#342 Lion Tweaks, Fooducate, Springpad, Roomba, Crashplan, Carrier IQ, OSX Diagnostics

NosillaCastaways run the show this week while I help my mom in the hospital. George from Tulsa tells us how to tame Lion with Lion Tweaks at ifredrik.com and Mike Potter over at For Mac Eyes Only Podcast. Fooducate Review by Rod Simmons: Free version, $3.99 Fooducate Plus. Mike McPeek (aka @dscchipman) gives us a Springpad Review – cross platform iOS and Android app from Springpaddit.com. Katie Floyd reviews the iRobot 530 Roomba Vacuuming Robot. Crashplan Review by Timothy Gregoire from crashplan.com. Bart brings us a short Security Lite where he gives us his thoughts on the Carrier IQ débâcle, followed by John F Braun of the Mac Geek Gab joining us to talk about how he got so smart, and his diagnostic process, an even shows us some hidden gems inside the Xcode developer tools to do even more fun diagnostics.

itunes

Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday December 4th, 2011 and this is show number 342.

This is going to be one of the most unusual NosillaCasts we’ve ever had. I spent the last three days with my mom, ended up at ER with her (she’s going to be fine), recorded Bart in a Starbucks, recorded John F Braun sitting on a concrete walkway, got interrupted by a poor old lady falling and getting a horrendous cut, AND the NosillaCastaways came to the rescue – we have some of the usual suspects, and two new reviewers, please enjoy the show – I’ll pop in a little bit but mostly I’ll goof around in the live chat room while you’re listening!

George from Tulsa on Taming Lion

Around the ‘net Lion’s increasingly referred to as OS 10 Vista. I never had Vista, but I did have Windows ME. Lion’s not as bad as ME; at least Lion runs.

Still, when ME didn’t, on a brand new Wintel Box, I was able to replace it with Windows 98. Not so with my 2011 Air, or a 2011 Mini. Apple firmware blocks those machines from running Snow Leopard, implying Apple will do the same with every updated machine until it has exterminated Snow Leopard by attrition. Which is why I’m on a continuing quest to declaw as much of Lion as I can.

This week an update to Lion Tweaks at ifredrik.com let me bring color sidebar icons to Lion’s finder. I find the colored icons useful. The Green Down Arrow helps me see where to click for Downloads. All that money for high resolution color monitors, and Apple goes monochrome.

Thanks to Mike Potter over at For Mac Eyes Only Podcast I also was able to replace Lion’s versions of Preview and Text Edit with Snow Leopard’s. They’re faster, simpler, and don’t clutter up my computer with unnecessary interim edits Lion saves as “versions.”

Mike had the basic idea, and found the hidden file it is necessary to bring to Lion for the Snow Leopard versions to work, but I’m proud to say I contributed the last step to make them work right. Be brave, you have to explicitly delete the Lion versions from your computer. Lion won’t let you move, rename, or delete them. So you’ll need Reggie Ashworth’s AppDelete (AppDelete – FULL VERSION on REGGIE’s SITE reggieashworth.com not LITE VERSION in MacAppStore), or an alternative.

You’ll find links to Lion Tweaks, AppDelete, and Mike’s instructions on how to install Snow Leopard’s Preview and Text Edit Applications in Allison’s shownotes at Podfeet.com

Fooducate Review by Rod Simmons

Fooducate: Free version, $3.99 Fooducate Plus
Article on SMR about Fooducate
simplemobilereview.com

thanks Rod – this sounds really fun! I put links to both versions in the shownotes, with a slight correction, the price on Fooducate Plus is only $3.99.

Springpad Review from Mike McPeek

Hello Allison and fellow Nosillacast Aways, this is dscchipman for the chatroom otherwise know as Mike McPeek. Today I am here to review the website, IOS and Android app Springpad, but first what is the problem that this solves.

I am one of two custodians in a small South Dakota high school. We are responsible for setting up cultural and sporting events along with doing maintenance, cleaning and projects during the summer. Consequently we have lots of things to keep track of. We will make a list on paper but we leave that in the office. If I think of something when I am at the other end of the building there is a good chance I might forget it before I get back to the office or not think of upcoming event until the last minute. So what is a high tech custodian to do. This is where Springpad comes in.

Springpad is similar to Evernote but works in a way that fits the needs that I have. I carry my iPod Touch with me all the time to listen to podcasts so it only made sense to put the Springpad app on it. Now I can have notebooks to keep track of price quotes, upcoming events, things to get fixed and general information. Within each notebook I can create a note if it is information to be saved or a checklist that I can mark when the project is done. In each type I can make notes on what needs to done and what materials or equipment might be needed, add a due date with a reminder sent by email or text message to remind me. I can also add links to webpages, audio, video or photos.

Now that Skitch has been added to Android and hopefully soon to IOS, this adds more functionality to the photos. I can take a Skitch photo and mark whatever changes that may need to be made, such as draw a square to “put this here” or an X to “remove this” or a circle and and an arrow for “move this from here to here”. Since I think visually, it is easier for me to look at a picture then to read a description and try to remember where exactly something was suppose to go.

I am platform agnostic so I like solutions that work across IOS, Android, Mac, Windows and Linux and Springpad does that. There are apps for Android and IOS and a Chrome Extension with offline support so if I think of something when I am out of wifi range I can add it and when I am able it will sync up to the cloud and back down to the other devices when start the app or go to the website.I can also clip information from a website and save to view later.

There is more to Springpad than I have mentioned so far or have had a chance to try. There is “Add by Type” option that allows you to add a shopping lists, events, bookmarks, check lists and many other options.

Since I am figuratively and literally part Scotch the fact that it is free also appeals to me. So if you are looking for a cross platform way of helping to manage, organize and store data and to be reminded of things to do, give Springpad a try.

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I did not include it in my review but if anyone wants to follow me I have an about.me page at http://about.me/mikemcpeek.

Clarify

You’ve got geeks on your Christmas list, right? How about treating them to a copy of Clarify from bluemangolearning.com? If they help other people with their computers, or enjoy shooting notes off to developers to show them exactly where the bug is that’s making them crazy, then they would LOVE Clarify. You can gift them Clarify through the Mac App Store, so you don’t even have to get out of your easy chair to give it to them. For $30, they get a quick easy way to take screen snapshots, annotate them, and throw a few words around them if they feel like it and shoot it off to the lucky developer. That $30 allows them to run it on their Macs of course. If they’re a slider, maybe get the cross platform version for $40, and if they just like Windows…you can actually get them a Windows only version for $30. Isn’t that awesome? Go ahead, make someone happy, check out the links in the shownotes, or just click the link in the left sidebar over at podfeet.com.

Roomba Review from Katie Floyd

Hi this is Katie Floyd of the Mac Power Users with a review of the iRobot 530 Roomba Vacuuming Robot. In traditional Nosillacast fashion, we must first identify the problem to be solved, that’s easy vacuuming! Who doesn’t hate vacuuming? Okay, well Allison probably likes vacuuming, because she likes all those other crazy household chores like power washing, car waxing and tile grout cleaning. But for us normal mortals, vacuuming is a chore. You have to lug some major appliance out of a closet, drag it from room to room constantly unplugging and replugging it all along the way and then to do a really good job you have to rearrange your furniture so you can get all the dust bunnies hiding under the bed, tables, chairs, etc. It’s a pain and a regular household chore.

I recently received the iRobot 530 Roomba Vacuuming Robot as a housewarming gift and was absolutely thrilled! In my ideal fantasy I would go off to work while my little Roomba toiled away all day long dutifully cleaning my house. When I returned home, my floors would be spotless! In my real-world use of the Roomba, I found that it more or less worked as advertised, but as with most things, reality fell short of the fantasy.

I unpacked the Roomba and found it to be an interesting contraption. It’s about the size of a large serving platter in diameter and is propelled by two rugged rubber wheels and a third wheel that allows it to pivot. The wheels were very important because most of my house is covered in exotic wood floors and I noticed my prior vacuum’s hard plastic wheels had a tendency to cause scuff marks. I had no such problem with the Roomba. On the undercarriage there is also a series of brushes that can be removed for cleaning and a side cleaning brush that rotates to help clean along edges and corners. The Roomba also comes with a charger, docking station and two virtual walls that can be used to confine the Roomba to a specific area or block off certain rooms. As a side note, the packaging and user manual said the virtual walls required D-cell batteries which I went out and bought, only to find they actually required C-cell batteries requiring another trip to the store – details are important!

The charging station is important because when the “Dock” button on the Roomba is pressed the Roomba should slowly locate and automatically dock with the charging station. However, in practice I found this was hit or miss. In several instances the Roomba would meet up with the dock but then push it out of the way and fail to connect. When the Roomba is cleaning and is running low on power, it is designed to return to the charger, power up and then return to the chore. Though I found that the Roomba regularly got lost in my house and if it was not in the same room as the charger would fail to find it and simply run out of charge somewhere in the house.

My house has a very open split floorplan with the center of the house being a very open area with a kitchen, formal dining room, living room, foyer, hallways and a smaller eat-in kitchen comprising over 1,000 square feet. The Roomba seemed completely lost in the perceived maze of walls, hallways and furniture. It was constantly bouncing off walls and furniture and roaming from one area to the other never completely cleaning anything and then wondering into another area of the house.

The idea is to turn the Roomba on when you leave from work and let it bounce around the house cleaning for you, so it really doesn’t matter how long it takes. But in this case I found that the Roomba would run out of a charge before it completed cleaning the house and because it was so lost, it could never find its way back to the charging station to dock and recharge to complete the task. However, when I closed off doors and left the Roomba with smaller areas to clean, for example my back two bedrooms and a small hallway, it performed much better.

The Roomba is designed to navigate around a room or a house by detecting and avoiding objects and hazards. The sensors in the Roomba should detect an obstacle and either avoid it or slow down and gently make contact and then redirect the Roomba round. This is so the Roomba doesn’t damage your furniture or itself by banging into objects. However, this was where Roomba was the biggest disappointment for me. Roomba did a fairly good job of detecting large solid objects like walls, but it didn’t do so well with raised furniture, or smaller obstacles like chair legs. In my experience, Roomba was constantly banging into walls, furniture and other obstacles. At one point it got stuck under my dining room table for about 20 minutes bouncing around like a ping-pong ball and then, of course, wandered right back in a few minutes later. Roomba didn’t seem to have any type of long-term memory to know that it just had a problem in that area.

My biggest concern about Roomba was the potential for long-term damage to my furniture. Before moving into my new house, I spent the last 4 years getting rid of my college student hand me downs and upgrading to nice formal furniture that I wouldn’t want a 10+ pound robot constantly banging into. Roomba seemed to have particular difficulty detecting slightly raised furniture. For example, I have a beautiful mahogany sleigh bed that is raised about 2.5 inches off the ground. The Roomba’s electronic eye could see under the bed and therefore thought there was nothing there, but the Roomba itself couldn’t clear the bed so it constantly kept ramming the bed at full speed to the point where I was concerned it would cause damage. It didn’t take long before I banished the Roomba from my bedroom. I had a similar problem with the Roomba navigating between my dining room set and I also had to setup virtual walls to keep the Roomba clear of the dining room. This was the deal-breaker for me because I cringed every time the Roomba banged into my furniture.

On the other hand, in my guest bedroom, I have a traditional mattress on a box frame with a bed skirt and the Roomba was able to distinguish between a solid bed frame and the soft bed skirt and vacuum under the bed with no problems. I promise you, I’ve never vacuumed under that bed. Similarly the Roomba was able to fit under raised bookshelves and navigate under desk that I traditionally avoided with my upright vacuum, so I’m convinced it did a much more thorough cleaning job in some respects than I could.

The Roomba does not work quickly. To vacuum a medium sized bedroom will take 30-45 minutes assuming the Roomba doesn’t wander out of the room and get lost. For this reason alone, the Roomba probably cannot be your only vacuum. Although it does have a “spot” mode for picking up a quick mess, you can’t grab the Roomba and quickly vacuum a rug or a room if needed. The idea behind the Roomba is you would run it a couple of times a week while you’re out so your house would always be clean, but there’s no more quick touch-up job if you have guests on the way.

While the Roomba isn’t quite as loud as a traditional vacuum, it isn’t quiet. I certainly couldn’t have the Roomba running while recording podcast and because it runs for so long at a time most people would find it disturbing to have the Roomba running while they’re in the house.

The Roomba did a good job of cleaning. I don’t have any pets or kids so most of what the Roomba picked up was everyday dirt, dust and crumbs. The back end of the Roomba is a detachable compartment that is removed easily for emptying and the brushes and filters are easily removed and cleaned every couple of cycles. The Roomba also will tell you when it is in need of brush or filter cleaning. I can imagine for people who have pets the Roomba would be an excellent supplement to regular vacuuming.

Replacement accessories are available from the manufacturer and you will need to periodically replace brushes and filters. I do have concerns about the longevity of the Roomba. Although I did not keep the Roomba long enough to observe any deterioration, this was one of the common complaints I found when researching the Roomba. There are many reviews from people indicating the device failed within a year or two of purchase or parts wore out. After having an opportunity to observe the Roomba I can see that this little robot does take quite a beating. In my experience the Roomba spent a great deal of time bouncing off various walls and furniture and although it wasn’t at a high rate of speed that constant jarring is going to cause damage. While I don’t normally recommend long-term warranties, this may be a case where it makes sense if the price is right.

Bottom line time. Ultimately, I returned my Roomba as it just wasn’t the right device for me. The biggest factor is that I just didn’t trust the Roomba not to cause damage to my furniture. I spent quite a bit of money over the years accumulating nice furniture and the idea of the Roomba banging into it while I was away at work was just too much for me to bear. Perhaps in retrospect I made a poor choice in buying furniture that I felt I had to tip-toe around, but that ship has sailed.

However, just because I returned the Roomba doesn’t mean that it won”t work for others. In fact, most of the reviews of the Roomba online are overwhelmingly positive. I would imagine that most people would have more durable furniture and perhaps a slightly less open and maze-like floorplan for their home the Roomba would work quite well. In fact, I think the Roomba would have been perfect for me just a few years ago in my prior condo. I also think the Roomba would work well for people with kids or pets and want to keep the dust and debris more manageable or cut down on regular vacuumings.

I’m very interested in the Roomba technology as I think many of the disappointments I had with my unit will continue to improve over time. I think the Roomba is a compelling and interesting product if you accept that it’s not a miracle device and understand its limitations. If you think the Roomba will work for you I encourage you to give it a try, but of course be aware of the return policies and go into this with realistic expectations.

Crashplan Review from Timothy Gregoire

Timothy reviews Crashplan from crashplan.com

They have some holiday specials going on right now, including gift subscriptions.

TextExpander

I talked earlier about giving Clarify out as a holiday present – maybe you should give away copies of TextExpander too! You can give the gift of efficiency to your fast typist friends so they can go even faster, or you can give the gift of no typos and speed to the misspellers or slow typist friends in your life. Either way you get to help your friends and family speed up, reduce repetitive stress, and become brilliant spellers with the optional (and free) TidBITS library. I can’t live without TextExpander and have to have it on every Mac I use – makes me NUTS when I have to touch an un-TextExpander machine! I feel so slow and sluggish. Head on over to the link in the shownotes to TextExpander in the Mac App Store or click the big Smile logo to get TextExpander.

Chit Chat Across the Pond

Security Lite:

Bart gives us his view on the Carrier IQ Débâcle:

John F Braun

I’d like to welcome John F Braun of the Mac Geek Gab to the show.

  • I wanted to get John on the show becauseI’m fascinated by his diagnostic skills combined with his depth of knowledge of some of the geekiest edges of the Mac operating system.
  • First question – how did you get so smart? What’s your background?
  • As a kid, was always interested in learning how things worked, much to my parent’s chagrin. I would often take things apart (transparent alarm clock, record player, toys) in order to learn how they worked. Sometimes my dad could fix them, sometimes not.
  • My first exposure to a computer (PDP-11 series with Teletype and paper tape reader) was back in middle school. I picked up programming, since it was a way to both understand how the machine worked, but to also make it do cool stuff. When they got an Apple ][, I was one of the first kids they introduced to it. When I saw you could turn it on and instantly have BASIC available, versus the PDP where you had to load BASIC form paper tape and it took 30 minutes, I was hooked, and had to learn how they got all that stuff in that tiny ROM chip. This led to me getting my own Apple //e, learning more like 6502 assembler and UCSD Pascal, and taking whatever programming courses were being made available.
  • College led me from an AS in Computer Systems Technology, a BS in Computer Engineering (a cross between CS and EE) and MS in Computer Science
  • Describe your diagnostic process – where do you start?
    • One of the most important things is to both quantify the issue as best as one can, be it an error message, what steps you’ve taken to produce or try and solve the problem, and anything else you’re seeing. This is where a screenshot can often come in handy, I may see something on your screen that helps me solve the problem, but you don’t think it relevant. Another is to think about what changes you’ve made to your computer, be it software or peripherals, before you started experiencing the problem. Software and hardware can interact in mysterious ways.
    • Vendor message boards and a general Google search is where I often start. It’s rare for you to be the only person having a problem, someone else has probably run into it, so you may find a solution, or at least see the steps that someone else took to try and solve it. Using the exact wording of an error message will often bring up relevant information.
  • How do you narrow down if it’s a hardware problem or a software problem?
    • The nature of the problem often dictates this, and some of it is instinct and even past experience. For a suspected hardware problem, check System Profiler (System Report in Lion) and looking at the various devices could give an indication that a piece if hardware is malfunctioning. For a hardware problem, trying to swap out a suspected malfunctioning device (think the HD is acting up? Restore from backup to another one. USB device acting up? Plug into another port or hub). For software, checking the Console (more about that in a moment) or the application itself for any error logs, reading the Help files, checking the Preferences (is it set up the way you think it is?) or the app may be hosed, delete (along with a good app uninstaller like AppCleaner) and reinstall.
  • What about those console logs anyway – how do you learn to read them?
    • At this point Allison tries REALLY hard not to do that thing where you meet a doctor at a party and you start asking them to explain why your hip hurts…because I’m having a LOT of crashes lately…
    • There are a number of places one can look, the most general is the All Message category, we’ll cover that last. Under FILES, you’ll see ~/Library/Logs and /Library/Logs, with specific entries for each application. /var/log for OS-level messages.
    • For an application crash, there are CrashReporter and DiagnosticReports, these are OS crashes (that get sent to Apple to help them improve the OS). There will be a line Exception Type, which is almost always BAD_ACCESS though I’ve also seen EXC_CRASH. Next, it’ll tell you which thread crashed, and you can then look through the listing until you find that thread, and from there, you may get an idea of what piece of software, be it third party or OS, crashed.
    • Checking All Messages is tough because everything goes here, so you’ll need to filter out what you don’t need. Each line has a time date stamp, then the application that generated it. Could either be an OS process (backupd, Firewall, Finder) or an application name (com.SugarSync.Manager) along with a message.
  • Tools John mentioned
    • From the Xcode Developer Tools (downloadable from the Mac App Store) USB Prober and Spin Control
    • Log file where we found the hangs and crashes from iTunes: /lib/logs/Diagnostics

    Many thanks to George from Tulsa, Mike McPeek (aka @dscchipman), Timothy Gregoire, Katie Floyd, Rod Simmons, Bart Busschots, and John F. Braun for helping to put the show together. That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsors for helping to pay the bills: ScreenSteps, and Smile. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at allison@podfeet.com, follow me on twitter at twitter.com/podfeet. I contribute a fair amount over on Google Plus nowadays so just search for me by name if you want to circle me up. If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

    5 thoughts on “#342 Lion Tweaks, Fooducate, Springpad, Roomba, Crashplan, Carrier IQ, OSX Diagnostics

    1. George from Tulsa - December 4, 2011

      We’re all hoping for the best for Allison’s Mom. Who knew Al was the Bat-Signal? Well done. Next time just dispense with the ambulance, and apply the tourniquet yourself!

      Sadly, while Lion Tweaks turns out to be a great way to install SIMBL which lets the Lion sidebar be Snow Leopard’s colors, Lion turns it right back to boring monochrome on log off or reboot. Mac Community to the rescue: MacUpdate comments let me to this link:

      http://girlintroverted.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/color-sidebar-icons-in-osx-10-7-finder/

      If you read the blog, the instruction is to put the plist file in the Library, but it is the main Library you’ll (apparently) need, the one at the HD level, not the user Library. Jeeze, I put it in both places and now my Air reboots with color icons in the sidebar.

      As to my suggestion to delete Lion’s versions of Preview and Text Edit, I presumed anyone wanting to do that would follow the link to instructions in Mike Potter’s blog. There I discussed how to archive the files before deleting them, then after deleting them to also pull the AppDelete Folders for each out of the trash and store somewhere safely. Then it is easy to go back to Lion’s versions if you ever feel the compulsion for self-inflicted pain.

    2. Donald Burr - December 5, 2011

      Re Katie’s Roomba review – did you check for a firmware update? Things like the pathfinding/getting lost/can’t find it’s charger issue, banging into furniture, etc. could conceivably be fixed with updated firmware.

    3. Katie Floyd - December 5, 2011

      Hi Donald-
      Thank’s for the suggestion, but I couldn’t find an available software fix for mine. However, I see your point in that it’s possible my complaints could be fixed with a software update down the line. Apparently there is a whole community of people hacking Roombas – now that’s a scary thought!

    4. Tim McCoy - December 7, 2011

      TextExpander error; I quote:
      “I can’t live with TextExpander and have…”

      shoulda been “without

    5. podfeet - December 7, 2011

      d’oh! thanks Tim! Repaired…

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