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Agile Software Development

Agile software development is a major methodology research area for me. Of particular importance is adapting it to the large, complex programs that I work with on a regular basis. These are just some generic links.

• Agile Alliance
• Patterns
• Test-driven development

Project Management

Although project management is not always thought of highly in the agile community, it is a necessity, in my opinion. Learning how to take the best of the project management world and apply it to more adaptive situations is of great interest. These are just some generic links.

• Project Management Institute
• SNEC Chapter PMI

Presidential Quotes

John Adams, 2nd President of the United States

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence.

— John Adams, December 1770


Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.

— Abraham Lincoln

Converting to the Mac

At some point over the last six months, I decided that I wanted to convert to the OS X operating system. I was looking for something with a bit more stability and I never shrink away from trying something new if I think it will be just a bit better. Also, after doing a lot of research, I found I could virtualize Windows on the Mac using VM Ware Fusion and that most of what I used on a day-to-day basis had OS X versions.

Therefore, on October 9, 2007 I began my journey into the world of the Mac.

10/09/2007 - First impressions

After waiting almost ten days to receive my new machines, I was anxious to get started. I almost couldn't wait until my workday was done so that I could begin to use it. The first thing I noticed was that it loaded a lot faster than my ThinkPad T42p. That was not surprising in a way: My work ThinkPad T60p has been outperforming my home machine since I got it. Nevertheless, the boot-up process was not only faster than my T42p, but significantly faster than the T60p as well. Generally, it seemed to take the MacBook Pro about 60 seconds to go from cold to ready to use. And, I notice that when it was ready to go, it was not still tapping on the hard disk — it was truly ready to use.

My next impression was that I had to get used to the command set and the keyboard. I can't get used to a track-pad for the mouse. This doesn't have anything to do with Apple -- I could never use the one on my IBM machine either. Fortunately, my two button mouse is compatible and the second button brings up the menus that a long click bring up — which is saving me some time.

Connecting to my home network was easy. The wired connection was simple, as one would expect. The wireless connection took me only a few minutes to configure. My home wireless network is encrypted using WPA and a pre-shared key. I had to learn the menu system to find out where everything goes, but it was up and running in wireless mode in about five minutes.

Camera Software - Tedious, but no Issues

Later in the evening, I took the time to install all of my camera software. The installations went well and all of the tools work, but Canon could have made it a bit easier. I had to install the original programs from the CD and then successively upgrade them with each patch that they had released over the last three years. It went okay, but took a long time. I tested it by running a workflow and developing several pictures I had taken at the Big E in late September. Perhaps two biggest differences are that the machine is significantly faster than its predecessor and the screen is so much more clear!

Mozilla Thunderbird and Mozilla Firefox

The good thing about Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird is that there are OS X versions. It is also good that you can copy profiles (supposedly without too much modification) to another machine. Firefox went pretty easy. All of my preferences, security store, etc. transferred with almost no incident. Thunderbird was a bit different. I was able to move the profile, but the OS X version didn't seem to want to work with some of it. I had to edit the file names in its profile to point them to the right OS X locations (this was something I expected, actually). My biggest problem, though, was that there was some sort of corruption in the folder storage. Once I figured that out, I was able to re-compact all of my folders on my old machine and cross reference the hex-like names it imported to the originals. In the end, I didn't loose anything and it converted over fine. Nevertheless, I spent a lot of time working on this.

Back-ups

My final task was to install backup software (SuperDuper!). It installed easily and I was able to make a fully bootable image of the entire hard disk on an external disk. The program itself is missing some advanced scheduling and save features, but the backup features are quite robust. I have to get used to the program a bit and see what I can do with customized scripts. In the past, I have had an incremental image taken every four hours (and consolidated as necessary) with base images at the beginning of the month. I also had my user files archived on a daily basis to give me the ability to go back in time. This is all something I still have to figure out. SuperDuper! may be the tool to do all of that, but I am not certain yet. It can clearly do the imaging.

10/10/2007 - The Big Test; Installing Windows in a VM

I spent the evening of October 10 installing VMWare Fusion and putting a copy of Vista on the machine to be executed virtually. I had a couple reasons for putting windows on the machine: First, I have a lot of software that I have purchased that I would like to use until the next version is available (like, MS Office: I have Office 2003 for Windows. Even though Microsoft has released Office 2007 for Windows, the Mac version is still in development. I'd like to upgrade to that version once it is available and not purchase the old 2004 version). Quicken, Adobe Acrobat, and EndNote fall into a similar category. Second, I have several programs that I rely on that do not have a version for OS X such as Microsoft Project and/or Visio. Finally, just like I don't want to be limited to Windows, I don't want to be limited to the OS X if I need to use something that is not compatible.

I found the installation of VM Ware's Fusion product to be straightforward. I found the Microsoft Windows Vista install to be equally painless. Perhaps the most difficult thing for me is that Vista is also new and it does operate a bit differently from the way Windows XP did. It is ironic, but in moving to a new operating system, I find that the "old" one is also new. I found that Microsoft Office 2003, Projet, and Visio installed easily, though they didn't uninstall so easily from my old machine (I think the uninstaller removed most of it, but there were some files left over).

Printing? A bit harder than I thought it would be (Part 1)

For some reason, I thought it was going so well that I should try to print. I should confess that myprinter is fifteen years old: An IBM 4029 Laserprinter 10P. Also, I should confess that my network print server just died. Well, the 10P is connected via a parallel port and the MacBook Pro doesn't have one. No matter, I couldn't find a print driver for the thing. I had to give up for the night and hope I could figure this out.

10/11/2007 - Installing more software; moving data files; the printer again

Knowing that I had to leave around 4 PM for a wedding, I took a vacation day. This gave me the morning to get some additional things done. First, I installed some additional software for both OS X and Windows. Kodak Gallery gave me a bit of trouble. I was hoping to be able to back it up from my old machine and then import it into my Mac. No such luck. It appears that the data base formats are not compatible. I sent a note off to Kodak to see if there is a way to convert it. Since I have Vista running in a VM, I'll just install a version there and import my gallery there for now — at least they will all be on the same machine.

Second, I tried to deal with printing again. Since my print server died and my T40p has a parallel port, I figured I'd try to connect to it through that machine. Interestingly, Vista in the virtual machine was able to do it pretty easily after I got the T40p's firewall to allow it to connect. I still have to figure out how to make it so that only my new machine can connect. For now, I just open the sharing ports when I need it (not ideal). I still couldn't get the mac side to work. I had to leave this for another day.

Third, I got it into my head that I wanted to be able to "print to acrobat" from my Mac to the Windows VM. I spent about an hour on it and eventually did get it to connect. Unfortunately, it never actually produced a document. I think I may just wind up giving up on this for now. When I get the OS X versions of the MS Office Software, I'll wind up getting the OS X versions of Adobe Acrobat and EndNote. OS X has PDF creation integrated, so I should be fine. The real need for Acrobat is when I am creating complex documents that I want it to automatically bookmark and tag. Since Word is still on Windows, this shouldn't be a problem.

10/12/2007 - New Network, No Sweat!

I almost always bring my computer with me when we travel. Primarily, I use it to process any pictures I take. Sometimes, it has come in handy when I have to look something up (a reservation, directions, etc.). When we arrived at our destination, we found that we forgot the itinerary. Fortunately, I had it on the computer. So, I booted it up in the hotel room; it automatically recognized that (1) none of my trusted wireless networks were available and (2) that the hotel's network was available and asked if I wished to join. I clicked "Yes" and I was done. How simple!

10/13/2007 - Digital Picture Processing

Since I take a lot of pictures, I tend to process them as quickly as possible while I am away. This time was no different. What was different was that I was using my new machine. The clarity and resolution of the screen was a nice change. The steps I took were similar to what I would have taken with my T40p, but the process was much faster simply because the processing capacity of the machine is so much better. I finished up before breakfast, which is a first. A good experience overall, but this is probably not a Mac-specific comment: Any newer machine would have run faster, I think.

10/14/2007 - Printing (Part 2)

The big thing for today was to see if I could get my creaky old printer to work. Since my print server is dead and I don't want to invest in a new one until I can find one that is compatible with both OS X and Windows, I thought it best to connect through my old T42p for the time being. My work machine was able to do it easily as was the Vista installation in the VM. The problem I ran into is that there was no driver for the printer. I could connect it to the other machine, but it couldn't interpret what I was sending.

I eventually found an updated version of the gimp drivers that includes a version for my printer. It still didn't work, though. I kept getting errors. Eventually, I had to change the printer's default print mode to be PCL4 for it to work. It is a hokey solution, but I can print!

10/15/2007 - Printing (Part 3); My Voice Recorder; a Vista Crash

Today was probably the most frustrating of all. It started out okay, though. First, I decided I needed to replace my print server or I would always be beholden to my T40p: After all, that is the point of a print server. That little operation went quite well. I was able to install the print driver and reconfigure all three windows machines (the VM on the Mac, my original T42p, and my work T60p) to properly print. Then came gettig the Mac to print to it. Let's just say, several hours and no dice. I could get it to print in PCL4, but it didn't look right. I could get it to send PostScript, but the printer would just flush it. The real problem is that there is no specific driver for OS X and I must not be configuring the open source drivers properly. Anyway, I eventually decided it was best to post a question on one of the Apple forums to get some help.

Voice Recorder (Windows Only)

I think this is probably the last piece of software/hardware I truly needed to install. During the install, Vista crashed (badly). I don't think it was the installation — things weren't working properly (see the next section). Eventually, (after I recovered the Vista VM), I was able to get the voice recorder working. Too bad Sony doesn't have an OS X version of their Digital Voice Editor software.

The Vista VM Crashes

Well, it was bound to happen. The Vista VM crashed and somehow corrupted its NLS files and wouldn't boot. I knew something was up because it was getting slower and slower while I was trying to install the voice recorder. I eventually tried to shut it down, but it figured it would stay down. I did learn two things: First, booting from the Vista DVD was painful — I had to figure out how to get the VM to boot from the CD before the hard drive. Round and round I went: Boot, crash, menu, boot, crash. I learned that the VM has a virtual BIOS associated with it and that you have to make a configuration change to access it (see the VM Ware KB Article). Just like a normal BIOS, you can switch the boot order of the devices. Of course, the hard drive was set to boot before the CD/DVD drive, so the Vista install disk wouldn't boot to do the repair.

The second lesson I learned was that VMs are pretty easy to restore once you remember you have made a backup. This is one time where being somewhat neurotic about taking backups helped. I had a copy of the virtual machine file from this morning (yes, it meant I had to reconfigure the network printer again) and was able to just copy it over. Also, I learned the value of the "Take Snapshot" function in VM Ware. When I reinstalled the digital recorder software, I took a snapshot prior to and after.

Two problems remain

As I see it, I have two problems that remain (aside from slowly upgrading my software):

  1. Windows Vista seems quite unstable. I guess I had gotten used to XP (even though that could tick me off sometimes too). On a positive note, I seem to have a better way to recover it in the event of a problem.
  2. Printing to my IBM 4029 LaserPrinter 10P from OS X. I just can't get this to work consistently yet. Hopefully, my forum post will gain some response. If not, I'll move to the open printer forum and see if they can help — I am pretty much out of ideas (and tired of fiddling).

10/16/2007 - Printing (Part 4); Thunderbird in Spotlight/Google Desktop

I finally got my IBM 4029 LaserPrinter 10P working with a Netgear PS101 from OS X. Interestingly, the original solution of using PCL4 seemed to eventually work here. My test prints were through TextEdit which skewed my results — I didn't realize it was the program and not the driver. Anyway, if I set the default printer emulation (on the printer) to PCL4 and I select a generic PCL4 driver I get acceptable output. The text is exactly the same as the Windows IBM PPDS driver. Graphics seem to be a bit darker than the IBM PPDS driver, but it is certainly acceptable.

After printing finally worked from OS X, I decided to turn to a rather mundane task. I had installed Google Desktop, but one thing it couldn't do is index my mail. Honestly, that is one of the most handy features. So, I did some searching and found that the reason it couldn't is because Mozilla Thunderbird did not natively have Spotlight support. I found an article about this problem on a blog from April 2007 that pointed to the solution. Yesterday, I found the Preferences | Advanced | Config Editor information to change mail.spotlight.enable to true, but did not realize I had to install a conversion library. It seems to work, but it doesn't categorize the contents as email. I am not certain I want to keep Google Desktop on my machine, but for now it is working.



Last updated: November 8, 2007 10:56 PM
Copyright © 2007 James F. Kile. All rights reserved.