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Macs Only! Blog Archive--July 2008

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Copyright 2008 by Bill Fox All rights reserved.
Last Updated: July 31, 2008

Go to: June '08

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[7/14] Hands-On Report--MobileMe on an iPhone, Mac Pro and MacBook Air

Parallels Products Rebates!I have been trying to use MobileMe since late Friday (see 7/12 reports below) and by Sunday it seemed to have been working nearly as well as it can. I write "nearly" because I still occasionally had some long pauses at when trying to view my iCal data.

First, I have a tip on getting the MobileMe software update if Mac OS X Update for MobileMe 1.1 still has not appeared in Software Update and you are running Leopard 10.5.4. Open System Preferences, click on the .Mac icon and log in. Doing so triggers a dialog box about MobileMe, then click on the Software Update button. Then manually open and run Software Update if it does not do so automatically. I had to do this on several Macs.

As I previously mentioned I had two .Mac accounts so I now have two MobileMe accounts. One I use for personal email and the other I use for business/work email. The latter receives my work email redirected from a Microsoft Exchange Server so that I can view it on my iPhone. As an aside, this is the best solution I've found since my work IT department refuses to enable IMAP "for security reasons." The only problem is that I do not get all of the header so I don't know if I am the primary addressee or have been copied nor do I get a list of all of the original addressees.

Of course, I wanted to set up MobileMe so that it pushes my work email. But I've used my personal .Mac address to set up all my Macs and to activate my iPhone. This may be why it is used as the default or primary .Mac address on my iPhone and is the only email account to have the "push" option. Short of reinstalling Mac OS X, reactivating my iPhone and deleting and reinstalling the accounts, I have tried and failed to get MobileMe and my iPhone to push the email from my work MobileMe email account instead of my personal account. So I gave up and set up MobileMe for my personal MobileMe account.

I set up MobileMe to work among my Mac Pro, MacBook Air and original iPhone. Initially, I got some double and triple entries in iCal but I edited them out in iCal on the Mac Pro. When MobileMe automatically updated my web site, iPhone and MacBook Air all iCal entrees were single again demonstrating the benefits of push. It was during this time that I had the problems with viewing my iCal data at my web site and that I learned that MobileMe updates entered from my Mac Pro (and MacBook Air) are not instantaneous unless I click the Sync Now button in the MobileMe pane of System Preferences. Apparently, push is only nearly instantaneous when entries are made on the iPhone or on the web site. Automatic updates from the Mac Pro or MacBook Air occur every 15 minutes according to this Apple Knowledge Base document.

Except for the curious 15-minute delay for entrees made on a Mac, MobileMe's push seemed to work well as I tried every permutation of data entry. It is a welcome addition to the Mac world.

I have only two concerns:

1. Apple needs to eventually modify MobileMe to accommodate those of us with multiple MobileMe accounts or at least provide some directions on how to switch the push capability from one account to another on the iPhone.

2. What happens if there is a server glitch in the MobileMe cloud and all of my contacts, iCal data and bookmarks are deleted? Will MobileMe blindly carry out these changes by deleting the data on my iPhone, Mac Pro and MacBook Air as well? Hopefully, Apple has built in some protection against this happening. But what happens if my iPhone goes on the fritz and my data are deleted? Fortunately, I have my Time Machine backups.

[Bill Fox]

[7/12]Brief Hands-On Report--iPhone Software 2.0

I have been using iPhone Software 2.0 (Build 5A347) since Thursday afternoon when I downloaded it off Apple's servers (link from AppleInsider) and manually installed it with iTunes 7.7 by clicking Check for Update button while holding down the Option key and navigating to the download. The whole process took only 15 minutes or so because I did it before Apple released the iPhone 3G and Apple's iTunes Store servers went down repeatedly under the activation load. Since installing iPhone Software 2.0 also involves activation through iTunes, the process leaves one's iPhone useless if the iTunes servers are down until one can connect and activate it.

iPhone Apps

App Store is a new application for downloading (free or purchased) other new applications from the iTunes App Store.

Contacts is the other new application that comes with iPhone Software 2.0. One no longer has the open the Phone application to view one's contacts, it can be done directly.

Settings has new menus.

  • Fetch New Data turns on the "push" function and allows one to set the "fetch" function. Push is the new feature of MobileMe that allows almost instant updates of email, contacts and calendars on our iPhone and linked Macs. Fetch allows one to set periodic updates of the same applications or manual updates. The latter saves battery life. Unfortunately, it looks like only one MobileMe account can be set up with push and I have two accounts, one personal and one for business/work. It's not clear which contacts and calendars are associated with each account since I only have one Address Book and one iCal on my Macs.
  • Mail, Contacts and Calendars integrates the preferences for each email account, contacts and calendars.

Maps does not appear to be changed for the original iPhone despite articles that appeared saying otherwise. It does not drop a blue pin on my location--I think that is reserved for the iPhone 3G with satellite GPS.

There are many changes on the sub-menus within the existing applications, most dealing with MobileMe settings.

iPhone iTunes App Store

I downloaded two applications off the new iPhone iTunes App Store, Remote and WeatherBug. Both are free. The downloads via my iPhone and installation went without a hitch.

Remote (Apple) allows one to use an iPhone as a remote controller of the iTunes application on a Mac or an Apple TV. Unfortunately, on Apple TV it only controls the play of photos, movies, videos, TV shows and songs that are also on your Mac but not the iTunes Store to rent movies. So don't misplace your Apple Remote.

WeatherBug shows a bit more details of the weather in a particular city, including a webcam and Doppler radar image. Unfortunately, the free version only allows one to use three cities.

I have not yet enabled MobileMe, partly because it is still not functioning well. I will write about my experience once I figure out how I want to set it up since push is only available for one MobileMe account and after I have used it for awhile. [Bill Fox]

[7/12]Brief Hands-On Report--Mac OS X Update for MobileMe 1.1

Apple released Mac OS X Update for MobileMe 1.1 to implement MobileMe for .Mac customers. It is available only via Software Update if you have a .Mac account.

According to Apple,

The Mac OS X Update For MobileMe is recommended for users running Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.4 and includes general system fixes that enhance your Mac for MobileMe.

The update installs a new icon in the System Preferences application for MobileMe that replaces the .Mac icon on the Internet & Network row (see above). MobileMe doubles a member's online storage from 10GB to 20GB but when I click on the MobileMe icon it still shows 5GB for Mail and 5GB for iDisk, the former amounts. If I click on the Account Details button, the correct 20GB is shown as 15GB for iDisk and 5GB for Mail.

MobileMe is setup using the instructions on this Apple web page. It is still pretty slow, reflecting the high load on Apple's servers due to the switchover from .Mac and the activation of iPhone 3G sales, so I have no real experience to relate just yet. Some things apparently didn't make the .Mac to MobileMe transition. My hosted web site, WWFOX.Com, constructed with iWeb did not make it intact. However, all of my older .Mac Homepages and Photo Galleries made the transition.

I have (had?) two .Mac accounts, one personal and the other that I use for business/work activities. Unfortunately, it is not easy to use both under MobileMe on the same Mac because MobileMe assumes I have only one account, the personal one. I can log on the business MobileMe account with the System Preferences icon but when I click the Account Details button I get the personal account's details in Safari. In order to fully access my business MobileMe account I have to use Camino as my web browser and deny use of my keychain. [Bill Fox]

[7/11] Why I won't be upgrading to an iPhone 3G--Yet

I usually pickup Apple's latest technology because I like to be on the cutting edge and, well, I'm an unabashed Apple fan boy and have been for years. For example, I got an iPhone the first full day they were available in June of 2007 plus a dual quad Mac Pro and a MacBook Air early this year. But after AT&T posted its rates and activation process I've agonized over the decision of whether or not to upgrade my iPhone to the 3G model. I've decided not to, at least not just yet, so I won't be among the throngs mobbing the Apple and AT&T stores today.

Why? It's partly because I am perfectly happy with my now year-old iPhone, partly because I don't have time to waste waiting unnecessarily in long lines, partly because of uncertainty and partly because I've concluded that AT&T is seriously gouging iPhone 3G customers.

My 8GB iPhone has served me extremely well for over a year. I use it for everything, i.e. travel alarm clock, GPS, email, web surfing, calendar, impromptu camera, iPod--and a cell phone. I haven't used my 5G 30GB iPod with video nor my original iPod shuffle for over a year and probably won't ever again unless my iPhone breaks--knock on wood. The only places I have been where I haven't used it for more than an alarm clock and iPod are Bangkok and Panama--there I used a company-supplied BlackBerry. I get my company Outlook email via redirection to my .Mac address and sync my Outlook Calendar with iCal via PocketMac for BlackBerry. Those functions will improve with iPhone 2.0 software and MobileMe for free.

The principal reasons for upgrading are to gain 3G speed for Web surfing, real GPS precision and, perhaps, a bit longer battery life. It would also allow me to fulfill a promise to my spouse, one that has already taken much longer to meet than I had expected. All of the reasons are nice to haves but only the latter is compelling.

As for wasting time, it's not so much waiting in line to purchase an iPhone 3G that bothers me. It's that the iPhone 3G will also have to be activated in the store which to me seems will make the whole purchase process mind-boggling long and frustrating if the crowds show up as I think they will. My activation process would be fairly complicated and I suspect there are many others in a similar boat. This huge inconvenience is all to protect AT&T from hacked iPhones.

Then, there's uncertainty in what AT&T can and will do with regard to upgrading or adding a 3G iPhone and the cost of doing so. I have an old AT&T family plan that includes my one-year old iPhone, my spouse's three-year old Moto RAZR and my daughter's three-year old RAZR. If I get an iPhone 3G, I want to give my iPhone to my spouse but keep the iPhone's number for the 3G model. She, in turn, would give up her pink Moto RAZR for the iPhone and keep her RAZR's number. My daughter is deciding whether she will keep her black RAZR or keep my spouse's pink RAZR and if she does the latter, she'll want to keep her number as well. It is not clear from AT&T's literature that we will be able to do this and, if so, it is not clear what the final cost will be.

Finally, there is the AT&T gouge. Apple dropped the price of the 8GB iPhone from $399 to $199. In addition, I have a $100 credit from the first iPhone so it would only cost me $99, a real bargain. Essentially, I would be getting two iPhones at roughly $349 each, i.e. the original for $599 and the new 3G model for $99. But AT&T raised the data plan from $20 per month for the iPhone to $30 per month for the iPhone 3G. Fair enough, I thought, since AT&T's 3G network is new and growing and the iPhone 3G will use lots more data per unit time. However, AT&T didn't stop there. It eliminated the 200 text messages in the data plan and charges $5 extra for the iPhone 3G so the equivalent data plan is not $30 but $35. Now, I don't text a lot but there have been a few times when I have needed to receive and send text messages. It's also not clear from AT&T's material that I can simply add an iPhone 3G to an existing family plan for $9.99 a month plus the $35 data charge per month and drop one of my existing phones saving its $9.99 cost for a net increase of only $35 per month. If I were simply upgrading my old iPhone, it seems that the old data plan ($20/mo) would still apply even for the 3G model. But I would be adding a 3G iPhone at $35/mo, surely, and newly activating the older iPhone but at $20/mo or $35/mo? It could be that I will end up paying for two $35 data plans and maybe more.

If the cost of adding the iPhone 3G is only plus $35/mo and I can move the numbers around among the three phones, then I will get an iPhone 3G. But it won't be today. With the mess I figured would happen today actually coming to pass, I'll wait awhile before I try. [Bill Fox]

[7/2] Brief Hands-On Report--Mac OS X 10.5.4 and Firmware 7.3.2 Update for the AirPort Extreme "N" Base Stations and Time Capsule

Apple released Mac OS X 10.5.4 late on Monday and it is available via Software Update or as a stand-alone file from these Apple Web page (client combo and server combo). If you are going to use a stand-alone file, we recommend the combo updaters even though they take more time to download. Using them again or after a Software Update frequently fixes problems that can crop up when updating.

According to Apple, 10.5.4 "includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility and security of your Mac."

Apple also released a firmware update for AirPort Extreme "N" Base Stations and Time Capsule. Firmware 7.3.2 is available via AirPort Utility 5.3.2 in your Utilities folder. According to Apple, "Firmware 7.3.2 updates include bug fixes."

We updated numerous Macs running Mac OS X 10.5.3 (Mac Pro, MacBook Air, iMac Core 2 Duo, PowerBook G4, Power Mac G4 Cube), both client and server versions, to 10.5.4 using Software Update with no problems. After a day's use no Mac shows signs of any issues. The same with our AirPort Extreme "N" Base Station and Time Capsule. [Bill Fox]

[7/2] Micromat to Issue TechTool Pro 4.6.2 Update

Micromat sent a notice that it will be issuing an update to TechTool Pro 4. Version 4.6.2 will have the following features:

  • Addressed -108 error in Directory Maintenance.
  • Additional improvements to Volume Structures test.
  • eDrive will now create a 12GB partition required by Mac OS X 10.5.
  • Improvements to the File Structure test.
  • Added new machine and video card information strings.
  • Added Chinese localization.
  • Added DVD compatibility for new Macintosh models up to Summer 2008.

Micromat also noted that version 4.6.2 will require Mac OS X 10.4 or greater and it should be available as a DVD by the end of July. [Bill Fox via Dana Baggett]

[7/1] New Apple Online Seminar--Mac for Hospitality Enterprise

Mac for Hospitality--This seminar addresses challenges often faced by the hospitality industry by exploring customized digital solutions from Apple and Nanonation. The seminar includes:

  • Cutting-edge hospitality companies are tackling common challenges with integrated digital solutions
  • Digital technologies address customer needs, including in-room experience, digital signage, and public-area interactive displays
  • The iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, Xserve, and Mac OS X Leopard deliver unique and powerful capabilities
  • Solutions based on Nanonation's Nanopoint and Commandpoint software offer services to empower guests that easily integrate with existing systems

Apple's online seminars are available 24/7 and are free. [Bill Fox]


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