Saturday, 18 October 2008

Blog moved

 I have moved my blog, you can now find it here -

Look forward to seeing you there.


Friday, 29 August 2008

iPhone 3G

I managed to get my hands on an iPhone 3G a couple of days ago from Eurotel (O2) in the Czech Republic, its the 16GB Black model and I thought Id share a few impressions here after having had some time to use it.

First of all, in terms of ease of use, its exactly what you would expect from an apple product and has been easier to set up than most of the other phones that I have owned for other things besides basic calling.

When you first open the box and take the iphone out, you will need to put in a sim, if you are using a pre-existing sim of your own, then its a good idea on your old phone to switch off any PIN's that you have set and also copy across any numbers stored on your phone to the sim card or sync your phone with your computer to its address book. I did the second option and synced my Sony Ericsson with isync on my macbook pro to my address book and then afterwards sync the address book to the phone via itunes.

I'm getting ahead of myself a bt though, once the sim is in and you have powered on the phone, you will need to connect it to itunes, on the first connection it will check if there are any outstanding firmware updates and if there are, it will download and apply them. This happened to me and I needed to download a 250mb file (largest firmware update ever?) which took around 15 minutes and then afterwards the phone was "stuck" on the progress bar for around 10 or 15 minutes while it did its stuff, afterwards it rebooted, connected to iTunes and I was able to configure what I wanted it to sync.

So far in terms of syncing I havent experienced any issues but the phone does make a backup of itself before every sync and if a lot of things have changed, this can take a few minutes, there are methods to turn this off though (via the terminal) if it frustrates you, for me, for the most part I tend to sync my phone/ipod at the end of each day ready for the next, so I prefer to have a backup.

Calling via the phone works pretty much as you would expect and quality is good, either via the external headset or the built-in speaker and microphone, so nothing too exciting there but nothing to complain about either. The headphones also have a mic on the end that doubles as a remote control for the ipod/phone so you can accept and receive calls with it or pause/play/skip tracks without having to take the phone out of your pocket.

Ive only had it for a short while, so I am still playing with it but I will post some more comments up later.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Transparent Dock Icons

Simply open (Applications > Utilities) and type the following command exactly: 

defaults write showhidden -bool YES

Once you type the command and press enter, you need to restart the Dock by typing "killall Dock" and pressing enter. Once the Dock restarts and you hide applications, you will notice that hidden applications have a transparent look. If you want to reverse the command, just replace the "YES" with a "NO" and restart the Dock again. 

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Time Capsule

Yesterday I picked up an Apple Timecapsule 1TB, the plan being to have live backups of both my and my wifes computers (losing all of those baby/wedding/etc photos would be a disaster). I will also use it to put the colour printer on the network and my 500GB WD drive, which is where I will be keeping media for the time being.

Initially I plan to set it up as a N only network and my other access point as B/G only (also on a totally different channel) so that essentially only our laptops will connect to the time capsule and supposedly at N speeds making the backups and streaming better.

Eventually I will buy a Drobo and connect that to the time capsule and have the time capsule back itself up to the Drobo periodically, so I will have backups in two places. I also have copies of our photos stored in "The Cloud", so hopefully we're covered for a rainy day. After all as the quote goes, there are only two types of people, those whose disks have failed and those whose disks will fail (or was it backups?).

I havent done anything with the TC just yet though, last night I was consolidating data from various drives onto the WD drive and watching a film, for the first time in a while. Tonight I will hopefully get time to set it up and test it, so I'll let you know how that goes.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Microsoft Memory Mouse 8000

I recently picked up a new mouse as the title explains :) and I have to say that so far Im quite happy with it. Its a wireless notebook mouse with a rechargeable battery, it can be used as a standard notebook wireless mouse, i.e. with a USB dongle or you can switch it to bluetooth mode if your notebook supports it and fore go the dongle.

There are some nice things with this mouse though compared to previous ones that I have owned or used, first of all, the dongle also doubles as a 1GB USB disk, which is nice as I always hated losing a port just for the mouse. Secondly it has magnets on the end, which you attach a cable to and the other end you connect to magnets on the underside of the mouse, this then enables your notebook to charge the mouse and in the meantime you can continue to use it as a standard tethered mouse. The first initial charge takes 8 hours or something but afterwards 15 minutes is supposed to be enough for a whole day.

Another good thing with it is that the mouse is supported by windows and by OS X, so has no issues switching between operating systems when Im dual-booting.

I noticed some posts on the internet that there are problems apparently with pairing the mouse but I can say that I havent came across this at all. For me on my Leopard 10.5.4 system I did the following;

Installed the intellipoint drivers
Started bluetooth on the MBP
Took the cover off the bottom of the mouse and held the connect button until the mouse led started to flash green and red
Started the add device wizard from the bluetooth menu on the mbp
I chose mouse and then told it not to use a passkey
After a few seconds the mouse connected and that was it.

The only thing that I havent found a solution for is when I start the MBP and BT, I have to search for the mouse again (not pair it, it already is recognised) it just doesnt pick it up automatically, whereas windows xp does. Something to play with I guess but so far Im quite happy with it.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

10.5.4 out but doesnt solve the 256 colour issues

So 10.5.4 came out and me being the sucker that I am I installed it to see if it would sort out some of those issues I was having. While it does appear to help with the slow shutdowns (no need to remove the sleepimage file every now and then anymore?), it does not fix the issues with Starcraft or Diablo II or any other application that requires 256 colour support for that matter.

There are some solutions floating around on the net, that basically involve replacing the kexts from the 10.5.3/4 update(s) with those from 10.5.2 but this seems like a bit of a kludge to me, so hopefully this will be addressed officially at some point. Hopefully before Starcraft 2 comes out :)

10.5.3 - Part 2

So I managed to solve the problem albeit by a roundabout route. What I had to do in the end in order to make it work was to first install 10.5.2 and then update that to 10.5.3, so it would seem that the combo updater for 10.5.3 is missing something?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

10.5.3 - Additional Issues

It seems that 10.5.3. is out to get me. Not that I believe I am being paranoid or anything but I have never had this much trouble with an OS X update before and I tend to be one of the "bleeding edge" crew in terms of installing these updates.

I am having problems with it now because I finally decided to reinstall my system, my justification being that I have played around with my current system so much and that it has so much crud on there that it would be quicker and easier to reinstall rather than manually clean up.

At the same point though I didnt want to be without my machine for any length of time, yet I didnt want to have to either rush the new installation or try to find the time to do it around the baby and work, so what I decided to do was to cheat a little. I installed OS X 10.5 onto an external USB drive that was connected to my mac and then afterwards booted from that.

This worked like a charm and very soon I was running a clean version of OSX 10.5.1, all well and good so far, I then started the Apple update process which performed various updates, including installing 10.5.3.

The updates went quite well and all of them seemed to install successfully and then I received a message from the 10.5.3 patch that the system would restart once various boot caches had been cleared. Ok, I thought no problem and sure enough the computer restarted quite happily. It then got to the Apple logo with the spinning progress indicator and stayed there like that for an hour, before my patience ran out.

I hard shutdown the machine, restarted it and this time it went ahead and rebooted happily, allowing me to log in and get to the desktop again. I then started installing just the applications that I use daily/weekly (everything else got left off), setting up my email client, firewall and so on. During all of this though I had a couple of odd hiccups, for example mail and/or itunes wouldnt shut down. Mail was also almost always timing out when checking for new messages, sometimes windows wouldnt focus properly and a notification would appear behind an inactive window.

My suspicion here was that the 10.5.3 patch hadnt applied correctly hence the problems, I did try performing some permission repairs, cache cleaning and various other os x maintenance voodoo, which got the system running more or less nicely but still I had the feeling that things were not quite right.

So my plan for today was to put or rather rerun the 10.5.3. combo updater and then afterwards xslimmer and providing all went well, to clone the disk from the external to the internal. This was when I was in my happy place :) Unfortunately other forces stepped in here and decided otherwise.

Again the install went successfully, no issues, cleared boot caches, restarted and got stuck on the Apple screen again. So again I waited and nothing happened so again I switched off and powered on as before but the system again got stuck on the Apple logo.

I tried shutting down for a bit and then powering on but it didnt help, I then booted into the original installation on the internal disk and that went fine, so I tried the external again and again it froze. At this point I tried some more voodoo, for example resetting the PRAM and so on but this didnt help either.

Not good - my nice, shiny clean installation was inaccessible. :(

I booted back into the original install and set the external disk to be the main startup disk (up until now I had been using the option key to bring up the boot menu), I made this change as it would allow me to use some of the startup functionality in the OS X "BIOS".

The first step was to boot into verbose mode (Apple + V), this displays all of the unix/linux type boot up info instead of the Apple logo and enabled me to see that the bootup process was freezing at this point;

localhost DirectoryService[31]: launched version 53 (v514.19)

This didnt say anything to me so I tried googling, unfortunately I couldnt find anything that sufficiently explained either a) what the DirectoryService does b) what 31 means, if anything and c) if the launched version was relevant.

I then tried broadening the search and although a lot of other users had similar issues none had a working solution, though I did come across a post at Macfixit that was very similar to my issue and the user noted there that he had fixed the problem by deleting the DirectoryServices folder from /Library/Preferences.

Being the happy, risk-taker that I am :) I backed up the aforementioned folder, then deleted it and tried again, this time I got the following error;

localhost DirectoryService[31]: dstouch: file was asked to be opened : no such file or directory

Hmmm... thats not a problem I thought, I'll just copy the working versions from my current install, set the permissions and be good to go, which is exactly what I did and exactly what didnt work.

I next tried various things, ranging from repairing the drive, (I was unable to repair permissions on the drive itself while booted from the internal drive, somewhat understandably), removing the files that I had just copied over, removing the whole directory, none of it worked.

I then booted from the OS X installation DVD and used that to repair the permissions on the drive and the drive itself, all of this completed successfully, so I was quite hopeful that it would work now but unfortunately still no joy.

Finally after trying all of that I couldnt see any other option besides a reinstall (something else which is recommended on the web), so I popped in the install DVD again and this time performed an archive and install.

This worked out quite well, the machine booted again :) It copied across most (I say most because I havent checked every single thing yet and I'm paranoid remember? :) ) of my data, so far so good. I ran software update again but this time left 10.5.3 off and let everything else install, tried a few reboots and so on and had absolutely no problems anywhere.

So with my confidence at a high again, I tried 10.5.3 one more time, again the install completed successfully, again it rebooted, this time though it did something as after a few seconds it rebooted again but after this second reboot it stuck at exactly the same point as last time :(

Now Im at an impasse of sorts, I dont fully understand why its sticking where it is, so I can try to do some more research there, or I can just do another archive and install, then install 10.5.2 and either leave it at that (I could play starcraft again) or see if 10.5.3 would work better if it were installed on top of 10.5.2 (even though I used the combo updater before). Or I could just install the 10.5.3 update from software update and see if that would be any different than the combo updater? Finally, I could just go clean up the current install as this is already starting to become just as much work... :(

Still, I dont like giving up on things and Im a sucker for problems, even self generated ones, so I think I will attempt to get to the bottom of this...

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

10.5.3 Breaks StarCraft

I found out today that 10.5.3 breaks StarCraft :( Basically, after installing 10.5.3 if you launch StarCraft it will show the initial configuration dialogue but then crash back to the desktop.

Apparently the reason for this is that StarCraft tries to switch to 256 colour mode but this was disabled by Apple in the latest update, so the game simply crashes.

So far neither Blizzard nor Apple has published a fix, what was disappointing though is that neither of the companies has published this information on their websites. For example I downloaded StarCraft from the Blizzard store and after a 2 hour download, it installed fine but obviously wouldnt launch. No where though on their site do they state it doesnt work with 10.5.3.

This supposedly also impacts Diablo II as well but I havent had an opportunity to test this.

Lets hope that they fix this soon and in the meantime, please consider letting Apple and Blizzard know that they should fix this!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


So Ive been using Twitter for a couple of days now and although I believe that I finally "get it", I have to say that like anything these days the community is key and thats what has left me a little disappointed here.

I was kind of hoping that it would allow you to find like-minded people and generate some discussions of sorts, whether it was about the latest movie or a plea for help but for me personally, it just seems like a lot of broadcasting with very little going on in terms of actual conversations.

Now I freely admit that what Im saying could be boring (I have 28 followers so far), pointless or whatever but even when Ive replied to comments other people have made it doesnt seem to generate much in the way of discourse. Perhaps I need to use it longer or perhaps I dont get it after all but it does seem like being on an island at times.

Lets see how it goes after a couple more days