Archive for the 'Mac OS' Category

Apple Just Released Mac OS X 10.6.4, Photoshop CS3 Works Again

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

I finally took the plunge on Tuesday and upgraded my iMac from Leopard to Snow Leopard. Oops! Bad move, mister. My Photoshop CS3 started crashing on launch.

Whose fault was this? Sounds like you could blame Apple or Adobe, but personally I’d say Adobe after reading this forum post. Adobe should have followed Apple’s guidelines on serial number length.

For the record, my iMac’s serial number is “SystemSerialNumb”. Why? Because Apple replaced my logic board 2 years ago. Why didn’t they give the logic board a proper serial number? No idea, but it seems a bit slack of Apple.

Anyway, all this is moot now because Apple have today released Mac OS X 10.6.4, which works around the issue. Yay! This just a day after I upgraded to Snow Leopard. Talk about lucky timing for me! Some poor sods have been stuck with no Photoshop since March because of this problem.

One other unrelated problem with Snow Leopard: Google Analytics no longer works in Safari 5. I get the error “This page has encountered an error that may prevent it from working correctly.” Could be a problem Google’s end though.

Problems aside, Snow Leopard seems lovely and fast so far. I can’t point to anything specific, but the whole thing just feels snappier somehow. Finder windows come up more quickly. Mail brings up messages and message lists faster. Browsing other Macs on the network is smoother. I no longer get a slight lag when typing into a form in Firefox. Apps launch more speedily. I also love the new Dock pop-up menus – they suit the Dock much better than the old grey menus that are used in the menu bar.

Ooh, and I’ve just noticed that some apps, such as TextEdit, auto-correct text as you type (for example, “teh” -> “the”). Nice! For reference, you can toggle this feature by right-clicking and choosing Spelling and Grammar > Correct Spelling Automatically.

Overall I’m a happy camper with Snow Leopard. 🙂

Make sure your Time Machine is actually on!

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

For the last 2 months I assumed my Mac’s Time Machine was merrily backing up my hard disk every hour. The little Time Machine icon was sitting there in the menu bar, as it always does:

Today I happened to click the icon by accident and noticed the following dreaded words in the pop-up menu:

Latest Backup: 23 Dec 2008

What’s been happening? Why hasn’t Time Machine been warning me that it couldn’t do backups? I opened the Time Machine preferences and found that Time Machine was, in fact, turned off. Which is odd, as I never turn it off. (Maybe a system update did it?)

But why doesn’t the Time Machine menu bar icon show that TM has been turned off? Surely this is fairly critical information that would be useful to know? Since the icon doesn’t change, I had no idea that TM had been turned off for the past 2 months. Bad UI design, surely, unless I’m missing something obvious?

An additional warning: Even choosing the Back Up Now option doesn’t turn Time Machine back on. It does the backup, but then remains in the “Off” state afterwards. It’s almost like it doesn’t want to stay on!

Definitely something to watch out for…

10 ways that Windows is better than Mac OS

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Having used both Windows and Mac OS X over the years, there’s little doubt in my mind that my Mac is, overall, nicer to use than any Windows PC. And of course, this is a Mac blog, so many of my posts invariably end up singing the praises of Macs and all things Apple.

However, as it’s the season of goodwill and all, I thought it fitting to redress the balance and list 10 things that Windows does better than Mac OS

1. Windows is more customizable

Change the desktop theme – including wallpaper, taskbar, window styles and fonts – to anything you like. Try doing that on a Mac.

2. Windows is more compatible

Let’s face it – practically all software and peripherals out there support Windows. (Though the Mac is getting better all the time in this regard.)

3. Choose your own hardware

With Windows you’re not tied into one manufacturer with a limited product range like you are with Mac OS (Psystar notwithstanding). On a budget? Any cheap clone will run Windows. Want something that exactly matches your lifestyle or situation? The range of PC options is huge so you’re bound to find something that suits.

4. Better keyboard shortcuts

You can access any menu option in a Windows app with 2 or 3 keystrokes, and they’re the same standard keystrokes on any Windows PC. With Mac apps you’re limited to the shortcuts chosen by the app developer. (You can add your own shortcuts on a per-app basis, but then you have to remember which shortcuts you’ve added for each app. And what happens if you get a new Mac, or use a friend’s? You have to redo all your shortcuts again!)

Furthermore, you can access pretty much all controls in any Windows dialog or window via the keyboard. Mac OS lets you turn on so-called “full keyboard access”, but there are still many things you can’t do with the keyboard (try moving from the Calendars pane to the Day/Week/Month View pane in iCal, for example, or activating the all-important Scan button in Image Capture). (more…)

What’s Keeping Me? – Find the app that’s using a file

Friday, September 26th, 2008

How many times have you tried to unmount a hard disk or memory card, or empty the Trash, only to be told that a file is in use by an application? It’s happened to me a few times. Unfortunately Mac OS doesn’t tell you exactly which application is using the file, which can make it tough to track down the problem.

One way out is to logout or reboot the Mac to clear the file lock, but there is a less drastic solution. What’s Keeping Me? is a handy little app that lets you search for an open file (you can also search for a disk name to find all open files on a mounted disk). It then tells you which app or process is using the file(s). For best results select the As Administrator option to find all files.

Now the more observant/tech-savvy amongst you have probably spotted that this is remarkably similar to opening a Terminal window and typing:

sudo lsof | grep -i <filename>

And you’d be right. Still, What’s Keeping Me? is more user-friendly – especially for those who tend to approach the command line brandishing crosses and waving garlic – and it conveniently allows you to quit or kill the offending app at the click of a button. Plus it’s only 5 bucks (voluntary donation) so you can’t go too wrong. And it has a cute icon. 🙂

By the way, here’s a quick tip. If you ever need to do the opposite – that is, find out which files an app is using – fire up Activity Monitor, select the process in the list, then hit Command-I to inspect it. You can then click Open Files and Ports to view a list of files being used by that app.

Stopping the “Are you sure you want to open it?” dialog

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

If you’re an OS X Leopard user then you’ve no doubt encountered a dialog similar to this one from time to time:

This means that the file is “quarantined”; it happens whenever you first try to open a file you downloaded via your Web browser.

Generally speaking, this is a good thing, as it makes you think twice about opening something that may potentially be malware. However, if you’re downloading a lot of files that you know to be kosher then it can get quite annoying.

Fortunately, there are ways to disable the quarantine dialog, so that downloaded files open without needing confirmation. I found a good solution over at The Pug Automatic blog – this is basically a short AppleScript that you attach to your Downloads folder as a folder action. Then, whenever a new file is added to the Downloads folder, it’s automatically un-quarantined. Neat.

Have a Mac UI gripe? Tell the world!

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Here’s an interesting new site: Aqua Taskforce. Launched last month, it’s the Mac version of the Aero Taskforce website for Windows users, which has been around for a few months.

Essentially, Aqua Taskforce is a bug tracking site that’s confined to OS X user interface quirks and annoyances, rather than full-on bugs. You register and login, then you can post your Mac gripes for all to see, vote for/against, and comment on. Sometimes the discussions get quite lively, as one person’s meat is often another’s poison (as evidenced by the comments in my recent 10 usability lows of Mac OS X post).

My favourites include List the apps that prevents unmounting (how nice would that be!), Dialog windows lack keyboard shortcuts and tabbing (by default), and the old classic, No Cut option in the Finder. 🙂

On the one hand, the idea seems rather pointless as presumably no Apple engineers are seriously looking at the site for bugs to fix (though the site’s creator reckons that various Microsoft types are scanning Aero Taskforce, so you never know). Then again, because Apple isn’t the most open of companies when it comes to feedback, it’s nice for people to be able to publicly share their Mac UI grievances and feel a bit of love from like-minded users. It’ll be interesting to see if the site pans out over the coming months.

10 usability lows of Mac OS X

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

This article worshipping at the temple of Mac OS usability has garnered a lot of attention recently. While I agree that the Mac is generally pretty easy to use, it’s by no means perfect. So in the spirit of rational debate – and, frankly, because I’m a bit grumpy this morning – here’s my top 10 list of Mac usability disasters (in no particular order):

  • Menus unforgiving of mouse slip-ups. A menu disappears if you accidentally click the separator bar between two menu options. Grrr.
  • Dialogs hard to use with the keyboard. Not being able to type a shortcut key for all of the buttons in a dialog (a la Windows).
  • Terrible keyboard control in general (try using iCal with just the keyboard).
  • Horrid mouse acceleration. First thing I did with my new Mac was whack the tracking speed up to the max, and even then it’s not as nice as in Windows. And no way to control the acceleration either.
  • Only one menu bar on multiple monitors. Results in frequent RSI-inducing mouse marathons from one display to the other. (Though you can at least choose which monitor displays the menu bar.)
  • Nasty keyboard navigation of text documents. Having to use the fiddly Command-Left and Command-Right keyboard shortcuts to do the extremely common tasks of going to the beginning and the end of a line. Yet the easy-to-press Home and End keys jump you to the start or end of the document without moving the caret, which is next to useless in my book. And I don’t think this is a “coming from Windows/Linux” thing either, as I switched to the Mac 2 years ago and this behaviour still pisses me off. Windows and Linux have simply done it better.
  • Hamstrung open/save dialogs. Why can’t I do even basic things like rename a file or folder?
  • No cut-and-paste in the Finder. You can only copy and paste stuff. Uggg.
  • Non-intuitive Print dialog. How do I print multiple copies? Oh, I have to click a little arrow to the right of the currently-selected printer – which you’d have thought would change printers, but no, it brings up the hidden print options. And talking of the Print dialog, why can’t you move focus to the “PDF” drop-down menu with the Tab key?
  • Shift-clicking to select a range of files in the Finder doesn’t work in Icons view. You have to switch to one of the other views to do this.

There we go! That’s set the world to rights. 😉

Dying iMac hard drive; Time Machine to the rescue

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Well I’m glad I took out the three-year AppleCare Protection Plan. Over the last few days my iMac’s hard disk started making ominous clicking sounds when powering on, resulting in a flashing folder with a “?” icon appearing on boot (which can never be a good thing). Once it warmed up a bit, the drive would kick in OK, but from a cold start it was a no-go.

As the problems were mounting up – see my green pixel issue – I decided yesterday that it was time to call Apple tech support. On the whole, the phone call went about as smoothly as I expected. The Apple support staff do sometimes seem robot-like in their troubleshooting approach, and they treat you like it’s the first time you’ve seen a computer, but they were friendly enough. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, they eventually arranged for a local Apple service centre to send someone out to look at both the hard drive and green pixel problems. On-site service – fantastic!

Sure enough, a friendly chap arrived this morning with a new hard drive under one arm and logic board under another. Unfortunately he couldn’t fit the logic board (to fix the green pixel issue) as Apple had shipped him the wrong board, but he did at least swap out the hard drive. (Slightly terrifying seeing him take the iMac apart – not for the faint-hearted. Apparently though, the newer aluminium ones are even worse, involving suction cups and god knows what else.)

Once the new drive was in and the iMac’s guts put back in their place, we got the Leopard install under way. When done, it was simply a case of choosing an option to restore from my Time Machine backup: (more…)

Can we trust Time Machine?

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

One of the much-heralded new features of Mac OS X Leopard is, of course, the Time Machine backup system. Its key selling point – apart from the Dr Who-style restore screen – is the fact that it’s a “no-click” backup solution; you just plug in an external backup drive, and Time Machine gets on with the job of backing up automatically.

This is all nice and reassuring – or is it? Well, not when you get errors like these appearing every couple of weeks:

I’ve seen the Unable to complete backup error on both our iMacs over the last few weeks. It’s a fairly common occurrence. I tried the trick of repartitioning using GUID rather than MBR on my Mac, which certainly reduced the errors, though I still get them.

It looks like there are quite a few other Mac users experiencing this error, too.

And what’s with that second error? The backup needs 13.8 GB, but only 20.3 GB are available? Looks like someone at Apple needs to go back to maths classes. How can I trust a backup system that can’t subtract two numbers?

Frankly I’m tempted to go back to using rsync for my backups until Apple makes Time Machine more stable. At least I know rsync works!

Malware: Coming soon to a Mac near you?

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Nothing is guaranteed to bring the smug Mac user brigade out in force like a discussion on viruses and trojans. “Oh, we don’t get those – we use Macs!” they proudly announce. And they have a point; Mac malware is pretty thin on the ground right now. Indeed, the first virus to specifically attack Mac OS X didn’t come out until 2006 – five years after Mac OS X was launched.

Well the time for such smugness may be coming to an end. In the past few weeks we’ve had a published root escalation vulnerability, not to mention a Mac-targeted trojan in the wild that takes advantage of said vulnerability, and is evil enough to wipe the smile off even the smuggest Mac user’s face. Furthermore, Mac hackers have produced a tool to make future production of similar trojans almost trivially simple.

Maybe we’re seeing an increase in Mac malware now because Macs are getting more popular, with 80% of businesses allegedly now using them. More Macs make for a bigger, juicier target.

But Macs are secure – aren’t they?

Yes, Macs are built on UNIX, and yes, UNIX is generally pretty secure and battle-tested. But UNIX and Linux servers are compromised every day. Maybe not as much as Windows machines, but there are plenty of worms and rootkits out there for Linux. If malware authors start targeting the Mac in earnest, it’s unlikely that Mac users will get off that lightly. We can only hope that Apple starts tightening up security in Snow Leopard, as Dino Dai Zovi suggests.