3/24/08

Leopard: The Good Stuff

I'm just going to touch on a few things, as Apple certainly has—with greater flare—shown off Leopard's features. (Note, this now points to an introduction to Snow Leopard. Google Videos has the older version here.)

First, almost everything worked. I had a few glitches, as I describe in Leopard: The installation and Leopard: Problems.

SuperDuper! had already provided Leopard support, and it worked. Although I can see using Time Machine, to recover the state of individual files, I like having a complete, bootable image that I control. This may change over time. (No pun intended.)

Time Machine. It is cool, neat, etc. As I just said, I can imagine the need and using it. I have only played with it.

Spaces really helps my productivity. Under Tiger, to avoid some clutter, I used to have my desktop display be my "main display" and my Powerbook display be my secondary. It sat off to my left as you can see here. With Spaces, I just keep my PowerBook lid closed and don't use that display.

As you can see (click for larger image), I have 4 spaces set up. In the image, space 1 has my Mail program and a web browser showing. Space 2, my instant messenger windows. Space 3 has my iCal. And in Space 4, I have a few X-term windows up, connected to different systems.

Mail and iCal now work more closely together. Mail allows you to create "To Do" items, which show in your Mail, but also show up in iCal. Here is an example: I miss the side drawer display in the old version of iCal.

To Do Items are show on the side (as before), but details appear in a pop-up window. More on that in a bit. Mail also recognizes content that might be a calendar event. This is very nice. Here are two examples. First, I received e-mail that had information about a university commencement. Note the option it gives me. I did select Create New iCal Event, which brought me to here. In another e-mail, someone invites me to meet for breakfast. I "hover" my mouse over the text, pick Create New iCal Event, and create the event in iCal. As I said, I miss the way iCal used to display information in a side panel. Now one needs to double click on the even (just like the To Do Item, earlier) to be able to see details and edit the event.

One feature Mail could have done without: stationery. Stationery is terrific—for hand-written mail. All it does is add an image attachment that may or may not be seen as a "background" to the email. (Many times it will not show up—it depends on the e-mail client. The user will then click on the attachment to see it and it will make them wonder why you send them a fabric swatch.)

Finder changes. The jury is out on the changes to the sidebar. I find it a bit cluttered and haven't had time to figure out how to fix this. Networked systems that are reachable and "shareable," show up under SHARED. Much of the time. But, just this morning as I wrote this, everything had disappeared until I connected (via SMB or NFS) again to the linuxserver. Then it showed up there again. Of course, I like Quick Look, and I am sure I will like it more as I use it more.

Oh, and Dock and its "reflective 3D" look? I turned it off. Too much candy upsets my stomach.

Right after I talked about SHARED in Finder, all the systems disappeared. This is a complaint in many forums and discussion groups on the Internet. I bet if I went to my local Apple Store I'd see all the systems on their net. I just wonder how? Remember the picture above with local systems showing under "SHARED" in Finder? Now, nothing. And when there is nothing in SHARED, SHARED doesn't even show up. And a day later? All back.

With regard to Spaces... At work, at APL, I am still running Tiger on my 15" MacBook Pro. I wish I was running Leopard. Today on a conference call, I needed to have about 6 documents open. I wish I had separate work Space available in which to group the documents I needed for the call, while still being able to jump back to a space with my e-mail and browser. As it was I had to have all of them opened on the one "space" I had.

3/23/08

Playing with the Dock

You can find a lot more about changes to the Dock in Leopard elsewhere on the web. I just want to mention something I found and did. I wanted to group my Microsoft Office applications together in a "Stack." Stacks are mentioned on Apple's site, and a Stack is what is springing up in this picture:



Leopard will not let you just select a group of files and make a Stack from them. You can only make a Stack from a directory (folder). So, to get Word, Excel, and Powerpoint into one Stack I did the following.
  1. I created a directory under /Applications/Microsoft Office 2004 I called OfficeApps.
  2. I selected the three applications, did a Make Alias for each (right mouse button when selected), and moved the aliases into the new folder.
  3. I then dragged the folder to the right side of the Dock.


Now, when I click on the Stack, I can click and select the application.

3/21/08

Do I Really Want an iPhone?

The other day as I folder my clamshell phone and held it before slipping it into my back pocket I realized that it was the perfect shape and size. Where the heck would I stick an iPhone if I had one? I guess in my coat pocket or my "purse." (I carry a small "man bag," Jon Hall gave me.) I don't put my phone in there. I usually keep it on "vibrate" and so want to feel it "ring." So, I realized if I ever get one it would only be to replace my Palm. I keep my Palm in my bag now. And my iPod. So, replace my Palm and my phone and my iPod with an iPhone? No, no. That's just what Jobs wants.

But, if I ever did, I'd need the iPhone to have similar applications and functions. I have a free document reader on which I can load books. I use it daily. I have a free Bible reader. I have a word processor and spreadsheet. It would have to sync Address Book (does), iCal events (does), iCal tasks (does not—what is Apple thinking?), and have a secure place to encrypt all my passwords. Do I really want an iPhone? No. Yes. Heck. The phone fits in my back pocket (without getting broken). I don't always carry my "purse," nor do I want to. No. I'm so glad I cannot afford one and am locked into my current wireless carrier. One less thing to think about. I am not thinking about it at all.

Speaking of iPhones, Dave Piscitello mentions them in Hype-cycle management

3/20/08

Raise Your Shields

I used the firewall under Tiger. I'm a big believer in default deny. (Isn't everyone?) So, I was happy to see that Leopard's firewall has the option to allow per-application control over inbound connections.

See Close the Ports for details.

3/15/08

Leopard: Problems

After the install, everything came up all pretty. I logged in. My dock was pretty much as I had it set up under Tiger, only fancier. So, I fired up some applications I usually have running. Mail. It crashed. Repeatedly. Address Book. Crashed. iChat. Yes. Crashed. Segmentation faults, according to the Console log. iCal. No it worked. But, it was empty.

No worries. (No, seriously.) Remember, I had good copies of all of this. I looked at the Console log again. What do Mail, iChat, and Address Book all have in common. Well, one thing that immediately came to mind is that Mail and iChat both access Address Book when they start up. Both want to tie names with Address Book entries. Well, no guts, no glory. I zeroed out the entries! I deleted the contects of the AddressBook directory (~/Library/Application Support/AddressBook/). That did it, Mail now works fine as did iChat. I figured I would boot Tiger, back-up my address book, and copy it over to Leopard and read it in to Address Book there. But... Address Book magically regained the contents of the directory I had just deleted. I suppose Leopard (maybe iSync, as I think of it) recognized the state change, and restored from some .old directory. iCal was still empty. I found a similar fix in one of the forums. I had back-ups, of course, on my Tiger partition. The fix recommended was that I quit iCal, then delete the contents of the folder ~/Library/Application Support/iCal/Sources/. And it worked. So, with only minor glitches, I had Leopard up and running.

I ended up having to buy the newer version of The Missing Sync, to sync iCal, Address Book, etc. with my Palm. Maybe I didn't actually need to. I am not sure. The sync services are mysterious to me and are finicky. But, anyway, it is working now. Everything is. Minor annoyances Everything worked besides the above-mentioned applications and:
  • My printers were missing. It was not a big problem, of course, but it did seem strange.
  • My X11 settings were gone. Again, not a big deal. And did I write everything down after I recreated the Applications, their settings, and my xterm settings? You know the answer is "no."
Next time, I'll talk about the cool stuff I like and am using in Leopard.

3/11/08

Docks and Stacks

A great entry in Macworld's "Leopard Survival Guide," check out Dock and Stacks

3/2/08

Leopard: The installation.

This is the first installment after Leopard Installed! I'll discuss the steps I went through, what failed, and the easy and simple fix.

As you may recall, I waited until 10.5.2 came out to upgrade. The promise of speed improvements didn't excite me. My system was plenty fast. And while some of the cool new features actually seemed to be useful as opposed to just cool, the many complaints I read on-line were encouragements to wait. When the .2 release was announced, still I did not install it immediately. I have a day job. I waited until a Friday night when I had some time, and could oversee the installation.

Preparation. As I mentioned in System Back-ups and Freeing Up Space,
I plug my Lacie firewire drive in and turn it on. The partitions on this portable drive show up. Each partition is 60G— each large enough to hold all the information on my 60G boot drive. I configured each to be bootable. (Actually, one of the four partitions is slightly smaller. I named this "Archive" and to it I manually copy things I don't need to regularly back-up. For example, I have my photo archive there.
My plan, as you can figure out, was to install Leopard from the DVD, then update it to 10.5.2. So, using SuperDuper! I made sure I had a good Tiger backup partition. (Not completely—more on that anon.) I confirmed that I could boot off of it (by booting off if it).

The installation I launched the install DVD. I picked the "update"install because that's what Apple recommends and because two friends had no problems with it. After a half hour or so of the screen "Copying," with the blue spinning barber pole I received an unsettling response:
The installer could not install some files on "/Volumes/Macintosh HD". Contact the software manufacturer for assistance.
"Contact the software manufacturer?!" Yipes.

Well, I had just touched my keyboard a moment before. Maybe I hit something that meant "Quit," so, to be certain, I ran the same operation. Unfortunately, it was with the same results.

I remained very calm. Recall, I had my whole Tiger system sitting on the external drive, just waiting for me to reboot it. I tried an "archive and install," which is what some people said they needed to do. (This takes more space initially. It is like a clean install but it moves your current system to the side. This kind of an install just hung. So, since I had that Tiger system, I booted it. I searched in the Internet to no avail. "Oh, well," I thought. "No harm done." And I restored the original Tiger system. Later that day, after working on other things, I got a question from "My Mac Genius," Kevin. Did I use Disk Utility to verify the hard drive? Well, no I hadn't. Ah...
Verifying volume Macintosh HD
Checking HFS Plus volume.
Checking Extents Overflow file.
Checking Catalog file.
Checking multi-linked files.
Checking Catalog hierarchy.
Checking Extended Attributes file.
Checking volume bitmap.
Checking volume information.
Volume Header needs minor repair
volume Macintosh HD needs to be repaired.
Error: The underlying task reported failure on exit
Errors. Repairable errors, but errors just the same. Okay, cool. Repaired that disk. While I am at it, I checked and repaired the partitions on my external HD. Similar errors, fixed.

Success. I did pack it in for that night but the next day or so, I installed again, successfully. For the most part, the upgrade went very smoothly once the disk errors were fixed. You know? I don't (didn't) routinely verify my hard drives. While the installer from the DVD did provide for checking the DVD media itself, maybe it should have (at least offered) checked the system disk before it attempted the install.

Next time, I'll talk about problems I had, in particular with iCal, iChat, AddressBook, and Mail, and how I fixed them.