Do you have piles of old Mac stuff you don’t use? Andy Ihnatko explains how to create your own version of his Prize Wonderland Auction to raise money for your favorite charity, cause, or user group. Also in this issue, Matt Neuburg unpacks Insider Software’s Smasher to access old font suitcases. In other news, Apple updates its .Mac service and releases Security Update 2005-008, Microsoft releases Office 2004 Service Pack 2, and the Opera Web browser goes free.
Office 2004 SP2 Enhances Entourage, Fixes Bugs
Office 2004 SP2 Enhances Entourage, Fixes Bugs — Microsoft has released Office for Mac 2004 Service Pack 2 (SP2), which fixes bugs in all the Office programs and provides notable enhancements to Entourage, the email, calendaring, and contact management part of the software suite. Entourage 2004 SP2 features enhanced support for Microsoft Exchange Server, making it easier for Mac users to coexist in a predominantly Windows and Outlook environment. Specific improvements include better email and calendar management, enhanced public folder support, faster client-server synchronization, improved access (with full browsing) to the Global Address List, and enhanced delegate access that makes new setup possible entirely through Entourage without needing to use Outlook on a PC. Entourage 2004 SP2 requires Exchange 2000 or later, and some organizations may need updates to Exchange.
Although Entourage was the only program with significant new features, all the other Office programs received numerous bug fixes and security improvements. You can read the full list at the link below, but we’re happiest about the promised performance improvements in Word 2004 SP2 and the fix for the bug that crashed Word when you updated Table of Contents fields contained in a table cell, the two of which had been forcing us to rely primarily on Word X for our Take Control ebooks. Many of the bugs fixed resolve crashes, so if you’ve had trouble with Office 2004 applications crashing, be sure to install SP2. You can download Office for Mac 2004 SP2 via the Microsoft AutoUpdate utility, or from Microsoft’s Mactopia Web site; it’s a 57 MB download. [ACE]
Opera Now Free
Opera Now Free — Perhaps acknowledging the difficulty of selling a Web browser in today’s Internet, Opera has freed its Web browser. While you can still choose to pay for Opera 8.5, which also features chat, contact, email, and other related features, that fee now covers support, not the software.
Adam Engst Speaking at MUG ONE on 04-Oct-05
Adam Engst Speaking at MUG ONE on 04-Oct-05 — For folks in upstate New York, I’ll be speaking at the MUG ONE Macintosh user group meeting in Oneonta, NY on Tuesday, 04-Oct-05 at 7:30 PM at SUNY Oneonta. Initially, I thought the MUG ONE folks would be bored with learning more about iPhoto, given that I’ve talked to them about iPhoto several times in the past few years, so my main presentation will be about PDF. Whether you’re just annoyed at PDF reading tools or perplexed at how to make a decent PDF for distribution to others, I’ll be distilling our experience with the PDF-based Take Control ebooks into this session. But, since it turns out that MUG ONE can’t get enough of iPhoto, I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite iPhoto 5 tips and tricks, and answering questions about this latest version of iPhoto. [ACE]
DealBITS Drawing: Dejal Simon
One of the stresses associated with running your own Internet servers is, frankly, knowing if they’re running. Most people host public servers elsewhere, to take advantage of the massive bandwidth, secure facilities, earthquake-proof racks, and tech support of companies like digital.forest. But remote hosting means you can’t just look in on your server to see how it’s doing, and that’s where server monitoring software like Simon from Dejal Systems comes in. It can pretend to be a normal Web browser or email client or whatever, all for the purpose of connecting to your server on a regular basis and verifying not just that the machine is running, but that your server software is doing what it’s supposed to do. I’ve been using Simon 2 for some time now to keep track of various Internet services on my Web Crossing server, and it’s been quite helpful in alerting me to problems ranging from local connectivity outages to severe slowdowns related to some particularly annoying mail loops. I could have had Simon send me email, or play sounds, or various other alerts, but I opted for it bouncing its Dock icon, which is obvious while I’m at the machine and won’t wake me up at night. Overall, I’ve appreciated not feeling as though I should be manually checking in on my Internet services all the time.
Apple Posts Security Update 2005-008
Apple has released Security Update 2005-008, which is available either as a standalone installer or via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature. The update applies to both Mac OS X 10.3.9 Panther and Mac OS X 10.4.2 Tiger, with sizes ranging from 4 to 7.4 MB.
Fixes in this update include changes to ImageIO, LibSystem, Apple Mail, QuickDraw, Ruby, SecurityAgent, securityd, and Safari (Mac OS X 10.3.9 only). Some highlights:
Security Update 2005-008 fixes a problem where, under certain situations using Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, a "Switch User" button could appear even though Fast User Switching isn’t enabled. The bug potentially exposed a user’s Desktop without authentication.
A bug in Authentication Services which enabled unprivileged users to grant themselves rights to manipulate files or perform other actions has been fixed.
Mail autoreply rules no longer expose the contents of encrypted messages, and (under Mac OS X 10.3.9), the update fixes a bug in Kerberos authentication which may have appended uninitialized memory to a message. (Uninitialized memory would likely be utterly nonsensical, but in theory could contain virtually any data your computer has processed since startup.)
A corrupt GIF image could potentially create a buffer overflow in ImageIO (an operating system component for rendering images used by Safari and other applications), which could enable an attacker to execute arbitrary code. No known exploitations have occurred, and Security Update 2005-008 fixes the problem. A similar issue with PICT images is fixed in the operating system’s QuickDraw component. However, we’ve received reports that the latter fix may also be preventing legitimate PICT images from displaying properly.
Maliciously crafted Web archives could potentially make Safari render the archives as content from sites that didn’t serve them. Safari 2.0 (part of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger) introduced Web archives; Security Update 2005-007 solved this problem in Tiger, and this update (2005-008) solves it for the version of Safari used with Mac OS X 10.3.9.
Apple Updates .Mac with More Storage and Features
Ever since Apple switched its free iTools Web-based service to the subscription-based .Mac, many users have asked themselves: is .Mac worth $100 a year? Last week, the company attempted to sweeten the deal by improving .Mac’s storage and bandwidth capacities, introducing new .Mac groups, releasing the Backup 3 backup software, and adding French and German localization to the existing English and Japanese versions.
Storage Catches up to 2003 Levels — $100 now gets you 1 GB of storage, up from 250 MB; you can allocate how much of that space is used by email and iDisk. This matches similar pricing from online storage services of a couple of years ago, and matches the email storage that Gmail, Yahoo, Spymac, and others began offering last year – sometimes for free.
The new $180 Family Pack offers a total of five accounts and 2 GB of storage; the master account has 1 GB of mail and disk storage, while the other four accounts are assigned 250 MB each.
Along with the increase in storage, monthly throughput has also been increased, according to Jonathan Seff at Macworld. Apple came clean in July that .Mac had a 3 GB limit of file transfers per month for standard account holders, a change from their previous "we’re not telling you quite what the limit is" policy (see "Apple Discloses, Limits .Mac Bandwidth Transfers" in TidBITS-789). Popular downloads of Apple-friendly software, for instance, weren’t subjected to limits. Now, with 1 GB of storage in a standard account, users are allowed 10 GB of file transfers; if you spend $50 per year for an additional 1 GB of storage, you’re entitled to 25 GB of file transfers per month.
Seff notes that Apple, unlike most other service providers, offers no way to know how much bandwidth you’ve used in a given month and no way to pay for just additional bandwidth.
.Mac Groups — New to the .Mac lineup is the Groups feature, which provides a virtual location for you and friends or family to keep in contact. Members of a group can share a single email address to send messages to everyone within the group, share files using iDisks (the contents of the group’s folder within the new Groups folder is shared among all members of the group), maintain a group calendar via iCal, and post Web pages containing photos and movies.
Apple’s Groups FAQ points out that membership in groups isn’t limited to .Mac members, though non-members must sign up for at least a free trial membership. However, after the trial period ends, they can keep their .Mac ID and continue to access the group. People with expired .Mac accounts and trial accounts can similarly join groups using their IDs.
Be aware that creating a new group consumes 100 MB of your shared storage for use on the iDisk, and joining one or more groups also consumes a total of 100 MB. If you create or join groups, you’ll end up with less storage space available for your personal use.
Backup 3 — Apple’s Backup application has so far been a fairly weak tool that some people found helpful for backing up small amounts of data, but it didn’t compare to more full-featured backup applications such as Retrospect. However, version 3.0 is a significant improvement, making the program worthy of consideration.
Backup 3 has been given a new interface focused around "plans," which are essentially backup scripts. A number of plan templates are included, such as options for backing up iLife data to CD or DVD on a regular basis and a plan for backing up music purchased from the iTunes Music Store (because if you lose your only copy of an iTMS track, it’s gone; you can’t request a new copy without paying for it). Better yet, Backup now supports incremental backups, which can copy only files that have changed since the last backup.
You still need a full .Mac account to use Backup. However, trial accounts can back up as much as 100 MB of data to test the software. Backup 3 requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or Mac OS X 10.4.2 or later, and is a 4.3 MB download (look for the link on the .Mac home page).
Insider Smashes Suitcases
What’s the most important feature of Mac OS 7, 8, and 9 that was destroyed and never restored or replaced when Mac OS X came along? Okay, I’m sure you miss being able to collapse windows into their title bars, or to resize them without waiting for the computer to catch up. But I’m talking here about something far more fundamental – the capability to open font suitcases.
A font suitcase, as you probably remember, is what we used to keep fonts in. They originated deep in the history of the Macintosh system, but starting in System 7 it became possible to open a font suitcase as if it were a folder and move font files in and out of it. Font suitcases were the normal way to present a font to the system (by putting them in your Fonts folder); they let you keep together multiple fonts, or various forms of a single font, such as a font and its italic and bold variants, or a TrueType font and some bitmap versions to improve rendering at small sizes.
With the advent of Mac OS X, font suitcases suddenly became opaque. In Classic, there is no Finder, so features that appeared as aspects of the Finder such as desktop printers and openable font suitcases unceremoniously vanished. Font/DA Mover, which preceded Mac OS 7, is ancient and clunky and can’t deal with the contents of more modern suitcases. So my suitcases have essentially sat immobile for the past several years, mysterious and taunting.
Now Insider Software’s Smasher has come along at last, to bust open your suitcases like so many recalcitrant walnut shells. It lets you see right inside font suitcases, telling you what types of fonts they contain and what their typefaces look like. Hand Smasher a folder and it shows you all the TrueType and PostScript fonts in all the suitcases in that folder. (OpenType and Windows TrueType fonts are ignored, but these were not in suitcases to begin with. More disappointing is that bitmaps are ignored; these are not valid on their own under Mac OS X, but they are still fonts, they still exist in suitcases, and you still might like a way to manipulate them.)
Once you’re seeing inside your suitcases, you can recombine their contents into new suitcases containing individual fonts or families or styles. Smasher can also convert .dfont files to old-style TrueType fonts to make them available to your Classic system. As a bonus, Smasher also helps you delete your system font caches or the font caches of certain troublesome applications, such as Microsoft Office, or the AdobeFnt.lst files that can spontaneously appear all over your hard disk; eliminating these and then restarting has often solved mysterious misbehaviors on my machines and those of many others.
The Web site and the manual are full of spelling mistakes, which suggests rather a rush job on this release. Still, the program seems to work well and is worth trying out. The unlicensed version lets you view fonts in suitcases but not recombine or convert them. Smasher costs $50 (or $25 if you already own an Insider product such as Font Agent Pro), and is a 3.8 MB download. Mac OS X 10.3 Panther or higher is required.
The Prize Wonderland Auction
I should mention right at the top that this piece begins with desperate self-pity but ends with an opportunity for you to acquire fabulous merchandise for pennies on the dollar and raise money for hurricane relief at the same time. So, do stick with it.
I once read an interview with some freshly minted international pop superstar (the sort who doesn’t realize that her continued international pop superstardom is only secure if she can somehow manage to make sure that every other girl that can sort-of-sing dies in a boating accident or somesuch the moment she turns 17). "The trouble with owning three vacation houses," she said, gravely, "is that every time you see a pair of shoes or a top that you like, you have to buy three of them. Otherwise, every time you want to take off for the weekend, you’ll have to travel with baggage!"
I mean, we all have our problems, but she’s really slitting her own throat by leading off with a complaint like that one. You’re so totally not on her side. For the first time ever, you’re actually looking forward to an upcoming episode of "The Surreal Life." Because it’s pretty clear that in two years – three, tops – this woman will hit the skids to such a desperate extent that she’ll leap at the opportunity to spend a month living in a condo with Ray Parker, Jr., the best friend from "Blossom," and any cast members from the Budweiser "Wazzuuuup?!?" commercials that haven’t taken their own lives yet.
I now ask you to maintain the focus of your Great Lens of Contempt upon this woman, and not swing it in my direction when I tell you that as an internationally beloved technology pundit, my greatest source of office clutter is the cavalcade of free software and hardware that arrive at my office on a regular basis. A colorful sleigh, adorned with traditional Norwegian words such as "FedEx" and "UPS," arrives in the wee hours of 8:00-10:30 AM, while visions of sugar-plums are still dancing in my head. And out leaps a person in a festive costume, carrying an assortment of wrapped packages! They await me three hours later when I jump out of bed and come running down the stairs at the crack of 11 AM or noon or perhaps 1 PM at the very latest.
Yes, it’s the same principle as Santa Claus, except that the sleigh often arrives several times in a single day. Oh, and sometimes the North Pole expects me to ship the toys back after thirty or sixty days. Nonetheless, many of the hardware companies and all of the software publishers feel that it’s in their best interests to let me hang on to the stuff, bless their hearts.
Hence my predicament. Either I research and write a column about the thing, or it never makes its way into one of my newspaper columns at all. Some stuff shouldn’t have been sent to me in the first place. I’ve no professional interest in a radio-controlled submarine, unless it can be made to run Linux.
(Crud. Hang on…)
(Okay: I’ve just checked SourceForge and I can’t find any source or binaries for an E-Chargers Submarine Linux Project. Though I’m sure it’s coming.)
At that point, the thing is just something I trip over on my way to the other side of the office to swap a DVD. Here’s a full copy of Adobe Creative Suite 1.0. It sold for a thousand bucks a year ago. But a brand-new edition came out this year, so this one (though still quite useful) is just cluttering up the joint. Into the box it goes. Why can’t I close this drawer in my utility locker? Holy cats! I’ve got… four, five, six… seven iPods! Nice ones, too, but now that Apple’s stopped manufacturing that model, I don’t suppose I need it in my reference library any more. Out. And guess what arrived this morning? A third copy of FileMaker Pro 8 Advanced, just released this month! The first copy was fantastic, the second copy is being enjoyed by the editor of my newspaper column, I’m sure, but the third one has to go away, $500 list price or no.
And what should I do about that G4 tower?
A couple of months ago I bought a new top-of-the-line G5, a machine so powerful that when a flock of migrating geese fly over the building into the machine’s huge bubble of electromagnetic interference, it changes formation from a tight "V" to a vague Apple logo. As soon as the G5 went on my desktop, the twin G4 became the Standby/Server Mac and the former Standby/Server Mac became a slick and powerful drink holder. And frankly, I can come up with other ways of keeping a can of Coke handy… ways that don’t displace an entire cubic foot of the office’s breathable oxygen.
But at least I could sell that G4 if I wanted to. No such luck with the rest of this clutter; my moral compass is true and unfailing, and items given to me for purposes of research shall not go to fund a new 60-inch hi-def flatscreen. Even though doing so would technically count as research, because I could then write a column about the new TV, thus benefitting my constituency. Gosh, why am I being so selfish and not buying myself a digital projector with 1080i resolution?
No! Away, devil-thoughts! My strength is as the strength of ten men, for my soul is pure!
(No, indeed not. Not by a long shot. The fact that I even implied such a thing only underscores how much my soul could use a dry-cleaning and one of those tree-shaped air fresheners. But still: selling this stuff would be creepy.)
But what else can I do with this hardware and software? It’s far too cool and useful to toss away. Okay, except for that basket of Newton MessagePad software, maybe. And a shrewd observer of the computing scene would probably acknowledge that a copy of Photoshop that installs from a brick of 16 diskettes is probably well past its sell-by date. Even donating stuff to a local school or library has started to become problematic. I’m sorry to report that finding a school system that (a) still uses Macs and (b) has hardware that can take advantage of modern software is fairly rare, at least within convenient driving distance of my house.
My solution, then? Well, the good stuff goes into The Box, AKA, the Prize Wonderland, where it awaits a future user group talk. And then, the contents are quickly converted into money that I donate to the Red Cross.
The Red Cross has always been my favorite charity. It’s the one organization that, frankly, no sensible person can possibly have any sort of beef with. They do two things: they save lives through their blood work, and they help disaster survivors, doing everything from being the first at the scene with a blanket and a hot cup of coffee all the way to finding people safe places to sleep and a way to provide for their children.
Plus, someone very dear to me is alive today because the Red Cross was able to locate nine pints of safe, typed blood when a surgery went unexpectedly and dramatically bad. So the Red Cross has always been my favorite charity. No sensible person, I repeat, can possibly have any sort of complaint about giving money to the Red Cross.
I’ve done the Prize Wonderland Auction a couple times before and it’s a pretty simple affair. I don’t simply hold up items and ask for money. That’d be boring. Instead, the Prize Wonderland remains under cover, its contents unknown to all but myself and God (if any), throughout the entire proceedings. People don’t bid on specific items… they bid on the right of First Dibs.
"Who will give twenty dollars for the right to be first to take an item of their choice from the pile of Fabulous Merchandise?" I ask. "Raise your hands." Nearly every hand goes up. "Thirty? Forty? Fifty?" I continue. With each increase, a few more hands lower until just two determined bidders are left. At this point, the results tend to be very competitive and very kind.
Winner gets thirty seconds alone with the pile. In the meantime, bidding opens on the second pick from what remains. Then the third, and then the fourth… well, it continues at my discretion, and I suppose if the bidding were spectacularly lame, I’d retain the right to remove an item to await a more generous crowd. But that’s just hypothetical. I’ve never been anything short of delighted by people’s generosity. The bidders go home with some pricey gear plus a tax deduction. I go home with an envelope full of cash and checks for the Red Cross. And often, the user group invites me to join them for dinner afterward! What a wonderful evening, from every conceivable angle!
It’s a mechanism that I heartily recommend to any group trying to raise money for any purpose:
Every group has a local charity that needs money. Sometimes it’s the group itself. If you can’t come up with an idea, please re-read the earlier paragraph about the Red Cross and why there is no better target for your charitable dollars.
Every group has lots of members with plenty of equipment that’s just cluttering up the house, but which is nonetheless far too good to throw away.
The "first pick" concept is fairly compelling, and when you hitch it up to people’s tendency to want to support Good Causes, the results can be awesome.
The "Hands Up" auction technique is quick, efficient, clear, and requires no messy paperwork.
And incidentally… if any of the above-mentioned pieces of clutter caught your fancy, all those items – maybe even the G4 – and a pile of other things will be in the Prize Wonderland on Wednesday, 28-Sep-05, when I give my talk at the Connecticut Macintosh Connection. Visit the link below for directions to the meeting, which will be open to everybody.
Just be sure to bring your checkbook. There are people down south who desperately need help, which means that the Red Cross desperately needs your money. For my part, I solemnly promise that relatively few items in the Wonderland will turn out to be free copies of my books.
[Andy Ihnatko is the Chicago Sun-Times’ technology columnist, the author of a best-selling book on Tiger, a longtime and current columnist and contributing editor for Macworld, and "the Industry’s 42nd most-beloved figure," a claim that he urges you not to examine too closely. He can be contacted at <[email protected]>, or through the address posted on his Web site.]
Take Control News/26-Sep-05
Joe Kissell Speaking at NCMUG’s MCE 2005 — Best-selling Take Control author Joe Kissell will be speaking at NCMUG’s Macintosh Computer Expo 2005 on 01-Oct-05, so if you have some free time and are in the vicinity of Santa Rosa, California, I encourage you to drop in to see him at 10:00 AM. I’m sure he’d be happy to chat about upgrading to Tiger, or what’s new in Apple Mail, or backing up under Mac OS X, but only after his talk, which will be a bit of a preview for a new title he’s working on: Take Control of .Mac. Needless to say, he’s integrating information about all the latest changes to .Mac into his manuscript, and he’ll be focusing on these new features in his talk at the MCE 2005. Admission is free; see the NCMUG site for directions and full details.
Hot Topics in TidBITS Talk/26-Sep-05
The first link for each thread description points to the traditional TidBITS Talk interface; the second link points to the same discussion on our Web Crossing server, which provides a different look and which may be faster.
Backup 3.0 Observations — Readers look at what’s new in Backup 3.0, and evaluate whether it’s mature enough to replace more expensive applications such as Retrospect. (3 messages)
StuffIt 10 — Following Allume’s release of StuffIt 10, a reader explains why he’s not eager to upgrade. (1 message)
Small/old cross-platform backup solution — Repurposing older Apple hardware, a reader looks for advice on how to integrate a Windows XP machine into his backup system. (5 messages)
Car options for iPod — Several methods are available to play music from an iPod through a car’s audio system, but which ones are recommended from tried-and-true experience? (14 messages)
Classic in Panther vs Tiger (and HyperCard) — After experiencing lots of bugs while running in Classic under Mac OS X 10.4, a reader wonders if it’s possible to downgrade Classic by itself, or if a full operating system downgrade is required. (6 messages)
How "free" is Opera? News that the Opera Web browser is now available without having to pay a license brings up the topic of how the company is able to turn a profit. (4 messages)