Wednesday, September 27, 2006

iTunes 7 redeemed

OS X informed me this morning that a new version of iTunes was available: 7.0.1. Given the showstoppers I noted previously, I was keen to try it out. I updated the PowerBook, and then headed to my Windows XP machine to update there. The first curiosity was that iTunes 7 informed me (by way of the Help > Check for Updates menu item) that it was already the latest version of iTunes, and there was nothing to upgrade to. Healthy skepticism took over, and I checked with Apple's website. There was, indeed, a corresponding 7.0.1 update for Windows. I downloaded and installed.

After the briefest of testing, I can report that one of the two problems I observed earlier has been fixed: there is no longer any evidence of playback distortion during heavy processor load. My very technical testing involved simultaneously downloading a large file, playing a video on Windows Media Player, running the EVE Online client, and listening to a track in iTunes 7.0.1. I could not detect any problems.

I'm still not getting the newly-downloaded cover art sent to my iPod during a normal update, however. Maybe this is simply working as designed—can anyone tell me?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Missing Sync 5.1.1

After getting my PowerBook back, Missing Sync alerted me (obtrusively) to the fact that I had not synced my Palm TX for 14 days. So I fired it up. Next, Missing Sync told me an upgrade was available, so I downloaded it. I mounted the disk image, and read the ReadMe file, which contains this warning:
If you are running Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" or later and have already been syncing your Palm OS device with this Mac, you must first perform one final sync with your existing setup before installing this version of The Missing Sync for Palm OS to ensure that your Mac contains the most current data.

Now, I am running Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" or later, and I have already been syncing my Palm OS device with this Mac. Despite having a reasonably strong suspicion that what the ReadMe meant was "If you ... have already been syncing your Palm OS device with this Mac using some software other than The Missing Sync...", I dutifully synced my Palm. Doing this brought up a warning that I occasionally see to the effect that some conflicts had been found between the PowerBook's and the Palm's calendars, and that they had been "repaired" (as an aside, I'd prefer to hear they'd been "resolved"—"repaired" sounds precarious), but that I would need to sync again. So, I did. And in doing so I learned that the Bluetooth connection between the Palm and the PowerBook has some kind of aversion to being brought back up after a recent use, so the two devices fought each other for a while before they agreed to sync again.

The second sync was just about to finish up, when the Palm end told me that it had lost the Bluetooth connection, and the PowerBook end just wedged and had to be forcibly quit. I am not making this up: I had to sync a third time. I let that complete, and ran the Missing Sync installer. While I don't mind the OS X installer, I much prefer applications that support drag-and-drop installation. But, as if sensing that I wasn't already regretting this upgrade enough, Missing Sync insisted I reboot the machine! Incredulous, I did so. Then I figured I'd sync once more for good measure. Two more problems turn up. Firstly, it seems the upgrade turned off Bluetooth as one of the acceptable syncing methods, so initially I sat there hammering away at the HotSync icon on the Palm, and repeatedly failing. Secondly, some kind of warning about syncing with desktop applications appeared—something I had already said was fine when I first installed Missing Sync. To be fair, the warning may have been issued by OS X assuming this was a brand new application, but losing my preference to use Bluetooth to sync is unacceptable.

The first sync with 5.1.1 just finished, and I have an error in the log:
SyncClient error. Mingling failed.

There's no indication whether this is minor or major. I suppose I'll just sync for a fifth time this afternoon and see if it goes away. I am perilously close to regretting I upgraded.

PowerBook repairs: Day 11

I am posting this entry from the PowerBook: it's back. After being pretty impressed with the customer service back on Day 5, I figured that while the next-day delivery estimate was probably optimistic, the part certainly should have arrived by yesterday, and I really should have heard something before today. So at 9.00am this morning, I called. There was a minimum of fuss: the PowerBook was ready, and, in fact, had been ready yesterday. The person I spoke to apologised that no one called me yesterday, and was surprised I didn't receive an email telling me so.

I picked up the PowerBook. It works. The "top case" was replaced, and that cost $A 309.09 ex-GST, with just under $A 70 of labour. Interestingly, the original $A 75 I paid at drop-off time was deducted from the total, and I left paying less than I was expecting. I didn't stop to ask too many questions.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

iTunes 7 problems

It seems just about everyone is reporting iTunes 7 problems. (That hyperlink is to Google's search results on the string "iTunes 7 problems". When I pulled that up a minute ago, it was just short of 1,000 results.) I installed it a couple of days ago on my Windows XP machine, and while I was initially quite impressed (you've got to admit, the CoverFlow eye candy is nice), I'll add two observations:
  1. You can now download cover art for your existing music from the iTunes Store. (You always got the cover art when you purchased something from the iTunes Store, and you could always manually add it to tracks or albums yourself. By far the bulk of my music is ripped from my own CD collection, so it has no cover art at all.) Firstly, doing this at all is not completely intuitive. You can right click a single track, or group of tracks, and select "Get Album Artwork"—that's straightforward enough. You can also apparently select Advanced > Get Album Artwork from the application menu to download cover art for your entire collection. Doing that gives no feedback, though. It's not at all obvious that iTunes is doing anything at all, and it only became clear later on when a whole lot of new cover art turned up in my collection. Secondly, unless I'm mistaken, the newly downloaded cover art doesn't get transferred to your iPod for display on-screen during track playback. Cover art from iTunes Store-purchased tracks, and manually added art both get transferred to your iPod. If there's a preference or option to achieve this, I can't find it.
  2. iTunes 7 seems acutely sensitive to system load during playback. Last week I was using iTunes 6 to play background music while playing EVE Online with no problems. This week, iTunes 7 chops horrendously through tracks as soon as I fire up EVE. It's unusable. (I'd quote my system specs if I thought they were relevant, but I don't. iTunes 6 didn't have a problem.)
I hope I'm just missing something with the cover art issue. I hope there's an update released real soon now for iTunes 7's inability to keep up under modest system load.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

PowerBook repairs: Day 5

The technician from Next Byte repairing my PowerBook called this morning. (I think it's good that the guy doing the repairs calls me. Actually, I think it's great that anyone calls me.) They did say when I dropped it off that it would be two business days before anyone could even look at it, so this seems about on the mark. The problem, not surprisingly, is due to two things:
  1. The sensor that tells the PowerBook when the lid is closed has died, or is dying.
  2. The sensor that tells the PowerBook it's overheating has died, or is dying.
Naturally, this leads to lots of inappropriate sleeping, which is just what I'd observed. So, some part which I didn't catch the name of needs to be replaced, presumably housing one or both of those sensors. Apparently, Apple doesn't let its service centres keep parts in stock, so naturally this has to be ordered. At least it's in stock at Apple, though, so best case is that it will be at Next Byte tomorrow morning, and I can pick the PowerBook up tomorrow afternoon. Sounds good.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

PowerBook repairs: Day 1

My PowerBook is in for repairs. There was a two or three day history of sleep-wake problems. The first thing I noticed is that it wouldn't wake up one morning after an overnight sleep. I overcame this, but it was by no means simple. None of the usual efforts worked: holding down the Power button, hitting Command-Control-Power, removing and replacing the battery. After a bit of Google work, I discovered Apple's instructions for resetting the Power Management Unit, which, for my model, involved removing the battery, pressing the Power button for five seconds, and replacing the battery. This didn't quite work: it did reset the machine and allow a reboot, but the PowerBook fell asleep again at the login screen every time.

Eventually, I got it up and running for several hours using a very low-tech solution: I shut it down, removed the battery and the mains power, and let it sit for an hour. I plugged it all back in and it worked. Until the next day, at which point I decided it was time for repairs.

I took the PowerBook to the Next Byte Apple Centre on Glen Osmond Road at Glenunga. I had purchased something there before, and I seemed to recall that they did repairs on-site, rather than sending items away. That, coupled with the fact that I didn't want to drive into the city on a Saturday morning, sealed the deal. The guy who served me was great—very efficient, and understood the problem. (The PowerBook itself was kind enough to demonstrate the problem first time—I was fully expecting to get there and have it wake from sleep as normal.) This helped to offset the fact that they were charging me $A 75 just to get someone to look at the problem. Somehow, I don't think this is going to be cheap.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Copy and Paste: slightly too intelligent

Here's the setup: I have a web form somewhere which has a field for a user's email address as one of its inputs. After the user hits Submit, the data is mailed to me. I sanity-check the data in the mail, and then select the email address and hit Command-C for copy. The address is added to a mailing list I maintain, and when I'm doing it manually in this way, the next step is to paste this address on the end of a command line in a Terminal window. (Why am I going into excruciating detail? Just to make it clear that the observation coming up is something that affects me just about every day.)

And here's the observation: it doesn't matter whether I select the address and hit Command-C, Control-click on the address and select Copy Link, or Control-click on the address and select Copy, I always get mailto: prepended to the address when I paste it. It's at least mildly irritating, and it seems to me that surely one of those three options for selecting the address could be expected to drop the mailto: prefix.