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February 2008 Archives

February 10, 2008

Popeye vs. Rambo cage match

I got my new iMac this weekend — mmm… Apple refurb store… great way to save $$$ when buying yummy “new” machines. I bought it because our old family G5 iMac was getting a bit long in the tooth; it’s excessively slow when dealing with our 3 billion digital photos in iPhoto and trying to make munchkin family iMovies. The new iMac is a most excellent 24” screen with a 2.8ghz core 2 duo. It’s been a looong time since I’ve had a monitor that large!

I also got Final Cut Express 4; it should be quite a few steps up from the latest generation of iMovie (I was quite disappointed in iMovie ‘08; it’s significantly “dumbed down” compared to iMovie ‘07). I didn’t get much chance to place with FCE this weekend, most of my time was spent…

Installing Windoze (and the required 100+ (!) Windoze updates — and accompanying dozen or so reboots). Yes, that’s right. Another reason I wanted to get a new iMac was to have an intel chip so that I could run virtual Windoze.

Why? To run a real version of Quicken, of course! (Quicken for Mac just sucks — don’t get me started) But let me digress once again: when wanting to run Windoze, which should one choose: Boot Camp, Parallels, or VMWare Fusion?

  • Boot Camp: not even a contender for me. I want OS X and Windoze to run at the same time.
  • Parallels: I run Parallels on my work laptop (MacBook Pro) and it works just fine. I’ve been pleased with it.
  • VMWare Fusion: But I’ve been hearing good things about Fusion lately.

I did some googling, but most of the “Parallels vs. Fusion” info out there is 6-12 months old, and based on Fusion betas. There’s a few recent articles, but not much at all. Since Fusion offers a free 30 day trial, I gave it a whirl. Before describing what I found, let me review my criteria:

  • I don’t care too much about performance differences. I’m mainly (only?) going to be running Quicken under Windoze, so if Parallels or Fusion is 5-10% faster than the other, I don’t care.
  • For the same reason, I also don’t care about super-duper graphics.
  • I don’t care about Vista support. I’ll be running XP.

After trying Fusion v1.1.1 for 24 hours, I am sorely disappointed. It is a very basic VM application and lacks a lot of features (at least compared to Parallels!). I admit it: I’m spoiled by Parallels. Here’s some random points:

  1. Parallels 3.0 build 5584 has much better integration — its “Coherence” mode is far superior to Fusion’s “Unity” mode. For example, Fusion consistently shows overlapping Windows in expose incorrectly, and also is slow to update / doesn’t update overlapping windows in some scenarios.
  2. Parallels’ “smart select” is also truly cool: be able to associate a file type in OS X with a Windoze application — double click on the file in OS X and have it launch under Windoze [launching Windoze if it’s not already running, mind you] with that data file. That’s both cool and genuinely useful! Read between the lines: associate .doc files with Windows Word (ditto with the other Office file types), if you do have Windoze Office but do not have Mac Office.
  3. I also very much like being able to “natively” share Desktop / Documents / Pictures / Music between Windoze and OS X. It takes the whole “if I edit the file in one place, do I have to transfer it to the other?” issue out of the equation. Awesome.
  4. Parallels also has a nice GUI for managing disk snapshots that Fusion lacks.
  5. Parallels VM’s also have many more configurable options than Fusion VM’s. I like that, but I recognize that others might find Fusion’s simplicity/lack of options easier to manage.

Fusion seems fine as a VM, but appears to be missing many of the nicer features that Parallels has (which makes sense; Parallels got quite a good head start).

So I’ll be letting my Fusion free trial expire and purchasing another Parallels license.

This unfortunately means that I’ve had to load XP twice (and all 100+ (!) Windoze updates each time). That’s why I spent lots of time installing Windoze this weekend. Sigh.

I’ve been using Mac Quicken for a few years now. It clearly does not receive the same development effort that Windoze Quicken does. There are many bugs and annoyances (which have not been fixed in multiple major Mac Quicken releases), and its capabilities are far inferior to Windows Quicken. So it was a relief to have the ability to move back to Windoze Quicken. The Mac Quicken has instructions about how to export your data into a format that the Windoze Quicken can import, so I thought I was good to go.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

It turns out that those export-from-Mac-import-to-Windoze instructions are a few YEARS out of date (even though they are bundled in Mac Quicken 2007!). The Windows Quicken no longer supports importing of QIF files (despite the fact that the Mac Quicken does not support exporting to anything other than QIF files). There’s a few scripts and programs around the internet that supposedly help, but I haven’t been able to get Windoze 2008 Quicken to read any of my data yet.

Unfortunately, I’m outta time this weekend, so I’ll have to try again next weekend…


I should note that I’m quite happy with everything else with my new iMac. It’s nice and fast, the display is huge, and I was able to transfer over all my old photos and movies files in about an hour or two (yay firewire Mac-to-Mac transfers!).

February 17, 2008

Must be received within 14 days of receipt

I should report back about my entry from last week: I got all my Mac Quicken data imported into Windows Quicken after two important things:

  1. I actually filed a tech support ticket with Quicken (I paid for support, after all…) asking how I’m supposed to migrate my Mac data to Windows. I finally got on the phone with them on Thursday and, after convincing the tech support lady that Win Quicken 2008 would not import the QIF file from Mac Quicken (#$%@#$@!!!!), she put me on hold to check other resources. She came back a few minutes later with a one-time download link for me for Windows Quicken 2004 (which does support importing QIF files). Schwing! So I installed WQ2004, imported my QIF, upgraded to WQ2008, and voila!
  2. Well, not quite. :-) I actually had to run my QIF file through a perl script to scrub it for two things before I imported it:
    • Several account and category descriptions were corrupted (repeatably so — they were corrupted the same way every time I exported the QIF file) such that they contained characters above ASCII 127. I clipped that stuff out.
    • All the years were expressed in 2 digits, so Quicken 2004 imported them as (1900+2_digit_year). Hence, lots of my transactions were dated 1900-1908. Ick. Supposedly you should be able to open the OS X Sys Preferences/International and set the “short” date format to have 4 digits; the MQ2007 QIF export should then use that format (i.e., 4 digit years). But it didn’t seem to work for me — the QIF export always had 2 digit years. [shrug] So I set my perl scripty-foo to convert the years to 4 digits. Then everything imported to WQ2004 fine (and subsequently upgraded to WQ2008 fine).


I’m still getting used to WQ2008; it’s quite different (plus, it’s in Windoze). But it already seems far more powerful than MQ2007.

February 18, 2008

It's the latency, stupid

I took our car in today for regularly-scheduled maintenance. The work was supposed to take about 2 hours, so I opted to wait at the dealer while it was being done.

I pulled out my laptop and my cryptocard, hooked up to the complimentary wifi, connected to my VPN, and was fully connected to my work. I chatted with colleagues in London and Israel and across the United States. I sent dozens of e-mails. I downloaded some data files and an update for my instant messenger program. I logged into servers in California and worked on resolving some bugs in Open MPI. I did all this without even thinking twice about it.

But for some reason, I abruptly stopped working, sat up, and looked around. I saw cars being dissected in the garage through the window. I saw an obviously newlywed couple signing papers to buy a new car. I saw a woman at the receptionist’s desk scheduling some future maintenance work on her vehicle. I saw other salespeople chatting by the water cooler.

And then it hit me: I’m sitting in a car dealer’s waiting room. And I’m fully connected to everything that I need to do. I’m talking with people on different continents. I’m working on servers thousands of miles away. Wow! Isn’t that just cool?!

We tend to such connectivity for granted these days. But take a step back: isn’t it amazing? You can be anywhere, any place, any time, and be connected to your friends, family, and colleagues around the globe. Such things weren’t possible even a few years ago.

That was my moment for the day. Then I went back to work. ☺

About February 2008

This page contains all entries posted to JeffJournal in February 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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