· · Mac OS X
· · · · Gripes (23 fragments)
Bye-bye Time Machine
· I recently switched my backup tool from Apple’s Time Machine to Arq Backup which for my needs is clearly better. And once I’d realized that, I wondered whose needs would be best served by Time Machine. To be honest I’m having a hard time with that ...
Mac + Android = Screencast
· If you want to show off your Android goodies and you have a Mac, it’s absurdly easy to make a decent-quality screencast; the tooling will cost you $29.99 ... [2 comments]
· I haven’t always been Apple’s friend in this space, but this is just a note to say that my current MacBook Pro is by a wide margin my best computer ever. Also, tugboat pictures ... [10 comments]
MacBook Pro + Samsung U28D590D
· When I got 10.9.3, display on the ancient Dell 30" I’d had plugged into various Macs went south; It would only do 1080x1920, which looked like a bad cartoon. So I ended up with a Sammy U28D590D which is advertised as “UHD” which I think is the official term for 4K. It works really well, albeit at 30Hz, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem ... [3 comments]
New Mac Setup
· In preparation for leaving Google, I wanted a new computer in time to make sure I could get all the non-Google stuff (pictures, blogging software, music) moved off my Googlemac. I got a maxed-out MacBook Pro 15" (16G RAM, 1T SSD) thus dumping an estimated $1,000 profit into Apple’s cash hoard. What did I get for it and how did I set it up? ... [29 comments]
Better OS X Control
· If you use Emacs, you can stop reading now. If you don’t, there’s a possibility that you may not be aware of an incredibly powerful productivity-boosting tool that works in almost every OS X app. Read on ... [12 comments]
The Wrath of Heaven
· May it afflict Dupuytren's contracture, hangnails, and other painful pathologies of the hand on every developer who screws with Control-A, -E, -F, -B, -N, or -P in any OS X app anywhere you can edit text. Firefox, I’m looking at you (but only when there’s a search box open at the bottom of the browser). StackOverflow, I’m looking at you. Seriously, you guys are peeing on sacred ground. [8 comments]
· My Google-issue Mac is pretty nice, but I decided to improve it by swapping obsolete optical storage for not-obsolete-yet spinning rust. With benchmarks for the disk geeks in the crowd ... [12 comments]
· I took a movie of my son reading a story he’d written, as part of a multimedia presentation for school. I shot it with my Pentax K-5 and the 50-135 F2.8, by candlelight (you can do things with modern SLRs that Kubrick had to have lenses custom-built for at huge expense). Well, and “by candlelight” I mean twenty or so tea-lights. When I pulled the AVIs into iMovie, the quality was ravishing, the firelight flickering on his creamy 12-year-old skin. When I exported the finished product, no matter how many times I twiddled the QuickTime and other export settings, it looked rather pretty, but omitted all the subtlety of tone and thus most of the beauty in what the camera had captured. So I went searching around the Net and yep, everyone agrees that iMovie export quality is the shitz. I guess it’s Final Cut Express and its thousand-page manual (you think I jest?) for any future video projects. [4 comments]
MBP vs MBA
· I just upgraded to a recent 15" MacBook Pro (about to be superseded, if the Web rumor mill is correct), with an SSD of course. All the hip people, notably including my wife, are toting MacBook Airs these days; and yep, those sure are some slick little sex-bombs. But here are some reasons I’d have serious trouble switching from MBP to MBA ... [5 comments]
Better Quotes Redux
· Last week I asserted that proper left/right quotation marks are essential, recommended KeyRemap4MacBook to fix the problem, and suggested option-S, -D, and -F as mappings for “, ”, and ’. Readers objected to all three and indeed, I was wrong about two of them ... [4 comments]
· If you are publishing text for people to read and you want it to look even halfway professional, you absolutely must use real actual left and right quotation marks: “quotes” not "quotes". Also right-single apostrophe: as in don’t use “don't”. [Update: Please go check the comments, which are opinionated and full of useful alternatives. I’ll report back after further investigation.] ... [23 comments]
Keynote ProTip: Two Start Slides
· Here’s a really small hyper-detailed recommendation: If you’re using Apple’s Keynote for presentations, make two copies of your opening title slide ... [4 comments]
How I Use OS X
· Almost six years ago, I published How To Use Mac OS X, and it was pretty popular at the time. My ideas have changed slightly since then, so I thought I’d outline how I work these days. This might be helpful for others and, even better, I might learn some other heavy-user setups ... [20 comments]
Dual-Link DVI Adapter Problem
· Sun just got me a 2009-vintage MacBook, and I also asked for a DVI adapter; when it arrived it was a Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter, which is what you need for a 30-inch display (drool). It has lots of negative reviews and indeed I had problems with it, so I should publish the solution for others to find ... [3 comments]
· Being a quick write-up on a day’s experience with a current 13-inch MacBook. Summary: I like how it feels but not how it looks ... [16 comments]
Mass Music Migration
· In the living room are just under a thousand compact disks, assembled lovingly over the course of twenty-five years. My CD player, an excellent but 15-year-old Linn Karik, is getting erratic. At this point in history, buying a new CD player doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s time to move it all online ... [69 comments]
· Mike DePetrillo’s Wake Up Your Mac Faster is the best Mac hint I’ve seen in months. I remember like yesterday, sometime in early 2002, watching Rohit Khare at a conference, popping open his Mac every little while to take a note, then shutting it again. I was still a Windows victim at that point, and I was flabbergasted; that was the single feature that weighed most heavily in my decision to switch. The trouble is, at some point between then and Leopard, that feature kind of went away. It wakes up fast enough, but if your machine is heavily loaded, it takes a long time to go to sleep, because it’s saving everything to disk just in case your battery runs down or something else bad happens. Which is a nice feature if you want it, but I don’t; the pain of very occasionally losing my state is way less than the pain of not being able to wake up my mac for the best part of a minute after I’ve told it to sleep. Party like it’s 2002! [4 comments]
How I Use My Mac
· I switched in 2002 and have written probably way too much on my relationship with Apple computers, including one piece grandiosely entitled How To Use Mac OS X. Well, I use one for several hours a day almost every day and while I feel a little humbler now, I still thought it would be worthwhile writing down the practices that serve this particular experienced and intense user well. It crosses my mind that there might be a useful minor meme in this if a few others did too ... [30 comments]
Missing-Font Messages in Keynote
· There are a variety of situations in which, when you start iWork tools, for example Keynote, you get a bunch of whining about missing fonts. This can be fixed by hand ... [4 comments]
Score One for Apple
· What happened was, my Black Mac frapped out last December and I had to rebuild it from scratch, with no help from Apple. The new disk I’d put in only lasted seven months; it died about ten minutes after I got off the stage at OSCON (I bow in the direction of blind good luck) ... [14 comments]
Hack My Mac?
· I’m seriously considering hacking a Mac, and I’d like your opinion. No, I’m not talking about software, I mean with a hacksaw.
[Update: Problem solved. Mac not hacked.] ... [34 comments]
· I got the networking working on yesterday’s Indiana + VirtualBox + Mac install, but not well. I think that driver needs some work, it seems to lock up on big data transfers. Anyhow, just for fun, I brought over a 22-meg 5782×3946 JPG (a slide scan, the first picture here), and opened it up with the Gimp under Indiana under VirtualBox under OS X. And it worked. It sure ain’t as fast as Lightroom, but then nothing is as fast as Lightroom. I pulled out the Levels tool and and blackened the shadows a bit and twiddled the white balance. You could live with it if you had to. That VirtualBox is more than a little OK ...
26 Days, No Air Yet
· Let’s be really unprecedented and say nice things about OS X twice in a single month. Well, and diss the Air a bit ... [11 comments]
· You know, I spend quite a bit of time in this space dissing OS X, but I’d have to say that Leopard has been one of the more pleasant infrastructure surprises in recent years ... [2 comments]
· I just made my annual donation to NeoOffice. If you want to deal with MS Office and OpenOffice.org and ODF documents on the Mac and you don’t want to buy any overpriced opaque binaries, it’s your best bet. The new news is that that the latest NeoOffice (2.2.2) startup is irritatingly slow on my 2GHz MacBook. Which, you see, is good news, because previous combinations of older NeoOffices and older Macs started up painfully, agonizingly, slow. For those of us who live on the Web, at this point in history it’s hard to feel much love for office-doc processing software; but of its kind, Neo is really not bad. [1 comment]
· Herewith notes on the Leopard experience. It’s been reviewed to death but here are a couple of things I haven’t seen noted elsewhere; perhaps helpful to people wondering whether to jump. [Update: A couple of pleasant surprises, plus I’m assembling the bugs I observe here.] ... [12 comments]
Rebuilding the World
· Herewith the unexpurgated diary of my simultaneously rebuilding my Mac environment from scratch, and moving to Leopard. This is partly just for my own benefit, so I don’t forget the important steps, but may be of mild interest to others who carry a heavy OSS load on their Macs, and may prove a mildly useful in someone’s search results down the line ... [10 comments]
· Not for me, for a while anyhow. It turns out that Lightroom has difficulties, and not only is Java 6 missing, apparently Java 5 is damaged. The two highest-value programs I run on this puppy are NetBeans and Lightroom, so this kind of hits me where I live. As it stands now, the Mac is generally speaking a superb server-side developers’ platform, because it’s Unix under the covers and because all the UI and housekeeping is decent and Just Works, not subtracting time from what matters. But you know, the largest single group of server-side software developers still lives in the Java world, and they won’t be going to Leopard until Leopard comes to them. Not, perhaps, a big demographic. But an influential one I think. [Update: I’ve seen several contributions, for example this from Adrian Sutton, saying that Java 5 on Leopard is just fine, thank you. That’s a relief.] [11 comments]
Unprofessional in Black
· I’m talking about my computer, which is a MacBook, not a MacBook Pro, and a lovely flat black colour. It’s by a long shot the best Mac I’ve ever had. I gather the Pro line is due for a refresh soon; it better be good, because at this point anyone who buys a silver Mac is making a big mistake ... [42 comments]
What an iPhone Looks Like
· I noticed a bit of traffic, starting with David Berlind, about people looking for visits from iPhones in their web-server logfiles. I looked in mine, and found a couple. I thought I’d reproduce the actual Apache logfile entry, which is kind of interesting; do your own interpretation ... [7 comments]
· Mostly technology-centric, this time ... [4 comments]
Black Beauty Follow-Up
· I’ve now been using the new MacBook for a week. I think I can conclude that, for my purposes at least, it’s a better alternative than the Pro would have been ... [13 comments]
· So I went ahead and ordered a maxed-out black MacBook, not a Pro, ignoring the advice of the majority of people who commented on my earlier consideration of the choice. I’m blogging from it ... [14 comments]
· My PowerBook (the last PowerPC model) still serves me pretty well, but I need to do some Solaris stuff, so one of the new Intel Macs is in my future. Not quite ready to unSwitch for day-to-day work yet; it seems the latest Linuxes still have issues with outboard displays and power management [now 37 people are going to write me to tell me how you can make that work, each providing their own multi-step recipe]. So the question is, MacBook or MacBook Pro? The answer isn’t obvious. [Update: So far, 12 commenters recommend the Pro, 10 the MacBook; three say to wait for the next product refresh.] ... [41 comments]
· I guess there’s no harm in an occasional links+commentary dump; after all, everybody does it. Item: Bits at the Edge is the blog of Motorola CTO Padmasree Warrior. The entries are too long and dip into marketing-speak, but there’s good writing and original thought in there too and I’ve subscribed. How could anyone in computing not need to know what Motorola’s CTO is thinking? Item: Via Joe Gregorio, PDF slideware on The EBay Architecture. This ought to be required reading for everyone in this business whose title contains the words “Web” or “Architect”. I wonder if this sort of wisdom is being taught in universities? Item: Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) Specifications has crossed my radar a few times recently. If you really believe in loose coupling and asynchronous messaging (as we all claim to), then you believe in something like this. Item: How to find out which font has which characters; something I’ve never known how to do on OS X. Item: Ugandans grab ‘pig-for-name’ deal; it’s hard not to have complicated feelings about this one. [3 comments]
· My computer, like most, is normally connected to the Internet, and since I’m on quite a few mailing lists and subscribe to quite a few feeds, I get a lot of traffic. In general, we really haven’t figured out how to manage traffic in such a way that we know what’s going on and still get work done ... [6 comments]
Microsoft XML, the Mac Angle
· There’s been a lot of noise these last few days about the Microsoft Office XML file formats; the world doesn’t need my opinion again. I’d vaguely noted that Mac Office would be a little behind on the new XML, then Simon Phipps shot me links to a couple of closer looks, which shed an instructive light ... [6 comments]
· When I do talks for Sun events and where the material needs to be re-usable, I always use the NeoOffice version of OpenOffice.org, because then I can give people ODF (or PPT, or PDF, or just about anything else you can imagine). When I’m doing an outward-facing presentation and either I really really care about trying to move the needle with the audience, or I have my back to the wall time-wise, I use Keynote. It’s been a few busy travel-packed weeks, and I had speeches to make at JAX.de and the International PHP Conference, both audiences important, I thought, so they got Keynote presentations. Anyhow, my real purpose here is just to say that the Keynote authoring interface is just totally excellent, amazingly good; and I speak as a pretty expert user of both PowerPoint and OpenOffice.org. For my money, maybe the best app Apple ships. [17 comments]
Back to the Mac
· It took nearly two weeks to get the PowerBook fixed, but for now I’m a Macboy again. On balance, the Mac experience is better. But Ubuntu is not that far behind, and it’s catching up. I’m thinking about the endgame ...
· Just a scratchpad for my further Ubuntu-experience notes. So far: “locate”, Emacs, Thunderbird, Firefox, function keys, windows vs. apps, menu placement, hibernate, and X keyboard mappings ...
· This morning I got a contract in the email from a lawyer and clicked on it, and MS Word started opening. Sigh. Then, my Mac locked up. After I cycled the power a couple of times, it was essentially a brick. Can I blame Microsoft? It’s off at the Mac doctor now, no prognosis, no ETA. [Update: Fried logic board, new one on order, they can’t say when it’ll be here.] I’m learning how to actually work full time on Ubuntu really fast (that was the current most up-to-date install on the Ultra 20, and I really did not want to invest any OS-install time). If you’re reading this, I’m moving along OK; this is the first-ever ongoing post not authored on and posted from a Macintosh ...
woof! is My Hero
· I have often griped about Mail.app’s completely-braindead selection behavior (for example here), and in John Gruber’s excellent Standing in Line With Mr. Jimmy, he agreed. John also argued that the way to fix this kind of problem is not, as I proposed, for Apple to open-source its apps, it’s for them to be sufficiently scriptable that you can just put a bandage over this kind of bleeding neck wound. Well, someone has. The blog’s called woof! and it’s at “end.com/speth”. While its authorship is carefully unclaimed, my awesome powers of detection aided by fifteen seconds at the nearest search engine suggest that one Jim Speth is da man, or maybe da dog. I installed the patch and it works. Hey Apple, get a clue and just stop this pain. Mr. Speth, next time we’re in the same town, beers are on me. Does this mean John Gruber’s right? Maybe; but Apple would still come out ahead by open-sourcing its apps.
Time to Switch?
· Early this month, Mark Pilgrim made waves when he went shopping for a new Mac, but decided not to buy one, and, in When the bough breaks, wrote at length about switching to Ubuntu. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and now John Gruber’s written And Oranges, a fine excursus on Mark’s piece. I’m pondering the switch away myself, too, and maybe sharing my thoughts will be helpful. [Update: Lots of feedback on the state of the Ubuntu art.] [Update: More from Mark. I feel sick, physically nauseated, that Apple has hidden my email—the record of my life—away in a proprietary undocumented format. I’ve had this happen once before (the culprit was Eudora); fool me twice, shame on me. Hear a funny sound? That’s a camel’s back, breaking.] ...
Getting From HD to the Screen
· As of mid-2006, iMovie HD doesn’t export HD video to QuickTime in a usable form; it comes out in 4:3 rather than 16:9, the display is marred by scan lines, and even at a modest width (say 800) reasonably-powerful computers can’t render it smoothly. Here’s the recipe for fixing the problem. [Update: Forgot the acknowledgments! Thanks for good advice to Jeffrey Czerniak, Mike Curtis, Tony Coates, and Charles Witgen.] [Update: Mike Curtis has suggested a substantial improvement, and it works.] ...
· I’ve been kind of quiet, and that’s because the Java One people lowered the boom on me, told me that if I didn’t get the slides for my session in they were going to cancel it. So I’ve been spending quality time with Open Office, in particular the NeoOffice flavor. They’ve got an alpha of their version of OO.o 2 up, and it’s a vast improvement over 1.2, with a bunch of useful sidebar navigators and better view-switching. Also, it’s all-ODF. There’s some interesting business model innovation; although Neo is GPL’ed, you have to sign up and pay to join the Early Access program if you want to use the 2.0 alpha pre-release. I didn’t hit a single bug with the alpha in two days of hard editing; I assume the Neo boys are slaving away over performance, because it’s pretty slow at the moment.
· Camino 1.0 is out. I just switched it in as my default browser. It’s basically the latest Firefox code with a slightly better Mac wrapper than Firefox’s own. I’ve left Safari behind, then gone back to it, several times now, but its latest sin is random unpredictable spinning-beachball slowdowns (I have the impression that visiting any page at msnbc.com tends to start this, but that’s just anecdotal). Camino is really very very good indeed. I’ll let you know how this goes. [Update: I ran across an obscure little zooming buglet and sent a note to the feedback address; got email back within a few hours saying “Yeah, known issue, working on it.” Is that cool or what?]
Nexenta/NetBeans/OS X Notes
· I’m running NetBeans 5 on my Ultra 20, using Nexenta GNU/Solaris as the OS. This buys a lot of performance, but I only want to have one screen/keyboard, so I’m routing the UI through my Mac via X11. I don’t know how common a scenario this is going to be, but early indications are it’s a damn productive working environment. I’m discovering some things, so I’ll post them here as I go along in case other people run across some of the same issues. [Update: Keymapping progress, whines, and bugs] ...
Protecting Your Data
· I was watching a mailing-list discussion of backup software, and how often you should back up, and based on some decades’ experience, found some of the thinking sloppy. Here are my life lessons on keeping your data safe while assuming that The Worst Will Happen. Some of it is Macintosh-specific, but there may be useful take-aways even from those parts, even for non-Mac-hacks ...
· I see Simon Phipps held forth on the goodness of NeoOffice; probably not by coincidence, release 1.2 showed up today. On top of all its other virtues, Neo has really slick & quick update packages, all per OS X standards. I’ve been slinging them a few bucks now and then, and if you’re on the Mac you should give the software a try too. Remember, C-$2MS.
Mac + HDTV
· We have an HDTV, not a great one, a basic Autumn-2004 Hitachi 42", works great for watching high-def sports, although plain old (non-high-def) TV still looks lousy. Ever since I’ve got it, I’ve wanted to plug it into my laptop, but never could get the video driver to do much more than park a fuzzy 640×480 postage stamp in the middle of the 16×9. We’ve got family visiting for Christmas, and I really, really wanted to have a slide show, like we used to in the old days with the projector and the rickety roll-up screen and everyone sitting around cracking jokes about the pictures. I have a new 15" October-2005-vintage PowerBook, so I sallied forth into the breach and gave switchResX another try and it worked this time! It doesn’t have the world’s most intuitive UI, and I forget the exact tinkering sequence that got me there, but now the Mac sees the the HDTV as an 848x480 outboard screen which isn’t exactly 16×9, but there’s no visible stretching. That resolution isn’t great, but is OK for looking at pictures. One more trick was required to get the slide-show working: use the “Arrange” tab on the Displays preferences to make the outboard HDTV into the primary display by dragging the menu-bar onto it. Then I suspect that any of OS X’s slide-show options (iPhoto, Finder, Graphic Converter) will work; I’m using Graphic Converter. Tonight, the family will be gathering around the big screen to look at 124 pictures telling the story of the year. Seems to me that if you want your computer to serve as a “home media center” or whatever the marketing buzzword is, driving the HDTV is a pretty basic requirement, so Apple needs to either hire the switchResX folks or replicate the functionality. Let me know how Windows & Linux do in this department and I’ll post a pointer.
Adium is the Future
· The people I work most closely with are located in New Jersey, Southampton (U.K.), Santa Cruz, North Carolina, Prague, and Hamburg. Instant messaging is an essential business tool. I use Adium, which relies on the Gaim multi-protocol IM software. There are a lot of things about it that prefigure the future of software. [Update: Wow! Check out Eric Meyer’s follow-up.] ...
· Anyone who bought one of the new since-October PowerBooks and who uses SideTrack will have noticed that it stopped working. They’ve fixed that; which gives me an excuse to recommend it again to everyone. Macs now offer two-finger scrolling as opposed to Sidetrack’s side-of-the-pad scrolling; strictly a matter of taste. But SideTrack lets you remap the trackpad button. If you use tap-to-click and tap-and-hold-to-drag, which I recommend, then with SideTrack you can remap the button to be right-click, and in effect the trackpad is now a three-button mouse.
· I tried out Joshua Marinacci’s recent Netbeans on Mac Tip (different GC setting) and it worked like a charm. I suspect that this ought to be the default setting for NetBeans on most systems. I talked to a NetBeans insider in Prague and he mumbled about hard-to-reproduce weirdness with this setting on previous NetBeans & Java releases, but I haven’t seen a single hiccup. It turns out that on the AMD64 systems, lots of people are running more or less everything Java in
-server mode. Hmmm.
· To use their tagline, Aquamacs is an easy-to-use, Mac-style Emacs for Mac OS X and they add “An Editor for Text, HTML, LaTeX, C++, Java, Python, Perl and more...”, foolishly leaving out blogs. As of the 0.9.7 beta, which appeared this weekend, this is now my day-to-day production Emacs. As far as I can tell, it does all the things all those other Mac OS X Emacses do, and a few extra nice things. Emacs weenies read on for instructions on how to give Aquamacs a subtle but important personality transplant ...
Emacs OS Xplosion
· OS X has been with us for a few years now, and Emacs has been coming along slowly and surely. We must have hit some sort of a tipping point, and there are a whole lot of people working on the problem; the result is that life is getting better and better for the Emacs tribe. This piece opens with a brief sermon on why, if you’re not already using Emacs, you might want to check it out; and then surveys the state of play and the multiple interesting emacses that are out there ...
· Two years, one month, and twenty-three days ago I got a new PowerBook. Yesterday afternoon I got another, which I’m now using to type this. (The shipping route was Shanghai to Anchorage to Memphis to Vancouver. Whatever.) Herewith news, both very bad and very good, on Apple’s product line, plus some miscellaneous low-grade problems ...
How To Use Your Ultra
· So, I’ve got this meat-grinder that runs NetBeans just insanely faster than my PowerBook, and I’d like to use it. The trouble is, I’ve already got 3,397,120 pixels’ worth of screen real-estate and if I add more I won’t be able to see out my window; and one keyboard & mouse are enough. Solution: run the Ultra headless and talk to it via the Mac, using X11. It’s not problem-free but it works. Illustrated with pictures of deliciously smooth, streamlined actual working code. [Update: There is hope.] ...
OpenOffice Mac Sanity
· A week ago, in my OpenOffice.org conference report, I wrote that the X11 Mac Port was being abandoned in favor of a Cocoa version. Every bloody Mac site in the world picked this up as though it were a major news story, and now I hear from Patrick Luby, chief maintainer of NeoOffice/J, that as a result, the people who’ve been supporting his work are threatening to cut him loose. This is madness; at the moment, Neo/J is the only actual shipping version of OpenOffice that you can run on a Mac with the menus in the right place, with drag-&-drop and fonts that Just Work, and so on. This is going to remain the case for some time, because the task of switching over the current X11 version is going to be huge, slow, and high-risk. (Patrick was also mad because I said Neo/J was “behind”, and, without going into details of Java and OO.o versions, he’s got a point). So for the time being, I’m going to go on using and supporting and probably blogging about Neo/J, because that’s all there is. And I still think that Apple should take an interest in this work.
Some OO.oCon Lessons
· Yeah, at the conference there were speeches and press briefings and so on, but the main thing was all the good stuff there to be learned, some of which is related here. Plus a rare live photo of a slashdotting experience from the inside. [Update: They fixed the video.] ...
GAIM & Adium, Good Stuff
· I succumbed to peer-group pressure and gave Adium a try; it’s a Mac instant-messaging client, wrapped around the Gaim code, that supports more or less every IM system on the planet. I’m very impressed, it’s good stuff. Gaim is very solid, and as for the OS X wrapping... well, iChat makes native AOL look klunky and primitive, and Adium makes iChat look sloppy and space-inefficient; it gets the job done and gets out of the way. Also, if you want to whisper secrets, it supports OTR encryption. I can’t push pictures through it or do video chat, so iChat will still get used sometimes. But, as of now, you can talk to me on AIM, Jabber, Yahoo!, and probably even MSN pretty soon. [Update: MSN too, tim dot bray at sun dot com (uh, do I know anyone on MSN?); I’m now superultramegaconnected.] Adium: highly recommended. [Update: There’s an irritating bug, Adium from time to time makes it look like I’ve dropped off AIM even though I’m still there. I’ll have to go poke around and see if the developers know about this.]
Apple File Formats
· The whole world has been giving Microsoft a hard time over their Office XML file formats; it turns out that there are far worse sinners. Apple, for one. Derek Beatty here at Sun ran across this write-up on their iWork (Keynote, Pages, and so on) file formats, which are XML-based. Item: there’s no attempt to conform to OpenDocument or any other standard. Item: they change them at will: “With the introduction of Keynote 2.x, this schema file is out of date.” Item: They don’t exactly encourage using their specs to build software: “Although the information in this technical note may appear useful, you should not rely on it for developing or modifying your own products.” And, to cap it all: “This document does not describe the complete XML schema for either Pages 1.x or Keynote 2.x. The complete XML schema for both applications is not available and will not be made public.” [Emphasis Apple’s.] Charming stuff. [Update: Apple’s Ernie Prabhakar pushes back passionately. I still don’t think anyone should store information that matters in a data format that’s not open and documented, but Ernie makes some good points.] [Update: Ooh! My own genuine Apple Leak, on how the iWork XML got that way. Read on.] ...
· This is a new kind of gig. Next week, I’ll be participating in an online roundtable called Apple—The Next Generation over at SiliconValley.com. Also on board will be Nathan Brookwood, Dawn Chmielewski, Michael Gartenberg, Peter Glaskowsky, Mark Gonzales, John Gruber, Andy Hertzfeld, Leander Kahney, Keven Krewell, Brent Simmons, and Dean Takahashi. Check it out, should be fun.
Mac Mini for Mom
· My Mom’s old EMachines Win98 box wasn’t actually broken, but it was tough to support remotely and the camera-company software that came with her digicam was really lame. So I ordered her a Mac mini and now it’s up and running. This gave me a (rare) chance to watch the OS X experience through a novice’s eyes ...
· Yep, it works with iChat. Yep, I’m signed on (my gmail address should not be hard to deduce). Yep, XMPP as a protocol probably has the legs to beat any other single candidate. Yep, it’s dumb that the chat services don’t interoperate. Nope, I don’t necessarily trust G’s benevolance, but yep, it’s good not to have all my eggs in an AOL basket. [Update: further thoughts.]. Item: Uh, anyone can run a Jabber server, is this news story no more than “Google runs one too?” Item: Ars Technica is dismissive. Item: Hey, Apple; why do I have to have two buddy lists, one for “classic” iChat and one for Jabber? Item: All these names I don’t know are pinging me, wanting to add me as buddies. For the first few, I accepted, then sent a message “Do I know you?” So far, nobody’s answered, so I removed them. [Update again: Interoperation between iChat and any non-Mac GoogleJabber client is shaky-to-absent. I tried to use Nitro, a native Jabber client, and it wentup in smoke.]
Good One, Apple
· Hey, all this good open-source karma (much in evidence last week at Java One) seems to be catching; I hear that at WWDC, Apple announced the WebKit Open Source Project, to make the KHTML/OS X combo a real two-way part of the community. Good on ’em, and let’s hope this is just a first step. (Mild Apple gripe; in recent months I’ve had three friends—one by acquisition, one by employment, one by contract—start doing work for Apple, and all of a sudden we can talk about my job but not theirs. Hmph.)
· This is an X-windows-free version of OpenOffice for Mac OS X. They just released 1.1 final, the first version that hasn’t had a Beta sticker on it. In exchange, I sent them a few bucks, since I’ve been using this as my everyday office suite for over a year now. (Confession: I still do dip into Excel now and again, but eventually the OpenOffice spreadsheet will catch up with that too.) It’s not as pretty as a real native-bred OS X app, but for what I need, it pretty well Just Works. Recommended for OS X users, particularly those who like C-$2MS.
On Apple and Intel
· A zillion words have been written on this, but a few more won’t hurt. First off, I’m amused by the few brave souls writing about the pricing, whether or not Apple will spend less per Intel chip than they were with IBM. You can safely ignore them, because it’s like this: there are a few Really Big Secrets that very few people and no journalists know: one of them is how much box-builders like Apple, HP, Dell, and Sun pay chip-builders like Intel, IBM, and AMD. I bet that when whoever at Apple sat down across the table from whoever at Intel the negotiation was complicated and involved lots more than the per-chip cost. You know what I, personally and selfishly, hope Steve asked for? First cut at those Intel “Yonah” chips that everyone thinks are going to be just the greatest thing, so I can get a faster laptop than anyone. Second point: I bet that some Apple VIP has, as of today, got regularly scheduled meetings with an AMD VIP, because the x86 companies are now competing for Apple’s business on a pretty level playing field. Finally, I can’t leave this territory without a pointer to Paul Murphy, who as usual is pointing in a different direction from everyone else, but who (also as usual) is worth reading.
Mac - Power + x86?
· CNET has set the Internet abuzz by reporting that Apple is going to jump from Power to x86 silicon. I think it’s believable, porting the software doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Here’s a personal sidelight: Last year I was chatting with a very senior IBM person that I’d just met, who smirked at my PowerBook and said “You know, we make more money on every one of those than Apple does.” Remember, he was real senior and we’d just met. Those kinds of stories are for sure going to get back to Apple and they’re going to be real irritating. Look at it this way: once Apple makes the first big step away from Power, if they don’t like Intel’s attitude or Intel’s performance or Intel’s pricing, they can walk across the street to AMD. Or for that matter back to IBM, who might have become a little more humble and hungry. [Update: Several people have written to point out that the IBM person was probably wrong, since the G4 in the PowerBooks is made by Motorola/Freescale, not IBM. But I think the point about attitude stands.]
An Evening With Bonnie
· Like almost everyone, I have a long list of things that I regret not having done, and mine includes writing a Unix filesystem. So instead, I measure ’em, with the help of my old friend Bonnie. I just spent some time addressing the question: “How much does FileVault slow down a Macintosh?” And turned up a couple other interesting results, too, including a fairly startling three-way OS X/Linux/Solaris comparison. [Update: Many readers write on the subject of Linux and
The Mouse BT
· I was in the drugstore picking up a prescription and wandered into the computer section, where I found myself impulse-buying The Mouse BT from some outfit I’ve never heard of called DVForge. It’s Bluetooth and looks like an Apple mouse, only it’s got two buttons (the way this is accomplished seems to rely on bending acrylic in a really clever way) plus a scrollwheel. It’s slick, slick, slick; and looks neat. I bought the Aluminum model but now that I realise there’s a white version too I think that would look better. On top of looking nice, the scrollwheel is the smoothest I’ve used. I’m kind of worried how fast it’ll go through batteries; I’ll report back when I know. [Update: It turns out that the company behind this product, is, uh, controversial.] [Update: As of mid-April, the mouse has suddenly and silently stopped working. Sample size of one, but still...]
Hyatt on a Roll
· Just last month, I was griping about Apple’s complete lack of transparency. As if to prove me wrong, Dave Hyatt, the main Safari man, has recently revivified his blog with a series of excellent pieces about plowing his way through the Web Standards Project’s Acid2 compliance test. He’s pushing back where parts of the test seem questionable, which is totally appropriate. Then, yesterday, he did a just-the-facts post about Safari 1.3, which you get with OS X 10.3.9. I’ve been happily alternating between Camino and Firefox, but will definitely give Safari another try.
Check Out Gruber
· John Gruber, that is, who disagrees at length with my unswitch piece. He’s got one good new argument—I hadn’t actually read the judgment in the Apple-vs-the-leakers case—and while the judge is aware of the riskiness of the territory, I’m still worried; perhaps I’ve had a little too much exposure to the profound sleaziness of certain members of the financial-engineering community. Our disagreement about information-management style is mostly aesthetic; I find Apple’s control-freakery offensive and sterile, he doesn’t. He points out that Apple’s share price is doing better than Sun’s or Microsoft’s, and who knows, maybe that’s relevant. As for my dissing the hardware, despite what John says, I have friends who are carrying Sonys and Thinkpads around and they’re faster than my PowerBook, and the screens are brighter and have more pixels, and that sucks. I’ve subscribed to John for ages, he’s a Mac bigot’s Mac bigot, a decent writer, and I’ve long admired his subtle white-on-grey styling. I hadn’t realized how much pull he has, there’ve been thousands and thousands of people drop by ongoing via his piece. So if you’re one of the three Mac enthusiasts in the world who don’t already read John, you might want to start.
MySQL4 Upgrade Problem with Perl
· For those of you out there who update your Macs with fink (or its
apt-get), if you upgrade to MySQL4, and you’re using a Perl+MySQL app, Fink may install the DBD::Mysql (Perl database glue) package for Perl 5.6, not 5.8. The solution:
sudo apt-get install dbd-mysql-pm581
Things That Just Work: SubEthaEdit
· Last week Simon Phipps and I were working on something that had to be done by the end of that day, and he pinged me “Got SubEthaEdit?”. I do, and I’ve used it occasionally when sitting around a table with some people, but he said “Point it at my server.” I hadn’t realized how smoothly this worked across the Internet, but we both got our hands on the document at the same time (he in Southampton, I in Vancouver) and we worked out the problems and got the job done, no fuss no muss. Is there anything similar on Windows or Linux/Unix, or even better cross-platform? Because it’s pretty serious magic. [Update: Robert Chassell writes to say that Emacs has been able to do this for years, although the functions having names like
make-frame-on-display has probably not helped the uptake.] [Hsui-Fan Wang and one other person whose email I lost wrote to point out MoonEdit].
Mini for Mom?
· So is the Mini a game-changer? That question is too big. But here’s an easier one: is it a good computer to buy for my Mom? [Updated: Lots of feedback on what’s good for Mom, and on appropriateness.] ...
· I may not entirely get it, but I can’t ignore it, so herewith some thoughts and predictions on the subject, plus obviously, a teeny little podcast ...
SideTrack and eSellerate
· At Antipixel I saw a pointer to a nice-looking little piece of Mac shareware called SideTrack so I downloaded and tried it and it’s wonderful. Anyone running OS X who uses the mouse a lot, follow that pointer and give it a try. Apple will probably intervene, because this gives a standard Mac laptop in effect a two-button mouse with dual scroll-wheel, which Apple doesn’t think Mac users should want. So I said “that’s worth $15” and hit the Buy button, and it popped me off to eSellerate and boy, is that a slick operation. First of all, it noticed I was in Canada and charged me in C$. Then, when I filled in the form, it redirected over to a page from my own bank that asked a couple of other questions to make sure I was who I said I was, then gave me a nice printable receipt. This is what all the dot-com crazies claimed e-shopping would be like, at the height of the bubble. They were right... but it took another five years to get there.
· I bought my current laptop fourteen months ago. At the time I wrote “I sure hope it holds up better,” and indeed it’s doing better than the flimsy, fragile, TiBook did, but it’s not that great. Herewith some suggestions for how Macintosh laptops could be made better ...
Neo/J Patch3 Cowabunga!
· Please come on inside and check out the screen shot. It shows OpenOffice, on the Macintosh, running with native Aqua menus. This is big news. [Update: Oops, I pointed to the wrong patch.] ...
OS X Rot
· The OS X on my PowerBook has Software Rot. It keeps losing little bits of my preferences, when it’s been sleeping for a while it often decides it needs to reboot, it loses fonts that are in ~/Library/Fonts. This isn’t supposed to happen, OS X has been rock-solid for me since the spring of 2002 through two laptops and many OS releases, and I don’t like it. I wonder how many years it’ll take to get to a state where this just doesn’t happen any more. [Update: The 10.3.4 update seems to have fixed the problem.]
· The recent OS X update 1.3.4 included Safari version 1.2.2, which has a buglet whose symptoms may be observed, if you’re reading this at ongoing rather than in an aggregator, just to your right, where the drop shadow on the little picture is borked. This technique is straight from Villareal as written up recently in A List Apart, so I suspect it’ll bite a few people here and there. Reproducible on the dev builds inside Apple, thus soon to be fixed I’m sure.
Welcome Mail.app to the Party
· I have on several occasions dissed the Mac OS X email client “Mail.app” fairly heavily in this space. I finally got myself smoothly integrated with the Sun VPN, and I must report that the latest release of Mail.app is now handling both my email lives (Sun and Textuality) smoothly, efficiently, and with no fuss. The spam filtering is failing a bit under the pressure, but is still pretty darn good; and the filtering and styling and threading and so on is really about all you could wish for. Another reason to think about migrating to OS X.
Apple Should Go Open Source
· I’m talking about the basic apps like Mail and iChat and Finder and Safari (already partly there) and the iLife suite. It would be good for the community and good for Apple ...
· I got an email with an attachment I wanted to read whose name ended in
.sxw. Clicking on it baffled OS X, so I asked around and someone pointed me at NeoOffice/J, which is part of NeoOffice. I got a hurried and entirely opaque explanation of how this is using Java/Cocoa magic to sweep the Open Office X11 under the carpet, but hey, it seems to work, despite lots of “This is a Beta!” warnings. It handled the
.sxw, and then I pointed it at a
.doc and a
.xls and it was fine with those, too. The only downside so far is it doesn’t have the real Aqua look.
Today’s Macintosh Hints
· Do: If your screen has the dreaded “white spots,” stop waiting and take it in to get it fixed. The fix is sticking (for me, anyhow) and what I hadn’t noticed was that in between the white spots, the screen was fading and looking generally lousy; it’s like a major upgrade. Do: If you have a new 15” Aluminum PowerBook, go and buy a replacement battery. I haven’t done the measurements yet, but the replacement lasts significantly longer than the one that came with the computer. Don’t: Visit Simon Haertel’s site and pick up Quinn (i.e. Tetris) even if you want to just check out the Cocoa programming chops; not only is it very likely to cost you several wasted hours but there’s just no good way to explain when a colleague or loved one comes into the room and catches you using your expensive shiny high-powered computer to play Tetris.
· I’ve been running this sucker for a few weeks now, about time for some experience-sharing; I’ll even try to touch a few bases that others haven’t. [Updated: maybe I was wrong about finder navigation.] [Updated again: Keyboard shortcuts/screen capture.] [And again: FileVault.] ...
OS X Wireless Airport Breakage?
· Yesterday I spent some quality time in the Minneapolis and Denver airports. Both advertised wireless (Centrino bannerware in Denver), and in both my Mac could see the network. The way it usually works is you point your browser at any website and the wireless service jumps in front and says something like “$6.95/day, please” and you decide whether you want to sign up. In both airports, though, when I did this the browser said it couldn’t find the site (i.e. DNS failure) and gave up. I tried pointing the DNS at a well-known DNS server’s IP address, and that didn’t help. There were people with Windows boxes around apparently getting on the air. Same story with Safari, Mozilla and IE. Bill, who was traveling with me and also has a Mac, had the exact same experience. Anyone know what’s going on?
Panther vs. Open Source
· I loaded up Panther AKA Mac OS 10.3. They charged me full price for it, even though the computer’s exactly one month old (bad). Considerable visual improvement and some nice app bells & whistles, and this new Exposé thing is drop-dead cool (good). Emacs wouldn’t run (bad), rebuilt per the instructions of the OS X Emacs guy, worked fine (good). The ongoing software blew up because
XML::Parser wasn’t there (bad). I shuddered with memory of previous bashings of the head against the OSS wall. Hey, Apple is now shipping with Perl 5.8.1 (good). Hey, there’s a
cpan command that seems to be essentially a tool for firing single commands at
perl -MCPAN -e shell. (Thanks to Iain Truskett for some syntax help).
cpan install XML::Parser works (good). ongoing still won’t proof because
DBI isn’t there (bad).
cpan install DBI works (good). ongoing won’t proof because
DBD::mysql isn’t there (bad).
cpan install DBD::mysql almost works, but blows up on the last step with a gnarly
ld error (bad).
apt-get thinks my
mysql is up to date. So for now I can’t proof and I can’t do pictures here (very bad). And
DBD::mysql is a pretty damn important piece of infrastructure, so I’m not going to be only one feeling the pain. [Update: It’s fixed! Read on for details, thanks, and a bit more on the up- and down-sides of Open Source.] ...
· I’m at the FOO (Friends Of O’Reilly) camp in Sebastopol, with a bunch of very stimulating people, I’m sitting next to Brian Ingerson of YAML fame (and why, I ask, would we not get along?) fame as I type this. What’s weird is, this is the first time in my life where I’ve been to a substantial gathering and more or less everyone is using a Macintosh.
How To Use Mac OS X
· I’m now a year and a half into my new life as a Macintosh user, and I have the UI shaken down pretty well the way I like it; the recent change of machines allowed me to leave behind some software rot. Herewith a recommendation of how to set up your Mac UI, of interest generally only to Mac-heads and specifically to those who like me are fairly new into this game ...
· I picked up my new Powerbook this afternoon after work; herewith some initial notes, a couple of pictures, and a helpful illustrated Mac OS X hint ...
Nuke The Past
· I have a mere 20G drive on my early-vintage PowerBook and it’s getting a little bit full. I wanted to install Keynote (which I had to buy in a box, couldn’t download, how twentieth-century) and it’s a hog. So I just finished nuking Virtual PC and the OS 9 Applications folder. Got me back a ton of disk space, and felt good too. For some reason it won’t let me remove the OS 9 system folder.
Apple Rah Rah
· The news was full today of Apple chest-pounding about the next release of OS X, and the new boxes built around the G5 AKA PPC 970, which does look to be one hot mama of a chip. But I just wanted to give (in one case ironic) thanks to Apple for two specific recent moves ...
· It was about a year ago that, after a decade or so of Windows on my client and Unix/Linux on my servers, I bought a TiBook and got into OS X. I am only rarely tempted to go back. It's worth it, I think, to look back over the past year and see what the take-aways are ...
On Apple's Music Store
· Business-wise, it seems pretty sound. I'll pay 99¢ a pop for tunes if they stay out of my face about how I use them. This has to be seen as good news, and evidence that Apple is a little smarter than your average computer company. Herewith some pros and cons of this (I think) important new offering. (Updated 4/29 with comments on pricing and Web Architecture.) ...
Paintshop for Mac?
· Since Antarctica is very graphics-oriented company, I'm often doing graphical twiddling or fixup of one kind or another when the job isn't serious enough to call the real pros in. Back when I was on Windows, I mostly used Paint Shop Pro, which does a whole bunch of useful things in a straightforward way at a fair price. There doesn't seem to be anything equivalent on the Mac ...
The Mac Needs One More Key
· As I've written before, Windows is immensely better than OS X at keyboard navigation. This makes a real difference in the quality of the experience and especially the speed with which you can get work done. I've been thinking about how to work around this, and the only answer is another key on the keyboard, named
· Those of you in Mac-land should go have a look at “Path Finder” from Cocoatech, OS X specialists from LA. It's advertised as a file browser, a better replacement for Finder. And indeed, it is better; absolutely, comprehensively, massively better. But I can't use it ...
Old Game, Old (Online) Community
· Go is a very old board game, called Wei Ch'i in Chinese, Igo in Japan, and Baduk in Korean, and is played most heavily where those languages are spoken. I used to dabble in it, and recently in the grip of insomnia discovered that one of the oldest of games is supporting one of the oldest of online communities (and some drop-dead-cool Mac software) ...
Unicode Font Tool
· From Lord Pixel (whose site doesn't render in Safari, bah!) comes the OS X only Unicode Font Inspection tool. There's something like this that comes with Windows, only nowhere near as slick. Among other things, this is the quickest way I know of to look up the codepoint for some odd character whose name I might not know ...
Why Plug This Thing In?
· As many others have pointed out, wireless Net access is pretty damn addictive; one of the reasons is fewer dangling, tangling, trailing wires. So if this laptop came with two batteries, and an external battery charger that charged faster than the computer ran the batteries down, I could routinely work without having anything plugged in. Also, the laptop wouldn't have to include the battery-charge circuit, which might allow it to be simpler and lighter ...
Emacs on Mac OS X
· Emacs on Mac OS X It turns out that there is a perfectly good version of GNU Emacs for the Mac OS X. When I first climbed on board OS X, I was frightened of downloading and building software, so I cast about and found a place to grab a binary version. It turns out to be not too bad. I'd put in pointers for the central GNU Emacs page and the current page of the guy who's co-ordinating the OS X work, but the GNU people are pretty slack about their Web presence, and the OS X stuff page currently starts with
http://members.shaw.ca/, so it's probably better to track the right place down with a decent search engine ...
Mac OS X for the Olde Unix Hack
· Back Story I am a certifiable Olde Unixe Hacke - I did real work on a PDP-11/44 running V6 back in 1979 or so, was a full-time sysadmin in the days of 4.1bsd (and the earth-shaking arrival of 4.2) on 11/780s, reported emacs V12 bugs to RMS in 1985 or so, wrote code for a genuine commercial shipping Motif application (lots of it XLib), wrote a filesystem benchmark named Bonnie in 1990, an improved version of which appears in a couple of Linux distros, and most recently ground out a fairly big & hairy C-language Apache module ...
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.