Archive for January, 2005

MacWorld Expo SF Musings 2005

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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.