This is the Reason for a “System”

October 8th, 2007

A “system” will help quantify and qualify the stuff so it can be dealt with in an organized, efficient, and responsible manner. Right now the Help Desk staff fully bears the burden of managing “stuff” and it would be more efficient to distribute this burden. In the end those extra few seconds or minutes spent creating the tickets I believe will result in a faster resolution of problems (especially critical ones). It may also result in time being freed up to actually provide TRAINING which has been a big issue as you have observed. Read on…

The Problem with “stuff”

Getting Things Done succeeds because it first addresses a critical barrier to completing the atomic tasks that we want to accomplish in a given day. That’s “stuff.” Amorphous, unactionable, flop-sweat-inducing stuff. David says:

Here’s how I define “stuff:” anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn’t belong where it is, but for which you haven’t yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step. [pg. 17]

Stuff is bouncing around in our heads and causing untold stress and anxiety. Evaluation meetings, bar mitzvahs, empty rolls of toilet paper, broken lawn mowers, college applications, your big gut, tooth decay, dirty underwear and imminent jury duty all compete for prime attention in our poor, addled brains. Stuff has no “home” and, consequently, no place to go, so it just keeps rattling around.

Worst off, we’re too neurotic to stop thinking about it, and we certainly don’t have time to actually do everything in one day. Jeez Louise, what the hell am I, Superman?

So you sprint from fire to fire, praying you haven’t forgotten anything, sapped of anything like creativity or even the basic human flexibility to adapt your own schedule to the needs of your friends, your family or yourself. Your “stuff” has taken over your brain like a virus now, dragging down every process it touches and rendering you spent and virtually useless. Sound familiar?

- David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

———-

Right now I/we receive incoming requests by the following methods:

1. Email
2. Phone
3. iChat
4. Verbal
5. Observation

A web form input is not used at all at the present time.

This “stuff” needs to be triaged and managed primarily in my head which then can’t be shared with other staff members efficiently. By reducing the input of “sfuff” to primarily just one method (web based form) and two secondary methods (phone and verbal) it will make it more efficient to triage and report to others on how much stuff there is to do, what has been done, and what might need to change in the future.

I’ve found over time that nearly 90% of all verbal request aren’t sufficiently important enough to require a response. If they had been important the user would have emailed or called.

2007 SysAdmin of the Year?

October 8th, 2007

He does so much: Managers servers, manage the desktops and laptops, plus helps us figure out how to use iTunes or our iPods. Plus we have a kick-ass interoffice chat system that is secure and easy to use. . – FB

Don can fix anything. Really. A problem sent to him is finished. That’s the end of that problem. We work in a mid-sized Family Law firm in Portland, Oregon and run an all Apple system. I know this is a rarity, as people call from all over the country call to seek advice from Don (after an article about our firm was placed on the Apple website). So, not only does Don help this company to run more effectively and effciently, he helps companies all around the country. Aside from his complete competency, he also happens to be an easy going, humerous person who makes the office more enjoyable each day. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have working as our System Administrator than Don Kruse, and I’ve worked with a few good ones.. – FH

Don makes our world work. We are completely reliant on our computers to even know our name. If there is an issue, it is fixed, sometimes before we even know there was a problem. Don has an unique ability to explain complex computer jagon in english so that we can learn what we are doing wrong and how to stop it. Don is also approachable with questions and concerns and he is always looking for ways to make our system work better.
As a working mother, Don made it possible for me to have complete access to the computer system from home so that I can be here and there at the same time. He is our life raft. – DL

I think Don would make an awesome candidate for SysAdmin of the year because he is a patient, level-headed individual. He flys from the Portland office all the to the Bend office to fix any office product bugs we come across. He never gets irritated or half-asses the office maitenance problems we have, even if they are simple problems that could have been fixed by us originally. We really appreciate his dedicated, hard-working IT skills or the office would one big electrical mess. THANKS! – CS

Am I the Next Sysadmin of the Year?

October 18th, 2006

Probably not but below is a sampling of the comments I’ve received so far. You can vote for your favorite sysadmin too:

http://www.sysadminoftheyear.com/

“Don is able to maintain control of the machines, while the machines maintain their control of us.” – JH

“Don can do it all and faster than anyone else.” – EB

“Don is a well versed IT guru who has successfully facilitated an office of attorneys using solely apple products for their IT needs. I ibelieve this alone would qualify, but will continue anyway. Don and our other IT manager Tim, set up a system of inter-office I chat so ground breaking and secure that our firm was contacted by the department of defese on how they did it.” – AKS
“For amazing IT developments, hard work and being so easy to work with, Don should be your sysadmin of the year.” – BRS

“Without Don’s magical talent with our system our world would come to a complete stop!!!! He is the best!!” – LCS

“He is extremely helpful and is always willing to take the time to solve a problem. We are a big firm with multiple branch offices – he services them all. He has a “can do” attitude and will not stop until an answer or a problem is solved. He is pro-active about solutions and always keeps abreast of recent changes and developments in software and hardware to improve our daily life. He is also an all around good guy who appreciates coffee and the occassional donut. He takes his commitments seriously to our firm and his family.” -AS

“Always quick to fix the problem… need I say more?” – SS

“Best keep the “computer compromised” guys and gals in line man arround” -JLS

“Don not only fixes our computers, he can help me figure out my iPod.” – SM

“Because he is the all knowing super geek !” – KW
“Don is exceedingly helpful both at work and at home. He is always patient with his coworkers, at a law firm, not many of them really understand what goes on with a server, it’s not a tech firm but a family law firm. He often travels to the branch offices peppered throughout Oregon and Washington, for he is the server guru for the entire company, wherever they may roam, and strives to make everyone feel supported even if they are not a part of the main office. He works until a problem is solved. This often means for me, his wife, that dinner is delayed, or a weekend day is a work day, but he cares about his job even outside of regular work hours. He is constantly working to create better solutions on his own initiative, and never waits for someone else to tell him what to do next. And after all those long hours at the law firm…he still comes home and will cheerfully help me out with my computer if it is being fussy. He makes my life easier by keeping the home system running smoothly, and it’s a joy to watch his hard work affect and improve the worklives of others around him. Sure, I am biased, but he really does give his best both at work and at home in terms of being the resident super server geek. I love my geek!” – CLSK

“Because he is my own personal SPAM blocker!!!” – AG

Hire a Consultant Who is Too Dumb for a Mac?

October 16th, 2006

My co-worker sent a link to me in iChat this morning which discussed an article written by a legal consultant. In the article the author discusses the intelligence of a consultant who can’t figure out the basics of the Mac OS, which I might point, out most schoolchildren manage without the assistance of their teachers.
Can you trust a lawyer who is too dumb to run a Mac?

http://www.mac360.com/index.php/mac360/comments/would_you_trust_a_lawyer_who_cant_run_a_mac

And in the lawyers own words:

http://www.law.com/jsp/legaltechnology/pubArticleLT.jsp?id=1160730321685

And don’t forget to check out the lawyers own web site, where he promotes his consulting skills:

http://www.larrybodine.com/

Judge for yourself, is the Mac as difficult as Larry Bodine says? Also why would an “intelligent” man like Mr. Bodine buy a $4000 top of the line Mac instead of a more economical $1800 iMac?

Don’t say “please” say…

September 5th, 2006

sandwich

I don’t know where this came from originally. It just popped into a chat window from a co-worker.

Very Useful Diskwarrior Tips

August 3rd, 2006

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20060727082151123

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20060725103733602

Very Useful DiskWarrior and Script Stuff

August 1st, 2006

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20060727082151123

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20060725103733602

Nine Inch Nails – Biggest Mac Geeks Ever!

May 30th, 2006

My wife and were invited to see the NIN show at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Clark County, Washington which is only an hour drive from our house. One of the crew for the show knows my wife and invited to see the show and possibly hang out with the crew after the show.

We made it out to the show a little early, but after the last sound check and we did get a tour backstage. I knew something was different about this act when I saw two PowerMac G5s in special enclosures with their own UPS and a thousand wires trailing about the back heading toward the video and lighting rigs. Next I thought things were back to normal when I saw a Toshiba notebook on top of another case of equipment but then I saw PowerBook (or MBP?) with a small “NIN” sticker on it (Note: All the photos were taken under extremely poor lighting conditions with the camera in my mobile phone).

Powerbook (MBP) Set Control

I was told this PowerBook (or MBP?) had the “Set Control” list which is a list of cues of what each crew member is to be doing at any point during the show. Its used by the stage manager. In fact almost every crew member had access to or had their own laptop, either a Mac or a PC, mostly dependent on the primary software they had to use. After the tour of the stage setup we left to go hang out in the crew’s tour bus. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in this kind of bus before but somewhere in a fading memory I feel like I have. Anyway, my first impression was that they have flat panel displays much larger than what I have at home (keep in mind this is for the crew and not the band). Young women came and went delivering food, drinks, and taking clothes away to be washed and dryed. We watched motorcycle videos on our friend’s PowerBook and discussed “The Corkscrew” at the Laguna Seca raceway.

Time for the show.

I had only seen NIN once before more than ten years ago so it was very very cool to see them again. We made it back to our seats about halfway through one of the opening bands, Bauhaus. Bauhaus in best known for their song “Bella Lugosi is Dead”. The look and vibe of Bauhaus is credited with influencing Trent Reznor and NIN years later. After Bauhaus it was time for NIN. The show was great and all their complicated lighting seemed to go very well. The audio quality was also very high which is something I’ve noticed more and more with bigger acts. Now fade to end of show and the really big LED panel decends:

The LED display


It was a lot of work meeting up with our friend after the show as gates were closed and we were kicked out of the venue before he had finished breaking down his equipment. Eventually, we were able to get let back in to go hang out with the crew in their tour bus. From then on it was Mac this and Mac that. I have never met such a bunch of Mac geeks even at a MacWorld show.

Here it is midnight after a succesful show and all they are doing is trying to get the best liquid screensaver or widget. One of the crew had a brand new MacBook with the glossy display. The display was very bright and extremely sharp. The other crew had various G4 PowerBook models.

One of the crew is the self-appointed Mac Guru and helps everyone else out. He also set up an ingeneous wi-fi network. When bands arrive at a venue the venue charges them for internet access. The charge is per-feed so each ethernet cable costs $200/night (yes, that is a ridiculous price). The Mac Guru sets it up so they only need a single feed and he links each tour bus with its own AirPort Express network (for NIN there were four large tour buses).
AirPort Express on the Tour Bus

One of the PowerBooks seems to have an issue with its AirPort not working so he has to actually jack in. I tried several tricks, even the PMU reset, but nothing would make that card work. In fact I’m not certain anything is wrong with the card or its driver, I strongly suspect the antenna cable may be loose somewhere underneath the aluminum and plastic.

The Crew Surfs for a Better Screensaver

Its now 1:30 AM and they are still talking about liquid screensavers, Trent has the best I’m told, and new widgets they can link with the tour buses GPS unit. I give them a few more links to cool widgets and show them how to tweak the RSS feeds in Safari. I also show one of them how to subscribe to a podcast he had heard about. They all have my email now. My work is done. Time to go home and rest.

Road Signage Unleashed

May 3rd, 2006

Read this article on ZUG Electronic Road Signs and Me and then you will understand the utter beauty of the comment below.

The only road signs that are more annoying than signs warning of construction that is long finished, are those ones that tell you how fast you are going, before you go around a sharp turn. I used to think they were kind of neat, until I noticed that my car actually comes equipped with a tool that tells me how fast I’m going, at any given time, so now I just use that one instead. – LlunchLladyLloyd

A New MacBook Pro and Windows

April 7th, 2006

My boss was very insistent that she get a MacBook Pro even though I tried to explain to her that some of her applications might not run at all. She didn’t seem to care. She needs something new anyway as her iBook is nearly 3-years old and has had some rough treatment. So a new MacBook Pro was ordered and today it arrived.

The Box is very thin for the new MacBook Pro 15 inch model. Once the plain brown shipping box was removed a familar looking black box was inside. Once this was opened some very artful foam packaging surrounded the new MacBook Pro.

Very thin retail box.

I believe that the extra-thin retail box packaging is being done to emphasize just how thin this new laptop is. It really is UNDER 1 inch thick while it still retains a full compliment of ports plus a DVD/CD drive. Many PCs achieve this slender form by resorting to external DVD/CD drives and such.

The magnetic aka “Mag Safe” power connector has received a lot of attention and some people I’ve heard comment “Why do I need that?”. Obviously these are people who don’t carry a laptop with them everywhere they go (like I do). I have never had my laptop go flying off a table because someone tripped over my power cord but that is only because I have very fast reflexes. I have had many people bring me their poor broken laptops to me for repair after a table dive. The magnetic power connector works exactly as advertised and its a brilliant piece of engineering all by itself.

My plan is to test all our applications on the system, none of which have been updated to “Universal” status yet, and then load Apple’s Boot Camp so we can then install Windows XP Pro.

More to follow…

I will have some screen shots and more details after testing but initially I can only quote the other IT guy who works with me: “wow, that’s insane”. 22 seconds from cold boot to the desktop.

NOTE: all pictures were taken with the iSight built-in to my now out-of-date G5 iMac.

Yet Another Reason I Love Mac OS X

February 23rd, 2006

In addition to the several Mac computers my wife and I use at home and the home Mac OS X Server I also have two PCs in the house. One of the PCs runs Windows XP Pro and is my custom built Media Center PC (aka DVR). I use it to record TV shows from our satellite feed, listen to iTunes music in the family room, and to import image files from visiting friends digital cameras. The other PC is a dual-boot machine and it serves as our Windows gaming machine AND a Linux test bed.

I have run several flavors of Linux on this system but for the last year I have only been running Suse Linux 9. Recently Suse Linux 10 became available and I simply wanted to download it and install it on the system. Last time I did something like this I made the download using Windows, and then completed the rather complex task of burning the iso image to a bootable CD (or you can buy Nero and save yourself a lot of trouble). This time I wanted to try using a Mac.

I downloaded the DVD image from a Suse FTP mirror using my iBook at work (T1), then brought by iBook home and transferred the 3.5 GB file to my PowerMac G5 with the DVD burner. I added the image file to Disk Utilities list of available images (drag and drop) then clicked burn. 15 minutes later the DVD was ready. I went upstairs with the freshly burned DVD, restarted the PC, inserted the DVD and within moments the Suse Linux 10 installer was loading.

I have never had such a pain free experience when trying to download a Linux installer and burn it to disk(s).

The Linux installation was very clean too. No hassle. No complicated questions to answer (yes, I could have answered the complicated questions but it was late and I was tired).

This extremely positive experience was made possible by Mac OS X 10.4 and the good folks at Apple who design and engineer some really cool–but practical–computers.

Thanks.

Reason #245 Why I Think Apple’s Programmers are only Semi-Concious

November 19th, 2005

I’ve enabled my 10.4 server as my domain’s Software Update Server and configured my client systems and other servers to retrieve their updates from this system. However, when the server itself needs an update it downloads the update separately instead of pulling it from its own stored updates. That’s just dumb.

I have to force it to get the updates locally using the Terminal.

Famous Mac Users

November 14th, 2005

Here are a couple of links to interviews with well-known Mac users. If you know of any others please send the links my way.

MacWorld interview from 2001 with Alton Brown

MacWorld interview from 2000 with Thomas Dolby

How to Shoot Your Own Foot!

November 8th, 2005

Starting on Nov. 4 you may have had trouble launching IE for Mac. If the default home page is msn.com the browser will not be able to load the page. I don’t know if this is Microsoft’s way of saying “screw you” to all the Mac users who are still foolish enough to use their free browser or if its because the MSN team just isn’t aware that there are still Mac users out there.

If you have encountered this issue you probably found that there doesn’t appear to be anyway to undo the default home page chosen by IE and you have lost valuable hours of your life deleting preferences, cache files, and such. It turns out you simply need to disconnect your Mac from the internet (unplug the ethernet cable or turn off your AirPort) and then launch IE, change the default home page to ANYTHING that is non-Microsoft, and you should then be good to go. Reconnect to the internet, launch IE, and browse the internet as before.

If I really loved you I would advise you to NEVER use IE for Mac again, it hasn’t been updated in 2-years and all the OTHER browsers are updated frequently, both with bug fixes and new features. I strongly recommend you use the latest version of Safari or Firefox. Opera, Netscape, Mozilla and Camino are all Mozilla-based browsers like Firefox but they have focused on either loading pages with blazing speed (Opera and Camino) or by being a full suite of internet applications (Netscape and Mozilla). The full suite applications take care of your web browsing, email, newsgroups, and web page creation all in one integrated package. All of these are free.

Microsoft has indicated that IE for Mac is not likely to ever be updated to version 7 but who cares (a new version 7 for Windows is due out very soon)? There are so many good browsers out their for Macs that support security, RSS, fast page loading, java and javascript, that you simply don’t need IE any more.

I guess the genius clan at MSN and Microsoft don’t want Mac users to be able to use a Microsoft browser on a Microsoft owned web site. Seems like shooting yourself in the foot doesn’t to me?

Swank Hipsters and their Cool Macs

February 25th, 2005

Duran Duran has been having a reunion tour of sorts–the original band members from their MTV/Rio heyday–and this got me thinking about famous, well known, and other artists who use Macs. Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran has reportedly always used Macs when he started using a computer onstage. Here’s a recent pic:

[Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran using his 17 in Apple PowerBook G4 onstage 2005]

I like that he has a special stand just for his ultra-wide PowerBook.

[John Taylor on bass guitar and Nick Rhodes on Mac...um...keyboards]

John Taylor on bass guitar with Nick Rhodes in the background playing his Mac…um…I mean keyboards.

(to be continued…)

MacWorld Expo SF Musings 2005

January 13th, 2005

Apple. Apple. Apple.

That is how I felt during those first moments as I entered the exhibit hall floor. The Apple pavilion is always large but this year it really dominated the visual space. The flip side of this is that all the other companies that are truly what make Macs so great fit nicely into the remaining space and they are all very enthusiastic. The expo could easily have been called the “iPodWorld Expo SF”. There is such a large quantity and variety of iPod accessories but there were so many other great products designed just for Macs that it really was a show for Apple related products, not just Mac related products (maybe the name should be changed to “AppleWorld Expo SF”).

Here is a quick list of what caught my attention at the show:

  • Apple’s update to OS X: 10.4 Tiger
  • FileMaker Pro 7
  • Apple Mac mini
  • Apple iPod shuffle
  • Thursby Software’s DAVE and new ADmitMac
  • Picturequest stock photo web site
  • MicroSpot MacDraft
  • Softpress Freeway Pro 3.5
  • FileWave
  • Microsoft Office for Mac products
  • TASCAM

I arrived at the Expo on Thursday right when it opened so there a bit of an urgency to move away from the doors and the crush of bodies flowing through them. So without thinking about it I went straight to the Apple mega-pavilion. They were giving a presentation on Mac OS 10.4 Tiger so I sat down to listen.

I didn’t learn anything new, in the sense that the features that are new to 10.4 I have read about or tested, but I did learn that the audience really liked the new features. Especially Spotlight. You can learn all about the new features that will be in Mac OS 10.4 “Long before Longhorn” on Apple’s web site.

The next thing I did was to head over to talk to the people at FileMaker. I have done a lot of work supporting and developing appllications for FileMaker versions 3, 4, and 5 but I skipped version 6–even though it is really grown up looking–because I knew even better things were awaiting me in version 7. I was right.

FileMaker Pro 7 is really an entire suite of products that can serve small businesses on an equal footing with a corporate customer. What I have always liked about FileMaker is that it has an easy to design front end. An office admin, with no design or programming training can create a useful database and the necessary output/display layouts and forms. While working for a company in California I had *the* discussion: to migrate the legacy FileMaker data–developed when the company was all Mac–into Microsoft Access or to update the FileMaker infrastructure. This company had some databases in Access and some in FileMaker. No one knew anything about designing useful front ends for Access (myself included). I looked into the costs associated for each method and found that for a relatively small amount of money we could update FileMaker, set up FileMaker Pro Server, and create a web front end for users who only need to review the data and not input new data. The Access solution was going to require training for my Visual Basic/Office developer, or bringing in an outside contractor repeatedly over time, and also adding a web developer or learning what was needed myself (which isn’t too far from my skill set). The FileMaker solution won in the end, due to my skillful use of PowerPoint and video footage of the staff using Access and FileMaker. If your business needs a easy to maintain database solution I strongly recommend looking into FileMaker.

Apple Mac mini with hand for scale

Then I went back to the Apple pavilion to see the new Mac mini and the new iPod shuffle. Apple appears to be marketing the Mac mini to the consumer who already owns, or wants to own a iPod, but wants to use all the great software tools Apple provides for free on a new Mac. I think this is half of the picture. I think schools may make use of the Mac minis too (even though an eMac is only $200 more than a Mac mini). I believe that small businesses may make tremendous use of the mini on equal footing with the consumers who may run to buy them too. Imagine a company that is fed up with paying $10K a year to license Microsoft products, runs them on the cheapest most unreliable hardware, and now realizes that they can replace all their computers with affordable Mac minis and use the extremely affordable iWork ($79) and iLife (free on any new Mac) instead of the expensive Microsoft Office suite for Windows or Mac. This hypothetical small business keeps their monitors, keyboards, mice, and other USB peripherals but recycles the old computers. The iPod shuffle appeals to the mobile music player market that Apple so far hasn’t competed in: The under $200 MP3 player. In fact their players are priced so low I anticipate that it will force the existing gear makers in this market to drop their prices. I’m not giving up my 15GB 3G iPod anytime soon but I picked up the iPod shuffle and used and thought it was really nice, brain dead simple to use, and it really does weight in at only 1 once. I expect these will sell well even though I’ve had to listen to people complain “There’s no display”. Have you ever tried to use the display on a 256MB player? The display is so small it can’t be seen except from very specific angles (not useful at the gym or on the trail), using the too-small buttons to skip a song or to select a specific playlist is painful. The Apple iPod shuffle doesn’t include a too-small to read display, there’s no display at all, and it uses relatively large well marked buttons to navigate the music. I think they got it. It should be a hot seller.

You are probably aware that Mac OS X networks easily with Windows and Linux machines on all kinds of networks. However, the way files are displayed, the file names that are allowed, and a few other minor items are different for the Mac user browsing a Windows directory on a Windows 2000/2003 server compared to what a Windows XP user sees when browsing the same directory. This seems minor but it seems that very few people ever specifically spell out a file’s location on the network when communicating with a co worker. So the minor issue of how a directory is displayed and what file names are accepted becomes important. I found that the Mac users and their Windows using coworkers were happier after I set up Thursby Software’s DAVE on the Mac OS X systems. DAVE basically makes the Mac network exactly like a Windows XP system does and this is a useful feature for the Mac OS X user trapped on a Windows network. Thursby also had a new product out called ADmitMac. This product adds support on the Mac for Active Directory features. I would have loved to have this product on a couple of the networks I have supported as it would have greatly streamlined the process of managing the Macs so that they would have the same feature set and permissions as the Windows user. Active Directory is a great tool for the network admin but it is also a useful tool for the end user so I really think its great Thursby has introduced the ADmitMac product.

A few quick notes about some of the other products I stopped to check out at the show. I looked at the Picturequest stock photo web site at their booth. It is very well done, easy to navigate, and just looks really clean. I liked what I saw at the MicroSpot booth that I purchased a copy of MacDraft PE for myself. My wife and I bought our first home last year and we are painfully aware that we need a more organized way to plan our home and garden improvements. MicroSpot’s other programs were very affordable and I was able to test their MacDraft Quartz 5.5, Interiors, and Modeler. Each of these programs offered a full set of features for the interior designer, home decorator, general contractor, or landscaper. I have been interested for some time in applications that make working with HTML and XHTML possible for the user who is not familiar with markup languages. Softpress Freeway Pro 3.5 seems like a tool to offer the web novice a way to create complicated code without having to know anything about HTML or XHTML. When I tested the demo of this program I found it extremely frustrating to use, but this was because it completely hides the code and the standard conventions I’ve come to expect when using a markup tool. Now the flip side of this is that I asked a friend to try it, she doesn’t know anything about HTML, and she found it easy to use and understand and had created her own custom web site within about 15 minutes. FileWave is a tool to track, manage, and install applications on your network. An extremely useful tool for the IT person who is managing and supporting a small business network solo. It can be very time consuming keeping track of who has what installed and a tool like Filewave appears to be able to automate the entire process.

Elysian Cruiser with Apple Airport

Even though I kind of put down Microsoft’s Office suite for Mac as being too expensive it is a great package. Microsoft’s Mac team put together a great pavilion for the MacWorld Expo. The staff there was very knowledgeable and was ready to answer any questions and/or demonstrate the features of Entourage, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. The Mac version of the Office suite also now has many features NOT found in the Windows versions. This is a very good thing because it shows that Microsoft has put together a Mac developer team that really knows Mac OS X inside and out.

TASCAM was one company I didn’t expect to see at the show but I wasn’t completely surprised that they chose to have a booth. They had their products on display that could easily be integrated into a digital recording environment that is running Macs. All of their equipment was drool-worthy to this former film student and college DJ.

Overall a very good show. I attended the show with my mom and she was looking for a new keyboard for her iMac G4. I was impressed with the breadth and depth of hardware choices available from third parties for use with Apple products. The products offered for use with the iPod were so numerous it was…amazing. I can’t think of another recent consumer electronic device that has generated such a large third party accessory market (maybe Nokia cell phones back in the day). I think this is great for Apple and also good for the Mac.

The three hours spent at MacWorld were very focused and very productive for me. I better understand some of the new products out there and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and greet people from some of the companies whose products I’ve been using for years. So go to your local Apple Store or other local Mac retailer and check out all the great stuff that is available for your Mac.

Using MS Entourage with an MS Exchange 2000/2003 Server

January 6th, 2005

The issue:

I’ve got a friend who’s a network admin with an insurance company, and her folks are having trouble getting Entourage to get inbound (IMAP) mail from the local Exchange server — outbound mail and calendar sync work fine, its just the inbound that’s not working. They get an “error -3260″, about which Microsoft’s tech library says:

“To work around this problem, verify that the Exchange account settings are correct, that the network configuration is correct, and that the Exchange server is operating correctly with all the required services running.”

Super helpful. Anyhow, she’s interested in having someone who knows what they’re doing pay a house call (I gave her my best troubleshooting tips but to no avail) and get this poor sad Mac user fully on the email grid. FireHaus, is this one of your powers?

I had a few initial problems getting Macs using OS X and MS Entourage vX working properly with an Exchange 2000 Enterprise system but eventually I got it to work. A couple of things to double-check because they are obvious but not too obvious if you work mostly with Windows systems for a living:

Use fully qualified domain names for the Exchange server – when setting up Outlook in Windows you can call your server “mail”, but in Entourage spell it out as “mail.mydomain.com”. You also need to make sure the info is complete in the account settings (w/ Windows Outlook most of the info is retrieved automatically but w/ Mac Entourage you have to fill in the blanks yourself).

The LDAP server must be specified – this is under Tools -> Accounts -> (select your Exhange account) – > Edit Account -> Directory, again use a fully qualified domain name (for example “dc01.mydomain.com”).

Additionally, once it is working, don’t expect it to work like Outlook. It displays your Free/Busy info differently than in Outlook (as items rather than a true calendar). This is annoying but that’s the way it is in Mac Office vX. I haven’t spent very much time with Mac Office v2004 so I don’t know if they have improved this.

Here are some URLs for Entourage setups:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/272325

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/268322

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=2003122322202329&query=entourage

PC to Mac File Sharing at Home

January 6th, 2005

The issue:

I am trying to mount my wife’s laptop hard drive on my mac to transfer over some files, and I’ve found I really don’t know where to start. Any advice? I’m on OS 9.2, she’s got windows 2000 professional.

This is easier if the user has a version of Mac OS X but its still possible with OS 9. Here are the steps:

  1. Download and install a free evaluation copy of DAVE on your Mac
  2. On the PC go to Start -> Control Panel -> Network Connections (name may be different) -> right-click on the LAN item (you may have named it something else) and select Properties. Under the General tab check the “File and Printer Sharing for…” if it is not already checked. If the item isn’t there at all click the “Install” button and choose it from the list.

    Here is the detailed KB article from MSFT on how to set up permissions on the folder(s) you want to share:

    http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=301281

  3. Once the steps above are done you should be able to go to your Mac, open the Chooser, using the DAVE item in the chooser (I think they also may add an item directly to your Apple Menu…I forget) then navigate to your wife’s PC and the folder that is shared.

It sounds complicated and it is, especially if you’re not familiar with Windows and Mac networking. I know many Mac users still may not be able to run OS X on their machines but Apple does include all the cross-platform networking goodies you need in OS X. Also Microsoft includes networking for Macs (OS 9 and X) in their 2000 & 2003 Server products so on a corporate network this can all be set up by the network administrator so that it is invisible to the Mac user. They also somewhat simplified the sharing setup on the Windows side with XP.

To simplify this on my home network I have a Mac OS X Server that runs a Windows Workgroup. All the computers in the house be they Mac, Windows, or Linux can read/write to Windows shares so this way the computers don’t need to talk to each other only to the server. Files can be copied to/from the server from any computer even from a friend’s computer if we have a guest in the house.

When Was The Last Time You Saw This?

April 13th, 2004

I often browse the Symantec Security Response home page, as well as other computer security related sites, and rarely in the past four years have I seen anything like the images below. The images are screen shots from Symantec’s web site for a new trojan, which in this case is not a harmful variant, but it effects ONLY Macintosh systems! I think the last Mac only virus was back in 1999 or 2000.

Mac proof of concept MP3 virus

Mac proof of concept MP3 virus

If you want to read more about this proof of concept trojan read about it here.

Intego is the company that first reported this trojan for the Mac and they advised users and their customers about it almost immediately. Symantec unfortunately, took about four days to add protection from this trojan to their Mac virus definitions (even though it is a non-harmful variant a harmful variant could come out any day).

I’m actually surprised that this is the first Mac OS X (UNIX based OS) that has come out. Mac OS X networks with almost any type of network infrastructure and even has a neat technology called Rendevous that automatically connects Mac systems with other computers, cell phones, PDAs, and such that are within range of either the wired subnet or a wireless subnet. This seamless networking is the same thing that has caused Windows machines running Windows 2000, XP, or Server 2003 to be so easily effected in the past couple of years. So why hasn’t the new Mac OS been infected too?

The simple answer is that it is because A) there are fewer Macs out there so the infection will get less attention, do less damage, thus providing only a small bit of satisfaction to the hacker who created the virus or B) it is so easy to write a virus for a Windows system because the tools are easy to use and readily available. I don’t actually fully believe that the truth lies in either of the answers, not completely.

Most of us are probably not aware that the FBI and other federal, state, and local agencies have been some of the biggest “switchers” to Apple. The reason is that the new Mac OS is very secure, and because it is based on a variant of UNIX it is very powerful and extensible. Many local police departments use one or more Macs in their forensic department. The FBI uses Macs to investigate computer crimes and also to retrieve data from computers and hard drives they have seized. If you’re familiar with the Fox show 24 you may have thought the Macs they use on the set are just for their “coolness” factor but in reality it is probably a fairly accurate representation of how America’s real counter-terrorism organization(s) operate.

So Mac OS X may not be the most secure operating system on the planet but it seems to be secure enough that hackers have left it alone…until now.