Learn from my Mistakes: Switching to Mac

Originally posted by Algonquin Studios CEO, Steven Raines, on June 19, 2012, on his blog.

Last year, in order to work on a project targeted at the iPhone, I switched my primary computer to a Macbook Pro. At that point I hadn’t used a Mac in over 20 years, so it was a significant transition for me. After about 8 months, I am generally very pleased with the Mac so I thought I’d share some of the things that I have learned in the transition.

You still need Windows. The Mac comes with a lot of great software, but you are almost certainly going to need Windows. Because of Apple’s relatively small market share, lots of applications are not available for the Mac. Visio, Subversion, and numerous financial packages just aren’t available for Mac. If you use Exchange, support for Outlook on the Mac is severely diminished (see below.)

There are a number of solutions for running Windows as a VM on the Mac, and my personal recommendation is Parallels Dekstop for Mac. In Parallels, you can create a VM and run the software in what they call “Confluence” mode, which allows you to run Windows applications on the Mac desktop instead of having a separate Windows desktop (which you can also do.) It also allows you to merge your Windows and Mac Desktops, Documents, Pictures, etc. The best part about having the Windows VM is that its just a file so you can back it up. And Mac’s Time Machine is nice enough to let you restore an older version when an Windows Update goes awry.

Quick tip: Make sure for Mac has at least 8MB of RAM (sorry Air owners) to get good performance from both systems.

Another Quick Tip: The Mac Remote Desktop Client is also crash-prone. If you need to connect to another machine via Terminal Service, do so with a Windows Client.

Key Mapping is Key The Mac keyboard is greatly simplified compared to the Windows keyboard and the most notable omission is the Backspace key. When running a Windows VM this key acts as the Backspace and Option-Delete acts as Delete. Similarly, All your standard “Control” options (Cut, Copy, Paste) use the Command key on the Mac instead of the Control key (which is still there.) Fortunately, Windows reads both Control and Command as Control, so you can get into the habit of always using Command.

Quick tip: You can map keys between the VM and Mac. If you are using Parallels in Desktop mode, I recommend Mapping Control-Option-Command-Delete to Control-Alt-Delete in the VM. That way, you don’t have to use a mouse to unlock or log into your Windows desktop.

Email is Apparently a Deprecated Technology Email on iOS is WAY better than on the Mac. Don’t expect the iOS experience for mail if you use Exchange.

To connect to Exchange, you need to use Apple Mail or Outlook and neither is a great option. The Mac version of Outlook 2011 lacks many of the features of the software available on Windows and doesn’t use PST files, so you can’t just attach to old mail archives (all mail must be imported.) It can’t talk to Exchange 2003 so if you are n a split environment you won’t be able to view other users calendars or folders and Outlook for Mac only supports one server address, so if you use an internal work Exchange server and you at home you will have to connect to a VPN to access it.

Apple Mail / iCal / Address Book appear to connect easily and support internal / external addresses with auto resolution,  but I had problems getting them to reliably sync, which is not a problem I had on iOS. This caused issues with contact updates not coming through and periodically I’d have to Force Quit Apple Mail to get it to start syncing again. I can only hope the convergence in the newest release of MacOS will resolve this. Additionally, using Apple’s tools won’t allow you to see shared calendars, so if that is important to you, consider installing the Windows version of Outlook on your windows VM. I have tried both and have recently switched back from Apple Mail to using Outlook and when I am at home, using Outlook web access (or my iOS devices.) At this point, OWA is getting sophisticated enough that it may be all you need (though you’ll likely still need two separate URLs to connect at work and at home.)

If you use the Outlook for Windows solution, get used to Option-Delete to remove junk mail. Just hitting Delete is the same as the Backspace so it will navigate you to the previous screen instead of removing messages.

Turn on Single Touch clicks The Macbook track pad has a lot of resistance for clicks. In the Track Pad settings, you can turn on single touch clicking so you only have to tap the track pad to get it to respond.

Where’s my Menu? In Windows, the main application menu is always on the application window you are working in but on the Mac, the main menu always appears at the top of the screen. This takes a lot of getting used to… especially when working on multiple screens and having to go to the main window to access the “File” menu.

Closing Apps Doesn’t Close Them. Except when it Does On Windows, I expect the “X”  in the title bar to kill the application. On the Mac, some applications do close (Address Book) but some only close the window you are working with and leave the core application running (Safari, MS Word, etc.)

Add Windows Explorer to your Task Bar If you make a lot of use of tools that are integrated into the Windows Explorer and go the Confluence route with Parallels, Adding the Windows Explorer bar to your Dock makes things a lot easier. Finder integration is limited.

You probably don’t need Adobe (unless you are a designer) Preview does a great job of rendering PDFs, so there is no need for Acrobat Reader and you don’t need anything special to make PDFs. Mac has the built in ability to make PDFs right from the “Print” option in any program. At the bottom left of the Print dialog is a “PDF” option. You can also use the built in Preview application to merge multiple PDFs into one. Simply open a PDF, open the Sidebar view and drag additional PDF documents to the Sidebar. When you are done, Print using the PDF option outlined above and you’ll get a merged PDF.

If you just occasionally edit photos and  you don’t want to shell out a few hundred dollars for Adobe licenses, consider using Seashore. This is a great little program that does all the key features the casual user is likely to need for photo editing for free. Or check out the App Store.

Quick Tip: You are, of course, going to install Flash and Adobe has a nasty habit of putting its uninstallers in Launch Pad (which you can’t move to the Trash Can.) Instead, create a folder to hold the Adobe junk and put it in a Launch Pad window far off to the right of all of your other applications.

Up Up Down Down Left… Magic Key Combos. You can capture any screen with COMMAND-SHIFT-3. You can select an area of a screen to capture with COMMAND-SHIFT-4. In both cases, the results are saved to your desktop. Add CONTROL to the key stroke and get the images captured to your clipboard instead.

Like Windows, you can switch between apps with COMMAND-TAB. However, you can also switch between Windows within the current application by using COMMAND-~. This is super helpful if you have multiple windows open in Safari, word, etc.

Quick Tip: Apple provides an updated list of general and application specific short-cuts.

Don’t Get Obsessed with the Gizmos

As a part of my initial sale consultant training here at Algonquin Studios, one of the lessons that took the longest to sink in for me had to do with the issue of technology.

Technology, as a whole, can be very intimidating to a lot of us. We’re talking about things that not only perform tasks that seem magical, but it’s also changing faster than Clark Kent in a phone booth. You’re bound to fall behind on the “latest and greatest” advancements and catching up always seems so daunting. But, the truth that took so long for me to grasp is that to help people solve business problems technology is often the least important part of the equation.

I remember the first time I looked at the guts of a toilet. Wait… there’s a rubber ball, a few plastic things, a plug, and some water. Where’s the magic? Where are the computer chips and sensors and wires? There aren’t any and you know what? It doesn’t matter! That toilet still works great, because it does what we need it to do!

What do you need? Why do you need it? How will it help you or your company? What will life be like once the problem is solved?

It doesn’t matter if the client is a marketer, administrator, or IT guru; the questions are still the same and the answers are what’s important. It won’t really matter if the solution is a state of the art, super-duper fancy gizmo or a hamster running around in a wheel; if the solution solves the problem, fits your budget, and is reliable and sustainable then you have a winner – fancy technology or not.

We just finished bringing on a new client that had been badly burned by their previous web vendor. The old vendor was not upfront about their capabilities and offered the client all kinds of high tech “gizmos” that they promised would make their site stand out from the competition. It took a while, but our client eventually figured out that the vendor couldn’t deliver on the goods. Most of the awesome bells and whistles they were promised either didn’t work or didn’t follow best practices, usability standards, or accessibility requirements. When the client came to us, our main goal was listening, so we could really learn what the client’s vision and direction for their web site was; we explained what we would do to address each problem they’d had with their previous vendor, and then we moved forward and got to work on building their new web site. Honestly, talking about the technology we’ll use to complete the site was almost an afterthought. When we’re done, their web site will obviously be functional but, more importantly, it will meet the goals the client outlined and identified as important to them and their business. And they’ll be able to get back to running that business instead of stressing about the site. Our approach when we took the “getting to know you” meeting may not have been about showing off our state-of-the-art technology, but it was the right one.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that Algonquin Studios lacks technically intelligent and savvy people, products, or solutions. On the contrary, we have incredibly smart people working here, doing some amazingly complex things. But when you sit down with us to see if we’re the right fit for your company and your problem, let’s not worry so much about the technology. When you do, you may end up asking us to build you a space shuttle when what you really need is a bike to get you to and from the corner store. Let’s focus on the problem(s) you’re looking to solve instead. Tell us about why you need what you need – we’ll apply the right technology to the problem and get you where you want to be. And I promise, just like the toilet, it’ll be magic!

Don’t Hang Up Yet! Things to Remember When You Call Tech Support

I receive phone calls from first time tech support users everyday. Some of these callers are quickly able to hone in on the right questions to ask to get the answers they want, but others don’t say much beyond “um.” We want you to get the most out of the time that you spend with us on the phone so that you can get the most out of your software and because, hey – time is valuable to all of us! So keep these things in mind when you call and you can be sure a resolution isn’t too far away:

Bugs

If you called in about a bug in the software you’re using, ask if there’s a known work around you can use until the bug can be corrected. If it’s a newly discovered bug, we might not have a work around yet, but ask for a follow up in a few days because as we work through the specifics of the bug, we might just discover one!

Errors

If you called because you received an error message, you’ll want to make sure we talk about how to prevent the error from happening in the future. While some errors aren’t caused by the user directly, there are some that happen because users make a mistake somewhere along the lines or try to interact with the software in an odd or unsupported way. These types of errors can be easily prevented and knowing how to avoid them in the future can ultimately save you time (and frustration!).

Feature Requests

If you called us to ask about a feature that you’d like seen added to the software, remember to ask your support representative when they might have additional information on the feature’s possible development. Of course, release and development schedules may sometimes mean a specific timeline is hard to come by, but following up in 2 – 4 weeks to see if there is any additional information is always a good idea and can help keep your request top of mind for our support reps and developers.

Miscellaneous

No matter what the reason you called, if we are unable to give you an answer right away you should always ask when to expect a followup phone call or email. No matter how good a support team we are, we won’t always have all the answers and we may have to consult with our teammates in order to reach a solution or resolution for you. Sometimes our research will take an hour but sometimes, in order to get into all the details, it can take much longer.  Make sure you provide us with a way to contact you once we have all the necessary information and remember to ask for a “ballpark” date and time when you can expect to hear back from us.

Our main goal is always to ensure our customers have a positive experience when interacting with our software and communicating with us. In your job, what are the things that you wish people would remember to ask or do when they call you for help?

ICANN Announces Requested gTLDs

Originally published earlier today on my blog.

ICANN LogoA week shy of a year ago now ICANN revealed a process to allow organizations to submit applications for new generic top level domain extensions (in addition to the .com, .net, .org and 18 others excluding ccTLDs). You can get more detail in my post Make Your Own TLD? (I want .bacon).

Today ICANN has revealed the list of gTLDs for which random people and businesses have applied. During the January 12 — May 30, 2012 window to submit applications, 1,930 came in.

The process wasn’t without some controversy, as when 87 business associations and companies banded together to oppose the process, as outlined in this November 2011 press release: Eighty-Seven Major National and International Business Associations and Companies Join with ANA, Forming the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (CRIDO), to Oppose ICANN’s Top-level Domain Expansion Program

Despite that, the ICANN process has been moving along. If, like me, you are curious about the gTLDs for which people are vying, you can get the full list as a CSV file from ICANN, or you can search through the list on the ICANN site.

Of the 1,930 gTLDs, 116 of them are in character sets that the average English-speaking American won’t ever see or be able to use (such as Chinese, Cyrillic, and so on). As you go through them, you’ll see lots of brand and company names, and even a few slogans in the mix. You’ll see some cases where a brand name (such as .youtube) is not registered by the brand owner (Google, in this case), or perhaps ones where the target audience seems a little too targeted (such as .aarp).

Selected Duplicates

Of the remaining (the ones I can read), some of them seem odd, some of them seem too long to type, and some of them are duplicates which means an auction process will kick in to determine who should get rights. Of the over 750 duplicates, here are some of the ones that stood out to me (or just look at my favorites):

String Applicant Location Region
APP .APP REGISTRY INC. KY EUR
APP Charleston Road Registry Inc. (Google) US NA
APP dot App Limited GI EUR
APP Webera Inc. AE AP
APP NU DOT CO LLC US NA
APP Amazon EU S.à r.l. LU EUR
APP Lone Maple, LLC US NA
APP Dot App LLC US NA
APP DotApp Inc. US NA
APP TRI Ventures, Inc. US NA
APP Afilias Limited IE EUR
APP Merchant Law Group LLP CA NA
APP Top Level Domain Holdings Limited VG EUR
BLOG BET Inc. JP AP
BLOG Afilias Domains No. 1 Limited IE EUR
BLOG Top Level Design, LLC US NA
BLOG Corn Shadow, LLC US NA
BLOG Personals TLD Inc. AE AP
BLOG Charleston Road Registry Inc. (Google) US NA
BLOG Merchant Law Group LLP CA NA
BLOG PRIMER NIVEL S.A. PA LAC
BLOG Top Level Domain Holdings Limited VG EUR
BOOK R.R. Bowker LLC US NA
BOOK Top Level Domain Holdings Limited VG EUR
BOOK Charleston Road Registry Inc. (Google) US NA
BOOK Global Domain Registry Pty Ltd AU AP
BOOK Bronze Registry Limited GI EUR
BOOK NU DOT CO LLC US NA
BOOK Amazon EU S.à r.l. LU EUR
BOOK Double Bloom, LLC US NA
BOOK DotBook, LLC US NA
CASINO dot Casino Limited GI EUR
CASINO Binky Sky, LLC US NA
CASINO Afilias Limited IE EUR
CASINO dotBeauty LLC US NA
CLOUD Symantec Corporation US NA
CLOUD Top Level Domain Holdings Limited VG EUR
CLOUD Charleston Road Registry Inc. (Google) US NA
CLOUD Amazon EU S.à r.l. LU EUR
CLOUD Dash Cedar, LLC US NA
CLOUD ARUBA S.p.A. IT EUR
CLOUD CloudNames AS NO EUR
DESIGN STARTING DOT FR EUR
DESIGN BET Inc. JP AP
DESIGN Top Level Domain Holdings Limited VG EUR
DESIGN Top Level Design, LLC US NA
DESIGN NU DOT CO LLC US NA
DESIGN Black Avenue, LLC US NA
DESIGN Design Trend Registry Inc. CA NA
DESIGN Uniregistry, Corp. KY EUR
DOCS Microsoft Corporation US NA
DOCS Charleston Road Registry Inc. (Google) US NA
FREE Top Level Domain Holdings Limited VG EUR
FREE Charleston Road Registry Inc. (Google) US NA
FREE Amazon EU S.à r.l. LU EUR
FREE Over Keep, LLC US NA
FREE Uniregistry, Corp. KY EUR
GAY Top Level Domain Holdings Limited VG EUR
GAY Top Level Design, LLC US NA
GAY United TLD Holdco Ltd. KY EUR
GAY dotgay llc US NA
MAIL Afilias Domains No. 2 Limited, IE EUR
MAIL Charleston Road Registry Inc. (Google) US NA
MAIL 1&1 Mail & Media GmbH DE EUR
MAIL Amazon EU S.à r.l. LU EUR
MAIL Victor Dale, LLC US NA
MAIL WhitePages TLD LLC US NA
MAIL GMO Registry, Inc. JP AP
MAP United TLD Holdco Ltd. KY EUR
MAP Amazon EU S.à r.l. LU EUR
MAP Charleston Road Registry Inc. (Google) US NA
MOBILE Amazon EU S.à r.l. LU EUR
MOBILE Pixie North, LLC US NA
MOBILE Dish DBS Corporation US NA
MOVIE Charleston Road Registry Inc. (Google) US NA
MOVIE dot Movie Limited GI EUR
MOVIE Webdeus Inc. AE AP
MOVIE NU DOT CO LLC US NA
MOVIE Amazon EU S.à r.l. LU EUR
MOVIE New Frostbite, LLC US NA
MOVIE Motion Picture Domain Registry Pty Ltd AU AP
MOVIE Dish DBS Corporation US NA
MUSIC DotMusic Inc. AE AP
MUSIC DotMusic / CGR E-Commerce Ltd CY AP
MUSIC dot Music Limited GI EUR
MUSIC Amazon EU S.à r.l. LU EUR
MUSIC Victor Cross US NA
MUSIC Charleston Road Registry Inc. (Google) US NA
MUSIC .music LLC US NA
MUSIC Entertainment Names Inc. VG EUR
NEWS DotNews Inc. AE AP
NEWS dot News Limited GI EUR
NEWS Amazon EU S.à r.l. LU EUR
NEWS Hidden Bloom, LLC US NA
NEWS Uniregistry, Corp. KY EUR
NEWS Merchant Law Group LLP CA NA
NEWS PRIMER NIVEL S.A. PA LAC

Favorites

And now some of my favorites:

  • .adult
  • .afamilycompany
  • .diet (three of these)
  • .dot (there were two of these)
  • .dotafrica (for the slashdot-literate)
  • .family
  • .fish
  • .foo
  • .goo
  • .gripe
  • .hiphop
  • .ieee
  • .imdb (by Amazon)
  • .ketchup
  • .kids
  • .law
  • .lawyer
  • .legal
  • .lgbt
  • .lol (two of these)
  • .men (with no corresponding .women)
  • .mormon
  • .ninja (for all those self-declared web and social media experts)
  • .porn (but no corresponding .pr0n)
  • .republican (with no corresponding .democrat or .libertarian)
  • .sex (two of these)
  • .sexy
  • .sucks (three of these)
  • .web (seven of these)
  • .website (three of these)
  • .wtf

So there is a proposal for .ketchup, but nothing for .bacon? Internets, you have let me down.

Related

  1. Icann [sic] reveals new internet top-level domain name claims at BBC
  2. Here comes .NETFLIX: New Web domain applications revealed at CNN Money
  3. ICANN unveils new domain names at net Magazine.
  4. Make Your Own TLD? (I want .bacon) by me

Getting Started with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful asset for marketers, site administrators, and business owners, but with a seemingly infinite quantity of data points, graphs, segments, and reports, it can be completely overwhelming.

At Algonquin Studios, we encourage all of our clients to sign up for Google Analytics because of its many benefits and because it’s free–it really is a no-brainer–but that’s just the first step. Once you’ve signed up, then what?

Step 1: Understand Your Web Site

In order to use Google Analytics successfully, you need answer one big, general question about your web site:

What is the purpose of your web site? Why does it exist?

At this point, there’s nearly universal agreement that if you run a business, program, charitable organization, or pretty much anything else, you need a web site. But why? Are you hoping to sell products, promote to a larger audience, or just make it easier for people to find your phone number? There could be any number of reasons and you may have many, but, in order to get the most out of Analytics, you need to understand what they are.

It’s also useful to identify your target audience. What group of individuals are you hoping will access your web site? Doctors, grandmothers, hockey players, men in general? Try to be as specific as possible.

Step 2: Identify Your Goals

Let’s say that you’re a partner at a law firm and you’ve identified that the main purposes of your site are generating leads and reinforcing your firm’s reputation. From there, you can identify the following goals:

  1. Build interest by providing information about services and related content.
  2. Capture leads (via email or phone).
  3. Reinforce qualifications through firm history and accomplishments.

Step 3: Pick Your Measurement Tools

At this point, you can determine the data points and reports in Google Analytics that will help you measure the success of your site. These are often referred to as Key Performance Indicators or KPI. For example, here are some indicators that could be useful to your sample law firm:

Time on Site/Page – Since many of your goals are related to your site visitors reading content, you can examine how much time they’re are spending on your site and its individual pages to determine if they’re actively engaging with that content. It will be especially important to review the time spent on the pages you’ve deemed most crucial to your goals of building interest, capturing leads, and reinforcing your qualifications.

Bounce Rate – Another indicator that will show whether users are actively viewing pages and continuing to interact with your site is Bounce Rate. Your bounce rate is the percentage of visits that only include one page view. A low bounce rate indicates that your visitors are viewing several pages before exiting and implies that they are interested in your content and and engaging with it in a meaningful way.

Visitor Loyalty – If your law firm is attempting to reinforce its qualifications, you may expect to see a high percentage of return visitors. Strong visitor loyalty implies that your content is engaging and can help strengthen your position as a trusted resource. However, a high percentage of new visitors implies that a lot of potential clients are viewing your site. In general, it’s healthy to have a mix of each visitor type.

Keywords – The Keywords report identifies the search terms that drove users to your site from Google or other search engines. While returning visitors will probably access your site directly or search for your firm name, new visitors may be searching for services that you provide or for a firm in your geographic location. If you’re not seeing the results you expect, this indicator may show that you need to adjust your content to include better search terms.

Location – Geography-based reports and segments allow you to see where your users are located. This can be particularly important if you are targeting users from a specific area and may even influence your traditional marketing initiatives.

Step 4: Set Targets

Once you’ve determined which indicators will most accurately help you to measure success, you should set appropriate targets for each goal. These targets may be for a day, week, month, or longer, or they may even be for a specific time of the day.

Determining what your targets should be may not be easy at first, but you’ll get a feel for it over time. The key is to have a  goal number to work towards and compare against. The actual numbers are less important than the trends you’re seeing in the data.

Step 5: Identify Segments

If you want to take it a step further, try identifying any segments that could be applied to make certain reports more valuable. For example, you could segment the Landing Pages report by Keyword to see the keywords that are driving users to your top entrance pages.

Step 6: Review Your Data Regularly

There are many ways that you can utilize Google Analytics to measure your data. You can set up Goals, Alerts, Custom Reports, Advanced Segments, or Filters. You can even create reports that are automatically emailed to you on a regular basis. Or you can simply log into Google Analytics and review the default reports, focusing on the KPI that you’ve determined are important.

The key is reviewing your data on a regular basis. You can evaluate the success of your goals by measuring your KPI for a given period and then comparing them against past performance. Remember to focus on the trends, not the actual numbers.

Step 7: Adjust Your Site as Needed

As you review your data, you may identify areas of your site that need to be updated to improve user engagement or search engine performance. Ideally, you’ll see trends that reflect site growth and success, but you’ll need to set aside time to review the data and update the site on a regular basis.

Conclusion

Google Analytics can be a powerful tool, but to get the most out of it you need to know where to begin. Understanding your site and setting goals will get you on the right track. Then, you just need to pick your key indicators, set your targets, and get analyzing. Easy, right?

If you are new to Google Analytics, I highly recommend checking out Google’s educational library, but you should also consider just logging in and getting your hands dirty. It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you stick with it, the rewards will be well worth it.