Monday, December 26, 2005

Bundled Tiger applications: can't be installed on a different machine

Hypothetically, suppose you use iPhoto 5 on an iMac, and you want to take your photos to mother for the holidays with your iBook. Alas, the iBook runs iPhoto 4.02. You might suppose you could get the iPhoto app from the Tiger DVD that came with the iMac, perhaps using Pacifist...

Mac Mini (Part 10)

Mike Cohen

If you buy a Mac Mini to get a copy of iLife or Tiger to install on another machine, you'll be disappointed. There's no separate iLife disk - it's included on the system restore DVD, which won't let you install it on another machine...
Hypothetically, this is correct. Pacifist will open the 'Bundled Applications' package, but iPhoto and other iLife apps appear with 'zero bytes'. They're hidden away somewhere obscure -- beyond my ken.

So, hypothetically speaking, no cheating allowed.

BTW, the OS X Tiger DVD wouldn't even mount on my iBook. It's a dual layer DVD, I'm not sure 10.3.x supports it anywhere, but certainly not on my aging iBook ...

AppleScript - going the way of the Newton?

Apple's main page for scripting iPhoto has a missing image icon at the top and leads with this text:
Scriptable Applications: iPhoto

iPhoto version 2 offers easy control and automation via AppleScript.
iPhoto is currently at version 5. AppleScript is not long for this world.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Bluetooth problem with managed user in OS X

Weird. I disable Bluetooth on my iMac. Don't need it. Lately the kids session (managed user) was running very slowly. Bluetooth (blued process) was sucking resources. Turns out it was enabled in that session, even though that user can't alter network prefs. The menubar icon showed bluetooth was on. I disabled it.

Session is now useable, but still a bit sluggish. Odd. I suspect a glitch; I don't think Apple thoroughly tested how things work with a limited-privilege user.

Spotless: Beat the Spotlight beast for a mere $8 US

Spotless is a $8 OS X utility that lets one delete spotlight (oh wretched implementation) indices and disable spotlight indexing.

In theory Spotlight has a mechanism for excluding drives from indexing. In practice it doesn't work. OS X is perpetually trying to index an external backup drive -- no matter how often I tell it not to. Spotless claims to have disabled that indexing and to have deleted the files.

Unless 10.4.4 finally fixes that blasted bug, and assuming my problems with that drive resolves, I'll happily register spotless.

Oh wretched Apple that three bug-fix releases of the 10.4 have not fixed this problem.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Better ways to record audio: use a patch cable to connect audio out and audio in.

macosxhints - An alternative method for recording computer audio

Emergency fixes for bad photos: Putting Photoshop to good use

This MacWorld article relies on Photoshop for most of its fixes. I liked it because it puts some moderately advanced image editing features in a problem solving context: Macworld: Feature: Emergency fixes for bad photos. Once I buy Aperture, it will be interesting to see how many of these fixes can be implemened in Aperture. The thing I most need to learn is how to rescue underexposed regions without blowing out highlights. I hate to think I have to buy Photoshop Elements, it's a notoriously ill-behaved OS X application (won't install/run except as Administrator, an egregious flaw).

Aperture: Perhaps the best review so far

Aperture Review < Main < is evolving as the author, a professional photographer, uses it in his work. He leads with an issues list that feels reasonably comprehensive, then concludes he's pleased with his purchase. The good outweights the bad, the bad looks fixable, and the alternatives aren't so great.

I'm thinking I may move to Aperture in the springtime.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Import Microsoft Access tables into Filemaker Pro

(For related comments on FMPro 8, see my review.)

This is pretty obscure. The official documentation, Querying an ODBC data source from FileMaker Pro, isn't all that helpful.

If you're ever stuck with this problem, here are some tips.

First create an OBDC data source pointing to the Microsof Access file you're importing from.
1. In XP's control panel you'll find something called 'Data Sources (ODBC)'.
2. Open it and create a new data source, choose Microsoft Access driver.
3. In the driver dialog name the source then use the Database select dialog to select it.
Now, in FileMaker choose File Open:ODBC source then ...
1. Select the data source you create above.
2. Enter username and password for Windows account.
3. Write SQL (for an entire table just do "select * from table_name"). Yes, that's not very user friendly. FileMaker is not the program it once was.
4. FMPro imports the Access data. In my experiment everything came in as text, except a boolean that was translated to a number. Dates in Access were imported as text. The latter didn't impress me.
Wouldn't it be nice if FMPro could just import from the file directly?

Hacking Aperture

How to make Aperture run on unsupported platforms. You may regret it.

macosxhints - Run Aperture on a 12" PowerBook

1. Use a package opener to bypass installer.
2. Open the .app package once you have it installed, and get to the Info.plist and open it. Apple stores the minimum requirements there. Like RAM for example, change 1000 to 1 or whatever you want less than what you have.

Reasons to install Google Desktop and thus Google Desktop search ...

Yahoo Desktop Search, when it doesn't crash and burn, is still the best full text indexing and search tool for XP (I so wish Microsoft hadn't bought and killed "Lookout for Outlook". Google Desktop, and thus Googe Desktop Search, however, is getting very, very interesting. The Plug-In modules are getting clever enough that they significantly increase the value of the product. Consider this one ...
Google Desktop Plug-in: HDDlife plug-in for Google Desktop

Worried about a hard drive failure? Get HDDlife - a real-time hard drive monitoring utility with malfunction protection and data loss prevention features. This hard drive inspector is an advanced proactive hard drive failure detection system that manages all of your hard drive risks. HDDlife runs in the background constantly monitoring your disks. It alerts you about possible hard disk problems before they happen and displays a disk health indicator in the Google Desktop Sidebar.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Iridient RAW Developer: OS X photo tool for $60

Since I've moved to a Canon DR XT dSLR, and learned more about the theoretical advantages of RAW images and the limitations of in-camera processing, I'm thinking of moving to RAW. I'll probably due this using Aperture 1.01 (when it's out), but in the meantime I'm going to play with: Iridient Digital - RAW Developer for OS X. It got at least one impressive review.

Mac Orchard: a place to look for Mac software, classic and OS X

via Macintouch:

Macintosh Internet Software at The Mac Orchard - Welcome!

[Drew Saur] The Mac Orchard always has (and always will) listed and linked any Macintosh Internet software (for *any* vintage of Mac OS) as long as there is an official download link left for it. On top of that, the Orchard also serves as an official (or as an "only remaining") download host for many older applications. As I announced on the Orchard's home page last Friday, I am trying to get permission from Microsoft to host the files for Mac IE after January 2006. So far, I have not received a response.

Content Management Systems: A Macintouch report

Macintouch has a new report on wcontent management systems (cms) . It feels to me as though the functionality of a product like FrontPage 98 is being divided between embedded browser editing and emerging CMS standards. A shame WebDav seems not to play any useful role.

Update 12/22/05: The Macintouch report is becoming a superb resource. Macintouch has always had an extraordinary group of contributing readers, and the combination of their editing and the readership is a magic combination. I'm surprised others haven't fully copied this model.

One of the postings references an article on why CMS solutions fail. That article really clarified for me why company's want CMS solutions, what they are now, and why they may fail. (Hint: you can't eliminate the Editor function.) Indirectly this all helps me understand how modern CMS solutions relate to FrontPage (Vermeer, the brilliant predecessor to FrontPage, was best understood as an kit for building a corporate version of what was then pre-Internet AOL).

Reading this I do wish their was a business model that would support expanding on the original Vermeer/FrontPage vision. Alas, Microsoft long ago took their product down a road that doesn't interest me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

SOHO Organizer: a Palm Desktop for OS X

Wow. I didn't think there was any life left in the Mac Organizer world, but the makers of StickyBrain have a Cocoa build desktop out: SOHO Organizer. It's new and hence likely treacherous, but there's a one month download trial. Costs $100. Hmmm. I'd like to see how well the task management works.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Aperture review: non-destructive editing for JPEG and TIFF

I was surprised to see that Aperture does non-destructive editing for JPEGs and TIFFs as well as RAW. Overall this is a very clear and valuable review:>

Art of RAW Conversion #022 @Digital Outback Photo

... Non-destructive editing Aperture does not modify master files but stores all modifications as a separate parameter set. Thus, you may have several versions of an image (master file). This is not new in RAW converters (e. g. RawShooter offers snapshots for this task), but Apple extends this concept from RAW files to JPEGs and TIFFs, as well ? it?s primarily intended to be used for files from your digital camera or scanner, but may be used for other files, as well.
I'm waiting for the promised patch release with some cautious optimism. I may even buy at that time.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Lock screen in OS X: Show keychain status in menu bar

MacDevCenter has written a brief tutorial on the OS X Keychain. It doesn't completely demystify the keychain (I'm still a bit unclear about what it means to unlock or lock an entire keychain), but it helps. I like the idea of showing the keychain status in the menu bar; as a side-effect I also get a convenient 'lock screen' shortcut. A Look at Keychain Access (and Why You Should Care)

... If you choose to go down this route [lock keychain], you may quickly run into one of the disadvantages of being over-careful about security: websites and email clients and all sorts of other applications start pestering you with dialogs, asking you to enter your keychain password every single time something needs to be done. To avoid this, return to Keychain Access' preferences panel and check the "Show Status in Menu Bar" option.

Now you've got quick, easy access to your keychain controls from the menu bar, and you can lock and unlock whole keychains without having to mess around inside of Keychain Access itself.

Note that there's also a Lock Screen command, which may come in handy if you have to leave your machine unattended for short periods of time. It will ask for your username and password before letting you get back to work.

Another good policy is to create several keychains. One for boring day-to-day stuff--this might as well be your default login.keychain file, one for Secure Notes, and extras for any passwords and certificates that you need to keep extra secure.
Using the Keychain for secure notes is a bit silly. Much better to create an encrypted disk image to hold that sort of thing, and mount it as needed. Just be sure NOT to store the password for the disk image in the keychain!

Creating buttons for OS X (Photoshop required)

Random Tech: Beautiful Aqua Button Template and Tutorial

Friday, December 16, 2005

PDNOnline has a fairly detailed overview of Aperture

They've put a good review together. Biased towards the positive certainly, but it's not hard to see where they ran into problems. After reading about the pending update I'm hopeful I'll be moving to Apterure withing a few months: Putting Aperture Through Its Paces: Part I

Another OS X cache related problem

OS X caches cause no end of trouble. This one caused a 'corrupt font' error in Office:
MacInTouch: timely news and tips about the Apple Macintosh

...So you would think it was a file in my home directory. Wrong! The culprit was Apple's system level font cache, which caches fonts by user. Deleting /Library/Caches/, where (uid) is my user id (just check with get info if you don't know your id - yours is the one you own) solved the problem.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Google and Firefox: getting more serious? Two extensions

Google has published two useful extensions to Firefox, one related to blogging, the other to spotting phishing scams. I've installed both. Interesting by itself, but is this an early sign of a more vigorous Google/Firefox collaboration? I don't remember Google previously delivering anything for Firefox before IE.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Philip Greenspun's on building a digital SLR system and selecting lenses

Philip Greenspun's Weblog. Phil is a great writer and photographer. I liked his pithy summary comment: "[If you don't want to read this article and are impatient to get started immediately, get a Canon Digital Rebel XT and Sigma 30/1.4 lens.]" and this other emphatic opinion:
... The market leader in the professional/advanced amateur photography world is Canon. If you don't have a major investment in lenses you will probably want to buy a Canon digital SLR. The number two spot is occupied by Nikon, which is also a reasonable choice. Fuji and Kodak have made digital SLRs that accept Canon- and Nikon-mount lenses. Once you get beyond Nikon and Canon it becomes very difficult to rent lenses and the companies that make the more obscure systems don't have a large enough market share to invest enough money to build competitive bodies. Leica, Minolta, Olympus, Pentax, and Sigma are the small vendors in the digital SLR market. Unless you have an enormous investment in lenses for one of these brands the only one of these worth considering for purchase is Olympus, due to its innovative Four-Thirds system, discussed below...
I got an XT with the kit lens, and a Canon 50mm 1.8 lens. I think my next lens though will be the Sigma 30/1.4, then after that a vibration-damped zoom if/when Sigma makes one.

Porting MSN Virtual Earth to an OS X Dashboard Widget Dissecting a Dashboard Virtual Earth Widget. Intereting. Now if only the Dashboard was properly implemented! (Widgets should live on te desktop, not in some silly floating layer.)

MySQL on Mac OS X

via AppleInsider, two pointers to open source database work on OS X:

1. OReilly Managing MySQL on Mac OS X
2. cocoamysql: GUI administrative tool for MySQL

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A very nice overview of digital photography for OS X

TidBITS: Reality and Digital Pictures is a very practical approach aimed at people who know photography. Any article that begins by setting gamma is interesting (note that a gamma of 2.2 makes the OS X chrome look dull), especially when it continues with a very modern overview of how we perceive the visual world:
Eye vs. Camera -- To begin with, let's dispel the notion that a camera records what the eye can see. It does not and it cannot because a camera functions nothing like the eye. With a lens of normal focal length, a camera records an image with a diameter of approximately 45 degrees. It records the entire image at once and the image ends up as a print with a range of intensity from black to white of approximately one hundred to one. In contrast, the eye sees an area about 180 degrees across but it sees most of this with acuity that ranges from bad to dreadful. It sees sharply just in the central 1 to 3 degrees. To see a scene clearly, the eye must scan it and the brain must assemble the accumulated information. However, the eye rarely has time to sample more than small portions of a scene with its spot of clear vision so most of what you see has no optical source, it is an inference. Your brain infers information largely by generalizing from what it has encountered before. In doing this the eye and brain have to handle contrasts of light that exceed one million to one.
It's only recently that non-specialists have become aware of how much of our visual world is illusory, and how little data our brain has to work with. Fascinating. Think about what happens when you move into an environment that's unfamiliar, such as going from a city to a jungle. How much can the city dweller truly perceive in the jungle? Imagine transition to a setting even more different? What happens to our visual world as our brain ages and becomes less able to make reasonable interpolations of data ...

Update 12/13/05: I posted the above on scanning the article. On deeper reading "very nice" is an understatement. This is the first article I've read that convinced me I'll eventually move to processing raw images, probably to TIFF or PNG or JPEG 2000. It's the most impressive digital photography article I've ever read.

Laptop power adapters for international travel: a series of recommendations

MacInTouch has a series of recommendations on laptop power adapters and international travel that are well worth tucking away. They apply to many devices, not just Macs.
14:00 EST Edward Liu asked for advice about laptop power adapters for use in mainland China, and we got lots of tips:

[Paul Swift] In response to Edward Liu's question about bringing his iBook to use in mainland Chinese hotels, I'm a PowerBook user in mainland China and also know an iBook user here. I originally had bought Apple's international plug adapter kit (I can't remember exactly what it's called), but found that most of the sockets in mainland China work just fine with the American plug. There are pretty much two kinds of sockets here: one that is three-pronged (not like three-pronged American sockets) and one that is two pronged that works with American style plugs as long as they can handle the voltage.
I just plug directly into the socket like I would in America - the power cord that your laptop comes with handles a wide range of voltage. My digital camera power cord works just fine too as it handles wide ranges of voltages. Also my iPod, now that I think of it. The iBook user I know originally also plugged in directly to the socket but didn't feel comfortable after a while and bought a voltage converter for like $15 here.
I don't know about the airline adapter, but I think you'd probably be safe without an international plug adapter - though don't come looking to strangle me if something bad happens! I've been doing it for two years without trouble. This way you could maybe just buy the airline adapter and call it quits. Or, if your Chinese is decent, you could buy a cheap converter here and leave it when you return home thus not having to pack it.

[Ben Bidstrup] Mainland China have several sorts of plugs. They include English ( 3 pin with square pins) Australian (3 pins with flat bladed pins N and A at an angle) and US 2 pin (flat blades parallel). So you have a variety of choices.
As for airlines, Kensington used to do a great power supply which would, work with all airline plugs (cigarette lighter, EM and 110vAC) but that is no longer available. I would look at the Teleadapt which will plug in to seat power sockets and then plug your Mac power supply into it. Note that some airlines (DragonAir for example) have 110VAC at the seats. (Check with any airline as to which seats are powered). Lind also do an adapter. Kensington do a little gadget that will keep the computer running but not charge it (12V DC). Get an Apple Travel plug kit which will give you just about every option for plugs.

[Ken Tidwell]

1. Airplane: Buy at least one extra battery and learn how to best configure your iBook towards power conservation in concert w/your usage habits, and how to maximize the use of multiple batteries. Get into the habit of charging both as a priority, so that the batteries are topped off before you move from one location to another. I sleep my iBook, rather than powering it up/down. I believe this uses less power overall, and if airport security wants to see it work, all I have to do is lift the lid.

2. Hotel: The iBook charger, similar to most Apple products, is auto-ranging (100~240 V)... you simply need the correct adapter, as you seem to indicate. Many hotels will gladly loan you an extension cord if you need one. I don't recommend spending money on one in China you expect to keep after the trip, as the quality is so low as to routinely create hazards. Check that the power outlet you use remains on when you leave the room... notice that many hotels use a key-card that you drop into a slot when you enter the room, and take with you when you leave... this helps to cut the power to devices in the room, and if your adapter is one of them, you will be dissapointed when you come back after dinner and find that nothing has received a charge. Buy extra rechargeable batteries for cameras or whatever, stateside only.

Apple sells a 6-piece 'World Travel Adapter Kit M8794G/A', that I have found to be very handy, as they snap-fit onto the iBook, iPod, etc. chargers. While the smaller two-pronged (folding twin flat-blade) adapter used in the USA will work in many instances, you may need at least two other different adapters and in this case, the Apple adapter kit includes both. Easy to carry.
If you go for other options, know that the current practice in the US, where one blade is tipped wider than the other, will get you into trouble in China. The outlets that do cater to a pair of small thin blades will not usually accept the offset style. Don't bother bringing along anything that uses such a configuration.

[David Babsky] I use a Kensington "Universal 70w AC/DC Power Adapter" - the white one intended for Macs; there's also an all black one meant for PCs. It comes with an airline plug and one or two mains plugs (mine had German and UK mains plugs). Just get one of those "travel adapter" devices sold at airports, so that it can be plugged into any mains socket around the world.
Don't worry about voltage differences: the Kensington adapter works on just about all voltages - 120v, 240v ( do the ordinary Apple-supplied PowerBook chargers..) and it worls on 12-16v for cars and planes.
Besides a pair of PowerBook connections, both 3.5mm (for the old G3 PowerBooks) and 2.5mm (for current PowerBooks and iBooks) it also comes with a slimline "docking connector" for charging iPods too!
It's sold by online Apple-oriented stores, and Kensington's website offers links to some stores. It costs around 95 Euros in Europe, so that's probably around $95. I have no connection with Kensington; I'm just a satisfied user.

[Bruce Shanker] He should check out the power supplies from iGo Their Juice and various everywhere products include power adapters for airlines and they sell separate connectors from the powerpack to different plug configurations. The Juice 90 and many other supplies come with the plug for the powerbook (S15 or 15 depending on which item is purchased). I have both the Juice 90 and the Everywhere 130. Each has airline adapters. The juice came with the plug for the Powerbook. The Everywhere 130 did not. I also saw adapters that allow foreign connections. The power supplies automatically adjust voltage, etc. They even have adapters that also allow you to charge your cell phone, PDA and other devices.

[Brian Bard]
[See the] MadsonLine Auto Airport Adapter
The Apple white power block is dual voltage; you can use the World Travel Adapter Kit from Apple [or $39.99 at Amazon.

[William Staman] On thing missing from this discussion is a surge protector. I bought a 2-Wire In-Line Laptop Surge Protector which can be force fit between the Apple plug and transformer of an iBook. It's small and is a simple series connection. Radio Shack has it for ~$10.00. [Catalog #: 61-2441]

Monday, December 12, 2005

Free SendStation PocketDoc for Firewire (G3 iPods really)

I saw this on Macintouch this am, and I got one of these for the $5.80 shipping cost: SendStation - Products - PocketDock FireWire. This is mostly of interest to folks who have a 3rd generation dockable iPod, later versions would probably want a USB PocketDoc. There aren't that many of these left that are still working, so it's plausible that SendStation would want to dump their inventory. It's also kind of them to do so. They had about 1000 to start with.

If you have a firewire cable around, this device turns it into a 3G iPod sync cable. The combination is compact and convenient. In my case I have an external firewire drive on my desk that's only connected when I need it, so this will free up a cable for me.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Top X keyboard shortcuts in OS X - Super Get Info

When a keyboard shorcut list includes something useful I'd never heard of, it deserves a posting:
Top X keyboard shortcuts in OS X - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

...cmd + opt + i - Most of us know about cmd + i, which is the Get Info command, but if you throw opt into the mix you now have a window widely known (yet undocumented) as "Super Get Info." This handy window is basically a live Get Info window, changing with each file and folder you click on, enabling you to view and alter many file and folder stats (such as Spotlight Comments and what apps open what files) with one single window...
Update 5/12/07: Apple has updated their official keyboards shortcut list, but there are yet more that are unlisted. As a general rule, if you want to do something on a Mac and can't do it, try combinations of the modifier keys.

Google Desktop Search: great set of plug-ins

I like Yahoo Desktop Search, but lately on my home machine it's been quite unstable. Probably something Microsoft did with an update.

Instability causes my geek heart to wander, in this case to Google Desktop. The array of Plug-ins is starting to be very impressive. Google Desktop appears to have a community of developers. It's hard to beat those network effects.

Eudora email is prominently absent. Maybe it's time for me to reevaluate Thunderbird.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Don't buy Aperture if your backup software can't manage selective Package backup

Since Aperture conceals its images within the OS Package framework, it is a huge problem for backup software:
Macintouch - Aperture (Part 4)

Vince Heuring

One tip about backing up the Aperture database. Since it's a single package be sure you have a backup/sync program that can drill down into the package to backup only those files that have changed. Otherwise your program will back up the entire multi GB package every time even if only a few files have changed.

For example, in the ChronoSync synchronization app you need to check the 'Dissect Packages' checkbox, and then check the 'Pkgs' display option to see the package contents. I just verified that ChronoSync will synch just the items that have changed in the package. BTW, to examine the contents of package control-click the package and select 'Show Package Contents' from the drop-down menu. My only relationship with the ChronoSync folks is as an owner of the application.
Wow. This is a bad one. Any database will present similar issues, but most databases are reasonably compact (Outlook PST files being the famous exception). An Aperture package, however, will be routinely enormous. One should probably not adopt Aperture unless one has a supportive backup solution. Kudos to Macintouch and Vince Heuring for raising this issue. I'm evaluating ChronoSync now ...

Update 12/13: I may have spoken too soon here. Aperture has its own backup and archival system. I prefer my backup systems to handle this sort of thing, but I can see advantages to doing it the Aperture way too.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

SONY has the first large sensor fully digital camera

I wouldn't buy SONY's R1. It's a lot of money for a very innovative camera that will probably have some bugs ... and I haven't had much faith in SONY for a while -- even before they started installing rootkits and spyware on people's computers. I give them credit, though, for a major innovation (NYT) - a large sensor digital camera that doesn't inherit the noisy, clunky SLR technology of 1950.

Add the ability to switch lenses (presumably with an internal "shutter" to protect the sensor) and either jpeg 2000 or DNG in situ image encoding and it would be about perfect.

I enjoyed Pogue's NYT article because it's the first I've read that explains why relative light sensitivity requires large sensors, and why large sensors until now have require a shutter and a prism (primarily due to heat and power consumption when active). I recently bought my Digital Rebel XT to get that light sensitivity and large sensor quality, but in many respects it's a step back from my old 4 megapixel Canon G2. A future version of the SONY R1 is where we all want to go.

Update 12/17: I recently had some informative correspondence with a photographer. Image processing in today's cameras demands quite a bit of CPU work, and hence produces heat, slows processing, and drains the battery. The problem is worse with large sensors. This may explain why no manufacturer has yet offered JPEG 2000 processing; in comparison I expect JPEG processing is less CPU intensive and better optimized (actually, I recently read of a very clever research technique that allows JPEG compression with < 5% of today's energy drain. I'd guess DNG would work though, and I've read that the new Leica outputs DNG. That's a terrific precedent.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Spotlight bug: disable firewire networking

MacInTouch: timely news and tips about the Apple Macintosh

Problem: Spotlight fails to find filename strings that are right under its nose. It's cuckoo: type a string into a folder's Find box while you're looking at the matching file and watch it vanish with "0 Items" displayed...
Solution: Go to Network Preferences and turn off all networking for Firewire ports.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

StickyBrain: An alternative to the MarkSoft Memo app

I use MarkSoft's Missing Sync to sync my wife's CLIE with iCal et al. The only weak link (other than some MS and OS X bugs) is the -- it doesn't give me the support I want for moving items around.

MarkSoft suggested I try Sticky Brain instead. Not cheap at $40 but I'll take a look at it!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Apple's Aperture bites - the Ars Technica review

The thorough Ars review is out, confirming everyone's emerging suspicions:
Aperture 1.0: the Ars review : Page 9

Maybe by 2.0 Apple will have the foundation sorted out. At this stage Aperture is a big, expensive misfire and considering the hefty price tag, I can't think of a reason to recommend it. Reading this review, you may think I sound jaded, but I am genuinely angry for those who shelled out US$500 for a program that promised professional results and failed to deliver. Thanks for coming out Aperture, now get off the stage.
Adobe must be grinning today. If Apple were an honorable company they'd refund liberally, slink off the stage, and release a half-fixed version for a lower price point and a free upgrade. IF!

BTW, why is Aperture's metadata updating so slow? It's not fully clear, but it may be that Aperture actually lacks a relational (or object-relational) database engine. It appears to store metadata in a vast number of XML files. Apple appears to be fond of this approach; I personally despise it. It transforms a dual G5 machine into the equivalent of a Mac SE.

An astoundingly clear description of color gamuts and best practices for OS X

I've spent a small amount of time in the morass of color management over the past few years. Just enough to spot something very interesting in this occult domain.

This Aperture article is one of the best simple descriptions I've ever seen: Aperture: Color and gamma settings for print and web.

It does hint at some bugs in Aperture and OS X. For example, I think the recommendation to 'set gamma to 2.2 and white point D65 and never change it' is related to a bug in color profiles and fast user switching -- if not other color profile bugs. (A gamma of 2.2, by the way, will make the entire OS X interface look a bit odd. A seperate kb article mentions how the intersection of color profiles and external editors can crash Aperture ...)

I set my camera to sRGB, my screen to sRGB with Gamma 2.0 and white point D60, and cross my fingers and pray. For JPEG, with its inherently crummy color tables, this is probably good enough. It's a compromise between the Windows and Mac worlds. Pictures will look a bit dark on Windows and will print a bit dark from most print services.

I suspect that when OSX for Intel comes out, Apple will quietly change the hardware and OS to the Windows Gamma. It's about time ...

Update 12/20: Alas, introduce Photoshop and the view is murky again ...

Apple's Aperture knowledge base support articles (via Macintouch)

Apple - Support - Search Results

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Front Row installation on older Macs

How To Install Apple’s Font Row - Five Fun Ways to Play with Audio Hijack Pro

I had a frustrating experience with AH Pro, but I now own it. This list of ideas suggests I might get some mileage from it someday: Five Fun Ways to Play with Audio Hijack Pro

Fixing iPhoto: advice from the author of iPhoto Extractor

Restore iPhoto Library Using iPhoto Extractor covers the basics well. I figure I can live with iPhoto for another year while Aperture grows up a bit.

MacUpdate: dozens of iTunes remote control apps

Hmm. I'm finding all kinds of partlyl implemented ways to control iTunes. There's quite a list to explore here on MacUpdate. VersionTracker has others too. I've got two more to try.

Controlling remote iTunes using Apache and a web client

Another chapter in my ongoing effort to control iTunes from a remote iBook. My prior posting was about a WAP client using Apache.

Ahh, once I changed my Google search for remote iTunes control to include the string "Apache" things are going better. This method is less secure than I'd like, but my server only runs internally: iTunes Web Based Remote Control. Yes, we're making progress now!

Remote control of iTunes using Apache, AppleScript, CGI and a WAP client

I've tried several methods for controlling remote iTunes from my iBook. TuneConnect and NetTunes failed for different reasons. You'd think remote AppleEvents would do the trick, but it turns out Apple hasn't yet revised AppleScript to deal with Fast User Switching, which was only introduced two or three years ago.

This hack is promising: Build an iTunes Remote Control. Running a web server might get around the FUS problems, since the UNIX infrastructure of a port is inherently multi-user. I don't have a WAP client, but someone must have done something like this for a web client ...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Getting a rebate on the Canon Digital Rebel XT -- where's the UPC?

[This is really written for folks struggling with the rebate and searching Google for help.]

The Canon Digital Rebel XT comes with a $75 rebate.

As always, the process for getting the rebate is, unsurprisingly, confusing and complex. If it were easy, too many people would do it. The best way to proceed is to go this validation site and enter the UPC number. But which UPC number?

There are a plethora of UPC numbers on the box and in the box, and the directions don't help. They say "*Note: If you purchase an EOS 20D EF-S 17-85 Kit or Rebel XT EF-S 17-85 Kit, enter the UPC code from the camera body box located inside the kit packaging." Huh? There's no UPC inside the box holding my camera, but there are several on the box.

The trick is to look the UPC number up on Google, I found out that it's: "013803049640". Once I knew the number I could figure out where it was on the box. It is indeed on the kit box, not "inside on a camera box".

So if you use the web site, print out the form they provide, and follow all the rules religiously, you're probably okay. If you get stuck, you can phone the rebate center:
Canon USA rebate center toll free at (877) 862-6870 weekdays, 8 am to 8 pm EST.
KW: rebate, missing UPC, cannot find UPC, Digital Rebel XT

OS X Services: an overview and DevonTech link

One of the annoying aspects of OS X are all the half-baked ideas. I guess it's a problem with having a creative design team that's more interested in invention then implementation. OS X Services is in this class; promising but undeveloped. Some applications support them, many don't. They don't work with Firefox, but in Safari you can highlight text and apply several services to the text. AppleWorks doesn't support Services, but TextEdit and OmniOutliner do.

Random Tech has a good article on how to get the most from services, including a link to some DevonThink freeware I'm going to try out: Random Tech: Mac OS X Services (the menu you never go to).

Update: I'm impressed with the great DevonTech gifts. This may push me from Firefox back to Safari!

OS X fix: hang when connecting to a network service or apple partner

This is an obscure fix. If OS X hangs when connecting to a network service, consider deleting a keychain file:
Aperture (Part 3)

Ordering Prints from Apple did not work (I got a Connecting to Apple's Book & Print Ordering Server dialog with an endless progress bar). After a bit of googling I found an iPhoto tip to use the Keychain Access app to delete the keychain file for NetServices. The problem vanished instantly.
OS X has its share of obscure fixes: Delete cache. Delete preferences files. Try another user account. And now ... delete keychains. (Delete permissions is well known, but probably less useful than any of the above.

Open PDF as rich text in OS Cocoa applications

I installed this free DevonTech OS X service, and, as promised, I can now open a PDF in TextEdit and edit it. That's really kind of miraculous. So why is this so obscure?
DEVONtechnologies : Freeware : Services

PDF2RTFService 1.0

PDF2RTFService is a free filter service that enables many Cocoa applications, for example TextEdit or Apple Pages, to open Adobe PDF, PostScript and Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) files as paginated rich text documents. The application just needs to be able to read rich text documents. The actual conversion is done by Quartz and the PDFKit of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, PDF2RTFService post-processes and paginates the output for better results.

OmniOutliner 3.5 has been released

OmniOutliner is the heir to MORE 3.1. Arguably it's passed MORE's outliner capabilities [1], especially now that version 3.5's LinkBack capability allows them to embed OMNI Graffle items in an Outline. The update is free for registered 3.x users.

OO is also a reasonable way to produce HTML documents. It can even create HTML with dynamic outliner capabilities. (Whey has no-one done a browser that can represents a structured HTML document as an outline? Odd.) Alas, it doesn't handle hyperlinks, a feature I've requested.

One of the reasons I love OO is the file format. Rename the file to a gzip extension. Open that. Rename Contents.xml to Contents.xml.gzip. Open that. Now view Contents.xml in a text editor. Plain XML. If OO went way, it would be relatively trivial to write a utility to translate the files to RTF or another format.

[1] MORE 3.1 also had a vector drawing capability, a presentation module, and a module for creating org charts and the like. So a true replacement would be OO + OmniGraffle + Keynote. OO is now integrated with OmniGraffle, but Keynote integration is limited to saving an outline in Keynote format. Nonetheless, that level of integration does make me more interested in purchasing Pages/Keynote.

Apple's Aperture is looking shaky: locked threads and deleted postings in their discussion forums

Apple has always reserved the right to lock or delete discussions in their support forums that they dislike. In general they're reasonably tolerant -- sort of like the Chinese government. When they've got a real problem, however, they tend to lock things down.

They're now deleting and locking quite a few comments about Aperture:
Apple - Support - Discussions - Why are threads locked? ...

Nope, they lock out anyone who has anything negative to say. It's their website so they're entitled, but it's hilarious that they're so easily offended. After all, we're just pointing out what's wrong with their software. THEY are the ones who screwed people out of $500 or E500 for something that says 'Designed for professional photographers' right on the front of the box.

It's not even CLOSE to meeting that goal! And I'd point to my previous threads on the subject, which are quite detailed, but they've been deleted because the truth might hurt sales.

Unfortunately for Apple, there will be a large number of websites and magazines with INDEPENDENT reviews which aren't bought & paid for. Once those come out, Aperture sales will plummet.
Now that Apple has an RSS feed, and that feed is cached by Bloglines, I get to see and read all the comments that get deleted.

It's a marker of Apple's sensitivity on the topic that they appear to have deleted an innocent posting of mine, in which I asked if Aperture imported both Edited and Original images from iPhoto, or just Edited images. My hunch is that it imports only the Edited images, so anyone transferring their library from iPhoto to Aperture will, if they delete their iPhoto library, have unwittingly lost all of their originals. IF I'm right people will not be happy. I've asked the question again in a standalone post, if Apple deletes that one I'll know I've really hit a nerve. [Update 12/4: It wasn't deleted. Those who've tried report the Original and Edited are both imported, and are represented as a 'stack'. Good Aperture news for a change!]

I know better than to buy 1.0 products from Apple, but a lot of MacOS X users have been desperate to escape from iPhoto and they've moved faster than they should have. Other early adopters are relatively new to Apple, and haven't realized that software QA is not a priority at Apple. (Innovation is a priority, reliability is not a priority.)

Update 12/4: Derrick Storey reports life with Aperture on a G4 laptop isn't bad.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Use Disk Image to rescue an unmountable drive partition (OS X)

From MacOSX Hints
macosxhints - A possible way to save a corrupted drive or partition

An unhappy event happened to a cheese-maker friend -- he hadn't made any back-ups of his old G3 tower, and naturally the hard disk went down along with all the recipes of his award-winning cheeses. I tried all the usual -- TechTool, DiskWarrior, Disk Utility -- but they all just threw up their (figurative) hands in horror and simply gave up. (Disk Utility would see the disk, but not mount it).

In a fit of desparation, I told Disk Utility to make an image of the seen but un-mountable partitions. And quite surprisingly, it worked!

Noise Ninja and other noise reduction sofware

I tested my Digital Rebel XT in low light levels, using a greenish wall as a background. I found ISO 400 went pretty well, but 800 and 1600 were pretty awful. I didn't try the trick of transforming the images to black and white, but I'm also lining up some noise reduction software to try:
Graphic Converter also does some noise reduction. This review page looks very interesting.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Allow two iTunes instances on one machine to stream to two AirTunes clients

This MacOSXHint is misleadingly titled: macosxhints - Simultaneously share iTunes on one multi-user Mac. The focus is on how two instances of iTunes on one machine can stream to two AirTunes clients from one library.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Gordon's Digital Rebel XT review

Ok, so there are a million reviews of the Digital Rebel XT, which is my solstice present this year. I suspect my review will differ. I'll write it here as I learn about the camera, so this posting will evolve. Incidentally, the most useful and brutally honest review I've read is also the most succinct. That review tells you that the sensor is quite good and the autofocus is really only reliable if one uses the central focus point; that's the most important thing to know about this camera. (The other key thing is that the "rattle" is not a problem, see below.)
  • I bought the camera from abesofmaine: Canon Digital Rebel XT EOS Digital SLR Camera w/Canon 18-55mm Lens (Black) - This is a rather risky thing to do; on the spectrum of retailer reliability Abesofmaine (which is Brooklyn or the Bronx I think) ranks below Amazon, J&R, and other discount vendors. I wanted to buy from Amazon, but at the time I was looking I got annoyed by their experiments with repricing (which, weirdly, stopped the moment I blogged about them). Amazon never again came close the $830 price they showed for one brief shining moment, and, having missed that sweet chance, I refused to pay much more. I tried iBuyDigital since I'd bought my Canon G2 from them, but their web site was unresponsive. Abesofmaine displayed a panoply of various "seals of approval" on their site; I got the sense they were trying to move up a pay grade. So I chanced them. Camera came on time, no problems. They called once to try to get me to buy something else (that's where their profit margin is), but they quickly took no for an answer. I'd expected that based on iBuyDigital experience.
  • The rattle you hear when you shake the camera is "normal". It's reported to come from the side-arms of the flash. So expect it, but don't fear it. It bothered me a bit until I read the explanation.
  • This is very much an SLR. No surprises -- I owned a Minolta SR-2 as a teen. I agree with those who say a digital SLR is retro; like strapping a jet engine on a horse drawn cart. The noise and vibration of the shutter and mirror is unwelcome after the silent G2. There's no IR assisted focus like our Canon s400; dim light focus uses the pop-up flash. I really liked the G2's swivel LCD -- it allowed great camera angles. Let's not say much about the plague of sensor dust. I'm not happy with the compromises of the SLR, but that's what it takes to get a decent sensor with good light sensitivity. I wish the marketplace were smarter, but it isn't -- yet.
  • It uses the same LiON battery as our Canon digital video camera.
  • It comes with a wonderfully compact external battery charger -- perfect for travel. A vast improvement on the G2's bulky external power supply.
  • It uses the same mini-B USB sync cable as our Canon s400 -- a standard cable that also works with my travel mouse. Wow. It astounds me when vendors are so sensible. This is one reason I buy Canon.
  • It comes with software that is an upgraded version of the software used for my G2 and our s400. Another reason to buy Canon.
  • It uses old-fashioned CF II and CF III cards. Ahh. Pleasure. Same cards as the G2 and S400. It doesn't come with a CF card, but I have several "toy" 32MB cards around. A 1GB card is about right for me and I'll order one.
  • The LCD display is completely exposed. I'll cover it with the protective clear plastic I bought from Radio Shack.
  • Amazon reviews complain the camera is too small. Excuse me?! Clearly those reviewers have never used a compact digital camera. It's significantly larger than my G2. It also feels less solid and robust than the G2, but I'm glad it's light. The G2, by the way, is a tank.
  • The lens is cheap. I knew that. I wanted it anyway, but the sensor is better than the lens. I'm ordering the $70 Canon 50mm 1.8 lens from Amazon. On this camera that's the equivalent of an 80 mm lens on an 35mm SLR. A bit too zoomy, but great for portraits. By all reports it's an excellent lens.
  • The darned lens cap doesn't have anything to attach it to the camera or the camera strap. Grrr.
  • The manual focus doesn't have the old split-prism stuff I remember from years ago, but it still seems easy enough to use. Manual focus is pretty odd on the cheapo lens.
  • You have to order an IR remote separately, but at least the built-in flash allows one to put off the expense of a flash for a while. The flash results are much better than I'd expected; I'm not sure why but I suspect Canon put quite a bit of effort into matching the flash with the camera.
  • The camera is actually fairly simple. Anyone who's used a Canon G2 or compact Canon will quickly recognize everything. Max ISO is 1600. You can choose two color profiles: Adobe RGB or sRGB. I use sRGB in all my workflow, that's the default. Pretty simple.
  • At the maximum ISO of 1600 the color artifacts are pretty bad. I got a tolerable image with some noise reduction software but this is really not a useful ISO. I guess to go this high you need the pro models. I think ISO 400 is the max for this camera. I am experimenting with using a lower megapixel rating and noise reduction software to see what works best for picture taking at ISO 800.
  • The aspect ratio for this camera is 2:3, which is the traditional film aspect ratio. Most consumer digital cameras have an aspect ratio of 3:4 (same as original IBM CGA display). This shift is a mixed bag. It means it's easier to order traditional prints, but I'd gotten used to to 3:4 world.
  • The Amazon ratings complain of out of focus shots. I can see why. Depth of focus is back! When I use my 50mm Canon 1.8 (equivalent of 80mm on 35mm camera) the depth of focus is inches. I've been spoiled by the super depth of field/focus of the consumer digicam (small sensor, small lens). Also, the 'smart' 8 point focus tends to fail for me. Lastly, the default built-in flash settings favors an odd combination of flash and long exposures (so one gets the background exposed) along with wide open lens and ISO 400 sensitivity (to reduce power drain?). It's a wonder anything is in focus! I switched to single point focus or choosing the focal point, locked the shutter speed to 1/200 with the flash in Av mode (latter is a custom setting, read the manual), and I'm realizing that limitations of an f1.8 80mm-equivalent lens.
Update 12/9:
  • I received the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens. As I'd expected from the Amazon reviews it's not mechanically impressive -- better than the package zoom but this is not one of Canon's "pro" lenses. On the other hand, with this lens and a reasonable amount of light I can take indoor pictures during the daytime without a flash. On the XT it behaves like an 80 mm lens on a 35mm camera -- too tele for optimal indoor use. Recommended.
  • Philip Greenspun loves the Sigma 30 mm lens/XT combination. On the other hand, the Sigma cost 4 times as much as the Canon 50mm. It may, however, be the next lens I buy.
  • A number of Amazon reviewers complained about focusing problems. I noticed the same thing with the 50mm at f1.8, the focal plane was not where I wanted it to be. I read the manual (gasp) and started using a single central focal point and using the 'lock and move' technique. The results are much better.
Update 5/2/06: After six months of use I'm still learning how to take better pictures with this camera. I insist you buy and read the enhanced manual, Michael Guncheon's Magic Lantern Guide. (example: If convenient, turn the camera off a few minutes before a lens change to minimize dust-attracting charge on the sensor). It is a truly remarkable product and the engineering is better than you imagine. The only areas for future improvement are that the histogram is awfully small and that if you don't have the viewfinder up to your eye light leak will mess up exposures (that's why Canon includes the viewfinder cap, put it on the camera strap). I use the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens all the time, I rarely lose the cheap zoom that came with it. Someday I'll buy the Sigma 30mm f1.4, but really that 50mm lens is amazing -- and very, very inexpensive.

Update 9/3/06: Now getting towards 10 months of use. The camera takes great pictures, but I'm increasingly impressed with the fragility of the SLR platform and the cost and fragility of the lenses. Everything needs a lot of protection from dust, sand, dropping, etc. I want Canon to produce a G2-like prosumer camera (the G5, G6 etc were more con- than pro- sumer) with an APS sized sensor, no shutter lag, and a premium lens with at 4-5 times zoom. The problem is, of course, that there's no revenue stream from such a camera ... no lenses to sell, very infrequent upgrades, etc ... The "perfect" camera would be death for Canon ...

Update 10/24/10: I'm still waiting for Canon to make a significantly better camera! Screw the pixels, I want ISO.

In its old age the only problem I have is that iPhoto can't pull images off via the USB cable with with the 4GB CF card I bought. It only sees some of the images. I can pull the images off easily if I mount the CF card directly. I think it's a firmware bug.

I also had to relearn the workaround for focus issues. Here's more detail than I mentioned above:
  1. You press the small button at top right back and rotate the spinning wheel. This moves the focal point about the six or so sensors. It's easiest to see this by watching the top back panel LCD while spinning.
  2. Set the focus point to the center point. Use that to focus, press to lock, then move camera. It's not professional perfect, but it's better than trusting the six point autoselect.
I kept looking for a camera setting that set the focus point behavior. I forgot it was a separate control; once you set the focal point the camera defaults to it.

Macintouch Aperture report: I'll wait for 1.1

Macintouch has some good early reports on Aperture. Regrettably it doesn't sound like I'll be switching just yet.

Aperture's system demands are staggering. The paranoid might suspect it was designed to suck cycles, irregardless of cost/benefit measures. Images are stored in a database, they cannot be accessed separately. I'd put the probability of significant database corruption in early versions of Aperture at 99%. Metadata is locked into Aperture, there are few if any facilities for export. UI elements are odd and sound half-baked.

I'll definitely wait for version 1.1. I want to see how dedicated Apple will be to the "lock in" philosophy. (Lock-in is perennial Apple vice. One bite and you're their's for eternity ...)

Update: one of the oddest defects of Aperture is that you can't change image dates in some file formats. Very annoying!

Update 12/2: while waiting for 1.1, I'll read the manual.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Google Toolbar for Firefox update for Firefox 1.5

Google Toolbar for Firefox is again available for Firefox 1.5. I've been running FF 1.5 beta and it's a terrific upgrade, but I missed the Google Toolbar!

FlickrExport updated

FlickrExport has been updated. I had bugs with the prior version so I'll test. The author is hoping to do something very similar for Aperture!

RAW to DNG converters and the problems with RAW

Adobe has a free RAW to DNG image conversion utility (via Macintouch):

Adobe: Adobe DNG Converter for Macintosh - Downloads

Ben Long's Automator tool:

Which brings up an issue. I'm confident JPEG images will be readable 1000 years from now -- assuming there's anything to read them and any kind of technologic continuity. I'm pretty sure there will be nothing to read most RAW images 25 years from now.

We don't have an optimal situation for archiving digital images. Each of the choices: JPEG, PNG, JPEG 2000 and DNG has issues. JPEG is probably the safest, but it is a technically inferior format (poor color management). PNG seems ideal, but also seems little used. TIFF isn't on the list because it's a wrapper with a weak spec. JPEG 2000 should be ideal, but hasn't caught on for reasons I don't understand. DNG has limited compression and is very new.

Given that RAW (should be "Raw", it's not an acronym) is not an option for archival use, there are issues now with the workflow of manipulating images in RAW format while having a different archival format. Unfortunately that's the Apple Aperture model.

Sigh. I'd like to know what the Smithsonian is doing with all of this.

PS. I think Automator may show some life once Aperture is out. Image management seems well suited to Automator.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Paul Thurrott's Xbox 360 Review

i don't do computer games. No time. If I had the time I'd sleep, bicycle, skate, something.

Nonetheless, the Xbox 360 has got my attention. Paul Thurrott, who adores computer games, tells why even non-gamers should care.

Joel Sposky's reading list: 75 books

Working in the software business (or any business)?

A valuable resource is ...Reading List: Fog Creek Software Management Training Program - Joel on Software. 75 books.

OS X PNG Compressor - good for screen shots

The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW): PNGCrusher

Jon Udell on synchronizing data transactions: visions of Microsoft and Google

Jon Udell: Dueling simplicities

A deceptive title. No Udell essay is truly simple. He's looking at some big issues in this blog -- Google and Microsoft's dueling visions for the semantic web. Interesting background on Google Base as well.

Note Jon's hint about what he thinks Google will do with Firefox -- embed data services into the browser, so it will be tightly bound to GoogleBase. Both IE and Netscape have had similar visions at various times. Application developers are always looking for persistent stores, here we're talking about a secure persistent store that would be available anywhere. Start your work on one machine, continue on another ...

On the other hand Microsoft is tackling the synchronization problem that killed Palm (Microsoft used Outlook/Exchange sync to kill the PalmOS, and Palm helped them.). Using an open source class license.

Note also Udell's method for integrating GoogleBase and views of his bike trails. Cringely and Udell are my two favorite tech writers, but Jon Udell strains my brain more...

Yes, this feels like 1995 again, when a thousand flowers bloomed (only to be cut down @1999 ...)

Finding coders for small IT projects

A review of RentACoder. These sites are not necessarily offshore.
The Healthcare IT Guy: How to dip your feet into offshore custom development of medical/clinical software

I’ve been using an auction-style service known as RentACoder. Their business model is simple: if you need software related work done you create an account, describe what you want done, and within 24 to 48 hours you will have a bunch of developers from all over the world bid on your project. You take your time to decide on what you want and RentACoder (RAC) will provide ratings, previous work history, etc. Once you’ve selected a “coder” RAC will escrow the project funds and tell the developer to initiate work; during the project you can keep contact directly with the developer and through the RAC website’s messaging system. Their website isn’t the friendliest in the world and the messaging system is a bit difficult but if you dispute anything they want you to document it through their system to ensure non-repudiation.
Interesting IT blog, I need to review the back issues. (I just realized last night that I would be better served reading back issues of the best blogs than reading current issues of so-so blogs. Duhhh.)


About Cableyoyo

Cableyoyo is a small, ultra-thin product with a big mission: to reduce cable clutter and bring order to your desktops or floors. Designed and produced by Bluelounge, Cableyoyo's minimalist casing relieves the eyesore of unmanaged cords, and protects them from damage due to twisting and tangling.
We all need one. Lovely web site too.

The iPod Updater is model specific -- how dumb is that?

i'd wondered why my hard drive had several vesions of iPod Updater on it. For all I know I've deleted some of them as rendundant. It turns out that that updateres are iPod specific.:
MacInTouch: timely news and tips about the Apple Macintosh: "We've run into a common problem with iTunes refusing to transfer purchased music to an older-model iPod, and the answer is unintuitive to the uninitiated. The issue, it turns out, is that the iPod user must manually update the iPod's firmware to support Apple's latest digital content control system, and this is a confusing process.

The iPod owner runs Apple's Software Update, which finds a new iPod Updater utility and 'installs' it on the hard drive, so the iPod owner thinks the job is done and can't understand why the iPod won't accept purchased iTunes. In fact, though, you must search your disk for 'iPod Updater' and run that program while the iPod is connected to the computer, following its instructions.

To add to the confusion, the latest iPod Updaters display misleading error messages when used with older iPods, and the only 'clean' way to do the job is to go to Apple's support site, locate and download an older iPod updater and then run that.
This is really, really, dumb.

An OS X application that can import MacDraw and similar vector graphic images

EazyDraw "is a vector-based drawing application for technical drawings, illustrations, icons, logos, and similar graphics, with support for Claris Draw, MacDraw, and MacDraw II formats including conservation of all vector information. This release adds a new tape measuring tool, smart guidelines, an interactive cursor, expanded support for multi-layer drawings, cloaking of full layers, an Align to Grid palette, new Enabled Actions for layers, and more. EazyDraw is $115 ($95 download) for Mac OS X 10.2 and through 10.4. (Macintouch)"

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Firefox Bug: rendering page incorrectly

I'm using FF 1.5. It's a great OS X browser -- very fast and pretty reliable. Despite being RC 3, however, some sites aren't rendering correctly. My hunch is the fault is Firefox's.

For a bug report I'm sending in, here's a screen capture:

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Disposable Email Address Services - a review

An good survey of Disposable Email Address Services. They may be used for good or evil.

The sad state of web site authoring on OS X -- and XP

I recently came across a set of enthusiastic announcments about RapidWeaver. I tried it in demo mode.

Simple, yes. Useful? Minimally. By comparison to FrontPage 98 it's a toy. (FrontPage after 1998 went into a downwards death spiral comparable to the post 1997 collapse of Microsoft Word.)

So then I tried NVU, an open source Java app. It's a partial clone of FrontPage 2000 (shame they didn't clone FP 98!!). It's far beyond RapidWeaver, but one of the first things I did was create an anchor on a page, then create a link on the same page to that anchor. The HTML was well formed, but the GUI didn't create a viewable link. Ooookaaay, so much for NVU.

Well, there's always the ghost of Mozilla composer, though it's very much a page rather than site oriented application. Then there's Dreamweaver, with its increasingly feeble OS X support. I suppose there a bunch of other page oriented solutions.

Here's Faughnan's test for a serious web authoring tool. I don't think any OS X app can pass this test today -- FrontPage 98 did it well:
  • View a web site as a file hierarchy or a directed graph of links.
  • Click on page icon see metadata, drag and drop into a page to create a link with text taken from target page title.
  • Create an anchor on a page. Drag and drop to create a link to anchor. Drag anchor to another page to create a link.
  • Change the physical location or file name of a page. Have all links in web site update to reflect this change.
If a document-oriented end-user tool can't do this, it's not a serious contender. In 1997 (almost 9 years ago) we had at least four applications that were contenders, of which FrontPage/Vermeer was only one (AOL had another, I forget the rest). Now we have a range of OS X solutions that look like this:
  • Blogger with TextArea support for Firefox/IE (but not Safari)
  • Slightly more sophisticated blogger solutions
  • Various page oriented solutions (wordprocessor save as HTML)
  • Toy site management tools like RapidWeaver
  • The missing domain once inhabited by FrontPage
  • The missing domain once inhabited by Dreamweaver
  • Industrial content management solutions that aren't particularly author-friendly and cost thousands of dollars.
The XP situation is only slightly better (if you consider Dreamweaver to be a non-industrial solution). Alas, the bottom line is that there just isn't a large enough market like me! I do need to migrate off of FrontPage on my XP machine. Perhaps my best option is to see how active NVU development is, and do some QA for them.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Canon lenses: a nice review

I'm nerving myself to buy a Digital Rebel XT for myself for "christmas". This is neat review: Review of lenses for the Canon EOS 300D and EOS 10D. The one I really like is the f1.8 50mm for $70. The XT sensor is smaller than the 10D so this would be 'zoomy', but it's a pro lens for an amazing price. The key reason I want the XT is to be able to do available light photography, and the equivalent of a 60-70mm 35mm lens would be not bad at all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

iPod over all -- 10/10 on Amazon Early Adopters - computers list has an iPod in each of the top 10 slots. That's astonishing.

Replicate the experience of 19th century phone service

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, one can combine Skype VOIP, a modern laptop, a wireless LAN and a USB full duplex speakerphone to recreate the turn of the (prior) century experience of yelling "HELLLLOOOO, CAN YOU HEAR ME??".

Pretty bloody awful really. Must be the negative energy field I project. In any case, it'll be handy for picking up my voice mail from my parent's home in Montreal.

Greenspun stuff to checkout

Philip Greenspun's Weblog:
Some interesting things that I learned about at the Hacker's Conference that either are or have Web sites:
  • and
    [jf: these are really superb!]
  • ...
  • * (select the "LineDrive" format and watch in awe as Microsoft draws you a schematic map to your destination, with the uninteresting long freeway sections compressed and the complex local neighborhood sections in detail, all black and white for easy printing, proof that not everything interesting is happening at Google)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Flickr now supports printing -- at least in the US!

At last. Flickr now supports print ordering - at least for US custoemrs. It will be interesting to see how well they do it. Aeons ago I tried to get various vendors to understand what they needed to do to make print ordering grandma-friendly. You'd think they'd understand that I was suggesting, free of charge, a way for them to print money. Alas, nobody got it.

I'll see if Flickr gets it.

I've used Shutterfly and Smugmug and a few others. I liked Smugmug's service but not their limited Mac support. Flickr has a good iPhoto uploader -- but don't integrate your Flickr and Yahoo accounts just yet -- that breaks most of the uploaders.

Now that Flickr offers printing, and since Smugmug's Mac support is weak, I think Flickr may be my business.

OX apps for blogging

Cool OSX Apps lists some OS X apps for blogging. I was quite surprised to find I use none of these! They sound very interesting and I'll have to try each one. Highly recommended! I'm particularly interested in the SubEthaEdit and Cyberduck combo for working on my non-blog server based HTML files.

Changing key assignments to empower OS X Tiger's dictionary

I love these Macworld hints. Maybe I should subscribe to the print magazine! I've never thought about the dictionary built into OS X, but clearly I should: Macworld: Mac OS X Hints: Make Tiger's Dictionary roar

Black thumbnails in iPhoto: one cause and solution

An iPhoto power user hacks the system color profiles to fix a notorious iPhoto color profile bug. At some point, his thumbnails go black, it takes a lot of work to connect this back to his color profile hack. It appears to have had something to do with permissions on files within iPhoto.

An obscure chain of events, but it does suggest some interventions for others afflicted by the course of the black thumbnails -- perhaps by other causes.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Adobe is a doomed company

Why is Adobe doomed? Any company that can't get automatic software updates working is hopelessly messed up. I almost never get Adobe's reader software to update correctly; I think the installer assumes you never change the default install path. The uodater just makes a mess of things; eventually I have to download a full copy of Adobe and install it.

They've had years to get this right. By now it's evident they can't fix it. Someone needs to aquire them.

How to Clean a Laptop Screen With Household Products

Distilled water and 50% isopropyl alcohol: How to Clean a Laptop Screen With Household Products - WikiHow. Probablyl simpler to just buy something pre-made up, but if you have distilled water at hand ...

Microsoft declares SONY is a malware vendor

SONY's covert software installation hacks Microsoft XP and creates a big security hole. I wondered how long it would take Microsoft to declare war:
BBC NEWS | Technology | Microsoft to remove Sony CD code

...Microsoft's decision to label the XCP system spyware was revealed on the corporate blog maintained by the software maker's anti-malware team.

... Writing in the blog, Jason Garms, one of the senior managers in the anti-malware team, said the XCP software qualified as spyware under the "objective criteria" Microsoft uses to assess potentially malicious programs.
I ran SONY, I'd fire the head of SONY music. Then I'd publicly engage the Electronic Frontier Foundation to rewrite the EULA and SONY's DRM policies.

Firefox 1.5 RC2 - very nice on OS X

I read recently that there are about 83 browser variants on OS X. Of these the ones I've used are Safari, Firefox, OmniWeb, Camino and Opera.

Each has strengths. OmniWeb is the only browser to seriously think about the problems with the page/tab UI -- but they went wrong putting the tab/page icons on the left side (one of my machines is an iBook -- horizontal space is at a premium). Camino has an elegant UI and the Mozilla engine, but no Google toolbar. Safari is the prettiest and does the best job with printing and fonts. (Open source products tend to be weak at printing, probably because true geeks never print.) Safari has also always felt pretty fast.

Mozilla Firefox 1.5 RC-2 (Development Information) is a very impressive contender. I use it more and more. It's very fast, faster than Safari on my G3 iBook. The Firefox Google toolbar doesn't work with it yet, but I'm sure it will once 1.5 is officially released. It works with Blogger (Blogger support for Safari is infuriating and abysmal) and at most every site I use (not, however, the AMEX credit card site -- Firefox 1.0 did work there -- I've submitted that as a problem).

Firefox 1.0 was good on OS X, but 1.5 is truly remarkable. It's not as pretty as Camino or Safari, but increasingly it's my preferred browser. Safari is getting relegated to printing tasks.

OS X Automator: two Neuberg articles

Matt Neuberg has two complementary articles out on Automator:
A prolific contributor, he also has now slightly dated JavaScript book. The reviews for the book, by the way, are very helpful. It appears to be an excellent book for someone with programming experience, albeit not necessarily JavaScript experience.

Automator, it turns out, is basically a visual form of the UNIX (and DOS) "pipe", a channel from one piece of code to another. It does do intelligent type transformations -- that's not easy! It's not a true workflow application (yet); there are no branches or loops. It is clearly influenced by the past decade of workflow application development. AppleScript codes can serve as Automator elements. I don't know if one can "compile" an Automator sequence into a single standalone block.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The ultimate Nano case

The case I want appears to have gone lost somewhere in China (never in stock).

So, in the spirit of something, I went the baggy route. Cheap, disposeable, portective, easy to operate the Nano. Poke a hole for the earphones.

OS X address book data model

I've got addresses everywhere. It's a mess. They're on my XP box, my Mac, my phone, my PDA, Outlook at work - all different sets, all different views.

I figured I could at least fix the phone -- a Palm OS (Samsung i500) that uses OS X sync services (Tiger) and MissingSync 5.0 to sync with my address book (and boy, is OS X sync ugly). All I needed was some documentation on what field names OS X Address Book expects on tab delimited imports.

Errrkkk. This is not documented!! I played around with various approaches and became increasingly aware just how complex the OS X Address book data model is. The best I could do at this draft was to create a really complex template, fill the slots, export to VCARD, and inspect in TextWrangler. Below is what I got. Sigh.

I need another angle on this!

FN:Dr John Gordon Faughnan I
item3.ADR;type=WORK;type=pref:;;111 Erewon;Saint Paul;MN;11111-1111;USA
item4.ADR;type=HOME:;;111 Erewon;Saint Paul;MN;11111-1111;
item5.ADR;type=HOME:;;111 Erewon;Montreal;Quebec;A1H 1A1;Canada
item6.ADR;type=HOME:;;111 Erewon;what;what;what;Portugal
item7.ADR;type=HOME:;;111 Erewon;Escanaba;MI;49829;USA
item12.X-ABRELATEDNAMES;type=pref:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item13.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item14.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item15.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item16.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item17.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item18.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item19.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item20.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item21.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item22.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane
item23.X-ABRELATEDNAMES:Molly Thunderpaws Squirrelbane

I need to think about this a bit. It would be nice if Apple documented some of this stuff, but documentation is not their strong suit.

Recording Skype calls on GarageBand with LineIn and SoundFlower (Mac)

360east | Ahmad Humeid: Recording Skype calls on GarageBand with LineIn and SoundFlower (Mac)

I've been trying to get this to work with Audio Hijack. So far I get one side of the conversation.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Recording Skype calls over OS X with Audio Hijack Pro

I will try this for a work meeting Skype recording this Monday coming. Report to follow. Note -- I will be recording with permission.
Rogue Amoeba - Audio Hijack Pro for Mac OS X - Features

Podcasting is the newest fad to hit the internet, and Audio Hijack Pro will help you get in on it. A podcast is simply a radio program you create and post online. Once you do this, people around the globe can download your show and have a listen. Thousands of people are creating their own shows and tens of thousands of listeners are tuning in.

With Audio Hijack Pro, you can rapidly create your own programs and then share them with the world. From simple microphone recording to much more complex shows containing music clips, multiple hosts, and even voice chat (from applications like Skype or iChat), Audio Hijack Pro is the perfect way to create your podcasts. Download Audio Hijack Pro and see the 'Recording Podcasts' page in the manual (under the Help menu), then get podcasting!
Update 11/14: Groan. A debacle all around. In no particular order:
  • My Logitech USB (or OS X) headset has an odd bug. When you first plug it in, the headphone doesn't play any sound. You have to go into sound preferences and click mute on and off again. This bug caused about a 30-60 of wasted debugging time.
  • Audio Hijack doesn't record Skype, only AudioHijack Pro. This not specifically documented anywhere and it doesn't appear on the product comparison list. You must infer the lack of support by the absence of a specific mention of iChat or Skype. [correction 11/16: This is in fact the last row on the comparison table. Unless it was just added I missed it. So my main complaint about AH is unjustified.] I bought AH then bought AHP. Same total cost as they credit the AH purchase, but I probably wouldn't have bothered with all this for the $32 cost of AHP. AH support felt this really wasn't an issue.
  • AHP's documentation on how to do this is inconsistent (documented twice, somewhat differently) and incorrect (tells you to start Skype first, which is wrong unless you have installed an optional framework I prefer to avoid, one version of the documentation doesn't mention you have to monitor output ...).
  • Even if it did work, the procedure for doing this in AHP is complex and trouble prone for most of us.
  • Finally, and most painfully, when I got this to work I ran into two problems with Skype. I couldn't use the toll free number (Skype has an odd area code) and when I dialed the toll number the AT&T conferencing system didn't recognize the key tones Skype generates.
  • At one point in my testing either Skype or Audio Hijack crashed OS X hard. Completely dead. No response to anything. I had to power cycle.
In other words, a complete failure!

Astound your fellow geeks: pull out a SKYPE USB speakerphone at your next meeting

[ MVOX ]
miniVox MV100 :A portable DSP based USB speakerphone


* DSP voice processing for noise suppression and echo cancellation
* Full duplex speakerphone with 110dB peak volume
* USB plug and play, no driver installation
* Headset connection
* Credit card size and only 1.5 ounces
Very cool. Plug it into your laptop and go. I want one. They have a fancier version for more money.

Update 11/11/05: The Amazon Reviews are positive, and one has this amazing comment:
Ibought this to use with my Mac for Skyping and Gizmo'ing. I wanted something small and the optional headset jack was a plus for privacy. Be aware that the headset jack fits your standard Cell phone headset, not a standard PC headset. It works okay, as advertised.

Positives: Works with no drivers, small, sound quality is above average, better than the built in microphone on my iBook.

Possible negatives: Draws too much power to plug into the usb port on my keyboard, and the cell phone size audio jack requires you purchase a cell phone style headset.

What I'm actually using now is a dinky, single ear/mic headset with a plantronic's usb headset adaptor.
For me that "negative" is a huge feature. I've been looking for a usb device that would let me use a regular small cell phone earset with Skype. I've not found anything ... until now. That makes the speakerphone functionality almost a nice "extra". I wonder about the usb power drain however. I note the higher end device in the same line comes with a battery.

Another review mentions it uses a 'mini-B' connector. Wow. Another positive. I carry those anyway when I travel, that's how my mouse connects. I use a retractable cable.

Update 11/11/05: Mine arrived today. I tested it on Skype. Sound quality is marginal, but Skype quality is poor to begin with -- this could have been all Skype issues. Still, it's workable. The device is quite compact, about the size of a very cell cell phone or a compact pager. Very light. No mute or volume control -- have to do that using software. The included USB cable is cheap, long and bulky, I use the elegant Zip-LINQ retractable mini-B cable that came with my mouse. It works with a cell phone earset and has better sound then -- this, in fact, is really what I wanted. They even include a cheap earset, which is a nice touch.

It will be far easier to travel with this than with a bulky USB headset. My ideal device would cost the same but:
  • dump the speaker phone, so make it smaller (use a cell phone earset)
  • use a built-in short USB cable that nests in the body of the device
  • add a mute button
This isn't my ideal, but it's the best I've seen so far!

How to back up your media in iTunes 5 or iTunes 6

How to back up your media in iTunes 5 or iTunes 6

Safari will process a list of URLs and create bookmarks

Very Mac like -- hidden easter egg functionality.
Macworld: Mac OS X Hints: Easily open URL lists in Safari

... Click in the Bookmark column (to the right of the Collections column) to activate it, then hit Command-V to paste the clipboard’s contents here. This is where the magic occurs; Safari is smart enough to strip out all the non-URL text, leaving you with a set of brand-new bookmarks pointing to the pasted URLs...

Why you should NEVER work with administrative privileges

In the XP world there's no choice but to run with admin privileges -- there's too much software that just won't work unless you do. In the OS X world you can run almost anything as a regular user, and you can install most things that way. (If an app won't run in OS X without admin privileges, don't use it.)

This occult DRM installation story gives yet anohter reason why OS X users should not work as an admin user:
via MacInTouch

I recently purchased Imogen Heap's new CD (Speak for Yourself), an RCA Victor release, but with distribution credited to Sony/BMG. Reading recent reports of a Sony rootkit, I decided to poke around. In addition to the standard volume for AIFF files, there's a smaller extra partition for "enhanced" content. I was surprised to find a "" Mac application in addition to the expected Windows-related files. Running this app brings up a long legal agreement, clicking Continue prompts you for your username/password (uh-oh!), and then promptly exits. Digging around a bit, I find that actually installs 2 files: PhoenixNub1.kext and PhoenixNub12.kext.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of anyone installing kernel extensions on my Mac. In Sony's defense, upon closer reading of the EULA, they essentially tell you that they will be installing software. Also, this is apparently not the same technology used in the recent Windows rootkits (made by XCP), but rather a DRM codebase developed by SunnComm, who promotes their Mac-aware DRM technology on their site.
I don't read EULAs. Do you? I didn't think so. If you don't have admin privileges, the OS (for now!) won't allow this kind of install to happen. You may be asked for an admin un/pw -- don't give it!

AppleScript adventures: updating a client iTunes library when tunes are added to a server iTunes library on the same machine (fast user switching)

Aeons ago I wrote Fortran for food during summer break in college. Millennia ago I wrote a utility in C to translate MEDLINE feeds into a form I could import into a database. Now, in my extreme dotage, I have revised an AppleScript that supported updating a client music library one one machine from a master music library on another machine. I did this so both my wife and I could sync our iPods to a shared music library, but keep our own playlists and sync contacts and calendar items correctly.

The revised version differs in seemingly minor ways -- I had to remove 2-3 lines and add 3-4 lines to implement Apple's "new" (introduced in 10.3 but only sort-of-worked in 10.4) support for sending messages to a specific user session. This would have been a trivial task, even for someone like myself who knows nothing about AppleScript, except that there's zero documentation for this new functionality. I got a key tip from a super AppleScript expert -- who gave me the morsel but made it clear I was not to bother him again (I won't give his name out -- he must get these kind of pesky requests hourly and I don't want to add to his pain).

I'll revise the script over time and put it someday in a proper web page, or submit it to the iTunes AppleScript repository. The behavior is pretty ugly however, which suggests whyApple hasn't documented this function. Some background, then the explanation.

It turns out that AppleEvents were all designed with the understanding that there was one instance of an application running on a machine, and that application was available to any authenticated request. Introducing multiple instances of applications seriously messed this up -- in ways subtle and complex. A lot of remote control solutions for iTunes, I now realize, are going to run into this problem. From a few hints I found in my searching, I suspect the behavior of client requests may be unpredictable with multiple AppleEvent targets. It is noteworthy that these events will be processed only when the requester has an administrative username and password for the receiving machine.

So why isn't this documented? A few reasons come to mind:
  • this may still be quite buggy and have very nasty side-effects
  • the user requests need to know the userid (3 digit number) and the process ID for the receiving application. There's no elegant AppleScript friendly way to get these; the only method I know of is 'choose remote application' which brings up a dialog that requires an uber-geek to manage and that is buggy besides. (The Bonjour method doesn't work at all.)
  • it is a very bad security practice that an admin uname and password is required. For all I know these are sent clear text.
So Apple has a partial solution in place, but it is very partial and probably somewhat embarrassing. I suspect there won't be anything better until 10.5. (I think 10.4 will go down in Apple history as very much a 'transitional release'.)

Moderating comments -- and identity management

Gordon's Notes: Comment spam: moderated comments and identity management -- and in this blog too.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Place dashboard widgets on the desktop

"Dashboard widgets on my Mac OS X desktop?" from the Ask Dave Taylor! Tech Support Blog


TUAW post on Applescript and Automator integration

Automator is beginning to get interesting (it's big in '' apparently):
The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

If you're used to AppleScript and would like to build your own actions, the building blocks of Automator workflows, MacNN has an excellent introduction. Author Benjamin Waldie takes you step-by-step through a simple action. As a bonus, that action includes a list of possible inputs. A handy step to include, as workflows are most powerful when you modify their output based on input at runtime. This was a component sorely lacking from a particular action I was working on a few weeks ago. I have disliked Automator in the past, but only because I prefer AppleScript. This tutorial helped me sort of bridge the gap between the two. Now I can build more reusable code in AppleScripts, and put those in actions to use in better workflows.