Escaping the Big Apple?

This lockdown I got a wild hair up my ass and decided that it was time to move to Linux. I spent a ridiculous amount of time figuring out how to extract data from my Mac and (coming in a future post) researching alternative Linux apps.

Below is the “good bits” version of what I learned. Should you decide to escape the Big Apple one day, hopefully it will help smooth your way.

Notes.app

Almost everything I write starts in Notes. I have many hundreds of notes going back to the 90s. It might be my most used app. Getting my notes out of Notes was the most frustrating part of this process.

As best as I can determine, the only way to get everything (text, formatting, links, folders and attachments) out of Notes is to do it by hand. This is extremely lame and makes me very reluctant to ever use Notes again (which sucks because I really like Notes).

By far the best solution I could find is the free Exporter by Chintan Ghate, but there are caveats:

  • If you want to get attachments you must be running macOS 10.15 (Catalina). Even then it will only export images (annoyingly this doesn’t include scans).
  • Embedded links are lost. The URL vanishes and only the text remains.
  • It will only export to Markdown (which is what I wanted).

This was adequate but frustrating. Before exporting I manually removed URLs from linked text and copied them into the text of the note, converted scans to PNG and moved all the PDFs to iBooks.

If you need a more automated solution the only remaining possibility I can think of is Keyboard Maestro.

Day One

I’ve been sporadically keeping a journal for decades, over the years most of that has ended up in Day One. I didn’t like any of the exporting options, but fortunately Bear will import from Day One and export to Markdown.

Photos.app

I expected this to be the most unpleasant part of the migration. Thanks to Rhet Turnbull’s open source tool osxphotos it was easy. He was incredibly friendly and responsive, fixing a bug and adding two features for me. This is open source at its most wonderful. A few details:

  • osxphotos won’t download photos from iCloud. Before you can use it, all your photos must be on local disk.
  • My HD is too small for all my photos, so this meant that first I had to move my photo library to an external drive.
  • Make your life easy and download the Mac executable rather than mess around installing the Python modules. You want the latest file that ends in “…MacOS-exe-darwin-x86-64.zip“.
  • osxphotos is very configurable. It will export your photos in nearly any way you can imagine. Here’s how I ran it:
# osxphotos --db /path/to/Photos\ Library.photoslibrary/ export /path/to/osxphotos/ --directory "{created.year}/{created.mm}-{created.mon}" --album-keyword --person-keyword --exiftool --skip-live

Reminders.app

I’m still grumpy that Microsoft bought Wunderlist and ruined it. Anyway, I don’t like Reminders.app very much but I use it because I haven’t found anything “better enough” to bother.

I haven’t looked very hard, but I didn’t find a way to get my data out. I will probably just cut and paste the pieces that matter.

iBooks.app

I used to keep all my PDFs and ePubs in iTunes, it was weird but worked great. Then iBooks ruined everything. iBooks is less infuriating but I’ve only stuck with it out of inertia.

Until 10.15 (Catalina) there was no way to export your books from iBooks. Fortunately, a bit of hunting revealed that they were stored in the below two locations. Make sure that everything is downloaded from iCloud before copying them out of ~/Library:

  • ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.BKAgentService/Data/Documents/iBooks/
  • ~/Library/Mobile Documents/iCloud~com~apple~iBooks/Documents/

If you are running 10.15 (Catalina) you can simply drag and drop your books to a folder.

I haven’t yet dared to check if years of lovingly curated metadata has survived the export.

Mail, Contacts and Calendar

My email is on Gmail, my contacts and calendars are on iCloud. Linux supports both of these so no need to change anything.

Stay tuned for a future episode about extracting myself from Google and iCloud.

iTunes.app

iTunes is the shining light in all of this. It’s always done a fabulous job of making both data and metadata easily available. Just copy your music to where ever you want it and everything should work fine.

I had a bit of fun with this and set up a music server for the house. Centralising our music on the server means that anyone in the house can play all of our music. Music can be played either locally on a laptop/phone or through the house stereo.

Final Thoughts

I’ve always had a soft spot for cross-platform apps. There aren’t as many good ones as I’d like, but it’s becoming more common again which is great. Below is a list of the apps I use which run on both macOS and Linux:

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