Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't buy your iPhone yet

This is why I decided I wouldn't buy an iPhone until I saw exactly what the SDK would be:
iPhone/iPod SDK: Apple to approve, distribute apps, limit add-ons

...No accessory connectivity. Under current plans, SDK developers will be prevented from interfacing directly with Dock Connector-based accessories connected to the iPhone or iPod touch—a decision that we are told could cripple development of new accessories such as physical keyboards, traditional add-ons, and more ambitious, creative accessories such as Delphi’s iPhone car control prototype. One source described this limit as a guarantee that SDK-developed applications would be nearly as limited as current web-based ones, while consuming more of the device’s storage capacity. Yet integrated iPhone or iPod touch features such as the phone, Wi-Fi, and camera will be developer-accessible, certainly permitting development of programs that weren’t possible before. It is presently unclear whether Bluetooth 2.0, which is included in the iPhone but crippled to permit only monaural phone call streaming, will be opened to permit stereo audio streaming and data functionality as well.

Sources told iLounge that the collective impact of Apple’s decisions will be to control and stifle third-party development at a critical juncture in iPhone and iPod history, limiting what could be an open, thriving Mac-like collection of applications and accessories to a smaller, more stagnant iPod-like controlled environment. Consequently, a source suggests, developers who “jailbrake” iPhones and iPods to develop applications will be at an advantage relative to those who use Apple’s official tools...
No keyboard. No GPS. Nasty. All because Apple needs DRM control of movies, and has to block digital outflow by the port. I suspect they'll lockout Bluetooth for the same reason.

I want to see what it will be possible to sync across the dock. If sync is disabled I may decide to wait for the gPhone.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Use your headphones for iPhone calls -- with a Griffin SmartTalk adapter

I figured that when I buy an iPhone I'd also buy a Bose Communicator kit to go with it. Turns out there's a better, cheaper option:

Macworld | Review: iPhone headphone adapters

...The answer is to buy an iPhone headphone adapter, offering an iPhone-compatible mini plug on one end and a button and microphone on the other end, along with a place to plug in whatever headphones (or speakers, or cassette adapters — basically anything with a mini plug) you might have, as well as a clip to attach it to some part of your clothing close enough to your mouth to pick up your end of the conversation...

...The best of the bunch was the Griffin SmartTalk, a real bargain at $20. The SmartTalk’s microphone/clicker module is excellent, a compact block with a small integrated clip. The module was the least obtrusive of the ones I tested, and its button was easy to double-click when I wanted to switch tracks. Its microphone also offered the best sound quality of any of the adapters we tested, providing clear sound with a minimum of noise. The SmartTalk’s cord is wrapped in nylon, which makes it feel a bit classier than the rubber coating on the other adapters.

Besides being half the price of the Bose kit, the SmartTalk works with any headphone set. The Bose kit only works with newer versions of their headphones.

I don't think this would work all that well if the output was going to a car stereo though. Be real tough to avoid feedback with that setup ...

Microsoft Access: Snapshot and Dynaset recordset queries - what the heck are they?

Using Microsoft Access is a bit like being in an Indiana Jones movie. There are dark and mysterious ancient temples to explore, hidden treasures, snakes, spiders and the occasional death dealing trap. The scrolls that would explain everything are all losts in the mists of time, before there was a web.

It keeps me from boredom.

Yesterday a complex and powerful set of nested subqueries began retuning unpredictable results. Yes, I'd again broken Microsoft Access. It seems that Access was getting variable results depending on the sequence of subquery execution, such that it couldn't decide if a value were NULL or not.

So I tried to figure out if setting the sub-query(s) (recordset) to behave as a "Dynaset", "Dynaset (lazy update)" or "Snapshot"  would make any difference.

First, of course, I looked for documentation on what the differences are. It's not in the Access Help files. Google found precious little at first -- one of my page one results was a post I wrote in January 2006!)

This search worked better: recordset, dynaset, snapshot.

From it I got a few references:

O'Reilly Network -- Access Design and Programming Tips

But it is important to remember that DAO (Data Access Object) provides several forms of recordsets: table-type, dynaset, snapshot, and forward-only. The point here is that if a snapshot or forward-only recordset will suit your purposes, you should use it, because it will be more efficient and therefore your code will run more quickly.

Snapshot recordsets are faster to create and to access than dynaset recordsets, but they use more memory because the entire record is stored in memory. The downside is that you cannot update the records in a snapshot recordset.

Forward-only recordsets are like snapshot recordsets, but you can only move forward through the recordset.

Ultimately, the only way to tell whether you will save significant processing time is to try the various suitable recordset types in a given situation. The point here is to not fall into the habit of always creating a table-type or dynaset-type recordset.


DAO Object Model The Definitive Reference Chapter 8 Recordsets Collection and Recordset Object

...There are five types of recordsets: Table-type, Dynaset, Snapshot, Forward-only, and Dynamic. (See the Type property section for a discussion of recordset types.) Each Recordset object contains a collection of Fields that represents the fields in the underlying table(s). You can list the field names and values, but you will just get the values in the current record, unless you first go to a particular record. For example, the following code moves to the last record in a recordset and lists the field names and values for that record:...

Recordset Property Summary which shows almost NO difference between Snapshot and Dynaset.

But then we come to the precious table 8-13:

Dynaset: Represents a table or an updatable query. Supports the AddNew, Delete, and Find* methods, but not the Seek method.

Snapshot: A read-only recordset; useful for finding data or printing. Does not allow updating, except in the case of an updatable Snapshot in an ODBCDirect workspace. Supports the Find* methods.

Elsewhere I read

1. Can be formed by large number of tables resulting in Virtual Tables.
2. Does not store on the Machine but occupy temporary memory that is RAM.
3. The changes made in the database can be reflected in the this.
4. Allows operations like edit and update.

1. Creates table on the machine and occupies space of the memory.
2. Does not allow edit and update operations.
3. Can be used for small amount of data.

Another source (lost) said a Snapshot is often quite a bit faster in a query than a Dynaset, but the speed requires more memory use.

By extension of the above, I imagine "Dynaset (lazy update)" is an extension of Dynaset with some of the speed of a Snapshot but the possibility of doing updates (delayed or lazily).

So, after all that, did changing some of my subqueries to "Snapshot" fix the problem of the "Schrodinger's Cat" results that were sometimes NULL and sometimes NOT NULL?

Yes, it did. The results were much faster too.

Google Sites versus Google Page Creator

Google Sites was launched today for all Google Apps:
Google Sites Launched

Google finally launched a service that uses JotSpot's technology: Google Sites. The new service is a part of Google Apps and allows you to create web sites collaboratively. 'People can work together on a Site to add file attachments, information from other Google applications (like Google Docs, Google Calendar, YouTube and Picasa), and new free-form content. Creating a site together is as easy as editing a document, and you always control who has access, whether it's just yourself, your team, or your whole organization,' explains Google.

Google offers templates, a rich-text editor, 10GB of storage for each Google Apps account and integration with other Google services so you can embed gadgets, calendars, spreadsheets, presentations, photo slideshows and videos. You can invite people to collaborate or just view a site and you can also publish the site so that anyone can view it.
I played with it on my MN Special Hockey Google Apps domain.

Some quick impressions:
  1. The basics are very similar to Page Creator (PC), but it has more facilities for collaboration and change tracking. There are more and better editing tools. It's Wiki-influenced but it feels more like a web page authoring environment than a Wiki. I think you can use it for both.
  2. I didn't see that file management (attachments) was any better than PC. I hope I'm missing something. File management in PC is awful.
  3. It appears to support Safari, PC doesn't.
  4. Like PC you can have multiple sites per domain but you have much more control over access and what becomes public.
  5. I haven't figured out the Documents integration yet, not sure it's that well integrated.
I think for most sites it will replace Page Creator. There's no migration yet from existing Page Creator sites however, so today you'd have to recreate all PC work in Google Sites. I hope Google will provide some guidance eventually, I won't be moving anything yet.

I'm glad to see a replacement coming from PC, so this one's good news.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Image drag and drop doesn't work any more with FileMaker Pro

I think I used to drag and drop images from the Finder to FileMaker container field. The Help file says it works.

Except it doesn't.

This post is typical:
Nabble - Filemaker Pro - Talk - Drag and Drop to Container Fields: "I have Leopard and FMP 8.5. Is it my system or is it in general that one cannot drag and drop a jpg from the desktop into a container field? I know I can right click on the container field and insert a picture, but is there an easier way?"
I suspect this broke years ago.

Jeez. Sometimes I think I'm the last software user left on earth. Half the stuff I try is either broken or not usable.

Update 2/28/2008: It sort of works in Filemaker/Windows. Instead of displaying an image, however, it displays an icon that when clicked can show an image. So it might be something that worked in an earlier version of Filemaker but broke a version or two ago. I have read that FM's code base is in pretty bad shape -- despite their big Pascal to C migration of a few years back.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ejecting a stuck CD: when only open firmware works

Apple has no shame.

If Apple had a sense of shame, CDs would not get stuck inside Macs so often. It's been a problem as long as I remember, but it got much worse when Apple eliminated the old paper-clip manual eject method.

My best guess is that there's some cult around software control of hardware that makes it impossible for Apple engineers to implement non-stick CDs.

Recently I ran into a stuck CD/DVD that failed all the steps in this 2004 MacFixIt article on my 10.4.11 iMac. My comments are in square brackets.
Mini-Tutorial: Ejecting media in Mac OS X: Removing 'stuck' CDs/DVDs - MacFixIt

From time-to-time, removable media (including CDs, DVDs and others) can refuse to eject via the normal Mac OS X methods -- pressing the keyboard eject key; using the Command-E keyboard combination; selecting the item in the Finder and clicking the Eject button next to its name; dragging the item to the trash; or pressing the F12 key. [jf: failed, of course]

... The first and simplest method, if you only want to unmount a single volume on the disk, is to use Disk Utility, located in Applications/Utilities. In Disk Utility, simply select the volume you want to unmount and click Eject. [jf: this usually works, but it failed this time]

... In some cases holding down a connected mouse button at startup will cause a misbehaving optical drive to eject its media. [jf: nope. I have a wireless mouse though, I think this needs a wired mouse. Holding the click key on a MacBook is supposed to work as well]

... If you have a Mac that will not startup properly and has a stuck disc, try booting into Open Firmware by holding down Command, Option, O key and F key during startup. After booting into Open Firmware, type the command eject-cd. [jf: Sort of. "eject-cd" just produced an error message, but "eject cd", after a delay of about 30 seconds, worked.]

Using the Terminal There are two commands that can be used in the Terminal (located in Applications/Utilities) which can be used to force disk ejection:

The first command to try is drutil tray eject. Simply type in this command and press return. [jf: Failed.]

The other method takes a little more work but can work in instances where the first method fails.

1. Type the command drutil list into the Terminal and press return ... [jf: Failed. It never returned.]
2. Use the command drutil tray eject 1.
In the above command, the number "1" should be replaced with whatever drive number you obtained in the first step...
Yech. Only the Open Firmware worked in my situation, but I could have tried connecting my original iMac mouse and booting with the button held down.

I think if one lets Disk Utility sit for a half hour or so it can work even in these most severe situations.

So what was the problem?

One lousy fingerprint on the CD. We washed the CD and it worked perfectly.

Apple is shameless.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

MacWorld iPhoto tips - pretty good

iPhoto doesn't get that much attention these days -- though heaven knows it's not feature complete (Library merge anyone?). So we don't see as many iPhoto tips as we used to.

This is a one I didn't know:
Macworld | Master your image library can assign keywords—and even create new ones—without displaying the Keywords pane. The secret is to choose View: Keywords, and then click in the blank area beneath a photo’s thumbnail. (If you’ve also chosen to display photo names or ratings, click beneath the name or rating.) Now start typing. If you start to type an existing keyword, iPhoto offers to complete it for you; press the return key to accept iPhoto’s suggestion. If you type a new keyword, iPhoto adds it to your list of keywords and assigns it to the photo...
Dang, that's good. The article is well worth a read.

Google opening up GrandCentral

I've had a GrandCentral number for a year or two, but I've had trouble making it work for me. The real value proposition is for the many people who's corporate cell phone is their only phone. They give friends and family the GrandCentral number, and don't with a corporate phone used for personal business. You give friends and family the GrandCentral number, and just switch it when your job changes.

Google's slowly opening GrandCentral to new subscribers:
Blogger Buzz: GrandCentral: receive calls and post voicemail with your blog

...With GrandCentral, a free service from Google, you can receive phone calls and post voicemails right on your blog. Though GrandCentral is currently in a private beta test, bloggers can skip the wait and get a free account immediately...
Anyone with a Gmail account can get a Google blog in an instant, so the service is now open for new customers.

I'll have to see if they've done anything to make it work for me. I expect the kids will get GrandCentral numbers eventually.

MacBook screen alignment: Apple doesn't do hinges

Hinges are not sexy.

Maybe that's why Apple laptop hinges are so problematic.

My iBook hinge died slowly and painfully at about age 3 -- pretty much everyone's did. The iBook lives in the kitchen now, with a scrawled above the display warning "do not close!".

I recall similar problems going back eons, though my PowerBook 165 hinges seemed to last.

Recently my 2-3 yo MacBook screen has been drifting out of alignment with the base. It's off enough that when the machine is closed there's enough angulation to produce a 2-3 mm overhang at the margins. I'm not alone, this post shows a picture of the same problem.

It's worrisome given the iBook history.

I haven't found any fixes yet. There are two screws by the hinges. I tightened them up and I imagined the alignment improved, but for all I know the screws are cosmetic (Apple does that).

Dell messes up a lot of things, but they do have nice hinges ...

Update 6/23: Recently I spotted one of our kids shutting the MacBook with the power cord trapped between screen and base. It's a tough, thin cord, just the right location and shape to twist the hinges. The cord it twisty, and it's not hard to get it trapped. A quick hard lid closing on the tough cord would warp the hinges. I suspect this could be a contributing factor ...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Obnoxious old Epson Scan bug: EPSON Scan cannot be started

I've just installed an Epson Perfection V700 scanner with Epson Scan software dated Jan 2008.

It has the same bug referenced on Macintouch 3 years ago:
Macintouch - Multifunction Peripherals: Epson

Feb. 16, 2005, Julian Hearne
... the Epson Scan software for the CX5400 is not compatible with OS 10.3.7’s Fast User Switching! It works fine in an Admin account, but if you switch to another user account it creates an error message dialog box in the middle of the users desktop stating “EPSON Scan cannot be started . ---”. You can dismiss the message but each time you switch to another users account, except Admin, the message reappears...
Epson Tech Support says it’s a known issue and kind of blamed it on OS X...

Dave Robertson
I have reported a similar problem [as Julian Hearne] to Epson Support. Using Fast User Switching on an eMac (10.3.x) with an Epson CX5300 results in the continual appearance of a dialog saying "EPSON Scan cannot be started."

The dialog cannot be dismissed or clicked on in any way and it floats above all other applications. The only way to clear it is to run the "Activity Monitor" application and quit the "Twainbridge" process.
I found a 2004 Epson document saying Epson Scan is not compatible with Fast User Switching.

Happily a single chance hit gave me the clue -- the real problem is Epson Scanner Monitor and Fast-User Switching. That led me to a post by some obscure geek quoting Macintouch:
... Someone on August 10 mentioned that they were having problems with the Epson Scanner software on their G5. I had this issue as well; however, I removed the Epson Scanner Monitor startup item from my login profile.

This is used to allow the user to press the hotkey buttons on the Epson scanner; however, it's not necessary to use the scanner. Anytime I want to do a scan, I either open up the Epson scan software (which should be possible through Photoshop as well) manually then do my scanning. No more monitoring software eating up CPU cycles...
Oh ... wait, the above Macintouch quote is from a post I wrote in 2005.


Well, this time I couldn't find Epson Scanner Monitor in any of my Login Items [1]. It was running though, I could find the process with Activity Monitor.

I killed the process and deleted Epson Scanner Monitor.

The problem appears to have gone away.

So now the front button scan doesn't work, but that's no big deal. I never use those buttons anyway, this is a photo scanner not a document scanner.

So now the mystery is how Epson can manage to be so #$$@ $%%!@% incompetent? (Alas, the answer is that they don't have to be really competent, they only need be better than Canon.)

[1] There's a design flaw in 10.4. Non-admin users can't see their Login Items, but admin users can't see other user Login items either.

Update 2/24/2008: Ok, Epson is only #$$@$ incompetent -- because Apple is even more incompetent. Last time I looked Apple made the iPod, OS X and the iMac, but if you use 'Fast User Switching' with an attached iPod you end up with a "this iPod is corrupted" message. I suspect either Apple fundamentally messed up Fast User Switching with 10.4 or they just don't care.

Epson still rates as "#$$@$ incompetent" because there are so many easy things they could have done besides trying to work around Apple's bad design. Here are 3 of them, it's easy to imagine more:
  1. Document the problem and the fix in online FAQ and a readme file.
  2. Detect Fast User Switching, deactivate Espon Scanner Monitor and inform the user.
  3. Provide an easy way to uninstall or deactivate Epson Scanner Monitor...
Hmm. Maybe malevolent as well as incompetent ...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Giving Apple feedback

I'm surprised the feedback email address works. I'd like everyone on earth to email Apple now and ask for a Library merge feature for iPhoto.
TidBITS - Leopard 10.5.2: TidBITS Complains, Apple Listens, Sort Of
...If you have an ADC account (anyone can get one, they're free), you
can submit bugs via Apple's BugReporter.

Alternately, I have been told many, many, many times by Apple folks
that mailto: feedback AT DOES work, all the email IS read by
humans, and that customer voice DOES matter...
Here's the dedicated iPhoto feedback form in case you'd like to vote for Library merge ...

MacBook kb update: related to an odd login problem?

There's an Apple firmware fix out for the MacBook:
MacBook and MacBookPro get keyboard update - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)
...Today Apple released a keyboard update for both the MacBook and the MacBook Pro notebooks. In regular Apple style, their release notes are not extremely profuse, 'This MacBook and MacBook Pro firmware update addresses an issue where the first key press may be ignored if the computer has been sitting idle. It also addresses some other issues....
Periodically, when I wake my sleeping MacBook, it accepts a single keystroke in the login pw dialog then stops responding. I close the lid to put it back to sleep, open it, and all is fine.

I'll see if this fix makes this problem go away.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Last whines of the RAZR - it's not easy to clean it out

This past week Facebook was fronting for the Hotel California (You can checkout, but you can never leave...). Years ago I had a similar experience with trying to eliminate a Microsoft Passport account -- later Microsoft cleared that up.

It's no surprise. I've been in the startup gig. "Erase customer data" is the sort of thing that never gets beyond "priority C" -- but funding ends mid-way through the "A list". Facebook is unusually bad, but not qualitatively different.

On the other hand, there's the Motorola RAZR from Hell. There's no easy way to leave that sucker!

I did it anyway.

I'd replaced the Sprint V3M RAZR with a low cost AT&T Nokia (better phone too) enroute to iPhone 2.0. It's about twelve months old and in surprisingly good shape -- so I wanted to get the phone to someone who'd really use it. Any money for me would be nice.

I probably paid $150 to $200 less than a year ago, Second Rotation offered me $50 (shipping included). Motorola phones depreciate fast. The price/hassle ratio was good enough for me, so I accepted the offer. I rounded up all the gear, including tracking down the original 64MB MicroSD card.

Then I had to erase my tracks a bit. I'm not worried about someone plumbing the on-phone memory, I just didn't want my contact list available. Turns out Motorola never bothered to provide a complete phone clean-up utility.

Here's what I had to do:

  1. I tried calling with the phone and got a reassuring "not activated" message.
  2. From the manual I learned of the Security Menu options to remove contacts and "reset" the phone. I needed to know the security code to do this, but I'd never set one up. Turns out the Sprint guy set one up on purchase. Maybe they told me then what it was, but I don't recall it. Happily they followed the convention described in the manual -- the security code was the last four digits of my phone number. Now I know to set one up early.
  3. I formatted the Micro-SD card from my desktop (FAT).
  4. I found an option to completely clear my call log.
  5. I had do do a few other manual content cleanups.

I'll miss my RAZR. It gave me something I could really rale against.

10.5.2 fixes AppleWorks and more

Although 10.5.2 isn't ready for me, it seems that Leopard really has emerged from beta. A commenter to a GT post of mine tells us that 10.5.2 restores a lot of applications that died under 10.5 (but not, of course, Classic).

Gordon's Tech (comments): Leopard breaks AppleWords, what about Classic

After leopard 10.5.2 and graphics update AppleWorks not only works but works better. As do all the apps I had pulled off as not working under leopard. AOL, which crashed under Leopard now works ...

So 10.5.2 is the real 10.5.0. That means we have two more updates before it's truly solid, and that people who need to get work done might consider 10.5.3.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

iPhoto Library Manager merge testing

I did some testing of iPhoto Library Manager's Library merge abilities using two test Libraries. My test Libraries included:
1. video in both
2. edit of a few images (see if import both original and current)
3. comments, keywords (overlapping and distinct), titles
4. event comments
5. album comments
6. album name collision: smart and dumb
7. keywords
8. ratings
9. events
iPhoto was inexplicably crashy, pre-merge -- when I was creating the test Libraries. Otherwise the merge went as expected. All of the above metadata, including both "Current" and "Original" images and video were all imported. As expected the following data was lost:
Smart albums (become dumb albums)
Web galleries (these will be turned into photocasts in the merged library)
In terms of metadata preservation this is significantly better than Aperture merger, but I've only tested on small Libraries. I expect to have some real world tests in a week or two.

I am disappointed that Apple's never provide a Library merge tool

iPhoto why so suddenly crash?

Did some recent software update break iPhoto completely? What gives?

I've been doing some testing of iPhoto Library Manager merge functions using two small 20 image test Libraries. These are both new, very generic Libraries. I've crashed iPhoto at least six times doing basic manipulations of these test images. I'm not talking merges, I mean editing album names, adding comments, etc.


Update 2/18/08: If this turns out to be a persistent problem on 10.4 but not 10.5, the suspicious among us will start suspiciousing ....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

OS X 10.5.2 breaks sync services again: new upgrade rule

One of the benefits of reading the Spanning Sync blog is that it's the "canary in the coal mine". Apple routinely breaks everything, but the company seems to have special hatred for synchronization functions.

So it's not surprising that 10.5.2 fixes some sync services bugs, only to introduce new bugs:

Spanning Sync Blog: Mac OS X 10.5.2 Fixes Some Bugs, Introduces Others

This week Apple released Mac OS X Update 10.5.2, and while it fixes the notorious Leopard iCal bug present in 10.5 and 10.5.1, it introduces another bug with identical symptoms, plus others:

  • Synchronized events are not reflected in iCal
  • Endless sync conflicts when syncing with .Mac
  • Duplicate calendars

Our Mac software architect Larry Hendricks has posted a comprehensive discussion of the new problems caused by 10.5.2 and their solutions to the Spanning Sync Google Group.

Apple is aware of these issues, which affect not only Spanning Sync but also applications like Plaxo, Entourage, BusySync, and .Mac itself, and is reportedly working on fixes.

Lots of problems.

Synchronization is very hard to do right, and quite easy to screw up. Apple's been doing the latter, so I'm guessing they've got their "A team" working somewhere else.

I've long said I won't go to "Leopard" until 10.5.3, but now I'm adding a new rule: 10.5.3 or later with Spanning Sync blessings.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Aperture 2: consolidating two iPhoto Libraries

I have several iPhoto Libraries. In theory they can be consolidated with iPhoto Library Manager (which I've registered) or one of several potentially risky techniques, but my tests a few years ago did not go well.

Apple's answer to this problem is "buy Aperture". Since I'm testing Aperture 2.0 prior to purchase I tried merging two libraries "by reference":
Macworld | From iPhoto to Aperture
... When importing pictures, Aperture can copy images into its library, thus creating duplicates of each picture, or it can reference, or point to, the existing files in your iPhoto Library folder. Although you’ll save disk space by referencing your iPhoto files, you’ll lose out on a key advantage of using Aperture: its Vault feature won’t back up referenced files (see “Why Move to Aperture?”).
If you’d like to try out Aperture but aren’t ready to import your images into the program, consider using referenced files as a trial run. When you import images from iPhoto, go to the Store Files pop-up menu in Aperture’s Import pane and select In Their Current Location. If you later decide that you want to use Aperture as your main photo-management tool, you can import the original files from iPhoto by selecting File: Consolidate Masters....
I imported two iPhoto Libraries into a single Aperture Library this way. Each became a project.

The first thing I checked was whether the image counts matched up. There were 2071 + 1772 = 3843 images in my two imported Libraries; but this is the count of "current" images. It doesn't count the originals of any edited images.

Aperture imports an original and "current' image as a stack, so each image is counted. I typed opt-; to collapse all stacks and, happily, my image count then matched the iPhoto total.

So that was nice! Those Libraries didn't have Videos however, and we know Aperture can't handle video files. So we'll see how that goes.

The images keep their titles, comments, ratings and keywords. Smart albums (annoyingly) become "dumb" albums. Much worse -- comments on Rolls, Albums (Collections) and Events are completely lost. Aperture can't handle metadata at that level.

Slideshows and photo books, as well as videos, can't make the move either.

That's a lot of lost metadata...

Update 2/17/2008: I added a third iPhoto Library of 8,000 items, again by reference. This killed Aperture. I got an endless SPOD (spinning pizza of death) when I tried to browse the complete image collection. I had to kill Aperture.

Scott Gruby likes BusySync: Google to iCal synchronization

Scott's an independent Mac developer, so I pay attention to his recommendations ...

Scott Gruby’s Blog » Blog Archive » Simple Google to Mac syncing

... I’ve been longing to easily sync my calendar with Google so that my wife and I can keep our calendars in order. I just started using BusySync from BusyMac. Previously I was using another product, but lately it just seemed to take hours to sync and it bogged down my system. I’ve known the BusyMac folks for years and they used to write Palm software. So far, it works extremely well. Make a change on either side and within 5 minutes, the other side gets the update....

This might work for us, but what I really want is a very high quality Outlook to Google solution. When I last looked I couldn't find the quality I needed (it's a very hard problem).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Google desktop email uploader

I'd have to upgrade to Google Apps premier for this:
Official Google Data APIs Blog: Upload your old email with the Google Email Uploader open source tool

...We're now happy to share the Google Email Uploader with you. It's both a .NET reference implementation of an Email Migration API client, as well as an Apache 2.0 licensed open source project to be extended to upload any type of email archive you have lying around. The Google Email Uploader is available for Google Apps Premier and Education edition users."
So I could put my old Eudora archives online, then use IMAP to bring them to my local Mac ...

A fix to the application dictionary problem and a word annoyance

I know Word 2003 as only a charter member of the death-to-Word club can. Even so, I was reminded to change two things when reading O'Reilly Media's Word Annoyances (ends at Word 2003).

First I removed the default Word custom.dic file and created my own (jfaughnan.dic) file in a folder I backup and control. So no more lost dictionary when I change machines. I then created a Google Apps document [1][2] to hold a copy of the dictionary. I will periodically merge [4] that with my other application specific dictionaries -- which are particularly important on handheld devices [3]. Imperfect, but good enough.

Then I finally paid attention to the Word settings for "smart" [5] Edit and cut/paste, turning off most of the default behaviors.

So I recommend the book (though it doesn't include Word 2007), but I don't agree with their recommendation to use Styles for everything. That's what every book on Word says, and they're all wrong. Styles are too broken to seriously contemplate unless you're a technical writer [6] [7].


[1] Incredibly annoying pink color scheme today. I wish Google spent less time being cute and more time fixing their #@$!$ buggy products (such as their custom search widget, which is broken as of this morning).

[2] Ironically Google Docs has its OWN dictionary, so the text file shows a spelling error indicator for every entry! There's no way to edit that dictionary. One day perhaps.

[3] In the long forgotten glory days Palm had a great auto-complete tool with a custom dictionary. Emily's BlackBerry has one too - very important for word completion.

[4] Copy/paste to TextPad, sort and delete dupes, copy/paste back.

[5] aka "Stupid"

[6] Most of them hate Word even more than I do.

[7] Word 2007 includes a complete do-over of Styles but it requires a (funny that) new file format that's incompatible with everything in the megaverse.

Aperture 2: the missing Help items and Apple's manual site

One of the oddities of the demo version of Aperture 2 is the Help menu is empty. I assume this will be fixed soon and that the shipping version will have the same PDF set Aperture 1 had. (It's another question why Aperture doesn't use Apple's Help system. Sometimes I think it's not really an Apple product at all.)

In the meantime an Apple Discussion Group post pointed me to a site I didn't know about: the Apple Manual page. Every Apple product manual shows up there, sorted by publication date. It's a great resource and I'm going to add it to my custom OS X Search widget.

There's also a "page" (query) for Aperture manuals only, but as of today it only has Aperture 1.x manuals. I assume that's a metadata error and we'll soon see the manuals there.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Aperture 2: Yes, it's much faster.

Now that I've found a workaround for the Aperture 2 .Mac bug, and found Aperture can, at long last, edit dates it was time to test performance on my old, decaying, G5 iMac (2 GHz PPC, 1.5 GB RAM).

I imported by reference a 2300 image iPhoto Library -- all JPEG. After importing I practiced browsing it, and I tested the filmstrip "Preview" browser (tap P to toggle). Preview browsing is extremely fast, at least with JPEG originals. Scrolling the entire set of 2300 images was not as fast is iPhoto but was very acceptable for my purposes. In practice I almost never view that many items at once.

The import worked well, as before slideshows, photo books, calendars, etc are not imported. If you want to switch your iPhoto images to Aperture you need to save these as PDFs. Since iPhoto and Aperture count images differently it's tough to know if all images were truly imported. Movies will NOT be imported from iPhoto, in the past Aperture didn't warn they'd been left behind.

As with earlier versions Aperture imports Smart Albums as "dumb" albums. Aperture's "smart albums" are as dim as iPhoto's: you can't use a Smart Album as an input to a filter (no nested queries in other words). iTunes is more powerful.

I expect I'll buy the product in a week or two.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Aperture 2: you can edit the dates now

In December I wrote:
Gordon's Tech: Will Apple abandon Aperture?

... You can't edit date metadata, you've never been able to edit dates, this hasn't been fixed despite several major updates...
So version 2.0 is out and, yes, you can edit the dates. I don't see any batch editing but I'm not an Aperture expert. At least there's something. The product is not dead yet.

Still no Apple Help file. They must have a pretty limited development budget.

Once I figure out a solution to the .Mac bug I'll start using it over the next two weeks. The date issue was my primary objection to moving to Aperture -- it gave me a worrisome impression of the product manager.

PS. Surprise! Academic licenses cannot upgrade. Going forward the academic discount isn't worth it with the new pricing.)

Update: You can AppleScript date modifications, so there's no problem with batch updating!
Adjust date and time of version/master

The “adjust date” verb has been added to the AppleScript Dictionary, allowing you to modify the EXIF date of images through a scripted workflow.

Update 2/13/08: The tutorial page video shows how to edit dates for multiple selected images.

Aperture 2: There was a problem connecting to .Mac

I took me less than 10 seconds to find a major bug Apple - Aperture 2.

That's a new record!

If you have a .Mac record in your keychain Aperture tries to connect to it -- even if the account is long defunct.

When that happens it displays an alert "There was a problem connecting to .Mac". You can't get the alert to go away, in fact I now have multiple floating dialogs telling me of this problem.

I'm going to try pulling my network cable next time I restart.

They ought to be ashamed, but as far as I can tell Apple is shameless.

Update: I quit, pulled the network cable, and restarted. It hung on start but after a minute or so something timed out and it did run correctly. I then restarted with the network cable and got the looping error message. I'll probably have to locate the .mac entry in my keychain and remove it.

Update 2/13/08: The fix for now is to open the .Mac preferences in your System Preferences. Remove your old username and password for the inactive account. The bug goes away.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Google now supporting Safari?

I've been pretty fed up with Firefox flakiness lately, so I took Safari 3 for a visit to Google's properties.

Gmail RTF was supported. Google Docs no longer warns of an unsupported browser.

Blogger doesn't seem as messed up when using Safari (though it uses div tags instead of the familial p tags).

The only app that warns of an unsupported browser is Google Page Creator -- which is due to be dumped "any time now".

Google is very close to full Safari support, I'm going to try switching for a while. 

I'll be happy to leave Firefox 2/Mac behind. It ain't so great on XP either these days! We need Firefox 3 ASAP.

The worst commercial web site on the net?

The Lowe Alpine web page won't render correctly in either Safari 3 or Firefox 2.

I've never seen that before.

There's a contact link, but it's broken.

I think we've got a winner.

Blackberry Pearl voice memo hack

Emily's Pearl can record -- but only for a costly "media message". Otherwise, you can't record a voice memo.

Happily, there's a workaround. Create an SMS, but save it as draft. Access it via the messages application. Click the link for more details.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My iMac screen - dark band at the top of the display

Bad news! My July 2005 20" iMac now has a dark irregular band across the top of the display - thickest on the right side. It's most conspicuous against the login screen, or the blue background used on startup:

Superficially it looks like dirt on the display, but it's inside. I suspect some sort of LCD delamination or glue defect, perhaps related to the all the heat problems the G5 iMacs were known for. At 2.5 years this machine is out of warranty -- including my credit card extended warranty.

I can't find much about this on the net, so it's probably bad luck. We have a good Apple repair facility in Minneapolis (first Tech), I could try hauling the machine out there if I get the energy.

Update: Sounds like this.

Update 6/17/11: Three years later the band is about twice as wide. This is a kid and movie machine now, and we don't notice it much.

iPhoto 7.1.2 doesn't fix video export bug

iPhoto 7.1.2 was released tonight.

I checked to see if Apple had fixed the movie export bug.


If you export a Movie (video) as "Current" iPhoto exports a thumbnail JPEG with an .AVI extension.

Nasty bug, in some circumstances it may result in the permanent loss of important memories.

Update 3/1/2008: It's not fixed in 7.1.3 either. I finally got fed up and filed a real Apple developer bug report:
5775826 iPhoto: default video export produces defective file 100% of the time.
Update 3/4/08: My bug was flagged as duplicate of Bug ID# 5613626. So at least it's known and documented as a bug that's being currently worked on.

Update 5/19/09: iLife '09 still has the same bloody bug!! See also a thread on this bug. Apple's refusal to fix such egregious data destroying bugs smells of Kafka.

Update 7/12/09: No fix. It occurs to me that this bug is a good HR test. Describe the nature and origin of the behavior to the candidate. Explain that the app is behaving "correctly". It's exporting the file that lives in the "current" folder. Ask them what priority they give to changing this behavior. If they say something like "That's crazy. It needs to be fixed immediately." hire them. If they say "it's working correctly" run like the wind.

Bike light breakthrough? The Ixon IQ.

I used to be a real rider. One day I hope I'll be back, maybe sooner than later.

From those days I have an old NiteRider light. It cost a fortune in 1999 and came with a massive NiMH battery that's now toast. Of course it used a proprietary connector (data lock isn't really a new idea) so I'd have to buy a replacement from NiteRider -- if one exists.

So I paid attention to the bike light that saved the world, a post introducing the German IXON IQ LED light. This excellent description tells us it uses conventional or rechargeable AA batteries -- no more "battery lock" issues. The imported device (German plugs) is about $100 US - a bargain for a serious bicycle light.

... Full power setting (14 40 [see comments!] lux) gives a 6 hour run time. Low power gives about 13 hours. Run times are for fully charged NiMH batteries. Full power is adequate as a standalone headlight for most cyclists in most situations up to about 20mph. Two Ixons at full power should be more than enough for any situation except perhaps a very fast downhill, say well over 25mph. Low power is more than adequate for low speed riding, up to perhaps 10 mph on dark roads or bike paths. For urban cycling with overhead street lights, the low power setting is perfect. These are my estimates based on my own experience using this light. Everyone's night vision is different!....

Note that NiMH battery power output drops precipitously in cold weather, these numbers don't apply to MN winters. Front wheel dynamo systems weren't big when I was in the market, but I suspect they're the answer for a MN winter rider.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Nokia 6555 plays iTunes AAC. Does everything do this now?

It wouldn't have occurred to me to try this, but I'd already discovered that Emily's BlackBerry Pearl plays non-FairPlay iTunes AAC encoded tunes.

When I learned I could mass storage mount and charge my Nokia 6555b with a mini-USB cable and a (well made) Motorola mini-USB to micro-USB adapter the next test was to drop a podcast, an MP3 song and an AAC song into the mounted music folder. I then opened the music player, selected artists, and from the options menu chose "update library".

The All Songs list showed all three files [1] and they all played.

What's with music players and AAC? I don't remember anyone mentioning that players that were once entirely MP3 now all support AAC as well.

Unfortunately our HOSA headset adapters work only slightly better on this phone than on Emily's BlackBerry. If I don't press the 3.5mm terminal entirely in I get good stereo sound on my Bose QC IIs, but unbalanced stereo sound on a pair of Apple earbuds. If I do entirely engage the 3.5 mm connector I get mono sound. I'm tempted to try the Bose mobile communications kit.

The sad news is that the fairly crude music player doesn't support bookmarks, so it's not an adequate podcast player.

Even so, this is interesting enough to make me go ahead and buy another Sandisk 2GB media card, especially because I'm able to get my headphones to mostly work.


[1] It also showed the "." (dot) prefixed files that OS X creates on FAT formatted media, an annoying quirk of OS X that cannot be readily managed. There are ways to remove these, but I ignored them for this experiment.

User group one: Winzip ignores NTFS attributes stored in alternate data stream

Occasionally I come across an issue nobody but me cares about.

Ok, more than occasionally.

These are "user group one" issues -- as in a user group with one member. (Thank you Andrew.)

I, for example, am the only person in the known universe who uses NTFS file attributes. I tweak my Explorer views to show the comment field in list view, for example. I even show the Title field! [1]

Being the only person who does this, I'm the only person to discover that WinZip 10 doesn't store these attributes. I'm guessing XP stores them in the NTFS alternate data stream [2] and WinZip ignores the ADS attributes [3]. I found this out when I unzipped some work and lost my metadata.

This is all very annoying.

To the user group of one.

[1] Not only does this introduce functionality that came with PC Magazine's DOS based application in 1985, it also allows me to provide documentation on file shares about what certain data sets are good for. In addition Sharepoint honors these attributes (which Office apps reflect back into their internal attribute store), so I don't have to re-enter them when I upload files to my Sharepoint Libraries.

[2] Windows NT server had a very robust Macintosh file share service, it stored MacOS Classic resource forks in the NTFS alternate data stream. Later, some aftermarket solutions (DAVE) did the same thing. Worked great.

[3] I have a vague recollection that XP's copy command may ignore them too, and many backup products miss 'em.

macintosh pims (personal information management software) a Google Groups (w/ feed)

A hundred years ago I ran a mailing list called PIM-L - about personal information management. It was surprisingly popular, but I didn't have time to keep it up.

I remembered that, when Ted Goranson (The ATPM Outliner guy), bemoaning the reluctance of users to pay for good software, referred to the macintosh pims Google Group (feeds).

I think Goranson is sort-of-wrong about the software price issue. The real cost is cost of ownership, and cost of ownership of software includes the cost of data loss (or imperfect conversion) related to atypical file formats. Of course most people don't realize this is the real cost, so my point is probably academic. Still, it's a very good reason NOT to buy cool software with neat features that's supposed to hold lots of personal and unique data of lasting value.

On the other hand, the email list is wonderfully obscure. There's are feeds of course, though Google's presentation of them is very confusing. I went with the Atom 1.0 message feed.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Monitoring Dyer with and Bloglines email subscriptions

Dyer is an iconoclastic historian journalist who, purely to spite me, refuses to create an RSS feed so I know when to visit his news page.

I may have him now.

My Bloglines feed reader supports "email subscriptions":

You can create an unlimited number of special Bloglines email addresses that are tied to your Bloglines account. The email addresses show up as subscriptions in your My Blogs page, and email sent to those email addresses appears as new items.

When you create a Bloglines email address, a subscription is added to your account. If you unsubscribe from that subscription, the email address becomes invalid and mail sent to it will bounce.

Email subscriptions are great for announce-only or broadcast mailing lists that don't provide RSS feeds. They are also useful as temporary email addresses.

To rename or move your email subscriptions, use the 'Edit' link under the 'My Feeds' tab.

I created one of these disposable email addresses for a new feed I called "Dyer" and stored it in the usual place I keep journalist feeds. Then I went to "ChangeDetection(tm) - Monitor any web page for changes" and set up a monitor on Dyer's 2008 article page.

Any changes, in theory, now trigger an alert -- almost as though Dyer had a real feed in place. Of course I only get an alert -- not the text. Still, that's all I need.

I'll update this post with news on how it works. In the event that the Dyer email address starts collecting spam it's trivial to remove it.

Sandisk 2GB microSD kit is impressive

I bought's Sandisk 2GB microSD Mobile Memory Kit

This thing is impressive. $25 for a 2GB micro-SD card, smaller than the proverbial fingernail. The kit includes a mini-SD and an SD adapter for the micro-SD card. The latter works in our camera, the card itself is in our BlackBerry*.

The combination of Google Checkout and J&R was likewise an excellent combination.

* I'm much less impressed with the BB, but that's another story.

Update 2/5/08: Amazon has 4GB versions for about the same price, and 2GB versions for about the price of lunch. Cue hysterical laughter, this is ridiculous.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Selling a cell phone without eBay: SecondRotation strikes out

SecondRotation is a classy looking site for selling devices -- cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras. One can get a better price on eBay (though I prefer to avoid them) or Craigslist, this site has the advantage of simplicity and convenience.

I may give it a try.

Update 2/26/2008: Didn't work.

I sent them my RAZR, but they neglected to include directions on ESN termination. This is well known to people who trade in phones, but not to the rest of us. Even though our Sprint relationship had ended, and even though the phone no longer works, the "ESN is still active". They sent an email offering to recycle the phone, the link to respond didn't work (programming error on their site). I was able to find the form to request the phone be sent back to me, then I'll see if I can get Sprint to remove the ESN lock.

How annoying. If Second Rotation really does return everything I won't ding them, but they really could have done a better job providing guidance on ESN unlocking.

Update 3/23/2008: After some prodding, SecondRotation returned the Motorola RAZR. It wasn't locked and I sold it on Craiglist. It has occurred to me what a great scam it would be to offer to buy phones, then claim they were locked, then offer to dispose of them for free. I am going to assume, however, that the phone was either transiently locked or that SecondRotation made a simple mistake. In the future though I'll use SR as a way to help price items I want to sell, but Craigslist is a much better option.

Headset adapters for 2.5mm cell phones - a problem

I bought a two "HOSA" 3.5mm to 2.5mm headset adapters -- they cost almost $9 each with shipping.

They don't work with Emily's BlackBerry -- we only hear sound on one channel.

I then checked the BB site -- they sell their own adapter. Alas, an Amazon reviewer found the same problem with BlackBerry's own adapter!.

Extremely annoying. I wonder what the iPhone does.

2/4/08: I had slightly different results testing on a Nokia 6555b. I also noted that the Bose Communications Kit comes with four different 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapters -- each for different phones. So a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter may have to phone specific.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Google Apps: Integration in the Start Page header

Google Apps consists of a set of loosely coupled services that can be more or less assigned to a custom domain name. The current set includes email, calendaring, very crude web page authoring and serving (limited file services), and Google Docs. There are also less well known mobile services for Google Apps.

It's great only because it's free. Mostly it's unfinished. It's not at all obvious how one provides users with any kind of unified view of available services.

Turns out, you're supposed to edit the header of the "start page" associated with every Google App custom domain -- for example: MN Sepcial Hockey Personalized Start Page.

Yep, the header. The gadgets don't quite do the trick.

It's very crude, but it's at least understandable.

I do hope Google returns to Google Apps one day. They're only half-way to a 1.0 release ...

Aperture 2.0 is MIA

This week's photo show was the obvious place to introduce Aperture 2.0.

No luck.
Macworld | Creative Notes | PMA notes: Whither Aperture?

...More specifically, the topic is: “Where’s Version 2.0 of Apple’s image management and editing app?” With the the show starting this morning, it seems pretty clear that we won’t see anything announced this week, and the disappointment I’m hearing is pervasive."
With each passing week it's more likely Apple is exiting the high end photo market.

Google BlackBerry calendar sync, the family calendar, and BlackBerry comments

We've had my wife's BlackBerry Pearl for about a week now. Some recent discoveries:
  • The predictive keyboard text entry is slow for writing, but might improve with time. It's very tedious when entering usernames and URLs. I need to learn a shortcut to switch out of predictive mode into the standard multi-stroke letter selection.
  • A Graffiti One (original Palm Pilot) text entry solution with predictive word selection would really be much better than this keyboard and would use space far more effectively. Sniff.
  • The original Palm had hundreds of fine touches that mde working in the small 160x160 display efficient and even enjoyable. It's early, but I don't see anything like this on the BlackBerry.
  • The AT&T personal BB service includes what I think is their "push" email. We use this instead of AT&T's costly instant messaging. We use Google's BB Gmail client for work with traditional email. We haven't tried Google Talk on the BB ... yet
  • When I enabled the BB email I was directed to "" for a web interface. Ooops! Turns out that's not enabled for personal accounts. I've run into a few of these glitches. [1 - see update]
Our latest experiment was with Google Mobile's BB Calendar sync
Get calendar alerts - Using your BlackBerry� smartphone's native calendar, you can now access your Google calendar even when you don't have network coverage and be alerted for upcoming appointments with sound or vibration.

Always in sync - Your Google Calendar stays synchronized whether you access it from your computer or your phone. You can add or edit entries right on your BlackBerry� smartphone or on your Google Calendar on the web...
I was indeed able to configure a connection between our family Google Apps domain calendar and the BB. It's very slow to sync however, even with only a few test posts on the calendar. I wonder if this will turn out be a toy. If it works I might make another try to sync Outlook with Google Calendar, though I don't think there's been much improvement on that front.

We've not tried Google Talk yet.

Update 12/30/08: In the midst of a Blackberry debacle I finally figured some of the odd story with AT&T doesn't document this at all. Most users don't need to know about this because when you first connect the phone to the network AT&T auto-configures the push email that's the only interesting feature of their "Blackberry plan" (which is otherwise a generic data plan).

Anyway, if you navigate to the BB Pearl app for "Blackberry Setup", then "Personal Email Setup", you will be taken to an AT&T web page for configuring your email account. Here you set up a password for your account. In the midst of these screens, as of 12/08, there's an option to "create a username". If you do that you will be asked for a password. Be sure to have the password for your email setup already, because you'll be asked for that too as part of this setup.

Once you do this you can go to and the username and password you entered via the phone will allow you access to a very limited page for configuring your BB email. The only novel function on this page is you can define email "filters".

I suggest you ignore this "feature", it's not worth the bother. Still, it's good to know what that absurd web page was supposed be for.