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Sleeping Better at Night

Here is a very quick way for computer users to sleep better at night:

1) Go out an purchase an external Firewire Hard Drive of equal or greater size to your computer's current one.
2) download: Carbon Copy Cloner and install it.
3) "Clone" your internal Hard drive to the external one.

You now have a bootable EXACT copy of your computer that you can keep anywhere you like. If anything goes awry you can physically swap drives and pick up where you left off. You'll have every email, every password, every file since the last time you cloned (vs. what can happen if you keep only apps on one HD and only files on another, etc.)

Once you've cloned once you can change the preferences (if you're running OS 10.3 or better) to "synchronize" (deleting files on the external HD that aren't on the main one). Getting in synch takes 15-45 minutes instead of an hour which it may take for the initial full clone.

Right now I "CCC" every Friday but frequency will depend on how much stuff you are changing/adding to your digital lifestyle.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 27, 2004 | Comments (0)

OS X "Catch all" applications

One of the great things about the OS X development community is that there are programmers out there who are picking up the slack of the big corporations and enabling us to use a wider variety of devices on our computers.

One great example is VueScan which allows you to use this single piece of software on hundreds of different scanners. Put it on your laptop and you can plug into almost anything on the road and grab images just like you want to.

networking.gifAnother example (and the reason for this post) is wireless driver at sourceforge. These kids have been working hard to give PowerBook owners some great PCMIA alternatives to Apple's built-in wifi - much longer range.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 22, 2004 | Comments (0)

My thoughts on Norton's products

nortons_paper_shredder.jpg

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 22, 2004 | Comments (0)

Connect like a rock to wifi with your Blue & White PowerMac G3

If you are running a Power Macintosh G3 Blue & White you may be a bit disappointed with the wireless options you have available.

One of my clients set themselves up with a 128-bit encrypted network and it caused nothing but trouble for our Macs old enough not to be compatible with Apple Airport cards. After using a Macwireless card to some success in OS 9, and an Ethernet-connected D-Link to less success in OS X we were starting to think that we'd just have to live with the server "unexpectedly disconnecting" 10 times a day.

buffalo_airstation.jpgIn the meantime a neighbor in my building had just improved his reception of my wifi network 10 fold by upgrading from a USB-powered Linksys to a Buffalo Tech Airstation. It plugs into a free PCI slot and has an antenna with a 3' cord that helps get it away from the computer. This thing picked up my signal up a floor, across the building and through three steel doors. It's that good.

Best yet:
• 802.11b AND 802.11g compatible
• if you're on OS 10.2.8 you can use Apple's "Airport Setup Assistant" as the Mac recognizes this card as Apple's even though (1) it's not and (2) there is no mention of Mac support on the box - maybe in the next generation...

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 22, 2004 | Comments (0)

Font Baggage

Keywords: Quark 6, OS X migration, Suitcase X1, corrupt fonts, printing problems, on-screen garble, workflow disruption, Quark 5, OS 9.

Recently a number of unfortunate and specific problems befell one of my (Macintosh) clients right at the beginning of their print production cycle. In rough chronological order:

- The company moved offices and went from Ethernet wiring to wifi. For security reasons the highest level of encryption was used and all of our printers were put on IP identification only (to keep someone who broke into the network from seeing the printers and emptying their paper trays). Some of our machines had to be upgraded to OS X to use the network, others used an external D-Link wifi box that connected through an Ethernet cable.

- Problem one: All OS X machines running Quark 5 in "Classic" could not print unless they were using an Apple Airport card. We tested this extensively and still aren't completely sure why. Some models like the Blue and White were not compatible with Airport cards so the easiest solution was to upgrade them to Quark 6 - printing restored.

- Problem two: After a fit of data loss we acquired a Windows server (not my choice) with redundant RAID and Saturday backup. We discovered that any file from Quark 6 saved as Quark 5 would instantly "lock". Everyone including the creator of the file was unable to rename, move, open, or even delete the document. Our Windows admin said there is nothing we could do. My colleagues who have also worked in Windows environments report to me that the file locking will always be a problem. No problem with Quark 6 files, so 4 of our OS 9 machines are now out of the loop until replaced. (They are too old to run OS X)

- Problem three: We scrambled around and in a day got all remaining machines moved around, upgraded to OS X, Quark 6, and Suitcase X1. Upon loading our ancient (and often moved, modified, etc.) set of fonts about 10-20% ended up being corrupt. Some would display fine on one computer, and not on another. Other variations yet included a font displaying on-screen as garble and printing fine, and the other way around. Some would display and print fine with the exception of apostrophes disappearing, etc.

Even after making a new "master" set for the computers and passing it around the problems persisted. We lost 2-3 days sorting through similarly named fonts and multiple copies to make the best set we could with the resources on hand. It resolved a few occurrences but the bulk remained.

In addition there were "conflicts" between our Suitcase fonts and System Fonts. While Apple lists the key fonts and their locations here we also discovered that we had copies of Frutiger, Gill Sans, and Franklin Gothic there as well. For the time being we are allowing the system versions to be used lest we cause more problems for ourselves.

Okay, so enough with the problems. We're in production and need solutions. We did an exhaustive search on the net and read dozens of bulletin boards to try to throw some fuzzy logic at the problem and see where the core lies.

• We determined that Suitcase X1 is the best of the dwindling number of font management tools as far as stability and reliability goes.

• We also noted that there are a few preferences to look out for when running Suitcase:

- UNCHECK "allow Suitcase to override system fonts". This will lead to the font "Times" freaking out which will, in turn, make many email letters and addresses in Mail.app read as garbly-gook as well as many pages in Apple's Safari.

- In the "Activation" tab you can "auto activate" fonts but if you're in a printing environment with both designers and editors you may want to check "prefer postscript font" when duplicates are found and "activate the requested font" when a font conflict occurs.

MOST IMPORTANT, we found, is that many of us were running on machines that were former OS 9/ATM machines with a LOT of FONT BAGGAGE. One machine had 500 Adobe cache files which are apparently a problem. Mac OS X also uses font caches so if you've been spending time shimmying things around like we were you've likely corrupted something, have a reference misdirected, or just confused the hell out of it.

MacFixIt has a great post about "Troubleshooting Suitcase X1; deleting .lst files, caches for proper operation. It's a thread with updates so I will summarize here, as well as recommend it highly as it is hands-down the best fix I've encountered to date, and just in time!

"Yesterday we noted a number of issues with Suitcase X1 under Mac OS X 10.3.x ranging from an inability to properly preview fonts, to application crashes.

Joe Schram, who has been battling Suitcase font auto-activation issues since Mac OS X 10.2, offers a workaround that has worked for several of his clients:

  1. Quit all programs except the Finder.
  2. Open Suitcase's main window and deactivate all non-system fonts.
  3. Quit Suitcase.
  4. Do a Finder search for any files ending with ".lst" in the filename. Delete as many as your user permissions will allow.
  5. Run Cocktail (shareware utility). In Cocktail run "Repair Permissions", "Clean all Cache files" and restart your computer.

(Another way to do the same thing is to Repair Permissions from Disk Utility, then Delete all Cache file using Panther Cache Cleaner (shareware utility). Then Restart the computer.)

When the user logs back in, 95% of the time, the problems are gone. Adobe apps work properly and Suitcase previews all fonts correctly.

In the remaining 10% of the cases, we'll delete all the Suitcase preference files first, then repeat steps 1-5. After rebooting, the user will then have to re-add their font set the the Suitcase database, but so far adding the extra step has always worked if the first run-through did not."

May 26, 2004 Update:
Suitcase Preference files can be found here:
/Users/username/library/preferences/com.extensis.Suitcase.plist
/Users/username/library/preferences/Extensis Prefs

Probably good to throw out the Quark prefs while at it:
/Users/username/library/preferences/Quark

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 20, 2004 | Comments (1)

It's getting cloudy...

O'Reilly's Mac Dev Center has a great artcile on "Vector Representation" which explains how Apple's Mail.app filters out junk mail, and how the same technology is used in it's "Summary Services" program.

If you're the inquisitive type that likes to know how everything works, they did a pretty good intro on it here:

http://www.macdevcenter.com/pub/a/mac/2004/05/18/spam_pt2.html

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 20, 2004 | Comments (0)

Housing additions

If you're looking to add a larger HD to your G4/AGP "Sawtooth" you should know that the motherboard limits you to 137GB. This means that you can't fit an HD larger than 120GB without some help.

The "help" comes in the form of a PCI controller card which is a fairly inexpensive and extremely easy way to up your storage. Here are the only two parts you need for more space:

1: Sonnet ATA/133 PCI Card and
2: A larger HD. (As of press date you could buy 250GB for about $230)

tempo_ata133_tn.jpg

The ATA/133 is quite nice. While it does run at a faster clock speed your machines performance may actually be a bit slower - but not noticeably. Your computer will boot just fine off this so you can remove your old HD and it's cables if you like to keep things clean and simple.

The card allows for 4 drives to be plugged in + supports RAID so you've got the potential for some serious speed and storage size.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 4, 2004 | Comments (0)