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February 2008 Archives

February 3, 2008

Geocaching waypoints for N95 and friends

I've gotten a bit curious about geocaching. However, being the lazy type, there is no way that I'll enter all these waypoints manually on a mobile phone keyboard.

Therefore, here's an XSLT sheet to convert geocaching LOC files to Nokia LMX files. Just store the result in a file with the extension .lmx and drop it on your N95.

February 15, 2008

MacBook Distractions

I had ranted before about the occasional trouble that I'm experiencing with the MacBook's wireless card.

The symptoms continue to occur: Typically at home (when the machine is in the same place and sits on my desk for extended amounts of time, sometimes days), typically during work hours, often when somebody else toys around with a network nearby, and only reproducible when I really can't use them. In other words: At least here, the MacBook isn't reliable accessing the wireless network during work hours, and I can't figure out anything in particular that I can do to trigger or avoid the problem.

(It's also clear that the problem isn't with the access point, as other machines here have no problem. Including a wifi enabled mobile phone and the Thinkpad. This is a genuine client issue, genuinely on the Mac.)

Searching around online has been a fool's errand and a time sink as well: While there are quite a few examples of similar problem (and while discussion threads often have a "yeah, I have the same problem"), none of them yield useful information about either causes or cures for the problem. The only consolation is, maybe, that the trouble seems to be common across the BSDs and Linux, and is certainly not just a Mac problem. (That consolation is rather immaterial, though -- we are, after all, talking about a problem with the (Atheros) wireless card that ships in these machines. By default.)

From what I've seen so far, this could be a Heisenbug anywhere between overheating (a bad fan?), a loose contact, a bit of conducting dust on the motherboard, a buggy driver, neighbors' secretly building and testing EMP weapons while cooking pancakes, or sun spot activcity -- even though some general instability (two panics and a freeze within two hours or so, anyone?) this morning points at hardware troubles close to the motherboard. (Oh, of course all is stable now that I'm sitting in elsewhere and have the laptop balanced on my leg -- overheating, after all?)

The next step is presumably AppleCare -- and I'll probably have to see how well my environment is back-ported to Linux on the Thinkpad, since travel and work won't wait for Apple to get it's act together.

PS: A crack that occurs on the right-hand palm rest, toward the front, on about every MacBook I've seen, doesn't count as quality hardware either.

PS2: I do like MacOS's, and the overall machine's usability. Really. But, please, not in a less stable environment than what Linux on the Thinkpad gave me. Till that machine's motherboard broke, that is. 2 weeks repair time there.

February 17, 2008

Time Machine desiderata

Apart of the wireless and case problems, I'm actually a reasonably happy Mac user -- which is, indeed, somewhat surprising after 10 years of Linux on the desktop.

Among the things I like a lot with MacOS 10.5 (Leopard) is the TimeMachine backup program. It follows Kristian's law: Nobody wants backup, everybody wants restore. And the user interface for restoring data is cheesy enough to actually work. Kudos for that.

Well, almost: To be compliant with Norm's law, there need to be at least two backups, on two different hard drives. And while Time Machine is indeed totally capable of doing that, it involves manually switching backup disks, and a lengthy first pass while the "new" disk is first used. Both of these seem unnecessary -- Time Machine should be able to recognize a backup drive, and it should be able to keep track locally of where it's putting backups, and what has happened since the last one to any given medium.

The other surprising gap is a lack of encrypted backups: On the one hand there's FileVault for encrypted home directories, and ample support for mounting encrypted volumes. There's even dynamically growing encrypted volumes, and support for easily creating them hidden in the hdiutil command line tool.

I'm seriously puzzled why TimeMachine doesn't make that kind of support available automatically.

Let's hope that things will improve soon, both from the wireless perspective, and in TimeMachine.

Later: It appears as though multiple disk mode works reasonably well; in particular, the additional pass through the entire disk stopped occurring after a while. However, there's still the dance through the preferences whenever the backup disk is changed.

February 23, 2008

Enough with the Mac Blogging already...

... but before we return topics here to more productive things, let's note that Apple's support has so far been rather more impressive than IBM's: After exchanging some e-mails with their service provider here in Luxembourg and a phone call on Wednesday, spare parts (a new top case assembly, for the case crack, and a new airport card) were waiting there when I brought the laptop on Friday. They were exchanged on the spot, and I took a repaired machine home an hour later. Also, quite mundanely, the service provider is, for once, a 10 minute bus ride from Luxembourg's central station -- instead of hiding in the countryside near Belgium, and even then only acting as a glorified post office.

I'm not quite ready to declare victory, but so far, things look well.

About February 2008

This page contains all entries posted to No Such Weblog in February 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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