Friday, March 31, 2006
That is so extraordinarily stupid.
I have a draft post somewhere about Apple's attitude towards quality. Briefly, quality has never been a big deal with Steve Jobs. Look and feel yes. Out of the box experience, sure. Quality and reliability - no.
I remember some versions of OS 7.x that were so bad they made me want to weep. Apple had good machines back when all PCs were well made, but their build quality over the pasts 8 years has been average to below average. Dell might be worse, but Apple has nothing to brag about.
OS X has improved overall, but new releases seem to break as much as they fix. Sometimes they break what they fixed in a prior update. Let's not talk about how many external firewire drives have been killed in the past few years.
Unfortunately the quality blight is industry wide. As bad as Apple is, and they're pretty bad, there aren't any good alternatives. This most recent blunder, however, is pushing me towards Adobe and away from Apple. I"m going to start using Lightroom beta two for image acquisition and initial work, even if I save them in iPhoto for now.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
O'Reilly Network -- TextEdit's Default Format: RTF... Why?Aside from the reference to my page, it's a terrific reference that describes the pros and cons of using RTF as a file format. Today RTF is still the most interoperable file format, though I think every RTF user is hoping that a more robust open document format will replace it (such as the OpenOffice entry or even, shudder, Microsoft's maybe-sort-of-pseudo-open-for-now-kind-of alternative).
... A quick glance at Planet Jeffery's list of text and RTF editors for Windows gives you an idea of the level of demand for utilities like this. Writers, or anyone who needs to meddle with text every day, have been known to find the bloat and weight of well-known word processors too much to handle. Those who have to use Word come up with strategies for coping--see John Faughnan's Living with the Beast for an entertaining example.
Many people have simple requirements, such as access to simple formatting controls while writing. A lightweight processor, especially one that uses the RTF format, is often the best solution...
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Among the new features are improvements in sharpening, noise compensation (including an auto feature), performance improvements and bug fixes.
I'm ready to try it, but I do get educational pricing. Maybe late April or early May if the initial reports aren't too bad.
Monday, March 27, 2006
One abiding mystery with Access is the documentation for its flavor of SQL (not to mention the occult and bizarre functions, abandoned bastard children of VisualBasic, one can embed into queries). I've often searched on "Microsoft Access SQL" and found nothing . Recently, reading the very good Wikipedia article on Access I came across a clue. Since the default database engine is "Jet", maybe a search on "Jet SQL" would work better.
It does: Microsoft Office Assistance: Microsoft Jet SQL Reference
 For example: Create View.
CREATE VIEW can be executed only through the ADO library.If you try to create a view within Access itself, you get a very helpful error message: "Syntax error in create table statement". Sigh. I do love my Mac.
Access itself uses DAO, so any attempt to CREATE VIEW from the query design
window will fail.
 It's mostly in the help file but Microsoft's brilliantly helpful implementation obscures this. BTW, I think Vista and Office 2007 will be, both, catastrophes.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
The big problem is "hotspots". If a hotspot doenn't have a password, then communications between computer and hotspot can be easily monitored. Passwords can be snatched enroute. VPN is one answer, SSH Tunnels are another.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Recently I bought the Magic Lantern Guide to the Digital Rebel XT EOS 350D. The book mentioned that Canon's Digital Photo Professional is now bundled with the camera, and that it's pretty good. Sure enough I found it on my CD. I decided to try shooting JPEG and RAW and give it a spin.
I'm impressed. The JPEG+RAW fills my memory card pretty quickly, but even so I rarely get beyond the 60-70% level before I transfer images. The latest version of Canon's DPP (download the patch) breaks Canon's EOS Capture however. I'm using Image Capture to pull in the images, embedding sRGB profiles in the JPEGs. I then review in DPP. I make major changes to images there. If I don't need to fix an image, I delete the RAW (CRF) file. If I do need to fix a JPG, I work on the RAW/CRF file and save it as JPEG 8 bit, then delete the CRF file. (I wouldn't mind, however, an option to save as JPEG 2000 or DNG.)
When I'm done I rename the files with my usual naming convention (YYMMDD_RoleName_IMGNumber) and dump them in iPhoto. Overall it's a practical way to learn more without burning lots of disk space. It should work for me until I switch to Aperture post the 1.1 release. The only glitch is that DPP is agonizingly slow at converting to JPG.
Friday, March 17, 2006
I've seen all kinds of fun error messages, such as the 'OLERR: (number)' errors in HotSync. Palm's troubleshooting guide suggests they've just thrown up their hands.
I went through too many twists and turns to remember, but I finaly defeated a wide range of Outlook and Palm misbehaviors.
At work with Beyond Contacts I think the fix was repairing some bad Outlook PST files and running "outlook /resetfolders" (see also this list of Outlook command line switches), but I also got this advice from tech support:
I am writing in response to your email regarding Beyond Contacts. Please try the following steps to correct the problem. Before completing these steps, please confirm that all of your data is up to date in MS Outlook on your computer.At home I decide to upgrade Outlook 2000 to 2003. I realized it was very unlikely that he current conduits were really aimed at Outlook 3 versions old. I then removed my old profile and ran into a mess of issues with where IMAP mail goes, what data files one uses, which data file is associated with an email account, etc etc. Fortunately all my data was backed up in old PST files. This time I went into the advanced settings for the conduits and enabled sync to multiple PCs. I think that turned off the obnoxious warnings.
1. Click on the HotSync icon in the System Tray (lower righthand corner by the clock)
2. Select Exit
3. Go to the following location:
C:/ Program Files/ Palm/ User Name Folder/ Beyond Contacts
4. From the Edit menu choose "Select All." Delete the contents of this folder.
5. Restart HotSync Manager by going to your Start menu and selecting Programs or All Programs. You will find HotSync Manager will be under your Palm Desktop Program Group.
6. Click on the HotSync icon in the System Tray (lower righthand corner by the clock)
7. Select Custom
8. Double-Click Beyond Contacts
9. Click the 'Advanced' button and make sure the correct Outlook Profile is selected
10. Set Beyond Contacts to "Synchronize the Files"
11. Click 'OK'
12. Click 'Done'
13. Synchronize. During this sync you will once again be asked to select the preferred method. If all of your data is up to date in Outlook like suggested at the start of these steps, you will want to choose this from the Window.
Phew. What a mess. No wonder no-one syncs a PDA at work any more ...
Earlier on 3/16, when posting a tech note, I got a Google/Blogger lockdown notice:
I filled out the form, and about 10 hours later the blog was available for posting again:
Your blog is locked
Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What's a spam blog?) Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive.
You won't be able to publish posts to your blog until one of our humans reviews it and verifies that it is not a spam blog. Please fill out the form below to get a review. We'll take a look at your blog and unlock it in less than a business day.
If we don't hear from you, though, we will remove your blog from Blog*Spot within 10 days.
Find out more about how Blogger is fighting spam blogs.
Re: [#422278] Non-spam review and verification request: http://googlefaughnan.blogspot.comBut, when I tried to post from the 'renewed' blog I got a nasty error message: "001 java.io.IOException: EOF while reading from control connection". Shortly thereafter the blog was completely offline.
Your blog has been reviewed, verified, and whitelisted so that it will no longer appear as potential spam. If you sign out of Blogger and sign back in again, you should be able to post as normal. Thanks for your patience, and we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.
Incompetence related to "whitelisting" me? No, there was a coincidental hardware failure at one of their major server sites. All of my blogs were inoperative, though only Gordon's Tech was completely unavailable. Several hours after the failure they finally admitted it on status.blogger.com, about a day later the blogs were up again.
I'm not happy with Blogger -- on either account. I don't blame them for the hardware outage, but I do blame them for being very slow to confess they had a big problem. Much more problematic is their approach to the spam blog investigation.
They should have given me a warning notice "we think you're a slimy spammer", asked me to complete the review request, and then waited to do a shutdown until after a negative review was performed. A pre-emptive shutdown and secondary restoration, "guilty until proven innocent", is the wrong way to go.
Sure, it's a hobby blog that's mostly used as a way for me to document what I do. But what if this were a part of my livelihood? What if it was a file system operated by Google? What if it was my Google wordprocessing service? What if it was my small business email service?
Google's honeymoon period is over. They've developed Microsoft's arrogance without Microsoft's monopoly power. This does not bode well for their future.
PS. If Blogger starts requesting you recognize an image when uploading an article then you're on their watch list ...
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Macintouch: iLife 06
Antonio TejadaSebastian Kempgen mentioned that "...the iLife 06 DVD requires a drive which can read double-layer discs. However, the DVD drives of older PowerMacs such as a G4 MDD cannot read double-layer discs - the Install DVD simply does not mount. ..."
That is plain and simply a faulty drive. Apple doesn't specify a dual-layer capable DVD drive because dual-layer discs are part of the core DVD specification: all DVD readers are required to be capable of reading them, without exception. Dual-layer DVDs are not a recent addition to the spec -- it's been there from the beginning. Only the ability to burn them yourself is new (and as with any burned disc, read compatibility of burned dual-layer discs is lower than that of pressed discs).I have found that the DVD-ROM drives from G3s and G4s do not age well -- they lose the ability to read even remotely marginal discs, and even occasionally reject entirely suitable discs. That is likely the case here.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The old version worked fine -- except the ability to create new keywords was disabled.
Here's a more detailed approach with the Nikon D70: Macworld: Secrets: Cleaning your digital-camera sensor.
Software is complex, and it's embedded in a complex ecosystem made up of the core operating system, the antiviral and security system, and other co-resident applications -- not to mention the physical computer and peripherals. In addition it "lives" in a complex business environment with a major perverse incentive -- after initial penetration ongoing revenues requires "upgrades". Typically bug fixes aren't enough to get users to upgrade, there needs to be new features. New features mean more complexity, more bugs, declinining reliability. On the other hand, if users don't upgrade the software becomes increasingly unsuited to its 'ecosystem' -- eventually it breaks.
Even if the software survives all of the above, people move on. Expertise is lost. Business direction changes. Software dies.
The lifespan of most software is about 6-10 years. Dantz Retrospect was an excellent and popular Mac backup solution in the 1980s. It's old. It's more than decrepit.
Today I tried to make a Disaster Recovery image using Retrospect Pro 6.5 for Windows. All seemed well -- but the ISO image was 747MB. That's too large for a CD. One CD burning app claimed it was a DVD image. The documentation says it should be a CD image. The remnants of Retrospect was bought by EMC Insignia -- who removed all of the support forums, downloads, etc. There's no where to look to sort this out.
This is only the latest in a long line of issues with Retrospect. It's been in decline for years. Each update fixed some bugs and introduced others. The support forums were sour. Usenet questions fell off. The smell was bad.
What's the chance that EMC is going to sort this out? Pretty darned slim. It's time to move on, but there aren't a lot of serious backup solutions marketed to the home office. Most small businesses and homes don't do real backup.
I guess I'll just have to wait for Google to host all of my data ....
Monday, March 13, 2006
MacBook Pro noises, LCD, touchpad, other problems - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)I think the new Intel iMacs may be ok, they're basically a continuation of an older design. I would not buy a MacBook Pro.
I know, I should have "anticipated" "problems" with my "new" MacBook Pro. That this should be "expected" and "usual" and "jeezus man, what were you thinking?" But I want to make one thing clear: Apple cannot use "well, it's a first Rev." as an excuse for sloppy manufacturing and hiring a Quality Control team so high on hallucinogens it can't distinguish an inconsistent backlight display from a colorful dragon strumming a guitar.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Give it to the kids. I'll load it up with games; since the platform is dying I should find them pretty cheaply.
One problem is what happens when you sync an OS 4.x device to the newer Palm desktop. Since I don't care about the PDA data I may try it anyway.
I'll add game sites here (more to come):
1. Abolutist: $17 each
2. Palm Store (Slim pickings)
3. Another spot
I think I have more on my old install disks from past versions of the desktop software. I'll dig through those. OS 4.x should run just about anything.
Searching my blog, I found 3 references to PictureSync, from the 3/32/05 to this most recent one. It's an application for simultaneous uploading of images and metadata to photo services; it's been in development for a while and it's good enough to buy.
I use it with SmugMug and iPhoto; my keywords and captions get uploaded to SmugMug. It's a bit non-intuitive, and I had one mysterious failure, but I've registered it.
There is one odd thing about this product that I wish the developer, a very interesting and responsive person, would make clear in advance. When you register you don't get a registration key. Instead he sets a bit in a server somewhere that causes the app to store its registration pw in the pref file (presumably encrypted). After that you only need the server if you reinstall.
The licensing terms are quite fair, but I've told him I don't like this. If I'd known ahead of time I wouldn't have registered the produt, but after corresponding with Jacob about this I'm willing to give it a try (not asking for a refund). Be warned, however.
Jacob has grand ideas for Holocore, I hope he succeeds! I also hope he rethinks this licensing strategy, but perhaps it will become more common. I think we are going to explore different methods, old and new, for generating revenue from software. I hope we find a solution that's mutually beneficial, certainly I'd like the small companies that make my favorite software to prosper.
Of course if Jacob's company, Holocore, goes bankrupt it would not be surprising if the creditors misused their ownership of the licensing.
Today I found there is a potential replacement: TextPlus by SmartCell Technology. I'll give it a try. $20 to register, 30 day trial. That's fair.
Update 3/13/06: Wow, that was a quick trial. Here are the uninstall directions. TextPlus is complex, big, and utterly incompatible with TealMaster, TealScript, & TealLaunch. Those apps are far more important to me than TextPlus. I'll switch back to the old incompatible WordComplete. It is only slightly crashy.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
My mind was ailing. Specifically, the SONY CLIE TJ-27 was on death's door.
When the last of its styli was lost, then it would go to the junk drawer. I was ready for the end. I cursed each moment with its hell-spawned stylus - a demented offspring of a toothpick and needle. The earth itself had rebelled against that satanic tool -- there were no replacements anywhere. If I did not already despise SONY for their spyware scam, I would loathe them for that stylus.
And yet, I did not entirely welcome the end. I knew that the noble lineage of the US Robotics Pilot was fallow. True, the CLIE was a twisted shadow of its grandfather -- the Vx, and its great-grandfather -- the III, but what better options were there? The much disliked Tungsten E2? (Let us not speak of the father -- the ill-fated Tungsten E -- nor of the bastard IIIxe.)
Two days ago the last CLIE "stylus" was lost. Yesterday my Tungsten E2 arrived. I've been fighting with it since. It's no trivial thing to transplant a fundamental component of a distributed geek consciousness. I had to rip out the tendrils of the CLIE, flog recalcitrant software, hack through crashes and bugs and learn the eccentricities of the latest degnerate product of Palm's incompetence. (I hope the intern who came up with the "Favorites" application learned something valuable during their ill-fated tenure.)
It seems to be working now. This is what I've found:
- It should have at least 128MB of working memory. Instead it has something like 28MB or so. This alone earns the E2 a place in hell.
- It's slow. I stare at the screen, waiting for it to refresh. It's slower in its routine operations than the Palm III was.
- The idiotic Favorites application hijacks the home button. Now instead of cycling through application categories, tapping the silkscreen icon launches the Favorites. Stupid intern.
- Palm used 3MB of precious static storage for the 'Media' application?
- The "expansion memory card" is so badly integrated into the OS that it makes DOS expanded and extended memory look brilliant. Words fail me. How could so much money and so many resources, have yielded so little progress? I hope they at least had some really good parties.
- Some TealLaunch things don't work. Mostly it works. I need it since the power switch is said to be as flaky as that of the Palm V, the Palm Vx, the m500 and a few other Palm devices. It's a signature feature of that demented vendor that they can't buy a reliable on/off switch.
- TealScript works fine. Merciful heaven, I can can continue to avoid "Graffiti Two" (aka Jot).
- It comes with exactly one stylus, but it is a beauty. (I have nine styli on order.)
- The screen protector material they provide is a pain to write on. I'm going to cut off the input portion and go back to my old Scotch satin tape cover.
- The connector is fiendishly evil. Completely proprietary and completely stupid. It looks ugly, it looks cheap, and each time I remove the cable I hold my breath. The Tungsten E used a USB mini-B connector that worked brilliantly. The engineer who specified the Tungsten E connector was used as a human sacrifice in Palm's dark satanic rituals of inspiration. The engineers of the T|E2 learned their lesson.
- If you use Bluetooth and write to the memory card the giant battery drains fairly quickly.
- The device does trickle charge through the USB connector, but it's incredibly slow. USB provides 100 mAmp, the charger provides 500. It's a 1000 mAh+ battery, so trickle charging takes a very long time.
- The Bluetooth did work with my OS X machine, I could sync AvantGo via Bluetooth and I could transfer a JPG to the PDA. I suspect Bluetooth sync would work well (avoid that sync cable!!). See: Send files between a Palm T3 and a Mac via Bluetooth
- I had a lot of crashes during my installs and setups. I think the Teal Software apps I rely on may have trouble with the T|E2 and its weird persistent memory. (So what was wrong with a tiny little capacitor?)
- When I installed BeyondContacts I got the error message: "Unexpected error occurred - $80004005". The support site didn't have anything on that error message. I reinstalled, this time skipping the sync step and letting the install complete. It worked then.
- ePocrates Sx/Dx can be moved to card but NOT Rx
- I could move this data: jfile databases, splashphoto images, media files, AvantGo data (AGConnect on the Palm has the magic setting), Documents to Go files.
- I couldn't move most applications. AvantGo seemed to move ok, but failed when I did a sync. The only thing that worked was a completely self-contained solitaire game. The expansion card is really for data, not apps. As far as I know it's not backed up either!
- Expansion Card Locations for Palm OS Applications eBook provides some useful hints.
- The security and encryption settings are pretty decent. Looks like they borrowed from TealLock.
- The tasks views are marginally better.
- They finally include an alarm clock (World clock).
- The outlook sync that was so messed up in the early versions of the Tungsten E seems to work.
- It will beam a contact to an older Palm device. I don't think the T|E could do that at first.
Update 3/10/06 and 3/15/06
- IR sync works, thought interestingly IR support was disabled in my Dell laptop at the BIOS level. It is extremely slow. Suitable for emergencies only.
- The device is crashy, but no lost data yet. I am using hacks to get around the problems with the unreliable power switch and Graffiti Two.
- I bought two Zip-Linq P33 chare-n-sync retractable cables. They have an extra connector that fits the power input and causes the PDA to display its 'charging' icon when trickle charging. I don't think it charges any faster than the standard cable however.
- The battery drains quickly when doing IR sync.
- HotSync Manager won't auto-launch and it vanishes on me. That's new on this machine. Bad sign.
- This new device ships with an amazing bug that was patched three months ago. If one enables 'intrusion detection' the device will, sooner or later, lock the user completely out of it. Wow. That's one patch that can't be delayed.
- It sure is slow.
I'm starting to bond with the Tungsten E2. I can tell because it's already causing me pain. Since the HotSync Manager wasn't stable, I downloaded 4.14E from the Palm site. Allegedly this was the same as the 4.14 I installed. I then tried reinstalling, and the adventure began ... [Note: I used to keep my data files in a special location to help w/ backup, Palm Desktop supports this as an option.]
- Installer completely removed existing application.
- Installer copied over my data profile and then proceded to tell me it was going to apply it to a new device. (In other words, the installer assumes that the first sync after any installation is with a new device!!)
- Installer moved a number of applications to a special folder of 'incompatible apps'. In fact all but one of them is very new, is marketed for the latest OS, and, as near as I can tell, does work. (One of them, Word Complete, is indeed risky. Alas, I can't live without it and, like so many Palm apps, it's zombie software.)
- The installation had broken BeyondContacts -- same error as above. I reinstalled BeyondContacts. No joy. I restarted and tried again. That worked.
- The Palm HotSync Manager is now starting automatically and not vanishing after use.
- The rest of my sync worked out fine.
- It's producing a high pitched noise - from the display. Suggests a short lifespan!
- Sync is bad again. I remember this from the Tungsten/E. It is throwing all kinds of sync errors. PocketMirror did NOT do this. I may download PocketMirror and try that. I hate Palm.