Tag Archives: leopard

Some short tech updates

My two weeks of poring through tenure and promotion portfolios, and writing recommendation letters for those up for tenure or promotion or annual review, are finally over with. It actually ended up being two weeks + 1 day. And those portfolio reviews, far from being dull, gave me tons of material that I would love to blog about — and never can. Oh well.

So I’m going to get back on the posting bandwagon slowly, starting with a three little tech-related  mini-posts.

maple-95.png1. I have finally got Maple 10 up and operational on my Macbook running  Leopard.  As I have written about before, this has been an issue from the day I installed Leopard. And it’s been an issue for many others as well, judging by the number of search engine referrals from queries like “Maple 10 Leopard FUBAR” or something similar. For some reason, the advice given in this email actually worked, although I had to do some serious searching to find and replace the license file. But it’s all good now, and not a moment too soon, as I will need Maple for both my sophomore-level courses this semester.


2. Praise be to the saints who operate WordPress.com, where this blog is hosted. They just upped the free storage space amount 60-fold, from 50 MB to 3 GB! My choice to switch from a self-hosted WordPress blog to a free WordPress.com blog is looking better and better each day.

dress_mac_01.jpg3. My mom and dad got us a .Mac membership for Christmas. I put it on our Amazon.com wish list as one of those items that I was kind of curious about, didn’t really want to pay for, but wouldn’t mind it if somebody else bought it for me. So now I have it and… now what? I’m having a hard time figuring out what I am supposed to do with it that I can’t already do using pre-existing services. Mail? I have GMail for that. Groups? The Mrs. uses them but sticks entirely to Yahoo Groups. Online photo sharing? Flickr. Backup services? Time Machine, which I now have working as well (although I can definitely see the good behind network backups). So that leaves, er, what exactly? Web page authoring?


Filed under Apple, Computer algebra systems, Social software, Software

Possible fix for Maple 10 and Leopard

After getting some pretty lame advice from Maplesoft before, I emailed their tech support again regarding the Maple 10 vs. Leopard issue. (Namely, that Maple 10 dies a quick death every time I try to open it in Leopard.) This time, I got back some advice that actually seems to work. Here’s the text of the response email:

Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard) is not currently supported by Maple. There are
plans on adding support for this OS to a future version of Maple, but
this does not include Maple 10 or Maple 11.

Users with Maple 10 and Leopard may find they need to edit the
info.plist file which is part of the Maple 10.app package. In order to
do this ctrl+click on the “Maple 10.app” and select “Show Package
Contents”. Then open the “Contents” folder. Open the info.plist file
with a text editor and search for “1.4+” and change this to “1.4*”. Save
this file and try to start Maple 10.

Note you may have to change the permissions for the “info.plist” file,
“Contents” folder, and “Maple 10.app”. You can do this by ctrl+click on
each file, “get info” and at the bottom in the section “sharing and
permissions” ensure that all users have “Read & write” access to the

I did all the stuff mentioned here and Maple 10 did actually come up and try to start. Unfortunately, the last advice I took from Maplesoft on this issue was to uninstall and reinstall the software, which means I am missing my license file — and Maple won’t run on any system without one. So I need to get a copy from the guy at school who is in charge of the licensing. But it looks like this solution is at least getting the program to start.

It’s still hard to believe, though, that a software company as big as Maplesoft — and which has a massive user base with highly diversified platforms in use — simply doesn’t support OS 10.5. That’s kind of lame.

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Filed under Apple, Software, Technology

Leopard and OpenOffice

Update: I’m getting a ton of visitors to this article, so I just wanted to say “welcome”. After reading this article, please sample my Top 12 Posts list and my other articles on technology and educational technology

I don’t run OpenOffice on my Macbook since I use MS Office or iWork for everything, but I have a ton of old OpenOffice files sitting around, left over from my Linux days when I did use OpenOffice. I just discovered that under Leopard, you can Quick-Look an OpenOffice word processing document (with the .odt format) even though OpenOffice is not installed:


And if you double-click an OpenOffice word processing document, it opens up — in TextEdit, fully formatted!


Maybe TextEdit played nicely with OpenOffice documents all along, but it’s still a nice discovery. Leopard’s got its quirks and flaws, but it also seems to have a lot of nice undocumented features like these.

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Icon soup

So I was trying to avoid thinking about how badly the Colts were playing tonight against San Diego by dinking around with Leopard some more. Specifically, I was trying to make a stack that contained aliases for my most commonly-used math-related applications: TeXShop, LaTeXiT, Excel, Sketchpad, and Maple. This way I could take five icons off the dock and replace them with a single stack that would fan out in that cool way Leopard does it.  So I made aliases for all five apps,  made a new folder, moved the aliases into the folder, and put it on the right side of the dock. The good news is that it works like it’s supposed to. The bad news is that the icon for the stack looks like:


It’s all five of the individual icons, layered on top of each other in an indistinct mess.

Is this happening because the icons are transparent? Anybody know how to make this go away, so that only one icon at a time appears?


Filed under Apple, Technology

Riding in the Time Machine

tm.jpgAs a sort of Part II of this post about my experiences with Leopard, I wanted to go into detail about Time Machine, Leopard’s always-on backup utility. When I first heard about this app coming in Leopard, I wasn’t excited; how excited can you possibly get about a disk backup utility? But this ended up being one of the Leopard features I looked forward to having the most, because it meant I could finally cross off that “Make backup of hard drive” task that had been sitting in my OmniFocus task list for… you don’t want to know how long.

It turns out that Time Machine does a decent job of what it is supposed to do — but there are some downsides and some things that aren’t working for me as advertised.

My plan was to put Time Machine to work using this 500 GB Iomega USB hard drive that I purchased over the summer specifically for archiving video, class files from the past decade, and other stuff. Upon plugging the drive in, Time Machine asked if I wanted to use it as my Time Machine backup drive. I said yes, and immediately the backing up began. But a few minutes into the process, the backup abruptly stopped and gave me a generic failure message. This continued to happen after trying again a couple more times.

A little Googling later, I had found the problem — my hard drive was formatted using a generic FAT32 filesystem, and Time Machine only works with Mac OS filesystems. I reformatted the hard drive using Disk Utility, using the Mac OS X Extended (Journaled) filesystem, and plugged the drive back in — and Time Machine proceeded without a hitch. I had thought FAT32 was something like a generic filesystem, but Time Machine is picky about such things. So if you’re having trouble getting Time Machine to even get off the ground, try reformatting using a specifically Mac OS filesystem.

When the external drive is plugged in, Time Machine makes a backup every hour for 24 hours, and then once a week and once a month for archiving purposes, until the disk is full. The peace of mind that comes from knowing I have hourly backups for one day, and archived backups waiting in the wings, is quite amazing. It’s especially nice that once you have Time Machine configured, you pretty much just forget about it and let it do its job.

And if I ever had to restore from a backup, I’d just click on the Time Machine icon in the dock, and then the magic happens:


You just select the version of your system you want to restore from, and click-and-drag files or select “Restore” to restore the whole thing. It’s simple — but oh, the visual effects. Cheesy beyond belief. Apple, come on — what happened to the simple, minimalist design I’ve come to love from you guys? Moving stars in the background? Please.

Apart from the cheesiness of the visuals, there are some issues with how Time Machine works on my system which might be common to others.

First of all, my laptop gets hot when Time Machine is running. Really hot — it actually becomes uncomfortable to use the machine because of the heat, and who knows what it’s doing to the insides of the computer. Here’s an iStat nano readout on the temperatures of the laptop under normal use without the Time Machine running a backup:


And here’s what it reads when Time Machine is running a backup:


That’s a 40-degree temperature swing on the CPU, and that temperature is pushing the boiling point. Macbook laptops were known to run hot when they first came out, but Apple released a firmware update that fixed the problem, and I had not noticed any unusual heating since then — until now. This may be because I am using a particular USB drive — or just a USB drive, period.

Second, the laptop slows down noticeably when the backups are being made. Again, could be because of my use of a USB drive, but I’ve never noticed a slowdown before when using this drive.

Third, I noticed that every time Time Machine attempts to make a backup, it is backing up about 16 GB of information. I know I don’t have that much stuff I use regularly on the hard drive, so I tried to tell Time Machine not to back up certain things. Apple supposedly has this covered, saying on their Time Machine page that

By default, Time Machine backs up everything on your Mac. But if you want to exclude certain files, that’s easy enough. Just go to Time Machine preferences, click Options, then select the folders you wish to skip. You can also delete a single file or folder that you’ve been backing up — and delete it from all of your backups going back in time.

So I tried to tell Time Machine not to backup my Parallels Desktop folder, which has a full installation of Windows XP that I don’t care to keep backed up all the time. That ought to knock a few gigabytes off the backup list. But here’s what I get when I follow Apple’s directions:


Everything’s grayed out — I can’t select anything to exclude! If I try an end-around to get to my Documents folder by going through Macintosh HD > Users, I get this: files-2.jpg

All the folders I want to enter are denied.

The 16 GB size of each download, coupled with the less-than-optimum speed of file transfer using the USB drive, means that each backup takes 20-25 minutes to complete — and only 35-40 minutes until the next one, which in turn means that about half the time my laptop is running hot and slow because of the near-constant backing up.

Any hints or suggestions on how to fix the heat problem, the slowness problem, or the can’t-select-files-not-to-backup problem would be most appreciated.

So Time Machine definitely solves a serious problem for me and other busy people — the problem of making the time to have regular, frequent, systematic backups of our important data. But it comes at a price, at least in the meanwhile until I figure out how to work around the problems.


Filed under Apple, Technology

LaTeX-produced PDF’s not looking right in Preview?

I’ve been noticing since upgrading to Leopard last week that PDF’s that are made using LaTeX do not always look right in Preview. Here’s the same PDF made using LaTeX (TeXShop, to be exact), opened three times in immediate succession using Preview (click to enlarge each):


The third one (rightmost) finally looks like it’s supposed to, but the other two have this strange-looking font substitution for text, and the math is just completely out of whack.

Again, this is the same PDF opened up, then closed, then opened again right after that, then again. No additional LaTeX builds were done. Also, the PDF viewer that comes with TeXShop had the same problems with fonts.
Anybody have a thought as to what’s going on here?


Filed under Apple, LaTeX, Technology

A week with Leopard

Since I was sort of taking the week off from posting new material last week, I didn’t write much about my experiences with Mac OS X Leopard, which I put on the Macbook last Monday. The only thing was this report about troubles with Maple 10 on Leopard. As an update to that, I still haven’t gotten Maple 10 to fire up, and Maplesoft seems unwilling or unable to offer any substantive information on what’s happening. I only got one email that said they don’t support Leopard, and that I should reinstall the software. So, not really very helpful, and for all practical purposes the software is MIA.

Apart from that, Leopard has been an overall positive experience. The installation went fine, although stories about getting the Blue Screen of Death had me worried. I haven’t plumbed all 300+ new features of the OS yet, and perhaps I never will. But there are several standout features, which stand out both for their goodness and their not-so-goodness.

From an overall look-and-feel standpoint, Leopard is somewhat uneven but overall the plusses outweigh the minuses. A lot of people are apparently complaining about the semi-transparent task bar, but mine is perfectly legible:


I’m using the wallpaper that looks like a bunch of rocks; maybe if you use a lighter background it’s harder to see the stuff on your bar. But I don’t have any problems here. Another feature people haven’t liked is the 3D dock. Here’s mine (click to enlarge):


I don’t see why we needed a 3D dock, but I don’t have much to complain about. I’m not terribly keen on the little glowing blue orbs underneath the active applications; what was wrong with the simple black triangles from Tiger?

The one seriously questionable aspect of the 3D dock, and really one of the biggest flaws in the overall human factors side of Leopard, is the way stacks are represented in the dock. I like the concept of stacks and the visual way they “fan” out files:


But what I don’t like is how each stack is visually represented by a thumbnail of the most recently-opened file from the stack. Here, for example, are the three stacks I have on my dock. One is for Downloads, another for Research Reading, and another that just goes to my Documents folder. And that’s not in order from left to right.


The problem with these icons is that there’s no real information conveyed by them. When I look at those three icons, unless I already knew which stack was which or unless I wanted to take the time to hover my cursor over each one, the little picture does not tell me what the stacks are. Is the one on the middle for Downloads, Documents, or Research Reading? Note that the fairly-clear “RTF” label doesn’t help in identifying the stack; all of the three stacks I have are equally likely to be so represented. It would have been much better if there were a way to assign icons, or custom-make icons, for these stacks for quick visual identification. As it is, with my memory being what it is, I am going to have to have very few of these stacks and memorize what order they come in.

Back on the positive side, I’m becoming a big fan of Cover Flow in the revamped Finder:


It’s a little slow to use Cover Flow because all those images have to be loaded. But the time is made up, for me at least, because I can visually identify the document I want by seeing a thumbnail of it much faster than I can by identifying the file name.

Cover Flow also allows me to use Quick Look which has been a great time-saver for me. I run so many different applications on my Macbook that I frequently end up with two or even three dozen applications open at any given time, which drains the battery and slows the system down. Being able to Quick Look a document lets me peek in and see, literally, if that’s the right one, without actually starting the application that runs it.

Just one question about Quick Look for those who might know: Why doesn’t my Finder window have the little “eye” icon at the top for Quick Look? (See the clickable screenshot above.) All the Finder windows in the tutorials and on the Apple site have this icon. I don’t really need it (just hit space bar for Quick Look) but it makes me paranoid.

This article’s gone on long enough but I am not quite done yet. So later I’ll have a second article and possibly more; the next one will deal with Time Machine and my adventures in setting up and using it.

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Heads-up/Question about Maple 10 in Leopard

I need to interrupt the stream of retrospective articles to throw out a question/bleg to the audience. I upgraded the Macbook to Mac OS X Leopard yesterday, and now Maple 10 is not working. I’ve always had troubles with Maple 10 crashing on startup — I usually have to force-quit and restart at least twice before it opens and stays open. But now, no amount of that is getting Maple 10 to open. It just tries to open and then does nothing.

This is a serious issue because most of the computer algebra system work I do in my classes is with Maple on the laptop. As you’d probably guess, there’s no mention of any Leopard-related issues in a Google search or on Maplesoft’s website. I have submitted a ticket to their tech support and was reassured that “within 2-4 business days” somebody would get back to me, but I have a feeling that the blogosphere is faster. (And I need a resolution sooner than this weekend.)

So — any Maple 10 users out there having success, or similar problems, running the software under Leopard?


Filed under Software, Technology

Friday morning links

We’re on Fall Break right now and the living is easy — if you count being a temporary stay-at-home dad with two girls under 4 “easy”. So in lieu of real content for the time being, here are some links for you.

  • At Ars Technica’s Apple section, Jeff Smykil is wondering what the deal is with the shrinking size of Apple’s educational discounts. I’ve noticed this phenomenon too. They don’t offer discounts on iPods any more, and the discount for the forthcoming OS X Leopard is just $13 for the single-user license. Even Amazon.com is offering it for less.That’s a far cry from when I bought my iPod and Mac mini a couple of years ago, when I seem to remember getting a discount of something like 15%. (I should note that TUAW is reporting that college bookstores will be selling Leopard for around $69, and that Apple is moving away from offering educational discounts online, where it’s hard for a person to identify themselves as a bona fide member of an educational community. Great, but what if your bookstore doesn’t sell Apple stuff and the closest Apple store is 90 minutes away?)
  • Referring to the recent incident at Columbia University where a noose was found attached to the office door of a faculty member, John McWhorter has suggestion for how to handle incidents like this: Ignore them. (This was pretty much my approach to handling class on the morning of September 11, 2001, too.)
  • Homeschool2.0 gives us the heads-up and the trailer for a new documentary called Two Million Minutes. Sounds like an interesting premise and project; I hope it’s not too depressing for us Americans.
  • Here’s an Australian wondering whether college is suited for everyone and whether the university system wouldn’t do better with a lot less students.
  • By contrast, here’s an op-ed in USA Today suggesting that the Federal government should step in and force universities to spend a certain percentage of their endowments on tuition reduction so that more people can go to college. And here’s a response to that op-ed. I think the writer of the op-ed should listen to the guy from Australia.

Finally, not a link but a long-range announcement: I’ll be attending the International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics in March 2008. I’ll be submitting a talk on wikis in upper-level mathematics major courses and generally soaking up anything I can learn. Also soaking up that wonderful San Antonio atmosphere (and food). If you’re planning on going, let me know and maybe we can have a blogger meet-up.

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Filed under Apple, Education, Educational technology, Life in academia