Friday, September 30, 2011

Consolidating Contacts: From Outlook to Address Book via MobileMe and the 5th Circle

This option is, for now, only open to the few people who have MobileMe accounts. Maybe iCloud will add something like this. I'll pass it on for the record.

The time had come to consolidate my work and personal contacts. No, I'm not changing jobs. A change in work policy meant I could no longer sync my iPhone to Exchange. I need my work contacts on my iPhone to do my job, so I needed to consolidate.

This is what I did. I bit imperfect perhaps, but it was reasonably fast.

  1. Using Outlook 2007 at work I copied all my Contacts to a PST file. That copy action makes Outlook resolve Exchange format email into standard email format. Took the PST home.
  2. Use Address Book export to save an archive. Turned off MobileMe sync on all machines. Put iPhone into Airport mode.
  3. Started up my VMWare Fusion XP with Outlook 2007 standalone. Using MobileMe on XP I did a sync to MobileMe.
  4. In Outlook 2007 standalone I imported the PST file Contacts (1012 items) from the external PST file into a new subfolder of Contacts. I then did another sync to MobileMe.
  5. Switched to OS X then turned MobileMe sync back on. It said there were 1007 (not 1012) items to install. When it was done, there 1002 "cards" in a new "Group"

Note that, at face value, I lost 10 contacts during the import process. However, Outlook still showed 1012 even after I repeated a sync there. It's mostly likely 10 contacts won't sync, but it's also possible Address Book does some kind of duplicate merging on import -- but doesn't add the correct recreate Group-Name relationship.

I then ran Contacts Cleaner from Spanning Tools (App Store, cheap). It found 635 "conflicts" (issues, really), of which a surprisingly small number were duplicates. I set to work cleaning that up (Contacts Cleaner has an annoying habit of flagging academic suffixes as "bad".

After an initial cleanup I went back and forth between OS X and XP/VM, each time repeating a sync then running Contacts Cleaner. It only took a few minutes to find problems and settle things down.

Some data is lost of course. Sync must have its price. I made liberal use of 'Categories' (now we'd call these 'tags') to slice and dice my Outlook Contacts. They are all gone now. That is sad.

On the other hand, OS X allows a Contact to be associated with more than one Group. I can make use of that. It's too bad MobileMe Sync didn't try to turn Categories/tags into Groups. (And too bad you can't edit group assignments on an iOS device!)

There was only one funny thing. I've seen this once before. I created a Smart Group for all Cards that had no Group assignment. Over 1,000 showed up unexpectedly. I quit and restarted and all was well. It's a good idea to quit and restart Address Book after a large update.

Once I had things sorted out between my XP and OS X sources I turned on my iPhone and let it reconcile to the new addresses. I found some oddities on searching while Spotlight sorted out the additions.

The iPhone sync added more duplicates! Yes, Synchronization is Hell. I'd almost be disappointed if it weren't.

Back to Contact Cleaner again and I returned to 1805 total contacts. Even so, I readily found a contact that wouldn't sync to my iPhone. I made another backup of my Address Book.

So I turned off MobileMe Contacts sync. That should have removed all Contacts from my phone, but quite a few remained. I had to remove my MobileMe accounts and add it back. Yes, even though we've yet to develop artificial sentience, we have developed artificial dementia.

All were back on my iphone, but we were back to 1043. Clearly, we had a problem. I removed more duplicates but ended up with only 1804. So I restored from backup.

I was in the 5th circle of sync hell, but I've been here before. Call me Dante. I used advanced MobileMe sync to forcibly replace everything on MobileMe with what I had on my home server. I confirmed MobileMe had 1805 contacts, then reenabled Contact sync on my iPhone. Then I forced sync from MobileMe to my other two Macs. At last all showed 1805 contacts [1].

For now. Synchronization is Hell. I don't think iCloud will be any better. In fact, I expect it to be worse.

[1] I'd written previously that Address Book for Lion didn't show a count of cards. It does; you have to scroll to the very bottom of the address (card) list to see it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Google App upgrade heck: conflicting email accounts

Google continues to upgrade old Google Apps accounts. It's part of their mandate to unify identities. The new Google (G+) is ruthlessly focused on owning our identities. That's not all bad, because the alternative is probably Facebook.

Still, it's pretty bad.

This has unexpected consequences. I used to use a Google Apps email address as a backup for my personal gmail address. Different accounts mind you.

Now Google doesn't seem to allow that. They seem to be enforcing a 1:1 relationship between Google Account and email address....
Alternate email addresses can only be associated with one Google Account at a time. In some cases, a person who shares an item with your alternate email address will be able to see your primary email address
This seems borderline insane, so perhaps this is a conversion bug.

Or not ...

PS. To make things even more interesting, the Google Apps account was a Dreamhost managed (ISP) extension to their services, and it wasn't supposed to have any email (DH managed email). Yech.

Update: Even though there was no gmail service associated with my Google Apps email, it was newly associated with a Google account. So it had to be. I created a new email address through Dreamhost and made that a recovery account for my primary gmail account.

Lion points: easy connection to Enterprise WEP

I won't be upgrading my 10.6 machines to Lion (10.7) until sometime in the spring or summer of 2012 - at the earliest. When it comes to Apple's OS updates, I've never regretted joining the 3rd wave of adoption.

Still, Lion does some things well - like killing Intuit's Quicken and opening up the market for better alternatives. Mission Control  and Full Screen are a big part of why the MacBook Air 11" is the world's best personal computer. Some of the best features, though, don't get much publicity.

Take, for example, Enterprise WEP. I don't know the full details of how this works, but I think it's some kludge that runs a VPN like connection through insecure WEP authentication. It's a bear to configure with XP, and I'm not sure Windows 7 is much better.

I didn't think my MacBook would connect to it. Sure enough, my manual configuration efforts all failed. Then, as a lark, I tried the "automatic configuration".

Poof. It connected. Works great.

You're not all bad Lion, even if you are a memory hog.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tables for Blogger: newly buggy Google Spreadsheet embedding

One of my frustrations with MarsEdit is the lack of table support. (Another is the weak management of images. Windows Live Writer has the reference design for both.)

Blogger's newish editor is no better. No table support. Tables are a bit of a lost art [2]; recently I had to summon the ghost of Netscape Composer (SeaMonkey) to add tables to a blogger post. [Update: I think AppleWorks used to 'save as HTML'. Pages doesn't. However, I discovered, Apple's bundled for does tables (fixed widths only, 10.6 and 10.7) and exports as pretty clean HTML.]

This morning, apropos of nothing, it occurred to me there might be an alternative. Google Spreadsheet does tables (including, now, both vertical and horizontal cell merge) ... I found a reference (warning - the reference is obsolete)

Publishing Google Spreadsheet to Blogger - Google Docs Help

Go to the top of right of the spreadsheet view. Press the 'Share' button. Then, click "publish as a webpage". Then, click "publish this document". At this point, it is published. If you want to embed it, click "more publishing options at the top of the mock pop-up. Then, choose 'html for embedding'. Finally, generate the embedding code."

The reference, of course, is obsolete and so is Google's online documentation. I call this the Facebooking of tech -- there is no more documentation.

Here is how it works with the new editor.

  1. Click on the Google Spreadsheet "Collaborate" menu item.
  2. Choose "Publish as web page"
  3. Click "automatically republish" and enable publishing (top half of dialog as of today).
  4. Then, from bottom half of same dialog, where it says "get a link" click on the "web page" drop down and choose "HTML to embed in a page" from the intriguing list of options [4]

It publishes as an iFrame [3]. It's only partly implemented -- the obvious Named Range drop down was empty even though I created a Named Range. I tried the undocumented range specification as below ...

Named range

But although that worked when I viewed the shared web page I still got the entire spreadsheet when I tried their generated embed code. So there's a bug in there somewhere.


Yech. Since this functionality is clearly not finished in the new editor, I hope they'll get this one together sometime soon. I suspect it worked better in the old spreadsheet editor.

BTW, this is what the generated HTML sort of renders as. The markup is CSS infested and hence unreadable. In the old days FrontPage would have generated easy to follow table markup.


cell A1 B1 + C1


cell A2 and A3 B2 C2


B3 C3






[1] It sucks that they use div tags instead of p tags to mark paragraphs.
[2] The web made a bad decision when we started using CSS rather than table embedding for dynamic layout.
[3] Incidentally, how I embed iframes for Google feed lists into an old web page.
[4] Interesting list of web publishing options!

publish options


Friday, September 23, 2011

My G+ Profile - open to connect

My blogs are pseudonymous, but it's not hard to find my true name if you click around a bit. I just prefer that my corporate colleagues and customers don't suffer the full range of my opinions and speculations.

Which means, since G+ is open, I'm good with sharing and corresponding there. I typically share with my "extended circle" (circles and one removed) -- just a bit short of public. I use LinkedIn for purely corporate and teaching connections, Facebook is where I tell kid stories, so G+ is the intellectual slot. It's a good match to the blogs.

If you're interested, here's my profile [1] and my "John Gordon" circle.

[1] Note the URL has the number of this beast: 113810027503326386174. Just call me 113.

(cross posted to notes and tech.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Google Reader may yet live: signs of buzz/G+ integration

Today Google added G+ search to their newly opened Google Plus services.

First thing I did was search on "Google Reader" for signs of life in one of my favorite Google products. I'd recently put it on my death list due to long dangling half-finished work that encrusts Reader.

I found several optimistic signs, including this post:  Tracy L. Crawford - Google+ - Google Reader Shares have a G+ link!.

In my case it's that the "options" drop down in posts shared by people I follow says "View this shared item in Google Buzz". If I try that it actually shows in G+.

Seems like some Buzz/Reader integration is underway. What you see may depend on whether you have Buzz enabled or not. for OS X (iWork)

I've made a stepwise transition to Apple's iWork suite for OS X. Apple's App Store made it easy; module prices are low and I could evaluate each iWork app separately. The license allows me to install on any number of 10.6+ machines on my account., for example, cost $6/machine.

I started with nine months ago. My needs are not great, but so far I've been pleased. Of all the apps it comes closes to its Office counterpart. Since Excel has always been Microsoft's great software achievement this is strong praise. The main competitor to, however, is not Microsoft. It's Google's Spreadsheet. With offline support for Google Spreadsheet Mac users have two good alternatives to Office. I'm not sure which I'll go with.

This week I switched from Nisus Writer Pro to Pages. That's a surprisingly big jump. I'd forgotten that Pages is more of an desktop publishing app than a word processor. I'm not sure how well it will work for the family. I'll post more on Pages over time.

This post though, is about I'll update it in bullet form as I use it to present a lecture this week. Below are my initial impressions.

  • There's a lot of UI continuity and functional continuity with PowerPoint. My initial impression is that the base functionality is a simplified subset of PowerPoint.
  • On my machines performance is much better than Office 2008 PPT (the latter was unusable). I suspect PPT's code base is a mess on any platform.
  • Importing a relatively simple PPT took a fair bit of cleanup. Slide component alignment varied. Diagram overlays scattered.
  • Exporting to PPT worked much better than import (mercifully).
  • Applying themes to single slides or presentations is much better than PPT (big plus).
  • Bug: I was unable to italicize text on an imported PPT. Seems Keynote assigned the text an exotic font that lacked italics or bold. It's a bug because the UI implied I could italicize, there's no error when you try, and the substitution is odd. The fix was to 'View Masters', consolidate masters, and change the Master Slide font.
  • Themes made a mess of an imported PPT. I'm disappointed in the Themes -- they're often tacky. Almost Microsoft tacky.
  • Consolidating Master is well done. View Masters, if you delete one you're asked to choose another to apply. Really helped clean up an ugly PPT file.
  • The default fonts in text boxes for my imported PPT had an odd font. I had to use the Format>Advanced>Define Text for All Masters to fix it.
  • Bug: Unpredictably, when creating a new row, I get a very odd bullet point. It looks like a Satanic glyph.
  • Bug: Keynote/Lion can run into issues with window positioning and external displays. There are also weird behaviors with save/versioning. These look like a mixture of Lion and Keynote bugs.
  • The default font for presenter notes is ridiculously small. There's no UI way to change it but you can hack the theme. If you make the font large, however, you can't read it in the fixed and narrow speakers notes display -- and long notes are mess when printing handouts. I hope this is fixed in the next release; it needs real work.

Update 10/20: Exporting as PPT -> "An unknown error occurred". Right. Not the only keynote bug, but certainly a bad one. Apple doesn't do very many industrial quality apps, and this isn't one of them (yet).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Resolving ghost printers in Win7 - delete redundant print queue

My corporate Win 7.64 box had a printing problem. Everything looked fine, but jobs sent to some printers didn't appear.

I was also seeing "ghost" printers -- they displayed in Windows print dialogs, but they didn't show in Control Panel "Devices and Printers".

For example, from the print dialog I saw "biz-c1" and "biz-c1 (copy 1)", but from the control panel I saw only "biz-c1 (copy 1)".

I think this glitch came from running an XP or 32 bit Win 7 printer installer on a 64 bit machine.

The printers that had this problem had an extra context menu entry "delete print queue". After a I deleted the "older" (non-copy 1) queues this context menu item disappeared! (Google was no help, this was my closest hit.).

The transient "delete print queue" menu item worked to fix the print dialogs. They again show a single queue. Even better, my printing was restored.

I assume this is a bug in Windows 7 that Microsoft knows about. There has to be a reason that the "delete print queue" option appeared on printers that had a redundant print queue. It's odd that it's not better documented however.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Facebook Pages: Only Administrator status updates go to fans

There are many books and web pages that try to explain how Facebook works.

Alas, even the most topical material gets most things wrong -- confusing messages with stream updates for example. It doesn't help that the rules change constantly [2]. Even Facebooks own, very limited, documentation is often dated. For example ...

Facebook Pages: How to manage a Facebook Page - Facebook Help Center:

... Your Page [1] can now post status messages - short text-only messages like those found on user profiles. Soon, these statuses will appear in fans’ News Feeds...

I don't know when this was last revised, but Page updates have been appearing in my News Feeds for months.

Ultimately, the only documentation on Facebook is Facebook. It's mind-boggling that this works for them. Suggests most of humanity has given up on understanding how the modern world works; which means that modern services need not be understandable.

If you want to know how something works, you have to experiment.

So I did this experiment on one of the Pages I administer. These Pages are "Liked" in my Profile.

I posted from two non-admin accounts (Emily and mine) and 1 admin account. I found.

  1. When a Person posts an update on a publicly accessible Page it is public and viewable to anyone on the net, regardless of one's FB privacy settings. This is obvious in retrospect, but I suspect most people don't know this.
  2. When a Page posts an update it goes to all subscribers.
  3. When someone you "Friend" posts an update on a Page you subscribe to you will receive a Wall (stream) update notice.

What I couldn't test is what happens when someone who is not a "Friend" of mine posts an update to Page I "Like". I suspect, in this case, I will not receive any Wall update.

So for the Pages I administer, if I want a status update to be received by all "Fans", I need to post it "as the Page" rather than using my personal account.


[1] In Facebook lingo a "Page" is something belong to an organization or celebrity or business. Individuals have "Walls". "Pages" have "Fans", regular people have "Friends".
[2] For example -- until today Facebook sharing has been symmetrical. If I "Like" someone they are notified of my shares and I'm notified of their shares. We have mutual access. Ok, I'm simplifying, the notification rules are constantly changing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nisus Writer Pro, OpenOffice and Rosetta - why I bought

I've been a longtime user of Nisus Writer Pro. There's a lot of good things about it, but what I most like is the native file format. NWP uses RTF, the closest thing we have to a standard document format.

What liked least, though, is NWP's .doc import. It's slow and troubled.

Today I discovered something I liked even less. Our MacBook fan was running full tilt, but I couldn't see any explanation. Process Explorer didn't show anything grabbing CPU -- at least nothing I could recognize.

Then I sorted by memory allocation -- and I found taking up a very large amount of memory. Process Explorer told me it was running in Rosetta as PPC code.

That made no sense. OO wasn't running; it's not even installed on that machine, Safari and Nisus Writer Pro were the only apps running. So I quit them one at a time. When I finally quit NWP the OpenOffice process died.

A few moments later the now Rosetta free 10.6 machine cooled down. The fan went silent.

There's not much on this around the web. Google found only the one post ...
Modified OpenOffice source code
Nisus Writer Pro (versions 1.2 to 2.0 inclusive) use modified OpenOffice code to help with the import/export of certain file formats. Under the OpenOffice license any modified copies of the source code must be published and made available. The source code used by Nisus Writer Pro can be downloaded below.
I'm on 1.4.2.

I think that explains why their .doc import was so slow and problematic. NWP was spinning up Rosetta code. It also explains months of mysterious battery killing machine baking problems.
NWP has now switched to LibreOffice (2.0.1)
Changed: import: switched DOCX/.doc file importers from OpenOffice to LibreOffice. This fixes a variety of problems, including cases of garbled text, formatting bleed, etc. Also made some other fixes to import process.
I suspect they had to do this to run on 10.7.

I could pay the money to go from 1.4.2 to 2.0.1 -- but I feel like a chump.

I'm buying Pages for $20, or about $6/machine.

Update 5/29/2012: I don't think I ever did a formal review of Pages. Here are some quick impressions after use with one longish project.
  • Pages is 90% of the way to being a robust and full featured project. Unfortunately there's no sign that Apple intends to finish it; if anything their current directions are away from traditional applications like and 
  • Pages doesn't need a major rewrite or redo. It needs the 10% gap filled.
  • Pages is somewhat buggy, but less buggy than any version of Word I've used. So it's bugs are acceptable. I've learned to work around them.
  • Pages has a workable implementation of Style Sheets. That's better than 17 years of Microsoft Word (to be fair Word had great Style Sheets prior to 1995 or so).
  • It's annoying that Tables cannot contain Tables.
  • Pages limited import capability, particularly for Apple/Claris wordprocessors of old, is very annoying. (I wonder if Apple/Claris no longer has access to the code for those old file formats.)

Gmail and iOS: When I say DELETE I mean DELETE

I thought I had this figured out long ago. When I deleted an email from my iPhone, it would be deleted from my "Exchange" (ActiveSync) GMail account.

I was wrong. It works that way for my corporate ActiveSync account but not for Gmail. The iPhone button said "DELETE" but the messages were being sent to "All Mail". My "All Mail" archive was infested with spam.

I thought this was a matter of some fiddling with Gmail or iOS Settings. That's wrong too. At this time if you use ActiveSync (Exchange Server) to sync Gmail with your iOS delete on the iPhone will always Archive in Gmail - regardless of what the UI indicates.

This doesn't seem to be documented. There's (misleading and confusing) documentation on iOS IMAP behavior, but I couldn't find anything official. There is, however, a long old thread in Google's forums about this, degenerating at times as to whether this is a bug and, if so, whose bug it is. (IMHO - Google's bug.)

The only fix is to stop using ActiveSync for email and return to Apple's default IMAP based Gmail account setup. In that mode there's an iOS settings control to change Gmail Archive behavior. That works.

I suspect I solved this back when I used Apple's preferred iOS Gmail/IMAP setup, and didn't catch the recurrence when I switched to using Google's preferred Gmail/ActiveSync setup.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fixing Lion's "application downloaded from the internet" bug

OS X warns users the first time we open a newly downloaded application.  The message is "xxx is an application downloaded from the internet. Are you sure you want to open it?"

It's a helpful warning. Problem is, for some apps I installed into Lion, it shows every time I open the app. Annoying.

I suspect the bug is that I installed them from my Admin account, but am using them from my non-admin everyday account. A permissions bug in other words. OS X usually has these, no reason for Lion to be different.

The fix for me has been to copy the app to my desktop. Then delete it from the Applications folder. Then drag it back to the desktop. This changed the permissions to read/write for me and ended the warnings. I then tested from my admin account and didn't get warnings there.

Not a bad workaround until Apple fixes this annoying bug.

Update: Thinking about this more, I bet the bug hits if you install from Admin, but never open the app from Admin. Next time I do this I'll switch to my Admin account and open it there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Banks that support Direct Connect (OFX) with iBank

IGG, the makers of iBank for Mac, list banks that support "DirectConnect" (OFX transactions without website login). This is the kind of information I want when evaluating a bank. (Any bank that supports DirectConnect with (ugh) Quicken should also work with iBank.)

The list is dated 2008, but i'm told it's regularly updated. I hope that's true and that they market this more prominently.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lego Universe for Mac

I'm trying to install Lego Universe on the Mac. It's a software monstrosity. I'm guessing a botched port of a windows app done by a low bid offshore team.

Lego is becoming a four letter word.

Update: It didn't work. I suspect it can't run on a non-admin account. During early installation the data input fields were partly scrambled and inaccessible. I deleted it and cast a spell upon Lego. The locusts are coming guys.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Toodledo: How you can give me the search I need with your current architecture

I've been a Toodledo web app customer for years. I use their web task management service with Appigo's

It's an old relationship born of historic necessity. Toodledo and Todo don't approach tasks and projects the same way, there's the usual awkwardness of dueling data structures. These days most people would want to use Toodledo's cloud service with Toodledo's iPhone app or Appigo's with their Todo online.

I've lived with the two for a while though. I appreciate Appigo's elegant iOS client, and it rarely fails me. That reliability means a lot. I know what works with Toodledo and what doesn't; I only use what works. On the other hand, I admire Toodledo's wide range of task integration and data liberation policies, especially the ability to mail myself a task. That's huge.

On the other hand, I need Todo's full text search. I've been pestering Toodledo to provide full text search of my tasks for (literally) years. They won't do it. So I have full text search of tasks on my iPhone but not on the web. On the web I can only search within a field (default is the task title).

Frustrating. I'm ready to leave both of them for something better. Still, I'll make one last try to persuade Toodledo that they can give me 80% of what I want without abandoning their current infrastructure.

Toodledo, here's the search I want built using your save search function, where "term" is the string I want to search on.

Screen shot 2011 09 10 at 10 12 03 AM

See, it's not so hard. You can do this with your current infrastructure by

1. Let me save this search with a name.

2. Let me make the named search my default search.

3. Provide a checkbox that means "search all fields with this string". Check it and gray out two of the fields leaving me one to type in (there are more elegant UIs obviously, this one has the fewest changes).

Thanks for considering this!

Update: Even simpler. Just let us save this as the standard search.

Update 9/12/11: This time Toodledo had a different response to my inquiry: "This is on our to-do list, but it is our policy to not comment on our roadmap or delivery dates for future feature improvements or bug fixes.". Joy!

Friday, September 09, 2011

iPhone calendar bug: list view one day off

Odd bug! My iPhone's calendar list view was one day off. The day view was fine.

Fix was to turn off google calendar sync to remove those calendars. Then turn it back on.

New one!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Making the most of Google's alternative "2-step" verification model

It's been almost five months since I implemented what I then called Google's two factor authentication. My original enthusiasmwaned significantly as I better understood what Google had done, and how they'd stalled.

Now I'm in a more or less grumpy but stable relationship with Google's "1.4 factor" security model. I wouldn't call it "enhanced" so much as "alternative". If you're not careful, you may end up less secure than when you started. It is definitely not for everyone -- indeed, it's for hardly anyone who uses anything but Google's web UI to access Google services.

I'll share here how I currently live with what Google calls 2-step verification. First, I need to explain what it really is. Disregard Google's labels and descriptions; they're dangerously misleading.

To begin with, consider two kinds of access to Google Services (mail, calendar, documents, etc):

  1. Browser based access to Google's services (Ex: Google Docs, Gmail, Google account, Plus, etc)
  2. App based access to Google's services (Ex: IMAP/, G+/Google, Calendar/

When you sign up for "2-step" you get two kinds of authentication for browser based access to Google services and one kind of authentication for App based access (including many of Google's iOS apps, such as the brand new [1]).

Yeah, it's a mess.

There are two kinds of password/token access to Google's browser based services, including the ultimate service -- your Google account security controls:

  1. Combination of a standard user-defined password and a token (app created or SMS messaged)
  2. "Break the glass" emergency one-time use verification codes for when a token is lost

For App based access you use your Google Account to create one or more long (high entropy, secure if not captured) passwords. Contrary to Google's descriptions, these are not application specific. They're just alternative passwords for non-web services. You can create one and use it for fifty apps (iOS, OS X, XP, multiple machines, etc, etc) or you can create fifty. You can revoke these, but good luck figuring out which to revoke. In practice, if you think you've been compromised, you have to revoke them all. (It's possible that if Google thinks you've been compromised it would revoke only the password used. I'd still revoke them all.)

These Google-generated passwords are powerful. You can't use them for browser access, and  you especially can't use them to get to Google Accounts, but you can use them for API access to all mail, all calendar, iOS access to Docs, etc. The more you create, the harder it is to keep track of all all of them, and the more vulnerable you are. Most of us, however, need these. Often.

So here is what I now do

  1. On my work machine, which is not a trusted machine, I use only web access and I require Google to ask for a token at all times. (There's a bug though. Unpredictably Google will decide to trust the machine for a month. As I mentioned, Google seems to have lost interest in 2-step! Even on a "trusted" machine, however, you need a token to mess with security settings.
  2. On trusted machines, including my OS X personal machines and my iOS devices, I use the same Google generated password for all apps. I create it once and store it in my encrypted 1Password database. (In the past, before I realized how this worked, I created many "app-specific" passwords. I'm gradually removing those to improve security and simplify revocation.)

See also:

-- fn --

[1] Wrong! It actually follows a newer practice. It uses a web UI for login. When you try a generated password it requests the browser password then redirects to a (crude) web UI for token entry.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Converting Email from Eudora OS X to a modern format - the TidBITS review

My Eudora archive is in PC format. So converting to OS X is even more of a pain.

A pain I'll have to face sometime. As Eudora fades away conversion options narrow. So sometime soon ...

Today Adam Engst published the comprehensive conversion guide based on his experience with a million message archive. It's not pretty (emphases mine) ...

TidBITS Networking: Converting Email from Eudora: Why I No Longer Live at the P.O.

... Before you get started converting your Eudora mail, there are two cleanup tasks I recommend taking first (and another that I discuss in the Eudora Mailbox Cleaner section below). ... Before you convert your mail, you should compress your mailboxes, to make sure that any deleted messages that haven’t yet been removed from the actual mailbox file are not exported with the rest...

Second, if your Eudora Folder is anywhere near as old as mine, it dates to the classic Mac OS, where the / character was perfectly legitimate in filenames. If, like me, you used / in some mailbox names, you’re going to want to rename those mailboxes before converting them, since some utilities will see the / and create a new mail folder, thinking it’s a Unix directory...

... Apple Mail features a built-in Eudora importer that provides the most obvious approach for importing your Eudora archive. If it were the only option, it might be acceptable, but in my testing, it missed converting at least some very old mailboxes. In those it did import, it failed to bring in attachments, messages status, and labels. Worse, in many mailboxes, it appeared to duplicate messages...

... Apple Mail can also import Unix mailbox files, so the question becomes, how do you convert Eudora mailbox files into Unix mailbox files (the two formats are similar, but not identical)? There are a number of options here, including the standalone program Emailchemy and a utility called EudoraExport that’s embedded in Eudora OSE. I had good luck with Unix mailbox files created by EudoraExport...

... now that I have my entire Eudora archive in Apple Mail, I think I’m going to leave it there as well, in case I ever want to move it somewhere else. I’ll stick with either the version of my Eudora archive created by Eudora Mailbox Cleaner (which maintained some message status, along with attachments) or Eudora OSE’s EudoraExport (which didn’t maintain message status, but did bring in attachments and which seemingly found about 120,000 more messages). I’m not a fan of Apple Mail, but its future is guaranteed and I don’t need to use it for anything but access to this email archive...

I'm surprised Apple Mail can handle an archive this large, though Adam tells us search is very slow.

See also:

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Usenet 2: StackExchange and

A few years back two geek gods, Atwood and Spolsky, put Stack Overflow together. They were responding to the sploggish network of tooth grinding programming support sites of the day.

From that grew StackExchange. For geeks of a certain age, the current 61 sites feel like the 2nd coming of Usenet. (Once Usenet was great. Yes, I know that's hard to imagine, especially since you don't know what usenet is/was).

Among the 61 is the best Apple Q&A site on the web. It's where I look to learn and contribute. It's turbocharged my Google Custom Search engine for OS X search.

Here are a few others that personally interest me ...
Sure sounds like usenet. For example: Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I wish I knew how Jeff & Joel were going to get rich from all of this, but I suspect they have ideas.

My MacBook Air case is a Ziploc baggie

I bought the 11" Air instead of the 13" because I wanted portability above all. It's a tough call, but Lion's 'full screen' integration with Mission Control makes that small display usable. For real work, of course, I add an external display.

So I didn't want to sacrifice portability by adding on a $30+ neoprene sleeve. The Air itself feels pretty study. It is, however, not waterproof. So I've been looking for a tight fitting 'case' that would provide water protection with a bit of surface protection.

Something like a .... baggie (I know what you were thinking).

For the moment I'm using the Ziploc 2 gallon Heavy Duty freezer bag: 13" x 15.6". The horizontal (13") dimension is a good fit, but it's far too long. I would prefer a 13" x 8" baggie. So I'm still looking, but for the moment the current bags are fine. Those I don't use up on the Air I use in the kitchen. The price is certainly right.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Back to the future: OS X Parental Controls, DVD Encyclopedias, and MacKiev

I was born into a world of progress. Things were supposed to get better, the old would fade away.

That was then. Now we live in a whitewater world. One year we get the iPhone, another year movie viewing fails. Bits and pieces of solutions come together then fall apart again. Cloud services come and go with bewildering speed (fear the cloud).

In this world all-but-forgotten DVD Encyclopedias are making a return to our home. That's weird.

They're coming back because OS X Parental Controls have failed me [1]. Lion's PC "bug fix" was the last straw.

Sure, I blame Apple -- but it's not their fault alone. For reasons both good (bypass tyrants) and bad (involuntary marketing) the web fights controls. I can't win this fight.

So, in addition to the child accounts we monitor by log tracking (%$$# OS X Log Viewer), I've created a completely open account on one of our machines. That account can be open ... because it has no net access. None at all.

This account has old-school local apps like iTunes (access to our media server, App Store and Ping disabled) and AppleWorks. The machine is old enough to also include a 6+ yo copy of World Book encyclopedia.

That old encyclopedia could do with a tune up. So I took a look at what's available in DVD land. Amazon has the 2011 copy of EB (Mac/Win) for $23. That's a good end-of-year deal, but I'm skeptical about the quality of their OS X software.

On the other hand, MacKiev, a Ukranian OS X dev shop that did a great job resuscitating Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing produces the Mac version of World Book Encyclopedia. It runs on both legacy and Intel machines all the way from 10.3.9 (!) to Lion. It's more money ($40) but I'll give it a try once the 2012 edition comes out.

I've really got to hold onto my old software going forward.

[1] Incredibly, iOS is even worse.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Migration of metadata from Aperture to iPhoto and Google's Picasa web albums

There can't be more than one person in a million who cares about this.

This post is for you. Please comment so I know I'm not alone. (Just joking, I know I'm alone.)

I've been curious about how metadata (title, comment, etc) passes between Aperture 3 and iPhoto 8.1.2 [8]

I ran an experiment today to find out. I started with a RAW image. I exported a JPEG version to the desktop then dropped it into iPhoto. I also, for the heck of it, used iPhoto's Aperture browser and dropped an image in that way. [5]

Here's what I found (see [6] below for a note on the table).

  • n/d means not displayed
  • e- means it can be seen in the EXIF details on Picasa Web album
Aperture Attribute Name
iPhoto Name
Picasa [4]

Media browser
Version Name
n/d [3]
n/d Tags, e-keyword
Caption, e-object name
Event Name
n/d n/d n/d
Image Location (text)
n/d n/d e-location
State/Province (text)
n/d n/d e-state
Image Location using Places
n/d [1]
yes [1]

So if you, for some strange reason [7], edit in Aperture but store in iPhoto, don't bother rating photos. You can, however, use the following attributes and see useful information in iPhoto 8:

  • aperture.Title -> iPhoto.title
  • aperture.Caption -> iPhoto.description
  • aperture.Keyword -> iPhoto.keyword
  • aperture.Version Name -> file name if specified during export
  • aperture.Places -> not rendering for me in iPhoto 8, but it's stored correctly and Picasa Web Albums can use it.

When exporting from iPhoto to Picasa only iPhoto.title and iPhoto.keyword are used.

Based on this experiment, I crated a custom Aperture metadata set that included Title, Caption and Keywords. I also customized my Grid View - Expanded metadata (cmd-J) to include Title, Caption, Keywords and Version Name.

Update 9/7/11: It appears that the Aperture Project Name is written to JPEG EXIF during export and read by iPhoto during import. Most surprising.


[1] This really surprised me. In the past this metadata had been preserved. I wonder if an Aperture update made it incompatible with my older version of iPhoto. Although iPhoto 8 couldn't read the location metadata, it was in the EXIF header because Picasa could read it.
[2] Something odd happened here. I'd assigned a Caption on Import and that's what showed up in iPhoto. I suspect it was IPTC metada from the RAW image.
[3] This can become part of the file name on export from Aperture. The iPhoto.title attribute can be set equal to the file name by batch update. So there's a way to pass this to iPhoto if desired.
[4] Exporting from Google to Picasa Web Albums using Google export
[5] This isn't something you'd normally do. It just saves a @500K JPEG Aperture uses as a preview images. Still, it's interesting to see what happens with the metadata. 
[6] When I tried to create this table I again mourned the passing of FrontPage, Windows Live Writer (all but gone) and the great wysiwyg editors of old. Neither MarsEdit (this tool) nor iWeb do tables. So I downloaded SeaMonkey (88MB - once that was a lot). Since I remembered Netscape Composer I had a major flashback with fascinating visuals.
[7] I'm stuck in iPhoto until Apple changes Aperture's iPhoto import to include more metadata. Also, I don't trust RAW for archival storage. I save JPEG and discard RAW.
[8] I haven't updated to iPhoto 9, the dead fish smell has been offputting.