Saturday, May 31, 2008

OS X really does need an uninstaller

Found in \Library\Application Support: iWork '06 "iWork Tour" - 256MB.

iWork was pre-installed on my MacBook (demo-ware). I dragged it to the trash and deleted it.

This is how the GBs go. I'm sure I'll find more of these as I browse through the root Library. It doesn't take all that long, but we shouldn't need to do this kind of cleanup of Apple's own trash.

OS X really does need a proper uninstaller.

Parallels to VMware - my experience

As part of my move from 10.4.11 to 10.5.3 I switched from Parallels (Windows 2000 VM running Office 2003 and MindManager to VMWare Fusion (updated 5/30 for 10.5.3). Here's how it went.
  1. Uninstall Parallels prior to the OS update. Don't delete the VM files (Win2K.pvs and W2k.hdd on my disk).
  2. Update OS.
  3. Download latest version of VMWare Fusion (not the beta though). You need to be a registered user to do this.
  4. Install VMWare Fusion.
  5. Download beta version of VMware Importer tool and install (requires Fusion be installed).
  6. Find the Parallels files - Win2K.pvs and W2k.hdd. Drop the PVS file on the importer. The importer then converts the 3.1 GB Parallels file to a 3.4 GB (10% larger) single file stored in a Virtual Machine folder in current_user/Documents. (After I'd finished the entire install, however, the VM file was 4.4 GB, a 33% increase.)
  7. I double clicked on Win2K (my VM name) and Windows 2000 SP4 launched. Fusion shows an inline reminder to install the VM tools, but after a LONG startup and restart (for Win2K this is a new machine) Fusion installed them automatically. I saw a Windows dialog requesting help with an unrecognized device -- ignore those and let the Fusion tools install and Win2K restart.
  8. Shutdown Win2K after this initial install (good practice after initial config), in future just suspend it.
After the conversion and setup Win2K SP4 goes from shutdown to running in 30 seconds on my MacBook. Much faster than XP, much less Vista! Of course one would usually suspend the OS when done, not do a shutdown.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Uninstall Palm Desktop for OS X - Of course Palm's directions are wrong.

I'm continuing my post 10.5.3 house cleaning. This evening I noticed my login items list still included 'transport manager', which is part of the Palm HotSync framework for OS X.

I've probably bought at least a dozen PalmOS devices for Emily and I, but the platform died years ago. I've been keeping my personal Palm environment on life support pending iPhone 2.0, but there's no need for any remnants outside of my XP box.

Time for the rebranded version of Claris Organizer, better known as Palm Desktop for OS X to go.

My search for information on uninstalling Palm Desktop for OS X immediately turned up this Palm kb article.
...In the top left corner of the window, click on the dropdown menu and select UNINSTALL. Directly beneath this menu, place a check to select Palm Desktop software...
I went through that procedure, and, surprise, there's no uninstaller.

So I went back and looked for the 2nd result in the search:
Palm Desktop 4.2.1 Rev D for Mac - Download

...Uninstalling Palm Desktop

The installer for Palm Desktop 4.2.1 Rev D does not include an uninstall function. To uninstall Palm Desktop, open your Mac's Applications folder, and drag and drop the Palm folder to the trash. If Palm Desktop is in the Dock, drag its icon off the Dock...
Of course they couldn't have updated their support article -- there's probably nobody left with the password to their kb server.

I deleted the folder. Transport Manager remained as a 'ghost' in one user's login, but there was no file; it was a dangling reference. I removed it. Aside from the Hot Sync conduits, perhaps left deliberately, there wasn't a lot to clean up.

One more step towards extubation ...

OS X 10.5: Apple engineers need more children

I needed to upgrade to 10.5.3 sooner or later (I suspect the iPhone may need 10.5.3 - at least at launch time), but I'd intended to wait until it was absolutely necessary*.

I installed last night because I was enthused about one feature that promised to be of immediate value to us -- time limited child use.

Naturally, it doesn't work quite as well as I'd hoped ...

Be the best you can be: Time limited computer access

.. Since my original post I installed 10.5.1 and upgraded to 10.5.3. I discovered the shortest possible setting for time limited computer access is 30 minutes (per day).

I need a range where the low end is 10 minutes.

Sigh. Apple engineers need more children.

I also don't recommend regular people install an OS X update to an existing system until the DVDs actually ship with 10.5.3 or later. My install experience was unsettling...

Sigh. No Apple engineer should be allowed to work on parental controls unless they at least one child between the ages of 3 and 13.

I wonder if anyone has a hack to change the low end setting.


* Even 10.5.3, the 1/2 GB patch, has significant video issues on some relatively recent machines. Apple OS updates are also very expensive, since they may require replacing a range of software and peripherals. I'm still testing which of my things work with 10.5.3, I know that some apps that broke with 10.5.0 will more or less work with 10.5.3. One nice thing about 10.5.3 is it feels "smoother" on my Intel MacBook than 10.4.11. So it's not all bad.

Upgrading to OS X 10.5.1: LaunchDaemons

I try. Really, I try.

I knew 10.5.0 had severe quality problems. I waited until 10.5.3 was out, though the install DVD was still 10.5.1. I even cleaned up prior to installation [1].

Then I did an 'archive and install' ... Oops. I thought the installer would ask me what type of install I was doing. It didn't. Guess I should have read the manual. I ended up unwittingly doing a regular update install. (Yech.)

The install sucked down another 5GB by the way.

So I had an ominous premonition when I was done. Justified.

After installation I tried to log in to my Administrator account, with user name 'Admin'.

My password didn't work.

An empty password didn't work.

I was locked out! My other accounts worked, just not the admin account.

Google sent me directly to the fix ...
Mac OS X 10.5: Unable to log in after an upgrade install

... You may not be able to log in with a user account that has a password of 8 or more characters and was originally created in Mac OS X 10.2.8 or earlier, after performing an upgrade installation of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard (the default installation type)...

... launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
So at least this was a well known bug.

I caught it because when I bought my MacBook, I used the firewire migration service to migrate the settings from my iBook to the MacBook. I never had 10.2.8 on the MacBook (it wouldn't have installed anyway), but the iBook started with 10.1. So the glitch was transferred to the MacBook.

A little booby trap, just waiting to detonate when I installed 10.5.1.

Fixing the bug required entering some reasonably convoluted unix commands. The last step in the series resets the admin password. [2]

Yes, as has been known for some time, anyone with access to your machine can reset your admin password, though they won't have access to the admin keychain. (Since I reset the password to the old password, I still have access to the admin keychain).

Now I've installed 10.5.3.

More on that later.

If you haven't updated to 10.5, I'd suggest waiting until Apple starts shipping DVDs with 10.5.3. "Leopard" was a really buggy OS update, a kind of mini-Vista.

[1] Cleanup
  1. Uninstall Parallels 2.5.
  2. Check for Input Managers and remove them (l found smart crash reporter.)
  3. Remove contextual menu items
  4. Remove Preference Panes
  5. Repeat for both admin and my primary account.
  6. Do a safe boot (hold shift on start) to run maintenance checks.
  7. Delete all apps I suspect won't work with 10.5.1 or that I don't often use.
  8. Reboot into admin
[2] I suspect that if one has encrypted one's home directory, then one would be, technically speaking, screwed.

Update 6/17/11: Years later my iMac started handing at startup. It passed hardware tests, I couldn't find an easy fix, so I archived and installed. Right. That's why I'm back.

The horrid Apple fix worked again. This time though I created a fresh administrator account before I upgraded to 10.5.8. I'll delete the old, contaminated account. Should have done that years ago.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

How to uninstall Parallels Desktop for OS X

Uninstall is not an OS X strength.

It's not quite as bad as OS/2, where nothing could be uninstalled, but it's not good. (Note to self: this was a bad sign about how finished OS/2 was. Don't forget this.) Perfectly behaved apps can be simply deleted, but those are less common that one would imagine. Even Apple apps aren't all that well behaved.

Applications like Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion are particularly worrisome. You know these things are messing with the deep OS.

The good news is that there is an uninstaller -- it's in the DMG file. The bad news is that it's surprisingly hard to find out about this. Google failed completely, and it took several searches through the Parallels kb to find this article (VMWare Fusion was marginally better at providing the same info):
KB #5027 - What is the recommended policy of updating to Mac OS X Leopard with Parallels Desktop installed?

... Please uninstall Parallels Desktop from Mac OS Tiger using the program's Uninstaller script located in the distribution package (.dmg or CD) before running Leopard update. Keep in mind that you should use Uninstaller of the same program version you have installed or newer, using Uninstaller from the outdated package may cause unexpected issues with removing the program. The uninstall procedure doesn't affect your existing Virtual Machines.
BTW, this is the first place I read that you should uninstall Parallels before upgrading to 10.5. I'm battered enough to routinely clean out complex things before an OS update, but I suspect that most Parallels users, geeky as they are, missed this.

Yes, I am now moving to 10.5. It's not just that 10.5.3 finally came out, it's also that I really want the parental time-limited access controls.

With 10.5.3 I'm switching to VMWare Fusion -- mostly because the people I read like it better. I've already noticed, however, that Fusion is much pickier about Windows OSs than Parallels. It won't work with older versions of Windows 2000, for example. A point for Parallels I've not seen mentioned elsewhere, but since I've already bought Fusion I'm going to give it a try.

Gmail search operators: OR, in:anywhere and others

Gmail's search operators are resemble those of Windows Desktop Search. I suppose we're heading towards some kind of convergence.

The interesting ones are:

  • to: (obvious)
  • has:attachment (more useful than one might think)
  • in:anywhere (when it might be in spam filter or trash)
  • after: and before: (dates are yyyy/mm/dd - my favorite date format!)
  • OR: yes, Google has introduced the Boolean OR. At long last ...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why you really do have to apply those patches immediately ...

Or abandon #$!$%%$ Flash and XP ...

Slashdot | Adobe Flash Zero-Day Attack Underway

...Security researchers have found evidence of a previously unknown Adobe Flash vulnerability being exploited in the wild. The zero-day flaw has been added to the Chinese version of the MPack exploit kit and there are signs that the exploits are being injected into third-party sites to redirect targets to malware-laden servers. From the article: 'Continued investigation reveals this issue is fairly widespread. Malicious code is being injected into other third-party domains (approximately 20,000 web pages) most likely through SQL-injection attacks. The code then redirects users to sites hosting malicious Flash files exploiting this issue..

It doesn't suffice to restrict browsing to "quality" sites. If those sites are hacked, then traffic can be redirected to a site where the a specially crafted .SWF file launches the exploit and attacks your machine. Antiviral software won't help either -- at least until it's patched and updated (too late).

Keeping up with these patches is a slow, onerous task -- particularly on a slow booting XP machine (forget Vista!).

The easiest defense is to use a Mac. Even though Flash on OS X is vulnerable, it's doubtful that the injected malware will work, particularly if you run in standard user mode (nobody who reads this blog would be foolish enough to run OS X as an admin).

Eliminating Flash, a notorious source of vulnerabilities, is the next option to consider. I'd really like to see Apple do their own Flash interpreter. (QuickTime is about as bad, but at least that gets patched through Apple's updater.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Unsharp mask: how to use it

I've never seen this explained -- despite years of my sharpening images! These directions are for a generic unsharp mask too, Aperture has additional options.
Photojojo » Unsharp Mask: How Do You Actually Use That Thing?

... Step 1: View the image at 100%. Set the radius between 1 and 3. Set the amount between 300 and 500. Set the threshold at 0.

This will look like crap. But you’re going to fix it in a minute, so don’t worry.

Slide the radius level up until you start to see nasty halos forming, then back it off a bit. It’s OK if it looks a little bit harsh at this point.

Step 2: Change the image view to 50%. Adjust the amount until it looks grainy and oversharpened, than back it down a little.

Since web images need a fairly high amount of sharpening (in the 300 to 500 range), our example here isn’t quite as dramatic as we’d like. We made the “after” image a little soft so you can see what’s going on at this stage.

Step 3: Move the threshold slider up until the low-contrast areas look smooth, but you can still see fine details...

... Photography Jam has a good set of starting points for different kinds of pictures. We liked their all-purpose and web settings, but there are lots more on their site.

All-purpose sharpening: amount=85, radius=1, threshold=4
Sharpening for the web: amount=400, radius=0.3, threshold=0...
I'm going to add this site to my feed list.

Make Firefox 3 beta accept the Windows Live Writer Blog This extension

Update 8/20/08: See the last update for the new way to do this.

I can't get the changes I've made to WLW's rfd file, per Joe Cheng's (WLW engineering) blog, to do anything. I'm hoping Joe will have some advice, but, in any case, the illustrious WLW team is promising an update to the "Blog Ths in Windows Live Writer" Add-on. I might just wait for that.

I ended up installing the Firefox Nightly Tester Tools add-on. Then I removed all non-compatible add-ons except for WLW (note I'd already uninstalled Google Web Accelerator), then I clicked the over-ride compatibility button in the test tools options. That worked.

Update 5/27: Joe Cheng's (WLW engineering) blog has a post about a finer grained workaround. Joe also promises to update the extension soon. I continue to be amazed that the WLW team is supporting Firefox use. (Tip via Brandon T. I subscribe to Joe's blog, so I should have caught his posting. I need to check out Bloglines and see if I've somehow lost his feed ...)

Update 8/18/08: At the end of July Joe updated his post. Note the renaming install.rdf trick to force Firefox to refresh its version. The advice now works, but it's also becoming obvious that Microsoft manage understands the value of WLW, and is no longer interested in maintaining a plug-in that supports Mozilla Firefox.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I know what's wrong with Google Calendar sync

But when I tried to report it, and thus answer their problems, I got this message:
Oops!: "Something bad happened. Don't worry, though. The Spreadsheets Team has been notified and we'll get right on it."
I suspect the log I uploaded was too long -- I have about 1300 events in my calendar.

Google calendar sync engineers messed up recurring events that extend across a daylight savings time transition. Google keeps the absolute time the same for entire length of the recurring event, so the local time shifts on one or the other side of the DST transition.

I hope they've figured this out on their own, because their feedback mechanism is broken too.

Incidentally, while solving this one, I discovered a few other bugs.
  1. If you delete an email account from Outlook 2003, all appointments have a dangling reference to the missing identity. Google Calendar Sync can't handle the dangling reference. The fix is to create a new email account, then start and quite Outlook a few times. It clears the dangling reference.
  2. If a sync fails due to bug #1 Google Calendar Sync's local cache is still udpated. So future attempts to sync even after fixing bug #1 don't work because GCS thinks nothing has changed. You need to delete all the local data stored in Application Data (see initial reporting link for the path).
So I found 3 bugs, each significant.

Too bad I can't tell Google!

Google knows Google Calendar Sync is broken

Google should stop the Google Outlook Calendar Sync "beta" and regroup, but at least they've recognized it's truly broken:
New way to report Google Calendar Sync issues - Users - Troubleshooting | Google Groups:

.... To help us continue our investigations into some of the Google Calendar Sync issues we’re aware of, please fill out the info in the form provided below...

Reporting form
They created the urgent feedback form on 4/16 and added notes on 4/25. They request submission of the log, but apparently that's been problematic.
How to get the Google Calendar Sync log file

...C:\Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Google Calendar Sync\logs...
In my case recurring events are being synced with a 1 hour delay. In other words, it's a time zone problem. Time zones are a nightmare, as a friend said we should really all change to sidereal time.

Google groups posts demonstrate a very wide range of problems with sync, all of which seem time zone related.

No matter how gnarly time zone problems are, my sympathy for Google is limited. They need to pull the "beta".

What does Google think of your site?

Precede your URL with "" to find out what Google thinks of your site.

For example:
Nothing of interest on mine ...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sun xVM VirtualBox: free VM for OS X windows work

Via TUAW. It's a free OpenSource app now maintained by Sun. It won't have the support of VMWare Fusion (current leader) or Parallels (contender), but it includes an RDP server for remote access to VMs and it's supposed to support "any x86 based OS" on Windows (least interesting), Solaris (of course), Linux or OS X.

I think this would make most sense for someone with a copy of Windows 2000 who wants to run Microsoft Office 2003 and one or two other compliant apps. (Disabling net access for the VM seems adviseable, though Win2K is probably not a major OS target any more. Who knows, it might now be safer on the net than XP, especially if, like me, you run XP without antiviral software). [1]

That would be me, except I already have a license to VMWare Fusion. If I didn't, I'd try this.

[1] Because the antiviral software causes more problems for me than the viruses. I use Firefox with NoScript, stick to good neighborhoods, and use XP as little as possible.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Google Spreadsheet gotcha: beware open editing

I don't think this is obvious, so I'll toss out a warning.

Google Spreadsheets can be shared for viewing (only) at the worksheet (tab) level. This is an advanced option after you click on the share button.

That's fine, but there's a trick here.

The Spreadsheet security model applies to the spreadsheet, not the worksheet. So if you have standard account-limited editing sharing the worksheet behaves as expected.

The catch comes if you enable the new "anyone can edit" option. This works when you can keep the URL a secret.

If you're sharing a worksheet, however, you're exposing the URL.

The combination of sharing a worksheet and open editing means anyone viewing the worksheet will be able to edit the entire spreadsheet if they click on the 'edit if you have privileges' link.

Google should make the security and sharing models both worksheet specific. Until then, be careful!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Three Apple support articles

Three Apple support articles worth scanning ...
  • Archive and Install explained: read the tips and scan the list of what's moved. Apple recommends a file system repair first. The option is not available on update CDs.
  • File sharing: Claims only public folders are shared. I thought 10.5 allowed sharing the shared folder too (I don't have 10.5 yet).
  • Resetting sync services: I just know I'll need this one day. Nobody has sufficient respect, or even fear, of synchronization.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Microsoft Office Document Imaging - a little known gem

If you have any Windows version of Microsoft Office, you have some version of a little gem of an app almost nobody knows about.

It's called "Microsoft Office Document Imaging" (MODI). There's an icon for it in your Office Tools folder, along with truly exotic beasts such as "Picture Manager". You'll also probably see an icon for "Microsoft Office Document Scanning", which is basically a shortcut to the scanning dialog in MODI.

The Wikipedia article on MODI claims MODI was introduced in Office XP:

Microsoft Office Document Imaging - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Microsoft Office Document Imaging (MODI) is a Microsoft Office application that supports editing documents scanned by Microsoft Office Document Scanning. It was first introduced in Microsoft Office XP and is included in later Office versions including Office 2003 and Office 2007.

Maybe, but I used to be very familiar with the Xerox-authored document imaging app that was once bundled with Windows 98 and 2000. This looks awfully similar to that twenty year old app.

MODI feels like ancient code, crafted by lost Giants who dreamt in assembler. It's blazingly fast on today's hardware.

It's also the simplest scanning application I've ever seen. Remember to click the 'prompt for additional pages" checkbox and even on a single page scanner it will assemble the images into a single TIFF. It even does quite decent, and very fast, OCR. If you have Adobe Acrobat you can readily convert the output to PDF, and if you don't you can probably "print" using freeware products.

Or you could just leave it as TIFF.

I use the B&W settings when scanning expense receipts on an old personal scanner I brought to work (nobody wanted the scanner after I bought a higher end model). Very nice results.

Devilish Dealings: How to get a corporate discount on an AT&T iPhone

Several months back I switched our family plan from Sprint to AT&T. My wife needed a new smart phone, and since I wanted iPhone 2.0 w/ SDK we decided to change rather than pay full price for a new phone.

I detailed the transition a few months back: Gordon's Tech: A deal with the Devil: We move from Sprint to AT&T and towards an iPhone.

It wasn't, in retrospect, a good business move. Our phone bill has gone up by about $40 a month because AT&T charges much more to call Canada (mother!) than our (legacy) Sprint Canada calling plan. Our phone usage is also awkwardly between AT&T call plans, so we end up with unwanted extra minutes.

Oh, and don't get me started about AT&T's vile rebate strategy.

Ah well, more adventures in phone pricing. And people think only physicians prefer to avoid transparency ...

Now, we do benefit from a 15% discount available through my employer, but iPhones don't qualify for these discounts. So I was figuring we'd lose the discount.

Except ... there's a small loophole. We may not lose it completely.

AT&T's current billing system associates the discount with the primary number on a family plan. So if the primary number isn't an iPhone, the discount should be retained.

Emily is staying with her BlackBerry Pearl for the moment. So today the very friendly staff at my local AT&T shop swapped her number to the primary position, and made mine secondary. They had to manually tweak the rollover minutes so we didn't lose those, though so far they're pointless.

In theory, all I need to do now is pickup an iPhone 2.0 sometime after June 9th and activate it via iTunes. The discount should continue ...

I'll update this post with what really happens. Satan usually comes out ahead in these games ...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Google Calendar Outlook Sync is making a mess of my calendar

I was pretty happy when Google's official Outlook calendar sync arrived.

Not so happy since.

I'm synchronizing my aged Palm T/2 to Outlook (home), and Outlook to Google Calendar. I'm getting multiple instances of some events -- with the metastatic replicants all one hour early. All day events are turning into 24 hour events that spill over into a 2nd day.

It's a ruddy mess.

Update 5/20/2008: I prefer not to think about sync problems, but here are some clues to what's going on:
  • There's some kind of a time zone bug in the gCal/Outlook 2003/Palm chain. It could be an emergent bug, so it doesn't show up if you just live between gCal and Outlook 2003. It may be related to changes in US time zone transitions and the hacks that were put into Outlook 2003 and Palm to work around this.
  • There's another problem that may be even more intractable. I believe Outlook, gCal and Palm take different approaches to events that are either 'all day' or 'no time'. That is the events are associated with a day, but not with a particular time of the day. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays etc. I would not be surprised if Outlook were the "bad actor" with a particularly odd implementation of date-associated events, particularly date-associated recurring events. Since Outlook is 'in-the-middle' of this transaction set that's a bad problem.
If I were really going to try to stay with Palm I'd install Outlook 2008 and see if the problem improved. Truth is, of course, I'm hanging on the cliff edge with aching fingers, bleeding nails, and gritted teeth for iPhone 2.0.

For now I think the problem is most severe for events I create on gCal, so I'll treat gCal as read-only and do my authoring on the Palm or Outlook.

Update 5/24/2008: I confirmed data was correct in Outlook 2003 and the Palm, then I set Google Calendar Sync to update gCal from Outlook. It wiped all existing data and created a new set. Recurring appointments are ALL off by one hour. Non-recurring are fine. I confirmed time zones are set correctly in Outlook, my desktop and in gCal. This is a gross bug, there's no way QA could have missed it. So it's back to looking at the commercial non-Google properties. I'll have more to say on this in a couple of Gordon's Notes post.

Windows Live Writer - gallery of plug-ins

The world's greatest blogging tool has a new and improved Plug-In gallery. (The Firefox Blog widget is prominently featured.)

As fond as I am of WLW, it does pain me to praise it. It's a Microsoft Live product, and there's no OS X version on the horizon. It's a bit much to load VMWare Fusion and XP only to run WLW, but I'm tempted.

There's nothing comparable for OS X. Ecto showed promise once but every time I've tried it I've been disappointed. In particular it made a mess of Blogger posts; WLW handles Blogger quirks and bugs as well as anything can.

Update 5/20/08: The WLW Firefox add-in is not compatible with FF 3! Wow. Wish I'd thought about that before I upgraded. I'd have held off on my XP machines.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

My MacBook fan was roaring. Why?

The MacBook sounded like a jet engine. Fan running full blast.

I figured out what was wrong, but it took longer than it should have. I wonder how regular folk ever keep computers running...

Emily emailed me about the roaring mid-day, though she didn't know it was the fan (why should she?). I figured it was some crummy Adobe Flash code running wild in a child's session. An easy problem to fix when I got home.

That wasn't it. The 1.5 yo MacBook was fine on restart, but as soon as I logged into any user account the fan went wind tunnel.

I'm a bit out of practice, so I forgot the first rule of a berserk fan. Go to Applications:Utility and launch 'Activity Monitor'. Set it to show 'All Processes' and look for one that's out of control. (The default setting shows the Processes for the current user only, so you'll often miss an other user or system process.)

I guess we've just had too much stability for too long. I've gone soft. That never happened in the days I managed multiple PCs at home -- I was always in top debug shape. Never a lack of practice.

So instead of going right to the problem I did a 'safe start' (reboot while hold shift key). That clears up most minor problems, but not this one. The machine was running with a CPU temp of 68 C instead of a more normal 58 C and the fan was racing to cool it down.

Then I did a PRAM refresh -- which never does anything for me on modern Macs. I suspect PRAM zapping is all fake now, like office thermostats that don't connect anywhere.

Still roaring. Finally I ran Activity Monitor. The #!$$! print queue was out of control. I killed it and eventually found a stuck .jpg print job in the #$^@ Canon printer queue. Fan problem solved.

The really annoying thing is that I wrote about the same problem on my G5 iMac years ago. Canon's OS X device drivers for scanner and printer alike are not just bad, they're unspeakably bad. Bad enough that nobody should buy Canon printers or scanners for OS X. It doesn't matter how good the hardware is, the software is barely one step above malware.

Not that Epson is perfect, they just suck less.

Turns out, there's a reason for this.

I really wish Apple would return to the days they branded other people's hardware and wrote their own device drivers. I'd happily pay a premium for an Apple branded version of Canon/Epson hardware with Apple device drivers.

I decided I'd look for a new version of this driver. Maybe there was something better. I found one that's six months old, but it came with some pretty grim warnings. I've bolded one or two ...
Photo Inkjet Printers - Photo Inkjet Printers - PIXMA Pro Professional Inkjet Printers - Photo Printer - PIXMA iP4000 - Canon USA Consumer Products

... Mac OS X v. 10.3 to 10.4 9. Installation of the printer driver may require a little time to complete, and it takes 3 to 4 (possibly as much as 8 to 9) minutes from when the Continue Installation button is clicked until the Restart button is displayed. 10. In wireless connection, after print head alignment, the operation panel does not become active again, and the utility cannot be used in some instances. 11. Multiple numbers of the same printer name are registered to the Printer Setup Utility in some instances. 12. Even when an error is released, the error message remains in some instances. 13. When attempting to print, the printer does not operate in some instances. 14. In the following environment, even after clicking "About ink" in the Ink Level Information menu of the Canon IJ Printer Utility or "Initial Check Items" in the confirmation dialog for nozzle check pattern printing, nothing is displayed: Security Update 2005-005 or Security Update 2005-006 is installed in Mac OS X Ver. 10.3.9 15. In Mac OS X Ver. 10.4 or later, the number of copies cannot be entered in the Print dialog. 16. When the Print dialog is displayed from IllustratorCS2 or InDesignCS2 in Mac with Intel-made processor, the margins are incorrect and so the message "The entered value cannot be applied to margin" is displayed. Therefore, as "Margin" or "Duplex Printing & Margin" option is not displayed, auto duplex printing cannot be performed. 17. When the following procedures are performed, iPhoto6 crashes. Procedures: 1. Display Page Setup while the print dialog is open. 2. Click OK or Cancel to close Page Setup. 3. Click Advanced in the lower middle of the print dialog. 18. When the following procedures are performed, the following items are not displayed in the print dialog menu of iPhoto6: - Quality & Media - Borderless & Printing - Duplex Printing & Margin Procedures: 1. Display Page Setup while the print dialog is open. 2. Click OK or Cancel to close Page Setup. 3. Click Advanced in the lower middle of the print dialog. Mac OS X v. 10.5 19. When the monitor resolution is 1024 x 768 or less, as the “Print” and “Cancel” buttons are displayed behind DOCK, those buttons cannot be clicked.
Really, this is pathetic. I'll stick with the old driver. At least I know that devil.

The Canon iP4000 is old. The next time it runs short of ink it's junk. I'll buy an Epson, and upgrade to merely crummy quality.

One last question to think about. Why won't Canon invest in better drivers?

Update 5/17/08: nice review of laptop overheating in Mac Fixit.
Update 6/3/08: I just installed 10.5.3 on the MacBook, and had to resinstall printer drivers. With this OS printer installation is very well done; I was offered a driver (CUPS I suspect) from the OS. It's working in limited use, and I haven't had to install Canon's awful drivers.
Update 10/2/08: Came to look at this due to a thank you note (a lot of people find this article). I have since installed 10.5.4 on all my machines, and now they all use Apple provided drivers. No Canon malware. It's not repeated often enough, but whether you use OS X or XP you should strongly resist using drivers provided by hardware vendors. Strive only to use what the OS bundles. If hardware needs more than the OS provides, try not to buy it.

How buggy was OS X 10.5.0? There are 220 fixes in 10.5.3 ...

I don't recall 220 significant fixes in 10.4.3 or 10.3.3 or even 10.2.3. 

AppleInsider | Mac OS X 10.5.3 moving along, on course with iPhone 2.0?

Among those improvements are tweaks to the performance of certain graphics drivers and fixes to parental controls, wireless certificates, and screen sharing, those people say. The latest additions bring the running total of fixes expected as part of the release to a staggering 220.

OS X 10.5.0 was a really buggy release. I'm glad I haven't updated yet. With 220 big fixes in 10.5.3 I'm thinking of waiting for 10.5.4!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Google Doctype

via Daring Fireball

Google Doctype - Google Code

...Google Doctype is an open encyclopedia and reference library. Written by web developers, for web developers. It includes articles on web security, JavaScript DOM manipulation, CSS tips and tricks, and more. The reference section includes a growing library of test cases for checking cross-browser and cross-platform compatibility...

Thank you Google.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Google Docs: A server error has occurred

Sometimes I think those people who write glowingly of Google Apps don't really use Google Apps.
Google Docs

We're sorry.

We're sorry, a server error occurred. Please wait a bit and try again.

Find out more at the Google Docs Help Center.

Microsoft WorldWide Telescope's Mac support

Microsoft Research's WWT has Mac support ...

WorldWide Telescope

For Mac:

Microsoft® XP SP2 (minimum), Windows® Vista® (recommended) with BootCamp...


Ah well, it's hard to complain too much. It is Microsoft Research after all.

I'll try out WWT on my XP box. If/when I get around to installing XP SP2 and VMWare Fusion I might try it on my MacBook too.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Project Eggplant - Google Sites example

Google has a few sample Google Sites projects online. I liked Project Eggplant best. Evidently there's a way to eliminate the "comments" footers from a Sites page. I hadn't figured out how to do that in my small Sites experiments, but now I see it can be done. I might have to RTFM.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Walkabout camera: DP-1, Richo GX or Canon G9?

Nice discussion of high end walkabout cameras ...
Out In The Streets - Inside Aperture

... I left out the Leica M8 as I think that for $5500 (for the body alone) the camera just isn’t there yet. The perfect camera for me is really a Leica M9, with a full frame BEAUTIFUL sensor, and all the ergonomics of its film predecessors. Until that model exists, I can’t see myself investing that much money in something substandard.

The G9 will have to do for now. Hopefully it will fill that void between the little camera in my iPhone that I ALWAYS have with me, and my DSLR, that I just don’t like to lug around with me anymore unless I have to. Either way, these three cameras really do point toward a new class of camera. A 'street-able,' compact camera, pocket sized, that shoots RAW, works with Aperture, has a wide and fast lens (fixed is fine with me) and can produce large prints that I can hang on the wall.
I'm surprised the G9 is considered pocket sized! I had a Canon G2 and liked it quite a bit, but Canon lost its way with the subsequent models in that series. Nice to know the G9 has a following.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Macintouch likes the Amazon Kindle

Macintouch has the best and most positive Amazon Kindle Review I've read.

I think Paul Krugman is also a fan.

Interesting comment -- the author felt the ideal audience is people who are running out of book shelf space, rather than people who read books then give them away. (We're more the latter.)

On the other hand the Kindle is Windows centric. The Audible support requires a Winbox.

I'm impressed. I was skeptical about the Kindle at launch time, but it does look like a real success. (You were right Andrew!).

I'll keep an eye out for Kindle 2.0 -- and for Apple's rumored challenger. There are still a ways to go before it passes the four tests.

CEIVA digital photo frames

I've not paid much attention to digital photo frames. The ones I've seen in stores looked pretty crummy.

Then I read in Macintouch that Ceiva has produced an iPhoto plug-in. That's a step above the pack.

It's about $180 for a 7" CEIVA.

There's no CEIVA on my acquisition list yet, but I'll keep one eye open. The CEIVA still has to pass the four tests of acquisition.

Friday, May 09, 2008

OmniFocus iPhone sync - on track?

I've been wondering if Apple was going to give iPhone developers the ability to sync through the dock connector.

I don't know the answer of course, but OmniFocus Sync development is apparently on track.

Yeah, the post doesn't mention the iPhone, but the "redacted" and "censored" and blurred iPhone-shaped icon aren't there to conceal plans to sync with Palm PDAs.

OmniFocus get a tepid Neuberg review, but I'll overlook some rough edges if they get iPhone sync working.

Google Alerts: tracking usenet topics w/ Bloglines email notifications

I've started using Google Alerts to track usenet (Google Groups) posts on topics of interests, and all posts that contain a unique string I attach to my usenet posts as a "tag" [1]. Alert search scope can be restricted to Groups, Blogs, Web, News and (shudder) Video.

Alerts appear in the form of emails however, and that's intensely annoying. I prefer to use email for communication, not as a general notification engine.

The cure is to provide Google Alerts a Bloglines' disposable feed reader integrated email address ...

Bloglines FAQ

...Bloglines free email accounts allow people to receive email newsletter subscriptions within their MyBloglines page. This helps to reduce traffic through your primary email inbox and helps to contain the spam menace. A Bloglines email account gives you a trump card when a newsletter breaks the rules of opt-in marketing. When you unsubscribe from a Bloglines email subscription, the email address disappears. You never have to worry about trying to find the unsubscribe instructions for an unwanted mailing list.

So the results of my alerts show up in my bloglines feed reader as event notifications, which is exactly what I want.

[1] I've done this since the launch of the original DejaNews in the 1990s. My usenet posts contain a unique string as a "tag" (keyword, meta term). I search on the string to find all related posts. The functional result is rather like a blog, but this method worked long before blogs existed.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Gordon's Tech: Monitoring Dyer with vs. Page2RSS

Gwynne Dyer, an iconoclastic journalist and historian, notifies readers of new articles by updating his web page. He typically adds 4-5 articles every 3-7 weeks; the linked articles are the published as .txt files -- not HTML.

Yes, Firefox will render .txt files.

I've been tracking changes with and receiving feed reader notifications through Bloglines email subscriptions. This has been working well, but now Phil Bradley tells us that Page2RSS will create a custom RSS feed for pages like this.

I'm running a side-by-side comparison, after a month or two I aim to return and update this post with my preference.

Update 5/16/08: Page2RSS is really neat ... so far!

Update 5/18/08: A comment on Gordon's Notes also suggests Feedity. Feedity also supports feed merges, Yahoo Pipes does this and more.

Update 6/3/08: On one page I was monitoring Feedity sent me a high volume of false notifications (false positives). On the same page Page2RSS sent me only one update, and that one was correct. So I'm favoring Page2RSS.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Gmail doesn't allow multiple people for one email address

You can't have two contact list entries with the same email address:

Error saving data: Contact already exists with the given email

I wanted to create entries for our baseball players, but the email is, of course, their parents.

Another annoying Gmail limitation. I would really prefer that Google fix their existing products rather than create new ones.

Gmail's Contact Import/Export - designed by Yahoo?

I challenge anyone to deny that Gmail's contact management UI is absolutely dreadful.

We ought to be able to post any one of several valid collections of names and email addresses into a text box and have Gmail chew them up and generate contacts.

Instead we have to craft a .CSV file to load contacts -- and there's NO process for uploading a group membership list.

The secret to the .CSV file, btw, is to fill out the fields on a Gmail contact, then add it to a new list, then export the list as CSV. That's now the template for your imports.

In my case I made a mistake on my first data load. I loaded all my list members -- but with NULL email addresses. The corrected upload was rejected because the names already existed.

Microsoft, lately, does much better web work than this. Heck, the original Gmail contact management/group management UI was far better than the current mess.

Only Yahoo! functions at this level.

Yahoo! must have build Gmail's contact and group management UI.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6: unacceptable

Bizarre, but true. Adobe's latest verison of Photoshop Elements still requires users to run as administrator. - Run Photoshop Elements 6 under a non-admin account:

... Version 6.0 of Adobe's Photoshop Elements still has problems when running under non-admin accounts. On my computer, none of the effects or layer styles would appear in the Effects palette. It appears that PSE6 needs to write to a file called MediaDatabase.db3 in order to load the effects...
There's allegedly a fairly simple workaround for this problem, but that only lowers my opinion of Adobe.

Running as an administrator is like having an alligator filled moat around your castle -- and then draining it and eating the alligators. Nobody should run as Admin in 2008.

Adobe is not your friend. Heck, Adobe is working for the bad guys. Adobe is your enemy.

Don't buy Adobe products.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Survey of Outlook/Google Calendar sync solutions

Calendar Swamp: Which Outlook/Google Calendar sync is best? is a good summary of the options. The poll shows that Google's solution is the #1 choice of the readers of this hard core calendaring blog.

The Google solution works pretty well for me, though it can sometimes mess up all day events. I've read that this is related to an ancient bug in the way Outlook handles all day events. I haven't read the details, but I'm guessing that there's an old design flaw in outlook, such that an 'all day event' is really a midnight-to-midnight event rather than a 'day event'. This means that a time zone or savings time glitch will cause some events to spill over into another day.

The shocking news about our new Digital-TV converter

I'm stunned.

It actually worked with our old rabbit ear antenna.

I was sure it wouldn't. I've been mentally composing and revising a blog post about political white lies and the analog to digital TV conversion. The dirty little secret, I was convinced, was that the subsidized Digital-TV converters would require a costly and fiddly outdoor antenna. That's what the directions for our $60 Digital Stream DTX9900 (RadioShack) said -- outdoor antenna.

So I plugged in my primeval $8.00 rabbit ears, expecting to get nothing at all. Instead I found we have two or three times the number of TV channels we used to have. (Ok, we'll never watch 90% of them -- but they exist. We just need a sports show for when my son earns TV time.)

Yes, I have to tweak the antenna for one or two of those channels, but I've needed considerably more gyrations to get a fuzzy analog signal. Our tiny little 12" TV now has a (relatively) stunning high quality image.

To add bemusement to astonishment, this is the first non-trivial device I've bought from Radio Shack that actually worked.

The rabbit ear has the flat connector prongs, so I have an RF plug adapter at the end of the rabbit ears. The RF adapter brings the digital antenna signal into the DTX9900, then a RCA component adapter carries the analog signal to our (half-broken) VHS/DVD player. From there another component connector goes to the TV.

The TV is set to get signal from video (it's just modern enough to have that option), the VHS/DVD deck gets its signal from 'L1' (the input from the DTX9900). So the tuner in the VHS deck is no longer in use, channel control is through the DTX9900 remote. The digital remote also provides some kind of program listing, the time of day, information on shows, and a volume control.

Note that you really don't want to lose or break the remote. Without the remote you can turn on the device and move up or down the channel list -- that's all.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Rare bird: a useful widget

I've not found widgets all that useful. For one thing, they're slow to open. I can get weather faster from a browser shortcut than from a widget.

Timers, though -- they make good widgets. This one is particularly good: Widget Watch: Minutes 2.0.1 - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Neuberg on OmniFocus

Matt Neuberg brings a career of writing and contemplating information management to a deeply thoughtful analysis of the OmniGroup's OmniFocus Getting Things Done application.

The OmiGroup is drinking heavily tonight.

It's not that Matt dislikes OmniFocus, it's rather that he exposed lots of significant design issues. His conclusion ...
... If OmniFocus were a public beta, I'd be unhesitating: "Go for it!" I'd cry ... But OmniFocus isn't a beta, and its price seems out of proportion to the state of its development.
Ouch! I've been hoping the OmniGroup would implement a great iPhone OmniFocus client with sync support (assuming Apple allows it) to desktop OmniFocus. Matt's review sets that hope back a bit.

The good news is that he had lots of serious suggestions. The next version of OmniFocus might be a great improvement.

(PS. Matt, before there was In Control there was GrandView - the preeminent app combining columns and outlines. I think in the early days of dBase Borland's Reflex had some similar tricks, but I don't see that mentioned in a delightfully old review -- those were the days.)