· · Mac OS X
· · · Gripes
· I got a new unibody MacBook today, and for the first time ever, getting a new Mac hasn’t left me happy. Dear Apple: Please bring back either FireWire target mode or a replacement that, you know, works ... [27 comments]
Apple Owes Me $99
· I’ve already whined about the Apple Time Capsule we bought earlier this year; it’s a rare instance of an Apple Product that Just Doesn’t Work. There are two problems: First, if I get online while Lauren is, this locks up her WhiteBook so badly she has to reboot; we can’t share WiFi. Second, I have to run the Time Machine backups by hand and I also have to connect by wire for big ones, because the default setup leaves my BlackBook in an endless “Preparing Backup” cycle. So I went and bought another WiFi router for $99, and now at least we can both be on the Net. I’d advise caution with the Time Capsule product until Apple’s done a couple more releases of the hardware and OS X too. Pfui. [10 comments]
Time Machine Blues
· We have a terabyte Time Capsule which backs up Lauren’s MacBook and mine, and basically, it works; I’ve already recovered from one nasty disk blow-up and a couple of “error between keyboard and chair” data loss events. But the cost is becoming very high; it seems like whenever I’m on the home network, it’s endlessly either “Preparing Backup” or “Finishing Backup”, to the accompaniment of pumping fans. And it makes suspend/resume problematic, too; there seem several points in the Time Machine work cycle where, if you suspend, and if you have password-to-wakeup on (as everyone should), you’re looking at the endless beachball. I think I’m not the only one, based on the online rumbles. [13 comments]
· There’s a design flaw in Apple’s current lineup of Mac keyboards; easily fixed though. Obviously, someone like me has a long history and an intense relationship with keyboards ... [53 comments]
Time Capsule Pain
· I ran out and bought a 1TB Apple Time Capsule, breaking a self-imposed rule: Never buy release 1.0 of anything from Apple. Now I’m being punished ... [9 comments]
Hate Apple Day
· Black Beauty, my nice little MacBook, had a disk meltdown and I dropped it off at the shop eleven days ago. I switched back to the N-1 PowerBook, and have been too busy running around and preparing for one thing or another to think about setting up a new computer, so I didn’t pester them. So today I called in and they said “Apple doesn’t have any 120G disks in stock, and there’s no ETA for the part, and we can’t call and ask them to expedite until ten business days have passed.” I said “So how about a different disk then?” and they said “Well, procedures are we have to do it this way, but if you wanted to purchase a third-party disk...” Is it just me, or is this fairly outrageous?
[Dear LazyWeb: The commenters have advised me to slap in a new disk, so I will. Question is, where in Vancouver is a good place to buy one? Thanks in advance.]
[The LazyWeb suggests NCIX. Anything on this list leap out at the eye of the Mac-savvy?] [20 comments]
· So, I installed Leopard, taking all the defaults. Then I installed all the Software Updates. Then it corrupted my FileVault, I’ve lost my entire home directory and I can’t log in. Hey, I have a very recent backup and don’t think I will have lost anything much. But I do face hours of irritating gymnastics to get back to where I was. Am I happy? No. I’m typing this on the Ubuntu box, and it feels kind of nice and safe here. [Update: Well, while I was restoring, everything went “fweep” and died, Disk Utility can’t even see my hard drive. Sigh, off to the shop.] [21 comments]
· I still really like my compact, power-stingy, WiFi-sensitive black MacBook but you know, it’s crashing a couple of times a week. Symptom: frozen screen, no response to keyboard or mouse. This is not what I pay the Mac premium for, and I’m grouchy. In particular since it sometimes crashes hard enough to destroy things; Apple’s lackadaisical attitude towards file preservation (see here and here) has cost me my Library/Preferences folder once (ouch!) and little bits and pieces on other occasions. I wonder if it’s the hardware or this particular version of Tiger? [22 comments]
Apple App Attrition
· Yes, it’s another anguished chapter in my relationship with OS X and its posse. Baubles already hanging on this chain include Back to the Mac, Time to Switch?, and Unswitch. Weirdly, unless my logfiles are lying, people like reading them. Anyhow, I had a hard crash this afternoon when I unplugged my external screen, and after OS X came back, both Mail.app and NetNewsWire had lost their memory. It turns out NetNewsWire takes a daily backup of your subscriptions (that Brent Simmons, he da man!) so that only took a couple of minutes to recover. But Mail.app, like iCal, seems to think a crash is a good enough reason to discard user data; all my preferences and profiles were gonzo, I had to start from scratch. It still had my old POP mail without the account they belonged to, but it’d forgotten about my Sun IMAP world. I got it working again, but then there were some folders I didn’t recognize, so I deleted them, and now it’s borked again; says “Synchronizing with server” and never comes back. So I said the hell with it and now I’m running Thunderbird, which ain’t as pretty but seems to work. I’m still OK with OS X, but the number of its apps I use is down to Address Book, iTunes, iMovie, and (until the microsecond I find an alternative) iCal. Apple makes nice computers and a good operating system. Aside from movies or music, I’d stay away from the rest of the apps. OK, let’s try to be fair: I use computers and applications way harder than most, and plenty of people are unlikely to push these apps into breakage. And Apple’s mail and calendar and browser and so on are polished and easy to use. But I just can’t rely on them any longer. [Update: The Mac is going to win because its community is smart and engaged. For evidence, check the comments. Excellent stuff.] [44 comments]
iCal Sucks Hugely
· I’ve been using iCal for a couple of years now; never really loved it but it’s OK. Today for some reason my PowerBook locked up (no big gripe, this hardly ever happens) and when it came back up, iCal showed a little red splodge next to my calendar which when clicked said “iCal was unable to load the calendar. The file might be corrupted or temporarly (sic) unreadable. you can try again later or reset this calendar. Resetting the calendar will remove all calendar content.” There are not words to express how much this sucks. A programmer working for me who left this kind of hole in a personal-productivity application would be subject to dismissal. Anyhow, I got my life back; read on to find out how, along with some other advice to iCal users and to Apple ...
Routing Around Spotlight
· Herewith two hideously ugly little shell scripts for use when Spotlight refuses to search your mail. Spotlight is a flawed v1.0 implementation of a really good idea and will, I’m sure, be debugged in a near-future release. [Update: The LazyWeb is educating me... these are moving targets.] ...
· I try to stay with the current update of Mac OS X, but the latest, “Tiger” AKA 10.4, is pretty lame. The two big new things in Tiger were Spotlight (find anything on your computer, right now) and Dashboard (hit F12 and there’s a universe of helpful little widgets). Except for, both are too broken to use much. Where I really need search is in my email universe; tens of thousands of messages occupying gigabytes of storage stretching back decades, constituting my augmented electronic mind. The search interface in Spotlight is egregiously stupid; it starts searching as you start typing, retaining all the settings from your last search which (in my case at least) are almost certainly wrong, forcing you to stab frantically at the control buttons (which don’t appear until you’ve started) to point it in the right direction. But the worst thing is, it just can’t find emails that I know are there when I search for words that I know are in them. (There is a solution: Open a Terminal, drill down to the directory where the messages live, then use
grep). And as for Dashboard... there’s not actually much there that’s interesting. The two widgets I’ve tried to use are local weather and the airline flight tracker. Only problem is, they give ridiculously, idiotically wrong answers. And while they’re sitting there in the background waiting to give the wrong answer, they grow steadily, burning memory and making your Mac run slower. (There is a solution: Open Dashboard, and one by one remove all the widgets; your Mac will run faster and be no less useful.) Fortunately, the OS X value proposition—a decent Unix with a decent UI—remains solid. I’m assuming that the next big cat will actually include something interesting.
· This morning, I switched my default browser from Safari to Firefox. Next, I think I’ll look at moving from Mail.app to Thunderbird. Maybe I’ll go back, but I’m increasingly starting to feel uncomfortable in Apple-land. [Update: lots of people wrote me about good stuff including good Gnome typography, Camino, OmniWeb, and various Safari enhancements. Thanks. Will update.] ...
Jeremy and Keystrokes
· I see that Jeremy Zawodny has switched away from Mac, at least partially. One of his reasons is also my #1 gripe with OS X, the primitive keyboard access to application functions. Windows and modern Linuxes both do a much better job of this than OS X. Apple refuses to worry about this because, they say, we’ve done the research and it shows that you pitiful peasants just think keyboarding is faster, mousing is faster and we can prove it. I personally don’t believe it. When I, for example, want to flip a photo 90° right (or left), it is quicker in PaintShop Pro to hit CTL-R, R (or L), Enter (and if I’m flipping it the same way as last time, I can skip the R/L) than it is in PhotoShop to grab the mouse and go through two levels of cascading menus. Since I persist in believing this, am I a jungle-drumming anti-scientific primitive? Well, once I tried to track down the experimental evidence, only it doesn’t seem to be online, and the one time I found an abstract (this morning I looked again and couldn’t find even that), it said something about measuring the responses of “a variety of users across a variety of operations”. Well, I don’t give a flying flapdoodle about a variety of users and a variety of operations; I care about the things that I do all the time, and by definition, I am an expert at the things I do all the time, and every time Apple makes me reach for the mouse, I swear. I work for a company that would really like me to switch to another desktop [Update: or maybe this], and if I do, this persistent stupidity about keystrokes will probably be the #1 cause. [To all the helpful people who’ve written me about OS X’s “Full Keyboard Access”, thank you, I know about it, compared to the state of the art on Windows and Linux it’s a toy.]
FileVault + iMovie = Trouble
· I was trying to import some video I shot at the beach into iMovie and it just wouldn’t go; the picture would lurch and stutter and then the import would just halt, no diagnostics. I was puzzled because I used to import all the time on my much-slower previous PowerBook. Then I remembered that I’d turned on FileVault, i.e. everything in my home directory is encrypted. I wouldn’t be surprised if soaking up data at FireWire rates, plus encrypting it, might be a bit much; so I logged into another—unencrypted—account on this computer and it imported fine. So I may be jumping to conclusions, but this looks like a bad combination.
Keynote vs. the Web
· I see that Sam Ruby has posted his excellent slide set from the Seybold show; they are about as thorough and concentrated an introduction to the syndication universe as anything I’ve seen anywhere. I won’t be posting either my slides or those by Bill Humphries, because Keynote won’t let me. That’s kind of a pity; Bill had a storyboard-style session showing how you actually do this stuff, with tons of screenshots of getting the job done in Radio, Moveable Type, Blogger, and so on. I had provided a sermon on Why You Should Care about RSS with lots of cute pictures, and a historical overview of the road from the roots of syndication through to the Atom project. But as near as I can tell, there’s no way to export from Keynote to HTML. It’ll do PDF but there is just no way I am gonna post a 6.7MB chunk of dumb electronic paper. Hrumph.
Airport Extreme, Knowledge Bases
· If you're getting ready to get into the wonderful world of WiFi (and it is wonderful), you might want to avoid pulling the trigger on one of those new Airport Extreme base stations, huge numbers of people are reporting problems. But actually, this gripe is about the Apple “Knowledge Base” and about such things in general ...
Don't We Have Threading and Multitasking Dammit?
· Mozilla on Mac OS X just does not listen to me dammit. When I have a big slow-loading page up, and I hit a link and instantly realize I didn't want to, I can click on the "stop loading" button all I want but Mozilla just isn't listening. I've observed this with other browsers too, is Mac OS X just broken on this?
The Window on Top
· When you nuke or minimize a window, or when you do a command-Tab, or a bunch of other things in OS X, the result is often that you have a new window on top. When you start typing, the keystrokes should go to that new window. Often, they don't and you have to click in it first. This is wrong.
Q and 1 are Too Close Together
· In many Mac applications, Command-1 switches windows. In Mozilla, it brings up the browser (as opposed to Mail or IRC) windows. It gets used a lot. In almost every Mac application, Command-Q shuts it down. "Q" and "1" are way too close together on the keyboard, sigh.
Damn, is the UI Ever Slow
· I'm doing some work here (email in Mozilla, reading some web content) and the system is just dogging it, I'm typing ahead of the responses which is really irritating. It turns out that I've got a unix job (on another computer) spewing out lots of exception messages into a Terminal.app window, and that's sucking up like 40% of the CPU ...
· iCal, Apple's highly-touted calendar program for OS X, is a piece of crap wrapped in a silky cover. It is unbelievably, unreasonably, idiotically slow (70 CPU seconds to load a few years of calendar file). And it's unreliable; today I crashed my Mac by making a mistake changing the battery, and it just silently lost all my calendars going back to day one ...
By Tim Bray.
I am an employee
of Amazon.com, but
the opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.
A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.