Sunday, June 28, 2009

sprinting together

You can share your internet connection from a mac. This is something I researched and attempted unsuccessfully for years on PC. This means that I can connect to the Internet with my Sprint aircard and route that internet connection wirelessly to computers within range so that we can all get on the Internet.

Brilliant.

And here's just how easy it was.

I wondered if this was possible since apple does everything well, and since this is something that seems SO simple and reasonable. So I googled "share internet connection on a mac". The first hit was Sharing your Internet connection on Mac OS X 10.5 Help. In the digest it referred to Windows computers doing a "network bridge", so I knew I was on the right track.

OS X help said that I should go into system preferences, click the connection I want to share, and then share it. It said that if I wanted to share an Internet connection with WiFi clients, I would share my AirPort, specify a WiFi network name to create, and give it a password. This looked very promising.

Sure enough, I connected with the Sprint Aircard, told it to share, made a new network, and it looked like it was working.

Internet Sharing

Now for the test.

I fired up one of my Thinkpads to see if the WiFi network I made was out there. The name I chose was "SSC MBP". Sure enough it was. I double-clicked to connect to it. When you connect to a secure network for the first time, Windows prompts you for a password. But it didn't. It threw some message about not being able to connect because the wireless network was maybe out of range. Believing Windows (silly me) I moved the Thinkpad right next to the MacBook Pro and tried again. No dice. So I went in to the Wireless tab on the Thinkpad and configured it manually. That was pretty simple. I specified the network name and WEP key.

Thumbs up. It works!

windows wireless

So now when I'm at a client site with some other consultants in my company, I'll connect to the Internet and then create a little WiFi network for them to share.

The Internet is too big not to share.

As I said, I've tried forever to do this on PC. The concept of Internet Connection Sharing exists over there. But it's just not the same. There are two reasons why I have been unable/unwilling to do it over there, although I have tried:

  1. Internet Connection Sharing works through a wizard that sets all kinds of things on your computer and enters it into an altered state. Turning it off requires going through the wizard again to set everything back, basically reversing the process.

    (I did this for my dad. He travels a lot, so he takes his Dell laptop with him. He has a real clunker of a Dell PC that sits on his desk at home most of the time. He connects to his home town ISP over dial up. DIAL-UP. Yes, folks, it still exists. And the name of his ISP is our-town.com. I kid you not. Anyway, I set up Internet connection sharing for him. His desktop dials our-town to get online. His PC shares that over wired Ethernet. That runs to a Linksys wireless router. So now when he comes in from the road he can connect to the Internet and he can print on the desktop's shared printer wirelessly. And he can surf the Net wirelessly, too. At dial-up speeds. When he got his own Sprint aircard it made this not so valuable for him (he was too cheap to get one for the longest time, until I gave him one for Christmas, now he HAS to have it). But he still prints anyway. The point is that it works as long as you let Windows put a spell on your PC with its internet connection wizard.)

    Lately I believe PC has gotten better about this, and offers something similar to mac. This process is achieved by selecting two connections (control+click), and then choosing "bridge network connections". This would probably have worked for me except...

  2. Sprint Aircard works by setting up a custom driver. That driver installs itself as a modem rather than a LAN card. You can't bridge a modem using this technique. Only a LAN connection. Why MS makes this distinction or why Sprint decided to have the driver appear this way is up to them. Maybe they knew people would probably share the connection, so they crippled it to force everyone to buy their own card for $60/month and clog the cell tower space.

But maybe there's a good way to do it on PC now, and I just haven't spent enough nights and weekends to figure it out. Or I haven't purchased the upgraded plan from Sprint that has an even more customized driver with a user interface to share the Internet connection by taking over Windows to create a WiFi network its own secret way.

It took me 10 minutes to figure it out and set it up on my Mac.

mac sprint equation

And as for performance, it's not too shabby. Here's what speakeasy.net says when run from my Thinkpad through my Mac:

sprint speed

So the only problem now is that I'm working up in the Northeast. And if you're in the Northeast and don't have Verizon, you might as well be on dial-up. AT&T and Sprint haven't figured out how to tap into that little market up there, I guess.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

you too?

I had a neat encounter in the airport while I waited for American Airlines to get their act together for several hours.

I was sitting next to a guy with a Dell D610. I know the config well. He was playing internet poker. For money? Maybe. Anyway, he was using one of the two outlet plugs. I took the other one.

Then another guy came and sat next to him. He reached over with a magsafe airline adapter and asked me if it was mine. I said thank you, that it must be, and that it must have fallout out of my bag. He said, "it had to be either mine or yours." It was at that point that I realized that he had a MacBook Pro, just like mine. And I found out as I queried that it was just—like—mine.

I asked him if his was the 17". He said it was. I noticed that he was running vmware fusion like me, and that like me he had 3 virtual images in his library. Uncanny. I pointed this out, and he said the thing you really need is the SSD (solid state drive) for over-the-top performance. I told him I had it. We exchanged thumbs up and smiles. I didn't even have to ask if he had upgraded to 8 GB of RAM like me. It went without saying.

I imagine he is a kindred spirit, come to the same conclusions as me, with a similar story as mine, a similar set of interest and desires. He looked to be about the same age as me.

We both went back to our own little virtual worlds while we waited to board. If I run into him again I'll talk to him more. But at the time I didn't want to blow it, to ruin this perfect stranger encounter.

It was very validating to know that I'm not the only one thinking this way, and I'm not the only one willing to put money in the same spot as mouth. And I'm not the only one living the dream.

And one more thing. On the 4 hour plane flight home, I watched a movie, listened to some iTunes, and did some writing. As I kicked back, dimmed the screen, and listened to my Genius playlist, I thought to myself, "My laptop is bigger than yours." And I meant that in all its adolescent glory.

I'm not sure why it's so important to me that I've got a computer that covers me when I'm under fire, that is always there for me, that will never let me down. Maybe I need a shrink to help me unpack my issues. But it was so, so good to find a "friend" to whom I could say, as C.S. Lewis said of friendship in The Four Loves, "Oh, you too?"

those pesky guests

I turned off the guest network on the Time Capsule and it solved all the problems. I can get to webex now.

Friday, June 26, 2009

time capsule webex update

Now I rebooted and tried again to connect to webex. It's getting further, like the little engine that could, chugging up that mountain, except in my story, the little engine throws the towel in and slides backward down the mountain.

What I mean is this. The first part of the web page now comes up, but then it times out. here's the screen shot:

webex time capsule fail

does anybody know why I bought a time capsule?

...Continued...

Now I turned off the Time Capsule and plugged my MacBook Pro straight into the cable modem. Boom. Came right up.

The Time Capsule definitely hates me.

no webex

I intend to get to the bottom of this. This is quite vexing.

I am unable to get to webex.com since I set up the Time Capsule. At all. I don't want to have to send the Time Capsule back, but I will if I have to.

But this is a very vexing problem, and here's why:
  1. I cannot get to webex or any webex site (like v.webex.com my company's webex site) from my MacBook Pro over Wifi, neither using Safari nor Firefox.
  2. I cannot get to webex from my MacBook Pro with a wired connection either.
  3. I cannot get to it from my iPhone over Wifi.
  4. I can get to it from my iPhone over 3G.

    Naturally, this leads me to believe it's a problem with my network, and since the only thing that has changed is the Time Capsule, I have a very likely suspect. But...

  5. I can get to it from my wired Windows Vista computer.

    Which naturally makes me suspect some apple-related issue. But...

  6. I can get to it from Jill's iMac over Wifi.

    So in review, I know it's not a Wifi issue; it's not a wired issue; it's not an apple issue, it's not a router issue. The only two ways I cannot connect are on my iPhone over the Time Capsule and on my MacBook Pro over the Time Capsule. The only logical conclusion at this point, the only thing these two device connection have in common, is me. My own home network hates me.

  7. And now, to further prove it out, I have circumvented the Time Capsule and connected to Webex using my Sprint aircard. I can connect over the aircard.

    Now the only logical conclusion at this point is that Time Capsule hates me. That or I'm caught in the crossfire. Maybe webex hates Time Capsule or Cisco hates Apple or vices versa, and I'm the cat getting kicked.
No matter what the result's the same. I can't get to webex.

jumping mouse

Why does my mouse jump when Time Machine is doing a backup? Is this a known issue?

netgear

And this was a great excuse to finally box out my netgear switch since the Time Capsule has only 3 wired ports on it, 1 less than the Linksys had. Talk about no-hassle! Of course, it's just a switch, but it's nice to now have 6 Gigabit Ethernet ports instead of 3.

multitasking

So cool.

I'm on a conference call, company meeting. During this conference call I:

  • Registered for a webinar with my MacBook Pro
  • Downloaded and forwarded a whitepaper to the people on the call (MBP)
  • Looked up AIM on the App store while I was on the call on my iPhone
  • Purchased the new AIM for $2.99, which required me to agree to new T&C's (iPhone)
  • Logged in to AIM and set up my account, including sharing my current location, push notifications, and all that (iPhone)
  • Checked email and sent a few responses (MBP)
  • Participated in the conference call (of course) (iPhone)



time capsule ordeal or apple: it [doesn't] just works

I am not thrilled with the Time Capsule.

I thought I would share some of my frustrations with you in this forum.

Phase 1 – Easy as Apple Pie

I wanted to configure it from my office first. I plugged it in to my existing router, and it flashed amber. The setup guide directed me to the AirPort Utility, which gave me more information about the issues on a buried menu option.

The complaint of the time capsule was that it was plugged in to a device that did NAT (Network Address Translation) instead of DHCP, and advised me to change the Time Capsule to Bridge Mode if I wanted to continue this configuration.
  1. That’s bullshit.
  2. That’s bullshit.
The Linksys wireless router I plugged in to uses DHCP. It’s been doling out DHCP addresses for about 6 years. And I’ve hooked other routers into it as well, who in turn doled out DHCP addresses to their clients. So I’m not buying it.

Phase 2 – Problems, Problems, and more Problems

I decided to let Apple be my commander in chief, so I did EXACTLY what the instructions told me to do. I powered down my old reliable primary wireless router and replaced it with the Time Capsule. It flashed amber again. Now what?

I went into the AirPort Utility again for more info. It has a new problem this time. It says, “Your Apple wireless device does not have a valid IP address. Make sure your Apple wireless device is connected to your broadband modem or local network, verify your settings, and try again.” And then they actually said the words that make my BLOOD BOIL, “If you still can’t connect, contact your Internet service provider.”

Yeah. Contact my internet service provider about why their network, that has given me uninterrupted service for two years without so much as a hiccup, and ask them what’s wrong—ask them why my new Apple Time Capsule is flashing amber.

After a little more investigation, I found that the router had the dreaded 169.254.5.32 address. I know from previous experience with my MacBook Pro that this can be resolved by setting the IP address manually, then switching back to DHCP. What a joke that “Renew DHCP Lease” button is.

So I set the IP address to 10.1.1.1 and 255.255.255.0 for the subnet mask. At this point it told me there were 6 new problems found:

  1. Base Station Password: The Apple wireless device is protected by the default password.
  2. DNS Server(s): The Apple wireless device doesn’t have any DNS server addresses and might have trouble connecting to the Internet.
  3. Router Address: The router address you have entered is not compatible with your WAN IP address. [I didn’t enter one: it’s blank]
  4. Wireless Security: The Apple wireless device doesn’t have any security on the wireless network. It is recommended that you use WPA2 Personal to secure your wireless network.
  5. Allow SNMP over WAN: The Apple wireless device is set up to allow SNMP on the Ethernet WAN port which decreases network security.
  6. Allow setup over WAN: The Apple wireless device is set up to allow configuration over the Ethernet WAN port, which decreases network security.
Now, none of these problems scare me, and they all look quite reasonable. The issue here is one of confidence.

What happened to “it just works”?

I was supposed to plug in the Ethernet cable, plug in the power cable, wait 60 seconds, and “after your Time Capsule has started up completely, the status light flashes amber until your Time Capsule has been updated with the correct settings. The status light glows solid green after your Time Capsule is properly set up and connected to the Internet or a network.”

Apple. It doesn’t just work.

I have to baby this thing. I will say this about Linksys. When I got my first Linksys so many years ago, I knew next to nothing about routing. I know a little bit more today (not much compared to network IT pros). But when I got the first Linksys, I plugged it in and it just worked. I was thrilled.

I’m not thrilled with the Time Capsule.

To be fair, over the years I've had issues with my Linksys routers and with my ISP (Time Warner Cable formerly Comcast formerly AT&T Broadband formerly TCI). And I've had to baby them, too. Which is how I know where this whole ordeal is headed.

I just expected more from apple. I guess I've been drinking the koolaid.

Phase 3 – Do it Yourself

So now I’m restarted, having set all the options like I want them, resolving all the “problems” with the blank or default settings, except that it’s got an IP address of 10.1.1.1. It restarted to boot with the correct settings. I intended to let it reboot, change it to DHCP, and let it reboot again for success!

Wrong.

Now it tells me that there is Problem 1 of 1: Double NAT and gives me two choices.
And here’s the real bitch of it all—if I choose the option I want, which is to share a single IP address using DHCP and NAT, it asks me if I’m sure I want to continue without resolving the problem.
Nice.

Anyway, I play the game and choose Bridge, then Continue, then Go back, then choose DHCP, then Continue, and this time it doesn’t act like I’m ignoring the problem.

I continue through, set the manual IP address back to DHCP, and continue on to reboot. It does. And now I’ve got the dreaded 169.254.5.32 address again.

Apple. It doesn’t just work.

Phase 4 – Blame the Other Guy

So now I know what to do. I have to reboot the cable modem. The cable modem that has been up and running for YEARS now with no problem, and hope that it doesn’t fail to come back up properly, which will mean spending AN ENTIRE DAY on the phone with Time Warner Cable Support.

Bottoms up.

And now the light is green. The Time Capsule reports no problems.

I ran through the configuration wizard and setup a secured Guest Wireless network, too. And I got this message:
Yaay beer.

Phase 5 – We Get Signal - Not

And now it’s time to connect to the thing over WiFi and surf the world wide web!

WRONG.

The AirPort utility must have decided that I should connect to the new wireless network and automatically configured it for me. I say this because when I click on my wireless menu the new network “Stone Wire” is there and connected, which means that it had to select it, and set the security options.
So I turn my Airport off on my Mac, give it a few seconds, and then turn it back on.

Nope.

Maybe the problem is with the wireless network? I try connecting to the Guest Network instead.

Nope.

This has turned into a full blown pain in the ass at this point.

Phase 6 – No Net is not Good Net

So now I’m back in the Airport Utility. It’s connected to the Internet. Its IP address and settings are correct. Oh. There it is. The DNS servers are still the meaningless manual ones I typed in before. One more time…

Phase 7 – Finally

And we’re up! I just heard the Tweetdeck tweet. Let’s go and see what my friends are up to.

All in, under 2 hours to get this thing configured (just WiFi, not Time Machine and USB disk, and the other stuff). That’s not too bad in the grand scheme of things, I guess. But I expected it to take about 10 minutes.

I always wonder when I do this stuff what a typical consumer goes through. For me at least the terms are familiar and I know exactly how I want to set it up (that is I know what I want the final product to look like). But what about people who don’t have this?

I don’t know why I carry this burden. It’s their problem. Why does their plight bother me so much? And why do I write on this blog anyway?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

my entourage is time zone challenged

If I change the time zone on my computer, which is easy enough on an mac, entourage automatically changes the time on all my appointments, and the time on all my emails, to match the time zone. This is important when traveling. What it doesn't do is change the "default time zone for new events".

So every event has a "default time zone" peculiar to it.

I have never heard of this useless feature before.

It's really bizarre because Outlook gets it right on Windows. When I change my time zone on Windows, Outlook automatically picks it up. All the appointment start and end and dates read out in the new time zone.

Not some other time zone that I'm not in.

It works the same way as my cell phone. When I land in a new time zone and turn off airplane mode, the phone finds a cell tower, pulls the time zone off of it, sets the local time zone for the phone, and then shifts all the times on appointments, calls, emails, and everything else.

Every cell phone I've ever had worked this way.

Every email program I've ever had worked this way.

Except Entourage.

It almost makes me believe the people who say that Microsoft likes writing inferior software for Mac and blame the operating system.

Why can't Entourage do this? Why do I have to tell it to change the time zone after I already set the computer's time zone?


You can see in the screen cap that the appointment is from 2-4. But when I open it up to look at the details, the braindead thing reports the appointment is from 1-3.

Maybe I should fire my entourage and get some new guys to follow me around.

iPhone 3 upgrade

I upgraded to the iPhone 3.0 software today for my iPhone 3G (not S). It was painless. Apple really does that well. When iTunes is loaded and your iPhone is connected you get prompted to donwload and install the upgrade. I waited until I heard a few success stories before upgrading.

I have upgraded several times now--before now it was always on Windows, which was also painless.

I'm looking forward to using the new features. My favorite so far is spotlight--the new global search capability. A very close second is the universal landscape mode--having to slide emails back and forth to read them at a reasonable font size was annoying. I'm also thrilled about copy & paste, but I haven't made use of it yet.

Thanks apple, for continuing to make these things beautiful, functional, and unpainful.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

virtually excellent

I'm still loving the mac. The coolest thing for now is virtualization. Virtualize, virtualize, virtualize.

I work for all these customers who have security concerns. They give me one of their laptops to use to access their systems. Most of the time I can't even plug my laptop in to their network. I've never had my equipment confiscated or anything, but they are very clear on this point. Only their image is allowed on their network. One of them is a big name bank that everyone knows. They are so anal retentive that they installed software on their laptop that disables anything USB except for printers or mice. The idea is to keep people from copying off or on files via thumb drive. I had a heck of time once trying to copy some SQL code up to their development server that I had written on my laptop on an airplane. And we had the same trouble going the other way, though I can't remember now exactly why we needed to do that. I can't remember exactly how we got around that situation, but I do know that crossover ethernet cables are easy to make if you have cable and a crimper.

But I digress.

The coolest thing right now on this mac is how easy it is to virtualize everything. I now have about 5 laptops stacked up in the corner of my office because I can run vmware converter on them, make an image, copy it onto my mac, and then load it up with vmware fusion. And with a 64 bit operating system that doesn't suck, I can run several virtual images at once, as fast or sometimes faster than they would run natively on a PC. The 8 GB of RAM I have doesn't hurt. The Solid State Drive doesn't hurt either.

The only problem I'm having now is that I've almost chewed up the 256 GB drive. Maybe they'll come out with a 1TB Solid State Drive soon. Actually, I could use about 4.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

sound asleep

The MBP is sleeping again. I'm still not sure exactly what caused the problem. It was a real problem, though. I packed it up and put it in the car. When I got home and stopped the car I could still hear a motor running. It was the fan on the MBP in the bag.

I stopped the programs one by one. Then it could get back to sleep. I'm not sure which program was the culprit, but I have my suspicions. When I quit Entourage it raised a strange error:
It still didn't sleep, though, after Entourage. At least not immediately. But it's sleeping now. I need to be able to depend on the computer going to sleep. If I have to get rid of Entourage to make that work I will.

I wouldn't be completely surprised if it was Entourage. I don't know how much confidence I have in microsoft writing software on the apple platform. And vice versa. There are lots of quirks in iTunes for Windows, too.

insomnia

Why is my MacBook Pro not going to sleep when I close the lid?

It used to.

It does when I put it to sleep on the menu.

Help says it should be going to sleep automatically:

luke warm corners

Hot corners stalled again. I haven't figured out exactly what it is yet, but I got them going again without rebooting or logging out.

I first noticed it when I got back to my table at my favorite coffee shop (Buon Giorno) from ordering a French press carafe of Tanzanian. Hot Corners are important to me because when I leave my computer, I lock it. Have for a long time. On windows it was Window+L. Pop it and go. On Mac, the best way I've found is to set up a screen saver, add a password to it, and then set up a hot corner to kick it off. It's not quite as good, but it works. I imagine there is a way to hook up a hot key to the screen saver with AppleScript or Otto, but I haven't had time to get up to speed on that yet. Even so, a true system key combo (like on Windows) is best.

So when I first noticed it, I went immediately into system prefs and changed the settings, then changed them back to the way I wanted, and tried again. No good. I went through closing apps one by one and retesting. No good. After closing everything I went back into Expose settings and changed something again and retested. That resolved it.

I'm not sure what it is that makes it stall, but some program I run has to be quit first, and then the hot corners settings changed, before it will start working again.

I'm hot again. After some effort. But still looking for that Mac+L

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

shopping for a time capsule

I need to get a Time Machine set up so I can go back in time, so I'm in the market.

Amazon is the best deal I can find right now. Including tax and 2nd day shipping, it's almost $100 cheaper than the Apple online store.

Apple:$554.24
Amazon:$459.32

That's not chump change. Of course I'm an Amazon Prime member, have been for years now. Membership has its priviledges.

Monday, June 15, 2009

tip of the day :: drag-n-move

The MacTip of the day today is how to move a file when dragging it to a different volume:

Command+Shift+Drag

I shouldn't be surprised at this. On Windows it's:

Shift+Drag

And this is true to Mac's love of that Command key. Mix it with anything and you get MacMagic. There are still a couple of things missing here, though, I think.

  1. Cutting and Pasting files - on Windows you can select a file or folder, cut it (Control+X) and then paste it wherever you want (Control+V). This is very powerful, because it allows you to move files without having to line up two windows side by side, select the file, and then drag them over. You can use one window if you want, like I always did.
  2. Right-button dragging - on Windows you can drag stuff with the right mouse button rather than the left, and when you drop it pops up a little menu asking whether you want to move or copy the files, or to cancel. This is nice if you're not really paying attention to what you're doing. Because the default behavior on both Mac and Windows is this: if you drag to a location on the same volume (within the same hard drive or network drive) then it defaults to move, but if you drag to a location on a different volume then it defaults to copy. Having a way to do it and be prompted is nice.

Still loving the mac. Still finding new ways of doing new things, and new ways of doing old things. Still feeling the growing pains.

my best computer

This is by far the best computer I've ever owned. Even better than my 4.77 MHz IBM XT in the early 80's when this all began.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

mighty mouse surgery

mighty mouseI just took apart Jill's mighty mouse. It was on my todo list for a long time. It's quite an invention, the mighty mouse. But they either didn't think through or didn't care about cleaning the mouse ball when it got clogged with lint. It's a common thing to happen to a mouse ball. I used to teach people how to take their mouse apart and clean it when it quit working. And when I did desktop support I cleaned many a mouse ball. It amazes me the things people put up with!

It's really simple once you get the ball out. The thing you have to clean are the rollers and the ball itself. The rollers usually just need to be scraped with your fingernail. if you want you can use a little alcohol on a qtip or cotton ball. The ball itself can be cleaned with soap and water or alcohol. But like we all know from 2nd grade, the best way to clean anything made of rubber is to rub it hard and fast on your blue jeans.

So I did that. After I got some tips on how to get the thing apart here.

And then I had to superglue the thing back together because apple superglued it before they shipped it.

I hope this is no more than an annual process.

On a related note, both Jill and I use Microsoft mice on our Macs. I'm pleased with how simple it is to do. Plug-n-play. They are both optical. Mine is the latest one that looks like those guard droids in Star Wars. And it's nice and silver and black and perfectly matches my MacBook Pro. Beautiful.
ms wireless mouse

Saturday, June 13, 2009

on apples and rebates

shiny new appleSo I'm calling the apple store with two questions--one no brainer and the other one a "are you kidding me?"

The no brainer is about getting my rebate for the free ipod I ordered with the new mac.

The second is to ask them if they offer any kind of price guarantee since ONE WEEK after I bought this Mac they dropped the price on it by (I just looked) $390!!!! And that's on the new one with a 3.06 GHz processor, but mine is only 2.93 GHz, which they don't sell anymore. So it's even worse. If I sent this one back and reordered today I would get a CPU that's about 5% faster/$400 cheaper (after tax). But I can't get a perfect comparison since they "discontinued" my model. And I can already smell a "what? we didn't drop the price on your model" excuse coming.

And now I'm on my second call. Apple dropped the first call after answering with some computer that sounded like a man who wanted to assist me. I don't know if you can tell but I HATE calling into a call center.

Now I'm talking to Mary, who just asked for my web order number and my address and all that. Judging from her drawl I think she's from Georgia. She asks me how she can help. She seems very nice. I'm suspicious.

I tell Mary I have two questions about my order. I ask her the second question first, the one about the price guarantee.

Mary tells me that they do have "price protection" and that she will check to see if I qualify. She checks and says that YES, I do qualify. Then she tells me that she is setting up a credit memo for $500+tax (which works out to $541.25).

So while she's getting that set up she asks me about my second question. I tell her I went with the free iPod with the order, the one where you get an iPod for free if you get the 8GB model, or $229 back if you get one of the other models. She tells me to go to apple.com/promo, click the 2nd one from the left, and enter my order info to get the rebate.

10:27 on the phone and I got $541.25 cash and my $229 rebate setup.

Thanks Mary from Apple.

Talk about a change of heart. Now I feel like singing the Camp Granada song.

apple rebates

Thursday, June 11, 2009

oh, you've got mail?

So. While I'm importing mail into Entourage, since Microsoft can't figure out how to get it from Microsoft Outlook to Microsoft Entourage (refer to my previous post)...I thought I would describe the process I'm using. And I may decide in the end to reveal the prophecy of the future of Microsoft.

First, pages like this were very discouraging when they said things like:

Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit released the .PST Import Tool to migrate data from Outlook® 2001 for Mac to Entourage® 2004...[however]...Office XP [and later] PSTs can NOT be used with [this] Import Tool.

So you have to buy a 3rd party tool to do this. They are available (it seems) for $10, $20, $28, and $34.97, although some work only with older versions of Outlook. And they all look like a time drain to me, especially if they don't get it 100% right and I have to fix it after I get in too deep to abort.

So, I found another approach that works quite well: GMAIL.

It turns out that gmail, Outlook 2007, and Entourage all have IMAP support.

If you're not familiar with IMAP, it's like POP on steroids. POP (post office protocol) has been around forever. I mean forever. It's a pretty simple protocol. I know because I've written a POP3 mail system (both server and client) in Visual Basic. IMAP (internet message access protocol) is much newer and richer, and it includes support for multiple folders. I could go into lots of details on how both of these protocols work, but it would be very boring. This page has a decent and brief explanation of POP and IMAP if you're interested.

Anyway, couple Gmail's support for IMAP and its unbelievable free disk space offering (up to 7+ GB today, and growing), and you've got a great tool for transferring email between clients. Here's the process:

  1. Set up a new Gmail account with over 7 GB of storage
  2. Enable IMAP support on the Gmail preferences page (here's how)
  3. Configure an IMAP account in Outlook (2007 in my case) (here's how) (note that Entourage is not on the supported Gmail client list--we'll get to that)
  4. Drag-n-drop folders from Outlook Post Office to the Gmail account
  5. Wait a few hours for the messages and all their attachments to transfer (to be fair, this might have been faster if I weren't running Outlook under Windows XP on a virtual machine running in Vmware Fusion 2.1 on my Mac)
  6. Configure an IMAP account in Entourage 2008 (here's how - make sure you follow the directions exactly - look at the screen shots for the right boxes to check)
  7. Right-click on the IMAP account in Entourage, and choose "Receive Complete Folder List", which will bring the empty folder structure down into Entourage

    get folder list
  8. Go through and click on each folder in the tree to download the messages (I haven't found a way to force Entourage to download all - athough there is an option for download all Entourage still wants you to click on every folder before it actually does it).
  9. Drag the folders from the Gmail/IMAP account into the main folders, copying both folders and messages--in my case those folders are tied to two POP accounts: one personal and one work.
  10. Delete the messages from the interim Gmail account

This is working quite well, actually. I haven't decided if I'm going to go back and resurrect all of my old post office archives (.PST files), though. I may get a few of them, but it's very time consuming.

I've just completed all the steps above for all but one of my folders, the biggie--Sent Items.

I say I've completed all the steps, but I've actually stopped two shy. I haven't copied the messages over from my IMAP account to my main folders or deleted them from gmail.

Because when I think about it, what benefit do I get from doing that? Here are some reasons I have decided (for now) to leave the messages on gmail, and to continue to use gmail as my archive.

  • Messages are online, which means they're available anytime I can get to the Internet
  • Messages are online, which means they're not liable to get lost if my computer gets stolen
  • Messages are online and IMAP enabled, which means that I can access them from virtually any email client I choose to use without having to upload/download again,
  • I can use gmail to access my mail
  • Messages are local as well, so they can be accessed when offline
  • Search on gmail is arguably as good or better as Entourage (and Entourage is definitely better than Outlook)
  • Having my messages in gmail makes them prime for converting to Google Wave when it's released (can't wait).
  • Arguments for online privacy and security grow thinner every day, and will have all but vaporized within a year or so

And this, friends, is how email died. Email as we know it anyway. The next generation (of humans) have gmail or hotmail accounts now, or just use facebook messaging, and don't understand the value proposition of having email that only lives on one computer that you have to haul around with you everywhere.

And as online email and collaboration clients get richer and richer (nod to Google Wave again) coupled with near ubiquitous access to the Internet, the next generation's perspective becomes clearer all the time.

So, after this experience, I've decided. I'm done with lugging around bags and bags of email with me everywhere I go. E-mail should live in E-ville. No pun intended.

And this brings me to my final prophecy about Microsoft. Microsoft has for decades now been the king of the strong arm tactic. They have been very good at getting their software everywhere, and locking everyone in. Hats off to them. But the world is changed.

And this particular issue, the one with email, has shed lots of light on how it is changed.

There are lots of aspects to it, but suffice it to say that the next generation doesn't think in terms of "my files" being in "my operating system" on "my computer". To them it's just information that is accessible. If you think I'm wrong, try grounding your teenager from facebook. You may as well revoke J.D.'s rights to own and bear firearms. Take the teen's phone away or their computer away or their tv away, and it's a minor inconvenience. Delete their facebook account? You may as well gouge out their eyes. Because so much of their life is "out there", and their phone, their computer, their TV, is just a portal to getting "out there" where that e-life is permanent. Devices and operating systems and local file stores are almost inconsequential. They're certainly a bother. If you're not convinced, read again through the process I outlined above.

I know some people are excited about Microsoft's new project: bing. I'm not. And I HAAAAATE the commercials on TV. They're bizarre and unnerving, not edgy. And what's worse, Microsoft is at least 5 years behind Google, who already bings better than bing.

Microsoft should have pressed their advantage with hotmail and some of their other online services--should have expanded it into something like Google Wave instead of continuing to try to improve their Office suite and milk $$$ out of us for minor improvements and wholesale user interface circusry.

But if you like a strong arm, and if you like your email to be the One Microsoft Way (their real snail mail address) then you're gonna like your future with Microsoft. For a while.

MacDawn

Here is my first video. My son ran the video camera when I got my MacBook Pro. I just used one of the basic themes on iMovie, but it's pretty cool anyway.

If you are thinking about getting your first mac, here's what you can expect...


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

second reboot

So much for "Love means never having to say you're rebooting."

I had to reboot. While cycling down I got this status message on screen from "File Vault" saying, "Recovering disk space in Steve Coan's Home folder". It never finished. I gave it 10 minutes before doing the press-and-hold-the-power-button move. After that it restarted and booted very fast.

After rebooting were my problems resolved? Yes and no.

The screen grab move works great (command+shift+4+space).

The trackpad gestures still weren't working. But I tried a few things that I thought would work. I went into the trackpad system preferences and modified the settings. Several things didn't work, but after changing the tracking speed of the trackpad, something got unstuck and the gestures started working again.

I took screen shots of the process inspector for SystemUIServer. That was laborious without the grabber key combo. I may post them later.

So I'm apparently back up and running again. That was the second time I've had to reboot.

time to reboot

I just logged out and in again. This time I made sure nothing was in the way. I unplugged all external drives and my external mouse. I ejected the DVD. No programs were running except for Firefox from my last post.

It took 05:16.3 to logout.

Login was quick.

I tried. Time to reboot.

However, I just pulled up Activity Monitor to see what programs are running. I do this on PC when it's acting up. I don't know Mac well enough to look for anything funny. However, I do see a program highlighted in red, a program that (from the name) would appear to be important and relevant to my current dilemma. System User Interface Server sounds important, and it's in red and not responding. Here's a picture of Activity Monitor that I got with the Grab utility (not the grab 3 key move):

activity monitor
This could be the culprit. Unfortunately, I don't know what to do about it.

I tried. Time to reboot.

logout again

I just logged out and back in again. It didn't take any time to login, but logging out took over 5 minutes. I timed it. The iPhone timer says 05:10.4. Does anyone think that sounds reasonable?

It still didn't clear up the finger swipe problem or the screen grab problem.

I think it's telling me, "Power down." But I want to give it another try first. I'll log out again.

quirks

Some quirks today.

1. Last night Mac refused to play AVI videos. It told me "this is not a video file". I logged out and back in, and that cleared up. It took a long time to logout/in--so long in fact that I thought it had crashed. It stayed on the bluish screen with the cycle icon for a long time, and then that finally even stopped. But I decided to give it as long as it wanted. I left the room for a few minutes and came back to see it was on the login screen.

2. The multi-touch features of the trackpad just quit working. Actually, the one-finger swipe works because I can move the mouse, and the two-finger swipe works because I can scroll. But the three and four finger moves don't work.

3. I would take a screen shot of the system preferences for the finger swipe moves but that has quit working as well.

I think it's telling me "Logout again."

Monday, June 8, 2009

virtualizing

virtualizing

I virtualized my Thinkpad today. I basically skinnied it down and ran the VMWARE Convert utility on it. By skinnying down I mean that I deleted my "My Documents" folder and other folders with my files on them, since I am keeping those on the Mac now.

Here was the snag de jour.

When I brought up the VM on VMWare Fusion, it wanted me to activate windows. What the...?

It turns out that there was an issue with the Product Key because of the way Windows XP was installed on the Thinkpad. Here was the story in bullets:

  • Ran vmware converter
  • Booted the image in vmware fusion 2 on the mac
  • Got the dreadful activation screen where Windows logs you out until you successfully re-activate (I've gotten this before when I've had to have my system board replaced)
  • The activation wizard wanted me to type in the product key
  • Typed in the product key on the genuine windows sticker on the bottom of the laptop
  • Activation refused me
  • Called Microsoft to activate over the phone (becuase they told me I would talk to a Microsoft specialist, which was a lie, it was a female computer)
  • The Microsoft computer that sounded like a woman told me that I was SOL, and that I better call my vendor
  • Called Lenovo to ask them what the deal was
  • In the ensuing 15 minutes the friendly Lenovo support guy (no sarcasm--this guy was actually intelligent, reasonable, and helpful) and I determined that this was due to the way Windows XP was installed.
  • (You have to purchase Vista on a new computer, but because Vista sucks so bad, Microsoft conceded with Lenovo and other PC vendors to offer a free downgrade to XP, which I did)
  • So the product key for the operating system, the one on the bottom of the laptop, is for Vista, but the OS that is installed on the laptop is Windows XP*, which is somehow considered "legal" and "authorized" but not "valid".
  • So I scrounged around my office, trying several product keys from my dozen or so copies of Windows XP that I've bought and am not using until I found one that worked.
  • Maybe the police will show up and arrest me for software piracy tomorrow (gimme a beat--I'm hearing don't copy / don't copy that floppy / don't copy in my head)
*Here's some more information on the process by which you do the "free downgrade to Windows XP": You boot the laptop to DVD, which loads the product recovery disc software onto the machine, and then runs it. Running it completely wipes out the hard drive, re-partitions it, adds a "Lenovo recovery partition" that is absolutely worthless and eats up 8GB of space, installs a bunch of drivers and utility programs, automatically enters the windows product code, and automatically activates Windows XP. And herein lies the achilles heel of this approach. Because Vista is so bad that they have to let people do the free downgrade, and because the product key for the downgrade operating system is embedded in this product recovery program somehow (and not on a sticker on the bottom of the computer), you will never be able to see what your actual product key is. You're flying blind. Apparently that's fine, and everything works as expected. Until you try to run your operating system virtually.

bringing back vba / bigger<>better

I just found this article talking about the reasons Microsoft pulled VBA from Office 2008 for Mac:

http://www.betanews.com/article/Next-OfficeMac-will-bring-back-VBA-support/1210717012

The bottom line is that with all of Microsoft's resources and talent, they couldn't get it done. They couldn't get it done on time anyway. Apparently, they even knew they were screwing up when they shipped it, and had begun fixing it before they even shipped it:
"When we came to the realization in 2006 that there was no way for us to keep VB in the product and still ship Office 2008 on any semblance of the schedule we wanted, we announced its removal, but kept looking at how to bring it back into the suite even before we shipped," Schwiebert wrote this morning.
On a somewhat personal note, I work for a "small" consulting company. We are not small in the sense of weak, but small in the sense of having the right amount of people to execute the types of projects we take on. But we continually find ourselves up against mudslingers who either explicitly state or infer that small means inadequate, unreliable, flighty, incompetent, and/or illegitimate.

And then I continue to see the largest of companies (not just Microsoft) (not by any means just Microsoft) (both product companies and services companies) produce crappy products that are either ill conceived or unfinished.

Bigger <> better.

why did microsoft cripple office 2008?

In a move I don't comprehend, Microsoft removed Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) from Office 2008 for Mac. This is really crazy because Microsoft is Visual BASIC. But they did. Here's the snippet from the Excel 2008 help file, on the page called "Best Practices":

Avoid using AppleScript scripts and Visual Basic macros

AppleScript scripts cannot run on the Windows operating system, and Visual Basic macros cannot run in Office 2008 for Mac. If you exchange documents with someone who is working in Windows, ask that person to avoid embedding Visual Basic macros in files. You can open a file that contains a Visual Basic macro, but you cannot run, view, or edit the macro. For more information, see My Visual Basic macros don't work.

So. Microsoft says that the best practice for using Excel is not to use any macros. Really? This is like the car salesman who tells you the best practice is not to use cruise control or to put the car in neutral and use the parking brake rather than using P.

avoid using excel?

And don't you love the advice? "Ask that person to avoid embedding Visual Basic macros in files." And you should probably say, "Please." And then you can explain to them how they don't need a macro anyway.

Maybe this is an extension of Microsoft's vision to move everyone from VBA to VB.NET scripting. Not sure, but by the lameness of their "best practices" advice it seems like abandonment not succession.

that uber versatile command key

That command key is something else on a Mac, isn't it? Every day I'm learning new places he likes to be in command. It's the one that looks like this:

Yesterday I learned [ delete]. It's the move that allows you to delete without dragging to the trash. What a time saver. And wrist saver.

Today I learned that you can browse through folders and files in Finder with the help of our friend the key. To browse within a folder you use the arrow keys. To open a folder you press [ down] and to go back up to the parent folder you press [ up].

Of course everyone knows that the command key is for cut, copy, paste, and undo, just like on a PC.

OperationPC move
Mac move
CutCtrl+X X
CopyCtrl+C C
PasteCtrl+V V
UndoCtrl+C Z

I was very pleased when I first discovered this coincidence on Jill's Mac a few years ago. I'm not sure who invented the system first. But the letters work perfectly, making one hand operations of these these most common of shortcuts.

Also, I keep finding keyboard shortcuts pages online like this one. I usually get lost in there, though, because of the symbols they use for the keys. Here's a snippet explaining the shift keys:
(Command key) - Sometimes called "Apple key"; on Apple keyboards this key also has an Apple logo ()
(Control key)
(Option key) - "Alt" may also appear on this key
(Shift key)
(Caps Lock) - Toggles Caps Lock on or off
I have several issues with apple keyboard shortcuts:
  1. They look like some kind of space age alien alphabet.
  2. My keyboard doesn't have any alien alphabet letters on it except . This means that a lot of the pages I go to, while they may be very helpful for long time apple/mac users, are just bewildering. Should I get my pocketknife and carve the symbols into the keys?
  3. What were they smoking when they decided that would mean "option or alt"?
  4. Even though the alien letters aren't on any of the keys (which they presumably used to be) they are still used copiously in references, even within the operating system. For example, this screenshot from Finder tells me that pressing H does the move "hide others":

    finder menu
  5. I haven't developed the muscle memory for all these shortcuts yet, so until I do I will be slow on a Mac.
Anyway, that was the long way of saying the command key is very important and helpful, once you get to know him.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

baby steps

Took a few baby steps today (listed here in reverse order for some reason):

  1. Backed up bookmarks from Firefox (T61.Firefox.Bookmarks.Organize.Backup) and restored them on the mac (MBP.Firefox.Bookmarks.Organize.Restore)
  2. I turned off that annoying sound that mac makes by default when you change the volume--I was really glad to find that in System Preferences
  3. I burned my first CD today--I wanted to play some Jon Foreman songs in our church (from his Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall EP's), so I made a burn folder, found the MP3 files in the iTunes library folder, dragged them over, and then burned it. It played very nicely on my Blu-Ray player

The most difficult thing for me continues to be the keyboard. I am SOOOOOOO good on the Windows environment with they keys. I can probably survive indefinitely without the mouse over there, and certainly don't resort to it unless I'm lazy. And I don't even really use Windows Explorer that much, so a comparison of it to Mac Finder is largely irrelevant. Over there I set up shortcuts to folders that I use regularly so I can press Window+R, type in the short name (like MYDOCS for the "My Documents" folder or MYPICS for "My Pictures" or DL for the folder where all my downloads go, etc.) Anyway, I'm missing that a lot. After a while using OSX (and either getting used to it or getting frustrated enough to modify the environment) I'll update my status for this particular topic.

The other thing about the keyboard is all the missing function keys. They're not so bad except for when I'm trying to use Excel, and then they're a BEAR. I'll have to spend some time on that conversion (of my brain from Excel for Windows to Excel for Mac).

Finally, I'm also compiling a list of Joys, Annoyances, and Oddities. It's a running list. I'll probably throw it up here soon and then repost it when it changes significantly.


ignition, contact

Back to the iPhone. When I was in sync hell I at least kept my sanity enough to forgo synchronizing contacts. So now I wanted to get that working. It worked swimmingly. Here's the story in bullet form.

  • Plugged in the iPhone
  • When iTunes launched, clicked on the iPhone sync page
  • On the Info tab, chose to synchronize all contacts
  • Hit Sync.
  • After all contacts showed up in Address Book but not Entourage, googled "sync iphone contacts with entourage"
  • Followed the directions on this article on apple.com to have Entourage sync with Address Book
entourage sync

There they are. In address book. In Entourage. Now I can email my friends without typing in their email addy.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

dvd musical chairs

Ok. I put a DVD in. DVD Player didn't start. Then I launched DVD Player and hit the play button. It said "supported disc not available". Then I hit the eject button and the disc didn't come out. Nice. Then I went to Finder but didn't Find the DVD. Nice. No DVD icon for it on the desktop either. Nice.

Before rebooting, I wanted to take a screen shot of iDVD to post here. Which I did by doing the double secret (command+shift+4+spacebar) move. This captures a screenshot of the active window and places it on the desktop. That turned out to be quite serendipitous. Here's why. When I tried to do the move for showing the desktop, I actually did the move for showing all windows. And it was at that point that I saw the splash screen for the particular movie running INSIDE VMWARE. Ok. So, my next move is to figure out how to detach it in there so I can run it out here.

patriot act

Before I found that thing running inside there I was sure bitching. Clatyon told me I should just reboot and hold down the eject key while doing it. That would have been a defeat. Not today.

Fortunately this was VERY easy to resolve in VMWARE FUSION, surely one of the best applications ever invented. All I did was click on the icon of the disc in the lower right corner, and tell it to disconnect. Immediately after doing that I heard the disc start to spin, then DVD Player popped onto the dock, and the movie started playing.

Another happy ending.

vmware internet connection

I'm not sure why, but the internet connection within the vmware fusion virtual image died. I tried everythng I could think of. I disconnected and reconnected it within the app, I restarted the guest operating system (Windows 2003 Advanced Server). I'm sure I tried some other things, but I can't think of them right now.

I also brought over another virtual image that I know had a connection to the net on this mac as well as on the pc. It didn't work either. So it had to either be the mac or the vmware fusion app, not the image.

I just restarted the mac for the first time since I got it.

That fixed it.

So the cool thing is that I haven't had to restart the mac. The uncool thing is that restarting it clearly fixed the NAT issue vmware was encountering.


sprinting

sprint aircardNow I'm down at the pool with the little kids. So this is a great time to test out my Sprint Aircard. I whipped it out, inserted it, clicked the menu to connect, and bing. I'm on the cellular internet posting from the pool. Does it get any better?

So, just to brag a bit on mac. I have installed this particular sprint card on at least 6 PC's--some that have PCMCIA only, some that take the express card. I've installed it on Vista and on Windows XP and I think even on Windows 2000. But I've never installed it by just inserting it and clicking connect. Every PC platform required me to install from CD and then download updated drivers once connected.

Maybe this is why Mac always said, "It just works."

vista's done

Vista is finished installing. I got MS Office 2007 Ultimate and Vista 2007 on there as well. And I ran Windows Update, which required 2 more reboots. But all in all that was rather uneventful.

meanwhile, back at the ranch

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Lenovo Product Recovery discs are doing their song and dance to install Vista onto my old Thinkpad T61 that will go to Bala. It's pretty impressive those product recovery discs. Once you boot up and feed it the discs, it takes over and installs all kinds of stuff, reboots the PC multiple times, loads Vista and all the Lenovo ThinkVantage software, and customizes it for first use. I'm not sure why it doesn't detect and use the native resolution of the laptop (1680 x 1050) though. Maybe it likes stretching the thing fuzzy. But as long as it finishes I'm happy. And the best part is that it's all hands free. I haven't touched it.

As far as PC manufacturers go Thinkpad is the best engineered product IMO.

strange annoying behavior

annoying iPhotoWhy does iPhoto open every time I plug in my iPhone?

This post
was not helpful at all. Apple must have rewritten some of the programs since they posted this workaround?

This post was more what I was looking for, but still not helpful for the same reason. He refers to menu options that are simply not in the program. And it involves writing a program in AppleScript to override the standard behavior of the operating system. Isn't there a way to do this? There sure as heck are LOTS of people asking this question as evidenced by google's count of 680,000 hits for "iPhone launches iPhoto"

This post was very helpful, and it's the same advice I got from Clayton, my long time MacEvangelist friend who ironically just got saddled with a PC at his new job. The post tells you how to go into iPhoto and disable it from automatically launching when you connect a camera. And it worked. But I do want iPhoto to launch when I connect a camera. BUT NOT A PHONE! Hello? Yes, all phones have cameras. But if I want to grab the images off of my phone I, and most everybody else by google's count, would think to open iPhoto, click Import pictures, click from iPhone. Or something like that.

So for now I will have iPhoto NOT open for ANY camera. If that gets to be more annoying than opening when I plug in my iPhone then I'll switch it back and go for the other annoyance.

undersold

They really undersell these macs.

For example, I just noticed when I leaned the display back that it got brighter. I figured it was just an optical illusion having to do with the viewing angle. That can definitely happen. I know because my old laptops all had that condition. When I watched a movie in the dark I would always tilt it just right to get the best picture. But that's not it. I have gone back and forth and back and forth with this thing to figure out what's going on here.

Here's what it is.

The mac automatically senses ambient light and adjusts the screen accordingly. If there is more ambient light you need more light from the screen, and vice versa. So as I tilt the screen back toward the light at the top of the room it gets brighter. When I tilt it back down the backlight subdues. That's really smart. And that feature was nowhere in the marketing.

Just to make sure it was really doing this, I went into a dark place with no lights. My closet. Which is where I'm typing this. No matter how I tilt the screen here the backlight is the same.

Very smart.

And very undersold.

So I guess to all the guys out there saying macs are so expensive, I'm saying you're right. I'm also saying you get what you pay for. Whether or not what you pay for matches up with the marketing.

iPain relief

It turns out that most of the authorization trouble was with the iTunes store being down. Just after my previous post I went over to my PC to see if I could login to the iTunes store there. I couldn't. To eliminate the possibility that I had somehow screwed up my apple id or password, I asked Jill to login to the iTunes store on her Mac. She couldn't login either. Same red message. The one I posted with the red icon. So I went to bed.

This morning, I tried again to login to the iTunes store. It worked straightaway. So the iTunes store was down last night. I authorized this computer and am syncing again. And this time it's busy busy busy. So maybe everything will get sorted....
chasing a full syncAnd voilĂ ! All of my apps are now showing up on my iPhone, and ring tones are working.

If anyone at apple in the iTunes development department is listening, you might want to consider how iTunes behaves here. Your users (probably new and old) expect that if there is an issue with authorization for some of their media (ringtones, music, apps...) that the rest of the sync will still continue, leaving the device and the iTunes library in a predictable state. I dare say no one likes to get into this random world where each sync returns different warnings that seem to be growing worse and worse on their way to imminent failure.

Also, and this is an observation from a long time computer user and software developer (me), that is not directed at apple or iTunes only, and it is this: give users immediate information they need to do the circus tricks you've devised for them instead of lazily sending them over to google.

What I mean is this. There is a menu option for backup in iTunes. There is a menu option for restore. But there is no menu option for "Move my entire setup to another computer" with a suboption for PC or Mac. It could still prompt me for a plethora of DVD's to do the transfer because of your rule that all library transfers have to be on CD/DVD. It would still require me to authorize the new computer and perhaps deauthorize the old computer because or your rule about 5 authorized computers. And I would still have to sync any devices on the new computer, erasing them and reloading them because of your rule of devices serving computers. And it could consider the ramifications of the iTunes store being down and offer the advice of "get something to drink and go to bed--maybe the store will be online tomorrow and you can finish up because there's nothing else you're gonna do about it except for the swearing". But in all this, if the user was empowered by a punch list and series of suggestions, with a place to check off things that were done, and with links to explanations and help and other resources right there, then your users wouldn't have to come to all these conclusions post mortem, complete with the newly acquired gray hairs.

(By the way, I am NOT a fan of wizards that MUST be completed IN ORDER or else the ENTIRE PROCESS fails, where you finally hit CANCEL and throw your computer out the window.)

And think about it, all you program managers out there. At some point you are thinking through this process. You better be. At some point somebody either in your development team or your beta testing group or your boss asks you the question, "so when a user gets a new computer and they want to transfer all their stuff over to it, how do they move their whole iTunes library and get everything working?" Because you and your team think in terms of functional requirements, you run through all of the tasks in your head and make sure they can all be done in some order to satisfy all the rules. You verbally respond, and then your boss or super-tester says, "Ok. That will work. Just wanted to make sure you thought of that." So you go on. And then when you create the help file you have someone type up that process on a one page article, maybe even throw in a few links to more info, giving basically what amounts to be the overview. Some people can probably read that and infer where and how to click and what not because they're familiar with the operating system, computers, your way of doing things, etc. But for most of us, we just get started, stressed out, and googled on our way to the third ring of the circus where all of our iTunes dreams come true.

And for the rest of you still reading, the moral of the story is:
Don't transfer your iTunes library and iPhone to a new computer when the iTunes store is down.

iPain 3


Now it's 98 problems. And it's problems with MUSIC! This is bullshit!!!!!!!

But wait. It tells me how to fix it. It says to go to the Store menu and "authorize this computer". Let's try that.

Bzzzzzzt. Oh. Thank you for playing. Here's your new message. You've graduated from yellow to red now:

iPain 2

And now all my music is gone. iTunes decided that if it warns me about unauthorized free applications (FREEEEEEE AAAPPPPLLLLIICCAAAAATIONS) that it needs to uncheck all my music, thereby erasing it.

Yes, I'm upset.

iPain

Transferring iTunes from my PC to my Mac is a pain in the ass.

This is not my first time to transfer iTunes/iPhone. First off, this is my second iPhone. The first one was the original iPhone. The second one was the iPhone 3G. That upgrade was pretty flawless. Through iTunesPC I was able to convince apple that this was an upgrade, and so it transferred everything to the new iPhone. Then, I moved to a new PC. I literally copied the My Documents folder from the old PC to the new one, including My Music, which includes iTunes Music, and synced my iPhone 3G with iTunes on the new computer. Viola. I can't remember any problems with any of these other than minor issues I expected. But going from PC to Mac has been a royal pain.

First, not all of my music on my PC was in the iTunes Music folder (I thought it should have been, but I guess in some cases iTunes leaves legacy music in its original location when you switch to it from Media Player or RealPlayer or whatever). Because this can happen, one web site I found said that you should "consolidate" your library before transferring it from a PC to a Mac. This apparently forces iTunes to import all the music into its structure, making a standard library on the Mac. But iTunes told me there wasn't enough room on my hard drive to consolidate. I think I had 14GB free or so, and there were apparently 20GB or so of referenced media that lived outside the iTunes Music folder.

Second, because of issue number one, and because I wanted to do everything by the book, I decided to do an iTunes backup and restore. That actually seemed to work quite well. Time will tell. But I have the same complaint lots of iTunes users on the Net do: why can you only backup to CD/DVD? I'm glad that I now have 5 DVD's with my iTunes library backed up. Maybe I'll need those for something else again. But I wasn't glad to spend the 5 hours backing up and restoring.

So I gave iTunes a quick runthrough. I have lots of music and not a lot of videos or TV shows. I hae a few podcasts. All looked good.

And now for the moment of truth.

I plugged in my iPhone 3G. The first thing I noticed is that it didn't pick up the sync settings from the phone. That makes sense when you think about it because apple considers the computer to be the master and the phone/pod the slave. So I spent a few minutes checking boxes to sync music, video, podcasts, applications, contacts, etc. I was actually concerned that I wasn't getting the settings the same as on my PC, so I unplugged from the Mac, plugged back into the PC and reviewed. Then I had to start over. I was basically happy about the settings I made, so I hit Sync.

The first way iTunes scared me was with a message saying I had two choices: (1) Cancel, or (2) Erase this iPhone and replace it with contents from this computer's iTunes because each iPhone can only have one computer as its sugar daddy. I gulped and chose (2).

That seemed ok, except it got to the end and told me some of my content was not authorized on this computer. It was a copy of The Shack application, which is an eBook about a guy who supposedly spends a weekend with God in a Shack. It was a copy loaned to me by a friend. He typed in his password on my iTunes to "authorize" that computer. I need to get him over here I guess to authorize the mac. Problem is he lives in Atlanta. So I hit Cancel to ignore that. I can do without that.

But then it gave me another warning, a yellow one this time, about some of my applications not being authorized. Fine. I'm sure it's easily resolved. There were only two it complained about. I looked down at my phone to make sure everything looked ok except those two apps to my horror. All of my applications were GONE. Except the two apps it complained about. I thought maybe the sync died at those two apps and thus didn't finish, so I synced again. That's exactly what happened. The second pass it complained about 34 apps. The third pass it's up to 39.
app killerAnyway, they're gone. And remind my why they're not authorized on this computer? Isn't that the reason I backed up and restored the library instead of copying it over and mucking around with the XML-based configuration files like I read about in the mac gurus website?

My wife just called me. Her picture popped up like it was supposed to. But her ringtone was some stupid apple default. Gone. Maybe if I keep syncing and syncing it will finally get most of my stuff back on there, except the applications. What a buttache.

Friday, June 5, 2009

email

It turns out that Microsoft Outlook post office files (PST files) aren't supported by Microsoft Entourage. Brilliant, Microsoft. Thanks for all your support.

And even if you search for "can i move outlook pst files to entourage?" or anything similar to that, you don't even find a microsoft.com page among the search results.

Here was the most helpful (i.e. direct) info I got:

http://www.entourage.mvps.org/import_export/pst.html

But it turns out you can buy a program that you can install inside of Outlook to convert the subfolders one by one from Outlook to MBOX format, then you can copy them over to your Mac on a thumb drive, then you can install them in Entourage by drag-n-drop, and then you can re-organize them there.

That's great. I probably have 150 subfolders in my current Outlook PST. And then I have I think 6 archive PST's to convert, going back several years.

I'll let you know how that goes.

speed

go speed racer go

I don't know how fast things are supposed to be on a mac, but they're damn fast on this one. Maybe it's the 8GB of RAM or the 2.93 GHz CPU or the 256GB Solid State Drive.

The first thing was how fast it booted. Christopher was running the camcorder for the whole thing so I can post the time on the original boot, but that's probably not the best indicator. The next time I reboot I'll time it or video it and put the results here.

Apps open virtually instantaneously from my perspective. I'm sure it's like anything else, though. Years later I'll be wondering why I should have to wait a few seconds at all. Maybe in the future whatever applications you have installed are always in memory all the time, even after you reboot. Who knows?

But the most critical test of all..........vmware fusion. I run a vmware image with Windows 2003 Advanced Server, SQL Server, Analysis Services, and a bunch of Web Applications and other services. This is my work. And

IT RUNS FASTER ON MY MAC THAN ON MY PC.

Once again, it could be that it's because I allocated 3GB of RAM to the guest operating system (hey, I've got 5 to spare) whereas on the PC I can only afford a maximum of 1.5GB since the PC only has 3GB total. Now, I could upgrade the PC to 8GB of RAM but then I would have to "upgrade" from Windows XP to Vista to be able to use it. Enough said.

It took VMWARE Fusion on the Mac just 43 seconds to boot up the guest OS. Once loaded, it was extremely snappy and responsive. The applications inside the guest OS loaded faster on the mac than on the PC. I almost cried when I saw Microsoft SQL Server running on a beautiful Mac. And I laughed out loud when I started opening objects in SQL Server Management Studio as instantaneously as Garage Band opened out in the Mac. I need to record the video for that and post it--maybe I can use Webex to do that.

tweetdeck

I had a little trouble getting tweetdeck installed. When I clicked on the app, an Adobe msg came up saying I needed to install the free Adobe AIR program. But it wouldn't let me click on it. So I went straight to the adobe website by searching adobe air. That took me two passes because the first link they showed me was for the AIR SDK, which is interesting, but I'm not just yet wanting to develop my own AIR app. But I got that installed now so I can start tweeting on the mac.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

rename home directory worked

The technique I mentioned in the last post worked, the one from the apple knowledge base where they walk you through creating a new account and moving all your settings, files, etc. from your old home.  So one thumb down and one thumb up on this one.  The second thumb was up.

Here's the link again:

first blush

This is my first post as a Mac. Yes, I'm writing from my MacBook Pro 17'' beauty.
And my topic is about the first blush. I intend to journal my doings as I wade into macworld over the next days (weeks?  months?).

the box
First off, I LOVE the box it came in. I've ordered many computers in my day, and many other electronics as well. The thing that hit me about this was that the box was made for the computer. Sure it was in an outer cardboard box like anything would be. But once inside, most computer vendors would do some engineering work to create packing material that precisely fit the computer, giving it a snug and comfortable ride. Not apple. What they did was custom design an entire box for the MBP's temporary home.

macbook pro box
macbook pro
pull here for macbook pro
macbook pro accessories
orientation
The next thing that happened was me feeling like an idiot. After I took the MBP out I felt like an idiot because I couldn't get the lid open. Then my son, who was manning the video camera suggested that I turn it around. Sure enough I had it backwards. It's because I was mesmerized by the apple I think, which was right-side up facing me. But it is supposed to be right-side up when it's open, facing the world. Free advertising.

((insert picture))

opening scene
The opening video was impressive I must say. Microsoft has over the years tried to make their opening video friendlier and more colorful. But it just can't compare to the opening scene of Star Trek, which is what the opening of my mac remind me of.  Nice.  And for the record, the Microsoft one still sucks.


keys
Then of course it was the keys. The last generation of macbookpro, which I saw all over New York City yesterday, had silver keys. They're beautiful, especially when they're backlit on a airplane. But they can't compare to the black backlit keys of this model. As I sit in my office right now, well lit enough with leaking sunlight through the shades, it is dark enough for the mac to light the keys. Or maybe it's always on. Dunno.


presentation
The next thing that happened was my wife's parents came to pick up my grandmother to take her back home. But before they left, they wanted to see the pictures of our trip to New York (my daughter and I just got back this afternoon--it was a special trip for her 15th birthday). So I ran my Canon A620 straight to the video port on the HDTV and did the slideshow thing. And then Jill asked me if there was a way to show them a youtube video on the HDTV. I told her that we would need a computer. Then she had a new idea--how about I hook my new apple up and use that? I think she planned it all along.

That proved simple enough. However, the thing went letterbox on me, and it went dual-home also (translated for non-displaylaureates: my desktop was split up onto two monitors--the laptop screen was the first one and the HDTV was the second one; I could drag windows back and forth to either; but the HDTV screen's picture didn't go all the way to the edge--the picture was in a "letterbox" in the middle of the screen with black bars on the sides). This was disconcerting to me, and it became irritating as I scoured the keyboard for the display toggle button.

On a Thinkpad it's fn+F7. On a Dell it's fn+F8. And on those models there is a little blue picture in the top corner of the function key letting you know that pressing it cycles the display mode from laptop to external monitor to both and then back to laptop. Not so on the mac.  Instead I discovered that you get a little picture of the display up in the bar at the top of the screen (whatever that's called). When you click on that picture you get a dropdown menu. From there you can choose the screen resolution of all your active displays (laptop, HDTV, etc.) and choose a few other options. But one thing was disconcerting. I haven't yet figured out how to get a true mirror mode. My mac is 1920 x 1200. My HDTV is 1920 x 1080. When I went mirror mode it got all funkified on the laptop display. I'll probably figure this out, but I'm still not happy here. On my Thinkpads I have a COOL utility that ships with it called Presentation Manager. When you press fn+F7 like I mentioned before, instead of cycling though the display modes, you get an onscreen popup menu that you can choose which way you want to go. And you can save your settings so that with one click you can choose between mirror mode on an HDTV or an extended desktop on an external monitor that is an odd resolution, or several other settings. It also has a discovery mode to help you get the perfect settings on a brand new monitor the first time--such as when you show up to do a presentation at a client on their projector or supersize conference room monitor. Anyway, I'm sure I'll figure this out on a mac, but until then I still like the Lenovo Presentation Manager best of all.

But all things considered, it was very easy to hook up the MBP to the HDTV. I just plugged in the mini-to-VGA cable I bought with the mac, plugged that in to the VGA cable that remains connected to the back of the HDTV, and the MBP automatically found it and started sending video to it. No fanfare. It just worked.

appleusername451
Ok. This is a BIG warning to all new apple users. When you log in the first time to your new mac, you get a super fancy video that makes you feel like someone's in charge who knows what they're doing.  It's the one I talked about before that looks like Star Trek. Careful. It asks you what language you want and where you are located, and how you're going to use the computer (to satisfy apple's snoopy side). And then it asks if you have an apple store id. Well, if you ordered your mac online you definitely have one because that's the only way you can order online. If you have an iTunes account, then you have one, too. This id spans the apple domain.  Since I did had an apple store id, I proudly entered it and put my password in for it. That allowed apple to retrieve my personal information and fill in the rest of the blanks for me. All good so far.

Until.

I finished the login and setup process and opened Finder.  I noticed something strange.  On the prominent "places" location, basically the home page for the local computer, instead of having my name or an abbreviated version of my name, I get my apple store id.  But I DO NOT WANT MY APPLE STORE ID AS THE NAME OF MY HOME FOLDER.  My apple store ID was something I had to use for the apple store, which contained the ubiquitous number-in-the-login because someone had already used the id I wanted.  I looked and looked for how to change this only to find that this is a huge issue.  Everything is coded to that short name.  Even though my "account" on this computer is called "Steve Coan" the short name, which is unchangeable AT ALL is my apple store id.  This is terrible, apple.  

I finally found this apple knowledge base article that shows you "How to change user short name or home directory name", which is actually a misnomer, because the truth is that you can't change this "short name" at all without jeopardizing the stability of your system.  So what you do is:
  • enable root login, 
  • login as root, 
  • navigate to the /users folder, 
  • rename the folder to the new short name you want, 
  • create a new user matching the new short name, and 
  • when the system objects because the folder already exists, tell it to recycle it
This supposedly "will correct the ownership of all files in the Home folder, and avoid permissions issues with the contents".  I'll try that next.

Well, that's about enough for the first blush.  I am struggling through my acquaintance with the apple keyboard as I edit this post (control, option, command what?).  Some of the key combinations I already know, like cut, copy, and paste.  But some of this stuff drives me nuts like the fact that there is NO DELETE KEY.  And that the backspace key is actually labeled "delete".  Oy! Heh, I just realized that if you're a long time mac you may have no idea what I am talking about.  :)  But on the flip side I love the trackpad, which I am surprisingly comfortable with after a few trips to the apple store to experiment.  More later.