Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New Viewer Window

I've often sat reading mail in, say, a sub-folder for a mailing list, and, on noticing the red badge indicator for a new message in my inbox, have flipped back to the inbox to see what it was. Pretty much every time I did this, I thought, ‘Wouldn't it be great if Mail supported multiple views on your whole account so that I could, say, just Alt-` to another viewer window that I leave looking at my inbox?’

Today I discovered File > New Viewer Window.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

iPhone (and iPod touch) feature request

I really would have thought this would just work. I have my music collection in iTunes on my Mac Pro. I can use my MacBook Pro, for example, to stream that music over WiFi and play it somewhere else in the house, albeit over laptop speakers. I just plugged my iPhone into the (ageing and apparently incompatible) Bose SoundDock in the kitchen, and, unless I'm mistaken, there's no analogous option for streaming over WiFi to the iPhone. I don't see how there could be a technical or licensing impediment to implementing this for the iPhone and iPod touch—is there?

Friday, October 30, 2009

ClickToFlash

Tired of Flash making Safari a resource hog? Install ClickToFlash. Do it now.

Saturday morning reboots

I woke up to find the power out to the outlets in my office. Noting briefly that I still haven't looked into getting an uninterruptible power supply to allow for graceful shutdowns, I set about booting some machines back up. Hitting power on the Mac Pro brought up what I like to call the Grey Screen Of Death: the familiar Mac booting grey, with nothing else on the screen. No Apple logo, no progress spinner, just grey. (Completing the awesomeness of this was that it was Saturday morning. No chance to even get repairs started for another 48 hours.) I power-cycled again—same result. I don't know what made me think of it, but I disconnected a couple of powered USB disks from their ports. Win: the machine booted. Maybe just a coincidence, but the result was right.

Later, I pulled out my iPhone and hit the power button to wake it up. Nothing happened. I held it down. Nothing happened. I pressed every button in random combinations, and eventually the device woke. The UI was barely responsive: gestures wouldn't register, it would take seconds to return to the home screen, and so on. GeekStat (one-time shameless plug) told me the phone had been up for 21 days. I would have thought it could sustain longer uptimes, but a reboot worked (when I could finally get the UI let me perform one).

Now, on with the weekend.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

iPhone 3GS + E92 BMW 335i via Bluetooth

I had been trying to pair my iPhone 3GS to my car for about 24 hours now. Having navigated my way through the menu systems on both the phone and the car, I figured it should be easy: just pick a PIN and enter it on both devices. And yet I failed. Many, many times. I rebooted the phone. I rebooted the car. I Googled. They were obviously talking to each other, since the phone could see the car, and the car knew when the phone wanted me to confirm the PIN. But pairing failed over and over again.

It turns out, not surprisingly, that reading the instructions would have been sufficient. There were two points I missed in the instructions for the car:
  1. I didn't have the ignition on to the second stage. This may not have been critical, since, as noted above, there was clearly some communication going on, but I did it anyway. Specifically: ‘Switch on the ignition, and, in addition, press the start/stop button without operating the brake or clutch pedal.’ To be honest, I had never done that before, and didn't even realise it was a feature.
  2. This is the critical bit. When entering the PIN using iDrive, it is not sufficient to enter the PIN and just wait, which I had been doing. About a dozen times. The label ‘Confirm passkey’ that appears on the screen during PIN entry isn't just a label, it's a menu choice. So the sequence is: enter the PIN, select down on the controller to highlight ‘Confirm passkey’, and then select that with the controller.

What I had been doing was getting to the final step, and then letting the whole process time out. Repeatedly.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

iPhone: I bit the bullet

A year ago I decided to see whether I could get by with an iPod touch as a PDA. On the whole, that worked out pretty well. An additional benefit was that it let me stall for a while on my inevitable iPhone purchase. The lack of 3G network connectivity has hurt (it turns out I was quite over-optimistic about how easy it would be to get by with WiFi alone), and many times I've thought how cool geo-location would be (or, at least, reliable geo-location—sometimes the iPod knows roughly where it is), but on the upside I feel pretty good about denying Telstra 12 months of utterly obscene data charges.

About two months ago, I snapped and went on an expedition to buy an iPhone. It proved challenging. At last count, I think I had my name down on waiting lists at no fewer than five Telstra retail stores. On Monday, I, uh, snapped again—logged on to the online Apple Store, ordered a phone, and it was delivered the next day. (Of course, it wasn't really delivered the next day, so much as a courier dropped by my house when I wasn't at home, and I picked it up from the depot myself the day after that. But that's another rant.) I don't know what kind of supplier-retail dynamic is really going on there, but clearly there is stock, though apparently Telstra stores can't get any of it. (As an inevitable post-script, I got a call from a Telstra store the day my iPhone was delivered to tell me they had one for me. You couldn't make this up.)

It turns out that, despite my skepticism, changing over from an older GSM phone to a 3G phone really is a simple matter of turning up at a Telstra shop and getting a new SIM card. I also signed up for some data, though I literally can't bring myself to admit how much, nor how much I paid for it. Needless to say, it hurt.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Parallels Desktop 4

Here's a neat way to force an upgrade path on your users: don't just freeze development on old versions, ensure that they don't even run after an operating system upgrade. I had been putting off upgrading to Parallels Desktop 4 for a while now. As I use it so infrequently, it seemed hard to justify the price. I upgraded to Snow Leopard this week, and, as it turned out, needed to run Parallels Desktop this evening. Version 3 won't even launch under Snow Leopard. Fair enough, maybe there's a genuine technical explanation. So I investigate upgrade pricing (which isn't too bad, to be honest), and download version 4. Then the fun starts.
  1. I launch the installer. After a couple of clicks, it informs me that one of my virtual machines is suspended (as opposed to shut down). Apparently the installation can't proceed, but it's prepared to wait for me to shut it down. Of course, we've already established that I can't even launch Parallels Desktop 3. Catch 22. I can't launch the old version to shut down the virtual machine, and I can't install the new version until the virtual machine is shut down. (For the record, Google did manage to find me a Parallels knowledge base article on how to solve this.)
  2. Now the installer is happy to proceed. It gets to a dialog where it tells me it's "Preparing Parallels Desktop 4 for Mac". It sits there for about 20 minutes, using about 0.5% CPU. I force quit the installer.
  3. I run the installer again, this time racing through the dialogs as all my virtual machines are apparently in a satisfactory state. It gets to a dialog where it tells me it's "Preparing Parallels Desktop 4 for Mac". It sits there for about 20 minutes, using about 0.5% CPU. I force quit the installer.
  4. Figuring that installing Parallels Desktop to run Windows XP, I should maybe just try to be more like a Windows user, I reboot the machine. I run the installer again, and this time it installs the application in a few minutes.
Ah, Parallels. Still comedy gold.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Time Capsule, AppleCare and Priority "Tools Down" Service Fee: Worth every cent

I installed Snow Leopard on my MacBook Pro two nights ago. In fact, I left it installing and went to bed. The next day, I finished off the installation and left the machine running on my desk for a few hours. Later, I tried to grab a document from it over the network, but couldn't connect to it. Figuring it might just need a reboot, I went to shut it down. After a minute, I got a screen that you really don't want to see: the grey shutdown colour, with a darker grey circle and bar through it in the middle. Not comforting. I forced the power off, and went to reboot: same screen. Ugly stuff.

Presumably the recent Snow Leopard installation was a coincidence, and I just had a dead disk. Browsing to the Time Capsule from a different machine showed that the most recent backup was mid-morning, so there would be zero data loss. It turns out I didn't skimp, and paid for the extended AppleCare Protection Plan at purchase time, so the machine still has over a year of warranty remaining. All that remained was avoiding the multi-week diagnosis–waiting for parts–repair timeline that usually ensues. Next Byte offer a priority "tools down" service, where (for $A 175) your machine goes to the front of the queue. I figured since the parts and labour would be covered by Apple that I would fork out for it. I did, and I had my laptop back within 24 hours. It's currently restoring from the last Time Machine backup, which (even though I've jacked it into a spare Ethernet port) I presume will take overnight.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hewlett-Packard: crap installers since 1939

I think this says it all:
HP Installer
That's the printer driver installer Hewlett-Packard sent out with my $A 1200 Color LaserJet CP2025. Naturally, it does none of the following:
  • Tells me what it's going to install.
  • Tells me where it's going to install it.
  • Gives me the option of paring down the install.
  • Provides any useful feedback about what it's doing as it proceeds.
Oh, and it wanted my password before it even brought up a window or dialog. Outstanding, HP. Truly outstanding.

And, as if all that is not awesome enough, there's this:
HP driver fail 1
Wait for it...
HP driver fail 2
Every drop-down menu in the driver dialog's custom tabs are like that. Maybe it's a code. It also assumes I am tri-lingual:
Keep failing!
You just can't make this stuff up. Fortunately, these panels are for somewhat esoteric functions I will probably never use. (Well, I literally can't use them with this driver.) In any case, this is just woeful for a product costing $A 1200. I went to HP's website, and my installed version of the driver is still the current version available for download. That's as good as it gets.

Update: Installing the driver on a second machine, while still VISEtastic, showed no evidence of the user interface bugs captured above. On the first machine, I just re-started Safari (I was using a web page as a test document to print), and the print dialog righted itself. It is entirely possible, then, that the problem had nothing to do with HP. That doesn't make it right to bundle a VISE installer with a $A 1200 LaserJet, though.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Printer for Mac OS X

Dear Lazyweb,

My HP LaserJet 2200D seems to have died. (It was a great printer. I suspect getting it repaired would cost more than buying something new, though.) Here are my requirements for a new printer:
  • I am a big fan of HP. (I had a DeskJet 500 for years prior to the 2200D.) I probably want a LaserJet or Color LaserJet, though I would be prepared to look at other brands. I'm kind of equivocal about colour.
  • I assume all printers talk USB these days. (I've been out of the market for some time—the 2200D has a parallel port. Remember those?) Built-in Ethernet would be nice, though I can presumably plug it into the USB port on my Time Machine.
  • I want automatic duplexing. This is a hard requirement, and unfortunately I think it puts me out of the ‘home’ category. (What is it with those arbitrary categories?)
I think that covers it. So, what should I buy?

(Oh, why am I asking in a blog post when I know my requirements? Because HP's website, much like every other corporate website these days, is essentially impenetrable. I don't want to have to decide whether I'm ‘personal’, ‘SOHO’ or ‘SMB’—I just want to see your printers. I clicked around for half an hour, came out knowing less than when I went in.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Time to dump NetNewsWire?

I've been using NetNewsWire as a feed reader for some time now. I just got the following email in my inbox. In case you literally don't have the strength to scroll past it, let me tell you my response: Huh? The mail is long and impenetrable. I just want to keep using NetNewsWire—I have no idea whether that's even possible. I really don't have time to decode two pages of corporate wankspeak. I am now on the lookout for a new feed reader. Suggestions welcome.
You spoke and we listened: in response to customer demand, NewsGator's best-of-breed consumer RSS applications now work with Google Reader. Google Reader will become the online companion to and the synchronization platform for our award-winning RSS reader applications – FeedDemon and NetNewsWire.

In conjunction with this announcement, NewsGator is making changes to several of its consumer RSS Readers. NewsGator will continue to support all its individual end-user applications for enterprise customers. However, NewsGator will continue to develop and support only a sub-set of these applications for free consumer use. FeedDemon and NetNewsWire have new versions for consumers that we encourage you to download as soon as possible. NewsGator’s other individual end-user applications will not continue to be supported for free consumer users after August 31, 2009. Again, all of NewsGator’s individual end-user applications will continue to be supported for paying Enterprise customers.

As part of this transition, NewsGator Online users will need to migrate to Google Reader by August 31, 2009. In addition, NewsGator will no longer support the free versions of NewsGator Inbox, NewsGator Go!, and NewsGator’s RSS features (Shared Clipping Feed, Blogroll, Ratings, Headlines, Browser Toolbar, and Desktop Notifier). NewsGator will also continue to support FeedDemon (for Windows) and NetNewsWire (for Mac and iPhone) for all customers – free or paid. If you have questions as to whether or not you qualify as a paying enterprise customer, please contact your account manager.

With these product changes, we recommend that you take the following actions (to assist you, we have a list of recommendations, step-by-step transition instructions, and informative FAQs on our website):
  • FeedDemon – you may continue to use your current version (synchronization won’t be supported after August 31, 2009). However, we recommend that you download the latest version of FeedDemon and sign-up for a Google Reader account for synchronization. Please refer to our transition instructions for assistance.
  • NetNewsWire for Mac – you may continue to use your current version (synchronization won’t be supported after August 31, 2009). However, we recommend that you download the latest version of NetNewsWire and sign-up for a Google Reader account for synchronization. Please refer to our transition instructions for assistance.
  • NetNewsWire for iPhone Customers – a mobile RSS Reader requires synchronization and a new version of NetNewsWire for iPhone that supports synchronization with Google Reader will be available soon. We will notify you when it is available so that you can download the latest version of NetNewsWire and sign-up for a Google Reader account prior to August 31, 2009.
  • NewsGator Inbox – we will no longer support NewsGator Inbox nor release new versions of the product. You may, however, continue to use your current version (synchronization won’t be supported after August 31, 2009). Please refer to our transition instructions for assistance.
  • NewsGator Online – NewsGator Online will not be available after August 31, 2009. Please transition to Google Reader by August 31, 2009. Please refer to our transition instructions for assistance.
  • NewsGator Go! – NewsGator Go! will not be available after August 31, 2009. Please transition to a new mobile RSS Reader by August 31, 2009. We have included alternate RSS Reader recommendations in the transition instructions on our website.
  • NewsGator’s Shared Clipping Feed – this feature will not be available after August 31, 2009. Google Reader will now provide you with this capability. Please see our FAQs for more information.
  • Blogroll, Ratings and/or Headlines – these services will not be available after August 31, 2009. Please remove these components from any blog or web site. Please see our FAQs for more information.
  • Browser Toolbar or the Desktop Notifier – these features will not work after August 31, 2009, nor will we offer new versions of these features. Please see our FAQs for more information.
Bottom line for you: We keep improving our FeedDemon and NetNewsWire applications, and you now can sync with and use the web based RSS reader you've been asking for. We've been working with the Google team to make these changes as smooth as possible, and they are thrilled to welcome all NewsGator users to the Reader family.

For more information, check out our blog or Google’s blog.

Sincerely,

Greg Reinacker
CTO & Founder
NewsGator Technologies

Thanks, Greg. Goodbye NetNewsWire.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

iPhone exhaustion

I've spent two weeks trying to buy an iPhone. I've now been to four Telstra Shops, and one Telstra dealer. I've left my name on waiting lists at two of them. Depending on the excitability of the salesdroid, there's either an ‘Australia-wide shortage’ or a ‘worldwide shortage’. In any case, I have no iPhone.

I am seriously considering buying one outright from the online Apple Store. Apparently1, I can do that, upgrade my current GSM SIM2, stay on my current plan, and just pay up-front for some monthly data.3

Notes:
  1. Of course, I simply cannot reliably find this out. Surely the following is a FAQ: ‘I currently have a Motorola V3. It's post-contract, and while I suspect I am being reamed by my monthly plan, I am mostly satisfied. I would rather gnaw off a limb than try to decipher the quagmire of plans that you offer, so I will probably buy an iPhone outright from Apple. Is it then just a matter of fronting up to a Telstra Shop and asking for a new SIM?’
  2. Again, apparently it's literally a matter of asking for a new 3G SIM to replace my current SIM. I am sceptical.
  3. By which I mean partake in the Festival of Ream.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

iPod touch as PDA: milestone

This will be of little interest to anyone, other than as a signal that my iPod touch-as-PDA experiment is really working out: I've actually deleted almost all of the music I had been carrying on my iPod touch because I was running out of space for more important things. That is, I no longer really consider it an iPod, or, at least, I don't consider music storage to be its primary function. My entire music collection has nudged over 22G, and with a mere 32G available on the iPod touch, I had been finding it a squeeze to allocate the remaining 10G as I wanted. I have almost 50 applications installed now (many of which are frivolous, but some of which are essential). Between those and my new-found addiction to downloading television episodes from the iTunes Store (just finished season two of The Wire), something had to give. It was the music. The iPod touch is less like a music player and more like a hand-held computer for me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

We have the technology

Just scrolling the Snow Leopard Enhancements and Refinements page, and I'm stopped in my tracks by the first section on Finder:
[When attempting to eject an external disk,] improved dialogs tell you which applications are using the drive so you know what to close in order to safely disconnect your drive.

Wow—you mean we have the technology for that now? Outstanding.

Now, without the sarcasm, I can't believe this qualifies for front page news on Snow Leopard. Mac OS X's error dialogs are regularly woeful, and this kind of sloppy user interface design (telling the user that something is preventing a disk from being removed, but not telling them what) should have been corrected years ago. It's neither an "enhancement", nor a "refinement", it's an "embarrassingly basic user interface deficiency that should have been fixed by now".

Friday, May 22, 2009

Installing a new font

I had recently read a post entitled “Top 10 Programming Fonts”, via Daring Fireball. I figured I would try out the number one font, Inconsolata, for Java editing in Eclipse. Instant problem: I had never installed a new font in OS X before, and had no idea how.

I hit the Quicksilver hotkey and typed ‘font’—the first match was Font Book, and that looked promising. I downloaded Inconsolata in Open Type format, selected File > Add Fonts... in Font Book, and pointed the dialog at the downloaded Open Type file. Done.

By default, the font is installed for the current user only, but there's a preference to allow installing a new system-wide font. Back over in Eclipse, Inconsolata now shows up in the font selection dialog. I'm currently trying it out. Initial impression: looks nice.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Time Machine broken again

My latest Time Machine saga apparently started 12 days ago, though I wasn't aware of it until yesterday, when a helpful dialog popped up to tell me that a Time Machine backup of my MacBook Pro hadn't occurred in 11 days. Outstanding.

When I got home last night, I figured I would manually start a backup and let it run for as long as it took. Being the expert in Time Machine failure that I am, I knew that interrupting backups by putting the machine to sleep seems to confuse the whole process, and maybe I just hadn't had the machine awake enough within WiFi range of the Time Capsule recently. I started the backup, and we sat through a whole lot of "preparing". In fact, so much preparing that I fired up the Console about an hour later:
... /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[4558]
Waiting for index to be ready (905 > 0)
"Well, we don't want to rush the index," I thought. "If the index is not ready, I can wait." At about the two hour mark, I set the energy saver preferences to keep the machine awake all night, and went to bed.

Almost 12 hours later, the console was reading:
... /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[4558]
Waiting for index to be ready (905 > 0)
At that point I had to go to work, so I shut down yet another backup and took off. It's Friday now, so I guess plan B is to start another backup when I get home this afternoon, which can potentially run for about 60 hours before I need to interrupt it again.

My take on the issue is this: if your backup software needs more than 12 hours to decide what it needs to backup from a 160G disk, then your backup software is broken. It's a testament to the level of Mac Fanboy status I have achieved that I even persevere with Time Machine. The old Unix Me would have deleted this junk months ago.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

iTunes: a laugh a minute

When I download something from the iTunes Store, iTunes periodically offers to backup all my purchases. Just got the offer now, and I figured, "Sure—I have a terabyte of portable disk sitting on top of my Mac Pro. Why not?" Then I get this:
iTunes purchases backup
Oh iTunes, you're so funny. Backup to CDs or DVDs? What century is it?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time Capsule user interface annoyances

I just got home to find my Time Capsule's status LED flashing yellow. This is a story of two problems with the Time Capsule user interface.

If I read the Time Capsule manual at all, it was many months ago. I can't remember what ‘flashing yellow LED’ means, but given that it spends 99% of its time solid green, I figure green = good, and yellow = bad. I've been an Apple user for some four years now, so I'm with the program. Troubled by the LED's flashing yellowness, I fired up AirPort Utility. There was, in fact, no problem at all—there just happened to be a firmware update available. Firmware updated, Time Capsule reset, and the LED is now a comforting solid green. This strikes me as an awful way to signal the availability of new firmware. Surely this could be integrated into the system-wide Software Update facility.

In any case, the hilarity did not end there. Time Machine was running a backup during the update, but the Time Capsule apparently made no attempt to terminate that gracefully. While the Time Capsule rebooted after the update, Time Machine displayed an error dialog, and the backup failed. For a piece of hardware that's sold specifically to work with a piece of software, this complete lack of integration is disappointing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Safari 4 Beta: second impressions

A few days ago, I posted my first impressions on the Safari 4 Beta. My second impressions fall into two groups: user interface and speed.

The most striking UI change is the re-worked tabs. Other authors have posted in defense of the new tabs, and I understand that the main argument is that the tabs in Safari 4 Beta better represent the document hierarchy. The tabs-in-title-bar supposedly represent something more like docked sibling windows. For example, Manton Reece writes:
The Safari 4 tabs are conceptually the right way to go. It's not "tabs" at all. Instead, think of it as an efficient way to dock multiple windows together.

I'm not sure if I'm buying the premise that there needs to be a one-to-one correspondence between web pages and entire windows. The old tabs caused me no confusion. I agree with Reece that if this represents Apple bringing system-provided tabs to applications, then that's great. I just wouldn't do it like this. Let me add my own list to the numerous gripes detailed elsewhere:
  1. Tabs in the title bar give a window a very cluttered look.
  2. The first question I had was "Well, where do you grab to move the window?" It turns out that if you grab the tab-dragging affordance on the right, it moves the tab, not the window. If you grab the tab close button, nothing happens on drag. You have to pick a spot between these two icons on each tab.
  3. The tab with focus is wider than the tabs without—which is fine, but the unfocused tabs are now so narrow that often there's no space for any useful excerpt of the page title: about six characters and ellipsis.
  4. The tabs move when cycled. In Safari 3, the leftmost tab was fixed, and cycling right eventually moved into the non-visible tabs. In Safari 4 Beta, the whole row of tabs shuffles left or right to move the focused tab into visibility. I can't decide whether this is better or worse, but coming from the old behaviour, it's at least disorienting.

Beyond tabs, I have two small UI criticisms. The loss of the progress-meter-in-address-textfield (the blue background that moved across the address textfield as the page loaded) is remarkably annoying. Evidently I used it subconsciously way more than I ever realised, as now I find its absence incredibly frustrating. Moving the reload button from the far left (and outside) of the address textfield to the far right (an inside) seems arbitrary and, again, is incredibly annoying.

On the upside: it feels fast. Ars Technica has taken a brief look at it, and, while noting that it might not be as fast as Apple claims, that it does, indeed, seem faster, and features better resource management.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mac Pro DVD drives are easily replaced

Since purchase, the single DVD drive in my Mac Pro has been, well, broken. After disc insertion, it almost always makes a horrible grinding noise—not the loud spin-up-style noise, but a low, rumbling noise that sounds quite literally like it's going to shake itself off its mount. I'm fairly sure it's been reported elsewhere. It's taken me over a year to do anything about it, due to a combination of factors:
  • I actually use the drive pretty rarely. Almost all software I buy these days is downloaded. DVDs as storage media are going the way of the CD: 4GB isn't the vast expanse of space it used to be, and, frankly, optical media are pretty fragile. (And the failure modes of DVDs seem to be catastrophic: what's with a couple of scratches making an entire disc unreadable?) At $A 176 for a 1TB USB disk, I can't see myself buying too many stacks of blank DVDs in the future.
  • It usually works. Often, it will spin the disc up, growl once or twice, then settle down. Other times, it won't read known-good discs at all. And very occasionally, I am pretty sure it has damaged some discs.
  • Despite having purchased the 3 year Apple Care option, presumably entitling me to a free replacement for the faulty drive, powering down the Mac Pro and sending it into a store (for what would presumably be a minimum of a week) would cost me more in time and energy than replacing the drive myself, at my own expense.
I had a spare LG DVD writer just lying around, so I grabbed a screwdriver, and a copy of the Mac Pro User Manual, and set off. It's about a 10 minute job, almost completely described by the manual—you do need to prise the faceplate off the front of the drawer if it's a drive intended for a PC-style case. (Otherwise the front of the drawer won't physically fit through the auto-opening slot door on the Mac Pro's case.) If you're into this kind of thing (industrial design, and computer design in particular), the internals of the Mac Pro are spectacular. Why can't other companies design cases like this?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Safari 4 Beta: first impressions

After reading about it all over the web, I just downloaded the Safari 4 Beta. Here are my first impressions:
  • The installer required a restart of the machine. Let me just repeat that using some different words: I had to reboot my machine at the end of the install. If there was a warning about this requirement, I missed it.
  • Safari 4 Beta is installed over the existing Safari 3. I don't know if Safari 3 is archived somewhere so that it can be restored if I uninstall Safari 4 Beta, but, again, if there was a warning about this, I missed it. If I find the beta to be buggy or unstable, it's not at all inconceivable that I might want to uninstall it and revert to Safari 3 while waiting for the non-beta release. I sure hope this is automated by the uninstaller.
  • The progress-meter-in-address-textfield, which I originally hated, but grew to love, has disappeared. There's now a spinning wheel at the far right of the textfield, which obviously conveys no information about the state of completion of a page load.
  • On first load, I am presented with a very nice looking matrix of ‘Top Sites’, though I don't know where these are coming from. I assume it's from my own history. GMail's front page is depicted twice. Four of the twelve slots are blank, which is surprising, as I am sure there are more than eight URLs in my history. Oh—hang on, there are references to pages (though one is just recent, a page I have visited all of once), but four of them have no thumbnail image.
  • There has been some commentary on the new placement of tabs. With the caveat that all I've done so far is open the application, my first response is that it's not a look that I like. I'll reserve judgement until I use them.
  • Develop > Show Web Inspector now appears as a pane in the lower portion of the window, rather than as a separate window. I think I like this.
  • There are some interesting demos of new CSS features about. Presumably no other browser will support these, and hence they will be useless, for about a decade.
If I keep it around, I will post some second impressions later.

Monday, January 26, 2009

iTunes Store: is this really the best you can do?

I've written before about Apple's habit of providing obscure, meaningless, and hence almost completely unhelpful error dialogs. Here's another one:
iTunes Store fail
Needless to say, my connection to the network was active, and I did try again. Three times. No joy.

Ten minutes later, I was able to resume the download. iTunes just pretended nothing had happened. I'm thinking of starting a gallery of Useless Apple Error Dialogs.