Upgrading my iTunes library


Best $50 I’ve spent in a long, long time. My music library is not pretty much DRM-free. What was that about the evil Apple lockin again?

Update: doh. looks like the process has a glitch or two. I’m sure that’ll get worked out really quickly though. This is what I get when I click the “Buy” button shown above:



Update 2: GAH! I tried to post a question on the Apple Support site to see wtf, but can’t seem to find the button to do that. No email link. No support available. My only option is to wait a day or so and try again. Fail.

Update 3: thanks to a friend who kindly pointed out that I had missed the Contact Us link on the iTunes support page, I’ve submitted a support message with Apple. Hopefully I can spend that $50 in the next day or so… 🙂

lazyweb: macbook or macbook pro for aperture use?

I mean, of course, if money is no object, get the most pimp-daddiest MacBook Pro with gills of RAM and stuff. But… Will the new solid aluminum case MacBooks do the trick? (and, yeah, if money truly was no object, I KNOW I’d rather get a fully maxed out Mac Pro with dual 30″ displays and terabytes of storage…)

I need to replace my antique home system, and need something that can run Aperture well (not necessarily pro speed, but well enough that I don’t want to throw the fracking thing across the room while waiting for it to catch up…). I’d initially planned on getting a 20″ iMac, but think it’ll be better to maintain mobility.

So… Will the new MacBook do the job for running Aperture (and other stuff). Just day-to-day use, and daily workouts in Aperture. Is the MacBook Pro really worth the roughly extra $1000$600 for a little more screen real estate and a real video card?


iPod Touch keyboard add-on

Real keyboard, connected to iPod Touch via USB through iPod Camera Connector accessory.

I want this. Well, maybe with a slimmer keyboard. Possibly a foldable version of something the size of the Apple Wireless Keyboard (pictured below). Doesn’t have to actually BE wireless, though. I’d be FINE with a USB cable, and even with slapping rechargeable batteries in the keyboard to prevent an additional power draw from the iPod Touch…

Apple Wireless Keyboard - perfect companion to my iPod Touch? Please?

This would make the Notes app much more useful. And the WordPress app. And email. etc… etc…

on flash on the iPhone / iPod Touch

There’s much wringing of hands about the announcement from Apple that the iPhone (and iPod Touch) would not be getting Flash in the foreseeable future. I’m actually pretty happy that Flash isn’t on the way. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good Flash website or video as much as the next guy.

But try this: on your Mac, open Activity Monitor. Let it process for a few seconds to get a baseline reading. Then, open a Flash website. Watch the change in Activity Monitor. On my 8-core Xeon Mac Pro system, a Flash website easily chews through 50% of a 3 GHz core – over a gigahertz of CPU without breaking a sweat.

That’s more CPU than is available on my iPod Touch, which only sports an embedded 400MHz Arm chip and 128MB of RAM. And, even if the Touch could muster up the horsepower to run a Flash site, it would suck the battery dry pretty quickly, and crank out more heat than would be healthy for the little device.

No Flash? No big deal. I don’t think it’s an evil conspiracy, nor a ploy to force Adobe to cater to Apple. It’s a decision based on something very simple and pragmatic: adding Flash would detract from the overall iPhone / iPod Touch user experience. People would start complaining about crappy battery performance, overheating iPhones, and sluggish UI responses. Better to just say no to Flash (at least in the current incarnation) and find a better way. For video, the iPhone chipset can handily decode higher quality (but non-Flash) video without breaking a sweat.

I’m hopeful that tomorrow’s SDK announcement is going to bring some very cool stuff. I’m also hopeful that whatever apps are made available (even if Flash is one of them) that I won’t have to worry about battery life when running them.

Thoughts on iPod Touch

hand scannerI’ve had an iPod Touch for almost a week now, and aside from driving people on Twitter nuts by exclaiming how unbelievably awesome it is, I have some thoughts on how it could be better. Nothing groundbreaking, I’m sure, as anyone who spends time with it will likely come up with a similar list. The short version is that I LOVE it. In an unhealthy way. I haven’t been this impressed by a piece of technology since my first Newton MessagePad 120. And before that, my Amiga 1000. It’s that much of a game changer. [ed: both of those technologies are now defunct?] My iPod Touch has quickly become a very powerful mobile email/Google Reader/Twitter/Flickr/Blog platform. I’m not sure I could give it up now.

Software Improvements

  1. Notes sync – if I enter a page of notes into the iPod Touch Notes application, they stay there. Unless I email a copy out. And the only way for text to get INTO Notes is by typing it on the Touch. No way to add, say, a schedule, or travel itinerary, etc… without typing it all manually. wtf? It would be ideal if Notes either synced with a folder in ~/Documents/Notes or were managed by iTunes directly – for this to be a truly useful feature, I need to be able to DO stuff with the notes, not just write stuff down. Getting Notes both onto and off of the Touch are pretty important.
  2. Wifi toggle. I try to save the battery as much as possible, which means spinning down wifi when I won’t be using it (while on the bus, while it’s idle, etc…) but currently each toggle requires about 5 taps. Home > Settings > Wifi > On/Off > Home. It would be handy if there was an icon on the Home screen to just toggle wifi.
  3. Temp on Weather icon. The Calendar icon shows the correct date. Why doesn’t the Weather icon show the current temperature when it’s available?
  4. Copy/paste. Of URLs, text in emails, text in Safari. Not essential, but would make things easier when sharing stuff.
  5. GReader offline app – Gears? SDK? I’d love to be able to load up my RSS feeds in the morning, read them on the bus, and sync stuff when I get to the office. Like Gears does, but without the laptop.
  6. Photos sort by date not filename. Seriously. Why would I sort by filename? Want to show a series of photos? Hope you didn’t rename any of them in Aperture, because the order will be all messed up. Bizarre.
  7. Sketch app? Perfect cocktail napkin!
  8. Flash. Not 100% essential, but it would be great to be able to interact with Flash apps and view Flash Video.
  9. Display name + contact info on unlock screen. If I lose it, and it’s locked with a PIN, how will the honest person who finds it know who to give it to? I’m not going to put a sticker on it. (and if a dishonest person finds it, it’s gone either way)
  10. Ability to have files (pdf, etc…) copied onto the iPod for access without a network connection
  11. Ability to cache multiple locations and sets of directions in Map for use without a network connection. Having Maps is really cool, but a bit useless if I need an active wifi connection to get any details out of it. It caches some stuff, but not enough to make it really useful when offline.
  12. Safari should remember usernames and passwords – doesn’t have to be full Keychain integration (or at all) but this would be handy for browser-based authentication that doesn’t use cookies (wifi hotspots…)

Hardware Improvements

  1. Volume control without touch screen. The double-home-button-tap trick is really nice and elegant, but still requires that I dig the Touch of of my pocket and look at the screen. Every iPod I’ve had before would be just as easily controlled by blindly tapping a button and/or spinning a wheel.
  2. Camera.
  3. Microphone – ability to record audio.
  4. STUCK PIXEL!!! AAAAAAHHHH!!! 5 days after getting my iPod Touch, it developed a dead pixel. A really obvious one, too. The flashing-colours website fix works for about half an hour or so, then it creeps back. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a stuck pixel on any of my displays. (jinx 1234!)

Nothing too earth shattering, and certainly nothing to cry about (well, except maybe that stuck pixel. sniff.). You’ll have to pry my iPod Touch from my cold, dead hands. And even then I’d probably give up a pretty good fight.


The wonders of transparent menus

MacOSX 10.5 added some bling, possibly to "catch up" with Vista. The transparent menu bar sucks. Completely. Please, someone at Apple, fix this.

I've got my desktop picture set to cycle through some of my photographs. Most of the time, it’s not a big deal, but occasionally, one comes up that causes my menu bar to look like this:

macosx 10.5 menu bar (crop)


Yes, transparency is cool. It's great to show off the power of the UI renderer, etc… But not at the sake of readability.

First thoughts on Leopard

Others will write more profound and deeper posts describing what’s so freaking cool about MacOSX 10.5 Leopard. This post is just my initial gut reactions. Want more meat? Surf over to arstechnica.com.

I’ve played with seeds of 10.5 for what seems like years (but is really only a year?) through our Apple Developer Connection subscription. But all of my previous experience was in carefully isolated cleanroom installations, to prevent any bugs from nuking my production system. I’d never tried an upgrade install. I’d never run it for more than a day or two tops because bugs and instability sent me running back to 10.4. So, this is my first real time in Leopard, without an alternate or backup system running a previous version Just In Case™.

My initial thought after install, which I’m sure is hardly unique, was along the lines of “holy frack. it worked perfectly. it just fracking worked.” Seriously. Every app I use still works. All preferences are retained (even my custom dock-pinned-at-start setting). Trivial upgrade to the new OS. Gotta love that.

After that, I played with some of the new toys. Spaces is absolute brill. I’ve used other virtual desktop apps. I paid for CodeTek Virtual Desktop. I used the Open Source Desktop Manager.  I used the other Open Source Space app. I’ve played with virtual desktops in Ubuntu. But Spaces just feels right. Dragging apps between desktops? Very cool. It’s got the best features of the others, without any bloat. Just right.

Time Machine. I plugged in a LaCie 500GB Big Disk Extreme, and 10.5 asked me if I wanted to use it for a Time Machine backup drive. Sure. Why not? I’ll give that a shot. Time Machine sounds pretty cool. So I let it chew (for a couple of hours) to do the initial backup set.

Time Machine initial progress bar

No kidding. 1.4 MILLION files. 124.5 GIGABYTES of data. And I don’t have to think about backing any of it up. Ever again. It’s fully automatic. IIRC, Time Machine keeps the last 24 hours of HOURLY backups, the last week of DAILY backups, and as many WEEKLY backups as your drive allows. That’s so freaking awesome I can’t even put it into words. Knowing that EVERY FILE I USE is backed up already? Priceless.

There is a catch, though.

You don’t necessarily WANT all of your files backed up. That scratch video file of a few gigs of data. That temporary working directory of hundreds or thousands of HTML files, etc… Automatic backups have the potential to archive a helluvalotta crap that you don’t really want to keep (and no, I’m not meaning dwarf-hentai-tentacle-snuff-pr0n, but I guess that would fit as well). So, for the files that I want to work on without squeezing them into my Time Machine backup system, they go into a folder on my desktop called “NO BACKUP”. I’ve added that to my Time Machine prefs as an exclusion. So, if I want to use HTTrack to scape a site to a working directory, it just goes in there. No worries about polluting my backups.

What’s next… Oh, right. Safari Dashboard clippings. Absolutely brilliant. I’d been using a hacked-together widget on 10.4 that was inspired by the 10.5 preview Stevenote. It worked, but it lacked the slick UI for selecting the portion of a web page to display as a Widget. It’s got a visual DOM inspector. You just move the mouse, and it highlights the relevant HTML element and any children. Click it, and tweak the bounding box. Click “Add” and it’s done. A visual DOM inspector with manual override. Fracking brilliant. I’ve added a few web page widgets, including the stats/comments sidebar from my blog’s admin page, and the video feed from Maui.

I’m actually using Safari again as my default browser. The TinyMCE editor that comes with WordPress 2.3.1 works just fine in it. Thank the fracking gods. Now, if only those fixes get pushed into the main TinyMCE product so I don’t have to use Firefox to manage all of my Drupal sites (don’t get me wrong – I love Firefox – but Safari’s text rendering simply blows the crap out of every other browser, except other WebKit-powered flavours).

Update: doh. Safari+TinyMCE aren’t all hot and sweaty after all. seems like there’s some work to do before it works reliably. Safari stripped out all linespacing when I clicked “Save and Continue Editing”

I set up Janice in her account to use GMail via IMAP in Mail.app. Mail.app autodiscovered the settings. I only had to provide her address and password. Mail.app DID THE REST. Fracking brilliant, again.

The last comment I have after running Leopard for less than a day is about the menu bar. Love it or hate it, apparently. I hate it. It’s shiny, and demos relatively well, but the bling is at the expense of the readability of menu items.

MacOSX 10.5 Menubar Translucency

Sure, the primary menu items lose translucency when you click on them. But that’s just annoying. A text-based Whack-a-Mole™ navigation system. Please, Apple, either lose the translucency outright, or have it pop to full opacity when the mouse moves within the menu bar. No clicking and scrubbing required.

Almost forgot! Tabs in Terminal.app! Sweet. Much cleaner than having to command-` between a dozen terminal windows. And, I’ve even caught myself playing with CoverFlow in the Finder. Not sure how much I’d actually USE that, but it sure is purty… 

Airport Extreme on Telus DSL?

I’ve been struggling with this all day. Haven’t found much help on the Telus website, and their tech agents haven’t had much in the way of helpful suggestions.

I use Telus DSL at home, recently switching to the TelusTV service (which apparently also affects the internet service, as the internet guys keep forwarding me to the TV department for support. wtf?)

My old Linksys 802.11a router has been acting up, so I splurged on a new Apple Airport Extreme 802.11n base station. I have it hooked up to the ethernet switch installed by the TelusTV guy the other day.

DSL Modem –> ethernet switch –> Airport Extreme –> Computer

If I run the AE in “Bridge” mode, with no DHCP service (so it’s essentially a hub, not a router), I can get an IP address if connecting via ethernet to the AE. If I try wireless, there’s no joy. If I try to “share a single IP address” – turn on DHCP and routing – the AE complains about pulling an invalid IP address (even though it’s the same one that was pulled by the computer when running the AE in Bridge Mode). No joy in connecting to the Internet via ethernet or wireless in that mode.

I’ve registered the MAC address for the AE via Telus’ registry app at http://oca.ab.hsia.telus.net – no joy.

Lazyweb request: has anyone configured an Airport Extreme to run over Telus DSL via TelusTV? This really shouldn’t be an all-day ordeal. Any tips? Is there a magic phone number or email address to contact to make things work the way they’re supposed to?

I’ve been seriously considering ditching Telus for internet to get it via Shaw, where this balogna apparently doesn’t happen. But that would likely mess up the whole TelusTV thing…

Update: here’s a kicker – I’ve entered both the AE ethernet and wireless MAC addresses into the 2 slots provided on oca.ab.hsia.telus.net to register my computers. My laptop’s MAC address is not registered. But, if I set the AE to “Bridge Mode”, the laptop can surf the web happily while connected to the AE via ethernet. If I set the AE to “Share a single IP address” mode, so that its MAC addresses are visible, then I can’t get off the LAN. WTF? There’s got to be a secret handshake somewhere… Haven’t been able to connect to the internet via wireless at all, no matter what mode the AE runs in.

Update: a handy dandy OmniGraffle diagram of the network topology:

Telus TV Network Topology

Update, the third: Finally got it working, with “share a single public IP address” running. Looks like the AirportExpress wasn’t reading the DNS values provided by DHCP, so nothing was resolvable. And Telus doesn’t appear to like off-Telus DNS servers, so I couldn’t just manually add others. Seems to be working now, after setting the AE internet panel to use “manual” and providing the info.

For future googlers: the DNS servers I use from Telus are