Category Archives: Apple

No iPhone For Keola

While it seemed half of the civilized words was standing in line in order to purchase a new iPhone yesterday, we opted for a much less expensive albeit less technologically advanced option. Kenneth uses and highly recommended MobiPCS. I investigated their plans and for less money than one iPhone all-you-can-eat voice and text plan, we now have three lines – one for my wife, my daughter and myself. We have unlimited local and national calls and unlimited texts within the US. We got the Motorola E815’s for myself and my wife (at left), and a Motorola Razr for M?lia. The one limitation that I’ve encountered with Mobi’s service is that it cannot use short codes, so I’ve had problems setting up the phone to send SMS to Twitter, and Jaiku’s activation code has not arrived after several hour of waiting. I’m hoping this is something that Mobi can fix but am not getting my hopes up.

We did not get web access for the phones as they are not 3G capable. As I spend most of my days and nights in front of a computer anyway, I really don’t feel the overwhelming need to interrupt my travel time with email and other distractions. Maybe someday, but with Ph.d. research and writing coming up, it’s probably just one more distraction that I don’t need at this point. I did get to fondle a new iPhone that a colleague had bought for his girlfriend and it is a sexy machine.

iTunes 8008 Download Errors

A few weeks after we moved into our flat in Dunedin, I began to experience some very strange errors when downloading TV programs and movies from iTunes Music Store (iTMS). After beginning the download, I would see the “time remaining” indicator jump from a few hours remaining to just a few minutes. The number would then climb a bit, and then I’d get an 8008 error, along with an indication that the file was corrupted. After a number of attempts I noticed that the file always stopped on a multiple of 10Meg, plus .1 megabyte (70.1, 80.1, 120.1). It would then back up 10 megabytes, try again and always fail. At that point I have to delete the file from the “Downloads” folder and start again. It’s more than a bit annoying. I’m assuming that about every 10 megabytes iTunes does some kind of file verification and that’s when it detects the error, but apparently cannot fix it.

What I end up doing (when the mood strikes), is to download the movie for a while, pause it, make a backup copy of the partial download, and continue. If I get the error I delete the corrupted file in “Downloads”, replace it with my backup, and continue from that point rather than starting all over. It’s a pain in the rump.

Some nights when the download speeds are fast (currently about 1Mps) it’s manageable – I make a backup about every 100 megabyte. On bad nights – forget it. I just go to the Otago library late when the speeds are better. During the day the network there feels like dialup speed.

Our ISP has tried a number of changes but nothing seems to make a difference, nor has some of the recent iTunes upgrades. Bugger. If anyone has a fix (our ISP thinks it might have something to do with NAT conversion), please leave a comment!

Paddy Tax

Pat Phelan has been on the warpath since O2 announced its pricing scheme for the iPhone deployment in Ireland on March 14. Alexia and Conor find a few more Paddy Taxes that O2 hoists upon its customers. If you look deep enough it is in much of the telecom industry, though there are a few exceptions like Pat’s own ventures and (for a particular kind of user) MobiPCS back in Hawai‘i. But by and large the major players all treat customers like potential prey instead of valued customers – it’s death by a thousand razors, or Paddy Taxes.

My wife and I share a mobile phone and our daughter has her own here in New Zealand. The only reason we have one is we don’t have a land-line, otherwise I’d be happier not being victimized by a vulture-like provider. Vodaphone NZ’s pricing for pay-as-you-go plans is ridiculous ($0.89 a minute, $0.20 per text), though on the plus side we don’t pay for incoming calls like most PAYG plans do back in the U.S.

I love Apple products, I love the iPhone, but I’m not getting one until I can choose a network without potentially bricking the phone, and am able to do so without making a long term commitment. It’s not going to happen until someone makes a better mobile phone. And before all of the Nokia fan-boys and fan-girls out there get up in arms – it’s not about what the phone can do, it’s about how it does it. And unfortunately nothing quite does it like the iPhone.

Rent-To-Own Movies in iTMS?

Here is an idea for you guys at Apple who make decisions regarding iTMS, and I know you all read this blog. It would be great if customers were given the ability, after renting a movie, to be able to buy it and just pay the difference. After I watched “Once” I wished I had bought it, but I’m not going to spend $10 more (or whatever the purchase price is) after spending $4 to rent it. The movies expire and auto-delete 24 hours after you watch. Apple should give renters the opportunity to pay the difference within that time frame and keep the movie if they really like it after renting. How about it, Steve? You’ve already paid for the bandwidth, so like Mr. Lesko says, it’s free money!

“Everywhere” = “USA Only” In AppleSpeak

Apple lies!Apparently “everywhere” in Apple parlance means “anywhere in the USA.” I tried accessing the new iTunes movie rentals here in New Zealand, and iTunes only shows movies available for purchase. While it doesn’t explain this fact on Apple’s website, it was mentioned on another site that the rentals are available in the US only, and that your credit card music have a US mailing address. Apparently you can’t rent movies overseas even if you have a US credit card and a US iTunes account. DVD purchases and rentals are expensive here, and this would have been a perfect option for us as we are watching DVD rentals on my MacBookPro anyway. Damn you, Steve Jobs! Probably not The Steve’s fault; feels better to blame Hollywood.

Look for a workaround…

Keyboard Switching Problem Fixed in Leopard

I finally got around to installing Leopard on my MacBookPro about a week ago, and am certainly glad I have done so. I really like the “Spaces” (multiple virtual desktops) feature which help reduce monitor clutter when I’m running 20 different applications. I have not come across any progam compatibility issues and speed of launching and running applications seems about the same. I don’t know if the new features justify calling this an “upgrade” and charging for it – it feels more like an incremental update worthy of a 10.4.12 designation. I also have Leopard server, and that does have enough new features, IMHO, to justify to the cost. More on that later.

One of the undocumented fixes in Leopard was that the random switching of keyboards that we have experienced since 10.4 was released have vanished. Previously if we had two or more keyboards active, they would randomly switch whenever you moved between applications. I had reported this problem to Apple and am happy to see that they have taken care of it. The new behavior is that once you select a keyboard it remains selected until you explicitly change it, no matter what applications you are using. Mahalo Apple!

Static Routes On OS X Server

I spent three days at the UH-M?noa campus setting up a new fallback server for Ulukau – a brand new Intel XServe running OS X 10.4 which is identical to the current server. One problem we encountered back when we set up the current Ulukau server back in August was configuring static routes which are required to tie into the Veritas backup system used at the campus’ data center. Mahalo to our friends at Apple for pointing to this post which discusses how to set up static routes on OS X server. The instructions we followed were in a post by T.E. posted on Oct 30, 2007 at 11:04 A.M. It seems to work flawlessly, and the static routes are recreated automatically with each restart.

There have been few additions to Ulukau since we set up the new server in August, and we had completely copied the contents of Ulukau to a second RAID. With the addition of this new server and finalizing the backup process we will soon have two identical Ulukau servers in addition to automated backup. The servers will not share the load as either of them is more than sufficient for the current load on the system. The new server will be a fallback server – jumping into service if there are any issues with the main server.

Mahalo to Jim Uyeda at Apple Computer for his support of our work, and for the staff of the Information and Technology Services for their assistance and hosting the servers at their facility.

SquirrelMail/Open Directory Intergration on Leopard

I’ve had a few comments on my earlier post with the request that I finish documenting the steps to get the SquirrelMail address book to show LDAP users from OpenDirectory in Leopard server. Here it is:

First, I uncommented the LDAP section as provided in the SquirrelMail configuration at /etc/squirrelmail/config/config.php, but it was missing one parameter, for the protocol. Actually you don’t need to have that with 10.4 if you use the “V2 compatible” option in OpenDirectory. On 10.5 you no longer have that option and need to specify LDAP V3 in the SquirrelMail config file:

$ldap_server[0] = Array(
'host' => 'your.ldapserver.com',
'name' => 'My Server's Address Book',
'base' => 'dc=your,dc=ldapserver,dc=com',
'protocol' => 3

);

I also set the value $default_use_javascript_addr_book (which appears right below the ldap server section to “true”.

To access the address book, you cannot just click on the “Addresses” link at the top of the page. You have to click “Compose” first. Then click on the “Addresses” button above the message text field. You can chose to show your private address book, the LDAP directory on your server (it will show as the text you put in the ‘name’ field in the configuration above) or all of them. Click list all and you get everyone, or search for names.

Hope this helps.

Leopard Server, Day 1

I spent most of the day installing Leopard Server on an old PPC Mac Mini. Not the best machine to deploy on by any stretch but certainly adequate for our technology team to take it for a test drive. As this is the fifth (or so) OS X Server I’ve set up I wasn’t expecting too much trouble, though I’ve never set one up before that was going to offer as wide a range of services as this particular system will need to. The others were mostly for either serving web pages or lab management/file serving grunts.

After botching the first few installs by spending too much time being cute with DNS, I did a clean reinstall. The server install now offers you a couple options, including a very basic (“idiot mode”) install with a super-simple System Preference application, and an advanced mode which uses the faithful old Server Admin and Workgroup Manager applications. On my first few attempts I opted for the basic configuration, and on the later install opted for the advanced mode. You can use the Server Admin and Workgroup Manager applications if you choose the basic configuration on install, but get a warning informing you that you may mess up some of the basic settings and will be unable to use the System Preference application later.

I started off configuring Mail, and encountered a few speed bumps but got it running fairly quickly. The second challenge was configuring and installing SquirrelMail, which is pre-installed but not configured. As I’ve installed SquirrelMail previously it was not much of a problem, either. What was more problematic was configuring SquirrelMail’s address book so that it will display users on the system via Open Directory. Though I used the same settings as I had on a previous 10.4 installation, I kept getting a “Error initializing LDAP server” message when trying to display the address book contents. For those who may encounter the same problem I did, the issue is that by default SquirrelMail (and from what I read the default PHP LDAP configuration) defaults to LDAP v2. OS X Server 10.4 uses v3 by default, but had an option to allow use of v2. No such option in Leopard Server. A half hour of scouring the net turned up the answer – you must add the protocol line as seen below in the SquirrelMail config file:

$ldap_server[0] = Array(
    'host' => 'memberdir.netscape.com',
    'name' => 'Netcenter Member Directory',
    'base' => 'ou=member_directory,o=netcenter.com',
    'protocol' => 3
    );

After getting Mail set up, file serving, chat server, web server, blogs, wiki and DNS came online very quickly and smoothly. All of the web-based services handle UTF-8 beautifully, as do mail services. The whole process took about four hours. The way the blogs, wiki and email are tied into the users and groups in Open Directory is pretty darn slick.

Overall the experience was relatively painless considering I have yet to download any of the documentation ;-). More progress reports will be forethcoming as progress is made.

Mobile Themes Installed

I’ve installed new plugins here on Culture Hack that identify access by mobile devices such as the iPhone and others. If you are accessing from a mobile device and experience any difficulty please let me know and I’ll look into it.

My buddy Kenneth Makuak?ne pointed me to Mobi as a possible wireless provider with reasonable fees and no long-term commitments. Their site says they are not available on the neighbor islands yet, but Kenneth was able to get a signal from Hilo town and even our home when he visited last night. Apparently they are working on rolling out neighbor island coverage but not advertising it yet.