Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Retrospect 8 for PPC

I've been waiting for this. I'd like to move backup off my old XP box to my not-quite-so-old G5 iMac ...
.... As promised in March, EMC released Retrospect 8.1.148, which brings PowerPC support to the latest version of the venerable Mac backup software. The release also offers increased performance, interface enhancements, and important bug fixes....
I'll give it a month or two to settle down.

How can I create a local copy of a Sharepoint wiki?

I asked this one on Microsoft TechNet (seems to have replaced their usenet groups):

How can I create a local copy of a Sharepoint wiki

I'd like to have a local copy of the wiki pages on my hard drive so it's available when I'm offline. The links and editor don't need to work, I just need to be able to feed it to Windows Search so I can find the wiki material.

I've tried a couple of offline browser products to see if I could havest the page, but so far the results have been mediocre. I also tried accessing the wiki list using Access 2007 to see if I could get at the files (documents) attached in the list. No luck.

I'm a SP administrator, but I have no server access.

Is there any way to get a local copy of the wiki?

I think the answer is “no”, unfortunately. For me this is the biggest drawback of Microsoft’s Wiki implementation. (Number 2, curiously, is the absence of a “paste as text” option. The rich text editor gets hopelessly confused by formatted text.)

Update 7/6/09: The Colligo suite of products provides offline access to a lot of SP content. Unfortunately, they’re just starting to look at support for the wiki content. Their application architecture is not ideal for this purpose however.

The Colligo application suite is designed to support offline editing and synchronization of SP content. That’s a very ambitious goal, and it’s easy to see why they need to use a proprietary database to store content and to hide the data from ‘backdoor’ manipulation in ‘…. Local Settings\Application Data\ColligoOfflineClient\Storage5…’.

Sadly, this doesn’t fit that well with Microsoft’s oddball Wiki implementation. I’d like to be able to view the Wiki pages in IE, to have local links become ‘relative links’ (so they work against the local store), and expose the data to Windows Search. None of that works with the proprietary store. (I don’t care about offline editing as much as having an offline store, so the main value of the Colligo architecture doesn’t apply to me.)

Lastly their HTML viewer is just a placeholder for future work, it’s keyhole view of the Wiki data. Of course they’ll improve this, but the other challenges are tougher.

There’s not a lot of alternatives however. I’d go for it if Colligo were to add an export feature that would create a static HTML view of the wiki data on demand.

Update 11/2/09: There's still no answer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dumb: iPhone OS 3 changes the screen lock while phoning behavior

I've verified this. It's a really dumb change Apple made with the OS 3 update:
Macintouch - iPhone/iPod Touch Platform: OS 3
... It took me some time to figure it out, but in my experience, OS 3.0 will use the top button to hang up when you use the iPhone as a handset. Prior OS versions let you lock the phone, and only hang up when you hit the scary red button.
The feature isn't without its inconsistencies. If you use the iPhone with a headset or as a speaker phone, it still behaves as prior versions, locking the phone rather than hanging up when the top button is pressed.
My opinion: it will take some getting used to, and may even be useful as a quick hang up when its a handset (i.e. when you're done with a call, just hit the top button to hang up while its next to your ear.) However, my opinion is that the mere inconsistency of this potentially unwanted and unexpected behavior is a serious minus. If you have a conference call or call-waiting, I don't know what to expect.
Unlabeled and obscure features were a thing other smartphones do with their plastic buttons, not the iPhone. It should be left to the clearly labeled red button. I expect it to revert to the old behavior with 3.0.1.
One of the few downsides of the iPhone as a phone is that it's incredibly easy to accidentally disconnect a call, especially when you're using an earset or the speakerphone. The red disconnect screen button is very sensitive.

So I was delighted when I learned the power-off button would blank the screen when I was on a phone call. I use it all the time.

Since I mostly use my earset I wasn't aware the behavior had changed. If you use an earset, it still works properly. Otherwise, it's a problem.

Bad Apple.

PS. Macintouch is a great place to learn about bugs and issues with OS 3 and with the 3GS. I can confirm my 3G's battery life has fallen sharply, but that might because I've enabled Push notification for Beejive. I haven't noticed the Wifi and network issues others report, but I usually connect to an Apple Airport.

Radical approach to fixing an iPhone sync problem

If you're really stuck with an iPhone sync problem, this Macintouch advice might be useful to have on hand ...
iPhone/iPod Touch Platform: iPhone 3G S

...Regarding my problem syncing my 3GS iPhones with my iMac G5 - I finally figured out the solution by doing all of these, in order:

1) Completely remove iTunes files: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1224
2) Remove Apple Mobile Device Service files: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1747
BEFORE rebooting. Then:
3) Reboot
4) Empty Trash
5) Reset sync history: http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1627
(ran the perl script in Terminal thus: /System/Library/Frameworks/SyncServices.framework/Versions/A/Resources/resetsync.pl full )
6) Reboot again
7) Reinstall iTunes from the current download (v. 8.2 at this time)
Lots of wizardry here, including resetting the sync history.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Things for task and project management: fastest product evaluation ever

My evaluation of Things - task management on the Mac went like this:
  1. Visit site: note price $50
  2. Download trial and launch: 2 min
  3. Look for (missing) import and export functionality: 2 min
  4. Open empty help file: 1 min (might be OS X bug)
  5. Delete app
Who would be crazy enough to put all their tasks and projects into a tool that had absolutely no data mobility options?

IPhone charging from a laptop - changes for the better?

I first blogged about charging my cellphone from a laptop back in 2004 (Palm too). Later I charged my iPod as well. It's worked reasonably well over the years, but recently things have changed for the better.

I used to plug my iPods and iPhones into my corporate XP laptop when they needed a charge at the office. Back in the day I had to install iTunes associated device drivers to get the laptop to power the USB port, and that meant iTunes was prone to try to seize control of the iPod.

That's bad enough, but now our corporate XP boxes are so fragile I'm grateful to get through the day without a new IT disaster. I don't dare add something as potentially disruptive as iTunes to the witches brew of antivirus, configuration management, surveillance, encryption, firewall and antimatter that infests our laptops. (It takes two cores just to run the security layers.)

So when my iPhone faded on a plane flight, I didn't have much hope. Still, I connected it.

Yes, it charged. Not only did it charge, but it charged faster than with a conventional USB charger -- even before I put it in airplane mode. I've read that modern laptops deliver much more current than the USB spec suggests, so maybe I wasn't imaging things.

I don't really know what's changed. Maybe the iPhone was always able to register as a camera and thus engage the USB port's power. Maybe iPhone OS 3 makes the difference. Maybe it's the new laptop, perhaps USB ports now provide power even without a device driver request.

Whatever, it works. So it you haven't tried charging your iPhone from your corporate laptop, give it a try. It might just get you through a day of heavy iPhone use.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Apple is again messing with Apple IDs – pay attention!

I have a .mac Apple ID. That’s what all my DRMd iPhone apps and my music is tied to. It’s no longer a valid email address, I got it back when that’s how Apple IDs worked.

Apple has messed up their Apple ID system multiple times over the past two years. Looks like they’re about to make changes again ….

iTunes Store: About Apple ID and Password

Your Apple ID and password are two key parts of your Apple Account. You can use your Apple ID and password in iTunes to sign in to the iTunes Store, buy content, and authorize items you've purchased. If you already have an Apple Account, you can use your existing Apple ID and password to sign in and buy and authorize items you've purchased from the iTunes Store. Your Apple ID must be a valid email address, for example "steve@me.com." Your password must be at least six letters or numbers, and is case sensitive.

You can change your Apple ID, password, or personal information at any time by signing in and clicking View Account at the My Info page (http://myinfo.apple.com).

Changes you make to your Apple Account while you're in iTunes are also recognized by other applications where you use the same Apple Account (for example, the online Apple Store, MobileMe, or iPhoto). You may be asked to verify your information the next time you use your Apple Account to purchase something in another application…

What’s new here is they’re documenting what happens when you change you Apple ID. In theory you can now revise your Apple ID “while you’re in iTunes”. But wait, the My Info page is viewed from a web browser, not iTunes. They’re not really saying that you can change your Apple ID and it will all work nicely with iTunes and the App Store.

Be afraid.

Be very afraid.

Credential transitions are the sort of thing people screw up routinely, and Apple has a record of botching it.

AIM on iPhone: push notification – and a big bug (bonus Gmail bug too)

AIM, AOL’s iPhone instant messaging client now now has Push notification services. So I bought a copy to play with it ($3).

I logged in with my old AIM username – it still worked. Then in Google Gmail Chat I liked my Gmail chat to the AIM account. That’s supposed to link chat buddies and the like.

I sent a few IMs back and forth from Gmail chat to my iPhone. That worked. I updated the status message on AIM/iPhone – that didn’t seem to propagate to the status message in Gmail Chat.

Then I clicked on the “Contacts” icon within AIM/iPhone and ….

It blew up.

Ok, so it just crashed. One time it actually launched GV Mobile, my iPhone Google Voice client, and it tried to open GV Mobile contacts. Mostly it just exited.

So that’s interesting.

Of course, being me, there are several kinds of bugs that could be in play

I’m not a Gerserker on the desktop any more, but I guess on my iPhone I’m still on the edge.

I reported the bug via the iPhone App Store client ‘bug report’ button.

Update: There's a special bonus Gmail bug as well! You can sign into AIM from your chat settings, but you can't sign out from there. You have to find the sign out button hidden in your Chat drop down. I tried signing out of AIM on Gmail but that didn't fix the 'crash on touch' bug with AIM Contacts.

Update 2: Beejive 3.0 with push is now available. WTH, I spent $10 on that. I don't want to use my AIM credentials anyway; Beejive works with GoogleTalk credentials. I should have tried the ad-supported version of AIM first though! I'll give AIM a few days to fix things then I'll try requesting a refund through iTunes support.

Monday, June 22, 2009

OS X parental controls still broken in 10.5.7

I checked after the 10.5.7 update. The Parental Controls log is still broken,
if you set the range to anything more than 1 month you get no results:

Alas, it doesn't end there.

In theory you can use parental controls to configure managed accounts so that a managed user can change their password.

In practice, when I do that, the managed user cannot click on the Accounts PreferencePane (it's grayed out). So the setting to enable password change does nothing.

Lastly, if you switch a user from managed to standard so you can change their login password and keychain password together, OS X loses all the allowed and disallowed websites configured in Parental Controls. If you switch back to Managed User you start over.

Apple's Parental Controls have been broken in every version of OS X I've used. I think they last worked in Mac Classic version 8 or so.

Why, oh why, can't we customers be more demanding?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Google's Exchange services now support 25 calendars on iPhone OS 3

In the odd parallel universe I live in, most of the hyped iPhone OS 3 features have been pretty unimpressive.

On the other hand, the features nobody is talking about are pretty nice. I now have my Google, Work and Personal iMac contacts all living together on my iPhone. The Work/Personal are coming in from my desktop (iTunes) sync, and my Google Contacts through Google's version of Microsoft's Exchange (ActiveSync for Mobile) Service.

I currently sync my iPhone Calendar (grrr) only to Google's Calendar, that hasn't changed since last March or so. What's new is that until today there was a 5 calendar limit on what you could sync:
Gordon's Tech: Google saves my iPhone
.... I chose my sync calendars (config site is http://m.google.com/sync [1], you must visit it from an iPhone). I actually ran up against the 5 calendar limit (my work, emily calendar, my personal, MN Special Hockey and US Holidays), but that's good for now. The 5 calendar limit appears to be related to an iPhone bug....
I actually need to sync about 7-8 calendars, so I've been waiting for a fix. Today I looked and the new limit is 25 calendars. Much nicer.

[1] Google documents this feature, but it's not easy to find. If you don't go to this mobile-only page you'd think you can only sync your primary Google account calendar to your iPhone. In fact anything that you can display on your Google Calendar can go to the iPhone. I think you can even turn off sync to your primary (default) Google Account (Gmail) calendar.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Project Contacts: iPhone 3.0 means I hack away at Google Contacts, and discover another rough spot

In my last installment of Project Contacts (Launched 2/14/09) I discovered that copying my Corporate (Exchange server/Outlook) contacts to a PST file converted email addresses from EX (x.500) to standard SMTP. I brought the PST to my home Outlook (on XP box) and then used MobileMe Sync to get the work contacts nicely integrated with my iPhone and my iMac.

That took me 70% of the way to getting my Contacts mega-mess sorted out. The cost was a subscription to MobileMe (later canceled within 30 day limit) and some modest manual updating [1].

I figured I’d wait a bit before tackling the last bit of the Contacts mess – my Gmail Contacts. I need to merge them in to my OS X Address Book repository [2]. Google is supposed to migrate to a more sync friendly format (structured names), but it’s going slowly. I figured I’d wait.

Then I got iPhone OS 3. The one good feature so far is that I can sync my Google Contacts to my iPhone via Google’s exchange server support while ALSO synching my OS X Address Book (with work and home) to my iPhone.

I did that and ended up with thousands of duplicates, but this isn’t as bad as it sounds. They were segregated by account. Still, it made phone searching pretty slow.

So I spent an hour slogging away at Gmail cleanup. I removed a large redundant group of about 800 contacts, then hand deleted another 200 or so. The 30-40 minute process reminded me that I’ve lived a fairly long time already; some of those names had pretty old memories with them (they still exist in my main contacts – I was just deleting unwanted redundancies).

The good news is that Google’s Contact Merge feature works quite nicely. The bad news is that every time you delete a contact, the screen redraws and you start over again at the top of the Contacts List. Sigh. More evidence nobody at Google uses the Gmail we use.

So now I’d say I’m 77% of the way to completing Project Contacts. I’m waiting now for Google to compete their structured name transition and for Spanning Sync to be suitably updated. Then I’ll start working on the last step. On my iPhone, at least, I do have every Contact at hand at all times. That’s progress.

[1] Turns out my work Contacts don’t change all that quickly, so for various reasons I won’t go into I don’t actually need MobileMe to manually copy changed Outlook Contacts to my iMac. I am probably going to get MobileMe for other reasons however.

[2] Address Book is the least weak of Apple’s astoundingly unimpressive desktop PIM suite, but it’s still not an ideal repository.

Update: I was so pleased with Google's Contact Merge feature I decided to try the same feature in OS X Address Book. Oops! Address Book's Merge is completely automatic. In Gmail Contacts you can review the merged record and revise it or reject it. In almost every merge I did make some corrections. OS X Address Book just executes the merge, it doesn't even identify the merged records. Damn, but Apple sucks so abysmally at everything Palm was good at.

Update 12/23/10: I've been using Spanning Sync, MobileMe, Address Book OS X, iPhone Contacts and Google Contacts all more or less in sync for about a year.

Converting Eudora email

I have a large archive of email on my XP machine, all of it Eudora 7, an application that was last supported in 2006. You can still download the XP version, but the Mac download appears to be broken.

I need to migrate it to my Mac, but it's a tricky process. I don't like the odd ways OS X Mail.app handles an email database (mostly to support Spotlight search) and I fear crushing Mail.app with the archives.

So I'm researching conversion options, not for the first time. This Thunderbird kb article outlines several options. I'll be doing more research and updating this thread. I'm not particularly concerned about conserving the address book.

Once I get it converted and tested I'll look at dumping the IMAP setup I currently use with Mail.app to get my email from Gmail and possibly regress to a simple POP configuration that's less messed up by Google's peculiar folder emulation.

I'll do my test conversions with a special purpose user account I can delete after I'm done testing.

See also:

iPhone 3: Bad, yawn and good

Apple really does have some kind of mind lock thing going.

Here's the antidote -- what's bad, yawn and good about iPhone 3.0. I'll update it over the next week or so. The functional updates are actually very limited, so we'll have to see what third parties do.

  • The maximal interval for a meeting reminder or alert is still two days. Every other calendar app on every other platform in history has better functionality.
  • Byline, one of my favorite apps, is completely unstable if you view by source. I'm sure we'll find other problems. In some cases the updated apps may have more problems than the older, non-updated apps.
  • Some UI glitches even in newly updated 3rd party apps. These should get fixed soon. Evernote is particularly troubled and even slower than before. I've kind of given up on it.
  • Extremely dumb change to the screen lock while on phone behavior.
  • Battery life reduced on iPhone 3G - especially if subscribe to push notifications.
  • Problems with iPhone 1 may be pretty significant. First generation iPhone users probably should not upgrade.
  • More issues with Wifi connectivity.
  • Worsening AT&T service, but that may be due to the 1 million plus new iPhone 3GS models crushing AT&T's cruelly burdened network.
  • Spotlight is good for finding contacts, appointments and finding apps in the crummy iPhone "Finder". It's not clear, but I suspect 3rd parties can't use it.
  • The Voice memo is nice enough, but they should have used all that space for a giant record button (for car use). My old VoiceRecord.app is better, so I'll stick with that one.
  • Thanks no doubt to the Palm Pre, I can now sync my iPhone with both my Mac Contacts and my Google Contacts (via Google's Exchange service) and keep the two sources distinct. This is a very large benefit for me. I do hope to get a single source for my Contacts but this feature is worth the update all by itself.
  • A bug fix in OS 2 means Google's ActiveSync service can now sync up to 25 separate Google Account calendars to your iPhone.
  • It doesn't use up any of your precious storage space. The OS is stored separately, so even if it's bigger your usable memory is unchanged.
  • When you install new apps, instead of messing up all your screens it creates a new screen between the first and 2nd (unless you hit the maximal number of screens).
  • iPhone is now a better podcast player
  • I updated sooner than expected because the new versions of my apps required the update. I haven't yet had the kind of disastrous problems I expect with major Apple product updates.
  • Moving the App icons between screens is much easier. No more bumping repeatedly trying to force the iPhone to jump screens.
I've yet to test all the old bugs, like the bizarre behavior of Calendar and Contacts Notes fields with large notes (like airplane itineraries).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Byline – the better version of Google Reader Mobile

Once upon a time there were several excellent Windows feed readers. They’re all dead. We’ve got some good ones left for the OS X desktop, but there I’m very happy with Google Reader.

On the iPhone I’ve been using Google Reader Mobile. It’s pretty good, but it has some obvious and subtle flaws.

The subtle flaws have to do with the read/share/note/star workflow and the back and forth between the reader web app and web views of blogs.

The obvious flaw is that it’s dependent on my network connection and Safari performance. It’s useless on a plane and it can be slow even on my WiFi network.

I stuck with Google Reader for many months, but about two months ago I went to Phantom Fish’s Byline, an iPhone extension to Google Reader …

…. Simply use your free Google Reader account to subscribe to websites you’d like to keep track of. Byline will automatically bring you new content, putting thousands of RSS and Atom feeds at your fingertips.

When you read an item, it stays read. The same goes for the items you star: Byline will let Google Reader know the next time you have an internet connection….

… Even when you have no internet connection, Byline’s offline browsing feature gives you instant access to complete web pages.

Perfect for flights, subway journeys, and (if you’re an iPod Touch owner) those long dry spells between Wi-Fi zones…

It works beautifully. In addition to the marketing blurb above, I really appreciate the way Byline uses WebKit to display external web page views within the Byline context.

This is a superb piece of software. It’s fast, reliable, elegant, efficient, and it even manages the promised sync trick (a rare achievement). I move seamlessly between Google’s desktop web app and Byline.

I think I paid $5 to $10 for Byline but it’s worth more. It’s my most heavily used iPhone app. The one improvement I’d like is a a “read all” link at the top as well as the bottom of the scrolling list – but that’s a minor quibble.

The acid test? I showed it to someone who’s never used a true Feed Reader of any sort and it made her despise her BlackBerry Pearl more than ever.

Obviously, recommended.

Now, the extra credit question. Why does the iPhone have a superb “desktop” feed reader and Windows has none? I’ll hazard my answer in a future Gordon’s Notes opinion posting. Hint: Sometimes DRM is your friend.

Update 6/20/09: New version has been completely unstable for me on OS 3. Avoid updating if possible until a fix is out.

Update 7/24/09: They've tried to fix the bug I found over 3 releases, and they're only about 80% there. Byline only crashes if you group by feed, so I no longer do that. I wonder if the company lost the author of the app, and is now struggling to fix it. It's hard to reconcile their slow progress with the original quality of this app.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Picasa web albums uploader for OS X now downloads entire albums and more

Google's Data Liberation Front marches on. I didn't even know of the Dec update ...
Official Google Mac Blog: Upload Your Photos, Download Your Albums

... In December, the Picasa Web Albums Uploader added support for downloading a photo album to your Mac. We've recently updated the Uploader to include the ability to download all photos from all albums in your account. To start the download, sign in to your account with the Picasa Web Albums Uploader application and select the Existing Album tab. Holding down the Mac's Option key will change the title of the Download Album button to Download All. Then one click will bring all of your albums home.

This update also improves reliability of the uploader's iPhoto export plug-in. The uploader typically keeps itself up-to-date, but you can also get the latest version, 1.3.1, from the download page...
This is why I like Picasa Web Albums.

Very nice. Viva La Data Liberation!

iPhone 3.0: Apple fixes tune scrolling

I was briefly tempted to install iPhone 3.0, but I checked Macintouch. Lots of issue reports, so I'll wait at least a few more days. I'm trying to be strong.

Meanwhile, I read that Apple fixed something I'd found very annoying. The iPhone is now a better iPod, especially for podcasts ...

... Previously, while listening to a song, you had a simple dot on the song bar to rewind or fast forward. But now in the 3.0 update, you can scroll through songs at various speeds. Put your finger on the scrolling point and it will start glowing. Now, if you drag your finger left or right, you will scroll through the song at 'high speed,' and if you do this movement while dragging your finger down the screen, the speed decreases to 'half speed,' 'quarter speed,' or 'fine scrubbing'...
Navigating a podcast is pretty annoying on iPhone 2.0. I often miss my iPod scroll wheel. I really appreciate this particular fix.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Windows Search 4: Cannot select drive or folders (grayed out)

I recently reinstalled Windows Search on a freshly imaged corporate XP laptop.

I was dismayed to discover that the only thing showing in my “Indexing Options” / “Included Locations” list was an unused Outlook Express account. When I clicked ‘Modify’ to get to “indexed Locations” and “Change selected locations” (notice some labeling inconsistencies here?) Outlook didn’t show at all and all but one uninteresting folder on my C drive were mysteriously grayed (greyed) out.

The Outlook problem went away with a restart and a review with Outlook running. I’m having complex and intractable issues with Outlook/Exchange authentication, so I can’t make too much of this one.

The mysteriously unselectable grayed out C drive folders persisted however, and the Windows Search 4.0 Troubleshooting Guide was of no use. My clue came when I clicked down into the tree display. Turns out the UI is misleading; even when a folder is gray it may contain searchable subfolders.

Once I saw that, luck played a role. By chance my mouse rested on folder, and a yellow contextual popup appeared. The message told me the folder was not marked for indexing.

Aha! The original disk image was flawed. Somehow the default “allow indexing service to index this disk” had been altered. I opened the context menu for the C drive and checked the appropriate box.

Windows Search 4 now worked.

Update: Incidentally, the machine transition revealed that I'm utterly dependent on Windows Search. I can no longer work without robust full text search and a powerful collection of search operators. A new dependency ....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Configuring Outlook 2003 to use Contacts for email in an Exchange Server environment

I recently had to migrate to a new machine using old Office software (don’t ask), so I had to rediscover how to fix a common problem with Outlook 2003.

When you first start Outlook 2003 in an Exchange server environment it’s not configured to look for email addresses in your Contacts folder.

If you right click on your Contacts icon you’ll see, somewhere in a mess of tabs, one that says “Outlook address book”. In it you’ll find a checkbox “Show this folder as an e-mail Address Book”, but it will be grayed (greyed) out and uncheckable.

Turns out, as described here, you need to …

  1. Tools/E-mail accounts
  2. Choose “View or change existing directories or address books”
  3. Click Add …
  4. Click Additional Address Books

You should then see an option to add your Outlook Contacts. I suspect, however, you can’t add any old Contacts folder from a PST file, it must probably be the Contacts folder you synchronize with Exchange server.

Once you do this if you return to Outlook the check box will no longer be gray and Contacts should be checked.

Windows Live Writer: moving between machines (yech)

I love WLW, but it has an Achilles heel. On XP it’s pretty much impossible to move your configuration data between machines.

Of course that’s true for almost all of  Microsoft’s products, but we expect better of WLW. On the other hand, I hear rumor there’s a configuration migration service built into Vista (some OS), so maybe it works fine there.

I found out about this after I switched machines. I have the old data of course, but I’ll just migrate manually. It would be nice if the WLW were to build in a migration utility, but for now here are two somewhat useful references:

There’s some accessible data in ..

  • C:\work\My Weblog Posts (path will vary)
  • C:\Documents and Settings\[userid]\Application Data\Windows Live Writer

You might imagine you could copy your older WLW posts and drafts to C:\…\My Weblog Posts and WLW would be able to browse and search them, but that doesn’t work. It can open them if you double-click on them, but there’s a cache/index missing somewhere.

Happily, if you copy our old posts and drafts into the new WLW folders (ex: C:\work\My Weblog Posts) and delete the XML cache files WLW will rebuild them and find all your draft and new posts.[1]

[1] I got messed up here because when I forgot to point the “My Documents” folder to my personal file store. So WLW was only looking in My Documents. I copied the data from My Documents then pointed My Documents to c:\work then launched WLW.

Update 6/17/09: Corrected my mistake about posts recovery.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why is Safari 4 so slow, when the beta was fast?

Safari 4 feels much slower than the beta version. I often run into typing problems on my MacBook -- I type far ahead of the cursor when working with Blogger's Gmail's rich text editor.

I never ran into that with the beta version.

Did Apple mess something up?


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Deep dive into the Palm Pre

An escaped image is giving techies a deep look into the innards of the Pre. Turns out the PalmOS is based on OpenEmbeddded Linux which in turn incorporates OpenZaurus which is descended from the 1990s Sharp Zaurus PDA.

And you thought the PalmOS was built new in 2 years. Not so. The genius of the thing is how much GPL software it contains.

The Pre continues to please, with positive reviews from Mac folk like Scott Gruby. Maybe I'm not the only one who needs a phone that excels at basic PIM functions (see Andy, I'm not always a market of one). I think Apple made a mistake blowing off the entire personal productivity domain.

One big caveat however. I fear the cloud. The Pre is a cloud phone -- it syncs with Google, Facebook and other Cloud properties. That's a problem for me.

Nisus Writer Pro 1.2

Three years ago I wrote a review of Nisus Writer Express. I recently updated to last November's Nisus Writer Pro 1.2 so I figured I'd supplement my original review.

In general, I'm a contented user. I wish I could use it more, but most of my printed writing is done with Word on an XP box. I use it for limited writing on OS; I've never really given it an acid test.

Over the years I've had two medium and one big issue with Nisus.

The first medium issue is that earlier versions didn't manage Word .DOC images well. Nisus would open the document, but when it saved the documented the images were not compressed. In particular, Nisus did not implement even PNG compression. I don't know if this is still a problem, but I've never seen mention of a fix.

The second medium issue is that even at NW Pro 1.2 you still can't save in Open Document Format.

The major issue is that the 10.5 update broke Nisus Writer Express and Nisus didn't provide a free fix. NWE was the only significant Mac app I use that didn't work in 10.5. It smells like Nisus was doing something programmatically fishy, and so they ought to have provided a free patch.

On the other hand Nisus uses RTF as a native file format, so Nisus documents are more likely than any other word-processing format to be readable in 10-15 years. The Style implementation (Pro version) is simple and excellent (aside: spit upon the Beast), and now that moving Navigator/TOC entries moves document blocks is a very reasonable outliner as well. It's the closest thing to an integrated wordpressor/outliner I've seen since FullWrite Professional. (MORE, bless its heart, was fundamentally an outliner -- though it was a better word processor than most.)

One of the strengths of OS X is that we have choices about word processors. Microsoft Word of course, but also Pages, Nisus Writer (Express and Pro), Mellel, and about 3-4 others (honorable mention to MORE's reincarnation - OmniOutliner). Nisus Writer's RTF support, style sheets, performance, and outliner features mean it's worth a close look by anyone who can avoid Word.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Making sense of Google's user created "My Maps"

I've long been frustrated by the awkward design of Google's personalized May Maps. The service feels crude, and I'm unsure how long the data will stay around.

Today I decided to try and learn a bit more. I recommend the introductory video (a very young sounding narrator) and I really recommend "Browse the directory". Turns out that's not, as I'd imagined, a directory of maps (why should it be?). It's a directory of Map tools that make "My Maps" much more useful.

I'd like to see what I can do in terms of Minneapolis St Paul trails, and maybe get some use of the msptrails.org domain I registered a while back.

Update: Well, I gave it a good try, but it's still a toy. For example, there's no way to edit a map you've created; you can't revise or extend a line. I'll wait until Google puts a bit more energy into this one.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Migrating my MacBook to a 500 GB drive

I'll try to update this with a bit more detail later, but I want to write this minor post while the details are fresh.

I upgraded my MacBook Pro from a 120GB Fujitsu to a 500 GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue drive (totally bare from Amazon, just the drive in a plain brown box). I followed the directions provide by Apple, this is not a hard procedure.

I bought the 5000 rpm drive because I mostly care about reliability, low vibration, low temperature, and capacity. From what I read in this older MacBook the 7200's effective performance boost is very small and some 7200 drives have quite a bit of vibration (seems idiosyncratic).

I won't repeat Apple's directions, except to say they left off one little bit. I think this set of directions is more complete.

Briefly then ...
  1. I considered creating a disk image clone on my PPC iMac then using firewire disk mode on the MacBook to clone the image over. Andrew, who is generally reliable, warned me of some issues related to using a PPC to clone an Intel Mac drive (endian?).  I had a very cheap 2.5" USB enclosure I'd used with a 80GB drive; it worked perfectly well with the 500 GB drive. I did discover that Intel and PPC Macs use different partitions for their boot drive. Intel Macs default to GUID partitions, PPC default "Apple partitions". So maybe that's the difference Andrew warned of. I did all the partitioning and cloning from my MacBook.
  2. I used Bombich Software: Carbon Copy Cloner [1] to clone from my MacBook. It took about 2-3 hours; it would have gone faster if I'd remembered turn off spotlight when cloning.
  3. Apple's directions omit one key step and tool. You need a T8 Torx driver to remove the metal shell that's wrapped around the disk. Maybe if you buy the replacement drive from Apple it comes with the shell? Anyway, if you have a Torx driver it's an easy task, but if you don't you're stuck.
  4. Apple's not kidding about the metallic foam shield that's glued on the RAM cover you remove. It's not easy to get the shield back on, you need a non-magnetic plastic card to push it down so you can get the metal band back into place.
The first boot seemed to take an eternity. It was much longer than usual. I think the systems was adjusting to the new drive. Once it started it rebuilt some caches then completed. I almost gave up -- so be patient.
So far so good. The drive is quieter than the original Fujitsu and it feels more responsive (could be imagination, it's a 5,000 not a 7,200. I might put the original in my mother's Mac Mini, though if I'm going to bother with that hard to service job I might as well buy another 500 GB drive.
Now I can carry more media around, and I can play with more virtual machines...

[1] CCC is free and comes from a trusted developer. It now incorporates ads. Since users spend a lot of time checking up on the CCC process this is a fantastic ad platform. I donated $10 via the web site. I rarely use CCC, so I try to make a donation each time it works for me.

The Newton lives in the iPhone's CPU

Not exactly news, but still worth noting. The Newton's CPU lives on in the iPhone ...
AppleInsider | A closer look at iPhone 3G S Cortex-A8 ARM and PowerVR chips 
... The Cortex-A8 class is referred to in general terms as ARMv7, not to be confused with ARM7, which was actually a third generation ARMv3 used in the Apple eMate300 a decade ago. Previous generations of iPhone and iPod touch used an ARM11 processor, part of the ARMv6 generation.
Apple partnered with its British equivalent Acorn in the late 80s to adapt Acorn's RISC processor for use in mobile devices, forming the ARM partnership. Apple subsequently used a third generation ARM6 in its first Newton MessagePad in the early 90s...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Experiment with VMWare -- for free

I have sinned, but I have seen the light.

Now that I've joined the Church of the disposable image, I need to catch up on some basics. I've been using Fusion and Parallels w/ Windows 2000 on OS X, but the Windows VM world is new to me. So I'll have a few posts on that topic.

Since I've committed to Fusion on the Mac I'm experimenting with VMWare. Their primary end user product is VMWare Workstation, which is inexpensive for academics. This appears to be similar to Fusion on OS X. There's a generous 1 month free trial.

The surprise, however, is that you don't actually need to pay any money at all to do quite a bit with VMs. Both VMWare Converter and VMWare Player are free. VMWare Converter (Windows) will convert an existing machine, such as an XP machine, to the VM format and VMWare Player will execute these images. [Update: OK, not quite! See below.]

This isn't something VMWare markets. VMWare's web site doesn't list VMWare Converter as a possible source for VMWare Player images and even the VMWare Player wikipedia article doesn't mention this.

VMPlayer (Windows) will run their "appliances". -- and more besides ...
... Open Microsoft virtual machines, Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery (formerly called Live State Recovery) images, Norton Ghost 10 images, Norton Save & Restore images, StorageCraft ShadowProtect images, and Acronis True Image images. In this process, the initial virtual machine or image is left untouched in its native format and any modifications are saved in a much smaller VMware-formatted file that is linked to the initial image...
So you can turn your existing Windows environment into a VM and play with it - for free. I think you can also run a VMWare 6.5.2 VM on Fusion but I'm not sure of that.

There are a few VMWare Player limitations, it doesn't enter full screen on startup unless you tweak a setting and it's essentially undocumented. I've also run into device driver issues, I can't see how to install the VMWare tools for example. It's really a bit of a toy but it's free. There's an upgrade mechanism to VMWare Workstation

If you want to download the Win 7 RC .iso file and turn it into a VM without installing it I think you'll need VMWare Workstation -- though if you have VMWare Fusion maybe you could prep it on the Mac then move it to VMWare Player.

VMware Converter comes with lots of documentation. Cough. Actually, it appears to be about as undocumented as VMWare Player. Must be a corporate policy.

I think there are two ways to run Converter - standalone and client server. I did the standalone conversion. I installed it on a machine and directed it to send the resulting image to a network share.

I clicked "convert machine" and followed the defaults. The one place to pay attention is where you're asked to select the target VMWare product. The default is some corporate product, you need to change to "VMWare Workstation 6.5.x".

A reasonably big VM takes rather a while to convert - overnight is typical.

More later...

Update: Ok, now I see the catch. Unless you install VMWare Tools you can sort of use the VMWare Convert image, but you can't go full screen, toggle out of it, some drivers don't work, etc. You can get VMWare Tools from VMWare Workstation, but there's probably a reason VMWare doesn't bundle them with Player. I say "probably" because I think VMWare is rather vague about the whole think. In any case I'll be using Workstation for my further experiments. (You might be able to install VMWare tools via Fusion. I think this is actually legal, since the point of VMWare Player is that it lets you use completed images and if you have a license to Fusion you can can complete them there.)

Update 1/21/2010: I experimented for a while, but I found VMWare on XP much less consumer-friendly than VMWare on OS X. In retrospect that's not too surprising. VMWare/Win is a corporate product, VMWare Fusion (OS X) is a consumer/geek product.

Monday, June 08, 2009

A sislaw’s Pre review

Sislaw Nettie (sister to sislaw Martha and to Emily) has a Pre.

I trust her reviews far more than the pro reviews – am I the only one to notice that Amazon’s product reviews are much better than those printed in magazines?

Like me Nettie misses Graffiti One. She likes her Pre a lot, but unsurprisingly the battery is troublesome. iPhone users can feel smug about the Sprint crapware infesting the Pre. NASCAR … brrrrrrr

My Little Pre « Nettie’s World

…I can’t delete the Sprint NASCAR app – other posters on the Pre forums yesterday confirmed this. RI-DI-CU-LOUS. So now I need to see if there’s any possibility of hiding it, although the thing I object to most strenuously is the fact that it’s taking up my 8GB space in the first place, of course.

6. Battery life. It wasn’t a very promising feeling when I woke up on Sunday morning. The battery had been at nearly 100% when I turned out the light (I had spent 10-15 minutes cleaning up contacts -more about that later) and all apps were closed. When I picked it up to say “Good morning dear Pre” the battery was at 65%! For 7 hours of (nothing?) — all I could think was that the WiFi connection was what was dragging it. The Pre forums also complained about poor battery life – and some constructive posters also provided tips, a few of which I’ve put into practice like dimming the screen a bit, syncing email a bit less frequently, turning off IM and WiFi when not needed. I think I also have to do more reading on better management of lithium ion batteries in general – a few posters said things like, “It typically takes a new battery a week of so to condition itself for maximum results” — is that really true…

No, I don’t think the “week or so” story is true – more like wishful thinking. Maybe Jobs was right about the battery cost of multitasking, though I could believe the Pre OS might be more energy efficient than OS X.

Nettie, if it makes you feel better my iPhone battery will run out by day’s end if I talk more than about two hours during the day (it’s almost a year old now). In airport mode it will last a few days even if I use WiFi occasionally.

Condolences on the Sprint crapware Nettie. Apple was in a stronger bargaining position with AT&T, though I’ve hear rumors AT&T has been fighting mightily to put their garbage on the iPhone. Rumor has it Jobs arose from his sick bed to smite them (ok, I made that up).

VMware academic discounts: Fusion and Windows Workstation

Post-Waterloo I'm a VM geek.

So, as a part-time faculty person at the U of MN I was pleased to see that VMware has large academic discounts.

VMWare Workstation is $114 academic ($190 list), Fusion (Mac - I use this) is $40 academic ($80 list).

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Google's summary of their OpenID and federated authentication approach

This is what enables me to auto-authenticate with Facebook when I'm logged into Gmail. I've linked the accounts from Facebook using this Google API:
Google Code Blog: Google OpenID API - taking the next steps 
... the user is not just signing in using her Google Account, but is also sharing specific information from her Google Account with the Relying Party website. This information may be either static fields (using Attribute Extension) such as the user's email, first and last name, preferred language and country, or allowing access to any available Google Data API such as the user's Contacts List, Web Albums, or Calendar (using OAuth)...
I am concerned about authentication bugs causing me to be locked out of my Google account, so I'm proceeding with some care.

Fixed: Post 10.5.7 WiFi problems and XP IP address conflict bug

File this one under requiem for a geek and complexity crash.

Sometime around I updated our MacBook to 10.5.7 it developed a WiFi connection stutter. It would connect to the family network, pause, disconnect, and reconnect. On the second reconnect it would ask for the network password even as it took the correct password from the keychain and displayed it inline (so if one hit return it would connect).

Before the update, about 3-4 months ago I experienced some odd XP networking issues, sometimes including messages that there was an IP address conflict - yet that address did not seem to be in use. I was seeing other problems at the same time, so I set hat aside.

Today, when walking new our Airport Express, I noticed our iPhone-converted-to-iTouch was only showing 2 bars in its network display. It clearly wasn't connecting via the closest WDS station.

With that last clue I decided to inspect our older-device 802.11 b/g Airport WiFi WDS network.

After installing the latest Airport Utility update I discovered that while our Airport Express light was green it was not, in fact, authenticated on the network. It was in a twilight state. At some level it was connected, but at another level it was not.

That could explain the MacBook stutter, since the MacBook is often moves between the Extreme and Express domains and could connect to either one.

Power cycling the Express alone didn't fix it, so I moved it next to the Airport Extreme. This time it did show up. I tweaked some settings, including auto-setting the clock to time.apple.com (I thought this used to be set, but was turned off on both my devices when I inspected them. Is it new?)

That's when I saw the Express was assigned, which may explain the odd XP address conflict message and networking issues.

Now the MacBook WiFi network address stutter appears to be gone.

Simplify is one of my post complexity-crash themes. There's too much emergence in the modern computational world, and too many ill-defined membranes.

10.5.7 update: don't let your screen lock

I'm thinking 10.5.7 is one of those OS X point updates from hell. It smells like a bridge to 10.6, meaning it breaks quite a few things but will be supported until 10.5 expires.

I think it's broken the Airport Extreme base station to Airport Express peripheral network bridging as well as some printing and faxing peripherals.

The latest update bug I've found is related to screen locking that occurs during the update process from 10.5.6 on a PPC iMac. If a screen saver locks during the update, you may get a view of the screen cursor but you don't get an unlock dialog.

The iMac appears to be unable to awake from a sleep state.

If this happens to you I recommend letting the machine sit for at least 30 minutes. If you don't hear any disk activity then power cycle it. I did that and the update appeared to complete normally.

I also recommend all peripheral drives be detached during the 10.5.7 update. That's always a good recommendation, but it's easy to forget.

Apple's software quality has passed through the toilet stage and is reaching for the sewer stage!

See also: Requiem for a gerserker (geek berserker)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Pre syncs To Do lists with Google?

Pogue claims the Pre can sync "to-do lists with Google".

I hadn't heard of any app synchronizing with Google's To Do lists. Interesting if true.

Internet Explorer 8 - still a lousy feed reader

Try searching on "IE 8 feed reader". Right. Nothing much there.

That's because Internet Explorer 8's feed reader capabilities are no better than IE 7's. In other words, absolutely lousy.

Of course Firefox is little better and there are really no good Windows desktop feed readers left, so IE's not alone. Still, if you're hoping for reader improvements over IE 7 look elsewhere.

Thunderbird is said to have a decent feed reader, but of course it can't manage Active Directory authenticated feeds (on the other hand, maybe that's a feature). Outlook 2007, incidentally, is not only a bad feed reader, it's a bloody dangerous feed reader.

Opera has a mail integrated reader, which is unfortunate since feeds are structurally different from email. Safari 4beta for OS X has a feed reader, but the link to subscribe via bookmark doesn't work (the first thing I've found in Safari 4 that doesn't work). It looks like it's setup for subscription in Mail.app anyway.

Gee, do you think someone's trying to tell me something?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

You can't run an iPhone on USB power

Yes, of course you can charge an iPhone with a USB power source, but you can't run an iPhone on USB power. If you use your iPhone the battery level will fall even if it's charging. I haven't tried this yet, but maybe you could just squeak by used if you turned off 3G and WiFi.

This isn't just a curiosity; it means that if your iPhone is in the "dead zone" of low battery level, you can't use it again until it charges out of the critical low level.

Presumably the iPhone needs more power to operate than USB 2 can provide. Alas, if it could still work with firewire that would be enough, and I suppose USB 3 could work.

I wonder if the Pre, which is said to be more efficient, can both charge and operate off of USB power.

Update 6/24/09: I read recently (Dan's Data) that newer laptops can provide significantly greater current and voltage than the standard USB spec. They do that to support power hungry devices. I think my iPhone charges more quickly from my new corporate Dell laptop than it does from my (non-Apple) USB charger. The next time I'm running low, I'm going to try charging it from the Dell laptop during use, and see I can stay out of the dead zone.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Cannot remove (delete) a SharePoint List reference from Outlook 2007 - a fix

One of the less wise things I’ve done in the past year was to migrate to Office 2007, and, in particular, to try using any of the new features of Outlook 2007.

I’ve seen some awful software in my day, but Outlook 2007 is in a class of of its own.

For example, I once tried subscribing to a SharePoint list from Outlook, so Outlook would, in theory, give me a synchronized offline view of the list.

I no longer recall the immediate problems it caused me, but I do remember I couldn’t remove it. At best I could partly disable the synchronization. The list reference lived on in my Account Settings.

I left it there, hoping the long promised SP2 would help. I thought I could live with it.

Then my sojourn into the 9th circle of IT Hell began. After week 3 of network lockouts I began methodically removing anything that could trigger an Active Directory authentication process, including any reference to anything hosted on Sharepoint. That included any referenced calendars, feeds, etc. Including my old Sharepoint List reference that could be seen in File:Data File Management:Account Settings:SharePoint Lists.

After some searching I found a good TechNet posting that referenced another relevant article.

There were two different fixes for this problem, but one was to remove a dangling reference in the send/receive settings. I remembered trying this last year, but since I’d just applied Office SP 2 I gave it a go and unchecked these items:


This time removing Sharepoint from the send/receive group worked. I was able to go to the Data File account settings and remove the Sharepoint Lists item and the corresponding Data File – and they didn’t return!


Naturally it wasn’t totally smooth. After I submitted my changes to the send/receive group an old friend returned … the IPM.Note.Microsoft.Conversation.Region set of dialogs ...


I think these are back because, as a part of my attempt to reduce Active Directory authentication, I’d recently removed Office Communicator 2007. When you do that you find the uninstall leaves some registry keys behind, and you get these error messages until you reinstall Communicator or manually remove the registry keys ...