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Apple Intel

I go to England and Apple launches the switch campaign to end all such campaigns: moving from IBM’s PowerPC chip to Intel architecture.  Coincidence?

Pretty much, yeah.

I know that a zillion electrons have been spilled on this topic, and I’m going to add my own thoughts without the benefit of having actually read what anyone else has said about it.  So if everything I say here is a duplication of everyone else’s writing, it’s at least an original duplication, if you see what I mean.

At the core (Ha! I kill me!), it shouldn’t really matter what chip sits at the heart of a Macintosh.  Did it bother me when Apple switched from Motorola’s chips to the PowerPC?  No.  I’ve historically been far more bothered by changes in interface, like the jump from OS 9 to OS X.  I have made that transition, but it took me a long time and I still sometimes pine for the old days.

Regardless, it does seem to bother me at some level that I could be running an Intel-based system in the semi-near future.  Maybe it’s all those old jeering comments I made about fundamental addition bugs and excessive heat production coming home to roost.  Maybe it’s that the hipper-than-thou, apart-from-the-crowd semi-cultishness of the Mac extends down to the hardware layer: now instead of having l33t hardware that I paid good money to get, I’m merely going to have a different OS on the same basic computer as all those boxes out there running Windows, pardon my French.

These are emotional reactions, and I admit that freely.  But emotion is bound up in anything we take seriously, and given that it’s the tool with which I create personal wealth, I take my computer very, very seriously.

I’ll step back from that, however, and look at this with a larger field of view.  Apple has apparently been maintaining Intel versions of OS X for years now, so it isn’t as though they still have to undertake that conversion.  There’s a PowerPC chip emulator called Rosetta that should smooth the transition of software to the new architecture.  Sure, the stuff running on the emulation layer won’t be as efficient as software written natively for Intel architectures, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing.  (And also makes me wonder why it’s been such a long, hard trip getting a Mac emulator for the PC.)

Here’s the thing, though: this potentially brings the ability to run OS X to the ninety-plus percent of the computing world that has an Intel machine, of which ninety-plus percent are running Windows.  The success of iTunes for Windows has demonstrated that Windows users don’t give a flip who wrote their software, as long as it gives them something they want and is easy to use.

So the move has the distinct potential to play to Apple’s strengths as a software developer.  It could put the whole iLife suite on desktops everywhere through Intel-compatible OS X or even some other route.  It could make it easier for Apple to create a Windows-compatible version of iLife.  It might (though I can’t be sure, not being a developer) make it easier for Windows applications to be ported to OS X, thus making switches between Windows and Mac OS a lot less painful.  It might even make it possible to have Windows running on Apple hardware, and it’s darned sure going to make VirtualPC a lot less virtual.

I freely acknowledge that most users, even given a choice, will pick the classic Wintel combination—how many buy Linux-driven Intel machines these days?  (Yes, it’s more than before, but still not that many.)  How many more would buy non-Apple OSXtel machines, even assuming such a thing to be possible?  Not many.  A lot of the cachet of being a Mac user is having the super-fine hardware, all sleek and well-designed and a heck of a lot sexier than the guy running a Dell Latitude or whatever.  (Yes, some PC makers do go sexy, but they’re usually either trampy ripoffs of Apple’s designs, tricked-out Alienware gamer boxes, or Sony Vaios.)

As I said at the outset, intellectually I don’t care whose chip drives my Mac, so long as my programs still run and the performance isn’t slower than I’d have gotten with the PowerPC chip.  Emotionally, though, I’ll be breaking my long-standing rule against decorating my computers.  After all, I’ll need something to put over the “Intel Inside” sticker.

Workspace Restoration

Oh, the joys of emergency restoration, drive repartitioning, data gaps, and reconstructing an absent work environment.

You may recall that I mentioned sending my PowerBook in for repair.  It’s still at the repair depot.  Apparently it needs a replacement for a rare component, so its repair is held up by a backorder situation.  You’d think they could do the Dell thing and just swap the hard drive into a new machine with the same configuration and send that to me, but I guess that would make too much sense.  So my only hopes for getting back up to speed lay with my trusty G4/500 with 384MB of RAM.

The first step: I had to install OS X on it if I had any hope of getting myself back to a semblance of productivity.  The only problem was that my boot volume, even stripped down to its essentials, didn’t have enough room to play host to both OS 9 and OS X.  I’d originally set up the drive to have a 2GB boot volume—acres of room in the Classic days—plus a 1GB scratch volume and a 22 GB main partition.  I’ve been doing drives this way for a decade or so.  Unfortunately, my strategy wasn’t sufficient for a Panther-driven world.

So before I could even install OS X, I’d have to repartition the hard drive.  That meant shunting everything to my newly arrived OWC Mercury Elite Pro 250GB hard drive, repartitioning the internal HD, installing OS X, running it through a zillion software updates, and then copying over the OS 9 folder so I’ll have it if I need to reboot into Classic.

Joy and more joy.  So I did all that over the weekend, starting off with a full Retrospect backup of all the drive volumes and then proceeding to move files around like I was playing a FireWire-based version of Towers of Hanoi.  While I was at it, I threw away a good deal of cruft (old installers, log files, that kind of thing) and moved a big heap of old data to a new permanent archival home on my external drive.

I’m happy to report that, in the end, everything came together rather nicely.  I’m now up and running with OS X on this aging beast, and while it certainly isn’t as snappy as my 1.25GHz/1GB RAM PowerBook, it’s quite functional.

Why did I just bore you with all that?  Because I wanted to share which free packages and extra doodads I’ve discovered are absolutely necessary to my getting back up to speed in OS X.

  • Complete MySQL from Server Logistics — I can’t run WordPress locally without MySQL, and this is the package that actually installs correctly.
  • CocoaMySQL — a nice little GUI front end to MySQL.  Handy for reaching into the DBs and tweaking values, which can be necessary if you do a sqldump on one machine and then jam it wholesale onto another.  Which I did.
  • Classic Window Management v1.0 — makes the OS act rational again by grouping together windows by process.  So if I click on the desktop, all the Finder windows pop to the fore.  When I click on a BBEdit window, all the BBEdit windows pop up.  None of this interleaved application nonsense.  (Which you can still invoke with a modifier key.)  Installing this also meant installing APE, but that’s probably a good thing anyway.
  • This isn’t really a software install, but it’s free.  I also hacked OS X to make Command-N create a new folder, instead of open a new Finder window.  More details can be found via my post “Now That’s A Switch“.  No, I will not adapt to the OS in this case: it will adapt to me instead, whether it really wants to or not.
  • SheetSpeed — if there’s one thing I can’t stand about OS X, it’s the bendy slidy dialog boxes, otherwise known as “sheets”.  (Which I sometimes pronouce with more of a “ih” sound than an “ee” sound in the middle, if you know what I mean.)  With SheetSpeed, you can crank the slide time down to zero, meaning the sheets just pop into existence and then disappear the instant you’re done with them.  You can also slow them way, way down, but doing so for any purpose other than temporary amusement should be grounds for a mental examination.
  • Ejector — great for clearing out .dmg volumes.  Sure, I could use Exposé to move everything aside and click-drag-toss, but that’s just not my style.  Ejector is far more capable than the Eject.menu file that comes with OS X.
  • Mouseposé — I’m forever losing my mouse pointer on my Cinema Display.  Or I was, until I installed Mouseposé.  It’s also very handy for presentations, which will be a lot more relevant when I finally get my laptop back.
  • TinkerTool — nice for things like putting the Dock precisely where I want it, and also for tweaking the OS here and there.

In addition to all those goodies, there are the more robust programs, some of them costing actual money (gasp!), that I just can’t live without.

  • BBEdit 8.1 — natch.
  • SubEthaEdit — this is becoming invaluable to me for remote collaborative document editing.  Tantek and I recently worked on a document while physically separated by 2100+ miles, and then worked on the same document while in the same room at SXSW.
  • Firefox — of course.
  • Thunderbird 1.0.2 — better at IMAP than Eudora 5.2, which is the version I’m using.  (I was surprised to discover it’s Carbonized!)
  • Transmit — all right, I admit I’m still without this one.  I’m a registered user of Transmit 2, and I can’t find an installer for it anywhere.  I miss it.  In the meantime, Fugu has been filling in.  I’d actually consider switching to it if it supported drag-and-dropping.  Instead, I just emailed the folks at Panic to see if they can point me to a 2.x installer.
  • DragThing — so much better than the Dock in so many ways.  Its one failing is that when you minimize windows to its process dock, they don’t appear as tiny thumbnails of themselves.  So I use the Dock as a process dock, and DragThing for everything else a dock should do.

Then there are the programs I want to install but can’t find in the form I want, like CalendarClock, which has become a commercial product and is no longer available as donationware.  I might have an installer for it on my laptop… not that it does me any good right now.

Anyway, there will undoubtedly be more to come, but I thought I’d share my gotta-have-‘em bits with you.

Airport Extreme and Netgear MR814v2, Take 2

Last July, I posted about how I got my Netgear MR814v2 to talk to my Airport Extreme laptop.  The fix involved setting “Universal Plug ‘n’ Play” preferences.

Since then, I’ve gotten occasional e-mail messages from people thanking me for publishing the solution, and that neither Netgear nor Apple seem to know anything about this problem.  I got one just today, and thought it was probably time for a follow-up post.

The fix I described isn’t a panacea, I’ve found; I still occasionally find the laptop knocked back to its self-assigned IP address.  This behavior seems to revolve around hard sleep/wake events, and iChat might be implicated too.  My father has a Netgear 802.11g wireless router and it’s totally smooth for him using an 802.11b PowerBook, but whenever I visit with my Airport Extreme PowerBook the router starts kicking us both off on an infrequent basis.

I’ve found one of two things will fix my router when it ceases talking to the laptop.  One is to unplug and replug the router; the thing comes back up in about a second and it always sees the laptop again.  The other is to log into the router from a wired computer, go to the UPnP page, and hit “Apply”.  I don’t have to change any setting, just hit “Apply”.  That fixes the problem too.  I do the latter when I’m in my office with my wired G4, and the former when I’m downstairs closer to the router.

Either way, I’m thinking about replacing my 802.11b router with an 802.11g router so I can take advantage of the Extreme access, and I’m thinking the replacement won’t be a Netgear product.  Anyone have recommendations for a good Airport Extreme compatible wireless/wired combo router (I need to plug in two CAT5-bound computers) besides an Airport Base Station?

Broken Bluetooth

So I just noticed that my PowerBook no longer realizes that it has a Bluetooth module installed.  I get a little “broken B” icon in the menu bar, and when I open the menu it says in greyed-out text “Bluetooth: Not Available”. I fired up the Bluetooth setup assistant and it said it couldn’t find any Bluetooth hardware either.  The only two noteworthy things that have happened recently are I installed the latest Apple security update, and I let the laptop drain itself of power in order to reset the power level calibration.  I haven’t ever run a Bluetooth firmware update, so that doesn’t seem like it’s the problem (unless of course the problem is that the security update requires a firmware update, but nobody said anything about that).

Oh, and no, I don’t have a Bluetooth device with which I can test the Mac’s module.  It still bothers me that the computer seems to have lost some of its hardware.  I’d sort of like to have it found again.  Has anyone else seen this problem, and if you fixed it, how did you fix it?

Update: thanks to Daniel Bergey, whose friends just recently moved to my home state, I’ve solved the problem and the Bluetooth icon is back to normal.  See the comments for details and a link to a description of the procedure I followed.

FireWire Transfer

A few people have written me over the past week to point out that I could have saved myself a lot of time when I transferred files over to my new Mac laptop.  Standards and accessibility warrior DeWayne Purdy was one of the first, and wrote:

…there’s a better way than ethernet to transfer  files between two Macs, using Target Disk Mode. Connect the two Macs  together with a firewire cable, with one Mac on and the second one off.  Then turn the second Mac on and hold down on the T key. A firewire  symbol will come up on the screen of the second Mac, and the HD name  will show up on the first Mac, just like it’s an external hard drive.  The files can then be transferred at firewire speeds, much faster than  via ethernet.  (These are condensed instructions, I’d look up the full  instructions before doing it… there’s a few little, but important,  details, like making sure you drag the icon of the second Mac to the  trash before disconnecting or shutting it down).

So I looked up the full instructions, and here they are.  They’re not much longer than DeWayne’s summary, actually.

iLike iLife 4

Long-time readers may recall my ranting about iLife 4 being a for-money upgrade, which in the end was as much about my lack of understanding as it was about Apple’s (perceived) silence on the subject.  As it turns out, I never got around to buying iLife 4, so I was happy to have it bundled with my new PowerBook.  That’s right, folks, I spent over $2,000 on a laptop, but I saved $49 in the process!  Ph34r my l33t sh0pp1ng sk1llz!

So I imported my entire iPhoto library into iPhoto 4, which only took about 45 minutes.  In the process, I discovered that I actually have 4,080 photos so far.  There was some weirdness, in that iPhoto 4 claimed to have discovered 234 “lost” images.  Under half were duplicates, and the rest were completely blank files with the same names as photos I already had.  So I threw them all away, and landed at 4,080 pictures.  Once I figured out the keyword interface, which is by no means intuitive (or even very usable), I set about adding metadata to some of my images.  The first order of business, of course, was to tag all pictures of Carolyn and organize them into a smart album.  Guess how many pictures I’ve take of her so far?  We’ll have the answer in a moment, but first, here’s a recent one of her sitting up on her own, which she started doing a couple of weeks ago. A picture of Carolyn sitting up and reaching upward, an enormous smile upon her face.

Everything I’ve heard about the improved speed in iPhoto 4 proves to be correct, and possibly understated.  This thing screams.  It still generates bloated directories, though, given the number of XML files and image copies it’s capable of producing.  This is largely so that it can support a “Revert to Original” feature, so any time you take out red-eye or lighten up an image, you end up with both the original and the modified image on your hard drive.  The same happens if you do no more than rotate an image.

That’s where iPhoto Diet comes in so very handy.  It’s a small application that can get rid of all unnecessary duplicates in your iPhoto library, and it can also delete the originals of all rotated images.  It can also wipe out all the originals, replacing them with the modified versions.  I ran it on my library before I migrated to the new machine and reclaimed over half a gig of drive space.  And that was only getting rid of unnecessary and rotated duplicates, not all originals.  I did a lot of red-eye reductions, and those are still around.  I also have yet to run the “strip thumbnails” option, which could easily reclaim a few dozen megabytes.

I haven’t really played with the rest of the iLife suite since I don’t have a video camera or a garage band.  I may eventually burn some images to a DVD for relatives to play on their TVs.  If I can figure out how to use Garage Band, I might try creating some background tracks for use in radio production work.  It’s nice to know the options are there.

And the answer to today’s trivia question is: as of this writing, the smart album titled “The Compleat Carolyn” contains 1,832 pictures.  At this rate, we’ll have about three thousand pictures of her by her first birthday.

Upgrade Path

As one might have been able to infer from my recent post on Airport Extreme, I got a new PowerBook; it arrived Thursday afternoon along with an iSight.  My TiBook is a little less than a year old, but I found someone interested in buying it for a decent price, so I figured, what the heck, why not reward myself a bit for all the work I’ve been doing and get a nice high-powered machine?

So I did.  Since I still have an 802.11b access point (the aforementioned MR814v2) I plugged both laptops into the router and got to work transferring files.  Even at 10Mb/second, it took a while to move everything over from one to the other; the iPhoto library alone took an hour to cop.  Having close to four thousand images, many of them with red-eye reduction, will do that.  Nevertheless, I was up and running within most of a day, and a couple hours of that were figuring out the whole wireless access problem.  And six hours of sleeping.

I like the key response on this keyboard.  It’s a little snappier than the TiBook.  But the coolest thing about the new machine so far?  The way that, in a low-light environment, the display will dim down a bit and the keyboard automatically backlights.  It’s just so sexy.

(Don’t forget, there’s still a little bit of time left to support the Blog-A-Thon!)

Airport Extreme and Netgear MR814v2

So let’s say you’re trying to wirelessly connect an Airport Extreme system to a Netgear MR814v2 access point, but you find that it can’t or won’t do so.  You’ll be able to see the SSID from the access point, and even to manually configure your networking so the Mac thinks you’re connected to the Internet, but when you try to go somewhere (like a Web site) it won’t work.  If you try to pick up networking settings via DHCP, you’ll get a self-assigned address instead.  Furthermore, the MR814v2 will only occasionally notice the system as an attached device, and even when it does the situation doesn’t get any better.

So how do you get them working together?

  1. First, make sure you’re reasonably up to date on firmware, having at least version 5.01.  I’m on 5.03, electing not to upgrade to 5.30.
  2. Log into your MR814v2 using the administrator username and password.
  3. In the left-hand menu, scroll to the bottom until you find the “UPnP” item.  Select it.
  4. Enable UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) for the router.  Apply the change.

After a few seconds, everything should work fine.  It did for me, anyway; I was able to hit the Internet within seconds, and when I switched over to DHCP it immediately received a lease.  I’m using the system to post this entry, in fact.

I found the answer buried in a Mac OS X Hints thread.  I’m posting this largely so Google can find and add it to the collective cyberconscious.

December 2014
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