April 18, 2008
iTunes won't quit
This one bit me: If you have SRS's iWow installed, it can get in a mode where it will restart iTunes almost instantly when you quit the app. You're left with a transparent iTunes icon in the Dock. Even trying to kill the iTunes (and iTunes Helper) process from the command-line doesn't work.
The trick is to also kill the 'genredetection' processes through Activity Monitor or the command line, which will (finally) let the app quit.
January 11, 2007
iPhone 4+ years in the making?
I'm not usually one to self-link, but I'm getting some Google hits on the short post linked above from August 2002. It references a John Markoff story, now lost to the New York Times TimesSelect product, but the abstract is pretty prescient.
Remember, this is from August 19, 2002:
Apple Computer reportedly weighs introduction of hand-held device that would combine elements of cellphone and Palm-like personal digital assistant; forthcoming Macintosh OS X, Version 10.2, is being marketed as improvement for desktop computer users, but it has features that make more sense in hand-held device than desktop; move would play into Apple's so-called digital hub strategy, in which Macintosh desktop computer is center of web of peripheral devices of Steven P Jobs, Apple chief executive...
By the way, my very next post, later that day, was on a cool new RSS aggregator, called NetNewsWire, then in version 1.0b13.
January 07, 2007
Biggest Macworld and switching to the PC
So the biggest Macworld in years starts tomorrow (Tuesday for Macworld Expo). Nobody seems to have a real handle on what Apple's going to do this year, so predictions are all over the place. Apple has pushed the hype by promising that “The first 30 years were just the beginning,” suggesting major things afoot.
Over at HiveLogic, Dan Benjamin offers a fairly safe list: Whatever Apple's iTV becomes, updates to the iMac, iPod, iLife and iWork, and a preview of Leopard, with Windows virtualization built in. All good stuff, with the virtualization probably the only controversial choice.
Benjamin doubts we'll see the iPhone/iPod phone, new iSights, or a Mac Pro update, widely expected because Intel will be announcing its new Kentsfield processors tomorrow. He rates as “possibilities” high-def iTunes (to support TV and movie content in HD), an update to the iPod Hifi, a MacBook Pro speedbump, and BlueRay support, and is holding his breath for a “true” video iPod, a nanoBook (an ultraportable laptop), and a Beatles iPod, heralding the arrival of the Beatles catalog on iTunes.
Over at O'Reilly's MacDevCenter, a survey of writers turns up a surprisingly common wish for a Core 2 Duo update of Apple's longstanding desktop form factor, last seen in, what, the 7600? For years, this was the most popular corporate Mac, in its IIcx/IIci/Quadra 650/Power Mac 7100/PowerMac 7500/7600 iteration, which usually shared a motherboard with Apple's top tower, albeit generally with a slower processor, and generally offered 3 slots. The iMac line is inherently wasteful in a corporate environment, because most companies are ready to upgrade the CPU long before the LCD has died, but the Mac mini is generally a little underpowered for corporate use. So I'll add this to my wish list (fat lot of good it will do).
Also looking back to the future are a couple of writers who want a replacement for the 12" PowerBook. That would be terrific. The Mac world significantly lags the PC world when it comes to sub-notebooks, and it seems like I'm seeing more and more of the smaller, lighter machines in airports. If you spend a lot of time on the road, and use your machine for office functions, a 12" (or smaller) machine you can hook to an external monitor in the office, with a decent keyboard and battery life, makes a lot of sense.
Also, three of their writers want changes to .Mac. One wants it eliminated (I don't see that happening), while another wants to see it significantly enhanced. I still would like to see .Mac become an extension of a home server product (like the HP MediaSmart server, but software or Mac mini-based and therefore cheaper), with two-way synchronization of selected files and folders between .Mac and the home server; automatic backup of purchased iTunes and other user content to the home server; domain, weblog, calendar and photo sharing support over the internet.
Meanwhile, I'm starting a new job tomorrow, and I hear they've got a sub-notebook Dell waiting for me. I'll be sure to let you know how that goes. It's been 5 years since I spent more than 30-45 minutes at a Windows desktop.
November 20, 2006
Why no Mac viruses?
John Gruber goes off on the latest Windows-centric pundit to declare that the only reason Macs are essentially virus-free is that nobody's interested in them.
Seltzer's summary graph:
Opinion: The verdict is in: OS X is as insecure as anything out there, but somehow nobody—including attackers—cares.
Gruber focuses on the inconsistency that the Mac supports a healthy software market, likely one proportionate in size to the Mac market compared to the Windows market, but the Mac malware market is “nearly zero.”
Gruber misplays his case, however, when he says “Mac OS X’s malware market share hovers near zero (as did the classic Mac OS’s a decade ago).” Both Gruber and Seltzer seem to believe that the Mac has just never supported a virus-producing community. This is dead wrong.
The Mac environment wasn't always virus-free.
Once upon a time, I ran a few public-access labs at my university. These labs suffered several virus outbreaks, most notably catching WDEF before it was discovered in 1989. We also would occasionally see MDEF, nVIR, and Scores. The Mac's market share then was a little higher -- a little under 10 percent, versus 5 or 6 percent today -- but it was still a minority platform, with the great majority of computers running DOS or Windows.
And yet, there were 10 or 20 viruses running loose in the classic Mac OS ecosystem (compared to hundreds for DOS/Windows), and there are none running loose in the OS X ecosystem (compared to hundreds for Windows). Since the hardware was at one point exactly the same for either ecosystem, the difference must be in either the software or the user base.
But the OS X user base is decidedly more capable of creating a virus than the classic Mac OS ecosystem. Plenty of “alphageek” nerd users have made the switch, attracted by Apple's elegant hardware, (figuratively and occasionally literally) transparent interface, and Unix-y base. The only thing about the user base that discourages malware production is that most people who know enough to build a Mac virus can make a nice living as a programmer or administrator, so why foul the nest? Still, the number of users capable of generating theoretical Mac malware must be at least 5 times as large as it was before the release of OS X.
So if it's not the user base, it must be the software. The Unix security model is more secure than the pre-Vista Windows model, and must take the lion's share of the credit for the lack of OS X viruses. There may eventually be Mac OS X viruses, but to claim the reason there are none is that the platform is irrelevant is more than a little bizarre.
January 29, 2006
iTunes as video jukebox
Using iTunes to catalog video is working out pretty well; I'm beginning to build a video jukebox to go with the thousands of songs in the musical jukebox accessible through iTunes.
Network streaming is very good across a wired 100-megabit network, acceptable over 802.11g, and pretty pathetic over 802.11b. I've imported a bunch of old Apple commercials, various movie videos, and have started importing shows somebody in the family wants to keep after watching the EyeTV capture files. The iTunes interface is pretty good at navigating a lot of content quickly, and provides preview frames for videos to help distinguish similar movies.
There are a few rough edges, however, and I wonder if the day isn't coming when there are two paths into the iTunes Music Store, iTunes and “iVideo.”
Why? Inclusion of both video and audio content is feeling forced. I went to listen to my “recent additions” playlist off the G5, and iTunes keeps showing me (recently added) videos. I could rewrite my smart playlist to not include videos (and probably will), but there should be a simple way to choose one kind of content or the other, even (nay, especially) over the network. Right now I just want to listen to new songs, but to do that, I have to uncheck literally five-sixths of my “recent additions” playlist.
Playing videos back in iTunes is a decidedly inferior experience to, say, DVD Player. Besides the jumpy playback, there's also no clear way to fast forward or rewind. There is a hidden feature -- if you click on the tiny preview panel in iTunes, a full resizable window opens. That's an improvement.
Still better, Improved Movie Viewing in iTunes gives an AppleScript that will fire up local movies in QuickTime, giving a smoother full-screen experience with QuickTime Player's on-screen controls. Still, it's easy to imagine a better experience with a purpose-built video management and player program.
Apple ballyhooed the addition of parental controls for a variety of applications in Tiger and in iTunes starting with version 5, but it's really a pretty weak setup, with many of the weaknesses made clearer with the addition of TV shows to the content stream.
Problem 1: Only iTunes-purchased songs can be marked as “Explicit.” Believe it or not, I have some songs I would just as soon not share with my children, but I can't find a way to set the “Explicit” tag so they'll be locked out. Apple documents the “Explicit” tag for podcasters, but I don't see any way to set it on content that isn't coming from the Music Store.
Problem 2: Video content appears to be completely unrated. Leafing through the selection of TV shows available, there's not a single episode of “Desperate Housewives” that rates a parental advisory label, even though tonight's episode is rated TV-PG.
Once again, I have no way of setting local content so that my children can't see it. I created a streamable copy of “Office Space” on my G5 as an experiment; now it's visible on the network.
What I hope Apple will do: Update from the binary “explicit/okay” system to one that reflects the V-chip ratings or the MPAA ratings, on songs and videos. There are tracks and movies that I think are okay for my 10-year-old that aren't okay for my 4-year-old. Give users access to the rating system, so that users who have parental controls can't access content at MY option, not just Apple's.
January 14, 2006
iTunes 6.02: Now with video sharing
With all the attention on the new ministore presentation, no one seems to have noticed that iTunes 6.02 enables video-sharing to your local network. Whether it's intended for an upcoming home media appliance or not I don't know, but it brings videos up to par with music.
Neither Apple's main iTunes page nor its “Share & Stream” page mention this, and the Share & Stream page refers multiple times to “music sharing,” but it's definitely enabled, as the screenshot below demonstrates.
Once you've installed iTunes 6.02, that machine will publish a “Videos” playlist, visible to but not accessible by iTunes 6.01.
There's still some weirdness going on. I've upgraded to 6.02 on my wife's iMac, and I can't see two videos she bought with an earlier version of iTunes. From my daughter's partition on my G5, I can stream a music video she bought Thursday (probably with 6.02), but can't see two movies I converted to .m4v format after capturing them on my EyeTV, even though they show up as Videos in iTunes.
I'm experimenting now to see if I can figure out a way to make the older videos show up for sharing, and how to export EyeTV movies that can be shared. If you have any insight, please e-mail me.
Update: Blue Coconut, the application for downloading music from a networked playlist, works exactly the same with video files.
Update 1/19: Welcome Digg.com readers. I'm still looking for info on how iTunes decides which videos to display (I encoded a TV episode the other night, and get full audio, but only a still frame when I try to stream it). If you have any insights, please comment.
November 01, 2005
10.4.3 released; thrill-seekers only for now
I'm one for two with Apple's new 10.4.3 release; it installed without incident on my 12" PowerBook (867 mHz), but rebooted to a kernel panic on the Dual-2.5 gHz Power Mac G5.
I removed all my external devices, ethernet included, and rebooted, still to be greeted by the kernel panic screen. Booting in verbose mode (command-v at startup) showed me a failed dependency when loading the Kensington MouseWorks software, so I came back in safe boot (shift key at startup), ran the MouseWorks uninstaller (by the way, I initially had version 2.6, but upgraded to 2.8 during a brief period of stability, and got the kernel panics back), and rebooted, and, voila, all is back to normal.
It's possible that the real culprit was some interplay between MouseWorks and MouseZoom, which I use to overclock my cursor zooming, but now that MouseWorks is uninstalled, I find that all I'm giving up is custom application settings -- the standard keyboard/mouse drivers do a more than passable job driving my PilotMouse Optical Wireless (bought by mistake: I HATE wireless mice).
May 04, 2005
Some Tiger notes
Photo by Frank Steele.
I got a Micro Center flyer today, reiterating a good deal they have going through June 5: Get a $50 rebate on Tiger or a Tiger family pack, which reduces your overall price to $79.99, the lowest I've seen.
I did a ground-up install on the PowerBook, since it didn't like my volume bitmap, and I had to erase the drive.
On the G5, I did an upgrade in place, but came up with no printers installed. Samsung doesn't write Mac drivers anymore, and the SPL 2.5 driver I found on their website didn't work. Eventually, I tried an older driver (I think 2.0), and my printer magically reappeared. The HP inkjet (available across the network) added without a problem.
The iMac G4 at work installed while I was at lunch with, so far as I can tell, zero issues of any sort.
Some sticky bits:
If you're running Tiger, get the new Quicksilver, which features a new plug-in mechanism, and will be the basis of QS development going forward.
Imagine my shock when the Accuweather widget (one of the Tiger defaults) reported that it was 35 degrees in Atlanta. Mark at work noticed that a fix for this is to add "GA" to the search field on the back of the widget. Since I can't make it recur, it's possible this was fixed at the server.
Spotlight is awesome. If you don't keep everything neatly organized, Spotlight is for you. That's me to a 'T'. One small disappointment: It doesn't index your content on .Mac. That may be different if you keep a local copy of your .Mac contents.
Some of the propellerheads have been ragging on people who compare it to Quicksilver or Launchbar, but 80 percent of people could use Spotlight as an application launcher.
I do find it a little odd that you can't open the enclosing folder from Spotlight's menu (can you?); often I want to find a file (maybe a photo I've scanned) so I can see related materials. For that, you can use Spotlight's panel view, which is activated by option-command-space instead of command-space.
Spotlight will lead me to tag my iPhoto pictures.
Pivoting works, sort of. I think it's maybe just enabled for ATI video cards, since my G5 (with an ATI 9600 card) works, but my PowerBook (with an nVidia GeForce 420 Go) doesn't. I haven't tried the the Mac mini, but I hear it also works (with an ATI 9200).
I'm less impressed with Dashboard. The strangest thing to me is that it doesn't seem to update in the background, explaining the long delay when the dashboard is activated for the first time. I have a “This Day in History” widget loaded, but generally it's showing yesterday's events, since it doesn't flip over on its own. Merlin has asked the LazyWeb for a NextBus widget for San Francisco's MUNI, which I can't help with, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a MARTA widget in the next couple of months.
The new iSync included a piece of code (about 450k worth) that installs on my phone (a Nokia 3650). More applications can be sync'ed, including the controversial new version of Mail and your Keychains. Note that syncing Mail accounts may not be a good idea; in my case, which server I use for outbound mail changes on my PowerBook, but not on my home or work machine, so I don't want to propagate my PowerBook settings to the desktops.
Haven't tried Automator yet, despite having used AppleScript extensively.
November 24, 2004
World's cheapest G5 upgrade
My G5 fans have been running a little loudly, and almost all the time, lately. I hadn't noticed an effect on the machine's speed, but in checking the load average, it was always above 1.00. At first, I thought maybe this was an effect of the dual processor setup, but I checked the dually at work, and the load average was about .50.
I installed a fresh copy of Panther on an external FireWire drive, booted up, and my fans spun down. Load average was suddenly in the .25 range. I rebooted off the internal drive, and the fans came back. Looking at 'top', I discovered the Finder was hovering within a few percent of 100 percent. Hmmmm. In poking around, I noticed my 'Finder Preferences' file (com.apple.finder.plist) was about 2 MEGABYTES. I deleted it, fired back up, and my machine was instantly 5 times faster, with the load average down in the .20 range.
Right now, running NetNewsWire, MarsEdit, Entourage, SpamSieve, iPulse, QuickSilver, and iTunes, I'm showing "0.20 0.12 0.13" in 'w' or 'uptime'.
It's been about 36 hours since I fixed it, and the office is even noticeably cooler.
August 05, 2004
2 iPods + 2 iTunes - iServe = frustration
I have defended Apple's FairPlay DRM in the past, partly because it appears to emphasize fair use, allowing multiple burns of a playlist to CD, and letting you share your music to 5 computers across the network, and an "unlimited number of iPods."
My perspective has changed a bit. Christy's iPod mini, ordered in late April, well in advance of her birthday and Mother's Day, finally arrived in time for back to school.
So here's the setup: I have my PowerBook, with much of our CD library and all the iTunes Music Store purchased music. Christy has an iMac with a different set of tracks from our CD library and no iTMS songs. Christy has a 4-gig iPod mini, and I have a 1st-generation 5-gig iPod.
Here's what I expected: I thought that by virtue of having FairPlay-authorized iPods attached to FairPlay-authorized computers, iTunes would manage things, and Christy and I would be able to shuttle music from either computer to either iPod.
That is, in fact, NOT the case. Given Apple's provided software, the iPod can't pull music across the network, and you can't set up an iPod to pull 3 playlists from computer A, then hook it up to pull 2 more playlists from computer B. If I want to put purchased songs on Christy's mini, I have to populate it only with songs from my PowerBook.
Apparently, Apple assumes that every family will have a central computer that holds all your music, and every iPod user will go to it to sync their iPod. Hasn't Apple heard that people carry these “laptop” thingies nowadays? I don't want to leave my purchased tracks at home when I go out of town, although I suppose I could bear it if they're all on the iPod. The only way I could see the central computer approach working is if Apple shipped an iServe, with built-in iTunes synchronization (not just Rendezvous, er, OpenTalk sharing, but full synchronization).
One solution I may actually try is to cross-synch our iPods, with Christy's iPod featuring songs that are on both computers and songs that are only on my computer, and my iPod featuring songs common to both computers and songs that are only on her computer. That way, between the computer and the iPod, we would each have nearly a full set. Still hardly an ideal solution.
The longer-term solution is likely one of the million iPod manager programs out there, so I guess I'll start messing around with them, and I guess I'll have to check out Hymn and DeDRMS. It just seems really bizarre that I've bought into Apple's system from end to end, but it doesn't work like it should. I welcome correction, if I've overlooked some setting or shortcut, and I welcome pointers to any of the iTunes/iPod tools that people have used in a similar situation. This strikes me as profoundly contrary to true Apple-ness, and to the ideal of "personal" computers.Update 8/7: This is actually easy, but completely separate from iTunes itself. Apple has a useful how-to, and it's as simple as copying the files over to a computer that's already authorized. My mistake was expecting it to all work from within iTunes.