The Let’s Encrypt system is a revolution for providing web security certificates for free. While these are simple certificates they provide encryption and at least the assurance that the website is the one that it appears to be. Siteground that is the host for this website has now included a facility in Cpanel to allow users to install Let’s Encrypt certificates in a very simple manner. I’ve done this for this blog and other sites that I own. Credit to Siteground for implementing this.
I posted over a year ago on my initial thoughts of updating to Lion. Earlier this year I did start using Lion but only as a result of replacing my ageing Core Duo iMac with a reconditioned 27 inch, i7 3.4 GHz iMac. This came with Lion installed and other than having some problems with the
After running Lion on the new machine for a month or so, I bought Lion and updated my MacBook. I had been doubtful about how well it would run on a Core 2 Duo 2GHz machine with only 2GB of memory, but in fact it seems to run as well as Snow Leopard. I only tend to use the MacBook for
I think it is now time to update the iMac to Mountain Lion, but I’m still waiting to make sure that everything I use regularly on the machine is ready for Mountain Lion. I’ve tended to reduce the amount of applications I use these days, but those that I do I tend to rely on, so don’t want any surprises.
On my MacBook (which is now running OS X 10.7 Lion), I set up FileVault 2 to do whole disk encryption, as I’ve always been a little concerned about the possibility of a laptop going missing when travelling and the consequential danger. Since running Lion, the MacBook although rather old being a late 2006 model, has been very stable. (A lot more stable than some years ago when I experimented at some cost with using PGP Whole Disk Encryption – but that’s another story.)
However, a week or so ago the MacBook become unresponsive and I needed to power it off and reboot. Whenever I have to do such drastic measures on my Macs, I always run Disk Utility afterwards on the system disc and any other drives that were connected at the time. Mostly these verify with no problems. On this occasion the verification reported the need to repair the drive. As one can’t repair the drive on which one is running I did as was instructed and rebooted in to the recovery partition (hold
However, before attempting to reformat and rebuild I thought I would try booting from my BackUp and running Disk Utility from there. This produced the same result as Disk Utility on the recovery partition — couldn’t repair. It was at this point that a bit of web searching revealed the need to unlock the encrypted drive (which I suppose is obvious when one thinks about it — but there was no suggestion from Disk Utility that one should do this).
On Disk Utility under the File menu there is an option to Unlock the drive. This produced a password prompt. At this point I wasn’t really sure what password was required but I had stored in 1Password accessible on my iMac, the “Master Password” for the encrypted drive. (Later reading other articles, it would seem that a password for any authorised account on the machine would also work.)
Anyway, this enabled Disk Utility to do its repairs and get the system drive up and running again smoothly.
Here is a useful post from Der Flounder on the same topic.
It would really have helped if Disk Utility gave some hints that the drive needed to be unlocked. It would appear that I might also have got stuck with
A Happy New Year to you all.
I have something of a disc drive and
It does become quite a challenge to make sure that all these drives that hold copies are updated regularly, although that is not too difficult as the iTunes library on the MacMini is pretty much static; it holds my classical CD collection that is mostly ripped from my own purchased CDs, together with a relatively small number of recordings purchased from iTunes and other classical digital download services. It also holds some TV programmes and films — mostly that have been downloaded from iTunes as a result of free promotions (typically from The Times/The Sunday Times in the UK or iTunes promotions like the 12 days of Christmas. Periodically, particularly after a new item has been added, I will
Over the last couple of months the iMac had been behaving strangely where it would occasionally lock up. While the iMac is old (a 2006 model, that I really should replace with a new one that can run Lion), it hadn’t generally behaved in this sort of way. I would have to use the power button to turn off the iMac and then reboot it. Being the sort of person that I am, I would then normally use Disk Utility to verify the internal drive and all of the external drives connected at the time. As I’ve mentioned before, checking a Time Machine is not for the
Strangely a second drive on the iMac (used for a copy of the photo library) also started playing up at the same time, and so a new 3TB Western Digital drive was purchased (just at the time when prices seemed to be going up daily because of the floods in Thailand), to hold both a Time Machine backup and a copy of the libraries stored on the other external drive. Since installing the new drive, I’ve had no problems with the iMac locking up.
Fast forward a few weeks to earlier this week and I noticed that the Time Machine drive used with my MacBook wasn’t showing up on the MacBook. Indeed the drive didn’t seem to be on despite being plugged in to the mains. This particular Western Digital drive actually has an
As a result of all this, I’ve now replaced two external drives (although not necessarily the oldest). I still need to tidy up my process for ensuring that content primarily stored on external drives is always duplicated (and if necessary backed up to the cloud as well).
For many years, I’ve occasionally needed to generate printed music notation. This has been for a variety of reasons including arranging music for piano, piano accordion, or choir, or
For a considerable time when I was using Linux and Mac OS X, I became quite adept at using the open source LilyPond. LilyPond is not for the
As the LilyPond essay makes clear, music engraving is more complex than word processing because of the inherent two dimensional nature of musical notation. One of the biggest problems with music notation, particularly when the music is more than very simple lead sheets, is that the articulations, expression and technique instructions, and any lyrics, not to mention the notes themselves can easily collide without some sophisticated algorithms for placement.
Recently, I’ve taken another look at the software available for music notation. The two “big” programs are Finale and Sibelius, both of which are available for WIndows and Mac OS X. Trials are available for both but these are expensive programs. Finale 2011 is $600 and Sibelius 7 is £460. In both cases academic discounts are available that make the prices much more palatable, but I do not quality for these. Both Finale and Sibelius have cheaper versions with reduced functionality.
In the case of Finale there is a whole suite of programs from the free Finale Reader (which is only for printing and playing a file that you might have received in Finale format), through Finale NotePad, Finale SongWriter and Finale PrintMusic. (There is also Finale Allegro but that doesn’t seem to have been updated for modern operating systems.) I have tried NotePad in the past and it really is only for the simplest music, but SongWirter and PrintMusic are both fairly capable. Finale have a very open policy about upgrades so that you can buy without regret in that if you want one of the more expensive members of the Finale Family, there is an upgrade price that means you won’t have wasted money by buying a lower product first. For the things I needed to do, Finale Songwriter was almost good enough and Finale PrintMusic certainly was able to do the job.
Sibelius only has one reduced version for general use (there is a Student version but that I think is specifically tied to use by education establishments in conjunction with full academic versions). This reduced version is Sibelius First. Avid, who now own Sibelius, indicate that there is an upgrade discount for upgrading to the full version of Sibelius, but there is no explicit information on their Web site. Avid also control the forums for discussion of Sibelius a little more than MakeMusic (Finale publisher) does for FInale.
I downloaded the trials for Finale PrintMusic, Finale SongWriter and Sibelius First. In all cases I went through the tutorials that are included in their documentation. I think this is pretty much essential with these types of programs. While you can do a lot just by clicking around with a mouse, one really needs to learn the keystrokes in order to be able to enter and annotate music with any speed. If it was going to take me an hour to notate a page of music then I would be as quick using LilyPond (for free!).
Finale PrintMusic ($120) essentially did what I needed. However, the disadvantage is that the output required a lot of tinkering to get it to look right. The only limitation that hampered me was that I couldn’t change a clef in the middle of a bar (measure). I also found that adding some articulations to notes was fairly time consuming in the number of key strokes needed (and scrolling of lists). However, I was pretty much inclined to go ahead and buy Finale PrintMusic. PrintMusic and most of the FInale products import and export MusicXML which is the preferred way to exchange music between notation programs. Overall PrintMusic seems to have a somewhat
Sibelius First (£120) also did what I needed. There are some more obvious limitations in Sibelius First over its full price big version. I noted a strong negative review on Amazon pointing out the limitations. The most obvious one is the lack of being able to do double dotted notation. Having said that, none of the music I need to notate seems to have any double dotted rhythms, and so for the moment that is not a restriction, and one can always get around it in a rather clumsy way by using tied notes. There are some articulations missing that may also be a little restricting, but I haven’t had a direct need for them in my sample tests. Sibelius First does not do export of Music XML making it much more difficult to get stuff out of Sibelius First. in general, the number of key strokes required to do things in Sibelius First was less than in Finale Print Music and so input was generally a little quicker. The biggest plus of Sibelius First is the “magnetic layout” which automatically moves objects to avoid collisions. While this was not at all perfect it meant that the time to do adjustments to get the music looking right was much reduced over Finale PrintMusic (where I gave up before doing all of the tweaks). A disadvantage of this is that occasionally the notation can move around under one in a somewhat disconcerting way. Manual tweaking is not so easy (which is a limitation of Sibelius First — I believe that Sibelius 7 has user modifiable rules and also the ability to turn off magnetic layout for individual items). The other problem I noticed was that it was rather easy to accidentally move an object when intending to scroll the “paper”, or to mistype and have something unexpected happen, as many keystrokes are defined as keyboard shortcuts. LIke Finale PrintMusic there is considerable documentation, and the Sibelius First user guide is both detailed and thorough while having a light hearted touch which is a pleasure in reading documentation, and as I said before, I believe that for these types of applications one really has to read the documentation to get the best out of them.
I also took a look at a graphical open source program, MuseScore. This is remarkably good and a worthy contender with the big programs. It is highly capable and has none of the restrictions of the reduced Finale and Sibelius versions. There is a lot less documentation available for MuseScore than for the commercial programs and I found that some things didn’t seem to work quite as the documentation indicated. Again, manual layout tweaks would be necessary to produce good output. I also tripped over some inconsistencies which I couldn’t explain. I found that MuseScore was fairly slow to input music and lacked some of the finesse of the commercial programs.
Another application of a similar nature is Notion 3. I have not tried this, but I believe from the description and from other comments that it is probably more suited to those who are looking for a system to perform music which also provides notation. I was more concerned with the notation as the primary objective, although all of these systems can drive MIDI devices (and take input from them) and have built in synthesisers. Notion 3 is much cheaper than the full price offerings from Finale and Sibelius, but more expensive than their limited functionality versions.
What are my conclusions?
I think that for someone who is making money from music, or is able to get an academic discount, then they can really choose the big programs and the choice is probably one of what is used by colleagues, school or personal preference. However, if the full versions reflect the reduced versions, I suspect that Sibelius 7 wins on getting good looking copy quickly.
For those of us who have to pay full price for software, then if cost is the prime consideration, then MuseScore is clearly a winner. However Finale Songwriter is only $50 which makes it pretty affordable considering what it can do.
For a little more money the choice is really between Finale PrintMusic and Sibelius First (although the latter is about 60% more expensive in the UK at the current exchange rate). I believe at this level the choice is between PrintMusic which can probably notate almost everything that I would ever need to do but take longer to get decent output, or Sibelius First where I suspect I will hit a limitation at some point — although not in my current test — but where the output requires very little tweaking to get a good result. The “no regrets” upgrade path with Finale PrintMusic is attractive.
For what it is worth, I’ve bought a copy of Sibelius First having decided that getting good looking output quickly is worth the extra money. If and when I hit limitations in Sibelius First, I hope that an upgrade path will be possible, or else I’ll be using MuseScore.
In the past (or at least since I’ve been using a Mac), I’ve bought upgrades to OS X on the day that they have been released. Having said that, it has usually been a month (or even several months) before I’ve actually upgraded.
I remember the transition from Tiger to Leopard being particularly painful. Although the operating system came out in the Autumn, I didn’t attempt to update my iMac until Christmas because some of the software that I used was not ready for Leopard. When I did upgrade my iMac, I ended up reverting back to my Tiger system within about 24 hours or so because of problems. (I’ve been a keen user of SuperDuper which is an excellent way of cloning one’s main drive to produce a bootable back up from which one can restore.) Sometime in the following year I upgraded my MacBook successfully and my MacMini and then eventually updated the iMac.
The transition to Snow Leopard went more smoothly. Again I didn’t do it for a month or two while waiting for applications to be declared stable, but the upgrade went smoothly with no problems that I can recall on both my MacBook and the iMac. The Mac Mini couldn’t be upgraded to Snow Leopard because of hardware limitations.
With Lion and the download from the App Store, the buying and installing steps can be one and the same and so there is no real point in buying so that one has it ready for when one thinks the time is opportune. On this occasion, only my MacBook is a candidate for being updated as the iMac is one of the first Intel based iMac machines and so only has a Core Duo processor rather than Core 2 Duo.
I haven’t even thought of updating the MacBook OS yet. I know that I will need to do the following:
- check software for compatibility
- clean up the machine as there is precious free space on the hard drive currently
- consider whether running different OS on my iMac and MacBook will be too disruptive.
My impression from reviews is that it is definitely an advantage to have a laptop with one of the modern trackpads that can do all the gestures (or to buy a Magic Trackpad for a desktop Mac). Needless to say, my MacBook is sufficiently old that I’m not going to be able to use many gestures.
Lion clearly marks a major change in philosophy for the operating system in many ways. The introduction of versioning, interaction with more gestures, and the “consumerisation” of the computer are an acceleration in the direction that Apple now seems to be moving. It remains to be seen, how many Apple users slip away in this transition. There is also the problem that some of the new features may not be fully baked yet and so prove a little fragile. This article by TedLandau in the Mac Observer is a good summary of some of problems facing early adopters.
It would be nice to play with Lion, but I suspect that I will leave it a couple more months (at least until there are one or two “point” releases) and possibly until I need to replace on of my machines.
One issue that is guaranteed to get me frustrated and annoyed is problems with web sites that don’t work either because they have been designed to work with specific browsers, or assume a certain screen size, or fail to take account of users that may have visual disabilities. This is becoming a more pressing issue as in the UK (and presumably many other countries), more and more of one’s every day tasks have to be conducted on line.
I recently had an appeal for help from a friend who has been applying for jobs, but many employers only allow online applications and she was having problems because the form would not submit from her computer or would produce errors that were unhelpful and puzzling to her. I’ve had similar problems in the past with sites that refuse to work with anything other than Internet Explorer (which is useless for anyone using a Mac, a Linux system or any tablet), or sites that have been designed in a way where I’ve been unable to get to certain items on drop down lists because there is no way of scrolling the list on my screen. While in some ways things have got better over the past few years because of the existence of devices like the iPad, a move to standards, and the greater prevalence of Mac computers, problems still arise. Given the push for many government services to be delivered online, the very people who often need to access those services are often the least likely to have a computer, or have to use a computer at a library where there may be a fairly restrictive firewall, or have only a very old computer running an old operating system and browser.
Another problem that can often arise is that many people now only use web based
All of this is even more complicated for those people with vision problems who may be using a screen reader (that is absolutely not going to cope with a complex layout) and even those of us who are partially colour blind can often be at a complete loss on some sites where the colour either makes the screen unreadable or where the instructions are to press a particular coloured button but which we can’t identify.
I remember a news item from a few years ago where even accessing a bank system via a screen reader was enough to set off security alarms.
There is a lot that needs to be done for accessibility and much more care needs to be taken by governments and corporations in their web site development, particularly thinking about how their site is going to work when used by those who are not comfortable with computers, or with disabilities or who are using old software or assistive technologies.
I think yesterday’s announcements from the Apple WWDC covered much of the material that had been trailed or been wanted.
The announcements on OS X Lion had already been widely previewed by Apple. I think the main revelation is that it will be coming in July (rather than later in the year) and will be under $30 rather than much more expensive. The other surprise is that there is apparently going to be no DVD — it will be a download from the Mac App Store. I feel from time to time that Apple doesn’t always appreciate that in many countries (including the US and Western Europe), broadband is not always as pervasive as it is on the Apple campus. A 4GB download (which I think is what is being described as its size) is a significant part of bandwidth allowance for many people in the UK (even on ADSL connections, 5GB, 10GB and 20GB caps are pretty common) and even “unlimited” may not mean much more, or may only apply to bandwidth used overnight. There is also the problem of download speed — many people only get 2Mb/s or less (in fact when I’m in South Wales I get a lot less than 1Mb/s and would probably have to expect a download time of 9 or 10 hours). Worse still, there are people who still are only able to get
The updates in iOS 5 that are due out in the autumn look fairly compelling and include many of the things that folks have been asking for. The new notifications system is overdue (and I suspect will lead to notifications being used a lot more). The removal of the need for a USB wired connection to a computer will mean that iDevices can become standalone devices and make it possible for some folks to just have an iPad rather than a computer. Obviously this does rely on iCloud and decent bandwidth — although I note that they are going to move to delta updates which should improve things. I’m not sure how successful the iMessaging service will be, particularly in countries where it would appear everyone just uses SMS. iOS5 will apparently support the same iDevices as iOS4, so at least there isn’t another step of obsolescence there.
After the various attempts at cloud computing I hope that Apple have learnt enough to get things right this time. I’ve had no particular problems with MobileMe (although explaining how the syncing works between iDevices and computers and MobileMe in calendars and the like has not been easy — although it is clearer with the new MobileMe calendar which was obviously a start of the transition). It certainly is not a quick service (particularly here in Europe) — mail sometimes takes ages to load and the iDisk can also take several minutes to access. I would feel happier if Apple had multiple data centres around the world as reliability has fallen short from time to time. Subject to my concerns about bandwidth, I really hope that this effort succeeds. The Music Matching (which allows material not bought from iTunes but imported in to one’s iTunes library to be matched with the corresponding iTunes media in the iCloud without uploading) could be a significant boon and advantage over other competing services, although I notice that although the Music Matching is available straightaway in the US, there is no date for the roll out elsewhere. It will be interesting to see how the transition to the iCloud operates. Those of us already with MobileMe get an automatic MobileMe extension to June 30th, 2012. I noted that iCLoud will be free for Lion and iOS5 users which raises the question of what happens to folks who cannot upgrade to Lion or iOS5 or who have a mixture of devices some of which cannot be upgraded. Do they effectively have to buy new hardware before June next year?
Overall, I think there are going to be some fun times ahead with Lion next month and then iOS5 after the summer (and possibly new hardware as well).
In a previous post I mentioned using Calendar events to automatically download podcasts over night. When I set this up I just added an Events calendar (to keep this daily repeating event separate from everything else so that I could filter out its view). However this was still within my MobileMe Calendar. This meant that this calendar and its events was being synchronised to my other Mac computer and also to my iPad and iPod touch. This was annoying for two reasons:
- It added an item to every day on the calendar which while a little annoying on my iMac wasn’t too bad as it could be filtered, but was really annoying on my iPod Touch and IPad where it is more difficult to filter calendars. (As far as I can tell you can display all calendars, or an individual calendar, but can’t filter out individual calendars.)
- The associated event also appeared so that on my iMac I would get an error message each day saying the event hadn’t run because the script couldn’t be found. On the iPod Touch and iPad a notification for the event would come up on the device.
The answer to this problem is not entirely trivial. The new MobileMe calendar is effectively stored in the cloud and distributed to devices and as far as I can see you get all of it subject to some filtering on the iOS devices where events beyond a certain point in the past are not synchronised. Therefore this event/action for executing the script needs to be in a local calendar. This can be done by creating a new calendar in the “On My Mac” group:
I moved the Events calendar from my MobileMe group to the On My Mac group (and also renamed it to Alarms — Autorun).
However, I discovered that this didn’t quite solve the problem as this calendar also become synchronised to my iMac. To solve this one needs to go in to the MobileMe preferences and on the Sync tab
This means that the local “Alarms — autorun” calendar now stays firmly on my MacBook which is where I keep my main iTunes Podcast library. The next time one opens the calendar on an iOS device these events and alarms will disappear as they are syncing through the cloud MobileMe.
I imagine that you need to make sure that you are not synchronising calendars to iOS devices via iTunes. However, if you are using MobileMe you probably shouldn’t be using iTunes syncing for calendars in any case as it should be the cloud syncing (and if you have both, the calendars probably have multiple entries!)
I’m not sure if this helps anyone else, but at least it is a record for me when in six months time I’ve forgotten what I did.
As a follow up to an item I posted about two weeks ago, the UK has deferred the requirement for websites to comply with new European inspired rules on internet tracking for a year. Apparently only two countries (as of yesterday) have implemented the rules: Estonia and Denmark. (Denmark is currently getting a rough press in the UK for its disapproval of Marmite.)
The UK view seems to be that it would like to put the onus more on to the browser makers and using “