Tuesday, January 31, 2006

OS X Sync software updates

Mactintouch had news of two updates to sync software, a category I'm interested in because of my 10.3.9 iBook.
MacInTouch: timely news and tips about the Apple Macintosh

QuickSync 2.0 is a folder synchronization utility that can work with any device that mounts on the desktop. It includes automatic sync options, scheduling, bidirectional or unidirectional sync, session saves, reports of copied and synced files, and support for FTP, SMB (Samba), and Appletalk shared folders/drives. This release adds a system backup function, copying with admin rights, improved sync and data detection methods, and a redesigned and simplified interface. QuickSync is $19 for Mac OS X.

SyncUpX 1.5.1 is a synchronization utility that provides incremental backups, the ability to back up Smart Folders, and one-click restores, among other features. Backups can be saved to a second hard drive or external drive (including an iPod), and each backup stores its own settings, which can be restored just by selecting the backup folder. Recent changes include extended logging, interface improvements, improved Automator actions, and better error handling. SyncUpX (a Universal Binary) is $20 for Mac OS X 10.3 and 10.4.
SyncUpX gains a lot from its clever use of Smart Folder:

You want to backup only the purchased songs out of your iTunes music library? Just create a spotlight search listing all protected AAC files and save it. Now just add this saved search to your backup. This way you can create completely dynamic backup sets really easy.

Microsoft Access: Unable to update a recordset or field value

Microsoft Access is a seriously weird product, but I mostly know my way around the bugs. One of the most annoying bugs/behaviors is when Access decides you can't edit a field in a join. I can find neither rhyme nor reason for why this happens. This note has my entire, painfully acquired, solution set for this problem. It dates from Access 2000, but it remains topical
This recordset is not updateable

Access 2000 and Jet 4.0 changed quite a bit. One problem is that RecordSets that used to be updateable aren't.

As a fix, try changing the value of the query's UniqueRecords property (from yes to no or vice-versa) Q207761 - ACC2000 Changes in Use of DISTINCTROW in Microsoft Access 2000. See also 011217_AccessUpdatesHelpFile.pdf. I had to change the properties for the query to "Dynaset (Inconsistent Updates)", which I fear increases the risk of the Cursor Problem [1]. It's probably better to change the UniqueRecords property to NO.

Sometimes defining relationships in Tools:Relationship will prevent this from happening, especially if one assigns referential integrity and "cascade update related fields". Also look at which "side" of two joined fields appears in the relation, sometimes changing that will fix the problem.
[1] I think this was fixed in Access 2003. In Access 2000 it was possible for edits to be applied to rows removed from the row the UI presented.

Fuzzy Gazetteer: finding places where you don't quite know the name

Does anyone imagine they "know" the web any more?
Fuzzy Gazetteer:

The Fuzzy Gazetteer enables you to find geographic features even when you do not know their exact names.

A list of similar names is returned, web-linked to the JRC Digital Map Archive of the European Commission.
The JRC digital map is yet another wonder. Off to the side there are icons that let you see the image via Google Earth or NASA's image repository. In this case, the map shows a creek in the Congo.

I think I've just had another Cyberpunk moment.

Verify your iPhoto Libraries with iPhoto Library Manager

[Update 2/1/06: I think I found one bug. If there's a name collision between an existing and imported smart album (transformed to non-smart album) the imported album is created with a numeric suffix, but it is empty. Incidentally (not a bug) collisions between keywords are treated as a merge. To be safe, give albums a unique name prior to import.]
[Update 2/3/06: See this before you try anything!

I am a big fan of iPhoto Library Manager. From my post to the Apple Discussion List:
Apple - Support - Discussions - VERIFY your library prior to update: ...

I am a believer. Please, verify your iPhoto library prior to updating. In fact, verify it every few months. I did this with my iPhoto 5 Libraries prior to updating and I'm so happy I'm buying a SECOND license to IPLM just to say thanks. [1]

How do you verify? You register iPhoto Library Manager ($20) and you use it to verify your library.

But, you say, IPLM is just used to manage multiple libraries. There are free apps to do that, iPhoto 6 can handle 250,000 images (given enough machine power), iP6 can option-click load separate Libraries anyway.

All right. Except IPLM is the most perversely unmarketed software in existence. The library manager features are free. They are nice, but not essential.

What you get for $20 is the barely mentioned capability to combine (merge, import) Libraries or portions of Libraries (images and albums) with much of the metadata preserved (titles, comments, keywords(!), ratings, roll data, and album membership).

But, you say, I don't need to merge Libraries. I have one Library, my partner(s) and children use the one Library, I don't have a desktop/laptop Library. Ahh, but you do need to verify.

How do you verify? You tell IPLM to create a new Library and import all the images from your existing Library. You won't KEEP the new Library. You do this to test for problems.

If there are no error messages, no glitches, matching image counts, etc -- you're fine. Otherwise, sort this out BEFORE you update.

I have done this with two libraries of about 3000 images each. In each case IPLM/iPhoto identified ONE corrupted JPEG [2]. I was able to restore from old CD archives.

Now I feel confident in the integrity of my iPhoto Libraries. I will be using IPLM to verify them every few months from now on.

Highly recommended. And no, I'm not associated with them in any way.

[1] In my case I have 3 iP5 Libraries and I want ONE iP6 Library on my iMac -- I decided to do the merge prior to going to iP 6 because IPLM has been used for over a year for iP 5 merges, so it's more tested that way.

[2] What happens is iPhoto reports it couldn't import an image. On examination in an image editor the JPEG is corrupted. When I went to backups and the original Library I confirmed the corruption. Don't try to open these images in iP 5 -- they will cause iP 5 to hang with a spinning pizza of death. Yes, that's very bad programming. Preview manages them properly. In both cases I was able to get an original good image from old CDs and archives -- but I backup more than 99% of the world. I think these images were corrupted by older/flakier versions of OS X and iPhoto. I have a personal evidence-free belief that the pre-journaled OS X file system was not reliable.
Update 2/2/06: When one imports a Library using IPLM iPhoto 5 creates an system folder structure based first on EXIF tags (if available) and secondly on the image file last modified date. These folders are usually invisible to the user. In my case my iPhoto 5 Libraries, when viewed using the Finder prior to import, had a directory structure that mirrored the iPhoto assigned dates of images. They had this structure even though scanned images lacked EXIF headers. After import, the Finder structure mirrored the last modified date of images. This is somewhat curious. Since iPhoto 6 makes the same change when one updates it's kind of unavoidable anyway.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Trimming tracks in iTunes and other tips

This TUAW article has a some good tips, and a link to an Apple site with even better ones: TUAW Tip: Trimming tracks in iTunes - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW). I've not paid enough attention to how iTunes has grown.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

What Google wants a web site to be

Google Information for Webmasters is very informative. It links to their sitemaps page. I'm starting to see Google search results with sublinks below the main link, I suspect those are coming from the Sitemaps. I'd like to give it a try myself.

Graf Skates: the MacBook of the Ice

Guy Kasawki loves Graf skates and Bauer sticks; he compares them to the MacBook. Hmm. If Guy likes them, maybe I would too.

There's a term for this sort of thing (P1 likes B and C, P2 likes C, maybe P2 will like B?) but forget the name and I'm too lazy to Google it.

Of course I don't need Graf skates. I only skate and stick handle to amuse my 9 yo. It's like me riding Lance Armstrong's bike. Looks stupid. On the other hand, I'd really enjoy riding a bike like Lance's, even if I was poking along. At my age, I don't mind looking stupid.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

iPhoto Library Manager: merging iPhoto 6 Libraries

This appears to be the ONLY way to combine multiple iPhoto Libraries. (Example: import work done on a traveling laptop with the main library on server.) Review will follow below as an update to this post.
Apple - Support - Discussions - Does this Library Merge technique work ...

iPhoto Library Manager was updated this am. It now supports merging libraries with iPhoto 6:


The Library switching functionality is free, the merging functionality is a very reasonable fee. I have not tested it but will be doing so shortly. Since we've established that merge techniques that worked with iPhoto 5 don't work with iPhoto 6, this is the only known way to combine, integrate, merge, import etc. iPhoto Libraries. It's amazing that Apple doesn't support this themselves, I can only guess that they want to reserve that functioanality for Aperture.

The best firefox extensions: information week

[Updated: added a screenshot of my extensions]
InternetWeek | Firefox Essentials: A Dozen Must-Have Extensions

A great reference - very frank. I have the Google toolbar, SwitchProxy and IE View. I think I'll end up with most of what he recommends.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Running iPhoto 6 on a G3

I wonder if the success of this tip might vary depending on video card. Interesting performance comment. I wonder if the G3 restriction was more for the other iLife modules.
macosxhints - Run some iLife '06 apps on a G3:

It's easy to get iPhoto 6 and iWeb installed on your G3 by copying the iLife installation package to your desktop, control-clicking on the package installer, picking Show Package Contents from the pop-up menu, and then removing this code from the Distribution.dist file using TextEdit:
// Rule out insufficient hardware
if ( !hasAcceptableHardware() )
my.result.title = system.localizedString('TITLE_INCOMPATHW');
my.result.message = system.localizedString('ERROR_INCOMPATHW');
my.result.type = 'Fatal';
return false;

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Petcam: checkup on your doggie

This is obvious -- except it hadn't occurred to me. I've heard of using a webcam to monitor grandma (my mother would just love that), but of course it works just as well for Fido: Home petcam made easy.

There are several security issues. A wireless webcam may not support robust encryption standards. If you are uploading images you need a place to access them -- and most of the upload sites are a bit ... unseemly. If you are accessing the webcam directly then you run into serious security issues -- it needs to connect to the DMZ of one's LAN...

Keyword Assistant is not compatible with iPhoto 6

Keyword Assistant doesn't work with iPhoto 6. Ouch. Ouch. Aperture is looking more inevitable all the time.

Mail.app bug: This message could not be saved

OS X Mail (mail.app) started giving me an annoying error message: "This message could not be saved". Fortunately googling on the error string gave me what looks like a plausible solution:
Mail.app on Mac OS X and Courier IMAP Server

In order to use Mail.app effectively with most servers based on Courier-IMAP, you need to set the "IMAP Path Prefix" to "INBOX" in the account preferences.

Monday, January 23, 2006

BBEdit's perspectives on OS X 10.4 and MacTel

This post was a draft last year, but I think the story is interesting enough that it's worth republishing now that MacTel stuff is out. Emphases mine. Mac developers are a determined lot.
Developer::Pipelines | A Mac Text Editor Migrates to Intel

First, with Mac OS X 10.4, the OS itself was no longer a moving target. In earlier releases of the OS, its underlying architecture—notably the kernel APIs—was in a state of flux and subject to change. And change these low-level APIs they did, as Apple refined the kernel and underlying frameworks to make improvements. As a consequence, each new release of the OS left broken applications in its wake, an unpleasant outcome that dissuaded many Mac users from switching to Mac OS X...

In 10.4, the kernel programming interfaces (KPIs) have been frozen, and a versioning mechanism lets drivers and other low-level software handle those situations when the KPIs are changed to support new features. The result is an underlying infrastructure for the OS that's stable and consistent across different platforms. This, in turn, makes the porting process manageable.

According to the BBEdit engineers, Mac OS X 10.4 does a good job at hiding the hardware details, while still providing low-level services (such as disk I/O). In addition, its APIs are mostly platform neutral, which means no special code is required to counter side-effects when invoking the APIs on each platform. Put another way, the code to call an API is identical for both platforms, and the results of the API call are identical; no glue code is necessary.

... BBEdit 8.0, which was released in late 2004, uses the full Unicode conversion and rendering features of Mac OS X. These APIs automatically read a file's encoding scheme and manage the data transfers and file I/O appropriately. By choosing to use Unicode early on, the Bare Bones Software engineers not only expanded the number of languages the editor could support, but also avoided what could have been a serious problem with reading and writing files when migrating to the x86-based Mac platform.

Another key revision made in BBEdit 8.0's code design was that the application began using Mac OS X's Preference Services API, rather than storing binary data in a custom resource. This modification also side-stepped the Endian problem...

TextDrive – Hosting service with WebDav

I'm not in the market for a hosting service at this time, but if I were TextDrive's WebDav server would be very appealing.

200 Ways To Revive A Crashed Hard Drive

This is a handy reference to keep at hand. If the data is really critical I'd just pay a data recovery service. If the data, however, is just nice to have, then try these tips: Tony Sutton's Homepage > Hardware > 200 Ways To Revive A Crashed Hard Drive - Part One - Freeze It.

Why are Apple products so risky?

Another iPhoto release, another hundred thousand lost images. If things run true to form the bug will affect a moderate number of early adopters and will be fixed in a point release.

This is typical for Apple. It's also typical for Microsoft's beta releases. Microsoft's commercial releases are much safer than Apple's.

Why is this?

I think it's because Apple doesn't do beta releases for its major products (they do beta test point releases of the OS). Jobs insists on secrecy, and that strategy has served him well. Secrecy, however, means no testing of new products in real world environments. In other words, no true beta.

In the Apple world, early adopters are beta testers. Beta testers need very robust backups and time to burn. The rest of us need to wait until the beta is done; that's usually after the first patch. If the first patch comes within four weeks of product release then wait for the second patch.

By that measure both iPhoto 6 and Aperture are still in beta. I'm waiting.

Avoid iPhoto 6?

Apple - Support - Discussions - iPhoto crash, 3000 photos now missing ...

Hmmm. Interesting thread. iPhoto 6 is very appealing, but it seems to have the usual Apple issues with a major application update. In addition, a separate thread suggests that techniques for merging Libraries from iPhoto 5 won't work in iPhoto 6.

Overall, I think I'll wait a few weeks and monitor the forum to see how this turns out. For those who haven't yet bought iPhoto 6 -- waiting might be a good idea.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Why I hate Palm

[Updated with more illustrative notes]

My PalmOS CLIE TJ-27 (the one with the stylus from heck) finally died. I dropped it. No big deal, my wife has one she isn't using. All I have to do is sync it ...


The backup restore sort of worked, except for a bunch of apps where it didn't. It left a remnant of TealLock that took me an hour to get rid of.

Then a sync replicated all my Outlook records -- three times for every one. Then the restore from a Palm device backup failed because I was restoring to a 'different device'. Riiiiigggghhht. So exactly what did those idiots think one needed a backup for?

I found the Outlook .ost file from my automated system backup of 1 am this morning and fixed up Outlook, then executed a sync back to the PDA. That worked.

Its easy to see why Palm died. Any one of the problems I ran into on this restore would have led 99% of the world to give up on the device.

Sure, this is a SONY device -- but these are all classic Palm OS problems. The Palm OS was great in its day, but the company was snowed by Microsoft and lost its way in the boom years. They never recovered. The darned OS needs a stake through its heart.

I guess I'm back to waiting for the rumored Apple SmartPhone, but I have to say that the history of sync services in OS X is not encouraging. And let's not mention iCal ....

Update 1/23/06: So everything works, except when I enable TealScript (I also hate Palm for dumping Graffiti One -- the version that worked) the number and alpha input areas are reversed. Fortunately I didn't delete the installer for the older version of TealScript.

Update 1/23/06b: Ok, I figured out the TealScript glitch. The new version of TS has some new advanced features. For example, it's now configurable for different input area setups. It's supposed to recognize the layout automatically, but it made the wrong guess for the TJ-27. I set it manually and it works.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Bonjour for Windows 1.0.2 - essential for mixed LANs

I've been very pleased with Bonjour (formerly Rendezvous) for Windows -- it brings internet standard resource discovery solutions to Microsoft's platform. There's an important update out. (via Macintouch)
Apple - Support - Downloads - Bonjour for Windows 1.0.2

With Bonjour for Windows, you can easily network your Windows computer to an existing network or create instant networks of multiple devices without any additional network configuration.

This update is recommended for all Bonjour users to improve usability and compatibility.

It includes fixes for:

- Improves compatibility with Mac OS X Printer Sharing
- Fixes 'Error 1920' installation issue that could occur if Norton Internet Security was present or Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) service was disabled
- Improves compatibility with Norton Internet Security
- Improves connectivity with DNS relays in certain third-party routers
- Fixes an issue that could cause 'You do not have sufficient access to your computer ' error when adding new printers
- Addresses compatibility issues with certain third-party VPN clients
- Installation of Bonjour no longer requires a restart

Image Tricks - free OS X app for using core image library

Via Macintouch. This free image management tool, Image Tricks, allows access to the OS functionality also used by Preview, iPhoto and Aperture.

I'll play with it.

Adobe DNG Converter updated

Macintouch mentioned Adobe had updated their DNG converter for Photoshop, but in fact they've also updated their free converter: Adobe DNG Converter for Macintosh - Downloads

You need a free Adobe UserID to download. I plan to test using this Automator tool (first use I've had for Automator). I'm interested in seeing if iPhoto 6 running on 10.4.4 will handle DNG transforms of Digital Rebel XT Raw.

Nikon vs. Canon: Consider the DRM

Canon and Nikon dominate the dSLR marketplace. Minolta/Konica just quite the camera business, and SONY is a very distant third in this world.

Both produce excellent cameras and superb lenses. How can one choose between a DigitalRebel XT and a D70 or D50? One factor to consider is which vendor is nastier about keeping their image formats proprietary.

OpenRAW - News is a good place to check. Nikon's D200, for example, encrypts the RAW image format. In general, Nikon has been playing harder ball than Canon in shutting out alternatives to Nikon software. It's not that Canon is being insightful or cooperative, it's rather that Nikon is being more aggressive. OS X support for Nikon is much more limited than support for similar Canon cameras for this reason.

On balance, the Digital Rights Management (DRM) wars favor Canon at this time. On the other hand, if either vendor implemented in-camera DNG they'd win this race.

It won't show up on in any online camera review, but if you're making the Canon vs. Nikon decision, consider Nikon's desire to lock in Nikon customers through the data format. If you choose Canon, consider sending Nikon a nice note.

Blogger bug: BlogThis! is mangling URLs

Blogger took 4 months to address a bug with mangling posts when the Link field was enabled. This past month they finally introduced a new version of BlogThis! that enables some rich text editing with Firefox and IE (no bullets though).

It turns out, however, that the new version has a nasty bug of its own. It doesn't encode URLs correctly. This is what you get if you post with BlogThis! against a Google search (I took out the angle brackets so Blogger whould show the html):
href="http://w....q=iraq" demographics="" population="" history="" shia="" sunni="" fertility="">iraq demographics population history shia sunni fertility - Google Search
Blogger is embedding quotes throughout the Google search string. If one hand copies the URL and pastes it by hand into the BlogThis! editing screen it works correctly. This is very easy to demonstrate, so I hope I'll have more luck communicating this bug than I did with my last report .

Thursday, January 19, 2006

TuneCenter: Making the iPod accessible

TuneCenter - Griffin Technology does for your iPod what Front Row does for iTunes and iMovie. It displays playlists and tune info on a the TV screeen. Works with a remote. Getting the Playlist to the screen seems magical to me; I assume the TuneCenter has an embedded operating system but a quick search didn't turn up any leads.

This could be very helpful for visually impaired persons. A cheap compact LCD TV would be much more readable for many persons than the iPod's built-in display. The remote sounds a bit complex however.

iCal : create links to web or files

TUAW summarizes an OS X Hints tip:
Create clickable URL/file events in iCal - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

All you need to do for a URL is either drag it (or its icon) from a browser's address bar onto a time slot in iCal, or add a URL to an event's title and surround it with carrots like this, sans-quotes: "." To create a click-able link to a file, you'll need to use a web browser (such as Firefox) to surf your file system, then simply drag a file or folder from the browser into iCal in the same way as a URL. Don't try it with Safari, as it apparently doesn't do local file/folder surfing.

iPhoto keyboard shortcuts

Handy keyboard shortcuts for iPhoto:
Macsupport Your Source for Macintosh Computer Classifieds, Product Reviews, Mac Help and Forums. � Blog Archive � iPhoto Keyboard Shortcuts:

Go to next photo: Press the Right Arrow key

Go to previous photo: Press the Left Arrow key

Disable constrain setting when selecting an area: Press the Command key while dragging

Switch between portrait and landscape constrain setting when selecting an area: Press the Option key while dragging
There's at least one missing. When you apply an effect in edit mode, if you hold down the control key (don't save image and don't click) you see how the original looks.

I thought the Option key switch between portrait and landscape was broken in iPhoto 4 or 5, but it works fine in 5.02. Too bad I'd not been using it!

Data Visualization

Karl Hartig: Data Visualization

I got here by Kawasaki's blog. Great resource for a class I co-teach.

FrameMaker vs. Pages

How does Pages compare to traditional desktop publishing solutions? FrameMaker Feature Comparison compares Pages, Word, FrameMaker and InDesign. The PDF is a long and comprehensive report.

I hope the author will update the document for Pages 2.0. I'm still on the fence about committing to Pages. For now OmniOutliner and AppleWorks and Text suffice. Since Pages will install for all users, and Nisus will only work for a single user per machine, Nisus is rather more expensive.

I'd feel better about buying Pages if Apple were more serious about building iWorks -- or if they switched to an OpenDoc file format.

iLife '06 is $71 on Amazon

Amazon (follow the Macintouch link to get them some money) really does have exceptional prices and rebates on Apple products. I wonder what kind of deal they've done with Apple. Amazon.com: Apple iLife '06 (Mac DVD): Software is $71! That's only $11 more than the educational price.

I have my iLife on order, but I expect it to be well worth the money. Apple makes transaction revenue on iPhoto use and through the tie ins between iLife and .Mac -- so they can afford to sell this cheaply.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

iWeb review - MacWorld

MacWorld is publishing their through their iLife reviews, the iWeb First Look is the best introduction to the software I've come across.

They have reviews on iDVD and iPhoto. The iPhoto review is probably the best documentation we'll see for a while. Overall, great work by MacWorld.

The educational price for iLife is $60, so I broke down and went for it. It will hold me while I wait for Aperture to improve.

Sigma 17-70mm for APS-C dSLRs

Sigma 17-70mm lens for digital SLRs: Digital Photography Review

This is a replacement for the standard lens that ships with Nikon or Canon lower end dSLRs. I suspect it will cost @ $300 or so, but there's no price data yet.

It's for APS-C, not full-frame dSLRs (Canon owns the full frame dSLR market).

I don't know how the 3x4 (consumer cameras mostly) vs. 2x3 (film and almost all dSLR) ratio-wars will turn out, but I think the full frame 35mm sized sensor will become very rare. For better or worse APS-C feels like the new standard for 2x3 sensors.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Smugmug: just use sRGB and be happy

SmugMug is a digital photography site that serves both pro and amateur customers. They review the pros and cons of color profiles and come down on the same side of every intelligent review I've read -- use sRGB for printing.

I take that to the next logical step -- unless you really, really, really know what you're doing, use sRGB as your working color profile. Here's what they wrote. I had not seen the references to photo printing papers vs. ink jet printing. I wonder if the newer non-ink printers change their answers? (emphases mine)
smugmug - help - srgb versus adobe rgb 1998

The box of crayons you're given for displaying photos on the web is called sRGB.

There are other color spaces, such as Adobe RGB (1998), but no Windows-based browser can display them correctly. The Macintosh browsers Safari and Internet Explorer can, but only under unusual circumstances not seen in everyday browsing. [jf: probably if you change the color profile for your monitor to Adobe]

To your right you see the same photo displayed in sRGB (above) and Adobe 98 (below). You'll notice the Adobe version is washed out and pixelated in some areas. There is no way around this problem other than to convert your files to sRGB.

... In theory, Adobe 98 is broader, encompassing some colors sRGB doesn't, like the pure cyan in HP's original logo. In practice, for photographic prints, it offers fewer colors.

Suppose you take an art class and the teacher gives you 3 boxes of crayons: 256 red ones, 256 green and 256 blue. She calls them Adobe 98 and you notice some spiffy colors that the poor guy next to you doesn't have. He also received 256 red, 256 green, and 256 blue crayons, but they're labeled sRGB. [jf: 256 sound familiar? That's our old friend, 2**8. Aka 8 bit color space.]

The teacher then drops a bomb: you're not allowed to use the outer rows of crayons in your boxes because she thinks they're too gaudy for the landscapes you'll be drawing today. The person next to you can use all his crayons because none of them represent those gaudy colors. Now who has more crayons at their disposal?

Photographic paper and chemicals do not allow you to use all the colors of Adobe 98. For that reason, the sRGB tide has swept North American printers. The top labs, such as whcc, MPIX, EZ Prints (our lab), Shutterfly (whom we used to use), Kodak, Fujifilm, Photobox, Costco, Snapfish, Wolfe's, etc., all expect your file to be in sRGB and if it isn't, your prints will look washed out.

Yikes! What colors do I give up?

In our experience, 99 of 100 prints we see are completely represented by the colors of sRGB, including stunning landscapes on exhibit in galleries and shows. We've all been viewing photographic prints for decades and are often in awe of the vibrant colors we see in them. In addition, virtually every stunning photo you see on the Internet is painted with the colors of sRGB, because it's the only choice.

If a specific area of the shot is not covered by sRGB, such as day-glo colors, color substitution occurs when you or your camera creates the sRGB file. Rare is the person with a fine enough eye to notice.

Then... What's Adobe 98 good for?

Ink jet prints. Certain ink jet printers that have many ink cartridges can paint colors photographic prints cannot. In fact, some ink jet printers span so many colors that photographers use ProPhoto RGB. Also, many companies who print brochures and other offset-press materials may ask for your files in Adobe 98.

But Adobe 98 has the same number of crayons as sRGB, so by reaching out to more colors, you're sacrificing fine increments that are so important in shadow detail, for example. Not true of ProPhoto RGB, which unlike Adobe 98 and sRGB, is a 16-bit color space.
[jf: So it's not worth fussing with Adobe 98, but sometime in the future ProPhoto RGB might be of interest. I think JPEG can't handle that color space, but DNG certainly can.]

How do you answer the experts who disagree with you?

Here are two well-intended statements from great authors that have ruined the prints and online displays of many good photographers:

If your work is destined for print, then sRGB is a very poor choice indeed.
— David Blatner and Bruce Fraser

sRGB is fairly ghastly for photographers. I wouldn't even recommend it for web designers.
— Scott Kelby

... The practical reality is the web can only display sRGB files and 99% of commercial prints are produced through labs that only accept sRGB files.

Q: I've seen examples online of Adobe 98 files that show more color range than sRGB files.

A: These are terribly confusing to most people because they are sometimes offered by respected names. Every example we've seen, however, displays sRGB files pretending to be Adobe 98 files, because sRGB is the only display option on the Internet.
[jf: I'm not sure this is entirely true, though they repeat it often enough. I think Firefox respects color spaces, and IE 7 probably will. OS X Tiger and Safari do well.]

No less an authority than Rob Galbraith did that in an article on Microsoft's site.

Q: The printer I've used for years accepts Adobe 98 files. Why don't you?

A: We are considering doing what they do: converting your Adobe 98 files to the narrower color space the printer/paper/chemicals can handle. Converting from a broader color space to a narrower one involves decisions about color substitution. If you've read this far, you're probably fussy about color. Do you really want to lose control of those decisions?
The last statement is interesting. They're saying sites that claim to accept Adobe 98, so as to attract discerning customers, are in fact slyly converting to sRGB on the back end. Hmmm.

Martian SlingShot - OS X file synchronization

TUAW reviews an OS X Tiger (10.4 required) sync application:
Martian SlingShot - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) $30

This little gem of an application allows you to keep two folders on different Macs (on the same local network) in sync, using a schedule.

Why would you want to do this? Well, perhaps you have a folder full of documents that two people in your house need to use, set up one Mac as the 'publisher' of that folder using SlingShot and the second Mac as a subscriber and you're all done.
I'd like to sync my iBook to one of my iMac folders, but the iBook runs 10.3.9. I suspect this app uses the SyncServices built into OS X Tiger. (Apple uses them for .Mac synchronization.)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

PictureSync: speed uploading

This OS X app works with iPhoto and covers Smugmug, Flickr, Shutterfly (the ones I use) and more. Not to mention FTP and export to folder.

Easy photo-sharing and annotation

PictureSync is a convenient utility that simplifies batch uploading your photographs and video clips to online services, - directly from your image-management application or files, whilst preserving your own valuable annotations and metadata.
It's easy to upload, the trick is the metadata. I'll try this. It's free to try with some nags. $14 to buy. The author is redoing it completely -- but I know that can take a long time.

Inspiration on the Palm

I earlier noted that the almost forgotten application, Inspiration, has a version for Palm, PocketPC, Mac Classic, OS X, and Windows. I think that's some kind of record.

I tried the $30 Inspiration/Palm version (free 1 month trial -- pretty good!), and I synchronized it with the desktop on Windows. The synchronization is a bit awkward, but not too bad. There's a menu item in Inspiration that lets you open the PalmOS Data file (.ihf). Then you save it to your desktop data folder (.isf). If you'd like you can export it back to the Palm (save as .isf). I had to read the manual to figure out how to get started; it's not very intuitive but really the PalmOS doesn't make this easy [1].

On Windows the PalmOS data files are saved in a rather unusual spot. Depending on how you browse to it you see two different paths, so I assume it's some virtual directory:
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\Inspiration Handhelds\jfaughnan
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Shared Documents\Inspiration Handhelds\jfaughnan
I'd never messed with this "shared documents" folder before, but it's evidently there for a reason.

So making the sync work takes some discipline. It's not like 'Desktop To Go' that theoretically keeps the desktop Word document and the Palm document automatically synchronized. I'd prefer something that didn't require thought, but given the limitations of Windows this is probably as good as one can do. (I didn't try this on my Mac because I still sync my CLIE to the PC - my wife tend to hog the Mac.)

Inspiration/Palm works surprisingly well on the CLIE's relatively high res screen. The images are crisp and I can get quite a bit on there. The Outliner is very simple to use. I like the graphical view better than I'd expected.

Inspiration doesn't have the glitzy output of MindManager (though I'm not sure MM does much more than Inspiration), and it's not nearly as powerful an Outliner as OmniOutliner, but this mega-cross-platform stuff is pretty interesting. I hope they are able to make the jump to Intel, but frankly the app is very speedy and would probably run ok with Rosetta. I'm going to be using it for a while and I expect I'll buy the Palm version.

[1] The Palm software was built for Windows 95, it was never redone to adjust to NT/2K/XP's multi-user model. This causes no end of problems, including making this sort of thing hard to do.

Universal binary bloat

[Update 2/1/06: TrimTheFat is now a popular "Stripper" for removing Intel binaries. It's in early beta. I'll likely test it on my iLife 06 install.]

The latest version of Lemke Software's GraphicConverter has gone universal. The size difference between a universal and PowerPC installation is rather impressive:
  • 48MB universal binary (installed)
  • 14MB PowerPC (installed)
I'd expected doubling at most, but almost tripling? Of course in an era where a single photo may be 8MB, an extra 34MB is not not that big a deal. Interestingly the downloads aren't that different -- something must compress rather well.

I expect we'll see some 'strippers' out soon to get rid of the unwanted Intel code. All very familiar for old codgers who remember going from 68K code to PPC/68K combos.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Wikipedia iPod Hacks

Nice collection of iPod hacks on Wikipedia - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Today, Make Blog points out a great collection of iPod hacks on Wikipedia. The hacks are divided into GUI hacks, software hacks, eBooks and games, OS, hardware and peripheral hacks.

Inspiration: Palm, PocketPC, Mac, Windows

Inspiration 7.6 may be in a class of one. This relatively obscure (educational market) outliner/mindmapping/visualization software runs on OS X, Mac Classic, Windows (any version), PalmOS, and PocketPC. The Palm and PocketPC versions include conduits. File formats are the same on Mac and PC. The Mac version used to be able to read MORE 3.1 files (Omni Outliner does that better now.)

Only FileMaker 7 had comparable coverage (the Palm and Pocket PC versions of FM 8 are mysteriously delayed.).

I've used Inspiration occasionally over the years, but I'm going to try it again on my Palm. (Note the CD ships both Mac and Windows versions, and, for better or worse, they use the same key.)

Sigma 55-200mm F4 for Digital Rebel XT

Story likes these DR XT lenses:
The Digital Story: Sigma 55-200mm F4-5.6 DC Lens Perfect Complement for Canon Rebel

One of the best deals in the world of lenses is the Canon 18-55mm lens that's available in a kit with the Digital Rebel XT (350D)..... Sigma has designed what I consider to be the perfect complement to this lens. Their 55-200mm DC Zoom...

You can buy the Sigma 55-200mm on Amazon for $125, and that includes a lens hood. The only other lens that I would include in my "basic on-the-go DSLR kit" would be the Canon 50mm f-1.8 optic...
Many reviewers dislike Canon's stock zoom. I have it and the 50mm. Now I'm thinking I want the 55-200. Sigma also sells a 35mm f1.4 $300 higher end lens that would be sweet. I might be done for a while after those two ...

In fact I'd favor the Sigma 35mm over the Canon 50mm, except the Canon is only about $75 -- very cheap. Still, one could make the case that the base Canon zoom, the Sigma zoom and the Sigma 35 f1.4 are a great kit for the cheap amateur.

Cheap Speaker Wire connectors

The Digital Story: Speaker Wire Salvation

I think this is the 8th posting I've had on Story's web site. Amazing. He's much better here than on his old O'Reilly site.

Story's favorite photo gifts

I want these.

The Digital Story: "12 Photo Gadgets for Gifts" - Podcast #9

Direct Printers

I don't do much with my very nice Canon Ink Jet printers. I think the next time I run out of ink I may put it in the attic (or donate it if anyone wants it) and buy a dye sublimation 4x6 Canon photo printer. That would get used. For anything bigger, I'd go online.

Story again: The Digital Story: Direct Printers Provide Immediate Results

Minnesota tip: bag the camera outside

More from Story's great site:
The Digital Story: Ziploc Bags for Cold Weather

Bringing a camera in from the cold weather to a warm house promotes condensation forming on the outside of its body, possibly migrating to the inside of the camera where it can confound electrical components. To prevent this mishap, place your camera in a Ziploc bag before coming inside. Leave the camera in the sealed bag until it reaches room temperature. The condensation will collect on the bag, not your camera, thereby protecting your investment.

Better bounce flash with a business card

Wow. I need to try this:
The Digital Story: "The Holiday Photographer" - Podcast #12

One drawback to bouncing light is that the subject's eyes can go dark because the illumination is from above. A great trick to fix that is to attach a plain white business card to the flash head with a rubber band as shown in this illustration. It "kicks" just enough light toward the eyes to brighten them up while still getting the benefits of bounce flash.

Generally speaking, I increase the ISO to 400 for bouncing because you do lose some light from the added distance and the surface of the ceiling. Otherwise, you should be able to use Program mode and auto flash.

Digital photography: Learning the Histogram

I'm browsing all the old posts in Derrick Story's new site. This one is excellent: The Digital Story: "Learning the Histogram" - Podcast 13.

The tendency when joining a new blog is to only look at the new stuff. If the volume is not huge, I prefer to find the best of the archives.

This article also told me what "gamma" means. Who would have guessed? Gamma refers to the midpoint of a tonal range.


What's hard about that?

I wonder if 'monitor gamma' refers to how a particular display deals with middle tonal ranges. Mac vs. Windows gamma is a big and insoluble problem in digital imaging -- I don't think color profiles adjust for differential gamma management (I could be wrong). I set my Mac displays to mid-way between Mac and Windows gamma -- it muddies the UI but my images are more viewable on Windows.

Aperture Workshop Notes - free

A great offer from Derrick Storey, who turns out to have a blog I didn't know about -- you can download a tutorial on Aperture.
The Digital Story: Aperture Workshop Notes PDF

For my recent Inside Aperture Power Tools workshop that I led with Scott Bourne at Macworld SF '06, I compiled class notes to accompany the workbook. I promised the class that I would make those notes available online. I'm also offering them to everyone in The Digital Story community.

These notes are in PDF format (5.8 MB download -- 30 pages). Topics include importing images into Aperture, comparing and rating, editing tools, vaults and backup, exporting images, and printing. In part, I'm releasing these notes because there are many misconceptions about Aperture, such as limits on export configurations (based on the presets Apple provides that are totally editable)...

iPhoto Library Manager cannot merge iPhoto 6 Libraries

I don't know if the hacks I've written about will work with iPhoto 6, but IPLM won't:
iPhoto Library Manager: Manage multiple iPhoto libraries in Mac OS X

iPhoto 6 update (1/14/06): Apple released an update to iLife at Macworld last week, including iPhoto version 6. iPhoto Library Manager 3.1 and earlier are partially compatible with iPhoto 6. You can still use iPhoto Library Manager to create new libraries and switch between them, but the album copying, merging, and importing features are not currently functional. An update for iPhoto Library Manager will be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks to provide full compatibility with iPhoto 6.
If IPLM can't be made to support iPhoto 6, then anyone upgrading will lose the limited ability to consolidate iPhoto libraries that we have now.

I do seem to be alone in my concern about this however. My guess is that people who would feel as I do generally use Photoshop/Bridge or Aperture. I think I'm the wrong customer for iPhoto. (Not the first time!).

Safari finally renders nested bullets correctly

Wow. This only took about three years. Safari 1.3.2 now renders nested menu items correctly -- for years they were garbled.

This isn't CSS or AJAX or DHTML. It's basic HTML 1.0.

IE, Mozilla, Opera, Firefox, Netscape, Mozilla -- every other browser I've ever tested could handle this. Safari couldn't.

My ancient and chaotic Credit Card Fraud Page showed scrambled headings for years in Safari. I gave up checking after each release came out without a fix, but I suddenly thought to check with the very latest 10.3.9 compatible version of Safari.

I wonder when they fixed this. It took long enough!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Flip4Mac WMV: Play WMP audio in QuickTime

Now that Microsoft has discontinued WMP support on OS X this is the only option: Products - Flip4Mac WMV.

It's free, but there are problems at the moment with recent Mac updates. I'd wait a week or two.

I suspect Microsoft's WMP discontinuation was based on DRM fights and issues.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Mac OS X VoiceOver

Apple - Mac OS X - VoiceOver is a reasonably complex set of capabilities. I found it poking around the utilities folder. It can read the interface or text.

I need to play with this more. I know a few people it might be useful for.

For example:
To read the character where the VoiceOver cursor is focused, press Control-Option-C. Press C two times to hear the character spoken phonetically. Then press Control-Option-Shift-Right Arrow or Left Arrow to move the VoiceOver cursor to the next or previous character and read it.

To read a word at a time, press Control-Option-W. Press W two times to hear the word spelled, and three times to hear it spelled phonetically. Then press Control-Option-Left Arrow or Right Arrow to read the previous or next word.

To read a line at a time, press Control-Option-L. Then press Control-Option-Up Arrow or Down Arrow to read the previous or next lines.

To read a sentence at a time, press Control-Option-S. Then press Control-Option-Page Up or Page Down to read the previous or next sentence.

To read a paragraph at a time, press Control-Option-P. Then press Control-Option-Shift-Page Up or Page Down to read the previous or next paragraph.
It's not trivial to figure out, but with practice it makes sense. In VoiceOver mode there's a black selection box that appears over the part of the screen that's being inspected. It didn't work in a Firefox window, but it worked in TextEdit. I suspect it only works with Cocoa applications.

I wonder how it compares to commercial Windows screen readers.

OS X Digital Color Meter

Aperture tricks is mandatory reading for anyone using Apple's photo management app. This tip points out an OS X utility that could be used in iPhoto too.
Aperture Tricks: Aperture Trick#20 READING RGB VALUES IN APERTURE:

... Go to your Utilities folder and open DigitalColor Meter. It's a slick
little app included with Mac OS X. In its preferences, set the
magnification factor to 8X, and check the box next to 'Float window
above other apps.' Move the diameter of the meter (called Aperture
Size) to its smallest setting. "
Update 1/12/06: It turns out DigitalColor Meter has a help file. Here's one topic:
Copying a color into an HTML or graphics document

You can use DigitalColor Meter to copy the color value of any pixel on your display into an HTML or graphics document. For example, you may want a background color on an HTML page to match a color in a graphic that overlays it.

Open DigitalColor Meter, located in /Applications/Utilities.

From the pop-up menu, choose the type of color value that matches what you need in your document. For example, if you want to use a color in an HTML page, set the type of color value to RGB As Hex Value, 8-bit.

Drag the Aperture Size slider to the desired size. Reduce the aperture size until you can accurately pick a single color without including other colors. If more than one color is within the aperture, the color value of the pixels will be averaged.

Point to the color that you want to copy, then press Shift-Command-C to copy the color values of the pixels.

Open your document and set the insertion point where you want to place the color value, then choose Edit > Paste.

To hold the current color as you move the pointer, press Shift-Command-H. Press Shift-Command-H again to release the hold. You can also use the arrow keys to move the aperture in single-pixel increments.
You can also use the preferences to tell DCM to display your mouse pointer coordinates; they update as you move across the screen. Version 3.4. Where the heck did this little thing come from? It feels like a labor of love. I'll use it with iPhoto starting now!

Selected iPhoto 6 tech notes

This query may display up to 250 or so iPhoto tech notes -- or it might not!
It took a lot of retries, changing number displayed, etc, to finally browse the entire collection. I think Apple's servers are still updating.
  • What's new: not Library merging, alas! At least, not documented. I just can't understand why this doesn't make the list.
  • You still can't add shared photos to a Library
  • There's an option to save edited RAW images as 16 bit TIFF
  • You can create and edit rolls, I don't know if that moves files around one's hard drive.
  • iPhoto is not Aperture -- one note says it really works best with JPEG images
  • Control key lets you compare image to original
  • There's a 'create library' menu item.
  • Advanced options: don't import images to library when adding, you can assign a color profile on import to a particular image
I am beginning to think that Apple considers "library merge" to be a hard cutoff between iPhoto and Aperture. If you need to manipulate multiple Libraries, you need Aperture. Absurd. I have no other explanation for why this is not supported however.

China conquers bloglines

My bloglines feed now thinks I read Mandarin Chinese. Has China quietly acquired them?

I suspect it will be fixed shortly ...

iPhoto 6: tech notes

[There's something odd going on with this Apple search, sometimes when I run it I get nothing of interest. It's as though Apple is just now propagating these files across their servers.]

Apple - Support - Search Results - iPhoto 6

Lots of tech notes.

I would NOT touch iPhoto 6 for at least a month. It's a really big update. Apple's big updates, at least of their consumer software, tend to have hideous bugs.

Apple is a bleeding edge kind of company, and early adopters should think of themselves as major blood donors. Of course I do appreciate the sacrifice of my friends who forge ahead ...

Sound splitter with volume control

SmartShare - Griffin Technology

I want one.

Fix for some sound output problems in OS X

This is worth checking for ...
macosxhints - A simple fix for sound output issues

My 2GHz iMac G5 ... has been giving me some problems with sound playback. This has been occuring only with certain applications, such as Quick Time Player, Windows Media Player, and even iChat would stop playing sounds every now and then.

there is something quite simple that fixes this problem. This Apple KnowledgeBase document explains the problem and solution:

"Some audio applications may change your computer's audio settings to a sample rate that is too high for other applications to use. In this situation, system alert sounds still work, and does iTunes, but other applications may have no sound."

Now, I don't know which application would have changed my settings, but the fix is quite simple. You simply open /Applications -> Utilities -> Audio MIDI Setup and change the output settings to 44100.0 Hz (the iMac supports up to 96600 Hz).

Microsoft's five year deal - sad news

MS to ship Mac Office of five years 'minimum' | The Register:

Beyond the tweaks, the agreement will Apple is interesting, and may scotch rumours that Apple is working on a full-scale productivity suite to rival Office. Apple certainly has to have a contingency plan in place should Microsoft ever drop Mac support, but the agreement announced this week means it has five years to develop something of its own, or see how OpenOffice development proceeds.
No money changes hands, we are told. On the other hand, iWorks doesn't include 'Numbers' and AppleWorks won't be ported to MacTel. This deal came with a real pricetag.

It's probably the best deal Jobs could get, but it's disappointing all the same.

MyVu video googles for iPod: Cringely's prediction?

The PBS web sites are down again (they've been having awful trouble lately), so I can't check the Cringely column directly. Some time last fall he predicted Apple would acquire a company that had technology to display video images on the retina (laser painting of the retina).

So is the MyVu personal media viewer what Cringely meant? I don't think so. This is from the PR:
MicroOptical proved the myvu™ viewer’s ability to deliver portable video in France, where under the Orange brand it is paired by France Telecom with a Samsung D600 cell phone,” said Mark Spitzer, CEO of MicroOptical. “We chose Macworld as the venue to debut the product in the U.S. because of the overwhelming response Apple has had for its video iPod. As the iPod changes the way people experience video, the myvu™ viewer will accelerate its adoption by providing hands free, head-up access to a large virtual image. The myvu™ viewer makes watching portable video more practical.
This sounds more like a conventional video display. Interesting form factor. They need to get this accepted by the young adult market before old guys will dare to wear them.

Running XP apps on MacTel hardware

We won't be able to dual boot XP on MacTel hardware because Apple is using Intel's BIOS replacement - EFI. (EFI is the foundation for Intel's DRM architecture; I still believe DRM was the real driver of the MacTel deal. The more vociferously Apple denies this the more confident I am that it's true.) Vista (aka Windows XP Service Pack 3) may support this, but perhaps not this year.

So can we run better/faster XP emulators? I thought this was unlikely in the near future, but a Macintouch contributor feels there's hope (though perhaps not from Virtual PC):
Macs on Intel (Part 6)

Dave Schroeder

... What we will *definitely* see are "Virtual PC"-like programs that let you run Windows alongside OS X (in a Window, or taking over the screen, etc., with a hotkey to flip back and forth, for example).

It's important to note this will NOT be emulation: Windows will run at the native speed of the underlying hardware.

vmware already has a version for Mac OS X in development, and Microsoft may even make a version of Virtual PC. Then there are things like QEMU, Xen, etc. The Darwin/Mac OS X version of WINE, DarWINE, has even been working under betas of Mac OS X for Intel. Now that Intel Macs are shipping, it will only be a matter of weeks/months before we have several options for running Windows itself, and/or Windows applications at the native speed of the underlying hardware.

"Dual booting" might not be possible initially, because Windows XP doesn't support EFI (the "next generation" of BIOS from Intel, which Apple used on these machines), but Vista does, for example. And since EFI is the future, it's only a matter of time before x86 OSes and bootloaders start supporting it. For more information on EFI: Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI)

But, in my opinion, dual booting is annoying anyway, and the really interesting thing will be able to just run Windows and Mac OS X side-by-side.

Further, Phil Schiller reiterated that Apple isn't doing anything to prevent people from installing other OSes and Intel has communicated that Apple isn't using proprietary Intel chipsets.

As for the lack of S-Video on the MacBook Pro: S-Video output is possible from the DVI connector via an adapter; there is no longer a dedicated miniDIN-4 port.

I think the new iMac is very interesting as an Aperture or Video machine. - particularly because of the imaging system. On the other hand the new PowerBooks don't make sense to me -- unless they'll run Windows applications very well. Then they make sense.

First MacTel glitch: 10.3.9 disk utility not compatible with Universal binaries?

[Updated with fix]
I'm sure this is only the tip of the iceberg. I hope someone will provide a utility to strip out the Intel portions of the universal binaries (as was done in the old PowerPC transition) days.
MacInTouch: timely news and tips about the Apple Macintosh

Another reader describes a possible Panther compatibility issue with Intel-compatible software:

[MacInTouch Reader] Looks to me like Disk Utility for 10.3.9 is unable to deal properly with a Universal Binary file.... I got the Disk Utility disconnect error when repairing permissions on a 10.3.9 system, and the console log error about iTunes. When I compared the upgraded iTunes to one that hadn't been, I saw the binary in the folder used to be 7.7 MB and is now 17.3 MB, so I'm guessing iTunes is now a Universal Binary, and that Disk Utility for 10.3.x needs an update now.
Update 1/13: Macintouch reports this temporary fix works:

Ian Waterston

If you've got 10.3.9 or earlier, and downloaded iTunes 6.02 and hit a problem with running Permissions Repair using Disk Utility (and many people have...) then the fix that seems to work ..God knows why... is, to quote from the relevant Apple Support Forum...

"Go to HD>Library>Receipts and trash all iTunes .pkg files EXCEPT for iTunesX.pkg and iTunesPhoneDriver.pkg"

It's been a total fix for me. Er... why? Greater minds than mine will doubtless know the answer to that question.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

No XP on MacTel machines - Vista maybe?

BetaNews | XP Won't Run on Intel MacBook, iMac

The new machines use Intel's BIOS alternative - EFI. Makes sense from a platform perspective, but XP won't run on this. Vista probably will. So the Intel Macs won't run dual boot XP. They'd need something like VirtualPC or at least a BIOS emulator. I doubt we'll see a reliable solution this year.

Vista maybe.

Interesting DRM implications.

Why we won't see JPEG2000 used much in cameras

I'd long been frustrated that JPEG 2000, a theoretically much superior compression format, was not showing up as an option in digital cameras. There are many reasons, but a usenet discussion, to which I added a 'yes' comment, points to power consumption. Power issues are big in every disconnected digital device nowadays, and heat (the corollary) is an issue in every connected device.
Google Groups : rec.photo.digital - Why is jpeg 2000 not in common use?

31. Martin Brown
Dec 20 2005, 12:21 pm show options
Newsgroups: rec.photo.digital

peter wrote:

" jpeg 2000 is superior to common jpeg and is supposedly licence fee free. Why is it not in common use, especially when digital camera file sizes are going up?"

It isn't better by a significantly large factor at high quality settings to be worth the upheaval. J2k encoders are slow and power hungry. JPEG is fast and extremely well optimised for use in digicams now.

In essence J2k isn't enough of an improvement to become mainstream. This may change one day, but don't hold your breath.
32. John Faughnan
Subject: Re: why is jpeg 2000 not in common use?


I asked a similar question about JPEG 2000 a while back:

My question also produced a range of responses, but none felt satisfactory to me. As I read more about the power drains on large sensor cameras I gradually settled on the explanation you have succinctly presented.

So, I just want to say, for what it's worth, that you've summarized the issues very well. I even read a report of a theoretical JPEG conversion optimization that reduced power drains by more than one order of magnitude. JPEG 2000 is computationally intensive, and the cost of storage has fallen much faster than the power-cost of computation.

The latest versions of Adobe Acrobat can use JPEG 2000 to compress documents. It's a great format for that as it maintains edges much better than JPEG at very high compression values, and documents can be huge and costly to transmit. It may even show up for sharing images on the web (I hope so!). Alas, in camera JPEG 2000 seems to be doomed.

meta: jfaughnan, jgfaughnan, digital camera, compression, JPEG2000, standards adoption

Apple joins the spyware world

Boing Boing breaks the news. Apple's iTunes update quietly added the 'feature' of monitoring music played so Apple can suggest similar songs. This was not clearly stated during the install. Closing the 'mini-store' turns it off.

The Dark Side of Steve Jobs is to be feared. I've long felt that the only thing worse than Bill Gates ruling the world of personal computing would have been to have Steve Jobs in charge. Jobs is best when he's a distant #2, which is a good reason to hope Microsoft does claw back market share from the iPod.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

So how bad IS MacBook battery life?

Thurott is unaffected by the reality distortion field. He's put up a very nice table comparing the PowerBook and MacBook. He particularly notes the curious absence of any data on battery life.
Paul Thurrott's Internet Nexus: Comparing the MacBook Pro to the PowerBook G4
Balm to the soul of current G4 owners. The G4 was quite power efficient. Heh, heh.

Update 1/11: Looks like 4 hours or less with a fresh battery. Comparable to Dell, worse than current PowerBooks. Speed has a price.

The new Intel iMac - main feature

TUAW noted this. The new iMac supports a second monitor fully -- no hacks, pure DVI. Also, far more SDRAM. Hmm. Might be a very good Aperture machine when Aperture goes "universal".
Apple - iMac - Graphics:

Home to luscious widescreen living, the 17- or 20-inch iMac display hides the whole computer. Now iMac lets you widen your horizons with a second display on a pure digital DVI connection in extended desktop mode. And power them up with over-the-top ATI Radeon X1600 graphics with up to 256MB DDR SDRAM.

Google Earth for OS X 10.4

After the false alarm of a week ago, Google Earth is really out for OS X -- in beta and for 10.4 only. At last, a good reason to upgrade to 10.4. My old iBook would never have had the horsepower to run it anyway ...
Official Google Blog: Google Earth in a Mac world (PC too)

1/10/2006 12:49:00 PM
Posted by Chikai Ohazama, Google Earth Team

... And we have a brand new member of the family -- Google Earth for Macintosh. We're happy to finally have some good news for the, ahem, vocal Mac enthusiasts we've been hearing from. Let's just say that we have gotten more than a few 'requests' for a Mac version of Google Earth. They've gone something like this:

1) 'When is it coming out? Your website says that you are working on it.'

2) 'You know, Mac users are very heavy graphics/mapping/visualization/design/ architecture/education/real estate/geocaching/social-geo-video-networking fans who would certainly use Google Earth a lot.'

3) 'So when is it coming out?'

We heard you loud and clear. The Mac version runs on OS X 10.4 and up. Happy travels throughout Google Earth, whether you're on a Mac or a PC."
The PC version is out of beta. Time for me to upgrade, though I if the OS X version works I won't be doing that much on the PC version.

The windows download page also lists some interesting Google Earth RSS overlays.

Update 1/10: The OS X page has the same overlays. I highly recommend the Wikipedia overlay, it links articles to locations. Panoramio overlays images on the earth. I had to download them to the desktop and then tell OS X to open them with Google Earth, it wasn't quite as simple as Google's overlay page suggested.

Pretty darned incredible. The performance and appearance on the iMac is beautiful so far.

Lookout for Outlook 1.3.0

Lookout for Outlook was one of the best pieces of productivity software ever created for the Windows platform. It makes Outlook, one of the shoddiest and crummiest piles of code ever sold, actually work.

Microsoft bought it and it disappeared. Allegedly MSN search has some of it.

I use version 1.2.8 dozens of times a day. By chance I see there was a quiet update to 1.3.0 last February -- almost a year ago. Worth trying.

Update 1/11/06: Hmm. I think 1.3.0 is not rebuilding my indices every hour as its supposed to. Alas, I fear I did this update once before -- with similar consequences. I withdraw my recommendation. I guess 1.2.8 is as good as it's going to get.

Fujitsu ScanSnap

MacWorld loves the Fujitsu ScanSnap.

It really does sound like a great product. Fujitsu has long been a dominant player in the low end of the document scanner marketplace (low end in this market was $1000 and up -- please don't mention HP's combo shred and scan devices to me), now they've taken their expertise down below $400. (That price includes the full version of Acrobat 7.)

Years ago I kludged together a scan to pdf solution for a software product I worked on. It didn't get to market, but it was the right way to go. Now ScanSnap and others are doing it right. Adobe has had a great solution for document scanning, but they've been reluctant to cannibalize their high end sales. I hope we'll see more of that at the low end.

It's all about the paper feeder. Fujitsu knows how to do this. I've seen their real SOHO scanner ($1000) scan in a thick plastic card. Very nice device.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Mac NoteTaker for PalmOS with TextMate

This came across a list for missing sync, an app that lets me use our old CLIEs on the iMac. Missing Sync is a great application, but it's desktop companion to the PalmOS Notes/Memos is really weak. This alternative to the Memo Pad has its own OSX conduit and desktop app...
From: Mark H. Subject: [missing-sync-palmos-talk]
Re: DayNotez or alternate journaling application with Desktop component?

I too am a DayNotez fan who would love to see a Mac desktop (or better still a conduit to one of the many excellent Mac journalling applications).

However, I've recently started experimenting with something else. I've been using Mac NoteTaker (Palm application and conduit) with TextMate (rather excellent text editor). [jf: TextWrangler is superb and free]

NoteTaker provides a hierarchical organisation of text notes on the Palm which are two-way-sync'd via a conduit to an identical hierarchy of folders and text files on the Mac. So it's extremely flexible. And it's free :-)

You can browse the notes on the Mac using Finder and edit them using any text editor such as TextEdit. However, I've found TextMate to be rather excellent for the task. Drop the NoteTaker folder onto TextMate's icon and it will produce a single window which has a side draw which shows the folder structure (see the screen shot on MacroMate's home page). TextMate calls this a project and you can save the project to open later, so I have a "NoteTaker" project on my desktop. TextMate contains some great text editing features which are handy for note taking / journalling, including spell-checking, templates and indent/outdent, bookmarks and clipboard history. It's also massively scriptable.

Sandvox and the return of end-user web site authoring

[Updated with review results.]

This is like watching the return of the dead. In the 90s there were many quite good end-user tools for web site creation. The only survivor of those glory days is FrontPage, and it's been horribly transmogrified into some zombie child of Microsoft Office.

Now, suddenly, this niche is coming back to life, at least in the OS X world. Karelia, a respected Mac software firm, has a beta of Sandvox. Ok, so it's probably not the document-oriented content-management-lite database-free static-output product with drag and drop link creation and dynamic link maintenance that I want, but any life in this domain is encouraging.

See also some prior posts of mine:
Content Management Systems
nVU and RapidWeaver: a lament (See also Tim's comments, though I think he missed my point about document-centric and end-user oriented).
Update 9/14: That was fast. My minimal requirements are the ability to select text and drag and drop it between pages. That should create a link and a bookmark. Moving pages in the development environment should update links (ie. indirection implemented). Creating links should allow one to select from available pages and bookmarks. Sandvox failed all these tests. Reviewing the forums it's pretty raw -- probably rushed out due to iWeb. I'll look at it again in six months.

It is pretty though.

OS X VNC has been updated

I tried the VNC server built into Tiger. It blew up every OS X VNC client I could find (there aren't many -- XP VNC clients are far better).

Fast User Switching and big displays are very hard on VNC. I wish Apple would do something at the Quartz layer.

I'm told this VNC server software is a much better option. I'm going to try again and I'll report back here:
MacInTouch: timely news and tips about the Apple Macintosh:

OSXvnc 1.7 is an open source VNC server that provides remote access (with Rendezvous support) to the GUI, keyboard, and mouse using any VNC client. This release is now a full Universal Binary for improved Intel performance and adds a backward compatibility mode for older protocol versions, a flag to disable the screen saver while clients are connected, the ability to add as many listening hosts as you want directly from the GUI, and a number of bug fixes. OSXvnc is free for Mac OS X. [Source is available on SourceForge.]"
The critical item here in this release is full multi-user support and their specification of recommended clients.

Update 1/10/06: in preliminary testing using a Windows client on a fast network this is FAR better than anything else I've tried. The connection from the windows client did not survive a FUS session swap, but it was easy to restore to the background session. Amazing to see that actually work. I may have my long missed remote control for iTunes.

Update 1/10/06b: Not as good with Chicken of the VNC. Whereas the Windows VNC client supported screen scaling, Chicken doesn't. Less useful since my iMac display is so large. Works, albeit slowly on a G3 client.

Wonders of competition: Adobe Lightroom vs. Aperture

Adobe was neglecting OS X recently. Their software had become very XP focused.

But now both Microsoft (Vista photo management) and Apple (Aperture) are gunning for them. Astoundingly, Adobe, long known for their arrogance and dislike of customers, has launched an open beta of an Aperture rival: Adobe Labs - Project: Lightroom.

It looks like it came with their Macromedia acquisition. I'll wait to hear from more adventurous folks. I enjoyed the marketing blurb, emphases mine:

Adobe today responded to Aperture with a free beta-test version of Lightroom, an open-architecture application for professional photographers:

Adobe Lightroom Beta is the efficient new way for professional photographers to import, select, develop, and showcase large volumes of digital images. So you can spend less time sorting and refining photographs, and more time actually shooting them. Its clean, elegant interface literally steps out of the way and lets you quickly view and work with the images you shot today, as well as the thousands of images that you will shoot over the course of your career. Because no two photographers work alike, Adobe Lightroom adapts to your workflow, not the other way around.

Lightroom Beta lets you view, zoom in, and compare photographs quickly and easily. Precise, photography-specific adjustments allow you to fine tune your images while maintaining the highest level of image quality from capture through output. And best of all, it runs on most commonly used computers, even notebook computers used on location. Initially available as a beta for Macintosh, Lightroom will later support both the Windows and Macintosh platforms. [...]

Recommended system requirements are Macintosh OSX 10.4.3, 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processor, 768 MB RAM and a 1024x768 resolution screen. Regular updates to the software will be posted on the site, feedback will be collected and the final product is expected to be introduced in late 2006. Further details around pricing, system requirements and availability have yet to be determined.

Heh, heh, heh. Open architecture. Runs on legacy hardware. Adapts to "your" workflow. Nice slapshots at Aperture.

Even commie socialists like me have to love capitalism when there's real competition. Heck, back when IE had competition it was a great piece of software ...

Update: Derrick Storry has a characteristically enthusiastic pre-Review of Lightroom up. You can manage photos in the Lightroom database or externally. No mention of iPhoto importing! I suspect folks with a large iPhoto investment will be swayed by the import abilities of Aperture. The ability to manage images in the external database will make it tempting to try this in parallel to iPhoto, but there'd be a high probability of messing up iPhoto.

Update: And here's a very extensive review and TOW has a series of links, including an excellent one outlining the story of Aperture. It's got quite a history behind it. This should be a really great fight, but if Adobe really wants to get down and diry they need to add an iPhoto import utility.

Update: It's only an 4.3 MB download?! Huh? It installed fine as non-admin. As an experiment I tried importing a smallish iPhoto library folder. It quietly died. Oh well, more testing to come.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Review: garment bags for commuting bikes

For years I've had a fairly popular Commuting/Touring Bike page on my site. It's old and changes little, but bike touring in 2006 is not all that different from touring in 1986. So the page still works.

Today I received a submission for the page. It's very detailed, so I'll excerpt only a portion of it. I'd like to be able to link to the full article however. This blog is just the vehicle. Here's the article from Thom B of Chicago:
Well, I bought a 2004 Jamis Ventura (touring road bike), which is quite a bit lighter than my Jamis Aragon (cross/hybrid). I turned the Aragon into an Xtracycle, which does not have a rack and so cannot fit either bag anymore.

I ended up using the twowheelgear bag exclusively on the Ventura and tried listing the Jandd garment bag on craigslist. (Didn't get a response yet, I guess I should relist. Putting it up in the middle of November probably wasn't very timely.) There are some things I'd change about the twowheelgear bag but just the basic design alone does it for me.

I don't like the way the Jandd bag only hangs off of one side, and folds the clothes right in half. The Jandd will keep a few items 'pressed' (a suit, shirt, pants, etc) but does not easily accomodate a full load of shirts from the cleaners. The twowheelgear's way of distributing the weight of the clothes over both sides of the rack also reduces the 'fold' in them. There are good straps for securing them inside.

It's about half of the cost of the Jandd. (Remember the twowheelgear is sold in canadian dollars.)

I took the twowheelgear bag on an MS 150 ride and did the century loop both days (200 miles!) and no problems. Its many pouches and smart organization kept all my tools, spare tubes/tires, changes of clothes, sunscreen/bugspray, etc. easily accessible.

There is an angled hook design where the bag attaches to the rack that just slightly slants it backwards at the bottom. I have big feet and my heels don't catch on the bag. I used to always catch my heels on the Jandd grocery panniers.

The straps that hold the bag onto the bike rack don't have enough velcro on them, IMO - we ended up removing their velcro strips and putting longer ones on so that it would have that much more sticking power (call me paranoid).

Similarly, the two-strap system sometimes comes apart and you have to re-thread one strap through a 'D-ring' on each side to reconnect it. Not the end of the world, just a little annoying. I have some ideas for the company that I may send them, a way to prevent that from happening on a future revision of the product.

I wish that the bag itself was just the teensiest big wider and longer - sometimes I feel like the shirttails get a little folded over, but nobody ever sees those.

There is a curly strap loop hanging off of one side of the bag. Presumably this is to hang the bag lengthwise, eg on a hook when I get to work to keep the clothes straight. Sometimes that loop taps the spokes. Little worrisome, but doesn't happen that often.

I don't want the shoulder strap hanging off while I ride, so I detach it. Then the plastic buckle taps the part of the rack which angles up nearest the seatpost. Not tragic, just annoying. It makes me think something is broken.

The Jandd bag is made with more heavy-duty materials and zippers. Though it might force twowheelgear to raise prices slightly, it would be worth it for them to do so (IMO) because they could be more competitive on quality.

I also like the Jandd's bright yellow waterproof cover. I'm thinking about wintertime and how all that wet snow & ick has affected the twowheelgear. The bottom can get pretty crusted with dirt and salt residue. In fairness, I just have the rack on my road bike (yeah yeah, cardinal sin) and no fender, so there's that to consider.

As it is, I leave my clean clothes in dry cleaning bags when I bring them in. I've never had an issue with clothes getting ruined by water/muck soaking through, etc. There are thin plastic panels inside of the twowheelgear bag, between the 'bottom' (when putting shirts in) and the 'inside' (sides closest to the wheel when attached), and they keep things ridgid. The zipper on the twowheelgear bag sometimes catches on the dry cleaning bags but by 'leading' the zipper with my fingers, I can usually prevent that from happening.

I like the way the Jandd bag attaches to the rack, those little 'underhook' devices with elastic (held in place by a small cross-strap) and the 'spring clip' device which secures the strap attached to the clip that pulls down against the top of the rack, holding the two in opposition. It holds well, but is harder to take off and put on.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Rebates and why I won't buy from Brother

Update 1/11/06: The rebate showed up today, 12 weeks after I sent it in. So it was 50% past its deadline but it did appear. I also found the rebate company had quite a good web site (though it didn't match to my rebate, probably due to a data entry error) and very good phone service (which did locate my rebate and told me it had been mailed out). So I'm annoyed, but no longer angry.

I bought myself a Brother MFC-7820N multi-function device about 10 weeks ago. It's got some bugs, but on the whole I'm very pleased with it.

Even so, I won't buy from Brother again.


It came with a $50 rebate. I don't make buying decisions based on rebates, but this was enough money it was worth submitting. After 8 weeks I wrote the rebate site asking what had happened. No response. Now it's been 10 weeks. I don't have time to pursue this further.

I'm human though. And humans, as we know, are programmed to punish cheaters. It's a large part of what has made us a successful intensely social species. Brother cheated. Logically, since the device is worth more to me than what I paid for it, I should still recommend buying it. In this case though, I'll go with my biological imperative.

I won't buy from Brother again. Cheaters.

The absurdity of embedded CPUs - resetting an Apple power adapter

This is nuts. Power adapters allegedly have embedded CPUs and thus may need a reset?
On power adapters, PMUs and the new PowerBooks - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

... Unfortunately, a PMU reset still didn't solve my dilemma. Getting nervous, I finally decided to take advantage of Apple's insulting "90 days of complementary support" to see if they could bail me out. Fortunately, after some troubleshooting, I learned my second lesson of the day: PowerBook and iBook adapters, if left plugged into a wall for too long, might need to actually be reset. This can easily be done by unplugging both of an adapter's ends for at least 60 seconds. We didn't delve into the inner workings of these power adapters for an explanation, but I've kept one plugged into a specific outlet in my apartment for probably at least a month or two, and I guess that might be just enough to make a power adapter a little confused in the head...
Huh? I know LiOn batteries require a processor to manage, but embedded in the power adapter?! I hope this is wrong.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Non-contiguous selections in 10.4 Cocoa apps

macosxhints - Create non-contiguous selections in Cocoa apps:

Discontinuous selections were introduced in 10.4 ('Tiger'). Hold alt and drag for a 'rectangular' selection (only truly rectangular with monospace fonts); Hold command and drag for discontinious selections.
Select then command click on items in selection may also make the selection discontinuous, but the comments are confusion. Need to test it myself.

Paste with current style (Cocoa only)

I do this all the time on my XP apps, but it's an annoying trip to the menu. I didn't know of the OS X kb shortcuts. Another reason to use Cocoa apps ... (Firefox, time to go Cocoa!):
macosxhints - Automatically reformat text pasted into Cocoa apps:

... Edit menu in Tiger, the 'Paste and Match Style' option, invoked by the Command-Option-Shift-V shortcut. It does exactly what it says, and I've used it in TextEdit, iChat, and Mail.

This feature is very helpful for pasting things from websites that generally have weird formatting and colors (and require a lot of clicking to remove).

... It's not new to Tiger, though -- in Panther, it was called 'Paste With Current Style,' and accessed via the same shortcut.

Cool OSX Apps great picks: Including Google Earth for Mac

Cool OSX Apps has several great picks today, all relevant to me:
TextWranger update

TinyAlarm: handy for limiting those "quick" sessions at the screen.

GoogleEarth for Mac
has been released!

Not!I misread the note. This is an unreleased copy. I wouldn't touch it. Sigh.

AppleJack has been updated (I really need this installed)

Mail.app hang when mail images from iPhoto - fixed

I have had a very annoying bug with sending images from iPhoto. If Mail.app were not running, my system would hang with a spinning beachball of death (aka SBOD, spinning pizza of death, SPOD) for at least 5 minutes. Then I would get this error message: "mail got an error: apple event timed out". If Mail.app were running, there was no problem.

I tried various fixes such as cleaning caches, testing with different iPhoto libraries, etc. I began to feel the problem was in Mail.app. Stupidly, however, I forgot the standard fix for OS/X problems -- delete the preferences (.plist) file. I did ask on Apple's discussion forum, and I received a helpful response from Robert K:
Apple - Support - Discussions - iPhoto and Mail.app hand on email images ...

> I was having the same problem. Others have advised
> to delete the following file: com.apple.iphoto.plist
> in /users/library/preferences/. This had no effect
> on the freeze. I then deleted com.apple.mail.plist.
> This cured my problem. I did have to set up my mail
> accounts again in mail, but no more freezes when
> sharing a photo from IPhoto and Mail.

Your advice fixed the problem. There were some interesting twists.

I was pretty sure the problem was in Mail.app, not iPhoto, since switching iPhoto libraries had no effect. First I opened com.apple.mail.plist in a plist editor and saved it externally. I figured that would fix any true corruption. Interestingly when copied this file to the Prefs folder and tested I only got the beachball for about 1-2 minutes, then the images appeared. HOWEVER, I then remembered I'd recently set my CPU to higher performance. I suspect there's some odd race condition here and what happened was the race condition resolved before the AppleEvent messages timed out.

Then I deleted my mail prefs file and restored the settings. On testing if Mail.app was running the image appeared instantaneously, if it was not running I got a beachball for five seconds.

So evidently there's some prefs value in com.apple.mail.plist that causes this problem. I have my old prefs file if Apple should want a copy!
So the problem is gone for now, until I do something in Mail.app to alter the preferencess in such a way that the problem recurs. I wonder if it's somehow related to having once had a .Mac account then having discontinued it.

Update 1/9/06:

I may have identified the cause of this bug. We know that deleting com.apple.mail.plist fixes it. But why? What was "wrong" with the original.

I think the trick is to delete the default .mac account for both sending and receiving. When you do that, and try mailing an image, you'll get the beachball and the appleevent error.

I have to guess for some reason Mail.app is trying to do something with the .Mac account, and when it's missing it hangs.

It doesn't matter whether the .Mac account is active or not, it simply has to exist.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hamachi - free secure VPN for Windows

Gibson podcast about Hamachi, a "free" personal Win32/Linux VPN solution, in December:
This week Leo and I discuss and describe the brand new, ready to emerge from a its long development beta phase, ultra-secure, lightweight, high-performance, highly-polished, multi-platform, peer-to-peer and FREE! personal virtual private networking system known as "Hamachi". After two solid weeks of testing and intense dialog with Hamachi's lead developer and designer, I have fully vetted the system's security architecture and have it running on many of my systems. While I am travelling to Toronto this week, Hamachi is keeping my roaming laptop securely and directly connected to all of my machines back home. Don't miss this one!
I went to the web site, from which I could figure out approximately nothing. In particular, I can't see how they plan to make money. Gibson says a Mac version is coming:
Steve: It's www.hamachi.cc. Alex is up in Vancouver, and so he's got a .cc on the end of his URL. You'll go to his site, download his client, currently for Windows or Macintosh - I'm sorry, Windows or Linux, and then Mac is coming soon. Installing couldn't be any easier. You simply run the setup, you go through a little wizard-based install to basically, you know, tell it where you want to load it on your hard drive. It sees that it's being installed in a system that it hasn't installed before. There's a negotiation with the server where it assigns it a unique IP. Your client produces its own asymmetric key pair, which it then uses to perform strong authentication. You do that on a couple other systems. Now, one trick is, he is assigning IPs sequentially. When I installed it on my second machine, for example, one of mine was That was the first one I installed. What's very cool is I can tell you the IP. It doesn't matter. You can't get to 5.
I still haven't quite figured it out. If they produce a Mac client I'll give it a try.

Update: The key to figuring this out is to click on the screenshots and read them. I think I get it. I am also now inclined to believe a Mac client may appear. This is very interesting.