Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Belkin iPod TuneTie - tears the earbud covers

The TuneTie looks like a great way to carry iPod earbuds. I bought one at the local Apple store. Alas, it only really works with the foam pads removed. If they're on, they tear on insertion. Too bad! I'll return my set for store credit.

Microsoft OneCare will kill Win2K and Win98

Microsoft's Norton AV killer, OneCare is XP only. Makes sense for Microsoft. Once Norton abandons the AV business, as they will, anyone not using Win2K or Win98 will need to switch.

A detail nobody seems to be mentioning.

Microsoft could give this sucker away and still make a vast fortune on the upgrade licenses. They only charge for it because otherwise they'd lose an antitrust battle.

Since OneCare can be installed on 3 machines for $50, and NAV lists as $70/machine, it's much cheaper than NAV. If it inflicts less of a performance hit than NAV it'll be much better too.

Mindjet MindManager goes to the Mac

MindManager a mind mapping tool that's pretty dominant on Windows, now has a Mac version. It's expensive: $230 bucks.

At that price point there are likely better Mac options for most people, but the strength of MM on Windows means it might make sense for some Mac users.

Automator Action Pack: anything useful?

I've yet to find a use for Automator. Maybe this will give me ideas: Photoshop Automator Action Pack 2.2 - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

XP licenses: cheaper as upgrade or OEM

Todd Dailey:How to save over $200 on Parallels for the Mac Windows

I didn't know about the XP upgrade licensing from Win98 ...

Good news for OS X Intel users.

iView Reconsidered

Hmm. Now that iPhoto has changed the way images are organized, could I use iView MediaPro to provide views across my sundered ($#! Apple) Libraries? [1]

Of course actually doing image editing would be very perilous, but it might be safe to browse and export ...

[1] I know about IPLM but I don't fully trust it yet.

Buy a Mac, recycle an old PC - and 10% off iPods

Apple will recycle an old PC if you buy a new Mac. Any PC that can't run XP is worthless and costly to get rid of legally and ethically, so this is a nice benefit. Even good boxes need XP licenses. Thanks to Boot Camp most Mac buyers will want to keep their XP license -- so the PC is only useful to buyers who have their own license (schools, overseas donation, etc). Without an OS the markets for even half-decent boxes are limited -- but do ask at a local donation firm. (via Macintouch)
When a customer chooses to participate in the program, Apple will send an email with instructions and a label for free shipping and recycling. Customers simply package their recyclable equipment and attach the label provided. All equipment received by the program is recycled domestically and no hazardous material is shipped overseas.
Also, if you have a dead iPod Apple will give you a 10% credit on a new one -- that could be as much as $40! for garbage.
Apple continues to offer a free iPod® recycling program through its US retail stores, providing environmentally friendly disposal of any unwanted iPod and a 10 percent discount on the purchase of a new iPod.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

iWeb 1.1: Creating new templates from old ones

iWeb 1.1x allows easy creation of new site templates. It's a big upgrade on 1.0!
iWeb 1.1: Thinking outside the template:

... Just select the name of the page in the iWeb Site Organizer, and choose the Duplicate command in the Edit menu. An exact duplicate will appear in the main iWeb window, and its name will be highlighted in the Site Organizer panel, where you can rename it if you want....

Monday, May 29, 2006

Gamma and Windows Media Photo Spec: great resource for the photo geek

Microsoft requires one to sign a EULA to view their Windows Media Photo Specification spec. I've done that, and probably given them naming rights on our first grandchild. Of course promises to all powerful unregulated monopolies don't count -- ethically anyway.

Microsoft's inevitable evil aside, it's a well written document, available, of couse, only in Word's proprietary file format (the free viewers are windows only). Nisus Writer Express opens it -- with the usual mangling. The part that caught my attention was the discussion of Gamma, something that's otherwise been a mystery (read this too). Since I don't want to spend the next fifty years chopping rocks, I'll paraphrase.

Image related devices need to make the best use of limited resources (sensor response, storage, internal data paths, processing capabilities, power utilization). To do this they have their own internal schemes for assigning numeric values to "colors" (frequencies) and "brightness steps" [1].

The color part (aka gamut) is bad enough, but with color profiles and the like there's a somewhat standard way to transform an image between viewing devices. Somewhat is the operative word here, because even in the OS X world this is done incompetently. (Forget XP -- there you have to live in Adobe.)

The brightness steps are the real nasty. The WMP spec claims that "brightness steps" are a part of the color profile, but I've never seen software handle them. These "brightness steps" are the "gamma curve".

Brightness steps, alas, are a non-linear transformation. (This is when I wish I hadn't ducked Caltech's famously nasty applied maths course, so the best I can say here is that I wonder if "non-linear" is computationally problematic.) The brighteness steps are simplified as a single numerical value representing the non-linear transformation as a "power function".

Although the Microsoft spec claims that color profiles contain information on gamma, I've never seen any image rendering software do the transformations needed to correct brightness steps based on the gamma of, say, a default Mac display setting (OS X allows me to set my display "gamma", but the appearance of the UI changes, so the UI is not being transformed to match the new display setting.).

Decades ago Apple went with a gamma of 1.8 and IBM chose 2.2. (I think Sun did something different.) I suspect Apple's choice was more consistent with the crude image technology of the 1980s and IBM's choice was a better fit for what television used back then.

Whatever the original reason, we know IBM's choice won out. An image created in a Gamma 2.2 world will appear dim and "muddy" on a 1.8 display, conversely an image created on a PC will appear bright and garish on a Mac (people prefer bright and garish to muddy incidentally). This has nothing to do with the display being "brighter", it's the mismatch between the original "power function" and the rendering device "power function".

I'd wondered if Apple would take advantage of the Intel conversion to shift to a PC gamma, but I don't think they have. Much of the Apple UI looks a bit odd in a PC gamma, since it was designed for a Mac gamma.

I run my iMac monitor with a Gamma of 2.0. The OS X UI elements don't look too bad and, if I edit my images to be a bit "bright", my pictures seem acceptable on Mac and PC. It's an ugly compromise. The one thing I'd like to see in Vista would be for it to manage gamma translation in software, but I suspect that might be computationally tricky. (My OS X 10.5 wish list is another matter -- but Jobs never gives me what I ask for ...).

I would love to see WMP succeed -- if Microsoft were to make it an open standard. I would be shocked if they did that. I am pretty confident they will be evil. In their (weak) defense, I suspect they will be paying some patent holder licensing fees somehow.

I'd hoped for years that we'd go to JPEG 2000, but it has two fatal problems. The underlying mathematics are heavily patented (thanks to Wikipedia for finally answering my question of the past few years) and JPEG encoding on modern CPUs is both computationally expensive and energy inefficient. The patent problem has loomed larger thank to our governments idiotic management of the patent process. So JPEG 2000 appears to be a dead issue. (Adobe Acrobat, btw, provides JP2K encoding as an option, it works very well for text documents because it manages edges well even with significant lossy compression.)

[1] Even I know I'm oversimplifying here. I think to really understand what's going on you need a deep knowledge of the physics of the photo sensor and be able to map the transformed output of the sensor into the odd and archaic terminology of visual perception (read this). I wonder how many people really understand the end-to-end process. I'm guessing maybe five.

Update 5/30/06
: So why don't we just update JPEG to fix its problems with 16 bit color and braindead metadata? Heck, I'd be delighted with 12 bits and Adobe XMP! I don't know. Really, it would be a huge improvement over what we have now, and really 99% JPEG with modern encoders is pretty darned good in terms of artifact and resolution. Sure the files could be smaller, but it would still a huge improvement over DNG and TIFF ... As a former manager once told me 'don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good...'

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mac backup software: SuperDuper wins again

A reader of this blog kindly directed me to a review of Mac backup software's ability to capture and restore metadata. SuperDuper did well, Retrospect and most other products did poorly. He didn't evaluate Apple's own tool -

A lot of work went into this article. Greatly appreciated.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

OS X desktop pictures: the black and white selection

There are lots of OS X Desktop pictures out there, but my new favorites are the black and white images bundled with 10.4. Most images make it hard to find my icons, so I've generally stayed with the system default. The black and white images are far more interesting, let color icons stand out very well. Practical and attractive.

WikiMapia: better when Google owns it

WikiMapia takes a Wiki approach to map annotation. Unsurprisingly, since this a neat idea, their server is now a cooling puddle of molten metal.

Hopefully Google will take it over.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Using iWeb on more than one Mac

Tech note: Using iWeb on more than one Mac

Move Users/username/Library/Application Support/iWeb/domain.sites to a share drive.

Changing workgroups for an OS X client

It's amazing what you can find in OS X Help files -- now that they actually work:
Changing the workgroup for your Mac

If your Mac and Windows computers are in the same workgroup and on the same local network or subnetwork, it’s easier to connect to the Mac from the Windows computer. When the Mac belongs to the same workgroup as the Windows computer, its name appears in the Workgroup Computers panel of My Network Places.

“WORKGROUP” is the default Windows workgroup name for Mac OS X. Using Directory Access, you can change the workgroup name on the Mac to match a workgroup name you are already using.

Open Directory Access (in Applications/Utilities).

If necessary, click the lock icon and type the name and password for an administrator user on your computer.

Double-click SMB/CIFS in the list and type the new workgroup name in the dialog, then click OK.
Some of this might be new in 10.4. I wish I'd noticed earlier. I'll post an update on all the effects.

Update 1/1/2010: In 10.6 Directory Access is no more. This control is now an advanced option in the Network Preference Pane. Open the Pane, click the Advanced button, then go to WINS to specify a Workgroup name.

When I did this in 10.6.2 I could select from a drop down, but my choice didn't "stick". I had to type it in.

Why a Mac is really far faster than a PC - irregardless of published test results

PCs pay a heavy performance tax in the real world that doesn't show up in testing.

When a PC is tested, there's no antiviral software running. Same thing for a Mac.

When I use my PC, I run Norton AntiVirus. My Mac runs bare.

How big is the hit? A backup running in XP is twice as fast with NAV disabled as when it's enabled. Twice. That's one heck of a performance penalty. I have to remember to disable NAV when I'm doing disk intensive tasks. Very annoying.

Galerie and other Better HTML Export replacements

I made extensive use of Better HTML Export to create albums from iPhoto 2 to 5. Around iPhoto 5 or so the developer sold the product and I heard no more of it. I visited the new site, but it didn't give me a warm feeling. Since BHTML Export inserted itself deep into iPhoto I needed that warm feeling prior to installation. I'm not sure it was every updated for iPhoto 6.

It turns out the reason that BHTML has been forgotten is that there were over 3 replacements. Apple made the Web export function in iPhoto 6 a bit better. Apple added iWeb integration -- an entirely new approach to the web publishing problem -- albeit a solution that at first was very .Mac centric and managed only a single site. (Only recently has iWeb become friendlier to non .Mac sites and supported multiple sites.) Utilities like PictureSync and better Web sites ( still like SmugMug) provided yet more options.

The last and best replacement, however, is Galerie. I'd looked at this years ago and I didn't like it then, but it's great now. It's free (too bad really, I prefer to see this work be compensated), works well with iPhoto 6, has lovely templates and doesn't require any intrusive plug-ins. As noted in Macintouch recently:
Galerie 5.3 works with iPhoto, iView MediaPro, Extensis Portfolio, or GraphicConverter to export photos to web pages. It supports EXIF data in web pages, picture quality selection, visitor feedback, HTML templates, watermarks, and text in generated pictures, among other features. This release is a Universal Binary and adds compatibility with iPhoto 6, an option to add a link to a photo to show its position on a Google map and satellite view (if GPS data are embedded in the file's EXIF data or by manually entering the position in a command in the photo comment), workarounds for some AppleScript problems, and other changes. Galerie is free for Mac OS X 10.2 through 10.4.
So there you go. BHTML Export was good in its day and I was happy to have paid for it, but it has been replaced. The annoying part of this story is that it's not always easy to discover replacements when favored software is sunset. In this case, as in others, versiontracker comments on the dormant BHTML Export page reminded me of Galerie.

BTW, Galerie's popup's lack scrollbars. Here's how to add them (thanks Ronald P.R.):
You can edit the used template to get scrollbars in the popup windows.

1. If the template contains a file "javascriptpopupwindow.txt", you can open it in a text editor (like TextEdit), do a find-replace, replacing "scrollbars=0,resizable=0" by "scrollbars=yes,resizable=yes" (both without the quotation marks) and save the file.

2. If the template does not contain a file "javascriptpopupwindow.txt", you can open the Galerie application package (using the contextual menu in the Finder) and navigate to Galerie/Contents/Resources/, where you will find a file "javascriptopenpopupdefault.txt". Make a copy of that file (do not remove the original from the application!), rename it "javascriptpopupwindow.txt", make the same change to it as described above and add the file to the template.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Monday, May 22, 2006

MacBook: Less useful than the old iBook?

The new MacBook is pretty enough, but in what way is it a real improvement on the G4 iBook?

The G4 came with AppleWorks (can open Excel spreadsheets!), ran classic apps, and was underpowered for Aperture. The MacBook doesn't include AppleWorks, can't run classic, and is not approved for Aperture or any of Apple's pro apps. The G4 worked with the chargers and power connectors that came with my G3, the MacBook has an expensive and proprietary charger that's only available from Apple (lockin!). The MacBook runs hotter than the G4 and has a shorter battery life.

Sure it's faster, but if faster doesn't get me the Pro apps is it really worth all that much?

There's only one real win with the MacBook. It boots XP. (Oh, and it does monitor spanning without a hack.)

The MacBook does less than the iBook, but what it does do it does faster. The only way in which it's a "win" is the ability to run XP.

That's sad.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ipod Won't Sleep: fix

My iPod wouldn't sleep. Triggered by disconnecting it from iTunes without dismounting. Reset didn't fix it. Had to reconnect to iTunes, then mount, then dismount properly. Then reset. Now ok.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Backup application built around Amazon S3

JungleDisk is a Mac/Win backup app that uses Amazon's S3 storage. Cost for 15GB of images would be about $3 a month.

I'm not sure I'd put business plans online this way, but I'm going to give it a try for backup of photos.

SuperDuper: a backup backup

My primary backup is still Retrospect, but it's creaky and buggy with a grim future. While I'm waiting for something better I think I'm going to start using SuperDuper to mirror some of my systems. Kind of a redundant backup to my backup that I'll do every few weeks. I use USB enclosure drives for my backups (two enclosures, one offsite), with the new cheap 320GB drives it's not hard to keep a couple of images as well as the Retrospect data.

PS. I am a bit of a nut about backups. In 19 years they've saved me from catastrophic data loss at least five times.

Apple is serious about iPhoto: network effects

The value amplifier once known as 'network effects' and now called 'product ecosystem' has been a huge win with the Apple iPod. Apple is building an ecosystem for its iLife suite -- years after they promised it. Better late then never:
iWeb 1.1: Create a living, growing photo gallery:

Imagine a webpage that's a gallery of family photos. Click on any one of those photos -- say, little Justin making that face where he looks exactly like Uncle Roy -- and you're taken to a page containing a whole album of Justin's baby pictures...

Here's how it works. First, pick any iWeb template (just make sure it's not a photo page template). Next, open the iWeb media browser and select an iPhoto album. Then drag the album onto the template....

iWeb takes over from there, automatically creating a separate photo page containing all the images in the album. At the same time, on the page where you dragged the album, iWeb will display the album's first image (or you can choose any other image from the album). That image will then link to the newly created photo page when you publish. Repeat the process as often as you like, dragging other albums to different locations on the page, creating new links and new photo pages each time you do. And you can keep your photo gallery alive and growing. Just come back later at any time, drag in another album, and republish."
Wow. Enhanced value all around. I may even get a .Mac account since I think iWed supports sync with .Mac rather than mere upload. Between this and the MacBook's ambiguous support for Aperture I'm resigning myself to staying with iPhoto. Now if Apple would only add #$$!$%%@#$$ merge/import of Libraries to iPhoto ...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

iWeb 1.1 - now multiple web sites

I recently blogged on iWebSites 1.1, a utility that hacks iWeb to handle multiple sites.

Today TUAW noted iWeb 1.1 has covertly added multi-site support, as well as some other features. I definitely have to play with iWeb.

Update 5/17/06: I did a quick test. iWeb does have decent support for creating links to existing pages and related files. It does not support anchors. You can't highlight text and make it a target for a link, then create a link to it.

This is a shame, but I guess links are "out of scope" for what's very much a novice-friendly product. Alas, it's no "FrontPage 98", but then nothing is any more. Dreamweaver et al are in a different product niche, FrontPage died after 98 and the residual zombie was recently (mercifully) terminated by Microsoft, and several open source FP replacements have failed my tests so far. I've looked at the various Mac web publishing alternatives to iWeb and they weren't much better than iWeb 1.1, so I'm not enthused about them. I think most of the interesting work will be in Ajax web page authoring systems; alas the vendors of those (ex. Google) have "lock-in" front and center in their business plans. No moving web sites around!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Weird IDE hard drive behavior

Last June I wrote about some puzzling experiences with some IDE drives. It was just plain weird. Every drive I tried worked fine when hooked up directly to the motheboard or PCI card IDE slots -- but behavior inside a Vantec enclosure or a Firewire enclosure was much less predictable. I ended up leaving the 200GB Maxtor Diamondmax in my IDE tower and putting the Seagate Barracuda (the best of the drives) in the firewire case.

Yesterday was phase II. I'd outgrown the Vantec removeable enclosures I used for backup and I'd bought two of the lovely Venus USB enclosures I so like. Imagine my surprise when the Maxtor failed during backup, making the same clunky sounds as it had in the Vantec! It then failed during a repartitioning and reformatting (NTFS).

I moved it to a Mac in the same enclosure and ran some intensive workouts there. It never had a problem, swallowing GBs of data. Then I moved it back to XP but plugged it into an old and reliable Orange Micro USB/Firewire card. It reformatted, did a backup, absorbed 100s of GB of data -- no problems.

Weird. I have to guess there's some stable defect in this drive that makes it very sensitive to timing issues of some sort. I'm using it for backup for now, but I'll probably replace it with something I trust more. (I'll update this post with the make of the drive I use at the office -- that one has performed flawlessly in the Venus enclosure.)

IDE drives can be weird when you put them in enclosures. Seagate's done better than Maxtor or WD in my limited trials.

Update 4/17: The Maxtor is definitely flaky. Retrospect Pro, an evil product, breaks it. It goes into some eternal seek mode where it's very busy, but accomplishing nothing. A good lesson in the costs and complexities of flaky hardware. Consumer drives are dirt cheap, but their odd failure modes may be very expensive. Unfortunately I don't think there's a "quality option" available for a consumer buyer at any reasonable price. Nonetheless, I've had better luck lately with Seagate and I'll try them again.

Update 4/17: Ouch. NewEgg's reviewers had very poor ratings for Seagate, and WD isn't so sweet either. I guess there really aren't any good options. I may go for a larger capacity drive on the theory that they might still be competing a bit on quality. Or just give up and figure it's just another example of living in the age where everything is disposable -- except time. (My theory is that we're actually experiencing a LOT of inflation in our economy, but it's hidden by shifting costs to consumers and buy shedding quality. In terms of value delivered per dollar spent, however, I think we're in 1970s style inflation -- only now it's occult.)

Update 5/27: I ended up going through Amazon's reviews. They gave the best sample of feedback, including longer use feedback. Based on that, and a guess that a newer drive would be quieter, cooler and more reliable, I opted for the Western Digital 320GB ATA IDE drive for about $150. So far, so good -- after one week of heavy use. The Seagate drives had awful rating, even though only Seagate seems to "sleep" properly in on of my external enclosures. Maxtor was pretty good, but of course I didn't want another Maxtor. The WD 320 did relatively well with a good number of comments. None did terrific. I notice Apple used Matsushita in my iMac.

Google Notebook: firefox and IE only

Google Notebook is up. Firefox and IE only. I haven't figured out a use for it yet. It looks like much of what it would do I do with Blogger.

What I want is shared workspace, not a notebook that's mine alone. I've installed it, but I'll wait and see if I can figure out a use.

MacBook Pro: An Aperture decider?

The MacBook sounds great, but will it run Aperture?
MacInTouch: timely news and tips about the Apple Macintosh:

Apple today announced its iBook replacement, the plain (non-'Pro') MacBook in both black and white case designs, starting at $1099.

The MacBook is built around a glossy, 13.3-inch, 1280x800 screen, driven by Intel GMA 950 graphics (64MB of shared video memory). A mini-DVI port drives external DVI monitors, VGA, S-video and composite video via optional adapters, offering extended desktop, mirroring or lid-closed modes.

Like its pricier 'Pro' siblings, the MacBook uses Core Duo processors with 2MB Level 2 cache and a 667MHz system bus. Standard memory is 512MB of DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-5300) on two SO-DIMMs (with support for 2GB of memory total).

The new MacBooks also build in a video camera, and other features include FireWire 400, dual USB 2.0 ports, combined optical/analog digital line in/out, 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit) Ethernet, 54 Mbps AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi (802.11g), and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), plus an Apple Remote and a 60-Watt MagSafe power adapter...
The Intel GMA 950 is not on the list of Aperture supported cards. It makes sense to have my laptop run my image management software, but I can't justify spending $2800 for a device that can be dropped or stolen (MacBook Pro). Interesting that Apple kept the Firewire support, esp. since iPods won't sync with Firewire any more.

With extended desktop support, if this device will run XP via Boot Camp or virtualization, then it moves way up on my buy list. In that case, paradoxically, Aperture moves way down.

Update: 5/16. The senior product manager for Aperture responded to my inquiry:
Aperture does run on the new MacBooks, but it is NOT officially supported, due to limitations with the graphics card. This means if you call AppleCare, you'll simply be told that you're running Aperture on an unsupported configuration. It's an "at-your-own-risk" experience.

That being said, Aperture will install and run on a least you're not disallowed from using it. No hacks needed!

And of course, Aperture is fully supported on all MacBook PRO models.

Joe Schorr
Sr. Product Manager, Aperture
An interesting twilight zone! I hope this gets clarified soon. "No Hacks" but "Not supported" suggests to me that a future version of Aperture may bring official support. Clearly Apple recognizes that the MacBook vs. MacBook Pro price gap creates an opening for an Aperture competitor.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Palm software: Handmark

Handmark feels like a relic of a bygone era -- they market PalmOS software. It's well done and easy to use. Worth keeping track of. I use my old CLIE as a kid's toy; they've gone some good games here.

Advanced and secret iPhoto 6 tools

Very weird. I wonder how these obscure capabilities were discovered. Pretty much an easter egg.
Macworld: Mac OS X Hints: Use advanced iPhoto 6 edit tools

iPhoto 6 has some nice built-in editing tools, including red-eye correction and retouch. But you can make these tools even more useful by activating a super-secret advanced editing mode. In advanced mode, you’ll be able to control the size and intensity of the retouch brush, as well as the size and ‘brightness’ of the red-eye correction tool.

Loose coupling and services oriented architecture

About 8 years ago I tried to sell the development organization I worked for on the term "loose coupling" as a way to build systems. I wasn't the only one back then, the term was floating around. The concept is as old as time, certainly older than software. I wasn't aware it was being used as long ago as 2003 to describe services oriented software design, until an Aufflick pos sent me to an older O'Reily article: What Is Service-Oriented Architecture

... Now we are able to define a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). SOA is an architectural style whose goal is to achieve loose coupling among interacting software agents. A service is a unit of work done by a service provider to achieve desired end results for a service consumer. Both provider and consumer are roles played by software agents on behalf of their owners...

... How does SOA achieve loose coupling among interacting software agents? It does so by employing two architectural constraints:

1. A small set of simple and ubiquitous interfaces to all participating software agents. Only generic semantics are encoded at the interfaces. The interfaces should be universally available for all providers and consumers.

2. Descriptive messages constrained by an extensible schema delivered through the interfaces. No, or only minimal, system behavior is prescribed by messages. A schema limits the vocabulary and structure of messages. An extensible schema allows new versions of services to be introduced without breaking existing services...
Those of us from the medical ontology (SNOMED) and messaging (HL-7 RIM) know deeply what this means. Saying "schema limits the vocabulary and structure of messages" is a bit akin to the famous processing step of "... and then a miracle occurs". Said schema, if implemented, will end up setting in stone the fundamental data model buried within the service. That lesson still lies ahead ...

XP on Mac: how do you backup?

The Apple (OS X) Boot Camp FAQ advises backing up prior to installing Boot Camp. Ok, but what about afterwords? How do I backup both my OS X work and my PC work? I don't have an Intel Mac yet, so the question is somewhat academic for me, but it bothers me that this FAQ doesn't mention it. If the XP partition is visible to OS X, and if it's FAT-32 formatted, then I'd guess that Mac backup software might work ...

The problem may be even greater for virtualization solutions. If XP is a disk image to the Mac, then a single changed byte in the XP world might mean doing a 200GB (for example) backup ...

There's no Apple in AAC - correcting the world

I knew AAC was not proprietary to Apple and that FairPlay is Apple's DRM technology -- but I thought the first letter in AAC was short for Apple. Wrong.

This MacWorld article is an excellent corrective.
Macworld: Editors' Notes: As the tech world spins...

... AAC (a.k.a., Advanced Audio Coding, MPEG-2 Part 7, or MPEG-4 Part 3) is an industry-standard audio compression/encoding technology developed in cooperation by AT&T, Dolby, Fraunhofer, Nokia, and Sony. Notice who isn’t in that list: Apple. Also notice who is in that list: Sony.

... Sony has actually supported AAC for some time. Sony Ericsson mobile phones have supported AAC playback for at least a year or two, and Sony’s PlayStation Portable has supported AAC since a software update in July 2005.

... iTunes Music Store tracks aren’t standard AAC files; they include Apple’s FairPlay DRM technology to restrict playback to iPods and a limited number of computers running iTunes, and Apple hasn’t licensed FairPlay...

Excel tip: Show formulas with a keystroke - Download Squad

Ctrl-` shows all the formulas. Thanks Download Squad.

Gmail replacing and other thick clients

The link for this post isn't completely relevant too the post, but it's the 3rd blog this morning that mentions abandoning thick email clients for Gmail. I figured I might as well mention what I do.

I read my personal email on a bunch of machines, some running XP, some OS X. Like the bloggers I read this morning I switched some months ago to using Gmail as my primary mail client.

The usual practice is to use Gmail's POP support to pull older email to a thick client periodically. That way one retains ownership of data, but I believe this also deletes the messages from Gmail. I like having my searchable archive there, where the NSA can read it most readily.

I fork my email streams instead. All my mail eventually redirects to a domain I control, it sends one stream to Gmail and one to my ISPs POP server. This does mean I need to see spam twice, but that's how I periodically discover that Gmail is sending valid email to their spam folder. (In contrast my ISP's spam filters are now excellent, I really don't get all that much spam through that route.)

Bottom line -- Gmail is really good. Other than search, it's Google's hit product.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Merging iPhoto Libraries

Apple's iPhoto does not support merging iPhoto Libraries. Apple's solution is that you should buy Aperture 1.11 and import the iPhoto Libraries into Aperture. Fair enough, and I might do that -- after 6 versions of iPhoto Library management is obviously not a priority for Apple.

Over the years I've tried and documented several hacks. None are adequate. I tried a merge with iPhoto Library Manager a while back and got some bad results, but I'm giving it another go with the latet release. IPLM has to install an evil InputManager/iPhoto Plug-In to make this work, so it's a non-trivial task. (InputManagers are the TSR*s of OS X.)

I'm only in test mode. I've copied Libraries of a few thousand images to an external drive and I'm merging them and testing. It will be a while before I merge for real -- I might buy Aperture first. So far, when merging iPhoto 6.02 Libraries, it's working better than before. A few notes:
1. It doesn't import Books, Calendars, Slideshows, etc. Those are lost. Same problem with Aperture. You can print Books and Calendars to PDF as an archival approach.
2. It changes smart albums to regular albums on import. Not a bad idea.
3. It does handle keywords, it will merge those that match. Keywords are royally messed up using older techniques.
4. You can either merge Albums of the same name or create new ones. I create new ones.
5. If there's an Original and Edited non-RAW image it imports both. (Not sure about RAW though, that's handled differently.)
6. Folders aren't copied, you just get the albums.
7. Rolls are preserved and roll names and comments are imported on merge.
8. Albums are preserved as are titles and comments on images.
9. My iMac is really working to get this done, fans going full blast. Good workout! I let it run overnight.
10. I've set the option to quit and restart iPhoto every 20 rolls. I don't trust that thing.
More testing to come, I'll update this post.
* Wow, I'm old. Wikipedia doesn't even define what a TSR is. "Terminate and Stay Resident" assembler programs were MS/PC-DOS hacks that allowed things like the original Sidekick (not a piece of hardware) to work. They were notorious for causing crashes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ars Technica likes Aperture 1.1.1

Ars didn't like Aperture 1.0. The reviewer thought it would get better - eventually - but that it was not suitable for use.

Now he's surprised by how much better it is:

Aperture 1.1 review : Page 8

Aperture 1.1 is everything that Apple should have released for 1.0 and at US$300, it's hard to say no now to this program.
Now if Apple would only process my iPod battery settlement credit correctly ...

dotMac (.Mac) has a blog

One entry describes: New easy iDisk Public folder web address

Now I can learn more and figure out if I want to try .Mac (awful name btw, can't search on it well. dotMac is what most of us write.) Smart blogs are the key to good value-added product marketing (to geeks anyway).

A LONG list of personal OS X software favorites

I love seeing lists of software that an expert user actually uses. It's worth more than a hundred 'software review' articles. It's how you find excellent software that's mature and changes little.

I know a lot of the products on this list: My Favorite OS X Only Software but there are few new ones I'll check out. The ones I know of are excellent.

iWebSites: now I need to look at iWeb

This donationware utility (via Macintouch) reminds me that I iWeb came with my iLife 06 package. I'd sort of forgotten about it since it was so .Mac centric (which meant I had to decide whether I cared for .Mac, which could take me years at my current cycle capacity). Thanks to iWebSites I can assess iWeb on its own merits.
iWebSites Home

When Apple introduced its clever iLife web design software, iWeb, they left out one important feature: the ability to load and save multiple web sites. There isn’t even an “Open” menu item under the File Menu! You can create multiple “sites” that are somewhat independent of each other, but they still exist as one file (”Domains.sites”) and cannot be separately uploaded onto different web servers or into different .Mac accounts.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Gigapixel wars: how much information is really out there

A photo of Delft is over a gigapixel resolution. You can do quite a bit of cropping of such an image.

Pick any spot, then zoom in. Eventually you'll get to the image limit. It's easy to read the license plates of cars that are barely visible in the original view. Imagine being able to search a mountain for a lost person by taking a single image, then allowing thousands to search it by computer.

There must be tens of thousands of 'screens' in this image at the highest resolution. Delft is a quiet town, but somewhere in there one must be able to find something at least a little bit improper. Try picking a street, then walking it using your mouse. Let me know if you find anything!

LaunchBar 4.1 is out

TidBITS has a nice summary. I've been using 4.1beta for ages, I guess I'll get around to updating. Every so often I adopt a new Launchbar feature, but the core functionality is hardwired to my fingers. A terrific product, I've never really been tempted to try anything else. Why mess with perfection?

Monday, May 08, 2006

How to crater XP: print a google map from IE

Here's how I cratered XP. It didn't just lock up, it died. Nothing worked, no keyboard entry, nada. I had to power cycle.
1. Enable the obscure print background setting for IE (advanced options).
2. View a Google Map in Hybrid view (sat and map).
3. Print to Adobe Acrobat (probably works for regular printer as well but I don't have time to power cycle my desktop.)
When you do the same thing in Firefox you get a smear of blurred color, but neither FF nor XP craters. Interesting lesson about the stability of IE.

The best printing browser, hands down, is Safari. IE and Firefox used to be tied, but I'd say FF is ahead now. I'll have to try this experiment with FF and Safarin on my Mac and see what happens there.

I think Google Calendar might generate PDFs to print via a PDF viewer. Given the state of the browser, Google Map probably needs to do same thing.

StickyBrain and Yojimbo: CoreData is the key difference

StickyBrain 4.1 beta brings serious features to the table - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

My main question when comparing the two will be which uses a more accessible data store. Yojimbo uses OS X CoreData, StickyBrain uses its own database store. Point and game to Yojimbo.

No more single vendor data stores. CoreData is something we can get at.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Aperture: good news

Two pieces of good Aperture nows.

First, Version 1.11 is out. I hadn't expected it for a month yet. Given the history of this product a 1.11 release weeks after the 1.1 release is a sign that Apple is serious about squashing the quality issues.

Second, Gruber has a believable story on why the 1.0 release was so awful and why it's likely Apple will get on top of the problem.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Automator does something useful? iPhoto browser

macosxhints - 10.4: System-wide iPhoto browser imap disaster - retracted?

This was transiently scary.

My wife's email is setup on two computers. Both use IMAP.

On the iBook, running OS X 10.3.9, her Mac OS X - Mail ( IMAP account is set to view messages and delete permanently when deleted on the iBook. Since 'store sent on server' and 'store draft on server' don't work with our ISP's IMAP implementation, every message she sends defaults cc to herself. BTW, if you drag a message from a local store to the inbox it vanishes forever. God knows where it goes.

On the iMac, running 10.4.6, her IMAP account is similary configured. The idea is she drags messages from her inbox when she's done with them to a local folder on the iMac. The messages are thus removed from the IMAP server.

She can thus work her email from two machines, but archives it at one machine.

Except today, after doing some IMAP work, every archival message on the iMac displayed the same error message -- basically saying that only the header was stored locally, the message itself was on the IMAP server and I needed to reconnect. Except, of course, it wasn't.

I quit and went for a walk. When I returned I tried again. All of the messages were back again.


PS. I've never done much with Today, when configuring my wife's email, I started using Smart Folders. The ability to create and chain these Boolean queries (iTunes can chain queries, can chain queries, iPhoto cannot) is very impressive. Thanks to Spotlight they update instantly. I'm setting up her email to work rather like Gmail, but is missing Gmail's ability to attach tags to messages. On the other hand has a far superior query language and powerful rules, which can include AppleScript extensions. Mail. app may not be rock solid, but it is certainly very powerful.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

My RAW image workflow

Once I decided to keep wait for Aperture 1.11 or later, I decided to see what I could do with iPhoto's 6.02's RAW capability (OS 10.4.6).

Actually, pretty well. I'm pleased. Not only that, but my new workflow is more efficient than my old one. Background details are in this post. Here's what I do:

1. All images are shot RAW. I set white balance to auto and ignore it. With those CR2 RAW files (12 bits of color) I can fix the color balance later.

2. I import all images into my 'intake' iPhoto Library. (I use iPhoto Library Manager to switch libraries, but if you option-click launch iPhoto it will ask for the Library location.)

3. Edit in iPhoto, cropping, adjust color balance, sharpness, etc. (I plan to buy Noise Ninja, that will change my workflow, more later).

4. Export as JPG (this drops color bits to 8, so it's important that the white balance has been fixed.

5. Rename using a A Better Finder Rename (this is not necessary for most.)

6. Import into my main Library, add comments, etc.

7. Put Intake Library images in the trash. Next time I use it I'll empty the trash.
I get significantly better results than I've been getting with in-camera JPG, and this workflow is really quick.

Update 5/3/06: Alas, I've come across a very annoying bug. I set iPhoto to save edited raw as TIFF 16bit/channel. When I did this and exported JPG the metadata was missing. GRRRRRRRRRR. I've turned off the 'save edited RAW as TIFF' option.

USB speakers review

Playlist's review of USB speakers is well done. I ended up liking the description of the Creative TravelSound Notebook 500, but the price is over $80. For that much I'd like to see them first. I like using iPod speakers powered by the USB cord -- less to carry!

(Note these are not USB speakers, they are USB powered! I need them for my iPod, so I don't want to waste money on an unused D/A converter.)