East of the Sun, West of the Moon

2007/2/3

Convenient side-effect

Filed under: OS X,Software — Erwin @ 12:56 am

When fast-switching users on OS X, a running iTunes will effectively be muted because it loses access to the built-in sound devices. This makes sense, given the underlying (security) model, but is a pain when you really wanted to continue listening to the music and just switched users to, for instance, let a guest check their webmail or so.

Today I noticed, quite by accident, that when you are using wireless speakers (the Airport Express I bought just over two months ago) this does not apply, and it will continue to play quite cheerfully! Hmmmmm, I like! 🙂

2006/11/27

Purchase of the month

Filed under: OS X,Technology — Erwin @ 8:04 pm

Last week I ordered (and quickly received) an Airport Express. A nifty piece of hardware that can be used in a few different ways. The way I use it is to sit in the wireless network at home and have a set of speakers hooked up to it. Then iTunes can be configured to send its music output to this gadget.

There is a fraction of a second delay while it connects after you start the music, but that is negligible, certainly. A handy side-effect of this setup is that the regular audio that OS X generates go to the built-in speakers again now (or headphones if I were to plug those in), instead of the remote speakers. And the best part of it all, which is why I bought it in the first place, is that I can sit wherever the hell I like, and not be limited to how long the audio cable is and (in practice) sit too close to the speakers. 😉

The amusing part now is that it’s easier to forget that we’re listening to some randomly played track from our own collection, or a podnetcast, it just feels like radio, but without obnoxious DJ’s and commercials. Yay!

2006/10/12

Cool It!

Filed under: OS X,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 8:21 pm

Fan Control Preference PaneStep 1:

Someone writes a minimal program to interface with Apple’s SMC (system management control), helpfully calling it smc. Version 0.01 does the basics, allowing you to query the current values and to set them as you see fit, as long as you know what the cryptic names mean. (It explains what several of the values mean.) Aside from that it displays in a more readable format what the status of the fans is, a sign of things to come rather quickly.

Step 2:

After some discussion back and forth, people start writing wrappers around smc to adjust the minimum RPM setting, including hooks with other (all licensed with GPL) programs to make sure that the adjustment is applied at boot time and after waking up from sleep.

Step 3:

Someone writes a GUI (a preference pane) that interfaces with a background process to adjust the fan speed according to the user’s settings, all wrapped in an installer package.

Result:

A MacBook Pro with a temperature that hovers around 40-50 Celsius (104-122 Fahrenheit) instead of 60 Celsius (140 Fahrenheit), and I can assure you that’s a LOT more comfortable when using it as a laptop! YAY!

It’s not perfect yet, as I hear that it causes a minor inconvenience when rebooting, but nothing that can’t be fixed within days (and I don’t reboot very often with this machine, it mostly just sleeps). 🙂

Updates: There are now smcFanControl 1.12 and Fan Control 1.1 respectively. I’m sticking to Fan Control because I like the sliding scale and lower/upper threshold settings.

2006/9/12

iTunes 7.0

Filed under: OS X,Software — Erwin @ 10:47 pm

Noticed changes:

  • When starting for the first time (after the EULA stuff) it asks for permission to check for album art where it’s missing. It also mentions:

    Information about songs with missing artwork will be sent to Apple. Apple does not keep any information related to the contents of your music library.

    The fact that they ask for permission and the wording above makes me think that they’ve learned from the Ministore fiasco.

  • The GUI changed again, with different buttons, different colours and a different layout of the playlist section of the GUI.
  • Tracks now have 3 different views:
    1. The regular view
    2. Group the tracks by album, with artwork
    3. View the tracks using the Cover Browser
  • The new GUI wastes vertical space needlessly:
    • The library in the playlist section is now separated into Music, Movies, Podcasts, etc. You can disable the ones you don’t have, but in my case that means it still takes up 4 rows instead of 1, and I can’t fold it.
    • The same thing applies to the music store, which has the header and 3 sub-sections. Even if you use the parental controls to disable the store, you may still have it take up two rows if you’ve bought tracks (regardless of whether they were freebies), because the Purchased playlist remains.

    If there is a way to fold the groups, to avoid clutter, please let me know.

  • A positive change is that the Podcasts row now includes a counter for (as far as I can tell) the number of podcasts you haven’t listened to yet.
  • The new version claims to support gapless playback, and of course that means it needs to analyze my entire library. That results in a fantastic wifi speed-test, since I’ve got mine NFS-mounted over a wireless connection. Ouch.
  • The Podcast section now sports a Refresh button. Took ’em long enough to realize that that would be easier than telling each individual podcast to update.
  • When you download a podcast to which you’re subscribed via the iTunes Music Store, it shows up under the Store Downloads. As all my other podcasts are uptodate I don’t know yet if it also does that for non-iTMS podcasts.
  • For Smart Lists there are two new attributes to play with:
    1. Last Skipped
    2. Skip Count

    These may also be new, but I haven’t bothered to compare with a 6.x iTunes version yet:

    • Album Artist
    • Date Modified
    • Grouping
    • Season
    • Show
    • Video Kind

    I’m (still) missing a way to access the Checked attribute in general, the Played attribute for podcasts, and now the Part of Gapless Album attribute. This means that aside from browsing through my entire collection, I have no way of finding out which tracks/albums iTunes has marked as gapless, now?

  • One of the podcasts I (used to) listen to, the MacCast, it comes in an enhanced version which is apparently a Protected AAC audio file. For some reason this means that I can’t change some of the options, including Remember playback position and Skip when shuffling, where the latter annoys me the most as I have a few Smart Lists specifically set up for podcasts so I can mix them in with the rest of my music collection.
  • Speaking of… I STILL can’t change the default Skip when shuffling setting for podcasts, which is on for whatever reason. Why, oh why?

If you see other things that changed, or spot errors in my overview, please let me know. 🙂

2006/9/1

NetNewsWire 2.1.1

Filed under: OS X,Software — Erwin @ 2:21 am

What the hell?

I’d been using a beta version (2.1.1b2) for a while and wondered if there had been any news on that front. I double-checked that there were no entries I’d overlooked in the RSS feed of the NetNewsWire Beta forum on NewsGator’s website.

Curiously, I decide to check the actual webpages for a change and notice that unlike what the RSS feed indicates, there are at least one or two posts after August 6. In fact, there’s a newer beta (2.1.1b4), which I immediately download and run. Backups, what backups? I trust Brent. 😉

Then for reasons I don’t recall I decide to browse to the top level of the forum and notice that the forum is marked read-only because 2.1.1 has been released, with a referral to an announcement in a different NewsGator forum. Strange that there was no posting saying so in the forum itself, and no post on Ranchero or Inessential.com, where I’d have expected a mention on at least one of them. What’s more, most of the pages on Ranchero still refer to NetNewsWire 2.1!

The release has been over a week ago, but MacUpdate and VersionTracker both list 2.1.1b1 as the most recent release of sorts.

What gives, who is dropping the ball here?

Update: See comments; It was Brent being so busy with 3.0 that he forgot to properly announce the new version.

2006/8/20

IDE, ATA, SATA, … huh?

Filed under: OS X,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 1:16 am

Slim Who?A week ago I ordered an adapter gadget to hook up ATA/SATA of both 2.5 and 3.5 inches as USB storage devices. Today I received it, so I started to take apart the broken laptop and try it on the harddisk and CD/DVD-drive in there, to find out how salvagable those two would be.

To my surprise the CD/DVD-drive greeted me with a connector I had not previously encountered. At least not that I’m aware of.

Digging through search-results for a while, I learn that this kind of interface is called “Slim IDE” and that there are various adapters from that to ATA or SATA available as well. I’d be tempted to immediately order one of these, except that it’s a bit silly to order a $5 item when the cheapest and slowest shipping is $7. So I’ll either find out if a local store has it, or see if there’s anything else I might want to pick up from any of the stores that offer it. Drat.

The adapter seems to work at least, although I couldn’t use it with OS X because that didn’t know how to handle ext2/ext3 partitions and even when I installed an (experimental) package to handle it, it didn’t work. Perhaps because of the PC style partitions, I don’t know. I hooked it up to one of the headless Linux servers and was able to mount the (emulated as SCSI) partitions and check things out.

It looks like the root filesystem was thoroughly unhappy, fsck made me jump through a lot of hoops on that one. Next step is to reformat and run a thorough badblock check. If it survives that, I’ll blame the filesystem damage on the laptop. If it turns out the harddisk is bad, I might pick up a replacement and see if the laptop will work with that.

Why I bother? Because I can, I guess!

2006/7/31

Colorado Springs

Filed under: Family,OS X,Software — Erwin @ 8:47 pm

Garden of the GodsBeen busy, and that’s not counting the 12 hour road-trip back yesterday!

  • Garden of the Gods, for some climbing, posing, wandering, and then a picnic for lunch.
  • Flying W Ranch provided some background information, dinner, and entertainment. A limited menu for dinner, but what they had, was well done.
  • Pike’s Peak Cog Railway took us up to the 14,110 foot high summit of Pike’s Peak, where I found out that the lack of oxygen didn’t combine well with a sunburn headache and possibly some influence from the cold meds. Woo! My ears also took much longer than expected to readjust, which I’ll blame on my cold for now.
  • Manitou Cliff Dwellings, while apparently authentic enough, didn’t quite live up to expectations. The kids got to climb around a lot, but likely would’ve had just as much fun in, say, Garden of the Gods, which is free.

And between that of course a healthy amount of getting to know M‘s cousins, plus their spouses and kids. Even though occasionally I felt the need to zone out (mostly because of headaches caused by a cold), it was very much an enjoyable couple of days.

Bringing the laptop along turned out to be useful as well, to check directions to one place or another, and to burn images grabbed from a camera’s memory stick onto CD so that it could be emptied and reused for more snapshots. 🙂

What irritated a bit is that Firefox (and Thunderbird, but that’s less distracting) don’t use OS X’s system proxy settings, so when changing those in some way (switching Locations or manually) you still need to go in and fix it for them separately. I see there’s a switchproxy plugin available but that doesn’t make it as seamless as I’d like it to be.

Using Thunderbird (IMAP accounts in this case) also required some ssh-tunneling magic because my IMAP server is only visible on my local network. Still couldn’t send email, but that wasn’t a great loss. 😉 I may look into IMAP’s email sending support, though.

2006/7/21

Shiny!

Filed under: OS X — Erwin @ 6:26 pm

MacBook ProTo replace the definitely-not-functional-now laptop I gave in and bought a MacBook Pro, with the idea in mind that it would also replace the Mac Mini which would then, in the near future, be rotated to a general purpose (a.k.a kid) computer.

For starters, Apple continues to make a good habit of under-promising and over-delivering with respect to shipping and delivery times. I noticed that with the Minis and it happened again now, with the shipment showing up 4 days earlier than it was originally indicated. It’s a little thing, but it adds to the positive experience.

What also continues to impress is the design of the hardware, which simply shines. Slick.

The wifi hardware appears to be better prepared to squeeze a few more kilobytes out of the static than any other cards we currently have (ignoring the Minis, which have always been in the same room as the access point) so I hope to be able to work from the porch and patio occasionally. Well, when it isn’t 105 Fahrenheit outside anyway (in the shade, no less)!

Apparently sleep mode really means hibernation, which is good for battery life of course.

The most fun will be to migrate the various applications. Ran into some trouble with Thunderbird this morning, which means I may have to recreate the IMAP accounts and then copy the various things back in, like filter-rules. Hopefully other applications will be easier.

2006/6/22

OS X 10.4

Filed under: OS X,Software — Erwin @ 1:48 pm

Yesterday I received the 10.4 DVD that I’d finally gotten around to ordering (I seem to be at the trailing edge of technology when it comes to OS X, considering that the online crowd is already discussing what will or will not be in 10.5 a.k.a Leopard) from Apple.

First impressions:

  • Smooth upgrade from 10.3.9 to 10.4.6. After inserting the DVD, rebooting the computer, indicating what kind of install I wanted (an upgrade, not a clean install), I had left it running while I ate dinner. When I came back I was just in time to see it do a post-install reboot.
  • Spotlight then dragged down the machine quite a bit while it was busy indexing, which is relatively slow on this first generation Mac Mini (with a 40GB 4200 rpm harddisk). It says this was going to take about 3 hours and I’ll just assume that’s how long it took, because after making sure all the basic applications worked, I wandered off to watch Farscape. 😉
  • My SizzlingKeys short-cut command-option-space (to play/pause iTunes) had been hijacked by Spotlight, which was easily changed in the System Preferences.
  • The uControl utility wasn’t doing me any good anymore, as it turns out that swapping the command and option keys (which makes sense if like me you’re using a PC keyboard) is built into the OS now.
  • The cursor-utility PinPoint actually really works at-login, which it didn’t in 10.3.9.
  • The Dashboard is cool but I’m going to have to control myself and not stuff it full of pointless widgets. It looks like I can replace some dock/menubar gadgets though, cleaning up some desktop real estate that way.
  • I noticed this morning that somewhere during the upgrade the software must’ve decided that I didn’t really want to have the ssh-daemon running, so the overnight rsync-based backup failed. This has now been corrected of course.

All in all that was a good start. It is certainly my intention to give this machine a fresh install at some point, if only to erase all the crud I’ve put on it in the first couple of months of its existence when I was still getting to know OS X and finding my limits on this hardware.

Looking forward to trying some of those 10.4-only features in existing software and entirely 10.4-only applications, the next few days/weeks/months. 🙂

2006/6/15

Linkage (46)

Filed under: Linkage,News,OS X,Technology — Erwin @ 10:59 pm

Amazon has begun selling groceries (Ars Technica). So far so good, they sell some cat food and coffee, what more could you ask for?

Well written article (Daring Fireball) about the differences between Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, and others, and why you would choose one over the other. I use both OS X and Linux, and several of the reasons listed one way or another sound very familiar.

I’ve started playing with del.icio.us, you know, that domain where nobody can remember where to place the dots. My collection of links/tags is still rather empty.

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