Saturday, January 31, 2004

macosxhints - Review iPhoto books prior to final order

macosxhints - Review iPhoto books prior to final order
I recently ordered two of Apple's photo albums using iPhoto. One of the books went through without a hitch, but with one of the books there were problems with the text and Apple canceled the order. I came to find out that even though I used the guidelines to line up the text, there is a bug in program. It seems some of the text become truncated and was cut out and would not have been published had Apple continued with the order.

However, there is a way to check that the text is lined up correctly before the order is sent to Apple. Proceed normally and assemble the book and just before ordering go to Finder. Select 'Go' from the Finder menu, then 'Go To Finder' and enter '/tmp' in the dialog box. In the resulting window, an iPhoto folder will appear, within that folder is the PDF of the book you just compiled. Open this file and you will be looking at what Apple is sent to print your book. From there, review the book for cut text, missing images, and look at the crop lines to view what will be cropped.

iPhoto4 Update: Although this hint works with iPhoto4, the location of the file has changed. While it's still in the /tmp folder, it's now more deeply buried. If you're the normal first admin user of the machine, you'll find it in /tmp -> 501 -> TemporaryItems -> iPhoto; if you're not the first user, then '501' will be replaced by another number, but the rest of the path will be the same.


iPhoto boundary bug: There is not enough disk space ...

iPhoto bug: There is not enough disk space to complete that operation.
iphoto 4 has many, many bugs. One of the odder sets of bugs appear to relate to math overflow bugs (divide-by-zero type) which manifest as either absurd image sizes or boundary errors. These bugs often manifest with a single cryptic error message:

"There is not enough disk space to complete that operation"

Sometimes this bug appears because iPhoto has internally calculated an absurdly large image size. The image size in the file system is normal, but iPhoto displays the overflow state for a LARGE_UNSIGNED_DECIMAL: 175921860444.

The best workaround for this bug is to crop the image, then revert to original. iPhoto moves the image to the "original" folder, then moves it back to the standard folder, and thus recalculates sizes. (An AppleScript to detect these images and do this across a library would be handy.)

A related bug occurs at the 4GB free on drive boundary. (It may occur at other drive sizes too). The workaround is to duplicate some data so the free space on the drive is LESS than the boundary condition. Here's how I demonstrated that.

When I first experienced the bug I had about 4.3 GB free and I was unable to export 870MB of images. I restarted my iBook, which had the side effect of freeing up 1GB of space (caches?). So I went fom 4GB free to 5GB.

I was then able to export the images.

I then had about 4.26 GB available. I then got the error message when attempting to export the same image set, but was able to export a smaller subset. I continued on the same vein, reexporting the subsets again and again, getting the error message and then exporting a smaller set. Finally I got to the point that a single image export triggered the error message.

At that point, I had EXACTLY 4GB free on my drive. I then DUPLICATED a folder of images, so I had 3.89 GB available.

I was then able to export again.

So the workaround for this bug is to duplicate a large folder and cross the remaining size boundary, then recommence the export.

If Microsoft released a product like iPhoto 4 they'd be pilloried. I use (with deep regret) many, many Microsoft products under Windows XP, and I've never experienced anything as buggy as iPhoto 4. The only comparison I can make is to some versions of Quicken.

I think we've been too forgiving of Apple. I realize they don't have the money to do internal QA. They can, however, adopt the open source approach to public betas. They can charge for the release version.


john faughnan

Friday, January 30, 2004

BetterHTMLExport Update

From Macintouch: BetterHTMLExport 2.0.11 is an iPhoto plug-in that provides increased control over Export to Web Page. The new version adds a command-line tool, localizes exported dates based on system preferences, makes the EXIF original date and digitized date available to templates, and more. BetterHTMLExport is $20 for Mac OS X and iPhoto 2 and 4.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

RAM Tests for Macintosh

MacInTouch Home Page: "With the recent spate of reported memory problems, how about reminding folks about the two great tools: (#1) 'memtester-2.93.1, and (#2) DCTest.
Memtest (as MacInTouch reported) is a port of the Memtest86 utility from the PC world (yes, Mac folks aren't the only one who can be tripped up by bad RAM -- intermittent or otherwise). Memtest of course checks most of your memory, but it also gives your CPU and registers a good workout along the way.
I did a Google search and found the latest info on memtest for the Mac at [Frisky's Home Page]. Even if you are not having problems, you should run memtest periodically ... and probably over a weekend. Be sure to read the 'READMEFIRST' doc.
The second utility, DCTest by Tim Seufert, does about the same thing as memtest, only for your disk and I/O subsystem. I found a place to download DCTest here (toward the bottom of the page): [Bad RAM]
Likewise, running DCTest over a weekend every once in a while is a Very Good Idea.
As to the '2GB limit' reported for Photoshop (and other apps), it seems this is due to OS X's loading shared libraries at just below the 2GB threshold. I believe this blocks malloc from 'seeing' RAM above 2GB, when the app first attempts to allocate RAM.
If anyone has better information on this '2GB limit' problem .. Please, please (including a date for a possible fix), please post it ! "

Apple iBook Logic Board Repair Extension Program - FAQ

Apple - Support - iBook - Logic Board Repair Extension Program - FAQ
A 3 year extension to the warrantee. The failures arise from two distinct apple manufacturing defects involving cable routing and case design.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Building a backyard rink - and why Teoma can beat Google

Building a backyard rink
This is a great essay on how to buid a backyard rink (liner style). What's just as interesting is that Google was useless in finding it. Teoma's initial results were just as poor, but the Teoma sidebar picked out a few key links.

Google results nowadays are drowning in retail links, and are vulnerable to ploys designed to alter Google rankings. Teoma is to new and smalltime to game, so its results are often better. Well worth looking at.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Power cellphone via laptop using USB charger - extend speak time

Belkin Universal USB/VPA Charger
The other day I paid about $20 for a widget that allegedly charges my cellphone via my laptop USB port. This is part of a logical trend to using the USB port on a laptop (or a powered USB hub) as a universal slow speed charger for PDAs, iPods (mini only), digital cameras, cellphones, etc [1]. The idea is that you carry a charger for the laptop, or you carry a powered USB hub, and no other chargers.

In practice charging the cellphone via the USB widget is very slow. I'm not sure overnight is long enough! HOWEVER, it does enable one to extend cell phone talk life while traveling. I discovered this while traveling with an almost discharged cellphone. I set my laptop power profile [2] appropriately and plugged the USB adapter into my cellphone. I continued to talk for another 1-2 hours. The cellphone power level stayed flat or increased slightly, so the power input was about equal to digital communications demand.

Caveat! Most cellphones were not designed to charge off a USB port. I've no idea what using one of these devices does to the cellphone LiOn battery. I suspect there's no overcharge protection, so if you left your cellphone plugged in for a few days the battery would probably be damaged. I also suspect, however, that it's probably harmless to use to power a working cellphone as described here.

Belkin sells one of these. I've seen it sold online for about $15.00:

meta: jfaughnan, jgfaughnan, charger, adaptor, adapter, power adaptor,
power adapter, converter, convertor, USB, mini-B, USB sync,
synchronization, HotSync, laptop, portability, travel, cellular,
mobile phone, sprint, Samsung, portability, efficiency, convergence,
transformer, AC/DC, wall wart


[2] In XP use a custom power profile for this -- never sleep but do blank screen and spin down drive -- I called my power profile "Cellphone Charger". Similar setup for OS X.

KODAK: Labeling CD-R Media - Don't use Labels

KODAK: Labeling CD-R Media
Ideally use a water based cd safe permanent marker to label discs. Sharpies and other solvent based markers are probably OK. Don't use any labels of any kind, some may be safe, most result in data loss within two years.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Shuttle'XPC ST62K and other systems - the $300 2nd/3rd home computer

The Tech Report - Shuttle's Zen XPC ST62K small form factor system - Page 13
These are quite amazing. Expected to fall below $300 US for the empty box. With a bit of memory, some drives lying around the house, a low end CPU and an educational copy of XP Home one can assemble a reasonably reliable, compact and client system for grandparents, children, children's games, etc.

Posthorn | Stabilant 22 - gas additive equivalent?

Posthorn | Stabilant 22
supposed to reduce dram failures. Don't know if it's real or silicon snake oil.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The Plone content management system - Welcome to
Runs over Zope. Looks like another one to experiment with! OpenSource. Used by Mars Rover site. O'Reilly likes it.

How to create iPhoto Disc images with a CD or DVD burner, particularly for Library Importing and Merging

Update 1/14/06: See my digital photography page for a much improved version of this technique.
I figured out how to create a sparseimage version that will grow when you dump your iPhoto Library in it. Then you create a read-only version as below when you're done and iPhoto will work as below.

At the moment the sparseimage is too big (12MB compressed) to put online. I won't be able to work on this for at least 4 days so someone else will have to do it sooner.

You create a sparseimage from the read/write version I reference below using the hdiutil convert command. Note that the help version is incorrect. Sorry, I don't even have time to write this out! More later...

This technique is very useful when you want to merge iPhoto Libraries, such as merging iPhoto 2 libraries into a combined iPhoto 4 library. It uses the CD/DVD merge techniques without first burning a CD/DVD. Indeed, if you can get hold of the appropriate disc image you don't need a CD or DVD burner to do the imports/merges. I'll eventually post an empty compressed image on my web site for people to use. I am sure there are shortcuts that will replace this technique, I'll revise this post as they are discovered.

1. You need to start with a physical CD or DVD burned by iPhoto (version 2 or 4 work equally well). Preferably from a large library so it will be big enough to work with.
2. Using Disk Utility create a disk image of the CD or DVD (select item in the Disk Utility image list, the choose New Image from Device. YOU MUST SELECT THE "TOP" ITEM IN THE HIERARCHY, USUALLY IT'S A DEVICE DESCRIPTION.
3. Mount the image. Start iPhoto. Confirm it now displays as though the physical CD/DVD were inserted.
4. Restart Disk Utility. Choose Images New - Image from Folder. Navigate to the mounted disk image and select it. CREATE AS A READ/WRITE IMAGE.
5. Mount the new image you created. Empty it out -- throw away the iPhoto Library folder and empty the trash. KEEP THIS IMAGE, IT'S NOW WHAT YOU USE TO DO EDITING WITH. IT WILL COMPRESS WELL WITH STUFFIT.

From now on, if you want to merge a library, copy it to this editable image. Rename it iPhoto Library. THEN YOU MUST CREATE A READ-ONLY IMAGE FROM THIS ITEM.

1. Using Disk Utility create Images - New Image from Folder. Select the read/write image you just mounted. Save as read only.
2. Launch iPhoto. See the disc mount. Now merge
(see to learn how to merge libraries.)


I'm sure there are slightly quicker approaches and better approaches. As I learn them I'll revise this blog and eventually this will go into its own web page, along with a compressed disk image to use as a starter image.

Update 12/11/05: In sorting through backlogged email, I came across a message from 9/05 suggesting an extension to this method. I've not tested it yet, but I will! Alex figured out that the disk image that iPhoto needs doesn't have to actually contain the images to be merged; instead one can put a path in the XML and put the Library you want to merge in that path. This saves a LOT of hassles, time and space.

As long as I'm updating here, I'd like to mention that the latest version of iPhoto Library Manager will merge Libraries, and I think it preserves keywords better than the disk image method described here.

Emphases mine.
From: Alex N...
Subject: iPhoto merging
Date: Sun, 25 Sep 2005 10:49:51 -0400

I was looking into how to merge iPhoto libraries from a recent trip (on my wife's iBook) into my main library and came across your page.

I wanted to add that making a simple disk image with a hardcoded path to /Users//Desktop/Pictures/iPhoto Library allows you to just drag the pictures folder from the other computer onto your desktop, then load the disk image (which contains ONLY the XML file and is therefore tiny) to access the other photos.

In this way one disk image can be re-used multiple times ...

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Apple - Discussions - iPhoto 4: Consolidate multiple libraries

Apple - Discussions - iPhoto 4: Consolidate multiple libraries

Update 1/05: I now have a much better discussion of this on my personal digital photography/iPhoto page. This commentary is somewhat obsolete.
This technique works best in my testing so far. Consider two libraries: Main and Secondary.

1. Using iPhoto Library Manager or similar software, open Secondary Library. Adjust albums so all images appears in EXACTLY one album. (Apple has an AppleScript to find images not in any library, see AppleScript site for iPhoto.)
1b. OPTIONAL. In Secondary Library edit roll names to descriptive names.
2. Burn Secondary Library to iPhoto Disc from iPhoto.
3. Switch iPhoto to Main Library. Insert iPhoto Disc.
4. Expand view of iPhoto Disc. Select ALL albums. Drag and drop on Main Library icon.

In testing this preserves:

1. Some roll information. (I have a suspicion it ONLY preserves roll information if you've edited the default names -- based on some other experiments I did on iPhoto 2.
2. The album titles, comments and members.
3. Photo file names, titles, and descriptions.
4. I suspect iPhoto 2 keywords, at least, do NOT make the trip.

I deliberately imported an album from the Secondary Library I knew referenced photos that were in another already imported Secondary Library album. I received a warning about duplicate photos. I said to exclude duplicates from import. 15 photos were not imported, presumably because they'd been previously imported. So this may help.

Until someone writes a smart import/merge, possibly using AppleScript, this may be our best option.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Install iMovie 4 on an iPod

The iLife installer wants to put all apps on the boot drive. My boot drive is full. This is how I put iMovie 4.0 on my iPod. I have a dual USB 600 MHz G3 iBook.

1. Use Onyx to allow Finder to see hidden files.
2. Browsed DVD and copied the iMovie package to my iPod.
3. Used Pacifist to extract iMovie app.
4. Ran iMovie 4.0. It showed my music, titles, etc.

I haven't used it much.

Apple - iPhoto 4.0 - impressions

[update 1/24/04: after much testing I recommend that iPhoto 2 users NOT upgrade to iPhoto 4 -- yet. iPhoto 4 is amazingly faster than previous versions, but it has serious quality issues. I'm seeing unmistakeable signs of integer overflows. There's some bad code in iPhoto 4, and with that comes an intolerable risk of losing your valued photographs (not that iPhoto 2 is necessarily safe to use either, but I think iPhoto 4 is worse at this time).

Wait for a bug fix release, then wait a few more weeks for news, then upgrade.]
Apple - iLife
1. iLife can only install on the boot drive. Bad sign right at the start. A boot drive restriction suggests a pretty bad architecture. You need to "customize" the install to select individual apps. (You can work around this, see a later post in this blog.)

2. iDVD still only works with Apple's SuperDrive.

3. There's minimal new support for consolidating libraries. See my later (separate) post on a possible technique.

4. Keywords are still worthless. Or almost worthless. Outstanding incompetence. You still can't sort keywords. You really need to stick to about 8 keywords at most. The ridiculous UI is unchanged.

5. You can't search directly on comments or titles anymore. You can only search directly on keywords. Basically, to locate things, you create a smart album and view the results. The smart albums have replaced most search functionality.

6. Because of the way iPhoto now does caching, the technique (see prior blog entries) of hosting iPhoto images on an SMB HFS+ sparseimage w/ 802.11b access works outstandingly well. If you try to edit you have to wait a while, but the thumbnails are cached locally. This is worth the price of the upgrade to me. We'll see what kinds of interesting file corruption I get. (The sparseimage file is journaled, interestingly. So maybe the library will survive network disruption.)

7. My iTunes library is on an SMB share, but it's stored natively (NTFS). iPhoto 2 would show the songs when iTunes was running, but it wouldn't play them. iPhoto 4 at first use showed them, but didn't allow me to select individual songs - they were grayed out. It did allow me to select a Playlist.

With a wired LAN connection I could play the music with my slideshow. With an 802.11b connection I couldn't - at first. Then I got the black screen of death (multilingual hard reset directions) on awakening with iPhoto running. After restart iPhoto relocated my SMB shared mounted sparsemimage. I tried again with iTunes running and my NTFS-native iTunes library loaded -- this time the Slideshow worked over 802.11b.

8. The UI for switching aspect ratio constraints on cropping between portrait and landscape is weird. It looks broken, but it still works. Some ratios (DVD) don't allow switching, others do. Switch by scrollling down to a checkable item that shows the aspect ratio that doesn't match the images current ratio. The default matches the image. You can still option drag to switch on the fly. Bad design.

9. In some testing iPhoto 4 appears to have spontaneously deleted an album. Fortunately I'm only working on my test images. If this sort of thing is mentioned by others I'll go back to iPhoto 2.

10. iPhoto 4 uses only a bit more space than iPhoto 2 in the individual image library when starting out. However the aggressive caching strategy uses substantial space on the system disk. I don't yet know where iPhoto is doing its caching, but we'll need a way to clean this out periodically.

Overall iLife fits the usual somewhat disappointing pattern of recent Apple s/w releases -- too early, unfinished, unMaclike and with some boneheaded design decisions. Apple is way short of quality control and testing resources.

Universal travel charging with laptop or USB hub: Cellphone, iPod, Palm, camera etc?

From: (John Faughnan)
Newsgroups: alt.cellular.sprintpcs,comp.sys.mac.hardware.misc,
Subject: Universal travel charging with laptop or USB hub:
Cellphone, iPod, Palm, camera etc?
Message-ID: <>

I think the USB cable standard is becoming the de facto universal
standard for charging LiOn batteries. I can charge my Tungsten E via
USB cable connected to a laptop or a powered USB hub. I recently
bought a lightweight adapter for $20 that claims to charge my Spring
Samsung cell phone via USB. The standard iPod will not recharge via
USB (needs firewire), but the new iPod-mini WILL (another advantage to
the mini for travelers!). I don't know of any digital cameras that
recharge via the USB connector but if they don't yet exist they will

Zip-Linq [1] makes very lightweight and portable USB cables that can
also work as data sync cables for a Tungsten E, and are used with some
portable travel mice. (They are not USB 2.0 cables and would not be a
good choice for iPod sync even if they had the right connector). This
cable, which uses a mini-USB connector will work with some digital
camera. Because of the business market, it's also possible to find
very compact and lightweight powered USB hubs with well made power

I think we're seeing an interesting example of convergence. For years
geek travelers, who carry a melance of chargers and cables, have
yearned for a simple solution. Magnetic induction charging solutions
have seemed close at hand, but never quite made it.

Maybe now the market, in a curious fashion resembling natural
selection in action, has converged on a standard.

A lightweight powered USB hub, itself with a lightweight and efficient
transformer designed for travel, can (in theory) charge at least 4
connected peripherals -- as long as they use this "USB standard"
charging approach. Many of the peripherals: iPod, cellphone, PDA,
camera may further use the same cable (USB 2.0 with standard connector
and mini-USB connector -- see [1]) for data synchronization --
eliminating another set of cables.

If one travels with a computer the internal USB ports may suffice for
2-4 devices depending on the computer. In that case a passive USB hub,
like the one I carry in my laptop's PCMCIA slot, the laptop and its
power adaptor, and a small number of very compact USB cables can
replace a mess of cabling and chargers/transformers.

Best of all, there are no new intellectual property issues here. Costs
are also very low.

USB charging is slow, but most of us sleep sometime. A good time to
recharge all devices.

I'm going to warily test out the phone USB charging adapter. Since the
phone I use (Samsung) wasn't designed to charge with this adapter I'm
running a risk, but I expect other phones will be designed to work
this way.

Anyone else have comments and experiences to share with regard to USB
device charging? I'm particularly interested in experiences with cell
phones, digital cameras (if any), the new mini-iPods and passive hubs.

addenda: eForcity sells a "universal USB charger"

This is a very nice wall adaptor. Not expensive. I'm going to try combining it with a passive hub to see if I can charge multiple devices all at once. eForcity has a number of quite interesting products along this line, including iPod chargers.

meta: jfaughnan, jgfaughnan, charger, adaptor, adapter, power adaptor,
power adapter, converter, convertor, USB, mini-B, USB sync,
synchronization, HotSync, laptop, portability, travel, cellular,
mobile phone, sprint, Samsung, portability, efficiency, convergence,
transformer, AC/DC, wall wart


The Geek ISP: Speakeasy

Speakeasy, Inc.
I'm very happy with my local ISP (VISI.COM), but if I weren't this one's getting a national reputation for excellence.

Postfix Enabler for OS X: mail services from an OS X machine

Postfix EnablerNow that ISPs are providing authenticated smtp this is less critical for me, but it's interesting all the same. Cheap way to enable Postfix (Panther), which is much more secure and user friendly than SendMail (Jaguar).

Burnz Features: Burn CD/DVD under OS X with limited free disk space

Burnz FeaturesAllows burning a CD or DVD without requiring image construction first. Means:

1. big time savings
2. doesn't require 4.7 GB free to burn a DVD

I will be testing!!

Sunday, January 11, 2004

The 2-3 year lifespan of Lithium-Ion batteries (Washington Post)

Batteries Can't Keep Up (
Lithium ion batteries, the battery type most commonly used inside laptops and the flashy gadgets that early adopters of new technology lug everywhere in their pockets, are the most lightweight, powerful and low-maintenance batteries around....

But they have one drawback: a limited lifespan. Lithium ion batteries are particularly susceptible to aging; as soon as one leaves the manufacturing line, its countdown begins. A typical lifespan is two to three years, whether it is ever used or not -- as some disgruntled owners of Apple Computer Corp.'s iPod found when their digital music players suddenly went dead. A huge hullabaloo ensued.

...Though Rio offers players with both replaceable and built-in battery options, Hastings said that most consumers care more about a player's looks than its onboard battery lifespan when comparison shopping.

Some gadget makers have programs to replace batteries when they've worn out, some don't. Apple eventually agreed to set up a battery-replacement program for the popular digital music player (iPod owners can now have their batteries replaced for $99). Handheld maker PalmOne doesn't have a program in place to replace the batteries of old handhelds; PalmOne's vice president of hardware engineering, Gregg Zehr said that most users choose to upgrade to a new handheld when the battery wears out.

This is a fascinating story, there are really several things to learn from the LiOn history:

1. It takes quite a while for these things to emerge. LiOn batteries have been in heavy use for at least five years, but it's only in the past six months that their lifespan and other characteristics have started to be known to Geeky types. This washington post article is the first summary I've seen for a wider audience. As usual the trade journals had nothing to say. I do miss the old BYTE! I'm sure this was well known by engineers in this domain.

2. The real problem is not so much the short lifespan of LiOn batteries, or even their high replacement cost, but rather that quite expensive devices were sold with a fixed non-replaceable battery. You can easily pay $500 to $1000 for a PDA or iPod that has a 2 year lifespan. In contrast a laptop can have a 4-8 year lifespan. A PDA or iPod is thus more costly than a laptop. This doesn't have to be true.

3. Customers have not made wise choices, but manufacturers could have educated them better. Or maybe not.

4. iBook customers noted the same problem as iPod customers, but iBook batteries are replaceable.

5. If you buy a laptop towards the end of a production cycle, your battery may be less fresh and die sooner.

6. I'm not sure this is equally true for all LiOn batteries. In particular I think SONY may have some useful "tricks" that are somewhat underappreciated.

Friday, January 09, 2004

RAMJET Inc.: Only trustworthy source of Mac DRAM?

Kingston is getting a bad reputation. Macintouch points here instead: RAMJET Inc.: Quality Computer Memory.

Update 10/29/2013:

I wrote the above in 2004 -- about 9 years ago. Back then my tech blog was more of a microblog - rather like my current stream.

Today I received a curious email, ostensibly from a ramjet address. Perhaps it's some kind of campaign to smear Ramjet? Here's what it says:
We have tried to contact you several times regarding the link on to our site This link is in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and must be removed in order to bring our site into compliance with Google's terms.
We are assembling a reconsideration request and will be submitting it to Google, soon. Again, all links which we could not remove will be included in the information we submit.
Please remove the link from your site and notify us when this has been done, so that we do not include your site information in our submission.
Thank you,
Steven Lizardi
I wonder what the heck he means?  All I can think of is that the original link included a Macintouch referral parameter -

I removed the referral parameter. Otherwise, I can't imagine revising 9 year old blog post, or that this could in some way relate to Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

Smells fishy, but I can't figure out the angle.

Mac OS X 10.2, 10.3: How to Perform Mac OS 9 Clean Installation With Restore CDs

Mac OS X 10.2, 10.3: How to Perform Mac OS 9 Clean Installation With Restore CDs
Rather trickier than I'd expected!

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

PDFPen: $30 alternative to Acrobat for OS X

SmileOnMyMac about PDFpen
Impressive if it works, it does a lot of what Acrobat since OS X handles the page generation and Preview does bookmarks. No thumbnails.

ComboDock: very cheap approach to firewire drives. $150

WiebeTECH Micro Storage Solutions - ComboDock
Stick it on an IDE drive, plug it in, have a firewire drive. Something to do with those ancient 20GB drives -- easy way to make an emergency boot disk for OS X. $150.

Metakit by Equi4 Software: Underlies Mac OS X address book

Metakit by Equi4 SoftwareFascinating application, with a veyr modest web site. They're tackling some terribly hard problems.

Macintosh iLife: iPhoto Links

Macintosh iLife: iPhoto
Nice collection of iPhoto links and digital photography resources.

Panther and Journaling: Carbon Copy Cloner and reformatting system disk

Apple - Discussions - Panther: iPhoto freeze, black screen of death
Based on the hypothesis that the primary problem is a disk defect not detectable by Apple's disk utility, I did the following.

1. Formatted my iPod as HFS (journaled) and used CarbonCopy Cloner to clone my iBook drive to the iPod. Repaired privileges before and after.
2. Booting from the iPod I erased and formatted my iBook drive (not just the volume, the entire drive) as HFS (journaled) including OS 9 drivers.
3. Used Carbon Copy Cloner to clone iPod to iBook drive. Repaired permissions -- this time some major (.core) privileges were repaired. Ran Disk Repair again, as usual no problems.
4. Restarted from iBook and tested. Found the icon for the CD/DVD system preferences was missing though the preferences worked. Switched users and the icon was back, so I located the cache for the System Preferences in usr/Library and deleted it. This restored the icon. Unsettling!
5. Restored the iPod (reset to factory, then applied iPod updater then synched with iTunes).

A few preferences did not make the round trip -- which is again unsettling. The power preferences, for example, had to be reset.

If I were to do it again, I'd like to see if I could install a basic version of Panther to the iPod w/ CCC, but do my cloning to a sparse disk image and restore from the sparse image. Given my experience with sparse disk images on an SMB share I could actually put the sparseimage file on an SMB share and use the iPod just for booting.

I've done some preliminary testing and not experienced the problems seen earlier, but I need to use the system a lot more before I start to trust it.

At this point I still suspect the problem is switching to journaling on a file system first formatted under OS X 10.x then subject to various lockups, repairs, crashes and severe file fragmentation through 10.1 to 10.3. (However the S.M.A.R.T test shows valididated, so the disk mechanism appears intact.).

Dry Creek Photo: ICC profiles to get great results at Costco and other digital print vendors

Dry Creek Photo
We offer a database of freely available Fuji Frontier and Noritsu digital printer Icc profiles for mini labs everywhere.  In the US, these include most Costco, Wal-Mart, and Ritz Camera locations, among others. If your local Frontier or Noritsu lab is not listed in our database, download and print our profiling target. We will build a basic profile for you at no charge.

You can use these profiles to get the best color fidelity from your digital prints.

Great stuff, especially for Mac users. Most printers are set for standard PC gamma and other settings and print Mac images as somewhat dark. I will try this out.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Panther's Best: Sparse Disk Images on an SMB share

Apple - Discussions - Disk Images on an SMB share
Other than a more robust file system, the single best feature of Panther for my purposes may be the ability to host a sparseimage (sparse disk image) on an SMB share. Jaguar did not allow sparseimage nor regular HFS+ disk images to be mounted when hosted on an SMB share unless the images were quite small.

[Addendum 1/9/04: From a MacDev article - FileVault uses sparse image -- "FileVault uses a special disk image format: USDP or SPARSE. These files have a .sparceimage extension. Their specificity is that the resulting volume expands as needed to accommodate more data without requiring you to manually create a new image and copy data back and forth -- or requiring the system to do so."]

Using Disk Utility one can create a sparse image (not a read/write image) on a local drive or a share, including an SMB share. The file created has the extension "sparseimage". The size one specifies in the create image dialog is the MAXIMUM size, the actual file created is quite small -- about 4MB where the maximum size is DVD size (4.7 GB). Even over an 802.11b WLAN connection it only takes a few minutes to create and format the image.

Once the image is created and mounted one can copy files to it. I experimented with copying a 500MB iPhoto Library to the disk image. The sparseimage file grows only as needed to incorporate the added files, so the physical file grew 500MB after copying. (The Finder reports 4.2GB free, as far as the Finder knows this is a 4.7GB disk.)

The image can be quickly mounted and dismounted. Using a G3 iBook and a slow 802.11b connection the 500MB sparseimage (4.7GB capacity) mounts in seconds.

Once mounted it is accessed like an HFS+ share. Using iPhoto Library over the effective 2mbps (802.11b) connection I loaded the 500MB library into iPhoto 2.0. Access was quite fast with a delay of a few seconds when displaying a full screen image for the first time. I expect there'd be no perceptible delay on a 100mbps wired LAN.

Why is this so valuable? SMB storage is very cheap. Any ancient box running Win2K and some dirt cheap IDE controllers easily host 5 or so inexpensive 120GB drives. Unfortunately the OS X SMB client cannot take full advantage of this. Problems with character encoding and perhaps permissions mean some HFS+ data cannot be placed on an SMB share. In particular iPhoto 2.x libraries, which can require a large amount of storage, cannot be moved to an SMB share. (If you try you will get messages that some files cannot be copied.) They can, however, be quite safely copied into a disk image on an SMB share. One might consider the same approach for iTunes, though I've been hosting my iTunes files on an SMB share using the standard approach without known problems.

The main drawback is backup. If one is doing backup via the SMB host then changing a single bit in a file on the disk image will alter the disk image. Even the kind of disk based backup I use [1] will run out of space. I will probably exempt the disk image from my standard backup and just copy it weekly to my backup store, while doing monthly DVD burns of the sparseimage to provide serial backup. I will experiment with Retrospect server to see if Retrospect will do a file level backup if I simply leave the image mounted on my laptop overnight.

I await reports from other experimenters!



meta: jfaughnan, jgfaughnan, OS X, diskimage, disk image, sparse image, sparse disk image, SMB, windows, share, network, iPhoto, backup, server, storage management, Panther, 10.3, 10.3.2

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Running older games in XP: Broderbund

Broderbund Customer Support - Tech Tip: Running Programs in Windows® XP Using Compatibility Mode"
Very well written, a nice reference for managing games w/ XP. I am awed by how well XP handles ancient software.

Panther calculator - take two

Mac OS X Panther (10.3.2): "Re: Hidden capabilities in the Panther Calculator

Russell Stephany
In response to 'Hidden capabilities in the Panther Calculator' by Norman Palardy, adding these plug-ins can also be accomplished by using the 'plug-ins' section of the Get Info window. The only unusual thing is that you must click the 'open' button (or, presumably, double-click) when on the .calcview folder.

There is also an rtf file in the ExpressionSheet.calcview/Contents/Resources/.lproj with information about the expression syntax.

Michael Merwin
The tip from Norman Palardy 'Hidden capabilities in the Panther Calculator ' prompted me to look more closely at the calculator and to discover its conversion capabilities including currency conversion with an update feature which takes into account the fluctuation of the dollar on the world markets. "

Thursday, January 01, 2004

More recommendations on the care and feeding of LiOn batteries

iPod Battery FAQ
Q: What is the best way to handle charging/discharging/storage of lithium ion batteries?

... Lithium ion batteries are good for 300-500 charge/discharge cycles. A 'charge/discharge' cycle generally consists of an extended charging period, and an extended discharging period. A quick charge, listening for 30 minutes, and charging again, for example, does not constitute a full 'charge/discharge cycle', but could rather be considered a portion of one.

Also, many, many factors affect how much you get out of each charge, as well as how long the battery will last overall. The main factors include charging patterns, the routine amount of discharge (i.e., Do you use it until it dies? Use it for an hour or two and recharge?), temperature, storage, usage frequency, etc. Lithium ion batteries do not take kindly to frequent full or complete discharges. When possible, the optimal usage pattern - for any lithium ion battery - is a partial discharge, followed by recharging. A partial discharge can be anything less than a full discharge. However, an occasional full discharge is desirable (e.g., once every 30 charges) to calibrate the battery. Lithium ion batteries do not significantly degrade, or develop 'memory', even if charged at irregular intervals; irregular charging is acceptable. An iPod can also safely be attached to external power for extended periods of time. (For extremely extended periods of time, such as months, the battery will essentially be the same as if it were in 'storage'; lithium ion batteries do not store well for extended periods of time at full charge. However, there is no way around this under these circumstances.) When possible, always use the AC adapter (or vehicle adapter) for extended charging, not a FireWire cable attached to a computer.

If you will be storing your iPod for an extended period of time (i.e., weeks to months), it is recommended to store the unit in a cool place at about 40% charge. The most harmful combination for storage is full charge at high temperature (i.e., in a hot car for a couple of weeks).

This matches everything I've read and practice. I think it's equally true for an iBook. My sense is that only SONY truly has true mastery of LiOn batteries -- they developed the core technology and I suspect they may have some unique patents or skill with them -- Apple and PalmOne are not in teh same class.

I try to run in the 40-100% charge range. It's good to know however than an iPod can be happily left in its powered cradle -- assuming the cradle is connected to the wall charger.