Thursday, November 29, 2007

Leopard is officially troubled

Leopard is the New Vista, and It's Pissing Me Off is a rant about Leopard -- from PC Magazine. Not from Dvorak.

I read it, and it seems pretty plausible. It matches up with what I hear from friends who've updated.

I, of course, have said for some time that I wouldn't consider Leopard before 10.5.3.

Now I'm thinking 10.5.4.

Apple should have slipped Leopard a solid year, instead of seven months. Beyond the general bugginess I hear off, there's no doubt they made some arrogant, arbitrary and just-plain-dumb UI changes.

The current recommendation has to be:
  • Do not install 10.5 on a Tiger machine. Just don't. If you'd like, wait until I do it and say it's safe to proceed. I am very good at finding bad stuff.
  • If you can, put off buying new Apple hardware until 10.5.3.
  • If you must buy a machine now, don't migrate any apps or settings from old machines. Just move data. Backup rigorously. Install applications carefully and check that they're all Leopard safe.
  • Refrain from making rude remarks about Vista.

Google desktop for OS X - without search

Google Desktop Search is an idea that didn't work.

It's inferior to Windows Desktop Search on XP, it's irrelevant on Vista, and OS X has Spotlight.

It's obsolete.

So the good news is that OS X Google Desktop installation now allows one to omit the search component:
Don't want Google search but still want Gadgets? No problem - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

...Guess what? As noted in this comment, a subtle 'Choose your own features' link on Google's download page lets you split up the two functions of GD, and just install the Gadget manager without the desktop search component....
Interesting, but I've never found a widget that was really useful -- Apple's have been pretty disappointing. Worse, Google's directory for widgets is a complete mess. They mix up their own high quality widgets with commercial products and pure junk.

So the main news is that Google may be grudgingly accepting that desktop search is not their cup of tea.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The ONE blogger feature I'd really like to see

Dear Google:

Until Ecto works better, or until someone ports Windows Live Writer to OS X, I rely on the Google Toolbar "Send to Blogger" feature.

Unfortunately, the "Send to Blogger" feature lacks editing tools (bullets, images) and, most importantly, has no support for Label (tag) lookup.

If I post as Draft, however, I have to:
  1. Right click 'edit posts' and select new window so I get the post listing with proper chrome.
  2. Find my draft post.
  3. Click on edit.

Please add a new link to the page that appears after I submit a draft. This link would do this:
  1. Edit this post (new window)
So I'd have one quick click and I'd get chrome.

Thank you.


Back to My Mac router requirements

Mac OS X 10.5: Back to My Mac requires AirPort base station or UPnP-capable third-party router. Even if you use an AirPort base station, you have to have something else with a DSL or Cable connection. That's going to be the problem. It has to either by UPnP compatible, or, I'd guess, it has to be configured to act like a bridge instead of a router.

Another kb article adds NAT-PMP for the ISP router/bridge - and says something very stupid:

... You may need to manually enable UPnP or NAT-PMP on your routers. You might also need to contact your ISP (Internet Service Provider...

Note: Apple AirPort Base Stations are the preferred method for accessing the full potential of your Mac and iLife apps. If configured properly, they should work seamlessly with Back to My Mac.

The "Note" is the stupid part. Does Apple think our homes have an ethernet connection to the net?

I won't install Leopard until 10.5.3, so I'm not following the BTMM discussions too closely. I get the impression Apple hacked the security model of OS X to enable BTMM, that makes me wonder how well it works with multi-user configurations. What if another account is running on the Mac I want to get "back to"?

Monday, November 26, 2007

iPhoto '08 is Aperture-Lite

One of the unique features of Apple - Aperture was nondestructive edits. You didn't save an edited copy of your original, you saved an edit list (and perhaps a cached JPEG).

This is from the iPhoto '08 help file:
...When you edit a photo imported to iPhoto ’08, you benefit from the great flexibility and high photo quality of nondestructive editing.

Nondestructive editing allows you to try different adjustments and effects at will⎯there’s no danger that successive edits and saves will degrade your photo’s quality. You’re never more than one version away from your original photo. Instead of saving a new version over the previous one every time you edit a photo, iPhoto ’08 simply remembers all your changes as an edit list...
It's more than just nondestructive edits. iPhoto '08's editing tools feel like simplified versions of Aperture tools, with similar photo effects. Not only that, but iPhoto '08 image editing is almost as slow as Aperture editing.

I used to like iPhoto's red eye tool. I don't like the current tool -- but it's familiar. It's a simplified version of the Aperture red eye tool.

iPhoto video export is broken. Aperture doesn't handle video at all.

I think it's fair to call iPhoto '08 "Aperture-Lite", they increasingly seem to share a significant code base. In the long run this is probably very good [1], but in the short term it's definitely a mixed bag. iPhoto '08 is much slower than iPhoto 6 for many tasks, and then, of course, there's the nasty video export bug.

[1] If we don't see an Aperture update soon, it will be clear the "long run" for Aperture is fairly short. I read that Aperture is being clobbered in the marketplace by Adobe Lightroom, and I'm perpetually amazed that Aperture still doesn't support editing date metadata.

Manage cables

Andrew says this works for him. It's produced by what appears to be a small business: Cable Management System from Cable-Safe: Organization, Management, and Protection of Computer Cables, Wires and Cords.

The picture is pretty impressive. Made in the USA, no less.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

iPhoto bug: export video produces video-free file

This post has been rewritten to clean it up.

11/22/07: I learn the hard way that if you use iPhoto '08 (7.1.1)' s "export as current" function on a video file, it exports a video-free stub. So instead of a 40MB file containing 30 seconds of video, you get a 650KB file with 0 seconds of video and a JPEG thumnail of a frame.

The bug causes me to lose 3 unique and irreplaceable family video clips because I often edit on my laptop, then export the "current" images and videos to my server where they get imported into my primary iPhoto Library.

Others experience the same bug. It's trivial to replicate, I even demonstrated it to an Apple store employee on their machines. I also posted it to Macintouch.

Here's on Apple Discussion Thread:
Apple - Support - Discussions - Export AVI from iPhoto destroys video, ...:

I have a 34MB AVI file in iPhoto 7.1 produced in a Canon SD 1000 camera. If I export it as 'current' or 'jpeg' it produces a 56K file. This consists of only the thumbnail, the video data is gone.

(If you're exporting a set of images it's easy to specify JPEG and include a video. Prior versions of iPhoto ignored the 'JPEG' value where it didn't make sense and exported the video.)

If I drag and drop to the video from iPhoto to the desktop it produces a 34MB file on the desktop. I checked another video I recently exported. It was also truncated to 60K...
Update 11/27/07: In another Apple Discussion thread, I hypothesize about the origin of the bug:
... "export as original" works as always, as does drag and drop to the desktop.

The bug is in "export as current". I suspect it's a conceptual error that may be tricky to correct.

What does "current" mean for a video that has no edited version? If you were to ask 1000 users, I think 1000 would say "current" means the most recently edited version of the video.

I suspect (don't have iPhoto at hand right now to test) that when iPhoto '08 works with a video it creates some kind of thumbnail representation that lives in the edited/modified internal folder.

I further hypothesize that the programmer wrote the "current" code in iPhoto '08 so it looks first in the "edited/modified" folder and, if it doesn't find anything, goes to the "original" folder.

That works for images, but, fails for video. The algorithm ends up pulling out the thumbnail stub and exporting that.

Ironically, I wonder if the current behavior was a fix for a bug I'd reported in prior versions of iPhoto -- namely that under certain conditions iPhoto would confused between the "current" and "modified" status of an image. That bug was fixed in iPhoto '08, but my hunch is the fix introduced a much more severe bug...
Another possibility is that the bug was introduced as a side-effect of introducing iMovie '08 (iClip really). iMovie is supposed to be able to use iPhoto as a video repository; maybe there was supposed to some versioning behavior introduced in iPhoto '08 to match iMovie '08 and it was pulled prior to release -- leaving some detritus behind.

Update 11/27/07b: I add the following to the Discussion thread. It appears my hypothesis is correct. No denying this one's a nasty bug:
... Check out any "original" folder with a video in it. In the companion modified folder you will find the thumbnail files. They are JPG files with the video prefix -- for example: MVI_0099.jpg (136kb).

When you choose "export as current" iPhoto exports MVI_0099.AVI, also at 136KB. Only now the extension is AVI instead of JPG. However, the extension is incorrect!

In fact iPhoto has exported a JPG with an AVI extension. If you change the extension to JPG then the icon switches to a JPG icon. Open it in preview, it's a JPEG.

So, to summarize: When you choose "export as current" for a video iPhoto looks in the "Modified" folder, finds a JPG file (the thumbnail), then exports the JPG and changes the extension to AVI so it appears in the Finder to be a video file...
10/11/2009: I tested this with iPhoto 2009. If you "export original" you get a video file. If you export current you get a worthless JPG thumbnail - just as in 2007. If you drag and drop you export the video; I think that may be different from 2007.

If you edit in QuickTime and save the video, it replaces the original (destructive edit). Export behaviors are as above.

If I had any faith in Apple this would be amazing, but incompetence is not rare in today's Apple.

Google Custom Search with Bloglines Search OS X mashup

This was fun, but very geeky. It's the kind of experiment that I only get to do on lazy holidays (we do a low key family thanksgiving).

It started because I wanted my Google Co-Op Mac OS X Search custom search engine to also search the Mac OS X blogs I read. (Note: Google may be sunsetting some of the services referenced here.)

I figured I'd have to add my blogs one at a time, but that's kind of tedious. It would be more fun if there was a way to add them all at once.

It turns out Google's custom search engine service (formerly Google Co-Op) now allows one to enter the URL of a web page, and Google will add each linked item as a search engine.

That reminded me of a Bloglines technique I learned exploited about three years ago. One of the key features of Bloglines is the ability to publish your blogroll (including OPML export) and, with a bit of trickery, to publish it in such a way that portions can be embedded in an IFRAME (see example on the right side of our family newspaper).

I went back to the web page I created four years ago and extracted the OS X portion into a separate file.

I then gave Google's custom search engine control panel the URL of my OS X Bloglines file. The result looks like this (bolded blogroll file)*****
I don't think it's working quite yet, but I'm sure it will be live soon.

Update 11/22/07: It's broken. I tried it with both dynamic html (original) and static html, but Google is not finding test results belong to the blogs I added "by reference". If I add the individual blogs by hand Google does search them, so this looks like a bug. I'll try it again next week.

I've posted a "bug report".

Update 11/23/07: Yes, it's a bug. OMR has found:
So it seems that the makeannotations tool is not working reliably at this time.
It frequently returns the "Bad Request" error, even for a valid request.
Update 11/24/07: It's probably coincidental, but since OMR replied to my post and identified the bug Google's makeannotations tool has started working. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to support javascript generated pages, at least not the way Bloglines generates the pages. I'm going to see if bloglines wants to look into this.

Google sunset: Page Creator and Co-op?

In the course of drafting a geeky post on my latest experiment to my Google custom search pages, I went hunting for links to some of the pieces.

That's when I discovered that they weren't on the "Gmail menu" any more.

The "Gmail menu" is the set of links that appear atop the standard Google product pages. Today mine looks like this:
Web Images Products News Maps Gmail more ▼
Blog Search Blogger Books Calendar Documents Finance Groups Labs Orkut Patents Photos Reader Scholar Video
This is the list of products Google wants us to use. The list used to include a link to "more", which pointed to Google Labs, but that link has been removed. It also used to include a link to Google Page Creator, but that's been demoted all the way to a "red icon" "beta" entry on the Google Labs menu. (Looking at the list, it appears that red, yellow, green refer to the relative health of the project following the euro conventions.)

In other words, Google Page Creator is being sunset. I expect they'll replace it with something considerably better, but the transition will be painful. I use GPC a fair bit for some of my Google App sites, so I'm mildly concerned about how Google will manage the pending switch. I wouldn't advise anyone to start using PGC today.

Google Co-Op, which is integral to my pending post, has vanished. It's not on the Lab page and it's no longer on the Gmail drop down menu. Google's still doing press releases about their coop-subsuming custom search engine program though, so I'm hopeful this will be relaunched in some other form. (update: looks like Co-Op was subsumed into CSE last March)

My mental model of Google is that It worships the algorithm, abhors the satanic tree hierarchy , and considers natural selection to be the ultimate algorithm (good and deity). All of this can be seen in their product approach. Google Co-Op, for example, still has a page and seems active, but there's no exposure of a "parent" page. It will survive or die based on the evolution of the links that point to it.

Like this one.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

iPhoto 7.1 (iLife 2008): that red eye is really bad

I like most of iPhoto 7.1, but the more I use it the more I'm appalled by the red eye "correction". Red eye in iPhoto 7.1 is a gray-blue splotch applied to anything with red pigment -- including skin.

You can see the effect in this picture of my son. I set the red eye to max and stamped away. Of course this isn't how you'd use red-eye correction, but it shows the problem. They've messed up the color detection algorithm and the edge-detection (automatic setting) has also failed. It's about as "smart" as a hammer.

Imagine how bad this looks on eyes. Anyone treated this way looks robotic.

Red eye correction in iPhoto 1 through 6 was quite good, so it took me a while to realize how bad it became in iPhoto 7. I'm tempted to imagine an angry developer deliberately sabotaging the product, but I'll put money on incompetence any day.

I would now advise anyone with iPhoto 6 to stick with it. Don't upgrade.

I finally replace my decrepit Palm Tungsten E2 with a ...

Palm Tungsten E2.

Let me explain.

It's been four years since I wrote a review of the original Tungsten E. Three years since aggravation with the flaky T|E (bad switch) drove me to the short-lived SONY CLIE TJ-27. One year and nine months since the CLIE gasped its last and I reluctantly switched to the Tungsten E2 (same bad switch [2]):

...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.)...

That E2, I swore, would be my last Palm device. Something better had to come along ...

Something like the iPhone.

But the iPhone isn't ready. It doesn't meet my minimum set of requirements and version 2 is at least four months away. Too long for my crashy T/E2 and it's too short battery life.

I thought I might buy an HP Windows Mobile, but nobody I trust can tolerate WM. Blackberry definitely, but that would foreclose an iPhone. Blackberry is my fallback option, and I'm not ready to give up yet.

That left Palm. I needed a stopgap that I was pretty sure would work with minimal pain. So I bought another E2.


At least my old chargers, SD card, and styli work with the new device.

I backed up my Palm and Outlook data [1] and just synced. Most everything works, except I have to resync my KeySuite office data to get my work life onboard [3].

So, really, it was pretty painless. The new E2 appears identical to the old one, and they both run Garnet 5.4.7. The new one is definitely faster, but I can't see why it should be. I doubt they have different CPUs.

I should be safe now until February. If iPhone progress is as slow as I expect it to be, I might continue to use the T/E2 as my work PDA.


[1] That's not easy of course, you have to track down the secret location of Outlook's data file: "C:\Documents and Settings\jfaughnan\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook".

[2] I think even the best Palm of all time, the Vx (ok, so the i500 is a contender), had a bad switch. It tells you something important about Palm that they can't, or won't, spec a on/off switch that lasts two years.

[3] I've given up on any vendor ever delivering a product that would given me an integrated calendar/tasks/notes on the PDA and home, while synching only work related data at the office. It's not easy to do this and I'm the only customer who cares about this.

Windows 2003 Server for the home

Microsoft's Windows Home Server supports their excellent remote access software and provides an integrated backup and media server solution. Note it runs on a variant of the rock solid Windows 2003 Server OS, not Vista. So it's the only variant of XP Microsoft actively sells, though they aren't marketing WHS very hard - yet.

In the meantime Apple's Time Machine can't backup up to a (slow) USB drive hanging off an Airport.

I don't like it when Microsoft makes things I want. Windows Live Writer and Windows Home Server are annoying me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reverting from Office 2007 to Office 2003: MAPI32.DLL vs. MSMAPI32.dll

When my XP boxen go to heck, they do it all at once.

One one front I'm a defeated geek. I had to abandon hope for my "possessed" (really, it is) corporate Dell Latitude (XP SP2 +) -- I'm now wiping the drive and starting over. This is the first time in years of fighting with Microsoft's OSs that I've actually capitulated up and wiped a drive. There was something eating away at the process that authenticated me as an administrative user, with lots of curious side-effects.

The other problem seemed simpler. Access 2007 is a dud, and the rest of Office 2007 is nothing to write home about. It was time to revert a Windows 2003 server to Office 2003.

Easy, I thought. Just uninstall, restart to be safe, install Office 2003 Pro and then apply Office SP 3.

Wrong. I was getting "MAPI32.DLL is corrupt or the wrong version" error messages.

I hate those. They bring back bad memories of running Outlook and Eudora in the old days. MAPI32.DLL was one of Microsoft's tools to kill the competition.

I followed the old trick of locating and renaming MAPI32.DLL. No joy.

Turns out the error message is a fraud. The real problem is another file (emphases mine)
2. Locate and then open the following folder on your computer:
C:\Program Files\Common Files\System\Msmapi\1033
3. Right-click the MSMapi32.dll file, and then click Rename.
Note The file (Msmapi32.dll) that you are renaming differs from the file (Mapi32.dll) that is mentioned in the error message.
4. Type Msmapi32.old, and then press ENTER to rename the file.
5. Start Outlook 2003.
I want to cry. Really, the wrong file name in the error message? Oh, and the kb article is wrong. The bug isn't with the beta version of Office 2007, it's with any version.

That worked, but on Outlook startup I got two messages something like this:
ordinal 7867 cannot be found in mso.dll
Try googling on that one! Nothing I could find.

Outlook then said some app was messing it up and offered to repair the problem. That worked.

Now to go back to spend the rest of my day trying to restore my primary XP workstation. So much for my planned vacation day tomorrow.

People used to wonder why I didn't like Microsoft products. I don't get those questions any more. I read recently that some preposterous number of IT execs are actually considering replacing some of their XP machines with OS X or Linux. I assume they're venting and bluffing, that seem a true mission impossible.

On the other hand, if I were doing a small business startup, I'd be building around OS X workstations running XP in a VM. Use OS X whenever possible, but have XP around to run Office 2003 and any vertical apps that are essential. Whenever XP misbehaves, just delete the VM and stick in a new one.

PS. I checked what happened to the original MAPI32.DLL I'd pointlessly renamed. It was dated 3/25/2003. A new one was created of a slightly different size dated 2/17/2007. I also found yet another MAPI32.DLL dated 12/10/2002. It's not too early for a drink is it?

Update 1/4/07: Despite the above, I still couldn't SEND email. I use Outlook primarily from my laptop, so I let this problem fester for a while. Today I removed my Exchange configuration from that instance of Outlook and deleted an old pst file I was using. I then restored the Exchange connection. Now I can send, but I notice that 'cached exchange mode' is no longer available.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kindle: DRM only - no PDFs

The obvious knock on Amazon's Kindle is the DRM. If Amazon goes away, so do your books.

This isn't that big a deal for me. We long ago ran out of room for books, most books I buy I give away. I only keep a few, and those I could continue to buy as paper books.

Most of my books are ephemera. I'd need a house for books alone if I kept them all.

The bigger objection, for me, is that the Kindle can't read PDFs or any other eBook format:
Daring Fireball: DUM

...With iPods, while the iTunes Store is the only source for DRM-protected content that iPods support, you can easily fill your iPod with any popular non-DRM audio format other than WMA. Kindle supports a few other formats than its proprietary .azw, but the only way to use it for its main purpose — as a digital reader for popular mainstream books — is via its own proprietary DRM-protected format. I.e., Kindle actually is what ignorant critics have claimed regarding the iPod: a device designed to lock you in to a single provider of both hardware and digital content. You can easily and happily use an iPod without ever buying anything from the iTunes Store; without Amazon’s DRM-protected content, a Kindle is the world’s worst handheld computer...
I agree with DF. More than the DRM, it's the closure to any other format that marks this as a gift horse in need of dental inspection.

Update 11/19/07: DF might have been unfair. It's true they don't do PDF (a big negative), but Kindle can accept .DOC, txt and a few other formats.

On the other hand, you can't use it during takeoff and landing, or when you're stranded on the runway. It's electronic, remember? This alone would rule out the Kindle as a travel companion. Back to the paperback.

Costco: where Apple's discontinued iPods go

TUAW also reports they have pretty good warranty service:
5 reasons to love Costco during the gift-giving season - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW):

...Their slightly out-of-date iPods. Costco provides a reliable resource for anyone looking to buy older-generation iPods. They clearance them out with excellent prices and good availability. Costco currently carries iPod Nanos and Videos (which still work with free video out!), as well as the newer Classics, and Touches...

Microsoft's free memory test utility

I had no idea Microsoft provided this free memory test utility. I guess I'm too much in the OS X world these days. Many thanks to "enthusiast" for the pointer to this a set of similar test utilities.

Microsoft Online Crash Analysis - windiag

The Windows Memory Diagnostic tests the Random Access Memory (RAM) on your computer for errors. The diagnostic includes a comprehensive set of memory tests. If you are experiencing problems while running Windows, you can use the diagnostic to determine whether the problems are caused by failing hardware, such as RAM or the memory system of your motherboard. Windows Memory Diagnostic is designed to be easy and fast. On most configurations, you can download the diagnostic, read the documentation, run the test and complete the first test pass in less than 30 minutes.

To run Windows Memory Diagnostic, you must reboot your computer with the disk or CD-ROM on which you installed Windows Memory Diagnostic in the drive. After the reboot, Windows Memory Diagnostic will load and its interface will appear. After loading, the first test pass will begin, using the default standard test suite, and continue until complete, unless Windows Memory Diagnostic is either paused or exited. Once the first test pass is complete, Windows Memory Diagnostic will begin a second test pass using the same settings as before. Windows Memory Diagnostic will continue to run test passes until you exit...

I'm looking at this because my "possessed" (really, it is) corporate Dell Latitude (XP SP2 +) just gave me an error message on a huge file copy that was supposed have been fixed in Windows 2000:
You May Not Be Able to Copy Large Files on Computers That Are Running Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000

...Cannot copy [filename]: Insufficient system resources exist to complete the requested service...

Yes, this could be due some mysterious corporate monitoring software; many corporations are layering loads of cr*p atop an already unstable XP/antivirus environment, thereby taking XP into new realms of emergent behavior.

My money though is on flaky hardware. I'll try that Windiag and the Dell test suite that comes with their restore DVD.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Converting OS X from ISP IMAP to Google Apps IMAP

A few weeks ago I wrote about Google Gmail gets IMAP services. I'd already been using Gmail POP services on my accounts, but IMAP was a better choice for my wife. [1] I figured I'd migrate her from our no longer competent local ISP email service once things settled down a bit.

Today I migrated my wife's email from our newly annoying local ISP ( to our family private domain Google App domain.

It worked, but it's a bit tricky. I'll outline the process and some key things I learned, but I won't replicate the directions available elsewhere.

But first ...

A cautionary tale about IMAP hell - IMAP and local spam filters

Emily has been using IMAP on 3 OS X machines at our home for years. This seemed to work, but in retrospect there were severe problems I didn't recognize.
  1. Each client was doing spam filtering. She never tuned the local spam filters and was used to checking her ISP's spam filter, not the OS X spam filter. The result was a lot of email was being captured in the local junk folder of each machine -- then being deleted after 30 days. She never knew about these. She lost quite a few messages this way, including some from family and business.

  2. It gets worse. She could easily have 2 clients running simultaneously. Each polled the server every few minutes. Depending on which one got there first, email that was flagged by as spam would get pulled off the IMAP server and saved in one or the other of the local Junk folders. This hit me when I was testing her new email. A message I expected to appear never showed up -- because the downstairs machine had pulled it from the IMAP server and stored it in the local Junk folder!

  3. Sent mail, of course, piled up locally. (She cc'd herself on key sent messages, so this was more annoying that anything else)
Now on to the conversion ...

Converting from VISI IMAP to our family domain Google IMAP.
  1. Print out Google's directions and their recommended client settings [1, see below!]
  2. Scan the Google Gmail IMAP Access document. Especially read known issues.
  3. Read the ThirtyOne discussion for the key advice on "Properly sort Drafts, Deleted, and Sent mail in Apple Mail"
I did the conversion on 10.3.9 and 10.4.11 It worked similarly on both versions. A few tips from the experience:
  1. If you have a huge number of emails on an IMAP server this may take a very long time or your client may crash. This wasn't an issue for us as we'd been archiving emails locally (limited capacity on the old service).
  2. If you're changing from a previous IMAP service, just edit your old IMAP entry. Don't create a new one. You need to edit to the new settings. Then exit. Then start again. I had to do that on 10.4 and 10.3 on 3 different machines. It only worked when I would exit and restart. Actually, most IMAP configuration changes required a restart to complete properly.
  3. Turn off spam filtering in Remember our email Hell? Don't let that happen to you. Let Google do the spam filtering.
  4. The process created some empty local machine folders with names like "Junk" and "Draft". This was in addition to the IMAP folders. I confirmed they were empty and deleted them. They did not reappear on restart or with IMAP sync, they really were accidental junk.
  5. Follow the "ThirtyOne" directions about "Use This Mailbox For" so the Google Apps Sent folder vanishes and you see only the one "Sent" folder. Much nicer.
There's still one more thing. Google says "Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox" should be unchecked. This is fine when you're strictly doing IMAP. There's one Trash that appears and that's Google's. But, what if you're using storing email locally in an archival store? If you delete from that store, you may want a Trash.

On the family iMac, which is backed up, Emily does have archival email stores (see image above). On that machine only, I did check "Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox" and I set "use this mailbox for" so that Gmail Trash and Local Trash appear as "children" of the iconic Trash mailbox. (See ThirtyOne folder link, above.)

The screenshot to the top left of this post shows you the 10.4 view with both a set of local folders (we archive locally, drag and drop from the server to the local folders such as Save and "flylady") and the IMAP folders. [Gmail]/Sent has been mapped to the standard Sent folder, but "Starred" and "In" remain as folders under [Gmail].

It seems to be working very well. The process is strictly for geeks however.

PS. When Blogger says they only accept JPEG and GIF uploads, they lie. They accept PNG too.

[1] Google maps tags to IMAP folders. Since I've used tags with my email this is a bit annoying, so I'm staying with POP for now. My wife has never used Gmail or Google Apps Mail, so this isn't an issue for her.

[2] Google is not joking about the best way to set up Follow this advice:
Store draft messages on the server > checked

Store sent messages on the server > do NOT check

Store junk messages on the server > checked
Delete junk messages when > Never

Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox > do NOT check [jf: see "one more thing, above"]
Store deleted messages on the server > do NOT check
Update 11/19/07: I've posted on Gmail Groups: we're seeing multiple versions of messages saved to the Trash.

Update 12/21/07: Either Google changed something or a new router might have broken connectivity from one of my IMAP OS X clients. I tried following Google's OS X configuration settings and got nowhere. The fix is to disregard all their lovely client-specific instructions and use the bare bones geek-friendly directions provided for "other clients". The settings there differ from the OS X Mail settings.

Needless to say, Google is in its usual confused state.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Google's link search behavior and a Firefox request

It's annoying to have so many text entry fields at the top of a browser. There's one for a URL (which may act as a search field), one for search (which may allow specification of the search engine) and one embedded in the Google or WL toolbar (the latter can be set to search Google.

It's no wonder users get confused:
Google Tries to Fix Broken Links

....So people type URLs in the search box. Google changed the way it treats those queries last year: instead of showing information about a URL, it returns standard search results and the top result should be the page that corresponds to your query. This is a great way to avoid typosquatting sites, like or

But what happens when Google doesn't find a page from a site included in the index? Until recently, it returned the standard 'Your search did not match any documents.' Now it returns more helpful information: results from websites with similar addresses, suggestions for queries and a way to identify the page by restricting the search to the domain/subdomain from my initial query.
This is a great improvement that should be emulated. It's one more step in the "brute force" approach to broken links. We're stuck with "brute force" because the web never evolved a true directory service.

Now I'd like Google (or Firefox) to add an option such that when the URL matches a well ranked site then we just go to the site. We'd only see search results when the URL was off, that would be the current behavior.

This might have to be an advanced option since the variant behavior would be confusing, but it would let me live with a single top text field. One that also needs to mapped to command-L (OS X) or Ctrl-L (Win).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

iPhone UI unsuited to podcast navigation

My SONY car radio is pretty good with AAC and MP3 tunes, but it fails miserably with podcasts. The controls are designed for navigating a 3 minute tune, not a 60 minute podcast. At the very least they needed to have the fast forward accelerate over time.

I was sure Apple wouldn't mess up like that.

Wrong. - Scrubbing the iPhone Scrubber

.... the new scrubber bar is almost useless, especially for long tracks like podcasts where it’s impossible to move the playhead any less than a few minutes per hop...
At least there's a chance Apple will fix their dumb mistake in a future update.

Fixing Leopard stacks (via Japan)

I won't be walking the Leopard until 10.5.3, by which time Stacks might actually work out of the box, but I'm still going to make note of this hack:
TidBITS Problem Solving: A Simple Hack To Fix Leopard's Stacks:

...Zen balance is now restored to my Desktop and Dock, and I find myself once again using Stacks to organize my current projects. For smaller folders the single-click access to the stack is surprisingly more convenient than right-clicking was under Tiger. And sorting by date modified makes even large directories useful as stacks, since I usually want to access the most recent files anyway.
It's a really beautiful hack, and to me one of the neatest aspects is that it comes to us from a Japanese Mac fan.

Rumor has it that the Mac is starting to get a following in Japan. If true this will bring a new rush of invention and creativity to the platform.

Google Desktop Search bites the dust

I've posted frequently since January 2005 about various approaches to full text search in Windows XP in general and Outlook 2003 in particular.

My test environment is harsh. GBs of Outlook PST files. GBs of documents. Machine never rests. Hard drive always on the edge of meltdown.

The best solution, by an order of magnitude, was Lookout for Outlook. Fast, stable, and the bugs are manageable. Alas, it conflicted with some other Outlook Add-Ins (that environment reminds me of DOS TSR hell). Lookout also doesn't work in Outlook 2007 and it's definitely not supported anywhere, so I thought I needed to change. That was probably a mistake.

I used Yahoo Desktop Search for a while, but it was increasingly buggy and Yahoo finally abandoned it. It reverted back to X1 but it was even buggier when I tried their version.

Recently I decided Windows Desktop Search was my only option. It was slow and sucked performance, but it did all I needed and it incorporated Lookout's search syntax (see the help file). Unfortunately, my work machine has been possessed lately.

I'd removed about everything I could think of to try to stabilize my system, so it was time to remove WDS and try the only remaining contender Google Desktop Search.

Yech. This is what I wrote when I uninstalled it:
... I don't have enough control over indexing behavior. I don't have enough search syntax control - esp. for outlook tasks vs. email search. It was WAY slow to do a search against my multi-GB Outlook archives. It doesn't treat folders as first class search objects...
So now what do I do? I could buy a MacBook Pro and run XP in a VM, but Spotlight won't search PST files.

I need full text search - esp. of PST files.

I'm going to try Lookout again; I've gotten rid of most of my Outlook plug-ins / add-ins anyway.

Gee whiz, I miss my home OS X machines. I know people complain about Vista, but I'm not a great fan of any Microsoft products at the moment (though my problems, to be fair, may be hardware related). Even my beloved Windows Live Writer is buggier at the 1.0 release than it was in the last two beta versions!

Update 11/16/07: Joe Cheng (see comment) noted I hadn't submitted my WLW bug reports. They're really not awful, but they stood out relative to the perfection of the last beta. One is certainly a bug -- the category/tag names can be truncated randomly (last few characters are missing). The other two I need to prove are really bugs, which is a bit tough since my Dell laptop is definitely flaky.

I'm going to be more careful going forward about what I call a bug ...

Update 11/16/07b: The regressions (bugs) will soon be history. In the meantime don't use the Post to Weblog as Draft feature with Blogger.

The real iMovie '08 is Final Cut Express 4

iMove '08 should have been called iClip 1.0. It clearly wasn't an upgrade from iMovie HD, it was a new product.

At the time I wrote:

Gordon's Tech: Apple's iClip 1.0 (iMovie '08) shaft: what they should have done

...The honorable thing for Apple to have done would have been to provide iMovie HD users with an upgrade path to Final Cut Express (which might also require some updates to FCE, I'm not sure how serious Apple is about that product)...

Well, Apple didn't do the honorable thing for iMovie HD users, but the new Final Cut Express is out. Users of iMovie HD should probably forego the iLife 2008 update and buy FCE 4 instead.

I'd give them points if they were to provide a $100 upgrade path for users of iMovie HD, but I admit that would pretty hard to police. The new product is $200, so heavy users of iMovie HD will probably pay up.

Safari 3: very cool tech

Safari 3 is even more impressive than I'd realized: Surfin’ Safari: Ten New Things in WebKit 3.

Faster - esp. JavaScript. Less memory. More capabilities. Fewer bugs. SVG support (not fully optimized).

I'm going to test it with Blogger and Google Docs, Safari 3 beta didn't work too well there.

OS X 10.4.11: Macintouch reports and an update procedure

My policy on these bug fix updates is to wait a few days and check both the Macintouch Reader Reports: OS X 10.4.11 and the Apple Discussion List.

I follow a simple subset of Gruber's update procedure:

  1. Download the full cumulative update from Apple's site.
  2. Shut down and disconnect all external drives.
  3. Restart into my admin account (very plain account).
  4. Install update, don't run anything until it's done.
  5. Restart into my regular account.

I don't do an extra backup but I do check that my nightly backup completed correctly. If I'm feeling paranoid I do a test restore of a single randomly selected file.

There has been a longstanding bug with Apple's Updater (note, however, I have removed unsanity's application program enhancer from all my machines). There's a low but non-zero probability that it will botch an update; the probability rises sharply if you're doing anything during the update process or if another users is logged on at the same time. The restart reduces that risk substantially, as does the plain admin account.

I don't repair privileges. Everyone I read feels that's pointless.

Since I have no recognized problems with OS X 10.4.10 I'm in no great hurry to update*.

*iPhoto 7.1 is crashy. I hope the combination of 10.4.11 and iPhoto 7.11 will help.

Update 11/15/07: Some hints in Apple's release notes and user experiences suggest 10.4.11 may have the same trouble with input manager hacks (application program enhancer mostly) as 10.5 has. I recommend checking for APE as described in the APE uninstall guidelines. Then uninstall it.

After the update, if you absolutely can't live without APE, do your research prior to reinstalling the very latest version.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bento and the iPhone

FileMaker has discontinued FileMaker Mobile
As of the end of the business day, December 19, 2007, FileMaker, Inc. will no longer sell FileMaker Mobile.
That's a serious drag, because a database client for the iPhone is one of my high priority requirements.

On the other hand, FM has introduced the mysterious 10.5 only Bento "personal database" app:
Meet Bento — Learn More

... Bento is designed exclusively for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. It takes advantage of many of the new features of Leopard, including live linking to iCal data, core animation, advanced find, Time Machine backups, and multimedia features...
So will there by a companion iPhone application for Bento?

In the meantime, I'll be holding off on FileMaker updates. In fact, I'll be holding off on all Apple purchases until I see the iPhone SDK and the rumored major iPhone update in Feb 2008. Apple's strategy is simply murky ...

Safari: Ok, you win

I really thought Safari's web rendering engine was doomed, though I noted some caveats.

Ok, so even I can be wrong. Yes, I still use Firefox (kind of got away from Camino, though I use it on slower machines), but clearly WebKit is a winner.

The iPhone has established WebKit compatibility as a must-have for most web sites, but the use of WebKit in the Android platform has finished the deal.

This is from the Safari WebKit blog:

...Many of you have seen the announcement of the Android Mobile Platform ( followed by today’s release of the SDK ( We (Android) were happy to highlight the use of the WebKit engine as the rendering core for Android’s browser. We have been working on our mobile implementation of WebKit for quite some time. A few changes that we made to WebKit, which make it more suitable for mobile devices, have been submitted to the Tip Of Tree prior to the release of the SDK...

Another interesting change we made, which is not mobile specific, was to make the canvas tag platform independent. Again we are working on migrating this to SVN.
Most changes made to WebKit are clearly identified with a #ifdef ANDROID_[feature name]...

Canvas is the drawing environment for applications in WebKit. Knowing little, I think of it as "QuickDraw for the web".

Making Canvas "platform independent" sounds interesting.

Anyway, sorry WebKit. I was wrong, you were right.

If Google changes their Docs and Blogger sites to work better with Safari, I might even switch back. (Safari editing in Blogger causes a tag mess in the output.)

Update: See the comments for a persuasive explanation of what Canvas does and it's relation to Quartz. I'd been using "QuickDraw" as a metaphor rather than a technology, but it's very nice to get more background.

Incidentally, I write this blog primarily as a way to create notes for my own learning and reference, and secondarily as a way to "give back" to the net. I get enormous help from people who share knowledge freely, this blog is a small way to share what I know, and sometimes what I think (I mostly put opinion elsewhere).

I assumed readership would only come incidentally, as the result of a Google Search to solve a specific problem I'd written about.

Somehow, for reasons that are unclear to me, I seem to have acquired some rather knowledgeable readers. It's an unexpected pleasure.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lunarpages: a sign of the end-times for low end hosting solutions?

My blogs are posted through Google's Blogger, and they've been very reliable for months.

My older web pages however, and several domains, are hosted by Lunarpages. Lunarpages is a low-end to mid-range hosting provider with an above average reputation. I've used them for years and I've been reasonably satisfied.

They're not doing so well lately. They've been down 3 times in the past 10 days, and they've been offline all day today. Only their forums are working. Even several Google Apps domains, where Lunarpages only does redirects, are unavailable because the redirects have failed.

My guess is it's some kind of denial-of-service attack on their DNS servers. The worst part of it is they're maintaining complete radio silence -- no postings at all on their network status. Since their entire domain is unreachable I think that merits a comment or two.

Google has the technical team and infrastructure to handle a pretty massive BOT attack. Lunarpages clearly doesn't. I wonder if that vulnerability is going to wipe out the low end internet services market -- leaving only the big players.

I'll have to start moving off of Lunarpages. It'll take quite a while, but I'll start by moving my domains to the service Google uses for the Google Apps domains I have. The last step will be finding a new home for my legacy web pages.

Update 11/14/07: It looks like this was two problems. Lunarpages had been failing due to DNS attacks, but the failure of the past week was a routing problem with the service my Hotel was using. I didn't have time to debug the routing problem, so I can't say who was ultimately responsible.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Terrific review of Google Search 2007 - power user techniques

I hadn't realized how much personalization of search results Google does now. No wonder I can find my own blog material so easily!
Biases and Restrictions in Google Search:

...5. If you don't like Google's personalized results you can log out from your Google account, disable the Web History service or turn off the personalization bias by adding &pws=0 to Google's URL. Note that the parameter is not persistent and it only works for the current search.

6. To restrict your search to the high-quality (?) web sites included in the Open Directory Project, you can append &cat=gwd/Top to Google's URL or perform your search at Google Directory...
There's lots more. It's definitely worth studying this and keeping a link to the reference.

I tried the &pws=0 parameter when searching for my own stuff, and it was neat to see the search results change. It wasn't a large change, but in general my stuff moved down the main page one step.

XP Demotion: from Administrator to Debugger User

My corporate Dell laptop has been behaving badly. As far as I can tell, it's possessed.

Today our noble and long suffering sysadmin took a look at my privilege settings.

The one local and two network admin accounts on the Dell had been switched to Debugger User. Apparently, it's going around the office.

As of 11/09/07 a search on Microsoft's site doesn't turn up any useful explanation. The current theory is that it's a .NET bug.

The way the security privileges had been reconfigured should, in theory, work. It's not, however, standard.

Anything that's not standard in XP is in the danger zone - and it's getting worse. My best guess is that Microsoft has stopped seriously debugging XP, and every security update and/or installation of new Microsoft software drives XP closer to entropic collapse.

Vista SP 1, not coincidentally, is starting to look better.

I am tempted to buy a MacBook Pro for the office and run Outlook and Access in an XP VM. I could use OS X for all my other tools, and if the system started misbehaving I'd delete the VM and restore from backup...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Phil Bradley's Top 10 Useful Web Tools

A terrific list. I use many of Phil's choices, but Netvibes and PageFlakes are new to me:
Phil Bradley's weblog: Top 10 Useful Web Tools from Pandia:

...Netvibes is their preference for a start page. I use Netvibes as my backup system on Internet Explorer, but I'm very firmly in the PageFlakes camp here. More flexible, better options, easier to use, larger user base ...
I use Picasa Web Albums instead of Flickr -- though lately Picasa WA has really been annoying me. Otherwise I'm aligned with Phil in all tool choices.

Fixing a broken Windows XP Remote Desktop Connection install

This was so much harder than it should have been.

My home copy of XP Pro no longer had a Program shortcut to Remote Desktop Connection. It wasn't in Programs\Accessories\Communications or anywhere else I could find.

On the other hand RDC was installed. I tried reinstalling from the XP CD (see help for XP) but it said a newer version was already in place.

I tried looking for a way to uninstall RDC thinking I could then reinstall and retrieve my shortcut - I couldn't find any way to do that.

I tried searching my hard drive for the file and navigating windows folders, but I couldn't find it.

Eventually I found Remote Desktop Connection (Terminal Services Client 6.0) for Windows XP (KB925876) and installed that. It went well, but it didn't create a favorite/shorcut!

Well, it turns out that c:\windows\system32\mstsc.exe is the remote desktop client (tsc probably stands for terminal server client).

Isn't that pretty bloody obscure.

So I created a shortcut to that and now everything is fine. Presumably I accidentally deleted the original when cleaning up my start folders (specifically, I moved a lot of stuff out of the "all users" folder to protect it from the children).

How did I figure this one out? I had to find another XP machine and identify where the shortcut went on that machine. There was no other way.

Incidentally, mstc.exe has some very obscure command line options:

ConnectionFile : Specifies the name of an .rdp file for the connection.

/v:server : Specifies the remote computer to which you want to connect.

/console : Connects to the console session of the specified Windows 2000 Server.

/f : Starts Remote Desktop connection in full-screen mode.

/w:width /h:height : Specifies the dimensions of the Remote Desktop screen.

/edit : Opens the specified .rdp file for editing.

Remarks ...

.rdp files are stored for each user as hidden files in My Documents.
When I use RDC on a dual monitor setup, full screen mode is limited to the size of my primary monitor. I wonder if I could use the /w and /h options to set it to the size of my larger secondary monitor ...

Searching: Google and Yahoo are very different from Microsoft

Today a quite heavily used and very senior Mac site noticed that almost all their search referrals come via Google:
TidBITS Inside TidBITS: Google Used 70 Times More than Yahoo:

... What could possibly account for Google's utter dominance in our statistics? I know the crawlers come through all the time, and indeed, searching Yahoo and the others for the same keywords used in the popular Google searches brings up our articles. Do users of Yahoo and the others just not like us?
Very strange. My first guess is that Google Analytics has a bug in it, but that would be one heck of a bug.

In any case I'm posting on this because I noticed something curious the other day that could be related.

I used the search string "Gordon's Tech" on Microsoft Live Web search. My blog didn't appear anywhere in the first few pages. Oh well, I thought, I can just type the URL. I have no delusions of fame after all.

On impulse though, I tried "Gordon's Tech" (phrase search, so with the quotes) on Google. The blog is the number one result. It's also, for that matter, the number one result on Yahoo (albeit with an older URL that still works).

I don't think this accounts for the TidBITS oddity, but it is a worthwhile reminder that Microsoft's search results can be very different from those of Google or Yahoo. So if you don't find what you expect on Google, try Microsoft.

Of course you can guess which search engines I approve of.

Word processing on OS X: my personal choices

A colleague asked me about what I use for word processing on the Mac. I started to respond, then realized it could be a quick post.

Briefly, I use Nisus Writer Express (NWE). It uses .RTF or .DOC as its native file format; that one absolute requirement of mine wiped out all the alternatives except Microsoft Word -- and I don't like Word. NWE is Cocoa native and works well with OS X services, it does the basics well. It has a great UI and has been fast and reliable in my experience. My wife uses it without any problems.

I haven't written any very long documents with it however.

Nisus has recently released Pro version of NWE. I'll eventually upgrade to, but it's a low priority for me. If the Pro version had a true outliner I'd probably have done it by now.

Nisus does a fair job importing simple Word documents, but even the Pro version can't import a Word Table of Contents. That's disappointing, since I use Word TOCs quite a bit. Nisus is, however, a much more agreeable word processing tool than Word. For one thing, the Styles actually make sense.

OS X 10.4 ships with TextEdit which uses a "package" version of RTF, but it's too feature sparse. The version in 10.5 is said to be closer to a true word processor and it has support for Microsoft's XML and the ODF file formats (inherited from 10.5). I've no experience with 10.5 though -- and I won't for months to come.

Pages, part of Apple's iWork suite, uses a proprietary Apple XML file format. That rules it out for me.

The only remaining alternatives are Word for Mac or Word 2003/2007 running in a Win2K or XP VM (VMWare or Parallels).

If all my machines were MacTel and I didn't use Nisus, I'd probably run Word 2003 in my Win2K VM. The tyranny of the .DOC file format should not be underestimated.

Update 2/28/2008: I've unfortunately become aware of Nisus Achilles heel. It can't compress embedded images. So a 3 MB JPEG embedded in a Nisus document produces a 20MB file -- Nisus stores the image as an uncompressed bitmap. Word compresses embedded images, and allows them to be clipped. I'm curious to see what Pages does.

Update 10/13/2008: When I moved my machines to 10.5 I also upgraded to Nisus Writer Pro. I haven't tested to see if it still has the bitmap problem, but it does have other issues. In a document where I used huge fonts (visually impaired user) Nisus was slow to redraw some pages. An image positioned using Nisus Writer Pro vanished when the document was opened in an older version of Nisus Writer Express. I have also become aware of how much I miss a drawing tool layer. AppleWorks drawing tools were particularly good, they really played to the strengths of AppleWork's compound document model. I might take another look at iWork, though that is a return to proprietary document formats. I do wish the rest of the world cared more about document longevity!

Apple's temperature problems: iMac again

This is very disappointing. The 1st generation flat panel iMacs had very serious heat problems, but Apple did come up with a passable redesign. The Intel switch was supposed to make this a thing of the past.

It appears that Apple forgot that lesson rather quickly:
AppleInsider | Freezing iMacs may be victims of hardware, not software

...This and other reports provide increasing support for beliefs that the lockups and related symptoms are caused by excessive heat inside the all-in-one chassis. Users often report graphical corruption in the operating system as a precursor to the freezes -- a sign some PC users recognize of a video card pushed beyond its safe operating temperature. In some instances, the visual artifacts become increasingly likely as time goes on....
Once again, proof that you never want to buy the first generation of any Apple hardware or software product - no matter how glowing the reviews. Apple does not have a "culture of quality" -- so customers need to wait for early adopters to do basic quality control.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

SpiderOak: online backup for Mac and Windows

SpiderOak provides online backup, unlimited public file share and differential backup (only changed parts of files). Cost $10/month but limited to 20 GB. Requires a proprietary client.

Interesting, but I don't trust their software enough to expose my machine to it. I'll keep an eye on them though, maybe when they've been around a while ...

It's a bit odd that they don't tell you how to sign up for their free 2GB service. I suspect it's done through the client but they might mention that. I suspect they'll clarify that omission pretty soon.

Microsoft LifeCam software progress: now the blue screen can't be read

I bought a Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 over a year ago. That was before I realized the quality consumer desktop videoconferencing market was dead on Windows. (Ok, there may be an rare exception.)

At the time it installed without a problem on my home XP machine, but on my Dell Latitude D620 it was another story:

Gordon's Tech: Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 - personal impressions

... 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...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.

Well, I didn't get back to it in September 2007, but I tried again today, 13 months later. I downloaded the latest XP SP 2 LC 1.4 installer.

I'm pleased to report that Microsoft has made a lot of progress in the past year. Now the blue screen vanishes so quickly it can't be read, and the system doesn't let me generate a bug report on restart.

I think there's something buggy with the video in my Dell laptop. Once again I miss my Macs.

I wonder if Microsoft is going to decide they need to buy Dell and emulate Apple ...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Windows Live Writer is out of beta

The best blogging tool on any platform is now out of beta:
Finally Final! « whateverblog

We’re thrilled to bring you the final version of Windows Live Writer 2008–our first non-beta release!
It's an excellent product. Ecto 3 beta is probably the closest OS X alternative, and it's much less robust than WLW (editor is buggy, it doesn't download a full tag set, etc).

Free, too. I use it extensively with Blogger and Sharepoint 2007.

Don't miss the Firefox integration. (Unsurprisingly that doesn't appear on the page, but surprisingly it does exist.)

OS X 10.5 Leopard firewall really is broken

I thought the early reports might be exaggerated, but it really is broken:

TidBITS Safe Computing: Leopard Firewall Takes One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

...These are all problems Apple is perfectly capable of fixing and I'll be surprised if they don't address them sooner rather than later. Until then, I still recommend you activate the firewall in Block All Incoming Connections mode so you don't break applications. If you need to enable file sharing or other remote access, you'll need to either select the Set Access method, or turn your firewall off. One last option is to use ipfw and manually configure firewall rules, or use a GUI tool like the free WaterRoof, and skip the Leopard firewall completely. In WaterRoof, just click Rules Sets to pick your rules, and then go to Tools > Startup Script and install a startup script to run those rules when you reboot.

I originally thought I'd go to Leopard with 10.5.1, but now I'm settling in for a significantly longer wait. Maybe 10.5.3. It looks like I was right last February when I guessed they were a year away from ready.

Monday, November 05, 2007

iPhoto 7.1 (iLife 2008): better except for the red eye

After a few months of intermittent use and two weeks of regular use, I think  iPhoto 7.1 is quite a nice upgrade. Apple fixed a lot of iPhoto annoyances, though they again decided not to support Library merges.

There's one odd regression however. Red eye correction in previous versions of iPhoto was great -- significantly better than Aperture in my hands.

Now it closely resembles Aperture's red eye correction -- and I don't like it. Pupils are showing odd dark gray blobs rather than a reasonable facsimile of their true form and color.

Ouch. That's a heck of a regression.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Leopard Tip: How to create Mail To Dos from messages

Leopard Tip: How to create Mail To Dos from messages

Reasons to wait for OS X Leopard 10.5.3

Rob Griffith has five reasons to install Leopard now and 5 reasons to wait. He works in the Mac business, so he's obliged to pretend it's an even proposition.

He's not trying too hard though. It's clear that the scale tips to waiting, and he didn't even mention the inevitable OS bugs that we're only starting to discover (see update 10/5/07). Indeed, reading his review, I'm thinking 10.5.3 sounds pretty good. That would probably be the summer of 2008.

I was familiar with most of his list, but surprised by some of the loss of customization he describes (emphases mine):
Macworld: Editors' Notes: Upgrade or not?

... More so than any other OS X release, OS X 10.5 controls the users’ ability to customize their environment. Consider many of the interface elements I’ve listed above. Given that some of these are polarizing features, it would be nice if users had control over them. But they don’t. Don’t like the 3-D dock? Sorry, you’re stuck with it, unless you move your dock to the side, where it morphs into a 2-D dock....

Want larger text in the Finder’s sidebar, because you’ve got a high-dot-pitch screen? Sorry, can’t do that. Do you prefer Tiger’s docked folder behavior over the new Stacks in OS X 10.5? Sorry, not an option. (Hint: if you like the old behavior better, check out DragThing, which lets you easily create hierarchical folders in docks.)

Want Time Machine backups to run more often or less often than hourly? Nope, not easily possible. Want to view more than the Name, Kind, and Date Modified columns in your Spotlight search results? You got it, not possible. Dislike the spacey 3-D interface on Time Machine, and wish you could have something without a flying star field? Get used to hyperspace, as it’s here to stay. Dislike the blue-gray folder icons? You can change them one at a time, as you could in previous OS X releases. But changing the default folders takes much more work and help from a third party. Mail has a cool new notes feature…but if you create a to-do out of something on that note, that entry is then highlighted in a garish orange color. Hopefully you’re a fan of garish orange, too, because you can’t change it. Want to change the size or typeface of the fonts in iChat’s Buddy List window? You got it—nope...
When 10.5 was delayed from Feb 2007 I was pretty darned sure it wasn't going to be ready until Feb 2008. When a project that big slips, it usually slips by at least a year. So I was very surprised when 10.5 shipped in October 2007 -- as predicted and to pretty good reviews. Apple's developers must have busted three guts to hit that date. I'm hoping the missing user options is a sign of smart engineers throwing everything non-essential overboard, rather than deluded product management. If it's indeed a measure of informed desperation we will see better user support by 10.5.3.

The inability to adjust font sizes particularly bothers me. Every year there are more decrepit boomers with crummier vision, and more LCDs with finer dot pitch. We need as much font adjustment as we can get. It looks like we're still at least a year away from resolution independent UIs in OS X, so Apple shouldn't be locking their font sizes.

I'll add yet another 10.5.3 motivator to the list. Tiger has long had marginal support for Windows file shares. The UI for specifying a workgroup is very obscure [1] and the SMB browser often fails [2]. OS X 10.5 was supposed to do much better, but in 10.5.0 it's about the same:
Special Report: Mac OS X Leopard Cross-Platform Issues:

Daniel Hoit:

"Samba based services are updated to reflect revisions to the open source Samba project in Leopard, and are not a step backwards. The addition of packet signing alone is a huge and welcome addition. As for the poster's complaints regarding WINS workgroup and Finder browsing, the options are still there in Leopard. You can configure the WINS information in System Preferences/Network/ Advanced/WINS section. Choose a workgroup, and choose a wins server if you have one on your network. The sidebar also has an 'All...' option that should be the equivalent of Tiger's 'Network' browsing option in the Finder. In my experience, network browsing has always been a little iffy. Its almost always been more reliable to access SMB servers through a command-K connect to server dialog, and then bookmark the server for easier access later. YMMV, but in the least Leopard doesn't downgrade anything in the SMB services area....
I'll probably have to upgrade FileMaker Pro 8 when I go to 10.5, so it's going to be an expensive proposition. The cost of updating older but perfectly functional apps is another reason to wait for 10.5.3.

Now I do really want the 10.5 screen control features, but I've noticed that nobody boasts about how fast and elegant this is, and nobody compares this to Microsoft's superb Remote Desktop Protocol. That tells me the performance is as crummy as every other VNC implementation I've seen. VNC is a joke compared to RDP [3]. So it's still going to be very good for maintaining my mother's Mac Mini, but it's not absolutely compelling (yet).

Now I think 10.5 will be a terrific OS, but 10.4.10 is pretty darned good. Unless Apple does something amazing with iPhone-specific features in 10.5 I'll keep moving my upgrade date further into 2008.


[1] Utility:Directory Access application

[2] You have to hit Cmd-K in Finder and create an SMB shortcut: smb://abaton;jfaughnan@montreal/c$ is the shortcut for accessing my C: drive in Workgroup "abaton" machine "montreal" with username "jfaughnan" - keychain remembers the password but you can also add it cleartext in the shortcut.

[3] I think there's some relationship to Citrix code in there somewhere. Citrix/RDP are two areas in which the Windows world spanks OS X. Windows has some other advantages: speech recognition software and server virtualization. That's about the end of the Windows advantage list however.

Update 10/5/07: Speaking of bugs to be discovered:

In a quick test here at MacInTouch, we have confirmed a critical data-loss bug in Leopard's Finder.
In our test, we used Command-drag to move several large folders from a MacBook internal drive to an attached FireWire 800 external drive. While the folders were copying, we disconnected the FireWire cable. The folders disappeared from both drives...
This bug was documented by Tom Karpik...

Yep. 10.5.3.

Update 10/6/07: Macintouch has more details on the move bug. They'd found a similar bug in a version of OS X 10.1. Hmm. 10.5.4?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Removing the Adobe Acrobat Toolbar from Outlook

Adobe products are reasonably obnoxious bits of software. I've removed all traces of Adobe Acrobat from my Macs, but I use Acrobat extensively on my XP boxes. So I need to live with Adobe's insanely broken updater there, but the stupid Adobe toolbars drive me batty. It appears in odd places in Outlook and IE, eating up precious vertical space.

You can't use the Add-In control to eliminate this sucker, and Adobe obnoxiously refuses to respect the "toolbar off" setting. (Could be Microsoft's flaw too -- MSFT can't do toolbars.)

Here's how to remove it:

Removing the Acrobat Toolbar from Outlook

Tip: you can use this method to remove other toolbars, such as the Avery toolbar (AveryAddIn.Connect).
When you install Adobe Acrobat, a toolbar is added to Word and Outlook. This toolbar can prevent you from rearranging the toolbars in Outlook (your arrangement won't stick between restarts) and for most people, serves no useful purpose. You have two ways to deal with this...

The Add/Remove modify install option is the standard, but the article describes regisry edits that may work for other obnoxious products.

Python has Apple Events support - from Apple

AppleScript: Scripting Bridge is an Apple product for sending Apple Events from Python.

I wonder how Python compares to AppleScript now as an OS X scripting language. I certainly prefer Python's syntax and scoping rules.

Also, Apple has at last updated their AppleScript documentation site. It was about 8-10 years out of date until recently. I'd assumed Apple was giving up on AppleScript, perhaps replacing it with an Apple version of Python. They've obviously decided to make another go of AppleScript, but it will be interesting to see how well Python and Scripting Bridge work.

Update: Be sure to check out the comments on the historic third party support for Python Apple Events and the associated links.