September 30, 2011

Melody and Mark's weddingYet Another Wedding in September:
September's been quite busy for friends and family. It's been non-stop weddings for Kim and I. First was the 'Big Fat Polish Catholic Wedding' on the 6th of Sep, 2011; then we attended Stacy and Desirae's wedding on the 10th of September. Now we're off to another wedding. This time we didn't have to go very far, and the hotel room was really affordable. Melody and Mark were already married, but they wanted to have a public ceremony amongst friends and family. Imagine our surprise when we found out that were having their ceremony and reception at our clubhouse. Yup, they held the ceremony at the Tollgate Crossing clubhouse. That sure made it convenient for us. The reception was something new to Kim and I. A 'Pot Luck' wedding. Everybody brought a dish, and added it to the table. The meat was provided by Mark and Melody, and everyone else brought the sides and desserts. Our two friends (Mark Sublette and Melody Eichhorn-Sublette) renewed their vows and everyone had a good time.

Music CollectionSizzlin' Summer Tunes in September:
Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. Where do I get all this stuff? Well, I used to find/discover a lot of free (actually free) music by visiting several of the new music web sites (Pandora, 3hive.com, musicalfamilytree.org) and several other music blogs (Analog Giant, Brooklyn Vegan, Fluxblog, Gorilla vs. Bear, etc) out there, and listening to a few different music podcasts. Used to... Now? Now (As of Oct of 2010) I subscribe to an online music streaming service called MOG, and I've recently (as of Sep 2011) started using eMusic 'Radio' stations for music discovery. Combined together, these two services provide full-play access to more than 23 million tracks! (11m on MOG, 12m on eMusic) Two fantastic ways to discover music, and no need for illegal downloads or pirated tracks. I occasionally use a few of the other methods (music blogs and podcasts), but MOG and eMusic now serve as my primary music discovery sources.

Artists want you to hear their music - If you like it, you'll buy it, or maybe you'll buy some concert tickets. The major labels want you to pay for their product - letting you hear it for free is contrary to their business model. Well, guess what? I won't buy it unless I can listen to it first. The major labels are killing themselves with their restrictive distribution and dissemination policies. If you like new music, you can do a web search to find your favorite artists web site, a new music web site, or an archive of free music. Free music is available - Legally! Don't believe the major labels propaganda - Not all free music is illegal. You can legally download or listen to all sorts of music for free. I download most of my music from a couple of commercial sources (eMusic and iTunes), but I occasionally download tracks (legally) from various websites, newsgroups and blogs in order to satisfy my craving for music.

Here's a listing of some of the music I legally downloaded - and in most cases - paid for!

iTunes MusiciTunes Music Downloads:
Sometimes I purchase music from iTunes, and sometimes I take advantage of their free downloads (check it out on Tuesdays). iTunes is the King of the Hill when it comes to the bigger names, so sometimes I find that I have to pay the higher prices. Here's a few of the downloads I recently scored from the iTunes store. This time they were all Free!
* Lollapalooza 2011 Sampler - Various Artists: (15 songs) Lollapalooza is an annual music festival (held primarily in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois) featuring popular alternative rock, heavy metal, punk rock and hip hop bands, dance and comedy performances, and craft booths. Here's a free sampler provided by way of the iTunes Facebook account. Like all the free samplers, this playlist will introduce me to music I've never heard before, bands I've never considered, talent I've been missing out on.
* Austin City Limits 2011 Sampler - Various Artists: (15 songs) The Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL Festival) is an annual three-day American music festival that takes place in Austin, Texas at the city's central public park, Zilker Park. Each year, in addition to food & art, most from local vendors, ACL Festival brings together more than 130 acts from all over the world to play rock, indie, country, folk, electronic and more on eight stages. Over 70,000 fans attend the festival each day. Even if I don't like any of the acts introduced through this sampler, it was Free!

These are some of the items I added to my music collection during this month. Since revamping my music collection back in September of 2005, I've been slowly adding, revising and updating the collection. Recently (24 Sep, 2011), I completed a review and update to my 'Music' page. I updated many of the paragraphs, removed some outdated information and changed the layout some. If you have a comment, question or correction regarding my collection, please don't hesitate to send me an email. Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>

Neighborhood WatchSoutheast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website:
I participate in some community focused events, but haven't found the time to serve on any boards, so I do what I can to help the people who live in my neighborhood. Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, maintaining the Southeast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website and mailing lists. The South East Aurora Neighborhood Watch serves the residents of South East Aurora by providing information and close ties with the local Police Department in order to help keep the residents safe and neighborhoods crime free. Here are some of the changes I made at our Neighborhood Watch website over the last couple of weeks:

  • Current: A web page dedicated to the most recent news, announcements and information.
    • I removed a flyer and paragraph for the D.A.R.E. Motorcycle Event held Saturday, June 25th.
    • I posted an announcement about our next Neighborhood Watch meeting (6 Oct, 2011).
  • Events: A listing of upcoming and recurring events in you Southeast Aurora Neighborhood. Events sponsored by or relevant to our Neighborhood Watch.
    • Removed paragraph/event listing for the D.A.R.E. Motorcycle
    • Updated information for our upcoming Neighborhood Watch meetings.
  • Info: A page of links and information pertinent to the safety and security of our communities

If you are a resident of Southeast Aurora, you might want to check out our Southeast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website (Serving the following communities: Tollgate Crossing, Sorrel Ranch, Wheatlands, Beacon Point, Southshore, Tallyn’s Reach, Saddle Rock - North, Serenity Ridge, Black Stone and Heritage Eagle Bend). If you're concerned about the safety and security of your community, you might want to join our group, or subscribe to one of our mailing lists to receive periodic alerts, updates and information.
<http://www.southeastaurora-neighborhoodwatch.org/Welcome.html>

Tollgate CrossingSummer updates to the Tollgate Crossing website:
I participate in some community focused events, but haven't found the time to serve on any boards, so I do what I can to help the people who live in my neighborhood. Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, and supporting our community by maintaining the Tollgate Crossing website and mailing lists. The Tollgate Crossing website is focused on the Tollgate Crossing community, with a few links to the Neighborhood Watch website. Over the last couple of weeks, I made several updates to the community website:

  • Welcome: The website's opener. A page containing an introduction to our community website. Here you'll find all the latest news and announcements. I rearranged the banners a bit, even added a new photo - It's something I do to indicate a change in the content.
    • Removed a badge for the new HOA management company. They've been in place since May 1st.
    • I removed a badge which announced the opening of our clubhouse pool and the hours and dates of use.
    • I changed an email mailing list badge to remove any indication of the discontinued 'HOA newsletter' mailing list.
    • I updated the banner for our next Metro District meeting (27 Sep, 2011).
    • I updated the banner for our next HOA meeting (11 Oct).
    • I removed a banner informing people of a change to our HOA manager. New manager (Renee Hughes) has been in place since July 12th.
    • Removed the banner providing info for our pool's days/hours of business.
    • Added a new banner to the bottom of the page. A banner informing residents that they can promote their community events on our website.
  • Neighborhood Watch: If you're looking for information regarding the Southeast Aurora Neighborhood Watch, you'll find it on it's own website. Tollgate Crossing is one of the communities in the South East Aurora Neighborhood Watch area. Our Neighborhood Watch is part of the Aurora Neighborhood Watch program. It’s a strong, community oriented, volunteer run, organization, dedicated to reducing crime and keeping our communities safe for raising families.
    • I posted an announcement about our next Neighborhood Watch meeting (6 Oct, 2011). For more information see our Neighborhood Watch website.
  • Events: A detailed listing of upcoming and recurring events in and around Tollgate Crossing. Here is more detailed information regarding some of the events you may have read about on the 'Welcome' page. It's also a place to look for long term/recurring events.
    • I updated the information regarding our next Metro District (27 Sep) and HOA (11 Oct) meetings.
    • Posted information / an announcement regarding an opening on the HOA board of directors.
    • Corrected a spelling error on the page.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I updated the Tollgate Crossing HOA information. Removed info regarding the new HOA management company and manager.
    • Removed the swimming pool operations information.

If you are a resident of 'Tollgate Crossing' (in Aurora, Colorado), you might want to check out the website. It's loaded with information about our community and you can even sign up for some of the email mailing lists that serve our community.
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Welcome.html>

Netflix and FacebookNetflix via Facebook:
<rant>This week (Sep 22, 2011), Facebook announced some Netflix integration. Hunh? What sort of integration? Will we be able to watch movies on Facebook? Hold on a second, don't get too excited. What is Facebook talking about? Well, once upon a time, Netflix allowed you to share your movie queue, ratings and reviews with friends and family. It was the beginning of a social network inside Netflix. I thought (and so did many others) that it was awesome. I could see movies that my friends had watched, they could see the movies I watched and I even shared a few of my reviews on Netflix. Then they decided to completely do away with that social interaction. Whack! Gone - They removed the ability to see the queues or ratings of your friends. I never really understood it. No one did, we never got an adequate explanation. Now Facebook and Netflix have joined forces in order to make your Netflix viewing public on Facebook - Outside the U.S. That's right, outside the U.S. As it turns out, there's some kind of law (from the 80s) that prevents Netflix from sharing that information with Facebook. Hmmm, maybe that's part of the reason why Netflix removed that ability?

The 1988 law - The Video Privacy Protection Act, forbids the disclosure of video rental information by businesses. Businesses that violate the law are liable up to $2,500 for each infraction. Netflix sharing of video viewing data could be construed as an illegal act. As a matter of fact, back in 2009, someone sued Netflix over it's release of data sets which may have led to the disclosure of the individual's video rental history. Netflix had released large sets of data (supposedly 'anonymyzed' data sets - shown to be less than anonymous by investigators). This lawsuit was probably the main reason why Netflix turned off the rental history sharing I wrote about earlier. In 2008, Blockbuster was sued for disclosing an individual's rental history to Facebook. So this is hardly the first time Facebook has tried to get a hold of rental histories, and it isn't the first time a corporation ran afoul of the law for sharing a person's video viewing data.

No doubt, Netflix is receiving some form of compensation (or will receive) for making this data available. In order to make full use of the data, Facebook is trying to get its users to petition/pressure congress to overturn the law. Considering the fact that Facebook is prone to breaches of privacy, their claims that nothing would be shared unless you choose to connect your account to Facebook isn't much of an assurance. Facebook's myriad and shifting privacy settings confuse even the most savvy of internet users, and I for one don't trust that they would keep my best interests in mind while sharing my data. In my opinion, Congress needs to focus on job creation and repairing our economy, not some stupid Facebook problem. Unfortunately, I can't afford to contribute big bucks towards anyone's reelection campaign, so my opinion's don't count for squat. The fact that Facebook is urging us to help overturn privacy legislation is truly telling. I say No! Don't let any corporation take away more of our privacy for the sake of their profits! FYI: While I write reviews of movies I've seen, I don't write/disclose the details of my entire viewing history. I occasionally watch movies/shows I don't want to advertise to everyone I know. I prefer to control my privacy. I don't like the idea of allowing Facebook access to my viewing history. Even If Netflix and Facebook manage to enable this 'feature', I won't be one of the lemmings lining up to sign away my rights.</rant>
<http://blog.netflix.com/2011/09/help-us-bring-facebook-sharing-to.html>
<http://blog.netflix.com/2011/09/watch-this-now-netflix-facebook.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_Privacy_Protection_Act>

NetflixReally Big Netflix News:
This week (Sep 19, 2011), Netflix sent an email to all their customers. The email contained an apology and an immense announcement. Addressed from Reed Hastings (Co-Founder and CEO), the email was an explanation regarding recent changes, an apology - "I messed up. I owe you an explanation" "I offer my sincere apology. Let me explain what we are doing". The apology comes in the wake of recent changes to the price and plans. Last month (August, 2011), Netflix split the DVD and Streaming portions of their service in two. With physical DVD delivery separated from the Streaming service, the price of the DVD delivery option increased. Members were very upset. The media went gonzo, and the press attacked Netflix like never before. This apology serves to assuage some feelings for such drastic change without warning, but it also sets us up for the next big change...

Coming soon - no actual date set yet - Netflix will be splitting in two. Yup that's right. Like some sort of late night creature feature, this company is going to undergo mitosis and split in two. Giving birth to a brand new company, Qwikster will take up the red envelope and start delivering DVDs to millions of homes on a daily basis; while Netflix will keep the name and keep on streaming. All video streaming will be done under the name Netflix. Reed Hastings explains it this way: "we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently." Despite the universally unfavorable comments on the company's blog (those who have reason to complain are always among the first to comment and always the loudest), I have to agree. This move will satisfy the shareholders, by making the 'Netflix' brand more profitable. Less overhead, lower operating costs and the potential for an ever growing market for streaming around the world. The new company - Qwikster - doesn't (in my opinion) have such a rosy path. There's already a fair number of DVD delivery services (Blockbuster, GreenCine, Cafe DVD, Redbox) with several different business models, Qwikster will find itself competing against a sizeable array of competitors and ever increasing delivery costs. Imagine what would happen to Qwikster if the US Postal Service shut it's doors, or drastically raised it's rates! One bonus for the new company is the announced addition of video games to the line up. With Wii, PS3 and XBox 360 games entering the fray they'll satisfy numerous subscribers who've been crying out for games over the years. Who knows, maybe adult titles will enter the lineup?

While Reed Hastings declared that "There are no pricing changes (we're done with that!)", I find it hard to believe that their won't be some incidental increases. I can't imagine that the video games will come with my current plan, but the details are quite sketchy. We'll see what happens as we move forward. One more downside to this move? No more integrated website, and two companies will have my credit card info. That makes for many more chances that we'll get hacked, scammed, and have our personal information stolen. Despite negative reactions by some analysts, I think this is a good move for Netflix. Competing with the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google will be hard enough going forward. Being slowed down by the physical delivery arm of their company would have made things much more difficult. Now they can compete with other potential streamers on an equal footing. I'll likely stick with both. I like the variety of DVDs and the convenience of Streaming. I need both.
<http://blog.netflix.com/2011/09/explanation-and-some-reflections.html?lnktrk=EMP&g=416A1BB1258372995192DBCD48CA71260AC0315E&lkid=netflixBlog>
<http://www.robsworld.org/netflixnews.png>
<http://www.netflix.com>

End of SummerAutumn Arrives:
Huzzah! - Here comes Autumn! Arriving with the autumnal equinox on the 22nd of September, Autumn arrives amidst a lack of fanfare or applause. All the kids are sorry to see the summer go, for they know, that with it's end, comes school again. This summer was just like any other - Hot and dry. Colorado doesn't get a lot of precipitation, and this summer was no exception. Thankfully, we didn't suffer through a drought, but it certainly seemed a little warmer than last year. If that's possible. I for one am a fan of fall. I like the colors, the smell, the crisp edge to the air, the flannel sheets and the cool evenings of summer's end. If only we could stave of winter with an extra long autumn...
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autumn>

Software favorites:
More updates for my favorite software applications. A bunch of beta updates for my favorite Graphics editor. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. Here's one of several updates for a product that's always getting better. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on at least nine additional updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 7.4 (b293). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.com/content/162/new-functions-and-versions.html>

With this software update, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

September 18, 2011

SkyDriveWindows 'Sky Drive':
So, if you read my lament on the loss of MobileMe, you may know that the new 'iCloud' service will not have an 'iDisk'. The iCloud service will include 'Cloud' storage, but the storage will be restricted. You can only store certain things with the new iCloud service (or so it seems prior to release/availability of the actual service). So, I'm looking for a replacement for my 'iDisk'. I've got a fancy 'Buffalo Link-Station' with always on Internet connected capabilities, but it's about as consumer friendly as a 'Commercial grade file server'. I can't seem to figure out how to share files or make them internet accessible without exposing all my files to anyone with a web browser... So, the search continues.

Imagine my surprise when an email from Hotmail/Windows Live showed up in my Inbox. On the 17th of Sep, I received an email which claimed that my Hotmail account gives me access to a Windows 'SkyDrive'. The SkyDrive provides users with 25GB of 'Free' storage. Storage for photos, documents, videos, thousands of files. Supposedly the permission controls make sharing easy (they were pretty easy to use); unlike my 'Buffalo Link-Station' which has so far made my file-sharing and internet-access attempts a very difficult chore. The problem with this SkyDrive? The only way (on a Mac - as of 24 Sep, 2011) to upload and download files is through a web browser. I gave it a try. Not too bad. It worked. I was able to upload a file from my computer, and then download it. Everything worked fine. I was even able to send a 'sharing' link to myself, and download the file by way of that link. Unfortunately, there's no way to upload bulk files, and the web browser method is a bit slow. Currently (as of 24 Sep, 2011) there is no desktop integration for Mac users. According to information available on the net, Windows software engineers are working on an iOS app and a Mac desktop solution.

With Apple dropping MobileMe for iCloud, three popular and useful services will be going away. The iPhoto Gallery, iWeb publishing and iDisk storage. If Apple doesn't change it's mind, or open up their iCloud storage to allow unlimited access (instead of selected application access), I'll have to find a different solution. Wouldn't it be ironic if I had to turn to Microsoft in order to make my files available whenever and wherever I want? How do you share and access your files over the internet?
<http://explore.live.com/skydrive>
<http://www.liveside.net/2011/08/27/skydrive-client-app-coming-for-windows-ios-mac-and-android-too/>

MobileMeThe Demise of MobileMe:
<rant>It's a sad day indeed. Recently (June 6th, 2011), Apple announced the launch of their new 'iCloud' service, along with the demise of MobileMe. Over the years, Apple's MobileMe service has undergone numerous name changes and revisions in its content. Starting out as iTools, then .Mac and finally MobileMe. As the years went by, the service always got better. Enhancements, upgrades, improvements and increased integration with Apple's OS and applications. Now they're undoing all that with the launch of iCloud. While iCloud will bring some new features, mostly it's taking away. Apple give-eth, and Apple Take-eth away. While MobileMe cost $99.00 per year, the advantages were (imo) significant. Syncing of numerous apps (Address book, iWeb, iCal, Mail, iPhoto, Safari, etc) and their settings. Ability to update content from multiple devices. iDisk storage (that didn't restrict or impose limits on what you could store), web-based email, calendar, photo galleries and more. The email address provided under this service @mac.com and later @me.com was also a welcome badge for those who love their Macs (me!). Web based construction of web pages went away long ago, but MobileMe still provides/provided hosting and integration with the iWeb application. Publication of iCal calendars disappeared with the more recent 'upgrades', and now Apple's reducing the effectiveness/usefulness again.

The new iCloud services seem (imo) to be a step back from the outstanding resources provided under MobileMe. Gone are many of the capabilities based/dependent on Apple's Mac only applications. No more iPhoto galleries, iWeb publication to iDisk/MobileMe webspace and storage of data is restricted to certain types of documents.

 
MobileMe service
iCloud service
 
  Web based email / Syncing with Apple app Web based email / Syncing with Apple app  
  Web based contacts / Syncing with Apple app Web based contacts / Syncing with Apple app  
  Web based calendar / Syncing with Apple app Web based calendar / Syncing with Apple app  
  Bookmarks / Syncing with Apple app Bookmarks / Syncing with Apple app  
  Find my iPhone / for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch Find my iPhone / for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch  
  Back to My Mac - Remote access Back to My Mac - Remote access  
  iWeb publishing to MobileMe space -  
  Dashboard widget syncing between Macs -  
  Keychain syncing between Macs -  
  Syncing of Dock items between Macs -  
  Syncing of System Preferences between Macs -  
  iPhoto publication of photo Gallery -  
  iDisk storage of user data (any data you want to store, including public access/sharing) / 20GB free. Used to be able to upgrade in 20GB or 40GB blocks (no longer available)

5GB of storage free (iStore purchased music, apps, books, TV shows, and your Photo Stream don't count against the 5GB - email, documents, camera roll, account info, setting, other app data does). Purchase additional storage (annual costs) - +10GB/$20, +20GB/$40, +50GB/$100. No indications of public access/sharing.

 
  - iTunes in the Cloud (download on demand)  
  - Photo Stream (recent photos & movies taken with iDevices)  
  iWork.com online storage and collaboration (Free service in beta) Documents in the Cloud (download iWork docs on demand)  
  Auto downloads & purchase history for apps & books Auto downloads & purchase history for apps & books  
  - Backup and restore  
  @mac.com or @me.com email address. Part of the $99/year cost Keep your old @mac.com or @me.com email address. An @me.com email account is now free under the iCloud service.  

This table represents some of the existing and upcoming services, but it isn't everything. MobileMe contained a lot of device and application integration through Apple's OS, native applications and web-based services. The iCloud services are new, haven't been completely revealed, and seem to rely less on native applications. The new service hasn't been rolled out yet, and the currently available information is scattered across a dozen different webpages, forums and FAQs. The MobileMe services will be available for use (you can't sign up anymore) until June 30, 2012, but you can move over to the iCloud before that (once it becomes available). The capabilities that aren't transitioning over to iCloud (iWeb publishing, iPhoto/photo Gallery, and iDisk) will continue to be available through June 30, 2012, even if/after you switch to iCloud.

My problem with the new iCloud services? There's an iCloud around the service, we don't know all the details, and I'd prefer more information rather than the sketchy, scattered information Apple's released. They've released more information since their initial announcement, but there's still quite a bit of uncertainty regarding the three things I'll miss most - iPhoto Gallery, iWeb publishing, iDisk/storage.<rant>
<http://www.robsworld.org/mobilemechanges02.png>
<http://www.apple.com/mobileme/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MobileMe>
<http://www.apple.com/icloud/>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4597>

Stacy and Desirae's weddingAnother Wedding in September:
Kim and I just got back from a 'Big Fat Polish Catholic Wedding' on Tuesday (6 Sep, 2011), and we headed off to another wedding on the 10th of September. The couple was Stacy Ray and Desirae Veldt. Stacy is a good friend of ours; a former member of our 'Face-to-Face' D&D group. We've known Stacy since 2003. Stacy and Desirae got married outdoors, at a quite little ceremony at a resort in Northern Colorado (Beaver Meadows Resort - Red Feather Lakes, Colorado). The setting was awesome, pastoral, peaceful and very beautiful. Unfortunately, getting there was quite a chore. We had to drive down a lot of dirt roads, private roads, winding back-country roads, before we arrived late for the ceremony. Crap! Thankfully the GPS got us there, but we couldn't stay long. Kim and I were still a bit sick, and we didn't want to drive those roads in the dark. After the ceremony, we had a good time chatting with the other guests and family members. The extra-curricular activities were quite interesting - With a little help from Mark I even managed to fold an Origami Crane - Who wrote those instructions!? We had a good time, too bad we had to leave early. Here's to Stacy and Desirae - May they always be as happy as they were on this special day! - The trip to Red Feather Lakes was quite a drive (110 miles from Denver, 2.5+ hour drive), and we didn't want to drive there and back in the same day. We stayed at the Mariott in Ft. Collins and drove home on the 11th. The trip back to Denver, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was another story...

MOGMOG music player for Mac:
Recently (9 Sep, 2011), MOG (MOG is an online music service, a blog network, and a social networking website where users can listen to, read about, and discover music. Music + Blog = MOG) announced the release of their new Music Player. A desktop client designed specifically for the Mac (Coming soon for Windows). The new desktop client allows you to access MOG's music collection right from the desktop. No need to slow down your browser with the web based player. This player is designed specifically for the desktop. It's got an entirely new audio engine (for improved playback), integrated 'AirPlay' features (Stream Audio directly to your stereo by way of Airport Express, AppleTV or other Airplay-enabled devices), and remote control (via the AppleTV remote). No browser is needed to make use of this HTML5 application built as a stand-alone desktop client, created specifically for the Mac. How's that for some loving? Someone's trying to make me happy. I've been using it for a couple weeks now, and it's awesome. Download your copy today (through Apple's Mac App Store).

MOG subscribers can play any song from the catalog (over 11 million tracks) on their computer (through their web browser/web streams are 320 kbps mp3 files); on a mobile device (provided you pay $9.99 a month) through MOG's applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android platform; on your television/multi-media receiver, through MOG's Roku channel (included with the $4.99 service); and now the Mac desktop client. MOG also allows users to access aggregated editorial content from thousands of music blogs, user posts, and in-house editors. Awesome!
<http://www.mog.com>
<http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mog/id455316411?ls=1&mt=12>
<http://support.mog.com/faqs/mog-service/mog-on-roku>

LionLovin' the Lion on my Mac:
Back in October of 2010 (at a Special Event), Apple announced the latest revision of it's OS X operating system. The 8th OS X version (OS 10.7), code named - Lion, was released on the 20th of July 2011. It took a while, but I've finally got it up and running on my Mac. On my Desktop Mac to be exact. I'll load it on the laptop shortly. This particular release doesn't come on a disk. It doesn't come in a box. It isn't sold retail, and the only way you can get it is through digital download. I downloaded and installed the OS on the 9th of Sep. At $29.00 the profit to cost ration is quite high, but the digital download is a good move for consumers (provided you've got a good internet connection).

The philosophy of this OS is 'Back to the Mac' - As in a move from iOS and portable devices 'back to the Mac'. This philosophy points to the future of Apple's OS X operating system. As the iOS adds functionality and innovations to Apple's portable devices (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad), those new features are now coming full circle from an operating system that spun off OS X. Some of those features are now being integrated into the Mac OS. - Some of the new features include: More multi-touch gestures; Continued 'App Store' integration and promotion; A revised 'Home Screen' for the Mac; More full screen applications; Auto-saving; Auto-resume; Greatly enhanced desktop views/navigation capabilities. According to Apple's website, there are more than 250 new features. For more information about this new OS, see Apple's website.

It took me a while to upgrade. Two things concerned me. With the release of OS 10.7, Apple no longer provides indigenous support for Java, but that didn't stop my Mac from running Java apps. Since I already had a slew of Java apps on my Mac, one of the first things my Mac did after I updated, was ask if I wanted to install Java. A single click and authentication initiated an update process which brought Java in from an external source. In no time at all the Java runtime environment was installed, and I never noticed the lack of native Java support. Another issue that concerned me was the demise of PPC code support. OS 10.7 has a complete lack of PowerPC support. The 'Rosetta' translator that intercepted PPC code and translated the calls to run on an Intel architecture is gone, and there's no viable standalone interpreter. I've still got a lot of PPC code on my computer, so I took the time to find a few replacements, identify the affected apps, translate some documents and prepare for a dual-boot setup.

I purchased an additional hard drive and configured it for my dual-boot set up. On one drive (640GB) I'm running Lion, on another (640GB) I'm running Snow Leopard. I've partitioned the third drive (a 1.5TB drive) to hold two clones, one of Lion the other of Snow Leopard. If I need to run any PPC apps, or find Lion inoperable for any reason, I can boot up in Snow Leopard. The backups (clones) are there for the usual reason - Just in case.

While I was very concerned about a few apps, I've so far noticed that my concerns haven't turned into regrets. One app - an Epson scanner application, actually runs under Lion. I thought - based on it's reported PPC architecture, that it wouldn't work at all under Lion. The other app (AppleWorks) doesn't run, but so far I haven't missed it. I converted many of my AppleWorks documents prior to my switch, so I should be good to go without it. It's a sad day when I have to give up AppleWorks, but so far no one has created a PPC emulator that runs under Lion, or an application that converts the documents to pdf format. To possible solutions that haven't been implemented by the developer community (yet). I was actually surprised when my copy of BBEdit claimed to be built on PPC architecture, but runs anyway... I haven't had to deal with my copy of Dundjinni yet, but I am prepared to actually alter the code base to make it run using the new Lion capable Java libraries.

Here's the steps I followed on my update day:

  1. Made sure my Snow Leopard system was up to date with latest software.
  2. Repaired permissions on my Snow Leopard system.
  3. Cloned my Snow Leopard set up (from a 640GB drive to partition 2 of my 1.5TB backup drive).
  4. Confirmed bootability of the clone on partition 2 of my 1.5TB backup drive.
  5. Rebooted to my primary Snow Leopard drive (on one of my 640GB drives (drive A)).
  6. Repaired permissions on my Snow Leopard primary instance.
  7. Quit every program except the App Store application.
  8. Downloaded Lion from the App Store.
  9. Copied the Lion Install application onto a thumb drive (As a backup for my Mac Book Pro upgrade).
  10. Ran the Lion Install application (still on drive A). The application installed OS 10.7.1 on my primary boot drive in about 33 minutes (drive A is a 640GB drive).
  11. Once Lion was up and running, I made a clone of my Lion instance (from drive A (a 640GB drive) to partition 1 of my 1.5TB backup drive).
  12. Rebooted into my Lion clone (partition 1 of the 1.5TB backup drive) to make sure it would boot.
  13. Rebooted to my Snow Leopard Clone on partition 2 of my 1.5TB backup drive.
  14. Created another Snow Leopard Clone (from partition 2 of my 1.5TB backup drive to my other 640GB drive (drive B). This new clone will now serve as my primary instance of Snow Leopard.
  15. Rebooted to my primary instance of Snow Leopard (now on drive B).
  16. Repaired permissions on my Snow Leopard instance (on drive B).
  17. Rebooted to my primary instance of Lion (on drive A).
  18. Repaired permissions on my primary instance of Lion (on drive A).
  19. Ran software update on Lion instance (drive A).
  20. Configured Carbon Copy Cloner to create clones of Snow Leopard (from drive B to backup partition B) and Lion (from drive A to backup partition A).
  21. Checked Lion System Preferences, started learning how to use my new OS.

So now I've got Lion and Snow Leopard living side by side (drive A and drive B serve as primary boot instances of Snow Leopard and Lion). Carbon Copy Cloner is making sure I've got viable backups (partition A and B of my 1.5TB backup drive). It's a cozy situation for my MacPro (early 2009) tower, and it wasn't too difficult to configure.

One last thing I did before my upgrade... I purchased and installed 8GB of RAM; increasing my RAM from 12GB to 20GB of RAM. The combination of more RAM and a faster OS make this computer feel brand new. I could easily go two or three more years before I update the CPU/Computer.

Here's a few of the new OS highlights:

* Multi-Touch: Multi-Touch gestures have made the iOS devices easy to navigate and operate - Your finger is an awesome instrument for interface manipulation. Why limit your input to the mouse's pointer when the Multi-Touch gestures can turn you into the pointing device? Apple's done a lot of research on the touch interface, and they're convinced that the 'touch screen' for a desktop user is a no-go. The vertical surface it's too hard to use. Too much strain on the arm and hand. Touch interfaces want to be horizontal. That's why Apple's perfected the track-pad. I've already got Apple's Magic Trackpad (MTP) for my MacPro, and I have to admit that it's a great input device (Don't even think about getting that 'Magic Mouse'; that thing's an ergonomic disaster. Just ask Craig Federighi (VP of Engineering for Mac OS X), or watch Apple's Lion Preview), the only problems I've noted are it's lack of instant focus and lack of speed. Unlike the screen of an iOS device, a click on the MTP doesn't instantly equate to a click on the desktop. You must maneuver the input to place the cursor on top of an icon/desktop object. The MTP is also a bit slow - compared to my TrackMan Wheel mouse (by Logitech). While I enjoy the MTP's flexibility, ergonomic design, expanded capabilities, and enhanced feature set, I still find myself using the TrackMan Wheel mouse for games - where reaction time is crucial. After the upgrade: Still not using the trackpad for games, but I find myself using the mouse less and less. The day may come. The new OS introduces several new swipe maneuvers to make your life easier.

* App Store: The 'App Store' on the iPhone (iPod Touch and iPad) has revolutionized the application purchase experience for users and developers alike. Ensuring more stable applications, eliminating marketing demands for many small software developers, establishing a standardized application acquisition environment, and putting the complicated e-commerce segment squarely in Apple's court. We know the 'App Store' model works. If it didn't work, people wouldn't have purchased more than 7 billion apps! The 'App Store' is now coming to the Mac OS. It won't be the only way to get apps on a Mac, but Apple thinks that it'll be the best way to discover and purchase apps. For many users (typical users), this new App Store concept (The interface will have four main sections: Featured, Top Charts, Categories, Updates) will make the process of software purchase (One purchase of an app will license its use on any of your Macs), download, installation and update an extremely simple proposition. After the upgrade: I like the convenience, but find the App Store is still lacking in some usability. About a third of my purchases (for my Mac) are now coming through the App Store.

* Home Screen: Another ported feature from iOS is the App Home screen. It's really easy to get from one app to another by swiping (there's that Multi-Touch gesture) right or left to access screens containing various apps. This new application launching capability (Home Screens for Apps aka Launchpad) will allow users to create folders of apps or organize the Home Screens to meet their personal configuration preferences. Navigating through your apps will soon become far easier and faster with this new launch pad capability. After the upgrade: Swiping to navigate is very easy when you've only got a few 'spaces' open. Add too many and it gets tedious to swipe (see Mission Control below).

* Full Screen: Every iOS device runs it's apps in full screen mode. Eliminating distractions, and taking full advantage of the available display. This full screen capability already exists in some Mac OS apps, but Lion will bring that capability to many more apps. After the upgrade: Not that useful for my 30" monitor. I can imagine it helps those with less screen-estate.

* Auto Save: Something else that iOS devices do? They auto-save. Applications are constantly saving your data. You don't have to select 'File -> Save' every time you want to quit or switch apps. Apple's venerable "AppleWorks" has had this capability for many, many, years, but oddly, the capability didn't exist for the vast majority of applications. Lion will bring this feature 'Back to the Mac' in a big way (will every app have automatic auto-save feature? Wouldn't that be awesome? No more lost data when an application crashes or you forget to save something). After the upgrade: I'm still used to manually saving my work, and you have to since the only apps implementing this feature (for the most part) are Mac OS apps and apps updated to specifically take advantage of this OS level capability.

* Auto Resume: Another feature on the iOS; something that goes hand in hand with the auto-save feature? An auto-resume feature. When you launch an app on an iOS device, it starts up in the state you left it. Re-loading your document or save state, so you can resume your work without worrying about where you saved the file, or what it was called. This feature is currently available - provided developers build it into their applications. The new Lion capability would likely make it the default, integrating it into the OS. After the upgrade: Again, the only apps implementing this feature (for the most part) are Mac OS apps and apps updated to specifically take advantage of this OS level capability.

* Mission Control: Finally, some new integration in the Mac desktop. Currently the Mac OS offers four ways to manage and navigate your applications - Expose' (A way to 'explode' the desktop view - revealing all the applications/windows on your current desktop); Dashboard (A protected desktop for running Widgets. Accessible at a single key stroke); Spaces (virtualized desktops allowing you to configure multiple work-spaces for different purposes); and now, the Full Screen mode (for applications running in Full Screen). While each of these navigation / configuration capabilities are great on their own, they're all accessed separately. Making desktop navigation just a little bit daunting and confusing. Mac OS 10.7 combines and unifies all these capabilities into one configuration management tool called 'Mission Control'. A way to view everything running on your Mac (I've got 28 apps running right now - not counting 12 Dashboard Widgets), and instantly navigate to anywhere on your Mac. After the upgrade: The most awesome feature of the new OS (imho). I didn't believe Expose' could get better. Mission control ties the desktop together. It lets you get where you need to be. Allows you to rearrange things on the fly, and keep track of where everything is at.

Everything is up and running with only one problem noted. After the update my keyboard wasn't working properly (Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000). Some keys worked, but not all of them worked. A reboot fixed that problem. Since that initial reboot, everything seems to be running perfectly? Awesome! An OS upgrade can be hell, but this wasn't bad at all.

To learn about Lion I bought an application called 'Tutor for Lion'. I find it indispensable. It's far easier to use than one of those incredibly dense OS focused books. A great primer for those new to the Mac OS, and very helpful for old hands like myself. I really liked it's focus on application level enhancements. I'm loving the new OS and I hope to learn more in the coming months. As a result of this OS update, the following pages have been updated. myfavs.html, feedback.html, encryption.html and mycomputer.html.
<http://www.apple.com/mac/app-store/>
<http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/>
<http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/features.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple–Intel_transition>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_(software)>

Music CollectionSizzlin' Summer Tunes in September:
Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. Where do I get all this stuff? Well, I used to find/discover a lot of free (actually free) music by visiting several of the new music web sites (Pandora, 3hive.com, musicalfamilytree.org) and several other music blogs (Analog Giant, Brooklyn Vegan, Fluxblog, Gorilla vs. Bear, etc) out there, and listening to a few different music podcasts. Used to... Now? Now (As of Oct of 2010) I subscribe to an online music streaming service called MOG, and I've recently (as of Sep 2011) started using eMusic 'Radio' stations for music discovery. Combined together, these two services provide full-play access to more than 23 million tracks! (11m on MOG, 12m on eMusic) Two fantastic ways to discover music, and no need for illegal downloads or pirated tracks. I occasionally use a few of the other methods (music blogs and podcasts), but MOG and eMusic now serve as my primary music discovery sources.

Artists want you to hear their music - If you like it, you'll buy it, or maybe you'll buy some concert tickets. The major labels want you to pay for their product - letting you hear it for free is contrary to their business model. Well, guess what? I won't buy it unless I can listen to it first. The major labels are killing themselves with their restrictive distribution and dissemination policies. If you like new music, you can do a web search to find your favorite artists web site, a new music web site, or an archive of free music. Free music is available - Legally! Don't believe the major labels propaganda - Not all free music is illegal. You can legally download or listen to all sorts of music for free. I download most of my music from a couple of commercial sources (eMusic and iTunes), but I occasionally download tracks (legally) from various websites, newsgroups and blogs in order to satisfy my craving for music.

Here's a listing of some of the music I legally downloaded - and in most cases - paid for!

iTunes Music Downloads:
Sometimes I purchase music from iTunes, and sometimes I take advantage of their free downloads (check it out on Tuesdays). iTunes is the King of the Hill when it comes to the bigger names, so sometimes I find that I have to pay the higher prices. Here's a few of the downloads I recently scored from the iTunes store. Paid and Free!
* Ghost On the Canvas - Glenn Campbell: (18 songs) An excellent album from a legend of country music. I downloaded a free single earlier this month, but the music was too good to pass up, so I went over to MOG, listened to the entire album, and couldn't resist. I went back to iTunes and downloaded the entire album. 18 songs for $9.99. This album is composed of studio recordings from his farewell tour (Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in June of 2011), Glen Campbell has produced another outstanding album to add to his collection of 70 plus since 1958. I was actually shocked to discover how good his music was. I would never have suspected that someone so far from my normal listening tastes, could produce something so satisfying. I still can't understand it... How?
* Bonus EP - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band: (6 songs) A free iTunes New Music Tuesdays offering (no longer available). A classic Rocker from the 60s and 70s. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, here's an EP featuring six of his classic recordings. It's hard to turn down free classics like this one. Thank you iTunes.
* Born Alone - Wilco: (single) From the latest album 'The Whole Love', due to be released on the 27th of Sep. If all the tracks are this good, I might have to buy a copy.

These are some of the items I added to my music collection during this month. Since revamping my music collection back in September of 2005, I've been slowly adding, revising and updating the collection. If you have a comment, question or correction regarding my collection, please don't hesitate to send me an email. Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>

Security UpdateSecurity update 2011-002:
Apple is hard at work, making sure that Snow Leopard is running on all cylinders (in my case 8 - or 16 if you count the virtual threads). This time around it's a reaction to bad actors and 'hackers' intent on compromising internet security. This particular update was rolled out for OS 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) and OS 10.7.1 (Lion). The update applies to both the consumer OS version and the server version. It's designed to mitigate vulnerabilities introduced by fraudulent digital certificates. An attacker with a privileged network position (A certificate authority) may intercept user credentials and other sensitive information (digitally secure communications). Apple (and others) has released this update in order to remove 'DigiNotar' (certificates issued by it and other authorities) from it's list of trusted root certificates.

You can read all about Apple's upgrades, bug fixes, security updates, and more by following the links I've provided below. I upgraded to Snow Leopard during August of 2009, and I have to say, the tweaking, enhancements and multi-core refinements have resulted in considerable speed improvements on my machine. You can read more about the update at Apple's website. Keeping my Mac safe from malicious hackers and such.
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4920>

Blurry iconsBlurry icons under Mac OS:
<rant>It's a problem which has been plaguing me (and others) for more than a year. Back in August of 2010, I started to notice the onset of a particular problem plaguing my Mac's desktop. While I love the Mac OS, no operating system is without it's issues, and this is just one of those perplexing problems that seems to bother people in our age of super-computers and sophisticated communications devices. If you're familiar with my battles in the land of network connections, you know I don't give up easily when confronted with a technological challenge. This desktop dilemma is just the latest of those challenges.

A bit more detail - So the problem started occurring a few months back, and it's been getting progressively worse. This problem involves the icons in my Mac's Dock and the Application Switcher panel (invoked when you press command-tab). The Mac OS (In OS X v10.5 and later) uses 512 x 512 pixel images for the dock, application switcher and Finder in general. Each application and document has appropriately sized images embedded in the code for smaller sizes (for various reasons), but the 512 x 512 resource is supposed to be used when displaying icons in the Finder. Unfortunately, the problem plaguing me was slowly beginning to affect all the icons in my dock and application switcher (I hadn't noticed it affecting the Finder in general (finder windows)).

The effect I'm talking about? Instead of the typical, sharp, high-resolution (512 x 512) icons, I was starting to notice some incredibly low resolution icons (32 x 32?) in my dock and application switcher. It's nothing critical. It wasn't causing crashes (in my case), but it certainly was annoying. Being used to these magnificent 512x512 icons, I really didn't appreciate these blurry low-res icons. When these low-res icons are scaled up to 512 x 512 or 128 x 128 size (with a mouse over or other magnification effect), they appear blurry, out of focus or fuzzy. It's irritating, not at all Mac-like and quite annoying. Not one to let the problem persist, I began my quest to quash these blurry icons.

Trying to fix things:
My first stop was the Apple Forums. While I found plenty of discussion (several different forum threads) regarding this 'issue', I couldn't find an 'Official' answer - While the original posting (describing this problem) may have been 'Answered', it certainly hasn't been 'Solved' (Despite the 'official' claim to the contrary); a fact noted by several posters. I'm not sure why this problem hasn't been tackled by Apple's software engineers/experts. According to the forums, the problem - which may have been around as early as 2007 (Release of Leopard, Mac OS X 10.5) - seems to affect all models of Mac. It doesn't appear to be a hardware issue, and it's affecting those with Mac OS 10.5 and later (when the 512x512 icons were introduced). While some have reported the issue affecting icons in the Finder (Apple's file browser application), I've only noticed it in my Dock and Application Switcher (but I've never seen it in my Finder windows).

I've tried several of the remedies suggested in Apple's forums: Logging out/in, restarting the computer, repairing permissions, deleting various .DS_Store files, resetting preferences for the dock, the finder, and various other system level settings. Escalating the research beyond Apple's official forums, I find that the problem is being reported beyond the Apple website(s). It's even been reported on by 'CNET' and various other websites. Still the problem persists... After reading numerous posts, troubleshooting efforts and observing the effect up close, I began to formulate my own 'solution'. Noting that it only appeared to affect my Dock and Application Switcher (If you're experiencing similar problems in the Finder, my 'fix' may not help you), I reasoned that the computer was looking in the wrong place (resource path) for the appropriate image resources. For some reason, it was displaying the lowest level of image resolution. Once it started displaying the lower resolution image, it wouldn't revert with a standard reboot, permissions repair, etc. It needed some serious resetting in order to make it access the appropriate resource(s).

A recent posting (Jan 5th, 2011) in Apple's support forums, suggests a new way to fix this problem:

According to poster: steepleton
"there is an icon cashe at macintosh hd/private/var/folders/xd/ (something that changes each reboot) /caches/com.apple.quicklook.thumbnailcache. if you find this folder you can safely move it to trash and restart the finder. everything works normally again (a new com.apple.quicklook.thumbnailcache folder is generated as soon as it's needed). To find this folder you'll need something like "pathfinder" which can navigate invisible folders and has a find that doesn't use spotlight (com.apple.quicklook.thumbnailcache is a system file and spotlight won't hunt for it) you can dump the folder as many times as you need over a prolonged uptime. the fix works immediately and repeatedly"

Unfortunately, according to the author (and confirmed by others), this workaround doesn't permanently fix the problem. I've tried "steeplton's" remedy. It was a bit less intrusive than my typical fix (doesn't destroy my Dock settings). It worked, but it doesn't seem to last any longer than clearing the usual cache's with various 'deep cleaning' routines (The routine I use comes from Applejack; a utility for repairing permissions, cache cleaning and more). Others have commented on "steeplton's" remedy; suggesting that the only file that needs to be deleted (before rebooting) is the 'thumbnails.data' file in this /private/var/folders directory. Unfortunately, I have more than one folder in the /private/var/folders path, and I'm not sure which one(s) I should be deleting. Maybe if I delete all the temporary folders in that directory? That sounds dangerous...

Another option (discussed in Apple's support forums) involves deleting the 'com.apple.dock.iconcache' located somewhere within the /private/var/folders/ directory. According to the poster/discussion. Once this file has been located and deleted, the dock needs to be restarted. No need to reboot, log out, or restart the Mac. If I continue to experience problems, I may try this option. The only issue which concerns me here is the focus on the dock... This problem affects more than just the dock. It also affects the icons displayed using Apple's Application Switcher (and possibly other locations/system level applications such as Stacks and the Finder).

Here's how I 'fixed' things: My typical fix goes like this: Open a Finder window. Select your Home Folder (folder/icon with the House badge/image), then open your Library folder. Navigate to the Preference folder. Locate and move the following files to the trash: 'com.apple.dock.plist' and 'com.apple.dock.db' (I believe you might not need to delete this later file). Once you've deleted the preference files, you should restart your Mac. Your Mac will create new preferences for the dock. Deleting the db file will delete all your dock settings, so you'll probably want to create a back-up, just in case (as with all troubleshooting, creating a backup/backing-up your system is always a good idea). This action seems to corrected the problem for an extended period of time.

On the 14th of May, 2011, I didn't attempt the extended fix (listed here). I ran some cache cleaning routines using 'Onyx', rebooted my Mac, and executed a deep cleaning routine using 'Applejack'. The last time I ran this type of fix (a 'deep cleaning' cache deletion routine) I was spared the fuzzy icons for a period of approximately 1.5 months. Who know how long it'll work this time? I've tried "steepleton's" fix (listed above) in the past. I deleted the entire content of the /private/var/folders/ containing my 'thumbnails.data' file. After deleting the 'thumbnails.data' file, I noticed that my computer rebuilt the file. It replaced it with an exact (500.4MB) copy in a little under three minutes. I noticed that simply removing the 'thumbnails.data' file didn't solve the problem. The blurry icons persisted after the file was deleted, and the same blurry effect was noticed after the computer had re-created the new 'thumbnails.data' file. Afterwards, I deleted the entire content of the folder, but I didn't give the computer time to re-create the file. I immediately rebooted. The reboot hung, and I had to shut down the computer using the power button. That's not good, but I can't specifically blame it on this procedure, as it's been happening lately. After several reboots and a 'Applejack' cleanup routine (using the 'normal' setting), I finally logged in, and noticed that the blurry icons were gone. Hopefully the problem won't recur for some time (longer than a week would be nice).

More recent developments: I started noticing this problem again on approximately the 9th of Sep, 2011. It may have started earlier, but by the 9th the problem was persistent. I had two icons in my dock showing signs of the resolution problem. Every time I launched those particular applications, the icons appeared 'fuzzy' or 'blurry'. The same old problem I've been troubled with since 2010. This time I was a bit busy. I didn't have the time to try all the remedies I normally attempt, but I did try some scripting/command line remedies recommended in a forum I read somewhere... From a command line prompt, in a terminal window/shell tool, I tried the following commands:

#!/bin/bash

find /private/var/folders/ -name com.apple.dock.iconcache -exec rm {} \; 2>/dev/null

osascript <<EOF
quit application "Dock"
EOF

The first part (the find command) seeks out and deletes the icon cache for the dock. The second part restarts the dock (using an OSA script). Unfortunately, this 'remedy' didn't seem to have any positive effect. I restarted the affected apps, and the icons were still blurry. So, whoever came up with that particular remedy must have missed something essential. Following this failed attempt, I simply rebooted my Mac. That cleared things up for the time being, and I was planning to update my OS in the very near future, so I didn't bother with additional troubleshooting. So now I'm moving on to OS 10.7 (Lion), and I can only hope that this new OS resolves the icon resolution issue. I'll let you know if the problem crops up after the OS update.

The strange thing about this problem? It doesn't affect every icon, but once it affects an icon, that icon continues to exhibit the blurring, even after the application is quit and relaunched. It doesn't affect all the icons at once, seeming to strike at random. There must be a corrupt cache somewhere. Something that tells the Mac which resource to display for desktop views of the icons. As far as I can tell, Apple hasn't corrected this problem - Yet.</rant>
<http://developer.apple.com/mac/library/documentation/UserExperience/Conceptual/AppleHIGuidelines/XHIGIcons/XHIGIcons.html>
<http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2132399>
<http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2600445&tstart=0>
<http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2667566&tstart=135>
<http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10402811-263.html>
<http://www.titanium.free.fr/download.php>
<http://applejack.sourceforge.net/>

DangerCan't connect to TriCare website:
<rant>As a retired military member, I sometimes need to access .mil websites. When I can't connect to the websites I need to access, it's an inconvenient reminder that the digital age isn't a perfect utopia where routers work perfectly, operating systems never skip a beat, and your mp3 player always works perfectly. Recently, when I tried to access the TriCare website (http://www.tricare.mil), I found myself thwarted at nearly every turn. When I tried to access the website over my Comcast connection I simply couldn't connect. No matter what I tried. I even tried different DNS servers. I switched from the Comcast DNS servers to Google's public servers.

I called Comcast, foolishly believing they might be able to help me. After I eventually got through to one of their 'helpful' technicians, I followed all their 'troubleshooting' steps; even when they recommended things thatjust didn't make any sense. I even rebooted my computer. Oh sure, rebooting my computer might allow me to connect to one specific website, even when I don't have problems connecting to other websites. After that wasted trip to the Comcast 'help desk' (via online chat), I started doing a little investigating.

I had no problem connecting if I went through the AT&T connection on my iPhone. When I switched to Wi-Fi connectivity; which uses the Comcast DNS routing from my home network, I encountered the same problem. 'Could not connect to remote server' That's all I get. Using different browsers doesn't matter. Using different DNS servers doesn't matter. I attempted to do a trace route, using command line (in a terminal window/not a browser), but the trace route never resolved. I could never connect to the website. The traceroute eventually fails due to max number of hops or simply times out. When I tried running trace routes with the Comcast technician, he insisted that I use a different browser. When I explained that I was running the trace route command (tracert) from a shell tool, he seemed confused. He didn't know what a terminal or shell prompt was.

Something is wrong with the DNS configuration for that domain. I did a little poking around. Did a few lookups. When I queried 'whois.nic.mil' for DNS settings (for domain tricare.mil), I got the following error: "Query error: CouldNotResolveServerName. Great, their domain is definitely misconfigured. After I did a little more searching, I found this nugget: The domain is blacklisted at 'whois.rfc-ignorant.org'. The entire top level domain (.mil) is listed for being rfc ignorant, and it's been listed since 2004!. According to DNS records for the domain, www.tricare.mil has one IP (199.211.83.169), which is the same as for tricare.mil, but there is no corresponding reverse pointer. The reverse DNS information has not been configured on the domain server.

Maybe Comcast uses the rfc-ignorant.org listing as a rejection criteria for domains? It's not the only server/service that does this. My own domain was getting rejected for the same reason (it's been corrected since I discovered the problem and reported it). In either case, it appears as if the only way I can view the website is through my AT&T connection (on the iPhone), as they don't block domains who don't have a reverse lookup configured. Should I bother sending an email to the tricare.mil webmaster? They've been listed since 2004... Can you connect to tricare.mil? </rant>
<http://www.robtex.com/dns/tricare.mil.html>
<http://www.rfc-ignorant.org/tools/lookup.php?domain=tricare.mil>

InfluenzaWe're Sick!
It's been a while (Nov, 2010) since I've been sick, but this particular illness doesn't come as any surprise. While Colorado hasn't quite swung into it's annual flu-season, Kim and I traveled to Wisconsin for a wedding just recently (August of 2011). While we were there, we were exposed to some people who were sick. We knew they were sick, but we couldn't really avoid contact. We were staying in their house, eating meals with them, hugging, shaking hands, yup... Kim's parents. Now that we've been exposed to one of the flu varieties we may be able to resist the ones that make their way to Colorado - Well, at least we'll be immune to one variety in particular.

The bug we got from Ted & Sharon was more than your typical cold, it was some sort of influenza bug. A strain we haven't been vacinated agains (we haven't got our flu shots yet). On the first day (the 6th of Sep, 2011), it wasn't too bad. A sore throat and some minor congestion. Nothing major. That evening (after we got home from the airport), it had become something much worse. I didn't get much sleep at all (maybe two hours), as my body was aching, and I had a minor fever. Add to that the fact that I couldn't lay down without fluids nearly drowning me. I called work and told them I wouldn't be coming in tomorrow. No problem - with my new job, I've got 96 hours of sick leave per year, and my boss didn't want me infecting everyone else. Waking up after three fitful hours of sleep, I wandered around the house and suffered. I tried to take a nap, but I didn't get much more sleep. By the end of the day, I didn't feel much better, but I was able to get more sleep than that first night. I took another day off of work. Unfortunately, Kim had to go in to work. Her employer doesn't give her any separate sick leave, and she was out of hours. I even took a few hours off on Friday (the 9th of Sep). I worked full days all this week (12 - 16 Sep) but I'm still sick. It's nowhere near as bad as those first two days, but it sure isn't much fun either. What a bother. I'm taking cold medicine, getting extra sleep, drinking plenty of fluids, etc. I hope you're not a victim of this years cold and flu season. If you haven't already, please be sure to get your flu shot.

September 8, 2011

Music CollectionSeptember's eMusic downloads:
Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. Where do I get all this stuff? Well, I used to find/discover a lot of free (actually free) music by visiting several of the new music web sites (Pandora, 3hive.com, musicalfamilytree.org) and several other music blogs (Analog Giant, Brooklyn Vegan, Fluxblog, Gorilla vs. Bear, etc) out there, and listening to a few different music podcasts. Used to... Now? Now (As of Oct of 2010) I subscribe to an online music streaming service called MOG, and I've recently (as of Sep 2011) started using eMusic 'Radio' stations for music discovery. Combined together, these two services provide full-play access to more than 23 million tracks! (11m on MOG, 12m on eMusic) Two fantastic ways to discover music, and no need for illegal downloads or pirated tracks. I occasionally use a few of the other methods (music blogs and podcasts), but MOG and eMusic now serve as my primary music discovery sources.

Artists want you to hear their music - If you like it, you'll buy it, or maybe you'll buy some concert tickets. The major labels want you to pay for their product - letting you hear it for free is contrary to their business model. Well, guess what? I won't buy it unless I can listen to it first. The major labels are killing themselves with their restrictive distribution and dissemination policies. If you like new music, you can do a web search to find your favorite artists web site, a new music web site, or an archive of free music. Free music is available - Legally! Don't believe the major labels propaganda - Not all free music is illegal. You can legally download or listen to all sorts of music for free. I download most of my music from a couple of commercial sources (eMusic and iTunes), but I occasionally download tracks (legally) from various websites, newsgroups and blogs in order to satisfy my craving for music.

Here's a listing of some of the music I legally downloaded - and in most cases - paid for!

eMusic monthly downloads:
Every month I download ~50 tracks from eMusic.com. This month (September of 2011) I managed to download 67 tracks for $23.14 (and I'm paying a $19.99 monthly fee, so that makes the tracks even cheaper (~$0.30 / track). Unlike some music outlets, eMusic doesn't have any DRM and they don't insert unique track id's into the ID3 tags. Their terms of service are consumer friendly; eMusic allows you to burn as many CDs as you like and copy downloads to an unlimited number of your computers and portable MP3 players. At less than $.50 a track (I'm currently paying $19.99 for $22.99 worth of downloads per month). eMusic offers a really good value for your download dollar. iTunes and Amazon still charge more. eMusic offers more music for your money, and the variable bit rate recordings make for exceptionally high quality recordings.
* Sandanista - The Clash: (36 songs) Originally a triple album release, here's a two disc download with 36 tracks. Stunning evolution in a band that led the revolution from pop to punk. Here was an intelligent, less brash, experimental explosion of genre stretching tracks. The album moved the clash into new territory and spelled the demise of a band which had written itself as counter culture icons in the punk arena. Some outstanding tracks, and some less memorable. They all add up to an amazing collection. Daring, experimental, evolutionary change on the cusp of genius. Mixed with some self-indulgence this work marks a significant shift for the punk poster child that was - The Clash!
* Go Forth - Les Savy Fav: (12 songs) Discovered by listening to eMusic recommendations. Reminds me of Fugazi. Guitar work and vocals are excellent and the lyrics are great. Could be a new favorite.
* Me, I'm All Smiles - Echo and the Bunnymen: (19 songs) The Bunnymen are a favorite band (from the 80s), and here's an album I haven't heard. Live performances of classic tunes. This album was recorded during the band's 2005 tour (in support of Siberia). The version of Ocean Rain is particularly good. Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant provide excellent leads for these live recordings.

iTunes New Music Tuesday download:
Sometimes I purchase music from iTunes, and sometimes I take advantage of their free downloads (check it out on Tuesdays). iTunes is the King of the Hill when it comes to the bigger names, so sometimes I find that I have to pay the higher prices. Here's a few of those free downloads from the iTunes store.
* Ghost On the Canvas - Glenn Campbell: (single) An excellent tune from a legend of country music. From his farewell tour (Glen Campbell diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in June of 2011), Glen Campbell has produced another outstanding album to add to his collection of 70 plus since 1958.
* I Gotta Go - Robert Earl Keen: (single) From the album Ready for Confetti, here's an excellent country single for the iTunes Tuesday Downloads.
* Don't Blame the World it's the DJ's Fault - Cobra Starship: (single) From the album Night Shades. This single is a great dance beat, designed for the clubs.

These are some of the items I added to my music collection during this month. Since revamping my music collection back in September of 2005, I've been slowly adding, revising and updating the collection. If you have a comment, question or correction regarding my music collection, please don't hesitate to send me an email. Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>

Software favorites:
Another update for my favorite software application. Another beta update for my favorite Graphics editor. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. Here's another update for a product that's always getting better. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on several updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following update: 7.3.2 (b279). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.com/content/162/new-functions-and-versions.html>

With this software update, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

Kuchta WeddingBig Fat Polish Catholic Wedding:
Kim and I got back from a 'Big Fat Polish Catholic Wedding' on Tuesday (6 Sep, 2011). We're both sick. Brought back some crud from the Kuchta clan. Such are the perils of travel. Go for a trip, come back sick. It was worth it though. We had a fantastic time. No it wasn't our wedding. One of Kim's cousins (she's got a lot of cousins) got married. Bobby and Samantha (Robert Kuchta is one of Bill & Greta's seven boys (and one girl)) make a great couple, and we wish them all the best. Unfortunately, I haven't got any decent photos to share. Two reasons for that. I brought my Panasonic DMC-FZ35 along on the trip, but I didn't bring it to the wedding. I only brought my iPhone with me to all the events. I guess I knew what I was doing. I really wanted to enjoy myself, socialize, dance, you know - Party like it's a Kuchta Wedding!

Here's a brief? synapsis of what Kim and I did on our recent vacation (2 - 6 Sep, 2011):

  • Day 1 - 2 Aug, 2011: Flew to Milwaukee then Green Bay. When we arrived in Milwaukee, we thought we were underwater. Wow! I'd completely forgotten how bad the humidity could get outside Colorado. We swam up the ramp, rung out our shirts, and caught a gondola to our connecting flight. We made it into Green Bay just behind a huge storm front. The turbulence was still present and the ground wet from the thunderstorms. More humidity. I guess I won't need my moisturizer. We stayed at Ted & Sharon's during our vacation. Thanks to those two for putting up with us, it's a lot better than staying at some hotel. I had some time before the festivities began, so I set up Ted's Airport Extreme wireless router and Roku player. In little more than an hour we had a wireless network up and running. The Roku player configured, streaming video to the den. Everything worked perfectly and the set up was extremely easy. I'd tried to configure the router last year, but ran into some serious issues. As it turns out, the problem was the cable modem. It wasn't capable of NAT routing. Later that evening we attended the wedding rehearsal dinner at the Fox Harbor Pub & Grill. The accommodations upstairs were just the right size for this party. The food was o.k. (Spaghetti & Meatballs) and it gave Kim and I time to get reacquainted with the family of the bride and the extended Kuchta clan. We met the bride & groom. Robert (Bobby) is one of Kim's cousins. Bill & Greta (Kim's aunt & uncle) had 8 kids (seven boys, one girl).
  • Day 2 - 3 Aug, 2011: The Wedding took place in Pulaski, Wisconsin at the ABVM Church (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). I don't know how old this church is, but it sure is beautiful. Classic vaulted ceilings, gigantic stained glass windows, traditional nave design with twin steeples. After the wedding (1.5 hours) there was a wedding party reception at Bill & Greta's house. Of course it's a huge house on a big parcel of land. With that many kids, you can't live in a small house. Bill & Greta prepared a great reception. With food, a live polka band, and plenty of drinks, who could ask for more? After the reception, we (Me, Kim, Ted & Sharon) went back to the house (Ted & Sharon's house). We changed clothes, took a few minutes to freshen up, then we headed out to the dinner, general reception and dancing. Bobby & Sam's party took place at the Swan Club in East Green Bay. The last time Kim and I were there (back in 1983), the Dead Kennedy's were playing. A great venue for a 'Big Fat Polish Catholic Wedding'. The music was a mix of various different genres and eras. They even played a few polkas! Kim's brother and sister even showed up at the dinner. Keith & Yvette (with Kaitlyn), and Mark and Kary (with Sam & Emma). We all had a fantastic time at Bob & Sammy's party!
  • Day 3 - 4 Aug, 2011: The fun never stops with the Kuchta's. The 4th of August was Ted & Sharon's (Kim's parents) 46th wedding anniversary. Once again, Kim's brother and sister showed up. Everyone came to the cookout. This time Keith's Kaitlyn (Yvette's daughter) kids made it (Chantelle, Amber, Leah and Austin). We played some lawn games (Something Sharon called 'Testicle Toss' - otherwise known as 'Lawn golf'), drank too much beer; considering the amount imbibed at Bobby & Sam's party. Kim, Sharon & Ted prepared a fantastic feast for all to eat. Huge 1.5" boneless ribeyes, marinated boneless skinless chicken breasts and hamburgers. The sides, salads and desserts were pretty good as well. Especially Kim's garlic mashed potatoes. Like I said, a fantastic feast.
  • Day 4 - 5 Aug, 2011: On labor day, Kim and I managed to make it up north to see my mom. We spent the day with mom. Had lunch, sat about by the campfire, talked and watched all the birds. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling too well. Too much partying? After a brief nap, we drove back to De Pere. That visit was a bit short, but we had a good time.
  • Day 5 - 6 Aug, 2011: Our last day in De Pere. After a small breakfast, we packed for our return trip. Ted loaded us up with perch and bluegills. 39lbs of frozen fish. Awesome! I can't get this stuff any other way. Now Ted has room in his freezer for more fish. Unfortunately, Kim and I aren't feeling too well. We must have caught that bug that Ted and Sharon were suffering with when we arrived. We met Ben Kuchta (One of Kim's cousins) on our return flight. Ben lives in the Denver area. Unfortunately, with our busy lives, we don't get to spend much time together. This time the flight was direct; from Green Bay to Denver. I even managed to sleep on the plane. That's the first time I've ever slept on a plane. By the time we arrived in Denver (20 minutes early), I was seriously feeling the effects of this illness. We gave some of our fish to Ben and took a limo home. Unfortunately, Kim and I are sick. I'll have to take a couple of days off work.

As I said, we had a really good time. Those Polish Catholic weddings are awesome. Bob & Sammy's party was awesome. I danced, Kim danced, Ted (Kim's dad) was a dance machine! Everyone had a really good time. Thanks to all those Kuchta's who made our vacation so memorable.

eMusic Radio/PlayerNew eMusic Radio/Player:
<rave>Recently (30 Aug, 2011), eMusic announced it's new 'eMusic Radio'. The web based application is in beta now so, if you're an eMusic member you can give it a try. It's designed to provide a fuller more expansive music discovery experience to the eMusic consumer. It's a free feature for all U.S. eMusic members. This new player allows eMusic members to listen to up to 10 hours of streaming music (per 30 day cycle). The Player/Radio is designed/uses Adobe Flash, so it doesn't work on an iPhone or iPad. According to the eMusic FAQ/Help page, they're working on a version compatible with those devices. The new player launches with 40+ curated 'Radio' stations. The player/streaming conforms with DMCA restrictions, so there's limits on how many tracks you can skip, how many songs by any specific band, artist and or album, and other restrictions.

I've tried the new player/radio stations and it/they work quite well on my desktop Mac (using Safari Version 5.1 (6534.50)). It's still in beta, and I've already noticed a few issues, but it certainly looks promising. Along with the the player and 'Radio' channels (which could have clearer descriptions/categories), eMusic announced that they'll have cloud services (on multiple devices/by the end of the year) for all the eMusic tracks that members have purchased. Awesome! I don't think I'll unsubscribe from my MOG service just yet. As I generally listen to more than 10 hours of new music per month, but this new service will certainly help me discover more new music. I like it!</rave>
<http://www.emusic.com/info/help/emusic-radio/#ixzz1XI1WZmIm>
<http://www.emusic.com/info/help/emusic-radio/>
<http://www.robsworld.org/emusicradio.png>
<http://www.emusic.com/listen/#/radio/>