• Explore the magic and the mystery!
  • The Tech Night Owl's Home Page
  • Namecheap.com





  • Newsletter Issue #438

    April 20th, 2008

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE RADIO UPDATE

    Is Apple’s product line complete, or are there holes that need to be filled? That’s a significant question that comes to the fore again in light of the arrival of the MacBook AIr, which is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.

    So on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, I asked Macworld’s Dan Frakes to bring us up to date on the vision voiced by many of a Mac minitower, an expandable computer that, should Apple build it, would sit between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro.

    The big question that arises under these circumstances, or course, is whether anyone is actually going to buy the thing and, frankly, I have no idea. But I do think it has good possibilities, if designed and promoted properly, perhaps as the 21st century equivalent of the legendary IIci, one of my all-time favorite Macs.

    Also from Macworld, Jim Dalrymple joined us to provide heartfelt reminiscences of the late Stan Flack, creator of MacCentral, who died recently. While I didn’t know Stan well, I actually worked for him and MacCentral in the mid-1990s, after I had some best-selling books about AOL under my belt.

    The goal of my periodic column was to tell people about the joys of AOL, and it was a difficult process even then, since so many regarded that online service as the “kindergarten of the Internet.” But the column didn’t last all that long, and I never expected it to sustain itself.

    But Stan and I kept in touch on occasion during the intervening years. He succumbed to a long illness, liver-related I think. We’re sorry to see him go.

    In other segments on the show, author Joe Kissell updated the discussion of the touchy issue of Mac cloning and brought us up to date on the best techniques to back up your stuff on your Mac.

    We also provided some additional commentary about the questionable claim from a company that they are building a Mac clone from Peter Cohen, Macworld’s Game Room editor, who will also talked about the state of game development on the Apple platform.

    Moving to another front, on The Paracast this week, join us for another “Ultimate UFO Roundtable” featuring UFO investigator and experiencer Jeff Ritzmann and former UFO researcher Don Ecker.

    MAYBE MACS ARE APPLIANCES AFTER ALL

    In the old days, it seemed a rather formidable task to upgrade from one Mac to another. For one thing, you had to figure out what files to keep and which to transfer to the new model. Even with easy networking, this was a complicated process of manual labor to which I didn’t look forward, even though I’ve done it often for myself and others.

    Since Apple came up with its Migration Assistant, the process has become far simpler. All you have to do, basically, is start your new Mac and, a few screens into the Setup Assistant, you are asked whether you want to transfer your old data from another Mac or another drive.

    Now up until recently, if you wanted to grab your files from your old Mac, you then had to network via FireWire cable to a Mac capable of FireWire Target Mode. That was fine, except for older models that didn’t have FireWire. However, since the MacBook Air came out — and it doesn’t have FireWire — Apple now allows you to migrate via Ethernet, something that I’ve urged for a number of years.

    When the process runs correctly, as it does most of the time, you only need to start the transfer, go off for a long lunch, or an evening’s relaxation with your family and friends, and when you return, all of the data you selected will be safely residing in its new home.

    Let me tell you of my recent experiences, so you’ll see what I mean.

    In recent months, I’ve retired my last Power PC-based desktop, a G5 Quad, and gone all Intel. It was a long time coming for me, and I’m glad it went so well.

    In the case of the G5, it had approximately 225GB of data, cloned on a second drive courtesy of SuperDuper!, my favorite backup program. My retiring 17-inch MacBook Pro had 122GB worth, and Grayson managed to fill about 70GB of his PowerBook G4’s 80GB drive, despite my urging that he stop being such a pack rat with a relatively small available storage space.

    In every case, the migration was a relatively seamless process, with no glitches to speak of. One smart move on Apple’s part is to transfer the contents of Application Support folders to their new locations, which means most of your software will continue to run without a hitch. The lone exception may be in cases where an application needs to be reactivated online, such as Adobe’s latest products.

    Fortunately, Adobe’s activation algorithm isn’t quite as brain dead as Microsoft’s, so I didn’t run into any glitches over the three migrations. However, Apple doesn’t transfer printing software and other peripheral drivers, and, no doubt, other products that install kernel extensions. There’s a good reason for that, because it’s quite possible older drivers won’t work on an Intel-based Mac, or Leopard for that matter.

    Third-party system enhancements are also apt to be missing in action, at least on the system level, for the very same reason. You may see a leftover preference pane, or an application file, but the core functionality will be missing, and that’s a good thing.

    But it would also be nice if Apple provided some guidance about what won’t be copied, and perhaps what software may not be fully operational, as you may be in for an uncomfortable surprise. If things fail to operate perfectly 100% of the time, you might even be tempted to report the problem to one of those Mac troubleshooting sites, some of which offer eccentric, unwieldy advice that may work in the end, or just make matters all the more confusing.

    While it’s true that Windows offers some migration capability, I do not often hear that upgrading to a new PC can be so successful each and every time.

    This isn’t a new experience for me either. Over the years, I’ve used Apple’s Migration Assistant on a number of occasions, for my own new Macs, and for those bought by friends and clients. I don’t recall any failures to speak of. In each case, with the exceptions noted above, everything worked pretty much perfectly the very first time, unless you were dealing with an older application that wasn’t happy with the latest and greatest Mac OS, or Classic software that cannot run on Intel-based models.

    Alas, it doesn’t seem as if Apple advertises this easy migration capability as widely as it should. More to the point, there ought to be better solutions to handle Windows migration. Sure, there is a third party solution, Move2Mac, from Detto Technologies, but it has its limitations.

    Yes, Move2Mac works all right, or did on the occasions i tested it several years ago, but the process was rather slow then and now. Detto claims a transfer speed of 15 minutes for each 500MB of files. Since you’re not transferring applications across platforms, this may not represent a big shortcoming, unless you have lots and lots of large multimedia files. In that event you may be talking about an all-nighter or even worse.

    I should think that, after making such a big deal of Mac versus PC migration, Apple might consider its own home-brewed alternative to Move2Mac that would provide more respectable performance. I mean, if I can transfer 225GB of files from one Mac to another via the Migration Assistant in roughly three hours, it would seem a PC to Mac transfer should proceed at a comparable pace, since hard drives and networking performance ought to be fairly similar.

    Other than that, however, setting up a new Mac is a fairly seamless process these days. The day of the true computing appliance gets closer and closer.

    CANON HITS ANOTHER HOME RUN

    Night Owl Rating: ★★★★★
    Pros: Easy setup, full Mac compatibility, fast output, great print quality.
    Cons:  Scanning function requires direct USB connection; slight delay before outputting begins on network connections.

    As most of you know, I have a soft spot in my heart for Canon printers. You see, they are almost universally fast, reliable, with excellent output quality. Just as important, the upkeep is generally inexpensive, because Canon provides affordable consumables. In all but the very cheapest models, you get a separate ink tank for each color, so if you run out of, say, yellow, you don’t have to buy the other colors that are still in plentiful supply.

    Of course, other printer makers do the same thing, but Canon has always delivered, particularly when it comes to all-in-one or multifunction models that combine printing, copying, scanning and usually faxing. When you are dealing with lots of functions in a single product, something has to give, and quite often printing quality is slow.

    Except, in my experience, for Canon.

    I had been a loyal user of the Canon PIXMA MX830 multifunction, and I was quite prepared to keep it for a good long time — that is until the $279.99 MX850 came along.

    Now what’s so different about the MX850? Well, aside from a slimmer, sleeker case, it has a built-in Ethernet port, so I can run it on a computer network without having to share the printer from, say, my Mac Pro.

    The specs for the MX850 are similar to the MX830, such as using five separate ink tanks for maximum color quality and efficient use of consumables. Print speeds are advertised as up to 31 ppm for black and white, and up to 24 ppm for color. Of course, those extremely high performance ratings apply to the draft mode, so if you want decent quality, you should expect slower, but still snappy, print speeds.

    I won’t bother with the print resolution figures, since, in large part, those measurements are often meaningless when it comes to real world comparisons.

    For me, the printer impresses me pretty much the same as the older model (which is still being manufactured) with the exception of its networking capability and slightly slicker exterior. For the most part, my impression was correct. It was hard to find any significant differences otherwise. Print speeds and output quality seemed comparable, and since the MX830 uses the same ink tanks as the MX830, I was able to use my existing stash without having to leave them orphaned.

    Alas, some other printer makers are less inclined to want to stick with a single cartridge requirement from model to model, even if the qualitative differences are questionable. This is, in fact, the fourth Canon printer I’ve come across using identical consumables, and that includes the low-cost inkjet Grayson uses for his own work.

    So I am pleased to announce that I have a new favorite multifunction printer, again from Canon.

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing and Marketing: Sharon Jarvis



    Share
    | Print This Issue Print This Issue

    5 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #438”

    1. dana Sutton says:

      “This is, in fact, the fourth Canon printer I’ve come across using identical consumables.” That Office Depot ad — or is it a Staples one? — showing all the anxious customers in the store hunting for the right toner cartridge hover around the guy pawing through all the toner cartridges but all their faces fall when the one they find is 2983B rather than 2938A is (perhaps unintentionally) a scathing commentary on those printer manufacturers (HP above all) who propagate such a huge and bewildering variety of consumables. Why? Lousy engineering? Happens I know one of their printer engineers a little bit, and he seems like a bright enough guy. Some economic motive, maybe to keep third-party manufacturers from horning in on the profit they make on their consumables, which probably have a much nicer profit margin than the printers themselves? Don’t know, but the whole HP printer situation reminds me of Apple in the Bad Old Days before Steve came back, and there was such a profusion of Mac models that nobody could keep them straight.

    2. My biggest quibble with printer makers, and electronics companies in general, is that they have a slew of similarly-identified models with minor distinctions, making it horrendously difficult to choose the one that’s right for you.

      They never learned what Apple discovered over a decade ago.

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. Lawrence Rhodes says:

      Migration Assistant is indeed an excellent Mac feature, except for one small flaw: it loses all your creation dates. On every file it moves, it overwrites the creation date with the modification date. This isn’t much of a problem for system files or applications, but some of us rely on creation dates on user files for recalling project start dates or other historical data. HFS and HFS+ file systems have always saved this metadata, so I don’t understand why Apple would omit it from Migration Assistant (and Create Archive and Disk Image From Folder and even the command line “cp” — “CpMac” works though). Fortunately Time Machine and, of course, Super Duper, do preserve creation dates. So when I migrated from an iMac G4, I ended up having to erase my new user partition, put the new machine in target hard disk mode, and copy all my user files over using the poky but flawless OS 9 Finder. That was before I had Super Duper; now I would just do a backup and restore to the new machine.

      But if I were grading Migration Assistant as a programming project, it wouldn’t get an A until that was fixed.

    4. Migration Assistant is indeed an excellent Mac feature, except for one small flaw: it loses all your creation dates. On every file it moves, it overwrites the creation date with the modification date. This isn’t much of a problem for system files or applications, but some of us rely on creation dates on user files for recalling project start dates or other historical data. HFS and HFS+ file systems have always saved this metadata, so I don’t understand why Apple would omit it from Migration Assistant (and Create Archive and Disk Image From Folder and even the command line “cp” — “CpMac” works though). Fortunately Time Machine and, of course, Super Duper, do preserve creation dates. So when I migrated from an iMac G4, I ended up having to erase my new user partition, put the new machine in target hard disk mode, and copy all my user files over using the poky but flawless OS 9 Finder. That was before I had Super Duper; now I would just do a backup and restore to the new machine.

      But if I were grading Migration Assistant as a programming project, it wouldn’t get an A until that was fixed.

      A yes, I see what you mean. Well, it hasn’t bothered me so much, but I can understand where it may be an issue in some situations.

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. Lex says:

      I’m not so sure if Time Machine preserves creation dates (correctly). When I look at my Time Machine disk, I find lots of files that have their creation date set to their modification date. The strange thing is that this is not the case with every file. Some files, apparently mostly recent ones, appear to have kept their creation date.
      I even went as far as creating a perl script that stores creation dates for all files in a directory, and a corresponding script that restores them (using GetFileInfo and SetFile). Of course this is a hassle, but for files where it matters it was worth the effort…

    Leave Your Comment