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Switcher Hangout The place for switchers to discuss their new machines, and how to work with OS X. General support can be had here for newbie stuff, like "How do I restart my new iMac?" :)

Switching soon with a Mac Mini from Linux and Windows


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walkerj

 
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Hi all, long time lurk...actually not really. Short time lurker first time poster.

I'm about to take the plunge and get a Mac Mini to use as my primary home computer. Just to give you some background I am primarily a UNIX guy who at my place of work uses a mix of Windows work stations, UNIX (Tru64, HP/UX, AIX, Solaris, Linux, etc.) servers, Windows servers, and the occasional Mac for testing. At my desk at work and at home I primarily use a Linux workstation with X11 to do all of my day to day work plus at home casual surfing, email, Photoshop (digital darkroom kind of stuff with digicam photos and Photoshop contests) and some light audio work.

I have always thought that Macs were very well designed computers especially since OS X with it's UNIX (BSD, Mach really) design but the cost was always outside of what I would care to purchase. I could always build an Intel machine if not cheaper, at the very least spread it over time and build up a computer that would eventually fit my needs and install whichever OS would be best for whatever it was I would be using it for. Now, however, the Mac Mini with its price entry point has made me re-think my home computing needs. So of course before I make the plunge I have a few questions. This will be replacing my home computer which is an Intel machine running RedHat Linux 9. I have researched a great deal of what Macs can do, and know that they can handle about 99% if not 110% of what I use my Linux box for (Email, surfing, audio/music, CD burning, multimedia, and of course Photoshop) but there are some "look and feel" questions I have with the OS X GUI that you folks could probably answer better than other places on the web I have searched. None of these are deal-breakers since I know that there are always changes that need to be adapted to in order to make a switch of this magnitude. So I'll be getting the Mac regardless but in the meantime....

1) Gnome, KDE, and other Linux window managers provide for 'multiple desktops' which on Linux I use to group different types of tasks into these different desktops. At work I have them divided into four desktops each of which has individual 'themes': email, web browsers, X terminals, and miscellaneous. At home I find that this is not nearly as stringent of a requirement. However is there a way to mimic this same multi-desktop ability on the Mac? This is not critical since at home I can probably deal with just having everything in one desktop since I don't do nearly as many things at home. I have a separate employer supplied computer to do work related stuff.

2) On Linux/UNIX window managers there is the concept of a clipboard which grabs things as soon as they are highlighted, and can be yanked out by using the middle mouse button. This has the effect of being able to highlight anything and being immediately accessible without accessing any menus. In other words a copy/paste is as simple as highlighting what I want to grab and when I switch to the window I wish to paste it's a middle mouse click away from pasting it without fiddling with menus or keys. The workflow is highlight->switch->middle-click-paste. Is there a similar type of thing on the Mac or will I need to fiddle with menus/right-click/select as I do with Windows?

3) On Linux/UNIX window managers there is a feature (which I think I'm the only one who likes this) known as 'auto-raise', in which whatever window the mouse goes to raises the window without clicking within it. It is also known as 'focus follows mouse'. Is there a similar ability within the Mac OS X GUI?

4) The Mac Mini does not appear to have any audio input jack. I understand that there are USB adapters which would allow audio input of, say, a microphone to facilitate recording to an application running on the Mac. Do these add-on devices work as well as the mic input on an Intel/sound-card type of computer? This is somewhat important as otherwise I would have to fire up the old linux box to record audio for transfer to the Mac for post processing; something I would rather not have to do.

Okay, I now see that this post has gotten very long for a n00b to come in and ask these kinds of questions imbedded within so much history, but at the same time I know that the Mac community is very passionate about their choice of hardware/software platform. I know the answers are out there, but I thought I'd ask those who live and breathe the Mac way.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walkerj
1) Gnome, KDE, and other Linux window managers provide for 'multiple desktops' which on Linux I use to group different types of tasks into these different desktops. At work I have them divided into four desktops each of which has individual 'themes': email, web browsers, X terminals, and miscellaneous. At home I find that this is not nearly as stringent of a requirement. However is there a way to mimic this same multi-desktop ability on the Mac? This is not critical since at home I can probably deal with just having everything in one desktop since I don't do nearly as many things at home. I have a separate employer supplied computer to do work related stuff.
Yes, there is. An open source project called Desktop Manager does the job nicely. (http://wsmanager.sourceforge.net/) However, OS X has one thing that Linux/BSD do not - Expose. It's a much more efficent and aesthetically pleasing way to multitask than switching between desktops, in my opinion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by walkerj
2) On Linux/UNIX window managers there is the concept of a clipboard which grabs things as soon as they are highlighted, and can be yanked out by using the middle mouse button. This has the effect of being able to highlight anything and being immediately accessible without accessing any menus. In other words a copy/paste is as simple as highlighting what I want to grab and when I switch to the window I wish to paste it's a middle mouse click away from pasting it without fiddling with menus or keys. The workflow is highlight->switch->middle-click-paste. Is there a similar type of thing on the Mac or will I need to fiddle with menus/right-click/select as I do with Windows?
I don't know about that, since I've never tried it - but OS X has drag and drop copying abilites. Highlight some text and just drag it to where you want to go. Voila, it's there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by walkerj
3) On Linux/UNIX window managers there is a feature (which I think I'm the only one who likes this) known as 'auto-raise', in which whatever window the mouse goes to raises the window without clicking within it. It is also known as 'focus follows mouse'. Is there a similar ability within the Mac OS X GUI?
I think there might be a shareware app that does this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by walkerj
4) The Mac Mini does not appear to have any audio input jack. I understand that there are USB adapters which would allow audio input of, say, a microphone to facilitate recording to an application running on the Mac. Do these add-on devices work as well as the mic input on an Intel/sound-card type of computer? This is somewhat important as otherwise I would have to fire up the old linux box to record audio for transfer to the Mac for post processing; something I would rather not have to do.
I know nothing about audio production, but others here do. They might be able to help.
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Sorry I'm not very helpful with the X11 X Window stuff. I tried it for The Gimp and simply did not like it. It was fast and all, but I felt like I was getting back to a UI system I'd been trying to get away from. What I can tell you is that I have a Griffin iMic USB audio interface, and it works very well. The audio quality is the same if not better than built-in. It's definitely comparable to the average x86 box's audio input and the average SB Live! input. Now, it's not comparable to a miniBob or a specifically-designed recording sound card. However, those are expesnive as heck anyway, and you might as well just get a Digidesign Mbox and use ProTools LE if you want that kind of quality.

'cause when it rains, you know it pours.
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if you really want you can install KDE and i think Gnome by using the Darwin project, im sure that i saw a post on here where someone has done it??
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walkerj
4) The Mac Mini does not appear to have any audio input jack. I understand that there are USB adapters which would allow audio input of, say, a microphone to facilitate recording to an application running on the Mac. Do these add-on devices work as well as the mic input on an Intel/sound-card type of computer? This is somewhat important as otherwise I would have to fire up the old linux box to record audio for transfer to the Mac for post processing; something I would rather not have to do.

Yes... there are a ton of external audio interfaces to choose from, ranging from affordable to extremely expensive for multichannel pro audio.

If you want something that will do high quality recording, and not be too expensive, this Firewire interface should work just fine:

http://www.audiomidi.com/common/cfm/...t.cfm?pid=5876

Pictures: http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_u...Solo-main.html

XLR microphone input, dual line inputs (quarter inch), 24/96 digital I/O, and it's powered off the bus so you don't need a power brick.

I might pick up one myself for portable field recording on my mini!
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walkerj

 
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Thanks everyone for the helpful tips. Looks like I have some options should I choose, though I think I'll be giving the straight up Mac interface a go for awhile. I don't wish to put KDE or Gnome on it since that kind of takes away from the point of it being a Mac. I saw this article on Slashdot the other day about installing Linux on a Mac Mini and I had to agree with those who said "What's the point?" since the whole reason I really want a Mac is so I can turn it on, log in and have it just work. It's sort of like the guy who fixes cars for a living and for his hobby he might have some souped up race car or dragster that he tinkers on to go to the races, but what does he drive to and from work? Probably a Mustang minivan, or nice comfortable pick-up truck with power everything which if something goes wrong with it he could fix it but he'd rather just not have anything go wrong with it and as it gets old and needs more repairs he would just as soon trade it in for a new one.

As for the audio, looks like having no audio in will be no problem. I don't need anything really high quality or fancy as I mostly do 'podcasting' type stuff and assemble with Audacity. It would appear there are no barriers to that.

Once gain, thanks.
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Mr Bobbins

 
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The first question you asked about the multiple desktops springs to mind as I use a separate 'account' for going on the internet, this is so that I can fill the dock up with all the programs that I use for the internet and keep everything separate to my other account that I use for work and with the quick switching of accounts in OSX it makes it simple to use. I can download stuff in my internet account, switch to my work account and do some photo editing while the internet account is still downloading. Maybe this is an option for your first question ?
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walkerj

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Bobbins
The first question you asked about the multiple desktops springs to mind as I use a separate 'account' for going on the internet, this is so that I can fill the dock up with all the programs that I use for the internet and keep everything separate to my other account that I use for work and with the quick switching of accounts in OSX it makes it simple to use. I can download stuff in my internet account, switch to my work account and do some photo editing while the internet account is still downloading. Maybe this is an option for your first question ?
Not for the virtual desktops, but it is an option that I know I will be using to get email from a separate address that I maintain. I think I'll be 'su'-ing to the other account in a terminal on the same desktop for that, however. At home I can probably live without the virtual desktops, but thanks.
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