My Migration To Mac – Part 2

It has been two years now since I switched from using a Lenovo laptop to a MacBook Pro. Here are my impressions over the couple years since I switched.

Overall I am happy with my decision. One of my main goals was to see what it was like living on the other side. Not only have I been able to familiarize myself with macOS, but also I benefited from the synergies that exist in the Apple ecosystem. I have also started developing for iOS with Swift.

One of the biggest downsides of using a Mac is that I need to work in a Windows environment. I use VMWare Fusion for this purpose, but it is overhead I would rather not deal with. One issue I have with Fusion in particular is power consumption. The battery drains much faster running a Window VM, and is noisier and hotter to boot. I enjoy using the laptop more when Windows is not running.

So far I have stayed away from Bootcamp, since I want to easily switch between macOS and Windows in the same session. Switching often has it’s costs, however. I often get stuck using the wrong copy and paste keyboard shortcuts, and making the function keys default to the right mode when switching is also tedious.

When I initially purchased the MacBook, I wondered if I would transition to MacOS desktop more and more as time went on, but there were always roadblocks. I believe these roadblocks will continue to lessen over time, especially since Microsoft is less focused on Windows lately. I may start to use the Fusion Unity feature to bridge the remaining gap. On the other hand, I like to stay up to speed with Windows advances as well, so I may continue to run both desktops together.

Windows Only

These are applications I need to use that are only available on Windows.

  • Corporate VPNs: some only work from IE or Windows, or the IT group has chosen to only support Windows. The Windows dependency should decrease as time goes on.
  • Visual Studio: I have begun using VS Code on Mac, but it can’t handle some of the SharePoint solutions I develop.
  • SharePoint designer: this is becoming a legacy app, but I can see continued usage for a few years to come
  • Visio: Doesn’t exist on Mac, but I occasionally need it for system diagrams
  • Access: I support some older Access databases, and this doesn’t exist on Mac

Mac Equivalents

These are applications that I use on Windows that I have found direct equivalents to on Mac.

  • Remote desktop manager: I use these applications to store and group remote desktop connections by customer, and to quickly connect and switch between servers. There are equivalents on Mac, including one from Microsoft.
  • Office 2016: From Microsoft, there are slight differences, but for the most part they are equivalent: Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word
  • Skype for Business: I don’t like or use Skype, but it is supported on Mac
  • WebEx, GoToMeeting: I commonly use these apps, and they work well on Mac
  • Browsers: I use Chrome, and it mostly works as well as on Windows. Occasionally forms on some sites don’t work and I am forced to Windows.

Head to Head

One thing I was surprised to find is that there is no clear overall winner between macOS and Windows. Mac wins with better integration features for those with iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. Windows wins with easier desktop management features for power users.

It is interesting to note the different strategies employed by Apple and Microsoft. Apple has always kept the desktop focused on desktop only (no touch) and added integration features with mobile, whereas Microsoft had a failed attempt with Windows 8 to blend the two (desktop/tablet). Windows 10 refines that approach, and there are more variety of Windows 10 devices, but I prefer the approach Apple has taken. The OS can be fine tuned for a specific use scenario instead of trying to do everything well.

Mac Wins

  • Trackpad: Apple’s trackpad and gestures work amazingly well. I use a mouse for most pointing needs, but keep a trackpad above it just for gesture support. When I am mobile I don’t feel as hampered using just the trackpad as I do in Windows.
  • iMessage: Having texts appear on your desktop is wonderful, as is replying with a full size keyboard. It is easy to cut and paste links, or attach images which might not be on your phone.
  • iPhone Calling: It is great to see who is calling from your desktop. Plus you can click Ignore if you want to silence the ringing and send the caller to voice mail. I haven’t taken a call on the desktop so I can’t comment on the quality of desktop calls.
  • Apple Watch Unlock: This time saver may be less useful with the newer MacBook Pros which include Touch ID in the Touch Bar.
  • Find Friends: A sidebar widget version of this app lets me check on friends location without getting out my phone.
  • Retina: Although Windows has improved recently, macOS deals better with high DPI displays.
  • AirPlay: macOS makes it simple to switch your sound output to any AirPlay device on your network. I use AirPlay more from iOS, but it would be interesting to have a pair of quality AirPlay speakers on my desk that could be used by desktop or mobile device

Windows Wins

  • Window Organization: Windows snap features with keyboard shortcuts is a great built-in feature. Apple tried copying this but it falls short when forced to integrate with the full screen = desktop method. Third part software on Mac helps (I use Moom) but doesn’t work as well as Windows.
  • Window Switching: Alt-tab is better on Windows. Mac Command-Tab only switches between applications, which doesn’t work as well when an application has multiple windows open, especially when those windows are on different desktops. Having window switching within an app using a separate shortcut (Command-~) is cumbersome.
  • Task Bar/Dock: Microsoft got it right with the positioning of the task bar.  By default it always shows. On Mac even when forced open, the dock is easily covered by open windows. Also, Windows has a better task bar system for indicating which apps are open, and the number of open windows each app has. It also has better right click app integration, showing app specific options even before the app is running.
  • Keyboard: Home and End work differently in Mac, I prefer to go to the beginning and end of a line as Windows does. Command-Arrow is too awkward. Also having backspace and delete keys on Windows is more convenient than using fn-delete to get a forward delete. These differences are particularly painful for me when writing code.

Ties

  • Application Launch: I prefer launching applications by typing. Both Windows and Mac work well in this regards. On Windows, typing <windows key>, then the name of the application, or part of it, then enter launches your program. <command>-space on Mac launches Spotlight, which can launch a program the same way.
  • Docking: I miss my Lenovo docking station, but the traditional laptop dock is going away. I use a Belkin thunderbolt dock to connect to speakers, ethernet, display (thunderbolt and usb) at my desk. I need do and undo two connections every time I move my laptop (one thunderbolt for the dock, and one mag safe for power). With new laptops and USB type C with power this could be reduced to one cable.

Unknowns

There are some comparisons I can’t make right now:

  • Virtual Desktops: Mac wins over earlier versions of Windows with its built-in implementation of virtual desktops. Each display on the system can have one or more desktops. Switching between them is easy, and moving windows between desktops is also simple. I don’t have enough experience with Windows 10 Task Views to make a comparison at this time.
  • Siri vs. Cortana: I haven’t used either virtual assistant on the desktop. I have used Siri in iOS and watchOS, just not on macOS, so I can’t make a comparison with Cortana.
  • Hardware Longevity: My Lenovo lasted 5 years before a motherboard death. My MacBook is still going strong, but it is too early to tell if it will last as long. Expensive laptops need to last many years to make economic sense.
  • App Store: Mac has successfully transitioned from traditional software deployment to desktop app store. The macOS app store integrates well with the iOS app store by sharing accounts and payment options. Windows 8 introduced an app store that wasn’t widely adopted, and unfortunately I don’t have enough experience with the Windows 10 store to direct compare at this time. I would guess the advantage goes to Apple here.

Anything I missed that you feel strongly about? Are  you considering switching to Apple? Let me know in the comments!

OneDrive and Mac

Microsoft has been giving love to Apple users since Nadella took the reigns three years ago. Office 2016 was released to Mac slightly ahead of Windows, it worked(!), and is basically the same version as Windows users get. Also along the way Office was released for iOS and Visual Studio Code and .Net core were built from the ground up with cross platform support as a key feature.

Basically Microsoft is admitting that Windows is no longer a core pillar of their business. Office 365 is a new core pillar which derives more value as Microsoft extends it and the rest of the ecosystem to more platforms.

With all this goodness, however, the OneDrive sync client has lagged behind. Microsoft had a general goal to merge the personal OneDrive client with the SharePoint OneDrive client (which evolved from the Groove sync client), and while they achieved that goal on Windows, it took them longer to fully realize that vision on Mac.

A little background: I use many project sites in my Office 365 tenant. They host files for the various projects I work on. I sync these files locally so they are more easily accessible from my desktop(s). Well, they were easily accessible from my Windows desktop (running in VMware Fusion), but they were not accessible on my Mac. While Microsoft did develop a Mac version of OneDrive, it initially only worked with personal OneDrive.

They later added support for OneDrive for Business, but it would only sync files from the personal site of the connected user. That is, it was not able to sync files from document libraries on any other site. This limitation forced me into my Windows desktop or made me use other file syncing apps like Dropbox.

Until now, that is. A new client is available on Mac which allows synchronization of any document library on SharePoint Online. However, there are some hoops to jump through to get it to work.

First, you can’t use the OneDrive app from the app store. You need to download a special version which is installed via a package file. This special version has other improvements as well, as it is not limited by the app store sandbox restrictions. For example, it can add sync indicators to file and folder icons. The full-featured client can be downloaded here. Also, to work with various document libraries, the client requires special configuration, which is detailed in the first link below.

Secondly, SharePoint online needs to be configured to launch the new sync client in place of the old when a user clicks on the Sync button above a document library. The steps are outlined in the second reference link below. Unfortunately, which sync client the button launches is an either/or configuration for the entire tenant.

Overall this a long overdue capability and I am happy it has been added to OneDrive for Mac, but unfortunately it won’t be available to most without an IT group becoming aware of the feature, then coordinating, planning and deploying it to their users.

Reference Links:

OneDrive brings new file collaboration and management features to the enterprise

 

Enable users to sync SharePoint files with the new OneDrive sync client

 

 

Unlock your desktop with Apple Watch

Update: I just discovered that when enabling this you loose the ability to use Find Friends in the notifications area.

 

I was excited for the release of Mac OS Sierra. One of the main features I couldn’t wait to try out was unlocking my desktop using my Apple Watch. Apple calls this feature Auto Unlock and I was anxious to see if it would work for me, and how well.

First of all some basic requirements. As it turned out, I met all of the hardware and software requirements:

  • An Apple Watch running watchOS 3, any Apple watch will work, including the first generation that I have
  • An Apple iPhone running iOS 10. I have an iPhone 6, but I read it will work with iPhone 5 and later (any iPhone compatible with Apple Watch). I believe the physical requirement here is low power bluetooth support to talk to the watch.
  • A Mac running macOS Sierra. I have a mid 2014 mac book pro, slightly older macs will work too. I believe the hardware requirement for the mac is that it has particular wifi protocol support.
  • Two factor authentication enabled on your Apple ID
  • Passcode enabled on your watch (I already had this for Apple Pay)

After a bunch of fuss, I was able to get it working. If you are stuck, check the requirements above, then read on to see the steps I used to ultimately get it going.

First my iPhone and watch were already up to date. I updated those when the public releases of iOS and watchOS were available. The watch took over an hour to update. The only remaining OS update I needed was macOS. After updating macOS, I found the checkbox to enable Auto Unlock, but it said I needed two factor authentication to be enabled. I had the older two step authentication enabled on my Apple ID, and that needed to be turned off first. Turning it off required setting up security questions, and all my devices prompted me to sign into iCloud again, and gave me more notifications as my account was added to each device. A little annoying but not too bad.

After turning off two step authentication, I was able to turn on two factor authentication. Turning on two factor authentication is done on a device, not on icloud.com. When I enabled it on the mac, it prompted me that I needed to create a new local account password. I had been signing into my mac with my iCloud account password, which was cool. It is a little disappointing that you need to switch back to a local password in order to use two factor authentication on mac – one more password to remember! On the plus side, you won’t need to use it as much, on the negative side not using it as often makes it that much harder to remember. You still need to use it when using something with admin rights, and when your computer restarts. Another negative of not using your iCloud account is that the Find Friends widget requires it, and will no longer be available if you had been using it before.

After turning on two factor authentication, I was able to enable the watch unlock setting. Testing, however failed. It said it was unlocking, then I got a spinner for a few seconds, then I was prompted for my password (the failsafe when Auto Unlock has a problem). Since I had just changed authentication settings on my account and mac, I figured a reboot was in order. But after the reboot, still failure. Now after all this work I was getting a bit disheartened. Was it buggy? was it ever going to work. Was I missing some hidden requirement?

Another Google search lead me to the final step I needed, which was to reboot my watch and/or phone as well. I rebooted both; my phone first. I couldn’t remember well how to reboot the watch. Holding the button below the crown gives you the power off option. Holding the same button again will bring it back up, but it is slow to boot. It is possible the reboots were only needed due to my switching from two step to two factor authentication.

After all this it works very well. It takes about two to three seconds to unlock, which is a bit faster and far easier than typing my old password. Success!

One other thing you might check if you are having issues is that your watch and phone are not “disconnected”. It happened to me a few times with watchOS 2. The symptom I had was notification sounds/vibrations on my phone when it was locked. Normally notifications sounds are not played on the phone when it is locked. I was getting ringing and vibrations on both my phone and watch together. Rebooting the watch, or at the extreme, re-pairing with the phone will fix this issue. I re-paired my watch once, and it was painful, as I needed to re-enroll all my credit cards for watch Apple pay, and some of them didn’t want to activate.

Here is the short checklist:

  • Verify you have the required hardware
  • Update everything to the latest OS
  • Setup your iCloud account for two factor authentication
  • Setup a passcode on your watch
  • Configure your mac for watch unlock and reboot all your devices

Finally here is a detailed reference of hardware and software requirements for all continuity features (including auto unlock) https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204689.

Good luck and let me know if you found any other tricks to getting Auto Unlock working with your devices.

My Migration to Mac – Part 1

February 13, 2015

My laptop died recently, and I began an impromptu search for a replacement. I was hoping to get another year or two from my old system, waiting until new systems designed for Windows 10 were available. But my venerable Lenovo W510 didn’t make it that far, dying from a system board failure.

I had been considering a move to Apple hardware and OS, and as it ended up, I decided this was a good opportunity to attempt a cross-over. Since this is my primary work machine, and I primarily used Windows, this is a big change with important workflows needing adjustment.

Requirements

Since my work is primarily Windows based, I needed a way to access Windows applications locally. Bootcamp is initially out, since I want to also use OS X and get the full Apple experience. I am running trials of both Parallels and Fusion and will post my findings and conclusions in a future post.

Hardware

One of my biggest pains now is regarding my office desktop arrangement. Previously I had a traditional laptop docking station, to which had:

  • a display port monitor
  • USB hub (on the monitor)
  • Audio out to desktop speakers
  • USB to an external optical drive (no longer a requirement)
  • USB dongle for Logitech wireless mouse
  • a power button
  • a kensington lock slot
  • a locking ability with key
  • Power supply
  • “Hardline” gigabit ethernet

This arrangement functioned very well. It allowed me to take a turned-off system, slide it onto the dock, and press the power button to power it on. Keyboard, audio, video, networking would all come up on my desktop peripherals as if I had a dedicated desktop system. I could un-dock and re-dock a running system without issue, audio, video, network, etc. would all switch as necessary. This worked with the laptop screen open or closed.

My sleek MacBook Pro does not have a dedicated docking connection (also lacking on many newer sleek Windows laptops) so I started looking at thunderbolt docks. These looked promising. It seemed I might only need two connections at the office desk: one for power and a thunderbolt connection for everything else.

My first attempt at this was with the Belkin Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock  … Not cheap at $300. However there are a number of issues with this setup. Firstly, when the laptop is closed, there is no power button to turn on or wake up the system. You must open the screen to access the power button on the keyboard. This is also a two hand operation, since the laptop is not secured to the desk in a physical dock, it tends to move around a bit if you try to open it one-handed.

Next, once the system is on, I found that the external keyboard and mouse would not work until I was logged in. Only the built-in keyboard and trackpad would respond on the login screen.

Also, once logged in, it was annoying that the main <dock> is only on the (now open) laptop’s screen. The large screen in front of me is empty at the bottom, and if I want to make it my main screen, I need to close the laptop lid. (see if other option)

Also I was finding that the audio was switching back from the dock to the laptop speakers. With the laptop up and running when the dock is connected, the audio does switch automatically. It may be that it only stays on the laptop when booting with the dock connected (the dock is always powered up by it’s own power supply, so that is not an issue)

The dock gigabit ethernet was only negotiating 100 Base T with my gig switch. The Thunderbolt to ethernet dongle detects automatically at gig speed. Sometimes I get gig negotiation with the dock, however, so I am not sure yet what has caused to 100Mbps speed.

Keyboard Shortcuts

I used a lot of keyboard shortcuts in Windows. Below are some common ones and the new equivalent. Some changes are due to differences between OS X and Windows, and others are specific to the somewhat limited keyboard of the Macbook Pro. The Lenovo had a fairly complete keyboard with a mostly traditional PC keyboard layout.

Command right arrow – end

Command left arrow – home

“delete” – Backspace

fn “delete” – delete

Lock screen

control shift power (or control shift eject) – Windows L

Switch tabs

command option left, right arrow

page up and page down operate differently, they scroll the screen, but leave the cursor in place (at least in chrome)

Likes

Speakers

The sound of my W510 was barely adequate. The sound of the MacBook Pro is much better. Sure it lacks any bass, but it produces quite pleasant sound and can be pushed to loud enough levels.

Battery life

My battery life requirements were never extreme. I work plugged in, and only need to survive on battery for meetings typically an hour or two long, once every day or two if that. My old brute of a workstation laptop would last 2 hours on a new battery, and when that dropped to one hour I replaced the battery. As it turned out, I only needed to buy one replacement battery before the entire system died after 5 years.

The Macbook Pro runs circles around my old laptop’s battery life and would prove useful at conferences or workshops where I might want to use my laptop. My only concern is that the battery is not user serviceable, so as it ages this may become an issue.

Weight

My old system was a beast weight-wise as well, so pretty much any new system would end up better. I considered the Air and 13″ models for their lighter weight, but felt the tradeoff of screen size and power were worth the extra weight of the 15″ MBP.

Old system travel weight with laptop and 135W power supply: 7.8 lbs!

New travel weight 85W apple mag safe 2 power supply without AC cord extension and laptop: 5.2 lbs, a reduction of 2.6 lbs!

Aesthetic Design

My old system was corporate workhorse look, not flashy but business sense quality. My particular system was a bit bulky and bloated by today’s standards.

While the MBP design is a bit old it is much sleaker and stylish.

Functional Design

My new system is mostly golden-silent. I love working without the constant drone of a cooling fan. Amazing given the power of this system. Of course it spins up if pushing the CPU or GPU, but most of the time it is quiet.

I love how the exhaust vents are hidden behind the screen hinge. At first I couldn’t figure out where the heat was going. Even once I knew where the vent was, I was still concerned with the screen closed that the heat would be trapped, then I realized the hinge deflects the air differently as it rotates to the closed position, and it still can exhaust the air outward without exposing the vent directly to view.

The keyboard backlighting is functional, and better than the “ThinkLight” of the Lenovo system. It also adjusts brightness levels well and turns off completely when not needed. I have never manually adjusted the keyboard lighting.

The Lenovo system was good at cooling, and didn’t let heat seep through the keyboard or palm rest areas. The MBP, when pushed hard, will get noticeably hot just above the function keys, and the heat is sensed even when typing. I have seen third party cooling fan control programs suggested as a way to combat higher system component and case temperatures, but one commonly recommended app hasn’t been updated in over a year, and I am leary of any software that could cause physical damage if it fails or misbehaves.

VMware Fusion

Display configuration: Make sure the vmware tools are installed in the virutal machine. (Menu bar, Virtual Machine, Install VMware tools)  I have found that I do not like Windows 7 built in dpi scaling. I provides very inconsistent results that make things look very off when you are used to 100% scaling. Thus I am using Fusion scaling to make things larger. This seems to do a good job with the vmware tools in the vm.

I am not using desktop integration, I want my windows applications in my full screen windows desktop.

VLC some videos play back in a way that looks like old VHS tape vertical sync issues, you must go to VLC preferences, video options, and select Open GL acceleration. (Note some suggest to use GDI, but video scaling in GDI looks more pixelated, and Fusion supports Open GL acceleration so I found that to work best.

Configure video acceleration to use the base integrated Intel graphics. With the Nvidia acceleration configured, the system would heat up quite a bit more in the VM and the fans would spin up, sometimes to seemingly max speed. Switching to intel acceleration kept cpu temps in check. I may manually change this if I find a need for more accelerated graphics.

References

http://www.tekrevue.com/tip/the-fastest-way-to-lock-or-sleep-your-screen-in-mac-os-x/