Archive for the ‘OS X’ Category.

Apple backstabs customers with MacBook Pro 2011 GPU flaw

UPDATE: Apple has finally responded to this problem with a repair program. I was able to work with Apple to refund the $350 I paid to have my MBP fixed.

Apple really does not want to admit that its entire batch of Late 2011 MacBook Pros are lemons. In addition to the change.org petition, there is now a class-action suit which has been making the media rounds:

A massive thread in the Apple forums contains a huge gathering of unhappy customers. Here is one illustrating Apple’s stonewalling:

Called Apple Care today for the first time, and they’ve never heard of this problem. This is not a known issue. I pointed them to this forum and to the recent Time magazine article about the issue, nope, they’ve never heard of it. Even reached the head VIP tech support supervisor dude. Nope, never heard of any problems with the Macbook Pro 2011. So the answer to all your questions is “we’re all dreaming”.

Obviously Apple has done the calculations and decided that their best interests are served by settling a lawsuit (which I assume will be the eventual outcome) rather than admitting that hundreds of thousands (millions?) of their “pro” laptops have a hard expiration date.

There is no simple fix for the problem. What if we’re talking about one million laptops at $2,000 apiece – are they going to refund $2 billion dollars on machines that are out of warranty? No, they will stall, delay, and let the lawsuit play out. So years from now there will be something in the news about Apple settling some lawsuit on machines made way back in 2011, and that negative PR and settlement will be much less impactful than if they were to own up to the problem here in 2014.

Apple is one of those companies that you want to love, that you want to believe is not evil. But when put in a tight spot, the corporation has no qualms about snatching your wallet with one hand, and burying a knife in your back with the other.

D&D Character Builder crashes under Parallels

I had the D&D Character Builder running fine under a Parallels 5 Windows XP Pro virtual machine. But then a few weeks ago I ran a bunch of updates – both Windows and Parallels updates. Following the updates, the Character Builder would crash after trying to perform an update or launching the program. All of the following failed to fix the problem:

I didn’t have any useful snapshots of the virtual machine, so going back in time was not an option. At last I got fed up and installed a completely new Windows XP virtual machine, ran all the Windows updates, installed the Parallels Tools, then installed the Character Builder. SUCCESS!

When the Character Builder installs, it first automatically downloads and installs the .NET Framework. My guess is that the updates I ran somehow introduced an incompatibility between the .NET Framework and Parallels or the Character Builder. If I had it to do over again I would have tried this:

  1. uninstall Character Builder
  2. uninstall .NET Framework
  3. install Character Builder, allowing it to install .NET Framework itself

I’ll bet that would have worked, but I’ve already spent way too much time on this and don’t feel like testing my theory. Hopefully this blog post will help out anyone who finds themselves faced with this same irritating problem.

OS X for the Linux user

About 1.5 years ago, I made the switch from SuSE Linux to a MacBook Pro running OS X 10.5. Here are some brief notes I made regarding the transition:

  • OS X’s Spaces gives you virtual desktop functionality. I don’t think it offers the same depth of customization, but it works just fine for my needs. One feature I like is to left-click and grab a window, then use ctrl-[1-8] to move the window to one of my eight “spaces”. On my Linux system, I had to navigate a menu to accomplish the same thing.
  • The program that I replaced Gaim/Pidgin with is Adium. However, I now see that Pidgin appears to have an OS X client…
  • I miss being able to copy text by highlighting, and paste via the middle mouse button. With OS X you need to do command-c for copy and command-v for paste.
  • Speaking of the command key, it annoys me. I’ve been trained my entire life to use ctrl, but OS X makes you move one or two keys over to use a different key. Which brings me to the next topic…
  • The home and end keys have the obnoxious behavior of jumping you to the top and bottom of a window, as opposed to the start or end of a single line. You can change the behavior in Cocoa apps (more succinct info), but all 3rd party applications (Eclipse, Firefox, etc) seem to require individual adjustment via other means.
  • Not having focus-follows-mouse is incredibly painful; Steve Yeggae agrees.
  • Quick notes on the hardware:
    • Two fingers to scroll, pinch to zoom out, un-pinch to zoom in – I like the multi-touch pad, even though trackballs are typically “how I roll”.
    • The auto-dim/brighten of the display and the backlit keyboard is really cool.
    • The display is gorgeous.
    • The case gets uncomfortably hot for a device that theoretically sits in your lap.
    • The only way to access the alt key is via the fn key.
  • If you have more than one user, do yourself a favor and Preferences -> Accounts -> Login Options -> Show fast user switching menu
  • iTunes is disappointing in that it has no native FLAC or OGG support. Additionally, iTunes servers are apparently “listen-only”; you can’t copy files!

While OS X certainly has a proprietary, somewhat locked-down feel to it, the slick and user-friendly interface more than makes up for it. This is the same reason why I usually run Opera instead of Firefox – I prefer a high-quality computing experience.

Slow printing to Lexmark C522 from OS X 10.4

After a user complained that a 28-page PowerPoint document was taking an hour to print on our networked Lexmark C522, I narrowed the problem down to OS X 10.4 (in my case, 10.4.11).

Solution: use this PPD. In other words:

  1. Save the PPD to your desktop
  2. Go into System Preferences and remove the printer
  3. Add the printer back, specifying the PPD on your desktop as the driver instead of whatever OS X wants to use

My understanding is that the PPD I’ve linked to is supplied by Lexmark – perhaps they simply haven’t updated the 10.4.x driver on their website.

Mac OS X (10.5.6) Spotlight search results are crippled

Open a Finder window, run a search, and you’ll see that the results are presented in three sortable columns: Name, Kind, and Last Opened.

You might expect to be able to adjust those columns to include/exclude whatever file attributes you wish. After all, you can certainly do this when using Finder to browse the file system. What you wouldn’t expect is for Apple, a company known for slick GUIs and user-friendliness, to leave you standing alone on the freezing tundra with your pants around your ankles.

Sorry, I’m not sure why that particular imagery popped into my head.

I won’t spend too much time griping about this because others have already done the work for me:

The take home points are: 1) you cannot customize the search results, 2) “Last Opened” is a silly attribute to use, and 3) no one seems to know when/if Apple is going to correct this usability issue.

I submitted an enhancement request to Apple through their Bug Reporter and I suggest that you do the same. Blogging about the problem also couldn’t hurt.

A competent programmer who is familiar with the software could add customizable columns to the search results in about a day. Maybe figure a few weeks of testing/QA and Apple could push an update out the door. Or maybe this feature will be included in 10.6 as a way to get people to buy Snow Leopard. Either way, it’s a perfect example of the shortcomings of proprietary software.

UPDATE: Apple’s predictable response…

This is a follow up to Bug ID# 6778875. After further investigation it has been determined that this is a known issue, which is currently being investigated by engineering. This issue has been filed in our bug database under the original Bug ID# 5981948. The original bug number being used to track this duplicate issue can be found in the State column, in this format: Duplicate/OrigBug#.

Thank you for submitting this bug report. We truly appreciate your assistance in helping us discover and isolate bugs.

Tethering the Centro: A Tale of Failure

I guess I can see it both ways on the subject of tethering.

Verizon wants to charge $15 per month on top of my “unlimited” data plan to allow me to use my Centro as a mobile broadband card. There are two opposing points of view one could have on this billing strategy.

CONSUMER POV: They want to charge me twice for the same data? Have the $100-dollar bills clogging their arteries finally cut off the circulation to the corporate brain!?

VERIZON POV: We view the customer as a piñata that can be beaten until cash comes pouring out. A tethering charge is just another nail-encrusted board that can be used to pound that stupid piñata until it bleeds green.

I have very little respect for cell phone service providers. The contracts, the incompatibilities (i.e., GSM vs CDMA), the ridiculous charges for text messaging, the insulting mall kiosks, and the aforementioned tethering cost… every time I turn around I feel Verizon’s blackened claws raking across my wallet.

Looking at past bills, I’m only pulling around 20 MB/month on the Centro. This paltry amount would obviously increase if I were able to attach that Internet pipe to my MacBook. Even so, I still wouldn’t use enough bandwidth to warrant a recurring extra charge. This calls for a workaround!

PdaNet – this is exactly what I’m looking for, except that it only runs on Windows. And no, I don’t feel like setting up a virtual machine to get it working. UPDATE: since originally writing this post I have acquired a Droid, and PdaNet has produced an OS X version. Works great!

USB Modem – aha, supposedly USB Modem works on OS X and even Linux. Unfortunately this note at the top of their homepage gives me pause:

However, for more reliable work with Sprint or Verizon carriers you may need to purchase their tethering plan.

A somewhat vague statement, but certainly not an encouraging one. The problem is that having an unofficial tethering capability is such a low priority for me that I’m not sure it’s worth playing around with programs like these to see if they work. Though if needs be, I will always pursue that route rather than pay some ridiculous Machiavellian tethering charge.

Dare I abandon the desktop?

Using the spoils from the 2007 holiday season, I built a solid workstation/gaming system that has carried me through 2008. The vital statistics:

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+
  • 2 GB RAM
  • GeForce 7600 GS (512 MB)
  • Dual boot Ubuntu (64-bit) / WinXP
  • Two 19″ CRTs

A few months ago I bought a MacBook Pro that currently has these main features:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo (2.4 GHz)
  • 2 GB RAM
  • GeForce 8600M GT (256 MB)
  • Mac OS X 10.5 with openSUSE 11.0 running in Parallels
  • 15″ LCD (1440 x 900)

I am comparing these two, thinking about how much I love using my MacBook, and wondering why I am bothering to keep the desktop running at all. I almost never play Windows games, I’ve just now ordered a 22″ LCD to get dual-displays with the MacBook, and with just a little effort I could get OS X talking to the more “Linuxy” features of my network.

I think it’s time to go all out with the MacBook Pro. I’ll see if I can handle the annoyance of having to plug it in to a makeshift docking station. I’ll experiment with getting my development tools running in OS X (emacs, Eclipse, Apache, PHP, etc). It’s time for change. Yes we can!

How to use Mac OS X as an NFS client

UPDATE (Aug 7th, 2009): three years after I wrote this, I see that this post is still generating traffic. I just wanted to note that in OS X 10.5, there is a little trick you can play using the command line. Let’s say that your NFS server is named something like myfilesrv. Assuming it’s exporting things correctly, try this:

cd /net/myfilesrv
ls

The OS will automatically create a myfileserv directory and mount all exported directories. Knowing that, we can set up a convenient symbolic link:

ln -s /net/myfilesrv/mystorage/mymusic ~/Desktop/mymusic

That would give you a folder on your desktop that jumps you right into a networked music directory (obviously you’d need to replace myfilesrv/mystorage/mymusic with your own server name and directory structure). However, I think that the NFS server needs to export using the insecure option for this to work properly.

Now back to the original post…

As a disclaimer, I am only just learning the ins and outs of Mac OS X. While the operating system does have a UNIX base, there are quite a few things that take me far outside my Linux comfort zone. Today I learned that mounting an NFS export on a Mac OS X file system was not as easy as I thought it would be. Searching Google, I found a confusing number of methods, both through the GUI and the command line, to mount an NFS directory. Further adding to my confusion was that some of these methods were not consistent or persistent across different versions of OS X. In the end, I found a method that worked for my specific situation, though I can give no guarantee that it is the optimal method.

EXPORTING THE DIRECTORY

Here is the line from /etc/exports that shows what I am exporting:

/exports/csagan csagan.pale.blue(rw,sync,all_squash,anonuid=504,anongid=101)

Basically, I want to make /exports/csagan available to the Mac named csagan.pale.blue. Unfortunately, csagan.pale.blue is not set up to be part of my NIS domain and so the user in question has neither the appropriate uid nor gid to match the permissions on /exports/csagan. As you can see, I set the export options so that requests from csagan.pale.blue get mapped to the correct uid and gid.

MOUNTING THE NFS EXPORT

At first I tried using Mac’s “Finder” to get to the exported directory. The only way I got this to work was by adding the insecure option to the line in /etc/exports. I could not seem to write to the directory when I did this, nor did I feel comfortable utilizing an option having the dubious name of “insecure”. I scrapped that idea and wound up using Mac’s “NetInfo Manager” which can be found in Applications/Utilities. This excellent tutorial shows how to use NetInfo Manager (among several other methods) to mount the directory.

NOTE: the aforementioned tutorial has its own “NOTE:” at the bottom of the document. Be sure to read this note; I didn’t notice it initially and was left wondering why the hell nothing was working. Basically, my version of OS X ignores the “dir” option and mounts the export in the /Network/Servers directory.

I always find it frustrating when someone references a link to important information and then clicking that link leads to a 404 or some other error. Therefore, here is an alternative tutorial and one more just in case.

NETWORK FILE SERVE AWAY!

Now everything seems to be in working order. Because the uid/gid gets squashed to the correct ones on the server, permissions shouldn’t be a big deal. Initially, I had trouble writing to the NFS export, but I eventually realized that I had inadvertently swapped the values for anonuid and anongid. Of course, I realized this after I went through the process of changing the Mac user’s uid which involved enabling the root user. Hopefully my next excursion into the strange, magical land of Apple will not be frought with so many worms.