Tag Archives: MacOS X

Weird MacOS X Installer Problem

At the moment, this particular Mac problem has me totally stumped. It only affects one Mac, and doesn’t seem to affect the day to day operation of the computer, it only seems to affect one particular dialog, and even then the dialog works perfectly okay, it just looks a bit odd.

The problem is that when I run an installer, if the installer needs elevated permissions in order to install, the dialog asking me to enter my password comes up like this:

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 13.28.27

What appears to be happening is the variable bits of text on the dialog are being put in in what appears to be arabic, if I enter my password it all works fine. Run the same installers on another Mac and the dialogs come up properly. It may well be that I’ll need to do a clean install of MacOS and rebuild the computer from a backup, but I’d rather work out what’s caused it in the first place!

I have the same question open on the Apple Stack Exchange site also.

BBC News – Windows 8: Taking a look at Microsoft's latest operating system

If you’re wondering what all the fuss about is with Windows 8 it’s worth taking a look at this video from the BBC’s tech correspondent Rory Cellan Jones: .

You’ll see that what Microsoft are trying to do is produce an OS that will produce a tablet experience on iPad like devices, but also keep backwards compatibility with the familiar windows interface. Whilst it’s true that underneath MacOS X and iOS are the same, they are distinct entities, so on iOS you’re not going to find yourself dumped to a MacOS desktop which is something you’ll see in the video.

It remains to be seen how the average user will take to having both the Metro interface and a pointer based interface on the same device – certainly it seems like using old style windows touch based may be frustrating with small buttons designed for mouse clicking, as will using the Metro interface with a mouse.

Time Machine – Not Such a Foolproof Solution

Last night we had the kind of problem that most computer users dread, the un-bootable computer. Beth had used the iMac earlier in the day without any problems, but when I tried to start the machine up, it stalled during the start-up process.

The next stage when you’ve got any sort of Mac problem related to booting is to reach for the OS X install DVD, and use that to start up Disk Utility – more often than not this will sort out a lot of problems, however not in this case. Having run through the verification and repair process it came up with a big red message warning that it couldn’t repair the disk.

No problem, I’ve got a regular back-up strategy – periodically backing up to an external hard drive using SuperDuper alongside using Time Machine and an associated Time Capsule. The last full backup I did was about a week ago, just before the OS X 10.5.5 update installed, however Time Machine has been quite happily running since then, so I opted to have the OS X install rebuild the drive and reload the data from the Time Machine.

Then the installer showed me a list of the contents of the Time Machine – with the most recent complete backup being just before the 10.5.5 update, complete with a message saying that “Only complete backups of Mac OS X appear in the list”. On the basis that Time Capsule has been running normally, there should be newer files on there, but the implication is that it hasn’t managed to complete a backup since then – thinking back over our usage over the past week or so that might be right as we’ve had a lot of short sessions.

Like most users I guess, we largely ignore the operation of Time Machine. The icon sits on the title bar, and periodically the Time Capsule springs into life. However the software is deliberately designed to be non intrusive, and will quite happily cope if you want to shut the machine down whilst it is working – it just shuts itself down as the machine shuts down and restarts again the next time the machine is turned on, my assumption being that it will just pick up where it has left off. However even over a week of short sessions, it should have picked up all the files.

A bit of a browse around the internet for problems after the 10.5.5 upgrade turned up this – looks like there have been problems, plus also some comments about the number of files changed in the update. Time Machine has a two stage process, first it goes through a prepare stage, which is when it builds a list of the changed files, then after that it goes into the backup where the status message showing the progress through the backup. It could be that during our relatively short sessions this week it is never actually getting beyond the preparation stage.

At this point I was rather glad that I kept the two part backup strategy, so I booted up using the backed up image of the main drive and was able to copy off our respective mail archives, which in my case would be the most annoying thing to lose, and then set the machine going overnight copying the clone of the boot drive back across to the iMac. Taking a look this morning however, the restore had again stalled part way through, leaving the boot drive with errors – so the drive was cleared down again, and I’m again copying the SuperDuper clone. Even if it works though, I’m not massively confident in the drive in the machine, so I also headed over to Mac Upgrades to pick up a new internal drive – picking one that hopefully will allow us a bit more room to grow at 500Gb rather than the 160Gb that is in the machine at the moment. Apple also have a step by step guide to a DIY upgrade which seems pretty straightforward.

So any thoughts at this point? Firstly, I’m really glad to have SuperDuper around – the clone of the drive it produces coupled with the ability of the iMac to boot itself from the backup image is fantastic – if it wasn’t for that it would needed to have been either another Mac and FireWire target disk mode, or alternatively just losing the weeks worth of e-mail that hadn’t been backed up. The other important thought is to keep an eye on Time Machine and in particular when it has last done a complete backup – almost certainly explicitly forcing it to do a complete backup after significant operating system upgrades. The bottom line though is always make sure you have a good backup strategy – you never know when you might need it.

As to what caused it – it’s all a bit of a mystery. It could just be that the drive itself has given up – the machine is a few years old now and gets pretty heavy use. The other odd thing is that looking at the multi-way adapter into which the machine is plugged in, the light indicating that the surge protection is working is no longer illuminated. I could confirm one way or the other if I had the OS X logs, but they are of course on the failed drive, so I guess we’ll never know…

Salvage Work

I’ve had an interesting evening… A few days ago I realised that the original scans of a couple of old pictures were only on the hard drive of my old PC – no problem I thought, I’ll just hook the old box up to the network at the weekend and copy the files off…

Not as simple as I first thought, as the old PC steadfastly refused to boot. Out came the screwdrivers, and I then tried to get the two hard drives from inside the PC to read using either my current PC, or the Mac using an external hard drive box – the smaller drive, containing only applications read fine, but the data drive kept coming up with errors – apparently well and truly dead.

I tried a couple of the apps I’ve used before for recovering data from dead memory cards, but that didn’t produce anything, so eventually I tried a demo copy of Data Rescue II which successfully produced a list of tens of thousands of files on the drive. Unfortunately for me what it totally failed to find was any sort of directory structure, so for pictures I had a directory full of over 5000 jpeg files with default sequentially numbered names. Since the demo copy of the software only allows you to pull off one file, that was a bit of a problem – so out came the credit card to get a full license key.

The recovery process took a couple of hours, so I now have a folder on the Mac filled with everything the software managed to retrieve – the pictures I wanted are there, along with all sorts of other pictures I’d forgotten I even had. There are also hundreds of old word documents, PDF files, and even my old e-mail files, all of which will have to be sorted. There are quite a few corrupt files, but from a hard drive that seemed totally dead to both Windows and MacOS X, that’s a pretty big turnaround.

Anyway, if anyone else has a hard drive die on them, I do now have a copy of a bit of software that will pull off most of the data… 🙂

PC Pro: The Average Home User Should Get a Mac

So six months ago they were doing their annual Mac attack, now the schizophrenic PC Pro has swung back the other way again. On the cover of issue 157, one of the headlines is “Apple’s New iMac – Run OS X and Windows on this stunning £799 systemâ€?!

Flip to the review and you’d think you were reading a Mac magazine at times:

This tightly integrated all-in-one offers plenty of performance and fabulous looks, yet it costs less than £1,000. And we can’t name a system by a PC vendor that does all of that.

The review finishes off with this paragraph and a ‘Recommended’ award:

The iMac offers some significant improvements over the old model and good value for money. We’d love to recommend a system from a Windows OEM, but until the rest of the industry takes a slice from Apple’s pie, the iMac remains the most impressive all-in-one on the market.

Later on the magazine reviews VMWare Fusion, the latest piece of virtualisation software for Intel Mac’s. This gets a recommended award, and the review even details what utility you need to download from the VMWare website to package up your old PC as a virtual image to use on your Mac.

That’s not the end of it, the very last page of the magazine has an opinion piece by Jon Honeyball declaring 7th August 2007 as the day the music finally died for Microsoft. The by-line makes Honeyball’s point clear – “With the launch of its spreadsheet, Apple has defined the home appliance of computing.â€?

In case you still haven’t got the significance of 7th August 2007, it was both the day that Apple revealed iWork ’08 which for the first time included a spreadsheet application, Numbers. It’s also the day that Microsoft announced that the next version of Microsoft Office for Mac OS X would be delayed for six months. This is going to prove a point that Honeyball first made last year, that Microsoft are not oriented towards the needs of the home user.

Honeyball contends that the average home user wants to just walk into a store and get a computer in the same way as they get any other commodity like a TV or a dishwasher, and they want to take it home plug it in and it just works. Whilst Numbers is no Excel killer, it does everything the average home user does with a spreadsheet, more than that the iWork suite can open all the latest Microsoft Office better than Microsoft can under Mac OS X for at least the next six months. So the average user can walk into an Apple store, and walk out with a machine that a PC magazine describes as the most impressive all-in-one on the market, more than that it will include iLife which will allow them to work with their digital pictures, home movies and upload them to the web, and for an extra £60 they can get iWork which integrates seamlessly in with the other applications to provide Microsoft compatible word processing, presentations and spreadsheets.

With the launch of its spreadsheet, Apple has completed the circle. It’s now defined the home appliance of computing. There’s no reasonable task it can’t do out of the box or with a few extra purchases while in the shop. And it all works together in the way an appliance should.

Whilst obviously I’d agree with Honeyball, it does come as a major surprise to find PC Pro – them of the “32 reasons why PC’s are Better Than Macsâ€? – essentially saying that the majority of home users would be better off with a Mac!

Spot the Difference

Safari/Firefox Compare

The announcement of a Windows version of Safari, the default browser under MacOS X has provoked a good deal of discussion.

Personally I’m of the opinion that it’s existence is primarily about providing a platform for iPhone development on Windows – very much that they need a platform, rather than any deep seated belief that the Windows platform needs another browser.

From my point of view that is made even more clear by the lengths to which Apple have gone to make it look and operate exactly like the MacOS X version, even down to the look of the buttons and scroll bars.

The identical behaviour even extends to how the browser renders fonts and graphics. If you take a look at the picture above, this shows the blog open in Firefox and Safari on Windows. Looking at the fonts, you’ll notice that the text looks subtly different – some people regard it as more blurry – this is because the browser is eschewing the usual Windows Cleartype in favour of the algorithm used by MacOS X. In theory, the MacOS X algorithm is intended to produce fonts that are as close to the original typeface design as possible, whilst Cleartype fits to the pixel grid – better screen wise – at the expense of accurately rendering the typeface. Coding Horror has a good article explaining the differences – ultimately it comes down to personal taste.

The other thing to note from the screen shot is the differences in the colour of the sunset picture at the top of the page. This is because Safari on Windows also treats graphics containing embedded colour space information differently. The sunset picture on the top of the page contains the colour space information from the original picture I took – Safari finds this and renders the graphic differently (although not necessarily correctly – ironically only the now defunct Mac Internet Explorer correctly interpreted colour spaces) resulting in the more vibrant orange hues that can be seen in Safari.

All of these duplicate features make it clear that alongside converting Safari, large amounts of MacOS X have been ported too to make it all work! Hence if you compare the memory usage of Safari with other browsers on Windows you’ll find it’s using a lot more than anything else…

Finally, one irony of Safari on Windows though is that whilst I don’t tend to use the browser much on MacOS X – preferring Firefox, I’m using Safari on Windows quite a lot because the text looks way better on the machine at work…

Update: The Safari on Windows debate rolls onward. With the news that the browser has been downloaded over one million times in the forty-eight hours since release, there is an interesting article from a Microsoft employee who initially is bemoaning the fact that Safari does everything itself, and then having read a posting by Joel Spolsky and the Coding Horror posting I mentioned above realises that it is unlikely that things will change!

The Spolsky posting is a good read in terms of the history – the Apple philosophy is very much about wanting to make fonts look as close to the printed original as possible – Joel explains in more detail why this is important to the desktop publishing and design communities. Choice quote of the posting has to be this:

“Typically, Apple chose the stylish route, putting art above practicality, because Steve Jobs has taste, while Microsoft chose the comfortable route, the measurably pragmatic way of doing things that completely lacks in panache.”

He also gives some opinions which go to explain why I’m preferring Safari on Windows – which are as much to do with familiarity as anything else!

How to Get Flamed by Mac Zealots

Mary Jo Foley couldn’t have done any better at igniting a flame war if she tried with this posting titled “Leopard Looks Like… Vista“. Number 4 is just plain wrong, and is probably worth explaining to any worried Mac owners out there. Unlike the PC’s, Mac’s have had 64-bit processors for a number of years with the G5 and G4 processors – so Leopard isn’t cutting out owners of those Mac’s. It is also worth bearing in mind that Tiger is partially 64-bit already – Apple has taken a phased approach with a single version – none of this 32-bit/64-bit version incompatibility confusion that people encounter on Windows. The current version of the OS, Tiger is 64-bit in parts anyway (check out this Apple explanation for more detail) – Leopard is merely the next phase in the process. The 64-bit business is purely for the techies, as a Mac end user it has no bearing.