Monday, February 28, 2005

SiteCrossing brings Web Crossing services to the masses

SiteCrossing Home

Via Tidbits:
... it's been hard to recommend Web Crossing to individuals or small organizations because of the cost and complexity of setting up your own server - after all, this is the same software that runs discussion forums for the likes of Apple, Salon, and the New York Times, so power and flexibility has long trumped a straightforward interface.

Now Web Crossing, Inc. has addressed those concerns with Site Crossing, a new hosted service that provides a simple and integrated interface for managing interactive services like mailing lists, discussion forums, weblogs, polls, a shared calendar, file libraries, slideshows, and live chat. Such complex features can be difficult to add to existing Web sites, particularly in conjunction with a unified user database and access lists (to keep private sections away from the public), making Site Crossing useful as an adjunct to an existing site. Site Crossing also provides full email, FTP, and Web services, making it possible to build an entire Web site around Site Crossing.

The Basic account costs $8 per month for 3 of the interactive services, 1 GB of storage space, and 10 GB of data transfer per month. The $14 per month Standard account offers 6 interactive services, 2.5 GB of storage space, and 20 GB per month of data transfer. Lastly, the Advanced account will set you back $22 per month for 12 interactive services, 6 GB of storage space, and 30 GB of data transfer per month. If you need even more, full-fledged Web Crossing hosting is available. You can also purchase your own private domain name and have Web Crossing host it for $20 per year. You can try Site Crossing for free for 30 days, so it's easy to see if it will meet your specific needs.
The site says they provide "blogs" with RSS syndication.

An intense dissection of iMac fan noises

iMac G5

Zealots are doing independent engineering work on the iMac fans.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

OS X Hints on using SSH tunnels

macosxhints - Use a reverse SSH tunnel to get around firewalls

SSH Tunnels are the working equivalent of VPN connections. They're used extensively for remote access to Mac. I've not done this, but this page has a good discussion.

Friday, February 25, 2005

iPhoto Extractor

iPhoto Extractor

... Traverse the iPhoto library structure, copying the target files into a sorted destination. This way you can import all or some of your files back into iPhoto and not worry about thumbnails and other files you would have to manage manually.

iPhoto emergency care

iPhoto is a troubled product. It cries out for a new business model that will take some very fine ideas and develop them further. I yearn for a "Pro" version of iPhoto that I could throw $200 at.

In the meantime, this series of iPhoto 5.0 salvage suggestions was taken from Apple's discussion forums. It's not a terrible resource for when things go badly. I've done many of these but I can't vouch for all the recommendations and I don't use or recommend iPhoto 5.x I've lightly edited and reformatted the post.

If someone were to ask me what worries me most about Apple's apparent health, I'd say look at iPhoto. Apple has messed up not for just one year, but for over two years. This is not a good thing.

Apple - Discussions - Problems with iPhoto5

[Post is to a person who's "lost" their precious photos.]
  1. Upgrade to 5.0.1 if you haven't done it yet.
  2. Quit iPhoto
  3. Navigate to ~/Library/Preferences and drag the file to the desktop
  4. Navigate to ~/Pictures/iPhoto Library
    Drag out the three thumbnail files you see in there to the desktop
    Drag out the Albums folder and the Albums.xml file to the trash.
  5. For good measure repair permissions and clean out your cache files
  6. Hold down the option and command keys while launching iPhoto
  7. Let iPhoto do the rebuilding.
  8. If it doesn't work or partly works, try rebuilding the library again with the same key combination.
If you have a backup iPhoto 4 library...
  1. Rename the library with the problems to old iPhoto Library and place on the desktop.
  2. Place your backup library in the Pictures folder.
  3. Start up iPhoto holding down the option key.
  4. It will ask to find your library or create a new one.
  5. Tell it to "find your library" and then navigate to it and choose it
  6. Cross your fingers and say some prayers.
Just remember that all is not lost. Your photos are still on your computer.

If you finally are tired of trying and want to start fresh, it can be done.

Here is how:
  1. Drag your iPhoto 5 library to the desktop.
  2. Start up iPhoto and it will ask to find your library or create a new one.
  3. Tell it to create a new one.
  4. Now we are going to start importing the photos from the old library.
At this point you can use a third party application to extract all the photos
iPhoto Extractor (other posters in this forum have used it with great results).

Read the site, and the links on the left so you know exactly what is happening.
He gives you good instructions

Alternatively, If you don't want to do it that way, it is quite simple, but time consuming if you have a lot of photos.
  1. Open up the library folder on your desktop
  2. Keep all the folders with the years, and drag all the other stuff to the trash
  3. Navigate to each folder with pictures, you can start with the oldest year first.
  4. Drag the thumbnail folder out to the trash.
  5. If you did any editing there will be an Originals folder. If you want the Originals, then keep those folders to the side. You can import those, but you will be seeing duplicates if you do. You can also put all the original folders aside and burn them after if you want.
You have to do this for each folder with photos in it. As you clean out the folder, you can rename it with the date, such as 2005-12-25. This will help you when trying to find photos when they are imported into your new clean library.

Now you can do this as an "all at once" step, or you can do one folder at a time.

If you do it one folder at a time, you can view the importation process and make sure no problems happen each step of the way.
  • so, you can clean out the folders of the photos, rename the folder with the date, then import that folder into iPhoto. Then do the next folder.
  • Or, you can clean out all the folders with photos, rename them all with the date, then drag all the cleaned out folders into the open iPhoto library window. This is the library view in an open iPhoto application.
I personally would import one folder at a time, and make sure that they imported correctly, then do each folder.

I would do the oldest date first and move up the line to the newest date.

Each folder imported will be a roll with the name of the folder. since you named them with a date, you will have an organized library when you are done.

when all folders have been imported, you should have a clean new library. You can then start redoing your albums, keywords, etc.

When all that is done, you should burn this library as another backup. This will be a backup for your iPhoto 5 library.

You can do it within iPhoto or the Finder

If you do it within iPhoto (by highlighting the library and clicking burn), you will be able to put the CD/DVD in and it will show up in the source column of iPhoto to browse within iPhoto.

If you do it in the Finder ( put in blank CD/DVD depending on size of library, then drag the newly created iPhoto library to the mounted disk on the desktop and then burn), then this library is not viewable within iPhoto.

This library can be swapped out to replace the old broken one.

Google Maps - Now supports Safari!

There is joy in Mudville! I thought we'd have to wait for Safari to fill in some missing capabilities, but Google, bless their hearts, worked around them.

Google Maps now works with Safari.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Mac Minder (via Macintouch): Keep kids out of trouble

Mac Minder

Particularly useful for locking out Chat software and for restricting kids to a limited set of apps.

CUPS and root in OS X

Only serious geeks should mess with the OS X CUPS web interface. If you need to, however, you now need root access. Here's a report from Macintouch OS X 10.3.8:
Dan O'Donnell on CUPS authorization: Doug Edwards wrote: 'After I upgraded to 10.3.8 I find I can no longer use the CUPS Web interface for administering printers. The initial page on localhost:631 comes up OK, but then clicking on 'Administration' now causes a username and authorization dialogue box to appear whereas before no such authorization was necessary. Furthermore, my (administrator) username and password is not accepted.'

Several upgrade numbers ago (10.3.3) Apple changed the authorization in CUPS such that now only root can make these changes. The .conf file is editable though, and I have commented out the lines that made this change so my people can again make changes to CUPS without root access. From my image changelog I have written: Discovered that SecUpdt 04-05-2004 changed file cupsd.conf, which now requires root authorization to get cover pages and make other changes. Commented out lines 835, 836 and added line 837 to AuthType None to fix .

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

PowerBook repair recommendations

PowerBook G4

Given Apple's repair quality problems, consider omitting AppleCare and paying for a credit card extended warrantee. Then do repairs at one of these places.
Andrew Miller
One need not pay Apple $1000 to have a 12' Al Book fixed. I've done business with and and both have replacement screens for well under $500. They can both also do the replacement for you.

Andrew Main

At the risk of ruining his chance to get a free (?) PowerBook, Apple is not the only repair option. DT&T Service in California, for instance, will repair the display for $550.

Other third-party service companies such as PowerBookResQ, TechRestore and PowerBook Medic are also worth checking out.

Alex Dawson

In response to Chris Halaska; Wegener Media quotes $479 to replace a 12 inch AlBook screen or only $399 for DIY install of the screen module. Cheaper than a Mac Mini. I've purchased LCD modules from them before, and they've arrived well packed and intact to me in Australia.

MiniMac w/ Dell 20 inch LCD vs. 20 inch iMac

MacInTouch Home Page

The $500 Dell is a great bargain and a great Mini Mac companion, but it's not quite the equal of the 20" G5 iMac. (Gamma perhaps?)
The toughest test was a side-by-side comparison with a 20-inch iMac G5 display. While the Dell display was excellent, with the same broad range of viewing angles, it didn't quite match the stunningly bright, neutral whites of the 20' iMac, no matter how we adjusted brightness, color and calibration. There's nothing wrong with the Dell, and it has three times the warranty, but its image is not quite as amazing. (Nor is any other display we've seen, including the 15' PowerBook's.)

PalmSource to abandon HotSync for SyncML - thank heavens

PalmSource sees future on phones - Computing

Maybe one day I'll be able to do reliable category-specific selective synchronization across multiple desktop environments. Neither Palm nor Microsoft will do this, but SyncML is an open standard. There hackers have needs like mine; what they write for themselves will work for me.
The company is also moving to support the open-standard SyncML data synchronisation protocol instead of its own HotSync technology. SyncML is already supported by many mobile middleware server systems, so handsets with SyncML and Palm-compatible PIM tools could attract firms where staff already run Palm OS PDAs.
Brighthand adds more background. The last comment emphasizes the gulf between PalmOne (manufacture devices) and PalmSource (OS). I wonder how long PalmOne will use the PalmOS and whether they'll switch to Microsoft's PocketPC OS.
... Last year, PalmSource set off a storm of protest by announcing that the latest version of its operating system, Palm OS Cobalt, would not come with synchronization software for the Macintosh.

With the switch from HotSync to SyncML, it would be relatively easy for third-party developers to create Palm OS synchronization software for virtually any platform, like Max OS X, the various Linux versions, etc.

Interestingly, PalmSource's switch to an open standard for synchronization comes at a time when some companies are starting to use a proprietary one. Recently, both palmOne and Nokia have licensed the ActiveSync protocol, which allows their products to synchronize with Microsoft Exchange Server.

More deep discussion on the reemergent (long lost) dynamic web application

Relax, Everything Is Deeply Intertwingled: Weblications:

This piece was written by a Microsoft guy, and he references documents from the time that IE was strong and Microsoft threatened to make IE a true platform.

All of this was material was written and discussed 10 years ago. It's as though Google has awakened us from a 10 year sleep.

One thing is quite new though:
I'm still stuck on the notion that in less than two years Google will have a million-node computer operating as a single, optimized operating system for web-based applications.
Ok, it's time for me to buy stock in Google. I know I'm a bit behind the curve, but, heck, it'll still make money.

OS X: enabling root and creating global finder preferences

macosxhints - Set a permanent column view default for the Finder

I've experienced this too, especially since I run as a non-admin user for safety reasons. It's also a good reference on enabling and disabling "root". Nowadays it's best to keep "root" disabled.
A relatively trivial annoyance for several years, I've hated the fact my preference to change the Finder's windows to column view never seemed to 'stick.' I finally discovered that this apparent bug is actually a feature: The only folders your preferences will 'stick' on are the folders in your own home folder. Since permissions are an issue, nothing outside of it will adhere to your preference.

Enter root. Open Applications: Utilities: Netinfo Manager, then choose Security: Authenticate, enter your admin user password, then choose Security: Enable Root User, and provide the root user its own password. Now switch over to System Preferences: Accounts, and select the Login Options button at the bottom of the account list. Make sure that the the 'Display Login Window as' option is set to 'Name and password.'

Log off and back on as username 'root' (with the new root password). Once logged in, open Finder: Preferences: General, and check the 'Open new window in column view' item. Log off root, login as your normal user again, and now, every user will benefit from the much more productive column view as the default ... finally!

[robg adds: I would also recommend opening NetInfo Manager again and using Security: Disable Root User (after authenticating again) to disable root.]

New 30GB iPod Photo

MacInTouch Home Page

This is the iPod photo Apple ought to have released last year:
A 'slim' 30GB iPod Photo debuts at $349 with the chunkier 60GB version priced at $449, both said to be available 'immediately.' The Photo models include a USB 2.0 cable, but FireWire and audio/video cables are optional, as is the $39 dock. An optional iPod Camera Connector accessory is due in 'late March' at $29: "By simply connecting the iPod Camera Connector and a digital camera, customers can easily transfer digital images to their iPod photo, providing tremendous storage space so they can take more pictures. Imported photos are immediately viewable on iPod photo's crisp color screen, and can also be brought back to iPhoto on the Mac or various photo applications on the PC."
It was always nuts that the iPhoto photo couldn't act as a native repository (image bank) for digital images. These still aren't enough features for me to pass my 3G iPod on and get a new one, but it's a start. (I'm waiting for the ability to send sound streams to a car stereo via bluetooth.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Digital Cameras and Color Profiles

Macintouch - Digital Cameras

This discussion confirms my conclusion on color profiles -- unless you really know what you're doing, use sRGB for everything. It's not only that the subject is quite complex, it's also that implementations of color profile technologies are very buggy and incomplete.

Microsoft has a free tool for screen video capture - Windows Media Encoder

At several points in my work career I'd have liked to record a screen video. SnagIt does a fairly poor job with video, and the higher end Camtasia solution costs a few hundred bucks. I didn't know of a real alternative, until I read Jon Udell's article from early 2004 wherein he mentions a free Microsoft utility: Windows Media Encoder 9. Jon writes:
The results were stunning. I set up a new session, pointed it at Outlook's main window, and began encoding.. Along the way I pointed with the cursor to items of interest, opened and closed dialog boxes, and drove the Outlook interface as I normally do. The resulting six-minute video had the same format as my Outlook window, which happened to be about 750-by-620. The file came in at just under 3MB. I FTP'd it to my Website and, because I'd chosen the progressive-download option, playback was immediate. It was also perfectly readable and audible. Elapsed time from the moment I thought of trying this to the end of playback: about 25 minutes. Next time it'll take 10. Why don't more people do this? Because it wasn’t this easy before. Now, it is.
More recently Jon writes of this as a part of "screencasting". I gave it a try. I wasn't surprised to discover that it was a bit bleeding edge -- Jon Udell basically defines the cutting edge. I can confirm, however, that it works. Next time I'll be able to do it in 20 minutes, and eventually it should be pretty easy. Sadly I don't know of an OS X equivalent, though if there were one it would be far more elegant.

The encoder is used for capturing screen video. There's little documentation, but you'll see the "wizard" when you start up. If you use a dual monitor hi-res display try capturing from a "defined window" and try dropping your screen res and colors. Using the wizard I got it to work, when I played with my own settings I got worthless error message with hex identifiers. Video can be saved locally and played in Windows Media Player -- but I had to manually locate and identify the codec update. (The automatic installation failed.) You can also drag and drop the video file into the XP Movie Maker application where you can add a voice track, edit it, combine clips, and save them externally.

I had one annoying and persistent bug. When I was capturing screen video double clicking didn't work. I suspect that dropping the frame rate or extending my click interval would take care of this problem but I just used the click-enter alternative. Also if you have two displays I think it croaks unless you tell it to record from a defined area (I selected an area on one of my displays).

It's not really ready for widespread use, but I think I'll get good use from this 2002 utility.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Lexar's digital photography site

Lexar | Pro Photo

They make memory cards.

Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size

macosxhints - Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size

iPhoto 5.01 has several performance issues. Adjusting thumbnail and photo display sizes seems to help some people. I was surprised, however, to read that one of these might work in iPhoto 4 (requires plist editing):
There was another hint which mentioned keyboard shortcuts to change the size of the thumbnail view.

If you press 0,1,2 you will see different sizes of thumbnails.

0 - Minimum size
1 - Maximum Size
2 - 'Natural' thumbnail size

So pressing 2 should give you the same size as this tip without having to edit a .plist. This definitely speeds up iPhoto and worked well in iPhoto 4 (but had to be done by editing the plist).

OS X Audio MIDI Setup Utility has extra sound control options

macosxhints - A workaround for no sound in non-Apple applications: "I've had sound problems before which affected both Apple and non-Apple programs. To fix them, I opened up the Audio MIDI Setup Utility, which is an Apple-provided program in my main Utilities folder. It has all sorts of settings which might help people. It's like a more detailed version of the Sound control panel in System Preferences. My particular problem was loss of stereo sound, so I had to select 2ch-16bit from a drop-down (and equalize the volume of the two stereo channels)."

Merging iPhoto Libraries: more problems

John's Digital Photography Page: Merging iPhoto Libraries

I really don't understand what's going on with Product Management for iPhoto. There are people satisified with iPhoto, I think they fall into a large category of software users that simply have pretty low expectations. They don't really expect software to work very well, and as long as they don't lose too many photos too often they can live with that.

Here's some more problems related to keywords and iPhoto that I learned of from KF - someone who knows a great deal about iPhoto keywords. I shall have to add them to the page I link to here:
...There is badness if libraries do not have identical keywords lists.

- create a new library Library 1
- add a photograph Photograph 1 to Library 1, and assign it keyword "a"
- create a new library Library 2
- add a photograph Photograph 2 to Library 1, and assign it keyword "b"
- merge Library 2 into Library 1 with the disk image technique

Result: Photograph 2 has keyword "a". It should have keyword "b".

I believe this is explainable. iPhoto is storing keywords by ID number instead of name, and IDs are assigned to new keywords sequentially...

Burning a disk from within iPhoto is worse. I'm not sure what happens there, but it's strange. Here's a test case I sent to Apple:

- create a new library
- add two photographs to the library
- create two new keywords using the 'Add' button
- assign the first keyword to the first photograph and the second keyword to second photograph
- drag the second keyword above the first in the preferences
- burn disc

Result: On reading the library from the disc, the first photograph has the second keyword and the second photograph has no keyword.

OmniOutliner Extras - sample documents, AppleScript

The Omni Group - Applications - OmniOutliner - Extras

When I purchased OO Pro I was surprised I didn't get any sample documents. This is one heck of a powerful application and some examples would help. I requested they provide some, I think I got an acknowledgement.

Now they've added a site for both scripts and sample documents. Yay!

OS X screen capture: Cmd-Shift-Ctrl-4

I've been doing image capture the OS X way, using

I just learned that ancient Classic methods still works, and it still creates a PICT image. Not much understands PICT any more, but Omni Outliner Pro still does.

So hit Cmd-Shift-Ctrl-4. Highlight the area to image. The PICT is now in the clipboard. Paste it into OO Pro.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Visit the world, from your couch

NASA just keeps giving and giving and giving... | MetaFilter

Free Windows-only software to browse the world via images. We don't have rocket packs, but otherwise this is starting to feel like science fiction.

Google's Keyhole may do more but it's not free and used to be picky about hardware. (Also Windows only.)

Too much map and imaging stuff is Windows only. One of my favorite pieces of software, Microsoft Trips and Streets, is (surprise) also Windows only.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Two Macintouch software updates of interest (to me)

MacInTouch: "Amadeus II 3.8 is a disk-based sound editor and processor, with visual waveform editing, live recording, sampling, analysis, sound repair/denoising tools, a parametric equalizer designed for restoring old vinyl recordings, and other features. This release includes the latest version of the FLAC encoding engine and fixes a number of bugs from Version 3.8. Amadeus II is $30 for Mac OS X 10.2 and up and Mac OS 9.

OmniOutliner 3.0.1 updates the Omni Group's outliner and organizer with stability and performance improvements, enhanced importing and exporting, and minor interface and usability changes. OmniOutliner 3 is $39.95 ($69.95 Professional) for Mac OS X 10.2 and up."

New Canon Digital Rebel: light sensitivity yes!

Canon EOS 350D / Digital Rebel XT: Digital Photography Review

This camera is just out.
The EOS 350D Digital features a newly developed, second generation, extremely low noise APS-C size 8.0 Megapixel CMOS sensor – the fourth new CMOS sensor from Canon in just twelve months. It is powered by the same DIGIC II image processor found in Canon’s professional series D-SLR cameras, and features 3 frame per second, 14 frame burst operation, USB 2.0 Hi-Speed interface, simultaneous RAW and Large JPEG writing and 0.2 second start up time. The camera is more than 10% lighter and 25% smaller by volume than the EOS 300D.
Here's the key feature
The low noise of the second generation CMOS sensor delivers clean images from ISO 100 through to ISO 1600.
ISO 1600. That means indoor pictures without flash given a reasonable lens.

No vibration damping though. I'm told another vendor (Konica/Minolta?) has a patent lock on sensor based anti-vibration support. Nikon and Canon do vibration damping in the lens, which means prohibitively expensive lenses.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Colorsync support with Safari

MacInTouch Home Page: "[John Fieber] Safari and Omniweb support embedded ICC profiles. ColorSync is always enabled in Safari, and is a preferences option in Omniweb and Internet Explorer.

  A caveat about Safari ColorSync support is that it assumes Generic RGB for untagged images, not sRGB. I, and a lot of other folks on Apple's colorsync list, find this rather distressing since, for better or worse, sRGB is the standard for web graphics in the absence of explicit tags. I haven't checked what Omniweb and IE assume for untagged images.
  ICC Profiles in Images is a page to test colorsync support.
  ColorSync in Mozilla addresses the Mozilla family of browsers.

[Christer Olsson] There's actually no way to turn ColorSync off in Mac OS X 10.3. Safari (and Mail and Preview) is using ColorSync to match tagged images. More details can be found in the following document: Color_Management_in_Mac_OS_X.pdf"

Monday, February 14, 2005

Video out from Mac Mini analog VGA is underpowered?

Mac Mini (Part 7) - Macintouch: "About the 'dim-VGA-signal' symptom with the Mac Mini: Merman computer-magazine C't' has measured the analogue signal coming out of the Mac Mini. They wrote that the signal- level stays below 530mV and this clearly is out of the VESA- specs. Signal-strength is too low. Some monitors can handle the weak signal well, some don't. Better go with DVI."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Bad fan design is the bane of the iMac G5

iMac G5

A Mac user reverse engineers the iMac G5 fans. He identifies yet another flaw: lateral play in the bearings.

Bottom line, for many Mac users a major appeal of the G5 iMac is quiet operation. It doesn't deliver. In fact, it often generates more irritating noise than a typical desktop machine. (During the winter my homebuilt XP, with several thermally controlled fans, is almost silent.)

I'm already holding off on my iMac purchases because of the problems with iPhoto 5. If Apple doesn't fix the iMac I'll be looking at either a Mac Mini or a refurbished PowerMac.

Friday, February 11, 2005

iPhoto 5 is a turkey

Apple - Discussions - iPhoto 5

I've been following the Apple discussions for a while. Even with the 5.01 patch this iPhto release smells like week old fish. This is particularly disappointing since iPhoto 4 was clearly a performance and bug fix update, we thought iPhoto 5 would be a big improvement.

iPhoto 5 is so bad I'm holding off on buying a new Mac -- because that machine would ship with iPhoto 5 and it hard to switch back to iPhoto 4.

Things to do if your Mac doesn't boot

Apple - Discussions - List of things to do if your Mac doesn't boot

Modified from a post to Apple Discussions
Safe mode:
hold Shift while power on
use Disk utility to repair permission and Onyx to delete caches

Single user mode:
hold Command + S while power on
at the Unix command type fsck -fy
type again to make sure there is no error
type reboot and press Enter to get out of Single user mode

hold Command + Option + P + R while power on

OpenFirmware: hold Command + Option + O + F while power on
While in open firmware you can reset your video and pram settings with these commands
0 > reset-nvram
Press Return
0 > reset-all
Press Return

Installation disk one:
Put in Installation disk one
hold C while power on
Use Disk Utility to repair permission and repair disk

Target Disk mode:
user a Firewire cable to connect to another Mac that's on
hold T while power on, this will make the unbootable Mac act as an external hard drive
Back up files from there
Use Installation disk one to re-install OSX

Re-install OSX if you don't have access to another Mac:
Put in Installation disk one
hold C while power on
While selection target drive, go to Options and select Archive and install
The installation will keep all your files and settings
After installation is complete delete the Previous System on the hard drive.

Mac OS X Update troubleshooting

Macintouch Mac OS X 10.3.8

A set of useful troubleshooting tips. None of these should be needed of course.

Andreas Junghans In response to David Whitehead's network problems after the 10.3.8 update:

I've had network problems in the past after some OS X and security updates. Apple's Mail and Safari would not be able to connect to servers while Mozilla would continue to work just fine. What solved the problem every time was rebooting the machine (a second time after the mandatory reboot when the install is finished).

Regarding Tim Wojtyniak's question about the applications in the 'Open with ...' menu:

Each OS X application contains information about the file types it can work with. Whenever an application is launched or simply clicked on in the Finder, OS X updates the so-called 'LaunchServices database' with the new information. Among other things, this database is used for providing the 'Open With ...' entries (similar to the Windows registry, but only used for file associations).

As detailed here, you can completely rebuild the LaunchServices database using the following command in a Terminal:

LaunchServices.framework/Support/lsregister -kill -r -domain local
-domain system -domain user

This command first flushes all entries and then rescans the usual folders that contain applications. For each application found, the corresponding file associations are added to the database. After this procedure, deleted apps should no longer appear in the 'Open With ...' menu. In case you have some applications stored in custom locations (e.g. '/Productivity Apps'), you have to launch them once to restore their file associations.

Panther Cache Cleaner Update

MacInTouch Home Page: "Panther Cache Cleaner 2.4.7 provides easy access to numerous Mac OS X maintenance and utility options through a graphical interface. This release has been updated for Mac OS X 10.3.8 and adds a screenshot helper and an option to remove unneeded language localizations. Panther Cache Cleaner is $8.95 for Mac OS X 10.1 and up."

I've avoided PCC since I removed it and seemed to resolve some serious stability issues. It used to install something deep in the OS.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Pogue tests KVM switches: mini-Mac and PC integration

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > Pogue > Basics: Mac Meets PC and Both Learn to Share

See also an earlier post on the Belkin OmniView KVM switch. I'd wondered if Belkin launched that analog VGA switch in anticipation of the Mac Mini, but its switching doesn't respond to Mac keystrokes. Switches that work with a digital LCD display may be harder to find.
What you need, besides the two machines, is a K.V.M. switch, a device that permits you to use a single keyboard, monitor and mouse with two or more machines. K.V.M. stands for "keyboard, video and mouse," but some K.V.M. switches also let you control your speakers and microphone. Using a switch not only saves money and desk space but adds to the capabilities of both machines by creating a system whereby the Mac and PC work together. At the risk of offending some Apple enthusiasts, Windows users could think of the Mini as a PC peripheral...

... The hybrid system I tested used a Dell 8400 PC running Windows XP Home Edition and a basic $499 Mac Mini upgraded to 512 megabytes of memory from 256 (Apple charges $75 for this). I also connected the Mini to an I.B.M. ThinkPad laptop that runs Windows XP Professional Edition.

K.V.M. switches have different sets of cables, plugs and jacks. The keyboard, mouse and monitor plug into ports on the switch (usually labeled Console). Then two sets of cabled plugs (in a two-computer switch) hook up to the keyboard, mouse and video ports on the computers. The cables are often included with the switch, but with some models they are sold separately.

Computers can have different types of inputs, so you need to buy a switch that matches your configuration.

If your keyboard and mouse have universal serial bus plugs, for example, then the Console ports on the switch you buy must be U.S.B. If those two peripherals have the round PS/2 connectors, then the ports must be PS/2. As for the output cables to the two computers, since the Mac Mini has only U.S.B. ports for both its keyboard and mouse, the switch must have U.S.B. plugs, which will also work with the PC. (But the switch need have only one U.S.B. plug for each computer; it can handle both keyboard and mouse.)

You also need to check your monitor cable. Most use a standard 15-pin V.G.A. connector, but some use a digital video interface, or D.V.I., link. (Some monitors support both.) So you will need to make sure your K.V.M. switch has the appropriate jack.

I tested four inexpensive K.V.M. switches that work with V.G.A. monitors. Belkin's 2-Port K.V.M. Switch with Built-In Cabling, U.S.B. (about $50) works with the Mac Mini and any PC with a V.G.A. monitor and U.S.B. keyboard and mouse, as does Iogear's Miniview Micro U.S.B. Plus (about $60).

If you have a PS/2 mouse and keyboard, Hawking Technology's 2-Port K.V.M. Switch with Audio and Microphone will do the trick for about $40. Hawking's 2-Port U.S.B., PS/2, K.V.M. Switch with Audio and Microphone (about $80) gives you a choice between U.S.B. and PS/2.

As for the actual switching between machines, the Hawking units give you a choice of pressing a switch on the unit or using your keyboard. The Belkin has a switch (its keyboard controls don't work on Macs). Iogear's Miniview Micro doesn't have a switch; to shift between the PC and Mac, you press the scroll lock button twice. The advantage of being able to switch between machines from the keyboard is that you can place the K.V.M. units anywhere, but there is something reassuring about a physical switch.

When switching between machines, there can be a short delay as the machine recognizes the mouse and keyboard, but it's generally just a couple of seconds.
I used KVM switches eons ago with an OS 7 PowerBook and a 386 PC. Back then switching was hard on the monitors; they'd make audible popping noises when they switched sync input. It clearly shortened CRT monitor lifespan in the early 90s. I suspect this is not an issue with LCD displays.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

iMac G5 fan noise: another cause

MacInTouch Home Page: "As a side note, when I opened up one of these computers, I found that the loud fan noise was being caused by the plastic tab (under the fan cover at the top, used to pull the midplane out of the rest of the computer) rubbing against the topmost fan blades. Simply tucking the tab up and out of the way when replacing the fan cover solved the fan noise problem. This may explain why the fan noise on other computers is inconsistent and not always. If you have a fan noise problem on your iMac G5, you may want to simply check to make sure the tab is not rubbing on the upper fan.

Saft: full screen browsing with Safari

MacInTouch Home Page: "Saft 7.5.1 is a Safari plug-in that adds features such as full-screen browsing, searchable bookmarks and history, one-page PDF export, placement of source URLs in Finder comments of downloaded files, and more. This release adds detection of the recently discovered IDN spoofing exploit. Saft is $12 for Mac OS X"

Monday, February 07, 2005

Fixing iPhoto lockups

From Macintouch. This matches my experience w/ OS X debugging. Deleting prefs and caches is much more useful than the usual recommendation to "repair permissions".

Of course iPhoto should manage problems with cache or prefs far more gracefully that it does. That's another story.iPhoto (Part 12)iPhoto 4 Freeze

Markus Hänchen

My copy of iPhoto 4 got completely stuck yesterday, just out of the blue. I had last used it a few days (and quit) without any problems. Now, the spinning disk came up a few seconds after start-up and I had to force-quit the app. This was absolutely reproducible. Trashing the preferences caused iPhoto to open with the default settings (window size, size of left bar) but again the spinning disk appeared after a few seconds.

What fixed it was cleaning the font caches (AKA user caches) with Cocktail.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

New York Times Perma Link Generator

New York Times Link Generator

This web service accepts a NY Times article link as input and outputs an alternative link that bypasses the NYT registration service. The alternative link can be embedded in blogs that refer to NYT articles.

They also provide a handy bookmarklet.

Blogger tip: finding open blockquotes

Blogger: Dashboard

My blogs are authored in Blogger and hosted by Blogspot. The service works better than it used and the editing tools are improving (on Firefox anyway, Safari is not well supported), but there's one longstanding defect. The BlogThis! bookmarklet tool, which is fundamental to Blogger workflow, doesn't support the blockquote tag.

Since much of Blogging consists of quotes and response, this is a curious omission. Holy missing semantic markup Batman! (sorry, our kids just watched the 1970s movie). So I have to type the blockquote myself.

Of course I occasionally miss a letter or a tag or a closing quote. This effects the summary page that contains the quote. Depending on the underlying template, the page may render correctly in IE or Firefox, but it always renders oddly in Safari. The right column drops to the bottom of the page.

There's nothing in the post display, however, to tell one which post is "bad". Trying to find the missing tag in the Blogger editor is fruitless. (Worst of all with Firefox compose, it fixes the missing tag so there's nothing to see -- but it doesn't save the fix)

I finally figured out a reasonable approach. Open the flawed display in Safari and choose "view source". Then I just search on blockquote. It takes only a few minutes to spot the missing tag and identify what post needs fixing in the Blogger editor. Opening the page in an HTML editor (even old FrontPage) might do the trick too, but the editor might also fix the defect automatically -- which wouldn't help.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A source for high quality CD and DVD

Diversified Systems Group, Inc. - Media & Services - CD-R/DVD-R - Bulk CD-R/DVD-R

Referred via Slashdot. This duplication service company sells CD-R media with a reputation for longevity, particularly Taiyo Yuden and MAM-A.

A bigger Safari display: Cmd-| and Cmd-\

Apple - Safari

My primary Mac is an iBook (12" PB is starting to tempt me!). The 1024x768 display is pretty small. I'd use the Full Screen view of Firefox or IE if Safari supported it, but it doesn't. Alas, even Firefox on the Mac is lacking -- the F11 key is used by the MacOS and thus there's no keyboard shortcut for Firefox Full Screen mode.

The next best thing is to hide the address bar. There is a shortcut key for that: Cmd-|. It's conveniently located above the enter key, but to get it you need to type the shift key (the default is \).

The oddity occurs if you have Safari debugging turned on. Then Cmd-\ (same key but without the shift) brings up an interesting page debug menu. I don't actually use the Debug menu much, so I may disable it and see what Cmd-| does then.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Cheap DVDs don't have macrovision?

Dan's Data letters #140

Macrovision is why you can't tape from a DVD to a videotape. Try it and you get signal distortion generated by the receiving system. Dan's Data claims cheap DVDs, by which I assume he means the $40 models often sold in hardware stores, may not have Macrovision support:
Macrovision is turned on by most commercial DVDs, but you can disable it on many cheap DVD players these days, one way or another. The better cheapo players come with Macrovision (and region coding) turned off.
Dan's in Australia, I don't know if this is true in the US. It's illegal in the US to describe how to defeat Macrovision, so Dan can't give details. Heck, maybe it's illegal even to mention that some devices don't have it enabled. Free speech is so 20th century.

PS. Amazon sells some devices that claim to filter out the signal that recording systems rely on to trigger their video distortion mechanism.


VNC 1.5

I tried an earlier version of this, it was too slow to use. I'll try again!

Service Manager for Mac OS X (via Macintouch)

Service Manager

From Macintouch: "[Nigel Warren] Mac OS X does not provide a built-in method for [removing items from the Service menu], unfortunately, but there is a great little piece of free software that does, Service Manager. I've used it for a year or so without a problem and find it very useful. It lets you turn services off and on, as well as letting you reassign their keyboard shortcuts and arrange them in any submenu of the services menu that you like."

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Ten AppleScript Tips: O'Reilly Top Ten AppleScript Tips

Good article for a Mac OS X power user.

iPhoto aliases are not -- they're relative symlinks

macosxhints - Use symbolic links instead of aliases on the desktop

When you browse an iPhoto Library file tree, you see that albums are instantiated as folders. Each folder contains what appears to be an alias.

Only they're not.

If you copy an iPhoto album, the aliases reference images in the tree of the copied album, they don't reference the original files.

A true OS X alias would reference the original File ID, not the ID of the copied file. (This worked better in OS 9, changing a file extension in OS X will break an alias even if the File ID doesn't change, this Mac OS X hints page has a good discussion.)

What appear to be iPhoto aliases are in fact relative symlinks. I copied one to the desktop and noticed it lost its icon. Then when running ls -l from the terminal one finds:

lrwxr-xr-x 1 jgf staff 29 3 Feb 18:23 IMG_2523.JPG -> ../../2003/07/13/IMG_2523.JPG

I'm not a unix guy, but I think lrwxr is the signature of a typical symlink. That's why one can copy an iPhoto Library and not have the whole thing fall apart.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Bug in Google's identity management: Gmail and Groups

Google Groups

Google has a bug in their identity management.

1. Log into Gmail.
2. Switch to Google groups.
3. Create a post.
4. OOPS. Don't want to put my Gmail address on Usenet! Good catch Google. Ok, click on the option to use other account.
5. Uh-Oh. Screen allows one only to CREATE another account, not to use one that already exists.
6. Go back -- lose all post content.

It's a bug! Of course there's no way to report this to Google.

Here's another one.

Reply to a post in Google Groups. Get a dialog to login. Login. Lose the contents of what one posted. (Firefox 1.0)