Archive for Mac

Testdrive: OpenSolaris on OS X with VirtualBox

I finally got around to installing VirtualBox (read more about it here and here) on my Mac earlier this week.  Last night I installed the OpenSolaris (2008.5) disc that I picked up at the Sun booth at OSCON last week.

So far, everything has been going swimmingly.  I could walk you through the installation, but this dude at MacWorld did a much better job than I could.

The only trouble I’ve had thus far was learning some Solaris-specific commands (pkgadd, btw) to install the “VirtualBox Additions”.  The VirtualBox Additions are a small selections of add-ons that you install within the guest OS to ease integration with the host OS (mouse control, shared folders, etc).  While I’m not familiar with Parallels, I can say that VMWare (Workstation/Player) has a very similar guest additions installation procedure.

I’ve been using VirtualBox on my Vista desktop for a few months to virtualize a Xubuntu server (sshd, apache, mysqld, etc) with great success.  Typically, the VM is utilizing less memory than iTunes, which I find utterly ridiculous.  I decided to give it a spin on my MacBook Pro because the latest update of VirtualBox has brought the Intel Mac version out of beta.

While I don’t think that VMWare has much to fear from VirtualBox in the enterprise arena, for the average developer/desktop user, VirtualBox should suit you well.  I’ll be interested to see if Parallels and VMWare will be able to continue charging $80 for their consumer versions with such a capable free competitor (backed by Sun, no less) available.

OpenSolaris Impressions

Playing with OpenSolaris has generally gone well.  It helps that the UI is Gnome and the default shell is BASH, two things that most Linux folks should be comfortable with.  Cruising around the filesystem answered one of my main questions, which was that JDK6 (not OpenJDK, mind you) is installed by default.  I still haven’t figuresd out what mechanism, if any, OpenSolaris uses for automatic updates.  If anyone has some good “OpenSolaris for a Linux Guy” articles…please pass them my way.

OpenSolaris guest running on OS X host.

OpenSolaris guest running on OS X host.

Essential Apps for a new Mac

It has become abundantly clear to me over the past year (while attending CSS and NFJS) that to have any hope of being taken seriously as a software developer, a Mac must be purchased.  With OSCON 2008 rapidly closing in, a decision had to be made. So….

A shiny new MacBook Pro landed on the doorstep of Breo Media Labs HQ on Friday, so I decided to reach out to the geek community at large for their recommendations for must have Mac apps. Many thanks to Alex and Scott for sending me links to their previously blogged lists.

A little over 24hrs into owning a new Mac, here’s the list:

  • Firefox
  • Quicksilver – I know there’s more to this thing, but at the least it’s a super quick way for me to start apps without having to take my hands off of the keyboard.
  • Adium – Multi-protocol IM client.  I thought I would give Digsby a spin to kill 2 birds with 1 app (IM + Twitter)..but alas their Mac version is not ready yet.
  • Thwirl – An Adobe AIR Twitter client
  • NetNewsWire – RSS Reader.  I’ve been using Google Reader for a little over a year, but have been underwhelmed in it’s ability to manage my bazillion feeds.  While my preference is for a more “cloud-centric” reader, NetNewsWire seems to be cool enough that I’ll stick with a thick client based reader for now.  It will sync with newsgator online, but I’m holding out for the (remote) possibility of it syncing with Google Reader.
  • Growl – Alerts and such.  Seems to be leveraged heavily by Adium.  A nice side effect thus far is that I’ve setup my IM+Twitter apps in a different space (Space 2).  Because of the growl integration with Adium, I get IM responses as alerts on my currently active space…thus saving time flipping back’n'forth between spaces.  A small, but nice, touch.
  • iTerm -  All the super-geek presenters at the aforementioned conferences use it, so it must be good?
  • iStatPro – Dashboard widget that displays all sorts of system resources (CPU/Disk/Memory/etc)
  • Transmission – Bittorrent Client
  • Cyberduck – FTP Client.  Using it because I’m cheap and it’s free.  I’ve heard good things about Transmit though…
  • Textmate $$ – Text editing.

UPDATE (6/23/2008):

Clearly…this is not an exhausitive list, but just a list of apps that someone new to the Mac platform will install right off the bat to make their environment feel more like home.  Got some good feedback in the comments, so some additional apps would be:


  • VLC – Probably the best media player out there…for any platform.  I wish all pre-1.0 software was as useful and stable as VLC.  Java developers should take a look at DJNativeSwing for integrating VLC into a client app.  We use it at work and have had great success.
  • Miro – While not strictly Mac software, if you want to get your IPTV on, it’s pretty cool.  Combine it with for TiVo-like functionality.
  • MediaLink/Connect360 ($) – If you have an PS3 or Xbox360 and want to push your media to it, both of these programs will make that a breeze.


Seems like I’m hearing pros/cons pretty evenly between Parallels ($) and VMWare Fusion ($).  Having a windows desktop (and most of my life lives in “the cloud” now) leaves me with little need (currently) to have Windows app on my laptop.  I have had pretty good luck running Xubuntu within VirtualBox on my Vista machine, so I might also give that a spin on the Mac and see how it goes.


  • Neo Office / – Time was, you had to use Neo Office if you wanted a OS X native clone.  This appears to be coming to an end with the advent of 3.  For a lot of the basic things I do these days, Google Docs is serving me quite well…especially when I need to collaborate with someone on a spreadsheet/word doc.
  • SpanningSync ($) – Syncs iCal with Google Calendar.  The wife uses it on her MacBook at home and MBP at the office and loves it.  A friend mentioned that Sunbird from Mozilla is a great replacement for iCal and syncs with Google Calendar for free.