Friday, August 28, 2009

Aperture's unsupported image message - a false alarm but a real problem

(see Updates. I've left this post roughly as it unfolded, but this wasn't an Aperture bug.)

The latest incarnation of an old Aperture bug is particularly nasty.

You get a project where only outlines of images can be seen. Click on them and you get a red square with white text saying "unsupported image format'. Restart doesn't fix this, there's no known fix. It's what you get with unsupported RAW images, but it occurs with old RAW images.

Here's one threat on the topic: Apple - Support - Discussions - Unsupported Image Format ...

There's a new release of Aperture, but no news if it has a fix. It's too big for me to download over a lousy hotel connection.

Aperture is a pro project. You can imagine how happy Aperture pro users must be to lose their work this way.

Update: The "unsupported image format" error is a red herring. I experimented with dragging the project out of Aperture, then inspecting the contents (right click, open package). It contains metadata, but no images. The images appear to have been lost by Aperture, leaving only misleading metadata. I suspect there's an image loss bug that can be triggered by moving images between projects contained in different folders.

Update 2: I'm going to run the consistency check described in Apple's Aperture troubleshooting page. I'd moved this Library from another machine, and I think that's an unsupported action. I see now I have 'read only' permissions for the Package -- I'm surprised it works at all. I have changed Package Permissions to read/write. I'm going to save a copy before I do this however.

Update 3: After I changed package permissions I ran the consistency check (Command-opt click on Aperture, hold cmd-opt until get dialog) to fix other permissions. That concluded without a message. I then restarted Aperture and this time ran the database repair. That found the images that had vanished earlier and restored the project with correct values.

So this problem began with my copying a library to a new machine, which is not entirely kosher. Then I failed to check permissions on the library/package. That meant Aperture could do some things, but other things would fail (no permissions). This particularly impacted copies on folders -- so when I tried to copy images into a project in a certain folder only some of the data was copied -- the pictures were orphaned. (This is arguably a bug, Aperture should detect the copy failure.)

The unsupported image message was a red herring.

Google Reader messes up the shared tag feed - includes items shared by those I follow

Something odd his happening with my Google Reader - "MacOSX" shared posts. I'm seeing posts I know I didn't share - including posts I've not yet read!

They are OS X related and they're mostly interesting. So is it due to some corruption with the (increasingly buggy) Byline iPhone app I use? Some mixture of what I share and what those I follow share? Google Reader bugs?

Weird. I'll have to track this ...

Update: I think it's a Google issue. The items showing in the public feed don't match what GR shows in its shared items list.

Update 2: My tag-specific shared item feed obtained from my "manage subscriptions" "folder and tag" list includes not only my shared items, but also items from blogs I follow that have been independently shared by people I follow! This is interesting, but, Google, so very, very wrong. Please don't make me explain why this is wrong, just think about it for a moment.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

OS X Preview PDF display - it has limits

Montreal offers a detailed PDF map of the island .. - general tourist info
... See this Google map of the metropolitan area or download the incredibly detailed city map (pdf format) from the Montreal transit site ...
It's a richly detailed 4.4 MB pure vector PDF.

I tried viewing it in OS X Not such a good idea. Preview pegged my MacBook at 98% CPU and a GB or so of memory.

This is the first time OS X Preview has disappointed me. I hadn't realized it was such a light duty application. I'm contemplating installing Adobe's product, something I try very hard to avoid given Adobe's astounding record of installer dysfunction.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Using Google Voice when traveling internationally

When we visit the old country (Canada) I put my AT&T iPhone in airport mode. So no cell services and no data services. It will work in Canada, but even the voice charges are prohibitive.

So what do I do about for people calling my cell phone while I'm away? How should people from work get in touch with me?

Enter Google Voice.

I forwarded my iPhone number to my local Google Voice number (it's in iPhone settings under phone). In Google Voice turn off forwarding to the iPhone [1] and all other numbers.

Now calls to my mobile to go my GV voice mail. All messages are transcribed, and an email is sent to my Gmail account with the transcription and a link to the audio (which plays, interestingly, in the iPhone's video player -- weird, but it works).

So when I travel voice messages will reach me whenever my iPhone has WiFi services, which is usually a few times a day. Not bad.

When I cross into the US I just turn on the iPhone and turn off forwarding.

Now to see what happens if I try to may a GV call from Canada (I think it won't let me do this, but I'll give it a try).

[1] If you forget to do this, you can set up an infinite loop. GV forwards to the phone which forwards to GV. Ok, so I forgot. Turns out the phone rings for a while but GV eventually goes to voice mail (because you're not picking up the forwarding). If you turn off forwarding to the phone GV picks up incoming calls immediately.

Update 8/26/2013: A more sophisticated version of this.

iPhone notifications – two services that create notifications for email

In the past week or so I’ve come across two different services that create iPhone notifications upon email receipt. One here: - Push any email to the iPhone via third-party app

There have been several hints in the past, including these two of mine, with regards to using push email on the iPhone, or using MobileMe with custom reply-to entries, etc. A new application called PushMail ($5; App Store link) seems to me to be the ideal way of using push email (or any mail) on the iPhone…

… Essentially, PushMail gives you your own new email address, something like Everything that gets sent to that address has a push notification displayed on your phone. The notification displays the sender, the subject, and as much of the email as can fit in a notification. So, you can configure your regular email addresses to all forward a copy of your email to that new address, and you will have your email pushed to you.

This is an option in the settings for most webmail email services such as Gmail, or you can configure procmail to forward a copy, if you've got control of your email server. ..

..You can to the same for free using text free lite - lookup in appstore textfree, they will give you a push enabled address, then just forward to that address…

and another:

TUAW: Apple approved Gmail app for iPhone. Has hell frozen over?

TechCrunch is reporting today that an iPhone App that utilizes the Apple Push Notification system to let you know you have new Gmail is about to hit the app store. The app, called GPush, is developed by Tiverias Apps, and gives Gmail users an instant notification that new mail has arrived. iPhone users will still have to read their mail, either in a browser or the Apple Mail client, but the notifications will be essentially instant.

GPush will be US$0.99 for a week, then will be sold for $1.99 after.

The Tiverias sight has more on GPush including an FAQ. It does work with Google Apps.

That means I could create an email account on one of our family Google Apps domains just for push email. Then I could use that whenever I have something I want to be notified of, like an email notification related to a Google Calendar event. Using an account like this has a very important advantage – the way GPush works their server has to hold your account un/pw:

Should I be concerned about providing my password to GPush?

When we created the app, we committed first and foremost to security. We are using multiple levels of encryption including SSL and obfuscation. We had a penetration testing team run their analysis on the server and passed their certification.

Briefly, HELL YES you should be concerned. My Gmail credentials are among the most valuable “things” I own. Steal my car please – at least that’s insured! (It’s also very crummy.) I’m not giving the keys to the empire to any vendor. A purpose build Google Apps account though – that I could do.

I’ll provide an update on how well this works.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We can now tweet from Google Reader

When you click the Twitter link Google Reader opens Twitter with a URL shortened link to the post ..
A flurry of features for feed readers

We've made it easier to share posts you like to Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, and more, with our new 'Send to' feature...

Just head over to the settings page, and enable the services you want to use.... you can create your own 'Send to' link with a URL template...

To share an item on one of your sites, simply click the 'Send to' button and choose your service. If you're into keyboard shortcuts, 'shift-t' will do the same.

It's a lesser version of what I wanted Byline to do. It's interesting, but, darn it, they got it wrong! I want a single button that would let me write a comment for sharing in Google Reader, and have that comment (length limited) go to Twitter. Also there's no option to send a post to multiple sites at the same time.

You can also send to Blogger, but it sends the entire page to the editor. I don't know if I'll find it very useful for blogging.

Overall, it's a step in the right direction, but only a smallish step.

Update 4/25/10: This is still not a part of the mobile reader UI. I think it's a dead end.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Verizon's WiFi service doesn't support OS X

This surprised me ...
Macintouch - Mac Marginalization:
... the rumor is that Verizon intends to support Mac users on its WiFi service in October, about 4 months after making the service available to Windows users. Such a delay could have been avoided by simply using platform agnostic user-verification methods....
Verizon chose to use some proprietary logon app?! That's such a peculiar choice it casts doubt on all of Verizon's technical judgment.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The persistent virtue of old machines

I'm typing this post on a G3 iBook running OS X 10.3 and Camino 1.6.8.

I've not used this laptop for a while, it sits in the kitchen and Emily owns that space. So I was surprised to discover that it works very well as a web client (though the battery life is rather minimal -- the LiON battery died years ago).

The secret, of course, is to know when to stop upgrading. Theoretically it could run 10.4, but I know that would be slower than heck (it came with OS 9 and, I think, 10.1 or 10.0). Camino is a beautiful browser and this version runs very well on 10.3 (even has Expose!) . The iBooks always had great radio reception, and the 802.11b Time Capsule connection works (though there were some oddities initially).

Google, of course, is doing the heavy lifting. They keep getting faster, so my iBook keeps getting faster. That's the Chrome OS promise.

It's not just the iBook. Upstairs, with some hardware fixes and a few workarounds, my ancient XP box keeps getting faster with each release of Chrome. (My G5, however, is kinda slow with 10.5. I should have stuck with 10.4. The MacTel transition shortened the G5 lifespan.)

Computing ain't what it used to be. Feels to me like we need one powerful machine to manage photo, video, backup and file services, and everything else can just coast ... (Wii for games.)

PS. Considering the build quality of many netbooks, an old laptop with a newish battery is pretty price and performance competitive.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Facebook Pages: Beware the traps

I recently created a Facebook "Page" for the Minnesota Inline Skate Club. It was easy to create it, but I ran into two well known flaws.

I’ll describe those, but first I need to distinguish a Profile from a Page. A Profile is the representation of a person and is typically bound, behind the scenes, to a phone number. So a Profile is a pretty strong identity claim. Every Facebook user has a Profile.

A Page is a public manifestation, it’s always associated with exactly one Profile. The Profile owns the Page. Pages typically belong to organizations, businesses, and public figures.

Pages are fairly easy to create, though like all things Facebook there’s no obvious documentation. There are, however, two significant flaws:

  1. The Page Creator is the Page Owner. Ownership cannot be changed; Pages cannot be moved from one Profile to another. The Owner is always an admin. The Owner may appear in the list of Fans, but they cannot post as a Fan. Everyone else who ‘friends’ a Page is a Fan. The Owner may make Fans administrators.
  2. Owners can appear in the Fan list, but they are not truly a Fan. An owner cannot post with their Personal Profile, they always post as the Page.

The Facebook Page Admin forums have hundreds (thousands) of posts complaining about these two issues. The pleas are not answered.

It appears that the “proper” way to create a Page at the moment is to

  1. Create a new Profile that will own the page (Page_Profile). Do this using a transferrable email address. So this is a transferrable Profile.
  2. Create the Page.
  3. Logout and login with your personal Profile (Personal_Profile). Become a Fan of the Page.
  4. Logout and login with your Page_Profile. Promote your Personal_Profile to admin.

Now, depending on how you login to Facebook (which Profile you wear) you can post to your Page either as a Fan or as the Page (ex. Minnesota Inline) itself.

This is obviously a rather awkward arrangement; I wonder if the creation of a Page_Profile is even legitimate with Facebook’s Terms of Service. Facebook really does need to fix this, but I’m sure the fixes are not trivial.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Managing wet gadgets

This Macintouch reader report is the best summary I've come across on how to manage a wet gadget. Above all, remove the batteries ...
Macintouch - iPod: Washed iPods - Mark Hosking

Moisture and humidity are the enemy of any electronic device that has been "drowned" or dropped in liquid, because it causes oxidation of the metal components inside, especially if the unit is powered up as the electricity also "galvanises" the oxidation process.

If a pet urinates on any gadget or it gets dropped or carried into the ocean, or falls in an undesirable liquid, the first action should be to remove the power source and all batteries. Also DO NOT press the power up button to see if the device still functions in the event that it got wet when powered off.

Instead the procedure is to immediately clean any salt water, dirty liquids or pet pee out of the device, with distilled, purified or soda water. Do not use tap water as the chlorine in it is an oxidiser and this will cause more possible damage down the track.

Next carefully shake as much excess liquid (which should only be clean water now) out of the device and dry it with a soft cloth so that the exterior is also dry.

Finally to rapidly, and more effectively than any other method, remove all the remaining moisture and humidity that would otherwise cause oxidation and damage to the internal components of your iPod, phone, video or still camera, or any other expensive, delicate electronic device, grab a vacuum cleaner that has a hose attachment and patiently suck out the remaining dampness from the previously wet device using the vacuum cleaner.

Using common sense, pay particular attention to all the slots, sockets, battery storage areas and openings in the device as these areas will allow the suction of the vacuum cleaner to draw air and moisture from deeper inside the wet device.

The amount of humidity and dampness involved in this procedure should not represent a hazard to the vacuum cleaner.

Be patient and spend at least 20 - 30 minutes using this technique to dry the device thoroughly, changing the placement of the hose nozzle every minute or so to ensure that you get at the location of all the internal cavities. Do not rush this procedure, there are no shortcuts.

Never choose to dry any water damaged electronic device using heat such as with a hair dryer or placement of the device in hot sun or in a warm oven. This process will cause the internal moisture to turn to humidity that will lodge itself deeper into the internal components and this will ultimately cause more harm and ongoing oxidation. Therefore what may seem like a successful repair can often develop faults weeks or months later, related to the oxidation that you will have encouraged.

Next, clean and dry any previously removed batteries and reinstall them into the now dried device and power the device up, if it powers up and all the functions are OK then you have just saved your product's life and all it cost you was some patience and electricity to run the vacuum cleaner for 30 minutes.

Remember that time is also your enemy when needing to dry the moisture from the wet device, leaving it in a bag of any "drying" agent for several days will not arrest the oxidation the begins immediately the unit got wet, a vacuum cleaner will arrest the oxidation immediately when you use it to very effectively dry out the internal aspect of the device ASAP. As we all know "rust never sleeps".

Delayed write failed: Ultron and PSEXESVC.EXE

I really don't like it when I google on error messages and get zero hits.

My corporate XP box is giving me two forms of the same delayed write error message (image left). They reference two paths:


The only Ultron I know dates to my childhood, it's not a very friendly name for a directory.

Of course it's natural to think about viruses, but I'd have thought there's be some more hits on the topic ...
Update 8/4/09: A virus, after all. Some variant of Win32/ilomo.bc – but one that seems to spread over a network rather than as a trojan.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Oddest OS X settings: Audio MIDI Setup

Just about every configuration feature in OS X is done through "System Preferences" (Preference Panes).

Just about - but not all. There are some audio settings that can only be performed by a very obscure utility ....
Mac OS X 10.4 Help: Using Audio MIDI Setup to configure your audio system
... You can use Audio MIDI Setup to configure the audio input and output devices you use with your computer, such as microphones and audio playback equipment. The settings you can change in Audio MIDI Setup depend on the audio device you are using. For example, you can adjust the level for each channel your audio output device has available, if the device supports changing the level. To learn more about using Audio MIDI Setup, open Audio MIDI Setup, in Applications/Utilities, and choose Help - Audio MIDI Setup Help...
Mostly AMS duplicates other preference panes, but the channel bit rates, speaker configuration and output volumes are uniquely managed here. Every few months someone uses AMS to solve some obscure sound related problem, occasionally it's a voodoo cure for other oddities.

It's strange that it persists over so many releases. It should be Pref setting, not a utility. I wonder if it finally goes away in 10.6.

(I have an odd feeling there as a similar utility in MacOS Classic 6 ...)

After the battle: The improved Google Voice Web App

As every geek knows, the demise of the Google Voice iPhone app marked the start of the Apple-Google wars.

Barring successful FCC arm twisting, Google Voice customers must use the mobile web app with the iPhone.

The good news is it's much better than the last time I looked at it. In my testing today it was very responsive. In fact, it was faster to use for placing a call to Canada than GV Mobile, the native app I've been using.

The GV web app follows RESTful principles, so I save a phonetop bookmark for a specific call. In my case, I can create a bookmark that takes me directly to the call setup for my regular Canada call.

To complete my regular long distance call I tap the bookmark, tap the "call" button (or SMS) then choose the calling number (defaults to my mobile) then tap call. I tried saving the last screen so it would be a 2 tap operation but it didn't work. So it's 3 taps, but it's significantly faster than using GV Mobile (but not quite as quick as using the long defunct GrandDialer).

It's not nearly as good as the dedicated iPhone app we aren't going to get, but for my purposes it's pretty decent. Note phone search only returns Google Contacts with a phone number.

OS X Tip: Open all windows from the dock

I've slowly come to love OS X Expose. It's moved me away from browser tabs and towards using F9 to view all windows in miniature.

Problem is, docked Windows don't show up, and there's no obvious way to undock them all.

The answer -- hold down the Option (alt) key and click on any docked window -- all windows for that app will undock.

I discovered this one simply by assuming someone at Apple would have a fix, and knowing that the Option key is often used for this sort of thing.