New Machine - Smackbook Pro

I am not sure how long it is going to be before I am confident enough with my mac to do this but this rocks. Of coarse, this was posted in May 06 so I still have years of information to catch up on.

SmackBook Pro


New Machine - Coherence Revelation

Having posted positive things about Parallels Coherence feature the other day I have just been blown away by a concept that completely passed me by. I was working on the last post, using the command-shift-3 and 4 to capture screen shots to png files, and I needed to convert these to jpg's to save a little space.

Right click on the png file and select "Open With" and peruse the list, there is Gimp, a fine tool but a little clumsy, then, near the bottom of the list was "Paint.app". Well I hadn't ever seen a Paint program on the mac so I thought I would see what it could do.

This is when it happened. To my complete surprise Parallels showed a little dialog indicating that it was booting Windows XP and within 4 seconds, Windows Paint started, in Coherence mode. So it was just another window on the Mac background. That is just awesome because Paint does a great job of converting png's to jpg's.

With the VM started the subsequent startups was sub-second and the job was done.

So, the mac is really good at image conversion now that it supports a Windows application. Nice.

New Machine - Utilities

Here is the list of utilities that I have added to the basic Leopard installation so that I can get my work done.

  • iClock

    This replaces that standard OS X clock so that i can show the day of the month and the time in the menu bar. Simple and compact.

  • iStat

    This utility allows you to select various performance counters and add them to your menu bar. The appearance can be altered to make them easy to read and they allow access to the activity monitor for a more detailed look.

  • PinPoint

    This utility tracks the mouse pointer and adds overlays to make it easier to see. The latest 3.0 beta version supports animated cursors which is really cool. They even have an audio cursor so you can shout at your mouse to make it blink at you. The downside of animated cursors is CPU usage. I was seeing numbers in the 10 range so switched back to the 2.52 version for CPU down at 1%. Even this version has lots of nice features. Full screen cross hairs is nice for image editing and screen capturing.

  • Adium

    A nice instance messaging app that can be compressed into a very clean looking interface. It supports all the usual services.

  • QuickSilver

    This is the greatest productivity tool out there. With a couple of keystrokes I can find and execute any application on my machine. With a couple more I can select any action to be performed on any item. There is nothing like this for windows but a few clones are getting closer.

    Screen Capture from Black Tree web site since I couldn't screen capture my own. I hope they don't mind.

  • JumpCut

    This is a multi-clipboard utility. When you press the hotkey you get a small window overlay with the last text that was copied. I would like to see the last 10 or so to see if what I want is in the list. It allows me to press the down arrow to sequence through older text but this makes the visual queues harder to spot. Still, a worth while utility to have.

    You can, however, if you use the mouse, select the menu bar scissors to select the paste operation from there.

  • Witch

    This takes me back to simple Windows style alt-tabbing. Just select the window you want to see and focus on it. None of this command-tab to an application and then click to get focus etc. This is much easier.

New Nationality

Everything changes while everything stays the same. It's like staring at the other side of the sphere as a new soul.

At 14:45 on December 14, 2007 I became a US citizen.

This is my 20th year in this great country and I feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity in my life.

I have to say that these are rather selfish thoughts because, it turns out, that the most perfect woman in the world, happens to live here, so what is a guy to do.

The ceremony was really inspiring. Presided over by the Honorable S. Arthur Spiegel and the guest speaker was Mr. Neil A. Armstrong.

There were 87 people eager to become citizens, from 36 different counties. I was number 22 in line between a young husband and wife from Bulgaria and an older mother from China.

The speeches centered on the responsibility that we were taking on with the realization that America isn't perfect but that, as citizens, we are responsible to help improve it. I thought it refreshing to hear these words since it really speaks to the reality of all societies trying to become the best they can be. This is a privilege to be a part of.

As I left the courtroom I was greeted was greeted by the Daughters of the Revolution who are direct decedents of those that fought for the freedom of this great land.

My first act as a citizen was to register to vote. Important times ahead, I hope I can make the right choice for my grand kids.

Apparently, one of the lesser known perks of becoming a citizen is an introductory taste of fine cookies and punch, yummy.

Finally, leaving Potter Stewart Courthouse at 5th and Walnut in Cincinnati, I stand by the Bill of Rights, the cornerstone of freedom to live by. I carry with me a congratulatory letters from George Voinovich, one of the Senators for Ohio and George W. Bush, though I don't think that was his actual signature.


New Machine - Parallels strickes again

A simple software update but much, much more. I was trying to get windows running in Parallels again after the horrendous experience last week.

Parallels is launched and prompts me to download an update. I am excited about this because I install these all the time on Windows and never have any issues. I smile at the thought of little bugs being crushed by new clean software. Ah, dead bugs.

The download dialog pops up and things look good. I wait a little but it appears to be taking some time so I slide my chair left and get back to my Windows machine to play for a while.

Perhaps it was the Mac clock, Alex, announcing the next hour, or the rumble in my stomach hinting at food time, but it dawned on me that the Parallels download had not completed. Well, first day out I imagine there are lots of people as eager as I to fix bugs.

How much longer should a person wait for a download. The original dmg didn't take nearly as long to download. Eventually you have to accept the fact that something is not working. Ah, yes, of coarse, they must be testing their download code. I can assert that it doesn't work. I press cancel, nothing happens, quit is ignored and a force quit shows me an elegant C dump which I kindly forward to Apple to work on. I am sure they love getting those things.

After the Parallels restart, things started going well, which surprised me, and lulled me into a sense of calm vulnerability, destined to be wiped clean by reality. So, there was a moment, when the mac seemed as though it might do something well.

I feel I have to share the good news. I start up Parallels and install Windows XP. It installs and boots beautifully. I am even brave enough to try Coherence mode which hadn't worked last time but, to my giddy excitement, my Windows start bar appeared at the bottom of my OS X screen. Press the Start bar and select IE and, more giddy excitement, it launches and works. I even tried setting auto-hide and now when I move my mouse to the bottom of the screen the start bar and the dock both pop up. Who could ask for anything more.

Let's stop and reflect on the good times, because this is where they end. Ah, Coherence.

I have a Vista upgrade and decided to give it a shot. See how giddy excitement can lead to stupid decisions?

I make a snapshot of the Windows XP VM, clone it, and throw in the Vista DVD. Now I have to admit to some user error at this juncture.

I started the upgrade in XP not considering that Parallels actually asks for the OS type at VM create time. So, as I considered the problem of how Parallels would run a Vista OS in an XP VM, I found the Parallels option "Prepare VM for Vista Upgrade". Of coarse this was a little late now.

I canceled the install, selected this option and followed the instructions. Back to the install process which went through all the way to the final boot and the login as Administrator. It proudly told me that it was "setting up desktop".

Alex piped up again as another hour passed and it registered that things had been going well for far too long. Turns out Apple came up with better voice simulation for the time announcement so that we could more clearly hear the warning that things were about to go down the shitter. An hour is way too long for things on a mac to work correctly.

With the hung install all I could do was shutdown the VM and delete it. I thought this was the end of the problem but Parallels had corrupted OS X. Yes, it appears that is what happened. Let's say it a little louder so everyone can hear.

Parallels corrupted OS X

The symptom is clear. You do not have a user directory any more. After further investigation, it appeared as though my /Users/esumerfd directory did actually exist on the disk but was not showing up in Finder.

The all knowing oracle, Google, pointed me to a solution on the Mac site. Fortunately, they prefixed their solution with the genial phrase "Don't worry". I would have thought that a "DON'T PANIC" suggestion would have helped more, since, OS X

"looked insanely complicated" to operate, and
partly to keep intergalactic travelers from, well, panicking.(p. 27)

So, head off to the Users directory and try this:

: ls -lO
total 0
drwxrwxrwt 4 root wheel - 136 Nov 26 18:13 Shared
drwxr-xr-x@ 35 esumerfd staff hidden 1190 Dec 13 17:21 esumerfd

As you can see the user directory is hidden. So, Parallels was so depressed about its performance it thought that it would hide everything trying to convince me to run away. After all, I am not a user on this machine anymore.

chflags nohidden ~/

And she's back. WooHoo.

So, we learn another valuable lesson. DON'T PANIC, they have added all the information you will ever need to Google.


New Machine - Date Time

Two complaints.

  1. The date time that is showing in the menu bar allows me to see the day name and the time but no day of the month.

    Now that is just crazy. I usually know the day name but rarely remember the day of the month. I thought UI specialists were all about putting the most commonly used data in the simplest place. I guess with Apple employees having to work on these machines all day they must get so frustrated that they even forget what day it is.

  2. I am forced to live in Columbus. The timezone requires me to select a city name and does not include Cincinnati. While there are some City or at least county exceptions to timezones, I don't live in one. Can't I just have an EST?

    This wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to see it every time I look at the dashboard clock. It is just irritating.

Hey, Apple,
please move me to Cincinnati,
or stop reminding me that you suck.

I should point out, that, in this case, Mac sucks less than Windows. After all, I can add the time to the system tray but that is all she wrote. No day of month or day name. There are some after market apps that can produce nice looking clocks with all the info you need on the system tray. I would imagine that I will eventually find some after market menu plug-in for the Mac to.


New Machine - Mac User Unfriendly things

Yes, I know, blasphemy. What else can it be when the only prevailing thoughts expressed in the world are about how easy it is to use. Sorry, you are brain-washed hype-mongers (all bloggers should insult their audience before they start just to set the tone correctly :-) ).

So, here is a short list so far.

  • Dialog transitions.

    What is the deal with not allowing me to tab to an OK button and pressing space. I have already had to enable the tabbing from control to control because it wasn't the default. Now, even with that enabled, I can not tab to an OK button.

    Specific case, Twitterrific properties dialog.

  • Keyboard Inconsistent


    When entering tweets into the new Snitter client, based on the newly renamed and re-hyped, Air framework, we find that the options-arrow doesn't jump the cursor by words anymore. Is this a Mac problem or an Air problem?


    Another example would be the command-w to close a window. Firefox uses this key to close tabs and makes you add a shift to close the window. I would have reversed that.


    Firefox downloads a file, it appears in the download window, command-o opens the file in the an open file dialog box?. Not quite right since the file was already selected but ok, pressing on. Now in the open file dialog, select the file and press "open" button (or just Command-O, they are both wrong) on the file and you get a "do you want to save the file" prompt? If you agree and you get a second download file.

    None of this is anything to do with the "open" semantic we were going for. Again I am forced back to the mouse to click "open" or double click the file to open it in the Firefox download dialog.

    Tricky logic coming up, watch out. Windows uses the enter key to open. Firefox under Windows doesn't do anything when enter is pressed in the download window. So this lack of functionality is better than inconsistent functionality. Mac or Firefox fault indeterminate.

  • Spaces

    You can not drag an Air application (experimented with Snitter) to a Spaces boundary to move it to another Space. Let's all hate Apple, after all, we have been hating Microsoft for so long, why not spread the joy. In reality, they both appear to deserve some well crafted derision.

  • Command-Tab Behavior

    Coming from Windows this is certainly going to take some getting used to. I am used to being able to get to the windows I want and have it in focus EASILY.

    When a window is minimized, using Command-Tab to select it does nothing. It seems like a simple UI request. "Go to my window" I say but the Mac refuses to give me access to it. Instead, back to the mouse to navigate to the dock to find and click on the window that I want.

    When a window exists in a different Space, you can Command-Tab to it, but, when you get there it will not have focus, so you have to click on it to use it. Another simple window selection that requires multiple steps to achieve a simple goal.

    I do like the Command-` for cycling through many windows from the same program. That is really nice with Firefox.

  • Google Mail

    There is no "goto end of line in the gmail compose dialog. It doesn't seem to be related to a Firefox rendered textarea since it is working in this blog entry page. This may very well be a bug in the page code managing the compose input field but it is only effecting macs.

  • Gimp

    This is an old X application and runs with a completely different set of UI design standards. Now that Mac is based on unix it has the ability to run these old unix applications so its hard to contend that this is a Mac problem. However, the UI standards for Gimp are closer to the Windows standards.


There are obviously going to be minor differences between UI libraries, cocoa, carbon, Air, HTML/JavaScript etc. I have barley scratched the surface of whole Macports tool set with all it's X implementations.

One of the realities that Mac faces is that it is a Unix based UI. While they smartly replaced X with their own UI toolkit to improve usability they are still fighting the draw of the old Unix habits. The Command-Tab behavior is straight out of your old X environment.

Windows has the advantage of using a more standard UI toolkit. All programs on a Windows machine write to the Windows user interface libraries. This means that everything works the same way all the time and that makes Windows a better user experience.

The problem here is not that there are a few non-standard interactions on a Mac but that all we hear is how user friendly a Mac is. I am hear to say that a Mac is "usable" and when you get through the arduous process of learning all it's foibles it will feel like that old car with no mirrors, a clear view of the road through the floor and no 2nd gear, that you will never part with.


New Dog

Switching from plastic and metal changes in my life to biological and pooping changes. We have a new dog to keep us company. He is a Rottweiler and Mastiff mix called Bernie , he is around a year and a half old and just the most lovable bouncy animal we could have hoped for.

We found him on Pet Finder located at a Coshocton County Shelter which is about 3 hours drive north of us.

Well he is still settling into his new surroundings and we are still getting used to a 100 pound animal wondering around. He is the best exercise program we have ever invested in, beats the gym easily, because you have to walk Bernie, you don't have to go to the gym.

New Machine - Window Re-size Conundrum

One of the annoyances I have been having with my new shiny mac is the lack of keyboard driven window control. I can %-m to minimize and %-w to close but there is nothing to re-size, move, maximize, or restore a selected window. Of coarse Windows has all these features so I am feeling a little lost.

The other problem is that, even with the mouse I have limited control over re-sizing the window with the bottom right corner of the window being the only hot zone. Quite apart from the fact that it doesn't offer any cursor feedback when I am hoving over it, I have found a problem that I can't solve with out more control.

When I open the Finder, the window is taller than the screen so the re-size hot zone is not accessible. I have tried switching the views, closing and reopening, restarting and cursing at it. Nothing helped.


New Machine - Finder Problems

Finder being similar in goal to Windows Explorer I was expecting some really easy ways to get things done. Apparently, Apple screwed up the user interface here as well.

Baring in mind that I may know nothing but that is what comments are all about.

So, lets consider some simple tasks that I would like to do:

  • Navigate a directory structure.

    In "List" mode things work as expected but switch to "Cover Flow" and the interface changes. The UI cardinal rule that is broken by the Mac so often.

    In "Cover Flow" mode when a folder is selected I have press command-right arrow to navigate. What's with the two keys. The right arrow moves me to the next sibling which is stupid because I have a perfectly good down arrow if I wanted to do that.

  • Open With

    I am playing with some images and want to learn more about iPhoto's features. The default action for a jpg file is preview. Perhaps useful for some things but I want to open it in iPhoto, the big iLife component extolled in the ad's, you would think the integration is great wouldn't you? So, ok not the default but right click on the file and select "Open With", search the list of apps, search again in astonishment. No iPhoto. I see Gimp, which I installed for better photo editing because we know iPhoto sucks for at photo editing, but not the grand app Apple touts so staunchly.

    Ok, no problem I am used to the whole "Open With" concept. I select "Other" to find the iPhoto application. The application selection dialog opens and I find the app in question. I see an "Always Open With" check box but I don't want that. I assume that it will be as good as windows and remember that I selected this app this time to will add it to the list ready for next time.

    The other option on this dialog is the "Enable: Recommended Applications" which can be switched to "All Applications" if I want to. This simplifies my selection of iPhoto because the down arrow jumps between "Recommended Application" saving some time.

    When I next go into "Open With" to open the next photo I find that iPhoto is not available. The Mac had forgotten that I selected this app. I am going to have to re-select "Other", arrow down to the application and press "Open".

    So, if Mac is maintaining a list of "Recommended Applications" and another list of "Open With" applications, how does one move one to the other list?

    Oh, yes, the burnt crust on this is that iPhoto doesn't open the photo in question but jumps to a list of all photo's available on the USB memory card. At this point I am not sure I would expect anything else. Why not force me to click some more and navigate some more, after all, Mac is so pretty :-P

New Machine - Multilingual Power Button of Doom

Well the Marble of Doom has some knock-on effects. The Parallels Windows session was up when the Marble rolled by and all I can say is that the VM image must be corrupt because when you try to re-start it you get the following "Multilingual Power Button of Doom".

The lesson is to back-up your VM's often. They certainly take a long time to create you might as well invest in the disk to back them up.

New Machine - Spinning Marble of Doom

After two weeks of ownership the honeymoon is over. I have been presented by the most prestigious of inducti experiences. The Marble of Doom is my favorite of the few names it has.

So, let's review. I left Windows land for two reasons. Vista was unusable and Windows XP was blue screening every time it looked at Google Earth.

I now have an expensive MacBook Pro which is unusable because I don't know how to use it and it has just shown me the big middle Marble of Doom.

I say to you. Computing is going to the dogs. Someone please do some damed testing will you.

I was trying to copy something from the mac into a Parallels installed Windows Server and to do this all I wanted was a little FTP server. So, System Preferences, Shared, check the File Sharing checkbox and then in the options I selected "Share Files and folders using AFP", "Share files and folders using FTP" and "Share files and folders using SMB". I selected the account to share and pressed Done.

I saw the Marble of Doom but figured it would sort itself out, after all I was just envisioning some network restart it was doing in the background. Fortunately I had my old reliable Windows machine to play with while it was spinning.

Is an hour too long to wait for a network to restart? I thought I was very patient.

There didn't seem to be any way to kill the processes since I didn't have a terminal up at the time and the Finder would not open, QuickSilver would not pop up, and the Activity Monitor was not doing anything. So, power button for 10 seconds and restart.

I still don't regret buying the mac, after all, it is very pretty :-P


New Machine - Palm

The palm web site indicates that the Palm Desktop software only works on OS X up to 10.4 so I was assuming that my 10.5 Leapard release wasn't supported.

Thanks to the always informative Agile Round Table User Group suggested that it would work anyway so I gave it a shot.

The good and the bad. The install requires me to restart the machine, which I really don't understand. It's just like installing application on windows.

I configured the palm to hot sync using Blue Tooth but as I proceeded through the Windows based instructions there was nothing to do on the mac. Eventually, the final next button was pressed and off it went.

My experience Blue Tooth synching on Windows resulted in repeated Palm crash restarts and Windows refusal to respond. Since then I have upgraded the Palm firmware which might explain the problems, but the Mac experience has been much better.


New Machine - Dashboard

At first site this dashboard thingy looks static, perhaps useful for the basic date and time features but not much else. Then down in the bottom left corner you notice a little plus sign. The little, almost invisible, plus sign seems to be theme in Apple's idea of what a quality UI is.

Anyway, the clock thinks I am in Atlanta? The closest I could move myself is Columbus. At least in the same state. What happened to trusty timezones. Why does the clock care which city I live in.

I decided to installed the new Google Desktop which places it's gadgets onto this Dashboard (F12). This adds all kinds of little doo-hickeys, some of which are even marginally useful. You don't have the full list available for Windows yet, but I guess, we expect the mac to be behind.

Now that I have written this I can't remember if the plus sign was a google Desktop thing or a mac thing.

Oh, yes, and I like the splash effect when I drop another gadget onto the dashboard. I works well with my watery background. Ooohhhh, Aaaaahhhh.

New Machine - It's the little things

I found something I like about the Mac. Gasp.

When you enter an invalid password the dialog box shakes it's head at you.

Doesn't seem like much but it really adds to the emotional side of the relationship.

Don't expect too many gushing things about mac from this feed. There are way too many brain washed hype-mongers out there to cover that side of things. However, I thought that I should add one just so you don't think I am evil or something.