Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dans Data on affordable NAS solutions

Now that NetGear has added spindown, Dan likes them:
Inching toward the NAS of our dreams

When Netgear's SC101 Storage Central box first came out, I was hopeful. It accepts one or two PATA drives, does not come with them pre-installed, can run them as individuals or in mirrored mode, even allows volume spanning across multiple units, has easy setup, and, as I write this, it costs less than $AU200 delivered (rather less, in the States).

But then I cursed Netgear unto the seventh generation, for lo, the box did not spin down its drives.

But then, behold, there came BIOS updates, and one of them added spindown. Glory be.
Alas, it's PC only.

Drive spindown and lifespan

The world's best hardware site talks about why consumer drives live 2-3 years ...
The USB drive time bomb

...In a typical business-computer situation, where the skinflints in the purchasing department have made sure that every PC in the place is short of physical memory and so flogs its drive non-stop for eight hours a day, a substantial fraction of those drives can be expected to last two years or less. Three is definitely pushing it. Support people in such companies are used to doing drive replacements, and would probably have to do significantly fewer if the computers had more RAM.

People with the misfortune to have bought a base-spec Dell desktop are in the same situation, but so are a lot of geeks, who make up for their ample system RAM by spending a lot more time in front of the computer doing stuff that hits the disk. Heck, just downloading all that video will stop the disk receiving it from ever spinning down.

The way you make consumer drives last is by not using them. If they're spun down in standby mode, they're not wearing out. Even if a drive's kept in an anti-static bag in a cupboard, it won't last forever, but it's usually the physical components like the spindle and head assembly bearings that kill a drive after two years. When they ain't movin', they ain't wearin'.

Getting hard drives to spin down on any modern computer is, of course, easy. You can set the spin-down time to a really aggressive laptop-on-batteries five minutes or so, if you like. Consumer drives spin up fast (server drives don't), so there's no huge performance penalty to pay for doing that.

But if you're using USB drive boxes, their own little bridge interface is what decides when the drive spins down. Or, more accurately, if the drive spins down....
I destroyed an iBook drive by basically using it like a server drive for 3 years. No hard feelings, I flogged that beastie.

I haven't paid enough attention to spin-down in external drive units. Mea Culpa. Now we all know better ...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

iPhoto 6 bug: flaky 'revert to original'

Update 10/26/07: iLife 2008 (iPhoto 7.1) has fixed this bug.

iPhoto is supposed to keep an original image untouched. Edits are applied to a copy. The originals live in one folder hierarchy, modified images in another. If an image is edited, iPhoto shows a 'revert to original' option.

That's the theory.

In my case an attempt to merge iPhoto Libraries using iPhoto Library Manager uncovered hundreds of images that are flaky in my the iPhoto Library database. The images themselves are fine. They're in the Originals folder. They really have no 'modified' equivalents. However, iPhoto "thinks" they have modified versions.

In other words, this Library is infested by phantom "modified" images. They don't exist, but iPhoto thinks they exist, so it shows me the 'revert to original' option when it shouldn't. By itself that's a cosmetic issue, but I think this is causing problems with several secondary products, especially with iPhoto Library Manager but possibly also PictureSync.

Selecting 'revert to original' does nothing. (This is good, in earlier versions of iPhoto this action would sometimes DELETE the original.)

I should note I've never used 'iPhoto Diet' or anything like that and I've never messed with my originals within iPhoto. This is the inverse of the known problem where a modified photo exists but the Original has been lost, moved, or deleted.

If I edit an image, then 'revert to original', the reversion works properly. After reverting the option is (correctly) grayed out in iPhoto and unavailable.

These are older images, exposed to nasty bugs in many prior versions of iPhoto. This Library may date back to iPhoto 2 and was certainly exposed to the many iPhoto 4 bugs.

I think iPhoto 6 is a decent product, but it follows a long line of disastrous releases. I would never claim Apple releases well tested products.

Alas, a Google search and a Sherlock search of the knowledge base didn't turn up anything useful. I've asked the author of IPLM for advice and I'll update this posting with what I learn.

  1. I did a complete rebuild of my iPhoto Library. The good news is that the rebuild didn't turn up any bad images and the rebuilt library tracked the original pretty well. As usual the rebuild messed up roll metadata. Since it didn't fix the problem I deleted the rebuilt Library.
  2. I have a theory this problem arises when one uses the burn-to-CD or IPHOTO.XML method to merge iPhoto Libraries. iPhoto imports the Original and Modified files correctly, but there's a bug with unmodified Originals that leads to the above problems. (PS. I doubt this merge technique works at all well with RAW files.)
Update 9/1:

Wow, this is a gnarly bug. Brian Webster of IPLM fame is helping debug what's happening and I've gotten some useful comments from the iPhoto Discussion area:

Here's a comment I posted to the discussion thread:
... I tested a (risky) variant of the 'import from iPhoto CD' technique documented here:

I did the same import twice, once on a brand new iPhoto Library and again on my main Library with the known problem.

When I imported into a new Library there were no problems with the 'revert to original' -- everything behaved as it should. Revert to Original only showed up when an image had been modified.

However, when I repeated the exact same import into my problematic Library every image had the 'revert to original' option available -- whether the image had been modified or not.

On the other hand, directly importing from the file system into my problematic Library didn't produce the bug.

So it's a combination of something about this Library and something about the undocumented Library import I tested with. I've yet to test with the semi-documented "import from iPhoto CD" method with this Library but I may try tomorrow. I'm also going to test using the 'import via shared albums method Pogue and Story document in 'iPhoto 6 The Missing Manual'. My suspicion is that all methods will produce the same problems with this particular Library...
Update 9/3:

I tried the partial merge technique published by Story and Pogue -- sharing a Library from another account. I imported into my "bad" Library and it did NOT (so far) demonstrate the 'Revert to Original' bug.

Update 9/14/06:

Brian Webster sent me a new version of IPLM to beta test. It no longer gave the 'missing image' message but there was interesting new flakiness with Library Rebuild. Library Merge seemed to work 3/4 tries, but 1/4 times it made an error consistent with the Library Rebuild problems. So whatever this bug is, it's darned sneaky.

Update 10/4/06:

We never figured this out, but I'm pleased to report the bug does not appear to confuse Aperture 1.5. It imported my test Library correctly.

Update 5/18/07:

Tom, writing in comments, discovers where the bug is. I'll tell Brian and post in Apple forums:
This week I converted to iPhoto6 and encountered the same problem. Some older photo's have the "revert to original". I examined the file Library6.iPhoto and concluded that the conversion of a field "idED" went wrong. I was able to repair the file using a HEX editor.
Thanks Tom!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

HotSpotVPN: safer use of open hot spots

I've known for some time that non-VPN use of an open hot spot (WiFi) service means anyone who wants to can read what I'm doing -- including passwords, etc. I've looked on occasion for a service that would provide me a personal VPN channel, but I couldn't find one.

What's weird is I just found one, mentioned obliquely in a NYT article on this problem. Why didn't it ever show up in my Google searches? Weird.

Anyway, HotSpotVPN is one of those services. It's $90/year, so not incredibly cheap. Supports OS X 10.4 but not 10.3.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Record analog TV to a Mac

Elgato Systems

Hmm. If this lets me automatically eliminate commercials from sports broadcasts, I might have a use for it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Blogger 2.0: now in beta, no Safari support yet

Blogger 2.0 is in beta. I tried it, the main thing I noticed was the ability to tag posts and the hierarchical navigation widget for the archives.

I also saw this post on Safari:
Browser compatibility. The current version of the beta works best in Firefox and Internet Explorer. We are working to resolve issues with other browsers, specifically Safari.
I suspect they simply mean they'll make Safari users as miserable as they have with Blogger 1.0, versus having it not work at all. Still, one can hope. There's a discussion group.

Things get confusing if you have a blogger account and accept the invitation to create a second beta account. I would advise against that, though I was eventually able to get the accounts sorted out.

Update: I get it. The new account is tied to my gmail account (Google's identity management solution), but my main Blogger account predates Gmail and has a different identifier. Since I've created a Gmail linked beta blog, I connect to the beta blog unless I disconnect from my Google accounts. Hmmm. This could be messy.

Evil Microsoft: Windows Live Writer

Microsoft introduces a free, extensible, Win32 blog authoring tool. Google doesn't have one. There aren't any good ones in the OS X world. The only decent one I know of is BlogJet, also Windows only.
Writer Zone: Introducing Windows Live Writer:

Writer is a great client for Windows Live Spaces but also works with other weblogs including Blogger [jf: aka Google's blog platform] LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress (and many others).

Writer supports RSD (Really Simple Discoverability), the Metaweblog API, and the Movable Type API.

We want Writer to work well with every blogging service out there. If you can’t get Writer to work with your blog, we want to know.
Oooohh. This is wicked evil. After deciding Microsoft was a corporation on Crack, a sly move like this makes me wonder if Ozzie can turn it around ...

Of course I'll have to try it out ...

Apple? Google? Are you paying attention? Time to wake-up boys, the Beast isn't quite dead yet ...

Update 7/15/06: It's really beta. I tried posting a draft to Blogger and it did a true post, as well as generating a bizarre Blogger error message. Not ready for primetime!

Update 7/8/07: It got a LOT better. I love it now.

Resetting Mac firewire ports: computer won't recognize device

Via Macintouch (LaCie sells firewire drives):

Mike Mihalik, LaCie

Seems like the FireWire issue needs to be revisited quite often. Here is my often repeated suggestion which appears to clear up many FireWire issues: reset the FireWire ports. Panther has a Finder Preference to show mounted volumes on the Desktop. You must set this for mounted drives to be visible. Please follow these instructions to reset your FireWire port. Here is a summary:
  • shut down and disconnect all external drives and peripherals ; make sure nothing is connected to the FireWire ports
  • use Apple Disk Utility to repair permissions on your internal boot drive
  • shut down and disconnect the AC power from the computer as well as the drives; if laptop, also remove battery
  • let sit unpowered and unconnected for 15 minutes
  • reconnect AC power to only the computer (battery too if laptop)
  • restart computer
  • verify that FireWire ports are visible within Apple System Profiler
  • reconnect FireWire drive (only one); refresh window within Apple System Profiler to rescan the FireWire bus; confirm that drive is visible
  • confirm drive is OK by using Apple Disk Utility and apply First Aid
  • repeat for other drives, one at a time
And here's the kb article he references: What to do if your computer won't recognize a FireWire device

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Leopard: a different view

I was pleased with the Leopard announcement, and with a rumor that even non-Intel Macs ran faster with 10.5 than 10.4 (the Intel speedup is said to be remarkable). It sounded like a definite purchase for me, though as usual I'll wait for Andrew to run into the big problems for me.

This fellow, however, claims Apple's holding back to keep the 4th quarter sails going:
Apple’s Leopard Strategy: Screw Microsoft, Kill Dell, Save the 4th Quarter Page 1 - Talkbacks - Digital Trends: "

Saving the 4th Quarter

... Another of the primary reasons Apple isn’t being forthcoming about Leopard is the fear that if people get too excited about a product coming early in 2007 they will stop buying in 2006. So, Apple is intentionally not telling you about the great multi-media features in the new product, the security enhancements that will make the existing line obsolete, or the massive jump in application performance on what will be a fully optimized product on the then current Intel hardware.

Certainly you’ve been left in the dark about enhancements that will increase notebook performance and battery life, allow you to seamlessly move between 802.11n, WiMax, and Cellular data networks, and even more quickly create peer-to-peer relationships on the fly.

The UI improvements that better make use of the then current enhancements in graphics technology are hinted at but you won’t see the real power until the OS is released when the true power of the visual experience can be a real surprise (and it is believed to be stunning).

If you get too excited about what is supposed to be an incredibly amazing product you simply won’t buy a new Apple this year. That wouldn’t be a good thing because Apple would like you to buy both years, if possible, and that means keeping you in the dark about what is coming. It is a typical Apple after all...
I've read hints of most of the above from usually reliable source, and, more importantly, everything but the better security seems entirely likely. The 'vastly better security' promise is intriguing. Will Apple bundle an antiviral solution? They desperately need to do that.

Even so, it is very unlikely that 10.5.0, or even 10.5.1 will be a good upgrade option. You really don't want to buy a machine with 10.5.0 on it - Apple has a history of major bugs with the initial OS release.

Best to buy 10.4 and wait to 10.5.2 to update; you'll avoid a lot of pain that way.

AMEX Buyers Assurance: A good experience

My Canon s410 compact died at age 1.8 years -- out of warranty. I'd bought it using my AMEX card though, so it was in the extended warranty period. I bought an Gordon's SD600 (a bit disappointing) and began the AMEX claim process. It took about five weeks from start to finish, but it went well. I was reimbursed for the entire cost of the original s410, which paid for the SD600.

If I'd been faster to ship it probably would have taken a bit over 3 weeks. AMEX provides a web site for status updates on the process and that worked very well. Their phone support was also excellent, though they did flub a request for an old statement.

Some tips on the process:
  • You need your warranty, the AMEX statement with the transaction on it, and the original receipt. Now when I buy something of value I scan all three and file them on my PC. These are faxed to AMEX, so scans will do well.
  • AMEX doesn't provide web access to old statements, though I suspect they will eventually. They will mail or fax old statements, but there may be a fee attached (unclear, I need to look for this). I couldn't find my old statement at first, though I did eventually. I was told they'd fax the old statement to me, but it came in the mail -- five weeks after I requested it.
  • Canon provides a warranty record on their web site and Amazon keeps old receipts. (So does Google Checkout.) In fact I was able to eventually find all the originals.
  • AMEX sent me a claim number and asked me to send the s410 to a company that specializes in scavenging (I fear eBay may end up with my old, defective, seemingly workable, camera). I was very good about this, I managed to find everything that came with it, including the original box, software, manuals, memory card ... everything! I suspect that was overkill, but really it seemed only fair.
  • The scavenger company never got back to AMEX. Three weeks after I UPSd the box AMEX called asking where it was. I had misplaced my UPS shipping number, but once I found it AMEX credited my account within 2 days. Don't lose your UPS number.
I don't buy anything with less than a one year warranty, and I always use AMEX for significant purchases.

EMC Retrospect Professional: Does anyone use it?

EMC Insignia: Retrospect for Windows is one of the survivors of Dantz corporation, a Macintosh software vendor that flamed out after years of declining product quality. I use an earlier version to backup a mixed LAN of Macs and PCs to an XP box.

The version I have works most of the time, but it is an ugly piece of software. It goes wrong in a myriad number of ways, with cryptic error messages or no error messages at all. Sometimes I can figure out what happened, sometimes I can't. The network backup has to hack deep into the client OS to work, so it's vulnerable to all kinds of security patches or OS updates.

Alas, there are no alternatives. I have to hope Google does backup and decides to support OS X in addition to Windows -- but I fear they won't.

So I'd like to upgrade -- if I thought the new product was better. It's cheap enough -- $100 or so via Amazon. But is the current version any better? How can I tell?

EMC bought Dantz's products, likely at a firesale price. They eliminated the Dantz user forums. How can I tell if their current version is any good? Amazon has exactly one credible review, and it's pretty negative. Versiontracker has no credible reviews. EMC offers trial versions, but they say:
Do not download evaluation software for an EMC Insignia product if you are already a licensed user of that product. In order to upgrade your retail version of an EMC Insignia product, please proceed to the Upgrade page or contact your local EMC Insignia reseller.
Hmmm. Maybe I'll hold out on my current version a bit longer -- though I'm sure OS X 10.5 will break it. I can't hold out indefinitely?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Aperture: the critical flaw - and 1 GB on a Mac Pro

I'm at the Apple store playing with a woefully under-resourced Mac Pro Xeon "quad" (two dual core really). The floor model has 1 GB of RAM, and Aperture is sluggish.

So I decide to look at how date metadata changes are made in Aperture. Which is when I realize I can't edit the date field. So I try the help file, but Aperture doesn't have a proper Apple help file. It only has a PDF. Nothing there.

So I google. I find this comment in an O'Reilly blog about what's missing from 1.1: -- Aperture 1.1--Apple Listens

5. The ability to change date metadata. Our office uses many scanned images and the dates used in Aperture are the dates of the scans, we want to change them to the date of the image was actually taken.
Oooookaaay. So Aperture can't edit date metadata. Wow. Speechless I am.

Apple, wake me up when Aperture can edit date metadata. More interestingly, where are all the computer reviewers? This should have been item one in Aperture reviews.

PS. The kb on this MacBook is awful. I hope it's an old store model they didn't replace. Apple, please send help to your Mall of America store ...

Update: There is a peculiar way to revise the date of an image in Aperture. Export to iPhoto. Change the date in iPhoto. Import to Aperture. Aperture respects iPhoto's date metadata!

Leopard: It does include remote control software

What's wrong with the geek coverage of the Leopard announcements? There are some very pleasant surprises hidden away that are getting little discussion. iChat is particularly interesting. Leopard's iChat is said to include the ability to share static images -- a feature that would be incredibly useful for corporate communication.
... Use new iChat Theater to present photos from iPhoto, slides from Keynote, or content from any iChat-enabled application with any iChat or AOL AIM buddy. And do it in style — full-screen, accompanied by a video feed of you playing host. iChat’s virtual presentation room makes a big impact...
Much to my pleasant surprise, it also includes the first real move towards useful bunded remote control software:
Apple - Apple - Mac OS X - Leopard Sneak Peek - iChat

... Share and share alike

Remote control takes on a whole new meaning with iChat in Leopard. Thanks to iChat Screen Sharing, you and your buddy can observe and control a single desktop via iChat, making it a cinch to collaborate with colleagues, browse the Web with a friend, or pick the perfect plane seats with your spouse. Share your own desktop or share your buddy’s — you both have complete control at all times. And when you start a Screen Sharing session, iChat automatically initiates an audio chat so you can talk things through while you’re at it...
This is something I've been moaning about for years. My one wish for Leapard was remote control that worked and performed well, something analogous to Microsoft Remote Desktop. This seems like a big step in that direction, and it's more than I'd expected. True, it's only ONE desktop (no true thin client multiuser support) and it probably won't work with fast user switching, and it may be hard to hack to allow remote initiation of session control ... but hey, it's a start.

It will, at the very least, make it possible to manage my mother's machine -- which means I can justify buying her a Mac Mini!

Between the static image sharing and remote control in iChat, and the innovative backup approach, if Leopard performs as well or better than 10.4 on legacy hardware I'll be a very happy customer. Now if Apple would only add antiviral/antiworm services ...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Google Related Links

This isn't new, but I'd missed it. Google provides HTML code to insert in you web page. When viewed it shows any combination of related pages, search, video, and news. I'll try adding it to some of my more popular pages.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The MacBook Pro heat problem - is it the CPU or the GPU

I know two people who bought an early MacBook Pro. 100% of the machines died, both have been rebuilt under warranty.

Macintouch's quality survey indicated a high mortality rate on the early MacBook Pro (the 17" has done well though). Apple tried to launch with the original PowerBook enclosure and they evidently failed. Lots of pain for the early adopters, but Apple people are used to that.

The usual suspect is the Intel CPU. Did it fail to live up to the MIPS/watt hype? I wonder about the GPU though. How much of the MacBook Pro's heat problems are from the Intel CPU vs. the GPU? Does thermal efficiency favor integrated GPU/CPU solutions or not?

I'd like to see a discussion on this. I'm looking.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 - personal impressions

[See Update. As of 8/9/06 this is NOT ready for use.]

Microsoft's latest hardware product is now available at Best Buy. I don't know if you get it anywhere else, Amazon still has it on wait list. I've taken it out of the box and run through some basic paces. Historically these products have been popular in unseemly markets, so I feel obliged to say that I bought it to transmit hand sketches and whiteboard work from my office to a remote office.

I tried this years ago with a Logitech USB 1 webcam and the results were almost good enough. I coul d see then that USB 2 and twice the resolution would suffice, though I thought in-device MP4 compression would be required for high frame video. Happily I don't care about frame rate -- 1 frame per second would do. I care about edge discrimination, contrast, noise and resolution.

First of all, I can recommend this review: Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 - Review. Excellent job. Good comment on the wide-angle lens choice -- it's a waste for face-to-face viewing in typical settings. Additional impressions:
1. This is almost pre-release. You can't download the installer software yet, and the included disk is version 1.0. That's pretty raw. Parts of the software don't work. The button that's supposed to post to the Windows Live Blog does nothing - no error message, no action, con configuration files. Actually, this is pre-release.

2. The install of the basic webcam software takes a long time. The executable file only holds 40MB, but the CD has about 150MB in the lifecam folder (compressed). My guess is that this software was designed for Vista and it installs a lot of baggage, including some Vista video libraries, when run on XP.

3. Microsoft should have included a lens cap. It would have cost a dime.

4. The hi-res video is not supported by Microsoft's chat software. It's probably only useful right now for local video storage.

5. Don't try this with a slow machine. The software moves like molasses (another hint that it's Vista style software) on my XP box. True it's a few years old, but this is the first thing that's made it seem slow. (Note: I don't do games.)

6. It doesn't work on a Mac. Not recognized.

7. If the lens is focused you can read size 14 point letters on a sheet of paper held about 1-2 feet from the lens. That's impressive. It would be interesting to compare it to Apple's iSight.

8. The lens/software combination is better in low light and better at adapting to light levels than I'd expected.
More later ...

Update 8/7: Beware shareware webcam products. After installing, testing, and deleting two of them, I discovered a worm infection.

Update 8/9/06: It installed well on my home machine. On my pure, clean, office laptop however, it produced the XP Blue Screen of Death (STOP error) on launch. I don't remember ever seeing the XP BSOD. I think it's produced by an 'inner ring' memory error, something that only device drivers can do. There's something odd about the device driver approach for LifeCam, I'm suspicious that it's a Vista approach that Microsoft has hacked to sell this device into the XP base.

This is what one sees in white on blue text:
A problem has been detected and windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer ...

STOP: VX6000xp.sys
Happens every time on launch of LifeCam (is it doing some kind of dynamic device driver hack?). When you get these errors, btw, you get to file a special bug report with Microsoft on system restart.

I restored the system to health per Microsoft troubleshooting recommendations:
System restore: restored to the point set by the LifeCam install.
sfc /scanonce: ran sfc.exe to verify core XP files were intact. See xp resource kit, system file tools
I'll try again in September when Microsoft says they'll put the installer files online.

Update 7/22/2008: This never worked satisfactorily in XP, though I did finally find some device drivers that sort of worked with Office Communicator 2003. I suspect Microsoft abandoned XP support for this device. A crummy Microsoft experience all around.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Praise Be! Google ads saved locations to maps

Official Google Blog: Saved locations on Google Maps

To get started, click on the 'Saved Locations' link in the upper right corner of the site and sign in to your Google Account. If you're already signed in, this link will take you to your saved locations list -- Google Maps will automatically save every location you search for. You can also go to the Saved Locations list to disable auto-saving of locations or to add, modify, or delete previously-saved locations.

From here, you can also add a label (your choice of an easy-to-remember name, e.g.'home') to any of your saved locations. The next time you start entering an address or a label into Google Maps, we'll offer to auto-complete it for you if it's in your saved locations. Auto-completion is also available when you're searching for businesses. If you've labeled the address '1600 Amphitheatre Pky, Mountain View, CA' as 'work' (as some Googlers would), when you start typing [pizza near work], we'll offer to auto-complete it as [pizza near 1600 Amphitheatre Pky, Mountain View, CA].

Here’s a tip: When a list of auto-completions is offered, you can hit the Tab key to select the first one.
It's late, but they did do a terrific job. The default is to save every location, which you can then go back and tag. Another brick in the wall ...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

TinkerTool System

I came across this via ATPM, an OS X insider site. TinkerTool System does sound appealing, and it's not much money. I'll download and give it a trial. I like when they say:
The latest version comes with a new deinstallation helper for applications or other software components which had been installed by "drag and drop", a tool to eliminate unneeded code support in Universal Applications, and a feature to manipulate the Services menu of Mac OS X

TinkerTool System is very different from other maintenance applications because it never uses any scripts and is fully integrated into the security architecture of Mac OS X. For example, it never asks for your password itself but lets Mac OS X do this when necessary, always verifying whether an operation you have selected is allowed to be performed with your current user credentials or not.
Somehow that language is soothing ...

Update: TinkerTool has a very sophisticated system for allowing evaluation while preventing piracy. So sophisticated it wouldn't let me evaluate it. Delete.

Screenshot Plus: another useful (free) widget

Glory be! If this keeps up I'll have to start using widgets. Sounds a bit more conventient that the built in screenshot options, and it's free.
Screenshot Plus Widget @

Take screen captures quickly and easily. Screenshot Plus can take full screen captures, grab portions of the screen, and even capture windows, desktop icons, and other widgets. Captures may be saved to the clipboard or to the hard drive, or they may be imported to any application directly from the widget.

Captures may be saved in the formats: png, tiff, jpg, jp2, pdf, gif, bmp, or pict.
Update: Ugh. It just hung with a "loading" message. I suspect it didn't like my non-admin default account. This one is for the trash.

Apple's hardware reliability problems

Apple has significant reliability problems with its new Intel based laptops. The heat issues are disappointing. I wonder if we won't see devices worth buying until Apple switches to the Intel CPUs. If my iBook dies, however, I will buy a MacBook. This Macintouch data is about the best we're going to get from anyone. Emphases mine:
MacBook/MacBook Pro Initial Reliability

... Based on what we've seen in this survey, we'd be cautious buying a white or black MacBook until Apple more effectively addresses the heat, noise and trackpad button issues. We'd be reasonably confident buying a brand new 15' MacBook Pro, but keep an eye out for sleep and shutdown problems, and call AppleCare the moment they appear. We would have no hesitation at all buying the 17' MacBook Pro, with or without glossy display...
The iBook G4 was a remarkably stable machine. Rocky times ahead!

Google's web albums -- Access from OS X

Google now has an iPhoto plugin to facilitate uploads to Google's Picasa Albums. Like much of their OS X work it was a 20 percenter project. I'll certainly try it out.

Update 9/3/06:

I uploaded 600MB of images. Worked great. Obviously I paid the $25 or so for the 9GB limit, but that could go pretty darned fasts. Albums are very simple, no cusomization really. RSS feed for each album; iPhoto renders it as a photocast but only shows the thumbs, no way for iPhoto to get the whole thing. XP users can install Picasa and download an entire album, no way for OS X users to do that. Upload was very fast. Can download full res images. Way they display album is different -- no paging, everything on one page. I kind of like it. Good slideshow. No way to order prints.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Problems with antivirus software: full text indexing

I love full text indexing. I use Lookout for Outlook and Yahoo Desktop Search on XP, and Spotlight (of course) on OS X.

The OS X experience is pretty much perfect -- especially compared to the XP story. Full text indexing on XP has all kinds of performance and usability issues, but the worst appear to be related to antiviral software

I can't find much about this on a google search, just hints that suggest I'm not the only one to notice this. The minor problem is that the antiviral software wastes cycles searching the text indices (files need to be exempted from av and backup). The big problem is that some antiviral software really trashes file i/o (I disable it when doing heavy duty database work), and full text indexing causes massive file i/o. So the combo on antiviral s/w and index building can bring a single CPU XP system to its knees.

Mercifully I run my OS X systems without that vile antiviral software, so I don't run into problems there.

I think this may be one of the reasons that Microsoft decided to take over the antiviral business. It really does have to be built into the OS in such a way that it interoperates with full text search -- in particular exempt some file i/o operations from the antiviral tax.