East of the Sun, West of the Moon


Snow Leopard

Filed under: OS X,Software — Erwin @ 8:38 pm

Upgraded the first machine to Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) this morning. All in all it took about an hour (first generation MacBook Pro, so newer machines will no doubt process it a bit faster). The only customization I added to the installation was to include Rosetta, just in case (it’s tiny so that’s an easy decision, anyway).

As far as I can tell I gained over 10 GB of space. Not sure how to fully explain the difference with the 6-7 GB number that has been mentioned by Apple. Could be that I had a lot of virtual memory files that got cleared up by the reboot, and of course I haven’t put the machine to sleep yet so there’s no sleep-image yet (that’s 2GB right there).

Some casualties:

  • MarcoPolo is limping along because it can’t get a list of visible WAPs anymore. No update available yet.
  • MiniBatteryLogger crashes upon launch. No update available yet.
  • One of the Dashboard widgets, AirTrafficControl, crashes. Probably for the same reason as MarcoPolo having issues. I seldom used this one anyway, so no big loss.
  • I was initially unable to mount network shares (remote server runs Debian with the Netatalk package). Apparently the upgrade caused the afp_cleartext_allow setting for com.apple.AppleShareClient to be reset to false (0). Setting it back to true allowed me to mount these network shares once again.
  • The 1Password plugin in Firefox worked. Launching the 1Password app itself prompted me to install a beta (which I haven’t done yet).

Applications that do work, as far as I can tell:

  • Firefox
  • Thunderbird
  • iTerm
  • Things
  • MarsEdit
  • NetNewsWire
  • DestroyTwitter (AIR based)
  • MoneyDance (java based)
  • Adium
  • VMware Fusion

Little change(s) that I don’t recall seeing mentioned yet:

  • The CLI tool top has two new lines for network and disk statistics. Handy! There are more changes than that. Apparently someone had a bit of fun improving/polishing this tool!

Now running the first Time Machine post-upgrade (on a network share, which is why it was important to get that to work again)… the progress bar with a slightly more detailed indication of what it is doing is certainly helpful. Time will tell if future backups will also be faster as promised, because most of the time the network (802.11g or gigabit ethernet, depending on where I am) will be the limiting factor, I’d imagine. First backup’s size is around 8.5GB, so I’m glad I’m doing this one over gigabit ethernet. 😉


What were they thinking?

Filed under: OS X,Software — Erwin @ 3:45 pm

86327111-C9D5-4845-B653-C451262D0653.jpgI’m annoyed and confused about NewsGator/NetNewsWire’s recent actions.

For starters, I’ve been a happy NetNewsWire user for several years. It was recommended to me when I started with OS X on a Mac Mini (the original PPC version) when it was still developed independently and had a lite and full (for pay) version. I paid for the full version.

When Brent joined forces with NewsGator, not much changed for me, I just continued to use it and enjoy occasional updates. Later on NewsGator decided to give away the clients for free and just charge for premium services, which I couldn’t exactly complain about.

Then the iPhone came along and Brent released a NNW version for it. After some trial and error I found the best way for me to use it was to sync my feed list to the NewsGator servers, let them deal with the feed-checks (except for a few local-only feeds), have some feeds only visible on the desktop version and the rest on the iPhone version, and push entries to the desktop for later reading or sharing with the clippings feature.

Along comes this blog entry: NewsGator Consumer RSS Reader Product Changes & Google Sync

They’re trying to spin this as an improvement, but so far it’s all downgrades as far as I can tell:

  • The new beta release of NNW has ads and a premium version will be created but isn’t available yet.
  • Users will have to create an account with Google Reader.
  • They are discontinuing their own sync service.
  • They are discontinuing support for syncing with mobile.me (and if you want to continue to use a version that does support that, you can never upgrade).
  • They give a deadline of one month.
  • The iPhone version doesn’t seem to be ready yet, let alone approved or available in the iTunes store.
  • The clippings feature will be discontinued because Google Reader doesn’t have something that matches it.
  • Google Reader apparently doesn’t support authenticated feeds either, which is something else I need.

What were they thinking?!

  1. The client versions are unfinished or not even available and you give us a month to switch?
  2. Have these people not dealt with software development before? Testing and bug fixing always takes longer than you want/expect.
  3. Have these people not worked with the iPhone App store before? Approval times have been unreliable/unpredictable, you can’t set such deadlines unless your app has actually already been approved.
  4. Removing one feature before the replacement (such as it is) has even been finished, polished?

Obviously they’ve been receiving a lot of similarly sounding feedback and it seems they’re scrambling to fix a few of these issues but it really feels like this was an incredibly poorly thought out rush job.

Their blog post started out with You spoke and we listened: In response to customer demand … but I certainly don’t recall ever asking for essential features to be ripped out like this. What are they not telling us?

I like NNW, and I like the openness with which Brent has been developing it but it this is really the direction that they’re going, I guess I’ll have to move on to something else.


Mac Mini Migration Madness

Filed under: Family,OS X,Technology — Erwin @ 5:23 pm

Not so much madness actually because aside from one hiccup things went pretty smoothly.

First some comparisons:

Original Mini, first generation model from January 2005:

  • 512MB RAM PC-2700 DDR SDRAM
  • 40GB disk
  • 1.25 GHz PowerPC G4
  • ATI Radeon 9200 GPU with 32MB VRAM
  • Two USB ports
  • Firewire 400 port
  • 10/100 Mbit ethernet
  • 1 modem (remember those?) port
  • Hard disk and CD/DVD drive both (P)ATA

FA6AD992-6BB8-4AED-AE86-607747829C2C.jpgThen in comes the new version, released three days ago (March 3, 2009):

  • 2GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • 320GB disk
  • 2GHz Core 2 Duo
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400 with 256MB VRAM
  • Five USB ports
  • Firewire 800 port
  • 1 Gbit ethernet
  • Hard disk and CD/DVD drive both SATA

Hello mister Moore, nice to meet you again!

The migration was very smooth. We swapped keyboard/mouse/monitor a few times while we had both Minis running for this, which was almost the trickiest part. Unfortunately I didn’t have the right kind of firewire cable to connect the old and new machine or I would’ve used that, but fortunately OS X supports migrating machine via ethernet and wifi as well now, which only required installing a bit of software on the old one and setting up wifi on the new one (because of encryption) and then sit back and wait while a few GB of data is transferred between the two.

As far as I can tell almost all settings are included in this migration process, except for a few things (and if I notice more I’ll update this entry):

  1. The parental controls preference pane would cause system preferences to crash. I blame this on going from PPC to Intel. Nuking the contents of /Library/Application Support/Apple/ParentalControls/ and then restarting the machine appears to have taken care of that.
  2. The Sharing – Remote Login setting wasn’t included, so I had to re-enable it.
  3. I had to reenter the wifi password.

Now I wait for the kids to get home and actually put it to work with general browsing, flash games, photo booth experiments, etc. Any bets on how many days/weeks until they complain it’s too slow?


iTunes Genius Thoughts

Filed under: OS X — Erwin @ 3:52 pm

Some thoughts on the new iTunes Genius feature:

  • If there are tracks that the Genius feature is never going to select, I’d like to know.
  • I’ve got tracks that I’d like to avoid in certain company but there is no way to limit the tracks it selects from.
  • Similarly it would be nice to not select tracks I played within the last hour/day/week/month or so.
  • I’ve worked around that by creating a smart list that uses the Genius playlist and limits it, but that’s far from optimal.
  • Does it select from (music) podcasts?
  • I wouldn’t mind creating lists of more than 100, since 100 tracks is typically under 8 hours (100 tracks of 4 minutes on average gives you 6.7 hours) and being able to refresh the list in the morning and not worry about it for the rest of the day would be quite nice.
  • I don’t see any way to control it through AppleScript.
  • When you delete a track from the list you created it doesn’t automatically fill it back up to 100.
  • I can live with it if some of these things can be done through hidden preferences.



Filed under: Family,OS X,Technology — Erwin @ 6:50 pm

A bit embarrassing that the first update of the year is in February, but so be it.

Since the last post I’ve had my share of fun. Aside from the usual social obligations around the holidays we were also kept busy for a week in early December by the fall-out after an ice storm that caused power outages and broke the cable used for the television signal and internet connectivity. The chopped up bits of broken off branches are still at the side of street in most of the city because they held off actually dealing with it until they had funding (from state and federal resources) which meant that people had to come in and inspect how much damage was done, etc.

The cable outage took longer to fix because the cable repair crew didn’t want to touch it while it was hanging near the electricity cable and the electricity company repair crew was waiting for us to deal with the tree that was snapped in two. Naturally the electricity company did not share this fact with us, which was a bit frustrating.

CFBBFB00-DBD6-4D5B-80ED-5BD1E871A62F.jpgThe past few weeks had also been unusual, with my MacBook Pro being shipped to the nearest Apple repair location twice within two weeks. First it was shipped there and the repair was put on hold because of a part that they needed. When it returned they had only replaced the hard drive so I assume that was the part. I received the repaired notebook on Tuesday, and on Friday evening, when I had slowly but surely gotten settled on it and I was doing the initial Time Machine run, it stopped working. The next morning I got on the phone with Apple, spent an hour talking and being on hold and another repair was initiated. While I thought the guy on the phone had told me I should receive the empty box on Monday (in which to ship the MBP to them), I didn’t get it until Tuesday, and the tracking indicated that it hadn’t even left its origin until Monday. Hrm. Then after it was repaired on Wednesday, this apparently didn’t happen in time for it to be picked up by DHL that same day. Fine, if that at least meant that it would arrive on Friday, but after a day of checking the tracking site and seeing that the box was still somewhere in or near Ohio, it didn’t arrive until Saturday!

In those three weeks I worked on M‘s MacBook and were both happy to no longer have to share it after I had (again) moved and reinstalled everything on the repaired machine.

Crossing my fingers, I think the machine (and yet another new hard drive, and also new cables this time) is in better shape. This was the third and fourth repair so far, I think it’s starting to get in Apple’s own interest to just get me a new machine and get it over with. I paid for the extended AppleCare so it is covered by warranty for another year and a half at least. I’m afraid to think about how many more repairs that is going to be, all on their dime (and my time). The price you pay for using a first-generation product, eh?



Filed under: Humo(u)r,Linkage,Music,OS X — Erwin @ 1:40 am

You can’t make this stuff up…

How to split up: Vienna hosts world’s first divorce fair:

“If people untie the knot in good faith, it can turn out that the day you divorce is the best day of your life,” said the organiser, Anton Barz, who also arranges wedding fairs.

Vinyl May Be Final Nail in CD’s Coffin:

Pressing plants are ramping up production, but where is the demand coming from? Why do so many people still love vinyl, even though its bulky, analog nature is anathema to everything music is supposed to be these days? Records, the vinyl evangelists will tell you, provide more of a connection between fans and artists. And many of today’s music fans buy 180-gram vinyl LPs for home listening and MP3s for their portable devices. <…> Because these music fans also listen using portable players and computers, Matador and other labels include coupons in record packaging that can be used to download MP3 versions of the songs. Amory called the coupon program “hugely popular.”

And lastly, this Ars Technica review is well worth the read if you’re interested in knowing what changed under the hood of OS X Leopard (10.5):

While the casual Mac user will gauge Leopard’s worth by reading about the marquee features or watching a guided tour movie at Apple’s web site, those of us with an unhealthy obsession with operating systems will be trolling through the internals to see what’s really changed.

These two views of Leopard, the interface and the internals, lead to two very different assessments. Somewhere in between lie the features themselves, judged not by the technology they’re based on or the interface provided for them, but by what they can actually do for the user.

iTerm vs. Terminal

Filed under: OS X — Erwin @ 1:32 am

With the introduction of Leopard also came a refreshed Terminal application, which appears to be responding to some of the complaints that have driven people such as myself to using iTerm.

  • I see no keyboard shortcuts to directly go to the Nth tab in a window, for Terminal. In iTerm that is done using cmd-N (for values of N of 1 through 9).
  • In iTerm you can cmd-click on a URL and launch it in your preferred browser. In Terminal you get the same effect with first a right-click (or ctrl-click), then cursor down and hit enter. On the other hand, Terminal has a few more options in its context menu, like searching in Google or Spotlight.
  • Terminal has something called Window Groups. Nice, but aside from importing and exporting the data I don’t see an easy way to edit them? You can pick one of your Window Groups and start up with that. iTerm’s support for an AutoLaunch AppleScript looks more flexible in that respect. Maybe I just haven’t figured out how to do things The Apple Way?
  • In iTerm you have bookmarks with which you can define combinations of terminal/keyboard settings and initial command, allowing me to set up bookmarks for the various hosts I need to access via ssh on a daily basis. I see no way to do this in Terminal.

Please correct me if I’m wrong regarding any of this. 🙂



Filed under: OS X — Erwin @ 2:27 am

I received the Leopard DVD on Friday, shortly after noon, and almost immediately put it to work. Twenty minutes DVD-verification and 45 minutes of actual upgrade time later I’m running OS X 10.5.

Here are my notes such as they are:

  • The default netatalk package in Debian/Etch does not cooperate with Leopard. You can either compile it yourself, if you can figure out how to do that, or fetch it from debian.jones.dk (which appears to be unreachable right now). The actual package lives at /dists/stable/misc/binary-i386/hykrion/netatalk/netatalk_2.0.3-5.0.0jones2_i386.deb. The reason is that Leopard no longer puts up with clear-text passwords and the default package in Debian/Etch doesn’t include uams_dhx.so that implements Diffie-Hellman eXchange, which Leopard will accept.
  • After I carelessly upgraded to Tunnelblick 3.0b5 (I was using 3.0b4) I found that something in 3.0b5 doesn’t play nicely with Leopard, causing it to not set up a default route after creating the OpenVPN tunnel, so I’ve downgraded for now. Maybe later.
  • I am happy to be using Spaces and have already made a list of applications that by default open in specific virtual desktops. Occasionally switching between applications seems to interact a bit quirky with Spaces, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
  • Thankfully all of my regular applications (Adium, iTerm, Firefox, Thunderbird, Moneydance, MiniBatteryLogger) seem to behave well after the upgrade.
  • I must not have been using cronjobs when I upgraded to Tiger, because I don’t remember that upgrade nuking any crontabs, but I hear that that’s standard procedure. So if you have any, make sure you keep a copy somewhere and restore them again afterwards.
  • I like what I’ve seen of the Time Limits feature in the Parental Controls. It takes fast user switching into account and pauses the countdown when the time limited account is not actually the one in focus so to speak. When you’ve reached your daily limit it still lets you log in but almost instantly kicks you back to the login prompt. When you try to log in outside of the allow time frames it simply doesn’t let you. When you’re logged into an account with a time limit it warns you 15 minutes in advance and shows a countdown. At 1 minute before you run out of time it also gives you an audio warning. All in all, not bad and I’m looking forward to putting it to good use on the family Mac Mini.
  • The Fan Control setup was removed in the upgrade process but a new version was released that is Leopard ready.
  • The Time Machine doesn’t seem interested in my network mounts and I’m pretty sure that in earlier builds that did work. I guess I’ll continue my rsync + Bacula based backup setup for the Macs for now, then.
  • I like the new iPhoto based screensaver, although now I’m tempted to set one up similarly with a network mount that includes all the photos in was-there.com. Something to try another day.

So far I’m happy with the improvements and there are a few things I haven’t even tried yet (the new iChat for instance, although I know in advance I’d never fully switch to it). I briefly glanced at Photo Booth but the backdrop tricks seem to expect a certain kind of background that I don’t have, so the results are less than perfect.

More testing fun tomorrow!

Update: Instead of a non-mainstream netatalk package it’s also possible to re-enable the cleartext passwords with this magical command line incantation:

    defaults write -g com.apple.AppleShareClientCore -dict-add afp_cleartext_allow -bool true

Update: There is a newer version of Tunnelblick, 3.0b6, which appears to work better with Leopard.

Update: Another magical command line that I applied pretty quickly, which turns the 3D dock back into a 2D one:

    defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES


Apple Tidbits

Filed under: News,OS X — Erwin @ 7:11 pm

Yesterday Apple finally announced when the next version of OS X (10.5, also known as Leopard) will be released, Friday October 26, and within an hour of finding out I’d pre-ordered a so-called family-pack (since we have 4 machines running OS X in the house). Nothing stops anyone from installing the single user version on multiple machines, Apple didn’t put checks in their code to stop you from that as far as I know (and have noticed, ahem), but I guess I wanted to do The Right Thing ™ 🙂

When the previous version came out I waited much longer with the switch, I was holding out on 10.3.9 while Apple was already at 10.4.6, but this time I’m eager to try out things like the built-in backup software, proper support for the iPhone Notes and various other of the 300 new features (obviously not all of them as exciting as that). I’m also curious to try out the improved Parental Controls on the family Mac and hope the Guest Log-In Accounts will be useful for the occasional visitor (right now I have an account that’s locked down using parental controls for that). Browsing through that list I also notice that Terminal finally has tabs! Not that I expect to be convinced to give up my iTerm just yet.

On a related note: Apple announced that it will have an actual iPhone (and iPod Touch, or iTouch as I see it being called) SDK in February 2008. Were they just waiting to see how easily hackers would break through their defenses first, or are they really not quite ready? Having seen the things that developers created without an SDK, I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll come up with with one.

Counting down now, 9 more days until Leopard…


I suppose it was time

Filed under: OS X,Technology — Erwin @ 4:20 pm

I’ve had an unpleasant week of unpredictable behaviour from my MacBook Pro where it would simply power off while the battery still looks like it should have enough charge (typically over 10% and under 40%), several attempts to fully and utterly drain and then recharge the battery, resetting the SMC (System Management Controller) data to make sure there is no anomalous data there. This forced me to draw the conclusion that after 476+ cycles it may not be entirely unexpected that the battery is due for a replacement!

The MBP has been here since July last year, so nearly 15 months now. If you’ll do the math with me you’ll see that I’ve had the battery go through at least one cycle per day, on average. To have the next one last a bit longer I’ll have to try and keep it on the adapter, I guess. I was already trying to do the drain it fully, once a month thing, but will also try to do that more consistently.

Any other suggestions?

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