Monday, May 23, 2011

My Mac

Here are some open-source and free Mac programs. In most cases there are also Windows and Linux versions as well. All programs below are free, but sometimes you need to avoid the "upgrade" or try for free option.
  • GIMP, a Photoshop-like graphic editor - - current stable version is 2.6.11 and there is also a downloadable manual. I have not used it much - takes too much time to learn.
  • Open Office, Mac Office compatible suite - - current stable version is 3.3. I am currently running 3.2.1, just haven't upgraded yet. Open Office has 5 modules:
Writer reads/writes all versions of Word, unlike the current version of Word
Spreadsheet is like Excel
Presentation is like Power Point
Drawing is a graphic program which I have not used
Database is database program which I tried just once - OK I guess
        Open office has its own format but fully supports Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats, as well as RTF, CSV.
  • Thunderbird - a cross-platform mail program - - current version is 3.1/ - There is a calendar add-on that integrates with the mail program and there is an add-on to integrate and update your Google Calendar. I began using when I quit using Outlook. In Windows, I converted my email from Outlook to Thunderbird and also copied my Address Book and Calendar. Once I got a Mac, I was able to use Thunderbird on both Windows and Mac, copying the email database, address book and calendar back and forth between Windows and Mac as needed. At first, I did my email on Windows and copied it to my Mac when traveling and then after a trip I copied it back to Windows. After a few month of Mac, I gave up the Windows Thunderbird - too much trouble to keep in sync. I much prefer Thunderbird to the Mac Mail, iCal and Address Book programs.
  • VLC an all purpose video player - - it plays every format I've ever enountered. There are 32- and 64-bit Mac versions, and there are Windows and Linux versions.
  • Calibre - - eReader software that converts open book from one format to another. Diane has a Kindle which does NOT read  ebooks in EPUB format. I found some public domain ebooks for Diane and converted them to MOBI format which Kindle does read.
  • Picassa is a Picture management tool ( - I have tried it, but I am have not decided if I will continue with it. 
  • GnuCash is an accounting program. ( It is more powerful than Quicken, but less user-friendly and perhaps less powerful than Quickbooks.
  • Running a Windows Program. There are a few ways to run Windows programs:
    • BootCamp - install Windows and your Mac will is a dual boot machine, requiring a re-boot to switch between Windows and Mac. I never tried this.
    • CrossOver - software that emulates Windows allowing some programs to run on a Mac. I was able to get Quicken 2008 to run, but it was very slow and I abandoned it for GnuCash - - about $40 to $70.
    • Using a Virtual Machine - There are 2 commercial products, Parallels ( and VMWare's Fusion (, both about $80. There is one free product, Virtual Box ( Diane runs Windows7 in Parallels 6 for Mac on Diane's iMac and she run WindowsXP in Parallels 6 for Mac on her MacBookPro. We need to run Windows for two reasons. We both believe that Legacy ( is best genealogy software an any platform. Also Diane is running QuickBooks in Windows, and Intuit would not give any discount for buying the Mac version.
I tried out Parallels on my MacBook shortly after I got it (in 2009) and loaded WindowsXP and also Ubuntu (Linux). I compared several Windows, Apple and Linux genealogy programs. That is when we concluded that Legacy was far superior. We put Parallels for Mac on her iMac and purchased WindowsVista with upgrade to Windows7. When we got Diane's MacBookPro, I transferred my Parallels and WindowsXP licenses to her computer.
This year I tried VirtualBox. I loaded Windows7 and Ubuntu on it but I found that VirtualBox does not allow the close integration of Windows and Mac that Parallels allows.
For genealogy purposes, I export the Legacy database to a Gedcom file and import into Reunion9 (, the best genealogy program we found for a Mac, so I have a copy of the database on my computer also.
  • AntiVirus software - I also do NOT run antivirus on my Mac, and this article explains why -  I personally have only had one virus on any of my computers and that was a Windows98 machine in 1999 using dial-up, and before I ran a Firewall and was behind a Router. Since then Windows e-mail scanners have caught and identified malicious attached files, but I would not have downloaded/opened the files in any case. I avoid certain sites in browsing. (We do run AntiVirus on the Windows machines in our house.)
    • The MAC Defender hoopla is a Trojan. One downloaded and installed (you have to type in your password to install anything on a Mac), the program prompts you to enter you Credit Card info to you can "purchase" the program to clean the virus. this Trojan is just a way to get your credit card info! It is called a Trojan for a reason, just the the citizens of Troy in, you have invited in the dangerous element. See to uninstall MAC Defender - or I do not know if these removal instructions work, since I have not had this problem, but they seem to suggest the same actions to take.


I bought my first computer, an Apple II, with 16KB in 1978. Eventually we bought more memory (all the way up to 48 KB) and a 5.25 floppy drive. Next up was a 16KB expansion card, so I now had 64KB, and could load floating point basic onto the 16KB card. Also I got a modem (300 baud), parallel printer card. My next computer was an Apple IIe. I added two 5.25 floppies, a 3.5 floppy, a Z80 Card so I could run COBOL on CP/M, serial interface for a printer, external 2400 baud modem. These two computer satisfied our computing needs for a long time. In 1991, I bought my first MS-DOS computer, a CompuAdd store, now out of business. No Windows yet, but a nice text manager so I did not have to do everything at the DOS command line. Eventually I did buy and install Windows 3.1, eventually upgrading to Windows 3.11 (the networking version) once I had purchased an IBM butterfly-keyboard ThinkPad. My home network used the BNC cables, not Ethernet.

My daughter bought a Compaq (Windows 95), which was added to the network. The Apple II and IIe were never networked, but I was able to hook up a printer that had both serial and parallel interfaces to the MS DOS computer and an Apple II computer and send print jobs at the same time. It all worked out quite well.

We have had many computers over the years. I bought an IBM PC (Windows 98), a Ford HP computer (Windows 98 2nd edition), another Compaq (Windows 98 2n edition), HP laptop (Windows 98, later overwritten with Windows NT 3.5), another IBM laptop with Windows 98 2nd edition and OS2.

My son had a Dell computer (Windows 98), We got another another HP laptop with Windows XP (still in use) that went to Europe in 2006, and another larger HP laptop (no longer working), and two HP Media Center PCs (Windows XP Media Center Edition). My son now uses an HP with Windows XP, put restored/refurbished by my daughter.

In most of these computers (including the Apple IIs), we have added memory, added or upgraded hard-drives, floppy drives and CD- and DVD-drives. Special input/output cards have been added for serial, parallel, USB, Firewire, TV Tuner, modem and other special interfaces. in late 2008, I was having some problems with my HP Desktop Windows XP Media Center PC. So I began looking around for a replacement. Vista was out and based on the reports of its performance, I just did NOT want a computer with Vista. I would have taken a new computer with Windows XP, but that was beginning to become difficult to get. One day, I saw a MacBook (white) at MicroCenter, a local computer store, priced at just $799. Windows laptops were ranging in price from $599 to 1099 for similar features, but they only had Vista. After a couple weeks, I bought that MacBook.

I was installed OpenOffice (office suite, MS Office compatible), Thunderbird (email and calendar), Firefox (browser) and I was ready to go. I bought a book to read, and I surfed and read and found free programs for the things I needed (HTML editor, FTP program, Accounting program), Apple already had the rest of the programs I needed (see the iLife suite). Later, I liked it so much I investigated how I could run the couple Windows programs we still needed.

Using Parallels, I installed Windows XP and Ubuntu on my Mac. I was able to run Legacy, my preferred genealogy software program, which only runs in Windows. Reunion, a Mac genealogy program is just not quite as good as Legacy. So now I was ready to convert Diane!

I have had my MacBook for about 2 years. The iMac is about 1.5 years old and the MacBookPro we've had for about a year. Last year I got a Mac-Mini. There are still 4 Windows XP computers being used in the house and all are networked, along with one networked printer.

Macs have built-in Wireless-N, cameras (not the Mac Mini). Today most Windows machines have these also, but not in 2009. Computers that had Wireless-N and cameras, cost more that comparable Macs!

Macs do not have the bloatware that Windows computers have. There are no free trials that keep asking you to purchase something. There are no links to game companies or photo print companies or online companies.

Installing new software is easy - just click on the downloaded DMG file and you are in most cases just asked to copy the application into the application folder. If you want to delete and application, just delete it from the application folder and the application is gone; sometimes that are some files in the library that should be removed, but this is nothing like the registry. There is no registry cleanup required like in the Windows world.

Macs just work!