A 10.4 Blooper

Grabbing the wrong install disc, I accidentally installed OS X 10.4 workstation as an upgrade to OS X 10.3 Server.  Not only was I confused, but the OS was really thrown for a loop.

First of all, I would have hoped that the server version would not look at the client version as an upgrade.  It should at least prompt the user and confirm such an odd maneuver!  But leave it to me to inadvertently test such a theory.  Secondly, I am guessing that there is a very different password hash used in each version.  Following the “upgrade” to 10.4 client, I was unable to login to the box using any of the 8 accounts.

I was using the correct password, but the OS did not see it that way.  And, thanks to a problem I was having with the stock DVD drive on my Sawtooth, I could not install from that drive.  I had initially installed from a FireWire based SuperDrive.  When I tried to boot from the install DVD, the computer would not have it.  I ended up having to pull the stock DVD drive out of the tower and install the SuperDrive before I could boot from the CD and reset the password.

Soon after all of this, I realized that I had turned my server into a workstation.  I then installed 10.4 server over the top of 10.4 client.  This went without issue.  Once I was done, I was not surprised to find that every single DNS record that was configured in 10.3 Server’s DNS server was completely gone!  But after the fast one I pulled on the machine, I was lucky the OS was even running.

So what’s the moral of my story?  Always take a close look at the install CD/DVD before you do an upgrade!  :-)


Steve

Brother Printers True to OS X 10.4

Brother sets what might be a new record in updating its drivers to support Mac OS X 10.4.

I had contacted Brother about support from 10.4 about 2 weeks prior to 10.4’s public release.  Brother tech support informed me that I could expect updated drivers in 4-5 weeks.  In desperation, I checked the Brother web site on April 30th.  I need to use the scanner for some photos that my wife was playing with.  To my surprise, only one day after the public release of 10.4, Brother had already posted the new drivers!

When I purchased the Brother 210C in November of 2004, I was shocked at how Mac orientated their drivers were.  Before the 210C, I had and HP all in one printer.  HP’s Mac support was tragic, verging on criminal.  I had never seen drivers that took that much processor power or memory just to kick out a single page of text.

Brother’s drivers, on the other hand, are fast and functional.  I can scan, print, and fax from my Mac.  If I want to make a copy, I can do that right at the printer.  I was, and still am, very impressed!

Keep up the good work, Brother!


Steve

DirecTV Launches First of 4 New HD Satellites

On April 26, 2005, DirecTV launched the first of 4 new satellites equipped to offer High Definition services to the first 33% of its subscriber’s homes.  The first markets to be covered include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and Tampa.  Click here for the press release.

The second satellite is set to launch in June while the third and fourth are scheduled for 2007.  Together, the four satellites will provide over 1,500 local HD stations and 150 national HD channels.

Though unconfirmed, a Slashdot post indicated that the new HD satellite system would not be compatible with the only HD Tivo box currently available.

DirecTV’s press release indicates that views will require new HD equipment in order to utilize the new HD feeds.  It does not, however, explain if this hardware is the same HD dish and receivers that are currently available.

As a DirecTV subscriber, as well as a Tivo advocate, I anxiously await further information.


Steve

Mac OS 10.4 Tiger First Impressions

With each update the OS X, there have been impressive steps forward in underlying technology.  And, so far, 10.4 is no exception.

The speed increase is the first thing that stuck me.  I never considered 10.3 slow, but I do now!  General system work, be it scrolling, opening windows, or navigating the folders of the hard drive, all seem more responsive… just plain faster.

Some applications launch substantially faster.  MS Entourage now seems to even render the email messages faster.  Granted, all of these observations are non-scientific, since I never timed these tasks under 10.3.  But that also shows how much more pronounced the improvements would need to be in order to stand out as they have following the update to 10.4.

The first thing I noticed after finishing the install of 10.4 was the high processor usage.  To the average user, this might not even be noticeable since the system was still very responsive.   But, I have come to rely on MenuMeters.  It adds a processor graph to my menu bar, along with a graph of network throughput and memory usage.  Investigating the increase in processor usage showed me that Spotlight was already indexing my hard drive.

Spotlight:
Spotlight, new in 10.4, is a full text indexing service that scans the entire hard drive.  It is similar to the standard Find File we have all used, but Spotlight actually searches inside of files allowing us to not only search for keywords in a files name, but now keywords inside of the file itself.  And all of this is done lightning quick, once the drive is initially indexed.  Mine took about 30 minutes to scan about 80GB of data after first installing 10.4.

Dashboard:
Also new in 10.4 is Dashboard.  It is an interface for what Apple calls Widgets.  A blatant rip-off of a long-standing Mac product called Konfabulator, Apple has made the product its own by adding it to 10.4.

Dashboard lets us add Widgets to our desktop.  Widgets can do just about anything from show a graph of the wireless signal over time, to display the 7 day weather forecast, or even show you the status of commercial airline flights.  And, possibly as impressive, these Widgets just look cool!  They are sleek and high-tech looking.  According to Apple, they are also easy to develop so there should be cool new Widgets circulating the net any day now.

File Sharing:
File Sharing has become more refined and well thought out in 10.4.  Simple and subtle changes include the removal of some less understood preferences.  And, of course, SMB volumes on Windows servers mount as easily as Mac shared volumes.  This will be key as Apple is always working to get Macs better integrated into traditionally Windows based networks.

Sharing Preferences:
Now more refined and logical, the Sharing Preference Pane finally offers greater control over the built in Firewall.  We now have the ability to put the OS in Stealth Mode making it undetectable to a number of remote probing techniques.  We can also now block UDP traffic as well as log Firewall activity.

General Changes:
A Spotlight icon has been added to the right side of the menu bar.  It can also be accessed via the Apple+Space shortcut keys.  This makes it easy to activate Spotlight and immediately begin typing what you are searching for.  The shortcut key combination can be modified in the Spotlight Preference Pane.

Also new to the Preference Panes are options to remap key system keys to make it easier to use your Mac with PC formatted keyboards.  For those who have never plugged a PC USB keyboard into their Mac, the Windows key is located where the Option key is on the Mac, and the Alt key is located where the Command key should be.  Now it is easy to swap they keys mappings by simply modifying the preference.

 

New Security options include the ability to Secure Virtual Memory.  So far, I have not found any documentation describing exactly what this is intended for.  I am assuming that it hashes or encrypts the Virtual Memory data that it caches to the hard drive in order to make it impervious to hackers.  Given Apple’s commitment to making the Mac the most secure personal computing platform, it is reassuring to see them taking it to such a technical level.

One oddity is that new screenshots are now saved in .PNG format rather than .PDF.  I was partial to the 10.3’s PDF format, so I am puzzled at the switch to PNG.  PNG is a powerful format, but it has never really caught on since it is not supported by all of the major browser engines.  I am hoping there will be a way to switch back to PDF as a standard format in the future.

All in all, there are a lot of reasons to upgrade to 10.4 Tiger.  There are, however, some things to watch out for.  First of all, make sure that all of your favorite applications are compatible prior to upgrading.  In most cases this will not be an issue, but if you use system-modifying applications like Default Folder X or LiteSwitch, you will want to be sure to uninstall them prior to updating if you want to avoid any undo issues.  It is likely that updates will be out for each of the applications in due time.  As I write this, St. Clair Software has already released a 10.4 compatible updated to Default Folder.  In coming weeks, rest assured that other updates will come as well.

Also be sure there are 10.4 compatible drivers for your printers.  I and very fond of my Brother MFC-210c, but I can no longer print since updating to 10.4.  Brother tech support informs me that new drivers should be available in 4-6 weeks.  This is an inconvenience to me at home, but a major hurdle at the office.  For some people, it might be a reason to delay to update all together.  But, that being said, 10.4 ships with an record setting number of supported printer drivers as part of the default install.

For now, I say why wait.  There is enough of a performance increase with 10.4 to motivate the update, even without all of the new features.  As always, be sure to do a complete system backup prior to the update.  In my experience, the updates have gone smoothly, but it is better to be safe than sorry!


Steve

Maclive.net’s Blog: About Damn Time!

Well, we finally did it.  We finally added a blog to Maclive.net!

At first, it seemed like blogging was over done.  Everywhere you look, blogs are popping up.  At first I looked at blogs a something trivial.  It seemed like an ideal tool for someone who had little to no HTML experience.  Why would I want a blog if I could take an extra minute or two to put up an actual HTML page that provided exactly the info I wanted?

But the more I waited, the more blogging evolved.  The tools improved and in fact made it easy for just about anyone to publish a respectable looking web site.  More and more users were hopping on board, and blogging really picked up steam.

Then, the more I watched, the more I realized the blogs did more than just give the average person an opportunity to publish on the web.  Blogs had grown into a new and unique format for displaying information.  The new format made it more acceptable to publish smaller bits of information to the web.  Unlike feature length product reviews or stories, blog posts made it easier to keep a site alive with fresh and changing information… even when there was not time or cause for feature commentary.

So, with that in mind, we set out to add blogging to Maclive.  But, being the control freaks that we are, we couldn’t just grab an off-the-shelf blogging package.  It seemed like more fun to try and write our own software.

Tonight, I finally settled into the task and thought I would give it a shot.  What you see now, is the result of that work.  As far as the blog goes, it is pretty basic for now.  The core features are here.  Its really the backend, or admin pages, that are most impressive.  They are already fairly feature rich.

Now I will look at ways to improve the blog.  For starters, I want to add the ability for users to post comments back to blog entries.  And, the more I sit here, the more ideas come to me!

But, with that in mind, we add the feature to the web site, and look forward to adding new features in the coming weeks.  So many ideas for topics come to mind.  It the last 5 hours I have written my own blogging package, and now, with a click of my mouse, I post my first entry…


Steve

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