posted by Sean Cohen on Mon 5th Jul 2004 18:23 UTC

"A Comedy Of Eras, Page 7/8"

I found the best way to maintain my structure was to have the contents of my master "Photos" folder open in a window and drag each sub-folder ("New Years," "Holiday," etc.) individually into the iPhoto Album list one at a time. A little tedious, but this way it created a new Album with the name of the sub-folder, and kept the contents of each folder - sorry, album - as they were. I haven't played around with iPhoto much since I did this, but I have since come to realise that a single photo can be in a number of Albums, and that "Smart Albums" are live queries of all the photos in the library. I can understand the "Smart Albums" concept, but I think being able to put a single photo in a number of albums destroys the "photo album" metaphor that iPhoto tries to create. The two approaches should be kept distinct: categorising photos by metadata (using Smart Albums) is the high-tech way, and "Put a photo in a photo album" is the low-tech way. There should be more distinction between the two.

I would have gone back to my old "folders-within-folders" method, but I discovered that any of the neat effects (desktop, screen saver, etc.) with an image library require you to use iPhoto to manage your pictures. One example is that the desktop can have a random, constantly changing background, but it can only alternate between photos in a single folder or photos in a single iPhoto album. It won't delve into nested subfolders to find more photos, and it won't let you use the "All Photos" option if you want a random background. I got past this by creating a new iPhoto album containing all the photos I wish it to alternate between, but this is a hack and I would prefer a more elegant solution. In the mean time I'm impressed that I've worked out how to share iTunes and iPhoto libraries between users on the same machine, largely through some creative symbolic linking.

I started playing around a little more, deciding now to try and connect to the Internet. I am still on dialup so I wasn't expecting the experience to be plug and play, but neither should it be a very complicated procedure. I did remember being given the option of setting this up during the OS install, but I had deferred it until now as the details of my connection were contained in a text file on one of my backup CDs. The first thing I noticed - assuming one had skipped the opportunity during the install - is that there is no obvious place to go if you want to set up a dialup Internet connection. In Windows there is an icon right on the desktop called "Connect to the Internet" that runs you through a quick wizard, but there was nothing of the sort here. Being somewhat technical I presumed (correctly) to look in the "Network" section of the control panel, but this is far from obvious. Now that I think of it, I don't remember seeing a "Welcome to Macintosh, here is a quick wizard to help you personalise your computer and offer a quick tutorial" when I first logged on, but I may have dismissed it without realising. I later noticed "Internet Connect" in the "Applications" folder, so I must assume that this is the recommended method for setting up dialup connections. I'm also not sure if I like the modem status being in the menu bar all the time, it would make far more sense to me if it were only there when the modem was in use.

Herein began more trouble. Applications started crashing - Mail, Safari, Software Update and Help would all crash soon after starting up. I had changed a few settings, but nothing leapt out at me as being the cause of the problem. Hoping to make use of my incredible hacking skills, I opened up an application called Console - assuming it to be a terminal emulator - and noticed a string of error messages, most of which referred to "WebCore" and "Glyph Fonts" in one way or another. I knew that WebCore was the HTML rendering engine Apple used for Safari (derived from KHTML in the KDE project), but the reference to fonts seemed a little odd. I had brought a reasonable collection of perfectly good TrueType fonts with me, importing them with the "Font Book" application. I had simply opened up Font Book and created a new font collection called "Imported TrueType Fonts" and dropped all my old fonts there, but I couldn't understand why any of them would suddenly start causing problems. I googled around (using Firefox, of course) and found some other people with similar issues, most of whom had resolved the problem by finding and removing the few fonts that were in fact causing trouble. I thus opened up Font Book and disabled the whole "Imported TrueType Fonts" library, but this still didn't fix the problem. I eventually did find and delete the troublesome fonts individually, but it would appear that disabling a font collection - in this case "Imported TrueType Fonts" - didn't disable all the fonts contained within it. Perhaps I wasn't using Font Book correctly, but this behaviour did seem a little odd.

I then installed Adobe Acrobat Reader and was prompted to allow it to become the default application for .PDF files. I accept that I was mistaken in assuming that Adobe - being the creator of the PDF format - would be able to make the most kick-ass PDF viewer available, but I believe I suffered far longer than necessary trying to work out how to change default file type associations. I Eventually found that doing a "Get Info" on an individual PDF file would allow me to set the default application for that particular file, and that a small button within the "Get Info" dialog would then allow me to apply that setting to all files of the same type. At first glance "Get Info" appeared to be a tool that allows you to view the properties of a single entity (a file or a folder), whereas I consider default file type associations to be a property of the system as a whole. Windows, GNOME and KDE all allow you to view a list of all registered file types (and their associated applications) in a single place, but I could find nothing similar on the Mac. I'm not saying this is (or isn't) the best way for such options to be presented, just that it wasn't immediately obvious. On a related note, the "Apply to Enclosed Items" in regards to changing the file permissions of a folder and it's contents doesn't appear to be working correctly; it took more than a few tries to change some files copied from a CD from "Read Only" to "Read & Write".

Expose is fantastic and I can't praise it enough. It has almost completely eliminated the need for minimising windows, an action that I only do now when I want to show off the "genie" effect. To be honest I find minimising windows in MacOS to be almost useless, as the "spatial" nature of the system seems to dictate that only a single representation of a window may exist at any one time, whether that be the window itself or a minimised version of it. The role of any sort of taskbar (or dock, or wharf, or panel) should be to allow you to start applications and to switch between any windows you may be working in, however only minimised (and hence rarely used) windows have "mini-me" versions of themselves in the dock. Thus, the only ways I have found to bring a window to the front (if it isn't immediately visible) is to either use expose, to click on the related application icon to bring all the windows for that application to the front, or to minimise every other window (by hand) until the window you are looking for becomes visible. I expected more from a supposedly document-centric (rather than application-centric) environment, but expose solves most of those problems anyway by making all windows equally identifiable and accessible (far more so than taskbar icons or minimising / maximising). I particularly notice how I have come to rely on it when it is no longer available, such as on my Windows machine at work. It has taken some time to become accustomed to a GUI that doesn't present an actual list of all open windows, but as they say, different ain't necessarily better or worse, just different.

Table of contents
  1. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 1/8"
  2. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 2/8"
  3. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 3/8"
  4. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 4/8"
  5. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 5/8"
  6. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 6/8"
  7. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 7/8"
  8. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 8/8"
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