SCSI As You Wanna Be

Yesterday I finished most of the system upgrade I did on my Pro Tools workstation. I still have a few programs to put back on, but it’s mostly there. Probably the coolest thing about the upgrade has been the new driver for my ATTO ExpressPCI UL3D SCSI card. The new 3.10 driver for Panther is brilliant! Finally we can once again hot-swap hard drives like we used to do under OS 9. It doesn’t work exactly the same way but it is still much faster than a shut down and reboot.

You have to download the driver I mentioned above and the ATTO Configuration Tool v2.61. Once you have those installed, run the Configuration Tool. You turn down a few of the arrows on the left like opening folders in List View in the Finder, until you see the ExpressPCI SCSI card listed. Click on it to select it. Click the “Advanced” tab on the right side of the window. Then click the “Rescan” button. The software will look for any drives attached to your SCSI card and mount them. Very easy.

I did notice a couple of things to watch out for.

  1. Pro Tools grabs a hold of all drives on your desktop while it’s running. You have to quit it before you do any SCSI mounting.
  2. You have to remove all drives from the desktop before mounting any new drives. (Even if you want to continue using drives that are currently mounted.) Throw all drives into the trash or hit Command-E to eject them. Then do the steps I mentioned above to mount all the SCSI drives you want to work with. If you don’t eject all drives first you will get an error message when you run “Rescan” telling you that your drives were improperly put away and that you may have lost data. Better safe than sorry.

The ATTO 3.10 driver is (dare I say it?) “The Bomb”. I strongly encourage everyone running Panther with a UL3D SCSI card to check it out.

Today Is A Good Day To Upgrade

Right now I am sitting at my desk in my office watching a little blue bar crawl across the screen of my computer. I’m in the process of upgrading my Macintosh Pro Tools workstation to Panther. The average end user might not realize it but tall these system updates wreak havoc with those of us in speciality hardware and software situations. Apple basically rewrote the underlying audio framework when they made OS X 10.3. Suddenly those of us with laptops or home computers were enjoying all the cool benefits that Panther brought, but couldn’t use it on our Digital Audio Workstations because nothing was compatible.

Even now, I’m technically setting my system up in an unsupported configuration. But I already tried it out on another computer with good success so I’m now doing it to mine—

Oh! My computer just restarted. Time to pop in disk 2.

Maybe I make it harder on myself than I need to with these upgrades but I’m paranoid about bad updates leaving lasting problems. So I left my OS 9 stuff untouched, but after making a copy of all of my files onto a firewire drive, I deleted my entire OS X 10.2 installation. I’m now putting on a clean version of Panther. Yes, they have that “archive and install” option but somehow I just feel better doing it all by hand. It probably takes we way longer than it needs to, but I know that I have a 100% Panther system this way.

Anyway, my computer now says I have 10 minutes left on disk 2. (And there’s still disk 3 ahead of me.) So I’m just sitting here waiting. Writing this. Surfing some websites, and listening to a CD I picked up recently, “The Greatest Hits of Jackie Wilson”.

Another Problem With PulpFiction

Ok, maybe I’m not using the program the way it’s supposed to be used. Here’s what I’m doing. I’ve subscribed to all the feeds I want. PulpFiction automatically checks for new posts every 30 minutes. They are downloaded to the Inbox on my machine. I read the posts and the ones I don’t want to keep, I delete by hitting the delete key. For some reason though, I those same posts that I’ve read and deleted are sometimes re-downloaded a few hours or even a day later. It’s very strange. It’s not the end of the world. But it’s a bit annoying.

More On RSS Feeds

I’ve been using PulpFiction Lite for several days now to keep up with the websites I read a lot and it’s working out great. Once I got over the initial onslaught of hundreds and hundreds of posts to slog through it’s fairly easy to stay up to date. One super important thing for people to do though: do not subscribe to more sites than you can handle. That was my initial problem. I added all the sites I read regularly to the ones that were already in the program and I got so overwhelmed so quickly that I almost gave up.

The best way to go about doing this is to only add the sites you normally read with your web browser and maybe one or two new ones. Try that out for several days and get used to it. If you can keep up with the volume of posts and want to add more, only then add a few more.

So I’m happy. I’m reading all the websites I read previously plus a few more and it’s pretty easy. The new posts come directly to me. No more loading and reloading of websites to see if there’s something new.

I have one big problem with PulpFiction Lite right now though. When it checks for a new posts in a feed–I have it set to check automatically every half-hour–it scrolls the preview panel where you read the post to the top. This is a big pain in the butt. Some RSS feeds like MacMinute only include a few words of the post, you have to click the link to really read it. Others like anything from, include the full post. So I usually just read it right there in the preview window. Since feeds are checked every half-hour from the time they were last checked, if you leave PulpFiction running for a while, you might end up checking feeds every few minutes. This is a lot of interruptions when you’re reading a long post.

A Few Things I’ve Noticed

So I’ve only been playing with this a few hours. This isn’t the be-all, end-all of the RSS newfeed thing.

First, let me say that the My Yahoo RSS module is not very good. I don’t know where how it gets it’s automatic feeds when you search for things but they’re not quite right. The feed for my own site only seems to show the last post I made. Whereas, if you link directly to my feed (you’ll find it on the sidebar), you’ll see the last 10 posts. And it’s slow as all hell to update. It finally added the post I made about two-and-a-half hours ago. (Of course that’s because I linked it directly to my RSS feed.) Wil Wheaton’s excellent site, however, is not showing the two posts he made today so far. Maybe by default it gets feeds from Feedster or one of these other sites that compiles lots and lots of blogs.

PulpFiction doesn’t have this problem. The Lite version, which is the one I’m using, will automatically check for new feeds every half hour.

I am having two problems with it right off the bat. First, it gets really slow after being on for a while with a couple hundred posts listed. Grabbing the elevator in scrollbar and dragging up and down really chugs. I just checked it again and I’m seeing it with only 43 messages in the Inbox.

The second problem is getting overwhelmed. Quite a while back–6 months ago maybe, I don’t really remember–I tried out NetNewsWire for a bit. I had the same problem with it. Posts keep coming in. The first time you run it, there will literally be hundreds of pages to look at. It takes hours to go through things. You finally get it down to something managable and the next day you’ve got hundreds more to look at.

I think some of it has to do with the different method of working. I added a feed for MacCentral which is one of the sites I read everyday. That one site alone might easily post 30 articles in one day. If I’m going to it through the web, I see the list of articles and only click on the ones I want to read. When I’m getting a feed to an RSS reader, all 30 articles show up as unread and unless I do something about them they sit there and multiply.

I’m not sure how to get around this. Maybe certain high volume sites like MacCentral, MacMinute, Fark, Boing Boing, need to stay web browse only. So I only click on the links I want to click on. Whereas something like Wil’s site that’s only updated one or twice a day is sent to the reader. I don’t know. I’m going to have to play with this more and think about it.

Feed Me

I’m starting to look into RSS newsfeed aggregation. I know big words. Basically it’s kind of like the list of news stories you get on a lot of web portal homepages like My Yahoo, Earthlink’s Start Page, MSN, etc. Instead of reloading a thousand times a day all those websites that you read regularly to see if there’s a new article, you subscribe to the RSS feed and use a news aggregator to do the checking for you. Like checking your email. You get a little synopsis of a new post when it’s available, and clicking on “Read More” takes you to the website to read the whole post.

I’m trying to simplify things. And as much as I love Safari, there’s some kind of memory leak / resource hog bug that if I leave it running for a few hours, it’ll consume all available CPU power on my machine. So I figure if I can leave a more system friendly program running and just load Safari when I need to, that might be better.

The two big Mac OS X RSS programs are NetNewsWire and PulpFiction. PulpFiction is brand new and I’m checking that one out first. One thing that I immediately like, is that it uses Apple’s WebKit to include a built-in browser. It’s like having Safari without running Safari. I wonder if it has the same CPU problems?

I use My Yahoo as my default homepage when I browse the web. Over the years I’ve fine tuned the modules it offers to make sure that I have everthing exactly where I want it. Weather immediately in the upper left hand corner with movie releases and box office immediately below it. A news photo in the top center, and all the different Reuters, LA Times, E! Online and other feeds below that. I’ve found that it’s a good thing to take a look at that “Choose Content” button every few months because they sometimes offer up new things.

One new feature that is in beta testing is, you guessed it, an RSS newsfeed aggregator. So I’m also looking into that for keeping up with all the weblogs, Mac info, and game news that I read. Of course that means running my loved and hated Safari. But I’m really used to that. And I’m also really used to quitting it and restarting it every few hours. It’s very possible that I will prefer to stick with what’s familiar.

I Heart Microsoft

Yesterday was nominated “Fun With Windows XP Day!”

I spent nearly 10 hours in Long Beach working on my Aunt and Uncle’s computer. I mentioned before that I took a look at it on Easter and found it to be chock full of virii and adware.

After backing up the essentials like bookmarks and Word documents, I restored the computer to its original factory state using the CDs that Gateway provided with the computer. That was all very painless and easy.

Problems started to arise when I tried to get them back on the internet. They have a Charter Pipeline cable modem, just like I do, so I didn’t think it would be any big deal. Wrong. The cable guy who’d installed the modem hooked them up through USB which meant that I needed the driver installed to talk to the modem again. No Charter Pipeline installer CD anywhere to be found. I’m hooked up to my cable modem through the ethernet port and I find that to be much easier. But we didn’t have a crossover cable. So it was off to CompUSA to pick one up.

When we got back I could not get the ethernet to work. I plugged the cable into the computer and the modem. Restarted both many times. The Network Connection window in XP kept saying that the network was not plugged in. I tried different combinations authentication methods listed on the setup screen to see if something was conflicting but nothing worked. Finally in frustration, I pulled my Macintosh PowerBook out of my bag, plugged it into the ethernet cable, and what do you know… I was online. I went back to fiddling with the XP machine but I could never get that Network Connection to say it was plugged in.

I tried downloading the Charter Pipeline software from the internet (on my Mac) but they don’t seem to have it on their website. I tried looking for it in their customer support pages but I was kindly informed that they don’t support my computer. (Gotta love the WIndows bias and the fact that they shut you out of their webpages because you’re not currently sitting at a Windows machine.)

I was beginning to think that we were going to have to run over to the cable company to pick up a Charter Pipeline CD and my aunt was about ready to pass out from lack of food (I get on my problem solving kick, and I tend to forget about things like that), when it occurred to me to check for a driver from the manufacturer of the modem.

After about 30 seconds on the Motorola webpage I had the drivers downloaded, copied to my USB Flash Drive and over on the XP machine. I got them installed and we were back in business. FINALLY!

Even after all that we still had to go through another hour or so of critical updates to patch problems with the software. At some point in the WIndows Update process something got installed that caused the monitor to go black whenever Windows loaded. Thankfully they have that system restore feature so I was able to back up a few steps and continue on.

I put their Norton Internet Security program back on and within a few minutes it was already popping up messages that the system was infected with the Walchia virus! One of the ones we where trying to get rid of with this whole reinstall process! Luckily Norton was able to delete the six copies that had already propagated throughout the system.

Things were finally beginning to settle down with the computer. I installed Mozilla Firefox as their web browser and Mozilla Firebird as their email program. I showed them how the Microsoft stuff was still there but that with Firefox’s pop-up blocker they shouldn’t have the as many of the virus and adware problems as they had before. We spent a little looking at some of the easy was to find things on the internet–like the Google search bar at the top of the Firefox window. And I called it a day around 9pm.

Boy am I glad, I have a Macintosh!

Keep On Movin’

I’m still working away, behind the scenes, on my new version of Monsters from the Id. The first release probably won’t look much different from what you’re seeing right now, but trust me… it is. I have to say that I’m very impressed with Movable Type. It’s a very slick system. And so many people make use of it that there is a lot of information online about tips and tricks that you can do.

I’ve been trying to set it up in such a way that it will be very customizable once it’s up without redoing the structure again. I am going to have about 60 files that won’t exist anymore, but I think I’ve found a couple of PHP scripts that will allow me to create an array of redirects in the “404 File Not Found” page. The cool thing is that I’ll only need one file–not 60–and I won’t have to keep the old folder structure that iBlog created. Plus with this script, it will literally say, “Oh, you tried to find this page? Well, it’s now this one.” And send you on your way.

Every page of the new weblog is now a PHP file (you know with a .php extension). I don’t actually have a single line of PHP code in any of those pages yet. And I might not have any in there by the time I go live with this update. But by naming the files .php from the get go, I’ll be able to add code to the pages later and I won’t have to do yet another round of redirects when the name changes from .html to .php.

One thing I did notice in the course of this redesign… despite my best efforts during the previous conversion of my website from tables-based layout to pure CSS, I definitely did NOT have XHTML 1.0 Strict code. I thought I did. I knew there might be a few issues with the stuff that iBlog was generating but I didn’t realize the extent to which my code was bad. Well I’m happy to say that I ALL of my new pages are XHTML 1.0 Transitional. They’re all good. I’ve run them through the validator and they check out. I might even be able to bring them up to strict but there’s one variable embedded in Movable Type which produces a image tag with the ‘border=”0″‘ attribute and that’s a no-no in Strict. So we’ll see.

The biggest culprits in my code were the links I made to sites with databases. Often the URL in address bar in my web browser would have several of the “&” symbols separating the variables that were sent to the server. I would just copy and paste this URL in my link but that’s not quite correct for a webpage. You need to encode the “&” like this “&”. Using that will give you valid XHTML code.

It’s too bad that I outgrew iBlog so quickly–it’s always nice to support Mac software. But Movable Type is so much more flexible, I’ll be able to make posts on computers other than my own–even *shudder* Windows machines!

Thank You, Easter Bunny. Bawk. Bawk.

Did everyone have a nice Easter?

I did. I drove down to Long Beach and spent the day with my aunt and uncle. They are going to get a new TV soon because their current one is a twelve-year-old projection set and it is definitely showing its age. The picture is warped, it’s losing its brightness, the focus is soft, and the colors aren’t that spectacular. I was telling them all about the Sony Projection LCD that Cameron recently put in his house and I think they are going to go that way. They are looking at the model that he has and also the next step up. My uncle is into having a huge picture so he feels he needs the 60″ one. That 50″ just isn’t good enough.

I will very likely wind up in Long Beach again later this week because they are having trouble with their computer. I took a look at it yesterday and it is a bit messy. They have a Windows XP machine that they bought a year ago or so. It is now infected with 4 different viruses which have oh so conveniently attached themselves to necessary files like the winlogin.exe. Plus they have about 25 different adware and spyware programs that are now running on their computer. Norton Anti-Virus wasn’t able to get rid of any of it. Unfortunately I’m probably going to have to do a complete re-install. It’s possible that I might be able to boot from the system CD and replace the 4 infected system files with clean ones from the CD, but I’m not sure. Then I still have to track down all those adware programs try to disable them manually. Pain in the butt!

I told them that after I get this done, we’ll have to sit down and I’ll show them a bit about what kinds of things not to trust. And what kinds of things not to install on their computer.

It’s so much easier on a Mac!

Stupid Windows

Stupid IE6.

Ok, so here I was thinking I was done with my website redesign. Unfortunately I didn’t preview it in a bunch of browsers. Safari in OS X is my browser of choice. I guess I’m at fault for using an extremely standards-based browser. My website looked great in Safari.


There were a couple little glitches in black areas of the header and footer under Firefox and IE5 for Mac but they were easily fixed by adjusting the border setting in those areas. I think Firefox looks almost as good as Safari–though their forms display needs a little help. I’ll have to look into tweaking that.


Internet Explorer 5 for Mac looked worse of all but hey, what do you want from a browser that hasn’t been updated in years?

Internet Explorer 5 for Mac

Imagine my shock when I fired up Windows 98 in Virtual PC “just to be sure” and my website looked like a disaster.

Internet Explorer 6 for Windows

It seems that wonderful Internet Explorer 6 has a wonderful “feature” that floating elements like my nav bar don’t behave as expected.

Internet Explorer 6 for Windows

After a lot of research and “trial and error”, I was able to fix the problem. My XHTML code is pretty simple: There’s a container <div> which is everything that is not the grey background. Inside of that there’s a header <div>, a navigation <div>, a content <div>, and a footer <div>. Obviously there’s more going on than just that but those are the basic elements. In my CSS, I floated the #navigation to the right, set the #content exactly next to it (to the pixel), and told the #footer to clear both.

Ultimately I discovered that IE6 can’t handle the #content touching the floating #navigation. I had to leave 8 pixels between the two. I’m sure it could be a little less but 3 pixels had the same problem and I got sick of playing with it so I left it at 8.

I am SO glad that the web browser that something like 70% of the world is using doesn’t actually properly support standards. Ugh!

Anyway it’s now working. I would however appreciate it if anyone who happens to actually read this site who is using some other operating system / browser combination, would be kind enough to send me a screen capture from their system. Or at least drop me a note in my email or in the comments letting me know how it’s working. Thanks.

Stupid IE6.