Archive for the ‘Apple’ category

How to run OS X in one language but certain apps in another

April 20th, 2010

Ever want to run your OS in French but you live in America and type mostly in English?

Because if you want to use more than one language at a time on your computer you’re Doing It Wrong, because if you were doing it right, Apple would have provided a way to do it that way.

Astounding that this requires a 3rd-party application. Yes, it is possible to change the language in your document, but if you also use paragraph styles, they have a set languge.  And that set language doesn’t change when you set the language on the whole document.  And you can’t highlight the whole document of mixed languages and set the whole thing to one of them.  Usability at its finest.

Apple, some computer users do know how to operate computers.

i(Tunes | Pod) deficiency or Deserves a Pizza #2

July 31st, 2009

Apple, the reigning champion of “intuitive” design, strikes again has another winner.

“Podcast” is a useless, branded neologism for audio files that come out on a regular basis.  Nevertheless, audio files that come out on a regular basis are enjoyable.  I “subscribe” to the Dave Ramseypodcast.”  I also bike to work.  Those may seem unrelated, but in fact the latter is the cause of the former.

Biking to work falls into the high-risk class of activities, but is closer to the moderate-risk class than, say, sky diving without a parachute.  Folks who don’t bike to work don’t much notice those who do. I’m all for live and let live, but this lack of attention can sometimes break that pattern for bikers.  The point is that just how a pregnant woman has to eat for 2, I have to pay attention for 2, or 3, or 4, depending on how many motorized vehicles cross my path during my commute.  That payment of attention only requires a visual debit, leaving many spare brain cycles during which my mind sits idle.  I like to fill that with sound.  Sound where I learn something is even better.

Enter audio files that come out regularly.  But sometimes I don’t listen to the Dave Ramsey audio files that come out on a regular basis, giving me a backlog.  This means that there’s more than that I haven’t heard.  Now, the genius of mp3 players is that they hold more than 1 song, and mp3 players can, generally, play all their contents without user attention between each track.

Enter the iPod.

Audio files that come out regularly are a magical class of audio file for the iPod.  The iPod, by default, cannot play 1 such audio file and then go on to the next without user interaction.  In fact, at the end of 1 such track, it repeats the same track, even though the menu is showing a list of all availabe Dave Ramsey audio files that come out on a regular basis.  Now, I realize that desiring this feature just means I’m using the iPod wrong, because only holiness emanates from Cupertino.  Nonetheless, academic freedom dictates that I must challenge such dogmas and question all authority.

Assuming all cows are perfect spheres, this as a default behavior makes perfect sense.  And it gets better!  If we define “intuitive” as “difficult” or “requires somewhere-above-average-but-less-than-expert knowledge of system to use,” then Apple has provided an intuitive way to overcome this problem.  This blog post describes the solution.  I mean, who wouldn’t have thought to create a “Smart Playlist” to do something so basic complicated as playing the next track?  Who actually uses their mp3 player that way anyway?

However, if not all cows are, in fact, perfect spheres and we define “intuitive” the same way that Merriam-Webster does, then to get the next track to play, one should just have the next track on the device.  Ergo, this is an Apple fail.


  1. danandchoka deserve a pizza.
  2. The fact that goole has just over 400k hits for “ipod podcast play next” seems to indicate that I’m not alone in this problem.

Besides venting another Apple-related spleen, I wrote this post to bump up danandchoka’s post.  I really did appreciate finding the answer to this problem.

Deserves a pizza inaugural post

July 17th, 2009

A new category of post.  People who deserve a pizza.

For helping my out of my can’t-install-mysql-gem problem, I present to you

Use of a mac will be forgiven for pure awesomeness.

I was getting errors along the lines of:

Building native extensions.  This could take a while…
ERROR:  Error installing mysql:
ERROR: Failed to build gem native extension.

/usr/local/bin/ruby extconf.rb install mysql
checking for mysql_query() in -lmysqlclient… no
checking for main() in -lm… yes
checking for mysql_query() in -lmysqlclient… no
checking for main() in -lz… yes
checking for mysql_query() in -lmysqlclient… no
checking for main() in -lsocket… no
checking for mysql_query() in -lmysqlclient… no
checking for main() in -lnsl… yes
checking for mysql_query() in -lmysqlclient… no

Apple strikes again

December 18th, 2008

This time it’s with TextEdit, which is probably WAAAAAY better than Notepad, because Micro$oft didn’t write it.

Well, true to Apple’s form of thinking its users are too dumb to know how to use a computer, I found out that TextEdit does not let you choose what extension to put on a file.  I’m doing a MySQL create table statement, and copying/pasting the results of a show create table statement was overloading the terminal window– really weird text was coming out, and MYSQL couldn’t make sense of it.  So I decided to paste it into a simple text editor, save that as a .sql file, and then import that into the database via the command line.

Now, I know that file doesn’t have to have a .sql extension.  I like it that way though, and seeing how I’m the user, the computer should listen to me.

So what happens when one goes to specify one’s own extension on a file in TextEdit?  One is treated to the following dialog box (which is modal, of course):

An Apple staple

It isn’t particularly difficult to save a file with a different extension, and Apple’s philosophy of hiding any sort of file-system-level issues from ALL users weakens TextEdit’s usefulness.  When I’m using a Windows machine and need to quickly test something in HTML (for example), I load up Notepad, quickly enter the snippet under test, and then save it as an HTML document.  I would not have any such luck as a TextEdit user.

Am I left the option of changing the extension in Finder after?  Sure.  But that requires leaving TextEdit, finding the file, praying that I can even see the extension, and so forth.  Not the gold standard of usability.  Do I have a more able text editor on the machine?  Yes, TextMate, but it’s a bloated monstrosity (ever done a ‘Find in Project?’) without the power of Visual Studio, and it doesn’t come to mind for quick editing tasks.  And yes, in this particular example, the extension didn’t actually matter because thankfully mysql is better software than TextEdit.  The point is, I should be able to use a different file extension if I want to. Not all users are as scared of the file system as you think Apple.  Leave us the option!

This is yet another reason why I would never spend any of my own money on an Apple computer.

Edit: So, I got mad and wrote the post.  Then I gave the file the extension I wanted and tried importing it into my database, only to be greeted by the following error: ERROR 1049 (42000) at line 1: Unknown database ‘tf1ansiansicpg1252cocoartf949cocoasubrtf350′.  I thought, “I sure don’t remember specifying database tf1ansiansicpg1252cocoartf949cocoasubrtf350.”  TextEdit is serious when it says it only does .rtf files.  That polution of a .sql script is quite normal for an .rtf.  So Apple does not provide a plain text editor, or if TextEdit does do plain text, it isn’t readily apparent.

2nd edit: apparently it does other file formats, if you choose them from a drop-down menu on the save dialog box.  However, you’re still locked into the extension associated with the format.  And it doesn’t have a plain-text option.  TextEdit still loses.

Apple gripe: Pages file format

December 5th, 2008

Since Pages is from Apple, one would expect it to be awesome and without flaw.  Unless of course one hadn’t been baptized in the Church of Apple.

I know that the standard when there is a problem with something Apple is that it’s the user’s (my) fault, but I’m not so sure on this one.  I’m trying to upload a Pages document to Basecamp.  Now, Basecamp is made by 37Signals, some of the most rabid Apple fans out there (but also the origin of Rails, so they get just a snicker on their stance).

It turns out Pages saves “documents” as a directory with several files below it (they call it a “package,” but calling my unwrapped Christmas presents wrapped Christmas presents doesn’t make it so).  I’m sure there is a reason for that, just as I’m sure there’s a reason for the obnoxious screen capture behavior built into OsX (OSx?  Who cares?).  The problem is that browsers don’t do folder uploads, so one can’t just upload their Pages document without first zipping it up.  Then, presumably one would have to unzip it to read it again.  Zipping/unzipping isn’t a terribly painful process, but neither is stubbing my toe– not exactly the gold standard against which I measure an action.

Of course, this could just be the fault of every browser, because if it weren’t, then it would be Apple’s fault.

Come on Apple! Or is that one should never have to transfer a Pages document?  Stuff written in Pages should only ever be viewed on that same machine?  Did Apple just miss the existence of the Internet, or do they expect everyone to only use Apple products which, presumably, are equipped to ship a folder around? If Pages is any indication of Apple’s quality (and it seems to be), why on Earth would someone want to switch?

Of course, on all the message boards, all anyone talks about is how bad Microsoft products are, WHILE THEY’RE HAVING PROBLEMS WITH AN APPLE PRODUCT! It would be funny if I didn’t have to work with Apple products.

New Apple gripe

October 6th, 2008

I hope it’s a new one anyway.

So yeah, Mac OSX provides a screen capture utility that makes a cute little camera sound when a user takes a “snapshot.”  How sweet and usability-enhancing that is.

Well, it appears that Mac OSX makes the sound and then tries to take the screen grab.  Often I’ll take a screenshot to attach to a bug report at work.  I hit the buttons for the screenshot and then immediately go to look at the resulting file to make sure it was correct.  The problem though is that since it makes the sound BEFORE it has actually taken the screenshot, when I hit F11 to see my desktop, the resulting picture shows my windows on their way out to being hidden.

Apple, USE CONFIRMATION NOISES ONCE THE PROCESS IS COMPLETE!  It’s little things like this that are so frustrating with Apple because of how obnoxious the devotion of its acolytes are.

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference

June 29th, 2008

So yesterday Apple had its Worldwide Developer Conference 2008, or whatever. You may have guessed something like that from the title of this post.

I’m pretty new to Apple computers. I mean, I’ve used the 2e, but I did say “computers,” so I don’t know if that counts. I’ve used PCs my entire life, and never really had a problem with them. At my present job we use Macs, though I did have a choice to use a PC when I first started. I went with the Mac because I found the PC world to be severely lacking in Ruby on Rails development tools. Turns out the Mac only has TextMate, but that will be the subject of another rant.

Apple should be tax-exempt, as it is more of a religion than serious company. I had heard my whole life from Mac zealots how wonderful the machines are– you’ll never want to go back. Now that Microsoft released Vista that’s true, but it does (incorrectly) make the assertion that I would stay with Mac.

Where PCs are severely lacking in Rails tools, I find the Mac severely lacking in usability. I quit my last job because of usability concerns, so this is a touchy subject. I almost wonder if the same drunken monkeys that work as interns for IBM/Lotus making Lotus Notes get hired by Apple when they graduate from monkey school. Let me provide some examples:

  • Closing the lid on my mac overrides a shutdown sequence, but only enough so that when I open the machine back up expecting to boot it up and do work, I then have to wait for it to shut down. “Don’t shut the Mac down,” you say? I have yet to see the promise that Mac makes about never having to shut the machine down fulfilled. Performance degrades as time since reboot increases, just as with Windows. And even if that weren’t the case, I thought Macs were so usable that I could do what I want with them.
  • I can’t interact with application menus via my keyboard, apart from ENTER. Perhaps most users aren’t “power users” who would want to use the keyboard. FINE! But some are. You can provide keyboard support without shutting down the pure mouse support.
  • I can’t tab into drop-down boxes (to Apple’s defense, this may be an application problem).
  • My DVD drive can only sometimes read a disc if the machine is perfectly flat and not moving. It’s like the accelerometer inside is turned on and if it detects any deviation from the horizontal, it shuts the drive down, causes it to make weird noises and claim that it is “Skipping over damaged” areas. My face. No other drive seems to find problems with the same discs. What’s so bad about a tray and locking the disc into it. That’s how DVDs are shipped, for crying out loud.
  • The DVD application is garbage. When it is busy “Skipping over [a] damaged area,” it completely freezes, becoming unresponsive to all user input (including Apple-Q). I’ve learned the force quit shortcut on a Mac as a result of this one machine, and I’ve basically performed DoS attacks on Apple’s servers submitting error reports. Though, I must admit I’d be surprised if those reports actually did leave my computer and Apple didn’t just put together a neat-looking interface to make me think they were getting those reports.
  • Speaking of the DVD player, screen captures are completely shut down while that application is even loaded. Copyright issues? Fine, I can cope–even though I get upset when I’m automatically treated like a criminal (which Mac does at every possible opportunity). I like to play DVDs in the background while I work, and sometimes I have to take screenshots for my work. Well, then I have to bring the player back into focus and shut it down. Then I can take my screenshot(s). Then I have to load the player back up and pray to the DVD gods (or maybe I should pray to Steve Jobs, or at least have the Leader get me in contact with the DVD gods?) that it will resume reading the disc it just was (or perhaps closing the DVD reader really does scratch my disc? Perhaps Apple in its quest to expand DRM detects that I wanted to take a screen shot while the DVD player happened to be loaded, assumes I am, in fact, a pirate, and says, “Y’argh!” proceeding to scratch my disc so I can’t watch it anymore.) Alternative solution if copyright is the issue– do what Windows does! Take the freaking screenshot and replace the DVD playback window with black pixels. And if you feel notifying me is important (which I think is a good thing), DON’T USE A MODAL DIALOG BOX, ESPECIALLY ONE THAT JUST HAS AN OKAY BUTTON! Why did you have to interrupt everything I was doing with a box that doesn’t even present me with any options? Do a nice, unobtrusive pop-up that goes away after a few seconds like, *ahem* Microsoft figured out how to do.

So this post is already too long. I realize that software is hard (I write it for a living) and usability is such a personal thing that no one can get it right for everyone. The only deal is that Windows users seem to understand that, and Mac users don’t. It’s like how when a Republican congressman gets busted in an airport stall– that’s news. But a Democrat has an affair with his campaign manager’s wife (a triple betrayal of the worst kind given what campaign managers give up for the candidate), no one cares. Republicans claim to be all about family values and depict the Democrats as godless anarchists, or whatever.

So “underwhelmed” is the word I use to describe the Mac. No Substance is the Bad Religion album I’d use to describe the hype surrounding Mac products, or the promises that emanate from the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field as The Mac Sucks! puts it.

I never got into Linux because of the snootiness of the average Linux user that I met. Mac seems to be like that, only add in a persecution complex as well.

Say what I will about Apple’s products, there is one area where they certainly can’t be beat– marketing.