OSX Mavericks All Systems Go

I upgraded my MacBook Air 2012 last night and everything went smoothly.  I left my Thunderbolt displayed plugged in but didn’t have any ill side effects.

Initial observations using OSX Mavericks:

  • Everything feels a little faster, starting apps, Finder
  • Everything works – exception being the WP editor in v3.6 – no bullets
  • Parallels 9 and Parallels Access is fine
  • RoboForm is still fine
  • PyCharm needed to install Java 6 SE to start
  • Office 2011 (mac) runs fine

Wonder what it would have cost to have Apple do the ACA website rollout?


Macbook Air vs Pro

I’ve been using a Macbook Air from 2012 for the last year and love it in general. Our Wayland High School is “loaning” them to every high school student as part of a 1-1 program. It is a sweet machine, but I’m learning it does have it’s limits.

The big limitation I’ve hit with my Air is fan noise when doing anything with video or screensharing. GotoMeeting, WebEx, Skype, all of these get the CPU fan spinning to maximum. While this isn’t technically a problem, it is lowering my satisfaction with my Air being my only computer. And for reference, I’ve got the Core i7 version w/ 8gb RAM.

I’m hoping the next generation of Macbook Pros with Haswell internals will be powerful and have great battery life. I’ll probably upgrade and pawn off my Air on one of my kids. Don’t tell them I said that.

Parallels and Windows 8 – two core minimum

I’m amazed how well my Macbook Air (June 2012 version) runs Windows in a virtual machine with Parallels.  I’ve been doing a bunch of data migration work recently and need to run Windows 7, SQL Server, and Office 2010.  Everything is seamless and fast on a second monitor so it feels like 2 PCs on a single keyboard and mouse.

Then I started working with Windows 8 and Office 2013 for a different client and the wheels came off.  The VM would stutter like a car climbing snowy Claypit Hill Road in Wayland.  The CPU would peg but not even the animated cursor would be spinning.

Frustrated, I launched a case with Parallels support.  After a little back and forth, I got an appointment with an engineer who was polite, articulate, and — wait for it — helpful!  He indicated he had seen this problem before and adding a 2nd CPU core to the VM resolved the issue.

The change was painless.  It required fully stopping the VM, but no other surgery.  I haven’t seen the stutter problem since, and don’t notice any adverse performance consequences from the change.  Parallels get’s an A for technology and an A for support.  Nice to feel that way about a product and company these days.

Shame on Skype (Microsoft)

I love Skype.  I’ve been living on it for years.  It’s a good IM client, the VoIP is great and the group video is completely acceptable.  My Wayland office has one less device on the desk since I don’t need a regular phone anymore.

Today the wheels came off when I discovered that the Macintosh Skype client hangs up on callers when I reject a call.  On Windows, it sends the caller to Voicemail — which is what 95% of people would want.  I’m not sure what the other 5% want, but I’m guessing it isn’t a disconnect.  And the issue has been around for a year without resolution!

So is this a Microsoft thing?  Are they trying to punish me for leaving Windows?  I hope not, because I’m going to dump Skype before I leave Mac OSX.  They’ll be lonely in the Microsoft Store opening soon in the Natick, MA Mall if this keeps up.

It’s Always Something

I’m loving my new setup for Email and Calendars on my Mac. But there is always something that doesn’t work quite right. For today’s annoyance, I submit the detail that I can’t have my Office 365 Email and Calendar without also having Tasks show up in the Reminders app.

Before you tell me how petty this peeve is, the Tasks list shows up first in Reminders, and there is no way to move it down. So it becomes the default list. Drat.  I’m looking for solutions and will post if/when I find one.

Windows and Office – Not Dead Yet

The last 2 companies I’ve started have been pure cloud — no infrastructure, no Windows in the server stack or client requirements. I had thought the days of using Office and Windows were over for me.

Then I got hooked up with some guys using Office 365 to get launched and it works really well. Similar to my fat client post before, I’m surprised at how easy it is to go back to “rich” tools like PowerPoint and OneNote. I’ve got my Windows VM running in Parallels and when I switch to Full Screen, it’s like I never left.

Final thought is the Surface machines look really cool. If they go on sale, I’m picking one up!

To the Cloud and Back

I made the transition to Google Apps and browser based email/calendar about 2 years ago.  It was pretty difficult to ween myself off of Microsoft Outlook and Exchange which I’d been using for 10+ years.  In general I was happy with GMail and, in many ways, I think the Google Calendar user experience is BETTER than any fat client solution I’ve seen.

I even went to the trouble of consolidating several GMail and Google Apps accounts using forwarding and aliases.  It all was working pretty well.  Until I hit the 4th email account where I needed to keep things separated. I was spending all my time switching from one browser window to the next checking multiple inboxes the hard way.

Then it happened.  I’ve moved back to a fat email client to manage all these accounts.  Apple Mail, the free client included in $29 OS X, is fantastic. It manages multiple accounts gracefully and the default configuration works great with Google Apps.  Don’t try to outsmart it.  Just take the defaults and be happy.

One subtle trick is knowing that you can use multiple email addresses in a single account in Mac Mail by separating them with commas.  That was the final piece to make it all work perfectly for me.  Note that you need to setup these secondary aliases in Gmail as well.  Read here for more details.