This week brings a wide variety of articles, ranging from Sharon Zardetto Aker’s explanation of the most common mistake Mac OS X users make with fonts to Matt Neuburg’s look at the Web searching utility DEVONagent 2.0. Adam mourns MacHack by passing on some thoroughly useless Sudden Motion Sensor hacks, and Mark Anbinder reports on the upcoming Nike+iPod Sport Kit that turns an iPod nano into a training aid for runners. In the news, Apple loses its lawsuit against Mac news sites on appeal, iWeb 1.1.1 fixes some minor bugs, and Folklore.org’s written stories return to the oral tradition.
Appeals Court Sides with Mac News Sites over Apple — In a major victory for online news sources, an appeals court ruled last week that Apple could not subpoena email in order to trace the source of leaked trade secrets. In December 2004, PowerPage and Apple Insider posted stories about an unannounced Apple audio product, code-named Asteroid, which included information and drawings leaked from sources inside the company. Apple could not identify the sources of the leaks, and therefore sued "John Does" for breach of confidentiality agreements; as part of the discovery process, Apple sought to subpoena PowerPage’s ISP to obtain stored email that might reveal the sources’ identities. Apple claimed that the site’s owners were not genuine journalists and that, even if they had been, they had no right to protect their anonymous sources. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) took up the case, arguing that Apple’s attempts to obtain this information violated both federal and California laws. Although a lower court had sided with Apple in March 2005, last week’s ruling by the California Court of Appeals overturns that decision. One upshot of last week’s ruling is that ISPs cannot be forced to turn over confidential email in response to civil lawsuits – and that apparently applies to everyone, not just journalists. [JK]
iWeb 1.1.1 Improves Comments, Searching, Publishing — Apple released iWeb 1.1.1 last week, noting that the update "refines comment and search support for blogs and podcasts published to .Mac," two features that were recently introduced in iWeb 1.1. The update also fixes problems related to publishing Web sites to .Mac. The iWeb 1.1.1 updater weighs in at a hefty 88.8 MB as a stand-alone download (it’s also available via Software Update), but also includes the changes made in the 1.0.1 and 1.1 updates. [JLC]
Oral Folk Tales of Mac History — Stories of famous Mac people, the reality distortion field, and years of sleeplessness are now available in oral form from Derek Warren. At Macintosh Folklore Radio, Warren is reading the snippets that are part of Mac designer Andy Hertzfeld’s Folklore.org that represents part of the book Hertzfeld compiled into Revolution in the Valley. I reviewed that charming, picaresque tale for TidBITS last year (see "Continuous Revolution").
Warren is performing these episodes under terms of the Creative Commons license that Hertzfeld applied to his writing (though Warren still asked permission). The episodes can be downloaded as podcasts from the iTunes Music Store, too. It’s ironic, of course, that a site that purports to tell the true story is called Folklore.org, that a written history is being turned into "oral folklore," and that the voice reading the stories isn’t that of the first-person author who wrote them as "folklore." [GF]
Apple and Nike last week jointly announced the Nike+iPod Sport Kit, a two-piece wireless gadget available in late June that pairs Nike sneakers and an iPod nano to help runners track their performance. The iPod will display info and provide audible feedback during the run, and will sync your running stats to iTunes when you connect to a computer running iTunes 6.0.5 (available soon as a free download). The same info can be synchronized to Nike’s nikeplus.com Web site, where you’ll be able to match up against other runners.
Nike’s new "Nike+" shoe styles, beginning with the Nike+ Air Zoom Moire, include a pocket under the insole to hold the Nike+iPod sensor, featuring an accelerometer that wirelessly transmits your running stats (including distance, time, pace, and calories burned) to an iPod nano’s matching receiver, which plugs into the nano’s dock connector.
Before running, you can select a "Power Song" that will help you past those slow stretches, offering extra inspiration at the touch of a button. The iTunes Music Store will offer special music iMixes suitable for running, with introductions recorded by athletes.
Apple says the Nike+iPod Sport Kits will be available in late June for $30 at apple.com, nike.com, Apple Stores, Apple authorized resellers, Niketown stores, and select Nike retailers; the iPod nano ($150 to $250) and Nike+ sneakers ($85 to $110) are, of course, sold separately. The company says the sensor’s built-in battery won’t be replaceable, and battery life will depend on usage and other factors, so you may end up having to buy new sensors every so often. The unit is water-resistant, meaning that it shouldn’t have trouble with the soaking associated with rainy runs, although it won’t withstand sustained submersion.
There’s no inherent reason why this clever joint project couldn’t (though it doesn’t) work with other iPod models sporting the dock connector, but I suspect Apple wants to encourage runners to use iPod models with solid-state memory rather than a less shock-resistant hard drive.
For some opinions about the Nike+iPod Sport Kit from Adam, who in another life is a competitive runner, listen in on his MacNotables podcast on the topic.
The MacHack developers conference always used to roll around about this time of year, and even though the conference is no more, the itch to create utterly cool but completely useless hacks is back in season. I don’t have a recent PowerBook, iBook, MacBook, or MacBook Pro with which to test the Sudden Motion Sensor hacks that have been appearing, but watching the videos is probably safer anyway.
Anthony Maddox’s MacSaber uses the information from the Sudden Motion Sensor to cause Macs waved in the air to make Star Wars light saber noises, enabling silly looking battles between geeks wielding expensive PowerBooks.
For another take on how to abuse the Sudden Motion Sensor, check out Erling Ellingsen’s SmackBook Pro hack, which ties in with a virtual desktop utility to enable the user to thwack the Mac on the side to switch to and from different desktops.
These hacks raise all sort of other uses for the Sudden Motion Sensor that would be satisfying, if undoubtedly bad for the Mac:
- Restarting the Mac by shaking it like an Etch-a-Sketch
- Being able to click the OK button by whacking the palm rest
- Bringing up the Force Quit dialog when the laptop is shaken hard by a frustrated user
- An April Fools hack that would cause the screen to get wavy, requiring a bonk on the side to restore it to crispness
It’s over a year since I raved about DEVONagent here in TidBITS, and my enthusiasm for what the program does has not waned. DEVONagent uses existing search engines to perform an Internet search, but then goes further, filtering out unwanted hits in response to the details of your query, and loading the text of the found pages into its own database, where they are word-indexed and ranked to improve your chances of finding the information you’re seeking.
DEVONagent 2.0 offers many small tweaks to make it an even more exacting seeker of knowledge than before. Your initial query can be accompanied by a secondary query, which DEVONagent performs on the downloaded texts. (Oddly, however, you cannot impose the secondary query after viewing the results of the initial query.) Texts in individual languages can now be intelligently sought. Automatic actions can be performed upon completion of a search, such as Growl notification (useful because searches can be lengthy); previously, such actions were possible only after scheduled searches. A Dashboard widget lets you initiate a search quickly. Topics extracted from the commonly used terms in the found texts are displayed not only as a ranked list but also as a network diagram.
That’s the good part – there’s no question that DEVONagent 2.0’s new capabilities enhance an already useful and helpful program. But despite these functional improvements, DEVONagent’s interface remains clumsy, riddled with jargon, and difficult to customize.
At the heart of DEVONagent’s functionality are its Search Sets, which despite the name are not "sets" of anything; they are the instructions for performing a search. So a DEVONagent user’s most basic needs are to understand what a Search Set will do and to create a new one. Yet both are nearly impossible.
To learn what a Search Set will do, you open the Search Sets window by choosing Tools > Edit Search Sets… (Why not Window > Search Sets? And the window isn’t a modal dialog, so what’s the ellipsis for?) But you still don’t know what the search will do, because the heart of a search are the "plugins" it uses; these contain the instructions as to what URL will be created from your search terms and how the resulting page of links will be parsed. So you switch to the Plugins tab of the Search Sets window. Here, you are not shown just what plugins this Search Set uses; instead, there’s a list of all 130-plus plugins, and you must hunt for which ones are checked – not easy, because the plugins are arranged hierarchically, so you have to keep opening disclosure triangles, manually. But you still don’t know what each plugin actually does, because DEVONagent provides no interface for displaying this information. Instead, you must open the DEVONagent application bundle and read an embedded XML "plist" file. These files are the heart of DEVONagent’s functionality; yet the program gives you no interface for viewing and understanding them!
As for creating your own plugin, so that you can make a customized search – well, I tried, and found the instructions so impenetrable and the process so clumsy (you have to create the file using Property List Editor, and you must keep quitting and restarting DEVONagent to test), that in the end I gave it up. Lucky for me that DEVONagent already includes plugins for the search pages I use most. Unfortunately, they don’t all work perfectly; I was trying to fix the TidBITS plugin, which in response to a search "neuburg applescript" failed to find my recent "Notes from the AppleScript World" article. (DEVONagent searches of TidBITS don’t work at all now in any case; we’ve blocked them because they tended to overstrain our archive server.)
Even these problems could be ameliorated by an excellent manual. Unfortunately, DEVONagent’s manual remains opaque; it is stingy with examples and reads as though English were not the author’s first language. Take, for example, these inscrutable words describing part of the search query syntax:
"DEVONagent ignores parts of query terms inside square […] brackets. This is useful for scanning to titles or authors inside some databases, e.g., PubMed or Nucleotide. Example: name[Author]word[Title]"
Such faults were forgivable in early versions, but with a 2.0 release, I would hope to see a more streamlined, discoverable interface, backed by a solid manual. And if the upgrade were free, it would be easier to overlook the problems. But this is a $20 upgrade, along with a price hike: the program is now $50, up from $35 previously. In my view, the increased price, clumsy interface, and unhelpful manual are potentially serious obstacles. The best thing, however, is to download the demo (a 5.7 MB download) and decide for yourself. Mac OS X 10.3.9 or higher is required.
The Mac OS X approach to fonts is something that can leave users baffled, and no wonder: many different types are supported, they can be stored in a multitude of places, and Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger installs some duplicate fonts as a default… and that’s just for starters.
In many months of font research for the recently published "Take Control of Fonts in Mac OS X" and its companion volume "Take Control of Font Problems in Mac OS X," I trolled the Web and lurked on many message boards, intrepidly experimented on my own Macs, and served as the emergency contact for graphic designer friends (and their friends, and their friends’ friends). Of the many misunderstandings and management mistakes users make, one stands out as the most common: consolidating fonts into a single Fonts folder.
I don’t know exactly what motivates people to do this. (I’m not sure what motivates me to dig into the details of using the Mac – I just do, even when I’m not going to write about it.) But many users explore their systems, change things, and sometimes run into trouble. The Font Book application included with Tiger is such an improvement over its previous version that there’s seldom any need to deal directly with Fonts folders. (And graphics professionals who need more than Font Book use third-party font managers that protect them from needing to know about Fonts folders.) But perhaps a user adds a font and wants to get rid of what appear to be duplicates, or she comes from a Mac OS 9 background where it was more "normal" to manipulate font files manually. Whatever the reason, when you first start poking around on your drive looking for where fonts are stored (perhaps by doing a Spotlight search for folders named "Fonts"), you may be surprised to find at least three different folders, and perhaps four, from Tiger:
- In the System directory (/System/Library/Fonts)
- At the "shared by all users" level (/Library/Fonts)
- In your home directory (~/Library/Fonts)
- In the Mac OS 9 System Folder (/System Folder/Fonts) if you’ve installed Classic.
Installing Adobe’s Creative Suite adds another Fonts folder (in /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts), and if you have Microsoft Office, you get yet another (in /Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Office/Fonts).
Many people, when faced with this seeming mess, decide it’s ridiculous to have fonts spread all over the place and start shuffling the files around, combining them in only one or two Fonts folders.
Despite the apparent simplicity, wholesale consolidation is a mistake, because where your fonts are stored controls what applications (and, on a multi-user Mac, which users) can see those fonts. Most fonts are stored in various locations for good reasons. Here’s the scoop on each of the Fonts folders listed above.
System Fonts Folder — Tiger installs 30 fonts in this folder (/System/Library/Fonts). Several of them are so important that if you remove them, your menus and dialogs can implode into gibberish and your Mac will refuse to start up. These all-important fonts are LucidaGrande, Geneva, Monaco, and Helvetica. Only slightly less important are Keyboard and LastResort, fonts that don’t even show up in your Font menus. Whether or not the two AquaKana OpenType files are dispensable is a matter of some debate; my considered opinion is that, since Apple went to some trouble to keep them invisible – they don’t show up in Font menus – you should leave them alone. In fact, leave the System Fonts folder completely alone: don’t put fonts in it or take them out.
The System Fonts folder has its own unique way of interacting with you when you try to remove any of its fonts: drag a font out and a copy is automatically made in the destination, with the original left in place. The only way you can really remove a font from this folder is to send it directly to the Trash: drag it there, or select it and press Command-Delete, or Command-click or right-click on the icon for a contextual menu and choose Move To Trash. You’ll have to supply an administrative password along the way. But while that’s good to know in an academic sense, all these safeguards against accidental removal of system fonts should remind you to leave them all alone!
Library Fonts Folder — Fonts in this folder (/Library/Fonts) can be "seen" by all user accounts, so they’re available to every user of the machine. On a single-user Mac, there’s really no difference between storing fonts here or in the User Fonts folder. Tiger puts 35 fonts in this folder; Apple’s iLife and iWork applications put their fonts here, too.
User Fonts Folder — Each user account on the Mac has its own Fonts folder (~/Library/Fonts); the fonts in it are available to only that user. Tiger doesn’t install any fonts in this folder; Microsoft Office puts its fonts here – Office X provides 15 fonts, but Office 2004 donates a generous 77 font files! If you’re the only user, this is where you should put any fonts you install. On a multi-user Mac, you might want to keep some fonts private to a specific account (so they don’t clutter other users’ Font menus); to share them with all the users of a specific machine, they must be in /Library/Fonts.
Classic Fonts Folder — If the Classic environment is installed on your machine, only the fonts in the Mac OS 9 System Folder (/System Folder/Fonts) are available to Classic applications (they’re also available to your Tiger applications). Unlike Tiger’s wider choice of font types, only Mac TrueType and PostScript Type 1 fonts work in the Classic environment. Tiger automatically smoothes fonts on the screen in only the Mac OS X environment, so if you want your Type 1 fonts to be drawn correctly on the screen (instead of with the famous, dreaded "jaggies") in Classic, you need Adobe’s ATM Light version 4.6.2 or later installed in Classic.
Adobe’s Fonts Folder — As befits the inventor of PostScript fonts, Adobe provides a generous assortment of fonts with its applications. But when they’re in their default location, only Adobe applications can access them (/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts). If you want to use these fonts in all your applications, you must move them to the Library Fonts or User Fonts folder. That sounds like a good deal until you see how non-Adobe applications handle the plethora of typefaces for these OpenType fonts: Warnock Pro, for instance, has 32 different typefaces that Word lists in about two dozen entries! Moving a few of your favorites, and turning them on and off through Font Book, is a better plan than indiscriminately moving all of the Adobe fonts to another folder. (Note that you won’t see these fonts in Font Book unless you move them to one of your Tiger Fonts folders; Adobe’s folder "belongs" to Adobe’s applications, so Font Book doesn’t manage its contents.)
Another mistake users make in regard to the Adobe Fonts folder is deleting it after moving its fonts to another Font folder. Adobe buried a subfolder in it (/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts/Reqrd/Base) that holds more fonts, ones that are used by Adobe applications for things like its tool palettes. Without these fonts in that folder – in that specific folder path – Adobe applications don’t even open.
Microsoft’s Fonts Folder — This folder (/Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Office/Fonts) is a red herring that leads to quite a bit of confusion in the category of "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." If you know that Tiger supports "application Fonts folders" such as the Adobe one just described, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that this folder holds fonts for Microsoft applications – especially because each of the fonts in it shows up in your Fonts menu. The confusion starts when you take a font out of the folder and realize it still appears in your Font menu. Or, you add a font to the folder, and it doesn’t show up in your Font menu. Or, you notice that all its fonts are also in your User fonts folder and you decide to delete one or the other copy of the over six dozen duplicate files.
This folder is a mere storage bin; Tiger doesn’t access it at all, which is why altering its contents has no effect on your Font menus. Microsoft Office copies these fonts into your User Fonts folder the first time you run it; the originals stay in place, to be copied for the next user account that runs Office, and so on. Tiger accesses only the copies in the User Fonts folder.
Fonts, Fonts, Everywhere — Don’t assume that just because Tiger uses so many Fonts folders that it doesn’t matter which one you use for your fonts, or that the best approach is to collect all your fonts together for easier management. It’s better to understand the differences between the folders and store your fonts based on how (and who) you want to access them.
[Sharon Zardetto Aker, who has written about the Mac since its birth in 1984, made her first foray into electronic publishing with her recent "Take Control of Fonts" titles. Between them, the two ebooks contain over 350 pages of this kind of information about fonts.]
The Advice You Need to Run Windows on Your Mac — Macintosh users have been able to run (or at least walk) Windows on their Macs for a long time now, thanks to products like Virtual PC. But now that software like Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop has appeared for Intel-based Macs, the Mac community is abuzz with questions about how these new options work, the best choices for different situations, and how to avoid pesky problems that can crop up when installing Windows on a Mac.
Joe Kissell, author of "Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger," has come to the rescue with "Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac." In this 104-page ebook, Joe examines why you might want to use your Mac to run Windows, helps you pick the best option for running Windows in your situation, and gives detailed, real-world advice on how to install Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, and Q on an Intel-based Mac.
Once you’ve completed the installation, the ebook explains how to overcome common problems such as getting your mice and keyboards working properly, sharing files across platforms, and correcting a confusing error that appears on some Mac minis. Joe also covers how to make a slipstream installer disc (if needed, for a Boot Camp installation) and how to protect your Windows installation from viruses and malware. An appendix summarizes options for running Windows on PowerPC Macs.
The ebook includes a limited-time coupon worth $10 off the purchase price of Parallels Desktop (Joe’s recommended program for most situations), making the ebook free if you also purchase Parallels Desktop!
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.
Apple Reminds Us of Trusting, Verifying — Glenn Fleishman’s article about Apple’s security measures for software updates brings up questions about other ways of verifying identity and revoking public encryption keys. (2 messages)
PGP Desktop 9 — Readers note that PGP Desktop does not yet run on Intel-based Macs, but that GPG does. (3 messages)
5th Avenue Apple Store in NYC — Apple opened its first 24-hour Apple retail store last week, while Dell announced that it would be building retail stores of its own (though customers won’t actually be able to purchase physical products that can be taken home). (2 messages)
Eyestrain problems with LCDs — A reader experiencing eyestrain after using an LCD monitor receives advice about possible causes and solutions. (9 messages)
Tigre en multilingue? Do you need to buy a localized copy of Mac OS X in the country of the language you need? It turns out that just one version handles it all, including spell-checking. (4 messages)
Swapping power adapters between laptops — Apple ships power adapters for the MacBook and MacBook Pro that handle different wattages. Can you recharge a MacBook Pro with a MacBook adapter? We nail down the answer. (10 messages)
Migrating out of Eudora, to IMAP — Chris Pepper’s ongoing search for a portable email solution just might be coming to an end. (1 message)