Single App mode in OS X

there are lot’s of odd leftovers inside OS X that can actually be useful. take Single App Mode for example. useability studies showed that new users were often confused as to what window was what when using a Mac for the first time. and out of that study came a feature that made it less confusing. the solution was that as you switched from App to App the old app would automatically hide uncluttering the screen allowing you to totally focus on your task. but Mac users are a picky lot meaning that long time users complained about app hiding as default behavior meaning it didn’t make the 1.o cut. for whatever reason the feature can be turned on using a command line incantation. it turns out to be useful! and it’s very easy to turn on allowing you to try it for yourself.

you need to open the Terminal then copy/paste these two CLI incantations to turn on Single App Mode

defaults write single-app -bool true
killall Dock

if you decide you can’t take it anymore use these to commands to change it back.

defaults delete single-app
killall Dock

here’s the Tidbit’s article.

the other tool that Kenji talked about is called Hyperspaces. it let’s you choose the background image for each one of your spaces. this is a can help you recognize what space is up more quickly.

[ad#720 bottom banner]

G4 NAS drive MK3

the Mark Three is the last of version of the G4 NAS Drive project. the idea started back in the day when the readyNAS hit the scene. it was the first of the “appliance servers”. it’s only problem was it’s cost. without drives it was around $800.

I realized that an older G4 was roughly the same specs at the readyNAS in terms of CPU speed, bus speed, memory and if you installed a few bits of software onto a standard OS X one could gain specific permissions for file/folder sharing making it more like a server instead of a share. OS X 10.5 would make these tools unnecessary. but getting 10.5 installed on the older hardware is a trick. and while it can be done it and it works just fine it’s not supported.

the reality of the G4 NAS is that it’s really just a G4 Server. I used the word NAS as a way to draw attention to the project and to hit home that it’s really easy to setup and run OS X so it behaves like a server. yes, you can run OS X Server on the G4. it will run 10.4 just fine. running the newer OS X 10.5 Server requires a mac with better specs. you’ll find it much harder to get a more modern G4 for free or nearly free though.

the G4 machines I used for this project were retired hardware that had been purchased new. eventually they were deemed too old to do day to day work. in addition the machines that were made into NAS drives were passed over for faster G4 macs when a gift or donation was made to somebody who needed a machine. they were pretty much unloved.

the G4 NAS had three distinct versions. it was always a work in progress. each was based on a Sawtooth G4 upgraded with as much RAM possible. RAM is a particular problem because the G4 needs specific timing making it hard to find today.

Mk1 – RAID1 two 500G PCI SATA card.
Mk2 – RAID5 four 250G 3.5 drives PCI RAID card
Mk3 – RAID5 four 500G 2.5 drives PCI RAID card

the write up for the Mk1 reveals that there isn’t much to making the upgrade. it’s as simple as plugging in a card and mounting two hard drives. then formatting the drives using the Disk Utilities as RAID1.

problems with the MK2
there wasn’t an article for the Mk2. mostly because the build was completely complicated. it required cutting the metal case to wedge in the SATA backplane to hold the drives. this required removing everything from the case: drives, motherboard, power supply. I also had to cut the plastic bezel front. the first attempt basically ruined a case and a bezel. undaunted, because I had more than one, the second mac came out okay. and it was in use until recently. but it had problems. it’s power supply had died for the third time making it was clear that it was over taxed. this wasn’t a good solution for anyone expecting reliability.

the thinking behind the MK3
the MK3 G4 NAS drive upgraded the Mk1 which has been running continuously for three years. in that time both of it’s hard drives had failed. and one of the SATA cables also went mysteriously bad. this caused random server lock ups. fortunately Seagate promptly replaced both failed drives. and I had lots of SATA cables around.

what I really wanted was a more reliable Mk2. there were a few ways to achieve this. one was to brain transplant into a case that was more suitable to the task. but that came with a cost and more work. retrofitting a larger power supply isn’t hard but soldering wires together is beyond the skill set of the wide spread audience.

one day while searching for something else I found a a backplane made for 2.5″ hard drives. this tiny thing is the size of a 5.25″ device like a CD/DVD drive. the cage holds four 2.5″ hard drives. the drives are on sleds allowing them to be “hot swapped”. cooling is provided by a small fan that has speed control. it’s pretty small and slick.

this setup has three really big advantages compared to the 3.5″ version.

1) less heat.
2) uses less power. all four drives use less then one 3.5″ drive.
3) virtually no noise.

unlike the Mk2 that was an invasive build the Mk3 wasn’t a big deal. the drive backplane slid into the space where the DVD drive was before. in the three years that it ran the MK1 I never burned a DVD from here so it’s not a loss. once installed I plugged the cables into the controller I took the from the Mk2. I also connected the power. that was it. installed.

formatting it to working
formatting the hard drives required “logging into the controller” using a web browser that asked for a username and password. the card listed all the hard drives, I formatted them, then created the RAID5. the final step was the format the array again using Disk Utility. this is important because it reveals the RAID part is invisible to the Mac. it just thinks of it as a big volume.

the RAID5 took 20 hours to format. which is typical on this class of controller. even a Drobo has formatting that it must complete before it can be rebuild itself. I found that I could use the drive normally during this process. however, if a drive were to fail at this point no data would be recoverable.

[nggallery id=5]

there are people that right now aghast at the thought of using a “laptop” drive for a server. I think this is a better drive compared to the larger drive. both have a similar MTBF. plus the smaller drive produces less heat because it uses less energy. I have found that the larger drives don’t seem to stand the test of time. in the three years that the MK1 was running I replaced both drives. these are “server” class Seagate with 5 year warrantees. and the Mk2 proved that over loading a power supply will kill it.

I’ve written that a drive has a useful life of three years. after that the next series of drives is available: more capacity and smaller power requirements. it’s a good idea to move with progress. I can’t imaging how much has been lost because copying data forward to more modern hardware wasn’t part of the plan.

the future?
the G4 is 10 years old. while there are fast G4 to be had the later Mac’s aren’t always better. especially the last one. it’s so noisy that you will hate it being on unless you change all the fans inside. also because of it’s speed we don’t always see these for free or low cost. the over 1Ghz seems to make them useful. even if you go with newer hardware there are no more software updates for this Mac. half of the line was left behind with OS X 10.4 and the other half get dropped with 10.5. these Macs continuing to run are only doing so because of the diligence I’ve taken to keep them running. free is a motivating factor. so is because I can.

while the G5 has some advantages the line is splintered. the PCI bus changes slightly with each build. but worse is it uses an obscene amount of power compared to the G4. even though it has a huge case there isn’t much room inside of it for mods although I’ve eyed that area where the PCI slots are. but the best reason to skip it is that PPC hit the end of the upgrade line with OS X 10.6. it really is game over turn out the lights for this Mac.

I am very likely going to experiment with the modern Mac Mini (Intel) as a platform. it’s small, doesn’t use much power, and doesn’t need a fan. it also has possibilities for re-casing. as in dump the tiny case putting the guts in something that will make the hard drives more easy to deal with.

there are interesting mods that could be added like a 5 way drive controller allowing the Mini to talk to 10T of storage.

other future
from a DIY point of view FreeNAS or OpenFiler have bright futures. an old Intel or AMD box can be had for free (or nearly free) giving you the same platform advantage as the G4. although you will want to re-fan it for quiet. I plan on re-useing our 3.5″ backplane for either of these projects. FreeNAS has a ZFS possibility. OpenFiler is the new kid with new ideas. both of these mean you have to depart from the Mac-dom. which shouldn’t be a big deal really, it just means you might have to learn something new.

there are still lots of commercial offerings that you might consider if you don’t want to roll your own. especially if the benefits of support and a warrantee are important to you. devices to check out include the readyNAS, Lacie, QNAP, Buffalo, Freecom, Addonics, and that very inexpensive Intel NAS. if you decide to go this way let us know how the device you choose works out for you.

RAID controller
HighPoint RocketRAID 1740 PCI Card $119 (pulled from the Mk2)
an altenate card is the Rosewill RC-217 4 Port PCI RAID Card we did NOT tested this card.

Drives and backplane
4 Fujitsu 500GB 2.5″ Hard Drive hard drives.
2.5″ Hot Swap Backplane RAID cage 4 x 2.5″ HDD in 1 x 5.25″ bay $50
SATA cables $12 for four

the old back plane is a
ICY DOCK MB674SPF-B 4 in 3 SATA I & II Backplane Raid Cage

total cost
RAID card $119
backplane $55
drives $79 each
total $490

MK1 build pictures
[nggallery id=3]

MK3 build pictures
[nggallery id=4]

[ad#720 bottom banner]

thoughts on OS X 10.6. here kitty, kitty…

Im yur new OS

let’s say that production and projects are the focus of your day to day. they (the projects) either keep the doors open or they are moving you along to finishing a degree, or it’s just doing your job. if everything is moving smoothly without any issues why would you want to change that? well? because the the new shiny is sitting on your desk and you absolutely cannot contain yourself. I’m talking about how your Snow Leopard is on its way.

many developers in various forums are saying the the upgrade is just like any other upgrade that we’ve experienced with 10.5. that is painless. but upgrading hasn’t always been so painless. QuickTime upgrades have borked Final Cut Pro. ProTools wouldn’t run on 10.5 for what seemed like nearly forever. and other upgrades broke simple hardware devices providing video capture or hard drive controlling. while this is usually the exception it’s still begs your attention. as makers it’s never good to be without tools in working order. even if it is just for a short time.

remember time is money or the equivalent there of.

I know that I’m not going to throw caution to the wind this time. this, I know, is not going to stop lots of people from upgrading anyway. but are you ready for it? really ready? every time a new OS comes out I post the same warnings over the years they become less and less warnings because everyone is SOOOO excited nobody bothers to read them until after the fact when I say “told you so…”

back up. blah, blah, blah, you should be doing that already. you shouldn’t have to stop to make when you should already HAVE one. done. ready for the immediate. helping save the day. duh.

the number one rule is if you are in a project or production is you cannot upgrade until you are finished with your project. that means all the revisions are in the can and you got paid. “upgrade hosed our Macs” is the lamest thing you can ever say to a client. students are prone to go down the upgrade path only to get hosed by something unforeseen. keep in mind that “Mac is borked” sounds exactly like “my dog ate it.” when I was teaching the only excuse was “lab tech told me…” and then I’d go find the guy to get the other side of the story. if you really must upgrade just make sure your looming deadline is far enough away (days not hours) before you double click the kitty.

your critical tools? what are they. you need a list. then check to see if each vendor actually says “compatible with OS X 10.6.” if just one of your tools isn’t you can’t upgrade or you have to make plans for dealing with it’s continued use. I use Final Cut, Sound Track and After Effects enough that if any of them had issues I would wait to get this sorted. but ask yourself if you can’t live without XYZ for a few weeks and if that is worth it to you.

never ever never use a dot oh release in a production environment. as long as 10.6.1 isn’t a download I’m not letting any of the people I support move to the latest. there’s that “one guy” that HAS to have it, installs it without asking and damages the workflow. doesn’t matter if it’s PhotoShop NXT or the OS X. until am I pretty positive that all the tools around me work it’s simply not worth a $29 upgrade wrecking havoc.

test it on something you don’t care about FIRST. I happen to have a few idle MacBook and MacBook Pro around that make doing this really easy. first, I can easily swap the working drive for some other similarly sized drive and do the install there. or I might clone that working drive first so I can see what the interactions of what is already installed happens to be. this way I can see how Mail, the address book and all that other stuff you never think of as critical behaves. chances are it will just work and I’m over paranoid.

mind things that are really old. usually stuff that is really old just keeps working. but things like Palm device sync goes away this revision. I’m sure there is other stuff that won’t work anymore much the same way as Classic support with the intro of the Intel Macs. if you depend on something that is old make sure it continues to work. after you commit to the upgrade is not the time to check that.

an OS upgrade is always a good time to do some hardware house cleaning. this is the time that I check on the age of drives with the idea of consolidation and retirement. the completely full boot drive needs to be cloned to something modern and lots more huge. drives are cheap compared to what they were 5 years ago. plus they are also much, much more reliable. although you need to use a drive for roughly 7-10 days before you can trust it to run for the distance. if a drive is going to fail it will in the first few days of it spinning. after some time has past a drive is likely to not fail until the MTBF hours are reached. after that it could fail any time or just keep spinning.

finally, look at that list of features. what something on the list is something you simply must have. what is going to end your constant problem. for me with 10.5 it was “not hanging when a file share went away.” that was a H-U-G-E fix. I wish this applied to local drives as well. instead of producing a big RED warning it would be more kind when I pull out the USB memory drive. I started to use Spaces but found it was marginally better unless you really worked the work flow. Spaces was nothing like Expose from the time before. that was game changing. Final Cut doesn’t take advantage of any of the new CPU/GPU enhancements so there’s no reason to make a jump for those things. in fact what does make use of Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL? I can’t think of hearing about anything. this may be the sole reason to wait.

it’s the end of the OS line for the PowerPC. this isn’t to say that these Mac’s don’t have long lives to live. they just won’t be running anything bigger than 10.5. I’m sad about this but I’m not. the last PPC mac shipped in 2006 meaning that Apple has an obligation from a California point of view to offer support for a few more years. that means Security updates will continue for another 2 years. legally there is no life after 7 for technology.

and speaking of new-ish already old tech. lots of the early Intel Macs aren’t going to be able to EVER take advantage of new tech. the CoreDuo doesn’t do 64bit. and some MacBooks that have Core2Duo don’t have 64 bit support turned on. video cards (aka GPUs) are another sore subject. the list of what OpenCL supports is pretty short. now may be the time to flip that older Mac to somebody else and get into more modern. seriously YMMV. sigh.

bottom line, let the early adopters do all the bug hunting. oh, and don’t get in line for midnight.…w-leopard.html


Making a Dell 1320c Color Laser print with OS X 10.4 or 10.5

Dell has posted for real drivers for 10.4 and 10.5 for this printer. You can download them by clicking this link: 1320c Macintosh

This is now the OFFICIAL way to make this printer work. it may or may not fix the manual paper load problem that we’ve seen using the Fuji Xerox drivers. we have not tested these drivers with OS X 10.6. although the new printer architecture should find the printer and install the drivers automatically. If you do not want to use the Dell Drivers for whatever reason(?) the “hack method” below continues to work. 

[ad#720 bottom banner]


To talk to a networked Dell 1320c Color Laser Printer using OS X 10.4 follow these steps. We have not tested this printer using USB. The steps for OS X 10.5 are nearly the same. The difference is that you don’t have to download the driver from the website. 

Download the driver for the DocuPrint C525 from here:

Double click the icon to install after it downloads. When the install is finished you can delete the installer.

From the Apple menu open System Preferences and select Print & Fax.

Click the + to add a printer.

Select IP Printer.

Select for the Protocol: Line Printer Daemon – LPD

Type the IP address: or whatever it happens to be assigned on your network. You can print the printer settings page by pressing and holding the Continue button on the printer until the Ready/Data indicator blinks. It will print a report that has the IP address of your printer. After you know the IP address you can actually log into the printer from your web browser to change any settings. It is a good idea to make your printers IP address fixed. If you know what that means you should be able to figure out the how to log into the printer to change it. If you don’t you’re “computer guy” should be able to change it in about 5 minutes.

Name the printer “color laser” or whatever you’d like it to be.

For Print Using select: FX

Next select FX DocumPrint C525 A-AP v1.2 in the box below.

On the next screen you must select 250 Sheet Feeder as an option. Otherwise it will only manual feed.

Click Ok.

Print something.

NOTE: Paper Source is not automatically selected on this printer. It won’t print unless you set it. This is found in the printer options called Printer Features. The paper should menu should be set to Auto or 250 Sheet Feeder. Once you’ve made these settings save it as a Profile. Do a Save As… for the Printer Profile. So you don’t have to check this every time the set that Profile as the Default.

alt text

Select Print Features from the menu.

alt text

Select Tray 1 from the menu.

NOTE: There is NO way to set the main paper tray so it is remembered. You have to do it manually each time or make a Setting that you select before printing. See the screen shots above.