Nerd Angst

| posted in: life 

The new MacBook Pro has been ordered. It’s status is still “not yet shipped” more than 48 hours after the order was completed, apparently ordering on a Saturday has disadvantages. However, I can make good use of the waiting time by preparing for how to transferring nearly 90 GB of data and applications from my PowerBook to the new MacBook Pro.


Apple provides a migration assistant that will let you transfer user accounts, files, folders, applications, and your Library folder. Moving all my stuff in one fell swoop would be the easiest in terms of decision making for me, however it would move the cruft as well as the cream to the new hard drive. For example, there’s stuff on the PowerBook from my last full-time Windows machine, circa 2001. Plus I tend to download and experiment with all kinds of applications, many of which fall into disuse quickly. There’s no real need to move all of that clutter to a new machine.

Option two would be to start using the MacBook Pro and only install applications as I use them, or data only when I need it. Doing it incrementally would minimize the amount of cruft that was blindly copied to the new machine, but it would stretch out the transition period considerably.

The third option would be to identify those programs I use on a daily basis, and those files/folders I want immediately, and transfer those in one marathon session to get things up and running. Then over time as I discover infrequently used applications or forgotten but still necessary data, transfer them.

A Plan Emerges

Web Browsing and Email

After creating a user account on the new machine (need to think up a good name for the machine), use Dropbox to transfer my Safari bookmarks and address book entries. Configure Apple Mail to read my Gmail accounts via IMAP, and my domain accounts. With 35,000 messages in GMail this will synchronize for a long time.

Music and Pictures

Many months ago, when I was running out of room on the current 100 GB hard drive I backed up all the television shows I had purchased from iTunes. I am very tempted to copy my iTunes library across as is, import the back up and call it good. I am also tempted to re-rip my music collection, paying more attention to bit rates, and complete tags. I have a second copy of my music on my work computer, which is where I do most of my listening, so a delay here wouldn’t be the end of the world. One thing I do need to figure out is how to synchronize my 30 GB iPod with the new laptop.

iPhoto is a great tool for my pictures, but the 867 MHz processor in my old PowerBook is overwhelmed by my relatively small 4000 image library. I am looking forward to transferring to a new, faster machine, and to a newer version of iPhoto.

With pictures in place, and music either copied directly across or being slowly re-ripped it’ll be time for third-party applications.

Chat and Twitter

I am a huge fan of Adium, so this software will be installed right away. I’ve been running the nightly build for several months now with no problems at all. My current favorite message theme is “Twitterrific” with the Geeky list layout. And I use the “iPhone Dark Mini” message theme; I’ll have to download and install both of these extras along with Adium.

I’ve been a staunch Twitterrific user since it was released. My only complaint is a lack of multiple computer synchronization support. TweetDeck and Tweetie provide options for this (built-in and via Dropbox respectively) so I may switch for a while and see how I like the competition.

Quicksilver, Google QuickSearchBox, and Spotlight

Quicksilver has been an integral part of my Mac experience for as long as it has been available. I’ve tried Spotlight and Google’s QuickSearchBox as replacements on a couple of occasions, mostly since development on Quicksilver has ceased. I haven’t decided if I’ll use the new machine as an excuse to leave Quicksilver once and for all or not. Several years of ingrained user experience expectation has a lot of inertia to overcome, new machine or not.

Editors and Development

TextMate is my all-time favorite editor so it will be quickly installed on the new machine. Along with the PlasticCodeWrap theme. Since I’m making more use of Mercurial for source version control I’ll be adding the hg bundle as well.

Some of my code is still housed in a local Subversion repository, so that’ll be transferred next.

I make good use of MAMP for local testing of web sites, so a fresh install of that come next. Once MAMP is up and running I’ll need to download and install WordPress and establish its database in MySQL.

My /usr/local directory is filled with all sorts of software goodness. Junit, Maven, Subversion, Ant, JBoss, Scala, et cetera. These are all strong candidates for the wait and transfer as needed category.

Office Productivity

When I purchased the PowerBook, and its sibling 17-inch iMac G4, I bought a license to Microsoft Office for OS X. Coming from a Windows environment, and being a heavy user of Word and Excel, I wanted to have those tools available on the (then) new platform. I still use Word and Excel these days, but I also use Google Docs and OpenOffice for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. Rather than continue with the now seven-year-old copy of Office, or springing for a new copy, I am planning on installing OpenOffice and existing in the open source world for my office productivity tools.


Believe it or not my aging PowerBook was capable of virtualization. I’ve had a copy of VirtualPC running a Windows 2000 guest OS for several years. It’s slow and cumbersome, but it does work. On my work-supplied Mac Pro and MacBook Pro I run both VMWare Fusion and VirtualBox. For my personal use at home I am planning on using VirtualBox.


This initial batch of transfers and installations will enable my email, chat, and twitter communication channels, my web browsing favorites, programming editor, and interface enhancements. I’ll also have my pictures and either a plan for re-ripping music, or the music itself. I’ll be able to install a guest OS or two through virtualization, and I’ll have word processing and spreadsheet support. Should be enough to get me through a day or two.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.