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Aging PowerBook Upgrade by a Linux/OS X Geek
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Configuration Files

One of my primary goals with this upgrade was to wipe my PowerBook clean. In the time I'd owned the machine, I'd installed and later abandoned many programs. My system was littered with forgotten configuration files and unused applications.

Thus I resolved to freshly install only those programs that I actually used. This meant that I couldn't use the import user from old system functionality in the Tiger installer because it would copy those old files to my new drive. I needed a clean break. On the plus side, I could connect my old drive to the system at any time (remember, it was now in the enclosure) if I needed to copy old files--this wasn't a one-way upgrade.

I created a new user on the new system with the same shortname (that's what Mac OS calls the login name) as my user on the old drive. I wasn't too concerned about the UIDs (user ids--the numeric id that Unix uses to keep track of users) matching up because I wasn't going to be networking this system with NFS or anything similar. This user was an administrative user with full rights, so I could use sudo to change any settings as root.

Once I had my new user set up, I began copying files from the old system. Remember, I was interested in mainly documents and user files, not configuration files. Thus I copied the following files and directories (all from my home directory):


This list is my old documents and pictures, plus my basic Unix configuration files.

I also copied several files to ensure that my new install of Firefox would work in a similar fashion to my old one:

  • Bookmarks:
    • ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/<profile>/bookmarks.html
  • Passwords:
    • ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/<profile>/signons.txt
    • ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/<profile>/key3.txt

That gave me the majority of files and settings that I cared about, and none of the extra cruft.

Software Installation

With my basic user information in place it was now time to install applications. One very convenient feature of the Mac OS is that most software is installed by dragging a file into /Applications. Thus you can quickly see what is installed on a Mac by looking in that folder.

I took this opportunity to also ensure that I was up to date by going to each application website and downloading the latest version. This was simplified by the fact that I'm a big open source fan and thus I didn't have to track down too many licenses. The following is a partial list of the packages I installed (the full list with more notes is available on my website).

  • Aquamacs 0.9.8

    Aquamacs is hands-down the best Emacs currently available for Mac OS X. It's a native Cocoa app so it works like other Mac apps. Also, it combines both the emacs keybindings with the Mac keybindings in a surprisingly pleasing manner. The result is that you never feel like you have to switch between the emacs world and the Mac world. I wrote this article in Aquamacs. Free and open source (GPL license).

  • Firefox 1.5

    OK, I know that Safari is prettier and it scrolls a heck of a lot faster. However, I spend my days on Linux for my job, so it's nice to have the same web browser on both systems. Plus, you can customize Firefox with useful add-ons for things such as ad blocking. Safari suffers from a lack of a good plugin architecture. Free and open source (MPL license).

  • 2.0

    Finally, there is a decent office suite for the Mac. While it's unfortunate that there isn't a native UI version yet (except for the separate NeoOffice project), OpenOffice is more than adequate for basic word processing and spreadsheet work. I confess, this is installed on my system more for guests to use than for my own use. Free and open source (MPL license).

  • The Gimp 2.2.10

    The Gimp is the only free image-editing software that even remotely competes with Photoshop. I use it when the basic touch-up tools in iPhoto aren't sufficient.

    This version of the Gimp comes prepackaged as a Mac executable; however, you do have to have X11 already installed. Free and open source (GPL license).

  • MPlayer 1.0pre8

    MPlayer for the Mac OS is a very capable movie player, plus it doesn't nag you to death the way the standard Mac Quicktime player does. The Mac version plays pretty much everything except some of the latest Windows Media Player movies. Free and open source (GPL license).

  • Desktop Manager

    Those of you coming from Linux or Unix know how absolutely useful multiple virtual desktops can be. You can group your applications together on different desktops and then quickly switch between them with a hotkey. Desktop Manager implements this for the Mac OS, and it does it in a way that won't cause problems with Mac software that doesn't expect users to switch desktops.

    Desktop Manager appears to be somewhat abandoned, but it does still work on Mac OS 10.4. However, the system logs a number of nasty messages about degraded performance when Desktop Manager starts up. Hopefully development on it will pick up at some point. Free and open source (GPL license).

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