My first week with the Mac Mini: moving from Linux to OS X

MacBook, coffee mug, and cactus

Last updated on March 19th, 2023

Thought I’d give a bit of an update on life with the Mac Mini so far, and summarize what I’ve done to move from Linux to OS X.

Transferring files

I’ve managed to transfer all the files from my laptop to the Mini, which took a large amount of time to accomplish (a lot of data to transfer!). I reformatted my external hard drive from Linux’s ext3 format (which OS X can’t read) to HFS+ (letting me use Time Machine backup with it), which was easy.

As for how, I networked the laptop and Mini together with ethernet cables via my router. I also made sure Samba was installed/set up on the laptop, which the Mini saw and let me log into.

For the video files, I’ve imported some of them into iTunes, with what few remaining files (generally MKV or AVI formats) kept in the “Movies” folder to play in VLC. The rest of the videos I’ll keep on the external hard drive to retrieve as needed, since there isn’t room on the Mac’s hard drive to keep all of them there. For audio, I’ve converted the FLAC files to Apple Lossless, and imported those into iTunes (iTunes doesn’t directly support FLAC). Photos have been imported into iPhoto.

Replacement programs

Many of the Linux programs I used have OS X counterparts, though there’s some that required complete replacements. (Should note that I’m running OS X 10.8/”Mountain Lion,” the newest version of OS X.) The Linux version is listed first, followed by its OS X counterpart:

  • Chromium/Firefox: Chromium’s been replaced with Chrome, the Google-maintained version of Chromium. Firefox, of course, has an OS X version.
  • LibreOffice: An OS X version of LibreOffice exists, so I installed that.
  • Pidgin: The popular Linux IM program has been replaced by either OS X’s built-in Messages (formerly known as iChat pre-Mountain Lion) or third party program Adium. I’ve been trying both out…
  • XChat: The popular IRC program has an OS X version (under the name “XChat Azure”) available.
  • Thunderbird: While Apple includes Mail with OS X, I’ve opted to install the Mac version of Thunderbird instead, as I can also use Thunderbird’s RSS newsfeed feature.
  • Lightning: The Thunderbird calendar plug-in isn’t needed, as I’m using Apple’s Calendar program (formerly known as iCal) instead.
  • Evernote: Lacking a Linux version, I’d formerly used Evernote’s web browser access. However, on OS X, I’ve installed the Evernote application. One problem: it doesn’t support strikethrough of text like the web browser/Windows versions apparently do. (EDIT: There is support for strikethrough, but only via a menu command; no toolbar button…)
  • Shotwell: Replaced by Apple’s iPhoto.
  • Banshee: Replaced by iTunes. For accessing the Amazon MP3 store, I can use my browser.
  • Twitter/Facebook: I’d been using the Twitter website on Linux. I’m currently trying out TweetDeck for Twitter; for Facebook, I’ll stick with Facebook’s website.
  • KeePassX: An OS X version of KeePassX is available.
  • Audacity: An OS X version of Audacity is available.
  • gMTP: Google offers an MTP file transfer program for OS X users for its Nexus 7. Again, it would’ve been easier for the Mountain View folks to simply offer USB mass storage functionality like most Android phones/similar devices…
  • Calibre: An OS X version of Calibre’s available.
  • ClamAV: An OS X version, named ClamXav, is available.
  • Dropbox: Dropbox installation was straightforward for OS X.
  • GIMP: An OS X version of GIMP is available.
  • Handbrake: An OS X version of Handbrake is available. While I don’t have a DVD drive for the Mini, I thought having the program on hand anyway might be useful (in case I do buy a DVD drive/convert a few items)…
  • Avidemux: Replaced by Apple’s iMovie, though I’ve yet to play with iMovie extensively.
  • SoundConverter: I’ve used XLD for converting FLAC files to Apple Lossless.
  • Comix: Replaced by the Simple Comic reader.
  • VLC: VLC comes with an OS X version.
  • Back In Time: Replaced by Apple’s Time Machine.
  • Transmission: The Bittorrent program has an OS X version.
  • Gnucash: One of the sticking points I’ve had in going from Linux to OS X is that while Gnucash has an OS X version, it A) looks rather awful (a lack of UI compliance) and B) some windows won’t close when their “close” buttons are pressed. Gnucash, I’ve also discovered, doesn’t export files to QIF format (the format Quicken/virtually every other personal finance program out there uses), which makes switching to a different program likely requiring me to start over from scratch. I’ve been looking for possible replacement programs to Gnucash, but most of them don’t seem to be very cheap (though it sounds nice, iBank wants $60 for its program, for starters…). Besides just sticking with Gnucash, I’ve been looking at SEE Finance ($30) and Checkbook (both the regular version for $15 and the “Pro” version for $25). Quicken has a version that’ll run on Mountain Lion, but all reports online seem strongly negative.

Other additions

I’ve bought a Mac keyboard to replace the old PC one I dug out of storage to use with the Mini…before remembering why I put it in storage in the first place. A nice typing experience so far…

A few OS X-specific programs I’ve installed include:

  • Kindle For Mac: The OS X version of the popular Kindle app, which lets me read/use my Kindle purchases (the very few made so far) on my computer.
  • WeatherMan Lite: A free app that provides weather info from the menubar, similar to the weather applets on Linux distros.

I’ve also downloaded some newer, resized-for-1920×1080-resolution wallpapers from various sites.

Thus, other than the personal finance program situation noted above, I’m pretty much all setup and ready to go. Switching OSes is more work than switching to a newer version of an OS, I suppose, especially coming over from Linux. Still, I’m enjoying the OS X experience so far.

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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