Saturday, August 28, 2010

Transferring the domain - what remains of Google Apps

The last step of the migration took place at DreamHost. The provide an optional mixed hosting service. I had some files in a traditional ftp site on a DH server, but also Gmail and Google Apps via Google.

From their control panel I turned off the Gmail and Google Apps connection. (See the posts list below for my prior action).

Then, since DH was also the registrar for I switched to the new DNS servers. I'll update this post if I learn what really happens to the data that was at the old site.

See also (note, some are old)!
Update 8/29/10: After the transfer

The domain now points to a new site. What happened to the old content?
  • sites: they still exist! The URLs are of the form: 
  • docs: they still exist! The URL is of the form:
  • mail: it still exists for my account (I removed the others) with URL:
In fact, I can still manage the domain using the URL

So I have, at least for the moment, answered the question about what happens to Google Apps content when the original Google App Domain is gone. Turns out, it persists. Even the Domain settings persist (Google Apps thinks the domain is still, even though it no longer references this site).

If this remains true, it shows there's only a loose coupling between a domain-associated Google Apps suite and the domain itself. 

That's rather nice to know. It's not completely surprising however.

Closing a Google Apps domain: document liberation and more

I'm closing down a Google Apps domain because the domain name is moving (donated) to a new owner. Since I don't know what happens to the data after I transfer the domain name I've so far:

My next step is to get a local copy of all the documents. Again, the DLF has directions. This turns out to be built into the Docs framework. On export you can specify a file format, I chose RTF for documents, Excel for spreadsheets, and native for the rest (PDF).

I also made sure so share all the documents with my personal account, but I wasn't able to transfer ownership. Currently that's not supported in Google Apps.

We had the non-profit version of Google Apps (free from Google) so we had all the yummy pro features, like the ability to associated a secondary domain. I have some I could use and I considered doing that to provide a way to access data post transfer, but I decided to skip that step in the interests of time.

Closing a Google Apps project: downloading sites

When MN Special Hockey signed up with a web hosting project, I needed to transfer the domain.

The domain was managed through my Dreamhost (love 'em - click here to evaluate my discount on their ISP services) accounts. There it has associated Google Apps services. I really didn't know what would happen to the account data when I switched away the host name, so I decided to see what I could backup.

Naturally I turned to Google's Data Liberation Front - my heroes. They provide a Java app for this purpose. It can allegedly be used to move a site from one location to another! 
Sites - the Data Liberation Front
A site can be downloaded using the open-source tool available at the Google Sites Liberation Project Page. Note that this tool requires Java 1.5 or later. Once the tool has been downloaded, double-click on the JAR file to launch the application. 

It opened easily on OS X 10.6.

You will need the documentation. Instead of (didn't fit their model) I tried and I found two sites to copy:
From their documentation I think the values are:
  • host: (optional)
  • domain: (optional)
  • webspace: www and mn-special-hockey-site (two webspaces)
There's an option to download revisions, but I didn't care about that. I was fine with the latest version.

It worked, but the result was not pretty! Without style sheets it renders poorly in Safari, and  some of the character encoding was off. Still, the bulk of the content was there including associated PDFs that were a part of the site.

The Java app is pretty simple. You have to quit and restart to do a second site. Still, did I mention it worked?

The language hole in Blogger's comment spam filtering

This comment evaded Blogger's comment spam filters ....
На нашем Видео каталоге вы можете Посмотреть Видеосюжеты, захотите на Простой видео сайт
It contained an embedded link.

The language is Russian [1]. Google translate gives us ...
On our video directory, you can watch video projects, you want for a simple video site
Blogger needs to treat non-blog-language posts as spam, or at least require review with auto-translation to the native language. This one should have been caught.

If I get another one like this (presumably later today) I'll have to turn on authenticated commenting until Google catches up.

[1] Why would anyone bother to post spam in a language that cannot be read? Well, for one thing, Google's search engine can "read" the link, and so the source gets link kharma. It's also a way to find vulnerable blog targets to further exploit. I'm sure there are other benefits, such as very foolish people curiously clicking on the link; those people likely have vulnerable machines that are easy to pawn.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cautionary tale about Google Apps for business

Bad outcome with using free Google Apps for business operations.

A few quick comments:

  • Dreamhost is the best way to use free Google App. They give you document hosting, domain registration and control, support and service, and associated Google Apps. (see my kickback deal with promo code KATEVA). I use 'em, I like 'em. Unusual company.
  • The connection between Google Apps and domain name is tenuous. App content and services will survive domain divorce.
  • Gmail has the same problem. So do all Google services, including identity management. There is no support. That scares me.
  • Google Apps pricing is a great deal for a school or even a modest business, but it scales oddly and it's too much for a paid Google Apps family account. I'd like to see Google offer more price/service options.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Facebook documentation: How do Pages work anyway?

Apple, like Galactus, is beyond Good and Evil. Google, by contrast, is the cool-kid-wannabe that sold its soul to the Devil for a pittance.

Facebook though, Facebook was born evil. Alas, it cannot be avoided. For example, I help maintain the Minnesota Inline Skating Club facebook page.

Maintaining that Page has been painful because, as one might expect for a demonic creature, Facebook is essentially undocumented. For example, I couldn't find any explanation of the rules for broadcasting "Page" status updates to "followers". (Admin posts go to all Page followers, but I think non-admin posts either go nowhere or are shared only with personal friends.). Nor could I find explanation of best practices for "Page" ownership. (Use an email address specific to the Organization to create a Facebook account that will manage the Page. The best way to proceed is to use the "Create a Page" link to create a Profile and a Page together.)

Thanks to a Pop17 post, however, I have found a few FB official pages that sort of hint at documentation  ....
Buried in a post on the last link, I found the hosted Facebook Pages "manual". I guess FB doesn't have a server. The 10 page "manual" doesn't answer any of the questions I listed above.

* Couldn't they have come up with a more searchable and meaningful term than "Pages"? Like I said, pure evil.

Apple's battery charger - hold off for now

We tried NiMH chargers a few years ago, but we gave up because of high battery defect rates and short battery lifespans.

Apple claimed to address the latter, and I was willing to try them out on the former.

Unfortunately the first two batteries we charged were defective: John Faughnan "John G...'s review of Apple Battery Charger 
The first two batteries I charged generated a blinking yellow signal. Either the batteries or the charger are defective; I suspect it's the batteries.

It could be just bad luck, but I suggest waiting a while before ordering a charger.
I'd hold off on this device for a while. Wait until there are at least forty Amazon reviews so we find out how common this problem is.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NAVIGON MobileNavigator and Kensington Dash Mount - my reviews

At this time there are only two automotive GPS iPhone Apps worth considering: TomTom and NAVIGON MobileNavigator. Navigon originally cost about $80, but I bought the US/Canada version on sale for $40. TomTom is about $60 for the same app.

You can purchase real-time traffic and personalized routing services for an additional fee. There is no commitment from Navigon to provide any map updates and no information on map updates on their web site. 

There is no documentation for the MobileNavigator. It desperately needs documentation. Some users recommend the manual for the Navigon 8100T.

We've installed the app on two phones, so the per-phone cost was about $20.  Installation requires 3GB of free space, the installed product uses 1.5GB.

Navigon will not work on an iTouch, but it will work on an iPhone without a data plan. It needs a GPS, but since it has to work even when there's no cell service it's not data plan dependent. My son inherited my 3G but has no data plan, Navigon works on his phone (albeit slowly on startup). The lack of compass doesn't hurt once the car is in motion.

I have had only limited prior use of a traditional GPS device.

Very quickly, my impressions of this app are:
  • It feels quite similar to a traditional automotive dedicated GPS. This is not a feature. It is only a 2nd class iPhone citizen. Even Contact integration seems to be an afterthought.
  • There's no true search. We've grown so accustomed to search on iPhone that we've forgotten how amazing that is -- and how complex. You can't simply enter a street name and choose from all the matches. It's very traditional GPS data entry. It's much easier and faster to find locations on Google Maps, Latitude or iPhone than in Navigon.
  • The turn directions don't say "take the next exit", they say "right turn in 200 feet".  When approaching exits it may not be obvious whether than's the 1st right exit or the 2nd right exit.
  • I believe location services work only with the iPhone GPS. They don't have access to the cell tower triangulation or WLAN location services. So they don't work indoors very well.
  • Local "Point of Interest" data in Minneapolis St. Paul is very limited.
  • The map voice pronunciation is peculiar. Some local streets names were incomprehensible.
  • The graphics are acceptable and visible from a dashboard mount. I remember thinking volume control was a bit odd but I can't remember why.
  • Some of the routes we're given have been peculiar. It seems to be avoiding highways.
  • You really need a mount to safely use the iPhone as a GPS device. I have ordered the older $21 Kensington car and dash mount because newer models don't fit the iPhone 4. We wanted a device that works with both 3GS and 4. I'll review that separately.
  • Your phone gets hot using Navigon while charging. This can be a problem on a hot sunny day if the phone is beneath the windshield. Consider routing air flow to cool the phone.
Overall Navigon needs to be a lot more open about their map update plans. It is at best a 2nd rate iPhone app. The installation package of 3GB is going to be a problem for many users. I'm surprised their map data doesn't compress more than that.

It's worth $20 per phone, but only just worth $40 per phone. It's not worth $80.

Update 8/29/10:

My review of the Kensington dash mount ...
The big appeal of this car dash mount is that it works with both iPhone 3GS/3G and with iPhone 4. Very few devices can do that. 
There are two joints. If you adjust both (don't force it) you can mount this on a van windshield. It has stayed in place for days; the iPhone is a lightweight GPS. It will only adhere to glass or smooth plastic, not vinyl. For any other surface you need to use the adhesive mount, the suction cup will bind to that. 
It is lightweight, and so is the phone. So they'll vibrate, you may need to mount so the phone rests on something. 
The side grips spring out; the button and apparatus feel fragile. I try to only close them as much as needed. 
Works well with a standard Apple power connector. 
Note an iPhone will get hot when used as a GPS in this cradle. The cradle doesn't carry heat away, it is an insulator. You will want to let the windshield air conditioner run to keep the phone comfortable.
Also my route profile was misconfigured to "bicycle speed" and "scenic". I don't know if that was the default or the kids. It explains the peculiar routing
My Google Reader Shared items (feed)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

iPhone's very annoying calendar color limitation

There are three features of the iPhone Calendar that prove Apple is not made of geniuses ...
  1. The maximum alert time is 2 days. Sidekick for DOS 2.1 had longer alert times. If I could kick some engineer's butt for every birthday card I've sent late ....
  2. iOS can't handle birthdays for anyone over 77. Let's see - my parents, my aunts ...
  3. Calendar colors are assigned per server, not per phone. So my Family Calendar (ActiveSync via Google) and my Corporate Calendar (ActiveSync Corporate) are both assigned the color red [1]. I can't tell them apart visually.
Not only are these stupid blunders, they've been stupid blunders for over a year.

No, Apple is not made up of geniuses. Neither is Google. Both companies have lots of limitations.

[1] Quick tip: Calendar color fix for iPhone and iPod touch
... Calendar on the iPhone will assign colors in a certain order for your first five calendars: red, orange, blue, green, and purple. Afterward, any more calendars are assigned a random color out of those five. To manipulate this, use iTunes to sync only selected calendars in the “Info” tab. First sync the one that you want to be red, then sync again including your second calendar that you want to be orange, and so forth. You can create extra calendars to use to “skip” a color if you wish, then delete later at your leisure...

OS X drag folder to file save dialog - sometimes I love this OS

There are a lot of times I'm really irritated by OS X. Significant chunks of it (ex: Parental Controls) are fubared. Some unchangeable configurations (Spotlight) are annoying. Lots of embedded functionality needs to be stripped out into a separately sold product (iChat).

Sometimes though, it's a real pleasure.

I wanted to save a file to a folder I had open in a window. I dragged the target to the "Save As" dialog window and, as expected, the context changed so I could save to it.

There are other ways to duck file navigation, but this is a very useful method. I don't think it's at all new. I think I read of it years ago. I just rediscovered it because it felt like it should work.

If only the rest of OS X worked so well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Things I hate: Shinywitebox's novel DRM for iShowU

I like paying for good software. It's a quirk, I admit.

I don't even mind well done Digital Rights Management. Without copy protection the novel software I love would die. I'm okay with how FairPlay works for iPhone apps and movies. I'm fine with long software keys -- I keep mine in a Google Doc I can access anywhere.

Where I go bonkers though is when otherwise good companies decide to introduce novel DRM methods, such as key distribution methods. I can tolerate online registration and binary keys for subscription services like Spanning Sync, but I blow a capillary when vendors like Shinywhitebox, makers of the once excellent and inexpensive iShowU screencasting software, do things like this ...
Licensing & Refunds

... At purchase time, we create an account for you on our system so that you can get instant access to your purchase history and retrieve lost unlock keys if need be. You use these same account details to unlock the product (over the internet). After starting the application, click on the “Unlock ..." button that appears in the first dialog, then enter your email address and password (these are the login details you setup when you purchased from us)...

Additionally, at the time of purchase we send out an email with your current set of “unlock keys”. This is simply an alternative method, which you can use on machine that don’t have an internet connection. If you have purchased a product but have not received your unlock keys please first check your spam folders, and failing that, contact support with the transaction number of the sale.
The keys are XML files.

To add aggravation to injury, SWB has enforced this transition for version 1 of their software, now in legacy mode. When I ran my old software I accepted offered upgrades, thinking I was getting some bug fixes. Along the way I got an entirely new registration process and my old key failed. I had to request a new key (support responded within 10 minutes late at night, which is a bit beyond the call of duty).

Come on gang. Please don't do this to your customers. I like paying to upgrade products I like (in their case the new HD product upgrade fee is a pittance), but I really don't have time for this - just time to rant about it.

Please don't make registration process changes part of "free" updates to legacy products. Please don't institute unique DRM procedures that break the way I track the 200 or so software products I've purchased. Just don't.

Here's hoping SWB is reconsidering ...

Project Shredder begins

Gordon's Rules of Acquisition remind me that the purchase price is often the smallest cost of acquisition. So I like to digest each piece of gear before I bring down new prey.

The last meals have gone relatively well. My mother's iPad and my own iPhone 4 were big bites, but they went faster than expected. The Brother 2140 and updated Airport Express were bought for trouble-free implementation and they worked as expected. Migrating my old 3G to my son was more complicated thanks to AT&T's incomprehensible and undocumented contract rules, but it too has passed.

Since Canon refuses to make the dSLR I want [1], I'm delaying replacement of my aging DigitalRebel. So my path is clear for something more challenging.

Hence Project Shredder.

I am bad at filing. I've always been bad, but it's getting worse. Once the easy stuff is tossed, the hard stuff builds up in bins and boxes. I need a better approach [2].

I have some past experience with document and image scanning including developing document management technologies, but I've never felt that the technology was really ready for my home use. Over the past few years, however, OCR and full text indexing have matured into my zone of acceptably pain-free technology. Adobe's 1996-vintage PDF image/text format has become widely accepted [3]; it's the format I've wanted for fifteen years. The Fujitsu ScanSnap line has been stable and respected for at least ten years, and their space-saving S1300 has gotten a great review from a source I trust.

So it's time to make a stab at this. I'll have more to say in future posts about the S1300 when it arrives, and how the entire process plays out at our home [4]. Look for the "document management" tag for related posts.

-- footnotes --
[1] Stop the 3$!#$% megapixels Canon. Give us ISO.
[2] Adobe, like Microsoft, wasn't always a zombie company.
[3] Though Fujitsu's software distribution strategy may lead me to a Torrent client!
[4] I'll keep the way I file receipts and manuals. Receipts get tossed into a bin in chronological order. Manuals get placed in bookcase boxes in alphabetic order with the date of acquisition written on the front page. I weed receipts by tossing the bottom of the bin, the manuals as I add new ones. This process is so efficient I don't see much room for improvement.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Airport Extreme 802.11n range: better at 2.4 than 5

The last time I messed with my home wireless network I jumped through hoops to connect an old 802.11b iBook (yes, the computer, not the app) to an early 2009 Time Machine. A few weeks after I bought that Time Machine Apple revved the line.

Now that I've replaced the Airport Express that now powers my mother's iPad with a new one, I'm sure Apple will rev it along with the upcoming iTV.

In the meantime, I've made one new discovery. In my home, 802.11N 2.4 GHz has significantly greater range than 802.11N 5 GHz. Apparently this is not uncommon.

When I configured the Express to WDS Extend it worked well in our dining room, but it couldn't connect in the living room. I brought it back to the dining room and manually switched the WDS setting from the original 5GHz network I'd selected to the standard 802.11N network [2]. (Time Machine broadcasts both plus 802.11G and 802.11B.) It then connected from the dining room. I repeated this to confirm it wasn't a chance glitch.

So our current (all wireless [1]) home network looks like this:
  • Time Machine: 802.11 n/g/b with 802.11n 5GHz and 2.4Ghz
  • Airport Express: Extends Time Machine, WDS connection is 802.11n 2.4 GHz
  • iMac i5: 802.11n 5 GHz (it's about 10 feet directly below the Time Machine)
  • iMac G5: 802.11g
  • MacBook Intel: 802.11n 5GHz at the moment, but I bet I have to switch it back to 802.11N 2.4 GHz to get more range
  • iPhone 4: 802.11n 2.4 GHz
  • iPhone 3G and 3GS: 802.11g
  • iPhone 3 (used as iTouch): 802.11g
  • iBook: would be 802.11b but I've retired it. It wasn't getting any use in the iPhone era.
Note Apples says the Airport Express will connect up to 10 clients, and the Airport Extreme will connect up to 50 users (I'm not sure where my older Time Machine sits). With our iPhones and guest devices it's not hard to get near to the Express limits.

See also:
[1] I thought the "all wireless" setup would be temporary following some home reconfiguration, but it's worked so well I've stayed with it. I'm surprised.
[2] From Airport Utility select Airport Express. Choose Manual setup, then Wireless. Select the non-5GHz or 5GHz through Wireless Network Name.

--My Google Reader Shared items (feed)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The hidden ever growing iTunes photo cache bug

There's a design flaw/bug in iTunes. When it syncs photos to an iPod or iOS device it creates a photo cache folder. That folder never shrinks, it only grows.

That's merely annoying on the desktop, but it does the same thing in iPhoto. To purge the cache you have to delete it, which requires opening the iPhoto image Package..;
iTunes: Photo sync creates iPod Photo Cache folder
... Control-click the iPhoto Library file and choose Show Package Contents from the shortcut menu.
In the iPhoto Library window, locate the iPod Photo Cache folder and drag it to the Trash...
My hidden iPhoto cache was 1.5 GB.

How exceedingly annoying. 

iPhone for kids: The Achilles Heel

For one brief shining moment I thought Apple had a good kid platform ....
Gordon's Tech: The kid's iPhone - configuration and AT&T
...As a computer, his iPhone has one large advantage over his desktop accounts. On the desktop Apple and Google together have totally broken OS X Parental Controls (MobileMe is the worst). On the iPhone, once you remove Safari and YouTube, you have Wikipanion and and Wolfram Alpha and Google Earth and Public and New York
That was before my intrepid 13 year old tutored me.

The problem is that a lot of iPhone apps use WebKit, and blocking Safari doesn't block WebKit.

So Google Earth has a Wikipedia layer. Click on the W icons, and it launches WebKit. Click around a while, and eventually you get to places I don't want my kid to go.

Scratch Google Earth.

AppBox Pro has lots of little tools he might like -- but it also includes iGoogle. (Why? Don't ask me.)

Scratch AppBox.

Wolfram Alpha looked good. Math, research, but no web. Oops. Except for the "Search the web" link at the bottom of every page that opens an embedded WebKit page.

Scratch Wolfram Alpha.

Houston, we have a problem.

Update 10/4/10: Google's AdMob ads give YouTube access from Pandora.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Location sharing on iPhone: Latitude, PlaceTrack and Latitudie

With iOS4's support for background location sharing, I wondered when we'd see something like Latitude. (MobileMe also enables location tracking, but you can't share that information.)

About two months ago ago PlaceTrack tried to do this. Had it been accepted by Apple it would have updated Google's Latitude service. Unsurprisingly, since it's a Google-related product, it was rejected (limbo technically).

Yes, the Google-Apple war sucks.

Surprisingly, there's another App that updates Latitude - Latitudie. I wonder if it was accepted because it was first submitted internationally. It's $2 and has had mixed reviews. It it had better reviews, or if some geek I trust used it, I'd give it a try.

Gowalla shares locations, but it doesn't integrate with Latitude. It also has an annoying business model.

At the moment I'm most interested in Latitudie. I'm wary of putting it on my phone though -- I'd like to read a review from someone I trust.

Configuring iTunes to reference apps from a shared folder

9/25/10: With the latest release of iTunes it doesn't work any more anyway, you no longer get the prompt to find all your missing apps at once. So never was safe, and now doesn't work at all. Retained for historical purposes, plus it has some interesting links and a FairPlay discussion.
Oops. Don't do this, it causes iTunes to put every app on every phone synchronized with the share. Evidently iTunes writes metadata into the app file! I wonder if it's an extended attribute on OS X. A terrible design!

Sharing DRMd (FairPlay) material, such as videos and iPhone Apps, in a family is fraught. It's technically complex, and it's commercially complex. Rights holders, for example, probably want a BrainLock implant for every customer, so only one person can ever hear an iTunes song.

Given the commercial issues, Apple's FairPlay licensing is surprisingly generous. Wikipedia has the best (only?) summary, though since they're describing music it's obviously dated (Apple store music is rarely DRMd now) ...

  • The track may be copied to any number of iPod portable music players (including the iPhone).[2] (However, each iPod/iPhone can only have tracks from a maximum of five different iTunes accounts)
  • The track may be played on up to five (originally three) authorized computers simultaneously.[2]
  • A particular playlist within iTunes containing a FairPlay-encrypted track can be copied to a CD only up to seven times (originally ten times) before the playlist must be changed.[3]
Fraser Spiers' iPad educational project shows how this works for apps. He configured five authorized computers and one master iTunes account, so all the apps could be distributed to a large number of iPads. (I assume Fraser compensated the App developers somehow as this is a bit outside the usual scope of distribution.)

FairPlay may be generous, but iTunes really expects a single user. Even if every user on a computer shares a single iTunes account (ex: Dad's account), each has its own content collection. With iTunes 9 Apple enabled a sort of sharing, but it requires physically copying files.  Even in the days of TB drivers this can be wasteful.

When it comes to Mobile Applications (.app) this is particularly annoying. Each user's apps get updated separately for example [1]. So if Emily and I share the 1.5GB we each have a copy, and each copy is updated separately.

On the other hand, if you have every device sync to a single iTunes, users can't sync to their individual iCal or Address Book and content ratings and Smart Playlists become a bit of a struggle (ex: "last played" rules assume only one listener!). So in the old days many of us geeks gave each iPhone user in the family their own account. We used tricks like iTunes music 'include by reference' feature and its amazingly versatile drag-and-drop media behavior to sort of work around these limitations.

Now that most of sync to Google Apps via Active Sync rather than directly to our desktop accounts it really makes most sense to sync every device to one account (screw ratings). I'm doing that for the kids, but Emily still has her own account. Thanks to the 'include by reference and media drag and drop' technique we do ok with media, but Mobile Apps don't support include by reference. You have to copy them. So I've been using Apple's Family Sharing for apps only; it monitors additions to the master iTunes Library and copies the apps to her iTunes Library.

This had an annoying side-effect that all of our App updates had to be done twice, but when I bought the 1.5GB NAVIGON turn-by-turn GPS app things got really annoying. For geeks of my generation, 1.5GB is a lot of storage to waste (including backup of course).

I tried various tricks to get her iTunes to reference Mobile Apps stored on a Public Share on the computer that holds both our accounts. I tried Aliases and a I tried Symbolic Links to both apps and to the Mobile Application folder. Nothing worked ... until ... by chance ... I stumbled on what did work.

This is what I do now.

First I install apps to her account normally. Since we have Family Sharing setup anything I add to my account will be added to her account.

Then I did something like this (To be honest, I need to play with this a bit more, but if you're a geek this is all the hints you need. My apps are stored in a shared folder for which she has read/write privileges. If you're not a geek you shouldn't be reading this.):
  1. In her account, move her .app files OUT of her iTunes Music:Mobile Applications folder.
  2. Start iTunes for her, and right click on any of her App icons in the App view. I choose 'Get Info'. The App gets an exclamation mark next to it and ITunes asks if I want to locate the file. (Maybe I double clicked on the exclamation point?)
  3. Choose Show In Finder (or ?). iTunes asked me where the file was. I navigated to the file in the shared folder on MY account and it accepted it. iTunes then asked me if I wanted to use the same path to update all other missing apps
That did it. Emily's iTunes now includes my Apps by reference instead of copying them. I only do one set of updates, and appears only once. Please note I'm not getting any extra privileges from doing this, I'm just saving disk space and update time.

All I need to do is periodically clean up her Library, update mine, and repeat this trick.

See also
[1] Now that some App updates are iOS 4 specific, this ability to choose when to update may be a feature, but not I'm really getting complicated.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blogger: a heartfelt cry of anguish about their rich text editor

I know it's pointless, but I had to vent. I posted this in Google's Blogger feedback forum ...
Please fix paragraph definitions. Please, please, please. - Blogger Help 
I've been using Blogger for years. Ever since you moved to using embedded styles in the new editor it's been a misery to use. I won't bother with the details, because if you're not seeing the issues every day you're not bothering to do QA. (If you want to start doing QA, try editing old posts, try using blogthis! on a mac, try editing with Windows Live Writer, etc. Or just hire me to run your QA program.)

It's driving me stark, raving, mad.

Something is really wrong. Something that can't be fixed with a few patches and hacks. You need to drastically rethink your rich text editor strategy, starting with how the editor manages paragraph definitions and then reconsidering the entire approach to style sheets.

For the moment, given where you are in the product life cycle, add a button that removes all styles completely and reformats using only data elements that the rich text editor is able to manipulate.

And, if you have been doing QA, and you don't know about these issues, please fire the SVP for QA.
I need stronger drink.

--My Google Reader Shared items (feed)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Buying a printer for our home - curiously difficult

I've been fond of our giant-sized five year old Brother MFC-7820N black and white laser printer, scanner and fax machine. It was never as rock solid as our LaserWriter Select 360 (20+ year lifespan if you could find cartridges), but by the standards of 2005 it was a gem. The competition was dismal. HP combined hideous hardware with worse software, and the device drivers for Epson and Canon devices were almost as bad.

The 7820N has come to the end of days though. It jams easily if the paper tray is less than half-full, and the web-based diagnostics [1] tells me the internal print engine is nearing end-of-life. It needs to be replaced. That turns out to be trickier than one would imagine.

It's tricky for several reasons. Printers have been clobbered by ink jet technology churn [1], premature maturation and commoditization [2], brand loss [3], and technology transition (more on that). OS X users have the further problem of very poor device driver support -- you don't want to use anything that doesn't ship with OS X [4].

The technology transition is having a strong impact now. Apple doesn't sell black and white or color laser printers any more and iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone, the future of personal computing, don't print at all. Google's ChromeBooks to come are struggling to print.

Looking at this marketplace in transition it's clear that I need to go as simple as possible. That means black and white (grayscale really) laserwriter with a good record of reliable cartridge availability, long product life cycles, and OS X 10.5 "native" device drivers [5]. That will probably be another Brother printer. I'll also be looking for quiet operation and compact size.

For now I'll put our old MFC into the basement and use it as a standalone fax machine [6] and photocopier. If we keep the paper tray full it should work for years like that, and the occasional jam will be tolerable.

The upside of this transition is I can finally attack the scanning problem with a machine that's designed for producing B&W PDFs off a paper feed. The MFC vendors were never going to provide a good solution for a market as small as this one.

I'll update this post with what I choose, but it's probably going to be the Brother 2170W or  Brother HL-5370DW. Size, cartridge cost and availability, and native OS X support will probably be the determinant (price is almost irrelevant really) - so I'm betting on the 2170W or non-networked equivalent. Given issues with wireless security and peripherals I suspect it will end up being connected to a USB port on a Mac or AirPort Express/Extreme (back to the future!) but it may be useful to have other options.

Note that all laser printers come with "starter cartridges", so after initial testing you need to order a cartridge separately.

Update: I ordered the $80 Brother 2140, the same device I bought for my mother last year. It was $50 less than the 2170W. I used the money I save to order an Airport Express (I gave my old AE to my mother). So for $40 more than the 2170W I get to extend my LAN coverage and I get optional AirTunes support. It uses the very standard and widely available TN360 cartridge and has had native OS X driver support for many years.

Update 8/18/10: Installed the 2140. I didn't bother with Brother's software except to copy the manual to my "reference" folder. I ended up just attaching it to a G5 iMac which is now a print server; the Airport Express wasn't necessary. My 10.5 and 10.6 machines used native drivers. Painless - as expected.
[1] A miserable technology. It has never worked reliably, and a dying HP trapped the industry into a disposable printer and costly cartridge hidden-price business model.
[2] There's no real reason to go beyond 300 dpi, and that was achieved fifteen years ago. Color would be nice, but we still can't do it well at consumer price points -- and the market has lost interest. In a high tech industry reaching this kind of peak is a problem.
[3] Brands became meaningless and quality plummeted. This afflicted all parts of the computer industry from 1998 to 2008 with one notorious exception.
[4] See my links below on why device drivers are so bad everywhere. In OS X the small market and Apple's complete disinterest made things worse. I think with 10.6 bundled device drivers are tolerable, but you don't want to depend on a manufacturer for drivers.
[5] We still print from a 10.5 machine.
[6] The zombie technology that won't die. Sort of like Adobe Flash but worse.

See also:

Other stuff
My stuff

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

iPhoto unable to import an Aperture JPEG from 16 bit image with grayscale profile

I've just run into a very irritating bug with Aperture 2 and iPhoto 8.1.2.

I scanned a B&W image in as a 16 bit grayscale TIFF. I can edit it in Aperture and I can import the ORIGINAL tiff into iPhoto. I can edit the original in iPhoto.

The problem comes when I export a version as a JPG from Aperture. iPhoto can't import it, though it renders without a problem in Preview!


The only way I was able to get a JPG version [1] of this image into iPhoto was
  1. Edit in Aperture. Export TIFF as 8 bit image.
  2. Import 8 bit TIFF back into Aperture. Export JPEG.
  3. Import JPEG into iPhoto
So iPhoto can handle an 8 or 16 bit grayscale TIFF, but it can't handle the JPGs that Aperture 2 creates from a 16 bit TIFF.

I wonder if this is related to an old iPhoto 6 grayscale bug (iPhoto 8 grayscale inverted, iPhoto 5 version of this bug)...

Update: This is indeed a version of the 5 year old bug referenced above. Instead of fixing the bug, Apple's iPhoto engineer simply blocked import of these images with a cryptic error message. Got the problem solved in record time. He had to use a cryptic error message, or customers would have figured out what was going on.

This is from the Silverfast forum ...
... had this problem and "solved" it. iPhoto is designed to work with RGB images. You can import B&W images into iPhoto, but they need a supported color profile to be able to be read. Most scanners will default the scan of a B&W photo to a Black & White Color profile, rather than RGB. 
If you are using a real silver halide film designate the file as Color of some type before you make your scan. Then you will have no problems. Go to > Support > Discussions > iPhoto '09 > Installing and using iPhoto '09 Topic: Interesting iPhoto "unrecognized file" issue. Before I learned of this solution, there was unimaginable frustration.
In Aperture I set the color profile to Adobe RGB on export and iPhoto accepted the JPG.

$%$#!%$%$#%@#$%@ lazy Apple.

It's Alive! Blogger lives!

Now they've introduced their first significant feature change in years.

Blogger has graduated from "Walking Dead" to at least "Sick". It lives.

Now if Google does a mobile version, and gets their greatest geniuses to fix new-editor paragraph spacing (including in the #$!$# blockquotes) and style vs. inline formatting bugs, I'll move it to "Quick".

In honor of Blogger's resurrection with the new comment filtering, I've disabled moderation and captchas on this blog. We'll see how it works!

Monday, August 09, 2010

The kid's iPhone - configuration and AT&T

I thought it would be simple to give my kid my old 3G. I knew it was AT&T locked, but the phone was out of contract.

Turns out the contract rules are much trickier than I'd thought. They are so tricky even AT&T reps violently disagree about the rules. As near as I can tell it didn't matter that I'd paid off the subsidy for my iPhone. I was getting a new iPhone 4 and a new contract, and that ended AT&T's interest in my particular phone.

What seems to be more important was that he didn't have a contract; he'd never had a subsidized phone. So putting his GSM card in my iPhone didn't trigger a mandatory data plan. So far. Grrr!

Thanks to AT&T managed account policies he can't use any data services. When he's in a WiFi setting he gets net access, outside the home he has texting and standalone apps. For very good reasons we've locked out Safari, YouTube and App Installs. He can't purchase music.

His synchronization setup is described in a separate post. We don't use MobileMe (so broken), his Calendar, Contacts and Mail connect via ActiveSync to our Google Apps family domain. I sync selected apps, music and television/movies from our family account. All of the apps, even the games, serve an educational purpose. So he can watch hours of TV, but it's all Blue Ocean documentary. There are good reasons for this.

He loves his iPhone. He's very careful with it, as he was with his prior phone. Obviously things will be trickier when school starts. It's not substantially more costly than many other phones, but it may have more theft appeal.

As a computer, his iPhone has one large advantage over his desktop accounts. On the desktop Apple and Google together have totally broken OS X Parental Controls (MobileMe is the worst). On the iPhone, once you remove Safari and YouTube, you have Wikipanion and and Wolfram Alpha and Google Earth and Public and New York It's an approach with a future.

See also:

Friday, August 06, 2010

iOS 4 still has iOS 2 text truncation bug

This is an ancient bug, but it's not fixed in iOS 4.
Gordon's Notes: iPhone 2.2: Great phone. Great toy. Not for business (2008)
... Business people always stick travel itineraries into calendar item notes. I stick text versions of CVs into Contacts. The iPhone truncates the text display of my itinerary (what hotel?) and my contact note. It doesn't actually truncate the data, only the display....
I just tested on my iPhone 4. If anything it's worse. The calendar notes view shows only a part of the text. In edit view you see more when you scroll down, but it's truncated now.


FileMaker Go for the iPhone

I'd given up on it, but FileMaker has now released a $20 FM Pro companion for the iPhone (and iPad!) -- FileMaker Go. It requires iOS 4. The available documentation is in a technical brief.

It does NOT support synchronization. You copy FM 7 (7!) or later files to the iPhone. It can be a client to a FM server database. From the tech brief it looks like it could be an application development environment (scripting).

It does NOT support encryption. Your data is only as protected as the phone itself; you can't assign a secure password to your password database, for example.

If it had encryption, I'd buy it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Pairing an iPhone 4 with an Apple bluetooth keyboard

For the past two years I've been looking forward to using an external keyboard with my iPhone, much as we used to use an external kb with our Palm devices. I now have an iPhone 4, so I tried pairing it with my 27" iMac keyboard (already paired with the iMac).

I followed this user guide procedure, but it didn't work at first:
1. In Settings, choose General > Bluetooth.
2. If Bluetooth isn’t already turned on, tap the Bluetooth switch.
3. Press the power button on the Apple Wireless Keyboard to turn it on.
4. On iPhone, tap the entry for the keyboard under Devices.
Once the keyboard is paired with iPhone, it connects whenever the keyboard is within range (up to 30 feet). You can tell the keyboard is connected if the onscreen keyboard doesn’t appear when you tap in a text field.
The iPhone Bluetooth settings simply showed the spinning "wheel" next to "Devices" and the phrase "Now discoverable". I think the problem was that the keyboard was already paired to my iMac. My Bluetooth peripheral experience is limited, but this seems a sensible if inevitably confusing behavior.

It took a while to get things to work. At one point the iPhone said it found a "Wireless Keyboard" but not an "Apple Wireless Keyboard". I did the following (not all necessary I'm sure):
  1. Went very far away from my iMac and down a flight of stairs. In my house Bluetooth really reaches.
  2. Removed batteries from kb and reinserted.
  3. Followed above procedures but pressed and held the power button until it went off.
  4. Pressed the power button on the kb until it started blinking.
Then the iPhone found the keyboard. I tapped the entry and was asked to enter a code on the keyboard.

They then paired.

Once the two are paired the iPhone's keyboard no longer appears when the kb is in range. I turned off Bluetooth to get it back.

To repair the kb to my iMac I again held the power button until it powered down. Then I held it until it restarted and began blinking. It then reconnected.

This was trickier than I'd expected, but now I know it works. I'll be looking for an iPhone specific bluetooth keyboard that includes a cradle to hold the iphone, an iPhone-touch-screen compatible stylus to facilitate interaction with a mounted device, a form fact that is more compact than Apple's kb, and an optional charger.

Update: A bit more on unpairing from Apple's excellent iPhone iOS4 user guide (it's on my bookshelf in my iPhone and it's a default shortcut in Safari on new installs):

Once the keyboard is paired with iPhone, it connects whenever the keyboard is within range (up to 30 feet). You can tell the keyboard is connected if the onscreen keyboard doesn’t appear when you tap in a text field.
Switch the language when using a hardware keyboard: Press and hold the Command key, then tap the space bar to display a list of available languages. Tap the space bar again to choose a different language.
Disconnect a wireless keyboard from iPhone: Press and hold the power button on the keyboard until the green light goes off.
iPhone disconnects the keyboard when it’s out of range.
Unpair a wireless keyboard from iPhone: In Settings, choose General > Bluetooth and tap the entry for the keyboard under Devices, then tap “Forget this Device.”

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

iOS 3 bug with recurring Exchange meetings changed in iOS 4.

Apple just can't manage to get this one right. I tested an old iOS Exchange Server calendaring bug with Outlook 2007 and Exchange 2007.

In iOS 3 if you declined an instance of a recurring meeting you removed all the meetings from your calendar.

In iOS 4 if you decline an instance of a recurring meeting you remove it from your iPhone calendar (good) but not from your Outlook calendar (very bad).


Deep sigh. Apple does not deserve its reputation for "quality". Design yes, quality no.

I'll retest with iOS 4.1 when it's out.

Annals of Adobe evil - writing into track 0

I found this occult discussion when searching about encyrption utilities (TrueCrypt in this case) and drive repair (Spinrite) ...

STEVE [GIBSON]: It turns out that another Adobe utility - I don't know what it is with Adobe and track 0. But it turns out that he's learned that their acrotray.exe utility, which is some sort of something that lives down in the tray of Windows, is also writing into track 0 and wiped out TrueCrypt. He rebooted, and he typed in his password. Nothing happened. And he said he saw his life pass before his eyes. Then he realized, wait a minute, I've got that CD. So he booted from the CD. It was able to, of course, restore that track and the boot track, and he was able to get back into Windows. And again, by juggling back and forth a little bit, he figured out what it was that was causing the problem. And so this is two different things now from Adobe relative to, I guess to Macromedia. Or I think Macromedia was the other one. And so it's something DRMish that Adobe is doing is really causing problems. And he did do some browsing around and confirmed that lots of other people are having the same problem with Adobe's software and its collision with the TrueCrypt bootloader.
Writing to track 0 as part of a DRM process is really nasty.

This is the sort of thing that makes geeks want Adobe to go away.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Take Control of Permissions in Snow Leopard

I really wanted this book about six months ago, when I was fighting a losing battle with OS X permissions (they suck) - Take Control of Permissions in Snow Leopard by Brian Tanaka.

It has sentences like this (emphases mine) ...
When a new file or sub- folder is created, the ACL of the enclosing folder is inspected for rules (ACEs) that are marked to be inherited, and those rules are added to the ACL of the new file or folder. ACL inheritance is static—it happens only when the file or folder is created. If the ACL of the enclosing folder changes, the ACLs of items already in the folder will not reflect those changes: only new child items will inherit the new rules.
Permissions are the weakest aspect of OS X. The default framework was archaic in the 90s, and the only slightly less archaic "modern" ACL framework has no GUI tools. All Mac geeks need this book.

It's normally $10, but I got it for $5 since TidBITS is promoting their new customer management system. (Sale ends 8/3, sorry.)

If you're a former TidBITS user you need to do a password reset to get your new password.

The details are in an email you probably deleted. I had a devil of time figuring out how to Login, turns out the "Login" text in top right is not a description for the neighboring navigation drop down, it's an atypical button. Really, they needed to make it either a true button or a true link, not bold formatted text. I love TibBITS, but really guys ...

Anyway, you need the book.

Meetup - A group administrator review

Meetup is ancient history in the world of the social net; it was founded in 2001. It's free to join, but running a group costs money.

I've administered a Meetup group on behalf of the Minnesota Inline Skate Club for the past six weeks or so, enough to share a bit about what I learned.

The first thing to note is that Meetup fails test #1 of Gordon's Laws for software and service use ...
  1. Is it obvious how to delete your account and all services?
No, it's not obvious how to delete a group. It's not in the online help, and the Google references date to 2007. This is not a good sign. The miniscule wikipedia page is another not so good sighn

Except for this deletion Fail, the site has a reasonable set of services for running an organization including basic financial services. It's designed to be an outsourcing solution, not a complement to an existing club or organization web site. The communications focus is very email centric, but many list items do have feeds. I was able to subscribe to to the event calendar in Google Calendar, and to further share it from there. Updates propagated reasonably quickly to Google.

Our second biggest problem with the site was the location feature. We needed a simple Google Calendar style location description, but Meetup has an over-engineered location approach that's probably designed for a Meetup business case.

Our biggest problem with the site was that it didn't work. We got several inquiries, but no new attendees. Most of the inquiries we received were from people who'd skated long ago, and were half-heartedly considering resuming. It didn't feel like a very dynamic audience.

Although Meetup didn't work out as a way for our club to recruit new members, I could see it working well as an outsourced web solution for an active club that was recruiting elsewhere. Of course given the violation of a cardinal rule of Gordon's Laws for Software Services, I wouldn't spend my own money on Meetup.

Update 8/5/10:

Although I still don't see how to delete a group, this is what I did:
  1. Went to my personal account page and canceled my subscription. Turns out when you pay for six months of service you're actually subscribing with regular renewal. Sneaky. This won't cancel the service though, it just stops the renewal.
  2. I tried canceling a repeating meeting. This isn't easy, I ran into several issues then a server error. Turns out you cancel one instance, then you get the opportunity to cancel all following.
  3. I closed the group to new members
  4. I sent all members a notice that we'd closed the group and I changed the intro page to say that.
I assume it will go away when our next payment is due.

Update 1/27/11: This is interesting. A good reason, by itself, to avoid Meetup.

As noted previously Meetup doesn't provide any way to delete a group. I thought the group would go away. Instead it was assumed by a former member, who started a new group with a different name -- and acquired all the prior members. That's intriguing!

In this case the person who's running the new group is well intentioned; I'm not in a rush to leave the group. This must all come as a bit of a surprise to the former members however.

This policy is reason enough to avoid Meetup.

My Google Reader Shared items (feed)