MacPro early 2008 video card dies

A couple of months ago, during a particularly busy period of work, I started to suffer some quite strange symptoms with my MacPro. Essentially, ‘sometimes’ if the system went to sleep, it was not possible to properly wake it up. It was apparent that the machine was starting up, but there was no video signal to either of the two monitors attached. One being an Apple 23 inch LCD. The other being an old CRT. The only way to get back to a working condition being to force-shutdown and restart the system.

My first suspect was one of the monitors – possibly the LCD. But trying them individually and swapping the connectors over made no difference.

The next suspect being the video card. Taking a look inside, there was a shocking amount of dust build up. I removed the card and gave it a good clean. Unfortunately this didn’t solve the problem. Over the next few weeks the occurrence increased in frequency to the point where one Sunday, after 7 or 8 reboots, it was time for more drastic action.

ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT

I had found a discussion on the Apple support site which echoed the symptoms and seemed to confirm the video card being at fault. My Mac was out of warranty and I needed it working for the next day and so trekked to the Regent Street Apple Store. Really busy store – the worse part was trying to get the attention of a member of staff. But then it was plain sailing. I explained the issue. While he suggested it might make sense to bring in the Mac to be checked – doing so would have been a real pain, run up cost and taken ages. I was pretty confident in my diagnosis. The only option available was an upgrade – which I was pretty happy with. From reading the rest of the support discussion I really didn’t want to replace like with like.

So, £300 lighter I trekked back home with a Apple Mini-DVI to DVI Adapter and a 512Mb ATI Radeon HD 4870. Very releived that the item was in-stock.

It dwarfs the old card, taking up two slots and full width. Installation was not too hard. The worst bit trying to connect the extra power cables to the mother-board.

ATI Radeon HD 4870

Closed the machine and restarted. The new card was picked up immediately. No installation of drivers required. Note: I had been a little worried that drivers may be required as I had previously considered upgrading to  an NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 285, for which I read that it was vital to install the drivers prior to installing the card. Something difficult to achieve if the old card is dead!

Summing up – very happy so far with the new ATI Radeon HD 4870 which has been running faultless for the last couple of months, and looking forward to more software making user of the GPU, particularly from the likes of Adobe.

Editor bug in Mac OS X 10.6.1

UPDATE 22 June 2010 : Further to my even earlier bug report (FB-9398FlashApe has posted a work around by changing a Snow Leopard system preference.

UPDATE 10-Dec-2009: I’m pretty convinced now that this is an editor bug, not a Mac OS X bug. Essentially the editors are using default OS behaviour which I think is tailored for natural language editing rather than programme-code editing. Original post follows…

I’m currently finding in some applications that “word1.word2.word3” is being treated as a single word as far as the Option-Left Arrow and Option-Right Arrow is concerned on my Mac. This keyboard shortcut should hop word by word. But currently hops from one end to the other. Not an issue for most users, but pretty serious for a programmer working with dot-notation syntax.

I first experienced this working with ActionScript in Adobe’s Flash Builder Beta 2 and logged a bug report, but further investigation reveals that some unrelated applications show the same behaviour. I have now logged a bug with Apple, but in the meantime I would be interested to know if others are experiencing the same? Or if you are running 10.6.1 and not seeing this issue? Please add a comment – I’m still trying to work out if it is something installed on my system. I don’t think it is basic user preferences as I am seeing the same in another user-account on this system.

Editors incorrectly treating “word1.word2.word3” as a single word re opt-left and opt-right:

FlexBuilder 3 MXML and AS editors
FlashBuilder 4 Beta2 MXML and AS editors
Apple Mail
Apple OS textfields including:
Spotlight
Finder window findfield
Safari: form-textfields + google search field
editors with *correct* opt-left opt-right behaviour
TextWrangler
Adobe Flash CS4 IDE ActionScript Editor
Adobe DreamWeaver CS4 editor
Apple XCode editor
Apple Finder – filename clicked and editable when renaming
Firefox form-textfields and goodle search field
  • FlexBuilder 3 MXML and AS editors
  • FlashBuilder 4 Beta2 MXML and AS editors
  • Apple Mail
  • Apple OS TextFields including:
  • Spotlight
  • Finder window find-file
  • Safari: form-textfields & google search field

Editors showing correct opt-left opt-right behaviour:

  • TextWrangler
  • Adobe Flash CS4 IDE ActionScript Editor
  • Adobe DreamWeaver CS4 editor
  • Apple XCode editor
  • Apple Finder – filename clicked and editable when renaming
  • Firefox form-textfields and goodle search field

No CMD-SPACE in Flash Builder since Snow Leopard

Ok so CMD-SPACE is the default short cut to launch Spotlight. But I wanted that combo for ‘content assist’ with Flex/Flash Builder. Until installing Snow Leopard, that is what I had for a few years, and Spotlight relegated to CTRL-SPACE. However since SnowLeopard, the CMD-SPACE combo is not transmitted to Flash Builder. I assume this is down to Snow Leopard somehow reserving the combination. So begrudgingly I have returned to defaults…

Spotlight : CMD-SPACE
Flash Builder content assist : CTRL-SPACE

flash.display.BitmapData gotcha – well gotme for a while

The documentation is correct, so i have no excuse, but I didn’t initially read much beyond the signature of the constructor…

public function BitmapData(width:int, height:int, transparent:Boolean = true, fillColor:uint = 0xFFFFFFFF)

I needed a transparent bitmap. Reading the default “transparent:Boolean = true”, I assumed by simply supplying width and height, a transparent bitmap is what I would get. Not so! I got a white rectangle. The reason being, that the default fill colour is 100% white. (The first pair of FFs representing the alpha in ARGB).

At first it would seem slightly unintuitive for the second default to conflict with the first, until one realises that the ‘transparent’ flag is there to indicate whether the object will support transparency or not. Not to state that it should be initially created transparent. Supporting transparency increases data size from 24 bits per pixel to 32 bits per pixel.

So what i should have done :

bmd = new BitmapData( width, height, true, 0 );

apple security update 2009-001 breaking PowerPC apps ?

Since installing this update I observe on my intel based mac that two PowerPC based apps now crash immediately on launch. Logging “Exited abnormally: Illegal instruction” to the console. The two applications affected so far on my system are CanoScan Toolkit X and more importantly Retrospect. Unfortunately the installers for both applications also fail with the same error. I worked around the canon issue by installing the LiDE 35 driver (for my LiDE 50) – then using “Import image…” in Preview. However not found a workaround for Retrospect yet. Looks to me like Rosetta is not working properly, although I have one PowerPC process running “RetroRun”.

Annoying and scary for my backups to be crippled in this way. Investigating. Not sure it was the security update as yet, only ‘evidence’ being the timing of the failures.

Update: Solved…

The following typed into terminal, followed by a re-start fixed the problem…

sudo update_prebinding -root / -force

As per instructions by Charles Minow in this thread on the Apple support discussions.

2006 iMac? perhaps AppleCare more important

Having just read a tale of woe regarding  a dead 2006 iMac, and the indications that this may be a particular issue with those machines, it is looking like AppleCare should be considered by owners far more seriously than normally would be the case. If the logic board dies in the way described, the machine as a whole, which should realistically be good for a couple more years productive life, will become an echonomic right-off.

While initial cost of ownership of Apple machines stacks up with similarly configured PCs, the cost of repair – particularly of the logic board is shocking.

Links:

migrate from file to svn+ssh for Dreamweaver CS4 on Mac

I’ve been using subversion for a few years now. Initially used through subclipse within Eclipse/Flex Builder then later also used with Dreamweaver sites using tools such as svnX and scplugin along with the “Cloak SCM directories” command. In most cases to date, I have used the “file:///” protocol as this provides direct and efficient access to repositories which are available within the local system or local area network. I had been looking forward to subversion integration in Dreamweaver and when the CS4 public beta was released I had a bit of a moan about the absence of the file protocol. Despite my efforts in the beta’s forum and the Dreamweaver wish-list, it remains absent. So now to look to using a different protocol.

There is a helpful 3 part article on the Adobe site describing how to get started with dreamweaver CS4 and svn. In part 3, the author chooses to present how jump through the hoops to get Apache to serve and access a local repository over http. There are a number of reasons why this approach is not right for me:

  1. svn served using mod_dav_svn through Apache over http is less efficient than svnserve through ssh.
  2. I have multiple repositories, one per project and all stored on a separate project disc. To use the http method, I would need to edit httpd.conf to add a directory mapping and manage access rights for each repository.

By using svn+ssh, svnserve launches on demand (no need for a running daemon) and we have access to all the paths available to the ssh user logged in.

So, to get this going on Mac OS X 10.5…

Turn on ‘Remote Login’ in the ‘Sharing’ system preferences. Rather than using the default of allowing access for all users, I restricted access to only my user.

At this point you should be able to use sv+ssh urls from within terminal. e.g.

% svn info svn+ssh://[email protected]/Volumes/full/path/to/repository

However if you try to use the same connection in a tool such as svnX you are likely to get error : ssh_askpass: exec(/usr/libexec/ssh-askpass): No such file or directory

To get around this we really need to establish public key authentication, which also serves to avoid you having to use your user account’s name and password for the connection.  Based upon this article on OpenSSH, I did the following:

% cd
% cd .ssh
% ssh-keygen -q -f id_rsa -t rsa

If the .ssh directory doesn’t exist, then use mkdir to create it. ssh-keygen creates both public and private keys.

Update 16-Feb-2009: Since writing this and applying an number of mac system and security updates i today found that any attempt to ssh+svn would result in…

svnserve: Command not found.
svn: Connection closed unexpectedly
[exit=1]

To solve the issue (based on notes here and here) I prefixed line 1 of id_rsa.pub with:

command="/usr/bin/svnserve -t"

As this is my one and only public key, I simply uses the following line to copy the public key to a file called ‘authorized_keys’. However if you are dealing with more than one key, you should use the guaidance in the OpenSSH article to append the key to that file.
%  cp id_rsa.pub authorized_keys
Once this has been done, attempting to use your svn+ssh  url within svnX should now work. Note: you may get the error re-displayed, but it will dismiss to be replaced by a current view of the repository. Also the first time, you will be prompted for the password. Here you need to enter the passphrase you used when you created the rsa key. I chose for this to be remembered in my keychain to avoid having to retype it in future.

With this done, you are now ready to contemplate setting up Dreamweaver. You need to be aware that an subversion working copy knows the url to the repository from which it was checked out. If your existing DW local copies of sites are subversion working copies checked out like mine via the ‘file:///’ protocol, you need to migrate them to ‘svn+ssh://’ so:

  1. Firstly ensure that everything you need to retain from your working copy has been committed to the repository
  2. Drag your working copy to the trash
  3. Create a new folder to contain your local site
  4. In Dreamweaver create a new site and manage the settings accordingly, pointing the local site to the folder you just created.
  5. In the version control category of the site definition, choose ‘Access Subversion’
  6. Protocol SVN+SSH
  7. Server address is your local computer. i.e. ‘computername.local’
  8. Repository path is a full path to the repository then further on down to the folder containing the site. In my case, each repository is split into trunk, branches and tags folders, and my site folder named ‘webroot’ is a sub-directory of trunk. So my path will read:  /Volumes/full/path/to/repository/trunk/webroot
  9. Server port remains default
  10. Provide your user name
  11. Leave password blank. The connection will be authenticated using the RSA public key
  12. Click the test button and you should get the message “Server and project are accessible!”
  13. CLick ‘Ok’, to leave the site definition
  14. In the file view, right-click the site folder and choose Version control > Get latest versions
  15. The latest versions of the files in the repository will be checked out of the repository into your local folder which will now become a working copy.

Job done.

sensible(ish) code print from flex builder (on MacOS X)

Continuing the theme of occasional Flex Builder hints and tips…

Occasionally I need to see code printed on paper. Unfortunately the printing capabilities of Flex Builder, or more specifically in this case, Eclipse, are a bit messy…

  • the font is huge, and only 49 lines fit on an A4 page
  • if you have a background colour set to your code window, it gets printed – decimating your ink-tanks
  • printing is a two dialogue process – you have to go through Page Setup each and every time.

Of course in the actual Print dialogue, you have the standard Mac ability to change the page layout, paper handling etc, and save that detail in a pre-set. However…

The key things I want to achieve is to print 2up full duplex black and white, which gives me four pages of code per sheet of A4, and with a slightly smaller font size I get a more respectable 68 lines of code per ‘page’.

However I’ve found the following approach, once set-up, a little more convenient, and becomes a one-click print…

The Mac has a GNU enscript installed which converts text files to PostScript to send directly to CUPS. In my case I had to update the old Gimp-Print drivers to the current Guten-Print drivers in order to achieve duplex printing.

More information on Guten-Print and access to the drivers on SourceForge. The DMG contains good documentation and a simple package installer.

Once the new drivers are installed, and I’d recommend a new, additional, print queue be set up with appropriate defaults for your code printing, you need to set Eclipse to run an external script to print the currently active code window. From the menu: Run > External Tools > External Tools…

  • Name: enscript
  • Location: /usr/bin/enscript
  • Arguments: -2rT4v -DDuplex:true -diP5000 ${container_loc}/${resource_name}

Obviously you’ll need to tweak the arguments according to your personal print configuration.

External Tools Dialogue