Sunday, October 10, 2010

Be Smart with Smart Folders

Most of us don't use OS X to its fullest potential. Here are some great tips for getting the most out of Smart Folders. I have several of these set up, including for System File searches, PDFs, and Preferences. It's kind of like a searching shortcut.

Want to keep track of all documents you have greater than 500MB in size? All your PDFs? All your OpenType fonts? Pictures taken with your Canon PowerShot within the last two weeks that have less than a specified focal length and greater than a specified exposure time? If you can set up a search for something in the Finder, you can make a smart folder for it too.

[From Smart ways to work with smart folders | Business Center | Working Mac | Macworld]

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Orwellian Apple Censorship

Here's my comment on the story about Apple censoring its Discussion Boards over Consumer Reports refusal to recommend the new iPhone 4 based on reception issues. Part of the reason for this blog is document my own troubleshooting efforts and problems I've had with Apple hardware and software.

Apple discussion boards have done this for years. They have devoted stormtroopers on there who will edit or delete your posts in a flat second, if they deem the posts unflattering to their products.

What’s unfortunate is that I’ve had several negative things to write in those forums, usually about hardware. My Powerbook’s lower memory slot went out and I never got it fixed because mine wasn’t in the “range of serials” that Apple deemed to be the problem; no one told my Powerbook that. My current Airport Extreme has to be reset usually once each day…again, Apple’s response to me is to make an appointment and bring it in to the Genius Bar (not sure how they are going to replicate my issue there, since it’s random). If you Google it, however, you’ll see that it’s a common problem, and people get inconsistent help (some get products replaced straightaway while others don’t).

Same sort of censoring happened when Apple decided to remove pdf manuals and hardcopy manuals from Logic Studio and replace them with the cumbersome Apple Help system. Apple finally relented and quietly brought back the pdf files after all the complaints. But they never acknowledged the complaints.

I think Apple would do well to have a revamped hardware testing division: A group of folks to test a product for six months thoroughly, before Apple releases it. They’ve always relied on users and developers to QC their software just before and right after release, but it’s a mistake to use that model on hardware. There are certain things in hardware that simply can’t be fixed after the genie is out of the bottle. I’m afraid what happens is that users end up being guinea pigs for the hardware a lot of the time; Apple simply (quietly) fixes the issues discovered in the next iteration, but the original buyers are left out in the cold.

[From Apple Censoring Discussion Forums Ref. Consumer Reports | Cult of Mac]

Monday, July 12, 2010

Airport Extreme Freezes and Connection Slowness

Not even a year ago, we replaced our old Netgear Ethernet Router and old Airport Express with a nice, shiny, new Apple Airport Extreme. Lot's o' promise. The main problem (apart from other minor hiccups you'll find on here) has been that we typically have had to soft reset the unit daily, because the connection would become completely unresponsive--including Ethernet and wireless connections. So, it was either the cable modem (which worked fine with our old router) or the Airport Extreme, which judging from a Google search is giving more users than just me fits. So, I've played with all sorts of settings, including turning off IPv6 in the unit and on all the computers in the house; that didn't seem to fix anything.

However, I may have just made some changes that greatly improved my download speed while also eliminating the need to reset the AEBS each day! We'll see if my "fix" holds up. But the speed improvement is a plus.

First, I changed from "Automatic" to 100 Mbps/Full Duplex in the Airport Utility and restarted the AEBS:

Next, I changed similar settings in System Preferences->Network ("Automatic" to "Manually"):
Speeds via showed a dramatic improvement for download:

Then, I finally found the culprit: The automatic MTU!!
I couldn't believe it. Such a stupid, basic cause of such a big problem. This is most certainly a BUG.

To fix the MTU:

1. Apple Menu > System Preferences... then Network.

2. On the left, choose Ethernet , then Advanced... on the bottom.

3. Choose Ethernet tab:
. . . Configure: Change from Automatically to MANUALLY.
. . . MTU: Change from Standard to CUSTOM. Put 1452 then click OK. Then Apply at the bottom.

[From Apple - Support - Discussions - A fix for random, slow, intermittent ...]

Saturday, July 03, 2010

1Password Slow Safari Starts and Command Key Sluggishness

I've had these issues for sometime now. Turns out that I may have discovered something crucial about the problems. Rebuilding the datafile, clearing the cache, and removing all InputManagers did not fix the issues, which were reproducible on two Macs. Removing the Internet plugins also did not resolve the issues.

If Safari is starting slow for you under Snow Leopard and you use 1Password 3, make certain that you remove the old InputManager called something like "1Passwd." I was able to start Safari far faster than before. Until Agile fixes the command key sluggishness issue, make sure you lock your keychain after you're done using it. It's a pain in the ass, but your browsing snappiness will return if you like to use key commands like me.


Another discovery (apart from the one listed below) can be read here. Turns out that it's the "key icon" in the Safari menubar that's somehow contributing to the command key slowness in Safari. If I disable that in 1Password's preferences, the sluggishness disappears, even with the keychain unlocked. No clue, but that's somehow the culprit. Maybe it will help others. Please let me know here if you're able to reproduce this problem.

First, I can verify that removing the old InputManager left over from the 1PW 2.x days definitely made Safari (ver. 5) start up faster (2 - 3 icon bounces in the Dock instead of about 10). Start up is almost instantaneous now, thank goodness.

Second, this command-key sluggishness (and even clicking the 1P or key icons) I've been going through has persisted (any Command key combination is slow on Safari 4 and 5). This means sluggish behavior for key combinations like Cmd-T to make a new tab, Cmd-W to close a tab, or even Cmd-Q to quit Safari. Very LONG pauses before the desired result follows the keystroke combination.

However, I made a discovery today that I wanted to pass along to you all at Agile, which may or may not help troubleshoot this issue. It's reproducible on my Mac Pro and my MacBook. The sluggishness ONLY occurs while 1PW is unlocked. As soon as I LOCK 1PW again, the snappiness of my command keys in Safari 5 returns!!! Unlock the keychain, back to sluggishness. Completely reproducible on both my machines.

I have rebuilt the data file and cleared caches several times. The only other InputManagers I still have running are DeliciousSafari and the latest beta of Glims (if that's even still an InputManager).

Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

[From Slow Safari startup with 1Password enabled (when the Cache is out of date)]

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Use Only One Partition for AirPort Extreme (802.11n) Disks

Turns out that using more than one volume per disk connected to an Airport Extreme isn't a good idea. May explain some of my issues.

The AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule work with most disks that are not software RAID volumes (no more than one volume per physical disk).

[From AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule: USB storage device supported formats and protocols]

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ecto Finally Updated to 3.0.2

Seems like every time I buy software, I get screwed. The developer stops developing the software, or the developer gets bought out by a bigger company (who ignores the software), or both. At any rate, I had nearly given up on favorite blogging software (which was chock full of bugs). Still not much better than Ecto out there, so I'm glad they've finally paid it some attention.

ecto 3.0.2 was released today via the built in software updater. The ecto 3.0.2 release includes the following fixes:

updated Amazon plugin
updated Flickr plugin
include Atom03 plugin by default (mostly for older Japanese blog systems)
fixed a URL redirect handling bug
minor documentation updates (link to correct location for support forum, etc.)
the ecto updater now uses a different XML feed to update the software based on the operating system version, separating Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) from later versions, (Leopard and higher)

[From illumineX: ecto 3.0.2 released]

mDNSResponder Constantly Doing "Something"

I noticed my mDNSResponder connecting constantly to opendns (didn't always happen but when it did it was constant). Found the links below. It basically requires a bit of under-the-hood tweaking.

  1. Make a back up copy of the mDNSResponder.plist file as a precaution.
  2. Open the mDNSResponder.plist file in Terminal using your preferred text editor. Here is a sample command:
    sudo nano "/System/Library/LaunchDaemons/" 
  3. Add "<string>-NoMulticastAdvertisements</string>" to the array in the "ProgramArguments" section.

    In other words:
    <string>-NoMulticastAdvertisements</string> </array>
  1. Save the file.

    : If you edited the file using emacs, you must remove the emacs backup file (the file with a tilde at the end of the name, "/System/Library/LaunchDaemons/") or your Mac will not start up.
  2. Restart your Mac.


UPDATE 12 June 2010: The problem, as it turns out, was listing my OpenDNS servers in both my Airport Extreme (for the entire home network) and my Mac Pro. As soon as I deleted the OpenDNS servers from Network Preferences on my Mac Pro, everything returned to more constant outgoing connections. The above method worked too, but it was at the cost of losing Bonjour connectivity on my home network (not acceptable).

[From Snow Leopard disabling mDNSResponder/Bonjour drops internet - Mac Forums]

Mac OS X v10.6 uses the mDNSResponder process for unicast DNS (Domain Name System) functions, as well as Bonjour functions. Disabling the mDNSResponder process will also disable unicast DNS resolution, and without unicast DNS resolution, Mac OS X v10.6 cannot resolve hostnames such as

In some network environments, administrators may prefer that Mac OS X v10.6 not transmit Bonjour service advertisements. You can use this advanced article if you are a network administrator who needs to disable Bonjour advertising service without disabling Bonjour queries and DNS.

[From Mac OS X v10.6: Disabling mDNSResponder will disable DNS]

Monday, February 15, 2010

Adobe Blocking HTML5 To Save Flash

What do you do when you're a major software company with a huge investment in a buggy, cumbersome technology (that's expensive for users to implement and maintain) that's being directly threatened by a better, lighter-weight technology that's open-source (and thus free)? You act like Microsoft, of course.

Long live HTML5 and down with Flash!!! I truly believe the iPhone and iPad will drive the eventual adoption of HTML5 that will supplant Flash. The sooner it happens the better for us all.

Larry Masinter, Adobe, quoted in the minutes of yesterday's weekly phone status report for the HTML working group: do I need to repeat objections?

Net result: the latest publication of HTML5 is now blocked by Adobe, via an objection that has still not been made public (despite yesterday's promise to make it so).

[From Hixie's Natural Log: Consistency]

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Photo Editing Noobs: Use Layers

And you don't need Photoshop to use Layers. Just download the free, open-source GIMP editor and enjoy! GIMP can do most everything that Photoshop can and it doesn't cost you a dime.

Do you edit your digital photos using layers? If not, you're missing out on the single most powerful tool in your photo editing repertoire. Layers may seem baffling at first, but they're not hard to use—and they permit all sorts of powerful digital editing tricks.

You can use layers to combine photos, create double exposures, achieve special effects like selective color in a partly black-and-white image, and even correct a shot's exposure or color balance.

[From Basic photo editing tricks with layers | Digital Photo | Digital Photo | Macworld]

Sunday, January 03, 2010

1Password KeyChain Syncing Issue With Dropbox

Here was my solution when I discovered resent changes to my keychain weren't being updated:

I was having difficulty with my agilekeychain not syncing the latest data changes. It's not a problem with Dropbox. Open 1Password>Preferences>Advanced and then Clear Cache. Uncheck using cache to prevent this from happening again (or simply remember to clear the cache).

[From 1password AgileKeyChain is not syncing « Dropbox Forums]

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Make Web Clips in Safari for Dashboard

Here's a neat little trick that I haven't used much!

Leopard makes it easy to create a Dashboard widget from a segment of a web page. For example, you can capture a “new releases” list from a media website, or the “latest posts” field from an Internet discussion group. These Web Clips appear, automatically updated, whenever you open Dashboard.

[From Apple - Pro - Tips - Creating Web Clip Widgets]

Friday, January 01, 2010

Avoid Special Keys in Screen Sharing

Open Terminal and type:

defaults write DoNotSendSystemKeys -bool YES

To restore the old behavior, change the last word to "NO." You can also use a plist editor if you're scared of the Terminal.

If you prefer the 10.5 behavior, wherein special keys are never sent to the remote Mac, there is a solution. It requires Terminal (in Applications -> Utilities), but only for one command. Launch Terminal, then copy and paste the following line (while Screen Sharing is not active):

[From Don't send special keys in 10.6's Screen Sharing | Mac OS X | Mac OS X Hints | Macworld]