Opinion

Debate about the Quality of WWDC

I recently read Scott Stevenson's In Defense of WWDC 2006 which was a response to Matt Neuburg's The Decline of WWDC. Both articles are excellent reads.

The Decline of WWDC talks about the fact that although Apple's technical presentations and lab sessions were top-notch at WWDC 2006, in more minor matters of courtesy, food and free gifts, Apple fell short this year and has been doing so ever since WWDC 2003. The general gist of In Defense of WWDC 200६ was that all this - the food, the drinks and the freebies - was irrelevant and it's not why so many developers paid upwards of a thousand hard-earned dollars to attend the event. No, it's only the technical sessions and tête-à-tête talks with Apple employees that's really relevant at WWDC.

In the case of Neuburg, it's quite plain that although he greatly appreciates the sessions that are held at WWDC, he also likes the little touches that Apple is well-known for, and I quote him:
The zenith in recent years was the 2003 WWDC. Apple had moved the venue from the isolated, unpleasant San Jose McEnery Convention Center to the west wing of the Moscone Center in wonderful downtown San Francisco. Attendees were given a superb portfolio bag that I still use, a copy of the currently shipping operating system, and a major piece of hardware (an iSight!). The food was terrific (excellent hot breakfasts and lunches), and between talks we were plied with free juices and fruit, and of course plenty of high-quality coffee.

This year, on the other hand, the freebies were the cheapest portfolio bag I've ever seen (flimsy, no padding, few compartments, bad zippers, strap attached in a silly place), a crummy travel mug, and a t-shirt with incorrect Latin on it. (OK, so I spent many years teaching Latin; they could have asked me.) No hardware, no currently shipping software. Lunches were plastic salad and plastic sandwiches in plastic containers; breakfast was nearly non-existent.
And to this, Stevenson replies:
I could dig into this, but the reality is that you're paying $1300-ish for the conference, not the bag. You could either look at it as "hey, I deserve better," or "look, it's is a free bag, if I don't like it I can buy something else for $50." I fall in the later camp because I just don't see the point in wasting energy on it.
This is the gist of his reply and he reiterates it a couple of more times in his write-up. Basically, Stevenson does not care about these minor things because that's not what he's paying for. And many others (as you can see from the comments to his post) think just like him and believe that what Neuburg is doing is just whining about matters that are too inconsequential.

I have to disagree with Stevenson more than Neuburg, though. You see, even though the sessions are the most important part of WWDC - I shall draw an analogy to Apple's Mail here - and sending, receiving and organizing mail is the most important function of Mail, just as when you resize columns in Mail, the format of the date changes to try and accomodate as much as possible instead of simply adding an ellipsis, it's the little touches and niceties that make a huge difference in the "general impression" you derive, whether it's from not having to resize a column just to read the date or from digesting an extremely unfresh pastry.

As a company that wants its developers to keep coming year-after-year to WWDC to attend its sessions and to use its newly-introduced technologies in their software, Apple should endeavour to make WWDC as enjoyable as possible. And yes, since it's charging them upwards of $1600, WWDC very well is a "premium" conference and so it better bloody well act like one. This does mean that the company (that is, Apple) go out of its way to find a portfolio bag that's not cheap, provide food for their attendees that is enjoyable as well as edible and make sure that the staff at the convention centre is not going to be rude to their attendees.

But I beg you, don't for an instance think that I'm saying that developers won't add Time Machine support to their applications just because they ate a dry pastry once or didn't get their choice of pizza - I'm just saying that, if, on top of dead useful and enjoyable technical sessions, Apple also goes the extra mile to make sure most attendees are just plain old "happy" and "satisfied" at their conference, they simply make sure that those attendees will leave with a ton of goodwill for Apple and its conference and will come back the next year. I mean, what real harm is there in just being nice

Comments (1) Posted on at  

  • » I totally agree. This is bassically what I said in my comment on Scott's post; see that in the comments on his post.

    I'll repost it here:


    "I see both points of view.

    I think that what Matt complained about is something that is worth bringing up, but I also don't think it's the end of the world.


    If all we cared about was the core content, we probably wouldn't be Mac users. The Mac OS is so great because of it's great polish – all those little details. The lack of that polish is exactly what Matt is talking about, and I mostly agree.

    However, I find it somewhat hard to believe that people gasped at the pizza.
    "

Cool Trick with Minimizing Windows

This is one of the neatest tricks I've seen done with the Dock. I'll just quote it here in case you're too lazy to visit the linked website:

Step 1-Open up your favorite website, app, anything that has windows.
Step 2-Open up Terminal and type “killall Dock”, but don’t press enter. Keep that in the background for later.
Step 3- Hold in shift and click on the minimize button on the window you opened in Step 1.
Step 4- As the window is minimizing, quickly switch over to your Terminal window and press enter.

You should now have a frozen, half-minimized, fully functional window. You can scroll, type, and do anything you could do in the normal window. Some things might be a little wierd, but thats to be expected.
 

Comments (3) Posted on at  

  • » This sounds great, I'm trying to do it, but since I only have one functional hand at the moment, it's pretty difficult
  • » That's randomly happened to me when my computer was acting really slow. I've always wanted a way to really play around with it, though, so thanks!
  • » You can also leave the target window in the background, bring up the terminal, type "killall Dock", Shift-clic on the minimize button of any window in the background, and press Return.

    On my old Titanium PB, "killall Dock" was too slow. So I instead did:

    ps -eax | grep Dock | grep -v Dock

    The first number on the left is the PID number. You can then type "kill" followed by an space and the PID number, and it will stop the Dock as soon as you press Return.

Windows Vista Pre-RC1 Downloading

Microsoft's servers haven't buckled under the load yet:Looks like my download's going to finish smoothly. 

Comments (3) Posted on at  

  • » I'm pretty certain they are Akamaized, and the Akamai network is not going to budge under that load. I noticed when I downloaded the first public beta during the "fire-sale, one-final-day" period, when the load was probably pretty high. Still, 4.1MB/sec is even better than my fiber line. ;-)
  • » Bah! I just finished doing a stupid little questionnaire a couple of weeks ago and am now awaiting my copy of Vista Beta 2. I assume you're going to need some sort of key to unlock this RC1 release? Have you already received it or something?
  • » I believe it's the key you used for Beta 2.

1,00,000 copies of Windows Vista 5536 available for download!

Go get your own copy while the download's still open. This build is supposed to work smoothly with Boot Camp.

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Make Your Own Free KVM Box

Now everyone doesn't have an extra computer lying around but for those who do, here's how to not spend money buying a KVM box and making your own software-based KVM solution. Now, what's a KVM Box? A KVM Box is a device that allows you to use one set of keyboard, display (video) and mouse devices with more than one computer.

Here are the requirements for your very own software-based KVM setup:
  • Two computers with necessary video-out ports for the display.
  • A display with two inputs (one for each computer) and a convenient button somewhere on the display itself to switch between those inputs. This probably means that Apple displays, owing to their extreme paucity of buttons, are out, but Dell displays with their convenient input-source-switching buttons are in.
  • All the necessary cables to connect each computer to a port on the display.
  • A FireWire or other Fast/Gigabit Ethernet cable to hook up the two computers
  • Apple Remote Desktop or any other VNC client software such as Chicken of the VNC
Step 1 - the software side of things on your secondary computer
Your "secondary computer" is the one you'll be using through VNC or Apple Remote Desktop and so one assumes it's the one you'll be using less.

Just head over to System Preferences > Sharing, check the box next to Apple Remote Desktop. If this is the first time you're activating it, a sheet with Access Privileges opens up to greet you. Now, if you're going to use Apple Remote Desktop, then, in this sheet, option-click next to any administrative user whose password you're aware of. However, if you were planning to use good old fashioned VNC, instead of checking the box next to a user name, you check the box next to "VNC viewers may control screen with password: " and enter a password in the field. In either case, click OK when you're done. That's all you need to do for this part of the setup. Promise.

Step 1.5 - making sure both computers are on a local network
If you have a LAN, that's great. Just hook both your computers up to that LAN and you're done.

If you have a spare FireWire or Ethernet cable, just hook it up between the two computers. On your primary computer, go to System Preferences > Sharing > Internet. Choose any network connection in the "Share your connection from:" field and check the box next to Built-in FireWire in the "To computers using:" list. In case you're hooking up the two computers using an ethernet cable instead, check the Built-in Ethernet box instead. Click Start. Click Start again in the sheet that pops up.

For the record, this'll work over AirPort too and Bluetooth (though I seriously recommend against using Bluetooth to network two computers unless all you like to do is ping one from the other).

Step 2 - the software side of things on the primary computer
The procedure involved in the KVM-type switching is basically this:
  1. Connect to remote computer and make it full screen
  2. Press the input-switcher button on your display
For the software side of things, Apple Remote Desktop is probably the easiest way to go. Unfortunately, unless you can obtain "a copy from a friend", this thing will cost you upwards of $300 and that is why I am including a VNC solution as well. *cough* Demonoid *cough*

If you have Apple Remote Desktop, go ahead and open it up and click on Scanner in the Source List. Your computer should show up somewhere. Select it in the list (you can hit the Stop button to stop scanning once you've found your Mac) and click Control. Enter the user name and password for the Mac and hit return. Now, just turn the Quality setting (top-right of window) down to the lowest and hit the Full Screen button. Once you enter full screen, just move Remote Desktop's floating toolbar to the bottom of the screen and press the input-source-switching button on your display. Now you're controlling the secondary computer with the same keyboard, video and mouse - we have KVM!

If you are using a VNC client of some sort, just open it up, enter the IP address of your secondary computer, enter the password you set up on the secondary computer, make sure your session is going to be full screen and hit the appropriate connect button. Then, as with ARD, press the button on your display for input-source-switching and now you're KVM'ing.

Optional - automating the procedure a bit
Now, if you do have a copy of Apple Remote Desktop, this AppleScript will automate the first part of the process:

tell application "Remote Desktop"


activate


end tell


tell application "System Events"


tell process "Remote Desktop"


tell table 1 of scroll area 1 of group 2 of splitter group 1 of window "Remote Desktop" to select row 3


click button "Control" of tool bar 1 of window "Remote Desktop"


delay 2


--ok so I don't know how to do loops in AppleScript; so sue me; this basically makes sure you're using the lowest quality setting for least CPU and bandwidth overhead


perform action "AXDecrement" of slider 1 of group 9 of tool bar 1 of window "Mini"


perform action "AXDecrement" of slider 1 of group 9 of tool bar 1 of window "Mini"


perform action "AXDecrement" of slider 1 of group 9 of tool bar 1 of window "Mini"


perform action "AXDecrement" of slider 1 of group 9 of tool bar 1 of window "Mini"


click button 1 of group 6 of tool bar 1 of window "Mini"


end tell


end tell



What the aforementioned AppleScript does is that it opens the Remote Desktop application, connects to your secondary Mac, sets it to the lowest quality video setting (to reduce CPU and bandwidth and because you won't be using that display to see anything) and makes it full screen. You can do this manually or write a script for it as I have done. To do UI Scripting (for not all apps support bread-and-butter AppleScripting and you could be using some run-of-the-mill VNC client), visit Apple's useful website on the matter.

Hope this was useful! Do let me know in the comments on how this can be done more smoothly while maintaining a Rs. 0 price tag. 

Comments (2) Posted on at  

  • » Why not use Synergy instead?

    This is a little tool on Mac/Win/Linux that allows you to share the keyboard and mouse of one computer with one or more other computers, including support for copy/paste between systems. It really shines when you have multiple displays because you can move the mouse pointer over the edge of the screen and you're on another computer.

    It would be cool to make it such that when you go to another system the screen is blanked so the monitor automatically switches to the other input...
  • » OK, so I actually tried out Synergy. It wasn't easy because this isn't some nice DMG-encased binary that "just works" and it definitely isn't for those of you don't like the Terminal, because there is a hell of a lot of Terminal-based configuration in Synergy. Still, I am your brave quasi-geek who will go to some extents in an attempt to simply/elegantize his workflow.

    After using Synergy for a bit my impression is that (a) the installation is a lot more involved than the procedure I have described, (b) it is not good for me because I have to set a screen edge/corner to switch computers and I just don't like that because mouse movement is erratic and my mouse suddenly switches to a different computer (not to mention the fact that my corners are all already triggered and I am left to use a screen edge or hotkey) (c) mouse movement on the secondary computer is quite erratic and generally unsmooth compared to the Remote Desktop/VNC procedure and (d) installing Synergy as a permanent feature requires a lot of mucking about with StartupItems or LoginHooks and that just scares the shit out of me.

    In all, I am not satisfied with Synergy and am going to continue to use my concocted method because it's just smoother and simpler to install (a lot of what it uses is built-in to OS X or a drag-n-drop installation) and use and is, more importantly, "on demand" and does not need to run when I don't want it to.

Power Mac G4 Upgrade Chronicles

After the upgrades I've installed in my Power Mac G4 (Digital Audio - 2001) today, the Mac should now have reached its end-of-life as far as upgrades are concerned and I don't think I'm going to alter any more of its insides.

Before today, this is exactly what my computer setup looked like, albeit not in line art

Originally, it started out thus:
466MHz PowerPC G4 processor with 1MB of L2 cache
256MB PC133 SDRAM (factory-upgraded from 128MB)
ATI Rage 128 Pro graphics with 16MB of VRAM running on AGP 4x
30GB ATA/66 5400-rpm hard disk drive
8x/4x/24x CD-RW drive
2 USB 1.1, 2 FireWire
Modem, Gigabit Ethernet, Audio Out, Digital Audio Out
17" Apple Studio Display CRT (flat screen) at native 1024x768
Apple Specifications Page (first column)

By 2005, it had a few changes:
1GB PC133 SDRAM (512+256+256)
nVidia GeForce4 MX graphics with 32MB of VRAM running on AGP 4x
120GB ATA/66 7200-rpm hard disk drive
48x/32x/40x//16x/8x/16x//16x/16x/16x//8x//4x LaCie DVD±RW drive *
4 USB 2.0 ports

Today, it has been changed a little bit more:
1.467GHz PowerPC G4 processor with 256KB of L2 cache and 2MB of L3 cache
ATI Radeon 9600 Pro graphics with 64MB of VRAM running on AGP 4x
80GB ATA/66 7200-rpm hard disk drive
17" Dell 1707FP LCD monitor at native 1280x1024

If you're keeping track, which I doubt you are, the only component that has not been altered or added to in this computer is the motherboard (and other boring things like the power supply). The fact that its core components - the CPU, GPU and HDD - all have been replaced or added to, says a lot about how upgradeable this system is (quite unlike the Mac mini, actually). Here is an article that talks more about upgradeability in Apple's newer computers as compared to the older ones.


However, today is also the day that, along with gaining around 3x the performance (Source: Xbench) on my lovable G4 (a.k.a. Grandpa Mac), I lose the convenience of the Apple Studio Display. You see, although the ASD was big and bulky (about 30 kilograms), it was extraordinarily beautiful for a CRT monitor, had a flat screen and used only a single cable to transfer video, power and USB from the computer. This was the Apple Display Connector, lovingly known as the ADC. Believe me, anything that reduced cable clutter was a big deal (still is, actually), and originally I used my computer with just three cables - power, modem and display. The mouse plugged into the keyboard and the keyboard plugged into the monitor. Also, there was a power button on the monitor which could be used to turn the computer on and put it to sleep or wake it up. For my PC-using friends back then, this was a phenomenon unheard of!

Unfortunately, Apple abandoned this type of connector in its next generation of displays in an effort to go for industry standard displays. Today, I mourn the loss of the ADC because now I have three cables running out of the back of my monitor even though the monitor now supports USB 2.0 and has 4 USB ports instead of 2. This realization was all the more emphatic because, while I packing up the monitor (I still had the original box stashed somewhere), my mother asked me where the power cable was and said to her, "There isn't one."

Fare ye well, Apple Studio Display!

* that's CD//DVD+//DVD-//DVD+(DL)//DVD-(DL) in Write/Rewrite/Read order return 

Comments (7) Posted on at  

  • » Good for reducing clutter, and bad for just about everything else. It was non-standard, further isolated Apple from selling its displays to PC users, prevented Mac users from using standard graphics cards, put even MORE stress on the computer's power supply, didn't have the bandwidth necessary for larger displays, etc.

    Saved a couple cables, and hobbled the Mac and its displays for years. Good riddance.
  • » I so loved ADC

    > It was non-standard,
    mac are not standard
    EFI apple is not standard. it's EFI with apple extension

    >further isolated Apple from selling its displays to PC users
    dvi to adc converters.
    expensive I know
    and whatever, Apple displays, even know, cannot be totally controlled by Windows or linux without exotic hacks.
    Apple don't care at all.

    >, prevented Mac users from using standard graphics cards
    always the case.
    macpro macbook and so one use EFI.
    nvidia and ati card in shops are BIOS based
    yes it matters.
    it REALLY matters
    maybe in _years_ all the PC industry will forget bios
    it's not the case with windows Vista
    so yeah, you are still "isolated". (I totally don't care, I need a computer, not a thing I tinker, even with my pc linux for works)

    >put even MORE stress on the computer's power supply,
    computer's power supply has to many stress
    but apple could sell hardware with power needed.


    >didn't have the bandwidth necessary for larger display

    of course they would 'invent" ADC-2 :)
    or ADC DUAL CHANNEL
    as DVI is..

    (soon you will see a NEW dvi, it will not be HDMI for computers, but a new kind of DVI ).


    not, ADC was a very good idea and technology
    it was "we IMPROVE computer to SERVE humans"

    not "Accept Cable because Computer is your Master!"

    but yes it was expensive, it was naturally, logically, economically, industrially forced to be more expensive than Common VGA or DVI-D.

    but ho boy ! it was just that good to connect a mac cube and a 20" Apple Cinema display 20".

    a couple cables and ONE electrical outlet , in my house, my works it was pratical gain. I bought apple computers for that kind of convenience.
    if you removed everything is "convenience", I could simply buy a HP or Sony or whatever crap in the shop down my street.


    no. I miss ADC.
  • » "even know"
    replace by
    "even now"
  • » I agree with the first poster, it really opens up the displays to the PC Market. And I'm not entirely sure how the displays are incompatible, as I've seen them running with numerous Windows and Linux PC's at my brother's workplace.

    As for some of the little things, like turning the computer on with the display power button, that still somehow works with the newer displays.
  • » What've you decided to do/done with your old Apple Studio Display??
  • » It's lying in the garage waiting for a prospective buyer.
  • » I've had no success running a G4's video out the ADC on an ATI Rage 128 Pro into the the Apple Studio CRT. VGA works fine, though.

    I would love any ideas/recommendations.

Leopard "Preview" - iSync

iSync gets Smooth Metal treatment. Nothing else is different. iSync is ditto

Comments (3) Posted on at  

  • » sexy iSync!
    are those itunes-corners (fake-corner) or mail-corners (old-school) on the window? looks like something inbetween.
  • » The current "iTunes" UI being used in Leopard in DVD Player and iSync is very much faked on a per app basis.
  • » Yeah, I am hoping that it becomes the replacement for "Textured Appearance" in Leopard.

Leopard "Preview" - TextEdit



Possibly the most unexciting component of Leopard. As of now, it's got only a .1 version upgrade. They could do something with the main interface though; it looks really ugly still.

Anyhoo, they have added OpenDocument support, which unfortunately, I did not want to test because testing it might have put me to sleep. I don't live under a rock, but I really do not know anyone yet who would be willing to share files with me in ODF. Go knock yourselves out! 

Comments (22) Posted on at  

  • » Whilst it may "send you to sleep," this is still a really important development. Just the sheer fact that Apple is accepting OpenDocument exists is pretty important.

    Hopefully, TextEdit will still be Open Source in 10.5, so developers can have a look at how Apple has decided to handle OpenDocument parsing.

    And with any luck, we may see OpenDoc support in Pages in the future!
  • » is it THAT important

    opendocument is important in enterprise.

    in MY enterprise it's really important. it will allow our mac users to open odf without the need to launch X11-openoffice (or wait for neooffice)

    MY enterprise is important, it's MY money.
  • » I suppose then this means /usr/bin/textutil, a text converter utility, will gain the Open Document Format treatment…
  • » Actually the single most important feature added to a Mac product since they shipped with an RJ45 Ethernet connection. Standards, not cool design, is what advances the world.

    Apple customers gaing support for ISO 26300 is huge news. Congrats to Apple for this,

    Now get on and test it actually works :-).
  • » Awesome! Thanks for Letting us Know!
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Leopard "Preview" Gallery - Part VIII (iChat)










iChat has all the features Steve Jobs demonstrated on stage plus a bunch of nifty tweaks such as being able to set your status to online when you login. It took five years for this?! Amazing, but at least it's finally here. Also, you have tabbed chatting in iChat which is actually fantastically implemented, totally blows the pants off Adium and AIM for Windows and the animations are absolutely gorgeous as you might expect from Apple. Almost everything in iChat's UI seems to use some sort of animation. It just can't be shown in pictures and currently, since I'm on an Intel-based Mac, I can't take videos for you. The screenshots above should reveal most of the tweaks and hidden features though. iChat is also one of the lucky ones in this Developer Preview to get a 512x512 icon.

Also, as I mentioned, Apple seems to be putting together its act as far as user interfaces are concerned and is either converting apps to the Smooth Metal model (à la iTunes 6) or to the Unified Title Bar model. iChat and Automator have moved to the Unified Title Bar model. Perhaps, now, Apple will finally start following its own HIGs. 

Comments (2) Posted on at  

  • » i saw 1.83GHz in one of ur screenshots, so its either an imac or macbook, so it has an isight. question... does the camera still properly fucntion while running tiger on that system after its been used in photobooth and ichat?
  • » The Universal Binary of SnapzPro is out!

Leopard "Preview" Gallery - Part VII (DVD Player)

This is the DVD Player About Box from Leopard



And, to compare, this is the one from Tiger.



And here are the main player and controller windows. There are slight cosmetic changes in DVD Player, the version has been upped to 5.0 and the menus have been reshuffled a bit, but nothing that would make you gasp. Apple is just bringing all its applications in line with one of two themes - the Unified Title Bar theme and the new iLife '06 and iTunes 6 "Smooth Metal" theme. DVD Player fits into the latter. Also, iChat has been changed to fit into the former. It's up next. 

Comments (0) Posted on at  

Google Notifiers Galore


Now we all know what Google means when it says "Beta". It doesn't mean it's a pre-release piece of software, because, in that light, everything that Google has ever made, except for its Search, is pre-release. Gmail, anyone? So you definitely don't expect Google's publicly available non-limited betas to have blatant bugs. And you definitely don't expect three releases in one week!

Yet, today, Google quietly dropped Google Notifier 1.9.65 on us. This is up from 1.9.63 on 2006-08-23 and 1.9.61 on 2006-08-20. The original version was simply broken. When you clicked on "Go to Inbox", it would simply ignore you, without even saying "Gah, mmnotdoingit…"

1.9.63 fixed this and heaven knows what the latest version, our most beloved 1.9.65, fixes because Google, at least, doesn't bother telling us. Long live! 

Comments (2) Posted on at  

  • » It fixes the pain problem of Google Calendar just not activating (and so getting the activation box every few minutes until you deactivate).

    Look here: http://groups.google.com/group/google-calendar-help-bugs/browse_thread/thread/caf93c0afddc0ad7

    Jeez Google, get it together
  • » OK, my Google Notifier (1.9.90) has decided to just quit fetching my mail and has been giving me the ol' biohazard sign over the icon all week. I've read about version 1.9.65 on several blogs this morning but when I go to Google to get it, it downloads 1.9.90.

    Where are you guys downloading the new version?

Battery Recalls, anyone?

OK, so I have not been hiding under a rock or anything and I have heard about the Dell 4.1 million recall and now the Apple 1.8 million drama. What I don't get is the amount of fuss these things are getting. I'm personally writing this one paragraph only to say "Get over it!" Sure, we don't have any new iPods but surely battery recalls are not worth salivating over and I definitely don't see why they have to get more press coverage than the Israel-Lebanon War. Surely, there are bigger bangs elsewhere. I'm sorry, ye lovers of batteries, am I being insensitive? All I did when the MBP recall came into effect was to check if my serial number matched up (it didn't apparently) and kept doing what I normally do, not write Pulitzer-level essays about it.

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Leopard "Preview" - Archive Utility

Browsing casually through the System > Library > CoreServices folder found me a neat little application called "Archive Utility" which has the same icon as BOMArchiveHelper from Tiger. Unlike the Tiger app though, this one launches with a GUI and has a little Preferences box (pictured above). Either this is just one of those things that gets included in a pre-release but doesn't make it to the Gold Master or we are going to be able to choose exactly how we unzip stuff and in what format we zip it back up. 

Comments (1) Posted on at  

Upgrading the Mac mini

So I had this pefectly good Mac mini and now it needed $200 worth of beefing up with 1GB of RAM (which is the maximum it can take), AirPort and Bluetooth. The Intel Mac mini uses SO-DIMM (small outline) memory as opposed to the G4 Mac mini's full-size DIMM and it has two slots instead of one, so its limit is 2GB as opposed to my mini's 1GB. All Macs except the Mac Pro and Xserve now use SO-DIMM RAM (correct me if I'm wrong) and I wish I knew if there was any performance difference between SO-DIMMs and DIMMs. Anyway, RAM is a whole other discussion unto itself.

Upgrading the Mac mini, which is the crux of this article, should be established as the de-facto test for virility in my opinion. How far can you toss a caber? I don't know. How many beers can you drink before throwing up? I honestly don't care. How many Mac minis can you add an Airport+Bluetooth module to? Now that's something I want to know. A while ago I was commenting to a group of people about how the Power Mac G4 was legendary in the way that was trivial to add or replace practically any component of the machine because the thing would basically just open up in front of you and upgrading it was easy in same the way that getting-out-from-the-seventy-fifth-floor-of-
a-burning-building-into-which-an-airplane-has-collided is not. The Mac mini, however, does not meet this standard.

First of all, there's a whole procedure involved in just getting the case open. This case is, simply speaking, not supposed to be opened… ever. I reminisce about the days when Apple used to pride itself in making desktops that were dead easy to upgrade. Those days refers to 2001 and those desktops were the Power Mac G4 and the G4 Cube. Not so anymore. The Mac mini case is like the iPod case except in the fact that it's harder to open. There are basically no screws holding the thing shut… it just snaps shut like an iPod and is seemingly impossible to open. However, like the iPod, you can insert a putty knife into the teensy-weensy gap between the base and the rest of the case and after fiddling around for about an hour or so you can get the case open. Of course, every time you open the case in this manner, unless you're using some Apple-provided tools (which, if you don't happen to work for Apple, you're not), your Mac mini's bottom loses some plastic. Now, you could take this in a positive light if you're an optimist and say that your computer just became a little lighter, but I am not that kind of optimist, or, when it comes to that, any kind of optimist at all. I despise this, and this is why I just used my mini without its case once I opened it up, while waiting for the the AirPort+Bluetooth and RAM modules to arrive.

Installing anything into this computer (except for the RAM, which, incidentally, is a piece of cake) is a torture that is only slightly less pain-inducing than burning to a death… slowly… over a period of five thousand years. It's not the number of screws that's baffling but the way the goddamn thing is held together. It's obviously a product of immensely creative engineering, seeing how they managed to fit a computer into a size this small; however, it also means that this thing is highly compressed on the inside and is stacked more tightly than a line of people waiting for free pizza. The screw sockets are buried inside 1cm deep screw channels and so the screwdriver I borrowed from a friend of mine didn't work because it was simply too thick to fit inside. I actually had to buy a new screwdriver to lift the internal frame up. Once you manage to do that however, things start looking a little better… until you realize that you have to fuse the Mac mini with its casing again.

Closing up the Mac mini was seriously frightening. First of all, it took me three attempts to get the case to close correctly and between those attempts I had to reopen the case using a knife and the mini lost a bit of plastic and became a bit more deformed every time. That was just depressing. The most irritating part while closing is that 95% of the mini closed properly most of the times I tried to close it but this 1mm of the casing in the backside remained propped up and it was this that basically drove me to the verge of insanity. On top of all this, while closing, the mini makes these horrible plastic-breaking-like sounds which are simply quite unnerving. Once it was closed though, I was probably the most relieved person in the world for the next five minutes, until, of course, I booted the computer up and realized that I didn't install the "mezzanine" card properly and there was no AirPort or Bluetooth. Back to step 1 and repeat… ARGH! God, I honestly felt like shooting someone right then.

Anyway, now that my ordeal is finally at an end, I have decided that I am going to drop my plans to install a faster hard drive in the mini because I, for the love of my happiness, do not ever wish to see the insides of that computer ever again!

PS1: Please don't tell me all that about the Mac mini's not being supposed to be user-upgradeable and how Apple offers free installation for the Airport+Bluetooth module as well as RAM (if you buy it from Apple), etc. I have my reasons and they are valid. I am a huge Mac evangelist myself and I only write this so that someone who can do something about this might read this and the Mac mini might become a tad better.

PS2: I know that I didn't mention the iMac G5 as an excellent user-serviceable machine and that's mostly because Apple took that feature out in 2005 with the excuse of making the thing half an inch thinner at the edges. Totally not worth it, bad decision, &c. 

Comments (3) Posted on at  

  • » By now 2GB DDR1-DIMMS are available, and I can confirm that the PPC Mac mini is upgradable to 2GB now.
  • » Not quite sure why you had so much trouble opening the Mac Mini. Two putty knives and about 15 seconds worth of prying get it open nice and easy. You're right about shaving off some plastic, but being on the bottom of the machine, it's not that big of a deal...
  • » Two putty knives are lying about in just every regular place of inhabitation, eh? I had to use a Swiss Army Knife and it wasn't very gentle. I do not work at a computer store.

Leopard "Preview" Gallery - Part VI (Automator)


Now, when Automator came out with Tiger back in 2005, most people, including me, were like "nyah, whatever". One - it has this extremely scary icon and, at least to me, it feels like that scary little one-eyed robot is going to make a million copies of itself, take over the world and whack people with that huge metallic tube he's holding. Creepy, in a word. Two - stuff like scripting has never been popular with the masses; it's got as much user base within the Mac community as Macs have within the PC community, i.e., not all that much.

Now, I wouldn't have given two hoots about Automator until two months ago, but this summer I started using it for a little automated recording tool and what did I find? So many things can be automated! Sure it won't cook you dinner or unclog a toilet, but it can convert a hundred or so Mac OS X "Leopard" screenshots from trouble-making PNGs to nice-and-friendly JPEGs (hint, hint) in a very timely manner. Automator is a hidden gem in Mac OS X, if a little rough around the edges, and once you try it, you'll never look back.

Now, problems, in my opinion, with Automator stood thus:
  • It was Brushed Metal - this has been duly rectified and hopefully is a sign of things to come
  • It took approximately a million bounces to launch even on a dual-G5 - this, again, has been duly rectified and Automator opens up with fierce agility now (couple o' bounces) presumably because it doesn't leak memory like a person with Alzheimer's anymore.
  • The actions it had were pretty limited - not exactly fixed, but there's a work-around now, you'll see...
Anyway, let the screenshots begin!





Those are (in order) About Box, Main Empty window, Customize Toolbar sheet and the very handy "Change Type to JPEG.workflow".


How exactly one would actually use these Variables that the new Automator has, I don't know. However, it looks very promising and I could see this being a useful addition.


Clicking the little SnapBack-type arrow once you've executed an action actually tells you which files were affected by your action and that is just kinda sweet. Useful, you know.


The Automator Automator Actions have a few additions.


Finally! The glorious days of Automator are coming. You can record actions and Automator actually does a pretty good job. It actually executed the workflow shown in the screenshot very nicely and I was clearly impressed.

All in all, everything is rough around the edges and needs a lot of polishing, but as you can see, Automator 2 is going to be pretty amazing and I'm just excited. 

Comments (11) Posted on at  

  • » Recording actions was a MUST in Automator :)
    Looks promising.
    BTW, how are you recording those several videos? Thanks for all the info. :)
  • » SnapzProX
  • » I know SnapzProX makes great videos but it isn't compatible with Intel yet :(
  • » That's true. However you can use iShowU. That's Intel-compatible although it is not yet Leopard-compatible.
  • » Shouldn't that be Part VI?
  • » Thank you my observant friend. It indeed should be.
  • » I, for one, love the Automator icon, especially the fact that it has a single blue eye.
  • » Great update! how about a preview of VoiceOver? apples leopard-page says the voice synthesizer now supports other languages than english through "add-on's". Are these add-on synthesizers present in the preview?
  • » I might post about that... I never used VoiceOver in Tiger, so I might not be able to point out differences. I do want to see how Front Row is in Leopard though and if there are any changes.
  • » Can you post some screenshots of other built in apps, like TextEdit, Calculator, DVD Player, Font Book, iSync, etc.?
  • » Now that you mention it, I will post screenshots of more minor applications and I have seen some changes in DVD Player that are worth mentioning.

Leopard "Preview" Gallery - Part V (Xcode and Interface Builder)

I don't know if I can do Xcode 3 and Interface Builder 3 much justice as far as screenshots are concerned because I'm not much of a developer, but I'll give it a shot.

Xcode 3


The icons in the Developer Tools are all still at 128x128 and have not yet received 512x512 loving. Thankfully, they have also never received any love from brushed metal, so I'm happy.

The standard Xcode window is exactly the same in Leopard and so I'm not going to waste a screenshot on that.


Shows what I know about Objective-C, trying to send an NSTextView call to NSTextField.


The window changes to add a blue bar on top when the application is running.

Interface Builder 3


New icons for both Interface Builder and its NIB kiddies!


Interface Builder is either incomplete or they have changed the way we work with Classes so much that I could not for the life of me manage to figure it out properly.


So YouTube isn't that great with non-standard sizes, but you get the idea.
Interface Builder is actually chock full of little animated transitions and I don't know why this box was unchecked because they were animating even without it.

That's all I got! If there's something you want to see in particular, let me know. 

Comments (12) Posted on at  

  • » Interface Builder 3 looks awesome. Thanks for posting!
  • » show me the new automator!
  • » Good idea. Maybe I will soon.
  • » Thanks for posting all these shots. Would it be possible to get a screenshot of the XCode 3 preferences?
  • » Xcode 3 has like a billion different buttons in its Preferences toolbar. Anything specific?
  • » A very cool series you're running here.

    -----

    I've got a request that is probably far too limited interest for your blog, but I'm very, very curious to see the developer documentation on the new iCal data API implemented in Leopard. I believe they're calling the API Calendar Store.

    If you have any interest at all in emailing the Calendar Store documentation to me, here's where my best guess is that you'd find it. Fire up this address in your browser:

    file:///Developer/ADC%20Reference%20Library/documentation/AppleApplications/iCal-date.html

    This page should link to some PDF guides on the iCal API. Those PDF's are what I'm looking for.

    I fully understand if you have no interest in this, but if you are willing to send them along, send them to flashlight23 over at gmail dot com.
  • » Calendar Store Reference:
    http://www7.rapidupload.com/d.php?file=dl&filepath=15338
  • » I was mostly interested to see if they cleaned up the preference dialog and got rid of the weird scrollbar that's in the current versions of Xcode. How about just the General preferences?
  • » Nope, looks exactly the same as Xcode 2 in that area.
  • » Mucho thanks to the anonymous benefactor for the Calendar Store Framework Reference.

    However, it raises a further question from me. The list of developer improvements in Leopard that alerted me to the existence of the iCal API says this:

    "A new Calendar Store framework allows developers access to calendar, event and task information from iCal to use in their applications or to add new events or tasks."

    But the PDF forwarded along repeatedly says things like the following quote:

    "The Calendar Store framework provides read-only access to iCal data."

    I'm not sure how to resolve this. It's certainly possible that the list of improvements is dead wrong, and that there is not read/write access to iCal data. But I'm hoping that there might be other PDF's relating to the iCal API installed with Leopard. If so, I'd certainly love to see them too.

    I'm kinda assuming that read/write access is enabled somehow, given that the To Do palette pictured in Leopard Mail.app screenshots seems to imply writing to iCal data outside of iCal. But the devil is always in the details.
  • » Any chance of some more screenshots showing details of more of the Interface Builder Library panes?
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