Dave Landers

Dave’s thoughts (such as they are)

Archive for the 'Mac' Category

MacBook Pro Fixed!

As I reported earlier, I had a severe problem with Time Machine on my MacBook Pro. As I experimented with it, I realized it was probably related to another problem I have been living with ever since I got the machine.

The previous problem occurred when I was running a build or other long, CPU-intensive operation. Sometimes, the machine would just reboot suddenly. And it was always when I was away. I had no luck with any of the usual fixes suggested by Apple or found on the web. I had figured out that it was probably related to the screen saver coming on, but it was impossible to reproduce this for anyone.

But something about Time Machine allowed me to reproduce this more repeatably: lots of CPU, generating lots of heat, coupled with intense graphics == reboot.

The folks at the FlatIrons Apple Store were really great, especially given the madhouse produced by the holidays. I described both problems and they just decided to replace the logic board. They ordered the part, and I was without my machine for only a day-and-a-half. It seems like this has done the trick. Hurray!

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Time Machine Woes

Time Machine
Yesterday, I decided it was time to move on. I deleted my bootable Tiger backup and turned on Time Machine. I like the fact that it promises to do hourly/daily/weekly incremental backups, and the Time Machine application, while heavy on the cheese, is a pretty nice way to access backup recovery.

But backups aren’t backups unless you test that you can recover files (and you know how to do it without having to mess around when the time comes). So today, with a day’s worth of backup history, I decided to play with Time Machine.

I flipped back and forth thru time-cheese, and after a few seconds the world disappeared. Oh wait, it was just my MacBook Pro rebooting. Bong. Apple. Spin wheel. Login.

Nothing in any of the logs (there wasn’t time) – just a hard, fast, shutdown.

So, I did what any self-respecting software engineer would do. I tried it again. Same result. I have now hard-rebooted my machine like 10 times via Time Machine (I don’t recommend it).

If recovering a file risks a hard shutdown, and I can’t resolve this – I will just have to go back to rsync.

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Leopard impressions

I’ve had Leopard installed for several days now, and mostly it is good. Here are some delights and gripes and bugs and other thoughts.


Mail still doesn’t obey the Hide checkbox when it is started at login. Just what is so hard about this? I find this really annoying. My son did figure out a rather clever “cheat” – he starts Mail in a different Space, so it is not really hidden, but just looks that way (but I’m not using Spaces).

And Mail still doesn’t grok the age-old function “go to next unread message” (the shortcut for this should be “spacebar”).

On the plus side, Mail will finally display a proper count of unread messages in the Dock icon (rather than only counting messages in the inbox).

Mail BugAnd in the bug arena, there is something seriously wrong. I occasionally see a popup from Mail saying it can’t identify the certificate for pop.gmail.com.

When I inspect the certificate, it is the one for my work email account. So something is seriously broken in Mail’s multiple-account settings or fetching.

Mail / RSS

I never really have got along with RSS in the browser – never seemed right to me. So I thought having it in Mail was a good idea – it’s really where I’ve wanted most of my feeds all along. But Apple’s implementation is just not “there” yet. It would probably work for someone with just a handful of feeds, but not for me.

First, there is just no way to import a set of feeds from anywhere but Safari. I found these instructions and got my OPML feeds imported (via Firefox to Safari to Mail – ugh), but they lost their folders. It took me a while to figure out that you can create folders for feeds (you just create a new mailbox), and then I was on the way to rebuilding my folders, and importing feeds into them. But along the way I figured out that you can’t sort or arrange anything. So I was stuck thinking I’d have to rename my folders so they’d be “aNews”, “bTech”, “cBlogs”, etc. Gack. And things were just getting crowded in the sidebar – what with my inboxes and all my mail folders, there just wasn’t room for a dozen more folders for feeds.

So I came to my senses and went back to using the most excellent NetNewsWire.


I think the best thing in the new Safari is actually the new eye candy in the Find feature. I was always having trouble seeing the default (subtile) blue highlight. Apple has now made it easy to see the find results on any web page (regardless of color scheme).

The history menu also now has two new options: Reopen Last Closed Window and Reopen All Windows from Last Session. Fantastic for those of us who sometimes accidentally close or quit.

The other two things I like come with the debug menu. First, they moved Open Page With and User Agent from the bottom to the top of the menu. And the new Web Inspector is great (kinda like Firebug, but more Apple-y). I especially like the way it rolls up CSS styles and shows Metrics (margins/borders/padding/size).


Spotlight just seems to work better. First, there’s new stuff contributing – most notibly Web History. Spotlight searches now include your Safari cache, so you can find that site you visited last week.

Also, they’ve made the “Top Hit” automatically selected (rather than messing around with the Command key). I can type, for example, C-Space, sys, Return and get System Preferences. It’s just better.


Well, finally you can set a default alarm for new events, although there’s no way that I can see to set the default sound to anything but Basso. And the default alarm doesn’t seem to apply to notifications created from Mail. So some progress here, but still a way to go.


I actually like this. I used to keep folders in my Dock for Applications and Downloads, but this just works better. I don’t really like the Fan view, but since my Dock is on the side, all I and use is Grid anyway.

Quick Look

This is going to be really handy, especially now that I’m starting to learn the shortcut (Command-Y). It’s way faster than launching an app just to see what’s in the file. Next, I’m going to have to try a code syntax highlighter.

Random Issues

I have my desktop background set to display photos from a folder. Sometimes, first thing in the morning, my second monitor comes up with the default Leopard background. If I bring up preferences, it does think that it’s displaying the photos. If I wait a half-hour (when the photo is scheduled to change), it gets with the program.

I have noticed that the login dialog doesn’t get focus when I wake from sleep. So I type my password and nothing happens till I click in the login dialog. The worst part is that I sometimes have found bits (or all) of my password sitting in other dialogs or documents – which means those dialogs actually had keyboard focus while they were supposed to be locked out. Scary.

I am disappointed that WiFi with WPA is still not right. I have never been able to hold a connection to our work WAN for more than about 15 minutes (it had steadily grown from 5 to about 15 over several Tiger updates). Now, it seems we’re back to 5 minutes. My home network (Linksys) is not as bad as at work, but it does drop connections occasionally, too. I have no data, but it does seem worse than with the last update of Tiger. I never had these problems with my PowerBook.

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Leopard Install Notes

I finally got around to upgrading my MacBook Pro to Leopard.

I generally take the opportunity of an OS upgrade to clean house, and I did it this time with Leopard again. So I made good backups, then did a clean install (not an upgrade). I then spend a few days figuring out exactly what I need from the backups and moving that over. This has several side-effects that I like. It cleans out the junk: old applications, prefs from apps I tried but no longer use, etc. It also gives me a fresh look at the new features, since they are not hidden by my old prefs or hacks.

Backups First

The first step is the backups. I have been using a script (fired from a calendar item) for a while now to backup (via rsync) some critical pieces of my home directory to the Linux box in my office. But that just wasn’t going to cut it for an OS upgrade. I wanted a full, bootable backup of the entire machine.

I got a USB drive and formatted it the same as my main drive (Mac OS Extended Journaled).Then, open Get Info on the drive and uncheck the Ignore Ownership on this drive (at the bottom).Then, use rsync to do a full backup. This will take quite a while, and works best if you close everything (ilke Mail, etc) first.

# turn off spotlight first
sudo mdutil -i off /Volumes/BackupDrive
# backup everything
sudo rsync --one-file-system --recursive --links --perms --times --group --owner --extended-attributes --verbose --progress --delete / /Volumes/BackupDrive
# turn off spotlight again, since we just dropped new index files over there
sudo mdutil -i off /Volumes/BackupDrive

I’m not sure how necessary the spotlight thing is, but I didn’t like all the backup versions of apps and stuff showing up in Spotlight searches.

Next, you need to make the drive bootable:

sudo bless --folder /Volumes/BackupDrive/System/Library/CoreServices

Great – now for the part that most people skip: Test the backup! I shut down the machine, then rebooted holding the Option key. I booted with the USB drive, and checked that everything looked OK. So now I know that if something goes drastically wrong with the upgrade, I can at least get some work done.


The next step, since I was doing a clean install, was to make a few notes. I scratched out a list of the files I needed, another list of apps and settings that I used every day, and another list of apps, settings, and other things that I wasn’t sure about. Then I spent a few minutes making sure I had links to installers, notes containing license keys, etc.

I also exported backups of things like Address Book, iCal, Safari bookmarks, Mail, and Keychain.


I only encountered one hiccup in my plan. I knew I was going to do a full new install, but I also plan to do an upgrade or archive install at home (to preserve the sanity of my wife and kids). So I was going to try these first on my laptop, then blow everything away and do my clean install.

So I waited forever for the install DVD to verify (don’t need to do that again, thankfully), then proceeded with an upgrade install. But the progress bar was telling me it would take around 4 hours. I didn’t have 4 hours to blow on this experiment, so I bailed out and just went straight to the clean install.


The recreation of my “stuff” went pretty smoothly. I went through my checklist and started copying files, apps, and settings. I did this one at a time, just to keep things clean. For Mail, I did migrate over my old mail forders, accounts, and preferences – but then made sure to go check out the new prefs to see what’s new and what I might want to change.

Right away, I got Mail, Adium, iCal, NetNewsWire and Eclipse set up. Couldn’t wait on those. But other apps are being moved over on a slower pace. I don’t want them just because I used to use them – I want to make sure I really need them.


Things seem a bit faster. I’m not sure if it’s just that I have not (yet) bogged the thing down with hacks, or if Leopard is actually a bit zippier. Or maybe it’s the new eye-candy acting as a sort of endorphin or whatever.

I’ll blog other impressions of new feature “likes and gripes” later.

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