Tag Archives: Apple

Some new equipment…

As mentioned in previous posts I’ve been having recurring issues with Apple’s Time Machine backup software over the years.  The latest issue proved to be the final straw.  The internal drive in my iMac crashed, the local Apple dealer replaced it with a new drive and also did me the “favor” of installing Snow Leopard on it.  I then restored my previously saved files using Time Machine, when prompted to by Setup Assistant.

Time Machine never worked right after that.  It would typically try to back up tens of thousands of files every single time, often taking more than a half hour, which resulted in Time Machine being active more than 50% of the time, and that just doesn’t work.  There are too many things that can go wrong when Time Machine is running—having it run more than half of the time is just asking for trouble.  I tried and tried to get this fixed, going through every damned solution on pondini.org, including reinstalling Snow Leopard myself, and NOTHING worked.

So now I’m going to give up.  Arrived via FedEx today is a brand new Synology DS1513+, with four 4-terabyte hard drives loaded into it.  The setup routine recommends having a complete backup prior to proceeding, so I am doing one last Time Machine backup prior to formatting those four drives into a RAID array which will then be used to back up this system.  12 terabytes of space ought to be enough to last me for a while, but if I run short I can always add another drive to the array and bring it up to 16.  WΩΩt!

Getting the thing put together and hooked up was pretty easy.  My only complaint is that the little fastening bars on the side of each disk slider doohickey are made of plastic, which suggests a high likelihood of breakage over the long-term.  It also seems that the locking procedure for the individual slider doohickeys are not quite idiot-proof, although once you figure out what can go wrong it’s easy enough to avoid (i.e., it’s the sort of mistake that can only be made once).

Anyway.  Time Machine is about halfway through what’s recently been roughly a 20-minute process.  I’ve been keeping it turned off most of the time and just running one backup manually each evening.  Moving forward I’ll be using Carbon Copy Cloner to handle the backups onto the array.  Who knows if I’ll run into any issues.  Hopefully this will work out ok.

One question that pops into my mind…am I going to get to name the volume?  If so, I’m leaning towards “Utopia”.  Then again, that sort of optimism may be tempting fate.  Maybe I’d be better off with a nice, pessimistic name like “Purgatory.” ;)

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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?]

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A slight update

I decided to add one item to my Steve Jobs memorial post, the item regarding Steve’s “Thoughts on Flash” article [link: http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash/%5D. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me to include that originally.

Hopefully I won’t be sued for my comments in relation to that item. I do really like Adobe software, other than Flash, which is probably my #3 most hated software of all time, after Time Machine and Windows 95 (Java gets 4th place, LOL). I use licensed copies of Photoshop and Dreamweaver on a regular basis. :) :) :) I also personally own a copy of Photoshop Lightroom on my own iMac.

[Note to my fellow geeks: I use Dreamweaver because 1) my employer owns a licensed copy, and 2) it offers some useful shortcuts over editing HTML in Notepad, and 3) the project I work on is, honestly, not complicated enough to justify my spending the time to find something better. LOL.]

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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.)

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Steve Jobs – RIP

I’m just one of many whose life was utterly changed by this guy. It was 1987 when it happened for me. That was the first time I sat down in front of a Macintosh computer. Before then, I was just “a brain”, which is what they called smart kids in school in the 80’s. That first experience with a little old Mac Plus changed me from “a brain” to a “computer geek,” and that’s basically what I’ve been ever since. I had used computers before, but none of them made the impression on me that a simple little Macintosh Plus did. More recently, I’m sure I’ve spent more time bitching about Apple computers than most people spend bitching about anything at all, but even so, I wouldn’t use anything else. Steve Jobs taught us all what we have a right to expect from technology: It should just work, and it should be beautiful. It should enrich our lives.

So, thanks Steve. I’m quite saddened by your passing. The world needs more people like you.

– – –

Some links to things of relevance:

Apple’s Steve Jobs Remembrance Page

Steve’s 2005 talk at Stanford University commencement – 15 minutes long, but well worth the time. It’s not often in this day and age that we get to hear a wise man speak the unvarnished truth.

Discussion and remembrance at The Online Photographer (including a most excellent portrait).

Steve’s notorious and seminal “Thoughts on Flash” article. – Highly recommended, especially if you’ve ever had to waste days of your life fixing a computer infected by a rootkit that was most likely the result of some Flash vulnerability. (Oh boy, can I get sued for saying that? I hope not. I hasten to add that Adobe has expended quite a lot of effort in patching any unintended vulnerabilities in this software, and I certainly do not mean to imply any negligence or incompetence on their part.) More significantly, though, I believe that this article effectively demonstrates Steve’s status in the tech world. I don’t think any other CEO, with the possible exception of Bill Gates, could get away with posting something like that on his company’s website. (And Bill just would not do that, so that qualification is moot anyway.)

And, of course, his Wikipedia page.

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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. ;)

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Steve speaks!

Wow – get a load of this:

Steve Jobs comments on Flash and its lack of support on Apple mobile devices. Very interesting stuff!

I find myself in complete agreement, which is unusual. I typically tend to be pretty critical of Steve Jobs (although I admit a lot of that may just be sour grapes), but in this case I think he’s right on the money.

One thing of particular interest appears late in the memo: “Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice.” The implication being that Steve Jobs and Apple view the PC era as being done. They may have actually said this at some point too, perhaps at the point when they removed the word “computer” from the company name.

(And off we go onto a little tangent here, if you’ll bear with me…)

The thing is, while I do tend to get very annoyed with computers, I also like them. To this day, I don’t own a laptop or iPod, or anything like that. I would rather have a good desktop system. The only portable computing devices I own are my camera (a Nikon D40, which is technically a type of computer, albeit a very specialized one), and perhaps my wristwatch. ;)

However, I’ve been toying with the idea of a laptop for some time now. My main objections to laptops have always been hatred of the blasted touchpad, and not liking the keyboards. Well, the new Mac I bought last summer came with a keyboard that’s pretty close to a laptop keyboard, and it turns out that I like it just fine. As for the touchpad, though, that’s another problem entirely. I admit I am getting sick of mice. They are just too hard on the hand and wrist during heavy use. A touchpad would likely alleviate that problem, although I do not know if it would come with its own set of RSI issues. In any case, I may end up having to switch to a touchpad for health reasons, even though doing so will likely slow me down by a factor of 10. Another fact to consider is the likelihood that Apple will eventually change their system enough so that key functions require multiple “touch” points in order to work. Such a system would no longer be fully mouse-compatible. Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see something like that happen in OS 10.7, whenever that comes out.

Aside from the decreasing importance of my old objections, there would be advantages to having a laptop. The main one would be that I could keep on computing, even when I’m sitting on the toilet! :P Seriously, when I get really into something, I am so annoyed at having to take bathroom breaks. :D I have also been considering going back to school in the next few years, and I imagine a laptop would be needed for that. You can’t lug a desktop system into a lecture hall, can you? Just doing some more brainstorming along this line, what might prove to be even more helpful in that situation would be an iPad with an auxiliary detachable keyboard. Assuming such a device is available. That way I could put the keyboard on my lap and the iPad on the desktop, which strikes me as an ergonomically superior solution. Hmmm.

Well, this post has clearly gotten way off the garden path, so I’ll end it here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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RAW workflow software

[This comes from a response I was typing up on a Flickr discussion forum, in an “Aperture vs. Lightroom” discussion–as I wrote, I realized I had a lot more that I wanted to talk about than just the comparison between those two programs, so I decided it would fit better here than there.]

I need to try The Gimp sometime. I auditioned a trial version of Photoshop CS3 a while back, and found it to be WAY more program than I’m ever likely to need. Plus there’s the expense of it–not only the high initial sticker price, but even the cost of the individual upgrades is more than what I typically pay for brand new software applications. Clearly, I’m not the target market for Photoshop CS. ;)

As for the difference between Lightroom and Aperture, I’d call it a tossup. With both of them, their strength is more in the realm of organization than anything else. Neither one of them offers a fully functional curves tool, for example. Last I checked, Lightroom’s curves tool was limited, and Aperture didn’t have one at all. I consider a fully functional curves tool an essential basic adjustment tool for RAW images, meaning it’s not something a person should have to pay $600 for—and really, the only reason Apple and Adobe leave it out of their programs is to avoid cutting into the marketability of the all-holy Photoshop, hallowed be its name.

This leads into my primary objection to these two programs–why should I pay $300 for an intentionally crippled piece of software? I’m just not going to do it. If they want to combine organizational tools and image editing tools into an all-in-one package, I think that’s great, but they should do it right and not put some artificial limit on the software. This is actually Apple’s problem more than Adobe’s–Adobe can rightly claim that Lightroom fits right into their product line, so if you need more capability, just pick up a copy of Photoshop, or even Photoshop Elements. What’s Apple’s excuse? Well, for them, it all boils down to not wanting to piss off Adobe. That’s it, the sole reason that Aperture doesn’t have a full feature set. Why should I pay $300 for that? (I also suspect that someone at Apple must have said, “Well, a curves tool is just too hard.” No, it’s not. The challenge with the tool is understanding the concept, and then practicing a little. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not only quite easy, but preferable to other methods, which is why I rant about it so much. But I forget—Apple users can’t be expected to learn anything complicated, can they? Like, for instance, how to use a tool that’s based on simple concepts that every school kid learns in the fucking seventh grade.)

For the time being I’ve settled on Silkypix Developer Studio, which I like. The Mac version is a little Windows-y, but it works. It can be slow, but there is an option to turn off the heavy number crunching to speed things up when you need to. I don’t find it useful as an organizer, so for now I’m stuck with my own kludged together workflow involving manual exporting from iPhoto and other tedious expediencies.

Other interesing programs I’m likely to get, eventually, are Capture One (by PhaseOne)–this was a pretty simple application which rendered really superb, beautiful colors, but it also had some issues when pointed at folders full of NEF files, so I decided to avoid it for now. There was also a lot to like about Nikon’s CaptureNX, which I’ll probably get, eventually. It’s a weird, quirky program, but extremely powerful, and actually pretty cool.

One big issue is color management. I found the two brands which seemed to handle this the best were, not surprisingly, Apple and Adobe. The others have some catching up to do.

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