MacPorts revisited

I’m setting up my new (old) iMac and I thought I’d give MacPorts another try. I used it since the late 2000s. (I forget why I moved from Fink to MacPorts.) For the last five (?) years or so I’ve used Homebrew, but I’ve always been uneasy about making /usr/local writable, and never convinced by the blandishments on the Homebrew site. I heard about Nix, but before I tried something really different, I thought I’d give MacPorts another look.

So far, so good. I prefer to need sudo to install software. The only real problem I’ve encountered is that the MacPorts version of Pandoc is so old it can’t read docx files. (#sad!) But Pandoc has its own installer, so I’m trying that out too.

Replacing a 27″ iMac Hard Drive

I picked up a gorgeous 27″ iMac at the last UAA Surplus sale. But the fans run. A lot. I think someone put a new hard drive in it without considering how Apple makes everything as hard as it can possibly be.

Here’s some details on the problem. Apple has its own way of sensing the temperature on the hard drive. Because of course they do. And unless you get an Apple branded hard drive, or want to short the pins on Apple’s HD cable, you have to get a thermal sensor cable from OWC. It only costs $40, plus another $10 to ship to Alaska. (Or you could check first, like I should have, and find out it’s cheaper on Amazon, and you get free Prime shipping too. Sigh.)

Sigh. But! If get it working properly again … I’m telling you, this machine is gorgeous:

The dim monitor on the left is a perfectly adequate HD display from Dell.

Linux on Old Macs

I was recently given a second 20″ iMac 2007 to go along with the first. They’re beautiful machines, but Apple doesn’t want me to keep using it, so they’re making all their software not work on it anymore. So I’ve been wondering how they’d do as Linux machines.

Apparently, it isn’t very easy to get an old iMac to boot a Linux system. I don’t think I have a Firewire cable, much less a HDD enclosure with a Firewire interface.

Mojave Finder Misfeature

MacOS X has a feature that nobody else has: Miller Columns. (There were evidently once a few Linux file managers that implemented it, but I’ve never seen it, and I’m too lazy to track them down. OpenStep did, which was where I first encountered them, but that was a straight knockoff of NeXTSTEP. Besides, nobody uses a bare Window Manager any more. The hipsters these days are all about desktop environments and— Hey! You kids! Get off my lawn, you kids.)

Miller Columns, we were talking about. Neat feature. It’s been there forever. Since before it was MacOS X.

So of course, in Mojave, Apple screwed it up. Behold:

The preview (right-most) panel used to provide some useful information. Now it has a button that enables you to see some useful information. THANK YOU SO MUCH, APPLE.

Issues with printing PDF from Preview since updating to Mojave

Mojave removed the ability of Apple’s apps (preview, pages, etc.) to print using the Konica Print drivers. There’s a Konica driver, but Apple’s “Library Validation” means that Apple’s apps won’t use it. (I assume they enforce the same rules for software from the App Store, but I haven’t checked.) In order to get the full use of a driver, you have to use a 3rd party. Do that and you have access to all the features in the Konica print drivers.

I imagine that other vendors of fancy printers with non-basic features provide their own client software, like the weird little apps that come with inkjets and scanners. Those apps can use the full feature set of their vendors’ libraries. But nobody else can, if they’re using library validation.

So the solution is to NOT USE APPLE APPS (or presumably App Store Apps) to do your printing. Use 3rd party apps like Chrome or Acrobat, so you can get access to the print driver’s feature set. See more in this post.

This strategy works, if you think of computers as basically glorified iPhones with a walled garden of curated apps that your grandmother can safely use on the internet. But if you think of them as general purpose devices, with a huge ecosystem of applications to leverage to create value, well, good luck with that. “It just works” has been grayed out. You can learn more at the Apple developer forums (from this link: https://www.google.com/search?q=10.14+library+validation). See also this from Xerox.

Cross posted from the Apple Support Forum, in case it disappears there.

UPDATE. I saw this too late. Try creating “presets” in the 3rd party app, and then using that from within the crippled Apple app.

Cool MacOSX feature

I’ve found it increasingly hard to approve of Apple for the last while (like seven or eight years) so I wanted to point out something I like. I don’t know when it appeared, but I only just noticed it myself.

You may have noticed that MacOSX apps are good at tracking changes to the filesystem. You can be editing a document in one app, and you change it’s name in the Finder (or the Terminal) and the first app notices that and doesn’t try to save it under the original name. Good job, Apple. All the OSes should do that.

But here’s the feature I just noticed. I’m downloading a file (using a non-Safari browser) and I notice that it looks like this in the Finder:

Notice the grey progress meter next to the file? Pretty slick. I don’t know what the API requires on the part of the web browser, but it’s nice that the rest of the OS can be aware the file is open (easy enough) and it’s 85% done (pretty impressive).

MacOSX Security Updates

I hate them, because I know they probably should be installed, but they take about an hour to install. I see a lot of this:

For whatever reason, it tends to camp out around 40 minutes. I’ll come back and it will say 42 minutes, or 41, or 43, but rarely anything below 40 or over 45.

So this week, Apple gave me a security update:

Note the size of this file. Some of have bandwidth caps, Apple.

Then, a couple of days later, they gave me another. Only it wasn’t a new security update. It was an update of the first update.

App Store Perils

Despite its undeniable convenience, I dislike Apple’s “App Store” for several reasons. The first is that Apple uses it to make developers dance to whatever tune Apple is playing that day. (This is part of their general philosophy of totalitarian control of everything, everywhere.) As a former developer myself, my attitude is “Screw them.”

But the other reason is that it sometimes breaks, and then the recovery mechanism is utterly opaque. Case in point.

Apple App Store Bug

This was the fourth time I downloaded 1.20 GB of Garageband content only to receive this useful message:

Apple App Store Bug

I don’t know who the intern was who coded this feature into the App Store, but they should have run this diagnostic message past someone who can speak English.

So. Google to the rescue. It turns out that not only is this a well-known bug, it’s one that’s been around for a long time. That Apple quality shining through as always.

Should I repair an old Macbook Pro?

I’m thinking about fixing an old computer. It’s a 2009 MacBook Pro.

It needs a new hard drive. A replacement for the original 320 GB drive costs $30 but I’d love an SSD for $100 or more.

It needs a new battery. Those will cost another $100.

And it probably warrants a RAM upgrade as well. That will cost about $75.

And why not replace the Superdrive with a second hard drive, like a 2 TB drive that costs $85? But it would also require a caddy for the hard drive at about $35. (Or this other caddy at just $25? Without more study, I’m not sure what the difference is. Update: the difference is a $10 “fix kit” with various tools and parts. Also, they say there’s a limit of 750 GB capacity for the second drive.)

I could probably shave off some of that buying the RAM on eBay or whatever, but barring some real bargains, the minimum to get it running is $30+100=$130. The “wish list” adds another $75+85+35 = $195, assuming my labor and tools are free. Plus S+H, of course.

Speaking of which, the old computer isn’t here. It’s in Michigan, and getting it here will cost $60–90, depending on the breaks.

Sigh. This is why I’m thinking about it.

To be fair, it would be a pretty fair computer when I’m done. Unlike recent Macs, it will have expansion ports. But it won’t run High Sierra. Not sure if that’s a bug or a feature.

The best competitor for it available today is the Macbook Air. That’s getting long in the tooth and will probably be eliminated or turned into something much less attractive, like the Macbook. But right now, it has 8 GB and an SSD to start, and 2 USB3 ports and a Thunderbolt 2 port. It weighs 3 lbs. vs. the MBP’s 5, and has slightly better screen resolution. But it costs $999 and up. A Macbook Pro starts at $1299 and has only two Thunderbolt (3) ports, and lacks a separate power socket and SDHC slot; in fact its only real advantage is more screen resolution.

If only Apple would make a MacBook Pro in 2018 as good as the 2009 one was. But that’s an non-starter, since it would require Apple not to suck.

UPDATE: Consider using an SD card instead of a replacing the SuperDrive with a high-capacity hard drive. According to Apple, the MacBook Pro’s card slot supports major SD formats: SD (2 GB max. cap.), SDHC (32 GB), and SDXC (2 TB). It’s a USB device, so it would be a lot slower than a real SSD, but for bulky items that change rarely it should be adequate.

Apple Sucks (Part 33,704 in a series)

A year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that they could make iTunes worse. But they did. They took out useful things (like managing the apps with a mouse rather than a fingertip, and managing the order of screens). To be sure, it was always a crappy interface, more interested in showing you pictures than giving you useful data, or, better yet, a grid-based sortable interface. But that’s iTunes for you. Now it’s worse.

Obviously, there’s nobody at Apple who has more than a dozen apps on their phone. Or more likely, they’ve got some secret tool that the general public can’t use.

Oh, but they did tart up the app store (both the Mac and iOS versions) so you have to wade through commercials every time you use it. Want to find how monumentally huge that iMovie update you don’t want will be? It used to be on the first screen, but now it’s helpfully like four screens deep.

Thank you so much, Apple. You SUCK. But you knew that.