So today’s column is about a couple of products that have caught my eye,
mostly because they make my working life easier.
The first is free with every copy of Mac OS X — namely Apple’s Migration
Now, like a lot of sysadmins, I had a series of scripts and procedures
that I used to set up a new machine for a user. They did the job, and
well, so I had pooh-poohed the Migration Assistant until this week when I
was doing a group of machine upgrades and decided to give it a try. I had
already ran all the current updates on the boxes, (Quad G5s for our
designers), and joined them to our Open Directory domain.
I was so very, very wrong about Migration Assistant. It’s far better than
any script I could have come up with. You take the old Mac, put it into
Target Disk Mode, hook a Firewire cable between them and run Migration
Assistant. It lets you pick which users you want to move over. That’s
fantastic for pruning old local accounts. It also moves over all
applications, user data and even user account records that aren’t already
on the new machines. It all just works.
The only thing that doesn’t get moved over are things in /System, which
is logical and good. So I had to reinstall Virex, big deal. The biggest
thing you have to watch for is if you have multiple system drives.
Migration Assistant is only going to use the first disk on the main ATA
bus that it finds. If you’re booting from the second disk, it won’t find
it. But that’s it, and that’s easily worked around.
Other than those two issues, it was absolutely problem free. I started it
when the designers went home, and by the next morning, it was finished,
and they were ready to go. The Apple folks did a good job working on this
Another product is an update to an absolutely indispensable tool for me
— Script Debugger. Late Night Software
just released Version 4, (and a minor update, 4.0.1). If you do a lot of
work with AppleScript, you have to have this tool.
Yes, Apple does give you a basic editor, in the form of Script Editor.
You also have the AppleScript functionality in Xcode that allows you to
create full-on Cocoa applications or Automator Actions using AppleScript.
However, Script Editor has no real debugging ability, and Xcode, while a
great environment for creating applications, is not well-suited for
writing the kind of faceless scripts that sysadmins use the most. In
addition, Xcode’s AppleScript debugging abilities leave much to be
desired, whereas Script Debugger rules the roost here, and has for years.
I’ve been using Script Debugger since Version 2, and have been a huge fan
of it since the beginning. In fact, instead of trying to get a review
copy, or using the demo for this, I bought it. It’s too indispensable to
my work for me to try and go cheap on it.
Script Debugger 4 is a rewrite, bringing Script Debugger into the Cocoa
Not that the Cocoa part is important. As a friend of a friend said about
the whole Mac OS X Carbon vs. Cocoa thing: ”Whether an application was
written using Carbon or Cocoa is as irrelevant as whether the programmer
was wearing pajamas or a ball gown. I only bring it up to show that
this is a pretty major rewrite of Script Debugger.
But a rewrite without improvements is the same mistake made again. This
is most definitely not the case with Script Debugger 4.
The UI on Debugger 4 has been cleaned up immensely from Script Debugger
3’s multiple floating window interface. This makes tracking variables and
other information while debugging multiple scripts much simpler.
You now can debug multiple scripts simultaneously, something that I
really welcome. There was nothing more annoying than having a script that
took a long time to execute, but being unable to do anything else in
Script Debugger because you could only debug a single script at a time.
When you drop a file on a Script Debugger window, you can get a range of
actions, from displaying the AppleScript Dictionary (if applicable), to
getting path information or pasting an Alias reference, etc. This doesn’t
seem like a huge feature, but once you start using it, it’s really
Script Debugger’s dictionary handling, already far and away better than
anything Apple has, is improved, with better support for SDEF metadata,
improved searching, and better browsing of the dictionary. Folder Actions
debugging, something I do a lot, also has been made much easier in
Script Debugger isn’t uber cheap. It’s $199 new or $99 as an upgrade. But
it is one of those tools that will — not may — pay for itself in short
order. I know my copy already has at least twice over. If you need to do
heavy AppleScripting, you need Script Debugger. I know that without it,
I’d not be able to do half the scripting I’ve done over the years.
Don’t take my word for it, download the demo
and see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.