Island in the Net

A personal blog by Khürt Williams, full of inchoate writing on photography, coffee, and geekery.

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An OS-X newbie helps another

The following is an email exchange with my buddy Steve. He recently bought a Mac mini for his wife. Seems like my constant blather about Mac this and Apple that got him curious enough to put a toe in the water. The Mac mini is the least expensive way to take a Mac for a spin ( unless of course you like hanging out in the Apple store all day ). Coincidentally the Mac mini was my first Mac also.

Like myself, Steve has more computers in the home than people and like me he is an IT professional so his infrastructure and “needs” are just as complicated. We are also both Linux users and members of the Linux User Group in Princeton (LUG/IP).

So here’s the first round of emails.

On 5/1/07, Steven wrote:

Hi Khurt,

I just started setting up my wife’s Mac mini. Here’s what I’ve run into so far.

Tried to set up email. Mac Mail app connects to my IMAP server just fine but I can’t find any way to unsubscribe or hide folders like “.spam assassin”. I can’t believe Mac lacks this basic feature but I gave
up looking and installed Thunderbird.

Can’t help you here. I chose not to host my own email so I have less to maintain. Think of it as the outsourcing model. I use Google Apps for my domain ( and which is free to families, non-profits etc. Check it out.

Tried to set up a NFS share. I created a user for my wife but the wizard wouldn’t let me pick the user number. (I keep the user ID numbers the same for permissions to my NFS shares.) Figured I’d just edit /etc/passwd but when I looked the account wasn’t there. I guess Apple to doing something strange here. Gave up and used Samba. I have a Mac talking to a Red Hat box – both *nix. Why the heck am I using Samba?

I setup a FreeNAS (BSD based NAS) and mounted my wife’s “My Documents” folder there. It took me 15 minutes to setup FreeNAS with Apple File Sharing (AFP) and CIFS (Samba). It also provides FTP, NFS, RSYNC, iSCSI protocols, S.M.A.R.T., local user authentication, Software RAID (0,1,5) with a Full WEB configuration interface. Take a look at Google MacFUSE project. It’s a kernel extension to OS-X that provides a way to mount file systems in the user space. It’s a port from the Linux FUSE project. The site provides sshfs, an SSH File System for MacFUSE. There is even a FUSE project for NTFS.

Enabled VNC to share my wife’s desktop. Tried using vncviewer from my Linux box. Got “unknown message type 242”. Guess Apple’s VNC is different too. Gave up this for now. SSH works.

Apple does not provide VNC. Apple Remote Desktop is similar to Microsoft’s Remote Desktop and is meant to provide services to servers. What you need is Chicken of the VNC or something similar. There are a lot of VNC servers for OS-X that are ported from *NIX. Microsoft provides a Remote Desktop client for OS-X .

Next steps. Install some more software. Set up printers. Find a midi cable. The old one is a D-ring type connector. I knew I was going to have to switch to USB. Gotta get a new mouse too – old one was PS2.

Yeah. USB has become the default for devices on most computers these days.

I was hoping to install VMWare then copy my wife’s old Windoze 2000 image to the Mac so she could still get to all her old stuff during the transition. Why doesn’t VMware have a OS X version? Maybe Apple doesn’t want competition for parallels? I don’t want parallels cause I don’t want to reinstall all her old windoze apps when she going to be switching to Mac apps soon. Guess I’ll have to set up a KVM and keep that old box around for a while. 🙁 I could use parallels. Install windows, then install VMWare for windows, then install my wife’s old image. Windows on top of windows on top of Mac. That will work real good.

There is a VMWare Desktop product for OS-X. It is currently in free beta but VMWare expect to commercialize it. Reviews show that is slower than Parallels. I have not had any issues with Parallels and Windows XP or Linux. See screen shots here.

I plan to use as much open source software as possible. Do you have any recommendations for a package manager or repositories? I’ve already installed Xcode tools and X11.

Fink and FinkCommander. You will be surprised by how much open source software is available for OS-X. A good source for OS-X open source software is Apple’s web site. A search for VNC there turned up 210 items.


P.S. When we going for a beer? How’s Thurs or Fri?

How about Thursday around 7 PM? Fridays get too busy. Where?