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I want to make it fly

There was a moment this evening when I wanted to get down on my hands and knees and beg. I was ready to pay any penalty to get out of our current contract. I was ready to see if I could find any takers on eBay for my mint TAM. I was ready to do anything my wife wanted, for the opportunity to replace my Palm TX with an iPhone. Sure, the iPhone would replace my cell phone and iPod too, but they didn’t cost me three hours of my life this evening (and that’s not counting the wear and tear).

You see, my Palm is my life at work; and because it’s so important to me, I sync it regularly with my Mac. In fact, it just so happens I was doing it again this evening.

I normally know my way around a computer, but somehow I managed to delete my work calendar – and not just on my Palm, but on the iMac, my .Mac account, and on the PowerBook (all of which sync together through the magic of .Mac).

Only today it was black magic.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering how I’m so sure it’s the Palm’s fault. Couldn’t have just as easily been the Mac, .Mac, or (gasp) the user?

The thing is, I’m partly to blame. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true. I’ve been using The Missing Sync, from Mark/Space, but it’s been giving me lots of trouble lately. So, I decided to switch back to the Palm Hotsync manager. I should have backed up my Address Book and iCal databases, but I didn’t. I should have stopped when OS X sync services warned me that 250 contacts on my computer were about to be altered. I should have grown a little weary when it said more than 10% of my tasks were going to be affected. In my defense, that’s partly why I was getting rid of The Missing Sync. It was constantly giving me these warnings, even when very little had changed. I’d done a couple test syncs, to see if I could determine what it was doing, but I couldn’t. So it’s ironic that I was switching away from one application, so I wouldn’t have to worry about the computer crying wolf one too many times, then I disregard the warning the first time I use the new (older) software. I got fudged over real good friends.

I could blame my TX. I could blame Mark/Space. I could blame the Palm Software. I could blame .Mac.

But all of this is why I was SO ready to switch to the iPhone this evening: seamless integration. With my Palm, I think there may have been too many chiefs in the kitchen, if you know what I mean. In that sense, I was ready to chuck the hard to use beasty. Every time I plug in my iPod, I think it should be that easy for my Palm. The iPod syncs with my calendars and contacts (albeit one way, since you can’t make notes on my iPod). It also pulls in relatively large audio files, and at a fraction of the time or effort it takes with my Palm (just to synchronize a few tasks and calendar items).

Now I’ve got to recreate 6 months of appointments… somehow. Tomorrow is going to be a lot of fun.

Macbook envy

This little guy (and I do mean little) is the first Mac portable that’s wet my appetite since the 12″ PowerBook. My wife suspects the lack of an optical drive could be a deal-breaker for some, but I rarely use mine.

Has Dear Abby ever weighed in on how long you should to wait before you ask your spouse for another computer?


The MacBook Air

Quiet <> good?

imac5clr.jpgA week or so ago I told you about the iMac we took in. I’d described it as another one of the original Bondi Blue models, to go along with the other two we have already (one that works, and another that’s fried, but we keep for parts). Cheryl brought it home after getting in late that night and we put it on the only horizontal space available: the desk in Adam’s room.

Adam woke the next morning with eyes wide enough to drive a small car through.

We opened up the blinds in his room and my eyes got wider too. This wasn’t just another Bondi Blue iMac, it was yet another piece of Apple lore to add to my collection: one of the five fruity color iMacs… in this case lime.

My son was already excited, and my yep of glee pushed him right over the edge. He took a few excited leaps on his bed before we could restrain him, visions of our last ER visit still fresh in our minds.

Since that morning I’ve had to take the power cord away, to keep him from powering the thing up constantly. Even with a password required at start-up, he still got a kick out of turning it on, hearing the Mac OS 9 start-up chime, and shutting it down. Without a password required, he quickly figured out how to turn it on and launch one of the old educational games we installed from when Beth was his age (we woke up one morning to the sounds of “Jump Start Preschool” not long ago).

Now both of our kids have computers, and whenever we allow them access to the power cord (such as this morning), the house descends into almost total silence.

Silence is a troubling thing in a house with two small kids, no matter what they’re up to.

Saving my sanity

How’s this for a testimonial:
“I’d sign over my next paycheck to these folks, if my wife didn’t have any say in it.”

Fat Cat Software and their little app: iPhoto Library Manager saved my bacon this evening. My iMac did something to me that an Apple computer hasn’t done to me in years: it crashed.

It’s been so long I didn’t know what to do. If I was at work, toiling away on the dark knight of personal computing, there’d be no question; I’d give the three-finger salute and be done with it. Well, maybe it wouldn’t be that simple, but this isn’t a post about Microsoft so let’s move on.

So how do you escape from a crash on a Mac? There’s a key combination to force quit applications, but I’d graduated to full-fledged kernel panic – or to put this in the vernacular, my poor iMac was reduced to a pretty decoration (complete with a funky pattern on the screen). It may be that the only escape from this predicament was just what I did: I pushed and held the power button.

Man was that weird. I hope I don’t have to do that again.

Friends, that wasn’t the worst of it though. The crash occurred during an edit operation in iPhoto. And you guessed it, the crash corrupted my iPhoto library. As I soon discovered, there’s no easy way to recover a thoroughly corrupted iPhoto library. It was so bad that iPhoto’s “rebuild library” command option didn’t work (press and hold option-command as iPhoto starts up). I tried creating a new library, importing the old pictures (since it was just the library files that were corrupted, not the image files themselves). The problem here is that over half of my image files are scanned photographs from my old film cameras. You may or may not know this, but iPhoto does not add information to the image file itself (like when you change the tag info on an MP3), it keeps all of your comments – and more importantly, in my case, all of your custom date info, in separate files.

So I could reimport all of my image files into a new library, but I’d loose all of my collection info, my tags, and the actual dates I’d assigned to the pictures (so they’d sort by the date the picture was actually taken, not the date the file was created by my scanner).


I did a little searching on the Apple support discussion boards, and found out about the little app I mentioned above. Among other things, it apparently has a more advanced engine for recreating iPhoto library files (from the ruin of corrupted files). It’s not perfect, but I’ve got most of it back.

I’m not going to bore you with a lot of details, but for reasons I’d rather not get into, my backups were no good. So its a good thing this worked, or I’d be looking forward to unimaginable hours sorting through this mess, re-entering image data.

You couldn’t hear it from there, but that was a BIG sigh.


I’ve got nothing better to do than to catalog my Macs, so here we go. (I’m a little bored.)

Mr. T (a Mac Plus)
I bought this one new from the UF bookstore in the Fall of 1989, tricked out with two, count ’em: TWO megabytes of RAM. Throw in an Imagewriter II and a 20 megabyte external hard drive, thanks to that ultra-fast, 2.1 MBps SCSI bus… and I was the envy of Hume Hall! (It was sad to hear the place was torn down a few years ago to make way for a new honors dorm.)

Performa 577
This one came out during Apple’s dark days. We bought it sometime in the Summer of 1994. It was probably my least favorite Mac. Out of the box it was underpowered, making me wish I had done a little research before buying it. We should have saved a little more money and sprung for one of the PowerPCs that were just starting to appear at the time. It was still better than the PC I had at work that ran Windows 3.1/95, but doesn’t really say much, does it.

I found it interesting at the time that despite this job being my first experience with Windows, I was the de-facto tech support guy. It was shortly after this experience that the local school system decided to replace all of their Macs with Windows PCs; to give students “real life” experience on the computers they’d be more likely to see in the world after graduation. It’s kind of funny that the Mac guy in the office was the expert trouble shooting Windows PCs (and training folks in the “real world” how to use them).

Two revision B, Bondi Blue iMacs
We bought our first one new, shortly after they came out in the fall of 1998. We bought the second one used in 2000. I fell in love with computing again on this computer. Mr. T was mostly a homework machine. The Performa got us by. Our first iMacs were part of the family. After they were replaced by the eMac and an iBook, they continued to serve us as the server for this site (until 2004).

12″ iBook G3/600
We picked this one up in November 2001, along with a second generation Airport base station. It was my first purchase at the Apple Store in Tampa, my first laptop, and the least reliable computer I’ve had. I’ve had it in for service twice. The last problem was never fixed, due to the cost to fix it. As a result, you can’t open the lid beyond 90 degrees, or the screen goes black. It’s still in use though, as a homework machine for my daughter. It’s just not portable anymore. One thing this did do: it addicted me to portable computing… a purchase my wife may rue till the day she leaves this world.

After we picked up the PowerBook, this little guy replaced the Bondi iMac as the server for this site until late 2006 (when we shutdown the home server, took apart my set-up of multiple routers and firewalls to isolate the server from our home network, and moved everything off site).

eMac (800 MHz)
We picked this one up at the Apple Store in Tampa in the Summer of 2003. It would have been one of my favorites, if the fan wasn’t so darn loud. Otherwise a really nice machine. The clear case on the keyboard looks really cool, until it gets filled with crumbs, bug parts, and all sorts of small, indecipherable gunk. Then it looks a little disturbing.

I got this mint, 20th Anniversary Mac for free. It’s ten years old and I still use it every day, as a second computer in my office at work – playing iTunes and NPR through its Bose sound system (and FM tuner). Some people loved this computer. Others saw it as a BIG waste of money, and I hear Steve Jobs really hated the thing. This is one place where Steve and I disagree (I’m sure he’s losing sleep over it).

12″ PowerBook G4
This little guy is my baby. We picked this one up with a state employee discount at the Apple Store in the Summer of 2004, while Cheryl was pregnant with our son. (Is it sad that I associate the purchase of a computer with the birth of a child?) Even though the iMac is faster, brighter, and prettier, my 12″ PowerBook is like an extension of my hands. I know this isn’t the most responsible use of energy, but since we bought it, I don’t think it’s been off for more than a few hours (for take-off and landing on various flights we’ve taken). I don’t remember having to restart it for a system crash (or kernel panic)… ever. Part of that is probably luck, but I think it’s at least partially because of the solid OS (Mac OS X was pretty mature by the time it came out – I believe it shipped with a mid to late version of Jaguar). Compared to various Dell notebooks I’ve used for work, and several iBooks I’ve used (all of them being the G3 “Icebooks”), my 12″ PowerBook is a work of art. The case is tight, the keyboard is just the right combination of firm and responsive, and the size is ideal (for my purposes). By comparison, the iBook keyboards were a little mushy, and the Dells were/are a creaking, flimsy piece of crap. I’ll bet my PowerBook cost more, but sometimes you do get what you pay for.

Intel iMac
This is the most excited I’ve been about a desktop computer purchase, and the biggest performance jump I’ve noticed since we went from the Performa 577 (33 MHz, Moto 68LC040 processor), to the Bondi iMac (233 MHz G3 processor). The difference between our two G4 Macs and the dual core Intel processor is substantial. It’s just this side of silent (you can barely hear the high pitched hum of what may be a fan, if you turn off every other noise making device in the house), and as many reviewers suggested, I have gotten used to the quirky keyboard.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on this site (or read this entry), you probably know I’m partial to Macs. It’s true that I’ve never owned another kind of computer, but I spend all day working without them (Macs) at the office (the Windows hegemony).

I use Windows at work because I have to. I use Macs at home because I want to.

Beware of the man with an iPhone

Here’s a story that comes to you courtesy of a blogging friend of mine:

ATA Tries To Have You Arrested For Using Your iPhone In “Airplane Mode”

Here’s a primer: two people who can’t get along bring down an airplane short of its destination.

I wonder what I would have done, if I’d been the guy with the phone. Part of me thinks I’d just take the path of least resistance and put the thing away. Another part of me thinks I’d have ended up in the clink.

News Corp ready for ‘prickly’ chat with Apple – Macworld UK

Like I need another reason not to like News Corp. Now the awful Aussie and his minions want to get nasty with my favorite computer maker. According to an article in Macworld, News Corp is counting on a rough re-negotiation with Apple over selling their TV shows on iTunes.

Peter Chernin, President of News Corp, courtesy of Macworld UK:

“But let me say this, we’re the ones who should determine what the fair price for our product is, not Apple.”

No offense, but Apple does have a little experience determining what price people will pay for certain things. You might have heard a few of them… the iPod, the iPhone, the Mac. How much retail sales experience does News Corp have?

Maybe I’m being too picky. They’re obviously good at what they do (no matter how despicable I find their news operations). But do those successes offer any lessons for selling content directly to consumers? They make movies… but don’t theaters have discretion to set prices for tickets? (Actually, I don’t really know the answer to that one. I just assumed they did, since they seem to be different in different places.) They sell newspapers, but aren’t they largely supported by advertising (rather than price per unit)? They have a news channel, but they give that baby away on basic cable (supported by fees from cable companies and ad revenue).

Listen to me… the guy with no business experience whatsoever.


I’m not a big Ed Burns fan, but I’ve enjoyed a few of his movies. As someone with a significant investment in home entertainment, and an Apple enthusiast, I’m intrigued by his upcoming movie…

Ed Burns Talks to Us About ‘One Missed Call’, ‘Purple Violets’, and Digital Distribution – Cinematical:

Purple Violets will possibly be the first film ever released exclusively on iTunes. Starting October 9th, the film will be available for four weeks on iTunes, and they’ll see how the numbers are after that.


My last copy of iPhoto dated way back to version four. (And yes, this is another Mac entry… it’s all I’ve got to talk about… I haven’t been doing anything else.) I haven’t fiddled with any of the other iLife apps, but the new version of iPhoto has really impressed me. There aren’t a lot more editing tools, but the ones I’ve used are better. In particular, the touch-up tool has worked wonders on some of my scans of older pictures.

In the past I’ve opened images in Photoshop (Elements) and painstakingly touched up blemishes, scratches, and dust artifacts with a brush tool (sampling adjacent color and painting in the scratch a pixel or two at a time). There was probably an easier way, but I’m a hard way kind of guy. The touch-up tool in the latest iPhoto works like a brush, but it does a pretty good job of picking up the surrounding color and just filling in the scratch, without smearing or coloring over the stuff that was o.k.

Color me impressed.

.Mac web galleries

I’ve been playing with the new computer, and it’s pretty cool and all; but I was looking forward to playing with the new iLife apps just as much. Here’s a few quick albums I threw together, including some sentimental favorites from a trip to Sanibel Island (FL) ten years ago.

Sanibel Sunset

I’m just getting started, but I’d really like to find a simple way to embed individual web gallery images in a WordPress blog. Maybe I should save a little fun for next weekend.