New iMac

Last Friday, I set up my new 24-inch iMac at work. It’s replacing the Mac mini I’ve been using since April of last year. The mini was sort of a test to see if I could use a Mac for work again after about 8 years of Linux. The experiment was a success, but the mini started to feel a little underpowered as I expanded the number of programs I used regularly and simultaneously. It’s on its way to becoming a single-purpose server, a job it will handle with ease.

The setup of the new iMac went very well. Before starting I read a little bit about how the Migration Assistant would work, so I was ready with a FireWire cable to hook up the mini and transfer its settings. When the setup was done, the iMac’s desktop looked just like the mini’s had—only much bigger, of course—the first thing I did after setup was reposition my GeekTool items to put them down at the bottom of the new screen).

Safari, Mail, iCal, and Address Book started up perfectly. All the settings, bookmarks, cookies, passwords, messages, alarms, etc. came over without a hitch. I had to reestablish the Bluetooth connection to my cell phone—the article had told me I would—but after that iSync worked fine.

The only problem was iTunes, which shouldn’t have surprised me as iTunes and I have a difficult relationship. The problem stemmed from the mini’s small (80 GB) hard disk, which had forced me to keep its music library on an external hard disk, a hard disk I wasn’t going to use on the new iMac. Since the music wasn’t on the mini’s internal disk, it didn’t come over during setup. So I connected the external disk to the iMac and copied its iTunes Music folder over to ~/Music/iTunes/. When I first started iTunes, I opened its Preferences and made sure it was looking in the right place for the music files. The problem with this was that the iTunes Library and iTunes Music Library.xml files still thought the music was on the external disk so iTunes tried to go to the now-disconnected disk to get the MP3 data.

I thought about Googling for a solution, but decided it would be faster and easier to just throw away those two files and import all the music. This lost me my playlists, which were easy enough to recover, and my song ratings, which were not. (If I’d remembered that some of my smart playlists were based on my ratings I might not have been so cavalier about trashing those files.)

One surprise I had after importing was that many podcast episodes I thought I’d thrown away—and which had not been showing up in the list of episodes on the mini—suddenly appeared. No doubt I had given the wrong answer to one of those questions iTunes is always asking me when I delete or rearrange things. The desire of iTunes to save me from myself had the effect of doing exactly the opposite of what I wanted. I suppose there’s some value in all those “Are you sure you want to do this?” dialog boxes, but I can’t see why anyone would want to keep a file on disk but not list it in iTunes. I re-deleted the episodes; maybe they’re really gone this time.

Let me say one good word about iTunes: I think the changes made in iTunes 7 for handling iPods are very well done. I haven’t noticed any new functionality, but the presentation of the options is much better. I wouldn’t have thought that such a simple change in layout would make such a difference, but it does. That’s why Apple has such a fiercely loyal following.