Saturday, January 30, 2010

EXIF orientation tag bug returns in Snow Leopard - sideways pictures

Almost five years ago Image Capture would corrupt the EXIF image orientation tag on import:
Gordon's Tech: Image Capture Rotate per EXIF iPhoto 5 = Nasty problems

Image Capture has had a bug for several years -- with my Canon camera it duplicates the EXIF orientation tag when it auto-rotates on import. This confuses iPhoto 5.04 -- iPhoto re-rotates portrait images a second time (interestingly the thumb nail is upright) and so the image ends up rotated 180 degrees. I was sure this bug must have been fixed in Tiger. Wrong."
The problem went away with 10.5, but it's back in some form with Snow Leopard. The slide show shows some of my old images sideways. This didn't happen in Leopard.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Blogger in Draft line spacing bug - illustrated

In a kind rebuttal of my claim that Blogger is troubled, Rick Klau, a Google Product Manager, wrote:

… There is a new text editor available on (available under settings) which is the default on Blogger in Draft. It significantly improves the authoring interface, addresses a number of the issues you referred to, and opens up a number of integration opportunities for us with other Google properties - we're doing QA on the next batch of integrations right now…

When I described the longstanding troubles I’ve had with the Blogger in Draft rich text editor Rick responded;

… Odd to hear about formatting problems with Draft's editor - it's pretty rock solid. Please ping me with any indications of what you're seeing - that's almost certainly a bug that we'll want to fix if it persist…

So I’m pleased to say I have a good example of the bug. I believe it’s related to the old CR/LF, CR, LF problems in DOS/Windows, MacOS and Unix – augmented by the transition to the unicode standard. (I’ve read recently that all of Google’s new tools require translation to unicode).

Here’s a recent post of mine, authored using Windows Live Writer (Windows only) as it renders in Chrome after posting (it shows the same way in WLW):


Here’s how it looks in Blogger Classic using Chrome:


And here is how it renders in Blogger In Draft using Chrome:


Yes, the line spacing is wrecked. From past experience, this is messy to fix up. When you fix the line spacing here, it comes out double-spaced on publishing.

I’ll point Rick to this post. Hope it helps!

Update 1/29/10: Based on Rick's comment below, Google is looking into this one.

Update 2/1/2010: There's a similar bug with Safari on OS X. When you quote a block of text everything double spaces.

Update 3/10/2010: I just had blogger in draft completely screw up a post composed 100% in Chrome on XP. It's far from ready.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fixing off-screen XP windows in the big display world

This is an ancient tip, probably well known to many, but I’ve had to rediscover it a few times.

Big monitors break the display model used by XP apps. I presume this was fixed in Windows 7 and I don’t think it was ever broken in OS X, but I run into it quite a bit. The usual symptom is that I’ve moved my laptop between displays, especially big displays like my 27” i5 iMac (used with my Dell laptop as a display), and app windows are partly off-screen. In particular, the control surfaces (top bar, bottom bar) may be inaccessible, so I can’t resize or move the window.

All kinds of apps are prone to this, including Office 2007.

I’m sure there’s a utility to fix this [1], but there are two things that usually work for me:

  • If the app supports multiple windows (Office 2007), then open another window. Then, right click the app name the Taskbar and choose “tile”. This brings all the windows into view. (Note that you need more than one app window before you can tile.)
  • Change the display resolution transiently to 1024x768. The open windows usually move back into the screen. Resize them, then change back.

[1] Long ago there were many sources for good XP utilities like this. Now those sources seem to have been swamped by spam sites, and the security risks are very high. These utility distribution sites never had much of a business model unfortunately. It’s interesting to compare this to the Apple App Store distribution model.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Google Voice web app on my iPhone

It's not a true substitute for the iPhone app that Apple killed at the start of the Google-Apple wars, or even for the third party GV apps we've lost, but it's a long delayed good replacement for the initial GV web app (see also):
Google Voice Blog: Google Voice for iPhone and Palm WebOS

Today we are launching a new Google Voice mobile web app for iPhone OS 3.0 and higher and Palm Web OS devices, harnessing the power of HTML5...

In addition to letting you access a streamlined version of your Google Voice inbox, the new web app also lets you display your Google Voice number as the outbound caller ID (so return calls come back to your Google Voice number), send and receive text messages for free, and place international calls at Google Voice's low rates.

To get started, visit in your mobile browser. For quick access, don't forget to create a shortcut to this URL on your home screen or Palm Launcher...
There are many limitations of this web app, such as:
  1. startup lag: I hope it's less laggy than the current web app, but still can have long delays compared to a phone app.
  2. authentication: The web apps don't store my google credentials. Every couple of weeks Google makes me re-enter them -- typically while I'm very busy doing something else. This sucks. My Google password is not trivial to enter.
  3. I'm not sure whether displaying my GV number as outbound caller ID is a feature or a bug. I think it's a feature. The way the phone makes calls differs from the old web app.
  4. no call or SMS notifications: You can't really use this for incoming calls or SMS because there's no notification function if the web app isn't running. This isn't so bad for me since I don't use GV this way, but I might use the number more if I could receive incoming calls! I'd love to use it for SMS and get rid of my SMS bill!
  5. no integration with phone contacts. There's also no way I can see to edit my Google contacts information on the phone.
  6. you can't specify which start screen to use
  7. The configuration UI for "caller ID" is unclear whether this is for outbound or inbound calls.
The good news is
  1. In many operations it feels a lot faster than the previous web app.
  2. If you view a contact and save the web page shortcut to the phone screen you get a quick way to call that person, saving several screen refreshes.
  3. There might be a way to use this to reduce my SMS costs. I'll report back on this.
It's enough of an improvement that I may have to go back and look again at a way to integrate my Google Contacts with iPhone/OS X Address Book.

See also:
Update 1/26/10: Uh-oh. I'm getting SMS notifications on my phone for every SMS message sent to Google Voice -- and I pay 20 cents apiece for those!! No, it's SMS notifications for voice mails, even though I had that disabled in my Google Voice settings. It's a bug, but probably not new. There's no way to report this bug to Google, their support service problem classification doesn't include "other" and this isn't one they've classified.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

iMac G5 capacitor repairs - via Macintouch

I recently reworked our home network, and our almost- 5 yo G5 iMac is doing quite a nice job as the (yech) Parental Controlled homework/learning workstation. The transition has been educational for me as well, my kids taught me that educational videos will play quite well if one is careful to close CPU-sucking pages running (ugh) Flash animations.

During the transition I had to reset the SMU to deal with one of many causes of the G5 non-stop fan problem (CPU sure was cool though - 60 C). I also popped the case to blow massive amount of dust off the fan and vent. I love the user-serviceable plastic case design; it was a high point of Apple customer-friendliness.

When I popped the case I checked the capacitors. In one of the many sordid bits of Apple hardware history they shipped a bazillion iMacs with flawed capacitors. Many of those failed under warranty, but Macintouch tells us they continue to die over time. A lot of iMac buyers lost some loot there. (I wonder if the iMac's original fan/heat problems contributed to this.)

I just checked mine and I didn't see any bulging, but it's worth noting that there's now a small G5 iMac capacitor repair/replacement industry ...
Macintouch - iMac G5

... Late last year one of the other guys at work started repairing iMacs on the side, replacing the swollen caps. He gave me a full set (since I had given him the idea in the first place when mine failed, I think) and said "give it a try" with a few pointers. I replaced all the caps over a weekend and now I have a fully functional iMac G5 in my workshop to replace the 8500 and 7300 that were there... Check around locally for smaller tech shops. In South East Wisconsin, MacCetera does the repair for a flat rate of $200 + tax, including parts.

... My iMac G5 suffered a swollen-capacitor death two years ago. Once they were replaced it has been running smoothly 24/7 as a database/Web server and Skype phone.
... The owner of performs motherboard capacitor replacements on G5s. It'll run you less than $75 for a premium capacitor rework.It's worth checking out the site if you're considering getting a 3rd party to perform this repair. They also have a knowledgeable tech forum that has discussed many G5 hardware issues.
See also*:
* When I do these reviews of old posts, it strikes me that before the wonders of Google Custom Search I tended to discover and forget things -- and I was younger then!

Update 12/18/2011: "Cordwainer" (Karen Cotton) has written an extensive comment on the story of the capacitor failure. Worth a read. I still use that G5, and the capacitors still work.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Parental Controls - Remote Access and other tips

I've just had another go at configuring OS X "Parental Controls". I'm doing this in 10.5, but I don't think 10.6 is much better.

I sometimes wonder why OS X "Parental Controls" are so buggy, awkward, limited, and altogether miserable. They weren't so bad in MacOS 10.9 -- before Jobs returned.

I think that's the clue. I didn't used to think so, but I've come to believe that Apple is Jobs. Evidently Jobs, a notoriously rebellious teenager, believes Parental Controls are a bad idea. So he's sabotaged them.

From the latest ordeal I've three new tips:

1. On editing content - site lists
  • In Safari with 10.5 it seems as though, when logged it as a managed user, you can open bookmarks (requires admin pw) and drag and drop links to the Safari Bookmark list to your hearts content. A very efficient way, one might think, to add approved sites. Except it's misleading. When you quit Safari and resume you're back to the set you approved in the Parental Controls Preference Pane. So ...
  • There are only two ways to add web sites to the approved list. You can add then in the Parental Controls Preference Pane, or in the managed account, you can add them one at a time, each requiring an Admin password, to the Bookmarks Bar.
  • You can drag and drop links and Location bar URLs to the Parental Controls Preference Pane and you can drag and drop to reorganize there. This is a big time saver. I guess someone slipped that one by Jobs.
2. remote monitoring and control from another computer

It's barely noted anywhere, but you can do remote monitoring and control from another computer. This is from the 10.5 Help file:

From OS X Help for 10.5:
If you have a computer on your local network that is managed by parental controls, you can change the settings in the Parental Controls preferences and monitor the user activity remotely.
The trick is to enable remote management in the gear drop down. Look hard, it's below the list of users.

Then, from your remote machine:
In the Finder, choose Go > Connect To Server, and then click Browse.
Select the other computer in from the list of computers on your network and enter the administrator name and password for the remote computer.
In the Finder, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, and click Parental Controls...
... In the Accounts list, in the Other Computers section, select the remote user account you want to change.
Enter the administrator name and password of the remote computer.
3. Adding sites - only the domain matters

I thought I could get finer grained control by adding links to subsites (ex., but that doesn't work. Only the domain seems to matter (though I'm not totally sure about this).

See also:
Update 5/15/10: If this is true, I can't blame Apple's parental control failures on Steve Jobs disinterest.

YouTube: The HTML5 Flash-Free announcement

The official announcement: YouTube Blog: Introducing YouTube HTML5 Supported Videos.

Flash is miserable on OS X, especially on G5 machines. It's not much better on Windows and, of course, it doesn't work on the iPhone. Adobe's incompetence has earned them a lot of geek loathing.

To use this beta you must be logged in to YouTube and opt in to the trial (this page also lets you opt out). If you're using a supported browser (Chrome, Safari) you get H.264 HTML 5 video rather than Flash. You can't do full screen and videos with ads, etc will still be served via Flash.

I'll report back on my own experiences.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fixing the Time Machine / Time Capsule 10.5 "Backup volume could not be mounted" bug

After some network revisions and machine migrations It was time to clear out some Time Capsule backups. Alas, there's no documentation on how one can do this. Even the excellent Take Control of OS X Backups eBook has no advice on removal of an entire machine backup. [Update: Joe Kissell, the author, responded almost instantly to an email. I've updated my post on freeing up TC storage with his response (that post also summarizes TC documentation).]

The best advice I could find is to erase the Time Capsule disk. I have other backups, so I went ahead. That part went well.

My 10.6 machine resumed its Time Machine backups with no problems. My 10.5 machines, however, complained that the "Backup volume could not be mounted".

Turns out this is a known 10.5 bug -- an unfixed10.5.3 bug.
I had success with
  • Open Time Machine preferences
  • Click "Select Disk"
  • Reselect the Time Capsule disk.
I was then asked to enter a user name and password -- but dialog showed only a password (bug). I think user name in this context is really the machine name. I'd enabled guest access so I clicked "guest" and the backup resumed.

Note that since Apple fixed this in 10.6 but not 10.5, it's an example of a bug that can drive new machine purchases (older machines can't run 10.6). Bundling backup with the OS wipes out the alternatives, and since backup is essential unfixed bugs can be very profitable for Apple. This one, at least, is relatively easy to work around.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

iPhone text message chiming in silent mode

Midway through my UMN lecture on computerized physician order entry my 3G iPhone started pinging. My 12 yo was texting me.

Thing was, the phone was in silent mode (red dot on the ring/silent switch). It's not supposed to chime. It wasn't ringing when I tested however, so I knew the switch was working.

I shut down and restarted the phone and changed the text message sound. Of course power cycling makes sense, but the I had a reason to change the text message sound too. That comes from my OS X experience; sometimes changing settings will fix a corruption problem.

That worked. The phone no longer chimes when in silent mode.

VMWare Fusion 3: Migration, PowerPoint and Shrink Disk

I've used VMWare 2 with Windows 2000 and Office 2003 on my MacBook for almost a year. I hardly ever use it, but it's compact and fast.

I wasn't sure I'd bother installing VMWare on my i5 iMac, but then I discovered how lousy PowerPoint 2008 really is (an especially bitter discovery since my first impressions were very positive).

So I downloaded the 30 day trial version of VMWare 3, installed VMWare Converter on my creaky XP box, and created an XP image on my iMac including Office 2003. I'm pleased to report that PowerPoint 2003/Win in the Fusion VM is at least ten times faster than PowerPoint 2008 for OS X.

Here are some discoveries of note:
  • VMWare on the iMac had trouble connecting to VMWare Converter. I had to restart the XP box to make it work. I think a pending install created a problem.
  • The conversion took an hour or two.
  • On VM startup it looked at first that only one account had been created -- the XP box had had 3 accounts. I restarted the VM and it showed all 3.
  • I couldn't get VMWare Tools to install. I had to login and connect to the share then run setup. This took a couple of tries I think, and a restart or two. It wasn't as smooth as VMWare 2, but my previous efforts didn't involve migration.
  • I had to re-authenticate the VM XP box with Microsoft. That took a few minutes. I'm still running the old box so I unplug the network cable when the VM is running. I'll be putting the old box out to pasture soon. (It's amazing how silent the office is when only the iMac is running.)
  • The VM migration created about 50 2.5 GB files in an OS X Package (executable folder). This can be changed in settings. It's done to get around FAT max file sizes; I wonder if it might help with backup. (If you create a 100GB single file VM, each time you open it you'll create a 100GB file that needs backup.)
  • I didn't remember than I had two drives in the XP box. The VM had both drives; one held an old redundant backup. I deleted that drive (Settings:Hard Disks) but the VM didn't shrink. I used the "Clean Up Disk" function and that shrank it to a nice 50GB.
See also:
Update 3/11/2010: It's been performing excruciatingly slowly. I haven't been able to find any explanation. Startup times of about 3-5 minutes, intermittent very slow operations. It behaves like it has no working memory.

Update 10/26/10: I finally get around to speeding it up.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I now have gDrive

Today my Google Docs shows the "Upload any file" link.

So I have the promised minimalist version of "gDrive". To get the good stuff though I'll have to upgrade our family domain and/or my personal Gmail account. That's not necessarily cheap at current prices.

You can't actually upload any file. Executables, including OS X apps. can't be uploaded.

Update 1/20/10: I found my first bug. I uploaded a PDF and viewed it. From the viewer I obtained the share link. The public link didn't work however. When I clicked "preview" it reported "Sorry, the page (or document) you have requested is not available."

Monday, January 18, 2010

How to fix permissions in an OS X Package and how deal with VMWare Fusion Insufficient Permission problems

In this one post I shall now solve two mysteries not currently addressed anywhere Google can find.

The first mystery is how, in Snow Leopard (10.6), to change the permissions for all the files in a Package. (Have I mentioned how much I hate the OS X/Unix permissions model?).

It's easy to change the permissions on a Package (a folder that appears in OS X to be an application), but that doesn't change the internal permissions. Unlike a folder, there's no GUI option to apply the changes to "enclosed items".

The answer is to right click on the package and choose "Show Package Contents". Inside the package, create a folder. Move everything into the folder. Apply your permissions change to "enclosed items". Move everything out and delete the folder. (Of course you should backup first.)

The second mystery is how to move an OS X VMWare image between users. In VMWare 3 this is a a Package, and every file in it has the original owner's permissions. Moving it to a the "Shared" folder doesn't change permissions - because the OS X permissions model is irretrievably broken.

Changing permissions on the Package is not enough, VMWare will report that the package cannot be opened: "Error while opening the virtual machine: Insufficient permissions to access the file ..." (The actual error message will reference on specific file in the package.)

I changed Permissions on the Package, then I used the above trick to change permissions on all the files in the Package.

That worked.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Google calendar with contact birthdays

It's a secret, but for some time there's been a Google Calendar with Contacts birthdays and events.

It's in Other Calendars:Add:Browse Interesting Calendars:More:Contacts birthdays and events.

No, I don't know what "events" means.

The Contacts Birthdays and Events is public by default. So if anyone knows the URL, they can add it. So you can share it with your spouse and vice-versa, in which case you'll want to give each distinct names.

Obviously it has only those birthdays you've added to Contacts information. This calendar will be more useful if I'm ever able to integrate my OS X/MobileMe address book with my Google Contacts (currently the data models are too dissimilar). So, for the moment, it's more curious than useful.

These published calendars can add up. With this one I have 20 calendars available to my account, though I display only about 5-6 at a time. The calendars I display vary by season.
My Google Reader Shared items (feed)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

USB 3 and Gigabit ethernet: two articles on the gap between marketing and reality

Vendors lie. It's the nature of things.

Ski resorts lie about their snow coverage, and tech vendors lie about performance. Marketing, for example, convinced most geeks that USB 2 was as fast as Firewire, but that's certainly not true under OS X.

In the same vein, here are two articles that contrast real world performance with marketing claims:
Coding Horror Gigabit Ethernet and Back of the Envelope Calculations: A 2005 article that showed Gigabit ethernet is about 3 times faster than 100 mbps ethernet -- not 10 times as fast. Great discussion.
Dans Data review: USB 3 drive box and controller card kit (Jan 2010): In most available machines USB 3 is 3 times faster than USB 2. (So it's probably faster than Firewire 400 and maybe comparable to Firewire 800).
Threefold improvements are nothing to sneeze at, especially in the post-Moore's Law era. It's just not quite what marketing promises.

Mac users need not feel USB 3 envy -- we get Firewire 800.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Relational database 101: A Microsoft gem hidden in plain sight

Colleagues sometimes ask me about where to get a basic introduction to databases. My informatics students should be asking that, but they usually don’t.

I’ve not had a very good response. It’s been eons since my first encounter with data models, ER diagrams, keys and the like. I dimly recalled the monstrous Microsoft Access manuals of old, which often included quite good tutorials.

That’s what led me to crack open the Table of Contents of Microsoft Access 2007. It took me a while to figure out that how to do that. You can either click on a tiny blue circle/question mark in the far right of the app bar, or you can type old F1. You can then click the wee blue book icon to see a Table of Contents or you can look at “Browse Access Help”. From either location you’ll see “Database design” as shown here in the Table of Contents:


Microsoft has put a lot of material behind that little Database design link:


Starting with Database design basics:


Wow. I feel like I’ve entered a dusty old library frozen in time, and opened a book untouched for decades (I did that once in rural Bangladesh – quite memorable). Microsoft’s tech writers are terribly underappreciated.

The materials include demonstrations, references to sample databases, etc. The vast majority of this material is applicable to any relational database, from poor little Access to Oracle.

Many students and tech workers have an unused copy of Microsoft Access near at hand. Even if you never intend to do anything with Microsoft Access, you might as well take advantage of the excellent interactive textbook that comes with it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Google talk IM clients: Adium for OS and Trillian for XP – the good and the ugly

I only became interested in instant messaging after I had a portable platform that supported it – namely the iPhone OS 3 update (prior that release there were no message notifications) and BeejiveIM.

IM still doesn’t work terribly well on an iPhone, but that technology change tipped the balance enough to make IM interesting on my desktop.

So I’m late to the game, but catching up. I did make one mistake in the catch-up process. Since my peers are all old and wrinkly like me, they don’t know this stuff. I should have asked younger geeks what they did.

That’s why I only now realized there was a solution to two problems I have had:

  1. There’s no Google Talk client for OS X.
  2. The XP Google Talk client only supports one Google identity – I want it to support my corporate and personal GT identities.

The solution for both problems on OS X is Adium. It supports multiple identities. I even have a sneaky suspicion iChat would work too (sigh, I’ve been so disgusted with iChat Video that I’ve dismissed all aspects of it).

On XP I was hearing good things about Trillian Astra. I figured I’d install it and, if it worked, pay for Pro.


During the install Trillian tried to change my search service and it installed the toolbar – without notification or permission. This isn’t a new problem …

Does Trillian have a crapware problem- - Zero Day - researcher Liana Leahy has taken Cerulean Studios to task for bundling two third-party applications into the popular free Trillian IM client, arguing that users who are not careful during the Trillian installation process could end up with a crapware problem.

During the installation process, the default setting is for Trillian to bundle the Weather Channel Desktop and the Ask Toolbar, two products that could introduce security risks to PC users.

I uninstalled the toolbar and Trillian immediately after the installation completed.

So I’m still looking for an XP IM solution.

This isn’t the first time I’ve run into quality issues with the XP marketplace. XP is a very large market, but it’s a very undiscriminating market with a lot of vulnerable users. The quality of the software is often very low.

Update: A trusted (younger geek) colleague recommended Pidgin for XP – libpurple based open source like Adium. See also:

Update 1/13/2010: Pidgin's window didn't locate itself correctly in my two monitor setup and the app itself is pretty crude. Adium is far more polished. So I'm still looking!
Update 1/13/2010: I’d read somewhere that Windows Live Messenger would provide some interoperability with XMPP, so I tried installing it. Nope – it’s still pure Microsoft. Big install and uninstall. Surprisingly, it’s ad supported as well. First time I’ve seen Microsoft do that. I looked into AOL IM as well, but no federation there either. There’s far less interoperability that I’d expected, and the interoperable clients are disappearing. I wonder if a combination of SMS, Twitter and lack of a revenue model has killed Instant Messaging.

Update 1/14/10: Another colleague recommended meebo, but that web app doesn't support Oauth with Google -- it wants my Google credentials! I don't even give those to my mother. In any event, it only supports a single Google XMPP account.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Google Voice quality issue report form

Google seems to revise their customer feedback and problem reporting schemes monthly.

As of Jan 2010 we're to use: Contact Us - Google Voice Help to report voice quality issues.

Two weeks ago I had to stop using Google Voice to Montreal due to severe echoing, but the echoes are mild now.

My Google Reader Shared items (feed)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

CrashPlan (or JungleDisk) instead of Retrospect 8?

I've been hoping to retire my XP machine running Retrospect Professional and switch to Retrospect 8 for OS X.

Then I discovered EMC hasn't been able to produce a manual / user guide for Retrospect 8 in the year since it was first released.

I just can't get my head past that. How can I trust a company that can't put a manual together? I mean, I know manuals are hard work, but surely in the midst of the Great Recession EMC could have found some tech writers? The simplest explanation for the lack of a manual is that EMC didn't finish the software and has since abandoned the product.

So I'm looking for alternatives to Retrospect - in addition to Time Machine. (I believe in at least two, completely unrelated, fully automated, backup systems).

Two years ago I considered CrashPlan. Back then it was designed to backup to a friend's machine, but now they offer free local backup and an offsite service. Today we'd need the family plan, which costs $100 per year.

TidBITS is fond of CrashPlan, they all use it ...
The reviews are positive, but of course CrashPlan has the Cloud risk. If Code 42 dies, everyone's backups are toast. Since I will be doing local Time Machine backups this is less of a risk for me.

I'm persuaded to uninstall my trial version of Retrospect 8 and give CrashPlan a try. I'll report back on my test results starting with my new i5 (which has very little data on it so far).

Update 1/4/10: Through comments here and on Seek Nuance I'm hearing Mac geeks settling into a mixture of TimeMachine, SuperDuper (intermittent clone) and CrashPlan/JungleDisk. Seek Nuance also recommends a Sept 2009 MacWorld review.

JungleDisk is blocked by some corporate filters, perhaps because it can be used for file sharing as well as backup - it provides a standard WebDav interface and thus resembles MobileMe's costly backup service. JD can currently be used with Amazon's S3 storage service but was purchased by RackSpace - so it's unclear how long that will work well. Good JD references include:
The big thing we've lost with the demise of Retrospect/Mac is a Mac server hosted cross-platform SOHO backup solution. Not surprisingly, this turned out to be a very small market! The home side of the Retrospect market is made up of about 10 geeks like me. On the other hand small businesses with a mixture of Macs and Windows machines are overwhelmingly likely to use a cheap Windows backup server -- or to drop the Windows machines altogether. It's easy to see why EMC effectively gave up on Retrospect 8.

My gut sense is that CrashPlan is more of a consumer/geek business devoted to backup, whereas JungleDisk is a geek-only business providing general cloud storage and more options (some of them shady). JD is a one-stop alternative to CrashPlan + DropBox. The big kahuna would be a Google file/backup store, but that's been on the horizon for about 8 years. It may never come.

Update 1/4/10b: Glen Fleishman was using Retrospect 8 as recently as a few months ago - and he's a pretty reputable Mac geek. Glen recommends Joe Kissell's "Mac OS X Backups" eBook (TidBITS team). That lists at $15 with a 10% off coupon for CrashPlan (discount is for CrashPlan+ for business, not for the online backup service) -- so if you're planning to get CrashPlan (online) it's only $5. In fact, however, when I clicked order it was only $7.50 because of a mysterious "coupon". So if I do pay for CrashPlan it's essentially free.

I won't regurgitate Joe's eBook, but I will update this post with what I finally decide to do after having read it.

Update 1/25/2010: I'm still evaluating CrashPlan. I did buy Joe's book and it's a bargain! Highly recommended.
Update 2/4/2010: I reject CrashPlan in the Cloud because of the security risks of their password reset policy. I may still use the free version as a complement to Time Machine backups.

Update 2/21/2010: I was having lockups on startup with my MacBook. The Console showed several errors, but none clearly pointing to CrashPlan (lots of VMWare activity seen though -- and quite a few warnings about issues with OS X itself). Since CrashPlan does have deep OS hooks and is a recent install, and since I'd given up on its Cloud function, I uninstalled it. The uninstaller is a very user-unfriendly shell script.

I feel I gave CrashPlan a good test, and it failed. At the moment I'm entirely reliant on Time Machine, which is not a lovely feeling.

Update 2/24/2010: After uninstalling CrashPlan I found bits of it remaining. There are two empty folders in the System Library that require root privileges to delete. They're not causing any trouble, but I prefer to avoid software that installs in the system Library.

Update 4/26/10: I went to the CrashPlan site to completely remove my account information. Can't figure out who to do it. Nothing like this in the FAQ. More badness.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Apple Discussions - The User Tips Library

The Apple - Support - Discussions - User Tips Library is an impressive albeit idiosyncratic collection of tips on OS X.

For example: Changes in DNS resolution in Mac OS X ... explained a few things that puzzled me (and reminded me that Apple's OS X engineers seem a bit overwhelmed these days).

I've subscribed to the feed for this library:
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Choosing a DNS: What namebench showed me

I use OpenDNS for its domain blocking properties and I switch OS X Location to GoogleDNS when I want to bypass the filters [1]. I used to use my ISP's (Qwest) DNS servers.

So what did Google's free cross-platform Namebench DNS Server testing utility show me?

OpenDNS was my fastest option at 72 ms. [2]However OpenDNS is "hijacking" "" and "". Google didn't have any good explanations of this, but (interestingly) Bing did (first time I've had Google fail and Bing succeed).

The hit Google omitted, but Bing showed, explained that OpenDNS proxies Google because of an evil trick Dell and Google have played on Dell customers for two years. Funny how Google missed that one.

I couldn't find any explanation of OpenDNS hijacking of "".

After OpenDNS came UltraDNS then General Mills-MG1 US and Google Public DNS. Google was 50% slower for us than OpenDNS.

[1] Even in Snow Leopard every machine user gets the same Location settings and, except for Simple Finder, any user can change it. Sooner or later the kids will figure out how we are getting around OpenDNS blocks and we'll have to do something else.
[2] There's a meaningless 1ms overhead because the LAN DNS is my AirPort which in turn goes through my Qwest modem.

Update 1/24/10: When I revised some DNS information at Dreamhost, OpenDNS updated quickly but Google didn't.