Sunday, September 30, 2007

Making the gmail POP migration - tricky settings

My local ISP is, I've used their email services for many years. They changed management recently however, and I don't care for their new procedures. I've decided to move away from their services; that meant my pop services needed to migrate to gmail.

Gmail is already my primary email workplace, I use Eudora primarily for maintaining a local archive. So this migration was really more sensible than my old forward from Gmail setup.

It took me a while to get Eudora working with gmail -- I kept getting timeout errors. I had no trouble with OS X, so I figured I was missing something in my configuration. Turns out I had two errors:
  1. I had to require eudora use its "alternate" port (be nice if Eudora simply let me set the port address) for both send and receive.
  2. Leave mail on server must be unchecked.
I like how it works. In particular:
  1. It doesn't matter whether I archive email or leave it in the inbox - it comes across when I access the pop service.
  2. If I send mail from eudora it's saved as sent email both in eudora and gmail.
If I send email from Gmail, it's not picked up by Eudora. So when I want to save a copy in my home archive I send it to my old visi account, there a redirect sends back to my Gmail inbox. The next time I do a pop check the message is saved to my home archive.

Overall it's a nice improvement. I mostly use Gmail and delete whatever I don't care to keep, so this will reduce the amount I store in my home archive.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

OS X "character palette" - use symbols in OS X

Years ago I put the character palette on my OS X menu bar ...
To activate this, open the International preference pane and click on the Input Menu tab. Select the check boxes next to Character Palette and Keyboard Viewer. Then select the Show Input Menu In Menu Bar option. Your region’s flag should appear in the menu bar. Click on this flag to access a menu where you can choose to open the Character Palette or the Keyboard Viewer.
I've not done much with it though. For example, if I put α into this Firefox post box, will it display properly in XP? How about ❝fancier quotes❞? Could I start writing café?

I guess I'll find out when I view this post tomorrow. Carleton college, btw, explains how to use the "favorites" feature, but it does look like I can only add favorites one character at a time.

Keyboards for Macs - don't toss the old ones

Keyboards, a longstanding Macintouch report thread, is a great source of info on Apple keyboards. Years ago I tossed out some superb old-style Mac kbs thinking they were worthless. I didn't know about the Griffin USB to ADB converter. It pains me to recall how great they were.

I don't like any of Apple's desktop keyboards at all. Sooner or later I'll bite the bullet and make do with a PC keyboard.

XP: Recent lessons from the dark side

[see update about the two "versions" of WDS and a later update as the saga continued ...]

At home I sail the often calm waters of OS X. At work I fight the fury of the storm, trapped in the XP triangle.

Now, it must be admitted that if my Dell XP laptop were sentient I'd be condemned as a cruel master. I torture the darned thing. I know few who see as much of XP and Office's brittle nastiness as I. Maybe if I treated OS X the way I do XP it would break to. (Vista? You're joking, right?)

That said, a recent flurry of cascading messes taught me a new lesson and reminded me of old ones.

  1. Sometime in the past few weeks my 75GB drive suddenly had only 9GB free. It's dangerous to fall below 20% free space on a heavily used XP or OS X system, and I think this was one of the "straws" that pushed my XP system from its usual metastable state to accelerating collapse. In retrospect I'd somehow ended up with a 5GB orphaned pagefile.sys. I couldn't see it, because I somehow had Explorer configured to not show system files [12]. I eliminated the orphaned pagefile.sys by accident [1], but I think if I'd had Explorer showing me system files I'd have seen it, and dealt with it. New lesson: always display the hidden files so you can track pagefile.sys.
  2. A combination of Windows Desktop Search [5], an unstable corporate network with intermittent Exchange connectivity failure, a 3.5 GB Outlook PST file [11], severe disk fragmentation [2], bugs with Outlook 2003 [3], my use of Microsoft's Onfolio [4], my insanely persistent use of Palm synchronization [6], Microsoft's Live Meeting Outlook Add-in [7] finally led to a system meltdown with increasingly odd Outlook behavior and, finally, OST corruption.
  3. Good news: no covert alerts of drive read/write errors in XP's monitoring tools (XP quietly tracks many disk failures without notifying even admin users) and no chdksk/scandisk/whatever-it's-called-now problems.

So now my OST file was corrupt. Happily, that's usually not a big deal and it wasn't this time either. I turned off WDS (I snoozed indexing but I think I should have disabled the indexing service using XP's service manager - it kept trying to return to life) and found my OS file in "C:\Documents and Settings\[user_id]\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook". I renamed it and restarted Outlook, which then rebuilt my OST file from the Exchange Server. The new version was about 7MB smaller than the old one (103MB) but I seemed to have everything -- including some old tasks that suddenly reappeared from the twilight zone. I then ran my series of Outlook clean-up switches [9]

Deletes the logging records saved when a manager or a delegate declines a meeting.
Clears and regenerates free/busy information. This switch can only be used when you are able to connect to your Microsoft Exchange server.
Removes invalid profile keys and recreates default registry keys where applicable.
Clears and regenerates reminders.
Restores missing folders for the default delivery location.

DANGER (don't run this one unless you need it):
Clears and regenerates the Navigation Pane for the current profile. This will vaporize your Outlook Shortcut pane

When all was done I restarted WDS and had it rebuild its index from scratch, then I set my Palm sync to have Outlook overwrite the Palm.

Another fun lunchtime with Microsoft ...

------------- footnotes --------------------

[1]I removed my cache to free up enough space to run defrag, and when I restored a fixed 2GB cache the system asked if I wanted to delete an old pagefile.sys. Then my free space reappeared. A new 160GB high speed drive is on order.

[2] XP won't defrag when free space is less than 15%. OS X is much less prone to serious fragmentation.

[3] Still, it's much better than its predecessor.

[4] XP has the world's best blog writer, Windows Live Writer, but XP's corporate-friendly blog readers are very weak - and getting worse. Onfolio was the best, but Microsoft has left it to fester post acquisition. I fear it's becoming increasingly unsafe. OS X has the opposite problem -- lousy authoring tools, great readers. Of course OS X can also run WLW in a VM ...

[5] Really, I need all this stuff. But WDS is trying to index 4GB of Outlook and hundreds of thousands of system files.

[6] If you're not a Palm addict, I beg you, don't start. Life with Palm and Outlook/Exchange is like juggling antimatter, and it gets worse all the time.

[7] Ok, so this is another straw on that broken back. I am very suspicious of that plug-in and how it impacts Outlook/Exchange behavior with an unreliable network.

[8] This is typical of whenever I regenerate Outlook's OST file. Something old always reappears, it's never been important. Bugs.

[9] I do them one at a time exiting Outlook after each one.

[10] Outlook 2003's Shorcut pane is a "pain in the ***". So dumb, yet so essential in a complex Outlook configuration.

[11] This is why WDS is not an option.

[12] This is the default setting, but I always change it. Not this time apparently.

Update 9/28/07: Wow. Microsoft is in such bad shape. After all of the above I discovered Windows Desktop Search wasn't working properly -- in ways to diverse and complex to document here.

I found that Microsoft has two somewhat different products they call "Windows Desktop Search". If you Google on WDS you will find the product they aim at the corporate sector. Don't get that version (so called "3.1").

I ended up uninstalling WDS-Corporate-individual user 3.1 I installed the version you get with Windows Live toolbar..

  1. Install Windows Live Toolbar
  2. This should install the right version of WDS. If not use "toolbar options" and "install buttons" to find and download WDS...
The version number of the "good" WDS looks like an IP address ...

Update 10/23/07: The saga continued with some improvements as noted above, but then the flakiness returned. In particular Outlook would exit with a hung process, and I'd lose network access. My employer has larded up my system with various inventory services, but, mercifully, does let me disable services. I kept working through the list, disabling various XP services but with little impact. I reviewed my list installed software, and uninstalled various apps I don't use. That' when I noticed a very suspicious Yahoo updater (don't you hate that every damned app has its own update infrastructure?) -- removing that did seem to help my startup time!

The error frequency grew, and it became apparent there was a hardware component to the debacle -- one that wasn't showing up in XP's event logs.

I hate hardware failures -- especially those the OS can't detect.

I replaced the hard drive on the general principle that drive failures are common. If that doesn't work it's time to test memory and even the video memory.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Phone won't charge? Palm won't sync? Scrape the connectors

Eons ago, when the legends coded in binary, Jerry Pournelle was forever urging his BYTE column readers to spray something on electrical contacts. It kept some kind of demonic influence at bay.

I thought of him when I recently fixed my wife's Samsung i500 and my battered Palm Tungsten E2*. Her phone wouldn't charge, my Palm wouldn't sync. In both cases scraping the metal contacts with a pin cured 'em. Crud was blocking the connection.

Now that's satisfying ...

* I know people complain about Apple's LiOn battery life, but the Palm battery died when that sucker was about 8 months old!

iPod Diagnostic Mode and failure code 702

This is why Apple is pushing so hard for flash memory. Cars in particular are murder on hard drives, and we all use our iPods in vehicles.

My iPod was starting to skip a ridiculous number of songs. It would play a a minute or two then jump to the next song. It's been years since I ran diagnostics on an iPod, but the methodShop iPod Diagnostic Mode was great. Apple's help page on "song skipping" was worthless. Once you reboot (select/menu hold) and enter diagnostics (select/rewind) with the device plugged in you use the menu and previous buttons (M25 Diagnostics 0.7) to select either auto or manual diagnostics.

I ran the auto diagnostics and got a red screen (M25 Diagnostics 0.7) with Failure Code 702, 25 fails on the automatic diagnostics. I suppose one might call this the ipod "red screen of death".

Now, one would assume Apple might help with this, but the Google Search "ipod failure code 702" fails. So does a search on Apple's "all documents" support site. it's not hard to find a reference on Apple's Discussions though -- so they're not censoring it completely.

I then did the manual test, HardDrive is under the initial IO menu (menus seem to vary with the newer devices). Options are HDSpecs and HDSMARTData. HDSMARTData showed no errors however! Specs, interestingly, told me my hard drive temperature, but nothing useful. The "NTF" option has more tests, but none mention the hard drive.

I'll try a "restore" tonight and retest, and if that fails I'll check my credit card's extended warrantee policy. The next option will be to look at some of the commercial drives, or see what Apple's built-in Disk Utility offers. I don't see a lot of net discussions on this topic, so it might in fact be a relatively rare problem. Just my luck ...

Update: Looks like there's a semi-radical approach I can try
  • mount iPod in disk mode and run disk utility to repair
  • do a factory reset/restore via iTunes
  • test with both OS X Disk Utility and the built-in diagnostics
  • if it still fails, reformat as HFS+ via Disk Utility and follow these restore directions.
  • if it still fails at that point it's probably toast.

Update: No, it's not likely the hard drive. The drive passed every test I threw at it, including OS X Disk Utility. I even zeroed out the entire drive, reinitialized, followed the restore directions, etc. I always get the same red screen and error message:
M25 Diagnostics 0.7
Failure code: 702 with 26 fails
I suspect it's the SDRAM, not the drive.

Update 11/9/07: It's been a few weeks since my original post, but nothing has turned up anywhere to explain this error code. On the other hand, my iPod hasn't been skipping at all, even though the test results never changed.

My best guess is that this is a count of bad sectors on the disk, but that the OS normally masks out the bad sectors. So they represent some lost capacity, but when I restored my data to the drive it went to the good sectors.

It's weird that this is genuinely undocumented, it's the sort of geeky thing that one expects to find an easy answer too.

I did receive a comment about audio problems with a 'red screen of death' test. Mine is not having those problems, it seems fine now.

Update 5/12/2009: No further problems occurred, so my above fix worked for this particular 702 problem.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Interesting comment on scanning color negatives

Color negatives are hard to scan. This is rarely mentioned ...
Scanner Review: Microtek ScanMaker i900

... Converting color negatives to positive is a black art. We discussed it at length in two Advanced articles, explaining what the orange mask does and the proper way to account for it. Fortunately, Microtek's two software solutions both include advanced negative conversion modules that, if nothing else, are excellent starting points. SilverFast Ai includes NegaFix and ScanWizard Pro has a similar feature, as does VueScan...
In my experience, given limited time, you may get better seeming results from a high quality print than from a negative -- especially if the negative is old. Color is funny.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Epson vs. Canon scanners: who has better OS X support

I'm thinking of getting a flatbed scanner that will do at least 12 35 mm negatives in one batch job. I want to pay under $600. It seems my choices are Epson and Canon.

I could check review sites, but they're almost always worthless. There's another way to make a choice. Which driver software is most compatible with OS X? The first place to check is the relevant support sites.

Epson has some dated material on their site, but they at least have a page outlining scanner support that was current as of 10.4.4. I liked the long list of scanners that work out of the box with OS X Image Capture. The current V700 PHOTO has universal drivers tested through 10.4.9 and is directly supported by VueScan without drivers.

Not bad. Now lets look at Canon. I've previously written about the horror of a CanoScan install, and Canon's printer drivers are notoriously ill mannered. (HP? You're joking, right?)

So they're off to a bad start, but let's try Canon's 8800F page. They have software, but nothing about Intel, Universal, OS versions, etc. Not good. Vuescan won't work with the 8800F unless the Canon drivers are installed. Not good. OS X support page? Minimal.

Gee, that wasn't so hard. I didn't have to look at a single product review.

BTW, if you want a review, this is the best I found for the V700. Scanners aren't changing very much, so I'm comfortable buying at the high end. The Nikon slide scanner I bought 3-4 years ago is still current today.

Update 9/24/07: Product Recommendations from Ed (vuescan) Hamrick (emphases mine):
Best 35mm film scanners: Nikon CoolScan (all models) - good color, good quality, fast

Best low-end flatbed scanners: Canon LiDE 20/25/30 - small, inexpensive, get power from USB [jf: but horrid OS X drivers]

Best high-end flatbed scanners: Epson Perfection 4990/V700/V750 - fast, good quality

Best A3 document scanners: Epson GT-15000 and GT-30000 - reliable, good quality

Best raw file software: Adobe LightRoom - reads VueScan's Raw DNG files (Apple's Aperture doesn't)
Another point for the V700. So Canon is out completely, but Epson isn't completely unchallenged, because now I'm adding the Microtek i900. BTW, I found this bit of the review very useful:
If you scan a 35mm film frame at that resolution, your maximum enlargement for a 300-dpi dye sub printer is 4x6. To get an 8x10, you have to be able to scan 2400 dpi...
That's a nice reference to ahe at hand. To do a 35mm scan comparable to a modern dSLR the resolution would have to be at least 10,000 dpi, which probably exposes the limits of film.

Update 9/24/07: I was very tempted by the Microtek i900, but it turns out that they have a serious customer service problem ... They sound like a pretty small company. So if the device has no problems it might be the best scanner on the market for its price range, but if anything goes wrong you're out of luck. (I do love Amazon's reviews, esp. the 1 star reviews ...)
... Microtek customer "service" was anything but helpful. In fact, they have ONE technical support person on staff--I know because I spoke to him several times.

...I contacted the service department for Microtek who send you to an online repair service that will give you an email response in 48 hours. Turns out that the unit that I paid over $500 for is out of warranty and there is NO repair service for Microtek in the United States!

... I almost bought the i900, but wound up buying the i800 instead. You can read my full review under the i800 page, but basically I've had a pretty terrible experience with this company. My scanner suddenly broke after a couple of months, and the only way to contact their tech support is to wait until they email you back which seems like it takes anywhere from three days to two weeks. My replacement scanner had very dirty glass on the inside surface...
Update 1/6/08: The Epson V700V750 is still their flagship product. This technology doesn't change much any more! An excellent UK MacUser review summarizes strengths and weaknesses. After market negative holders might be indictated.

Clarkvision: Digital Workflow Summarized

I found ClarkVision via Kotke, I've posted about both on Gordon's Notes recently. This ClarkVision description of workflow is noteworth because the author is an uber-Geek (MIT PhD planetary physics), an astronomer, and a super-serious photographer. The combination yields an almost unequalled knowledge of digital photography details.

I also like it because, it's consistent in many ways with my far more modest experience. I do a lot of these things, but I sacrifice quality for speed and portability. Also, use Aperture image editing, not Photoshop.

I don't agree with his approach to metadata (file names, nothing more), but I sympathize with the goal of avoiding lock-in. I'm making a calculated guess that the mass of photo geeks will provide a solution to save my metadata; until now iPhoto and Aperture both support writing applications that could extract most metada (if Aperture were able to export XML/XMP sidecars I'd be almost sanguine ... but, ominously, it doesn't).

Here are excerpts, the article is a great read ... (emphases mine with some inline comments]
Clarkvision: Digital Workflow

... I scan all my film at the full precision of the scanner. Good scanners are at least 12-bits/channel. The output file is 16-bits per channel TIFF images. I do the minimum processing at the time of the scan and save corrections for the photo editor where I have more control. Scan parameters include:

* Straight-line transfer curve.
* Brightness correction only.
* Little to no color correction...

... Digital Cameras. I do both jpeg and raw format output. Jpeg is only 8-bit, while raw on many cameras is 12 bit and a few now have 14-bit output. Raw files are converted to 16-bits/channel TIFF files... [jg. I use RAW in Aperture, no TIFF conversion.]

... In the photo editor

* 1) I only do 16-bit editing. If the starting file is 8-bit (e.g. jpeg), the first step is to convert to 16-bits/channel. [jg. If you work with RAW in Aperture this isn't an issue ...]

o Why? with integer math, there is always round-off error of 1 bit.... If you do multiple editing steps, added errors can result in poor intensity precision with an 8-bit file. This is called posterization. 16-bit editing provides enough precision so that posterization is not a problem....

* 2) Color Space. Check the color space and convert to a wide color space if not already there. I generally use Adobe RGB 1998.

* 3) Adjust Levels. First adjust the brightest portions of the image to your liking using the levels adjustment tool. For example, in a landscape image I might examine the brightest areas of the images, like clouds and adjust the levels adjustment slider so that the brightest parts just reach a value of 254 or 255 on the 8-bit scale typical of the slider tool. ... This levels adjustment is done on the entire image.

* 4) Curves Adjustment. The next step is curves adjustment using the curves tool. Never use Photoshop's contrast and brightness adjustment tools as they are additive. The curves tool, like the levels tool is a multiplicative tool. Multiplicative has the correct math to mimic changes in scene brightness, exposure, or f/stop changes. In the levels tool, the upper slider is used to derive the multiplier, and lower slider is an offset (a subtractive adjustment), and the middle slider changes the multiplier to a 2-part piecewise line multiplier.

* 5) Dodge and Burn selected regions. Select different regions as desired that may be at the limits of dynamic range and dodge and burn to bring them into printable range. For example, bring up shadow detail, or darken clouds. First select the area with one of the selection tools. Next feather it. Feathering makes the selection area a smooth transition to the rest of the image. Once feathered, adjust the level with one of the three following tools:
o Curves tool,
o Levels tool, or
o Shadow highlight tool.

* 6) Increase Image Size. If I'll be making larger prints, I'll interpolate the image to a higher pixel count. I usually use bi-cubic or bicubic smoother interpolation in Photoshop. [jg: this surprises me. It seems a bit magical, but this guy knows his stuff. This one item suggest how sophisticated modern Photoshop is ...]

* 7) "Sharpen." The main tool many use is called unsharp mask, a filter. But unsharp mask does not actually sharpen! The way unsharp mask works is that the image is blurred using a certain radius, and then the original image is differenced with the blurred image, and the result is added back to the original. The effect is to modify contrast around edges. The amount added back is usually controlled by the user (called amount in Photoshop). The effect is actually a change in acutance, not sharpness. But increased acutance gives the appearance of increased sharpness.

However, there are other methods that actually do sharpen. I use Richardson-Lucy image restoration. Photoshop currently does not have this tool.. [jg: Aperture has two sharpening tools, I use Edge Sharpen but I don't know how it works ...]

* 10) Save the file. Depending on my intended use, I save as a 16-bit/channel TIFF files, or convert to 8-bits/channel and save as jpeg. For best quality, 16-tiff files are necessary. I only save as jpeg at highest quality and only when I do not need highest quality. [jg. I never need his quality, so I always save as JPEG, highest quality, for maximal longevity. I work with RAW in Aperture and toss 'em when I'm done. (The Horror!]...

Flash picture with eyes open? Divide by 3

I think this rule applies to flash photography, but the idea is universally applicable. Flash is not long for this world ... fortunately.
Rule of thumb to avoid photographing people with their eyes... (

... to avoid photographing people with their eyes closed: divide the number of people by three (or by two if the light is bad). ... Jeff writes: 'Way back when we only used film I learned you could tell before looking at the photo whether someone blinked by asking them what color was the flash. If it was white or bluish white, then their eyes were open. If it was orange, then their eyes were closed and they had 'seen' the flash through their eyelids.'

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Image Capture for Scanning: the 2nd most underestimated OS X application

Preview is probably the most underestimated OS X application, but Image Capture is close second. For years I've tinkered with a scanning workflow simple enough to outsource to my mother. I came close with Vuescan, but, really, it's still too tricksy.

Today I set my 8yo up with Image Capture, which I'd only recently realized is Apple's OS X scanning tool. He's keen to earn some Lego money, so I told him I'd pay 5 cents for each scan.

I plugged in my old Epson 1660* and Image Capture recognized it immediately. (Had I installed drivers years ago, honestly I don't recall. Most scanner manufacturer software is horrid, so I try to avoid it.)

The scanning worked like a charm. It was very fast at 300 dpi, a bit sluggish at 600 dpi (a new scanner would be faster, no doubt, with only a few bugs and missing features:
  1. Image Capture won't remember settings between sessions, but it does remember them during each session.
  2. If you keep the default name of "scan" it increments each scan with a number, but I don't think this works correctly if you change the default name. No matter, I used 'A Better Finder Rename' to embed date metadata in the file names. Keep the default.
  3. The "auto" image improvement setting produced poor results. Manual has quite a few settings (similar to Preview's image editing tools) but I chose None since I was going to edit the lossless scans in Aperture and export archival JPEGs.
  4. Don't use PNG. It works fine in Image Capture, but Aperture has trouble with PNG thumbnail creation. It's clearly a bug. I should have just used TIFF, I'm not keeping the TIFF anyway.
  5. I had IC set up to launch Preview to view each scan, but sometimes it fails to launch. A bug, so I just turned off Preview. It slowed things down anyway and the confirmation wasn't necessary.
Ben's not used to real work, so he started to lose interest after the first 25 scans. Unfortunately I chose a pack that had pictures of his brother in it pre-Ben, I'd have done better with one that starred Ben. I know he wants a Star Wars Lego, so I'm confident he'll be back to his slave labor, though I may have to go to 7 cents/scan.

Here's Apple's blurb on Image Capture, note the reference to Apple's abandoned (they abandon a lot of their tech, it's surprising nobody calls them on this) "Services". iPhoto doesn't even show the Services menu, and Aperture shows it but doesn't support Services ...
Apple - Mac OS X - Image Capture

... Just plug in your digital camera or scanner and you can now directly import your pictures from any application that supports Services and Rich Text Format. All you have to do is choose Services in the Application menu and select Import Image. Image Capture lets you download all or any portion of the contents of your digital camera, crop images to a variety of sizes and delete unwanted pictures from your camera. And you can be sure that your captured images remain true to their source, because Image Capture embeds ICC profiles in the images you download or scan.

Want to share the bounty of your digital images? No problem. Image Capture lets others access the contents of your digital camera or scanner over a Bonjour network. Or create an Automator workflow to send photos to the parents.
The Automator workflow sounds interesting, but really there's not much to improve on from my point of view. It would be amusing if Image Capture were able to pull images off my despised Motorola RAZR phone via Bluetooth, but I loathe the phone to much to bother testing.

*Scanners aren't improving all that much, these are print scans, for the serious work I co-own a semi-pro Nikon film scanner.)

Repairing a corrupted home directory image

Apple tells how to repair a home directory image: Mac OS X 10.3, 10.4: FileVault - How to verify or repair a home directory image. I've never used this solution because it makes backup a mess, and it's one more thing to go wrong. Instead I keep a few key files in a small encrypted image. Still, it's good to know there are some fixes for image corruption.

BTW, if you use an encrypted image file, better be sure there's another admin account on your computer ...

Photo exposure tips

I used to know this stuff -- back when SLRs didn't have batteries. I'd forgotten most of it. The 1/ISO rule doesn't apply in the age of image stabilization ... (via Kotke)
Twelve Essential Photographic Rules - - PopPhotoSeptember 2007

1. Sunny 16 Rule
The basic exposure for an average scene taken on a bright, sunny day is f/16 at a shutter speed equivalent to one over the ISO setting...

2. Moony 11, 8, and 5.6 Rules [shooting the moon]
... full moon is f/11 at one over the ISO setting...

4. Anatomical Gray Card
... Hold your open hand up so it's facing the light, take a reading off your palm, open up one stop, and shoot...

5. Depth of Field Rules
When focusing on a deep subject, focus on a point about a third of the way into the picture to maximize depth of field...

7. Exposure Rules
..."Expose for the highlights, and let the shadows take care of themselves."...

11. Action-stopping Rules
To stop action moving across the frame that's perpendicular to the lens axis, you need shutter speeds two stops faster than action moving toward or away from you...

12. Sunset Rule
To get a properly exposed sunset, meter the area directly above the sun (without including the sun). If you want the scene to look like it's a half-hour later, stop down by one f-stop, or set exposure compensation to minus one.

Online identities: management and multiplication

FMH sent me to this post summarizing online identity management tools: 25+ Ways to Manage Your Online Identity.

Identities on the web add up quickly. Identity management is the "next big thing" and the gold rush has been underway for years. It's a fierce battle.

I currently have manged "major" identities at Amazon,,, Google Gmail/Blogger, LinkedIn, and, yes, even Facebook -- and those are only the ones I can remember right now. I debated including my Yahoo! identity in the mix, but unless Yahoo does something remarkable with Zimbra that's just a front for spammers. I do have a Microsoft Passport (or whatever they call that now) identity as well, but I try to forget that one. I used to have a .Mac identity, but Apple's .Mac hasn't delivered much value for money so that one is in abeyance. There are a myriad of "unmanaged" lesser identities, and of course all my emails have some form of identity associated with them ...

None of these net identities belong to my banks, who own my rock-world identity. Ok, so I have a US Passport, and Canada probably still counts me too.

Eventually I'm going to put links to all the managed digital identities on my page, if only so I can keep track of what's publicly revealed on each profile. Amazon in particular makes it easy to unwittingly reveal information, fortunately my reading tastes are rather dull.

BTW, John Gordon, in case you can't tell, is a pseudonym.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Big google search improvement: date range

Matt Cutts tells us that Google's advanced search now offers real date range search -- but then tells the real secret -- how to craft URLs that embed time-based searches:
Useful Google feature: better date search:

...This little tweak is as handy as “&strip=1″ on cache: queries and “&filter=0″ on site: queries. Why? It’s an easy way to see new urls that Google has just discovered in the last few days.

For example, there’s been a lot of fast progress on iphone stuff recently. A query such as would show all the new urls for the query [iphone source code] within the last day, because d1 stands for 1 day.

Suppose you wanted to see all the new urls that Google found on your site within the last 7 days. For the domain, I’d use a query such as to find those urls (remember, “d” stands for days and “7″ stands for, well, 7).

Previously, you could check whether Google had indexed a new url by (say) searching for content from that url, so this isn’t completely new, but it still simplifies life for site owners.

Honestly, this is big. The one thing I most wanted from Google search was date range information; many technical searches are frustrated by scads of outdated articles. The challenge will be to see if they can keep this working despite the best efforts of the usual parasites ...

PS. The iPhone source code example is cute.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Google is indeed working on the broken Picasa Web Album iPhoto plug-in

They could do a better job of communication, but Google's photo sharing site has apparently not abandoned their OS X (iPhoto) customer base:
Picasa web albums: not for OS X

... A Google Picasa [web album] developer commented ... The good news is that he's actively working on an update that will announced on the Google Mac blog....
Update 10/15/07: It took two months and Google never changed their download page to notify users it didn't work, but the new version is out.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Picasa web albums: not for OS X

I'd been very fond of Google's Picasa web albums, but about a month ago the iPhoto '08 broke the Google (Picasa) Export Plug-in. It's been a month now and there's been no official admission from Google of the problem and no fixes.

It's time for OS X users to look somewhere besides Google. Too bad the .Mac photo sharing doesn't support full res upload/download. I'll be looking around, suggestions welcome!

Update 9/15/07: A Google Picasa developer commented on my blog, see comments. The good news is that he's actively working on an update that will announced on the Google Mac blog. I don't agree that a single, increasingly buried, comment on the help forum counts as sufficient notification of the problem -- Google should have updated their download page. I haven't come across any alternative I like as much as Picasa web albums, so with this additional notificaton I'll keep waiting.

OS X users: How to get your NBC

I don't watch network TV.

Well, that's not completely true. The other night I was stuck in a Hilton DoubleTree, and, as is often the case with Hilton, their Net access was down. My only reading material was densely technical, so, for the first time in years, I turned on a television. In 30 channels, there was nothing I could tolerate for more than 30 seconds.

So I don't care whether or not NBC's TV shows are available for me to watch. Some Mac users, however, are probably annoyed that NBC's solutions are strictly for Windows.

In that spirit, CNET tells us how to pirate how to pirate NBC. I'll shed no tears for NBC ...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

10 Immutable Laws of Security (Microsoft)

An excellent Coding Horror post, about which I'll comment later, pointed to a handy (Microsoft?!) set of security principles. I omitted the stupidly obvious ones that were added so they'd have a list of 10 (Microsoft!):
Microsoft TechNet: 10 Immutable Laws of Security

Law #1: If a bad guy can persuade you to run his program on your computer, it's not your computer anymore
Law #2: If a bad guy can alter the operating system on your computer, it's not your computer anymore
Law #3: If a bad guy has unrestricted physical access to your computer, it's not your computer anymore Law
Law #4: If you allow a bad guy to upload programs to your website, it's not your website any more
Law #5: Weak passwords trump strong security
Law #6: A computer is only as secure as the administrator is trustworthy
Law #7: Encrypted data is only as secure as the decryption key
Law #8: An out of date virus scanner is only marginally better than no virus scanner at all
Law #9: Absolute anonymity isn't practical, in real life or on the Web
There's nothing here that should be novel to any geek, but it's a nice set to be able to reference. Law #3 is the one most people forget. Even Macintouch fell into the trap of thinking a hack that allows admin access to any OS X machine was a major security breach. That hack requires physical access, so the admin workaround is a trivial security breach. (OS X user account encryption will provide decent security, provided you don't put the password in your keychain!)

Also, Law #8 is a bit dated. Most geeks are giving up on virus scanners for XP/Vista, and OS X doesn't need one (yet).

What is the FullCircle folder doing in my OS X Application Support Folder?

In the process of debugging some very, very annoying Firefox 2.0/Adobe behaviors, and purging my MacBook of anything to do with Adobe (more on that later) I came across a folder called "FullCircle" within my "Application Support" folder. It had MozillaCamino strings in it. What the heck is that, I wondered ...

It's part of the Mozilla feedback/crash reporting system, and it's used by both Camino and Firefox (and probably Mozilla/Netscape too). For example:
Mac OS X 10.4.2: Questions And Answers:

To troubleshoot, I would delete the Firefox and FullCircle folders from / Users / [user] / Library / Application Support, and search for a Mozilla folder or files (on the entire boot drive) and delete them, too. Repair Permissions again, reboot, and then the same problem.
This was surprisingly hard to uncover!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A blog dedicated entirely to calendar interoperability

This guy's been beating the drum for calendar interoperability in a dedicated blog since June 2005!
Calendar Swamp: Calendar swamp is born

When you're up to your necks in appointment alligators, it's hard to remember the original job was to drain the calendar swamp.
Wow, this guy is persistent! I truly sympathize, though I don't have his endurance. I'll definitely add him to my bloglist.

Why the iPhone doesn't do tasks: a theory

Why doesn't the iPhone have the capabilities built into the @1990 PalmPilot? Why can't it do tasks or notes properly? These core functions are the among the demands I list on my non-tech blog:
Gordon's Notes: iPhone: my demands:

... Tasks at least comparable to the 1994 PalmPilot tasks.

Synchronization with Outlook at least comparable to the modern Palm OS (in other words, flawed, but useable). A 256 character limit on contact comments is not acceptable...
My working hypothesis has been that Apple hates me, but maybe I'm taking this a bit personally. Another theory is that the Apple has decided this stuff all has to migrate to the net and they've decided to speed up the process by eliminating all alternatives.

A third explanation occurred to me, and a bit of research supports it. Scott Mace, who has an appropriately despairing blog about calendar sharing and synchronization, mentions that the iPhone's calendar synchronization with Outlook is very weak. That's a clue.

Outlook is a the 8,000 pound Mastodon in the world of calendars, tasks, and contacts. It's the immovable object, and it's not simple to synchronize with. Outlook has a very complex and kludgy way of implementing these core concepts, and Microsoft leveraged that complexity to destroy Palm. Apple may have a few Palm veterans in Cupertino, people who are warning them about what it means to try to manage tasks, appointments, and contacts on Microsoft's turf.

Most iPhones will sync with XP and Vista machines, and eventually with Outlook 2007. If Apple wants this to work half-decently (meaning better than Palm), then the iPhone has to approach contacts, tasks, and appointments in a way that's a reasonable match to a subset of Outlook functionality (the most used fields, for example). If the iPhone does this, then OS X must to.

Problem is, Apple has iCal and the (very peculiar) Address Book on OS X, and they're nothing like Outlook. So Apple needs new versions of iCal and the Address book, but that's not going to happen on 10.4. That kind of change can only come with 10.5, perhaps with a new approach to synchronization.

So my latest tortured theory predicts that Apple won't add new PDA/PIM functionality to the iPhone before OS X 10.5 ships (supposedly in October, though I doubt it will be stable before April). If I'm write we'll see something @ Jan 2008.

Friday, September 07, 2007

New iPod video out has DRM protection built in

Apple tightens the DRM screws ...
Apple locks TV Out in new iPods, breaks video add-ons

... Without disclosing the change to customers, Apple has locked the TV Out feature of the iPod classic and video-capable iPod nano, preventing users from outputting iPod content to their TV sets [jf: except via Apple authenticated devices] as has been done in years past. Going to the Videos > Settings menu brings up a TV Out option that is now unresponsive when clicked, showing only the word “off.” When locked, video content will display on the iPod’s screen, but not on your TV or portable display accessory.

Presently, the only apparent way to turn this feature on is if you connect your iPod to a device with an Apple authentication chip built in. Authentication chips are only available in Apple products, and in a handful of products made by Apple-licensed third-party developers
This is a DRM move, I suspect it's related to Apple's desire to deploy HD video to iPods. This is good, it will teach people some valuable lessons about DRM ...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

SMARTReporter: a free drive monitoring application for OS X

I'm going to try this one. From macintouch:
SMARTReporter 2.3 attempts to warn of impending hard drive failure by polling the SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) status technology built in to most modern hard drives. This release now prints more information about the checked disk to the logfile, improves handling of hot-plugged disks (eSATA), fixes some crashers, and makes other changes.

PictureSync: photo service IDs and metadata mapping

There are five people in the universe who'd find this discussion noteworthy: PictureSync » metadata.

I'm one of 'em. Synchronization is harder than most people imagine.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The problems with Picasa Web Albums

I pay Google for my Picasa Web Album storage.

For this I get:
Picasa Help - What are your technical requirements for uploading videos?

Video uploading is only available through Picasa.
and no status updates or acknowledgement that iPhoto 2008 has broken the Picasa Web Album iPhoto plug-in.

I'm definitely feeling like a second class citizen on Google's Picasa web albums.

It doesn't help that Google Video is out of order today as well - no uploads (server failure).

.Mac is looking better these days.

Google Earth Flight Simulator

GE includes a flight simulatory game ...
Flight Simulator Keyboard Controls - Google Earth User Guide

This document describes the various keyboard combinations that you can use with the flight simulator features of Google Earth. To enter the flight simulator mode, press Ctrl + Alt + A (Command/Open Apple Key + Option + A on the Mac). Once you have entered flight simulator mode for the first time, you can re-enter the mode by choosing Tools > Enter Flight Simulator. To leave flight simulator mode, click Exit Flight Simulator in the top right corner or press Ctrl + Alt + A (Command/Open Apple Key+ Option + A on the Mac)...

Desktop Pictures: the quality source

Sometimes Google can be dim. Search on "desktop pictures" and you get a lot of sites that, at least to me, aren't very useful.

On the other hand, the old "About this Particular Macintosh" site maintains a Desktop Picture archive that's free and excellent. A bit of a hidden gem I guess.

Personally I prefer gray scale images because color images make it hard to find my desktop icons, but I'll try switching some of these to gray scale. The one exception is that in XP at work I use Microsoft's desktop manager, and in that setting I reserve one environment for desktop operations. The other two can have full color backgrounds, and I rely on the backgrounds to tell me what environment I'm in. I'll be using these ...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Apple's iClip 1.0 (iMovie '08) shaft: what they should have done

iClip 1.0 (aka Movie '08) is a nasty trick. It has real promise and some real innovations; with another year of development it could be a great application. It needs a real media management solution, probably extending some of the approaches Aperture takes to managing a media library. iPhoto doesn't cut it as a media management solution. It also needs some of the core functionality that once belonged to iMovie HD. Most of all, it needs another year of work.

In fairness to Apple engineers, maybe it originally relied on functionality that was part of 10.5, and what we see now is a hack designed to work on 10.4. Or maybe it was supposed to be much more than it is, and as schedules slipped Apple threw it out the door in desperation.

Alas, it may well be a great commercial success. That happens. It doesn't change the shafted feeling iMovie HD users are going to experience.

The honorable thing for Apple to have done would have been to provide iMovie HD users with an upgrade path to Final Cut Express (which might also require some updates to FCE, I'm not sure how serious Apple is about that product). In a bit more detail, this is what they could have done:
  1. Announce iClip (iVid?): a promising solution for rapidly sharing clips stored in iPhoto.
  2. Announce that iMovie was, regrettably, being discontinued.
  3. Let iLife '07 users have the option of a $75 transition to Final Cut Express. Some would choose to spend their money on FCE instead of iLife '08, others might choose both.
If Apple had taken that route I'm sure some users would still grumble, but they'd be spared the nasty reviews. There's still time for them to reconsider.

Sad Apple moments: Apple abandons file reference indirection

I think the single greatest innovation of the original MacClassic OS was the implementation of unique file identifiers.

Instead of hard coded paths and file names, files were identified by permanent unique identifiers. Applications called the Toolbox to get the current path as needed. Files could be "moved" (renamed, relationship to folders changed, etc), but references didn't break. Everything just worked (as long as the files stayed on the same physical drive).

Since Apple migrated to OS X they've been moving away from this. I looked a few months back and could find almost no documentation of indirection at the file system level in OS X HFS+. Increasingly Apple's applications seem to require fixed paths.

Apple's warped iClip (called iMovie '08 by Apple) is another nail in the coffin for indirection:
Gordon's Tech: iMovie '08: How the heck is it supposed to work?

As an experiment I relocated the iPhoto Library that iClip (iMovie '08) was referencing. I found, again, confirmation that Apple has abandoned file redirection in favor of hard coded paths.
Somewhere an group of former Apple engineers are mourning a great contribution that has been pointlessly abandoned. Whoever you are, wherever you are, thanks team. I appreciate what you did.

Update 2/26/09: A Stack over flow question pointed to the an Apple tech doc on The "/.vol" directory and "volfs" that demonstrates how badly this key innovation was hurt in the switch to OS X:
... This directory is used as the mount point for the "volfs" file system. The "volfs" file system is a key component for supporting the Carbon File Manager APIs on top of the BSD file system. Historically, BSD systems only allow you to access a file or directory by its POSIX path. However, the Carbon File Manager API also allows you to access an item by its catalogue node ID (CNID, a file ID reference or a directory ID). "volfs" provides a bridge between these two models, allowing the Carbon File Manager APIs to work on top of the BSD file system.
So Apple hacked BSD to enable file IDs with OS X, but Carbon is their deprecated API and file IDs are tied to HFS, a decrepit file system. I wasn't able to find mention of a Cocoa API for accessing CNIDs...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

iMovie '08: How the heck is it supposed to work?

So how is that never should have been released "iClip" (so-called iMovie '08) supposed to work?

This is my best guess, after making a movie from some digital camera AVI files:
  1. The clips are stored in iPhoto. (Despite my previous comments that Apple appeared to be abandoning iPhoto as a mixed media store.) This is pretty odd since iPhoto almost ignores AVI files, can't export them, can't share them, etc. Nonetheless, this is how iMovie/iClip expects to work. It has NO facilities itself for managing an clip store, it only manages references to clips. Now do keywords between iPhoto and iClip? I'd be amazed if they did.
  2. The outputs from iMovie (.mp4, forget those other formats) are to be stored and managed in iTunes. Not in iPhoto.
Now if you think about this a while, your first question will be ... how the heck do I move an iClip project, or a set of clips, from one machine to another?

Very good question.

My guess is, you can't. Ever. Move. Anything. Otherwise, all the projects will break.

Is it easier to use with clips than iMovie '07? Minimally, maybe. Once you learn the weird UI and application model you can throw something together very fast. You can also draw from a large number of clips for a series of different outputs. On the other hand, iMovie was far more powerful than iClip, and you could actually backup, restore and move your projects between machines.

iMovie isn't as big a fiasco as, say, Vista, but I'd line up to throw a (harmless) pie at a cartoon of the iLife product manager ...

PS. It's not been much remarked, but this is the first Apple software that has Intel only features. The newest digital video compression formats are supported only on Intel.

Update 9/2/07: As an experiment I relocated the iPhoto Library that iClip (iMovie '08) was referencing. I found, again, confirmation that Apple has abandoned file redirection in favor of hard coded paths. The video files were still on the local drive, but iClip could no longer find them.
The following Event used in this project is not currently available:
iPhoto Videos - MN State Fair Sept 1, 2007
The portions of the project which reference this Event will show black frames.
Update 3/25/2008: A Flip Video experiment exposed what a lousy product iMovie '08 is. Any longtime Mac users would expect that iMovie '08 would be able to import any video source that QuickTime can recognize.


iMovie '08 imports DV, .mov (quicktime) and MPEG4. It doesn't leverage QuickTime's infrastructure.

This is a truly miserable product.

iMovie '08: It's so unfinished that ...

iLife 2008 iMovie is so unfinished that there's no help entry for "join clip". "Join Clip" is the name of an item on the Edit menu.

iMovie 2008 would have been ready around October. Yech.

OS X 10.5, btw, won't be ready until April 2008. My prediction.

Update: The string "join clip" doesn't appear in the PDF tutorial either. It's as though the feature wasn't implemented, but Apple forgot to remove it from the menus. I'm starting to feel like the Emperor has no clothes and I'm the only one who's saying anything ...

Update: I figured out by experimentation what split clip does. If you move a clip to a project, then click and drag to select a portion of the clip, you can then split that portion out. If I could ever figure out how to select more than one clip at a time I could probably join them, but again the help file is useless.

How to uninstall an iPhoto plug-in

I had no idea there was an official uninstall, I'd previouslly opened the package and deleted inside the plug-in folder:
Picasa Web : Frequently Asked Questions

We hope you love Picasa Web Albums Exporter for iPhoto, but we won't be mad if you want to uninstall it. Here's how:

* Quit iPhoto if it's open.
* In the Finder, open the Applications folder.
* Click iPhoto once to select it.
* Choose File > Get Info to open an Info window.
* Find the section of the Info window labeled Plug-ins. If necessary, click the little triangle for Plug-ins to see the list of items in that section.
* Scroll through the list until you find PicasaWebAlbums.iPhotoExporter. Click that entry to select it.
* Click Remove.
* In the scary alert box that appears, click Continue.

Apple needs more QA testers: Version XIXXIII

Apple doesn't have enough QA people. Maybe Apple's culture disdains the entire idea of QA testing. Grumph!

Latest episode. The Child account on our machines has a locked Dock. When I installed iPhoto 2008 Apple's own installer stuck an iMovie icon on the locked Dock. I can't remove it unless I escalate the Child account privileges, remove it, then restore them. A real nuisance.

Apple needs a knock on the head about QA.