MacStuff Category Archive

So you want an iPhone eh?

Very quick email I just sent to an acquaintance in Montreal who was asking if he should get an iPhone and have it unlocked. I know a bit about it so...

So basically here's the deal:

the iPhone is not yet being sold in Canada. That means if you get one, you are *outside of the frameworks that Apple and their carrier* want you to be in.

Those frameworks are:
- economic
- technical
- political (support?)

If you buy an iPhone and have it unlocked, be aware that:
- Apple will continue releasing software updates that will kill your iPhone if you install them
- to bypass this you have to do alot of work, staying on top of hacker community developpments
- pay someone who does that for you.
- never install updates. totally acceptable current functionality will continue to work indefinitly

When the iPhone does come to Canada, it will be because Rogers (and/or Fido) will finally offer a special rate plan for data access. "So what" you may say. Well. About 80% of the cool features of the iPhone rely on a data connection, either "EDGE" or "WiFi". WiFi is free at home and here and there at cafés etc (though rare). "EDGE" is expensive. Very expensive. In fact Canada has the highest mobile data rates *in the world*. No shit.

So when Rogers/Fido release the iPhone they will *have to* introduce a special data plan (because Apple won't sell it via them otherwise). When they do this, *do not* expect to show up at Fido/Rogers and say "hey I have this iPhone, gimme the rate plan!" They will tell you to take a hike, because you got the phone otuside of their "jurisdiction", outside of their economic framework.

There are basically two kinds of people who by and unlock iPhones:
- showoff morons with too much money
- hackers/mobile technology geeks who buy 2-3 new mobile devices every six months anyways and who don't care about restrictions and work involved.

Still want it? ;)

p.s.: They say "where there's smoke there's fire", and there is *alot* of noise about Rogers offering the iPhone as of this January. Let's see.

iCal insecure

iCal insecurity

The above was presented to me as I tried entering the URL of an iCal calendar syndicated from a secure webserver, i.e. https://

It seems to me that calendars (hello? personal?) are one thing that is a no-brainer shoe-in on the list of data one might want to protect via web encryption. Without getting into access control etc etc.

When are they going to rewrite this piece of garbage? And give it a sane API with actual documentation? Fingers crossed for... er? the next cat.


If you ever need the Bangla keyboard mappings and some fonts for Mac OS X, Apple conveniently links to them.

Be prepared though...

bangla keyboard layout installer

It's like being there!!! ;)

Oops, you'll need some fonts with that. Thank you come again.

Why do I need them? Rendering issues.


Sadly, no, Shawna's MacBook hasn't been recovered, but Ken left a recommendation for a piece of software called "Undercover" by orbicule.

Reading their "typical recovery story" is a pretty compelling sales pitch...

I remember hearing abut this when it first came out. I guess it's got a proven track record now.

(Only one caveat emptor: a sophisticated MacBook thief will know about this application and simply tape over the iSight and wipe the HD immediately. What am I saying? A sophisticated computer thief simply wipes the drive, period. Anyways.. ;)


Not Dead, Defective.
So it's not the Hard Drive, but rather, it seems, the right fan is misaligned. According to the technician at the Apple Certified place I went, usually the cause of such misalignment is sudden impact; someone dropped it.

Considering I got it, opened it, started it and immediately observed the problem, without dropping it...

Upon further visual inspection, oh boy... the thin metal strip above the latch is buckled and there is a nick in the plastic boarder. Oh and of course the lid/screen doesn't close flush, what a surprise.

So I have a choice: pick a fight with Apple and get it replaced (Joel says he'd back me on that claim, but that I'd likely not see a machine for upwards of two weeks) or just get the fan replaced (get it back by wednesday).


On the bright side, the guy ahead of me at the shop was told "repairing this 4 year old iBook would cost you more than buying a new one and would then still be far less reliable... go buy a new one." Tough break man.

Ça commence bien...

("It starts well...")

Just took delivery on a brand new MacBook Pro. The only customized part was the 160Gig Hard Drive.

Unpacked, let the battery charge up to full.

Press the power button and ... ROOOAAARRRRRRrrrrrrrr...

Nice, the Hard Drive sounds like it is grinding itself into the pavement.

Sigh. Day one: tech support ticket one. Thankfully i-technique is around. Going by now and they'll hopefully have a new drive in by Wednesday. :p


Initial reports are in: the new "Core 2 Dual" MacBook Pros are significantly cooler (temperature wise, wiseguy), quieter and faster.

Also interesting tidbit that makes sense to me: the lower RPM/higher density hard drives that ship in this batch are comparable in performance to the "smaller" yet higher RPM (thus more power drawing) previous 2.5" hard drives, due to the higher density. This explains why Fujitsu can rate their 4200RPM 200Gig 2.5" HD as having the same average seek times as their 5400RPM 100Gig 2.5" HD. Lower RPM also means less noise...

Just waiting on one more bit of information to come back to me...

Work much?

This is what my "Virtual Desktop" pager looks like right now, a more or less busy average Sunday night.


That's 3 separate "jobs" open concurrently AND taking care of a task for someone who just pinged me in IM. Normally there are maybe 2 or 3 more projects open. That gets a bit much though.

This is how I work. It's how I have been doing it for 4-5 years. Sometimes, if I seem distracted...

I'm not saying it's a great thing. It has serious shortcomings and sometimes it drives me nuts. But what can I do? ;)

They lined up in Laval

People lined up in Laval for the opening of the new "Montreal" Apple Store.
(I didn't go. See previous entry. ;)

Buy movies...

Ok here we go.

Amazon just unveiled "Amazon Unbox", their movie and TV show purchasing & download store.

Apple is rumored (damn near confirmed) to release their movie download service next week as well, however with fewer studios signed up (whatever).

Two easy consequences:
DRM will be shoved down everyone's throats and everyone will accept it because hey! I can download "24" and "CSI" and watch it like now! I don't care about my cultural rights! (and why would I for pabulum like that?!) /snark

Mad scramble to find easy solutions for piping movies from your computer to your home entertainment system. This sector has been growing steadily for years but this will probably crank it up a few notches.

Other long tails I'd like to see

I would love to see stats on requested engravings on Apple iPods. Surely there are all kinds of "customizations" that are requested over and over and over...

I'd also like to see how unique a request of "Defective by design" engraving is, and how often it may have been spec'ed.

(This comes to mind as "Defective by design" is the oh so clever engraving Jer asked for on his free iPod that comes with the MacBook we ordered for him yesterday... which shipped from Shenzen this morning.)

That's gonna hurt

iPod loop

Flexible hipster... ;)

Read but present in Smart Mailbox count


I would really love an option for Smart Mailboxes in Apple's to display a count. In the above mockup, the dark dot with the white number in it is the existing functionality of unread count. I have Smart Mailboxes which contain read emails but that I need to return to, and knowing how many are in there would be terribly useful...

Granular email search in

Everytime I poke around with Spotlight stuff I am struck by how breathlessly powerful it is and also.. how breathlessly poor it's integration is the various Mac apps, be it the Finder or, in this case,

So, Apple provides a single "Find" interface for Spotlight queries on your email. It's that input box, by default, in the top right corner of your menu bar.

mail search input

If your search is along only one axis, this is more than enough. In otherwords, if you want to search for a person, you type their name; a keyword or phrase, type it in. In many cases this is good enough.

But sometimes you need to get into your mail with a bit more fine a comb.

For example, you are looking for a specific email which contains a specific word/phrase, which is very likely to be very common across many many emails from many many people, and you know you only want that one that John sent you about a month ago.

So how do you do that? Easy. Smart Mailbox.

Create a Smart Mailbox, name it something like "custom search" or "soup 'n nuts" or whatever you wish. Now whenever you need to do a really detailed search, you have full access to all the search axes available to you via Spotlight.


Found that email! Rock.
(Actually I'm lying... John, I still don't know where that resto in Shibuya is... ;)

No joke

So when 5 days after April fools and it's own 30th anniversary, Apple announces it will allow Windows XP to run on it's new Intel based machines, I thought "yeah right! best April Fools' joke evar!"

But when you consider that this announcement not only upped Apple's stock by ten points (so far) but also pushed the NASDAQ and S&P 500 indexes to 5 year highs... well... that gets serious.

Steve Jobs has been saying for years "Apple is a hardware company." Betting that allowing Windows users to buy a Mac, run Windows XP on it and once in a while switch over to try out Mac, in the hopes that they'll switch definitely... is seriously ballsy. But just might work in a lot of cases.

Cause, you know, Mac OS is just so so so much better... ;)

(And if it doesn't work, Apple can keep selling it's hardware, running Windows XP or Linux or BSD... and I can leave all this insanity behind and open a fish stand on an island in Micronesia.)

What a relief

Joi's new MacBook Pro arrived at the lab sometime this weekend and this afternoon I got permission to crack it open and play... I mean... test.


Plugged it in, connected the 24" LCD screen, my Firewire drive, loaded up Quicksilver and... oop, it's already as hot as my PowerBook. Strike one.

Downloaded and installed CodeTek VirtualDesktop (totally crucial for me). Oop, it loads and runs but doesn't actually swap between desktops. Strike two.

Doesn't need a strike three. I'll wait a few months before I even think of it again.

(That said, it is damn sweet and blaaaazing fast. But not enough for me to justify replacing my 4 month old macked out PowerBook.)



I'm in a "everything's new again!" state of mind tonight...

So this is what my email/calendar desktop looks like. I run virtual desktops (see the strip on the bottom right? on a work day all of those boxes are filled with open windows) and I keep my email and calendar in the 3rd one. Chat is on the second. Right now I am writing this in the 5th (which is not visible in the screenshot cause I took it before I launched ecto...)


So yeah, I resized my Mail window, placed the Activity Monitor in the top right, and placed iCal behind, in the lower right. This way I can see my email, have access to MailTags, can browse my To-Do's and call up my calendar with a click or Command+Tab.

Let's see how this works for me.


Adriaan quietly announced his new desktop aggregator application for Mac, called "endo".

It's a quite novel approach to aggregation, UI wise. Lots of powerful "Smart Filtering" possibilities, and customization. Wicked fast, Universal build (for PPC and Intel Macs) and keyboard-friendly for us notebook users.

Try it out and let us know what you think!

Bravo Adriaan!

Apple Mail and iCal plugin ideas, and more on The Binder

So I've been using Scott's excellent MailTags Mail plugin for a few weeks (the beta I am using should be released this week!) and it's gotten me thinking more than usual about mail and file management etc.

Here are a few mockups of little features I'd love to see in Mail and iCal.

First off, I would love to have an automatically generated list of essentially "Smart Mailboxes" based on Mail's "Previous Recipients" feature (>Window->Previous Recipients), which can show you all email addresses Mail has handled, sorted by a number of criteria.

I think the list would be fine presented like this:


A simple sort of contacts would be of most recently used; a more complex but worthwhile list generator would be "most often, recently", with control of what "often" and "recently" mean.

Clicking on a contact's name would show you a "Conversation" view: all emails containing that contact's email address in any of the address fields.

Since MailTags got me finally using iCal, a quick thought I had was "I'd like to have a quick way to see all files I interacted with on a specific day.


That could get even more elaborate: it could pick up on which Calendar you are in and assume that the calendar name is a project label: "show me all the files from this project I touched on this day."

This seems to be possible using Spotlight. It's just not easy to do via the UI.


Mail does not have precise date selection in the UI but I'm 99% sure it can be done "behind the scenes". And why not have a nice little calendar widget in Mail to do just that? Like this:


"Show me all mails from last Tuesday please."

But let's go back to the Finder Spotlight. Right now, the only data on my system I use Spotlight to find is email and MP3s. Very rarely do I need to find a document based on it's file name or contents. I'm a fairly ordered person and most of my work files are, if not neatly filed away, then at least in a constrained place, like a project Folder.

But Spotlight is SO powerful, and there are alot of files I WOULD bother adding specific metadata to. Like work and project related files. Not to mention photos and videos and the like.

So you've heard me talk of "The Mac OS Binder". Spotlight has the muscle to do much of what needs to be done, and it seems this is going to be a project of using a bunch of disparate pieces conjointly.

One of those pieces may well be "SpotMeta". SpotMeta allows you to create sets of metadata types/labels, complete with a variety of choices of assignment UI methods, it then allows you to apply that metadata to files more or less easily, and then it makes all that available to Spotlight. I just downloaded it now but I will definitely be playing with this one.

Keep you posted.

(Scott, Adriaan, please check this out: SpotMeta information for developers.)

The Mac OS Binder

Not Finder, Binder.

Simple app, basic UI on top of a database and a few APIs.

Allow me to manage all my tags, local and remote. Remote tags could be stored locally for apps like ecto, 1001, Cocoalicious; local tags for things like MailTags, Quicksilver's File Tagging Plugin, etc.

Allow me to manage "Project" labels, or Bundles. Give me a basic hierarchical system to use if I want to. Just like the directory system I am already used to. (Whatever happened to the rumored "Piles" and "File Cabinets" functionality in the Finder? [please no hemorrhoids jokes])

Use open standards and document your interfaces sufficiently so that other developers can easily communicate with you.

Bind my data so I can Find what I am working with at any given moment: *This* email is part of *this* project which uses *these files* in *this folder*, with *this To Do and Task list*, on *this schedule* in *this Calendar*, with *this outline of notes*...

So... very... close...

While it is a closed, commercial application, Omni Group's "OmniOutliner" allows storing Aliases to files and folders from within outlines. VERY useful. More useful would be if I could bind my MailTags projects to one Outline file each. Just thinking out loud.

MailTags + Apple Mail + iCal

Mailtags iCal

What you are looking at is a dream come true. It is not released yet but version 1.2 of Scott's "MailTags", whose Mail tagging feature set alone was worth a donation now ties Apple Mail to iCal as well. Back and forth. Real time. Tagable, Searchable, Smart Mailbox-able.

In his own words:

How it works is it ties the calendar to the project -- creating a new calendar if need be (if project is none, uses "MailTags" as calendar)

If you update the information in MailTags, it will update in iCal -- you can change title, notes, duedate, calendar etc and item will update in ical
-- and vice versa -- change title of todo, complete status, etc in ical and revisit related message in mail and the data will reflect change (sorta right now -- I have to improve that part a little) --

it will add a link to the message in the url part of the todo so if the right mouse the url and select go to location-- it brings up the message in mail (even if you move the original message to a different mailbox) .

You should also be able create smart mailboxes based on presence of todo/ and todo complete state.

So integration is more than just making a todo and forgetting about it (like most applescripts)

Another awesome feature is conversation filtering, where typing a search string reveals the usual options slice and when you select "Conversation" it shows you only matches where the "To:" and "From:" (and I believe "CC:") contain matches. Sort of like Google Mail.

MailTags was created to be used with Scott's other Mail plugin: Mail Act-On, which allows you to map keyboard strokes to Mail Rules. Combining these two, you can have a Rule which tags a message as "To Reply", and then have a Smart Mailbox that displays all "To Reply" tagged emails, etc etc etc...

You might remark also how similar the MaitTags panel looks to ecto's sidepanel. This is indicative. ;)

Now all we need is for the Finder to be re-invented as the "Binder" and we'll be just slightly better equipped to face the data deluge...

Had another email exchange with Scott and we may yet see some very awesome Finder and Spotlight integration.
*Click Project name* -> Reveal a Folder you Aliased to that Project OR anything tagged with said Project label, system wide... Drooling.

I have no mouse, and I must scream

(with apologies to Harlan Ellison)
My mouse died this week and it is causing me no end of distress. I am back to using the Apple "Pro" mouse, that pretty but useless transparent single-button-no-scroll-wheel piece of garbage.

I tried using my old Kensington TurboBall trackball thingy but that just made my nerves twitch. I need a simple 2 button and scroll wheel. Anyone have favorites?

If it looks like a basketball shoe, I'm not interested. ;)

No luck

Temperature Monitor

Yup. Again. The above is a graph of the temperature monitors (thermometers) in my new PowerBook. Obviously, something is totally out of whack. My Graphics Processor is no where near 100°C, and it's hardly possible for its, nor the Power Supply's temperature to shift so dramatically so quickly. I imagine the machine would have imploded by now if it were.

The upshot from this is not only are there faulty sensors inside this machine, but also the misreadings are causing the fans to go on and off erratically every couple of seconds when the (erroneous) temperature limits trigger them, thus causing more power usage/drain, thus upping the real temperature as well.

It's going to be fun explaining this one to Apple Support. :p

The irony here is that one of the reasons I got this new one was because the videocard on the old one, having not quite enough RAM to run the external monitor at full rez, actually was overheating. :p

At least there's a chance I can kill two birds with one stone here and get rid of the "whitelines issue" the screen is experiencing as well...

Oh wow. I just noticed that the upper edge of the display on the external monitor is jittering. The video card is definitely malfunctioning. Wun.Der.Bar.

Addendum 2
Just noticed something else. Check this out:
temperature monitor 2
That first drop and stabilization occured while I watched a video file. On a hunch--hunch being that any kind of onscreen movement affects the temperature reading-- I grabbed a window and dragged it around the screen for a bit. Sure enough. The second drop and stabilization occurred then, albeit briefly. The third is another video file (me going "this can't possibly be") and the fourth is from while a screen saver ("Flurry") is running. Sure enough, movement on-screen affects the Graphics Processor temperature sensor. ALSO, dragging a window around, scrolling and basically moving anything produces an audible electronic whine. Stunning!

While I'm at it I'll mention that I have already swapped out the 7200rpm 100Gig HD on this thing. It came with the Hitachi drive which sounded like a bowl of Rice Crispies with milk (snap crackle pop!) and now it has the Seagate which seems to howl like a wind-tunnel constantly.

And I am not alone it seems. Yay! A whole batch of lemons!

Stickers? Pshaw!

Laser etched Powerbook!

/me strokes chin thinking of his new PowerBook which should arrive next week... ;)

via Patrick


Keyword Hierarchies

(This screen cap is from a demonstration of Keyword Hierarchies - a.k.a Tag Bundles, label pools, etc - and how you can apply selected keywords to multiple images at once. It also shows a surfer in a meta-hoola-skirt, surfing a bank of photos...)

This is really interesting. I firmly believe that with each media-application Apple puts out, it is learning more and more about how large quantities of data can and need to be stored and retrievable.

The latest is Aperture. A software package "made for professional photographers." I ain't no professional photographer but I'm *this* close to running out and getting a new quad G5 PowerMac just so i can run this application!

But I digress. The data object navigation features that have me applauding can be seen demonstrated on the Aperture Quicktours screen, by clicking on the "Professional Project Management" selection.

They nail multi-facetted navigation full-on. Datestamp navigation, taxonomies, implicit labels (most system generated metadata) as well as explicit labels ("keywords" and "keyword hierarchies!!!").

The only thing missing, it seems, is relationships/triplets. But I bet that Apple will release SOME new media application in the next year that will finally include relationship definitions as well.

My black iPod nano for sale

Yup. One month old black 4Gig iPod nano. Perfect working condition, all original packaging included. Reasonable offers welcome. (To keep in mind: I paid $300.00 CND + tax, only 4 weeks ago)

I'm gonna hold out for someone local who I can meet up with and have them inspect it. Guess why? (I'm not saying it is unreasonably "seasoned", I am saying some people are sensitive to such things... ;)

Reasons for selling:

  • I have my father's hands. This thing is just too small.
  • I realized I was fooling myself thinking I'd be happy with 4 Gig of music. Must have 60! ;)


This may be old news but it's new to me; as Francis says,

No joke. WebObjects is included with Tiger. For free. Amazing.

While this *is* cool, it's sad too. Nevermind that the learning curve is high, it goes up against the now defacto PHP, Python and Ruby (*cough* Perl?) communities AND it has to overcome the fact that afterall it IS an Apple *product*. I.e.: closed, owned, untouchable. This may be a good thing, but I don't see it gaining any traction in the DIY web-world.

Had they done this 4-5 years ago, and pushed it ever so slightly, as the geeks started their migration to OS X and looking for web frameworks to work with, they may have had something. But as it is... zippy-dee-doo-dah-day.

Also, try to find a webhosting service that happily runs WebObjects... ;)

Apple Podcasts

I wonder if the next OS X "Security Update" will include an updated spellchecker which will recognize the word "Podcast", seeing how Apple now pretty much 0wnZ it... ;)

Hrm... lemme spark up GarageBand here and...

It is done

"transition isn't going to be overnight, this time next year plan is to ship Macs with intel processors, complete transition by end of 2006."
Every release of OS has been compiled for intel x86 for the last 5 years - cross platform by design. All demos up to this point have been done on an intel proc.

What do I think?

"Gimme a blazing (fast, not hot) PowerBook, and I don't care how you do it."

Tiger annoyances

Ok so I've been running Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" for a bit over a week now. Generally, it is smooth, and actually does feel quicker (apparently due to a once again totally revamped GUI rendering process).

While I haven't played extensively with any of the "new stuff", I must say the two much lauded "candy" features are totally useless to me. Dashboard does not integrate with my workflow at all and the UI on Spotlight is retarded. Way too many results, way to few keyboard controls. No context, no easy search restriction (without a lot of mousing about)... ugh. I use Quicksilver, which kicks Spotlight in the pants. I hope dude figures out how to add Spotlight indexing databases to Quicksilver's shelf.

But that's "whatever". I can just ignore them. What I can't ignore is the fact that Tiger decides to fade ALL icons when I have "Show Hidden Files" enabled. This feature has always worked flawlessly and now it's broken. Yay. I need to see hidden files cause I work with Apache .htaccess files every day, and I also like making sure I'm not uploading .DS_Store files all over the place... Oh how I hate those .DS_Store files... Previously, the Finder would display hidden files as slightly faded. Now, it just shows all files, when in Icon or Column view, as faded.

The solution for now is to disable "Show Hidden Files". (If you need to do this, you already know how...)

Next, icon placement on the Desktop. Amen Hallelujah they finally gave us a tighter grid (how about a slider so we the users can control that hrm? Please?), but man has stuff gotten jumpy around here! Trying to move something from here to there produces one of three results: 1- bull's eye! success, 2- close enough, we'll snap it to the closest grid point (same as it always was, same as it always was) or, must frustratingly, 3- Psych! No way josé! Back to where you came from! "Going postal" is a reaction that comes to mind when this happens.

Aside from that, like I said, everything seems fine. A couple of little application bugs here and there but nothing show stopping. So far.

I totally forgot another supremely annoying new bug: Menu Bar item launch sequence and the inability to reorder certain apps appearing there. From what I understand, Menu Bar apps come in two flavors. I forget the names, but basically some you can move around (Apple Key + drag), others you can't. I have two date/time MenuBar apps I use and previously they launched perfectly well in the same place every time. Now, all MenuBar apps launch willy nilly between reboots, seemingly randomly ordering themselves every time. I blame Spotlight. Anyone else?

Trackpad scrolling

Incredibly useful System Pref, iScroll2 enables trackpad scrolling in pre-2005 Powerbooks and iBooks. I just installed the most recent version (I had been running an old version which was less than fantastic), under Tiger, and it makes me very happy.

And it's free, and easy to uninstall if you don't like it.

Graphical Command Line, precursory

I've been composing a post about "Graphical Command Line" interfaces, which what alot of "AJAX" enabled features on websites are, and what Quicksilver, a Mac application, is... but it's getting so long and involved and I just don't have the time that I will give you a résumé of my thoughts on all this which I posted on Quicksilver's message board:

Quicksilver is a Graphical Command Line. It combines the ability to manipulate files and applications, executing application commands on files, like a CLI, while using the strong visual cues of a GUI, blurring the line between recall (CLI: gotta remember the right commands and where everything is) and recognition (GUI: navigate to where my files and apps are)...

When you use QS, you are constructing a command to execute, only you are not doing it alone in your mind (like in a CLI/Terminal/C Prompt) trying to remember everything, because as you type, QS *shows* you possible matches of what you may want or may do. The power of the CLI with the diminished need to learn "arcane commands"...

Other examples of GCL, meaning, where a predominantly text-input based User Interface guides you along with visual cues (even if they are text-based), are (in order of appearance in the ecosystem):
- Google Suggest / "LiveSearch"
- ecto & 1001's tagging mechanism
- Jonas's "tags4WP" WordPress tagging plugin

Firefox behavioral mystery solved

So, I had mentioned a while back that I was seemingly unable to get Firefox to run on my system. I had tried everything and basically given up.

Then, "miraculously", one day, it worked. Now, I haven't switched from Saf "Memory Hog from Hell" Ari, mainly for little User Experience things I've come to take for granted, not to mention my large URL autocomplete history and reeeaaams of passwords/cookies...

I found the culprit. I had been running CodeTek's excellent Virtual Desktop app for a long time. Without some sort of virtual desktop, I would surely kill myself. For some reason, at some point a few weeks/months back, I switched to "Desktop Manager". It seemed smaller and quicker. It was missing a few features which I was starting to really get annoyed at the lack of, so just now I decided to switch back to Virtual Desktop. Bam. Firefox started chocking again. "No frikkin' way" sez I.

"Yes frikkin' way" sez Google.

if you are a fan of Mozilla's Firefox browser and/or Thunderbird email client, you should know that versions 0.8-1.0 of both are incompatible with CodeTek Virtual Desktop 3.1. I've heard mixed reports about other windows managers, but it appears that Firefox works fine in many window managers other than CTVD. The problems include an inability to type text in the Firefox windows, focus on the windows, or use Firefox in any way. For quite a while CodeTek will not even reply to emails on the topic, but it appears they have had a change of heart and now say they are testing a fix and hope to release new version (3.2) by early March.

I can only hope CodeTek keeps it's promise and releases 3.2 soon so I can get back to using VirtualDesktop, which I paid for, and who's drag between screens and easy "dammit which desktop is that window in again? Oh right there it is!" features make it a lifesaver...

Into the wild

Adriaan, the erstwhile developer of such sweet apps as ecto and 1001, today has released two of his little Perl scripts for Movable Type: the Technorati Plugin and the script.

Both of these have been running, beautifully, on Joi's site for a few months and a week or so, respectively. Ado is well placed to create these, especially the Technorati and Flickr stuff, having worked on the very APIs both offer himself.

I don't really use Technorati myself, but the one will be put into full effect here as soon as I move servers (soonish?) and have full control of CRON.

Bravo and thanks Ado!

Message in a bottle

For some unknown reason, my system is hosed. I am going to go eat, come back and reinstall the OS.

JUST what I needed. REALLY.


I can't seem to get Firefox to work on my machine.

Immediately after launch, the only item in the top Menu is "Firefox" (no "File, Edit etc...") and essentially the keyboard is disabled (I can't type a URL into the Address box, or into any form elements).

I poked around a bit yesterday and at seemingly totally random, unreproducable times, the menu bar reappears and the keyboard is reactivated, though sporadically. This "reawakening" would happen after sometimes opening a new window, opening a link in a new tab, closing a tab, closing all windows and clicking on Firefox in the Dock to force it to open a new window...

This is not new to me though. I haven't been able to run Firefox on this machine for months. Yes, I have deleted all Preferences and caches and anything and everything related to Firefox (or any of it's myriad previous codenames).

Believe it or not I have even wiped my hard drive and reinstalled a clean OS, just to get Firefox to work. To. No. Avail.

Frustrating because I know I am missing out on something good. In my poking around yesterday I installed a bunch of very very interesting extensions and tools and such. But the bloody thing only works for me 20% of the time, so it's a no-go.

On a tangentially related note, the DNS issues I have been experiencing lately with all webbroswers, where the browser times out saying "Address not found" only to find it as soon I refresh, seems to be fixed by running the built-in system cleanup CRON jobs (daily, weekly, monthly). These scripts run on their own IF your machine is on and awake at the time they are set to run (early morning apparently). This means many many people never, or very very rarely have them run.

For you fine folks, here is some info on how to do this.



"When things line up"
- Boris Anthony
Pixels on pixels, Computer screenshot



Olympus iPod competition


I don't particularly care but thought I'd scoop this little item I found on a french gadget website out of Tokyo:

Akihabara News : toutes les nouveautés High-Tech du pays des Sushis:
Alors là, ils m'ont entendu ... la VACHE Olympus nous sort des produits de fou avec un design de feu, commen√ßons par le :
Qui n'est pas moins qu'un APN/iPOD/PMP de 20 Go avec un écran VGA de 3.7" et un APN de 1.2Mpix ... La b√™te sera compatible Mp3/WMA et Mpeg4 (Vidéo). Avec pour taille 109√ó21√ó73mm et 210g.
Passons au MR-100 qui lui est un iPOD like avec un HDD" de 1.8 5Go, bien sûr compatible Mp3 et WMA.
52√ó14.9√ó90mm pour 100g

(Pour les fran√ßais: pour comprendre pourquoi il dit "la VACHE Olympus", faut lire la tirade que nous a fait l'auteur dans son entrée précédente. ;)

So, what are you looking at exactly? This thing is a 1.2 Megapixel camera, 20Gig "Personal Media Player" supporting MP3, WMA and MPEG4... yes, video.

I'll wait for the rumored 60Gig color iPod myself, thank you very much... Though, hey another camera !!!



This photo caused me much trouble today.

My Powerbook has had a fever for about a week. The whole area around the power input and the CPU were flaming hot and the fans were on fulltime. This afternoon I decided to investigate...

The truly odd thing was that if I logged in as another, freshly created user, everything was fine. No overcycling of the CPU, no heat, no fans. As Joi said: "must be some process you are running..."

So I compared the ps -auwx output of both users (myself and the fresh one). I pared down mine to the point of it being identical to the other's. Yet, logging in as myself started up the fans.

I downloaded an application that displays the temperature the 4 thermostats built into this machine are tracking. I was hitting 60° C around the CPU! Ouch! I needed to see what the hell was cycling the CPU so much! Thanks to Adriaan for reminding me OS X ships with "Activity Monitor". We were on the road to discovery at this point.

Pow! Finder is sucking 95% CPU resources!! What the hell is going on here? (Keep in mind I had rebooted multiple times by this time, reset PRAM, flushed all my caches, done all the regular maintenance tasks...)

So in Activity Montior, I "inspect" the Finder. Nothing outstanding... until I hit the "Open Files" pane. A short list of very "systemy"looking files but there at the end... what da? "~/Desktop/IMG2345.JPG". I go check what that is. It's this picture. All three megs of it.

I quickly renamed it and voilà. Finder immediatly drops back down to 0.00% CPU use. A minute later the fans stop.

The only explanation is that when i had first pulled the picture off my camera and viewed it in Preview, I had rotated it to take a look and then closed it without saving. This caused some kind of snafu. The proof that something went wrong in this is that when I opened it in Photoshop today, it was rotated, but not in Preview.


Like they heard my prayers

daikini released "Photon" the other day. Not a week ago I was hunting around and trying various tools that would allow me to easily create photo galleries in Movable Type, in my inimitable picky style. The best I found was daikini's iPhotoToTypepad plugin for iPhoto, but it only worked with TypePad. All the others didn't allow me to select a category, or how I wanted the data uploaded i.e.: what goes in what fields... important for template hacking... (I don't want my links to images to stored int eh database, only the filenames. I want to "hard code" the <img> tags myself in the templates.

Photon does just that. Simple simple simple too. I pick my category (or create one!), one per "gallery", e.g.: Trip to Tokyo, and I set Filename > keywords, "Comments" > Entry Body, etc...

For $10.00USD, definitely worth it.

Bye bye Gallery with yer ridiculous ways. (Complex installation, customization, crappy comments, etc...)

iPod replacement battery

My 2nd generation iPod, which I bought back in November 2002, had become essentially unworthy of it's carrying weight. The battery, freshly charged would run out in under two hours. On my last trip to Tokyo I ended up not even using it at all because of this. Why carry this thing around all day if it only works for an hour and half?

So I ordered the newertech 1600mAh 3.7v replacement iPod battery from OWC. At $35USD, it is a deal .. and a half.

I use my iPod mostly in my car. When I got the iPod I also went out and got a special adaptor which plugs into the back of my head unit (radio) so I have a full digital interface between the iPod and my car's sound system. The iPod fits snuggly into the cup holder, in the middle of the center console, above the radio.

For the last 9 months before the battery upgrade, I'd have to recharge the bloody thing every 2nd-3rd day. Now, I've had the new battery in for about two weeks and I've only had to recharge it ... twice. In fact, I can't even remember the last time I plugged it in, and I'm looking at it now and it still has three bars on the indicator!

Awesome. Thank you newertech/owc for giving me back my iPod! :)

KeyCaps found!


Mac OS used to have this nifty utility app called "Key Caps". It would display a keyboard on your screen which would allow you to see the keyboard mappings for all the characters of any fonts you had installed. It came in handy once in a while when trying to find something.

Then all of a sudden it disappeared.

This evening, friend Anders, who does alot of weird shit with weird old dead languages asked if there was a way to find characters mapped on the keyboard... After thinking about it for a second and going for a look, I found it!

System Preferences > International > Input Menu > Keyboard Viewer


Doctor's appointment

Taking a computer in for repair, especially a PERSONAL computer, should be like going to your GP, family doctor, dentist or vet.

Why can I not call up my local mac shop, tell em what's wrong, make an appointment, show up and be in the room while the tech fixes the problem, or at least diagnoses it? I mean really?! Usually it is some tiny little thing i could fix myself anyways if I had the special tiny screwdriver of it didn't void the warranty.

Case in point. The screen on this here PowerBook was poorly reassembled after they replaced the LCD for the "whitespots" problem. I could fix this, myself, right here, right now. I do not have Apple's special microscopic hex screwdriver, and besides, a technician screwed it up, a technician should fix it.

Point is, my computer is a part of me. An extension of me I cannot be without for a day, nevermind a few days! I don't mean this in a purely "freaky cyborg/emotional attachment/addiction" way. It is my livelihood, my main means of communication, a major component of my brain... an extension of me!

So I eschewed going to the big apple retailer in town, BMac, because I know how their service department works. Drop it off, we'll look at it, for $50, sometime in the next 48 hours and we'll call you. Yeah right. Dropped by INSO, to inquire. Make an appointment for thursday. Drop it off as early as possible and keep my fingers crossed it gets done by the end of the day. Not optimal, but will do.

I maintain though that as we "rely" on our personal computers more and more, technical service departments will have to change their methodologies to accommodate the more pressing, medical-esque nature of quick hardware/system fixes.

Busy busy

Virtual Desktop

I use the excellent Codetek VirtualDesktop Pro. Without it I think I'd have gone totally insane ages ago.

Some days, however, I think it contributes to my encroaching insanity. Nobody should have this many apps and windows open at one time.

(To clarify: each "desktop" I use for a different task/project. What invariably happens, since much of my work is "real time", I end up waiting for feedback, or I get interrupted from one task to work on another et voila! Ten workspaces open at once... Tasks include actual work, blog entry writing, email & IM, research & reading, etc... )

It is seven PM and I need to "close" each one of these open tasks tonight. Whoohooo! Someone come and take me away, heeheehoohoohaahaaaa...

Working in timezones

timezonesFor Mac OS X users who need to keep track of time and date across timezones, Aion does a great job of it.

You tell it which timezones you want, which one is your default et voilà, menubar International time. A nice feature would be placing a user-configured timestamp in the clipboard.

So I'm not going crazy

Apple - Support - iPod Service

If your iPod fails to hold a charge and it's more than a year old, you may need a new battery. Click Continue to order iPod battery service for $99 USD. This program is not available in Europe at this time.

Just barely over a year old and I could swear the bloody thing isn't keeping it up like it used to. Now it's offical. Gees.

I wonder if these might be better? I read a claim sometime ago that they hold up much better than Apple's originals...

Crippled FTP in Panther

Why? Why do such a stupid thing?

Mac OS X 10.3 a.k.a. Panther allows you to FTP via the Finder. It makes it look like your are "mounting" the remote file system. Here's how:

Apple Key + K,, username and password

Works absolutely beautifully! Fast, fully Finder integrated. Yay! Oh joy! Not so fast. It's read only. Totally useless.

Why, Apple? Why do you make some things so good, and them some things in such a way that makes me want to get very violent with you. And i am not a violent person. ;)

Oh and while we're at it... why not let SFTP work? Make the world a better place!! And hello SCP?

End rant. I am not amused.

It is obvious fromt he comments below that some people don't get it. I was merely saying it is stupid of Apple to develop a feature (that SOME of us may find useful) and then to cripple it.

All you CL commandos: good for you. Not for me. Thanks.

P.S.: I currently use Interarchy for FTP and Fugu for SCP and SFTP.

PLEASE refrain from commenting unless you have insight as to why Apple woul ddo such a thing. Thank you.


Power Mac G5

Beautiful pictures of a beautiful machine.

The art of war.

Mac Rumors: Apple considering Marklar?
Sounds like a finely sharpened strategy. Time will tell.

Mac OS Finder Thing

Daring Fireball: That Finder Thing

Brilliantly explained. I wasn't consciously aware how unhappy I was with the OS X Finder until I read this. I just, as he says) figured it was some buggyness that will eventually go away...