Every few months the scroll ball on my Apple Mighty Mouse starts to get a bit intermittent because of the build up of dirt, fibres and grease in the mechanism, which is very frustrating. For the past few days I've only been able to scroll up, and reading web pages backwards is losing its novelty. There are a million and one web pages out there telling you how best to clean your ball, and I've tried several of them.

Some people suggest taking the mouse apart, but that apparently incurs a high risk of cracking it, requiring gluing back together, and is clearly an all round monumental faff, so I count it as an option of last resort which thankfully I've not had to employ yet.

Running a fine piece of sticky tape under the ball and flossing was a particularly delicate operation but didn't make much difference, so I don't recommend that.

Turning the mouse upside down and simply rolling the ball around on a clean piece of paper has the beauty of immediacy and simplicity and certainly helps a bit, but not if you've got major problems.

Best of all is the application of WD40 (or even vodka as one German YouTuber advocates) then a good roll around with a clean rag. The idea is to get your cleaning fluid all around the ball so it cleans the rollers underneath, dissolving the grease and lifting fibres, so I recommend long circular movements in many directions, trying to get the ball going every which way. A second application may be required. Don't use too much fluid though or it may wreak havoc with the inside of your mouse. WD40 is just viscose enough, and easily sprayed on in a small quantity, so it's controllable. It sorts me out every time.

MightyMouseBall

Precisely one week after it was launched, my copy of Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" landed on my desk at work. Apple claim to have posted it last Friday, but the bank holiday weekend and postal strikes have conspired to keep me waiting this long.

On my recent Mac Pro it installed in 28 minutes and recovered a startling 31GB of disk space. I'm not quite sure how it managed that to be honest, as it's a lot more than most others are reporting. [Update: actually I suspect it's because Apple have changed the definition of a GB for Snow Leopard, so my comparisons of space used before and after are not comparing like for like. Now 1GB = 10^9 = 1,000,000,000 bytes, whereas previously it was 2^10 * 2^10 * 2^10 = 1024 * 1024 * 1024 = 1,073,741,824 bytes.]

That same Mac Pro is also capable of booting into the 64 bit kernel by holding down '6' and '4' during boot. You can check it's worked in System Profiler, where on the Software page it should say  "64-bit Kernel and Extensions: Yes". I've not noticed any abnormalities and supposedly it might run a bit faster this way, so if it stays good then I'll probably set it to 64 bit kernel permanently.

Note that only XServe machines boot with the 64 bit kernel by default, and many 64 bit Macs (like older Core 2 Duo MacBooks) can't do so because they lack 64 bit EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface).

SnowLeopardDockMenu

In general I like Snow Leopard – it's the same as Leopard but all round snappier and a bit nicer. Some changes confuse me though. Take the new arbitrarily styled menus for dock items, as shown below. Nothing else in the system looks the same, and that's probably a good thing because it's hard to read, with the section heads and tick marks being far too low contrast. They're almost invisible! A real UI own goal if you ask me. Maybe they designed it before they set the gamma to 2.2

Update (26th Aug 2009): It does now seem to be working and I've successfully ordered my copy. In fact it tried to order me 4 copies, apparently having remembered my previous failed attempts.

I recently bought a new Mac so I qualify to get Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) super-cheap as part of Apple's Up-To-Date program. Unfortunately, the online up-to-date system doesn't seem to be working, for the UK at least. Here's my transcript of live chat with the Apple rep, where they state that indeed it's not working and they know it.

  • You are chatting with Danielle C, an Apple Expert

  • Hi, my name is Danielle C. Welcome to Apple!

  • Hello – I'm struggling to use the Snow Leopard Up to date program.

  • Good evening

  • You are trying to register for it online?

  • I click through, fill in details, it says my computer is qualifying, but then it says "There are no items in your basket"

  • yes – using website

  • I apologize for the inconvenience.

  • I'm clicking through from http://www.apple.com/uk/macosx/uptodate/index.html

  • Unfortunately there is a glitch in the site, you can still order via post or fax in your order form.

  • :-/

  • I've been trying for days.

  • Using different browsers, assuming the problem might be my fault.

  • The site is not working for most people trying to order it unfortunately.

  • You would have to fax or send in your order form.

  • How about putting something up on the page to say so, to save all those people's time?

  • I am very sorry about the inconvenience.

  • How do I email in an order?

  • You cannot email it in, it has to be Fax or Post.

  • I bet a lot of people will stump up the full amount, to get past the inconvenience.

  • Which might be why nobody's fixing it or even putting up a sign saying it's broken. But that's the cynic in me.

  • Do you know when it might be fixed? I'll wait if it's fairly soon.

  • Unfortunately I would not have that information.

  • Do you mind if I post this transcript on my blog?

  • Thanks for waiting. I'll be right with you.

  • Sure.

09. August 2009 · 8 comments · Categories: iPhone, Mac

I've noticed that in iPhone's Calendar, you can't change the calendar (Home,Work, etc.) of an entry once it's been created – only at the point that it is being created. This is immensely frustrating as quite often I fail to spot which calendar an entry is being created in until after I've hit Done and I see it showing up in green or blue in my calendar. I split about 50/50 between Home and Work entries and so very often each new entry is of a different type to the last (though I fail to notice it) leaving the default calendar assignation incorrect. Grrrr.

Update: I realised that a big reason for failing to spot which calendar is being used at point of entry is that it doesn't use the calendar colour in the creation UI – only the name. If it backed the name with a big splash of colour (green for home, blue for work) I for one would be far less likely to mess up.

Because my broadband wasn't working I've been using internet tethering with my iPhone for my main internet connection for my computer. So when my iPhone demanded I update its software to cure its SMS vulnerability I thought hey why not go ahead! I figured it would download the update to the computer (via the iPhone's net connection) as per normal, then perform the update. No reason to suspect a problem. 

Unfortunately once it had got the whole 300MB package and tried to install it, it required access to some Apple server in order to finish the install, but the iPhone was half-updated and no longer providing internet connectivity. So I got stuck there, with an iPhone just showing a "connect to iTunes" graphic when switched on. I understand this is known as "recovery mode". And that's how it's been for a full day, but thankfully I now have broadband working and have managed to get it back up on its feet. That required a factory restore then update from backup then full sync though, and I'm yet to determine if all is truly well.

So the lesson here is – don't use your iPhone as the sole internet connection in order to update your iPhone!
For some reason, having switched it off when the previous occupants left, we now have to wait 2 weeks for BT to turn our broadband back on again. I know not why. They must literally have a system that includes a "wait two weeks for no good reason" step. As such I'm using my iPhone with internet tethering as my internet connection.

It works reasonably well, maxing out at about 50 kilobytes/s – which equates to about half a megabit, so stretching the term broadband quite thin but useable as long as you're not in a hurry. However I've noticed that O2 are pulling a fast one (pun intended) and rewriting JPEG and GIF images that you request via HTTP, re-encoding them at a much lower quality level, presumably in order to make your bandwidth go that much further.

I have a problem with this though as they've gone so far down the quality slope that the images are often no longer fit for purpose, with small text unreadable and photos suffering from JPEG artefacts so badly that there's only a muddy mess left. Here's a small screenshot from my blog sidebar, showing the knackered JPEG, which I have saved with very high quality JPEG compression so as not to introduce more artefacts. Of course when I review this post it'll get re-compressed by O2 again and look even more terrible (indeed the hyperlink text is near unreadable) but hopefully you won't have that problem unless you're also tethering.

O2CompressedJPEG

So this is a plea to O2, asking them to turn up the quality, if they must mess with the web at all.
08. July 2009 · Write a comment · Categories: Mac

I hear that Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard will herald the return of the permanently visible event inspector panel in iCal. I've really missed it for the last couple of years. Double clicking each item then clicking "Edit" is a major chore and I look forward to getting back to the simple old ways.

Whilst they're at it I hope they fix the basic mouse event handling so I can reliably grab and drag the edges of an event. The current behaviour seems to be based on coin flips.

Update: It's not quite what I hoped unfortunately. Rather than having a fixed panel for displaying and editing the full details of the currently selected event, there is a popup window. In exactly the same manner as the Finder's Get Info window, this can also be opened as an 'inspector' that changes to reflect the current selection. It is always a floating window above the rest of the UI rather than a built-in portion of the main iCal window like it used to be. I've arranged my main iCal window and inspector alongside each other and thankfully they both reappear when the app is quit and reopened. So nearly, but not quite what I was after.

I've been putting together a WordPress powered blog or two recently and diligently documenting the steps required, as ever. The documentation available from the WordPress site is pretty good, but sometimes it's over verbose, whilst frustratingly also stopping short of giving you exactly the details you need. So here's what works for me to upgrade an existing WordPress installation to a newer version. This is using the manual approach BTW rather than the built in auto-upgrade functionality, which asks for FTP details (of what I'm not sure, and it doesn't bother to elaborate) and therefore makes a mockery of the term 'auto'.

The official instructions that got me going initially are at http://codex.wordpress.org/Upgrading_WordPress FWIW, but I do precisely this on Mac OS X:
  • Download the zipped upgrade package and unzip it somewhere - e.g. to wordpress_upgrade directory for the sake of this example.
  • Backup existing installation in full – both the wordpress directory itself and the associated MySQL DB, just in case.
  • Merge the newly downloaded package over your existing install (assumed to be a directory named wordpress here) with the following incantation at the command line, which takes advantage of the fact that cp merges, whereas Finder copying just oafishly replaces:
  • > cp -r  wordpress_upgrade/ wordpress_original
  • Compare the new wp-config-sample.php with your existing wp-config.php (e.g. using FileMerge) to see if any new config items have been added. If so, manually add those into your wp-config.php file, or if easier rename the sample to wp-config.php and put back the DB connection and other relevant bits.
  • Load up the /admin page in your web browser and follow the instructions to complete the upgrade, which involves it upgrading any DB bits, etc.