Scrabble clone. (Multi-player as in my friends can mock me with their prowess!).
  • Real Racing HD – first person racing game with incredible graphics and gameplay.
  • Hexius – a bit like Bejewelled but perhaps more challenging and complex… and with multi-player capabilities.
  • Soosiz HD – a platform game where gravity isn’t always what you’d expect. Good fun.
  • Monkey Island 2: SE – Monkey Island meets the iPad, this game is entertaining, funny and looks fantastic.
  • Osmosis for iPad – mesmerizing, challenging, addictive, relaxing, a must if you have an iPad.

IMG_0012And one final word on usability. The father of a friend of mine has Parkinson’s disease and finds it extremely difficult to interact with the world around him. Trying to show him photos on a laptop and to let him feel he has any sort of control was frustrating for him, and printed 4×6 shots were just too fiddly (let alone time consuming to create). It was great to put an iPad on his lap and to see him smile and enjoy the photos in a way in which he can be in control.

PS – Both iPad wallpapers are from VladStudio, a talented artist whom I heartily support.

Getting ADSL to your Airport Extreme

Apple is famed for it’s “it just works” technology, and for the most part that’s true. However, when it comes to the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station, it’s lack of a built-in DSL modem means you have a little figuring out to do if you want to use the Airport Extreme as part of an ‘internet connected’ network.

When my Netgear DGN2000 DSL wireless router expired a short time ago I decided to replace it with a Linksys WAG120N DSL wireless router. Great little device (so far) but it’s one drawback is that unlike the Airport Express which has three Gigabit Ethernet ports (1,000Mbps), the Linksys only has Fast Ethernet ports (100Mbps). Now I do large backups every day to two Synology NAS devices and they, like my Mac Pro are equipped with Gigabit Ethernet ports. Connecting them via the Linksys alone would just create a bottleneck and slow down my data transfers ten fold! Enter the Airport Extreme – the objective is to use the Airport Extreme as the centre of my wired network, but to also have internet access at the same time. Sure, I’m lucky enough to have two ethernet ports on the Mac Pro so I could connect one to the Airport Extreme and the other to the Linksys, but that’s messy plus not all Macs have two network ports. At it’s simplest, what I wanted was this…

AE Config 00

Basic Network Configuration

The first step is to set up the Linksys DSL router as normal, so connect the Mac to it via a cable and log in to it as per the manufacturers instructions. Give the DSL router your ISP details and configure it with an IP address of 192.168.1.1 and a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0. Next it’s a case of configuring the network settings on your Mac to talk directly to the DSL router, so enter System Preferences, choose Network and make sure that your Mac has an IP address (e.g. 192.168.1.4) on the same subnet as the DSL router, and tell it that the router it should talk to is at address 192.168.1.1. At this point you should have a simple network of your Mac and the DSL router and you should be able to surf the internet. Next I connected an ethernet cable to one of the Linksys routers four ports with the other end going to the ‘WAN” port on the Airport Extreme. Now it was a case of firing up the Airport Utility and manually configuring the Airport Extreme.

AE Config 05

Connect your Airport to your modem/router

In the Airport Utility, once it finds your Airport Extreme Base Station, highlight it and click on the Manual Setup button. Now click on the Ethernet tab at the top ans select Internet Connection. You should set Connect Using to Ethernet, and Connection Sharing to Off (Bridge Mode).

AE Config 01

Internet Connection settings

Now click on the TCP/IP button and choose to configure IPv4 Manually. Now it’s time to gve the Airport Extreme an IP address and tell it how to talk to the outside world.

Give the Airport Extreme an IP address of 192.168.1.2 and a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 (same as the Linksys). For the Router entry, enter the address of the Linksys, i.e. 192.168.1.1, and for the DNS Server(s) do the same. Here you are telling the Airport Extreme that any traffic that is not for something on your home/local network (e.g. internet traffic), send it to the Linksys router.

AE Config 02

TCP/IP settings

At this point you should be able to save the settings and apply them to your Airport Extreme. The next step is to disconnect the network cable from your Mac to the DSL router, and instead connect the Mac directly to one of the ethernet ports on your Airport Extreme. Now you should find that you can still surf the web but your Mac is only connected to your Airport Extreme. You can then add devices (in my case the two NAS boxes) directly to the Airport Extreme so that they can talk to your Mac at gigabit speeds, rather than just the ‘fast’ speeds of the DSL router.

If you want to use a service like OpenDNS then there’s no reason why you can’t and it’s simply a case of adding the IP addresses of the two OpenDNS servers to your Network settings on your Mac, like so:

AE Config 03

OpenDNS settings on the Mac

I have since extended this setup with wireless and I currently have an XBox 360, a PS 3 Slim, a Nintendo Wii, a Mac Mini, an iPad WiFi and iPhone 3G, plus my Panasonic Viera TV all talking to the internet via this little network. The Linksys DSL router is currently providing the (802.11n) wireless service, but I’m looking at ways to use the Airport Extreme’s ability to provide 5Ghz wirelss to enhance this setup (i.e. avoid interference from my neighbours on the 2.4Ghz band).

More on that in another post…

QuickBitz – Windows, Minis, iDefrag & Adobe

I’m not usually one for an outpouring of comments about the way of the world, probably because the internet is already rich with folk who can express their opinions much better than I. Nevertheless, I do encounter ‘oddities’ on my computing travels, and have assembled a few quickies below for posterity.

Aperture 3 – What, no Windows version?!

I was idly browsing through PC Magazine the other day, a magazine that often covers Mac hardware and Aperture 3software. Within its pages I found a review of Apple’s latest and greatest photo offering – Aperture 3. The reviewer was very complimentary about the product, but in the final reckoning marked it down because… there is no Windows version. No Windows version of a Mac  OS X product? Shock horror. Of course the magazine often hands out five star ratings to Windows software without knocking off a point because “there’s no Mac OS X version”. Good to know that double standards are alive and well, and talking of double standards…

New ‘Mid-2010’ Mac Mini pricing in the UK

Mac mini 2010The svelte new all aluminium (that’s ‘aluminum’ for my US friends) Mac Mini can be yours for just $699 plus sales tax (on average 5%). Here in the UK that translates to a base price of £475 , which with good old Value Added Tax (VAT) at 17.5% would come to £558 . But check that price in the UK Apple Store… £649. Ouch, I hope the extra £91 is going to a good cause.

iDefrag – Great but… unneccessary?

My early 2008 Mac Pro that shipped with Leopard 10.5 has only ever been rebuilt once and that was to do a clean install of Snow Leopard 10.6. So for however long I have been messing with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of files on my four internal 1.5Tb drives. So how badly fragmented do you suppose my boot drive was when I asked iDefrag to take a look? Well the Volume Contents showed 0.2% fragmentation, and the Volume Catalogue showed 0.0% fragmentation! So then… not an awful lot for iDefrag to actually do?

iDefrag showing my boot partition

iDefrag showing my boot partition

Adobe, Apple and that whole Flash thing

I watched the Steve Jobs interview on D8 and I read various commentaries (from both sides) about Apple’s decision to exclude Flash from the supported technologies on the iPad/iPhone. You can probably see where my sentiments lie if I give you this analogy…

A large motor manufacturer in the US decides to launch a new model of car, and they choose to make it an electric car. The largest oil company in the US then publicly complains that the car manufacturer won’t support the use of their fossil fuel in this new car. They argue that fossil fuel allows car users to enjoy seeing a great many parts of the world, and that there’s a huge infrastructure supporting the use of fossil fuel, so really this is unfair. The car manufacturer on the other hand says that it’s their choice to make an electric car, and that they’re just trying to make the best car experience they can for those that want to buy it.

Well that’s my way of looking at it…  😉

Snow Leopard – Got the disk, but still waiting

Please wait...

Please wait...

Yes I’ve upgraded my Mac Mini to Snow Leopard, and yes I’ve done a test install of it on the Mac Pro using a spare disk, and it looks great. However, much as I’m keen to upgrade to the latest and greatest OS on my Mac Pro… I can’t.

There are a few key applications that are holding me back.

Logitech Control Centre 3.0 – having a Logitech MX Revolution mouse and a Logitech diNovo Keyboard for Mac, the LCC software is pretty much essential. The current version of LCC (version 3.0) won’t even install under Snow Leopard, and although there are some workarounds to get it installed and to get some of the functionality back, it’s not elegant. Logitech are apparently working on a Snow Leopard compatible version of LCC that should be released “any day now”.

Evernote 1.4.8 – I use Evernote all the time for creating and syncing notes between my two Macs and my Windows (work) laptop. While Evernote 1.4.8 will install and run under Snow Leopard, there are certain things that are broken. There is a Snow Leopard compatible version (1.4.9) in the works, but it’s not out yet. As I write this, Evernote 1.4.9 has appeared on MacUpdate!

VMware Fusion 2.0.5 – another of my core apps, I run my work (Windows) desktop under VMware when I’m working from home. Fusion 2.0.5 won’t even load up under Snow Leopard in 64-bit mode, so best to wait for a fix. No timescales on that one…

1Password 2.9.31 – again, this is something I use every day for storing website logins, secure notes, license details, etc. It will work under Snow Leopard with  some caveats, e.g. it only supports Safari in 32-bit mode. For proper supported S/L functionality it seems I should wait for 1Password 3.0 to make it out of beta. As a registered user I can access the latest beta 3.0 version, but given how critical the data is that I store in 1Password, I’d rather wait for the release version to be on the safe side.

Adobe Lightroom 2.4 – home for all my photos and version 2.4 is reported to have issues under Snow Leopard. Another wait…

DropBox 0.6.556 – great for syncing files between my various machines, but it seems a few bits of this version are broken under Snow Leopard. There’s a version 0.6.557 on MacUpdate but it doesn’t mention S/L compatibility. There’s an experimental build 0.7.12 available, but again, I don’t want to trust my data to something experimental.

EyeTV 3.1.2 – apparently it works but there are problems with the sound.

goSecure 1.2 – the developer hasn’t yet confirmed this is Snow Leopard compatible, although I tried it out on my Mac Mini and it seems to work OK.

MailTags 2.3 – the developer has stated that 2.3 isn’t Snow Leopard compatible and that a new version is on the way.

…and there are a few more.

Wake me up when it’s Christmas.

What’s in the dock?

Following my post on OS X uninstallers, Matt asked about what applications are in the dock in my screen shot. So here’s a quick run down of the extra apps I’ve got in the dock, plus what’s loaded and showing in the menu bar.

What_s What

The Dock (from left to right)

Path Finder – I use this instead of the default Mac OS X Finder for most of my file management on the Mac, mainly because I can open it with two panes visible and drag & drop between them, but it’s got a whole host of other file management goodies besides.

OtherInbox/Fluid – OtherInbox is great for managing my mail and an absolute must in the fight against spam (I wrote a separate post about it). Here I’ve got the web interface to it bundled as an application using Fluid, so I can quickly launch straight into it from the Dock.

NetNewsWire – the best way to keep on top of all those RSS news feeds. I’m a bit of a news junkie (hmmm, might even post about what feeds I follow at some point), and NetNewsWire makes it easy to get my daily fix, oh and it’s free.

Microsoft Messenger – After moving to the Mac I still had a lot of friends using Messenger, and the Microsoft client gave me the best compatibility even though it lacks some of the features of it’s Windows counterpart (like audio & video in the personal version). I do like Adium as an IM client, but for some reason keep going back to Messenger. Old habits die hard!

VMware Fusion – If there’s one indispensable app on my Mac, this is it. It’s neck and neck with Parallels when it comes to running Windows on your Mac, and I typically run three Windows VMs side by side during my working day. VMware has been rock solid and we use it at work so I can move VMs between machines if need be.

1Password – I keep all my logins. passwords and secure notes such as software licenses in 1Password. Browser integration makes it a snip to quickly and safely log in to web sites, plus with the iPhone app I’ve got all my passwords safely backed up on the phone.

Pages 09 – This was my first choice for word processing on the Mac, although I had to add MS Word later.

Word 2008 – I bought MS Office 2008 for the Mac simply because so many of my colleagues use Word on their Windows machines and this gave me the best compatibility for sharing those docs.

Excel 2008 – Not much of a number cruncher but have written a couple of complex spreadsheets in Excel 2007 for Windows which I use weekly and Numbers 09 had a few issues handling them, so Excel 09 was the natural choice. Even so, there’s still a couple of compatibility issues between Excel 07 and Excel 2008 – ahem, thank you Microsoft.

EyeTV – how else to get my daily fix of pulp TV without leaving my Mac? Bought an Elgato EyeTV Hybrid and this is the software that came with it. Works brilliantly and dead easy to use.

Spotify – The revolutionary music streaming service that everyone’s talking about. A good range of music to suit all tastes, and relatively unobtrusive adverts for the free service.

Last but not least, there’s an icon in the dock that lets me quickly connect to my Mac Mini (standard built-in OS X screen sharing stuff).

The Menu Bar (left to right)

Skitch – Superb for capturing screen shots and then editing/annotating them. All the text and arrows in the screen shot at the start of this post were done using Skitch. It also lets you easily upload and share the fruits of your labours.

Evernote – Great dumping ground for all those notes I would otherwise be scribbling on bits of paper, plus I can sync my notes between computers, and with an iPhone version I can sync notes to that too.

DropBox – Another great way to share files between computers, and even with friends. 2Gb of online storage for free!

OpenDNS Updater – I’m a great fan of the OpenDNS service, keeping me safe from dubious websites, phishing attacks etc. I even wrote a blog post about it a couple of months ago. The OpenDNS updater is a free little app that syncs your IP details with the OpenDNS service.

GMail Notifier – A handy way to keep tabs on new Google mail. This was Google’s own version, but I’ve since switched to the leaner GMail Notifr app.

Yahoo Widgets – A hangover from my Windows days, thousands of widgets to put on your desktop, and I like the fact that you can change the transparency of any widget.  I know OS X has the Dashboard for widgets, and with a little hack you can put Widgets on your desktop, so it’s horses for courses. (To be fair, I think Yahoo Widgets are on the way out as there’s fewer and fewer new widgets appearing these days).

Smart Reporter – A little menu bar app that monitors the SMART status of your drives – green is good. I’ve got four drives in this Mac Pro, so any early warning of an impending failure is a plus.

Mozy – Online backup tool (this is me and my backup paranoia again). Mozy offers a good balance of functionality and cost (just $4.95 a month for unlimited storage).

Little Snitch – I was actually quite happy with the built-in OS X firewall, but I got Little Snitch as part of a MacUpdate Promo Bundle. I installed it and found that it’s nice to have that little extra bit of control and information about what your firewall is up to.

iStat Menus – An assortment of useful menu bar indicators for various aspects of your system. Here I’m using the memory meter to keep an eye on how much of my 12Gb has been gobbled up by my VMware virtual machines.

MobileMe – Apple’s online service needs no introduction. I keep this in the menu bar simply to give me quick access to go and check up on it or force a quick sync.

On the desktop there are two Yahoo Widgets visible. The one on the right is the standard Yahoo Weather Widget that comes bundled with the app. You can see it here at around 50% transparency so it blends into the background. The one on the left is something called Neon Gauges which will give you a graphic representation of various aspects of your system. Here I’ve used circles to indicate CPU and disk usage and have blended them in with the shapes on the background wallpaper.

There you go, a lightning tour of what’s on my OS X desktop. Obviously I’ve done the rebuild since taking that snapshot, but I still use most of those apps, so hope this gives people a few ideas. This has given me a few ideas for other posts I might do in the future, like:

  • What news feeds I’ve got in NetNewsWire
  • What’s on my iPhone
  • A sum up of what’s in (and around) my Mac Pro