Back to Mac

Mac OS X Screenshot

The life history of Ubuntu Linux 10.10 netbook edition on my Dell Mini 10v netbook was short.

I like Linux (a lot), but I hit a major snag and the most unusual problem I’ve ever seen: when I tried to use LyX, a genial front-end program to LaTeX, it had no top menu. No File, Edit, Help, etc. De nada. The lower menus were in place and I could open existing documents or start a new one, but missing were all the critical Import/Export features from the File tab, because there was no File tab.

Every other program on my system was normal, indicating a one-off anomaly. I did the usual: I removed LyX and re-fetched and installed it. It still came up without the top menu.

Well, thought I, I’ll simply download the source code and compile it. When I ran ./configure one of the error messages I received was to the effect that it couldn’t find an X Window system. I could have dogged it out, trying to feed in new parameters to the config script, or I could have contacted the packagers for LyX, asking what gives, but I knew that in one hour’s time I could reinstall Mac OS X.

So, that’s what I did. I needed LyX for a project and knew it ran perfectly on Mac OS X so I proceeded with the reinstall. Because I’d done it before I still had all the install files on USB drives. Within an hour I was once again running Snow Leopard.

I fetched MacTex then LyX (as well as installing X) and all was well. The top menu is there and I’m once again ready to proceed to package my year’s journals into a beautifully typeset PDF file.

The only reason I left the Mac OS X install behind was that it doesn’t take well to updates. As in, I can’t boot afterward and I’m not dedicated enough to dig out the why and fix it.

So, I use it without updates. Not a problem really because the machine’s only on when I’m writing.

Still, LyX without a top menu tops my list of strange problems and I enjoyed seeing it for myself. I wouldn’t have credited it if someone had told me this had happened to them. Now I’ll keep an open mind.

TeXting

LyX Screenshot

As a Macintosh newbie, I’m still in deep learning mode, but I’ve discovered one thing that really excited me. LyX, the easy-to-use front end to LaTeX, is available in a Mac binary package, as is LaTeX in the form of MacTeX. LyX is the main reason I use Linux on my netbook. I’m using it to typeset “Captain’s Log,” my 2009 journal that I plan to print privately as a 6×9-inch book at Lulu.com.

Having this on my Mac is even better, and would free up my Dell Mini 10v netbook as a Hackintosh. Following the instructions on the LyX site, I first downloaded MacTeX, then LyX. Both installed cleanly and simply and I was able to use the .lyx files from my netbook.

The only snag I hit was that LyX expects aspell or ispell — the most common spelling packages in a Unix environment — for spell checking.

This lead me to MacPorts — Unix ports of open-source software scripted for installation on a Macintosh. It has two requirements: X11 and the Mac Xcode development system.

X11 was already installed but I had to install Xcode from my installation disc. Having done that, I was able to type $sudo port install aspell and it did the rest, obtaining aspell and all its dependencies, compiling them on the Mac. Lovely!

My journal project has now been moved to the Mac and I’ve reached mid-September in my proofing and typesetting.  It’s going to be a thick book: I’ve been journaling prolifically this year.

I’ve not yet obtained any photo editing software or office software for word processing and spreadsheets. I use Photoshop CS3 on my PC, but may switch to Photoshop Elements 8 on the Mac. It seems to have all the features, including layers and layer tools, that I use in CS3.For office software, I’ll likely go with either NeoOffice or MS Office for Mac, if I can obtain a student version.

In the meantime, I’ve been watching tutorial videos on iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and GarageBand.