Sunday, September 20, 2009

TechTracker Goes Oblique PART II

TechTracker PART II

Aaron Smith came to the rescue and sorted out my purchase problems at It was most kind of him to personally give me a call with the good news. That was within a couple days of my posting Part I of this blog entry. He is one of the creators of VersionTracker and MacFixIt.

The lowdown:

MacFixIt is now, indeed, totally free for all. My brain is at fault for believing VersionTracker was following with the same. VersionTracker Pro continues on for those who enjoy its dedicated VersionTracker Pro application and all the perks of the VT site. I of course happily paid up to continue my subscription.

What went wrong:

Billing went out to previous VersionTracker Pro and MacFixIt Pro bundle subscribers, charging them for another year of both. Not only was this wrong, but the theoretical price charged for the update was also wrong. TechTracker caught the problem a bit late, but refunded the cost of MacFixIt Pro to everyone last week. Thank you.

What remains wrong:

1) CNET tech support. Please note that TechTracker has its own support staff whom I very much appreciate. When I can through to them, they have always come through for me. What is terrible is the CNET support staff. In the past I have had them insult me, treat me like a dimwit newbie, spew incorrect information at me, and act like utter idiots. I very much hope this changes. But the fact that they 100% ignored my requests for correct information regarding all the blunders at the VersionTracker site does not bode well for them. I find this very sad. I hope CNET sort this out rapidly and permanently. I like their parent company CBS and have consistently supported their work, much as I have supported TechTracker. CNET, however, have a lousy reputation these days at most of the boards I visit.

(If you've followed my Mac-Security blog you know how much I did not enjoy CNET's recently posted anti-Mac security FUD article. I ripped it to shreds through a series of four articles).

2) MacFixIt Pro is STILL listed on the TechTracker purchase page. $24.95. No such thing guys!

3) The Bundle of VersionTracker Pro and MacFixIt Pro is STILL listed on the TechTracker purchase page. $59.95. Again: No such thing guys!

Here is where I found #2 and #3 still listed at the TechTracker site:

Aaron Smith provided me with a toll phone number to reach him. I'll be calling him this coming week to see if he can have #2 and #3 corrected.

I'm too nice a guy to ask for compensation for putting up with and sorting out this mess for TechTracker.

In the film industry, smart directors have an assistant called the 'Continuity Girl'. The reason a girl is typically used is because women tend to have a better eye for inconsistencies between camera shots. The most famous Continuity Girl was Alma Reville, who worked with Alfred Hitchcock. She eventually became his wife. Personally, I do not want to become anyone's wife, but apparently I am playing the role of Continuity Girl for TechTracker. **sigh**

I'll post Part III when the TechTracker purchase page is sorted out.

What is NOT 64-Bit in Snow Leopard?

Mac OS X Snow Leopard is first the entirely 64-bit OS for Mac. That is to say, the operating system itself has nothing whatsoever that is 32-bit.

But Mac OS X has been able to run 64-bit code for many years with
all the benefits, depending upon the hardware on which it is run. This started the day the G5 PowerMac was released in June of 2003. This is very useful information to have at the ready the next time an Apple-hater questions when Mac OS X went 64-bit. Also point out to haters that all consumer level PCs are sold, by default, with 32-bit Windows installed, NOT 64-bit Windows. However, ALL Macs are sold 64-bit, period. There are no 32-bit Macs.

All Mac hardware went 64-bit in September 2006 when the Mac Mini Core Solo was discontinued. Be sure to ask any hater when IBM derived PC hardware went entirely 64-bit. You'll drive them insane. The answer: NEVER. At this moment in time there is no foreseeable date will all PCs will be 64-bit.

So what ships with Mac OS X Snow Leopard that is still 32-bit? Not much. I went through every application and here is what I found:

QuickTime 7.x, if you custom install it. QuickTime X is 64-bit.
iTunes. This includes updating to iTunes 9.0.
DVD Player 5.2.
X11 2.3.4.
Podcast Capture 2.0.
Grapher 2.1.

The end. Let me know if you find other stragglers.

There are a couple easy GUI ways you can tell what mode is being used:

a) Do a Get Info on an app and see if there is a check box for 'Open in 32-bit mode'. If there is, the app is 64-bit by default.

b) Run the app and check it in Activity Monitor. Look in the 'Kind' column. If the Kind says only 'Intel' then it is running as 32-Bit. Otherwise it would say 'Intel (64 bit).

One very kewl thing about Mac OS X is that the kernel runs 32-bit processes NATIVELY. However, 64-bit Windows has to run 32-bit processes in
emulation. That means they run more slowly than they do in 32-bit Windows. Emulation speeds suck compared to native speed. Your haters won't like that either.

Then of course finish your 'mine is bigger than yours' contest by pointing out that Macs are capable of running both 32-Bit and 64-bit
Windows natively at faster speeds than PCs. (Google it for yourself to verify). Then suggest, in a friendly manner, that they defect from the PC and Get A Mac. Statistics consistently prove that they will be happier when they switch to their 64-bit Mac.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

TechTracker Goes Oblique Part I

TechTracker Part I

I'm a big fan of TechTracker. I've enjoyed talking with one of its creators and back everything he has accomplished. It is a GREAT organization. Or it was until CNET bought it. Since that time it has been what I can only call a mess. And the mess is getting bigger this month. Real big.

TechTracker created and I have been a paid member of both for yonks. Their services are great and matched by no one. But last year they started revamping their system and their servers. The ongoing transition has been very difficult to endure. Let me give you an example: The VersionTracker database has tags for applications that are compatible with Snow Leopard 10.6. Except the tags aren't showing up in the user interface, and their support staff don't know why. WTF?!

Then last week a sequence of events started that must be one of the strangest stories going on over the Internet. This will twist your mind:

1) A couple months back TechTracker announced that there services would become free for all. Nice! They offered a refund to all members, prorated, for the amount of time left on their accounts. I got 10¢!

2) Then at the stroke of midnight, September 7th, I had my VersionTracker Pro account cut off. Dead. Gone. I was an ordinary citizen again. Huh?! Did I miss something? So I wrote TechTracker about it early that morning. I wrote twice. I never heard back from them! All I got were auto-bot notes with an incident numbers. I got two of those auto responses for each of my support requests. Very weird, like their bot was stuttering.

3) Then about three hours later I got a message that both my VersionTracker Pro and MacFixIt Pro accounts had been renewed, and I had been automatically charged $64.74. HUH?! So both Pro services were still available?! WHAT?! I checked around their confusing website:
  • The cost for the bundle of VersionTracker Pro and MacFixIt Pro really is still listed there at their site, despite their claims to be making them free. What planet am I on?!
  • There is a bundle listed for both services together. The cost is $59.95, not $64.74. So I was charged more because why?
  • Verification of the continued existence of VersionTracker Pro was found on a separate page on the site and in their VersionTracker Pro software. So, I was misinformed? But I wanted verbal, human verification as well.
Happily, the charge announcement email I received has an 877- number where I can call for support. Except no one is there, ever. I have called about 10 times, using every possible phone prompt variation, always during their pacific time business hours. The only option is to leave a message. And you know what that's usually worth! But today I gave up and left a message. I also sent yet-another email request for support early today. I did not even receive an auto-bot response. Spooky.

What could be going on? Someone
murdered their support staff? Possible. More likely they all went on vacation for the week and turned off the auto-bot on the way out the door. Other possibility: My ripping to shreds last week of their diabolically stooopid anti-Mac security FUD article about Mac OS X security inspired them to treat me poorly. Revenge for speaking truth to dopiness? Oh CNET. Living down to my lowest expectations? I hope not.

What to do, what to do. I'm going to give it another week before I cancel my subscriptions over a the TechTracker sites. Its a
cliff hanger! I'll let you know what response I receive from TechTracker, if any. If I kill off my TechTracker accounts I'll let you know and cry on your shoulder. I love those guys. This trouble is making me sad. :-(

Snow Leopard 10.6.1 Update - Where? Click Me

I made the title for this article link to where you can get the downloadable version of the 10.6.1 updates, both client and server. Somehow Apple has not gotten around to adding these updates to the regular downloads page. Very strange. So you have to go here instead:

You'll also find there the new Security Update 2009-005 for Tiger and Leopard. For now I am going to skip reviewing the security fixes as I am gearing up for a big
boring article summarizing the past month and a half of security patch trends, similar to what I did last month.

I finally got my claws on the client version of Snow Leopard. Tomorrow I expect to test out the Server version.


No iPod Touch with camera on 9-9-09?! I'm betting it is a marketing manoeuvre, one that will push forward in time my purchasing the iPod Touch.

I've noticed a lot of updates to software I thought was dead, all to make them Snow Leopard compatible. Kewlness.

What's up with TechTracker? I'm in total confusion as to what CNET have done to them. I'm getting the idea that even TechTracker is confused. I think I'll write an article about it! Coming up!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I'm surprised that Leo Laporte, of This Week In Tech fame, declares himself a Snow Leopard 'HATER'. Listening to the TWIT podcast discussing Snow Leopard's release made my ears bleed. Not because of fanboi-ism. It was because Mr. Laporte's slam treatment was based on nonsense. What few facts he knew about Snow Leopard he actually avoided discussing.


  • Mr. Laporte got QuickTimeX all wrong. At one point I heard someone in the gang say they thought Apple was going to still offer a 'Pro' version of QuickTimeX. <--NO.
  • Mr. Laporte went into troll mode about Grand Central with no explanation of what it was or why he didn't like it. <--HUH?
  • Mr. Laporte said Snow Leopard was a marketing move by Apple to counter 7ista. But his explanation was again in troll mode. He said nothing at all that backed up his claim. Instead he did the usual troll move of saying Snow Leopard is a 'service pack', meaning that it was a lame patch job reminiscent of Microsoft. <--NO.
Want more examples? I can bore you with them in the comments if requested.

I quit TWIT. It's been a long time coming. Dvorak is of course a useless toad, possibly the most deliberately dishonest and worthless 'prominent' technical writer in the business. So I ignore his wheezes. But to have Leo Laporte behave as an ignorant troll in public. Not acceptable. Me = sad, but that's enough for me.

Earlier in the year I stopped my Pogue worship. He got the hoax known as 'HD' Radio very wrong in his article and video on the subject. We did a back and forth by email that disturbed me. So I'm on sabbatical from his work for an extended period of time if only to allow myself to forgive him for recommending
BAD TECHNOLOGY to his readers. <--See, I'm still upset. But Pogue got it right with Snow Leopard in his review. I'd take Mr. Pogue over our pair of HATE MEDIA trolls twins any time.

Shame on you Mr. Laporte. Dvorak's dullard dopiness has corrupted your synapses. So long and thanks for all the happy techy memories.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The 'How To Install Snow Leopard' Debate

Apple have taken a new approach for installing Snow Leopard. Sometimes it is backfiring, which is disconcerting. I don't have my claws on Snow Leopard yet. It's in the mail. But here is my POV so far, as I posted at MacDailyNews:

From every reviewer's point of view, the new approach Apple is taking is to lead users to install ON TOP OF their current OS installation. For ordinary users, there isn't a clear method for making a clean installation via the DVD.

There are a couple problems with this approach:

A) What if the current OS installation is corrupt, or that volume is damaged? It most likely means problems after the new OS installation.

B) What if Apple's list of NOT-compatible applications and extensions is incorrect? Well, it IS incorrect! The result has been that some good applications are sequestered by the installer and some bad applications are left in place. The worst examples are bad .KEXT files left in the system that are causing the Sit-And-Spin problem for some users after the installation has rebooted.

How is Apple supposed to solve both these problems?

A) Test and repair both installation volume. The repairs provided by fsck/Disk Utility are NOT adequate for this task.

B) Apple has to have tested EVERY application and .KEXT file that runs in Leopard. (Apple are not supporting installation over Tiger, although it has been found to usually work). Good luck with that one. There is no registry at Apple for applications. Apple literally has no way of knowing all the software available for Mac. It's not going to happen.

Therefore, this new approach is going to have problems now and in the future.

Meanwhile, I can verify that a CLEAN INSTALL is the very very best way to go in all cases. It has solved major problems for me many times. Sorry Apple. Nice idea! But not practical or supportable.

If you have the time and stamina, I suggest a CLEAN INSTALL of Snow Leopard. Performing an install over Leopard (or Tiger) and running into a problem is rare. No need to blow the problem out of proportion. But the problems are happening.

Therefore, of course I am going to suggest the #1 Rule Of Computing: MAKE A BACKUP of your ENTIRE boot drive before performing ANY installation of Snow Leopard. Carbon Copy Cloner is free to use these days. Get to it! You will not regret it.