Tuesday, November 23, 2010

AirPrint doesn't like my printer

After hitting the "Check for Update" button, let's say "several" times this month, I finally upgraded iPhone and iPad to iOS 4.2.1. One of the first features I was keen to check out was AirPrint. I don't regularly find myself wanting to print from either device, but when I do, I really do.

My setup couldn't be more Apple: I have a HP Color LaserJet CP2025 connected to a Time Capsule which does the WiFi for the house. Both the iOS devices use the WiFi network when they're at home. I fired up Mail on the iPhone, selected an email, hit Print and tried to select a printer. All I got was a depressing "No printers found." It seems I don't have the right HP printer.

If the facts in that PC Mag article are to be believed, I'm astounded. AirPrint supports ten printers at launch? Not ten brands but ten printers. Clearly over-the-air printing from wireless devices is harder to implement than it would seem. All I want is text most of the time, nothing fancy: an email, a list, some directions. Evidently it's not just a matter of wrapping some boilerplate PostScript or PCL around that and throwing it at the printer. But seriously, Apple, ten printers?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

MacBook Pro 17-inch Rechargeable Battery Review

The battery in my MacBook Pro was on its way out. (It had developed two interesting (and by "interesting", I mean "highly annoying") behaviours. Firstly, it could barely hold a charge, even when the machine was asleep—it would drop from 100% to 50% in three days of sleep mode. Secondly, it no longer allowed the machine to shut down gracefully. Instead of the orderly warning icon and dialog at low charge, the machine would just spontaneously shut down. And not just at 20% or 10% charge, but at some random point which could be as high as 50%.) So I ordered a new one.

Shipping took longer than I had hoped. I've become accustomed to pretty rapid order fulfilment with Apple, but this took five business days to arrive. The packaging is nice. The battery arrived showing two (of five) LEDs on the bottom surface, and claiming 50% charge once I booted the machine. It seems to be charging. Overall, seems like a great battery. Of course, it's also the only battery available for this machine. And it wasn't cheap at $A 199.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Not too surprisingly, I bought an iPad. If I recall correctly, the Australian online Apple Store started taking pre-orders on Monday 10 May 2010. I don't know what time on that day orders opened, but I was online at 9.00am, and ordered the 64G version with WiFi + 3G. It was all very smooth. Ordering online has become by far my preferred purchase method for Apple products. The delivery date was listed as 28 May (the first day of retail sales in Australia) from the moment the pre-order was lodged, and this never changed. (There was rumour of TNT Express possibly pushing out deliveries to the following week, but as far as I know this amounted to nothing.) I tracked my order with Delivery Status Touch. My iPad was delivered early on 28 May, as advertised. People queued outside Adelaide's poor excuse for an Apple Store, Next Byte, who apparently had no stock. Outstanding, Next Byte.

I forgot to uncheck music syncing for the first sync, and consequently iTunes started transferring more than 30G of music over USB, so I used the opportunity to head out in search of a pre-paid SIM card. Figuring I may as well stick with the devil I know, I headed to a Telstra Shop. (And, to be fair, their prices are, while perhaps not reasonable, about a tenth of what they ream iPhone users for. A tenth. I momentarily thought about the feasibility of tethering my phone to my iPad...) Naturally, the first store I went to had no stock. That's right: a retail store of Australia's largest carrier had no stock of micro-SIM cards on the iPad's retail launch day. Outstanding, Telstra. Apparently they were expecting some later in the day, but I was on a mission. The next store had some.

Setting up the 3G connection was reasonably painless. I made a redundant phone call to the service number, as it turned out the card had been activated in the store. And then that was it. 3G was on. Data usage has been slim. Telstra throws on 3G for the price of the card for the first month. That is, until June 30, at least, the card itself costs $A 30, for which you get 1G included, and they throw in a "bonus" 2G for the first month. I have in not restricted my data usage in any way: I've downloaded apps, streamed video and audio, browsed the web, read email, you name it, non-stop over 3G all month. With a few days to go until the end of the month, I'm heading up to 250M of usage. I guess I'm just not trying very hard.

Every hyperbole written about the device itself is true. The hardware is beautiful. The screen is large, clear and bright. It's really not "just a larger iPhone"—apps designed specifically for the iPad are an order of magnitude better than anything on the iPhone. I went a little crazy in the first few days, buying a load of apps just to have something to do. Current essentials include Reeder (if you read RSS feeds on the iPad and you're not using Reeder, you're doing it wrong), and Instapaper. I'm using Twittelator, which is serviceable, but frankly I hope there's a version of Twitter's app (or, the app previously known as Tweetie) in the pipeline. Every other Twitter app I've tested has sucked. I bought Apple's Pages just to try it out. It's nice, but I haven't used it extensively.

iPads are not cheap, and maybe there's not a use case for everyone just yet. But if you have an iPhone and you like it, get one. If you even think you might like an iPad, chances are you will. Get one.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Magic Mouse: 7 week review

I bought a Magic Mouse a couple of months ago. I'm still a fan of the size, weight and design. Again, the standard Apple wired mouse always seemed a little light to me. The Magic Mouse seems about twice its weight.

As predicted, I got used to the touch-sensitive scrolling pretty quickly. The (optional) momentum behind the scroll (whereby, if you flick the surface of the mouse, the scroll continues well past the end of your actual gesture) is awesome. Flick it hard enough, and dozens of pages of text will scroll by at a time. I still really miss the side buttons which I had hooked up to expose the Desktop.

Battery life is good: I'm still on the original pair of AA cells at seven weeks, and the mouse tells me there's just over 50% remaining.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Migration Assistant: complete fail

My wife just purchased a new MacBook Air. I've been looking forward to firing it up to check out the solid state disk. I figured I would do this the Apple Way: use Migration Assistant to move her files and applications from the outgoing MacBook to the new machine. I started over seven hours ago. This is how it went.
  1. Over WiFi. The machines connected, and got to the stage where the Air was "Preparing information...". I think I gave it about 20 minutes, and with no progress I figured it was going to be slow over WiFi. I quit the process.
  2. Over Ethernet using the Time Capsule as a switch. I moved both machines to the office and wired them up. I gave it a short while, but the MacBook claimed it lost the connection. On a wired LAN. Incredible.
  3. I fired it up again in the same configuration, watched the "Processing information..." pinwheel spin for a while, and then quit.
  4. I had read that a direct Ethernet connection could be made between the two machines: apparently a standard cable would be sufficient, a crossover cable would not be required. This time, I let the process go. And go. But after 5.5 hours "Processing information...", I'd had enough. Frankly, there was no indication that it was proceeding normally, and for all I knew one or both sides had crashed or was sitting in an infinite loop.
Rebooting the new Air yet again, I have just started off a restore from the MacBook's latest Time Capsule backup. This seems to be proceeding, and the estimate is a mere two hours. I assume this will work, though to be honest I'm a little nervous about restoring the backup made from a completely different machine.

In any case, the bottom line here is that the Migration Assistant user experience is absolutely rock bottom. To sit for 5.5 hours in a single state with nothing more than a pinwheel to suggest anything was proceeding as designed is not just poor, it's completely broken.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Magic Mouse: 24 hour review

Until yesterday, I had been using the standard Apple wired mouse (with scroll ball and side buttons) that shipped with my Mac Pro. That was a decent mouse, but, frankly, I got tired of trying (usually with not a lot of success) to clean the scroll ball. (As an aside, the scroll ball has a pretty terrible failure mode: almost random scrolling. Sometimes a page would scroll up as I moved the ball down.)

I had been meaning to buy a Magic Mouse for a month or more. (In fact, I tried to buy one twice, most recently this week, but as usual, Next Byte has nothing useful in stock. Ever.) Yesterday, I picked one up at the Mac Centre at Norwood. So after 24 hours:

  1. Installing it was easy, though not as easy as I had expected. Initially, I unplugged my wired mouse, turned the wireless mouse on, and waited, figuring some magic would happen. It didn't. In the end, I had to plug the wired mouse back in so I could launch System Preferences, and select the Mouse preference pane. It all came online pretty quickly after that.

  2. As written everywhere, it's a pretty nice design. It sure looks good. Apple seems to be almost synonymous with outstanding industrial design these days, but only just over 10 years ago, they were shipping pretty much the most woeful mice ever made.

  3. The Magic Mouse is a good weight. I always felt my wired mouse was a bit light, and had a tendency to slip all over the place. I got used to it, but I really like the extra weight in the Magic Mouse.

  4. Touch sensitive scrolling works well. It's different to a scroll ball, but that's hardly surprising. I'll get used to it.

  5. I really miss the side buttons on the wired mouse. I had them hooked up to expose the Desktop, and now I'm fumbling around with F11 again.

Summary: very cool mouse.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Aperture 3: Purchase and installation

I've been an Aperture fan since version 1. Yesterday I decided to download the trial version of Aperture 3. The confirmation email that Apple sends with the trial activation key says this about already owning Aperture 2 (or 1):
1. If you already have a licensed copy of Aperture in your Applications folder, you need to move or rename it before installing the Aperture 3 trial.

Fine. I renamed it ‘Aperture 2’.
2. To open an Aperture library with an older version of Aperture (1.x or 2) after you use the Aperture 3 trial, drag the library onto the application icon of the older version.

OK, now I'm slightly confused. After using the Aperture 3 trial, which I'm about to learn won't allow you to upgrade an existing library anyway, I don't just go and open the newly renamed ‘Aperture 2’ application, I have to drag and drop my existing library? Aperture 2 will mysteriously forget where my library is? Although I back it up (using Aperture's in-app ‘vault’ system), I get pretty nervous about my Aperture library, particularly as it's a ‘managed’ library—there's not a lot of transparency about where my photographs are.
3. The trial version of Aperture 3 cannot upgrade a library created by an older version of Aperture. This is only supported in licensed versions of Aperture 3 since it permanently upgrades the library.

That's fine, and not unexpected, but by this point I was still trying to decode what was going to happen to my existing library in the unlikely event that I didn't buy an upgrade license and wanted to revert to Aperture 2.

I considered not installing the trial version at all, but I was very keen to see it. The Apple Store seemed to suggest that I could just purchase an activation key online, and that I wouldn't have to wait for a box to be shipped, but last time I tried that (with iWork '08, if I recall correctly), the claim was just flat out wrong—the Australian store simply wouldn't sell me an activation key online. Anyway, I downloaded and installed the trial. At the opening dialog, I was offered the chance to purchase the activation key, so I tried it. Safari fired up the Australian Apple Store, and I could, indeed, purchase a key on the spot. So I did. Apart from the slightly confusing email regarding the trial, everything was particularly smooth. I've just fired up Aperture 3 to check out the new features. This could take a while.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Apple Mail, Courier-IMAP and "Message no longer available"

This post is going to contain some fairly obscure information. One for Google, really.

I moved the Logic Squad mail server to a new host, and everything went remarkably smoothly. The only weirdness was that Apple Mail would display, along with the other contents of my inbox, two messages entitled "message unavailable" from "System Administrator", one of them marked read, the other unread. I could delete them, but they would eventually come back. The problem was not Mail's, but the IMAP server's. It turns out that there's a file, courierimapuiddb in every Maildir that can get out of sync with the actual contents of a Maildir. The file can be safely deleted, and will be re-created by the IMAP server.

So, just for completeness, here are some keywords for Google: Apple Mail, IMAP, Courier-IMAP, FreeBSD, Maildir, "Message no longer available", courierimapuiddb.