Sometimes I find myself working backwards up a tree of errors to fix a problem. Today was a case in point.

Since I’ve been doing a bit of WordPress grooming, I have the development build checked out locally. Previously I had run phpunit against the unit tests included in the code, but for some reason when I tried to run things under NetBeans, it would error out (Bug 247704).

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Recently after an upgrade of my Plesk panel, my web site was down.

In fact ALL of the domains I host on that particular cloud server were not working. A quick call to 1and1’s server guys and it appeared that there was some step in the upgrade process that failed.

They had it fixed in a moment, and then went the extra step to send me the command to fix this myself in the future:

/usr/local/psa/admin/bin/httpdmng –reconfigure-all

That simple command reset all the server config files and got all of the domains working again.

A huge thanks to the 1and1 Server Support guys and Khristian Byrd specifically !!!

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I’ve been working with Office and Project for a while now, and one of the things I love about the new 2010 version is that you can save as PDf from almost any application.

So today I was saving a Project plan as a PDF, and noticed it was breaking across pages in weird ways. Since I’ve done something similar with Visio a LOT, I figured the control for page size would be in the page setup, but I couldn’t find any mention of page setup in the menus or ribbon bar …

So hunting a bit, I figured that it might be on the print preview, which I found on the “File” tab:

And that’s when I got stymied for a bit: the controls for page setup were all greyed out:

 

Finally it occurred to me that maybe I needed to have Print Preview working, and off to the right was a button that said “Print Preview”:

Clicking that activated all the controls, and I could see a preview of the printout, and even get to the handy dandy Page Setup (as well as the other page settings):

For this particular one, all I wanted to do was change the page size to be bigger (so I chose the 11×17 in landscape), and limit the dates to this contract year.

 

But clicking the “Page Setup” also lets you do things like scale the printout to fit the page, set margins, etc:

 

Once you have everything the way you want it on this page (IOW the image of the printout on the right looks good), you can click “Save As” and choose PDF as the format you want to save:

 

 

The newly saved document will be scaled and limited to what you chose on the File/Print/Print Preview settings !

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I updated to OS X Lion a couple of days ago, and for the most part it was a smooth transition.

This is the first upgrade where Apple is using their App Store concept to distribute the OS, so it was a bit scary to hit “Purchase” and watch nothing happen for half an hour while Mac OS X 10.7 downloaded in the background.

There’s no real indication of anything going on unless you happen upon the “Purchase” tab in the App Store App (seems a bit redundant, doesn’t it?):

App Store purchased items
After the long download, there was a typical OS install (well maybe not that typical, since it just worked) that ran for nearly an hour. Once that was done there were a couple of minor housekeeping items (like loading Java again separately for some reason), but all in all not much looked different than before.

I was happily exploring features like “Launchpad” and “Mission Control“, when I stumbled on a weird problem. My mouse wheel was scrolling the browser in reverse. That is, it was working in the more natural direction: scrolling the wheel up moved the text upward, and down moved things down.

At first I thought I had some weird virus, but when I upgraded my other Mac, I found the same issue. So I did a couple of quick searches on the Apple site, and found some mentions of the issue.

Apparently somebody at Apple decided the way things scroll has been backward all this time, and made the mouse default the other direction. There were some how-to fix it, but they showed screen shots from a Mac with an Apple mouse, which has a few more settings than what I saw:

Default Mouse Settings

While set this way, moving the mouse wheel up made the scroll bar go down, which was confusing to me, since that was what I always thought the wheel was tied to. But it did make the text scroll in the direction of the mouse wheel.

After a very short period, I got used to scrolling that way, but soon realized I’d be in trouble if I had to go to a Windows machine, so I simply unchecked the “when using gestures to scroll or navigate move content in the direction of finger movement” and I was back to “normal”.

Mouse settings

I’m sure at some point I’ll probably be sorry (like when I get an actual touch-screen Mac), but hopefully by then Apple will have a setting that will just make my mouse act like it does in Windows, and allow touch to act the way it should.

And then after all that, there is no DVD, no physical device in case something crashes. The theory is there’s a recovery partition (just like the old PC days), so you don’t need that.

Me being the old IT guy, I don’t trust that, so the next time I downloaded the Lion upgrade, I burned a DVD. The store will let you download the purchase again, but 4Gb still takes a long time, so media is king.

I’ve made a slight change to the way I’m doing meeting minutes for standing meetings that I find helpful.

I am using a feature of OneNote that allows me to check off attendees a bit more easily.

It’s a bit of setup in the beginning, but it really works nicely once you have it done the first time.

Step 1: launch your meeting notes as usual from Outlook (by clicking the OneNote button on the ribbon). If you’ve installed the meeting template you’ll see something like:

Step 2: Now, because we haven’t figured out how to make the fields all flow into the right place in the template, a lot of the meeting information is actually way down at the bottom of the template. So scroll down until you see the meeting information (normally I just delete that). In this example, no attendees show up (I think because it’s not my meeting):

Step 3: Insert the meeting details by choosing “Insert Outlook Meeting Details” from the menu (Do this near the existing text in the notes so that you don’t have to scroll as much):

Step 4: Choose the meeting you want the information for from the list:

Step 5: Now you have a copy of the information for the meeting, including the attendee list (in the order it is in the invite):

Step 6: Copy the list of attendees to the Attendees section of the notes:

Step 7: Highlight the names and choose the “To do” tag from the tags list on the ribbon bar (or hit ctrl-1):

Step 8: Reformat the attendee list in whatever way makes the most sense to you (for long lists I typically split it into multiple columns):

Step 9: use this as the template for your roll call, click the check box for anybody who is in attendance, uncheck if they’re not. If your attendee list doesn’t change much, you can just copy the notes from a prior meeting and go forward with that.

It’s also easier for people receiving the notes to see who was actually there.

I’ve been working with the VA on a large project, where I was recently issued a laptop. Due to security concerns, they only allow VA government furnished equipment to connect to their network.

It’s the first time in a long while where I’ve had a setup where I didn’t have an adminstrative account, and some of the restrictions surprised me. The work I’m doing is for a group in Austin, Texas (located at the AITC), which means the computer was set up in the CST time zone. By default, Microsoft restricts setting the time to the administrator account (I think because it affects all users of the computer, although for a laptop that really shouldn’t matter), so I can’t change the time zone without desktop support.

While trying to see if there was a workaround in Outlook, I learned that you can set up a second time zone there, which helps you see the difference more easily.

Step 1: Go to Tools/Options from the menu:

Step 2: click the Calendar Options button:

Step 4: Add a label to the current windows time zone (CST unless you’ve had desktop change it for you).

Step 5: Check the box that says “Show an additional time zone”, and add the PST zone.

Step 6: click OK, and you’ll see both zones in your calendar.

Note:  Some web searches I’ve done have suggested that it is possible to create a policy  to allow a restricted user to change the time zone. (Computer ConfigurationPoliciesWindows SettingsSecurity SettingsLocal PoliciesUser Rights AssignmentChange the time zone), but without that you won’t be able to change the time zone as the computer is restricted to only allowing administrators to change the system time (Computer ConfigurationPoliciesWindows SettingsSecurity SettingsLocal PoliciesUser Rights AssignmentChange the system time)

Today I read a blog that was a continuation of the series of ads that Microsoft has about why you should buy a PC instead of a Mac.

The article (see http://tinyurl.com/cncx73) was one of those cutesy marketing ideas that looked at the alleged difference in cost between a Mac and a PC and came up with an imaginary tax rebate based on the savings. The author used this whitepaper as the basis for the comparison. Like all of these comparisons, comparing apples to oranges results in the preferred hardware (in this case the PC) being shown to be a better deal.

I do most of my work on a MacBook Pro, after being a laptop user for more years than I care to count. I switched when it became possible to do so without giving up Windows. With the current crop of Apple machines, you have the option of running Windows directly, setting things up to dual boot (BootCamp), or running Windows in a VM (using Parallels, Fusion, VirtualBox, etc.)

Which once again leads me to ask why would Microsoft bash Apple ?

For me, nothing changed in what I buy from Microsoft – I still need a copy of the operating system, and application suite. I can choose to run some parts under the Mac OS, or just use the Microsoft products as I always have. Granted there are open source alternatives for many of these, but that is true for both the Mac OS and Windows.

When I bought the first Macbook, it was only very slightly more than a comparable IBM thinkpad (which at the time was the business laptop of choice). The only selling point for me was that I would have a second operating system on which to test my development work. In other words, I was getting a dev box that I could use for much less than buying a second machine would have been.

My other reason for buying the MacBook was that it weighed about half of what the ThinkPad did, and had that nice aluminum shell to protect it. Lugging a laptop with a power supply and extra battery around cost me about 10-12pounds in my backpack, so reducing that by about half was very attractive (especially on the 20 mile bike ride home).

What I learned after the fact has made me very glad about making the purchase.

Advantage 1 – Better battery life

I gained a great deal of battery life. My first MacBook Pro gave me 4-6 hours of life on a charge, meaning I could go from meeting to meeting and not have to worry about it dying because I couldn’t find a plug. I could also make it through most flights without the machine dying. I used to have to lug extra batteries for this.

Advantage 2 – Instant sleep

On some laptop PC‘s, when you close the lid, it will try to sleep, or hibernate. The problem is that it doesn’t always work, and even if it does, it seems to take forever to wake back up (and occasionally won’t wake up). With the Mac, I was pleased to find that as soon as I closed the lid, the machine went to sleep. On the MacBook, the little power indicator does a slow blink to let you know it is asleep, and that happens almost immediately.

Especially on days that I was rushing out of the office to catch the train, or hop on my bike, it was immensely gratifying to know I didn’t have to worry about whether the machine actually was sleeping or not. I can recall a few times getting home, unpacking my PC, only to find that it had been ON in my backpack for the whole ride home (and sometimes had overheated because of being in that enclosed space). I eventually learned to shut down the machine before leaving, which meant another 15 minutes or more of non-productive time.

Advantage 3 – Start up time

When I was lugging a Thinkpad to work every day, I would plug it in, dock it and go get breakfast. That was because it took around half an hour to fully boot up the machine from being powered off.  With the Mac, if I had powered it all the way off, it only takes a minute or so to boot up, and it is almost instant when starting from sleep.

Advantage 4 – Support

While having a Thinkpad and working for a large corporation, I never had to really think about hardware support. If something broke, I’d just take it to the IT guys, and they’d get it working again (or replace it). When I went out on my own, the very scary possibility that my work machine might die came into play. I bought service contracts for my first few machines, and learned that while they protect you, it is definitely not the same as you get with the desktop support guys.

To get support, you had to wade through a web site, and it was almost impossible to find a real person to talk to (other than the chat bots that everybody seems to use now). And if you had a hardware problem, it was: ship it back to us, we’ll fix it and if it was under warranty we won’t charge you, average turnaround two weeks.

To be fair, I’ve never bought a machine from one of the retail markets like Best Buy or Fry’s, and that’s mostly because of my experience when talking to the people that work there. My impression is that you’re not going to find stellar support there, since you’re basically working with a group that has a broader focus than just the PC’s they sell.

With my first Mac however, things were indeed different. I bought the machine through the web, and the first time I had a problem,  I was able to call support. And when I had my first actual issue (a hard drive failure that was caused by me dropping the Mac from about belly high), I took it to the store and they fixed it. Let me say it again: they fixed it, and I only left it with them for a couple of days. And this was before I bought an Apple Care contract!

Advantage Mac OS X

So for me, the advantage is clear, and Microsoft doesn’t even lose out since they don’t sell hardware. I gain significantly in productivity with the Mac, and have my VM for those Microsoft apps I need to stay compatible.

I still don’t get why Microsoft bashes the Mac, maybe they’re worried about the home user who might not need any PC software, but that seems like a sale they would have lost anyway. I’ll continue to buy solid hardware like Apple makes, and decide on which operating system based on the needs I have to interact with my customers, which will include Windows for the forseeable future.

On the first day of 360iDev, I was in a session to learn about programming an iPhone, and somebody mentioned that a friend of theirs had updated their iPod firmware, and couldn’t figure out how to reset it back to the prior version. Since I had recently done this, I thought I could write this walk-through.

Apple uses the iTunes application to upgrade your operating system which does a nice job and for the most part protects you from doing anything too terrible by automating the process. On the iPhone, iTunes will give you an alert about the availability of a new operating system, and ask you if you’d like to upgrade, and tell you that if you have problems you will have the option to restore from a backup.

The interesting thing about the backup piece though, is that it doesn’t really restore the firmware, only the settings. For most users this is fine since the reason for needing to go through the “restore” process is actually because of a problem with the firmware, and the “restore” does all the work required to get your phone back to working with the new firmware and your old settings.

If however, you need to go to a prior version of the firmware, the process is not so obvious. Until recently I didn’t even think this was possible for somebody to restore to the prior version unless they were a developer.

After I updated my firmware on my iPhone recently, I noticed that my hard drive was getting to be very full, which prompted me to search for what was using up my disk space. This led me to find that the old version of the firmware gets saved by iTunes when you do the update.

Firmware files have an .ipsw extension and can be found at the following locations:

On Windows:
Documents and Settings\Application DataApple ComputeriTunesiPhone Software Updates

On Mac:
~/Library/iTunes/iPhone Software Updates

Sotware updates on my Mac

To restore the firmware to the prior version, do the following:

  1. Launch iTunes (with your iPhone connected)
  2. Click the button that says “Restore” while holding down the “Option” key (use the Shift key on Windows). Note: if you get a prompt asking if you want to back up your phone, you probably weren’t holding down the key when you clicked, and you’re actually going through the restore process.

Alternatively, if you’re an iPhone developer, the XCode Organizer can also drive this process of selecting a version to install on your phone.

Organizer

In either case, the actual firmware change is done through iTunes. Now you should see the firmware file being extracted:

extracting firmware

Your phone will be reset, and you’ll see the firmware being validated in iTunes:

validate firmware

Next you’ll see the update message:

Restoring

At this point your phone will be reset back to factory settings for that prior version of the firmware. You’ll probably get the prompt that tells you an update is available, which you can cancel.

Finally if you want to restore your settings, pick the backup you want to use (you can also tell it to set up as a new iPhone, which just means you won’t have any of your settings from before).  This will restore all of your apps and setting, although you may end up with a message that tells you about applications that won’t work if you have any that are for a newer version of the firmware (in other words if your backup contains an App version that wasn’t available for the firmware you reloaded).

App warning

After all of this, iTunes will probably ask you if you want to upgrade your firmware to the current version, which is how you would go back to the current version when you are ready to do so (or you can go through this whole process again to go to a specific version). You may want to turn off the automatic update checking if you are going to switch to other versions very often.

Note that your “problem” applications from the prior message will work once again after you are on a version of the firmware that is current enough to support thos applicatons.