Category Archives: Macintosh

Parallels and Ubuntu 6.0.6 Server LTS

MacOS X 10.4.9 (Tiger)
Parallels Desktop Build 3188
Ubuntu 6.0.6 LTS Server
MacBook Pro 15″ (C2D 2.16)
You’ll find that attempting to install from the “server” ISO results in a VM that hangs just after kernel decompression. So…
Get the x86 “Alternate” ISO from here: http://se.releases.ubuntu.com/6.06/
In Parallels:
>File > New…
>Custom
>OS Type: Linux
>OS Version: Other Linux kernel 2.6
>RAM: 512MB or greater (install reported to hang with less)
>Create a new hard disk image, at least 4GB
>Shared Networking
>Name it whatever you like
When prompted to insert the install CD, Click “More Options”, select “ISO image”, and select the x86 Alternate ISO you downloaded earlier.
When you to the Ubuntu install prompt, enter “server”. Let ‘er rip.
Voila. Ubuntu 6.0.6 LTS VM. Parallels 3188. MacOS X 10.4.9.

But sometimes bigger is better…

December of last year, Jenni and I were both using PowerBooks as our main computers. Me on a 15″ PowerBook, she on a 12″ PowerBook. As of this weekend, we’ve both shifted to iMacs at home: I’m using a 20″ iMac, she’s using a 17″ iMac with a second 17″ LCD attached. The 15″ PowerBook is my travel machine (I’m using it right now), and the 12″ PowerBook is packed up and waiting for a buyer on Craigslist.
I’m reminded of the October 2005 Meet the Life Hackers article in the NY Times, where they discussed an experiment measuring productivity of people using a single 15″ display against those using a huge multi-screen 42″ setup:
>On the bigger screen, people completed the tasks at least 10 percent more quickly – and some as much as 44 percent more quickly. They were also more likely to remember the seven-digit number, which showed that the multitasking was clearly less taxing on their brains. Some of the volunteers were so enthralled with the huge screen that they begged to take it home. In two decades of research, Czerwinski had never seen a single tweak to a computer system so significantly improve a user’s productivity. The clearer your screen, she found, the calmer your mind.
It’s true – it’s a huge difference for anyone who spends their day flipping between web pages, email, editors, terminals, and a myriad of other applications. Today, using the 15″ PowerBook after months of the 12″ PowerBook, I’m surprised at the almost palpable sense of relief I feel – it’s almost as if I was cramped in some tiny space while using the 12″ PowerBook, and have only now been allowed to get out and stretch.
I’ve always held that the display – not the CPU – was the single most important piece of hardware as far as most users were concerned. It’s what you look at, day in and day out. I’ve seen the difference in folks when they moved to a larger screen – or even just a clearer and more legible one. The Times article last year was something nice to wave in the faces of some people I work with who still consider CPU uber-alles and decent displays to be for the realm of metrosexual design geeks (or overpaid dot-com leftovers). Jenni’s glee at her new dual-display setup, and my own relief at going back to the 15″ PowerBook just serve to put it all finally to rest.
Perception is reality, one of my earlier supervisors told me – and a nice big screen (or screens) just allows you to, well, perceive more reality.

Score with iPhoto

I use iPhoto on the Mac to organize my digital photos. I try to assign keywords and such as soon as I download photos – nothing fancy, but enough that I can find pictures from one thing or the other without much fuss. Like pictures of Nathan from the past 12 months.
One of iPhoto’s other features is the ability to create and order photo books. Pick a slew of photos, pick a theme, tell iPhoto to do an automatic layout for you. Tweak the ordering a bit, add titles and such, and you’re good to go. Click “order” and it’s sent to a printing service that makes and ships the book.
So the year, for Christmas, I made up a keepsake book for my parents – a series of about 50-odd pictures of Nathan that spanned 2005. 8 1/2 x 11, hardcover, glossy paper, nice layout. Score. Not only are my parents raving about their book of grandson pictures, but I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that this is now the expected Xmas gift for the foreseeable future. Their friends are asking to borrow the book so they they can show their parent-of-grandchildren kids what they want for Christmas.
Score.

Here it comes…

Remember what I just said yesterday (yesterday!) about the buzz ball being in Microsoft’s side and that, among other things, we’d see people publicly switching back to Windows based on the aforementioned buzz?
Here’s another backswitcher. Among the reasons? As he told Scoble in email, *The corporate blogs that he reads convinced him there’s a future in the platform.*

Buzz ball in Microsoft’s court

In the “Apple vs Microsoft” camp of computing, it’s pretty hard to deny that the power of buzz has been on Apple’s side for at least a year and a half. As Microsoft stumbled – shutting down their engineering to focus on security (and still having some serious issues right after), “rebooting” their Longhorn (now Vista) development plans – Apple was getting all the good media buzz. Halo effect from the rampant success of iPod/iTunes, the Mac mini, Mac OS X 10.4, and several highly-visible “Web 2.0″ personalities making the Mac their personal computing choice.
Well, the pendulum is swinging again.
Yes, the iPod nano is sweet. But the iTunes Phone was a non-starter. The record companies are, in their greed, ready to hamstring ITMS. There’s no new Mac OS X version coming down the pipeline for a bit, and it’ll be hard for Apple to excite people with new hardware until they truly get their Intel transition underway (the rumored dual-core Power Macs will still be G5s). The news isn’t bad – there just isn’t much at the moment.
In Redmond, however, Microsoft looks to be ready to blow out its constipated pipeline. Xbox 360, IE7, Vista, Office, Sharepoint v3, SQL Server, Longhorn Server – all this and more should be shipping over the next 24 months. Microsoft, for better or worse, looks to be embracing (and expanding) some of the technologies and practices they’ve been lambasted for ignoring (RSS, anyone? Blogs? Hi, Scoble!)
What does this mean? Lots of press about a resurgent Microsoft in the near future, with concomitant articles about an Apple being “under attack” (by MS on one side, and the labels on the other). People who switched from Windows to Mac OS X during the Tiger buzz will start to blog about having second thoughts or even switching back as they see news about the bright-and-shiny from MS (this is already starting). Microsoft diehards will let loose their I Told You So posts. Apple diehards will fall back into almost predictable zealot stance (shaolin monkey school).
That is, unless Microsoft fails to follow through on the proto-buzz they managed to generate in the past month (hitting a current high after PDC and the company meeting), or if Apple pulls something Big out of the bag at MacWorld in January (or at WWDC in July). Those are possibilities, sure.
But for now… I’m putting my money on a “resurgent Microsoft” theme starting in the tech media, and staying with us for a while.
Postscript: All I’m talking about it buzz here, kids. IE7? Summer 2006. Vista? Late 2006. First Apple Intel machines? June 2006. Office 12? Early 2007. We can judge the products when they ship.

Google’s Gmail Notifier

Google has finally come out with a Gmail Notifier for MacOS X, written by software engineer Greg Miller in his 20%. (All Googlefolk are expected to spend 20% of their work time on a project of personal interest).
Not that this niche hasn’t been addressed by the Mac community – most notably GmailStatus – but Gmail Notifier includes some spiff features, such as showing header excerpts of unread messages, allowing you to directly view only your unread messages, and the ability to make Gmail your default mail program. I’ll miss GmailStatus’ support for Growl, but Gmail Notifier has already taken over.
Also, a little side note. The new Google Desktop for Windows has a nice feature – not only does it index your desktop (and Outlook while it’s open), but it also indexes your Gmail account and makes that available. No Gmail importer for Spotlight on MacOS X 10.4 – so I went ahead and added a Gmail account to Mail.app, with a ruleset that marks any new Gmail messages as read it into a Gmail Archive folder. Voila – my Gmail messages are being archived by Spotlight.

Wil Shipley on… everything.

Wil Shipley founded Delicious Monster, which makes the damn awesome Delicious Library (a media cataloguing program that has to be played with – preferably with an iSight – to be believed). He’s interviewed on DrunkenBlog, and you should really really read the whole thing. Management, Coding, Depression, Macs, and Extreme Gardening.
A lot of good nuggets in there…
>[…] core hours aren’t as important as, say, having a clear vision and motivating your people.
>—
>You don’t adopt the mannerisms of *big, successful companies* when you’re small, because those mannerisms aren’t what made the companies successful.
>They’re actually symptoms of what is killing the company, because it’s become too big. It’s like if you meet an really old, really rich guy covered in liver spots and breathing with an oxygen tank, and you say, “I want to be rich, too, so I’m going to start walking with a cane and I’m going to act crotchety and I’m going to get liver disease.”
>—
>Depression isn’t like that, though. You don’t “snap out of it.” There’s a chemical missing in your brain, and your whole life is like those dreams where every action you try to take is hindered by a huge pile of invisible wet blankets.
>—
>Mac users love their machines; Windows users put up with their machines because they don’t believe there’s anything really better.
>It’s depressing, really, because it’s like dealing with victims of abuse: “Seriously, there’s a better world out there, and you deserve it! You don’t have to put up with this! You can leave! Mac will treat you right!” And their response is right out of the textbooks: “Why would I trust Mac? I don’t think anything can be good after this.”
>—
>Microsoft has *nothing to gain* by making life better for small programmers. They have millions of lines of code written to the old, crappy Windows APIs, and they make all their money selling Windows and Office. If they actually enabled small programmers to do cool things, they’d be creating the very furry mammals which would be their eventual downfall.
>—
>If there’s one thing I’ve discovered, it’s that there is no stable state in life. There is no getting somewhere and going, “Ah, *NOW* I’m going to park myself down and just rake in the fat loot.” Change is scary, but it’s also the foundation of life and happiness. We need it. We get bored and lazy without it. Once more, into the breach.
Like I said – go read the whole damn thing.

What’s in a name?

Scoble wants people to “…call Longhorn all the bad names you can. Let’s get it out of our systems.
Oh, yeah, and link back to his post so he can follow the link-tracking on Technorati, Bloglines, and the supah-seekrit blog-tracking thing he’s privvy too. Always nice to kill two birds with one stone.
Longtime was the name used in Wired’s fictitious article about Linus Torvalds being hired by Microsoft, and it’s still the name I use when speaking of it. And that includes when I’m speaking to my “featured in a MS Windows Server 2003 advertisement” CIO.
We could call it Copland. Or Rhapsody. Because I think that’s the more apt comparison. Microsoft is obviously struggling both to get Longhorn out the door (witness the long delays and last year’s Longhorn Reset) and to make it relevant (witness the Gnomedex ballyhoo about RSS in Longhorn and IE7) Even with the betas looming, there seems to be confusion about what Longhorn is going to be.
God help us when we find out what changes the server product will force upon us.
What’s hurting Longhorn is the same thing that has hurt every spoken-of-in-advance Microsoft strategic technology in the last decade – Microsoft. Too many back-door promises have already been made (“Just wait until Longhorn!”), too many products were delayed for Longhorn technologies (there wasn’t going to be an IE7, remember?), and too many projects (MS and non) are trying to get some Longhorn Importance rubbed off onto them.
It’s still a year away. Long enough for them to demonstrate support for security updates via podcasting, and announce “.Net on Rails”…

Get out of my way

Several years ago, I came across an open-response question:
>”If you could have only one superpower, what would it be?”
A lot of respondents wanted to fly, or be immortal, or see the future – but one person came up with a superpower that I keep going back to time and time again:
>The power to make people get out of my way.
Line at the grocery? On hold? Crowded room? Traffic? Obstructionist bureaucrat? Get out of my way. The joy in the idea only underlined how much time we all spend with someone in our way – often for no good reason. Jenni and I still turn to each on regular occasion and chant, “I want the power to make people get out of my way.”
During a content-poor seminar this morning, I was pruning and cleaning the documents on my Windows laptop. And was marvelling at all the little ways that Windows kept getting in my way. Mix of mouse and keyboard to do simple tasks. Lack of visual cues. Terribly inconsistent interface. Obscured menu language. It got even worse when I decided to take some time to explore OneNote – which is supposed to be Microsoft’s let-you-do-things-quick freeform note-taking app.
The damn thing kept getting in my way until I shut it up and went back to my good old text editor. Maybe OneNote does neat stuff – but I couldn’t get the damn thing out of my way long enough to find out.
And I realized that I wanted my old favorite superpower, but applied to technology. That all the technologies and solutions and applications that I enjoyed using were the ones that – as much as possible – either stayed out of your way or got other things out of your way.
I’ve spent a lot of my career in technology saying that what I enjoy doing is providing cool solutions and elegant tools. But what is a “cool” solution or an “elegant” tool? I couldn’t find a succinct way of saying it. I have that now.
Tools that get out of your way.

Partial recant

When I returned from Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) back in July, I made a post accusing Apple of “shaving the edges” in several areas. Most of that post, I still stand by.
Howver, one area I mentioned was video. In 2003, all the sessions were taped, and DVDs of all those sessions were delivered to the attendees. This year, the big video cameras were absent from most of the sessions, there was no video available online via the Apple Developer Connection site, and there was no mention made of DVDs. I concluded that Apple had decided to forego the DVDs.
Things got better a few weeks later, when PDF versions of the slides (originally in Keynote) from all the sessions were posted. Those slides were, in most cases, more valuable than video of someone walking around on stage, but the contextual information of the presenter was still lost.
Yesterday, my DVDs (!) arrived – and now have I to take back all the nasty things I said in that arena. Turns out that while they didn’t videotape the actual sessions, they did tape the audio as well as the video that was displayed on the projection screen present in each room. My ten DVDs contain a nice little front-end application that lists all the sessions, and presents me with the ability to either watch a quicktime of the session (which is basically listening to the speaker while watching the slides in a 400×300 window), or I can view the slides myself at high-res (great for reference).
This is a lot more useful than a plain videotape of the session in progress. Great job, Apple.