Archive for the ‘Tech-geekery: Mac’ Category

Curious Photoshop/Mac/WiFi behaviour

May 27th, 2011 by Reinder

One for the Mac-heads in the audience.

I've been trying to cut distractions while working on comics, which means that I turn off the WiFi on my Macbook now. However, this doesn't work as well as it should, because the following behaviour occurs:

  • If I switch off WiFi (AirPort) and then fire up Photoshop CS 4/Mac, Photoshop takes forever to start, and so does Adobe Bridge for that matter. In fact, both apps become unresponsive and have to be killed using the Force Stop feature.
  • If I fire up Photoshop while WiFi is on and then turn off WiFi, I have no problems until I try to save a file. Then Photoshop becomes unresponsive for minutes on end, and I can either try to wait it out or switch on WiFi again, after which Photoshop becomes active again and finishes saving the file quickly. I don't think I've ever succesfully waited it out since I started noticing the problem - I have stuff to do, after all.
  • If I reboot the Macbook while WiFi is off, I have no problems, everything works as it should, and I get a few hours of distraction-free Photoshopping.

Actions taken: I have checked my Photoshop preferences and turned off Version Cue, as that is no longer operational anyway and this would be an obvious cause of the problem if it tried to connect to the Version Cue server and failed to find it. This did not, however, make any immediate difference.

Later, I will look for causes of this phenomenon, and maybe write up a proper bug report and then figure out who to send it to. For now, though, I'm getting off the electronic boob again. I have stuff to do, after all.

Sometimes, I have foresight.

May 14th, 2011 by Reinder

I would like to thank my two years younger self for writing such clear instructions on how to install PNGOut on a Mac. My command-line skills, such as they were, have become extremely rusty, but when I needed to install PNGout again, I went from downloading the program to getting the first output written to disk in five minutes. The post also contained my command for batch operations, which I shall quote here again for future reference:
for s in *.png;do pngout "$s" pngout/$s;done
This will work if you have a subfolder named "pngout" already, and will keep your input files separated from your output.

On a completely related note, I have finally got the redrawn ROCR page for February 02, 2003 uploaded to the website.

Running Windows on a Mac still to be considered harmful

October 27th, 2009 by Reinder

Reader Kitchenbutterfly asks:

Why have you burst my bubble? I've been living in paradise, claiming the MAC and all things APPLE to be the next best thing to sliced bread, or at least windows! And I know about buying computers in a hurry.

Well here's the thing: I loved my first iBook. I never had any serious problems with it. But it was getting old, it was a G4 and there were certain things it couldn't do that would come in handy for my long-distance work. Like run Windows in some form or another. So for Christmas, Aggie, who is sweet and loving and obviously completely crazy, gave me a new MacBook. I immediately started messing around with both Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop to figure out which setup would work best for me (there is a third option, VMWare Fusion, which I haven't tried and right now don't have the heart to). It is now turning out to be the answer that neither work well enough for real work, and both are harmful to the safety of my Mac hardware and my data.

The Boot Camp arrangement did not survive the first five weeks of long-distance work over the summer. The final week was spent doing whatever I could to get work done on one of Aggie's computers. Since one of them did not want to work with the Logoport online translation client, and the other did not want to let me install SDLX*), this took a lot of moving back and forth between computers. Then I took my bricked Macbook home to Groningen to see what I could do about it.

Meanwhile, some changes in our company's VPN software allowed that to work with a Parallels virtual machine, which it hadn't done before. Wonderful! I could run Windows in the VM, keep all my data safe on my Mac folders, and access my Mac software while working in Windows.

Well, I could, right until I upgraded to OS 10.6 Snow Leopard. Parallels 4 is supposed to work with it and the company even has a nifty new upgrade to make it work even better. It was while checking my Parallels VM while preparing to upgrade to that nifty new upgrade the day before leaving for the US that my MacBook became seriously bricked again.

I took the bricked MacBook with me to Tennessee to see what I could do. Three thirty-mile drives to Murfreesboro later, we had a diagnose of OS corruption, which the repair guy said actually happened quite often. They offered to wipe and reinstall for a mere $130, I said no, we'll do it ourselves, thanks, and we took the bricked box home, wiped it, reinstalled it, and restored it to its state of October 13, 2009 using the magic of Time Machine. Time Machine is excellent, but I'm finding myself using it a little too often.

I went to work using the Virtual machine and all was right with the world. I spent the Sunday before I was due to get back to work installing my software on the VM, and it was good. On Monday, I went to work, and all was good. What I didn't realise was that the reason all was good was that Parallels was unable to download its nifty new update over our slow internet connection (see previous post). But at the end of the first working day, it had somehow snagged all 110 or so MB of it and prompted me to install it. Foolishly, I did. The installation ended with an error (something about a required file missing - even though this was an automated download that should have got everything) and my VM no longer worked well. Using Time Machine, I tried to restore the software to its last version, which worked, but restoring the actual VM file (an 8 GB monstrosity) turned out to be harder. This is probably because the VM had been running whenever the Time Machine back-ups were made, so what ended up in the back-up was not a workable file to boot the VM from. After repeated attempts, running Parallels caused the Mac to hang again.
So now I'm restoring it again to the state it was in on October 13, 2009. After that, I will turn off all update functionality in Parallels, reinstall the software I need and hope for the best until the new PC arrives here (working on Aggie's machines has become problematic for other reasons that I don't want to go into as this post is already quite long and nerdy).

And that is the tale of my MacBook woes. Some of my woes are clearly the result of human error (upgrading anything that works is risky and with the Parallels upgrade, there was already a known risk factor), but I'm beginning to think that the main human error here is wanting to run Windows on a Mac in the first place. I get a lot of joy from using that machine (and I do mean actual pleasure in using it as opposed to merely finding that work goes smoothly and the computer isn't an active obstacle) whenever I use Mac software on it, whether commercial and actively developed for the Mac, or open source and ported to the Mac. I get nothing but grief and a great deal of learned helplessness from working with Windows on the same Mac. So the lesson here is that Macs should be used to run Mac software; score one for the Cult of Mac, I guess.

I'm stuck with Parallels for a few more days. When the new PC arrives, it will be gone, and good riddance.

*) Incidentally, if you love well designed software, translation software will open your life to forms of horror beyond the imagining of mortal men. If translation software can be said to be designed at all, it is designed based on the interests of anyone but translators. SDLX Suite, at least until its most recent version released this year, was not designed at all - it was a Frankensteinian patchwork of previously unrelated programs that the SDL company had bought over the years, that had no single interface vision and which only worked together through filters and a gigantic super-interface for project management and bundling. I have heard that the new release is better integrated, but its backward compatibility is nonexistent. This is relevant here because the installer alone is half a gigabyte and requires several steps of pre-installation taking several minutes before it even begins to try to install any of the component programs.

Just for once in my life, I’d like to not have to buy a new computer in a hurry

October 16th, 2009 by Reinder

With 36 hours to go before my next flight to Tennessee, the Macbook dies. That means that
a) I get to buy a new hard drive for my Macbook just to have access to my files (music including my vinyl album rips, scans - the paper originals for many of which I have recently thrown out) minus the ones added since I last ran Time Machine;

b) I get to take all my installation materials to Amsterdam and install them at the address where I am sleeping over so I can catch my plane in the morning. If that doesn't work, I get to take a bricked laptop to Tennessee and try again while I'm there;

c) because Apple can't be relied upon to make hardware that survives even a short period of intensive use, instead of doing it all through Parallels Fusion on the Macbook, we get to buy a Dell box in a hurry for the long-distance work I will be doing. We do not get time to think about what precisely we want - we get to order quickly and hope it's up and running before my . Just like with the current desktop at home in Groningen, and the studio machine before that, and the studio machine before that. Other people sometimes get to ponder their aging systems and say "Gee honey, maybe we should save up a bit of cash so we can replace this old box." I have not been in a position to do that for five or so years. I get to replace dead machines in a mad rush to meet the next deadline;

d) I get to stay up late to complete the preparations for my trip that I was working on at the time the laptop gave up. Obviously I don't get to do the ones that involve installing software on the laptop, but I did lose 90 minutes just trying to diagnose the problem (see: opaque operating systems and why they're a bad idea even if they're pretty);

e) I get to lose all the money I saved through 5 weeks of stepping up the frugality. Isn't it wonderful to be me?

Well at least I'll be seeing Aggie again in two days. So it's not all misery.

Sound sponge mystery

October 7th, 2009 by Reinder

A friend of mine recommended a Mac program called Sound Sponge for automatically marking and cleaning out clicks and other problems from recordings taken from vinyl records.. but the only program called Sound Sponge (or technically, Sponge, but it's located at is a small tool for converting audio file formats and is not what I'm looking for. I think my friend mixed them up and I'll ask him, but just in case he doesn't remember, does anyone else know what he might have been thinking of?

Mac things I’ve found useful lately

August 8th, 2009 by Reinder

Mac Boot Key combos
Install & Boot OS X Leopard from a USB Flash Drive.

If you ever need to do a salvage operation after you've left your Time Machine disk on another continent for a month or two, these two articles will come in very handy. I think I've got everything now, so it's time to wipe and reinstall my normal configuration.

Afternoon update: Salvage and restore now completed - whatever I didn't rescue from that drive is now gone. Conclusions:
1. Late 2008 MacBook hardware is unreliable, rickety and prone to overheating.
2. However, there seems to be no permanent damage to the drive. I could restore to the hard drive I already had.
3. Time Machine is useful but is not the saviour of back-up and restore as I previously thought. I had a hard time importing from it and eventually gave up and imported from my external emergency disk (which was itself imported from Time Machine; funny that) instead.

Now I can at least scan my next update. That means I'd better go finish drawing it.

How to install Pngout on a Mac and do batch operations

March 24th, 2009 by Reinder

I've mentioned PNGout on Waffle a couple of times over the years. It's an unbeatable little command line tool for making PNG files smaller that exists for multiple platforms. It was originally developed for Windows but has been succesfully ported to linux and OS X.

Great though PNGOUT is, the ports don't come with a lot of installation instructions and while linux users can just follow standard procedures for installing a precompiled binary in the right place, Mac users may find it confusing. Here's what you have to do to make the OS X port work:

1. Install it in one of the Unix binaries directories, not in /Applications. You can use /bin or /usr/bin - either should work. Because I'm lazy, I use /bin.
2. Rename it from pngout-darwin to something shorter, or use a symlink.

This procedure is of course very different from installing a .app program on a Mac. For one, you have to do it on the command line. Open your Terminal in the Utilities folder under Applications and if you have put your pngout-darwin in Applications, type
sudo mv /Applications/pngout-darwin /bin/pngout
Hit Enter. You will be prompted for your administrator password. Type it and hit Enter again. That's it - PNGout will now work wherever you call it from. Provided of course that you call it on the command line, which you've already opened.

Changing individual files is as simple as going to the directory the file is in using the cd command and typing pngout <sourcefile>.png <targetfile>.png, replacing the names between brackets with the real filenames you want. There's a batch operation for linux that should work on the Mac as well. It's
for s in *.png;do pngout* -c3 -b0 -v "$s" tmp.png && mv -f tmp.png "$s";done
This is a slightly tweaked version of the operation shown in TASVideos: How To Make PNG. For my own use, I have tweaked it more, taking out the -c3, -b0, -v parameters and telling it to output the PNG files directly into a subfolder instead of outputting each individual file to 'tmp.png' and renaming it later:
for s in *.png;do pngout "$s" pngout/$s;done

Back to the installation issue: I think the fact that you can't just drop pngout-darwin in Applications is a weakness in the Mac OS X operation system: the command line interface and the GUI don't use the same file paths for executable programs, so that using command line programs, already harder than using the GUI, comes with an unexpected pitfall. If there is a workaround for this, please let me know.

Bleg: Trying to get wireless to work on the iBook, but failing miserably

January 28th, 2008 by Reinder

I have bought a wireless router to set up a home network. I was a bit wary of setting it up on the linux box, so I tried a dummy configuration on the iBook first. As it turns out, this was a time-consuming mistake, so I finally went ahead and hooked the router up to my trusty old Ubuntu desktop, which responded by working almost immediately. However, several hours and quite a bit of hairpulling later, I am still unable to get a wireless connection on the iBook; I get a password prompt, but after filling in my password, I get the utterly unhelpful error message "an error has occurred trying to connect to the network".

I have googled for this, so now I know that the problem is a very common one, and also that this solution, remove the password you changed from your Keychain, doesn't work, and that this and similar threads do not inspire confidence in the Mac community's ability to resolve the problem - not that I blame the community, mind. With an error message like that, the cause could be any of a thousand things. Computing for the rest of us, my foot.

My iBook is a 2005 G4 PPC Mac running Tiger, OS 10.4.11 to be precise. The router is a Netgear WGR614 v7, recommended by the store for being easy to configure and OS-independent, not that most of the others wouldn't have been. Is there any way at all I can get the two devices to listen to one another? Please send answers to, if you have them

Boot Camp

April 7th, 2006 by Reinder

I heard about Apple's Boot Camp yesterday and it ignited another round of "I need money, stat" in my head. Eric Burns has tried it and is raving about the performance of Windows XP and City of Villains on his MacBook Pro. Referring to the saw "It's not so much that the bear dances well, it's that it dances at all" he says that

The bear isn't just dancing. The bear is doing a freaking paso doble.

Duly noted. I need money, stat.

How To Be Invisible

January 25th, 2006 by Reinder

Tristero at Digby's place has some tips on guarding your online privacy on an OSX computer. Could be useful, I wouldn't know, although I do rather believe I should know.