One Computer to Rule them…

Yes, in my quest to simplify, I’ve consolidated all of my computing into one Macbook Pro laptop. I’d like to say it is one of the newer unibody laptops but, sadly, I’m stuck with my 2008 15″ Macbook Pro. As it turns out this little workhorse is all that I need. Remember, this is all supposed to fit into a very small trailer powered off a solar panel – this is how I went about consolidating everything into one computer. (Remember I am selling my iMac and some photo gear here)

First: I spent a good amount of time cleaning up the iMac main computer, removing various work-in-progress images onto the archive hard drives and deleting unused applications, etc…  The iMac has a 1-terabyte hard drive and the largest drive I can put into the laptop is a 650 gig Seagate (there is a 1-terabyte Western Digital drive available but I’m staying away from Western Digital for the moment – I’ve had bad luck with them)- I also needed to partition the smaller drive to provide for Bootcamp and Windows XP to run my Astrology program and some assorted photo & web apps. The idea was to trim down the iMac so that when I transferred over I could fit everything comfortably. All documents, images, video and audio (except the iTunes Library) were transferred onto 2-terabyte external archive drives. The iTunes Library stays because I’ve found that I have fewer problems with corrupted Libraries if it stays in the OSX default location. The whole internal hard drive gets archives onto a Time Machine drive and a bootable Superduper clone.

OK, once this is accomplished, I have to prepare the laptop. After backing everything up, I installed a 650 gig drive more than doubling the available disk space from the stock 250 gig drive. This is a relatively easy procedure but perhaps not for the faint of heart. If you ever find yourself needing to do something like this I recommend the instructions in this Extreme Tech article. Once the drive is installed you have to install OSX from the install disk. Immediately after installing OSX Snow leopard, I ran the Bootcamp assistant to install Windows – we’re talking a full day of work here! Some valuable guidance for this procedure can be found in the “Take Control…” ebook – “Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac” – The nice people at “Take Control…” have a lot of good books with detailed information on Macintosh computers – I highly recommend  “Take Control of Mac OSX Backups” – check out their other titles for any topic you might have trouble with in your Mac computer knowledge.

The computer is now ready to begin turning it into a clone of my iMac. The goal is to end up with all the users, apps, network settings and misc. support files from the iMac on the Laptop so I can just “get to work” without having to reconfigure everything! This is a job for “Migration Assistant” This is the same app that runs when you first setup a new computer – you can find it in the Utilities folder. Launch it and follow all the prompts to import data from another computer – I checked everything – user accounts, network settings, applications, documents and other files! The one trick is to make sure that you don’t name the initial user account on the computer you are transferring to the same as your old user on the other computer. In my case, I had to create a temporary user to start up the newly installed OS, run software updates and install Windows before transferring the data from the iMac. You can’t get Migration Assistant to transfer the Bootcamp partition so that needs to be in place first. Once the data was transferred, I made the newly installed user an administrator and logged in under that user, then deleted the temporary user so I ended up with basically the same setup I had with the iMac. All the same applications in the same places with the same desktop alias’, all my mail and web preferences everything functionally the same – sweet!

Now, to make the MacBook Pro function like a desktop computer, I need to customize my setup a bit. First concern is the monitor. A 15″ laptop screen is just not adequate for serious imaging work! Ultimately I’d like to end up with an Eizo or possibly one of the new LED backlight NEC monitors but right now I’m making do with a 20″ Dell LCD – this is a surprisingly good little monitor and once its calibrated it holds its own against monitors twice its price. Though its slightly smaller than the 24inch iMac its perfectly serviceable in my setup. Mostly the trick is to get the laptop to stay awake when the lid is closed. It seems that this is a little tricky unless you’re using a wireless keyboard and mouse. I don’t know why this should be so but I tried it both ways and even after going into the System Preferences and setting the Power Saver to “Never Sleep” the MacBook wants to go to sleep when the cover is closed. You can wake it up with an attached keyboard but it tends to go to sleep anyway after awhile. I don’t know if it was just me but once I picked up a wireless keyboard and mouse everything works great! You still have to turn the computer on by lifting the lid but it is easily awakened by wiggling the mouse or pressing any key on the Keyboard. The new wireless mouse is a delight to use – right clicking and scrolling works very smoothly and the mouse is very responsive. Further I just like being able to move things around without consideration for the wires. I’ve ordered a wireless tablet to compliment the setup and I’ll report on that as soon as I’ve got that up and running.

So far everything is working very smoothly. The speed of the computer is good and frankly, I don’t notice any difference in behavior with Photoshop or any of my other graphics apps. I haven’t tried video editing yet and I imagine that it must suffer a little bit but so far I’m very pleased.

My plan is to work with this setup for a while before I install everything into the trailer just to thoroughly test it while I can make adjustments easily. I have yet to work out a switchable setup for use when I have the laptop “untethered” (like when I’m doing presentations) but I suspect that I can configure “Spaces” to accommodate two different layouts for my screen for home and away. I’ll let you know! You can help me out by buying some of my photo/computer gear!

 

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