The Computer Blog

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Belkin 7 Port USB HUB and Finicky USB

Though the special ends today, MicroCenter has a Belkin 7 port USB 2.0 hub on sale for $29.99. I picked one up over the weekend; I’ve wanted a larger hub for sometime now. My previous hub was a Belkin 4 port model. In conjunction with a Belkin USB switch, it controlled my USB network consisting of an Epson Scanner, a HP Business Inkjet, a 100 MB IOMEGA ZIP drive, and assorted USB thumb drives and mini-hard disks hooked into my PowerMac, my G5 iMac, my PowerBook, and my Windows XP PC. (The computers are hooked into the switch, sometimes through extension cables; the switch to the hub; and the peripherals are connected to the hub.)

Swapping out hubs was fairly simple. I simply unplugged the old unit and its power adapter from the network and substituted the new unit and its power adapter. The acid test for how well the network is working has always been to scan a color photo or document. So, I started the testing using my dual G5 PowerMac and my G5 iMac. They worked flawlessly; but, in true Windows fashion, the scan bombed on my XP machine with a “scanner did not send data” error message.

Officially, that message is to be expected anytime the scanner is not plugged directly into the scanning computer, at least according to the Epson website. Still, it was frustrating and so characteristic of Windows that the Macs would work perfectly and the Windows machine would revolt. I knew from previous experience that my only hope of getting everything working together on my XP PC was to find some compatible combination of switch, hub, and USB 2.0 ports.

I was a bit surprised that the SIIG PCI card in the XP PC was not compatible. It had solved this problem with the earlier hub, but not this time. The first thing and only thing to try before looking at spending some money was to plug the USB 2.0 cable from the switch into the PC motherboard’s USB 2.0 ports instead of the SIIG card’s. Fortunately, that worked. The scanner began working with XP again.

To be fair to the Windows PC, I’ll mention that my wife’s G5 iMac did not like the 4 port Belkin USB 2.0 hub when I first plugged it in. It did start working after the second or third shut down and reboot of the iMac…for reasons I do not understand.

So, my USB 2.0 network is up and running again. But the episode reminded me that USB networks are finicky things; and if you can get one up and running, it is probably more a matter of luck than good standards.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

New in Tiger: Use Disk Utility to Back-Up Your Hard Drive

I haven’t backed up my G5 iMac since I upgraded it to Tiger. Now, you might see that as an advantage since my backup was still based on Panther. I might have, too, if I hadn't added lots of scanned pictures and several documents I really didn’t want to lose. So, I decided it was time to backup my G5 and let go of Panther once and for all.

My backup hard drive is a LaCie 120GB D2 External Firewire hard drive. It currently holds two equally sized partitions, just short of 60Gb each. One held a clone of my iMac’s Panther based hard drive. The other is awaiting a backup of my PowerBook, which is also running Tiger.

Normally, to backup the iMac, I simply hook up the LaCie drive to the iMac via a Firewire 400 cable, crank up a utility called Carbon Copy Cloner, and use Cloner to make a copy of the iMac’s boot drive on the LaCie. (Carbon Copy Cloner is an excellent donationware utility written by Mike Bombich of Bombich Software.) But I had seen enough on the web to know that my version of Cloner would not work, and a visit to the Bombich website confirmed it was not compatible with Tiger. How as I going to make the backup? Mike said it would be some time before he had a Tiger compatible version of his utility. But then he graciously reminded people they could use Disk Utility to clone a hard drive.

Huh?

Suspecting that Apple had added a new feature to Disk Utility, I cranked it up and, lo and behold, found it had a new “Restore” tab. Clicking on the tab yielded a window where I was told I could select the hard disks I wanted to use for the cloning operation by dragging them to slots marked “Source” and “Restore”. So, I dragged my iMac’s hard disk into the “Source” slot and the iMac’s backup partition on the La Cie drive (which showed up on my Desktop as a separate Firewire hard drive) into the “Restore” slot. Punching a little button marked “Restore” started the operation. Sure enough, the Utility began cloning my hard drive onto my external.

It took it an hour and a half or so to complete, but the operation went off without a hitch. I booted from the La Cie drive to test it; and it booted slower than the iMac's internal SATA hard disk but it did boot, and everything was there.

But, alas, what of poor Mike and his utility? Disk Utility works well, but it only clones whole partitions or drives. Carbon Copy Cloner does the same, but it also lets you select or deselect what you do or don’t want to install. And it seems faster. Mike’s not out of business.

Still, it’s nice to have cloning capability within Disk Utility itself.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Apple's Next Moves

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple executives have been holding discussions with executives for Intel. According to other published reports, Apple has twice in its history considered moving its architecture to Intel CPU’s. Obviously, if the Wall Street Journal’s report is true, Apple may be considering it again. I interpret that to mean that IBM is having trouble moving the PowerPC platform up to and beyond 3 MHz, and Apple is looking for some way to keep up with the x86 community in terms of speed. It also means, if true, that megahertz do matter; and that Apple is thinking of joining them rather than thinking differently. If it had been doing the latter, even if it has decided to move to the x86 platform, it would be talking to AMD vice Intel.

Apple’s move to the x86 CPU would make me more hesitant, not less, to buy Apple branded computers. (I’ll get into the things that would worry me about it shortly.) But if Apple is serious about making this move, it is not aimed at us current Mac users but at the horde of Windows users in an attempt to make them more comfortable about switching. The idea that OS X and Windows both run on the same hardware make the prospect less scary. It would also transition Apple from a computer hardware company to a software company. As unlikely as that might seem, this lines up with a report on MacNN’s website that reveals that Jobs wants to take back computing from Gates. Yet, if that’s what fueling this, it may be a fit of ego that could ultimately cost Apple what it has now, i.e., a growing base of people who are looking for something different.

If Apple uses a x86 CPU,the only thing to differentiate its products from Dell will be its sense of style and design, which might be enough if Apple is willing to compete with Dell in price. Certainly, Apple could not stay with its current price points, not unless it was willing to write its own epitaph. My guess is that Apple hardware would become much less important, and, like it or not, Apple would be forced to transition to a software company.

Such a move would bring Apple “head-to-head” with Microsoft. Apple could try to avoid it by equipping their x86 driven machines with a boot rom that OS X would check before it installed. The OS would refuse to run if it didn’t find it. But such a move would alienate the consumers they’re trying to entice. One thing that is great about Windows is that you can run any version of Windows on any hardware that will meet its system requirements. Not true today for any Apple OS. Apple would quickly find its expanded yet more money and freedom conscious user base in revolt; and that would leave Apple holding both the hardware and software bag with no way to get rid of them.

OS X’s underpinnings do make it a more secure operating system than the current versions of Windows. Still, I have to wonder if Apple’s switch to an x86 architecture would not make the OS more susceptible to viruses, shareware, and worms. I’m not a coder, so I could be wrong; but, logically, it seems it would take less effort to port malicious code to various versions of x86 operating systems (vice PowerPC operating systems) since the machine code would be all the same.

On the plus side, my guess would be that Windows emulation software would run significantly faster than it does today, perhaps making it possible to run even heavy duty Windows 3D games on the Mac OS. That would be a huge draw and eliminate one of the reasons why people stay on the Windows platform. Including me.

That aside, I’ve spent a small fortune to buy Mac versions of most of my software. If Apple moved to x86 anytime soon, I would not convert a second time. It would definitely limit, if not entirely eliminate, any purchases of new Macs in the future. My damage might be limited if Apple convinced its third-party vendors (like Adobe) to make conversion upgrades less expensive, but I would still have to have pretty strong reasons and the financial resources to pull off another switch. At this point in my life, that certainly is not guaranteed.

I never thought I'd say I hope it doesn't happen, but I don't see how it could be good for Apple or those of us who have invested so much in Apple's current platform.

Shufflin’ Along

I bought an iPod Shuffle a week or so ago to see if I would like it, and I love the little thing. I used it during a workout on a recumbent bike and really liked the additional portability it gave me as well as the reduced stress. It’s damn near indestructible. No more worries about my $300 iPod falling off its only moderately secure perch when I’m exercising.

More importantly, I came to realize I had fallen into a rut with my regular iPod. I always played only via my playlists, never utilizing my iPod’s “Shuffle Songs” function. The iPod Shuffle showed me the beauty of letting it pick my songs. I’m enjoying that so much I’m also shuffling songs on my regular iPod most of the time, the only downside being occasional volume adjustments I have to make whenever it pulls up a song from the “Dances With Wolves” soundtrack. It recorded softly compared to almost anything else in my song library. I haven’t yet decided to re-record it with the volume levels turned up.

I bought the small iPod Shuffle with only 512MB of memory. So far, that’s worked just fine. I haven’t been shuffling playlists enough for it to become an annoyance, the only theoretical drawback I forsaw using it.

I’ve used it with the earbuds that came with it, a Bose headset, and even with the stereo in my truck (which has an AUX input); and it always sounds great. I haven’t found the lack of a screen to be any handicap. I’m really sold on this thing, and I’m thinking seriously about buying some more of these for use as birthday presents for members of our families.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Tiger and Synchronizing Entourage 2004

Microsoft reported the week of Tiger’s release that Tiger would break Entourage 2004’s ability to synchronize with Palm handhelds. Sure enough, when I upgraded to Tiger, that functionality stopped working. I was happily sitting back and waiting for Microsoft to release a patch until I wondered if the functionality might not be as broken as it had first appeared.

Unlike many in the Mac community, I have performed most of my operating system upgrades using the Upgrade path rather than the Archive and Install option. That’s a holdover from my Windows’ days, I’m sure; and it seems to be a blessing in disguise. I’m simply not experiencing the problems with applications others are seeing in Tiger. Reinstalling applications or drivers has solved most problems I’ve had with the new operating system. Would that also apply to Entourage 2004's Synching ability as well? To find out, I reinstalled the synch tool from the Additional Tools folder on the Office 2004 CD.

And it worked.

If you want to also give it a try, double-click on the Office 2004 folder, the one the CD says to drag to your hard disk, and you’ll find the Additional Tools folder inside. Open it and double-click on the Handheld Synch Installer tool to install the Entourage Conduit. Then, go to your Palm folder (in your Applications folder), open Hot Sync manager, and make sure Hot Sync is Enabled. While the application is open, go to the Hot Sync/Conduit Settings menu item and check that an Entourage Conduit is installed. Double-click on that item to check its settings. (I usually use Synchronize.) Once it’s all fixed, connect up your handheld, double-click on Conduit Manager, start up your handheld’s synch application, and see if it works. (I test transfer by going to Entourage’s Memos and opening a new memo called “Test”, synchronizing the handheld to see if it picks up the file, deleting “Test” off the handheld, and then synchronizing the handheld again to see if it deletes the file off Entourage.)

I’ve got everything running under Tiger now except for the Virtual switch networking function (which I don’t use anyway) in Virtual PC 7.01 and the application ClickNDesign 3D. I’m sure the former won’t get fixed without a patch from Microsoft, and all I can do with ClickNDesign is see if by some chance the next Tiger update (OS 10.4.1, rumored to be just days away from release) lets me run the application under Classic again. Still, I’m in a lot better shape than I thought I’d be. The Tiger upgrade hasn’t hurt much at all; and I’ve gotten more joy than pain out of it overall.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Safari & IE Blogger Bug

When I’d log onto Blogger to publish these blogs, I’d notice that sometimes I had formatting controls (bold, italics, links, etc.) and sometimes not. I’m always so rushed I blow it off and have been accepting the imperfections in publishing I’ve been getting. This morning, I finally figured out that their appearance is a function of the browser I’m using. Specifically, when I’d use Firefox I had the controls; when I would use Safari, I did not.

If you’re on a Mac and using Blogger to write and publish your blogs, I recommend you use Firefox for now and use Safari only if you don’t need to tweak anything in the text. Internet Explorer 5.2.3 also suffers the same problem as Safari.

Gates, Cell Phones, iPods, and Smoke

A few weeks ago, Bill Gates (also known as “Darth Micro”) gave an interview to a German newspaper (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) in which he said:

"As good as Apple may be, I don't believe the success of the iPod is sustainable in the long run.”

"You can make parallels with computers: Apple was very strong in this field before, with its Macintosh and its graphics user interface -- like the iPod today -- and then lost its position."

"If you were to ask me which mobile device will take top place for listening to music, I'd bet on the mobile phone for sure," Gates said.


Now, I don’t know about you, but I think the industry pundits, including Gates, have missed the boat on this whole cell phone/music player thing. I have no desire for one of these gadgets. I like my music player separate. A cell phone/PDA combo I have room for and maybe even a music player/PDA, but the all-in-one combo device they envision just doesn’t appeal to me. Why? Because playing music and using my cell phone or PDA involve two different mindsets. The first is one of escape and enjoyment; the second is one of business and communication. Somehow, Apple’s iPod Photo makes more sense to me than the combo cell phone/music players (including the iTunes phone) the media and industry are hyping.

Yes, it is handy to put everything in one device. But I already carry three devices with me now (cell phone, PDA, iPod). So, obviously, though I’d like to carry fewer, it hasn’t bothered me that much that I’m not.

Secondly, anytime you combine devices, you always trade off some functionality and optimization for the included functionality. Will consumers want to do that? I’m not so sure. I don’t want to stand or sit for hours with my cell phone pressed up against my ear, listening to it spout music. The idea is only workable if I was on a headset, which would make me even more like the codependents already running around with phonesets welded to their eardrums.

Moreover, Gates seems to be taking every opportunity to take shots at Apple, especially when Microsoft is introducing a product into an arena where Apple already has a presence. Notice that he never can talk about how much better his product is; he spends his time (and this holds true with his Linux attacks as well) trying to discredit his competitor or their products. As always, Microsoft’s arrogant focus is on everyone else. If I were Bill Gates, I’d be looking more at what Microsoft is not doing. Turns out, it’s quite a lot.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Tiger’s Improved Windows File Sharing

I needed to move a Windows Media movie file to my XP powered PC, so I tried to access it from my Tiger-powered iMac. It didn’t see the XP PC on the network, so I went into Sharing preferences (System Preferences/Sharing) to see if some settings had been changed by Tiger’s installation. Windows File Sharing had been turned off. When I selected it, I got a new button near the bottom of the screen telling me I would need to accept a “slightly less secure password” to get this feature to work best. I selected it and then turned my attention to my G5 PowerMac to reselect the same feature there. Once that was done, I pedaled over to my XP computer and opened Network Places and my home network to see what was there. My G5 PowerMac was displayed! I double-clicked on it to knock on its door and Windows presented me with a dialog where I needed to enter my user name and password. I obliged; and when I told it “OK”, it promptly opened up my user account just like I had accessed it from another Mac. Fantastic! I now had true accessibility to every machine on my network. That feature almost by itself made Tiger worth the upgrade!

Tiger on my PowerBook

Last night, I installed Tiger on my PowerBook. I really like using Spotlight and wanted to see if Tiger had the same effect on my Classic applications on the Powerbook vice those on my iMac where I might have had other problems. As always, I used the Upgrade path to install the operating system. I tried to customize the installation by dropping off printer drivers and languages I did not need; I was able to drop off some printer drivers but I could not deselect the extra languages! Something was wrong there; otherwise, why give me a little box I could check or un-check?

The three applications I wanted to investigate under Tiger were Virtual PC 7.01 (running Windows XP Pro), Outlook 2001 in Classic mode, and ClickNDesign 3D in Classic mode.

I started Virtual PC by clicking on its icon in the Applications folder. An error message popped up telling me there was a problem with “Virtual Switch” networking. I told the system to continue booting, and it did. Networking did not work; so, I checked the setup and found the “Shared I.P” option was selected as expected. “Shared I.P.” was supposed to work. Hoping I might get it going, I deselected it, selected “Virtual Switch” networking, and rebooted XP. I then reselected “Shared” I.P. and rebooted again. This time, networking worked normally; and I used my Windows-based and Internet-hopping AOPA Flight Planner to verify its operation.

Next, I signed onto my Exchange server based network at work using Tiger’s VPN. That was no problem. But when I cranked up Outlook 2001, I could never get it to connect up. To check out the health of the mail server, I tried to sign up to my workplace network using my Windows XP machine but had no luck with that, either. (I often get spotty performance out of my workplace’s VPN and can sign on with one platform but not the other and vice-versa a few minutes later.) A few minutes later, I did get the XP computer signed on and used Outlook 2000 to check out my work e-mail. Shutting that all down, I went back to the network using my PowerBook and got in with VPN and used Outlook 2001 to pick up my mail. So, I now had two out of the three applications I was concerned about working.

I didn’t get as lucky with ClickNDesign 3D. Just like on my iMac, the application would ignore being told to run in Classic mode and would crank up as an OS X application and crash. I submitted a bug report to Apple. I do believe there is a bug involving Classic in Tiger. If the traffic I’m seeing in the Apple Support forums is any indicator, there is probably more than one.

There was other good news about installing Tiger. Airport performance is slightly improved; I’m seeing more signal strength reported on my menu bar at any particular location than I did using Panther. Overall speed, as I reported earlier, seems a bit improved, but not significantly so. They’re revamped the appearance of System Preferences so that there is only a “Show All” button, some “forward/back” buttons, and a Spotlight search bar is all there is in the top row. I like that better. And, thankfully, the menu and window bars aren’t any darker in Tiger; they’re at the limit of what I can stand.

Tiger’s new feature: Get Info from Finder’s Sidebar

I used to get frustrated when running Panther and I needed to know how much space had been used or how much was left on the boot hard drive. I would right-click on the drive icon in Finder’s Sidebar but nothing would happen. I had to click on the drive to select it, go to the Finder menu, and select File/Get Info to get the information.

Not anymore.

With Tiger, you can now right-click (“control-click” for those with an Apple Pro mouse) on the drive icon in a Finder window’s Sidebar and you will get a context menu containing “Get Info” along with the other contextual menu items one would expect. It’s a small but great improvement in usability.

Monday, May 09, 2005

X11 and Tiger

One of the beauties of Mac OS X is its Unix base and, therefore, its ability to run open source software. Apple's windowing interface between the operating system and the open source application is (since Panther, OS 10.3) called X11. With Panther, it worked beautifully, providing a nice Aqua interface that ran with GIMP, the best-known, open-source, graphics editor. But when my son Tim installed Tiger last night, he found that GIMP would no longer properly run.

I suspected that Tiger had its own version of X11, but I had no clue where it was. No download of a Tiger compatible version was on the Apple website, and a Google search turned up nothing. However, I did find the solution to the problem in the Apple support forums. It turns out that a version of X11 is on the Tiger installation DVD. It is not installed by default, however. According to the folks in the forum, there are two ways to get it. The first is to run a custom installation (in this case after the original Tiger installation) and deselect everything but X11 before running the install. The other is to use Finder’s Go menu, choose “Go to Folder”, and type: “/volumes/(name of your DVD)/System/Installation/Packages”.

The latter didn’t work for me, however, which caused me to go back into the Apple support forums again. There, I found the following link:

http://chemistry.ucsc.edu/%7Ewgscott/xtal/page1.html.

This page is dedicated running X-Windows on a Mac. (X-Windows is the Unix windowing interface.) It’s a bit technical, but that won’t be anything new for those of you choosing to run open-source software.

I did test selecting X11 using the Custom Installation method, and that is indeed the easiest. To get there, simply insert your Tiger DVD and double-click on the Installer when it’s presented. Once the machine reboots on the DVD, step through the Installation process; and when you get to Installation Type, click the Customize button at the lower left. A window will pop up the lets you selcet components you want to install, including X11. Just select what you want and press on.

One note here for those of you who have not yet installed Tiger and are thinking about it. If you don’t want all the languages or printer files Tiger nominally installs, a Custom Installation is where you want to go anyway. You can select or deselect all that stuff there.

Too bad I hadn't realized before doing my own installation. I bet I could have saved myself at least 500MB of disk space.

Widgets, Security, and Freedom of Choice

Dashboard is one of the new features in Tiger that is capturing the imagination of upgraders. Dashboard runs when you click on the new Dashboard icon (mounted on the Dock during the Tiger installation) or punch the F12 key. When you do, the screen dims and up pops widgets, small applications that hunt down the weather forecast, access your address book, perform calculations or almost anything else you can imagine. While Tiger comes with a little over a dozen of them loaded, you can download more at the Apple website.

Installing a widget is easy. You just double-click the Widget after you download it, and it’s done. You won’t see it install, but next time you run Dashboard it will be there. But after that, they’re most un-Mac-like. You can uninstall most Mac applications by dragging them to the Trash. According to Apple, though, you can’t uninstall Widgets at all.

That’s not exactly true. You can uninstall a widget manually by navigating to the ~/Library/Widgets folder and dragging it to the Trash. The ones from Apple are located in the “Main Volume”/Library/Widgets folder. ("Main Volume" is what I'm calling my boot disk; on my machine, it's named "Macintosh HD".) The ones you load after installing Tiger are in the User/Library/Widgets folder, where “User” is your account name.

I haven’t tried taking any of them out of either folder; so, especially when removing them out of the "Main Volume/Library/Widget" folder, it would not surprise me if you need root access to accomplish it.

Several Mac newsites today carried an article about a demonstrated security vulnerability that widgets can be used to exploit. Unlike everything else you install on a Mac, you are not asked for your password when installing a widget. This opens the door to a malevolent widget being installed that could perform an unwanted function. Apple needs to fix this problem by having everything that can be installed on the computer request a password. Including widgets. Especially widgets!

This is no time to get sloppy, Apple. When it comes to Widgets, though, the execution looks like a page out of the Microsoft playbook.

Who needs that?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I'm Sure You've Noticed the Changes!

For over a year now, I've been posting my blogs twice, once to Blogger and once to the regular .html page in The ComputerZone. Recently, I've been looking for some way to put the blogs on an RSS feed and improve the page design. My first impulses were to acquire some kind of software that would let me build my own RSS feed and to spend the time redesigning my blog pages. But I realized late last night (and it's 2 a.m. so it was last night, now) that all I needed to do to consolidate operations, get a better page design, and generate a RSS feed was to consolidate all my blogging onto Blogger. So, for now, I'm posting my blogs to Blogger.com while hosting the files on my website.

The only risk I can see with this is having to rehost everything and do the work I just avoided if Blogger goes belly up or becomes too expensive to use. I write my first drafts in Microsoft Word and then copy them to the web, so all is not lost if Blogger decides they don't like me or my ISP's webserver loses all my files. For now, this seems like a pretty good set-up; but you, my dear readers, are the utlimate judges of that. Drop me a line (andy@theandyzone.com) or add a comment (the blogging page is enabled for that) if you there's something you like or something you don't.

The RSS feed is pretty cool, but in Safari some of the line spacing is dorked up. I don't see a good way to fix that right now, so pardon the white space. If I change the spacing in my text to make the RSS feed look right, the webpage gets messed up. Hopefully, what I'm seeing is an RSS bug in Safari and will get straightened out soon.

I'll be working over the next week to catch up the archives, so just hang on if there is an old blog you can't find right now. If you're coming in from a search engine and you're looking for a blog referencing some troubleshooting, e-mail me and I'll send the text to you. Otherwise, hang in; and I hope we all find the changes work for the better.

I'm going to move my "The Writing Life" blog to Blogger, too, over the next week. I'm considering moving "Andy's Blog" to this format as well but may not since the nature of that blog is so controversial and I want to avoid any problems with censorship. I'll post a note here about that once I've made a decision.

Thanks for dropping by, and come back again!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

One Down and One to Go

Early this morning, I got Outlook 2001 on my iMac working again.

From reading various forums and support articles, I was fairly certain the problem lay with Outlook’s inability to resolve the name of my workplace’s mailserver, an Exchange server I was accessing through VPN. I knew from my research that Windows networks seldom had a problem finding a server with only its name. I reasoned that if that was true, I might be able to hook up to my workplace network using my Windows XP machine via VPN and determine the address of the mailserver by doing a ping. That’s exactly what worked.

I signed onto my workplace network using VPN, then went to XP’s Start Menu and selected Start/Run. In the “run” box, I simply typed in: “ping mailserver”, without the quotes and substituting the name of the mailserver on the Exchange network for “mailserver”. A command line window popped up displaying the I.P address of a server responding to two pings and then it closed, disappearing. I repeated the feat again with pen and paper in hand, quickly scribbling down the displayed i.p. address. I signed off the VPN network with my XP machine, cranked up my iMac, signed on to my workplace network using its VPN, and started Outlook 2001. Since it’s running in Classic mode, I had to wait for OS9 to start and for Outlook to present me with its “Make a new profile” block. Once it did, I typed in the Exchange server’s i.p. address in the slot where it asked for the name of my mailserver, typed in the name of my mailbox in its correct slot, and clicked on the “Test Settings” button. The settings worked; and a few moments later, I was looking at the e-mail messages sitting in my Inbox at work. I clicked on the Calendar to check it, and it was working, too. I was back in business!

So, Tiger didn’t kill the application after all.

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that will be true for ClickNDesign 3D, the other Classic application I lost with this upgrade. The problem there does seem to be routed in Tiger’s innards. The application is not starting up in Classic mode even after being told to do so via Get Info. I’ve tried deselecting and reselecting that setting and wiping out the preference files, all to no avail. I’ve put the application up for now and will try installing it again after the 10.4.1 update, which is probably not too far down the road from now.

Wild Thing...!

Okay, okay. So I just bought my G5 iMac a few months ago. I’m still thinking about either selling it or trading it for one of the new 2.0 Ghz G5 models. I’ve got enough spare funds for one more computer “hoorah!”. While all its changes are evolutionary rather than evolutionary, I like them all; and they add up to a machine I’d be more comfortable keeping without upgrading for a while (like 3-5 years).

The new iMac’s speed increase is minimal. In real world usage, I suspect it will be on the order of 10%. Still, that’s enough to make a machine feel snappy sometimes; and I like the round 2.0 number. I don’t have Bluetooth in the Mac I have now; that would be something to grow with. And while I’m only using about 40GB of the 160GB hard disk in my current machine, a 250GB hard drive simply means I would be able to go a very long time without worrying about upgrading. I’d also like to have the 8X and double-layer Superdrive in the newer models, though I acknowledge I could stick one in my current machine for less than $180.

It’s the whole package that makes me want it. Will I go for it? Who knows?

I always watch market values on Macs, and recent Macs are not holding value like they used to. Apple’s constant updates are driving the used machine market prices down. While that’s desirable from Apple’s viewpoint (I’m sure they’d like to see every old machine made obsolete), it means that upgrading to a newer model will be more expensive then it used to be. I doubt if I can get more than $1300 for my machine, and $1100-1200 is a more likely number. That’s if I sell it on eBay myself and take the risk of not getting paid or it being damaged in shipment. On trade-in, I’m willing to bet the offer would only be $1000. I’ll let you know; I have contacted PowerMax to see what they would give me. Once I get that offer, I’ll decide if I want to trade my old system in, sell it online, or not pursue a newer machine at all.

There are times, actually, when I consider going a completely different direction. I sometime feel I’d like to simplify my computing life by selling my iMac, buying a new 20 inch display, and then run my PowerBook on the big display along with a regular keyboard and mouse. Believe it or not, my wife fusses at me when I broach that. She can’t believe I would ever consider giving up my iMac and is convinced I need one; I’m convinced she does and she’s projecting her need on me. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. I do have some hesitation due to the limited size of my PowerBook’s hard drive and its lack of a SuperDrive. Still, it would make my life quieter and simpler and actually reduce the risk of damage to my G5 PowerMac. Right now, I’ve got it and my PowerBook hooked to a 20 inch Apple Cinema Display via an IOGEAR ADC KVM switch; and I don’t totally trust that switch. I’m concerned I’ll get some kind of power feedback between the two machines.

Yes, the new iMac idea is a bit of a wild hair for me.

Heh, maybe I really do need to change directions….and buy another new 12 inch PowerBook. I’d give my 1.5 Ghz 12 inch to my wife and she could give hers to an upcoming college grad on her side of the family. I’d leave the iMacs where they are and just stick an 8X SuperDrive in my machine later. And, then, if I wanted to just use a PowerBook and a PowerMac, all I’d need is a screen. And with Apple’s 20 inch display priced at $800, that’s not an outrageous expense.

In either case, whatever I did would be the last big thing for several years or more. All my computer money for big purchases would be all gone!

It’s no wonder the song “Wild Thing!” keeps rolling through my head!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Running With Tiger

My wife and I visited the Apple Store during Friday night’s launch of Tiger, but only to try to win the PowerBook they were giving away. I had actually bought a Tiger family Pack shortly before from MicroCenter. That store was offering a $50 rebate on both the single-user and family packs, and that was a much better deal than anyone else was offering.

We got back to late Friday evening for me to start upgrades, then, even though I felt I was ready. Using Firewire hard disks, I had backed up both our iMacs and the G5 PowerMac. I began upgrading by applying Tiger to the g5 PowerMac using the “Upgrade” option, and it all went without a hitch. All my applications worked, including Epson printer and scanner drivers I had half-expected to disable. I don’t really use the PowerMac for scanning or printing; my G5 iMac serves as that workhorse. I had set up the PowerMac to serve as my upgrade “canary”; and since it didn’t croak, I decided to move ahead with upgrading my iMac. I wanted a chance to get to know Spotlight, and I hadn’t seen anything to make me think that Tiger would kill any of my major applications.

I used the Upgrade option for all the installations, and they all went smoothly. The installer said it would need 2.7 -2.9 GB for the installations. The time they took varied. The installation onto my PowerMac took 23 minutes while the installation on my iMac took about 28 minutes.

One of the new features of the installer is that it will check the installation DVD for errors before proceeding. It will find scratches and oily fingerprints; I know this from personal experience. This routine adds about 10 minutes to the installation time. (The times quoted above do not include that routine.) There is a button that lets you skip it; and if you want to use it, I still recommend you check your DVD during the first installation and then skip it for any subsequent ones.

The first boot after the installation was completed was not fast, though I would expect that type of behavior with any operating system.

The first thing I noticed was the Dashboard icon located next to Finder in the Dock. Dashboard is an extension of Expose. When you click on the Dashboard icon, colorful “widgets” appear. These are small applications that run various tasks you might find helpful. For instance, since I just shipped a Tiger family Pack to my son Tim today via FedEx, one of my widgets provides FedEx tracking number info. To see where the package is, I simply click on the Dashboard icon. The widget automatically updates to the latest information as it occurs, saving me from having to travel to the FedEx website and constantly check. I also have one that displays data from my Address Book, the local six day weather forecast, a calculator, a sticky note, and a commercial flight tracker. About a dozen or so come loaded natively, and Apple has pages more you can download from their website. To install a new one, you simply download it to your desktop and double-click on it.

Apple’s Setup Assistant was the first thing that actually ran. It asked if I had a Mac I wanted to transfer data from. I didn’t, but if I had, I would have only had to connect the “old” Mac via a Firewire cable and boot it in Firewire Target Disk Mode to have it handle the data transfer. It dutifully asked for registration information and also pushed several screens designed to get me to sign up for .Mac. Once I jumped through all the not-so-sticky wickets, I was at my desktop, which looked different only in the addition of Dashboard to the Dock, the bright blue Apple at the top left of the menu bar, and the blue ball with a white magnifying glass in the middle of it, the symbol for Spotlight, on the right end of the menu bar. The other new thing I noticed fairly quickly is the addition of two nee menu items in Finder, a Burn Folder and a Smart Folder. The Burn Folder entry also shows up on any Finder context menu. While I have a suspicion about what that is, I have not had time to do any investigating. I believe Smart Folders have something to do with Spotlight, but I’ll leave the firm diagnosis of both of those to another date.

Overall performance actually seems a bit snappier than Panther. Repairing permissions is much faster. Where I used to watch Panther sign onto my home’s wireless network, it’s done by the time the Desktop hits the screen now.

There are two new applications in the Utilities folder, i.e., Grapher and Voice Over Utility. (I haven’t had time to explore them, yet.)

QuickTime 7.0 was also loaded up with the Tiger installation. Streaming video is faster and visual clarity is outstanding. The only downside to QT7 so far is that it disabled all my QuickTime 6.0 Pro keys, both my retail key and the one that came with Final Cut HD, originally Final Cut Pro 4.0. That’s a hidden cost of the upgrade, and it amounts to $30 for each machine you want to run QT Pro on.

Like with any operating system upgrade, Tiger’s incompatibilities are something to look for.

Here’s at list of the applications and drivers I own that required no modifications or updating to run in Tiger and suffered no loss of functionality (as far as I can tell):

Thunderbird

Adobe PhotoshopCS

Adobe Illustrator CS

Adobe InDesign CS

Adobe GoLiveCS

Adobe Live Motion 2.0

Firefox 1.03 G5 version

iPhoto 5.02

iMovie HD 5.02

iDVD 5.01

iTunes 4.71

Garage Band 2.01

Keynote 2.01

Roxio Toast 6.09

Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0

AppleWorks 6.29

Corel Draw 11.693

MT-Newswatcher 3.4

MacTracker 3.01

Yahoo Messenger 2.53

MSN Messenger 4.01

Epson Perfection 1660 Twain drivers (Epson Scan 2.30)

Epson Print Center 2.14 (on my 1.8 Ghz G5 iMac)

Epson R200 Printer drivers

HP Deskjet 1100D printer drivers

Here’s the list of applications I own that required updating or lost minor functionality under Tiger:

MacKiev’s Print Shop (a version 1.07 update is available)

Micromat Tech Tool Pro 4.03 ( a 4.04 update is available)

Microsoft Office 2004 (handheld synchronization with Entourage is lost; Entourage crashes more when saving an e-mail)


Here’s the list of applications I own that lost functionality under Tiger:

ClickNDesign 3D (Classic mode; cannot run in Classic mode-crashes when trying to run in Carbon mode and runs in Carbon mode even when told not to)

Outlook 2001 (Classic mode; cannot find mail server)

Unfortunately for me, the two applications that lost functionality where fairly critical.

Lots of Mac newsgroups are reporting that Tiger breaks VPN functionality with third-party VPN applications. It did not break VPN with my workplace per se; I can still log in to my workplace and access my workplace like I used to via my browser, but Outlook 2001 seems unable to resolve my mailserver’s name. Of course, Outlook 2001 is known to have this problem no matter what operating system it’s run with; so, I really don’t know that its problems are attributable to Tiger.

I’ve managed to replace ClickNDesign 3D—or at least regain some of its functionality—with a version of exPressit I downloaded from the Memorex website.

I haven’t given up on both these applications, however; as Tiger patches are released, I’ll see if I might regain them.

Do I think the upgrade was worth it? In a word, “yes”. Spotlight really does change how you work with your computer. I could write a whole blog on it alone and am sure I will be writing about it more. Even though I first though Dashboard’s widgets were all flash and no substance, I’m actually finding them somewhat useful and certainly colorful and fun. Still Tiger’s incompatibilities are driving my not to upgrade my PowerBook for now. Virtual PC 7.01 also breaks under Tiger and it is on my notebook, and ClickNDesign 3D and Outlook 2001 both run there.

I haven’t had time yet to see if I can judge the positive impacts of Tiger on my video editing dual 2 Ghz G5 PowerMac. That’s next. As always, I’ll keep you posted.