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.