This is a page about the software I use (as opposed to the software I write). I didn't set out to write about all the problems Microsoft software gives me. Really I didn't. It's just that I don't have many problems with other companies' software, and I have lots of problems with Microsoft. So no one can say I'm a Macintosh bigot, however, I've included some OS X annoyances.
Riddle me this one, Batman. If this browser is so great, why are there so many disparaging nicknames for it?
Long ago I used to track my Mac's crashes in the hopes of isolating the problem, but the crashes never seemed to have any particular pattern. By System 7.5 or so (1995), crashing became increasingly less frequent (I stopped bothering to track them) until now (OS 9) when a crash is a rare occurrence and little more than a petty annoyance. Since crashes and problems are now unusual, they are more memorable when they happen. I have noticed a recurring problem that I want to keep track of.
For years, I used Netscape Navigator as my web browser. Navigator became fossilized at version 4.x, however, as Netscape concentrated its efforts on producing version 6 (which, until recently, by all reports was a hopeless dog). Microsoft's Internet Explorer on the other hand continued to improve. It became the Mac's default browser that shipped with new systems and by version 5 was considered the most standards-compliant browser on any platform. When version 5.1 was released, I finally decided to give it a serious try.
I had immediate problems with frequent crashes--it would just blow up with a Type 2 error for seemingly no reason at all. I increased the memory allocation by 2 megs and that cured the crashes. But there are still problems, none serious but all annoying.
The first problem is the unfriendly way that Explorer handles threading. With Netscape if I wanted to visit more than one site, I would just open the first page and while it was loading, open another one, and so on. With Explorer this isn't as easily done, because Explorer becomes very sluggish while it's loading and rendering a page.
The other annoying problem are all the bizarre, random errors I get trying to load pages. I think all the errors are bogus, because in every case, simply trying to load the page again is successful.
- The attempt to load <some URL> failed.
- Unable to load page because of an error (-1).
- An error has occurred (12).
- An error has occurred (64).
- Unable to load the images on this page because of low system memory. [There was about 65 megs of free physical memory available. I think it was IE itself that sucked up all system memory because quitting and relaunching IE fixed the problem.]
- Mail Error [This one cracks me up. How can a web browser ever have a mail error?]
- A read/write error has occurred (8). [URL from Eudora]
- Security failure. A secure connection could not be established. [Well, duh! I wasn't connecting to a secure site!]
- SOCKS Proxy Error.
- [An error so big it takes two screens!] A network error has occurred (-3171).['Next' button]
The attempt to load 'Accessing URL: http://somewhere' failed.
- No such device or address. [This is the error you receive when you're not online. Very helpful message, don't you think? Contrast the wording of this error with the one from Eudora in the same situation: "You can't get there from here. You're not connected to the Internet now. Help me cope. We can connect you and visit the site, bookmark this site..." Anyway, you can sometimes get this error when you have disconnected and then reconnected. Apparently, IE is just too stupid to check that you're back online.]
These are the different, unique errors I have logged since I began tracking this. I see some of them over and over again. I get at least one page-loading error a day. The significance of this is that I never got any kind of errors from using Netscape. It just worked. So why do I use Internet Explorer? Because it feels so good when I stop.
To balance my mostly negative opinion of Internet Explorer, I must concede that it works just fine for me in OS X. In fact, I consider it the best all-around browser available for OS X. [This was written before Safari was released. I've been using Safari ever since.]
Years ago, I thought Microsoft Word (Macintosh version 5.x and earlier) was the best word processor around (and I had tried them all, on the Mac at least). It was a great all-around tool with an abundance of features appropriate and useful for actual writing. It wasn't yet encumbered with a host of poorly implemented and annoying features. It was so close to perfect, I only found one fault with it: It didn't handle quoted text in mail-merge data documents the way it said it would in the manual. (That's right! Word came with an excellent manual! A book. A printed, paper book! Ah, those were the days.)
Word 5 begat Word 6, which was so transformed it must have been a ground-up rewrite. More than merely transformed, Word 6 was so deformed in so many ways that its reputation as a dog is legendary. I won't dwell on that here (but here's the full story from someone who was there)
Microsoft got the message and released Office 98, which was so good (by comparison) that most Mac users were willing to let bygones be bygones, buy the upgrade, and get on with their lives.
But as basically sound a product as Word 98 is, it is still a Microsoft product. I am fond of saying to people who report computer problems (either Mac or PC) to me, "Did the box say 'Microsoft' on it? That's your trouble." Not to be facetious, but I've noticed that about the only applications that I have problems with (on the Mac) are from Microsoft. (I pity the poor PC user whose entire operating system is from Microsoft. I believe it's called "Windows" or something clever like that.) Not that Microsoft applications ever crash, but an application doesn't have to crash to inconvenience you. All it has to do is get in your way often enough to erode your productivity.
Spell Checking not checking? Check "no proofing"
I noticed a glaring misspelling in a document so I ran spell check. The spell check worked (it found two misspelled words), but didn't flag the word I noticed. This usually means that Word has switched the Language in some paragraphs to "no proofing" When you run a complete spell check, if any paragraphs are set to "no proofing," you are warned that "Text set to (no proofing) was skipped. To find (no proofing) text, click Edit/Replace, click More, click Format, click Language and choose (no proofing)." Fine. But WHY and HOW does text get set to no proofing?! The feature is there in case you want to mark certain paragraphs to be skipped, say for example, if you have a paragraph in another language. The template the document was based on has only one style (Normal) and this is set to English (US). Why does it switch? In my case, the word I happened to notice (especially) was still not checked even after all "no proofing" was replaced with English (US). If I edited the document (I removed a letter from a random word, so I could coax Word into spell-checking the document) it still wouldn't flag especially. Only if I edited especially itself would Word flag it as misspelled. Note that this was a very simple document with only a few pages of plain text all set to the same style. We're not talking about a long, complex document here. It's probably just a "glitch," but how can a serious writer (or anyone for that matter) trust this program with their work?
I use Outlook at work for e-mail. It has a lot of other features, but I lead an uncomplicated life, and so I don't use them. Once, however, I decided to add a Task. Outlook provides Reminders to prompt you that your task is approaching its due date. I was amused at Outlook's patently ridiculous default suggestion for a reminder date, but then I grew worried and finally angry. How do the programmers at Microsoft know how slowly I work? Sure I'm slow, but 2500 years before my first reminder? C'mon!
I tried creating an appointment for the following day, but Outlook wouldn't let me. As you can see, it complained that I had entered an "invalid date." Yo, Bill! I clicked the date in Outlook's own calender/date picker, and it's certainly "valid." After a few tries, I gave up trying to create the appointment and just put a Post-itTM on my monitor.
An ongoing problem I have with Outlook is that it likes to freeze when trying to open messages sent from PCs, especially ones with attachments. When I say freeze, I mean freeze. The pointer won't move, and all you can do is hit reset. I haven't noticed anything about the messages that freeze my Mac. They don't seem unusual in any way, yet every time I try to open them, I get the same result. The same messages open fine in the Windows version of Outlook. Another Outlook sufferer I know doesn't have the same problem, but the difference is that he uses the Preview pane. What that could possibly do with it I have no idea, but I was willing to try anything, so I have started using the Preview pane, and the freezes have stopped. That's great, but does it make any sense at all?
When I bought Hog Bay Notebook (version 2.1 in September, 2003), one of the first things I did was try to understand the behavior of "Paste Note Into," one of the commands that appears if you click and hold on HBN's icon in the Dock.
The command creates a new note with whatever is on the clipboard, or you can have it insert the clipboard's contents into an existing note. That works great, but you have to remember to choose to copy and not just select something, not to mention the labor involved in clicking and holding on the Hog Bay icon in the dock. OK, I admit it's not that hard. What is cooler than Paste Note Into, however, is the Service which creates a new note from whatever is selected. That's right, you don't have to copy anything, just select it. The only problem is when you do that, Hog Bay Notebook comes to the front, or, uh, almost to the front. Like the behavior of a number of other OS X applications, the window of HBN hides the window of the application you're working in, but the menu from the current application is still active and the application is still receiving keystrokes--you just can't see what you're typing. Worse, you can't just click on the current app to get rid of the notebook, you have to bring HBN to the front somehow (by clicking the notebook or the the Dock icon). Then you have to switch back to your application. That takes most of the utility out of the Services menu. I mean, what's the point of having a Service in one application if you have to switch applications to use it anyway? You might as well just copy-and-paste. (If you don't have Hog Bay Notebook, you can see this behavior with good ol' Stickies. Choose Services -> Make New Sticky Note.)
These comments apply to the first version of OS X that I used full-time: 10.1.5. I am currently running Jaguar (10.2.8), which fixes some of the annoyances I experienced.
I never thought I'd see the day I'd write "Macintosh" and "annoyances" in the same sentence, but... there it is. OS X was out for over a year before I started using it full time in July, 2002, and--before Jaguar was released--I often wondered why I bothered.
While OS X is clearly a superior operating system in many respects to OS 9, I'm not sure that its specific advantages are that much of a benefit to me, while its disadvantages affect everything I do. The biggest difference between the two OSs is not the obvious difference in appearance (Aqua vs. Platinum), but what's happening under the hood: OS X offers pre-emptive multitasking and protected memory, which makes it very stable and responsive. And it is. But I don't have stability problems with OS 9, quite frankly. Since OS X is (as of version 10.1.5) still significantly slower than OS 9, I'm not willing to trade the constant annoyance of sluggishness for those rare occasions when stability is important. So I have to restart once a week. Big deal.
The 10.1.5 upgrade was personally disappointing in that it didn't fix my main problem with OS X: the fact that it won't apply my custom display profile. The default monitor profile leaves my LCD screen looking pale and washed out. Since I work mostly with text, I like a lot more contrast so text looks really black. Using the Display Calibrator, I created a profile with a lower gamma than normal (2.2), and it looks great: text is black and colors are saturated. When I boot up, the setting is clearly selected correctly in the Displays control panel, but it isn't applied. I have to open the control panel and click the profile to apply it. If I log out and log back in, then the setting is applied, but that's ridiculous. If I disable "Automatic log in" so I am forced to log in at startup, I still don't get my settings without logging out and logging back in. Interestingly, if I happen to have a CD inserted when I startup, iTunes opens (just being helpful suppose, but it's annoying). When I quit iTunes, the display profile is applied! Another "undocumented feature," I suppose. [Profile is applied correctly in Jaguar. It was a bug.]
Another glitch is that although I have my sound level set to zero, I still hear the startup sound when booting or restarting. [Fixed in Jaguar. It was a bug.] Another less-serious problem is that OS X doesn't recognize that I'm holding down Command-S at startup (which is how you would boot into the command line), but I think that's just a quirk with this model. [Still doesn't work under Jaguar. It is a bug.]
Yet another annoying problem I've had that may also be model-specific is that the computer sometimes fails to go to sleep properly. Whatever the reason, it can't be awakened properly (the hard drive starts spinning, but the screen is black, and it's not just that the backlight is off) and must be restarted using the Command-Control-Power key sequence. Then it takes almost ten minutes to start up (verifying the disks, I guess), and I have to relaunch all my applications. OS X is probably stable enough to never need rebooting, yet I have to reboot it at least as often as I rebooted OS 9 for reasons such as this.
This brings up a point about reliability. The first "stable" operating system I used was Windows NT 4. It seemed far more stable than the Mac OS at the time, or was it? Sure, the operating system didn't crash exactly, but something would inevitably force a restart. Either an application would begin to misbehave in mysterious ways and opening and closing it wouldn't fix it, or an NT service would just stop. It was always something. As a practical matter, you'll need to reboot a computer running NT 4 at least once a week. Often it's Microsoft's own applications that are misbehaving. Whatever. I didn't expect the same deterioration from a Unix-based OS, but it is the same. Something happens that forces me to reboot at least once a week. After using OS X for a while, I find how easy it is to get into a situation where the machine becomes simply unusable even if it doesn't actually "crash."
Speaking of annoyances, take the Login control panel (please!), which I visited briefly during testing. If you click "Automatically log in," the fields "Name" and "Password" become enabled for editing, but neither field has keyboard focus. You can't enter text in them unless you first click the mouse. Arghh! I think the right thing to do would be to open the Name field for editing when you click the "Automatically log in" checkbox, although I wouldn't mind having to hit the tab key. Once one field is opened for editing, you can tab to the next one (or use Shift-Tab to go back).
Another problem is navigating dialogs; I can't seem to use keyboard shortcuts to navigate dialogs, and I am forced to use the mouse a lot, which I don't like. For example, BBEdit's Open and Save dialogs are completely unresponsive to the keyboard (BBEdit version 6.5.2; OS 10.1.5). Bare Bones Software claims this an OS X bug, and that their application is written correctly, yet it's the only application I have that exhibits this particular problem. I checked the OS X "Help Center," and found a likely topic called "Shortcuts for Dialogs." A dialog advised me that "This information exists on the Internet. Please click OK to make a connection to the Internet to retrieve it." (Why aren't the Help files on the computer?! What if I needed help connecting to the Internet? Argh!) Since I can't go online (I'm using a laptop on a train), I click Cancel. The Help Center tells me "There was a problem downloading files from the Internet. Check your network settings and try again." The only button in this dialog is OK, yet I can't hit the return key to close this dialog. That's what I mean!
OS X's graphics engines, Quartz and Aqua, are capable of incredible tricks, but drawing the screen correctly is not one of them. The kind of thing illustrated below happens all the time. I guess they don't cooperate with each other very well. What a mess.
This display might make sense if I had two batteries, but I only have one. Confusing, isn't it? How come this kind of thing never happens to Steve Jobs at MacWorld?
Here's another example of strange behavior. I admit my Mac was sick at the time due to a self-inflicted wound (I accidentally renamed the partition containing my home directory and lost all my settings). I opened Terminal at one point and was greeted by the tiny fragment of a window shown below. Every window I made looked just like this. Restarting fixed it. Exactly how can this happen?
You can do a lot to alter the appearance of Terminal windows, but I don't think there's a preference anywhere that makes a window look like this!
I have a number of Web browsers installed (there's no perfect one, but I keep looking...) and the most recent one I installed was Firefox 0.8. I tried making Firefox my default browser by setting it in the Internet preferences pane (under Mac OS 10.2.8). Firefox 0.8 was included in the drop-down menu of browsers, so naturally I chose it. Silly me. What actually happened is that the system ignored this choice and actually selected Firebird, which was still installed. (Perhaps because Firefox was formerly called Firebird? Who knows.) That's right, I selected Firefox, but when I closed and reopened the Internet preference pane, Firebird was selected, and that's what the system used when I clicked URLs. I thought maybe if I manually selected Firefox instead of picking it off the menu, that would fix it. Uh, no. After fruitlessly searching through and subsequently trashing com.apple.internetpref.plist, com.apple.internetconfig.plist, and com.apple.iTunes.eq.plist, I gave up and trashed my copy of Firebird. That fixed the problem. Interestingly, if I have Mozilla open instead of Firefox, URLs are sent to Mozilla instead of launching Firefox. I guess the system thinks they're "the same," in a similar way that Firefox and Firebird are the same.
Mozilla preferences to set if "Mozilla" folder is trashed:
- Blank window always Startup, New Window, New Tab.
- Load links in the background
- Command-click loads new tab instead of new page.
- Turn on popup blocking.
Although you might not believe me, I don't really enjoy complaining about OS X. I would like it to just be perfect right out of the box. But it's not. I realized after reading about other people's problems (specifically Daring Fireball) that Apple has provided a constructive way for us to vent. By that I don't mean the Apple support forums. You can complain all you want there (although Apple will apparently delete such posts), and you can even get help, but if you have a serious complaint, the best thing to do is post a report on Apple's OS X Feedback page. Below are my reports. Let the record show that I did my part to help make OS X perfect. If they don't fix my bugs, then at least I have witnesses that I tried; they just didn't listen. :-)
It's too bad you can't give Apple any feedback on their feedback page itself. At the time I posted my reports, the highest version of OS X they listed was 10.2. I was running 10.2.4.
System Configuration (applies to all my reports):
PowerBook G3 (black keyboard)
Mac OS X 10.2
February 17, 2003
Design/Ease of Use
New folder's name can't be edited immediately in list view
After creating a new folder in the Finder, the default name "untitled folder" remains highlighted for editing in icon and column view, but not in list view where it blinks and becomes deselected. To edit it, you have to hit Enter to highlight the name. I would appreciate it if the name also remained highlighted in list view. Thanks.
February 20, 2003
10.2.4 update did not fix modem sound
According to the release notes for 10.2.4 (article 107362), "Dialing with the modem sound turned on produces sound on a portable computer." This is not the case with my PowerBook G3 "Wall Street." Modem sound has never worked for me with OS X, and the 10.2.4 update brought no improvement. The modem produces sound fine when booting under OS 9. Thanks.
March 12, 2003
Design/Ease of Use
Can't click on folder icon in title bar
When a Finder window is not frontmost, you can bring it to the front by clicking anywhere that isn't a control of some kind except for the folder icon in the title bar. Clicking on the icon does nothing. Clicking and holding (to move the folder for instance) or command-clicking works fine, but a single click does nothing. I guess that's because the folder icon is a control that is expecting a click-drag, but I would prefer that a single click would bring the window to the front. Thanks.
March 12, 2003
Design/Ease of Use
File modification date refresh issue
The Finder does not seem to refresh a file's modification date and time unless the icon is either selected or has a Get Info window open. Opening and closing the containing folder does not refresh the date. If you use AppleScript to get the modification date, the stale date is returned (unless you issue an update first). I would prefer the Finder to be more aggressive about refreshing the modification dates of any files visible in the Finder, at least refresh the dates when the containing folder is opened. It would be great if the Finder would return the correct modification date when receiving an Apple Event requesting the modification date as well without having to issue an update first. Thanks.
I use Quicken as my financial package, just like everybody else. But I've never liked it much. I used to use Managing Your Money which I did like very much, although it lacked some important features. It was orphaned quite some time ago, so at the time I switched to Quicken. I gave a cursory look to Liquid Ledger (for Mac OS X only), but when I realized the program did not handle "splits" I gave up on it.
Here's a page of Quicken resources, and a
little article I wrote in 2000 about setting
up Quicken to track and report on multiple businesses and clients.
Posts in “Software”
Rogue Amoeba released new software that—in a way—I’ve been using for almost two years. It’s something called Radioshift, which lets you record radio shows in a variety of formats for playback later. It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time and it’s the reason I bought Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack back in early 2006. I use it like Radioshift to record about a half-dozen shows a week, usually in conjunction with VLC. Audio Hijack can even record up to three shows at once (using VLC, iTunes, and QuickTime Player), something it isn’t clear that Radioshift can do (although I’m sure it must).
Regardless, it’s the station guide that sets Radioshift apart: “The Guide has over 50,000 listings for radio stations and programs to which you can listen, and it's fully-searchable.” Yikes, that should keep you busy. That’s just great, but I’m not really looking for more shows; I’m looking for more time.
Although Rogue Amoeba has had a teaser page up for some time, I actually found out about the final release via Daring Fireball. It is “TiVo for radio” indeed.
Adobe, How Do I Hate Thee?
Let me count the ways.
I wasn’t going to say anything when I upgraded to Adobe Reader 8.1 on my PC at work when I had to restart. (What’s that about? Grr.) Even though this insult came after the “Download Manager” on Adobe’s site crashed Firefox1 over and over again—until I threw in the towel and switched to Internet Explorer.
But just now I was wondering why my Mac laptop was so warm. Could it be because Adobe Updater launched in the background, couldn’t find an Internet connection (Hellooooo! I'm on the train!) and is now “Waiting for Connection” (apparently forever?), meanwhile using about 50-plus percent CPU doing almost nothing. Which is worse, the apparent lack of a timeout while waiting for a connection, or the radical CPU usage? Decisions, decisions. Obviously Adobe makes some great software, which makes this lapse all the more inexplicable and frustrating.
Spotlight on NetNewsWire 3.0
A shiny new NetNewsWire was released today, my go-to RSS feed reader. I hadn’t tried any of the betas, just jumped right in with both feet at version three point oh. Big mistake. I noticed that search wasn’t working (I was looking for posts about the closing of Copa Too, which should be a post in itself) and learned that NetNewsWire uses Spotlight for searching now. (Spotlight!!! Gaaaack! Urggh! We hates it! We hates it! We hates it forever!) Since I had forbidden Spotlight from indexing the folder where NetNewsWire stashes its stuff, NNW couldn’t find anything, so there was no alternative but to unleash Spotlight. I gave Spotlight ample time (I think) to index the folder before trying a search, but Spotlight rendered poor NetNewsWire basically useless—searches took forever, CPU usage spiked, and I finally got a persistent beachball, so I force-quit and slunk back to NetNewsWire 2.
Search was working perfectly in NNW 2, so I can’t understand how Spotlight ever entered the picture. Reminds me of one of my favorite jokes: Overheard at the Stonehenge construction site, “What was wrong with the old wooden one?” Pity.
On Typing Versus Pointing
In “Typing Trumps Pointing,” Jeff Atwood highlights his favorite feature of the redesigned Start menu in Windows Vista: “Vista's Start Menu lets you type what you want instead of pointing at it.” This is an improvement? I mean, you wouldn’t think that typing would ever replace pointing. After all, didn't we leave that whole typing thing behind with DOS? But no, Jeff is totally right. It’s better. Of course, I’ll have to take Jeff’s word on how well this feature works in Vista, because I haven’t used it yet. I do my typing with a little gizmo called Quicksilver on the Mac, which is what first converted me. Sure, Tiger offers Spotlight, which you can use to launch applications or open folders, but it’s s-l-o-w and doesn’t feature the uncanny clairvoyance of Quicksilver. It’s spooky how well it reads my mind.
The killer feature of Quicksilver is its ability to learn from your choices. Eventually you can open commonly-used apps and folders with just two keystrokes. I wonder if the Vista Start menu is trainable.
Not long after Jeff’s post came news of a comprehensive guide to Quicksilver written by Howard Melman. It is excellent and showed me a metric ton of new ways to use Quicksilver. (via Lifehacker)
I heard the news today, oh boy. My favorite email package for the last ten years, Eudora, is going open source (via Kevin Werbach). The current version will be retired and replaced with one based on Mozilla Thunderbird. I was surprised; the only clue I had was that the promised Cocoa-ized version for Mac was way overdue.
Time to panic? Maybe. While I do long for an end to Eudora’s handful of significant shortcomings (principally its woeful support for HTML mail), I’m not looking forward to giving up Eudora’s numerous charms, including a myriad of useful features and unparalleled performance.
I was glad to hear that Thunderbird would be the basis of the new Eudora, since it was already my second-favorite email client. (I used it briefly at work before returning to Outlook for its better compatibility with Exchange.) Since one major reason I still use Eudora is its outstanding performance handling large mailboxes, I thought I would take Thunderbird out for a little proficiency run to see how it handled.
Moving my mail into Thunderbird was no fun; it crashed repeatedly after importing a mere 2150 messages from a mailbox, so I gave up on that tactic. Since both Eudora and Thunderbird store mail in mbox format, I tried simply moving the Eudora mailboxes to the Thunderbird folder. (Thunderbird automatically creates .msf files for each mailbox.) This worked fine, and I was relieved that Thunderbird didn't have much of a problem with the biggest mailbox I tried (~12,000 messages).
In briefly playing around, I noticed two problems. The header area of the message window does not spawn scroll bars, so if you choose to view full headers and they are longer than the screen, you won’t be able to see all of them. Another problem is that some messages simply would not display. I noticed that these all happened to be HTML messages, but with a content-type of multipart/alternative. When I changed content-type to text/html, the messages displayed fine. These messages displayed fine in Eudora, but it must be more lenient with inappropriate content-types.
The new project is code-named Penelope; I hope that doesn’t mean we will have to wait twenty years for the first version. Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping an eye on the project page. Best wishes to the entire team!
Using VLC with Audio Hijack
As I’ve mentioned I've been using Audio Hijack Pro to time-shift radio shows. All’s well in radio land except that the files occasionally “skip.” At first I thought Audio Hijack was having a problem buffering until I noticed it happening to the stream itself. That cast suspicion on the apps I use to capture streams: QuickTime Player and iTunes (I need both so I can record two shows at once). I thought I would try using VLC and see if it handles streams better. The only problem was that VLC wouldn’t start playing automatically when called from Audio Hijack Pro. VLC got the URL fine, but it wouldn’t start playing unless you clicked the play button. No good. The solution was to create a playlist file in VLC and have Audio Hijack Pro open the playlist file via VLC.
While I’m on the subject of audio, here’s a little AppleScript that fixes an annoying problem I have with my PowerBook G4. Often when waking from sleep, the audio balance is all the way to one side. This script sets the balance back to centered. Note: it requires System Events, which is not enabled by default. Open the Universal Access preference pane, and click “Enable access for assistive devices.”
tell application "System Preferences"
set current pane to pane "com.apple.preference.sound"
on error errMsg number errNum
display dialog errMsg
tell application "System Events"
tell process "System Preferences"
tell tab group 1 of window 1
click radio button "Output"
tell slider 1 of group 1
set value to 0
tell application "System Preferences"
I dropped it in the Scripts folder at ~/Library/Scripts so it’s always available. Here’s hoping you don’t have a need for it.
Camino Final Released [nanoblog]
Camino 1.0 was finally released yesterday. In the crowded field of Mac browsers, Camino is unique. It’s written specifically for OS X, unlike Firefox, and it’s free. But so is Safari, the browser direct from the mothership. What’s the big deal? Unlike Safari, Camino uses the Gecko rendering engine used in Firefox. Frankly, that makes it better. I would use it myself, except that I can’t live without my Firefox extensions, so I’ll continue to endure Firefox’s ugly-duckling interface, although with the Grapple theme I’m using, it’s not so bad. Posted with Firefox, by the way.
Jerry Blavat Hijacked
For a long time, I’ve wanted a “VCR for radio” so I could time-shift radio programs. Maybe there is such a thing, but I never saw one, although I guess I could have rigged up a tape recorder and a timer... if I were MacGyver. Now that most radio stations can be heard online, software has made my dream come true as there are several apps available that can record on a schedule. The two I looked at are WireTap Pro and Audio Hijack Pro. (I guess I’m a sucker for anything named Pro). I decided on Audio Hijack Pro, which works by “hijacking” the audio output from an application. Because it can record from a specific application instead of just taping the system output, it is possible to record two programs at once, or listen to one program while recording another.
Before leaving for work Saturday night, I set the timer to record Jerry Blavat’s new show on WXPN, “The Geator’s Rock and Roll Rhythm & Blues Express.” When I posted about this new show, I was incredulous that Blavat had found a welcoming home at WXPN. I hadn’t heard Jerry Blavat on the air in over 30 years, so I was very curious to hear just how much he would clash with the XPN gestalt. I imagined his show would be some kind of oldies/nostalgia festival, but Blavat introduced his selections with fascinating historical anecdotes about the music, the musicians, and the record industry. I like a little history with my music, and enjoy shows like “American Routes” and Philly’s own “The Historical Approach to the Positive Music,” hosted by Harrison Ridley, Jr., so this show hit my weak spot hard. At one point, Jerry even said, “We not only play, we not only explore, we also educate.” I’m all ears, professor.
This episode covered the Chicago music scene in the Fifties. After listening to a few songs, most of which were new to me, I began to understand why the show is called “Rock and Roll Rhythm & Blues.” Many of these songs really were hybrids of both styles.
By the way, Audio Hijack performed flawlessly. I chose 8 kHz mono for the recording, so not only did the whole hour take up only 60 megabytes, but the audio quality reminded me of AM radio where so much of this music made its debut. The show was scheduled to last an hour, but it was rudely interrupted by Penn basketball coverage. In spite of that, you can bet I’ll be renewing my WXPN membership.
Considering Yojimbo and Chandler
Yojimbo, a new information organizer from Bare Bones Software, was released Monday. I haven’t warmed up to the name yet, but at least it’s a real name unlike Word or Mail. (Sheesh.)
Does the world need another PIM, especially a Cocoa-based one that looks like all the others? Well, sure, if it’s great. There’s always room at the top, but it would have to be really good to get anyone to go to the trouble of moving all their stuff into another application, though. I practically live in BBEdit, so I’m inclined to look favorably on anything that comes out of Bare Bones’ workshops, even though I never adopted any of their other products. I took the demo for a spin and short story shorter, I don’t think I’ll be moving in.
After a day I was getting tired of those large icons (good thing you can switch to small icons). I thought it a little odd that none of the built-in Collections except the Library accept drops. These Collections simply collect like items together. You’ll need to make your own Collections (folders) to start dropping things in—and that’s when I lost interest. Unless I’m missing something, Yojimbo is flat. You can only have one file and within that you can’t nest collections to create a hierarchy. Still, I liked the Drop Dock, a little tab that pokes in from the side that accepts dragged droppings into your Collections. Check it out and decide for yourself.
While I’m feeling dismissive, I should also mention that I took a look at Chandler recently, an “interpersonal information manager that adapts to your changing needs” from the Open Source Applications Foundation. Currently at version point 6, Chandler “delivers an experimentally usable calendar for individuals and small workgroups. It is a test release for collecting feedback based on real usage. In addition to basic calendaring, advanced features include: recurring events; time-zones; overlayed multiple calendars; and managing a single event across calendars.”
I was astonished at the size of this thing. Chandler consists of nearly 6,000 files totaling 182 megabytes. It takes twice as long to launch as Photoshop, which is the slowest app I have. I’m not criticizing it or anything, but I’m just bewildered. What is all that code doing?
Tuesdays with Mori: Scripting
On the Hog Bay Software site, I read a tip by Leo Laporte describing how to create a new entry in Mori from Quicksilver using AppleScript. Cool as that was, what I wanted to do was use Quicksilver to append text to an existing Mori entry the same way you can with text files. I changed Leo’s script to do that and was planning to post the results here, but a further search revealed I was reinventing the wheel; this topic was already discussed. In fact, there is a whole folder of AppleScript examples.
Hog Bay Notebook Replaced By Mori
TUAW reported that one of my favorite applications, Hog Bay Notebook, has been retired and replaced with a rewritten version named Mori. Sure enough, it’s true.
Mori is much more than an upgrade to Hog Bay Notebook. Rather, developer Jesse Grosjean has built a “platform” in Mori that allows for future growth. The biggest architectural change is that Mori uses an open-source framework for plugins called Blocks, which allows features to be bolted on to the basic platform; it’s a flexible and sensible approach.
While Mori is not an open-source project, it’s nevertheless quite open. For one thing, users are encouraged to participate in the development process by submitting feature requests, and there’s an SDK available for anyone who wants to write a plugin. If you don’t like the way Mori works, you can change it. Besides the new plugin-based architecture, another big change from Hog Bay Notebook is that Mori uses Core Data for its file format. As a result of this decision, Mori requires Tiger.
As a 1.0 application, Mori hasn’t reached feature parity with the mature Hog Bay Notebook. While it’s quite usable just the way it is, I think I’ll stay with Hog Bay Notebook for a while longer and just spend Tuesdays with Mori until it matures a little.
By the way, Jesse Grosjean lives in Maine, and you can bet I asked him once for his opinion on the lobster rolls in his area. He was gracious enough to recommend a few places, although we haven’t ventured far enough north in the state to try them yet. Maybe next year. Oh, and best wishes to Jesse on the birth of his first child, Jaeda!
“Backup” Worse Than No Backup?
Apple’s backup software, cleverly called “Backup” (I kid you not. Why not “iBackup”?) has come in for a lot of scorn lately here, here, and here. It’s only available as part of the .Mac package, which I don’t have, so I’ve never tried it. My point is that I’m surprised that an app that has reached version 3 could ever come in for criticism for failing to handle its basic mission, but apparently it has. Anyone trying to restore a file is in for some nasty surprises (see the links for the gruesome details). I say that Backup might be worse than no backup, because the restored file can stomp on your current version. That may—or may not—be what you want.
I used Retrospect when I was self-employed and making regular backups to a tape drive, and Anne has been using it regularly as well to back up to external USB drives. She’s been very disciplined about backing up so naturally she’s never needed to restore anything. I’ve never liked Retrospect (specifically its interface), but at least it was reliable. Anne recently discovered a new backup program called SuperDuper! which we are using with our new 200-gig backup drive.
In other news, I upgraded to 10.4.3 without incident. Unfortunately, my bug wasn’t fixed. When I wake the machine up, it’s in a different app than the one I was in when it went to sleep. Sure it’s trivial in the scheme of things, but annoying and perplexing nevertheless.