The Amazing Kalyway Disk

What to do with my ‘old’ Windows PC? Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard, AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+, 2Gb

Where to install?

Where to install?

of RAM and a very respectable if a little dated 256Mb nVIDIA 7300GT graphics card. All in all not a bad piece of kit. However as an XP machine it had it’s quirks like every so often it would boot up into just a blank desktop, or the network drive connection to it from my Mac Pro would just disappear. I could rebuild it with a fresh install of XP or if I was really tired of living I could plump for XP’s younger fatter brother…. Vista! But where’s the fun in that?

Enter the amazing Kalyway – an ‘enhanced’ version of OS X Leopard designed to be installable on well lets just say hardware that might not bear that little fruity logo.

Having tweaked my BIOS settings so that they approximate what I found on Lifehacker, I popped in the DVD and rebooted. A stream of Linux-style messages filled the screen and the PC then sat motionless for about 10 minutes, appearing to do nothing. then I was greeted with the welcome screen! Accepting all the defaults I worked my way through to the point where Leopard starts installing and off it went.

26 mins to go

26 mins to go

The process appears to have frozen around the ’26 minutes remaining’ mark, so there’s probably some experimenting to do with the various install options, like specifically choosing to load the nVIDIA 256Mb desktop driver, but it’s a promising start.

I’ll let you know how I get on…

Note – the above does of course contravene Apple’s license agreement for Leopard, and I’m still planning to buy a Mac Mini to use as a ‘server’ tucked away in the loft to back up my data to from various places. So if I do succeed with this little exercise, it’ll just be to prove to myself that it can be done.

UPDATE – I restarted the whole process, this time choosing the standard nVIDIA driver on the ‘Customize’ screen, and removing a couple of the obvious drivers for devices I don’t have. The install has got as far as ‘About one minue remaining’ with the blue progress bar almost at the end. I’m tired so I’ll check in on it in the morning.

Fenêtres Volantes

For the seven months or so I have owned a Mac, I have completely ignored the screensaver and now it’s time to put that right. So, here’s a shameless plug for Fenetres Volantes (flying windows to you and me). It is cool in its simplicity, and when you see it you’ll understand why. Your windows, and even your wallpaper if you like, slowly fly away and glide across your screen, then when you’re done and want to play… I mean do some work again, everything gently plops back into place.

Follow the link… you know you want to.

Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro

Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro

Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro

Some time back, I bought a Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 for my Windows PC and ultimately moved it on to my Mac when that became my ‘main’ machine. It worked pretty well a few notable exceptions – the ‘intelligent face tracking’, RightSound and digital zoom features didn’t work (as these required the Windows software to work), and the camera’s built-in mike didn’t work with OS X’s speech recognition, although it worked fine with other OS X applications like Skype. Other than that I was pretty pleased with the results, and friends in Skype commented on how clear and sharp the picture was.

In the continuing story of Logitech realizing there’s a world outside Windows, they released the QuickCam Vision Pro which is essentially the exact same camera but for the Mac. In my usual way, I justified to myself that I could relegate the Pro 9000 back to my Windows PC and buy a shiny new Vision Pro with all it’s juicy Mac-goodness.

Now if I were a synical person I’d say that all they’ve done is put a new silver bezel on the front of the Pro 9000, changed the activity light from orange to white, and shipped it out without any software, so it should be slightly cheaper right? No, even without the extra features of it’s Windows sibling it costs the same, so is it a good buy?

What's in the box?

What's in the box?

Well the picture is as good as ever, naturally as the lens etc., is exactly the same. The RightLight feature adjusts the exposure to compensate for bright or dark situations pretty well, and the microphone while working fine with Skype, still refuses to work properly with the OS X speech recognition system. If you look in the Apple support forums you’ll see there are lots of users complaining about their Logitech cameras not  working with OS X’s built-in speech recognition. The other slightly worrying thing is that while the QuickCam Pro 9000 was actually recognized by OS X as a ‘Logitech Camera’, this Mac-specific version shows up simply as ‘unknown USB audio device’ – not terribly helpful, and perhaps indicative of what you’re getting.

So it boils down to two questions really – which one to buy if you’re a Mac user? Well if I’m honest, either one will serve you just fine. If like me, your webcam is going to sit on top of a monitor in a reasonably well lit room, then the RightLight technology is pretty much superfluous, and there’s little else to separate the two in everyday use. In fact if you own a Windows PC as well as a Mac then you can use the Pro 900 on either with good results. Similarly, if you already use the QuickCam Pro 9000 on your Mac is it worth changing to the QuickCam Vision Pro? In that case I would say it’s a definite ‘No’. The product smacks a little bit of Logitech just jumping on the Mac bandwagon by re-badging a Windows product. How difficult would it have been for them to port the face-tracking and digital zoom software feature across to the Mac? Likewise, had they ensured the built-in mike actually worked with OS X’s speech recognition feature, the camera would have been all the more useful.

No software required!

No software required!

I get the same impression with Logitech’s Mac version of the DiNovo Edge keyboard. It’s a Windows product that they’ve dumbed down and rebadged for the Mac community.

Still, I guess they’re showing willing which is more than some companies are doing.

My (all things Apple) wish list

While I ponder whether or not the Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro was such a good purchase, I thought I might bore the world with my Apple/Mac wish list. So here (in no particular order) are the things I wish were different in my Mac-esque world:

  1. A Logitech webcam with a microphone that supports OS X Speech Recognition.
  2. A ‘watch folder(s)’ feature in iTunes.
  3. Better (more intelligent) integration of OS X ‘Spaces’ on dual-monitor setups.
  4. An iPhone with a user-changeable battery.
  5. iPhones available on any UK network.
  6. An AT&T client for OS X.
  7. A choice of reasonably priced USB/Firewire add-in cards for the Mac Pro.
  8. A second CPU upgrade option for Mac Pro users with (only) one 4-core processor.
  9. A Mac Mini with easily upgradeable RAM and that supports more than 2Gb.
  10. A Blu-Ray DVD upgrade for the Mac Pro.
  11. An end to the $1 = £1 exchange rate on technology products (OK, maybe I pushed the scope of this list a little bit).
  12. Outlook to MobileMe syncing in Windows, WITHOUT having to install iTunes.
  13. Colour-coded categories in iCal.
  14. Better control of Time Machine built-in to OS X (I know you can get 3rd party add-ons, but this really should be built-in).
  15. Better login support for mapping SMB shares, not this Login Items bodge.
  16. A proper tree view in Finder. (I use Mac Rage, but it’s not ideal).
  17. A two or even three button mouse made by Apple!
  18. An Apple wireless keyboard with the same key layout as the wired one.
  19. At least one eSATA port on the Mac Pro.
  20. And finally (for now)… an Apple PVR/Blu-Ray DVD Recorder that supports DiVX, mp3, DVBT, FreeSat, has HDMI 1.3a, etc., etc., …and the bank balance to buy such a monster!

Making sense of Spaces with dual monitors

From my days of running a PC and a Mac side-by-side, I am lucky enough to still have a 22″ and a 24″ monitor sitting on my desk. The PC is hooked up to the 22″ Samsung but rarely gets switched on these days, while the Mac Pro is hooked up to both.

Two screens

Two screens

As I work from home a lot of the time, I wanted to have my work desktop running in a VMware Fusion virtual machine and visible all the time on the 22″ monitor. On the 24″ screen I wanted to use the option to use Spaces so that I could flick between various Mac applications when I felt like it. However, by simply dragging the VMware window to the 22″ screen and then choosing to switch Spaces on the main screen, I found the picture on the 22″ screen would disappear!

The reason for this is that when you use Spaces on a dual monitor setup, it couples your monitors together in each space, so in essence Spaces is running on both screens. What’s more you can’t choose which space gets displayed on each monitor, so if you are looking at ‘Space #1’ on one monitor, then ‘Space #1’ will also display on the second monitor. So looking at the above scenario, I run say Firefox in Space #1 on my 24″ then load up VMware also in Space #1 on the 24″ before dragging it across to the 22″. Now let’s say I want to run Spore in a Window in Space #2 on the 24″ screen. As soon as I switch to Space #2 on the big screen, the smaller screen also switches to Space #2 and my VMware window in Space #1 vanishes from sight!

Got all that?  😉

Mac OS X Leopard doesn’t let you run Spaces on just one monitor in a dual-head setup, but I eventually figured out the solution which is as follows:

  1. Go to your System Preferences and enable Spaces.
  2. Now, in the box in the middle of the Spaces settings that says Application Assignments, add an application using the + button.
  3. Just navigate to the chosen program in your Applications folder.
  4. Now the trick here is in the Space column to choose Every Space from the picklist.

Now, with VMware running in Space #1 and displayed on the 22″ screen, whichever Space I choose on the 24″ monitor, VMware will remain visible on the 22″ screen and won’t disappear like before. My only gripe with this solution is that as you invoke Spaces and are shown the ‘navigation’ view, it displays on both monitors. It’s only a minor niggle though because as soon as you choose which Space you want, both screens return to normal and my VMware work desktop is still in full view.

So until Apple update OS X and allow you to run Spaces on just one monitor, this is a reasonable workaround. At least I can now surf the web, catch up on newsfeeds and conquer the galaxy all while keeping an eye on the IM client and email on my work desktop!

A heart felt plea to Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

I enjoy using my Apple products as much as the next man, and (shock, horror) I also own and use products that have nothing to do with Apple. So why does Apple insist on tainting the experience by forcing me to do things I don’t want to?

Now Steve, I know you are rich beyond most people’s wildest expectations, and I expect that with that

Solar-powered pith helmet

Solar-powered pith helmet

wealth comes certain benefits like not having to do things you don’t want to. But spare a thought fo the guy on the street, the guy who filled your pockets with those iDollars. I mean how would you feel if your spectacles came with a pith helmet, complete with mini-fan, that you were obliged to wear every time you put your spectacles on? And how about those rollneck sweaters that have become your trademark? What if the people who supplied those insisted that you wear a jetpack on your back when wearing your sweater?

Well now you start to understand what it feels like to be an Apple customer.

Yes I use a Mac Pro and I’m very happy with it. Just so happens I also run VMWare Fusion on it so I can fire up MS Outlook every so often, and sure enough as a MobileMe account holder, I’d like yo sync my iCal calendar across to Outlook. But you won’t let me, not unless I install iTunes 8 in Windows aswell – not because it’s necessary, but because it’s another opportunity to get iTunes installed on another computer.

And while we’re on the subject of iTunes – believe it or not I do buy music online from other sources, but iTunes doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge that and won’t give me the ‘watched folders’ facility that practically every other music management software on the planet has.

And how about that iPhone battery? What are my chances of being able to buy a reasonably priced replacement from you and replace it myself? No you’d rather I send it back to Apple through some expensive repair cycle.

I could also mention Mac Mini memory upgrades, and ask why you had to make it so difficult when most computers these days let you do this task in a minute or so?  Or why you’ve chosen to not make a second CPU upgrade available for Mac Pro users who went for the single 4-core option initially?

We could go on, but you get the picture. So why this nasty side? Are things so tight that you’ve got to hold every customer upside down and shake them by the ankles until every last penny falls from their pockets? Surely not. You know you could go down in history as the first ever CEO to do something – invite your customers to tell you in a hundred words or less, what it is that annoys them about Apple and Apple products. Then do something about it. Not these ‘customer feedback’ forms dotted around the Apple website that we’re assured get read, but we suspect just get filed in the bin.

Come on. You’d be happy, your customers would be happy and my life would amount to more than a dash between two dates on a gravestone.

Mounting Windows network drives at login (OS X tip)

Windows users will be familiar with the ability to map network drives and to have those drives connect automatically when they next login to their PC. For all its ease-of-use, Mac OS X seems to lack that ‘Reconnect at logon‘ functionality, forcing users to come up with an alternative.

As a new Mac user I hunted around for a solution, and something that didn’t cost any money or require a certificate in programming to implement. The most common solution by far in the various Mac forums is to manually connect to the chosen network drive (using the Go – Connect to server option in Finder), and to then drag the resulting volume icon into your Login Items in the System Preferences – Account Settings. That’s all well and good, but the only problem with that approach is that a window will automatically open on your desktop for each connected drive when you logon.

I eventually found a slightly slicker way of doing this which isn’t too complicated, requiring you to simply create a short script. It works as follows:

1. Go to your applications folder and open the folder called AppleScript.

2. Run the Script Editor. A small window will appear, showing a blank page.

3. Copy the following text into the top half of the window…

tell application “Finder”
try
mount volume “smb://<username>:<pwd>@<servername_or_address>/<sharename>

on error


display dialog “Unable to mount network volume.” & return & return & ¬
“The network, target server or share may be unavailable.” & return & return & ¬
“Click OK to continue.” buttons {“Okay”} default button 1
end try
end tell

4. New edit the above text as follows:

  1. Replace <username> and <pwd> with the required username and password if necessary. If it’s a public share then just replace them with something like ‘Guest’ and ‘null’ as they’ll get ignored.
  2. Replace <servername_or_address> with the name of your server/PC (if you use DNS) or simply the IP address of the machine (if you don’t know what DNS is)!
  3. Finally, replace <sharename> with the name of the Windows share you wanto to connect to. Equally you can use the dollar symbol to connect to hidden shares, e.g. F$ for the hidden administrative share of the F: drive on a Windows server.

5. The next step is to compile your script to check for errors, so click on the Compile button to check all the syntax is OK.

6. Now you need to save the script as an executable application. Click File – Save As and make sure you’re saving it as an ‘Application’. Give the saved file a meaningful name and choose where to save it. I put all my scripts in a folder called ‘Scripts’ in my documents folder.

7. The final step is to drag the icon of the script you’ve just created into the Login Items list for your account (in System Preferences / Accounts).

That’s it! Next time you login a window will pop up asking if you want to run the script. Just click on run or cancel (useful if you’re a laptop user away from your network). If you click ‘run’ the the script will run in the background and will automatically connect to your network drive. If you want to connect to multiple network drives, then either create multiple scripts, or better still simply repeat the ‘try… end try’ section the required number of times, specifying a different network drive to connect to in each case.

The one word of caution is that if you need a username and password to connect to the network share, then they’ll be stored in your script as plain text, so use with caution…

Hope this helps.

iPhone 3G and the Griffin Wave case

On the practical side of things, I’ve been looking for a second iPhone 3G case – one that lets you use all the features of the phone, rather than the ‘tuck it away’ leather slip case I bought. I’ve always known that Griffin make good products so I was fairly confident that after some good reviews on the Apple Store webite, that the Griffin Wave case would be up to the job. So I ended up buying a two-pack of these cases off Amazon UK and as a result I now have a black and a green(!) Griffin Wave case.

Once past the mass of plastic packaging (come on Griffin, haven’t you read the news about the planet?), you find a three piece plastic case together with an instruction sheet. The instruction sheet is potentially unnecessary as fitting the case is really a no-brainer. There is a front bezel, a clear screen protector and the sculpted case back, and if you don’t know where those go then you must be hung-over! You place the bezel face down and slip the screen protector into in, taking care not to get any finger marks on the inside. Next you place the iPhone into the bezel, with the ear speaker and home button lining up with their corresponding holes in the screen protector. Finally you clip the back of the case to the bezel, taking care to note the clever under/over arrangement of the way the two halves lock together. About 60 seconds and it’s all done.

The materials used to make the case are good, the bezel and case back being a translucent coloured plastic with a smooth non-slip feel to them that resists scratching from everyday knocks rather well. The transparent screen cover is completely clear, so your iPhone screen is as bright and clear as ever. In use I found the screen cover to be actually quite good, despite some reviewers over at Apple having their doubts. Yes, I was expecting it to de-sensitize the iPhone screen itself and make it less responsive, but if fitted properly you barely notice it, and I can still activate the phone’s interface with gentle touches.

One minor flaw

One minor flaw

Because the iPhone is such a sleek design, almost any case of this sort is going to make it look bulkier and cheaper, but looks aside the fit and finish are good apart from one possible design flaw. The left side of the case has an aperture in it to allow use of the mute switch and volume control. This means that at the top left corner the two sides of the case aren’t clipped together and will easily come apart (as shown in the photo) allowing dirt to get in. That said, the rest of the case is quite firmly locked which brings me on to a second point. If you’re an iPhone dock user then this isn’t the case for you. The phone cannot be placed in the dock with the case fitted, and despite the issue with the top left corner, getting the case off takes a fair old bit of effort. Of course there’s an aperture at the bottom of the case where you can still attach the sync cable.

In the hand, the phone still has that comfortable sculpted feel with the case fitted, and the translucent finish means you can still see the Apple logo on the back. The screen protector does however suffer the same smudging from finger marks as the iPhone screen itself so you’ll still end up having to clean the face. One final thing I noted is that dirt does tend to collect between the edge of the bezel and the screen protector and that dust can make it’s way under the screen protector via the opening where the home switch is. However, assuming your home and pockets are less dusty than mine you might not find this a problem.

Overall I do like this case despite it’s minor flaws and if I wasn’t a perfectionist it would probably do me just fine. So I would score it a 4 out of 5 and would say that if you want a hard case and don’t use a dock then it’s a pretty good choice. As for me, well I do have something else in the pipeline… 😉

It doesn’t take a Genius

One of the rumoured new features in iTunes 8 is the Genius which according to Kevin Rose’s blog “makes playlists from songs in your library that go great together“. That got me thinking… how will it achieve that?

I can see it working in one of two ways. Firstly there’s the algorithm method – some clever coding akin to what they do with Pandora or in applications like (the name escapes me right now). For that to be the case, Apple’s developers would have had to have done a lot of research or have bought out a company that already does it. Can’t say I’ve seen anything like that in the news.

The other method is the for iTunes to track what you listen to and then make recommendations based on what other iTunes users who listened to the same track, then chose to listen to. The second method, which I suspect is more likely, means iTunes phones home every time you listen to a track and Apple then builds a ‘Who Likes What’ database from which it’s recommendations are made.

I’ve never had much joy with services that use the second method, much prefering the way Pandora does it, but it will be interesting to see what Apple comes up with. Sadly I still don’t think a ‘Watch Folders’ feature will make it into iTunes 8 which speaks volumes about Apple’s attitude to it’s users.

Syncing Entourage 2008 with my iPhone via MobileMe

Yes I’ve complained enough in the past that Entourage 2008 is always the runner-up when it comes to Apple functionality, and getting calendar events from Entourage on to your iPhone via MobileMe reconfirms this.

iCal calendars

iCal calendars

You see MobileMe knows nothing about Entourage whatsoever, all it understands is iCal. BUT… if you want to add events to your Entourage calendar and then see them on MobileMe and thus on your iPhone, all you have to do is enable ‘Synchronize events and tasks with iCal and .Mac‘ in your Entourage 2008 preferences. It’s basic but it works by creating a new calendar in iCal, and anything you enter in Entourage’s calendar is automatically sync’ed through into a new Entourage calendar inside iCal. Now when the MobileMe sync process runs it sees this extra Entourage calendar in iCal and copies it’s contents (along with any other calendars you’ve created in iCal), across to the MobileMe web service. That in turn gets ‘pushed’ across to your iPhone.

The reverse is true in that if you create an event either on your iPhone or in iCal and you specify that it

iCal view

iCal view

belongs to the Entourage calendar, then the event will make it back to Entourage. Create the event on the default calendar on your iPhone or in MobileMe or in iCal and Entourage will never see it.

As I said, it’s basic but it works, however one other limitation is that iCal doesn’t understand the ‘categorize’ feature in Entourage. For example I can create an event in Entourage, categorize it as ‘Personal’ and it will appear in green on my Entourage calendar. However, when it’s pushed through to iCal that category data is lost and it appears using whatever colour you’ve assigned to the Entourage calendar in iCal, and that colour persists through MobileMe and on to your iPhone.

Entourage event on the iPhone

Entourage event on the iPhone

The upshot of all this is that if I want to colour-code events in iCal and on my iPhone, then the only way to do it is to use multiple iCal calendars and forget Entourage 2008. So I now have a ‘default’ iCal calendar coloured blue, and another iCal calendar called ‘Important’ that’s coloured red, as well as my Entourage calendar which is purple, as you can see. Thankfully Entourage isn’t stripped of all it’s features when sync’ing with iCal and MobileMe as any alarm/reminders you set on events in Entourage are carried through to iCal and from there to your iPhone via MobileMe.

So, if you’re an iPhone user who wants to stick with Entourage but use MobileMe (and an iPhone) as well, then you may lose some Entourage specific features but the basics are there. For things to change then Apple’s developers would have to spend time enhancing iCal to understand Entourage categories. Alternatively Microsoft would have to add code to Entourage to understand iCal’s separate calendars. Yeah right…