The Robservatory

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OS X Rants

Fun with iTunes’ new math

Unlike my previous incidents with iTunes and iOS devices, today’s report isn’t on a sync problem per se.

It’s more like a math problem which then leads to a sync problem. Here’s the tl;dr version: I have an iPad with 5GB of free space, and I cannot add a 1.8GB movie to it, as iTunes eventually tells me it needs another 526MB of space in order to do so.

During the attempted sync of this movie, iTunes displays some horridly bad math skills; just watch the video to see.


Here’s the video at its full size (1164×1056).

I have no idea how to resolve this, short of restoring the iPad, which I’d rather not do. (I’ve already unsynced and resynced everything, in an attempt to straighten out the math, but to no avail.)

Yosemite’s constant clattering clutters Console

For those who aren’t familiar, Console (found in Applications > Utilities) is an application that shows you what’s happening beneath the lovely skin of OS X. Open the application, and you’ll see a combination of status and error messages from any number of sources.

If you’ve never looked at Console before, you might be surprised by just how much stuff gets written there. But with the release of Yosemite, things have really taken a turn for the worse—the amount of stuff written to Console is greater than I recall for prior OS X releases.

As a test, I set up a new Yosemite virtual machine, installed ScreenFlow (and nothing else), then launched and interacted with a number of Apple’s apps for two minutes while recording the screen. The results are quite sobering; here’s what two minutes of Console logging looks like, reduced to a 10-second movie:

As you can see, there are a lot of Console entries in just two minutes.

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I asked Tim Cook for tech support…and you should, too!

Those following me on Twitter this weekend will have noticed that my (lovely, stunning, amazing, I am keeping it) iPhone 6 is not playing nicely with iTunes. I’ve invested over 10 hours—in one day—just trying to get music and movies onto my iPhone.

Frustrated as hell, I decided ask Tim Cook for some tech help, not that I have much hope of any sort of reply. Emails to his address, however, are apparently all read by someone. For those having similar issues, I think it may be useful to also send your feedback in Tim’s direction; his email address (not a secret, published in many places) is tcook at Apple’s domain. Perhaps if there are enough voices providing feedback in high places (not that Tim reads these himself), we might see some action.

Further update: I have now done two full system restores. I did the second just before bed last night, and let the iPhone sync overnight. On wake, everything worked! So then I added in a few more movies, and—of course—they failed to sync. So now I’m back where I started, oh so many hours ago.

Anyway, For the curious, here’s the tech support request I sent to Tim yesterday.

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Dropbox shows iPhoto what simple really means

Did you know that Dropbox lets you create photo albums? No? Me neither, until this morning, that is. And it turns out, it’s incredibly easy to do:

  1. Copy or move a folder of images into your Dropbox folder. Choose any location within the Dropbox folder that you wish; I set up a Photos folder to hold slideshows.
  2. Open the Dropbox web site, and sign in to your account.
  3. Navigate to the folder you just uploaded, right click, and choose Create album.
  4. Click Share album, then copy the link or directly invite those you’d like to see the album.

That’s it, your’e done. The only time-consuming portion of the process is uploading the images; creating and sharing the album takes almost no time at all. That’s about as simple as it gets.

Now assume you want to do the same thing using iPhoto: create a web-based slideshow of images for anyone to see via a shared URL. Sure, you could use iCloud’s Photo Stream, but that’s not a web-based solution. Instead, you’ll need to use File > Export in iPhoto, and either create a Web Page or a Slideshow. Slideshow is really misnamed, though, as what it really creates is a movie of your images. So Web Page it is.

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On multi-display support in Mavericks

One of the touted features in Mavericks is better multi-monitor support. And at some levels, that’s true. Unfortunately, my overall experience is that things are worse, not better, than they were before—especially if you don’t use full screen mode often (or at all).
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How to not upgrade to iOS5

If you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably familiar with my iOS5 installation difficulties. Two days into the process, and I’ve still not been able to update either my iPad (first generation) or iPhone 4. This is—by far—the most frustrated I’ve been with any Apple upgrade, ever…and that covers a lot of history!

Simply as a means of venting, and perhaps to save someone else from going through what I’ve gone through (though note that I haven’t yet solved the problem), here’s what I’ve gone through to try to upgrade my iPhone and iPad.

Update: On my 48th attempt, my iPhone 4 successfully updated to iOS5. Now, on to the iPad…

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This enhancement is not so transparent

Macworld logoWhen Steve Jobs demoed Leopard at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, one of the new features included in the revised Desktop is a semi-transparent menu bar. It’s clearly visible in the streaming video of the keynote, and in many of the screenshots on Apple’s Leopard pages.

Now, I’m all for fancy effects, at least where it makes sense and might actually help the user. But in this case, I don’t think it makes sense—look at many of Apple’s own screenshots, and you’ll see that certain entries in the menu bar are quite hard to read, owing to the bad mix of black text, a semi-transparent background, and a dark background image. Instead of being useful, it seems to me that—based on what’s been shown, at least—the semi-transparent menu bar will do nothing but annoy me when I try to find a menu item against a non-cooperative background image. Of course, I won’t know for sure until October when Leopard ships and I can test (and discuss) how well it does or doesn’t work.

Read my Macworld blog entry, This enhancement is not so transparent, for the rest of the story…

Widgets calling

Macworld logoThe recently-released OS X 10.4.7 update included a not-announced Dashboard widget update feature which silently checks to make sure that your widgets are valid. I agreed with the need for such a feature, but wrote about how I think Apple could have implemented things a bit better.

Music Store search struggles

Macworld logoAfter a particularly infuriating search effort for the Curious George soundtrack at the iTunes Music Store, I wrote this editorial about the store’s messed up search functions. Oddly enough, the very day we ran the editorial, Apple updated the store’s search functions, and the new functionality addressed every single issue I had raised. Talk about bad timing!

Hide iDVD? I think not!

Last week, for the first time since installing iLife ’06, I had an excuse to use the newest version of iDVD. In general, I love it. But someone at Apple made one seemingly insanely poor decision involving the “burn progress” screen:

DVD burn image

That’s the screen that appears when you start the encode (if not yet done) and burn of a final DVD. In prior versions of iDVD, this area was a separate tab within the main iDVD interface. Now it’s been attached to a drop-down sheet, as seen above. Within that sheet is a progress bar and a ticker that counts off how many items have been processed.

So far so good, though a progress dialog in a sheet is a somewhat unique concept. But the other change that came with this new sheet is incredibly unwelcomed–you can no longer hide iDVD in any traditional manner. If you try Comamnd-H with iDVD in the foreground, it just beeps at you. If you switch it to the background and then do “Hide Others” from some other app, everything except iDVD hides, and you’ll hear the beep again. I even tried AppleScripting it, with no success.

OK, fine, I thought, I’ll just minimize it to the Dock. Nope. That doesn’t work either. Argh!

Since the sheet is dynamic, my screensaver won’t kick in if it’s visible. So it seems you’re just plain stuck with the iDVD box onscreen, which is an amazingly poor decision on Apple’s part. I finally managed to at least make it non-visible by using Backdrop, a utility that lets you drop a desktop picture (or solid color) down as a layer. So I ran Backdrop, set it to display a nice picture, then switched Backdrop in front of iDVD. iDVD was now hiding behind Backdrop, and since Backdrop takes up the whole screen, I couldn’t accidentally activate iDVD by clicking its window. I could still switch to it with Command-Tab, or by clicking its icon in the Dock, of course. But at least it was out of sight, allowing me to more easily work on other things while it rendered away in the background.

Why oh why can’t we just have Command-H work again, as it did before?!

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