My laptop solution revealed

As most of you know, I had serious laptop problems – according to the incontrovertible cosmic Zuhlsdorf’s Law – while in Rome.

I am so very grateful to all of you who pitched in to the old “Get A Mac” Fund some time ago and who sent donations recently.

My solution.


Now I have to learn how to feed and … manage … this thing.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. drwob says:

    Woo-hoo! Be not afraid, Father. Any question you post while moving up the learning curve will garner *many* (and even some charitable…;) replies!

  2. BalmerCatholic says:

    Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. If you’ve ever dabbled in UNIX/Linux, you can definitely have a little more fun if you ever decide to work on the command line. I will admit I’m not exactly happy that folks in Cupertino decided to kill OpenDarwin, though. Keeping that going would have kept things not as illegal as creating your own Hackintosh (but I digress).

    OSX has definitely come a long way since the earlier MacOS predecessors. It’s actually easier than you think. I would highly recommend looking at the various BSD/OSX boards to find add-ons that help you transfer older FAT/NTFS based disks over to your new machine (had to do that with my parents’ iMac when they bought that a couple of years ago).

  3. sekman says:

    You will LOVE it! I was a windows guy for years and purchased a very handy Macbook Air as my primary machine a few years back. I must say, you better get the Get a Mac fund going again, you’ll be wanting one of those spiffy 27″ iMac’s before too long.

    Will you per chance be in Manhattan this year for the Triduum, or still across the great big pond??

  4. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    I love my Macbook Pro. I just wish I understood the Mac system better. I’m too lazy to go take the classes at the mac store. I do not know well how to manage things yet.

  5. benedetta says:

    I’ve been a mac person for a long time. I think you’re going to love yours, Fr. Z!

  6. Stu says:

    Welcome aboard.

  7. HobokenZephyr says:

    Welcome to the Dark Side. Funny, you are the 3rd priest I’ve heard of “converting” in the last week. Y’all should have gotten a discount or something.

  8. curtjester says:

    Congrats! Habemus MacPro

    I switched to Mac 5 years ago after using Microsoft from DOS days. Been exceptionally happy with the hardware that actually lasts. I’ve never owned a computer that lasted 5 years and still looked new before. Although I am not a Microsoft hater, just don’t like the plastic hardware from most manufacturers.

    As a Windows developer as my full time job I got a treat this week as our 8 developers all got new Mac Pros with 27″ Cinema monitors that we are going to dual boot for Windows and iOS development.

    By the way I still do Windows development on my Mac at home via Parallels. Parallels is great for running Windows programs and it integrates so well you simply have Mac and Windows programs running side by side. VMWare Fusion also does this, but Parallels does it better.

  9. lhuizenga says:

    I went Mac several years ago and couldn’t be happier. There is a steep learning curve, though. Nice thing is, Macs are Catholic:

  10. The Masked Chicken says:

    Mac is basically BSD 4.o (look up the history if UNIX if interested) with a Mach kernel on top and a Darwin kernel on top of that. It has been certified UNIX. The program, Fink, gives you access to many free UNIX/Linux programs. There really isn’t much of a learning curve. .exe programs in Windows = .dmg in Mac. Server-side is different, however. I am sure there are many Mac afficianados who read the blog. I use the terminal on my Mac laptop, so, if you ever venture into the cool underbelly of the Mac, I can help. Mac has a lot more on-line support than Windows, which should help.


    The Chicken

  11. tech_pilgrim says:

    learning curve will take 5 minutes. If you still have applications that run on windows, use Parallels, runs windows in a VM environment integrated with the mac desktop, and when you’re done it can simply suspend the vm session.

  12. contrarian says:

    Welcome to the civilized world, Father Z.

    Make sure you make good use of the hipster tech geeks at your local Apple Store. Even if it’s just a tune up. If you have AppleCare, they fix everything and don’t ask questions.

  13. cregduff says:

    Very happy for you!
    I predict you’ll be happy, happy, happy.

  14. Sissy says:

    Congratulations! You’ll never be sorry.

  15. NBW says:

    You will be very happy with your Mac. IMHO, it’s easier to operate.

  16. rhetoric57 says:

    What took you so long? Let the good times roll!
    I see you’ve been told about Parallels and the Umberto Eco comment.

    Don’t forget there’s a wireless track pad here waiting for you.


  17. Perhaps some of you can recommend some things I will find useful to pimp this ride.

  18. DocJim says:

    Don’t believe that 5 minute stuff. With the uses you wish to put it to, my bet is 2-3 days to get all you want out of it. Excellent help documents on the Apple website. Not many people go beneath skin deep and the Mac needs no manuals to go skin deep; you can surf, do email and a set up a blog site the first day. But there are some interesting things about networking that require reading the documentation twice. After setting up, it will be good and forgiving. You should be a pro before Pentecost rolls around. I have used Macs over 25 years and now have to use Windows 7 at work. I still hate Windows after 3.5 years with it. My biggest gripe is the slow reception of a click and the Windows programmers seldom pop the cursor into a box that next needs to be filled out (some do, true—but not routinely).

  19. tgarcia2 says:

    @Fr. Z- Dragon natually speaking is a nice voice typing program (helping with my Masters papers)…also that old book laptop holder?

  20. gluon says:

    Buy your external monitor connectors via Monorpice – great quality, exponentially lower price.

  21. JayDeee says:

    Here are some goodies (no links included in case your spam filer doesn’t like them, but you can easily Google for these). For all kinds of things web-related (e.g. scraping things out of the web Twitter client and cleaning them up to retweet with comment), here’s a nice (free) plain-text editor: Text Wrangler (from Bare Bones Software); you can buy the MS Office Suite; for FTP’ing files you may like Transmit; you will have QuickTime Player installed but you may want the upgrade; I like mSecure to manage passwords, and there is an iPhone app with which to sync it; you may want Flip4Mac and VLC as useful video/conversion tools; and Audacity for sound editing. Have fun!

  22. JayDeee says:

    To clarity, the mSecure desktop and iPhone app work together if you have both, but each has a cost. You don’t buy one and get the other free.

  23. gracie says:

    You are going to be so happy!

    Main thing to know is their phone number: 1-800-MY- APPLE

    They will stay on the phone with you for as long as it takes to solve the problem. They will answer any computer question and help you with ANYTHING you need to do on the computer. I once had a tech on the phone with me for 1 1/2 to get video transferred (don’t ask). I’m pretty computer illiterate and they don’t care. They helped me change my Facebook profile (which has nothing to do with Mac but that’s the level of service you get). They work under no time limit and just stay on and on with you until you’re satisfied.

    Then there’s the $99.00 for two years (terms may have changed) of in-store help. This covers not only group sessions but One-on-One time for 50 minutes with a tech. You can do it once a week. Again, you can bring them in any problem – you want to transfer files from your old computer or set up systems for yourself? Bring in all your stuff and they literally will do it for you as they’re explaining it to you.

    Oh, and for those “quick” questions – just grab one of the employees who stand at the door to the store and they’ll answer it for you. It’s like dying and going to computer heaven.

    You are going to be so happy!

  24. Welcome over at last! I swam that river two years ago (boss asked me if I’d bought a Rolls Royce – very embarrassed) but it has been worth it. I still remember the moment it started up – so smooth and clean. Very reliable machines and the Mac external recognizes devices without a problem. I had problems with a noisy fan but I bought the three year care package so I just went over to the Mac shop and they fixed it. Once you get used to the layout (not that different from Windows) it’s a dream. I still use Windows at work and would never go back to it for a personal computer. Apps you might check out: Kindle, Delicious Library, Doo, Cosmographia, Solar Walk, iBooks author, iMissal, Audacity. Enjoy the future!

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    Well, since I spend my spare time looking for low cost or free programs (*Cough cheapskate *Cough), I have many recommendations. Yes, I guess, you might want the MS Office Suite, but, really, Libre Office is almost as good (better in some ways). It is free, and open source. VLC is the best video player bar none, but beware, it is not licensed to play most commercial copyrighted mainstream videos in the United States because of the evil hold Microsoft has on the player codecs. Still, it is the Swiss army knife of video players. Very smooth. Text Wrangler is a good choice (can’t remember if it is free), but for editing web pages, the best free program is Bluefish. BBEdit used to be the best, but it got too good and costs money :( Audacity is also a very good choice for audio recording (be sure to download the Lame library so you can convert the recordings to MP3). There are many good free ftp software programs: filezilla is a good one. There are some funky text readers that read just like a book, two pages at a time (the name slips my memory – I’ll let you know).

    Mac started on a Motorola 68k chip (before it moved to RISC and then Intel) and a lot of the really old, but still good, software, has to be run under emulation. Basilisk is a good emulator. Fink or MacPorts is a painless way to get hold of Unix software for free (need to install X windows from the installation CD).

    Mac comes with a server program, but Apache is still good. Infranview is the Swiss army knife of image viewers and the GIMP is a free alternative to photoshop. The DVD player in the MAc is already very good.

    Since I don’t know what specific software you are looking for, I’ll wait to see if anything any topics are suggested. The old Infomac archives from MIT are a great source. Beware of the tendency of Mac to move towards a walled-in garden mentality where they control everything. Get the free stuff while you can.

    The Chicken

  26. inexcels says:

    A Mac? Guh. Should’ve gotten a Linux box. Could’ve gotten equivalent hardware for cheaper. And these days there are Linux distros that are very easy to use. I will never stop being annoyed by Apple’s brand mark-up. Throwing money away.

    If Fr. Z had gotten a Windows or Linux machine I could’ve provided lots of help, but as it is? Well, apparently plenty of other commenters are enthusiastic Mac users (for God knows what reason) so I’m sure they’ll give Fr. Z all the support he needs.

    Sad day. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here retching from the gushing fanboyism in the comments. (Yes, I have strong feelings about this. I’d hope so, being a computer science Ph.D student.)

    [What a charming comment.]

    Fr. Z's Sour Grapes Award

  27. Bea says:

    Congrats on the MacPro
    I’ve had mine for a little over a year.
    Son, Daughter and Daughter-in-law have one , too.
    I kept getting viruses on the windows Dell and finally splurged on the Mac.
    I’m still learning on it. Maybe I can pick up pointers with fellow bloggers here.
    I need to learn to do a bookstore inventory for the Parish Bookstore.

    Pro, Pro,
    Way to go
    This computer
    Doesn’t run that slow
    After I “boot” her
    There’s more to know

  28. dbwheeler says:

    inexcels…I like your comment. Oh, the slavish ‘psycho-fants’ and gushing goo for tapple…makes me want to laugh, anyway. We can all use a good laugh so we should thank the appleseeds for some comic relief. I started using computers in the eighties for various design jobs but my home computer was a really old HP/windows that I kept updating and patching into a frankenstein gorilla that was like an old friend…I really hated parting with it. Now I just keep a clunky toshiba laptop in a kitchen drawer that I zip out with my tea & toast. My son has apple everything (he lived in Seattle, what can I say?) and looks at me with such sad eyes when I buy windows yet again.

  29. The Masked Chicken says:

    Tofu was the text reader I was thinking of.

    Does a two button mouse work on modern Macs? Ah, the old days of the one button monster.

    TextWrangler is, essentially, BBEdit light, it is good.

    So much software, so little time. Stellarium is great for your astronomical needs (or Celestia). I mean, if you want high intensity computational software, I know many programs. Not so much on the everyday stuff. Elinks is a nice command line browser.


    Mac runs BSD 4.0 under the hood, which, while not Linux, is derived from the uncopyrighted AT &T UNIX version released to universities in the 1970 and early 1980’s, so, in theory, it can do almost everything Linux can. With X windows installed, I can run many of the same programs I do on my Linux box. Steve Jobs changed the entire operating system when he came back to Mac after his Next company floundered and brought the operating system and adapted it to the Mac. It is called OSX not only because it is the 10th iteration of the operating system, but because it has UniX under the hood, which was what Jobs was using in the Next cube. Rather than go though learning to run the command line, it would just be simpler to use BootCamp to dual boot a Linux distribution or even use VMWare or Parallels. The slick Mac desktop is just Joe’s Window Manager for Linux all dressed up. I don’t like Unity in Ubuntu (Gnome is so much better).

    Yeah, I agree that Mac is moving to restrict things so that their computer becomes more like the iPad. Eventually, all of the software will have to go through a Mac vetting process, just like on the iPad. Still, they have a large educational market, so they can’t cripple the machine, too much.

    Got to go. I’m sure we could talk for hours.

    The Chicken

  30. inexcels says:

    High-five, dbwheeler.

    Thing is, Apple’s technology is fine. It does the job. My beef is with the mark-up, Apple’s control-freak mentality, and the rapture-like fanboyism. When I buy a computer, I want a tool, not a fashion statement/cultural movement. That said, I hope that Fr. Z is happy with it.

  31. inexcels says:

    “Got to go. I’m sure we could talk for hours.”

    I’ll bet we could, Masked Chicken. As I said (apparently while you were typing your own comment), my Apple-antipathy doesn’t lie so much with the technology, which is fine. More a matter of principles and aesthetics.

  32. eiggam says:

    Check the Genius Bar at the apple store for classes. You will be stunned by the retina display. Be sure to get a sturdy case to protect it in your travels. I was wondering what the results were from the get a Mac fund drive.

  33. Anchorite says:


  34. Saints be praised…thiught those few ducats i put in the Mac fund had been forgotten. You will love it. Yes, there is a learning curve. It’s inconsequential. You will soon lwonder how you suffered with the Redmond Virus for so ling.

    Welcome to the side of Truth, Goodness, and Light.

  35. philothea.distracted says:

    Some suggestions to “pimp” your new toy:

    MacGourmet – recipe management
    iBank – personal finance
    Carbonite – online backup of data

    Have fun!

  36. capchoirgirl says:

    YES!!!!! You will enjoy it so much Father!
    As far as programs–the others above have given you Most Excellent Suggestions!

  37. iPadre says:

    Totally awesome! Once you go Mac, you’ll never go back!

    Did you name it yet? All of my Macs, external drives and Airport wireless hubs have saints names.

    A great program I purchased with the recommendation of Fr. Roderick is Scrivener. It’s a program for writing. For ftp I use Transit. A cost saving replacement for Photoshop is Pixelmator. For balancing audio in podcasts, Levelator (and it’s free). Too many to list here.

  38. Hi Father,

    Some of my favorite go to places for software ideas and how-tos:

    PS: The Command-Spacebar keystrokes conjures up spotlight. Just type the first couple of letters of the app or document you need, and it opens. Your local Apple Store should have classes for heavy duty apps like Final Cut Pro, etc.

  39. cmcbocds says:

    Congratulations on the new MacBookPro!

    Given the problems you had in Rome, I would offer the following:

    Carbon Copy Cloner $40 ( enables you to make a bootable backup of your entire internal drive to an external drive (among many other options). Makes back up very easy!

    Western Digital My Passport for Mac USB ($102 for 1 Terabyte / $142 for 2 Terabyte at Amazon). These are very small drives; a little bit bigger than a deck of cards. My husband bought two of the 2 terabyte size about a month ago and is very pleased so far.

    MUGs (Mac User Group) are usually a very good source for info on software, tips /tricks and problem solving on a Mac. You can search for one near you at:

    (Mac addict since the original 512k)

  40. idelsan says:

    Apple it’s the Usus Antiquor of computers. The good way to work.

  41. curtjester says:

    I would suggest you download SCOTutor for Mac which is free on the Mac App Store. It is an excellent video tutorial for those new to Macs.

    The guy behind it does and there you can find some free tutorials for mac/iOS programs. These are exceptionally well done. He continually releases new screencasts and has a membership program which might be quite worthwhile for you. $23 quarterly/$70 yearly which gives you access to every screencast he has made along with new ones.

  42. DeltaEchoBravo says:

    I have a MBP and love it. One of the great things is that it’ll run Windows (or Linux) in the unlikely event that you don’t like OSX. If you find yourself in need of Windows applications, $50 will buy you VMWare Fusion. I run it, and it is fantastic.

    In the OSX world, I strongly recommend a program called Alfred as a quick application launcher, and iStats Menus to give you greater control of your menu bar. I have also found that using Witch as a task switcher lets me choose specific windows instead of just the application in general. The FOSS office suite universe has matured a great deal, so options like LibreOffice are pretty solid options.

    Good luck, and enjoy.


  43. dbonneville says:

    Dear Fr. Z:

    Two things you will do well to do:
    – Go to confession.
    – Get a back up drive (USB for Time Machine) and ALSO a Dropbox (or similar) remote account.

    The first one saves your soul, the second everything else.

  44. ghp95134 says:

    inexcels: “…(Yes, I have strong feelings about this. I’d hope so, being a computer science Ph.D student.)…

    Well, I work with a whole bunch of computer scientist who already have their Ph.D.s and they LOVE their Macs.

    Fr. Z. Be cautious if/when you upgrade to OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion; older versions of Photoshop CS and other PowerPC programs are not compatible and will not work without upgrading. Photoshop CS6 works, but that’s a costly upgrade.

    Here’s a compatibility list I found on the Cornell IT page:


  45. Lucas says:


    I’m no Mac fanboy by any stretch of the means. I find them overpriced, BUT I like to have one of every OS in the house. So I have a original iBook and a Macbook Pro around. I got the iBook in ’02 and the Pro in ’09. Both systems still run flawlessly. I’ve had 3 IBM(Now Lenovo) Thinkpads die in that time frame. Their systems really are built like tanks.

    I still prefer Linux, but their stuff works quite well and the hardware is pretty spiffy.

  46. Hank Igitur says:

    Dear Father Z

    A good choice
    You can subscribe to the 1962 calendar in the iCal apps available on the net
    Sophos antivirus is free and useful
    Under OSX 10.8 you can probably emulate a Kindle if you wish.
    Be sure to backup to an external HDD using Time Machine
    Data Rescue and Techtools Pro are great in the event of a disc emergency. Available on bootable USB sticks.
    Vues scan is great userware if you run a scanner
    Toast is a great app if you want to burn discs of any sort for any reason
    Think about whether you want to run VMWare or create a Bootcamp partition in case you want to run Windows on the machine (works well enough). If you do so create a large enough partition as programs like Norton and Microsoft updates for Windows and Office love to fill up all available space. If your partition is too small it gets ugly down the track.

    I hope the machine has been blessed and exorcised.
    Think about subscribing to iCloud for backup and syncing calendars, contacts, bookmarks, notes and more with other devices.
    You can also use Skype and Facetime for video calls!

  47. Cazienza says:

    Congrats, Fr. I have a MacBook Pro – only my second Mac, I’m never quick off the mark – and like it very much. Once you get used to it (things like that using that apple key instead of alt for what you might have been used to on Windows, for example) I’m sure you’ll enjoy it greatly.

  48. Pastor in Valle says:

    Congratulations! Somewhere after being a Catholic comes being a Mac User. There is a sense of ‘Duuuh; why would anyone else want to be anything else?’ I wish you much joy: I don’t think you’ll look back.

  49. VexillaRegis says:

    Oh, Fr. Z, you must name your new Mac! May I suggest Macarius the Wonder Worker? Wouldn’t he be the perfect saint to accompany you?

  50. AnnAsher says:

    WooHoo !!!
    Pastor in Valle said: “Somewhere after being a Catholic comes being a Mac User”
    And I so agree. You will be a bonafide cult member in no time. :)

  51. NoraLee9 says:

    I’ve been a Mac user since 1985. My first Apple was a IIe. The reason you pay a little more is that they don’t break as often and don’t pick up cooties as frequently as their Windows counterparts.
    My four-year old PowerBook just died after I doused it with 8ounzes of ginger ale. I’m off to the store tomorrow!

  52. (Yes, I have strong feelings about this. I’d hope so, being a computer science Ph.D student.)

    Which means, in my opinion, you’ve never really had to do real work where 1) real money was involved 2) lives were at stake, or 3) you actually had do do anything useful other than play student and repeat back to tenured professors what they told you.

    After working on these pieces of _____ for more years than I care to think about (built my first computer, yes, BUILT it in 1976…IMSAI 8080), to be honest, they all have their plusses and minuses. Apple, Window$, iOS, Android, whatever.

    When I push the button, at this point in time, almost 40 years after I got into working with microcomputers (which is probably more years than the quoted author above has been walking the face of the planet…), I just want it to turn on with minimal drama, explosions, infections, and the like.

    Apple, for me, does that now. Windows requires too much churn, $$$, time, drama, and continuously upgrading the equipment to take “advantage” of the OS. Stick a fork in it…it’s done (but, the brain-dead managers who listen to PhD dons and other bloviators stick those of us in the trenches with a bloated, insecure, constantly patched second-rate OS…guess I should be thankful that management is stupid enough to keep buying it…because it does mean you need a staff to keep up with all the fixes…)

    You know what? I don’t CARE that Apple has to vet what goes into their App Store before it gets sold, or that it controls the supply chain and distribution. Maybe if the idiots in Redmond had taken better care of their infrastructure and environment, you would not have the constant targeting of their OS by criminals.

    You can liken Windows to protestantism: no control, no fixed belief, no internal consistency.

    Apple? Catholicism. You know what is right. You follow the rules, your computer will continue to work. And, if there’s a problem, it will be taken care of.

    Good luck, Father. You will be more than productive in less time that you think.

  53. iPadre says:

    I would also recommend the Apple Time Capsule. No plugging in. When you leave the house with you MacBook Pro and return, it just backs up.

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