Category Archives: annoyances

Regarding the iTunes store…

Dear Apple:

Please FIX YOUR DAMN BUFFERING on audio samples.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Me.

P.S.  Or, maybe I can start buying all tracks from Amazon.com? Now there’s an idea.

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, computers, music

Yahoo.com is becoming more and more appropriately named

Lately I’ve been working on a plan for stepping up my creative activities, which includes making some adjustments to my online presence.  I’ll spare you the tedious details, and only mention that one step of the plan involved creating a new Yahoo Mail account that I could associate with an already existing Flickr account.

Well, my plan has been foiled, thanks to a new and very stupid Yahoo account creation policy:  It turns out that, as of recently, Yahoo will no  longer allow someone to set up a mail account without providing a mobile phone number.  I don’t have one of those damned things, nor do I want one.  Even if I could get one and keep it running for a reasonable price, having it would make it easier for people to bother me, which I don’t want.  And (seriously people) – text messages??!?!  No way.

I may be able to work around this problem some other way, involving using an existing, unused Yahoo Mail account instead of creating a new one.  That is assuming there is no further demand for cell phone information when I set up the association with the already-existing Flickr account—an assumption which, as of today, I no longer consider safe.

An additional, worrisome question is whether Yahoo plans to extend their Nazi-esque mobile phone policy to existing users in general.  As of today, they have not done that—I just successfully logged out of my primary Yahoo Mail account and then logged back in.  They do pester with the “what’s your mobile phone number” thing at every single login now, though.  If they make that mandatory, I’d be faced with the very unwelcome choice of abandoning my old accounts entirely, or shelling out the damn money to buy one of these goddamned phones.  (I notice WordPress is getting pretty pushy about mobile phone authentication as well, although I don’t believe they require a number just to create an account.)

It actually makes me wonder if Yahoo! is getting a kickback from the phone companies to do this.  It wouldn’t be at all surprising, would it?  I can certainly believe that the large phone companies, all of whom are scum, would stoop to this sort of strategy.

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, brainstorming, doom and gloom, Flickr

Annoyances.org apparently gone

It’s been a long time since I was there last, but when I attempted today to pull up the classic website annoyances.org, all I got was the message “Annoyances.org is temporarily down for maintainance [sic] and will return shortly.”   But, based on accounts posted here in early 2013, it appears that the temporariness of that maintenance is getting pretty non-temporary.

One poster at that Majorgeeks link very helpfully posted the link to the Annoyances website via the Internet Wayback Machine:  http://wayback.archive.org/web/*/annoyances.org

Using that, we can determine that the issue started right around the beginning of the year, 2013, and has been going on ever since.  To access an actual archive of the site, you’ll need to go back to late 2012 or earlier.

I wonder what other cool, 1990’s-era websites I always used to like have quietly disappeared like that.

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, computers, doom and gloom, general geekery

Old versions of Firefox

Sick of the way Firefox updates itself every month or two?

A while ago, I gave in and decided to just let it do its thing—resisting the constant onslaught of  upgrades was getting to be a bit of  a pain.  And, for a while, it worked out ok.

Then this morning my work computer upgraded itself to Firefox 29, which…well.  I’m considering going back to 28.  I haven’t decided yet.  However, if I do, the following link will end up being useful:

http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/

That contains downloadable copies of what appear to be ALL Firefox versions.  They are organized by version, then subdivided into platform, and subdivided further by language.  Myself, I’d be wanting the “en-US” version. The final folder contains either a DMG for Mac version, a couple of EXE files on the Windows versions, or a compressed TAR for Linux.

Happy downgrading! :)

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, computers

Irony

Something just occurred to me.

I have been an Apple user since…..well, maybe 1982? Something like that. It was before the Mac came out anyway–a computer math class in high school in the early 80’s, programming in AppleSoft on an Apple IIe. Not a bad computer, for that time, incidentally, even if it was possible for me to physically type enough text to fill up the entire RAM capacity of the computer. LOL

Anyway. The point is that I’ve been an Apple user for a long time. But something occurred to me, as I’ve been looking over my last few posts on this blog tonight. As a long-time Mac user, I’ve slung more than my fair share of criticism towards Microsoft, especially back in the DOS and Windows 95 days. Nevertheless, I have to admit that, possibly, my favorite application of all time is a Microsoft product: Microsoft Excel.

And, my most-loathed application of all time is Apple’s Time Machine.

What a dilemma. I, a long-time Mac user, have proclaimed my all-time favorite application to be a Microsoft product, and my all-time most-hated application to be an Apple product. WTF?

Hmm. Well, I have no particular insight into that question at the moment, but I do feel moved to traverse the garden path for a bit, as it were:

Every once and a while, my dentist, knowing me to be a computer geek, asks me for a recommendation or other pertaining to hardware or software if he’s got a big upgrade coming, or whatever. Over the years, I’ve found myself less and less sure of what to tell him. Gone are the days when I could brazenly brag about how I ran my iMac with no malware protection whatsoever. Granted, I still do that (depending on what you consider “malware protection”–for instance, is Adblock Plus considered “malware protection”? Or NoScript?). But long gone are the days when I would unconditionally recommend a Mac system.

At the same time, though, I have never gone so far as to actually recommend a Windows 7 system to anyone (with the exception of the odd Windows XP user wondering if it was a good idea to upgrade–short answer, “it ain’t bad, you’ll get used to it, and I don’t hate it myself, which is more than I can say about a lot of upgrades”).

Really, if someone came to me today, or during the past few years, and asked what sort of system they should buy, I’m honestly not sure what I would say. It’s my feeling that there is really no good choice out there, or that (really) the best choice is to simply stick with what you have. Out of Windows, OS X and Linux, each has their advantages and disadvantages. I stick with OS X because it would cost me too much to switch, given the gains I would realize. Maybe the correct answer to the question is, “it doesn’t really matter all that much.”

Then again, it can be said that desktop systems aren’t the main issue anymore. The real question these days is what sort of mobile device to get. Android? iPhone? Blackberry?!?! Hmmm.

[For me, the answer is “none of the above”, because 1) I detest the expense involved in any of those systems, 2) I don’t want people to be able to reach me that easily and 3) “the cloud” is a BAD idea in most cases. In the long run, I am guessing that this will spell my demise as a “tech” guy, due to the world’s moving into a realm of stupidity and me refusing to follow. Oh well. Ask me if I care. No. Why do you ask?]

2 Comments

Filed under annoyances, brainstorming, computers, doom and gloom, general geekery

Most annoying software OF! ALL! TIME!

I have to offer my congratulations to Apple Computer. Or, simply, “Apple” as they are now so pretentiously known.

As of today, Apple’s Time Machine backup software has become my #1 most all time hated software, exceeding even Microsoft’s oh-so-lovely Windows 95, the previous record holder, the primary feature of which was the need to completely reboot the computer at least once every three hours. Yes, friends and neighbors, Apple’s Time Machine has now managed to piss me off even more than Windows 95. I wouldn’t have thought it possible. It has in fact been 12 YEARS since I last used a Windows 95 system on a regular basis, so this has been a long standing record. But it is now broken.

So, congratulations Apple. I bow down in honor to your achievement.

Why am I so pissed off?

Simply put:

“Waiting for index to be ready (100)”.
“Bulk setting Spotlight attributes failed.” [TWICE!]

Total time taken on this backup task so far: 2 hours and five minutes. HOWEVER, when I poke around in Console, I discover that, over the past 48 hours, this sort of shit has already happened twice before, sometimes resulting in a single backup task taking over four hours. This, when (normally) the time spent on a backup task is measured in seconds, or (perhaps) a minute or two, if there are multiple gigabytes to be backed up.

On October 10, for instance, on the backup task which started at 1:09:08 A.M., it took over FIVE HOURS to finally complete the backup at 6:19:03 A.M. And there wasn’t that much data copied, either. In fact, although it’s kind of hard to tell for sure from the logged messages in Console, it appears that this five-hour-long backup task succeeded in backing up the absolutely massive quantity of four gigabytes. Yep: four gigabytes. Wow. And, mind you, this was in the middle of the night, when the computer wasn’t even being used.

Today’s backup gives every indication of being as ridiculous as that.

Well, if I am still awake at the point when this turkey finally quits, I am going to do two things:

1) Fucking turn Time Machine OFF.
2) Follow the directions on this page: http://pondini.org/TM/D2.html. Actually, I might not get to that part until Sunday. I do, after all, have plans for this weekend, and I cannot even describe to you how sick and tired I am of having stuff preempted because of Time Machine errors.

If all of the troubleshooting steps on http://pondini.org/TM/D2.html turn out OK, then I will turn Time Machine back on, and count this as a lesson learned. Except that I will still be annoyed, because, frankly, who the hell’s idea was it to tie Time Machine and Spotlight together like that, anyway? They weren’t linked like that in Leopard, and, as far as I can tell, Time Machine did what it was supposed to do in Leopard, barring the problems previously mentioned on this blog (which would NOT have been solved with Spotlight integration).

Alternatively, I’m going to spend a good part of Sunday (or other future day) setting up an alternate backup system. Carbon Copy Cloner seems to be a good, reliable program overall (I really do need to pony up the well-deserved shareware fee and upgrade to the current version, though). Maybe that’s the way to go.

Signing off, for now. (Hopefully it won’t be another two years before I post again on this blog.)

1 Comment

Filed under annoyances, computers, general geekery

iTunes 8: RIP

When trying to access the iTunes store today with iTunes 8, it simply presented me with a single page, offering to upgrade to iTunes 10. Previously to this, usage of iTunes 8 on the iTunes store was a bit glitchy, but functional, overall. It allowed searches, browsing, purchasing. Even the old shopping cart still worked, which was the primary reason for staying with iTunes 8. The only catch was, you couldn’t get into the store simply by clicking on the iTunes Store link in the iTunes sidebar, you had to “sneak” in through one of the many little search arrows that show up throughout an iTunes library. As this was only slightly inconvenient, I never bothered to complain about it.

But now, there is nothing. Apple, in its typical, Nazi-like fashion, has decided that users are required to upgrade, or we’re shit out of luck.

(As a side effect of this, my old post about nuking iTunes 9 in favor of iTunes 8, a decidedly non-trivial process, is now totally obsolete. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if it worked with iTunes 10 anyway, since I never bothered to upgrade.)

Apple is in dire need of new leadership. And, as of today, I am in need of somewhere else to obtain music online.

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, computers

Is Nikon equipment *EVER* available?

Since the new D7000 camera body was announced last fall, availability has been a problem. The camera has great specs, and reviews have been very positive, so demand has outstripped supply from the begining.

But it’s been several months now, and this delay is starting to get pretty old. The problem seems to be mushrooming to other cameras, too. Just taking a look at all currently for-sale Nikon DSLR bodies (as well as body-lens kits) on a popular camera store website, we have the following:

D3x body – nope!
D3s body – nope!
D700 body – in stock
D700 kit – nope!
D300s body – in stock
D300s kit – nope!
D7000 body – nope!
D7000 kit – nope!
D90 body – in stock
D90 kit – in stock
D5000 body – nope!
D5000 kit – in stock
D3100 kit – nope!
D3000 kit – in stock

So, out of 14 choices, fully eight of them are currently not in stock. That’s more than half. Furthermore, three of the in stock items are the D90 body and kit, and the D3000 kit, all of which have already been replaced by other models, namely the D7000 and D3100. That means, really, there are only 11 “current” choices, and (still) eight of them are out of stock. Meaning, if you want a current Nikon camera body, your choice is either a D700 body, a D300s body, or a D5000 kit. Anything else, and you’re out of luck.

By comparison, I checked availability of Canon models on the same site, and, out of the 18 choices available, only three of them were not currently in stock (I am not aware of which Canon models are “current” or not, so I’ll skip that part). As for Pentax, of the 21 choices listed, two were out of stock, and two were new arrivals not yet available. So this isn’t just an after-Christmas inventory problem, it’s particular to Nikon.

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, Nikon, photography

Time Machine nightmare…but with a happy ending

It all started on Friday night when I was doing a secure erase of the Trash. My first mistake was in not realizing one of the folders I had trashed must have had a LOT more stuff in it than I realized. The secure erase was obviously going to take a while. OOOPS.

However, for some inane reason I decided to let it run, rather than clicking the stop button and trying to sort through the Trash and only secure-erase the few files I really wanted to wipe. That was mistake number two.

At some point during the wipe, Time Machine started up. I had previously noticed that my Time Machine drive was almost full, and, having just moved around a lot of stuff, I also knew that what little space was left was not going to be enough for the next backup. Time Machine was going to need to do a pre-backup “thinning” procedure in order to make room for all the stuff I had moved.

So, Time Machine was cranking away with its thinning process, while at the same time, the Finder was trying to do a secure delete on a whole mess of stuff. Theoretically, it’s supposed to be possible to do these two things at the same time. In practice, something went haywire. After Time Machine had been running for a ridiculously long time, I decided to stop it, turn it off, and allow the wipe operation to complete. I would then turn Time Machine back on so it could do its backup in peace. I suppose this was another mistake, although in retrospect I don’t know if stopping the wipe operation would have prevented the subsequent problems, given that it was already obvious that something was wrong.

My Time Machine drive is an external 1 terabyte Firewire 800 drive, which, as I said, was almost full. After the wipe was complete, I turned Time Machine on again and initiated a backup. It did the backup, and went into the thinning process again. It thinned and thinned and thinned, until it had deleted over 600 gigabytes of files.

Shit.

I could see no legitimate reason for why it would delete that many files. I also figured that, with 2/3 of my backups deleted, I was basically fucked and the only thing to do was reinitialize the Time Machine drive and start over. However, it was already very late that night, so I put that off until Saturday.

Saturday evening, I reinitialized the Time Machine volume (not the whole drive, just the volume, which is a subtle but, as it turns out, crucial distinction–i.e., mistake number four). I allowed Time Machine to start up again, telling it this time to ignore all but my internal drive and one small external with about 80 gigs of material for backing up. It did the external drive first, and everything worked just fine, apparently. Then it started copying files from the internal drive, and something seriously wrong started to happen, again. Progress slowed to a glacial pace. I would estimate it took two or three minutes to back up 100 megabytes of data, and since I had another 250 to 300 gigabytes to go, this was not acceptable. My only possible saving grace at that point might have been if the slowness was a result of it getting bogged down in the thousands of teensy little files in the depths of the System folder. I decided to let it run overnight.

On Sunday, however, after a lengthy night’s sleep (truthfully, I did not want to get out of bed and deal with this shit), only 40 additional gigabytes had been copied. The backup had been running for over 12 hours and wasn’t even half done. I soon decided that more waiting was pointless. I did a bit of Googling and found some tips that looked like they might help.

Here’s what worked: I stopped the backup again, and turned Time Machine off. I went into my Spotlight preferences and discovered that Spotlight had somehow not bothered to exclude the Time Machine drive from its indexing process the way it did the previous times I had set it up. That was undoubtedly a factor. However, it didn’t prove to be the primary factor. I also reinitialized the drive, and this time I told Disk Utility to redo the entire partition map, not just the partition itself. More importantly, I had it format the partition using a “GUID” partition map, which is the default for Leopard, and which Time Machine supposedly prefers. Previously, it had been formatted with an Apple Partition map, presumably left over from my previous Tiger system. I then sacrificed a chicken, prayed to all the gods in Valhalla (Loki in particular), and told Time Machine to make another go at it.

Well, the GUID partition map really seems to have been the magic bullet. Not only did the initial backup work perfectly, the remaining drives backed up without a hitch as well, at the point when I re-included them. What’s even more amazing to me, though, is that Time Machine is now performing at about six times the level of efficiency it was before all this started. It’s substantially faster, and it uses only about 1/6 the RAM it did before. Before this, backups were an irritating drag on the system, so annoying that I would often turn them off to alleviate the frustration. They would also hog close to 350 megabytes of RAM, meaning that every hour some idle application got shunted off into virtual memory. This was a severe annoyance with programs that utilize a lot of RAM. Now it uses a mere 55 megs, it’s backing up the same amount of data, and doing the whole shebang in about 30 seconds, unless there’s a bigger file that needs to be backed up. Note that it’s backing up four drives, totaling about 750 gigabytes of data, with what must be half a million files at least. In less than a minute. That, in my opinion, is how things ought to work. ;)

So, even though this whole experience was rather nightmarish, especially when I began to wonder if my internal hard drive was on the verge of failure, I ended up learning a thing or two about Time Machine optimization. If you’re having Time Machine problems, seriously check the format of that partition map and make sure it’s GUID. If it’s not, and if you find Time Machine backups to be an incessant bother, it will probably be worth your while to nuke that partition and replace it with a GUID partition. Also, double check to make sure Spotlight isn’t indexing your Time Machine drive. Normally, it will not index that drive, however if something gets messed up, it’s possible Spotlight will not “realize” it’s attempting to index a Time Machine drive at the same time that Time Machine itself is trying to do its initial backup.

1 Comment

Filed under annoyances, computers, general geekery

Stupid Mac Tricks

This bug is actually kind of interesting, although it could cause some more significant problems in some cases.

I was using Disk Utility to do a free space wipe of one of my drives. What happens when this occurs is Disk Utility creates a new file that’s exactly the size of the free space on the drive, then overwrites the file however many times is specified in the wipe options. That would be either once, seven times or whatever the highest, most secure option is (I forget at the moment).

So that’s what I was doing when Time Machine started up. Time Machine noticed this “new” file that Disk Utility had created, and decided it needed to be backed up…all sixteen gigabytes of it. Suddenly, the backup was sixteen gigabytes larger than before, meaning my Time Machine drive did not have enough space. Older backups needed to be deleted to make room. I ended up losing two weeks of my oldest backups. This is not a huge deal in this case, but it is entirely possible that someone will encounter this bug at some point and experience far greater problems with it. It all depends on how much of a shortfall is caused by the wipe file. If the wipe file is, say, 75 gigabytes larger than the free space on the Time Machine drive, then you’re going to lose 75 gigs of backups just to make room for a gigantic file full of gibberish or zeros. Thrilling, huh? Even if you’re lucky like I was, with a wipe file “small” enough to not cause serious mayhem on the backup drive, you’ll still have a huge, utterly useless file sitting there, potentially for quite a long time, with no easy way to get rid of it. Why? Because it’s an invisible file, so you won’t be able to see it in Time Machine. [footnote!]

I wonder if this is fixed in Snow Leopard. I am a luddite, still using Leopard, 10.5.8.

The easy workaround, of course, is to turn off Time Machine before doing such a wipe. Obviously it is ridiculous that people should have to remember something like that, but that’s the way it goes in the computer business.

On the plus side, at some point in the future when Time Machine needs more space on my drive, and has reached the point where the September 18th backup is the oldest, I’m going to be getting a fairly large chunk back all at once. I wonder how long it will be? [footnote–not long, I guess! :P]

——

Footnote: I was able to get the wipe file off the backup drive and reclaim that space. It proved to be about 15 gigabytes, not 16 like I thought. How did I get rid of it?

The file itself was located a few levels deep in an invisible folder named “.Temporary Items” on the drive I was cleaning. In order to show this folder, I needed to make invisible items visible. Moreover, I needed to do this in a way that I could see the invisible files in Time Machine. There’s a utility called Onyx which can do this. It has a checkbox to unhide invisible items in the Finder, which also makes them visible in Time Machine (as I discovered, to my delight).

Once those invisible items are visible, I started Time Machine and located the backup where the huge file appeared. It was the first backup after I started the free space wipe. Finder view options needed to be set to “show all folder sizes”, so I could check the sizes of the folders I was looking at. Basically, I kept opening folders until I found the very large file that was causing the problem–I think it was two or three levels deep. It had some generic, technical sounding name (I forgot to note it down before I removed it), but was clearly identifiable it by its size, which was equal to the amount of free space on the drive from before. I selected that file, then went up to the little actions menu button in the title bar of that Finder window (it’s the button with the little gear icon in it). One of the options was to remove all backups of that file. It asked if I was sure and requested my password to confirm. After that, I had the space back on my backup drive, all fifteen gigabytes of it. Sadly, though, there is no way to recover the old backups which had been deleted to make room for it. :(

Disclaimer: Just because I am describing this here doesn’t mean I am recommending this procedure. Anything you try is at your own risk. In particular, do not use the Finder to delete individual files off of a Time Machine drive, because it will not work. I am not responsible for the actions of people who try this who don’t know what they are doing. I’m mostly putting this description up because I am sort of a compulsive explainer, and can’t really help myself. ;)

1 Comment

Filed under annoyances, brainstorming, computers

Update on the Scrollball Problem

On a whim, I tried an idea with the scrollball to see if it would help.

I applied a fair amount of ordinary spit to the scrollball (basically I licked it a couple times), and then did the standard press-down-and-exercise-the-ball method. This actually seemed to shake things up in there a little, so I licked the ball again and did it some more, with a bit more spit this time. Hmm, didn’t help as much, so one more generous lick, then flipped the mouse over, pressed the scrollball down onto a clean sheet of paper and rolled it around a bit.

That seems to have done the trick, for now. Hopefully the fix will last for more than a couple of hours.

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, brainstorming, computers

More Apple Stupidity

Yes, it is now my turn to bitch about the so-called “Mighty Mouse” (which has been renamed the “Apple Mouse”). You would think that Apple, a company which has been selling mouse-enabled computers for over 25 years, would have gotten it right by now. But no, there have now been not one but two major screwups in mouse design by Apple, in less than ten years.

The first was, of course, the original iMac hockey-puck mouse. I had one of those, and there was a fairly easy fix: When I got my Lime Green iMac, I also bought a little plastic attachment to hook around the mouse and convert it into a normal shape. It cost something like ten bucks, which is about ten times what it should have cost, but it was still cheap enough so it was hard to complain too loudly about it. (I also knew one person who actually liked the hockey-puck mouse. He was an 11 year old boy, who liked how the shape fit his small hand very well. How he dealt with the problem of not being able to feel which end was up is a mystery to me, though.)

The more recent error is far worse. I am, of course, talking about the fucking uncleanable scrollball on the Mighty Mouse.

When I first got this thing, I thought it was great. Finally, Apple had come out with a scroll-wheel-enabled mouse, and what’s more, it was actually a scroll ball, so you could scroll sideways if you wanted! Or in any direction at all, for that matter! Cool, right?

It certainly seemed that way at first, but even before I got the thing I was aware of people having problems with it. It seems that some fucking dumbshit forgot to include a way for people to clean the gunk out of the ball mechanism, so after a while, it starts to hang up. Knowing in advance that this was a notorious issue, I made an effort to keep my finger clean when I operated the thing, but sure enough, after six months or so (rough guess), I started having the same problem myself. At that point I did a little reading up on what to do about it. The best solution I found at the time was to press down hard on the ball and roll it around so as to force some of the debris out of the roller mechanisms.

That worked for maybe another six months. Then I noticed that I was having to do it more frequently, and it was becoming less effective than before. I would have to do it multiple times in order for it to work. And eventually it became entirely uneffective. At this point, my scroll ball will scroll down, but not up. This is actually an improvement over yesterday, when it would scroll up but not down–I was able to force some of the gunk onto the opposite roller, apparently. Problem is, up and down are both about equally crucial, I find. Thus, I am back to using scroll bars to navigate, and this is a pain in the ass.

What annoys me the most about this problem is that Apple never even bothered to fix it. Instead, they just started selling the “Magic ‘Mouse'”, which isn’t even a mouse but some kind of bizarre trackpad thingee. Of course, that’s fine for people who want to use a trackpad, but I would rather just have a mouse. I have found over the years that trackpads really suck. It takes five or ten times longer to do stuff than it does with a mouse. Trackpads also take away something I’ve enjoyed over the years, in that I am left handed but operate the mouse with my right hand (thanks to the too-short mouse cable on the Macintosh Plus, which was my first mouse-enabled computer). This gives me a slight advantage over people who use one hand for everything. But with trackpads, I’m back to using my left hand for everything, because my right index finger just isn’t as capable as the left one. So I would rather just stick to mice. That means I’m going to have to find a mouse that works on OS X, and that can scroll sideways. I wonder if there is such an animal?

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, computers

Conundrum

Should you take the red pill or the blue pill?

The problem with this question is, what if the intelligence behind the illusions of the blue pill is just making you think you’re taking the red pill? Is your new reality just another layer of illusion?

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, brainstorming, doom and gloom, politics

The OS-X Annoyance Factor

Sometimes I wonder about Apple. I wonder whether they really bother to think things through anymore, or whether it’s just Steve Jobs shooting from the hip. I know the man is a genius, but he’s only one guy, and nobody can think of everything.

Anyway, why am I here bitching this fine evening at 12:07 in-the-fucking-AM?

Well, imagine the following hypothetical situation:

You have a 2 gigabyte file sitting in the Trash.

You mouse up to the Finder menu, intending to choose “Empty Trash” but instead, you accidentally choose “Secure Empty Trash.”

For those who aren’t familiar with this, “Empty Trash” would take a fraction of a second to delete one file. “Secure Empty Trash”, on the other hand, goes around the disk and physically overwrites the living shit out of every fragment of the file, thus preventing everyone (with the possible exception of the NSA) from ever recovering it. This takes time. Worse, when there’s a lot of data to erase, it takes a lot of fucking time.

This thing you see in movies sometimes, where the cops are banging down the door and the rebel-hero hits “wipe” to instantly and securely erase the entire subversive contents of his hard drive….that is utter horseshit, especially in the past few years when drives have gotten up into the terabyte range. I have no fucking clue how long it would take to securely wipe a one terabyte drive, but if I were going to do something like that, I would plan ahead on not using it for maybe a week. I honestly don’t even know. In fact, I probably would not do it all at once, due to the risk of possible power failure during the operation. Note that I do have a UPS installed on my system. I’m talking about power failure long enough that it runs out the battery on the UPS during the delete. This isn’t the sort of outage that happens very often, but deleting that much data would take long enough that, I suspect, it would become a legitimate concern.

Anyway, that is why I am here bitching my fool head off in the middle of the night. I had about 75 files in the trash, and clicked “Secure Empty Trash” by mistake. A few of the files happened to be up in the 1 gigabyte range, and, lucky me (that’s sarcasm, by the way), by the time I hit the cancel button, the Finder was in the process of wiping one of those files. Yes, you can cancel the secure erase function midway through, but if a file is already partially erased, the operation won’t be canceled until that file is completely done. In fact, I suspect it may erase the files in batches, and won’t stop until an entire batch is done. And, for some reason, canceling always seems to take a lot longer than simply deleting the file would in the first place. Maybe, in the future, I will just let it go ahead and wipe the stupid files.

In any case, it is finally done now. I knew that the time I spent bitching about this problem here on WordPress would be an effective way to kill the time. So now it’s done and I can go back to debugging the OTHER GODDAMN FINDER BUG I WAS STRUGGLING WITH BEFORE THIS HAPPENED.

(Note to Apple: How about a warning dialog if someone chooses “Secure Empty Trash” when there’s more than, say, 500 megabytes of data to be deleted? Or a large number of small files? That would be REALLY NICE.)

The other problem, by the way, is a fucking sparsebundle image icon which won’t display itself properly in the sidebar. And if I drag it there manually, then when I eject it, the image itself won’t be unmounted, it will just be hidden. I won’t be able to tell that it’s still mounted, unless I happen to look in a place where the icon still shows up. This is in Leopard. 10.5.8. All other disk images, including other sparsebundles, work fine, for the most part. I get so frustrated with this sometimes, I am tempted to upgrade to Snow Leopard, even if it means putting up with Apple’s math-defying idea of what a gigabyte is. ;)

4 Comments

Filed under annoyances, computers

It worked! Nuking iTunes 9 in favor of iTunes 8

It worked! :D

First, huge kudos to Apple Support Forums user GanstaPenguin for posting steps to accomplish this rollback.

What I’m going to do here is note some particulars I ran into during the rollback, then post a detailed step-by-step guide of how to do this, integrating GanstaPenguin’s steps with what I ran into during the rollback.

Stuff I encountered:  I had purchased four songs from the iTunes online store after the upgrade.  Based on other comments on Apple Support Forums, I was careful to make backup copies of these tracks before attempting the rollback.  I also made sure that Time Machine had made a backup of my hard drive, and that I had done nothing of significance since that backup.  My rationale was that if something went wrong with the rollback, the easiest “undo” would be to simply restore the whole drive with Time Machine.  After the rollback, I reimported the four new songs, and ended up with duplicate files in their corresponding folders in the “iTunes Music” folder.  Fixing this proved to be trivial, and in the steps below, I’ll design things to avoid this duplication.  In terms of iTunes configuration:  In iTunes preferences, under the Advanced tab, I have “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” and “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library” both checked.  I learned that this is really the best option if you think you’re ever going to be messing around with the guts of iTunes. If you do not have those options checked, then some of what I list below is not going to work as I describe.

Playcounts, ratings and other customizations of items purchased after the upgrade were gone after the rollback.  Playcounts can be fixed with a script that allows changing of playcounts.  The other stuff is done manually.  (If I remember where to find that playcount-changer script, I’ll post a link here.  At the moment I don’t know where I got that, though—sorry.)

So, based on GanstaPenguin’s insight and my own experience with the rollback, here are extra-detailed steps on how to nuke iTunes 9 and get iTunes 8 back:

1) Make sure you have a valid backup.  NEVER mess around with iTunes without a valid backup.  I AM NOT KIDDING. Time Machine is the recommended backup method.  You also need to make a note of the time of this backup, in case you get through all of this and want to undo it for some reason.

2) Go to <http://support.apple.com/downloads/iTunes_8_2_1> and download iTunes 8.2.1. Open the disk image and review the “read me” file until you are satisfied that this version of the program will, in fact, run on a G4, G5 or Intel Mac in spite of what the webpage says. :)

3) Identify which songs or other items you have purchased since you upgraded.  If you care about play counts, ratings, etc., you’ll need to make a note of these somewhere.  I used TextEdit. :)

4) Quit iTunes.

5) You’re going to move your recently purchased items to a different location, but to do that you need to actually find the files.  You can use Spotlight to find them, or else hunt them down in the Finder (I do it that way because I hate Spotlight).  For manual finding, look in the “iTunes Music” folder.  Songs are mostly sorted by artist, then by album name.  One song I bought was from a movie soundtrack—I found it in the “Compilations” folder.  I don’t know how videos are organized—sorry.  I’d recommend Spotlight for those, I guess.

6) Now the files need to be moved.  What I did was to simply copy the .m4a files to another drive.  Copying to another drive will leave the originals in their original locations, which is not what you want!  If this happens, you’ll have to delete the originals yourself, after copying them.  Another way would be to simply drag the files to the desktop or another folder on the same drive as your iTunes library, instead of copying to another drive.  Whichever way you do it, the song files need to be gone from their locations in the iTunes Music folder, so that when you reimport them, you won’t end up with dupes.  (Whether or not dupes would be a problem somewhere down the road is unknown.  I prefer not to take the chance.)

7) Now you can delete iTunes from your Applications folder.  You don’t have to empty the trash, although it won’t hurt if you do.

8) Go to your ~/Music/iTunes folder. Delete or rename the “iTunes Library” file.

9) Open the “Previous iTunes Libraries” folder and look for the backup of your old pre-9 library; it should be dated at about the time you first ran iTunes 9. Move it back out to the ~/Music/iTunes folder, and rename it to “iTunes Library”.

10) Go back to the disk image you’ve downloaded and run the installer application.  Agree to whatever it says and wait for the installation to complete.

11) Start up iTunes.  You can immediately satisfy yourself that the rollback has worked by accessing the iTunes store.  When I did this, there was some delay—I am not sure if this was because it was confused over my rollback, or it was simply internet slowness.  You can also check your “Purchased” list and verify that items you bought since the v9 upgrade have, in fact, disappeared.

12) Use the Finder to locate your saved copies of your recently purchased songs.  The easiest way to get them back into iTunes is to select them all and do command-O (that’s the letter “O”, not a zero!).  This will cause iTunes to reimport them.   I suggest having your music sorted by “date added” when you do this, because the next step is manually dragging these tracks over to the “Purchased” list, so they show up there again.

13) Final step for me was restoring the play counts.

Out of curiosity, I also ran Software Update, and sure enough, it’s now recommending I upgrade to iTunes 9.0.3 again.  I’m thinking I’m going to have to uncheck that option every single time I run Software Update, from now until I get a new computer that comes preloaded with a newer version.  (Does a Snow Leopard upgrade force an upgrade to iTunes 9?  I hope not.)

Final note—What to do if something goes wrong and you want to undo all of this:

Close all applications. Open a Finder window and navigate to the top level of your internal hard drive.  Open Time Machine.  Click the backwards-pointing arrow until you are at the backup dated right before you started the rollback procedure.  Click the “restore” button.  It shouldn’t take all that long to run the restore, since you won’t have made all that many changes.  Disclaimer:  I haven’t done this, since the rollback worked fine for me.  However, this is what I would have done if I had not been satisfied.

So that’s that.

You know, this isn’t the first time I’ve been pissed off by an iTunes upgrade.  The last time was a few years ago—I forget what the issue was at the time.  I suppose it must have been less significant, because I eventually got used to it.  However, after two irritating upgrades, I have learned my lesson.  Never again will I blindly accept an iTunes upgrade without first researching it to see people’s reactions.  The difficulty, though, is how to do that research.  When I googled “iTunes 9 shopping cart” I got some pretty informative results, but if I hadn’t known to include “shopping cart” in my search, would I have found anything about it?  What’s needed are really good, critical reviews of these upgrades.

1 Comment

Filed under annoyances, brainstorming, computers

More Apple iTunes sneakiness

I am really starting to get offended over this.

In my quest to roll things back to iTunes 8, I started out with some poking around in Time Machine.  One of the first things I noticed was that, even after upgrading to iTunes 9, if I look in the Applications folder, the actual application says “Version 8.2.1.”  What the fuck?

I went into Time Machine to check backed up versions, and sure enough, the version number of the application did not change when I upgraded.  Just to be sure I wasn’t completely losing my mind, I started iTunes again, double-clicking directly from the version 8.2.1 icon in the Finder, and checked the version number from within the program.  It was 9.0.3.

What the hell is Apple trying to pull with this shit?

I’ve also been doing some searching and discovered that I am far from the only person who’s wanted to downgrade back to version 8 of this software.  Various methods have been postulated as to how to actually accomplish the downgrade.  I’m not sure which one to try.

One idea I had was to simply restore my entire user folder to its pre-upgrade state.  I would have to “save” a few files from there that have changed in the last few days, and I would undoubtedly forget some, meaning lost data.  I am guessing I’d also have to restore the main Library folder in order for this to work.    Hmmm.

I may be on the right track with this.   However, there might be easier ways, too.  One suggested method I found goes like this:

1) Quit iTunes.

2) Delete iTunes from your Applications folder.

3) Go to your ~/Music/iTunes folder. Delete or rename the “iTunes Library” file.

4) Open the “Previous iTunes Libraries” folder and look for the backup of your old pre-9 library; it should be dated at about the time you first ran iTunes 9. Copy it back out to the ~/Music/iTunes folder, and rename it to “iTunes Library”.

6) Go to <http://support.apple.com/downloads/iTunes_8_2_1> and download iTunes 8.2.1. The page says it’s for G3, but the Read Me file says it’ll run on G4, G5, and Intel too. Open the diskimage and run the installer.

Sounds simple enough, right?

I’m just a bit wary because the last time I tried messing around with the guts of iTunes, I ended up having to restore stuff from backup.  I was trying to split my iTunes library into two separate libraries, so I could keep spoken word stuff apart from actual music.  Something went wrong during that process, and I had to restore it all.  However, I did have a good idea of what went wrong, so when I tried it again, and it worked.  I learned a a valuable lesson, though: iTunes is not designed to be tinkered with.

This lack of tinkerability, frankly, is one of the primary beefs I have with Apple software.  It seems like it’s all designed for noobs who never need or want to do anything that isn’t explicitly supported in the design and documentation of the application.  The reason this is bullshit is simple:  software is a tool, and people always use tools for stuff they weren’t originally designed for.  Always.  Furthermore, properly trained programmers know that this is true, and construct their applications with it in mind.  This is how I was taught to write code, by people who actually knew what they were talking about (I’m referring to the computer science department at a major university).  The problem, of course, is that designing software with that degree of robustness is tougher than designing crap software, and people are lazy.  They are especially lazy (with respect to programming) when they form groups called “corporations,” because being part of a corporation forces them to re-prioritize and put profit above all other considerations.

Refer back to that link I posted above, and read further on in that discussion.  People who have contacted Apple with the question of how to roll back iTunes to version 8 have been informed that it is “not possible.”  Yet there are clearly people out there who have done it successfully, so why is Apple refusing to admit that it’s possible?  Why are they not doing their damn jobs and helping people get their computers to work the way they want them to work?  The answer goes back to design.  This version of iTunes wasn’t intended to be rolled back, because some idiot decided that was the way it was going to be, so damn anyone who wants it different, even if they have a legitimate need (and based on what I have found, there are a lot of people who have a far more legitimate need to roll back the software than I have—people who face the dreaded beachball whenever they plug in their iPods, for instance, or people who find their speakers no longer work right after upgrading, etc.).

Well, enough complaining, I need to get back to the task.  I admit, I am dreading this.  I am seriously worried that something is going to get messed up and I’ll end up wasting what little is left of the weekend getting it fixed.

[edit] Almost forgot!  Credit for the steps listed above goes to an Apple Support Forums user called GanstaPenguin.

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, computers

iTunes 9: it gets worse

Continuing  on from the previous post:

Yesterday I complained that the change from “shopping cart” to “wishlist” was pointless and did nothing but confuse.

It’s actually worse than that.

I logged on to the iTunes store tonight, looking for a song or two to load into my shopping cart, when I noticed that the old “add to cart” button found next to each song has been replaced by a “buy” button.  In the old version, this indicated that 1-click ordering was activated, and could be turned off (thereby reactivating the shopping cart) in iTunes preferences.

iTunes 9 no longer allows a person to do this.  1-click is now your default, whether you like it nor not. The only way to add something to the “wish list” now is to click on a miniscule, unlabeled little triangle on the side of the “buy” button, which brings up a menu of other options.  “Add to wishlist” is the second option.

I suddenly feel very lucky that I have a computer with an actual mouse attached to it.  I would hate to have to maneuver the cursor over that teensy little menu and down to the second item using a trackpad!

But what really irritates the living shit out of me is that this is just a cheesy, lame, underhanded, fucking sneaky way to increase sales.

I’ve sent some comments to iTunes application feedback, essentially telling them to piss up a rope (I did use more polite language, though, because I’m hoping they will actually listen).  I’m going to try to use Time Machine to downgrade back to the old version, but if I can’t figure out how to do that, then I’m going to be getting my music somewhere else.

Here’s the link for iTunes feedback, if you feel like complaining too:  http://www.apple.com/feedback/itunesapp.html.  You can also just choose the “Provide iTunes Feedback” item in the main iTunes menu, right underneath “Preferences” (this is on Apple systems–I’m not sure how it works on Windows, sorry).  If you are at all irritated about this, complain!  Seriously, the world would be a much better place if more people complained about lame, stupid, unnecessary stuff.

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, computers

iTunes 9 = Massive Fail

I finally gave in to Software Update’s incessant pestering that I should upgrade to iTunes 9.

I wish I hadn’t.  The iTunes store has been completely redesigned, and not in a good way.  It looks like an iPad application, which I don’t find inherently objectionable.  What bugs me about is that they have implemented an entirely cosmetic change, one radical enough to have significant effect on the functionality of the site, and then tried to pass it off as an improvement from a usability standpoint, when it’s actually the opposite.  There’s less information available on screen at a time, it’s harder to find stuff, and I can’t even find my fucking cart. Seriously, what the fuck happened to my cart?!??!??

Sometimes I sincerely wonder if Apple Computer is being run by morons.

————–

Part 2:

They changed the name of the shopping cart to “wish list.”

Dumb.  Annoying.  A completely pointless change that does nothing but confuse.

My recommendation?  If you haven’t upgraded to iTunes 9 already, then DON’T.  It sucks.

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, computers

Rant of the Day

On my rounds of the interwebs this morning, I came across this excellent rant by Ken Rockwell:

Everything New Sucks

While there are some specific points that I don’t agree with, I think on the whole he is absolutely right. New stuff really does suck.

An example (not that a single example proves anything, but hey—this is a rant, not a proof): I bought my first CD player in 1987, and I used it for about twelve years, until I replaced it with my first DVD player. That DVD player started having tracking problems after about five years, meaning a replacement was needed. I felt cheated. What I didn’t realize at the time was that in the years since 1987, generally accepted standards of quality in electronic components had fallen substantially. In the mid 2000’s, a DVD player lasting five years was considered exceptional.

My second DVD player purchase was fairly painless, due to the low price (only about 15% of what I paid for the first one), but the fucking thing only lasted about a year before it started having the same problems as the first one, and then one day it just died completely. What’s more, based on reviews I read of that brand, a one year life span was actually better than average. Typical reviews went something like this: “Um yeah, mine lasted about a week past the 90 day warranty, but hey, it’s only a $50 player so it was no big deal. I went out and bought another one just like it.” Translation: He bought a cheap piece of crap DVD player which failed after three months, so he rewarded the company who perpetrated this travesty by going out and buying another one exactly like it. There were a lot of reviews like that. It was very disheartening.

Today, I am on my third DVD player, and, while it is lasting a much more respectable amount of time than that second one, it’s not as good as the first one was in its heyday. And the remote control sucks (more on that below).

Back to Rockwell: He also rants about cars, and I find I’m in complete agreement. I drive an older car, and to be perfectly honest, I would rather not replace it. I’m probably going to have to, though, because it’s so old now that keeping it running and operational is getting to be an issue. Important components are becoming difficult to find when the originals fail, and the rust on the body has gotten to the point where trying to abate it would be pointless. However, I’m not looking forward to replacing it with a newer car because, frankly, all the newer models suck by comparison. What’s more, this old, 1980’s model (which doesn’t even have fuel injection!) gets gas mileage comparable to a lot of modern day hybrids, meaning whatever I upgrade to, I’m also going to have to budget about a 50% increase in my gasoline costs. Ridiculous! What I’d really love is if I could just buy a car identical to the one I have, except brand spanking new. Anyone got a time machine I can borrow?

Rockwell also bitches about how cars and appliances don’t have enough knobs on them and how the few buttons they do have are grossly overused (a sentiment with which I completely agree), but then he raves about how his Apple remote control and iPod only have four or five buttons that do everything. Um, ok. :)

On the other hand, his comments about poorly designed TV remotes are right on the mark. The people who design these things seem to assume that I am actually going to be looking at them during operation, so they fill them up with exactly even rows and columns of exactly identical buttons. This is stupid. When I’m watching something on the TV, there are two facts which need to be considered: 1) I am not interested in taking my eyes away from the screen. 2) More importantly, even if I was, it’s usually too dark to read tiny little letters on the damn remote control anyway! Once past the initial learning curve, a properly designed remote operates entirely by feel. This means different buttons have to be different shapes and sizes. I’ve had remotes like this (on an old Toshiba VCR, for instance), and they were a joy to use.

The other critical feature of a good remote is not having to point it exactly at the sensor! A remote should work perfectly well even if you are pointing it as much as 45 degrees in the wrong direction. I’ve used remotes that were even better than that: They worked fine when pointed at the ceiling or exactly in the wrong direction (i.e. the infrared signal would bounce off the opposite wall or ceiling and still be strong enough to control the device). By contrast, my current DVD remote is one of the most finicky remotes I’ve ever used, requiring me to point it exactly at the front of the DVD player, with no obstructions whatsoever, and even then I often have to press a button twice to get it to work. What’s more, some of the most useful buttons on it are small, tactically identical rectangles, making it hard to operate by touch alone. (This remote, however, is one of only two flaws on an otherwise excellent player. It’s a Panasonic, in case you’re interested.) Why don’t I just buy a universal remote? Well, that’s a whole other subject. ;)

Rockwell’s essay also covers the loudness war, in which the audio quality of compact discs has deteriorated over the years. Rather than actually utilize some of the huge dynamic range possible on compact discs (which was a key selling point of the format back in the 1980’s), the dynamic range is compressed into a narrow band and amped up until the top of the waveform clips. This is so the recording sounds better when played on cheap-shit five dollar headphones, junky computer speakers, narrow bandwidth radio stations, and elevator P/A systems. For these limited purposes, the technique works fairly well. It’s a disaster, however, for getting an actual hi-fi experience out of the disc on even a mediocre quality full-fledged audio system.

So I don’t buy CDs anymore, unless I’m confident I’m getting a version that wasn’t mastered recently. I sold a bunch of discs back in 1993 because I needed some cash. Nowadays, I seriously regret doing that. Many of them, I assume, will have been remastered since I originally bought them, and it’s a safe bet that the newer version will be inferior to the old. What I need is a place to buy old, used compact discs. Or a time machine.

There’s more. Rockwell doesn’t like Snow Leopard, for instance, although his complaint about it only pertains to aesthetics. My own beef with Snow Leopard is that Apple decided to further obfuscate the definition of “gigabyte” by siding with hard drive manufacturers who, for years, have been defrauding the public with devices that don’t have as much capacity as advertised. They weasel out of committing actual, legal fraud with language in the fine print stating that, according to their definition, a gigabyte is one billion (1,000,000,000) bytes. This is a lie, and they only get away with it because there is no legal definition of “gigabyte.” In practice what it means is that you hook up your “one terabyte” hard drive to a Leopard or older system, and it shows that you only have 931 usable gigabytes. Windows users face a similar problem. Snow Leopard has “fixed” this by simply repeating the lie and reporting that the drive is a full terabyte. Meanwhile, RAM continues to be defined correctly, in powers of 2, like it always has, meaning an Apple system now has two different kinds of gigabytes: the kind on the hard drive, which is 1 billion bytes (or a terabyte being 1 trillion bytes), and the RAM kind, which is 1,073,741,824 bytes (that’s 2 to the 30th power). Furthermore, a gigabyte on an Apple Snow Leopard system will be different from a gigabyte on Windows, which should be fun for those of us who actually need to interact with the Windows world in a more-than-trivial way.

What annoys me more than anything about this problem, though, is that the average computer geek seems to believe Apple’s gigabyte trick is actually a good idea, because the “definition of giga is one billion, according to the SI standard.” This is the same type of pedantic, know-it-all mentality which came up with the “proof” that the 21st century started in the year 2001 because “the definition of a century is 100 years, and there was no year zero.” These people fail to understand that having two different, incompatible measuring systems is a much greater problem than having a few noobs complaining about their terabyte hard drives being smaller than expected, and a vastly greater problem than the utter triviality of the SI unit prefixes being used “incorrectly.”

The real solution would have been congressional regulation, that is, legally defining the different units as 1024 of the smaller unit, i.e. 1 terabyte = 1024 gigabytes, 1 gigabyte = 1024 megabytes, 1 megabyte = 1024 kilobytes, and 1 kilobyte = 1024 bytes. However, not only is that politically impossible in a nation where the main legislative body has stubbornly avoided their constitutional duty to “fix the standard of weights and measures” pertaining to computer systems, but it is already too late. For such regulation to have been truly effective, it would have needed to happen back in the 1980’s, or early 1990’s at the latest. Now that Apple has further muddied the waters, and geek-laden organizations like the IEC, IEEE and ISO have thrown their weight behind using two completely separate systems, meaningful regulations are never going to happen.

One thing that would really help would be if Microsoft would make the same change in their next version of Windows. That, at least, would solve the difficulty of using two different measuring systems depending on which OS platform you use, and it would keep the “kilo means 1000 not 1024” pedants happy. It would not resolve the inconsistency between hard drives and RAM, nor the fundamental inconvenience of having two very similar but not-quite-the-same systems in use simultaneously, but it would at least be an improvement over the current mess.

Anyway, this rant has been off the rails for some time now, so I’d better stop. :)

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, computers, links, politics

Memory Madness

Last summer I had a serious meltdown with my iMac G5, which forced me to make an emergency purchase of a new Mac. I ended up getting a nice 24-inch iMac from the clearance section of Apple’s website. It was about $100 less than the low-end 24-inch iMac of their current models, and I believe the CPU was a bit more powerful than the newer model.

There were a couple of areas where the older model fell short, though. One was the internal drive, which is only half the capacity of the newer model: 320 gigs instead of 640. As it turns out, 320 fits into my backup scheme (for now) much better than 640 would have, but on the other hand, that amount of space is already feeling cramped. That, however, is a whole other discussion, given the complexity of my drive/space issues.

What I am really complaining about is the RAM situation.

First, let me say that one of the appeals of the older model was that the RAM cards cost a lot less. The newer iMacs apparently use a different type of RAM, which costs 6 or 8 times as much per gigabyte as the old kind. That means if I had gone with the newer computer, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford a memory upgrade at all. However, since the newer model came already equipped with 4 gigs of RAM, I probably wouldn’t need to. The older model came with 2, upgradable to 4, and my old iMac was maxed out at 2.

2 gigs was working ok on the old computer, but since the upgrade, there have been problems. What’s more, I could not have anticipated that this would happen. (If I had, I would have bought the newer iMac.)

On the old iMac, I had three programs which were utilizing quite a lot of RAM, but the situation was tolerable. I was able to manage my usage so I didn’t do a lot of frequent switching back and forth between them, and none of my other software was particularly demanding in terms of RAM.

However, this has all changed on the new iMac. I was still running Tiger on the old one, but the new one came equipped with Leopard, and Leopard comes equipped with Time Machine. It turns out that Time Machine can be quite a memory hog itself, and since it runs automatically, once every hour, it’s not an issue that goes away. In fact, it’s a constant annoyance.

What happens is Time Machine relies on a process called “mds”, which is involved in Spotlight indexing. Basically, it’s how Time Machine knows which files to back up and which to skip over. On most systems, mds won’t take up huge amounts of RAM, but the more files you have, the more demanding it becomes. I have a lot of files, so mds is sucking up over 350 megabytes of RAM each time a backup is performed.

This is bad because it has to borrow those megabytes from other programs, which then have to grab them back after the backup is done, and this happens every hour. This back-and-forth swapping of data can seriously slow things down, if a lot of it needs to happen all at once. When I have my big memory-hog programs open, and Time Machine has recently performed a backup, I invariably have to sit twiddling my thumbs waiting for the memory swap, even on something simple like pulling up a Finder window. And then an hour later, I can look forward to it all happening again. Anyone who’s used a computer a lot knows that an hour can fly by pretty quickly, too.

Clearly I need a RAM upgrade.

So last night I ordered one. And this is the part that’s got me pissed off: My current 2 gigabytes of RAM is installed in the form of a pair of 1-gig cards, one in each of the two RAM slots in the computer. That means no empty RAM slots, so if I want to upgrade to 4 gigs, I have to buy the full 4 gigs, rather than just 2, meaning the upgrade costs twice as much as it ought to.

The final bill for this RAM upgrade, not including sales tax, comes to just over $100. In other words, the money I saved by getting the older computer has been entirely eaten up by having to upgrade the RAM to equal what the newer computer would have had, and of course the hard drive is still only half the size. So I ended up with a lower capacity computer for the same amount of money! Obviously, I should have skipped the fucking clearance model and just got the newer computer!

Leave a comment

Filed under annoyances, computers