Fighting with computers

Computers are not always friendly.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Save yourself some trouble with iLife'11

Just for testing it I installed the new iLife'11 on one of my systems. I mostly use iPhoto and I was happy with iLife'09. What I can see now is that iPhoto look has changed to be more similar to iMovie on the user interface. Some floating menus (like photo adjustment) are not embedded on the application window and general look is worse IMHO.

But this is not the only problem. Calendars are no longer available on iPhoto, so it seems they will be back soon.

The worst thing, however, happened when I was using the new iPhoto: Suddenly my system stopped responding to mouse click or keyboard. Pointer still moved with the mouse but that was it. I suspend the system and when restarted I've just got a blue screen. I power it off by holding the power button for a few seconds. On the next power up they system asked me if I wanted to send a report to Apple, which I did.

Whether this was caused by the new version of iLife or not, I do not know. But my system has been running rock solid for several months, so I'd guess iLife'11 is the more likely cause.

The bad news is that you cannot easily go back, to the former version of iLife as your photo library has been converted to a new format. Apple: this is just insane. I'm not sure I want to use time machine to go back in time to get this as it was before (not sure if it will work nicely).

So my advice with iLife'11 is for you to refrain from updating till Apple irons out all the wrinkles of this release. I'm sorry I'm not mentioning other programs of the suite, like Garage Band that I guess has got an important face-lift, but it is not a program I use.

Update: A few days ago I've got a software upgrade for iPhoto'11. Since I reported my machine hanging once while using the new iPhoto I've got not the same problem again.

Update Nov 9th: I've finally got the update and calendars are back on iPhoto 9.1. No other freeze of my computer has happened besides my intense use of iPhoto lately. AVImporter errors with some movie files from Canon cameras have stopped happening, so there is an improvement here. Still waiting for Apple to support Canon Powershot S95 RAW format.

Update Nov 14th: After importing some pictures and browsing them on iPhoto my system stopped responding, again, no response to any keystroke while mouse pointer still could be moved around. I left the system alone for a while and when I was back it had a kernel panic sign. I'm afraid there is still something really wrong in the new iPhoto. We're going downhill the Windows way :-(

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Multi-flavor remote access with TeamViewer

Remote access is a cool feature, whether you are (still?) using telnet to remote desktop protocol it is something that is very useful. If you are like me, from time to time you get a phone call from a friend asking for help. Of course her explanations hardly match what you picture in your mind, so many times you cannot help them.

If you plan on supporting someone online you can install and configure the computer and networking gear (broadband router?) so you'll be able to connect to that system in the future when there is trouble.

Many different solutions can be used, but most of them are OS-dependent. You can do lots of cool things with SSH but mostly on a Linux or OS X system. Microsoft includes the RDP tool for remote desktop access to Windows computers.

I've heard about TeamViewer before from a client, but given it was a Windows-only solution I did not pay many attention at the moment. I've recently learned that many interesting choices were available: iPad & iPod version, Linux and OS X versions were developed.

Besides being a multiplatform remote access tool, it has another cool feature in its bag of tricks: It works through a firewall or a NAT box. That means you friend does not need to mess with her broadband router (huh?) anymore for you to be able to connect. Users get a client ID and a random password they can tell you over the phone/email for you to connect. You can see their screen and control the remote system, exchange files or use the built-in Voice over IP chat tool. Communication is encrypted too. And being free for non-commercial use does not harm. Client ID is just a nine digit number, no IP addresses that are weird for many users.

I just am not sure how useful the iPhone version could be.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Prototyping on the cloud

I recently learned about an embedded design contest jointly organized by Circuit Cellar Magazine and NXP and mbed.

I signed in and I've got lucky as I've got one of the free development units. Having used Arduino platform before I was curious about how easy this thing would be.

Fear no more, I was setup in a moment. The funny thing developing with mbed is twofold: On the one hand, your computer will see a new flash storage drive when you plug in mbed. On the other hand, no compiler is installed on your computer. Instead, you use the mbed web. They host the compiler through a web interface. Once your code is compiled you just download the binary code to the flash drive and (now Arduino fans can smile) you manually press reset button for your code to be run.

I guess many complaints can be made if you dissect the service EULA, but definitely this way of working comes with many advantages too. Being multi-platform is not one of the least important ones.

Now I have to think about what could be a decent contest entry to make some cash :-)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Snow Leopard on your favourite virtual platform

I've been using computers for quite a while and one of the things I like is to play with them. Since Apple moved away from PowerPC processors to Intel x86 processors many people thought we will soon have OS X on our PC hardware. Being Apple a hardware company, they have few reasons to make that happen (or so they think and act upon).

A few attempts from small hardware manufacturers of offering hardware that allows the install of OS X have faced a lawsuit that more or less kicked them out of business.

Some other people just made that same thing just for fun. What they call hackintosh computers are PCs running OS X that has been install after a more or less "hide and seek" game with several DVDs.

You need determination and the right hardware to get it working. Many times, a software update prevents your system to boot up next time. As a challenge it might be fun, but there is no fun on discovering your work is buried inside a system you can no longer boot-up. So the use of this hackingtosh computers may not be recommended (some even claim it might be a breach of OS X EULA, which does not allow it to be installed on non-Apple hardware).

As we have several Apple computers at home, I do not have a big incentive on running OS X on a PC, but I've always found it an interesting proposal. I've tried to install it on several old computers without luck. But yesterday I tried this simple steps to get it working on VMPlayer and it seems to work nicely (once I managed to change the locale to Spanish/English instead of the original Russian of the virtual machine image).