Mac VLC Might End

Via Thomas Gideon comes this bad news that a lack of OS X developers on the VLC project might mean that project ceasing on this platform. That would truly bum me out as I’m a user of VLC on my Mac Book. I’ve found it to be the one player that never chokes on any format, no matter what weird thing I throw at it. I sure hope someone steps up and takes the reins on this.

Even though I’ve been a professional developer for the last 12 years, I’ve never once developed for OS X. This would be a pretty rough one to start out on so I’m off the table (also, no chance in hell I have the time and bandwidth for one more project in my life.) College students or other developers with a little extra time and energy, please step up and take over!

Time Machine

Earlier today I bought a Maxtor OneTouch 4 500 GB external drive. I have a LaCie external, but it is smaller than the hard drive of my MacBook so I needed a little more juice than that. My original plan was to plug it in, make a bootable Super Duper backup and then proceed. However, when I plugged it in for the first time I got a dialog that asked me if I wanted to use this drive as the target for my Time Machine backups. I said yes and then it took off. This was quite a bit simpler and easier than I was expecting it to be. For some reason I thought Time Machine only worked with the Apple Time Capsule hardware so this was a pleasant surprise.

The main goals of this endeavor are to get my LaCie data migrated off so I can give it and my old iBook to my wife. The second is so that I can feel comfortable setting up Boot Camp and XP on this laptop. The goal of that is to see if I can once and for all get City Of Heroes running on this machine. Thus far it has failed on both VMWare Fusion and Parallels. Since VMWare can use BootCamp partitions, after I get this set up I will delete my existing VM partition and reclaim some space that way.

Mostly I’m happy that going into this long holiday weekend, the first task I attempted on my long list of things to do was actually significantly easier with a better result than I was shooting for. Here’s hoping to a bunch more like that.

I Have a MacBook

Last weekend we went to Raleigh for a long weekend of just getting out of our day to day lives for a bit. While there we ate food and shopped for things we can’t get at home. One of the biggest (in terms of excitement and cash) was a new MacBook for me. I had the green light to get this last year but I opted not to do it at the time. I had recently shifted from using the iBook as my day job machine as a contractor to being an employee with a provided laptop so I didn’t need the upgrade urgently. It turns out that I picked a good year to wait out, because the machine I have now is way better than I’d have gotten for the same price last year.

We bought it on a Saturday but I was strong and did not even open the box until we got home on Monday night. I didn’t opt for extras at the Apple store other than the Firewire cable to do the migration. The first boot up I did, I fired up the Migration Assistant and moved over the whole magilla to the new machine. It took a few hours. I forgot some advice that I had heard on the Mac Geek Gab and neglected to repair permissions on the old iBook first. It gone down to the last few files and just never finished. I let it sit at “one second remaining” for 45 minutes before I gave up and pulled the cable.

Overall, it seemed to work great. I liked just being able to fire up my MacBook with my old account and have more or less everything right there as I left it. I kind of wonder if I wouldn’t do better to create a new user account and then migrate over to it bit by bit at my leisure. Some things are definitely sub-optimal as they are now. One is that when I upgraded from 10.3 to 10.4 it did something that makes every application show up as Whatever.App . It’s kind of annoying to look at and it remains that way in the migrated account. I created a new account just to fiddle with and it doesn’t have that issue. I might log into the new account and move files over as I need them and at some point if it doesn’t feel like I need whatever hasn’t moved, just delete the old account. Having the packrat mentality that I do, though, my default is always to keep all of everything on the off chance I might need it one day. Just deleting a bunch of cruft would be hard for me, but maybe I should do it because of that.

The only issue I’ve had at the executable level was with NeoOffice. Their builds aren’t universal binary and for some reason Rosetta had issues with it so I had to delete the migrated one and download an Intel specific build and it works great. I installed a trial of VMWare Fusion which also works great. I installed Windows XP into that partition and after it did the endless and painful cycle of upgrades I took a snapshot of the VM to return to if I need to. I also installed the Bodog Poker client and tried it out in Unity mode. It worked well, and now I can play poker from the Mac laptop on sites that only have Windows clients. It’s madness, but it is my kind of madness! I may create another VM and install Ubuntu just for fun.

This is the first computer we’ve bought in 4 years, and that’s the shortest upgrade cycle ever for us. Typically we use them for 6-10 years. The Windows box that syncs my Zen and Zune is one I got for a job in 2000 and have had ever since. I’m never tempted by new hardware to run out and buy it. I go from the other direction and use the old stuff until it gets to the point of preventing me from achieving what I want to do, either by being slow or lacking capabilities. In the case of the iBook, it got to the point where I wanted to do things that needed a much bigger hard drive and an Intel processor so I finally relented. I’m glad I got it and also that I waited this long, because this a great machine and a great value.

MacPorts Woes

I have been interested in the Gimp for a while but every time I fire it up, I’m intimidated by the whole thing. I’ve never used Photoshop so either program freaks me out. That’s why I have subscribed to the excellent Meet the Gimp vidcast.

Given all that, I was excited about the possibilties of MacPorts. I installed it, and went to do the install of the Gimp package with it. That’s when the fun ended. For the next 18 hours, packages were downloaded and built until finally it pooped out on an inability to build Python and never progressed. A whole lot of the packages that Macports was working on were already on here from Fink. That all just really sucked. I was really on fire to run the Gimp on this iBook and the whole experience was a big disappointment. Now I’m thinking about just reclaiming that space on the hard drive and forgetting the whole thing. What a downer.

Party Like It’s 2005

Later this afternoon, I’m planning on upgrading to Mac OS X 10.4. That isn’t a typo, I am still running 10.3 here. I can never remember which cat any release is and I don’t really care. I can tell without thinking about it that 10.4 is newer than 10.2 but it takes a lot of work to remember if Tiger is newer than Bobcat.

When 10.4 first came out, this iBook was what I was using all day every day for my full-time contracting gig. I didn’t have an external drive to back up to and I thought that even if there was a 1% chance of some problem occurring, it wasn’t worth the risk to disrupt my livelihood. That went on for a while until it got to the point where it seemed silly to buy 10.4 when 10.5 was close to coming out. However, now that 10.5 is on the streets it seems like people have a higher level of dissatisfaction than is typical for an OS X release.

However, what the release of 10.5 did do was drop to nearly zero the value of 10.4 install disks. I asked on Twitter if people had a copy they would sell me cheap and several people replied that they had copies they would just give me. That’s an interesting point where it actually has value to me but not to anyone that has already upgraded. For my part, I’m just getting tired of finding apps that I want to run but can’t because they required 10.4 at a minimum. I’m typing this in Ecto, but I can’t upgrade to the newest version. I can’t run the Levelator or Rogue Amoeba’s Fission. The list goes on. I don’t care about having the latest and greatest, just enough to do what I want to get done. If I lag far enough behind to get that for free, I’m cool with that.

Leopard Early?

Here’s a rumor I hope is true: Apple’s upgrade to OS X codenamed Leopard (10.5) may be early. It’s promised for spring, and coming in early next month would be fine with me. I’m waiting for it with bated breath because I never upgraded from 10.3 to 10.4 but I will do this one. At the time 10.4 was released, this laptop was my every day work machine and I had no external drive to back up to. I didn’t want to take the risk of something going wrong and then not being able to do my job, so I just skipped it. By the time I was able to do it, it was so late in the cycle that I figured I might as well wait.

At this point, there is an increasing amount of applications that seem to not work correctly or at all with 10.3 so I’m looking forward to catching back up with everyone else. Bring it on!

Stress Relief

Here’s a bit of advice for you Apple laptop users. If the little bit of stress relief rubber at the charging tip ever breaks off or comes loose, fix it immediately. I did not, and I’m paying the price. In a few weeks, the charger went from perfect to barely usable. I have to fiddle with the cord to make it charge, and then not move the laptop on my desk while it is actually working.

Good thing I just bought that replacement battery so that I have 4+ hours of life. The original, several year old battery was down to about 90 minutes per charge. Now, I charge it overnight, unplug and work, charge again around lunchtime, charge again at the end of the day and then unplug in the evening. If I’m lucky, I can get through my day with 3 charge cycles. It’s more strain on the battery than I’d like, but not being able to lean back in my chair or work from the couch or futon whilst plugged up is a drag.

I’ve got this 3rd party charger on order. It looks like hell but is 60% cheaper than the Apple version and has a better rating. I should be here Thursday which is good, because every time I try to fish around and the orange light doesn’t come on, I have visions of my laptop sitting dead with me unable to work until UPS gets here.

High Tech Old School

Whenever I use Audio Hijack Pro (of which I am a proud paid customer and give my highest recommendation), I always use the VU Meter plugin. Maybe this is my radio background showing in the romanticization of old affordances, but watching that needle bounce to the right and into the red is infinitely more satisfying than any sort of LED or progress bar style meter of the same information. Sometimes an analog view just hits you right there, you know?

Memory Aid

I’ve had this iBook for approaching two years now, and I’ve been using it to do both almost everything for my day job plus my personal stuff for a year and a half. It came with 256M RAM, and early on I added another 512M. In my day to day work I frequently am running Eclipse, postgresql, and an instance of Tomcat on top of everything else that is standard workday stuff – Mail, Adium, Skype, etc. It was just getting to the point of pain recently, where the laptop would get bogged down and thrashy, particularly late in the day.

Last week I swapped out my 512M RAM stick for a 1G one (there is only one RAM slot), upgrading it to the maximum memory supported by this machine. Good gravy what a difference that made! That gives me enough that I can go all the way through my day, with all my apps running, without ever using up all my real RAM and requiring virtual memory. It makes me feel kind of dumb for not doing this a year ago. They say maxing out the RAM is the best upgrade value, and I have to say that this has been true for me. Everything is faster, and my day is better.

NetNewsWire Crashing

Is anyone else experiencing frequent crashes of NetNewsWire? From the crash reporter stuff, it appears to do with a Flash Player Plugin thing. On certain items in my list, when it attempts to render them the app crashes. It used to be fairly infrequent, now it’s about once a day. Whether that has to do with a situation getting worse on my machine or more people using the thing that makes it crash on their posts, I cannot say. The only recourse I have is to either mark the items as read without displaying them, or zipping past them really quick with the arrow keys such that they get marked read but not rendered. It’s highly annoying, and I get pissed off when I navigate to a new item, and get that sluggishness and swirling beachball because I know what is coming next. I hope those Crash Reporter missives to Apple eventually end up at Ranchero, because I by myself have submitted dozens of them.

Update: Brent Simmons himself left a comment pointing to his own post which explains both the problem and the workaround.

Mac Geek Gab Comes Through

I’ve been listening to the Mac Geek Gab podcast since the beginning because of my relationship with the same guys with the iPod Observer (and Backbeat Media as well.) This morning, they just fixed a problem for me. I’m sort of suprised, in a good way.

My desktop OS X box, an old 400 MHz blue and white G3 that I bought used a few years back as my first taste of OS X, hasn’t been starting up right. On boot, it sits for a while, then goes to blinky question mark and then sits and sits and eventually boots correctly at some point in time ranging from 10 minutes to 2 hours later. I’ve been thinking that this is an indicator that the startup disk is slowly failing and will one day soon completely die. In fact, they said to check the startup properties because that setting can get corrupted to have nothing, and that your Mac might be trying to do a network boot. That is exactly what was happening. I had two options, the hard drive and network boot, and neither was selected. I selected the hard drive, rebooted and it came right up. The Mac Geek Gab came through!

iPodderX Version 3

I’ve been using this for a while, so long in fact that to be honest I forget what all features are new since 2.2.9. I can say that iPodderX 3 is a huge step up and it is now released into the wild. I’ve been sworn to secrecy on the feature set, but it is damnably cool and features lots of stuff I’ve grown dependent on, such as converting MP3s to bookmarkable AAC as they are downloaded (something that makes use on the Shuffle that much better.) If you use it, this is a free upgrade so grab it post-haste. If you have been thinking about trying it, this is a great time to try it.

BTW, I’m not saying all this because they sponsor me – it’s kind of the other way around. They sponsored me because I used and liked the tool. It makes my life easier, and it does that better than the alternatives. In other words, it is the tool here not me.

Adium X

Getting old sucks. A few hours ago I ran across a reference to Adium, a multi-protocol chat client. I have been using Fire on the Mac. I installed it, but now I can’t even remember how I found this thing. Aaaaanyway.

Because we use Lotus Notes and the Sametime IM for work, I haven’t been as mobile as I could be. I mostly sit near my desktop PC during business hours so that I’m available via IM to my coworkers. The thing that attracted me to Adium was its Sametime plugin that comes with the default install. I fired it up, configured and I’m back in business! And it works! I spent the latter part of the afternoon in the coffee shop whilst still being able to chat with coworkers and do my standard work on the free wifi. Right on! Adium is based on the Gaim engine, so presumably that will correspond to maturity and stability for this app. All I can say is that so far, I’m digging on it. Sorry Fire, looks like there is a new sheriff in town.

Boned Again by Audacity

Tonight I recorded and edited the episode with the first part of the Paul Melancon interview. I exported it to the AIFF, listened to it, and big portions of the vocal track .. just … weren’t … there. This is the last straw. I appreciate the program’s existence but my time is just too scarce to keep throwing it away on work that Audacity eats. I think I’ll give them a little donation to the project to thank them for the use I’ve had so far, start shopping for an alternative and get the hell away from this thing as fast as I can.

Mac OS X Defragmenting

I’ve never needed a defrag program for one of my Macs before, but this constantly recording and filling up my hard drive is producing noticeable degradation of disk performance. What tools are good for this thing? Keep an eye towards the value/price ratio. Are there good free ones? I see that Micromat has one that is $100 – is that worth the money? I know nothing about any of these so please help a pal out.


From Adam Curry’s Weblog comes this post about podcast audio routing:

The quest, was to create a setup, without external boxes, whereby you can record voice, mp3 players (or any audio application for that matter) and another person via iChatAV (works with AIM on windows). The other party also has to be able to hear the mixed feed, including audio clips, songs etc. Achieving this without creating piercing feedback loops and echo chambers was the rubik’s cube of my week.

Hugo has now posted a diagram and detailed instructions on setting up a Mac for ultimate multi-person audio recording via the internet. He uses some different apps, which is good since choice is better.

The answer lies in an open source software audio router called Soundflower.

Holy crap, this seems completely awesome! I downloaded Soundflower, although I probably won’t install it today. At least for us Mac users, this looks like the Holy Grail. Throw off the shackles of those Radio Shack mixers and rise up!

One Step Beyond

I’ve taken one step towards moving totally to NetNewsWire as my aggregator. I took Shrook out of my selection bar on the bottom. I got tired of hitting it by accident and invoking it, causing the iBook to noticeably lug as it does its huge initial load resource draw. Since my main complaint with Shrook is it’s high resource usage, this means that the only part I get of it nowadays is that heavy startup. After a few days of NetNewsWire, I like it more and more. I still haven’t paid for it and have for Shrook, so there is still a chance I bail but I’m digging NNW for now.


Via Cult of Mac comes this link:

Grady Booch, UML guru and IBM fellow, is dropping IBM products because he wants a Microsoft-free computing environment. He says:

I’ve decided to make the move to a Microsoft-free computing environment, having tired of the time I spend on the care and feeding of XP as compared to my relatively worry-free network of Linux appliances and Macs. My latest acquisition is a 17″ Apple Powerbook powered by the IBM G4 processor which I’ll use to replace my XP laptop and an older G4 tower. In addition to a breathtakingly beautiful form factor, this machine has every feature I need, from DVD-R to Airport and Bluetooth connections. More importantly, there’s no essential application I need that doesn’t run on this platform. In this manner, I’ll avoid the Microsoft operating system tax, although I will break down and install the Microsoft Office suite (which actually is nicer on the Mac than it is on XP). Eclipse runs quite handily on the Mac already, thank you: I’ve been developing beans with it for over a year now.

The 17″ Powerbook he’s going with is a very nice machine. I’m deliriously happy with my downmarket 14″ iBook myself. If I had to, I would accept a ThinkPad with Fedora Core on it but I prefer my iBook. Welcome to the tribe, Dr. Booch!


It’s been suggested to me that what I really need for getting audio into this Mac is an iMic. After looking at the page, I have to say that I agree with that. It would be great to actually hook up my real microphones and mike stands and use them to record the audioblogs. I’d like that better than speaking generally towards the screen. For example, I could do things on the computer while recording without each click and keystroke being such resounding thud. Being able to accept both mic level and line level inputs is awesome, so I might just hook this up. Thanks for the suggestion, y’all!