Switch: initial installation, data transfer and junk filtering

December 02, 2006

I got a pretty standard 15” MacBook Pro, the only upgrade being the faster hard drive. So it came without any OS installed and the first job was to install OS X from the DVD. A fairly straightforward process that I’ve been through a few times now. Perhaps the only nuisance being the long time it takes to “validate” the DVD. But who knows what’s that good for.

Since I didn’t want to switch everything over to Mac OS X immediately, I decided to install dualboot with Boot Camp. While in hindsight Parallels (that I’m going with now) would have been a much more convenient choice, well, I can say that I’ve been there now :)

So install Boot Camp assistant, burn the drivers CD and off to Windows installation. Which was fairly straightforward, but the first boots after installation were a bit scary since after installing the drivers, Windows gave me a few bluescreens and boots. While that’s normal in an aging computer, it was worrying in a brand new MBP. Fortunately, everything was again running after a few boots. You know how that Windows is, boots fix (mostly) everything.

Time to move over old data from the old PC. I don’t really trust Windows and its “migration wizards”. So I had to just zip up the data and get somehow securely over to the other PC. I scrambled to set up some SFTP servers, but that didn’t really work. So I ended up using Skype File Transfer that went at several MB/s after having plugged both machines in to the local network. And unzip in destination — job done.

Skype data migration was painless as well. Exactly as we say in the knowledge base, you need to make sure that Skype is not running, and just copy over the data under Application Files. My chat history contains a lot of unseen gems so I really had to make sure all goes well.

I couldn’t immediately find the Skype content I had purchased from our online stores. Turns out it sits in “My Skype Content” under My Documents. The “Skype folder hell” has been increasingly voiced to us recently, so I hope we’ll get around to fixing it one of the future revisions. So that you would have one “Skype” folder and everything under it, instead of four folders straight in My Documents.

Vista Upgrade Advisor also tells me that the MBP is good to go with Vista, once it comes out ;)

Thunderbird and spam filtering

I needed to copy over some data folders from Thunderbird under “Local folders”. There’s a bunch of files like “Folder name.sbd” in Application Data/Thunderbird. If you just copy them over, nothing happens. But there’s a little trick: put the Something.sbd file into the correct location, and manually recreate the folder (make new folder) in TB. As soon as you do that, kaboom, all the content magically reappears. I have yet to try if it works across OS-es too.

There’s another important point on Thunderbird. I had to start re-training its junk filters from scratch. This is really annoying, as I rely on them a lot to help me split the spam and ham. I had put two years of training into it, with over easily hundreds of thousands (millions?) of spams. And at the end, it was really good, I’d say with 99.99999% reliability it got things correctly. Now I need to start from scratch. The first week was probably the most critical, as it junked some really important stuff that I needed to manually intercept.

Plus I can only use the junk training data in Thunderbird, not in Apple Mail or any webmail system. Plus it doesn’t talk with any online system for collective filtering. I believe that as time goes on and spam load keeps only growing, there’s going to be a big market for mail services/software that combine an individual portable “spam profile” with two-way interaction with a central repository like Akismet. Maybe they’re out there, but no one I know is using those.