Posts Tagged ‘Home’

The Mother-in-law’s Switch to Mac

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

A 5 year old, home built, Windows XP machine is what started this. It was going to be fun. Yes, fun to migrate my mother-in-law, from Windows, to a new 21.5″ iMac. Her older model PC had a kid’s account on it. Yes, those little ‘people’ that are smaller than we are, but often think they are smarter. The machine had all the required protections one could think of, anti-virus, automatic updates and the use of limited accounts in XP. But, it didn’t have any anti-kid software. My fault I guess. I knew it needed it.

It would seem these guys were smart enough to ask grandma to log into an admin capable account so they could ‘do homework’. Uh, homework requires admin rights? Hum. An install of Limewire later and we end up where we are today. A reinstalled PC for the kids, and a new ‘Grandma Only’ iMac. The fun begins…

The re-install issues with the PC were crazy. I won’t go into it here, but let’s just say the fun was fading fast. It should have been declared a paperweight, but it made no sense to invest money in a machine for the kids. Underpowered or not, it could be saved, and it was. Once it was declared Kid-Safe it was time to take the PC data and move it to the Mac.

The email client on the PC was Outlook 2003. It seems there is no easy, & free, way to migrate email from Outlook (not Outlook Express) to Apple’s Mail.app. This version of Outlook uses the proprietary .pst file for all data storage. I did not like the export format choices available. There are paid apps, like Little Machines O2M which, for $10, is supposed to migrate Outlook mail and folders. The reviews I saw were mostly good ones, but it just seemed crazy to have to pay. After a lot of browsing, I settled on installing Eudora on the PC and importing the Outlook data. Then I moved the Eudora data to the iMac and imported it into Apple’s Mail.app. Worked great, except that I ended up with a ton of empty emails. It seemed like one blank email for every real email. At first I thought maybe that was how the email existed in Outlook but when I realized every sub-folder had the same issue I figured it was something to do with conversion. I actually wanted to try it again to see what would happen, but at that point I was just glad to have it done.

Contacts were not that bad. I figured the easiest way was to use a standard vCard format. Note that word ‘standard’. In Microsoft talk that mean ‘everyone but us’. Outlook does not have an export format that makes it easy, but there is a way. Select all the contacts in Outlook and under the ‘Action’ menu is a command to forward them as vCards. Genius. I can forward vCards but can’t export them. So Outlook knows what they are and by choice is screwing with me. I just mailed them to myself, saved them out and imported them into Apple’s Address Book app.

For printing, the plan was to use the existing printer, connected to the Mac as the print server. It was connected to the iMac, setup and tested. It used a Gutenprint print driver and then it was shared. Looking good. I had Bonjour installed on the PC, but could not get any printing going. The Bonjour Print Wizard would see the printer and add it, but no luck. I reinstalled Bonjour without any better result.  I tried installing the printer on the PC manually, while using a generic Postscript driver as I had seen recommended. Nope. I tried entering a network printer on XP using a queue path to the iMac’s CUPS printer. For refernce, the path is http://<IP address of Mac>:631/printers/Queue Name. No luck there. I decided to try Bonjour again and it worked. No friggin’ idea why. Nothing changed. But why question it. I ran to the next challenge.

I started moving her data from the PC via the LAN and was looking like it would take well over an hour. Instead I cancelled the copy and pulled her data drive out of the PC. I hooked it up with my cables, to the iMac, as an external drive using an adaptor, kind of like this one on Amazon. I had the data moved in less than 15 minutes.

At this point i just imported all the photos into iPhoto and all the music into iTunes. With nothing but documents left behind I put all of those into her Documents folder and life was good.

There were some issues that had no easy solution. She had a number of Microsoft Publisher files. There is no equivalent to Publisher on the Mac platform, and no way I found to easily convert the files. I say easy because I could have opened them in publisher on the PC and exported them in some common format, like HTML. But, she would still not have the Publisher  app she was familiar with. I have the files there if needed, and can always do the conversion route. Since they are all at least a year old, I figured it may be best to have her learn how to create them on the Mac, using Mac apps. Movie Maker files were also a no go. Again, I kept them just incase she ever needs them but for now the migration is done.

Since the move, she has had no major issues. The Apple Mail toolbar disappeared for some unknown reason but it was a great lesson, and easy, to show her how to bring it back. The printer paused inexplicably, and wanted admin rights to resume. I am not sure what triggered it, since I was not there, and I’m not sure why it needed admin rights to un-pause, but it was an easy fix.

Al-in-all, not too bad. She now has a fast and reliable machine. The kids? A slow and painful computing experience. I feel so bad for them.

Online Banking – An Opinion

Friday, October 30th, 2009

In my post on Cloud Computing, I mentioned using online banking “if you have the guts”. I had originally gone so far off the subject of that post that I almost forgot what I was writing about. I realized that I had too much to say on the subject and decided to spin-off this post instead.

Online banking is the process of connecting to your financial institution, and performing transactions, from a computer or mobile device. No line for the ATM or teller. Sounds great doesn’t it? Think again.

The question my clients often ask me is “Is online banking secure?”. That’s like asking if logging into your computer, with your password, is secure. It is, but there are environmental issues that can lower that security. I am not a security expert, but for the sake of this debate, let’s say the technology being used for the connection between your computer, or device, and the bank is secure. It is, by the way, but I am trying to prevent some security nut from arguing the point beyond my pay-grade. The problem is, even with the connection security, there is an analog security hole. There is the possibility that someone is watching as you type your credentials. At that point, all electronic security is useless because they can now log in as you. What do ya do?

Making sure you are not being watched during any form of authentication is a start. You can’t always be alone with your computer, but you can simply be aware of what, or who, is around you. Are security cameras recording you? Is someone waiting for you to log on? I ask people all the time to turn around when I log in. It is easy to plug the analog hole.

Now is it safe? It depends. The end user is still one of the most important parts of any good security. In my business, I have seen too many infected Windows based machines. Malware keystroke loggers, like Hellz Little Spy, are the electronic version of someone watching over your shoulder. The connection from your browser, or banking application, can be as secure as Fort Knox, and it means nothing if your computer is infected. If it is capturing everything you type, and transmitting it to a far-away land , then all bets are off. For that reason I will never do online banking from a PC. Yep, I said it. Here comes the Windows defenders. Before you hate me, let me make something clear. I don’t hate Windows. I use Windows daily. I have worked with Windows based networks since Windows 3.1 and Excel 2.0. I use the right tool for the job, period. I don’t care if it is made by Microsoft, Apple, or a community of developers. I recommend what best fits the need. Yes, I use Macs at home, but with Windows XP, Vista, 7, and Server running virtually. And, I know my Windows installs are clean, but there’s no way I would risk my accounts to test it. To me, for online banking, a Mac is the right tool for the job, and even then you should practice basic safe computing.

Technology Meets Residential Access Control

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

I just read a post on Engadget that really drove home the idea that tech is really changing the way we live our everyday lives. You may have heard of Kwikset before. It may even be a word on one or more of the keys in your pocket or purse. Go to your local home warehouse store and you will find their products – lots of them.

Have you ever left your house and then turned around to make sure the door was locked? Please say yes. Really, if not then I am feeling really stupid about now. With me, it’s usually that I left the garage open. I digress…

Kwikset has a residential control product called SmartKey. At CEDIA this year they showed a new version called SmartCode with Home Connect Technology. Holy Crap, who comes up with this marketing stuff? Smart code is a deadbolt replacement for your home that has a keypad along with a keyhole. But, it also features remote capabilities. You can check the lock status, receive notifications of entry or exit, and remotely lock or unlock your door with a secure internet connection. It can be tied in with security systems, home control systems and even log time stamps.

Imagine the door unlocking when a fire alarm is triggers, or knowing exactly when your kid entered the house after school. This is technology that is in use on the business level where there are multiple codes, or remotes, and logs or notices sent based on entry or exit. Using a smart phone to check or lock / unlock your door means no more “I will leave a key under the mat for you. You can remotely add a door code to enable the tech to enter the house and then have that auto-disarm the alarm system. When the service person leaves, the door can be locked causing the alarm to re-arm. I want this one. Availability is said to be mid-September.