1 0 Archive | November, 2004
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Colors in Safari and Firefox

I spent the last week in Washington DC, New Jersey, New York City and Providence, more to come on that later possibly. Right now I’d just like to point out something I’m probably the last to notice.

Firefox vs. Safari

This is the same image in Firefox (on the left) and Safari. I had no idea that the browser affected how colors were displayed on the same computer. Interesting and I must say somewhat disturbing.

Also, I’d like to point out that my second least favorite instrument is the harpsichord. Second only to the bagpipes.

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OS X’s Weak Spot – The Finder

Today I’m not going to mention how my G5 has crashed about 10 times in the last week, or how frustrating that it is that Mac’s are so picky about their RAM that if it doesn’t come from the mothership it’s almost guaranteed to cause kernel panics and everything else to go wrong.

I’m not going to mention how I have to reinstall OS X because I can’t boot into the operating system (after trying every tip, trick and hack possible) and how AppleCare couldn’t do anything but tell me to plugin my other Mac (what other Mac?) to back everything up in Firewire drive mode then start from a clean slate.

Today I’m going to talk about the Finder, and where I feel it could be improved.

  1. Copying Folders over Folders – There should be a way to drop a folder on another folder with the same name and have it add new files and give you the option to replace old files with newer versions. Currently the Finder simply blows the first folder away and replaces it with the folder you are moving.
  2. Copying large numbers of files – When copying large numbers of files, if the Finder encounters a file it can’t copy it usually just stops copying altogether. This has happened several times after several hours of copying to make backups of fried OS X install today. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could just drag the folder over and pick up where you left off, but you can’t. See number 1.
  3. Downloading Files – If you don’t have OS X auto-arrange the icons on your desktop, when files complete downloading they move. It doesn’t matter where you put the partially downloaded file icon, it jumps to somewhere else when it’s done.
  4. Resource Forks – If you’re on an all Mac network you may never notice these, if you use your Mac with Windows or Linux you’ll notice how every folder your Mac touches gets a couple worthless files dropped in it. There has to be a better way to accomplish what resource forks do.
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Great Design

It’s been too long since I posted anything about my family. I’d just like to point out that my wife Jenny is extremely creative… There was a contest at one of the blogs she visits to basically make an Elephant out of something soft. This is what she came up with:

Softie Elephant

It’s so simple, yet perfect. One piece of felt folded over that forms an elephant head, complete with large ears and a trunk. Add a whimsical pocket and little white bird and you have something that could probably be made in 20 minutes but that you might not think of if you had the rest of your life. Kudos Jenny.

She also paints…

Jenny Self Portriat

(a self-portrait)

is a great photographer…

Jenny Photo of Bicycles

and a better blogger than I. Visit her site here: www.queenthings.com.

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November 16, 2004
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Office 2004 For Mac – Office 11

If you’ve been happily using Office X for OS X and are thinking about upgrading, I have one suggestion. Don’t. I did and I’ve had problems with every program.

Word 11: For some reason even though the new document compatibility panel was introduced, Word 11 is less compatible with some documents than its predecessor. This is the same document opened in Office 11 vs Office 10. It’s a simple RTF document that even the built in TextEdit handled fine. The image pretty small, but you can tell that in Office 11 numbers are scattered all over the page while in Office 10 everything is laid out nicely in tables.

Office Comparison

This isn’t the only document this has happened with either.

Entourage 11: Entourage 11 has some nice new features, the project center and a nicer layout for reading mail. Entourage also crashes all. the. time. At least for me. I know what the problem is, for some reason I keep getting a large message and Entourage can’t handle it, so it crashes. I have to open Mail.app, get the message, delete it and re-open Entourage. In this case I can’t vouch for Entourage X. I haven’t tested it to see if it works fine there.

One way Entourage 10 is better than Entourage 11 is in it’s Exchange server capabilities, at least with older versions of Exchange. In Entourage 10 I can connect to the Exchange server and get mail (I can’t send for some reason) but with the newer Entourage 11 I can’t even connect to receive mail. The support got worse instead of better. To send and receive I have to go all the way back to Outlook 2001 for Mac.

Powerpoint 11: At work we use Powerpoint for storyboarding. It’s important that graphics and images stay exactly where they are placed. Up until I upgraded to Office 11 I never had a problem getting storyboards from designers working in Office 2000 for Windows, since the upgrade I often find that images and shapes have shifted from their original position. Usually the shift is a move between 5 and 20 pixels on the Y axis. It’s enough of a problem that I’ve switched back to Powerpoint 10.

Excel 11: I haven’t found much wrong with Excel, other than a few new “features” that I have to find a way to turn off. For example, (this is across all Office 11 apps) whose idea was it to make the formatting palette become translucent after a few seconds? What does this improve? I find it plain annoying, and even more annoying how it snaps back to 100% rather than fading nicely in. I disabled that “feature.” Excel WarningI also have found that Excel 11 has a bad habit of pointing out every possible problem, even when they’re not problems. If you have a list that is summed up at the end and there are blank cells (like for rows you plan to fill in at some point in the future) you get a little warning sign that just sits there until all empty cells are full. It’s not a big deal, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ll just stick with Excel 10 and avoid having the program correct my non-mistakes.

From my experience, I’d say save your pennies and stick with Office X for Mac. The upgrade has caused nothing but problems for me.

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November 13, 2004
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Mission “Choose a Wiki”: Accomplished

As mentioned previously, I finally decided to learn more about and choose a Wiki. It didn’t take long to figure out that C2 was the best site for comparisons. After reading that site and narrowing it down a bit, it came down to three.

  1. Twiki
  2. MediaWiki
  3. PmWiki

The features I needed for my purposes were;

  • The ability to password protect pages and groups of pages easily.
  • File uploads
  • User registration
  • RSS feeds
  • Open Source

Aside from that, I really only needed the standard Wiki features, everything editable, simple markup etc. etc.

The first Wiki I installed was (as I’ve mentioned before) MediaWiki. The install was simple, and it’s pretty obvious it can handle large sites. It doesn’t come with RSS feeds and I just wasn’t impressed with the way it handles uploads and user registration. Before you write MediaWiki off, I have to say I probably didn’t give this Wiki a full fair shot. I didn’t like the default template and I couldn’t find an online user community with plugins and support and that turned me off from it.

Next was Twiki. This is far and away the Wiki with the most features. It supports uploads (better than any of the others), advanced plugins, it has a great community built around it and is used by some huge companies (Disney for example). It’s also hard to install. I got it up and running in one evening, but getting it running right was much more difficult. Even after I got it running right, password protecting a section of my site was a challenge and getting sessions to work was yet another challenge. I could tell that theming the site was going to be another challenge. I’m not one to run away from a challenge, but after having my share of them and spending a week and a half setting the thing up, it was just too much.

The decision: PmWiki. PmWiki was the easiest to install. I never had to switch to root or create a database or even touch the command line. It supports uploads (not the best support, but support), it’s easily themable, it’s super fast, easy to understand, easy to password protect portions of the site, yet at the same time powerful. It comes with RSS support, a good community, good plugins and add ons and it feels very stable and solid.

My recommendation for a general purpose, intranet or group Wiki is PmWiki. My recommendation to PmWiki is to revamp your website. it’s way too plain and boring (I’m not against simple but this is too much…) and was the reason I tried PmWiki last.

Also…

A Wiki I may use for quick, personal sites is the great looking Instiki. I’m looking forward to file attachments for this one.

Where’s the wiki? It’s here.

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The Difference Between Linux and OS X

Last night, after several months of not having a Linux box, I decided to get one back up and running. I’ve been following some of the new developments with Gnome and Mono and have been impressed with how clean and usable some of the apps that have come out recently are looking. I’ve also read quite a bit about Ubuntu, a Debian (my favorite flavor of Linux) based distro that is designed for usability and runs Gnome 2.8.

I downloaded Ubuntu last night (in 17 minutes at 502 Kbps!, thank you Cox) and installed it fairly painlessly on my old Pentium II 450mhz Gateway computer. It installed quickly and ran well, even fast on such an old machine. It also looks great. The default theme is very earthy, which fits nicely with the Ubuntu philosophy.

That’s about where the pleasant experience ended. Like I mentioned before, I wanted to install some applications I’ve read about, specifically:

  • Muine – simple music player
  • Tomboy – desktop wiki
  • Beagle – powerful search tool
  • Blam! – simple rss feed reader

I started and almost immediately found myself stuck. The nice thing about Debian is that you can use apt-get (or aptitude, as I prefer) to download and automatically install many applications. I started with Blam!. Perfect, it installed great, ran great and is an impressive application.

I moved on to Beagle. It wasn’t in the apt repository so I decided to build it from source. Oh… wait, Ubuntu doesn’t come with a C compiler. I installed one. Hmm. It doesn’t come with Mono. I installed it. It doesn’t come with Evolution-sharp 0.3. Not in apt either. I got it from source and tried to configure it. It was missing a bunch of *-sharp applications. Most were not in apt. Forget it.

Next was Tomboy. Not in apt. Again, I downloaded it and started to install it from source. It needed a Perl module, XML::Parse. I tried to install it using CPAN, but it turned out CPAN needed updating. I let that go for about 20 minutes and came back to it. Tried to install it again, it kept failing. I searched and found it needed some other application (I can’t remember the name) that was in apt, I installed it, XML::Parse installed fine and went back to configure Tomboy. No dice. Missing more packages, again, not in apt and when I started compiling them from source I fell into the same dependency nightmares.

Muine was a similar story, I didn’t spend as much time on it, but was not able to get it running.

I know this is nothing new, but it really is indicative of the difference between Linux and OS X. If people are going to adopt Linux and use it successfully, installing applications really needs to be much simpler, even if that means including libraries and increasing the size of the binaries, whatever it takes, it has to be done.

[update]

When I wrote this, I didn’t realized I wrote about a similar Linux experience just a couple entries ago. It’s been a few days. Just to clarify, when I said I haven’t had a Linux box for a few months, I meant at home. I’ve had a dedicated Linux server for a couple years now.

Also: I have decided on a Wiki. More to come on that soon…

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