Links for a Thursday

In this installment: a free tool to create EOT Lite webfonts; An Event Apart interviews CSS web comic creator; Apple is exonerated of censoring iPhone dictionary; and “a new breed of documentary photographers.”

“A New Breed of Documentary Photographers”
Curated by photographer/photo editor Geoffrey Hiller, Verve Photo presents “photos and interviews by the finest young image makers today.” Case in point: Joni Sternbach, and her amazing 8″ x 10″ Unique Tintypes of surfers.
Schiller Responds Re: Ninjawords and App Store

Daring Fireball follows up on its previous Ninjawords: iPhone Dictionary, Censored by Apple, exhonerating Apple of censorship and suggesting that “Apple’s leadership is trying to make the course correction that many of us see as necessary for the long-term success of the platform.”

An Interview With the Creator of “CSSquirrel”
CSSquirrel is both a person and a web comic. Both are profoundly geeky. Picture a comic where, to understand the punch line, you have to follow the politics of the development of the HTML 5 specification or be conversant with the details of RGBa color notation, and you’ll know why we love the subject of this interview.
Ascender Corp. introduces tool to create EOT Lite fonts

In their own words:

Ascender has made a proposal for a subset of the Embedded OpenType (EOT) format with two features removed:

  • MTX font compression
  • URL Binding (root strings)

…In order to help type designers, foundries and font vendors create an EOT font without these two features, Ascender has developed a simple software utility called the “EOT Lite Wrap Tool.”

This GUI-based tool is compiled to run under Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Features in the tool include:

  • Wrap a single font or a batch of fonts
  • View the EOT font header information

Ascender is offering a free license to this tool to qualified type designers, foundries and font vendors for use to create EOT versions of their own fonts.

Please review the Read Me file and EULA before requesting a copy.

[tags]webfonts, apple, censorship, ascender, EOTLite, documentary, photographers, photographs, blog, CSS, CSSquirrel, webcomics, aneventapart, interviews[/tags]

Apple OS X 10.5.7 overheats some Macs

Robert Black was right. OS X 10.5.7 adversely affects the internal heat management of some iMacs (and apparently also some MacBooks), causing the machines to overheat. Overheating, in turn, leads to such problems as freezes during iCal sync; freezes during iTunes sync; and the inability of attached hard drives to complete a backup.

Blah blah

I confirmed this by installing smcFanControl and watching my Mac get hotter and hotter as it tried to complete a SuperDuper backup. Disk Utility confirmed nothing was wrong with the attached drive. Swapping cables proved a faulty cable was not to blame for previous failed backups. Maddeningly, the backup got within 4GB of completion before locking up due to the overheating of my iMac.

Not every iMac or MacBook is affected. It probably varies by factory run and by model. (My MacBook Pro, for instance, is fine.) Third-party stuff and Migration vs. Tabula Rasa System Install seems to have no bearing on whether or not your Mac will choke on the update.

Since even running smcFanControl at settings recommended by Robert Black and others doesn’t cool the iMac enough to finish a backup or verify the quality of the attached drives, it may not make sense to replace my external hard drives (as new drives will likely also fail as the iMac overheats during backup).

With smcFanControl in place, I can use my iMacs but not back them up.

Apple needs to release an update that fixes the hardware problems this one created.

(And someone else needs to install it before I do.)

[tags]OSX10.5.7, bugs, Apple, Macintosh, update[/tags]

Quick survey on OS X 10.5.7 bug triggers

Update: see OS X 10.5.7 overheats some Macs.

Fellow Mac users, let’s see if we can isolate the triggers of the OS X 10.5.7 blues. If we learn the cause, others may know whether it’s safe for them to update, and we may provide Apple’s engineers with a clue on how to fix the problem in a subsequent update.

Theory 1: Migration Assistant

My affected iMacs have systems that were migrated. That is, when I bought the machines in December 2007, after running them for a while as-is to ensure that they worked properly, I ran Migration Assistant to bring over applications, preferences, network settings, and so on from my previous work machine (a non-Intel white powerbook).

Blah blah

Theory: Possibly OS X 10.5.7 update becomes unstable in the presence of a leftover something migrated from an older system.

Test: If you’re suffering from the 10.5.7 blues, did you run Migration Assistant on the afflicted machine? Did you migrate from a non-Intel machine?

Theory 2: Third-Party Stuff

When something goes wrong with a Macintosh update, a third-party add-on is often the trigger. Here are the add-ons on my sufferin’ iMacs:

Items marked “removed!” were my initial suspects. After the update, iTunes froze on sync. I reckoned the iLike plug-in was to blame, and after removing it, was able to sync again for a while.

Then the Mac froze during an iCal sync, so I removed MenuCalendarClock.

But removing these little guys didn’t fix anything. Soon enough, even without these add-ons, the Macs were freezing during iTunes sync and during MobileMe iCal sync. Eventually they froze on any app, doing anything. (Only to inexplicably resume normal operation again for hours at a time. But enough of this.)

And you? If your Mac is misbehaving after running OS X 10.5.7 update, are any of these add-ons on the machine?

[tags]OSX, bugs, OSX10.5.7, 10.5.7, apple, software, updates[/tags]

SuperDuper! Mac Backup

Even if your computer craps out, there’s no reason to lose your work. Rated five stars on VersionTracker,  SuperDuper! is the dead-simplest and most reliable backup program for Macintosh I know. With a click, it makes a fully bootable backup of your hard drive. If disaster strikes your data, or if someone steals your laptop, you can boot and restore from the cloned drive.

SuperDuper runs on Intel and Power PC Macs, and is compatible with Time Machine under Leopard. Download and use it forever for free, or buy for US $27.95 to unlock scheduling and Smart Update. (Smart Update copies only the data that has changed since your last backup, enabling you to backup your hard drive in minutes instead of hours. Which means you’ll actually get into the habit of running the backup program every day. Which means you’ll never lose your work. Best $27.95 you’ll ever spend.)

Update Jun 3, 2009

Ironically enough, this morning, a routine backup failed. SuperDuper immediately presented me with a simple “report the problem” form that included a log of everything that had happened on my system. I filled out the form and hit SEND. Within 30 minutes, I had an email from Shirt Pocket Support diagnosing the problem:

It looks like your destination volume failed during the backup. Here’s some stuff from your system log that shows the error in progress: [etc.]

There were also simple instructions on how to test (and possibly fix) my backup drive.

There was even a note about some scripting additions carried over via migration that were likely no longer working on my Intel Mac.

This is unbelievable service.

To anyone who thinks this is a paid ad, don’t be silly (or insulting). I really love this product and this company. You will, too.

[tags]superduper, backup, program, mac, macintosh, osx, os x, apple[/tags]

Ready For My Closeup

Ready For My Closeup

DanielByrne [warning! Flash site with JavaScript auto-expand full-screen window] came to Happy Cog‘s New York office to shoot me for an upcoming feature story in .Net Magazine, “the UK’s leading magazine for web designers and developers.”

What can I say? I’m a sucker for the gentle touch of a make-up pad. Or of anything, really. I love this photo (shot by Byrne with my iPhone) because it captures the fact that I’m still really a four-year-old. It also shows what a genuine photographer can do with even the humblest of tools.

[tags]photos, photography, shoot, danielbyrne, photographer, zeldman, jeffreyzeldman, profile, bio, interview, .net, .netmag, .netmagazine, .netmagazineUK, myglamorouslife, iphone, candid, shoots, shots, Apple[/tags]

Phoneless

Two weeks out of warranty, my iPhone 1.0 becomes a turnip.

Cost to replace an out-of-warranty iPhone 1.0 with a refurbished version of the same model: $199.

Minimum wait time to receive the $199 replacement at the 57th Street Apple Store: two hours. That’s 120 minutes, folks.

Can I leave and come back? No.

Cost to replace my old iPhone with a new model: also $199.

Minimum wait time to receive the new model at the 57th Street Apple Store: one hour.

I don’t want the new model but one hour is better than two.

Alas, though I’ve got a dead phone, I also have a hungry toddler. I can’t wait here that long.

The Apple Genius recommends that I make an appointment and come back.

First available appointment? Tuesday.

Today is Saturday. My phone, my connection to the world, is dead. I can’t replace it at the Apple Store unless I devote the afternoon to the project.

Lightbulb: AT&T stores sell iPhones. There are AT&T Stores all over this city. I don’t have to wait in this airless giant gerbil cage all day!

Availability of iPhone at nearest AT&T Store: nil.

How about at this other AT&T Store? Nope.

Or this one? No iPhones here either.

A tropical storm hits New York, ending my quest, sending me home soaked and phoneless.

I will have to go back to the Apple Store some other day, and queue as if for Madonna tickets.

I love this phone, but I’m starting to have my doubts about the company that makes it.

[tags]apple, iphone, applestore, scarcity[/tags]

In the bag

Early tomorrow, I leave for San Francisco. Headed into my laptop bag, along with my MacBook, are…

  • An iPod Classic containing 8624 “songs” (I like music) and 46 “movies.” Sample titles: A Mighty Wind, A Night at the Opera, Helvetica, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Lost in Translation, North by Northwest, Rushmore, Spirited Away, Stardust Memories, Stranger Than Paradise, Swing Time. The iPod also provides two days of interstitial music for the conference.
  • Power and stage adapters for all gear.
  • The latest issue of Macworld.
  • One or more novels (haven’t decided which; I always travel with at least one great book I’ve read before, and it’s always a new experience).

In my carry-on bag, in place of the usual dress shoes and gym shoes, I’m packing Crocs. It’s not my normal travel or presentation attire, but my foot (although much better) is still a bit out of whack, and you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

See some of you in San Francisco and the rest of you here and there.

[tags]sanfrancisco, airtravel, iphone, ipod, apple[/tags]

Maybe that’s why they call them Kodak moments

It was the last day of our daughter’s first year of school. Party time. All the three-year-olds dressed like dolls; teachers relieved and sad; parents misty-eyed, promising to stay in touch over the summer.

Our children have three teachers. One is leaving for graduate school, the second is off to have a child of her own, and the third—a wonderful woman—will have to be taken out of the school in a box.

The teachers stood together for the last time, hugging each other and our children.

Moments like these are once in a lifetime. Fortunately I carry an iPhone. Unfortunately, my iPhone’s camera is once again taking blanks instead of photographs.

For those who have just missed the photographic opportunity of a lifetime because of this unfortunate iPhone bug, here, once again, is the method that will remove the corrupted file and get your iPhone taking photos again:

  1. Sync iPhone. This also creates a backup of the notes and other items that don’t get synchronized anywhere else.
  2. Go to Settings, General, Reset: “Erase All Content and Settings.”
  3. Once complete, reconnect the iPhone to begin syncing with iTunes.
  4. iTunes will ask if you want to sync from backup. Choose not to. Instead, “Set up as new phone.” This sounds scary, but it’s really not. (You don’t lose your phone number or anything. It’s just a dumb, needlessly scary Apple label.)

From resourcesforlife.com, whose solution this is: “You will lose notes, SMS history, and iPhone settings as well as data that is normally synchronized. However, corrupted system files (such as the internal camera roll files) will be replaced with fresh non-corrupted versions and everything should work.”

I didn’t post this to complain about not getting to photograph the last day of our kid’s first year of school. Nor did I post it to take a swipe at Apple for building an amazingly creative, industry-leading product that is, however, a computer, and thus subject to bugs and glitches.

I posted it because every six months or so, when my iPhone’s camera stops working, I forget how to fix it. Now it’s on my website. When the camera starts failing around Christmastime, I’ll know just where to look.

[tags]apple, iphone, camera, software, bug, whitebox, photo, photos, disappearing[/tags]

Usability problems with .Mac sync

I’m afraid this is another of those entries outlining bizarre design decisions and perplexing usability quirks in the otherwise brilliant world of Apple computers and phones. The problem is sync. It can be done, but it often goes wrong, even for smart people who understand computers, haven’t hacked their equipment or broken the law, and are kind to dogs, cats, and children.

Here’s a particular setup: .Mac account. Tiger laptop at home, Leopard iMac at office.

On both Macs, you need to refresh your subscriptions (Calendar: Refresh All) before you sync for the first time at that location. Otherwise, sync deletes the subscribed calendars’ information. Just wipes it clean away.

And even if you Refresh All first, sync may wipe away your data, just because.

Fortunately, after sync erases your data, hitting Calendar: Refresh All again reinstates it, downloading saved data from .Mac.

Why does syncing on either Mac remove all the calendar events from subscribed calendars? It’s the opposite of what any user could possibly want. There’s not even a conceivable edge case where a user would expect “sync” to mean “I’m bored with my life. Surprise me. Make my calendar data disappear.”

One doesn’t sync to lose data. Losing data by syncing is the exact opposite of what a user expects—which also makes it the opposite of what the Macintosh experience promises and usually delivers.

.Mac sync is either partly broken; or correctly designed, but to absurdly limited scenarios; or designed so counter to a user’s expectations that it should only be run with instructions, which Apple does not provide.

Apple does not provide instructions because instructions imply a learning curve, and Apple’s pitch is that its stuff just works. One nevertheless expects at least a slight learning curve when using, say, GarageBand or Keynote. But not with sync. “Sync now” seems pretty self-explanatory, and no user doubts what’s supposed to happen.

Sync does give you a warning before dumping your data, and that warning provides a clue to what’s going wrong. It tells you that syncing will remove x number of items from your calendars, and even lists which items they are. In Leopard, it goes further, and shows you before/after views of items that will change.

Significantly, there is generally no change at all between the before and after views. Probably the “change” is to a part of the database that the user doesn’t see, and has to do with differing file formats or differing time-stamp conventions between Tiger and Leopard. A less buggy or better conceived interface would hide this non-information from the user instead of asking her to think about it.

Do I really need to see that “Lunch with Jim at 1:00” is going to “change” to “Lunch with Jim at 1:00?” Probably not, since, from my perspective as a human, the two items are identical. It’s lunch. With Jim. At 1:00.

If “Lunch with Jim at 1:00” is “different” from “Lunch with Jim at 1:00” to my Macintosh because Leopard and Tiger encode or store calendar items differently, or because Leopard and Tiger time-stamp event creation dates differently, that’s not information I need to know and it’s not a before/after view I need to see.

Before/after seems cool, and probably is if your data is actually changing. For instance, if you’ve changed one of your friend’s photos, it would be nice to compare the before and after views and decide which photo you prefer. But I’ve never seen before/after work that way. Changed photos just get changed. Before/after only seems to come into play on my networks when “Lunch with Jim at 1:00” is changing to “Lunch with Jim at 1:00.”

The irrelevancies I’ve just described must be endured, and the sequence (Refresh: All, then Sync, then Refresh: All again if data was lost during sync) must be performed in the order described, before syncing the iPhone. If, in a moment of derangement, you plop your iPhone onto its dock before doing the herky-jerky data dance I’ve just described, you will lose data not only from your iPhone, but also from .Mac, and then you will never get your data back.

Your mileage may vary.

There are always 100 people for whom everything works correctly, and some of them are always moved to tell me it works for them, and to imply that I’m somehow to blame for the obvious usability problems I’m clearly describing.

They are followed by a dozen Apple haters who want to believe that the lengthy and detailed description of a specific usability problem proves Apple makes bad products, and anyone who claims to enjoy using Apple’s hardware and software is a “fanboy.” Juvenile homophobic and misogynist name-calling often accompanies these messages of hope.

Here’s what I am actually saying.

On my two-Mac setup where one is on Tiger and the other on Leopard, I can make sync work, but I must carry out actions in exact sequences, and know the tricks to undo the damage that syncing inflicts on my data due to bizarre design decisions on Apple’s part.

A few times I have irretrievably lost data, although I was able to manually recreate it by emailing colleagues and asking, “When are we meeting?”

It reminds me of running an old analog mixing board in a dirty, smoky recording studio. Everything’s cool if you know which faders you must never touch, which inputs are dead, and how far to the left you can pan a sound source before shorting out the system.

There’s genius in the concept of sync, and it works magnificently when you’re, for instance, syncing just one iPod to just one Macintosh, always the same iPod and Macintosh.

It gets weird when syncing from home to office via .Mac across operating systems, and weirder when you throw hot iPhone action in.

How should sync work? Just like you think it should work. Just like the two arrows circling in on each other (sync’s icon) imply that it does work. Hitting sync at any time on any networked device should cause all the latest changes to be stored on .Mac and downloaded back to whichever connected device you’re using.

There’s a whole other discussion to be had on why the iPhone is supposed to sync to only one machine, (Sure, iPods do that because of DRM restrictions; but competitive PDAs can sync to any computer: home, office, you name it. Likewise with digital cameras. The iPhone is a phone, an iPod, a digital camera, and a PDA, but its syncs like an iPod, not like a digital camera or PDA, and that’s just dumb.) but we’ll save that one for a rainy day.

Sync long and prosper.


Addendum: Another crazy thing is that subscribed iCals from Basecamp don’t update upon refresh in Leopard. In iCal in Tiger, subscribed Basecamp iCals correctly refresh automatically when one selects Calendars: Refresh All. But in iCal in Leopard, subscribed Basecamp iCals do not refresh, period, no matter what one does. In order to “sync” Basecamp iCals in Leopard, one must delete the calendars every day, and subscribe to fresh copies. When one does this, one gets fresh calendar data, but sync fails due to “conflicts” that do not load in the frozen Conflict Resolver and thus cannot be resolved. This of course is not what Apple intended. It is, by any reasonable measure, an idiotic and self-defeating system. The basest ape would not design such a system. Obviously the system is not operating the way Apple intended. How does one fix it? Apple isn’t telling.

Comments are now off, but you can read what others had to say when comments were open.

[tags]dotmac, .mac, sync, iphone, imac, laptop, macbook, macbookpro, apple[/tags]