Friday, November 30, 2007

Apple Mail, Courier IMAP redeemed

About a year ago, I wrote about Apple Mail's infuriating habit of falling "offline" when reading mail over IMAP. I've been running the Courier IMAP mailserver on FreeBSD for years, and there's been quite a bit written about Mail not co-operating too well with it. I suppose I went as far as blaming Mail in my previous post, and others have blamed Courier IMAP. On a whim last night, I did two things: upgraded Courier IMAP to 4.2.1,1 (not the latest version, but the latest FreeBSD Port), and increased the MAXPERIP configuration variable (which controls how many simultaneous connections can be made to the IMAP server from a single host) to 20, from the default of 4. Mail and Courier IMAP now Just Work. (Well, Mail hasn't gone "offline" in about 24 hours.) I can't be sure, but I suspect that increasing MAXPERIP alone would have been sufficient.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Leopard Help: borderline unusable

I am by no means the first person to notice this, but Leopard's application "Help" windows are extremely annoying: they are orphaned (they don't show up as an application when cycling with Alt-Tab like they used to), and that doesn't matter anyway because they are stuck to the front of the stack. So I find myself right now trying to read the help for Dashcode, and yet the help window itself is obstructing me from using the very help it provides because it won't move out of the way. I have to minimise it to the Dock to use the application between reading sections of it. Ridiculous.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Spaces is broken

The idea behind Leopard's Spaces feature, while by no means new (according to Wikipedia, 1985 called...) is certainly a good one. Unfortunately, Apple's implementation of virtual desktops is broken. Here's a single, reproducible example:
  1. Ensure Spaces is enabled.
  2. Open Mail.
  3. Open Mail's ‘Activity’ window (Window > Activity).
  4. Move the main Mail window to a different space, leaving the Activity window where it was opened. (Hit F8, and drag the main Mail window somewhere else.)
  5. Open something else in the space where Mail's main window now sits—say, a Finder window.
  6. Hit Alt-Tab and select the Mail application—recall that Mail's main window is right behind whatever you opened in step 5, and note where Spaces sends you.
You got it—you're sent to the Activity window's space, completely ignoring Mail's main window sitting right behind your uppermost window. While this might be occasionally what the user intended, I can't see how it could be commonly or usually what the user intended.

Henry Story describes how Spaces is "not designed around a person's work habits, but around software components." His article pretty much nails it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

MacBook Pro problems not "fixed in Leopard"

I've been having ongoing problems with my brand new MacBook Pro. Specifically, I had been hoping that the following two problems would be "fixed in Leopard":
  1. The entire display will occasionally lock up, and input is ignored from mouse and keyboard. Others have reported that their machines still respond to network login requests, so presumably it's UI-subsystem-related. It has been speculated that the driver for the GeForce 8600M GT cards is faulty, but I don't know if this is correct. It was not fixed in Leopard—it has happened at least twice since I upgraded the machine last week.
  2. Keypresses are sporadically ignored for no good reason. I seem to find myself constantly going back to repair sentences with missing letters. I'm not an expert typist, but I'm not that bad either. This problem was not fixed in Leopard.
As I noted previously, I am clearly a fully-fledged Mac fanboy now, in that I have had this machine for a month and haven't returned it yet. Problem is, the downtime (which would presumably extend into several days or longer) would be an enormous productivity hit for me. I've contacted Next Byte at Glenunga (point of purchase, and Apple Service Centre), and they claim to be unaware of either issue in MacBook Pros. (I'm at least slightly incredulous of that claim—both problems seem pretty widely reported on the web.) My thinking was that if they knew about the problems, presumably days could be saved in reproducing and diagnosing them, and working on a fix, and I'd be willing to take it in. Given that they don't, I'm at somewhat of a loss for a plan. In any case, I need the machine for a project this weekend, so I'll start thinking about it again next week.