When there were no new iMacs announced at Apple’s “Hello Again” event in October I decided to stop waiting and replace my ageing late 2009 model with an Apple refurbished late 2013 one (I had a friend who was eager to buy my old one). I had also held off installing Sierra so my old machine was running El Capitan.
I was looking at Date & Time preferences on my iMac and under Time Zone I checked the box where it said “Set time zone automatically using current location”, at which point a message popped up telling me to “Turn on WiFi to determine your current location”. Since my machine is connected to the router by Ethernet I don’t normally have Wi-Fi turned on and in fact I had deleted the interface in Network preferences. So I added a Wi-Fi interface and turned it on. When I went back to Date & Time preferences there was now a pin on the map marking my closest city, which it had correctly determined to be Hatfield – United Kingdom (though strictly Hatfield is a town not a city). When I unchecked the auto time zone box the pin disappeared but the closest city was still set to Hatfield, as if I had set it manually.
I have been with The Co-operative bank for a long time and have no plans to switch despite the problems which arose during the tenure of disgraced former chairman Paul Flowers aka the crystal Methodist. I use the online banking system and one day (a long time ago) when I went to log in I was prompted to download and install some security software called Rapport from a company called Trusteer. Being naturally wary of such things I did a search and immediately discovered that people were having problems with it, so I declined. In fact the only options were to “Download” or “Remind me later” so I clicked the latter and proceeded as usual. I find the reminders mildly annoying but as long as they don’t make use of Rapport compulsory it is not a big deal.
Until fairly recently I was running OS X Mountain Lion on my late 2009 iMac but on October 22nd I noticed that Mavericks was available as a free upgrade, so after doing a Time Machine backup I went ahead and installed it. The upgrade ran smoothly and once I was running Mavericks I checked for updates and found that new versions of the iWork and iLife applications were also available at no cost, so I installed them too. This is not going to be a general review of Mavericks because John Siracusa has already done a far more thorough job than I ever could in The Ars Technica Review. What I will do is document the problems I had and and the solutions I found, but first a couple of general comments.
This post will be about reinstalling Mountain Lion on my iMac but I want to explain the background first. I am still using the iMac I bought in December 2009 when it came with Snow Leopard. In February 2012 I upgraded to Lion and wrote about it here (I upgraded again to Mountain Lion in September). Meanwhile I was thinking about replacing the machine as it was coming up for three year mark where AppleCare expires. My iMac is the one that was released in October 2009 and since then there had been two new models released at intervals of 280 days, but it was another 577 days before the most recent model was released in November 2012 (I got those numbers from the MacRumors Buyers Guide). If any of my friends had been in the market for a used iMac I may well have traded up but for me there was a downside to the new model – it has no optical drive. Although I accept that optical media is on its way out I wasn’t ready to make the break so I would also have needed to buy an external drive. Of course Apple has an interest in seeing people switch from buying plastic discs to downloading stuff from the iTunes Store so I can understand why they might want to leave out the optical drive, though to be fair a lot of people probably have made the break and would prefer not to have to pay for a built in drive that they don’t need. However, having watched the announcement it seems to me that at least part of the reason for omitting the optical drive was to allow a thinner case, or at least a case with a much thinner edge. Yes the new model does look very cool but I don’t understand the obsession with slimness in a desktop machine. My iMac has not moved for over three years since I unpacked it and the new model would not take up any less desk space. The upshot is that I decided to keep my current machine for the time being and wait to see where Apple goes with the next iteration. Having decided to keep the machine I also decided to have a fresh start and do a complete reinstall of Mountain Lion.
A few weeks ago a friend showed me some footage from his GoPro HD HERO which had been attached to the front mudguard of his motorbike when he was following me on my Moto Guzzi. I have been thinking about buying the same camera so I thought I would try editing it on my Mac and uploading to YouTube – you can view the result below. The process was not too difficult but there were a few pitfalls which I will go on to describe.
The file I got was a 2.09 GB 960p MPEG-4 movie at 29.97 frames per second. The camera can also shoot 1080p, 720p and WVGA, all of which are 16:9 aspect ratio, whereas 960p is 1280 x 960 pixels which is 4:3 aspect ratio. More on resolutions later. All I wanted to do was isolate a clip, mute the audio, and add a suitable soundtrack. There may have been other ways to achieve that but I decided to buy the latest iMovie from the Mac App Store and learn to use it. When I first started up iMovie there was a message saying “iMovie needs to generate thumbnails for the videos in your iPhoto Library” (I already had the latest iPhoto and there were a number of short videos in my iPhoto library that had been imported from my Canon Digital Ixus 400). Once the thumbnails had been generated I was able to see these old videos in the iMovie Event Library but the video I wanted was in a separate file so I had to import it using File -> Import -> Movies… where I created a new event for it. I wasn’t sure whether to “Optimise video” but in this instance I chose not to.
The next step was to create a project using File -> New Project… where I set the aspect ratio to 4:3 and the frame rate to 30 fps. I then selected the clip I wanted from the thumbnails of the event and dragged it into the new project. Muting the audio was as easy as selecting Clip -> Mute Clip. I had already decided on what I wanted to replace it with – a track called “Son of a Bush” by Public Enemy from my iTunes library.
It wasn’t obvious how to add audio but I found it under Help -> iMovie Help -> Get Started -> Enhance your project -> Add background music from your iTunes library. Following the instructions I opened the “Music and Sound Effects” browser, searched for the track and then dragged it to the project window. The instructions were quite specific about dragging the song not onto a clip but to dark grey area to the right of the last clip, which puts it in the so called “background music well” of the project. So that is what I did and it worked – sort of. The problem is I didn’t want the track to start immediately and it was important to get the audio accurately synced to the video, which I could not seem to do. I found the answer in this YouTube video from macmost. All I had to do was ignore what I had read and drag the song onto the clip itself rather than the background well. I was then able to move it around until it lined up the way I wanted. At that point I was basically done so I selected File -> Finalize Project.
So now all I had to do was upload it to YouTube, which you can do directly with the Share -> YouTube… menu. The trouble is, “Size to publish” was set to “Large” (720 x 540) pixels and the higher resolution options (1280 x 720 and 1920 x 1080) were greyed out. I accepted this anyway but it would have been nice to upload at a higher resolution since the original footage was 1280 x 960 pixels. I did find a partial workaround in this post on the Vimeo forums. Using File -> Project Properties… I changed the aspect ratio from standard to widescreen, opened the “Cropping, Ken Burns and Rotation” window, selected the “Fit” option and then finalized the project again. Now when I opened the Share -> YouTube… menu the size was still set to “Large” but now “Large” was 960 x 540 pixels as opposed to 720 x 540 (which just means that there is a blank bit on either side). Also the 1280 x 720 option was no longer greyed out so I could have uploaded at this higher resolution but I chose to leave things as they were. Ideally the camera would have been set to shoot 1080p and I guess I would then have been able to upload to YouTube directly at 1080p – useful to know if I do get one myself.
My current computer is an iMac that I bought in December 2009 when it came with Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” and iLife ’09 installed. I really only use one iLife application, iPhoto, so when iLife ’11 came out in October 2010 I didn’t really think it was worth paying for the whole new suite of programs. In July 2011 Apple released OS X Lion, which was only available for download from the Mac App Store (the App Store itself only came online in January 2011 with the 10.6.6 update to Snow Leopard). Whenever I have upgraded a computer to a new major version of OS X (10.2 to 10.3 on my G3 iBook and 10.4 to 10.5 on my first iMac) I have done an erase and install because I like to have a completely fresh start. Since Lion did not come on physical media there was no simple supported way to do an erase and install and that is part of the reason I was still running Snow Leopard until this week – that and the fact that although I like to keep up to date I had no particular need for any of the new features in Lion. I had thought I might get round to upgrading in the New Year and this week I finally made the transition.
Although I keep a Time Machine backup on an external drive I was starting to think I should have an off-site backup too, so before getting started I copied my home directory on to a new 500 GB portable hard drive and took it away for safe keeping. I had never used the App Store (or indeed the iTunes Store) but buying Lion was pretty straightforward. It took an hour or two to download but once that completed the installation was fairly quick. The individual iLife applications are available on the App Store so I also treated myself to the latest version of iPhoto.
I make extensive use of a number of command line tools that I install using MacPorts so it was important to get it up and running. Basically I deleted the whole MacPorts installation, grabbed the new Xcode (a free download from the App Store) and installed that, then downloaded the Lion package installer from MacPorts. Once I had the MacPorts base system installed I started installing packages – mutt, msmtp, gnupg etc. It all went OK until I got to lbdb (Little Brother’s Database) and there was a problem which prevented it from installing. I use lbdb to query the OS X Address Book from within mutt so I will either need to solve the problem or find another way of doing it.
After using the new system for a few hours I decided it was time to back it up so I connected my Time Machine drive. It should have backed up automatically but the process appeared to freeze and when I tried to gain control the drive icon vanished from the desktop with a warning about not unmounting. This had happened to me a couple of times before and I responded by turning off Time Machine temporarily, starting up Disk Utility, and clicking on “Repair Disk”. However, when that seemed to be taking ages to do anything I felt more drastic action was required so I erased the drive and let Time Machine start afresh with a full backup. That means I have lost the ability to restore old files but it is fairly unlikely that I would have needed to. It also made me glad I had started out by making an additional backup of my home directory.
One of the first things you see when you upgrade to Lion is a message about the change in scrolling behaviour, you now have to swipe up on the surface of the Magic Mouse to scroll down! This is not as crazy as it sounds but it takes some getting used to. Basically you have to think of it as if you are pushing the text up with your finger rather than moving the cursor down. A major reason for this change must have been to achieve consistency with iOS behaviour on touchscreen devices.
Other surprises included radical changes to Address Book and iCal. It seems like a lot of people were pretty upset about the new Address Book but I think it is fine. I have also been using the “Faces” feature of iPhoto and Address Book has a way of choosing photos from Faces to use as custom photos for people.
I have not yet explored the new Launchpad or Mission Control features and I am sure there are all sorts of other enhancements to discover. In fact I should now probably go back and read the Ars Technica Lion Review to remind myself what to look out for.
Usenet is a worldwide distributed Internet discussion system established in 1980 which I have been using on and off since 1988 (before the advent of the Web). Google Groups host an archive of Usenet posts dating back to 1981, including this one which I posted to comp.lang.postscript in November 1988 while I was at Dartmouth College in the United States. On returning to England in 1990 I was without Usenet access until I started working at the University of Hertfordshire in 1999 where I eventually started posting again (mainly to comp.sys.sun.admin). The UH news server didn’t work very well so by the time I left my job there in 2005 I had already got myself an account at the German Usenet provider News.Individual.NET who run a pretty tight ship. In April 2005 they started charging 10 EUR per year which I have been happy to pay ever since. I read and post using a command line Usenet client called slrn which I installed on my iMac using MacPorts, but I am currently only subscribed to three groups. Over the years I have learned about NNTP (the Network News Transfer Protocol) and picked up a lot of the culture and history of Usenet but I am about to leave it all behind. Why?
I guess it is all part of an ongoing attempt to simplify my online life and spend less time sitting in front of my computer. The only Usenet group I really engage with now is comp.sys.mac.system, where I have made about two thousand posts over the past six years. At the moment the group is fairly calm but it does seem to attract trolls and I have often become involved in heated arguments, which I could do without. In future if I need to ask a Mac related question I will do so in the appropriate Apple Discussion Forum (see my User Profile). I don’t know if any of the csms regulars will miss me and some might even be glad to see the back of me, although I do believe I have made a positive contribution overall. I don’t think Usenet is dying but after nearly 22 years I have had enough of it and feel it is time to move on. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
I am running a fully updated install of Snow Leopard on a late 2009 21.5 inch iMac and have noticed a strange problem with QuickTime player (10.0) and some Ogg Video files. I have two Ogg Video files I downloaded from the Internet – call them good.ogv and bad.ogv for the sake of argument. Both these files play fine inside their icon and in Quick Look. If I double click on good.ogv then it opens and plays fine in QT but if I double click on bad.ogv then QT opens with a small window that says “Loading Movie…” and it hangs there for ever. What’s more, having tried to open bad.ogv, if I then double click on good.ogv it doesn’t work either – it hangs with the same message. The player has not completely hung because if I double click on an mp4 file it plays OK, it just won’t play any ogv files until I quit it and restart.
Has anyone else noticed this? If you want to try it yourself with the files I used then good.ogv is here and bad.ogv is the Ogg Video download from here.
Update: I forgot to mention that both files play fine in the old QuickTime Player 7, which can be installed from the Snow Leopard DVD.