The Computer Blog

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Adobe Reader 9.1 for Mac Dumps Fonts when Printing

My wife, who is an assistant professor of nursing at a university here, downloaded a .PDF copy of the “DASH Eating Plan” diet from the National Institute of Health’s website. When she printed it from her MacBook over our wireless network to our Okidata C3200N color printer, the copy came out with randomly missing fonts throughout the document. Wanting to eliminate the wireless network as the culprit, I downloaded the same document and re-printed it to the same color printer using our wired network and got the same result. Missing fonts were everywhere. I then closed Adobe Reader and opened the file in Apple’s Preview and tried printing it again. It worked just fine.

I went to the Adobe site and spent a few minutes looking for a Knowledge Base article on this problem but didn’t find anything. There is a generic “printing problem” article and you’re welcome to follow it but I don’t think it’s going to help you at all. So, if you run into this problem, just pull up the PDF file in Preview and have at it.

Almost Worthless

We’ve all seen the new Microsoft ads, and there’s been plenty of press about them, so I won’t repeat any of that here. They’re not aimed at me and they’re almost worthless. The only thing they’ve done is pinpoint for me how much I love Apple’s OS X.

I’m not a Microsoft hater. Windows 7 is pretty cool, and I’ll update my XP set up on my Mac Pro to a Windows 7 sixty-four bit version if I can get all my flight simulators to work under it or get them to run somewhere else. And if it doesn’t cost too much. Otherwise, I’ll just keep my XP set-up. It’s paid for, and it works just fine.

That said, the ads made me go back and look at OS X and why I liked it. There are too many reasons to count, and one of them is that it largely “just works”. I’m not saying OS X never crashes; it does; but I never spend anywhere near the time trying to get the OS running or responding to crashes as I do and did when running Windows. That’s a fact. A lot of folks, especially those PC users who hate Macs and have never, ever used one, will discount what I’m saying about OS X because “I’m biased”. That totally overlooks the fact that unlike many people I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I started out with a DOS 3.1 IBM clone 286 PC, went from there to building my own PC’s and troubleshooting Windows systems for me and my friends and family, and—like many zealous PC users—even argued with a neighbor in New Mexico about the inferiority of his PowerPC Mac. I paid my dues with Windows and PC’s. I literally gave up decades of Windows experience when I switched to Macs. God, how I wish now I’d done it sooner! I might have ten novels out in the world instead of twenty or thirty PC’s, and most of those are in landfills now.

Believe me, there are times I wish the Apple Experience could be entered at less expense. But if you really want to see something that’s more expensive, go look at what it costs to buy a copy of Windows Vista. I can buy a family pack of five licenses for OS X for less than I’d spend on a single version copy of Vista, and every copy of OS X will have FULL functionality. That’s one reason why it’s no big deal for us to own multiple Macs, despite the cost of the hardware.

There's also a beauty and synergy when working with OS X on Apple hardware you almost can't pay enough for. That's the real reason why we continue to work with Macs. And it's something we're never going to find on a Windows PC. Been there; done that; priceless!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The New Apple Airport Extreme Basestation: Some First Impressions

A few weeks ago, I sprang for one of Apple’s new Airport Extreme Basestations. Our overall need to upgrade wasn’t strong, but the new station’s ability to run separate 802.11G compatible and 802.11 N only networks was a real draw for me. My wife’s new MacBook/Apple LED cinema set-up is relegated to network access via wireless connection alone; and I wanted the best for her I could get. While most of our Macs were “N” capable machines, our iPhones are first generation “G” only devices. So, that meant my wife’s connection would never be optimum on our “old” Airport Extreme which now was two generations old. It also only had 10/100 wired Ethernet connections while the rest of our wired network was equipped with Gigabit Ethernet connections; by upgrading to the new base station I could not only segregate my wireless networks but I would also make the router meet the rest of my wired network at 10/100/1000 Ethernet speeds.

The physical set-up was as easy as disconnecting my old unit and connecting the new one. I pulled up the Airport Utility on the CD that came with the unit to discover I already had that version installed, and there was no need to do it again. I launched the utility on my MacBook Pro and selected Manual Set-Up to configure the "new" networks. While it was not necessary to give the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless networks individual names, I did so to make management easy and ensure I got the segregation I was after. I also did not change any parameters in the set-up for our current N network on any of the Macs but did reprogram the iPhones to pick up the G compatible wireless band.

To digress a bit, before I had disconnected the “old” Airport Extreme basestation, I had run a file transfer performance test using my wife’s MacBook. I had placed a 191.1 MB video file on one our Buffalo 500GB NAS hard drives and then copied it to the MacBook’s desktop. It took 2 minutes and 14 seconds for the copy operation to take place. This equated to a 1.42 megabites/second transfer rate. Once I had the new network configuration in place (where my wife’s MacBook was using the “N’ only network), I repeated the copy request. The operation took only 21 seconds! That equates to 9.1 MB/sec, or 6.4 times faster!

I’m not saying for a moment you’ll see that kind of speed increase. I believe that some of what I’ve experienced is due to being able to segregate the networks but I also think some of it is a byproduct of the segregation, i.e., that I had some kind of interference going on that segregating the networks stepped me away from. Apple advertises 5 times faster performance than “previous” 802.11G networks which would seem to indicate that our old Airport Extreme had dropped down to G speeds because of the presence of our iPhones. I am also running one wireless mouse, a Logitech VX Revolution, which runs in the 2.4 GHz Range, the same frequency range as my now mixed G/N network or our old Airport Extreme basestation. It’s possible that the mouse was providing some interference that also helped slow our previous network set-up down.

But, no matter what the cause, the ability to set-up a mixed and pure “N” network on two different frequencies makes the new Airport Extreme Base Station worth the money. It also has a “Guest” networking feature I am not now using but that might also prove to be of benefit to visiting guests, though most of those are family whom I don’t mind allowing full access to our home network. I’ll write about that in the future once I have some experience with it.

The new AE base station also has Gigabit Ethernet networking; and while I am not attributing any of the speed increase I saw to that, it is possible that the extra bandwidth between the file server and the router played at least a small role.

Lastly, I can report that we have not had the problems some users have reported with wireless networking dropping under Firmware version 7.4.1. I updated the router to that firmware version a few weeks ago, and it did not seem to impact its performance negatively.

I haven’t really investigated whether our range has improved. I haven’t seen any differences one way or the other under our “everyday conditions”. I’ll comment on that later once I have a chance to take my MacBook Pro outdoors and outside the house.

Overall, I’m happy with this purchase. It achieved what I had hoped it would by providing my wife’s living room set-up faster file transfer speeds, which was the main thing I was after. I think my only criticism of this unit is that an attached USB drive is still not Time Machine compatible. It’s a silly way of forcing users to consider spending more for Apple’s Time Capsule. It really doesn’t do anything but demonstrate that sometimes Apple and Microsoft are not that different.