Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Miss My Application Shortcuts or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Use the Mac

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt "Do one thing every day that scares you." I bought a MacBook Pro with the Retina display when they were released recently. I'm not a Mac fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think it is a good thing for me to put myself outside my natural comfort zone. Learning my way around a foreign operating system is a good place to start.

I've been a Windows person all my tech life starting with a Windows 98 machine at home while I was troubleshooting Win2K as a Field Support Analyst. I've always been able to fix any Windows issue I've ever had, and my only calls to tech support have been for hardware failures. That being said, I know my way around CMD, Event Log & Device Manager well enough to not panic when something goes wrong.

I'm in a whole new territory with this rMBP. If something acts up, I haven't the slightest idea what to do other than DuckDuckGo it. Sometimes that gets pretty complicated.

In order to fully switch over to the rMBP, I need to figure out how to replicate all of the shortcuts to applications that I've ported over from laptop to laptop over the years. I'm finding this isn't as easy as I thought it would be.

My first step was to load the OS X drivers for the Keyspan USA-19HS serial to usb adapter. Ok, that was easy. Then I tried to find an application similar to PuTTY or Hyperterminal. This is where things got tricky. I've been using an ancient installation of SecureCRT for well over six years now, and I wasn't finding anything even close to the ease of click and go with any of the other free/cheap applications. I sent the shout out to the twitterverse, knowing full well there are *dozens* of people I know who have already soved this problem. The first response was from @hestonk

I fired up terminal easy enough, but what now? OS X doesn't have COM ports, I can't right click anything. How do I make the next connection? I haven't the foggiest idea, so I turn back to twitter for help. The first response where I knew I was really in over my head was from my pal @Samuel_Clements
In all my years of IT, I've never used a /dev/tty-anything command. This is where I have to trust my friends are giving me the command strings necessary to make what was a simple act of me clicking a shortcut to initiate a COM (USB to Serial) connection into something I have to script as an alias into ~/.bashrc! This is all new to me. I've heard of bash, grep, and ifconfig, but I've never actually had to use them to get something done!
Between @SFoskett and @santorizzo they'd given me the commands I needed to issue to create a keyword "love" alias to initiate the connection to my Kespan USA-19HS adapter. The alias keyword is fitting, since I should love learning how to do something new, even if it is difficult.

Several people (@ipv6freely @etherealmind @icemarkom @lord2y) suggested iTerm2 instead of using Terminal. I've yet to dig into it to see what the major differences are.

Before I got the alias fully working, I disconnected & then reconnected the Keyspan adapter & had the Mac version of the BSOD. I was surprised to see the laptop boot back up so quickly and bring back up TextEdit with my notes still pasted there even though I hadn't saved my notes to a file yet.

I can only guess that people in IT using Macs come from a UNIX-esque background and that they're used to tweaking configuration settings from the command line. I think it is ridiculous that I should have to figure out how to interact with the OS at the shell level in order to get something done that used to be as easy as using a shortcut to an application that I've had for what seems like forever.
I also realize that I'm  hardly the first Mac OS user who has had to figure out how to do on a Mac the things I took for granted as totally easy on Windows. I'm sure there will be many more instances of me writing up little bits here and there so I can remember how I arrived at alias 'x' or how I managed to get application 'x' working. I'm certain I'll be doing some digging around in @etherealmind's OSX tagged posts for more tips and tricks.

Frankly, I can't say how amazing the rMBP is or isn't since I 've mostly used some sort of Windows flavor on a 12 inch x201 display. I'll leave the bench testing and product comparisons to someone like @SFoskett. He's got all the data on that sort of thing!

I put the full working script here just in case I or anyone else should ever need it. Just replace the [alias name] entry with any alias name of your choosing.

alias [alias name]='/usr/bin/screen /dev/tty.KeySerial1 9600,cs8,-parenb,-cstopb,-crtscts'
echo "alias [alias name]='/usr/bin/screen /dev/tty.KeySerial1 9600,cs8,-parenb,-cstopb,-crtscts'" >> ~/.bashrc
echo "source ~/.bashrc" >> ~/.bash_profile

ls /dev/tty.*


  1. I feel your pain. I'm going to have to jump into the icy deep end of the Mac pool at some point in the future as I'm never again paying money for a PC. Why bother if my employer is always going to keep me in a PC laptop to do my day job?

  2. I decided it was just about time to switch and the employer purchased an HP8560p, and it weighs (nearly) ten pounds! Too much weight to lug around in a back pack.

  3. I use SecureCRT for Mac myself and have been for the last year. it works perfectly and isn't that expensive.

  4. Thanks for the timely post! I've been struggling with my Aten USB-serial adapter and this helped a lot. Sadly I had a bit of a longer road, with no OSX drivers that would work on 10.7.x so I had to manually import the .kext and then go through this process. It's working though...until the next OS update I'm sure.