Back to back

Dobey, I’m sure you’d rather avoid iTunes, but it does let you do what you want, in a roundabout sort of way– you can tell it to rip any two or more consecutive CD tracks as a single file, so they’re always played back to back. Of course you then lose all the ID3 info for one of the tracks, and you can’t apply it retrospectively to already-ripped tracks, so we could certainly do better.

DTrace your Macintosh

From the OSX Leopard sneak peek:

When you need a bit more help in debugging, Xcode 3.0 offers an extraordinary new program, Xray. Taking its interface cues from timeline editors such as GarageBand, now you can visualize application performance like nothing you’ve seen before. Add different instruments so you can instantly see the results of code analyzers. Truly track read/write actions, UI events, and CPU load at the same time, so you can more easily determine relationships between them. Many such Xray instruments leverage the open source DTrace, now built into Mac OS X Leopard.

Cool or what? Now, if they’ll just open source their GUI so we can reciprocate by including it in OpenSolaris:)

Tiger so far

My experiences with Tiger so far, after a few hours’ playing:

  • The installer refused to install anything at first, failing after the hard disk verification stage with the everso-helpful message “There was a problem with the installation. Please try installing again”. Luckily I knew where to look for the install log when I rebooted, whereupon it claimed it had encountered the dreaded Error -9972. Not wanting to take any chances, I backed up everything and did a clean install.
  • Things do generally feel somewhat snappier, as promised.
  • Spotlight does what it says on the tin, but for me, not quite as elegantly as Quicksilver, at least as an application launcher. Biggest annoyance in that regard is that you hit the shortcut (Cmd-Space, rather that Quicksilver’s Ctrl-Space, but that’s fine), type the first few characters of the app you want to run, and the results come back. At this point, Quicksilver will show you the closest match and you can launch it straight away ny hitting Enter. Spotlight, however, always pre-selects “Show all matches” rather than “Top hit”, so you have to arrow down to select the app or file you want to open. A tad annoying.
  • Dashboard is very pretty, but some of the widgets duplicate stuff that’s already in OSX, and it would be much more convenient if the widgets could be placed on your actual desktop, rather than an Exposé-like overlay. It also takes up a space on the dock… haven’t checked to see if it still runs if you remove it, yet.
  • Still no virtual desktop support– Desktop Manager to the rescue.
  • Photoshop CS refuses to run any more, even after a complete re-install. (Update: I tried again, and now it does.)
  • Had to upgrade Desktop Manager and my Wacom tablet driver to get them to work, but now they’re fine.

I haven’t yet looked at Automator, the 3D video chatrooms in iChat (nobody to talk to!), the improved mail client (as I only use that for my work email, which I can’t access until Cisco come out with a Tiger-compatible VPN client), or much else, really.

Update: samba also looks to be somewhat broken… I can connect to my office share using smbclient, but I can’t mount it with mount_smbfs (or Connect to Server, in Finder).

Update II: Mac On Linux can’t run Tiger yet.

Update III: There is a way to have dashboard widgets on your desktop

Update IV: Samba does work after all; in 10.4 it just sends passwords encrypted by default, which our office servers can’t handle yet. Adding this to /etc/nsmb.conf fixes it:


Tiger Time

My copy of OS X Tiger has arrived, a day ahead of schedule (and 10% off, thanks to Sun’s employee purchase plan)… all I can say so far is that it comes in this nice (if slightly hard-to-open) box, because I haven’t decided yet whether to install it and break my ability to work at home until Cisco get their act together and release a compatible vpn client. But I think I probably will :)

Ubuntu to you too

Have spent a few hours over the past couple of days installing and playing with Ubuntu Linux on my Powerbook G4. I thought I was quite happy with Mandrake^H^H^Hiva 10.2 (one of the few other mainstream distros that runs on a Powerbook), but I think I was wrong… with Ubuntu, the GNOME battery monitor works, my plug-in wireless card works, and my Wacom tablet works (mostly– no pressure sensitivity). And most of all, everything feels a lot snappier, especially the indispensable MOL (which is one of the few things that’s been more of a hassle to set up with Ubuntu than it was with MDK, thanks to the lack of a pre-compiled kernel module).

As with any flavour of Linux of course, there’s still no hardware acceleration for the G4’s ATI Radeon 9700 graphics chip (I do miss being able to play TuxRacer in its native environment, although the OSX port isn’t bad), and no driver for its built-in Airport Extreme wireless card. And there probably never will be, given both manufacturers’ reluctance to release any information about them whatsoever to Linux hackers. But what the heck.

Things that changed the UI world

Jef Raskin, usability guru and Macintosh pioneer, died yesterday.

Talking of the Mac, I read an excerpt from Andy Hertzfeld’s new book at the weekend that reminded me why most dialog boxes have an OK button in them.  Apparently, when usability testing the original Apple Lisa GUI, the designers had chosen the more formal Do It as the confirmation button label, but noticed that people were sometimes inexplicably clicking Cancel instead. When quizzed, one frustrated tester eventually confessed that they thought the button said Dolt, so he wouldn’t click it because he wasn’t a dolt…


I was thinking of writing something about Sideways, which Julie and I went to see at the weekend, but Michael Jordan (no, not that one) seems to have summed it up fairly well. Rarely have so few interesting things happened in a movie between a couple of mildly amusing bits.

Also spent a bit of the weekend writing some screen-scraping scripts to automate my production of the irish Setanta listings for the indispensible Digiguide. The
detailed information for each programme on Setanta’s website is
unfortunately contained in a Javascript popup that you can’t get at
with wget, so I thought I’d acquaint myself with AppleScript
for this part of the task (the rest is just relatively simple sed and
awk magic). Several hours of experimenting and googling later,
though, I never did find a way to tell Safari to save a webpage with a particular filename in OSX 10.3.8 (and it seems I’m not the only one)– it just doesn’t seem to work as intended. I ended up doing it with UI scripting instead, which works, but isn’t terribly elegant.

iLife ’05

Had a quick play with iLife ’05
at lunchtime.  Admittedly I’d barely had time to play with iLife
’04, but the new features I’ve noticed so far look handy enough…
iMovie doesn’t complain about trying to import clips that are longer
than 9.5 minutes any more, and GarageBand has a built-in instrument
tuner and notation feature now, amongst many other things.  (It’s
also supposed to support direct import of MIDI files, but as yet it’s
steadfastly refused to consider importing any of mine– at least I
don’t seem to be alone with this problem though..