Hiding Your “Untitled” Boot Camp Drive

After getting back to Boot Camp from a dual-boot Mac OS X system, I remembered how disappointing it was that I couldn’t rename the Windows NTFS volume from “Untitled” to something more appropriate. The Garbage In Garbage Out blog has a tip that will accomplish the next best thing: Hide the Boot Camp volume from your Desktop.

Using the SetFile utility from the Developer Tools package that came with your Mac (on the second disc), you can effectively remove the volume from view in the Finder, while not affecting its normal operation or visibility anywhere else in the system. Great tip!

Hiding Your “Untitled” Boot Camp Drive

Seagate Hard Drive RMA

In the past, I’ve had the best luck with Seagate brand hard drives — avoiding Maxtor like the plague — but just recently I had a 320 GB Seagate SATA drive start failing on me. It started with what sounded like a few small read/write head hiccups, and turned into widespread sector failure, causing several diagnostic utilities to red flag the drive.

I bought the drive from NewEgg, but they referred me to Seagate for support and returns. With no other alternatives available and a failing drive on my hands, I got in touch with Seagate and filled out their online return merchandise form. Just a few days after shipping off the dying drive, I received an email letting me know that a brand new drive was on its way to me. I’m happy to be kept in the loop while the return is in progress, and I’ll update this post when I get the new drive!

While I had to cover the nominal shipping costs myself, I feel compelled to note how easy and fast their service is. I’m attempting to make a habit of documenting good customer service as well as the bad. After having dealt with some online returns that are a real hassle, Seagate is a refreshing change from some of the other rather lame options out there.

Update: Received an entirely different “Certified Repaired” hard drive in a very well packed box! It works great and passes all my tests!

Seagate Hard Drive RMA

Marware Protection Pack for MBP

Having sold my PowerBook for a little less than I was hoping for, presumably due to the wear on the palm rest, I decided to take some precautions with my new Mac. Shortly after ordering the machine, I also purchased the Marware Protection Pack for the MacBook Pro. The one piece of the kit I was most interested in was the palm rest cover, made of a gray, rubbery-leathery material with just the right texture.

Applying the palm rest cover wasn’t too hard, but took some nudging to work out a few small air pockets that developed. Overall, I’m quite pleased with the feel of my new palm rest, and can work without worry that every minute the metal finish may be degrading under my wrists. Small bubbles aside, the only real drawback was that the display no longer closed easily, despite the advertisement that the cover didn’t interfere with the latch mechanism. I debated removing the palm rest cover altogether, but instead I looked more closely and saw that the small rubber nubs on the lid of the display were keeping the latch at too great a distance from the hook in the base. After peeling up the corner of the cover, I cut off two iny triangles, as seen at right. The display now closes as easily as before the cover was applied.

Overall, the kit is a nice improvement with a few little hangups, but it should really pay off in about three or four years when my palm rest is still in great condition! For all the photos, check out the ones I’ve tagged with ‘macbookpro’ on Flickr.

Marware Protection Pack for MBP

MacBook Pro is Here!

I sold me PowerBook G4, and my new Santa Rosa based MacBook Pro arrived Friday from Shanghai via FedEx. It’s almost identical to my previous machine, except for the display and insides, of course. The new LED backlit display is pixel perfect and very evenly lit, while the Intel CPU is proving plenty capable.

Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with the new Mac. With any luck, the palm rest won’t wear away as badly as the one on my PowerBook.

Update: After owning my MacBook Pro for only a day, I noticed a small but annoying problem: The spacebar squeaked when tapped just below the division between the ‘b’ and ‘n’ keys. I really wouldn’t have worried about it, except that’s where I tap the key almost every time. Since AppleCare comes standard with all Apple hardware (and I also opted for the 3-year extension), I called up Apple support. After some initial shoulder shrugging on their part, they agreed to have a look at the issue. This was Saturday afternoon. Monday morning, a box was at my door. By Friday, the MacBook Pro had gotten to Apple, been diagnosed, a new keyboard installed, and made it back to my door. A five day turnaround — not bad at all. Like the blinking orange-green troubles I had with my original iPod Shuffle, Apple came through with outstanding support.

MacBook Pro is Here!

iPod Hard Drive Technology

Tom’s Hardware has an excellent article on the technology of 1.8″ iPod hard drives and their increasing capacity. Hard drives are now being produced in 100 GB sizes, which may very well find themselves in new iPods in the near future (although not too soon, as to steal thunder from the iPhone…). Other details noted include transfer rates, access times, and power consumption — all the gritty specs you’d need for building a low-power 1.8″ hard drive based device.

One very surprising fact I learned is that the tiny ZIF connectors on these new drives are rated for a mere 20 insertion (plug/unplug) cycles, which isn’t very many if you plan on moving the hardware around a lot. If you own a 1.8″-to-larger IDE adapter, you may want to consider leaving the ribbon cable connected to the adapter at all times. The article is quite a few pages long, but well worth a read.

iPod Hard Drive Technology

Font Finders

For the graphic designers and Photoshop enthusiasts, here are a few resources for identifying fonts:

WhatTheFont
WhatTheFont is far and away my favorite tool in the bunch primarilty because it’s automated, fast, and shockingly accurate. Just upload an image (the more contrast, the better) or provide a URL and their software will match characters and, more often than not, the correct font name.

WhatTheFont Forum
If fully automated solutions are of no help, you can always call upon others in the industry who deal with typefaces every day. Someone out there knows about your font, and the WhatTheFont Forum is one of the best places to get a good response.

Identifont
Identifont helps you find fonts by asking multiple questions about the font you’re looking for. It’s a unique approach that, in my usage, works about 30 to 40 percent of the time. As a last resort, it may very well come through, despite it’s apparently limited font selected.

Font Finders

Brian Regan

I normally try to keep posts here on the topic of technology, but I felt I had to mention an outstanding event I attended…

Just recently, my fiancee and I happened to hear on the radio that comedian Brian Regan would be performing at the theater downtown here in Billings, MT. Both of us have been huge fans for several years, so we picked up two tickets that very evening.

Expecting Regan’s regular routine, we were surprised to be presented with an entirely new set of jokes which kept us laughing for hours, to the point where our cheeks hurt afterwards. There were so many that I can only remember a few, and am eagerly awating a new DVD release or TV special in the near future.

Brian Regan had never performed in Billings before, but his clean and energetic humor was met with standing applause, prompting an encore of several of his best-known jokes. Overall, it was an experience not to be missed, and one that was well worth the ticket price. Check the tour dates — if he’s performing in your area, be sure not to pass up the great opportunity.

Brian Regan

Sub-Pixel Font Rendering: What is It?

For the past few years I’d heard the term “sub-pixel rendering” in various font and graphics related writings, and wasn’t really sure what the fuss was about. I finally read up on the technology and was surprised to find what a difference it makes in display clarity. The crux of sub-pixel rendering is using the three red, green, and blue elements that make up a single pixel to effectively triple the horizontal resolution of an LCD display. More resolution in the same physical space lets you show more data, and thus render more clearly. Wikipedia’s definition left much to be desired, however Steve Gibson has an outstanding page — and freeware utility — clearly explaining the subject. What doesn’t that guy know?

Know how sub-pixel rendering works, it’s easy to see how it could also be applied to graphics and gaming. Where an edge is computed, the resulting line could be shown more accurately (as far as the human eye is concerned) by rendering with respect to the sub-pixel elements of the display. Of course, the technology doesn’t work nearly as well on CRT displays, but for LCDs, it appears to provide ultra-crisp images and text. I wonder if Apple plans to make use of this awesome technology in the next revision of Mac OS X, or perhaps on the iPod and iPhone displays…

Sub-Pixel Font Rendering: What is It?

“24” Season 6 DVD Leak

In a surprising turn of events fitting only for a show such as “24,” a privvy few have managed to get their hands on the first DVD from the sixth season and have released it on the internet. Right now, the DVD-R version of the first four episodes from the as-yet-unaired season are available.

From the release:

At the end of Season 5, Jack Bauer was kidnapped, beaten, and taken captive in retribution for his involvement in a raid on the Chinese Consulate eighteen months earlier. Now, there’s a new president, Jack Bauer is missing, and the U.S. is under siege from terrorist attacks more threatening than anything we’ve ever encountered! There is only one thing that can save the nation
— Jack Bauer must die.

Get ready for the most explosive, the most terrifying, the most heart-pounding four hours of television ever. Included on this exclusive DVD are the first four hours of Season 6 – 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. – and a never-before-seen 12-minute preview of the next explosive episode. And you thought your rush hour was tense…

“24” gets better with every turn, and this season is already no exception. It hasn’t even begun airing on national TV yet, and I’m already enjoying it. Here’s hoping the whole cast survives this season…!

“24” Season 6 DVD Leak

Burn Disks from the Terminal

While burning a CD image today, I discovered a really quick and easy way to do it from a Terminal window with zero hassle. Without launching Toast, Burn, Disco, or any of the myriad of point-and-click disc burning applications, you can simply type hdiutil burn ~/Desktop/you/disk.dmg. The burn begins immediately, with all default settings set as expected (max burn speed, verify on, etc.) It’s not good looking compared to the alternatives, but memory usage is minimal, and it’s a fast way to dump an image onto a disk if you’re already working in the Terminal, or have a session open.

Aside from burning disks, hdiutil and its sidekick diskutil can do everything Apple’s Disk Utility application can do, thus they have a very robust set of commands to choose from. Together, they can create, mount, and convert disk images, create and rebuild Mac OS X RAIDs, mount and eject physical disks, and even repair permissions. By typing hdiutil of diskutil at the command line, you’ll be presented with the long list of options available for each program. Check them out — you might just find a quick way to automate some of those tasks you do often.

Burn Disks from the Terminal