Thursday, January 26, 2006

Don't blow it Apple!

I’m the first to espouse the uniqueness and fun of Apple’s products. From the very first Apple product I brought home and unwrapped in 1993 (my Mac Classic II), I’ve always appreciated the elegance of what Apple does, right down to the packaging (yes, I’m talking about the box and wrapping).

Apple has more or less been traveling the road to renewed success and viability since the release of the iMac, OS X, and then the iPod. But there’s a price to success. Companies can get sloppy and greedy...just look at Microsoft for the textbook definition. They’re currently faced with a white elephant in the Windows OS; will they sack it and start over like Apple did with Classic in favor of OS X, or will they continue trying to nurse that bloated sack of crap into some sort of functional tool?

I’m currently looking at buying a new iPod Video to replace my 3G from a few years ago. My 3G came generously with a dock, headphones, AC adapter, firewire cable, a remote, a case, and other various nicknacks. Like many of you, I also bought third-party accessories for it that totaled in dollars as much as the iPod itself.

After I carried my iPod for a while, I noticed its battery surely didn’t last as long as the promised 8 hours, even if I never used the backlight. I could get 4 in the beginning, which rapidly decreased over a year. I also noticed how easily the shiny chrome backing of the iPod scratched, apparently by just taking it in and out of the Apple-supplied case. Apple, why not design a case for the iPod that doesn’t need another case to keep it from scratching? Dumbasses!

Apple found itself reeling, fighting lawsuits and customer dissatisfaction over its sloppiness--from horrible battery life to iPod nano scratches. Apple had to offer costly placation deals, like the iPod battery replacement program, that they could have avoided by being candid and factual in the first place.

Later, we saw instances of Powerbook and iBook battery and screen defects--more sloppiness, more legal haggling, and more expensive Apple service programs to address the public relations damage. I wonder if Apple is just riding the cash cow or if they’re actually paying attention to their customers (not if you read the Discussion boards)? Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for their success, but I’m disappointed with some of the crap they’re letting out the door lately. Don’t release a new iPod generation each year if it’s not freakin’ ready...OKAY??!! QC your products Apple.

As I’ve now come to find out, Apple is releasing the iPod Video without a dock, remote, and AC adapter. All that stuff has to be purchased extra now and totals well over $100. And most of those expensive third-party accessories I bought are no longer utile for the new iPod, because Apple keeps shunning any particular standard and modifying things--important things (like electronic connections)--with each new iteration. And one can only wonder if it’s profit motivated, because it sure isn’t customer motivated!

Well, here’s a new Powerbook audio defect that Apple's currently trying to ignore; Apple’s official, laughable advice is to avoid multitasking. We’ll see if quality gets better or goes down with continued success, just as quality suffered and continues to do so at Microsoft. History has shown quality suffers when a company sees itself as invincible; Steve, don’t become the next Bill Gates! Remember...think different!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Sometimes, the Computer Name Screensaver "poofs" into a folder...

This is an odd issue that I had seen before, but it just happened to me again. I can’t remember what fix I found the first time, but this worked now:

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20051106220246962

Bottom line...go through System Preferences app when changing screensavers to see this particular screensaver normally.

Netbarrier X4 (10.4) firstlook

This isn’t working well for me in Panther (10.3.9) at the moment. I keep getting:

“Waiting for OS X initialization”...or something along those lines.

Then followed two successive kernel panics on startup, and each time I had to do a disk repair using Diskwarrior. Oh well...

So, I went back to X3 for the time being while Intego sort out the bugs.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

iTunes 6.0.2. goes clandestinely adware with MiniStore

Okay, there’s a lot of hoopla out there about iTunes 6.0.2 software having the new “MiniStore feature,” which, if open, will send info to Apple about what songs you click or listen to in your library and then present songs in the MiniStore pane similar to those songs clicked or listened to in your library.

First of all, you can disable this feature easily by clicking the button below the Mini-Store pane or select Edit > Show MiniStore (↑-⌘-M) to turn it off. No data are sent out once it’s disabled. Remind others who use your computer and have their own accounts to also disable this feature, because it will open for them as well; I’m sure Apple is counting on someone in the household not knowing how to turn the crap off.

The problem with this mess is that Apple doesn’t explicitly state anywhere they’re going to monitor your habits; they’re not forthcoming with information on turning it off; and they have it set to activate automatically when you first open iTunes after upgrading, which means until you figure out what the hell is happening you’re being watched. Regardless of whether you’re staunchly defending Apple (like many of the zealots over at the Apple Discussion boards), Apple has been less than honest by sneaking in this “new feature.”

I’m really not too concerned if Apple knows what I’m listening to (as I’m a faithful customer who has bought many tunes on iTMS--and I own 3 Macs, an Airport Express, and an iPod), but they’re also sending data to some 3rd party company called Omniture, Inc. Apple unofficially has claimed to dispose of data instantly (info used to target the advertisements to you in iTunes), but what does Omniture have to do with it? Why are they also getting the data? Are they also instantly disposing of the data? Something in me says NO!

Others on the net have found that your Apple ID is also sent with this data if you’re logged in, and though Apple may not store any data sent, there are some cookies and other info stored on YOUR computer. So in this regard, it is arguably spyware and at the very least adware. So users be-WARE!

Other reads on the subject:

http://since1968.com/article/154/itunes-update-update

http://www.boingboing.net/2006/01/11/itunes_update_spies_.html

http://www.plasticbag.org/archives/2006/01/cynicism_and_stupidity

http://www.rc3.org/2006/01/spytunes.php

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Belkin's iTrip - Broken?

iTrip is an attachment for iPods that allows transmitting your iPod’s audio output to an FM receiver.

At first, I thought my iTrip was broken, but I realized I had only forgotten how to set it to a certain frequency. One must play the particular frequency file on the iPod (with iTrip attached of course) until the iTrip begins to flash. Once it flashes, hit pause. Then it’s set and ready to go.

It’s still not perfect. It’s best to use it with another power source in your vehicle, as it will drain the iPod battery in no time. And on days when FM propagation is active, you may have to change to other frequencies. Remember, the quality is going to be no better than FM radio stereo reception, which isn’t all that bad really. If you’re a big audiophile, go with a wired connection option for your vehicle.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My Gear

It’s nice to talk about what comprises your Apple setup. Here’s what I have:

Hardware Overview (G4 AGP):

Machine Model: Power Mac G4 (AGP graphics) CPU Type: PowerPC G4 (3.3) Number Of CPUs: 2 CPU Speed: 1.2 GHz L2 Cache (per CPU): 256 KB L3 Cache (per CPU): 2 MB Memory: 1.19 GB Bus Speed: 100 MHz Boot ROM Version: 4.2.8f1

Capacity: 9.57 GB Model: QUANTUM FIREBALLP LM10.2

Capacity: 114.5 GB Model: Maxtor 6Y120P0

Capacity: 233.76 GB Manufacturer: ATA Model: Maxtor 6Y250P0

Capacity: 57.27 GB Manufacturer: ATA Model: IC35L060AVV207-0

Capacity: 4.11 GB Manufacturer: PIONEER Model: PIONEER DVD-RW DVR-107D Revision: 1.18 Drive Type: CD-RW/DVD-RW

ACARD,6280M (to allow running the huge 233 GB Maxtor): Name: ACARD,6280M Type: scsi Bus: PCI

ATY,Rage128Pro (driving a MAG Innovision monitor): Type: display Bus: AGP Slot: SLOT-A VRAM (Total): 16 MB

ATY,Rage128 (driving a ViewSonic A75s monitor): Type: display Bus: PCI Slot: SLOT-D VRAM (Total): 16 MB

That’s the studio Macintosh. Our network consists of a Netgear router and an Airport Express. The network has a Mac Mini and Powerbook Aluminum 15. Finally, a nice 3G 20GB iPod to top it off!! Other studio stuff can be seen here.

10.4.4. update is big crash-bang-boom!

I just made the mistake of loading this update via Software Update without backing up first. Let’s this be a lesson to everyone. Don’t do it! Backup, backup, backup!

Remember when I said that a Safe Boot was getting me out of trouble in 10.4.3? Well, I’m stuck at the gray Apple screen of death again, and I can’t Safe Boot or boot into Single-User mode. I can’t even do an Archive and Install...I tried and the stupid thing still doesn’t recognize the file system. All the usual troubleshooting steps were ineffective. The only real option is to blank the drive and start over, and I don’t have the time anymore. I’ve spent a week trying to get running with Tiger and it has been a waste of time.

Sticking with Panther for now, which is rock solid for me at 10.3.9! Maybe Apple with fix this crap eventually instead of breaking it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Upgrading from Panther to Tiger 10.4.3

What a pain in the patootie! My old, trusty G4 AGP 400, which has been heavily updated and modified into a dual G4 1.2 GHz Panther beast, gave me fits when I decided to load Tiger and then update it to 10.4.3. The problem: hanging at the gray Apple screen during startup without any progress indicator (the spinning wheel). I spent the better part of three days troubleshooting this nightmare, to include two separate clean installs and migrations. I discovered lots of folks were having this issue on G4s after the 10.4.3 update around the net, but no one had any solutions (other than using another Mac in target mode to install the 10.4.3 combo updater). There had to be another way.

So, I used a safe boot (⇧ during startup) to drop into safe mode, which would work every time. Single-user mode was a no go (⌘-S); the Mac stubbornly ignored the snag. I perused the Console and kept seeing this:

Jan 9 12:37:23 Studio-Mac SystemStarter[800]: authentication service (815) did not complete successfully
Jan 9 12:37:25 Studio-Mac SystemStarter[800]: The following StartupItems failed to properly start:
Jan 9 12:37:25 Studio-Mac SystemStarter[800]:
/System/Library/StartupItems/AuthServer

After much troubleshooting, I found that I could reboot normally once if I installed something on the machine that modified the extensions. Subsequent reboots would hang, however. The log entries above may or may not have indicated the ultimate problem. I’ll have to watch the system.log to see if they go away. After digging around in the Apple forums and other places, I found a solution for my nettlesome situation.

While in safe mode, I deleted the following files (* means delete directory contents):

/Library/Caches/*
/System/Library/Caches/*
/System/Extensions.kextcache

After rebooting, the problem went away, even for subsequent reboots. I’ll monitor and see if installing new kernel extensions requires repeating the deletion sequence. So far, all is good for now.