Good-bye, iSight Saturday, March 17, 2007

Many of you probably know that, for some reason, iSight cameras can get into a weird state where they start causing serious errors with FireWire drives.

The symptoms usually include a bunch of I/O errors while copying to a FireWire drive: failed copies, flaky behavior, crashes. All of this goes away if you power off, disconnect the iSight, wait a while and power back up.

Sometimes, the iSight stops working with iChat (it says the camera's in use when it's not, or the light comes on, but you don't get any picture), and in it was in that second state today when I had a kernel panic.

No data was lost, I'm happy to say, but I decided that I've had enough of this. Since 10.4.9 supports USB cameras, I've switched to a Logitech QuickCam Ultra Vision. (All they need to do is add Super Deluxe Extreme Edition to the end to make it really cool!)

It's not as elegant as the original iSight (it's fixed focus, horizontal format, a bit gaudy), but it's got a nice wide angle lens, built in microphone, works with any monitor, and seems reliable. Plug the thing in, and it works.

Given that you can't buy "real" iSights any more, and based on direct experience, I give it a thumbs-up.

Sorry, iSight. I'll miss you!

Moving Your iTunes Library Friday, March 16, 2007

It's really easy to quickly outgrow your internal drive if you've got a substantial iTunes library. And, with all that metadata involved, the last thing you want to do is lose your ratings, comments, whatever.

Don't despair. It's actually really easy to move your iTunes library with iTunes itself. That's right: no Finder, no SuperDuper!, no nothing. And iTunes takes care of all the details!

Here's how:

  1. Make sure the drive you want to put the library on is connected. The drive can be a network volume, local volumes, whatever -- just make sure it's mounted and ready to go.

  2. Open iTunes and choose iTunes > Preferences. In the Advanced tab, choose the new location for the library.

At this point, you could stop, and all future music/movies/whatever you add to iTunes will be stored in the new location: in essence, your library will be on more then one drive, and you can repeat the above as the new location fills as well.

But, if you want to move your existing music and videos into the new location:

  1. Choose Advanced > Consolidate Library. iTunes will copy all of the music from all the various previous locations into the new library location you selected above.

When it's done, make sure you're happy with what you've got. You can then delete the old iTunes Music folder in ~/Music/iTunes. But don't delete the iTunes Library or itunes Music Library.xml files: those must remain where they are.

Comfy sweater - marked down! Thursday, March 15, 2007

Some time ago, I switched from MarsEdit to ecto. Mostly, I did this because I liked writing posts with "real" formatting -- that is, using the RTF editing view that ecto offered.

At the time, I was only allowing myself 15 minutes per post, and the HTML I was using in MarsEdit simply got in the way of quickly reading the post for content. Too much translation, the Preview didn't really do it for me... and it didn't look like Brent was going to find much time to work on the program (understandable, given his success with NetNewsWire).

Given that set of issues, I switched. Not all upside (the HTML generated by the RTF translator was rather sub-optimal), but overall it worked for me.

With Daniel Jalkut's recent acquisition of MarsEdit (congratulations, Daniel!), and his flurry of activity improving the core and fixing bugs, I've decided to give it another shot. And to get around the readability problem, I'm giving Markdown a try.

I don't know why I didn't use Markdown before -- probably, I didn't want to learn yet another thing. Maybe I just wasn't aware of it. But I'm glad I've finally found it and taken the time to figure it out. Markdown's pretty easy: natural to read and write once you grasp the basics. JG and Aaron Swartz did a good job with the syntax: it's regular, logical, functional, readable.

And it's supported by Expression Engine, too.

So, three posts later, I'm sticking with it. Hopefully with these few changes I'll be able to find a bit more time to blog!

HP: you rascal you! Thursday, March 15, 2007

It wasn't that long ago that HP had the absolute worst OSX drivers of any major peripheral developer. Their scanners barely worked, their printers sort of worked, the software they loaded was pretty shamefully buggy, flaky... they just sucked.

So, imagine my surprise when -- after a recent Mac purchase at the Apple Store -- I decided to get a "free" HP C6180 all-in-one printer and... hey! It's been de-suckified!

The thing is well designed, has good drivers, built-in networking, even scans and faxes over the network -- pushing or pulling to multiple "associated" Macs. It's not perfect but what the hell? It's like someone is writing these drivers who actually uses a Mac!

When did that happen? Doesn't HP know they're supposed to have crappy Mac products?

And after that good experience, and reading a number of great reviews, I grabbed an HP B9180 Photosmart Pro Printer, too. Again, a great printer, with good drivers, built-in networking, relatively frugal with inks, good paper handling: and it generates great prints.

This is HP -- "we generate huge dots with expensive ink and our photos look like crap" HP. And -- not.

Wow. I don't know what's going on at HP, but they should definitely keep it up.

This product does not contain nuts. Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Taiko - Older but Wiser

A few weeks ago, we took Taiko in to get his hips x-rayed to ensure there aren’t any problems to look forward to, and for a small adjustment—a necessary nip-and-tuck.

The big guy pulled through just fine. When I went to pick him up, our Dr. Davis and I looked over his rather excellent x-rays.

“Hey these are really great hips, Dave. Taiko’s a great Berner. You should breed him!”

Bob took a perfectly timed beat.


What a joker.

Winter Sporting Sunday, February 04, 2007

Hopefully no one out there noticed, but—for the first time in three years—Zabeth and I managed to get away for a two week vacation at Red Mountain (in Rossland, BC).

It’s not too bad a trip, about three hours north of Spokane, WA, a straight shot after a (normally) easy flight or two. A few screw-ups this time meant various additional hops, but in the end we made it.

It’s my very favorite place to ski. It’s kind of an “old fashioned” ski hill, with four “low speed” chairs, a T-Bar and a (new) “magic carpet” lift. The base lodge is quite basic, with lockers in the bottom level, a cafeteria on the 2nd and a bar on the 3rd. Up in the “Paradise” area, there’s another small lodge/warming hut/eatery… and that’s pretty much it.

And, honestly, all that works great. The food’s good, the people are great. But what Red’s about is the skiing.

The skiing is awesome.

Red had a ton of early snow—about nine feet—and though we didn’t get much fresh snow in the two weeks the mountain was in fine form. The first few days were almost spring-like conditions on the front face, soft even early in the day. Red’s a deceptive mountain, though, where you can ski 360 degrees around the various peaks, with a ton of off-piste skiing (some of which can get quite extreme). And the backsides, even during the sunny days, stayed shaded, the snow light.

Which was a good thing, because once the temperatures dropped, the front firmed up, which made the less groomed, exposed trails much less enjoyable early in the day. So, after a few groomers, we typically headed to the various back glades, bowls and other pitches, finishing up in the sun at the end of the day.

We stayed at Greene’s Family Guest House, a great little place in Rossland run by Rick and Sue Greene (thanks for the hospitality, Rick & Sue). It’s a few minutes’ drive to Red itself, and—fortunate for me—they’ve recently installed a wireless network. So, via the Miracle of the Tubes, work from 7-9am, skiing from 9-3, work from 3-7, dinner, and work until bed (usually while we caught up with episodes of Lost we’d missed, thanks to an iPod full of episodes plugged into the TV).

Seamless, I hope, for the SuperDuper! users who needed help.

It was a great time, and quite relaxing despite having full work days every day, and I feel fortunate to have a job that lets me do what I need to do even when far from home.

My parents were also able to take Taiko for the time, and I hope he was well behaved while there. They seem to have done really well, and Z and I are really grateful that they could watch him. (Sorry that he’s still jumping!)

Got back late Friday (during a snowstorm, of course), and picked up Taiko on Saturday, who was happy to see us and is warming my feet as I type. The mail revealed that Zabeth has passed the Veterinary Boards, which is terrific news too (not that I had any doubt), and she heads back into rotations early tomorrow morning.

And so, it’s back to the grind—refreshed.

Happy New Year! Sunday, December 31, 2006

It’s hard to believe another year’s gone by, but dates rarely lie, and there it is - the 31st, soon to flip.

Rather than turn inward and reflect on events here, I’d like to turn outward and thank each and every reader; all those who took the time to send me mail - those who needed support, needed to vent, to compliment or complain; the kind people who provided comfort as we lost our dog Ketzl and who cheered the arrival of Taiko; the editors at Macworld who honored us again; the users who honor us every time they use or recommend a Shirt Pocket product; all friends, old and new.

To all of you: thank you, and a very Happy New Year to you and yours.

An Embarrassment of Eddys Tuesday, December 12, 2006


It looks like SuperDuper! 2.1 has won another Macworld Eddy! Back-to-back awards for SuperDuper! in 2005 and 2006, and one for netTunes in 2004w00t!

Thanks, Macworld—and thanks to all the users, too!

The software business is a strange one, because the products you make eventually just… vanish. The OS goes away, or the market moves on, and soon there’s nothing left to show when someone asks what you do, or what you did.

Getting these three Eddy awards—one for netTunes and two for SuperDuper!—has been really gratifying, both because it’s an acknowledgment of good work, and because it’s more of a permanent thing—a physical record of what I was doing for all those years.

Plus, the trophy doubles as a weapon in an emergency. Man, these things are heavy!

Older, wiser. But mostly older. Thursday, November 23, 2006

Well, one year ago today we released SuperDuper! 2.0, and the past 12 months have gone quickly indeed.

In that time we’ve released a number of great updates, and I’ve communicated personally with thousands of you through support mail, IM, the forums and this blog. It’s been fun, rewarding and—on occasion—exhausting. But, mostly, fun and rewarding.

Looking over my blog post from this day last year, I spent my entire birthday, save for about 40 minutes, responding to hundreds and hundreds of support messages as people asked questions about the new release, and Bruce and I tried to fix a rollout glitch or two. Quite a day.

This year, though, it’s much calmer, and I’m going to take most of the rest of the day off—pretty much my first in a few years—to celebrate Thanksgiving (& my encroaching decrepitude) with my family, aunts, uncles, cousins, Zabeth and Taiko.

While I’m doing that, I also want to raise a glass of Thanksgiving wine in a toast to thank all of you, out in the tubes that make up teh Internets, for your support, encouragement, criticism, and compliments. Bruce and I couldn’t do this without you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Catching up Sunday, November 12, 2006

I’ve got a huge backlog of topics that I’ve wanted to post about, and hopefully I’ll be able to get down some more extended thoughts soon. But here are some “Hot Dots” style quick thoughts…

Working Toward Phone Nirvana
Overstated a bit, but the new T-Mobile Dash (a/k/a the HTC Excalibur) is a great new “balanced compromise” phone—small, light, with excellent email and browsing, a good keyboard and screen, and—with Missing Sync for Windows Mobile—complete Mac support, too. Incredibly full featured in a small package: WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, EDGE, Quad-Band… good stuff.

A few relatively minor downsides: the battery is small (larger battery = larger phone), the XT9 implementation that helps with typing (if you need it to) doesn’t work properly with multi-line text in Calendar, Contacts and the Web (but can be turned off), the screen’s a bit small at 320x240 (again - larger screen = larger phone), and the phone doesn’t support the DUN bluetooth profile (but does support PAN).

Giving mail a push
On top of that, I’ve been using Kerio Mailserver here at Shirt Pocket HQ for many years, and their latest release—6.3—fully supports “Push” email (and “live sync") for Windows Mobile clients. It works great.

Both products highly recommended.

Now that they’ve released their Mac client, I’ve acquired and installed a Slingbox Pro, and it—too—works great. The Mac software is a bit klunky and windowsish, but it nevertheless works. And—even on relatively slow connections—the picture quality is surprisingly good.

There’s even a Windows Mobile client and—installed on the Dash—it works!

Now, I don’t plan to watch TV on my Dash, but it’s nice to be able to access the material on my TiVo elsewhere in the house—or even at other locations. If that’s something that appeals to you, by all means, get a Slingbox, and support their efforts on the Mac.

I try to switch my keyboard relatively often to keep the wrist bugaboos at bay, and I’ve recently brought the new Logitech diNovo Edge in-house. Even though the keyboard isn’t listed as Mac Compatible on the box, it’s a standard bluetooth HID device and—save some buttons and features—works quite well. You just need to use the Keyboard Preference Pane to swap the Cmd and Option keys to stay sane.

The keyboard has a nice feel (it’s not “clicky” but is nonetheless responsive and solid), some useful features (like a touchpad cursor—though I can’t get the scrolling feature to work), and some elegant design and lighting effects.

Expensive, but nice.

The pup’s continuing to grow quickly (though not too quickly) and has been a delight to have around, though he’s a ton of work. A recent photo (last week):

Taiko - Who's There

I look at that and can’t believe he was 12 pounds just a few short months ago. He’ll grow into his tail yet!
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