Migrating from Windows XP to Mac OS X

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billgatesRecently, I got a Macbook Pro. It was high time to migrate away from the Windows XP running on my trusty but old Lenovo Thinkpad T60. I have to say it was interesting moving from Windows XP to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Below are some of the tips I recorded as I went through the process.

Configuring the Trackpad

For Windows two-button mouse users, the first thing to get used to is the Mac’s one-button mouse. The Macbook Pro’s trackpad is large and acts like a left-click button. There doesn’t appear to be a separate right-click button. How the heck does that work? The right-click button can actually be activated by tapping the trackpad with two fingers simultaneously or by clicking the trackpad’s button while holding the Control key down. Alternatively, the trackpad supports enabling a bottom-right corner click if you want the physical sensation of pressing a right-click button.

  1. Go to the apple icon (top-left), System Preferences, Hardware section, Trackpad
  2. Under “One Finger” section, check the “Secondary Click (Bottom Right Corner)” to enabling right-click by physically clicking on the bottom-right corner.
  3. Optionally, if you want to disable the two-finger right-click tap, you can just unselect “Secondary Tap” under the “Two Fingers” section.

When I first used the Mac trackpad, it was very stiff and required a lot of pressure to depress. Besides, I was used to the tap click support on my Thinkpad’s trackpad. To enable the tap click and other trackpad options on the Mac, do the following:

  1. Go to the apple icon, System Preferences, Hardware section, Trackpad
  2. Under the “One Finger” section, check the “Tap to Click” option.
  3. Also, check “Dragging” if you want to tap twice to drag.

Once I did the above, both the tap click and double-tap drag operations act the same on the Mac as on my Thinkpad laptop. Most importantly, my fore finger is saved from getting bruised.

Locking your Mac Laptop

Windows supports a Lock Windows feature which forces a login before someone can use your machine again. Under the Mac, the closest equivalent is to use the Screensaver which forces a login when stopped (by default).

  1. Go to the apple icon, System Preferences, Personal, Desktop & Screen Saver
  2. Select “Screen Saver” tab, click on “Hot Corners…” button on lower-left
  3. Click on the selection-box next to the bottom-right corner and select “Start Screen Saver”
  4. Click Ok

To lock your Mac, just move the mouse pointer to the bottom-right corner to activate the screen saver.

Location of Applications and Utilities

Windows has File Explorer, while the Mac has the Finder. The Mac uses the Finder application to explore the hard drive. The Finder can be launched from the dock; look for the blue/grey split face icon, usually it is the leftmost icon on the dock. The Finder is also launched if you open up any folder on your desktop.

The Finder doesn’t show the exact directory path of files and folders. To see the path, just select the file or folder, do a right-click, select Get Info, and the parent folder info will be shown in the Where field. You will see that all your files and folders will be located under your home directory, which looks like “/Users/yourname”.

The applications are located under the Application folder. To find your program, select its icon, and then double-click on the icon to launch the program. Under the Application folder, there is a Utilities folder which contains some useful programs, such as the Terminal which is similar to the Command Prompt on Windows.

One Application Menu to Rule Them All

Strangely, on the Mac, there is only one application menu visible at any time and that is the menu bar located at the top of the screen with the apple icon. This menu will change to become the menu of the application which currently has the focus. The apple icon will always remain in the left-most position in the menu though. To the immediate right of the apple icon, the current program’s name is displayed as the program’s primary submenu; you can find the About and Preferences under this primary submenu.

Really Quitting an Application

Stranger still, when you close a program window, the program doesn’t quit; though there are some very rare programs which will really quit. You can tell that a program is still running by looking for a little blue light underneath the program’s icon in the dock. To quit a program, you can give focus to the program, click on the program’s name in the top menu, and select Quit. Alternatively, you can right-click on the program’s icon on the dock and select Quit.

If you’re a keyboard nut, just use the Command + Q shortcut to quit the current program with the focus and its name in the top menu bar.

Tabbing Between Applications

Unlike Windows, the Mac OS X has two levels of tabbing between open applications. The first is between different application types using the Command + Tab keyboard shortcut (like in Windows). The second is between different windows belonging to a single application type (the application currently selected with its menu showing on the top menu bar). The second level tabbing can be performed by using the Command + ` keyboard shortcut. The ` or ~ key is right above the Tab key.

Configuring Wireless Access

Wireless configuration on the Mac is as simple as the Windows wireless configuration if we avoid getting fancy. To configure wireless:

  1. Go to Apple icon, System Preferences…, and Network
  2. Click on the lockbox in the lower-left corner and input your password to allow changes
  3. Select AirPort on the left and click on the Advanced… button on the right.
  4. Click on the plus icon right under the Preferred Networks listbox
  5. Click on “Show Networks” and select an existing wireless network. Or just input the network name and security type.
  6. Input the requested wireless network password.
  7. Close the System Preferences dialog and subdialogs.
  8. Left-click on the Airport icon on the top right and select “Turn Airport Off”.
  9. Repeat and select “Turn Airport On”. The mac will then connect to the wireless network that you have just configured.

Select, Copy and Paste Keyboard Shortcuts

The select, copy and paste keyboard shortcuts work almost the same on the Mac as on Windows. Here are the common shortcuts on the Mac:

Action Shortcut(s)
Select a character to the right/left shift + right/left arrow key
Select a word to the right/left shift + option + right/left arrow key
Select to the end/beginning of the line shift + control/command + right/left arrow key
Select line above/below shift + up/down arrow key
Select to beginning/end of document shift + command + up/down arrow key
Copy selection command + C
Cut selection command + X
Paste selection command + V

Beware of Folder Overwrites

Unlike Windows, when you copy or move a folder to a destination which already has a folder with the same name, the Mac will delete that folder. Do not expect the Windows behavior where the contents of the two folders with the same name are merged. Instead the Mac will replacing the existing folder with the new folder. Unfortunately, the removed folder does not show up in the Trash bin and is totally gone. So be careful!

Accessing Windows Share

To access Windows shares from your Mac, just do the following:

  1. Launch the Finder, go to the application menu “Go->Connect to Server…”. Alternatively, you can right-click on the Finder icon in the dock (bottom left) and select “Connect to Server…”.
  2. Input your Windows share “\\host_ip\share” in the “Server Address” field like so: “smb://host_ip/share”.
    • “smb” indicates the network protocol (the language two computers should use when talking to each other) which Windows uses to share.
    • Mac OS X is unix-based and so uses the forward-slash / character, rather than the backward-slash \ character used by Windows.
  3. If the remote Windows machine is on a Windows domain or has a share password configured, you will be prompted to input the username and password.
    • To input the password for a domain user, input the username as “domain_name\username” and then the password. (The “domain_name” is case-insensitive.)
    • To input the password for a local user on the remote Windows machine, input the username as “machine_hostname\username” and then the password. (The “machine_hostname” is case-insensitive.)
    • If you want to pre-input the username, in the above step, you can input this text into the “Server Address” field: “smb://domain_name;username@host_ip/share”.
    • If the above doesn’t work and you are using a hostname, you may want to try again using the IP address of the remote Windows machine, not the hostname. One way to get the IP address of the remote Windows machine is to go to that machine, open a Windows command prompt, and run “ipconfig”.

Re-installing Mac OS X

If you ever need to re-install your Mac OS X operating system from scratch, here’s how to do it.

  1. Your Mac should come with two or more DVDs: a Mac OS X Install DVD, a Mac OS X Application DVD, and optionally, the 3rd party vendor’s Recovery DVD.
  2. Insert the Mac OS X Install DVD into the DVD drive.
  3. Restart the system and hold the C key as the system starts up. This will cause the Mac to boot from the DVD drive.
  4. Follow the instructions to install the Mac OS X operating system.
  5. Once you have successfully installed the Mac OS X and rebooted into it, you can insert the Mac OS X Application DVD. If the installation wizard does not automatically launch, just open up the DVD to launch it. The Application DVD has non-core applications like Garage Band so it is totally optional.
  6. If your Mac comes with a 3rd party vendor’s Recovery DVD, you can insert that DVD to install any applications or Mac OS X customizations on it.

All in all, migrating from Windows to Mac OS X is not so bad. I’m surprised at how similar the two operating systems are, once you get used to the differences.

Checkout my followup post called Migrating from Windows XP to Mac OS X, Part 2.

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Free Microsoft Antivirus and Spyware Protection

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Microsoft has just released a free virus and spyware protection software for Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 called Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). The nice thing about this news is that MSE is just one program that you can run for total protection from viruses, spyware, and rootkits (a specific form of spyware). MSE is from Microsoft so it should work very well on Windows. (In practice, I found MSE had very little impact on the system, unlike the bloated McAfee or Norton monstrosities.)

Update: By default, MSE is included with Windows 8 and Windows 10. Confusingly, it has been renamed back to Windows Defender. So, if you have Windows 8 or Windows 10, you are all set in terms of having basic virus and spyware protection. It is still worth it to do an occasional MalwareBytes scan because MalwareBytes does find spyware that Windows Defender misses.

Note: For those using Mac OS X, I recommend installing the free Sophos Home virus protection. It has very minimal impact on the system. The chance of getting spyware or a virus on Mac OS X is low, but not impossible.

Before installing MSE, make sure to uninstall any existing spyware and virus real-time protection program (these real-time programs run all the time). You will want to go to Add/Remove Programs and uninstall the following programs if you have them:

For those running Windows Vista or Windows 7, you will not be able to uninstall Windows Defender and will have to disable it manually before installing MSE. Supposedly, MSE will automatically disable Windows Defender, but there have been some feedback that this might not occur.

It is not necessary to uninstall non-real-time scanners such as the free MalwareBytes Anti-Malware, which only runs when you launch it and tell it to scan for spyware. If you don’t have MalwareBytes, I recommend installing it and once in a while, updating and running it as a second layer of protection, in case MSE misses some spyware.

Also, I recommend downloading ComboFix and leaving a copy of “combofix.exe” on your hard drive. ComboFix is a spyware and rootkit scanner which I have found to work when everything else failed.

  1. Disable your virus scanner before running ComboFix. (McAfee may falsely detect ComboFix as containing an Artemis trojan.)
  2. Reboot after ComboFix finishes. If you see any issues after restarting, you may wish to scan and repair Windows system files by running the “Command Prompt” as an administrator and executing the “sfc /scannow” command.

Finally, I’ll end this post with a tip on recovering from a spyware infection. The newer spyware knows about the popular anti-spyware and antivirus programs and will prevented them from being run. For example, if you have an infection and attempt to run Ad-Aware or Spybot, their windows will not appear (their processes are frozen in Task Manager). To get around this, find the executable file (right-click on the program shortcut and select Properties) and rename it. For example, I may rename ComboFix.exe to Dandelion.exe before running it.

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Annoyance-Free Internet Browsing with Firefox and Adblock Plus

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Update: While NoScript is a powerful tool, it is also a very complicated tool and hard to use. After I had used it for while, I realized that the safety it gave me was not worth the hassle of manually setting permissions for everything; not to mention that many useful sites (like banking websites) were broken unless I disabled NoScript. I think this manually-intensive permission setting by the user is also why Windows Vista failed so miserably.

adblockplusInstead of NoScript, I would like to recommend a very user-friendly plugin called Adblock Plus. Adblock Plus cuts down on the popups and ads without hassling me at all. Just use Firefox to browse to the Adblock Plus website, hit the green “Install Adblock Plus” button, and when Firefox restarts, accept the default Adblock Plus subscription setting. The subscription provides a blacklist which eliminates the need for Adblock Plus to prompt you to block content.

Safe Internet Browsing with NoScript (Original Posting Follows)

If you use Firefox, there is a great Firefox add-on called NoScript which makes internet browsing much safer with your cooperation.

NoScript prevents executable content (such as Javascript, Java, and Flash) from running on a web page unless you give it permission to. Executable content are used for stuff like showing video on a web page and are misused to infect your computer with viruses and spyware.

Once you have NoScript installed, when you go to a website, you will see at the bottom of Firefox a line bar with the Options button on the right. If you trust the website (such as www.bankamerica.com), then click on the Options button and select “Allow bankamerica.com”. From then on, executable content on that website will always be allowed to run.

If the page doesn’t look right, you can also temporarily allow the executable content to run by clicking on the Options button and selecting “Temporarily allow <website_url>”. If you come back to the website later, the executable content will not be allowed to run.

NoScript can make browsing a lot safer, but it can be a hassle at the beginning because you have to give permission for each website. Unfortunately, some web pages host executable content from different websites so you may have to give permission to two or three websites before the web page shows up okay.

If you’re interested, just run Firefox, browse to NoScript – JavaScript/Java/Flash blocker for a safer Firefox experience! and click on the “Add to Firefox” green button.

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