Mac newbie here.
November 23, 2005 11:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm a brand spanking new Mac user, where do I start?

I just got a 12" iBook, it's my first Mac since I was a kid and I could use some pointers.

1. What (preferrably free) software is a must for me to add? (I work as a Windows networking admin so I do know my way around well, just not with Macs)

2. How do I make the ibook NOT go to sleep when I close the cover?

3. How can I make the glowing circle of light around the power adapter connection STOP glowing at night?

4. The power adapter seems to get REALLY hot, too hot to touch, is this normal?

5. What websites should I add to my regular browsing for good Mac news, tips and software?

6. Is there no way to light up the keyboard for those after-dark browsing sessions? My Thinkpad does this quite nicely.

7. How the HELL (frustrated) do I maximize a window? I found the button that increases the size to where the OS seems to think it should be but it's often wrong, how can I make it maximize?

8. VNC viewer? I need to view windows machines through VNC, the windows machines run UltraVNC, TightVNC or RealVNC mostly, I tried several Viewers for the Mac (Chicken of the VNC) and they "almost" connect but always drop the connection right away, any Mac VNC gurus out there?

I know these seem like a lot of questions, and trust me I have more, but any help I could get in starting this journey would be much appreciated.

Thanks.
posted by Cosine to Computers & Internet (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
1. VLC for divx movies... launchbar (which i cannot live without), although i guess now you have spotlight as an option... and shit, dont forget to look at what dashboard and dashboard widgets offers. unbelievable.
2. Good question. Never seen an option to change this built into the OS.
3. See answer to question 2.
4. Yes, thats normal.
5. macupdate.com, for one. reseexcellence.com, come to think of it.
6. depends. my powerbook has illuminated keys, does the ibook? check keyboard & mouse under preferences.
posted by phaedon at 11:19 AM on November 23, 2005


>What (preferrably free) software is a must for me to add?
Virtually nothing, unless you have a specific need, in which case you probably already know about it. Learn what's already there, first. (I mean this seriously - I see a lot of people immediately load up with shoddy versions of things that are already on their machine, and cause headaches by doing so.) But get acquainted with Fink and DarwinPorts.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:20 AM on November 23, 2005


Self-link: essential Macintosh software. For friends and family, I did a round-up of my favorite Mac software, with a focus on the free (and cheap) stuff. It may be of use.
posted by jdroth at 11:21 AM on November 23, 2005


my powerbook has illuminated keys, does the ibook?

No.
posted by justgary at 11:22 AM on November 23, 2005


#1: Quicksilver Quicksilver Quicksilver. Best app ever. Open anything with two keypresses. And a boatload more.

#7: The behavior of that button sometimes differs from app to app -- some maximize fully, some just maximize to the size necessary to see the contents (such as finder windows.) Frankly, it's just not an analogue to the Windows maximize button.

#8: Is OS X Firewall on? Turn it off or open the port. (System Preferences -> Sharing -> Firewall.)

Actually, upon further investigation, I am using Chicken of the VNC, and have Firewall on. Perhaps try enabling "Remote Login" and "Apple Remote Desktop" in the firewall if they're not on.
posted by tweebiscuit at 11:23 AM on November 23, 2005


1. Adium, NetNewsWire, TextWrangler, VLC.

2. Nope. There may be a hack out there that does it, but IIRC the iBook dissipates heat through the keyboard, so operating it in lid-closed mode may cause trouble. PowerBooks can operate with the lids closed.

3. Recent iMacs have a light sensor that dims the sleep light (that's what that is) at night; iBooks, alas, do not. Cover it, turn it around, or shut the computer down altogether at night.

4. It's never going to be cold, and it's usually warm, but I can't answer that question safely.

5. Let me get back to you on that.

6. Try an LED light that plugs into the USB port. Only PowerBooks have backlit keyboards.

7. You don't -- not in the Windows sense. The green button maximizes it to the largest size it thinks the window needs. Some programs do maximize to fill the screen, so it depends.

8. I can't answer this question.
posted by mcwetboy at 11:27 AM on November 23, 2005


1. check askme posts tagged with osx+software or mac+software for some good pointers. I suggest netnewswire for rss reading and cyberduck for ftp for starters.
2. no
3. you can't to the best of my knowledge
4. yes, normal
5. dealmac.com for shopping, macupdate.com for software
6. yes, there is no way. the other ways your mac is not a pc will make up for this.
7. once you have maximized the window manually, it should maximize to that size in the future.
8. outside my purview

Also spend some time in the system preferences area to see what your machine can do. Having your mac regularly update with current versions of software is much less of a headache that the windows update tango always used to be, so make sure you do this often assuming you're on a broadband connection.
posted by jessamyn at 11:29 AM on November 23, 2005


A good aggregation of the key stuff out there: MyAppleMenu.

Basic news headlines: MacCentral, MacMinute, MacNN.

Comedy: Crazy Apple Rumors.

Commentary: Daring Fireball, FatBits.

Rumours: AppleInsider, MacRumors, Think Secret.

Tips: Mac OS X Hints.

Miscellaneous/all of the above: O'Reilly MacDevCenter, The Unofficial Apple Weblog.
posted by mcwetboy at 11:33 AM on November 23, 2005


Virtually nothing, unless you have a specific need, in which case you probably already know about it. Learn what's already there, first.

I agree with this. I played around with the mac apps for a while before I went looking elsewhere. Once you find out what else you need, there's a ton of cool apps out there. Knowing what you don't need will help.

The whole maximize thing bothered me when I first got my iBook, being used to windows. However, now I prefer it to the windows way.

There's so much good software for the mac, and I agree with most of the selections here. You'll find plenty of previous threads on the subject (netnewswire, transmit, voodoowiki, etc).

The only one I disagree with is textwrangler. I personally stay away from non cocoa apps. They're ugly. But that's just me.
posted by justgary at 11:37 AM on November 23, 2005


Congratulations!

Dragthing, dragthing, dragthing. The default osx dock is a great process dock but a poor excuse for a desktop program launcher.

Versiontracker for all your shareware and freeware software needs.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog is the only Mac news site you'll need.
posted by macinchik at 11:50 AM on November 23, 2005


2. How do I make the ibook NOT go to sleep when I close the cover?

Apple does not allow iBooks to run in extended desktop mode, where a second display you plug in displays a second desktop, not just a mirror of the first. This is to encourage people to buy Powerbooks, even though iBooks are technically capable of this. Screen Spanning Doctor enables this feature, and also has the option of enabling "clamshell mode" so you can keep you iBook on when it's closed. However I strongly recommend against pursuing this. Your iBook's cooling system routes air through the keyboard, so closing the lid may overheat your new laptop.

Here's a two-year-old AskMe thread. The basic iBook design hasn't changed much since then so it's still pretty accurate. But again, this is a bad idea in general.
posted by Sfving at 12:24 PM on November 23, 2005


Mac VNC client: Chicken of the VNC works really well for me.
posted by cathodeheart at 12:36 PM on November 23, 2005


Thanks, as I stated I have tried Chicken and it hasn't worked, are you using it to connect to a win machine?
posted by Cosine at 12:43 PM on November 23, 2005


MacInTouch reader reports.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:45 PM on November 23, 2005


Chicken of the VNC works perfectly for me, whether connecting to a Windows 2000 machine, another Mac, on a LAN, or over the Internet. Most likely your problem is not having set a password on your Windows machine.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:49 PM on November 23, 2005


The best website for Mac news is Macintouch.

I second the vote for Quicksilver. Using it has become completely ingrained for me--such that if I sit down at a Mac that doesn't have it, my gut reaction is "it's broken." Also second VLC.

If you don't like the light on the power jack, cut a narrow strip of trim tape and wrap it around.

Get over the window-maximization. It's a different paradigm in macland.

Also, not that you asked, but...I've found that "drinking the koolaid" with Apple's included apps does pay dividents. If you use Address Book/iCal/Mail for everything, you really do get synergies; for example, being able to access people in your address book via Quicksilver, etc. Other apps can replace them and tie in, but with diminished synergy.
posted by adamrice at 12:49 PM on November 23, 2005


I should elaborate: most likely not having set a VNC password on your Windows machine. You should try it with a password, even if you don't want one.

I use RealVNC.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:50 PM on November 23, 2005


Open Source Mac is a good collection of software.
posted by danb at 1:10 PM on November 23, 2005


In regards to #2:

There is no software method for keeping an iBook from sleeping on closing the lid, and there are good engineering reasons why you shouldn't do this (all heat related).

But:

You can hack the hardware. The iBook knows when it's closed by a reed-switch in the screen coming close to a magnet in the base. You can find this magnet with a (steel) paperclip.

On my (old) 12" it's on the lower right side, close to the edge. This magnet can be removed, if you are ok with opening the case and voiding your warranty. On some iBooks, there are several magnets.

Alternately, if you are very careful, you can use a thin, steel shim taped over the magnet to block/distort the magnetic field enough to spoof the reed switch without cracking the case.

Running the iBook with the lid closed does void your warranty, so using the shim just makes it possible for you lie to the service technician when your iBook overheats.
posted by Crosius at 1:54 PM on November 23, 2005


My VNC install has a proper password, I am prompted for it too, after entering it however it disconnects.
posted by Cosine at 2:26 PM on November 23, 2005


Crosius: "There is no software method for keeping an iBook from sleeping on closing the lid,"
There are software methods. Read previous posts.
posted by shanevsevil at 2:27 PM on November 23, 2005


Another vote for Quicksilver. It's so good I'm surprised Apple doesn't just buy the damn thing and throw it on every Mac they ship. I hate working on a Mac without it.
posted by Robot Johnny at 2:53 PM on November 23, 2005


1) Here is the free software I have installed - a bit iTunes centric:

Quicksilver (to launch programs)
Clutter (iTunes cover lookup + albums icons on your desktop)
GMail Status (my favorite of the options)
iScrobbler (update Audioscrobbler from iTunes)
MenuCalendarClock (dropdown calendar in the menu bar)
Adium (multi-network IM client)
SizzlingKeys4iTunes (hot keys + song change popups for iTunes)
XinePlayer (for movies)
VLC (for the movies that XinePlayer doesn't work on)
CoverFlow (iTunes eye candy)
iEatBrainz (Musicbrainz client)
PithHelmet (Safari adblocking)
posted by smackfu at 3:06 PM on November 23, 2005


Please download Quicksilver. You'll really love it. I use it all day without really even noticing. I have the hotkey set up so that Option+Spacebar summons the program. This makes it very easy to start programs from the keyboard by hitting your hotkey, then typing the first few letters of the program's name, then hitting enter when it's found.

That's the most basic thing it does - I haven't even gotten into the other stuff in great detail, but it does lots of neat things.

Beyond that, things I use daily include VLC, Adium, LittleSnitch (which is an awesome way to have precise control over what programs are allowed to access the internet. Buy it, it's worth it.), MouseZoom (to control the speed of the mouse with more granularity than comes in the normal System Preferences), WindowShadeX, Application Enhancer, and ShapeShifter.

I second exploring the included software. Art Directors Toolkit has some cool stuff, as does Graphic Converter. OmniGraffle is neat for drawing diagrams. If you do any presentation stuff, spring for iWork, it's a great value if you get the educational pricing.
posted by odinsdream at 3:34 PM on November 23, 2005


Note that I told a friend about Art Directors' Toolkit and Graphic Converter, and he was unable to find it on his system. Does anyone know what the trick is? Is it because I did my own installation of OS X? I just assumed they came with the system.
posted by odinsdream at 3:35 PM on November 23, 2005


Necessary apps:
BBEdit, Audacity, MacStumbler, Stuffit Expander, and for email, I'd suggest Mail.app (default program for users) for you since you're new to the Mac world, but once you've got your feet wet and want to see what else is out there, I'd try Thunderbird. I guess the same would go for Safari, try that first for browsing, but then take a look at Camino / Firefox. They're a little different, and different enough for me to have a favorite (Camino.)
posted by pwb503 at 3:36 PM on November 23, 2005


I like the Growl notification app with the Spongebob display style because it's so darn goofy.
posted by Tacodog at 3:40 PM on November 23, 2005


I'm not a VNC guru but I've used VNC Viewer with some success.

http://homepage.mac.com/kedoin/VNC/

If you're already pretty geeky, you're going to be interested in the fact that you've not only got your beautiful shiny Mac interface on top, but you've also got a sort-of-UNIX BSD machine under there too.

So you're going to want to check out the terminal and all the many built-in *NIX utilities like curl and wget and rsync and so on (Have you got Tiger? wget might not be installed by default) and of course languages like Perl and Ruby. You've also got an Apache web server and, I think, a MySQL database.

I was a latecomer to the power of the command line, bu I've come to really enjoy the fact that I can ignore Photoshop and resize a hundred images to no more than 300px in any direction just by typing convert -resize '300x300>' *.jpg or the like, using ImageMagick.

In order to get versions of *NIX software specially configured for OS X installation, you might want to check out Fink or DarwinPorts. There's a GUI for Fink called FinkCommander.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:06 PM on November 23, 2005


Necessary apps:
BBEdit


For very few people is a 200 dollar text/html editor necessary. For that amount of money you could buy almost every other application mentioned in this thread.
posted by justgary at 4:25 PM on November 23, 2005


The essentials for me are:

Quicksilver - not just a file launcher; the optional add-in that keeps a clipboard history is unbelievably useful.
Desktop Manager (virtual desktop manager that helps me live with the limited screen real-estate)
Sogudi (enhanced search facitility for Safari - I just need to type 'vt backup' in the address bar and I have a list of all available Mac backup software)

Without these, any Mac I use is broken.

Also recommended: Growl, Dragthing and MenuMeters as system add-ons; Omni-outliner for outliner type stuff; TextWrangler for editing text or coding; beyond that it depends what you want to do with your Mac.
posted by nowonmai at 4:28 PM on November 23, 2005


I purchased TextMate. I like it better than TextWrangler. I should buy OmniOutliner next.

I like FuzzyClock, because it gives me a more analog idea of the time. Seldom do I want to know that it is precisely 4:21:36. I just want to know that it is about twenty after.

FinderPop gives me a no-brainer way to access my apps. I have QuickSilver, too, but most of the time I don't want to remember what to type. Yes, I am phenomenally mentally lazy.

Opera continues to lay waste on other browsers. It is very much worth the effort of learning how to use it. Once you go keyboard, you'll never go back.

MailTags can be a useful addition to Mail.

Jiggler is useful when you don't want the screensaver/sleep to kick in.

FileWrangler makes mass re-naming easier.

MoinX for my laptop Wiki.

PsuedoAnacron so that missed clean-up events are run when I reboot. Unfortunately, this is seldom enough that PA doesn't actually get run nearly enough! I should cron MacJanitor instead.

SlimBatteryMonitor is space-saving.

GeekTool lets me print my IP addresses (LAN & WAN) to the desktop, as well as the system temperatures.

I activate my QuickSilver using a double-press of the Fn key, which otherwise would see next to no use. Also, it's very easy to find without looking.

WindowShadeX requires installing the Haxies package, which is chaotic-evil. I wouldn't recommend it.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:57 PM on November 23, 2005


Missed the part about you trying Chicken (that'll teach me to skim!)...but yes, I am connecting to a Win XP machine on a regular basis, both through a local network, and remotely through the internet. I'm using RealVNC as the server on the XP box and I've never had a problem. Did you double check all the settings on both client and server?

I know I needed to also set up my wireless router to forward the port that VNC uses to the appropriate computer when I connect remotely.
posted by cathodeheart at 5:17 PM on November 23, 2005


five fresh fish: I've had no chaotic-evil experiences with the Haxies stuff. I would feel like my computer were broken without WindowShadeX, but if there's another utility that does the same thing, I'd love to hear about it. I honestly have no idea why the rollup functionality was dropped from OS9... it was so great.
posted by odinsdream at 6:08 PM on November 23, 2005


#7. How do I maximize the screen.

You don't. Quit thinking windows. The Mac OS has layered windows (windows on top of windows on top of windows).

Hit your F9,10,11 keys to see expose in action handle this.

Once you open a browser to the maximum size (possibly manually, often using the green button on the top left of the window), it may not hit the size you want.

The idea is that you can click through to another app...or drag and drop items from one app into another.

Not saying it's right or wrong...just the way it is. The key here is that the menus will always be at the top of the screen.
posted by filmgeek at 6:44 PM on November 23, 2005


one of the packages in fink is vncviewer for X11. you might try this instead of the chicken. i kind of prefer it actually.

i think X11 is installed by default on tiger. if not you need to install the developer tools, which is somewhere on apple's website.
posted by joeblough at 7:02 PM on November 23, 2005


smackfu mentioned: SizzlingKeys4iTunes (hot keys + song change popups for iTunes)

If you're already got quicksilver installed (which I highly recommend) its iTunes plugin will handle this for you. I use command control . and , to do next/previous song, and command control space to play/pause. Works great. Plus, I've got album art for a lot of my songs, so when quicksilver pulls up the little iTunes notifier, it's got the art there for me. It's pretty cool.
posted by heresiarch at 7:27 PM on November 23, 2005


filmgeek, I just have to point out that your answer isn't addressing the question about the window maximization.

Firstly, the Mac OS has "layered windows" in exactly the same way as Windows does. All modern windowing systems have windows on top of windows on top of windows. This doesn't change the fact that sometimes, you'd like to have one of these windows occupy the whole screen (with the exception, of course, of the dock and menu bar.)

Exposé also has nothing to do with the window maximization. In fact, Exposé would be a great way to shuffle through several "truly maximized" windows.

Clicking through to another app - dragging and dropping - all are not affected by a user choosing to have one window occupy the entire screen.

But, here's the real problem: The method used to maximize makes absolutely no sense. Here, I'm clicking on it right now for this Safari window. Before I click, I'm comfortably reading lines that span about 3/4ths of my usable screen, with my buddy list over there, and my bookmarks menu fitting comfortably. Alright. Now, after clicking it, my window has been made horizontally smaller, and my bookmarks now no longer fit on one window. My reading space is less, and the final width of the window seems to bear absolutely no relation to anything inside the webpage or on the application itself.

This is the problem. If it worked like it's "supposed to" (however that is - I have no idea - nobody's capable of explaining it, and I've given up even using the damn button), then nobody'd be questioning it. Everyone would be clicking it with a clear understanding of what the hell it's for.
posted by odinsdream at 8:44 PM on November 23, 2005


One thing that I haven't seen mentioned - though perhaps there have been other ways of accomplishing the same thing mentioned...

Download TinkerTool. Install it and run it. Forget about all of the preferences it gives you access to (or don't and explore them later, but there's one that you need). Click on "General" along the top and then the radio button, beside "Place scroll arrows:" that says "Together at both ends".

Do it now.

As far as maximize goes - maximize in the Windows sense doesn't exist on the Mac because the Dock always takes up some space. People in the Mac world tend to never have a window taking up the whole screen. For many it would be impossible, as the window would then now allow any room for palettes, toolbars, and other things, which are never within the window on a Mac. Each window on a Windows machine is a self-contained unit, with its own menus and everything. On a Mac it doesn't work like that. If you want to make a window a different size, you make it the size you need manually.
posted by mikel at 9:11 PM on November 23, 2005


Monolingual (Versiontracker link) is a utility that easily removes foreign language resources bundled into your applications and buried in various folders. I've had this current computer for over three years, and when I first ran Monolingual a few months ago I told it to get rid of everything but the English translations, which ended up freeing up about 950 megabytes of disk space. Subsequent software updates will put those foreign .lproj files right back where they were, so it's worth running regularly if you regularly install software on your machine. Not absolutely necessary, of course, but I know I don't need Japanese, Chinese, Italian, etc. translations of various applications.
posted by emelenjr at 10:14 PM on November 23, 2005


About the maximizing thing: Safari is a bad choice as there is no logical size for a web-page to be. In many other apps, eg. Photoshop, the green button basically toggles the window between two sizes: the 'logical size' and another size. In Photoshop, the 'logical size' is one that will fit the document in the window with no space around the edges. So if I open a document, and then resize the window so it's too big or small (or change the magnification), then clicking the green tit will toggle between my manually chosen size and the size that the image fits in.
Some apps don't work this way; those are broken. I'm sure the Safari team just decided they couldn't think of a sensible rule for what size a window ought to be and gave up.
posted by nowonmai at 11:35 PM on November 23, 2005


if not you need to install the developer tools, which is somewhere on apple's website.

...and on the CDs/DVD you got with the computer.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:14 PM on November 24, 2005


What (preferrably free) software is a must for me to add? (I work as a Windows networking admin so I do know my way around well, just not with Macs)

My own invaluable apps include Meteorologist, TinyClock, SkypeMenu, SoundSource, MenuCalendarClock, iKey, Mailsmith, Remind (paired with GeekTool), TextWrangler, Path Finder, gDisk, iTerm, SpamSieve, Transmit, NetNewsWire, Comictastic, MarsEdit, Adium, Skype, GraphicConverter, xChat Aqua, APOD Grabber, Cocoalicious, Acquisition, A Better Finder Rename, Carbon Copy Cloner, Pester, Quinn, Sidenote, Stellarium, Celestia, and, undoubtedly, Quicksilver.

How do I make the ibook NOT go to sleep when I close the cover?

I do not know the answer to this one, but my understanding is that this is inadvisible. I believe I remember reading somewhere that the iBook was constructed in a manner that if the LCD screen did not go to sleep when the laptop was closed, there would be problems with overheating.

How can I make the glowing circle of light around the power adapter connection STOP glowing at night?

I'm unaware of the answer to this. I do believe there is a non-Apple travel AC adapter called "iGo" which would not have the lit ring in question. (People are mistaking your question as the white pulsing light that indicates sleep; that is not what you're talking about, it sounds. You're talking about the ring that is either orange or green where the AC adapter plugs into the iBook.)

The power adapter seems to get REALLY hot, too hot to touch, is this normal?

In my experience, it does get extremely warm, and has never caused a problem for me.

What websites should I add to my regular browsing for good Mac news, tips and software?

Cool OS X Apps, Free MacWare, Command-Tab, What Do I Know, Daring Fireball, Mac OS X Hints, Pimp My Safari, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, MacUpdate, VersionTracker, and xIcons are Apple-related sites I have in my RSS reader as daily checks.

Is there no way to light up the keyboard for those after-dark browsing sessions? My Thinkpad does this quite nicely.

This functionality does not exist in the iBook, but does exist in the PowerBook. I'm unaware of any way to make light eminate from your iBook's keyboard, but I'm fairly sure you could buy a USB keyboard light from a third-party vendor — e.g., this or a competitor — that would provide unobtrusive light for your keyboard in that situation.

How the HELL (frustrated) do I maximize a window? I found the button that increases the size to where the OS seems to think it should be but it's often wrong, how can I make it maximize?

The green button is a 'zoom' button, not a full-screen button. I agree with you as to the uselessness of its functionality; I never use it. I've accomplished the maximization of a window to full-screen by using iKey (see link above) to resize and reposition the window to fill an entire screen. It's proved invaluable.

VNC viewer? I need to view windows machines through VNC, the windows machines run UltraVNC, TightVNC or RealVNC mostly, I tried several Viewers for the Mac (Chicken of the VNC) and they "almost" connect but always drop the connection right away, any Mac VNC gurus out there?

I believe that one of the most common applications used is called OSXvnc. I don't have information as to how to troubleshoot your connection, but perhaps you could gather useful information from this video. It is albeit in the wrong direction, but perhaps could still assist you.
posted by WCityMike at 5:29 PM on November 24, 2005 [1 favorite]


In many applications, option-clicking the green button maximizes. Unfortunately, it isn't a consistent behavior across all.
posted by pedantic at 9:27 PM on November 24, 2005


The zoom behaviour is especially frustrating for those of us using smaller screens, ie. iBook 12". There's virtually nothing I run that I don't want full-screen, so as to maximize my reading/writing space.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:20 PM on November 24, 2005


FWIW, if you can find one of the older yo-yo power adapters (large and round, cable wraps up around it, model M7332), it should work fine with your iBook. The glowing ring thing was introduced on the new square power adapters and the old yoyos don't have it. Or a 3rd party adapter like WCityMike suggested. My new-style AC adapter gets very warm but it only gets really hot like you mentioned if it's on my couch (they don't like being buried - power bricks need ventilation too).
posted by mrg at 12:30 PM on December 16, 2005


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