Sunday, December 9, 2007

That's it, I'm pissed!

I bought a laptop from Dell last summer. Actually, I bought 3 laptops from Dell last summer.

The first one was delivered to the wrong address, and the bitch there stole it. DHL is obviously hiring fucking idiots - yeah, 200 East My Street looks just fucking like 526 East My Street. Stevie Tart, the bitch who stole it, told me to my face, "Oh, yeah, someone already came by, said they were you and took it," when I went to pick it up from her. I told DHL they owed me a laptop and was told to take it up with Dell. I went to the cop shack to report a stolen laptop and was told, "Oh, the guy you need to talk to is out of town right now, but he'll give you a call when he gets back." Well, that's been six & a half months now and no fucking call. Guess it's not important enough for them to give a fuck.

The second one, I called Dell, told them the first one had been mis-delivered and to go ahead and make me a new one. Now, I didn't figure this would take long, since it'd taken them six days from the time I ordered the first one to the time the bitch up the street stole it. After three fucking weeks I found out they'd fucking canceled it without bothering to tell me.

The third one, finally, after another three weeks, showed up. Cue happy dance.

Now, the thing that's really got me pissed. I make my payments online, and when I was online making the latest payment, I saw that they'd bumped my credit limit by $500.00. "Cool," thought I, "now I can order some stuff I can really use." So I drew up a short shopping list & sent it off, only to be told, "You can't do that, you don't have that much in your credit limit."

What the fuck? Upon checking my credit limit, I find that they did, indeed, bump my credit limit by $500 - from $1500 to $2000. I also see that I currently owe $1412.79. So I should have $587.21, right? Wrong! I have $116.49 available to me. There's $470.72 off in fucking limbo or something.

And now for the capper: I emailed Dell, asking what was up and where this missing $470.72 was. Today, just for giggles, I checked my account again, and they've found a home for that missing $470.72: they tacked it onto my current balance! That's right, in 24 hours, without making a single successful purchase (as confirmed by my account page on Dell), my current balance has gone from $1412.79 to $1883.51.

That's why I'm pissed. These fuckers are trying to jerk me around for almost $500, and I'm not going to fucking take it. If they don't get this straightened out, I'm going to do my level best to return the laptop and get back the $1883.51 they claim I owe. While I'm at it, I'll see if I can get back some or all of the $300 or so in payments I've made to date. If they can't get their shit straightened out, this'll be the last piece of shit I buy from these cocksuckers.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Must-Have Mac Software, part 1

Yeah, only the one-hundred-and-fifty-billionth such thing, but why not?

Top of the list: Path Finder, Launch Bar, Keyboard Maestro and ControllerMate.

Path Finder
A Finder replacement. It does everything Apple's Finder does, better, and it does more. Two big plusses Path Finder had over Finder are the Drop Shelf and tabs.

The Drop Shelf is a parking spot for things you're moving. Let's say you want to move expenses.200707.doc from ~/Documents/budget/current to ~/Documents/budget/archive. You navigate to the first folder, click & drag the document from the window to the Drop Shelf, then navigate to your target folder and drag it from the Drop Shelf to its new home.

Tabs are just that: tabs. You can have multiple tabs in a single window, and a single click on any tab will pull that folder to the front. If you want to move an item from one folder to another, and you've got both folders tabbed in the same window, you can click on the tab for your first window, then click & drag the item you want to move onto the tab for the target folder.

And speaking of navigating between folders: the path navigator shows you the absolute path to whatever folder you're in, and a single click on any portion of that path takes you to that level of your hard drive. If you're in /Users/yourname/Documents/books/My Big Novel/drafts/chapter one, and you click on books, you're now in /Users/yourname/Documents/books. The remainder of the path stays visible until you navigate outside that path, so if you want to go back to drafts, another mouse click and you're there.

Path Finder has bunches (and bunches [and bunches {etc...}]) of other features, but rather than try and cover them myself, I'll just mention that it's a free 21 day trial.

Rather than have to drill down through multiple layers of folders to find that application, document, movie or song you want to open, fire up LaunchBar. It stays in the background until you need it, but with a simple hot-key it comes to the front, you start typing the name of what you're looking for, and it pulls up all possible matches.

Want to open TextEdit? Hit the hot-key (cmd+space on my system) and type "te". I get TextEdit, Terminal and TextWrangler in that order, followed by a couple dozen other applications, folder and files of various formats that have the letters "t" and "e" somewhere in their name. Arrow up or down to the one you want, hit enter and it's up and LaunchBar is back in the background, waiting to be called up again.

LaunchBar also has a built-in app switcher: hit cmd+space, then space again, and it shows all running applications. Hit space again as needed to scroll down the list of running apps, and shift+space to scroll up.

Keyboard Maestro
KB is a macro program. I use it to set global things like "F1 = open" as well as local, like "in GraphicConvertor, F5 = Set Size to 100%." I also use its built-in app and window switchers.

In the past, I've used KB as an application launcher: cmd+F1 = Safari, cmd+F2 = Mail, etc, but I like to have a lot of programs tied to hot-keys, and it's a pain in the ass to remember which hot-key, out of twenty or so, launches what program. This leads me to my fourth must-have program, ControllerMate.

ControllerMate is intended to allow us Apple users to program functions on various USB peripherals that don't have Mac drivers/programs. For gamers, mostly. I like it because it lets me use one program to set the non-standard buttons on my Microsoft keyboard and the extra buttons on my Logitech mouse. I can set Web/Home to Launch Safari, and button #5 on the mouse to cmd+click. It works better than Microsoft's Intellitype software, and it's more flexible, too. For instance, I'm using a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. It comes with the Intellitype software, that lets me set the special keys (web/home/favorites/etc) but the choices are limited. The five favorites keys can be set to launch any particular program I want, but the "My Favorite" key just below them will only pull up a window to set the other five keys. Even worse, the Intellitype software does not recognize my Microsoft Office Keyboard at all.

ControllerMate to the rescue. It recognizes the different keyboards, and lets me program any key on them to any function I want. Want web/home to open Safari? Drop in a button block, tie a Finder Item block to it, then set the Finder Item block to Safari. Now, as long as ControllerMate is running, pressing the web/home key calls Safari, if it's not running, and switches to Safari if it is running.

Terminating Apple's Dock with extreme prejudice

I've been using Mac OS X since late 2002 - five years now, I guess. In all that time, I've been trying, on and off, to do without the Dock. I've tried various little apps I've downloaded here and there, and none of them were white what I was looking for. (There's that whole "it doesn't work" thing that irked me about most of them.)

The closest I'd ever found that actually worked was setting the dock size to minimum and using TinkerTool to move it to the top of the screen, just below the menu bar. That worked, middling well, but the damn thing would still pop up if you were too slow in moving the mouse over it.

Now, however, I've figured out a working way to do it. All it takes is a bit of Terminal work, and the Dock is dead. Here's how it works.

in Terminal, enter these commands:
cd /System/Library/CoreServices
sudo mv
sudo killall Dock

The first line is not necessary, but I use it to get into the CoreServices directory. That way, I can use relative paths when moving/renaming the dock, and save a few keystrokes.
The second line renames the Dock, and the third line kills it. Ding-dong, the dock is dead, the wicked dock is dead!

To reactivate the Dock, use these commands:
cd /System/Library/CoreServices
sudo mv
sudo osascript -e 'tell app "dock" to activate'

Now for the drawbacks.

1: the built-in command-tab app switcher is part of the dock. No dock, no app switcher. No problem, I've got LaunchBar, Keyboard Maestro and DragThing installed, each of which has its own version of an app switcher.

2: window minimizing is also tied into the dock. With the dock gone, I can't minimize windows. Bummer, that, but then again, since I only minimized a window once or twice a month, big whoop.

3: Expose is missing in action. Big deal, I've never used it.

4: Apparently, the Finder Desktop is also connected to the Dock. Path Finder's desktop as well, it seems. Again, big deal. I don't use the Desktop.

I've come up with/found workarounds for items 1 and 4. At the moment, I'm using Keyboard Maestro's app and window switchers.

As long as the Dock runs, the Desktop is accessable, even if you turn around and kill the Dock shortly afterward. I found this short how-to on starting/killing the Dock and making the Desktop workable.

Step 1: write a small applescript:
tell application "Dock"
end tell

Save it as an application.

Step 2: move or copy the Dock to /Applications (or wherever else your fancy leads you).

Step 3: put both the Dock and your dock-killing applescript application into your startup items, making sure that the Dock loads well before the dock-killer.

I have no workarounds at present for the lack of window minimalization or expose's failure to work without the Dock, and I probably won't work on them too hard, since I don't use either one.

Need I add that like all system hacks, you should make backups before starting? If you try this at home, I am not responsible for any loss of data, productivity, or if your Mac OS install turns into Windows Vista.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Yay, me (or, how to mount /Users on a second HD)

Got a new (as in, not so old) Mac yesterday. Voided the warranty in less than an hour, when I cracked the case to add a gig of RAM and a 250 GB hard drive. Part of the master plan is to mount the 250 as /Users. Figured it shouldn't be that hard, since it takes all of about two minutes in K/X/Ubuntu - just a quick edit of /etc/fstab. (What's that you say, about mice and men?)

I found the following instructions:
edit /etc/fstab.hd:
comment out all existing text (the instructions actually said to delete it all, but I'm a digital packrat.)
enter this line:
LABEL=Users /Users hfs rw 1 2
save & exit
transfer /Users to new drive:
sudo ditto -v -rsrcFork /Users Volumes/Users
reboot into single user mode & issue these commands:
cd /
mv Users Users-old
mkdir Users
chmod 755 Users

reboot & update Netinfo to recognize fstab:
sudo niload -m fstab / < /etc/fstab

All the commands took, the files were all copied over onto the new drive, but when I rebooted again, I was in a new, untouched home folder. After poking around some more, I came up with these instructions.

OtherPartition = "Users" and username should be obvious.

sudo ditto -rsrcFork /Users /Volumes/OtherPartition/Users
I'd already done almost this exact command, with the addition of the -v flag, so I ignored it.
sudo niutil -createprop / /users/username home /Volumes/OtherPartition/Users/username
note that sudo niutil through username is all one line
sudo rm -dr /Users
I've already backed up /Users as /Users-old, so I figured I could delete that whenever I felt like it. Thus I ignored this command, as well.
sudo ln -s /Volumes/OtherPartition/Users /Users

And this worked better, because home was now on the new drive, but it was still a new, untouched home folder, and my home folder is extremely touched. So, back to poking around some more. I'm sure some of you already know what I did wrong. The niutil and ln commands were written for separate partitions on the same drive, not on an entirely different drive. I logged back in as root, deleted /Users/Users and issued these commands:
sudo niutil -createprop / /users/username home /Volumes/Users/username
sudo ln -s /Volumes/Users /Users

Again, sudo niutil through username is all one line.

And now it works. Yippee. I'm not exactly sure precisely which steps are necessary, i.e. I'm not sure I need to dink with the fstab.hd and the symbolic link between /Users and /Volumes/Users, but I plan to find out later this weekend, when I add two more drives and set it up for dual boot between OS X and K/X/Ubuntu.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

wireless keyboards and mice

I've been trying (and going through) wireless keyboards & mice this past few weeks. I bought a Kensington "wireless desktop" at a Wichita CompUSA about two weeks ago. I needed something because the keyboard on my faithul Pismo is not doing well: some keys repeat themselves with one keystroke, while others have to be hammered at to get one character to register. And, of course, I hadn't brought a keyboard with me from home. What I really wanted to get was one of those roll-up rubber keyboards, something that I could take with me in my bag, but the only one they had was just the basic keys - no home/end/page up/page down keys, no arrow keys and no number pad. I need those keys, so that wasn't going to work.

So, I bought the Kensington. Not bad, at fifty bucks. Took it back to the hotel room, plugged it in and it workd fine. For an hour or so, then the mouse died. Tried it on the in-laws' eMac, no joy. Brought it home & tried it on the wife's B&W, no joy, ditto for my 'buntubox. Better yet, the keyboard was starting to go, too. Unless I typed slowly, deliberately and made sure to push straight down on each key, I was lucky to get every other character to register. I decided after about a day of that that it just wasn't accepable, so I went to the Omaha CompUSA, intent on swapping for a different keyboard & mouse. I'd read enough on-line to realize that the Kensington rig is flawed.

After spending an hour or so looking at their selection of keyboards & mice, I settled on the Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth. The box says it's only good on XP (and, I assume, Vista), but a quick gander at orderedbytes showed me that I could use it on a Mac, via ControllerMate. When I got it home and fired it up, it worked quite well, except that it'd drop connection with the keyboard or mouse every five minutes or so. I got tired of having to enter a 10-digit number every time I wanted to make the keyboard work again, but I found out that there's a "Favorite" option in the Bluetooth pref pane, whereby devices automatically re-connect. Sounded good and worked great, for a while.

Tonight, both the keyboard and mouse dropped connection, and wouldn't reconnect. Well, the keyboard reconnected, sort of. None of the keys did what they were supposed to do. Instead of scrolling down a page in Safari, the space bar would switch to System Preferences. If I hit command-tab to switch apps, the app switcher would endlessly scroll through the choices until I yanked the bluetooth dongle. Changed the batteries, no improvement.

I don't care for Microsoft's software, but over the years I've come to like most of their keyboards & mice. I've had four different Microsoft keyboards, and I finally had to toss one, after using it for almost seven years, then letting it set on a shelf in my barn/shop for another two years. I've also had two of their mice, and I like them, too. Just don't use the software Microsoft cobbled together for them.

Bottom line: Both the Kensington Wireless Desktop for Mac and the Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth are pieces of crap. It can't be an inherent problem with wireless connections - I've got a Logitech Cordless Optical Trackman that I've been using for the last four or five years on several different boxes with very little problem.

I'll be taking this latest piece of crap back to CompUSA & getting my money back. When I was looking around last week, I saw they had a 104-key rubber, roll-up keyboard for about thirty bucks. Maybe I'll get one of those.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I'm not picky, but...

Warning: language in this post may be (probably is) offensive to some. Do not read if you're easily offended.

This has been bugging me for a while.

How many times have you heard someone say (or seen in print) something like this:

"I'm not a racist, but..."

"I'm not sexist, but..."

"I don't hate gays, but..."

followed by something racist, sexist, anti-gay, or directly opposite whatever it was they opened with?

My classic example, on the Straight Dope message board a few years ago: a guy mentioned that he (a white guy) was dating a black girl, and they were getting pretty serious about it. His uncle felt the need to draw him to the side and say, "I'm not a racist, but you know people are going to have problems seeing the two of you together."

I posted that anyone who says, "I'm not a racist, but..." is a racist. I got a lot of flack over that, accusations of "using a wide brush" and the like. After a few weeks, I changed my stance on the matter, but after much thought on it, I feel now that I was wrong to make that change. I have never heard anyone ever start a statement with "I'm not a <insert bigot sub-type here>, but..." and not promptly follow it with something blatantly bigotted.

Let's finish those statements above.

"I'm not a racist, but those damn niggers don't know their place."

"I'm not sexist, but women have no business being out of the house."

"I don't hate gays, but we'd be better off if every one of the bastards were dead."

Maybe it's just me, but those three statements sound awfully racist, sexist and anti-gay. If you're going to be a bigot, you should at least have the balls to admit you're a bigot. But very few bigots have the balls to be honest. So, I guess cowardice is the companion to bigotry.

And have you ever read anything by racist/sexist/whateverist bigots? You can't tell who they're really more in awe of. For instance, white supremist racists. They'll go on and on about how the whites are God's Own True Chosen Master RaceTM, but then they'll go on about how the Jooz, the Blackz or the Mud People are running the world. Hey, Binky! If you're the master race, why aren't you running the show? If they're running everything, sounds like they're the master race.

Fastest way to piss off a white-supremist racist? Accuse them of being a black-supremist or a jewish-supremist. After all, if they're claiming the blacks/jews/whatevers are in charge, they must think the blacks/jews/whatevers are the master race.

Oh, and in regard to the title, I guess I am picky.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The switch from K/X/Ubuntu to openSUSE

I've been using K/X/Ubuntu (mostly Kubuntu) for about the last three months or so, switching over from a Mac (22 years, there). Why I made that switch is for another post, though.

I've been using openSUSE for somewhat less than 24 hours. Obviously, I've got a lot more 'buntu experience. Why this switch?

I've had two running problems in 'buntu: printing, and using a LightScribe burner.

I had a Samsung ML-1210 monochrome laser for the last few years, replaced at Xmas with a Konica Minolta magicolor 2530DL color laser. I could get the ML-1210 to print easily enough when directly connected to my 'buntubox, but couldn't share it with other computers (a B&W Mac, a Mac Pismo PowerBook and an IBM ThinkPad 570 running 'buntu 6.4 and 'buntu 6.10). When connected to one of the other computers, I could not get the 'buntubox to see it or use it, no matter how I set up printer sharing on the host computer.

Like I said, I got a color laser for Xmas, which was even worse. At least I could easily set up the ML-1210 to print when directly connected, but not the 2530DL - no drivers for 'buntu. The 2430DL is a network printer, and it took all of five minutes to get the two Macs to see and print to it. No joy with 'buntubox.

The 2350DL has rpm-based drivers for linux, and specifically notes that it'll run with Fedora and openSUSE. There is software to translate rpm to deb ('buntu is a Debian spinoff), and instructions on how to translate and install such software. I couldn't find specific instructions for my version (Kubuntu 6.10 - Edgy Eft) and this printer, but I found something close enough that should have worked. No joy.

The other problem I had was with my LiteOn SHM-165H6S DVD burner. It burns just fine, but I couldn't get the label-burning side to work. Not a failing on my part - it doesn't work with 'buntu 6.10. There is a workaround posted that entails setting up a 6.4 install, under which the LightScribe software does work, but I didn't feel like going to that much effort.

Since both the printer & LightScribe drivers claimed to run on SUSE, and I happen to have a SUSE install disk on hand, I decided to install SUSE & see how it works.

As far as my two problems, it works alright. It took about ten minutes and I had the printer working on direct USB connect (and the Macs still work fine with network printing). It took a little longer, but I also got the LightScribe software to work.

I'm going to have to work on that some more, because the workaround I've got now doesn't work worth a damn. Oh, it works. Work up a label on the Pismo in Discus, then print to pdf, open the pdf in GraphicConverter & save it as a jpg, copy the jpg to my flash drive, plug the flash drive into the 'buntubox, open 4L-gui (the LightScribe software) & burn the label.

It works, but it works worth crap. Somewhere in the label to pdf to jpg to 4L-gui to disk process, the text quality goes to hell.

I tried the newest version of Discus, but it's still in Prerelease, which is a pain in and of itself. I bought it the day after Xmas, to go with the color laser printer, but didn't bother using it until today. First thing it tells me is that it's outdated, and I should download the newest version. OK, I download the newest version, only to be told that my Discus art file is outdated, and I need to download a copy of that. Go to the download page, and I'm not finding the art file. Go ahead & run the outdated version, since it's got an export as jpg option. Of course, that option doesn't work, because it'd outdated, or it's not yet implemented. OK, now I'm starting to get irked. Fire up the old version of Discus, which works, & work up the label. Print to pdf, convert to jpg, etc.

I really need to find a disk labeling program for linux, or put the burner in a FireWire case & run it off the Mac - the nice people at MagicMouse (the Discus people) told me that they were going to add LightScribe functionality to Discus real soon now.

Of course, if I do that, then I've only got one reason to use SUSE. Solve the printer problem, and I can go back to 'buntu. Of course, by then I might decide I like SUSE enough to keep using it. I'll see.

edit I've got the LightScribe working. I e-mailed the folks at MagicMouse & got the page for the latest prerelease and downloaded the complete package. With the new version of Discus, with the new version of the art fire, it all works. I worked up a label, saved as a .bmp, copied it over to the susebox (can't call it the 'buntubox if I don't have 'buntu on it, now can I?) and burned it onto a disk label with 4L-gui. Works good, even great, but at 15+ minutes a disk, it'll put a major bottleneck in my backup plans. Guess the sharpie still has its place.