25 January 2009

Macadventures: I graduated BOOT CAMP!

Windows starting up in Mac

The VM interface

Windows Explorer and Media Player as individual windows in Mac while in 'Unity' mode.

I did it! I graduated from BOOT CAMP.

Virutal Box didn't do it for me. Some old Windows Apps like TextAloud, MS Money, Band-in-a-Box and The IVP Essential Reference Collection are keeping me from a complete Windows-to-Mac migration so I needed some way of running Windows on my Mac. Virtual Box was the first thing I tried. It was magic enough in the beginning to see Windows as a 'window' running on the MacOS. But I soon discovered it was way too limited. It didn't access my soundcard, USB or Mac's HD so that I couldn't share files. Even the virtual networking method didn't work more than a couple of times.

That forced me to use Mac's BOOT CAMP. Boot Camp wowed me. It created a partition and and let me boot the machine from Windows or Mac independently with the stroke of a key (the Option key in this case). With MacDrive installed on the Windows system I could access the Mac HD from Windows, and the Windows HD appears in Mac OS so that cross-access is seamless. But the independent systems are what made it obtrusive. Having to shut down one and restart in another system just didn't cut it.

Enter... VMWare Fusion! Finally, something that does it all!
1. I can run Windows as one separate window in Mac
2. I can run multiple Windows' windows as many windows in Mac
3. I can access Mac's HD using Shared Folders
4. Soundcard, USB, Bluetooth, IR and iSight cam is seamlessly integrated

And.. best of all, VMWare happily 'took over' the Boot Camp Windows partition and made it its own. I didn't have to install Windows and all my apps all over again.

FINALLY. Boot Camp is history. Dual machine operability has arrived for me.

19 January 2009

Sign of things to come

It's an interesting start of year. No respite. Slam jam right onto the race track. 5,000rpms non-stop till the radiator boils over or engine gives up. The last one week was particularly adrenalinised.

12 days ago, mom and dad needed to rush to JB to see my sister so I sent them to the railway at a god-forsaken 630 in the morning. I was quite satisfied with myself to have had breakfast and bond with them. There's something about send-offs that make you dig deep and say things you normally don't say. Anyway, I left them at the station and heard the call to board when I turned the key in the ignition. I arrived at the hospital, hoping to have a breezy clinic, only to find out that a maxillectomy was suddenly on because another case was bumped off the list. Without adequate consent and without decisional review of new CT scan findings. The chaos of the morning was nerve-wracking: I had to tai-chi away my clinic, convince the patient I needed to take out his eye - don't worry sir, we do that all the time, you have another eye you hardly use right? - and revise the surgery to a bilateral neck.

That was followed by 10 hours of surgery. Strangely, holding a knife just makes the world seem right. Maybe it's the skill of working through human tissue to extricate filthy tumors and putting it all back together again. Or the sense of control in your hands - everything can be made better on the table, this table, my table. Mostly I think it's the butt-freezing air-cond, the cute scrub nurses who obey your every command, and because no one, I mean NO ONE, not even the Prime Minister can bug me here.

Cancer surgery is brave, bloody and butcheresque. Gladiator-like. That's how I like my surgeries. But it must start elegantly and end elegantly. From inked incisions to 3mm stitches. What happens in between would make an abbatoir look clean and sterile, but it's how you start and how you end that matters. I climbed Mt Kinabalu once. I remember three things - the charged ascent, full of hope and expecation; the agonising inches up the peak at 4 in the morning - who the f*** suggested I do this stupid thing - but the glory of the sun peeping through Donkey's ears and the world beneath your feet under a shroud of clouded mystery would make it worthwhile, and finally the numbed descent, limping into my bed with no sensation waist down. Long surgery is a lot like that. Raising flaps with a vengeance, get the plane, get the plane. Pausing to behold the life force in a pulsating naked carotid. And finally the zombied-brain-dead stitching that never seems to end.

The next day we were on a flight to Singapore. But not without first being denied boarding! This seems to happen to us a lot. The first time was when we were dating and I was sending her off to Kota Bharu. We were too busy saying goodbye and doing the things lovers do to notice that the gate had closed. She had to take the next flight. The second time was much later when she was pregnant with Ethan. Pregnant women were not allowed on board without a doctor's letter to say she's pregnant - I guess the giant bulge, puffy eyes and blown up ankles could've been just one bag of chips too many with salt-retention to boot - even if we were both doctors. This time: it was the expiry date on Joan's passport. It was too soon, apparently. Four months away was too close an expiry!

Yeah, like we were intending to stay in the sterilised pressure cooker for more than 3 days, I thought to myself. 'You really can't put us on board? We really didn't know about the 6-month rule.' No. You can't spit in Singapore. You can't chew gum in Singapore. You can't frigging cross a road without getting a knot in your pants wondering if you broke a law. We went to the zoo once. It's a beautiful zoo. And the animals were either small and cute or large and ferocious. And I'm not talking about furry ones that walk on fours - I'm talking about little tots in their prams and their attending mothers scribbling notes while giving their 4-yr olds their 'O' Levels mock exam: 'IS THIS ANIMAL A LAND ANIMAL OR SEA ANIMAL? I'M ASKING YOU ONE MORE TIME.. IS THIS A LAND ANIMAL OR SEA ANIMAL?' I'm not about to defect to Singapore, for goodness sakes, what's a 4-month expiry?

I was dumping clothes from one bag to another - Joan would stay, I would go on for my conference, eat alone, snore alone, wake up alone. I wasn't looking forward to the trip anymore. I had no one to blame, it was written in the passport, and that made me angrier. But before I could lock my suitcase, the ground staff appeared and announced we could fly togehter - apparently he had persuaded Singaporean customs to let this one through, dad didn't look too happy and could be a threat to lives on board, he must've thought, watching me rip apart my suitcase like King Kong.

Yesterday was Sunday. At last I got a day off. And I didn't know what to do with it. My heart was still racing. My mind reeling from a clinical trial meeting where I'm the PI - I don't know how the heck I got into this and feel like I'm totally in over my head. I was like a beat up car by the highway, bonnet open, steam all over the place - not going anywhere, just fumes, all fumes. It took a while before I could stop clicking senselessly on my Mac, burning CDs I'll never listen to, and clearing up my room just to mess it up again. When I finally fizzled out and realised I should be doing what I really WANT to do, not what I HAVE to do - more, better, faster - it was then that I picked up a book (Karen Armstrong's HISTORY OF GOD), lay down on an inflatable mattress. read a few pages, and fell asleep. I woke up once when my buttock hit the hard surface of the ground, and went back to sleep wondering if the mattress had ruptured a leak under my weight.. I should lose some, I remember telling myself before slipping into never never land.

Today I went to pick Ethan at 630pm. Dad and I ate at the table, as is customary, while mom would run around chasing Energiser bunny; playing hide-and-seek or watching Hokkien soaps, which was a favorite with Ethan. Dad and I had a longer father-son conversation, and a more philosophical one than the usual down-with-BN and curse-all-things UMNO rhetoric that goes between mouthfuls of mom's gastronomic delights. Mom has a strange ability to serve up the most delectable dishes quicker than any McDonald's with all the goodness of China. Mom's a gem. We talked about me switching over from EPF to the pension scheme - an unheard of move in 3rd generation Chinese I would think - and agreed on its insurance value, psychological worry-free benefit, recession-prrofness, and even a pretty good investment move (calculated ROI was about 47.5%! Ok 34.5% after minusing the government's 13% contribution to our EPF.) He seems to like it at my mom's a lot. When I finished chatting with dad, I found Ethan sprawled on a thin mattress, watching a cantonese soap. I tickled him and said: 'Boy, time to go home.' He grinned and said, 'Daddy bye bye.'

The last three weeks are a pretty good sign of things to come, of 2009 I'm thinking. The unending cycles of F1-style overdrive and weekend pit-stops, of adrenaline-overflow and adrenal burnout, of exhilarating achievements and brooding dark weekends. In between all that trying to learn what's important to me - the things that I enjoy, things that enrich, things that empower more self-determination, and things that enhance my skill and knowledge. And finally, growing. Growing old. Growing up with my son. Understanding his nature, seeing what his nature nurtures, nurturing what's in his nature, and simply having frolicking-about-the-park fun. Live, learn, love, leave some kind of legacy in my son, my patients, my students.

04 January 2009

Macadventures: Going MIDI

Again, in a few clicks I have got functionality I never could get on Windows.
Above you can see my Korg 01/W has been connected by MIDI to the Mac.

I can educate the Mac as to how the Korg is interfacing with the USB MIDI device (using Romio).

Finally, of course, I gotta try it on Garage Band. It's extremely easy to use and going to provide me hours of jamming.

03 January 2009

Macadventures: Podcast Party

I'm from the dark ages. Civilisation has just dawned on me.
I discovered podcasts, discovered that there are more podcasts out there than stray dogs in my neighbourhood, and that I never needed an iPod to use podcasts in the first place.
Yeah, laugh at me. Better late than never right? Not going to waste the rest of my AM (After Mac) years regretting what I lost in the BM (Before Mac).

My love affair with podcasts has gone for skylarking (mischievous spying from afar) to brazen orgy. Look at the mess of podcasts:

The Categories page doesn't help because they come with different tags (News, News/Political, Christian, Religious, etc.) and you can't edit them.

So what I'm doing is to use Smart Playlists to group them, live update them, and select for me the 25 latest in each category. Like so in Medical Science-

02 January 2009

Macadventures: ArCHMock?

Archmock is not the ultimate insult or the angel-boyfriend of Mindy. It's yet another Windows-to-Mac wannabe's reservation quasher.

I was recently endowed with a chunkload of Microsoft HTML Help books - the preferred format for many medical textbooks, also known as the CHM file, short for Compiled HTML . I'm not crazy about shutting down and restarting in Windows by Boot Camp or running it on Virtual Box if I can use it right here in Mac OS.

The answer to that? A free downloadble called ArCHMock which can be downloaded for a meager 310kb bandwidth usage.

A screenshot of the trusty OHCM on Archmock:

01 January 2009

Macadventures: Simple but wonderful Address Book

The first thing I needed to get working was iSync for my Sony Ericsson P1i. Now I love my PDA phone. It's the first gadget I've acquired in years which I could emphatically say enhances my life. I resisted the PDA-phone and QWERTY keyboard for ages. While I fossilised and the world moved on, my pockets bulged with machines and I was dropping them on the stairs shuffling from one to another (I didn't drop them on purpose you see..)

Finally, when my Tungsten T2 (my 4th PDA since 1997) went into irreversible brain death; I got an O2. It was year of misery, and most of that time spent resetting and waiting between apps. Finally I ditched it for the Sony. It was a big leap of faith, what with QWERTY keyboard with button-sharing alphabets (rock to left - Q, rock to right - W) and software-estranged Symbian OS! But it was wonderful leap, and I haven't looked back since. In fact, sprinting forward, I've gone 3G unlimited access, navigate with Google maps, facebook, do Excel sheets and listen to music with a Sony Bluetooth stereo headset that can control the phone. Not to mention I've hacked it and implanted the Sony's Walkman GUI into it! Well, you get the picture - if my Sony doesn't talk to my Mac.. I'm in trouble. It's like if my wife doesn't talk to my mother? Bad analogy.

Make things worse, the forums are filled with angry and frustrated SEP1i users. All cursing Sony or Mac or both for not looking into this compatibility issue. Well, to be fair,.. come on.. the world doesn't exactly revolve around us Sony-Mac users, ok? Give them a break.

Thankfully, my experience has been a good one. Did Mac follow up the issue or did Sony? I think both.

Firtsly, my Mac detected the P1i on bluetooth instantly and made it its preferred 3G modem in a few clicks.

Secondly, when I tried iSync, it recognised my phone but advised me on its incompatibility. No pretenses. No century-long sync attempts and system hangs.

Thirdly, it directed me to Sony! The Mac directed me to Sony's website, and straight to the page where the plug-in is situated. I downloaded that, ran the patch. And wah lahh.. iSync was syncing.

Now comes the best part. No, the best TWO parts.

1- The synchronising of 2500 contacts took less than 5 minutes. I kid you not.

2- Address Book on the Mac detected the duplicates accumulated over 10 years of mal-syncing between devices and fixed those! In a matter of seconds, my address book was cleaned up. Where the same person had several records - eg. one for email, one for mobile, etc. - these were merged!

What MS Outlook couldn't do (I understand that you have to BUY the patch to resolve duplicates) - the Mac did intuitively in seconds. No fuss.

My leap of faith from PC to Mac has proven to be the best computing decision I ever made. And I'm never looking back.

Macadventures: Using Boot Camp

I've been a fool to use Virtual Box to run WinXp as a virtual machine on my Mac all this time (the whole of 2 weeks.) At first it was full of promise. A minimisable window running Windows, one of many tasks running without every slowing, hanging or going into a coma (like XP does). But I soon ran into problems - the shared folder started to hang and I realised that I can't get USB, soundcard or camera access. (Now why would you need that you ask? I'm a sucker for functionality I guess, either I have it all or not at all.)

Then I stumble on 'Boot Camp' on my Applications folder and remember somewhere in my ask-Google-for-an-answer forays that Boot Camp was one of the ways Windows could be run. And I had it on my Mac OS X all this time?? Darned. I should've read the manual. (And I know I will say that again a few hundred times before I actually open the manual. I love rainforests. Manuals should not have been printed in the first place.) It took me about 5 attempts to get it right, but right now I'm on seventh heaven. The first time I partitioned the Windows drive at 5GB. What was I thinking? Then I partitioned it right but realised that I had no access to CDROM, USB, soundcard until I put in the Mac OS Installation CD, which, courtesy of Apple has all the drivers Windows needs... (Now I wonder why they are being so helpful to us Windows die-hards.) But the next thing I find out is that my copy of Windows has an outdated Win Installer which can't handle the Mac CD's installation files!! I try upgrading to Service Pack 3 which invariably hangs.

Finally, it dawned on me that the partition for Windows can be accessed as a drive on Mac OS. Which means I can easily download Windows Installer 4.5 and slip it into the Desktop folder of WinXP and restart the system. Wa lah!! Problem solved. Installed installed. Mac drivers installed. Sound card functioning. Camera functioning. Video display perfected. All that's just fantastic.. but dig this... DRUM ROLLLLL... With Boot Camp, the mouse is left-click and right-click enabled!! How the heck is that possible with no left and right buttons? Why did they manufacture a mouse with left and right click abilities, hidden-albeit, when the Mac doesn't even use it?? This is plain sinister or am I dreaming? And the keyboard is rewired so that Ctrl is Ctrl and Alt is Alt and the Cmd Key is the good old Windows button! Talk about full Windows functionality.

I have got it made. My PC is going to the grave. The next thing to do will be to install MacDrive so that the Windows system can access all of the Mac's files and vice versa. That way I have two partitions that cross-communicate freely, obviating duplication of data (think 14,750 photos and 80GB of MP3s and you'll get the picture.)

Ahh.. the pleasures of Mac. And the journey's just begun!