While watching a tv series encoded with divx, in avi package format on a Macbook installed with Leopard, I noticed that Front Row would randomly crash and return to the desktop.

First step in investigating what was causing the crash is to look at the syslog.

  • Open up Terminal (Applications => Utilities => Terminal)
  • Go to the /var/log directory (cd /var/log)
  • View the syslog file (less system.log)
  • Go down to the latest entries in the log file (Shift + G)
  • Look for a line saying “Saved crashreport to /Users/[username]/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/Front Row_2008-04-27” or something to that effect. The username will be your Mac OS X username and the date attached to the Front Row text will of course be different.  These crash logs are created whenever a program you are running stops for some unknown reason (i.e. a crash).
  • Press “q” to quit the “less” program.
  • Goto the CrashReporter directory (cd /Users/[username]/Library/Logs/CrashReporter). Replace [username] with your username.
  • Open the latest Front Row crashlog with “less” (less Front Row_2008_2008-04-27). If you’re having trouble typing the name, just hit the Tab key, which will attempt to fill in the blanks as best as possible, creating spaces with escape characters.
  • Look for the line saying “Crashed Thread” and note the number beside it. In my case it was “22”.
  • Now use the search function within “less” by hitting forward slash “/” then typing “Thread 22”. This is case sensitive so make sure you capitalize “T” in Thread.
  • You should see Thread 22 Crashed: followed by what file was related to the crash of Front Row.  In my case it was listed as “com.yourcompany.XviD_Codec”.

If you continue reading, you’re doing the following AT YOUR OWN RISK.  You can royally screw up Front Row and any type of movie/video watching by performing the following, so if you have any qualms, do not perform the next steps.

My fix was to move the AppleIntermediateCodec.component and AppleMPEG2Codec.component files from /Library/QuickTime to a backup directory and replace it with Xvid_Codec 1.0 alpha.component which is detailed in another post on how to watch xvid encoded avi files on Mac OS X. To move these two files elsewhere, create a backup directory on your home directory (mkdir ~/QuickTime_backup) then use the “mv” command (mv AppleIntermediateCodec.component ~/QuickTime_backup/) (mv AppleMPEG2Codec.component ~/QuickTime_backup). Now install the alpha xvid component for Mac.

Make sure QuickTime isn’t running, or fully Quit QuickTime and then start Front Row and attempt to watch the same file that was causing Front Row to crash before.

The reasoning behind removing these two QuickTime codecs is that they aren’t on another MacBook book of mine, which doesn’t have Front Row crashing problems.  That’s the only logic I have behind this fix.

So far, the change has worked.

Best of luck.

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With large files, sometimes it’s easier handling them split into many smaller files.  In order to rejoin the files one typically uses a file joining program.  I came across two that could possibly perform file joins: MacHacha and Split & Concat.

Turns out that MacHacha has some issues, perhaps related to Leopard, as after reaching the last file of a 75 part file series, it simply hung on searching for the next part (which didn’t exist).

Split & Concat on the other hand, handled the files without issue and has the option of specifying the output directory though the Options button before the start of a join session.

My vote goes to Split & Concat for file joining software on Mac OS X.

To reduce the temperature of my MacBook Pro I use smcFanControl by Hendrik Holtmann.  Normally my MacBook Pro would run somewhere close the 55-60C mark without doing anything intensive, say a 10-15% average CPU utilization.  I found this somewhat hot for my tastes, especially when using the built in keyboard where it would be uncomfortably hot to touch the speaker/heat dissipation grilles on either site of the keyboard.

I generally run the two internal MacBook Pro fans at 2600rpm each to keep the temperature 50C or below, depending on ambient temperature.  The cost is a little fan noise which is noticeable in a dead quiet room.  If you’ve got any music or background noise, you won’t notice it.  Either way, it’ll blend into the background quickly since it’s “white” noise anyways.

I’m unsure which version is the latest for smcFanControl so here’s another link to smc Fan Control version 2.1.2 in case it’s more recent than the above link.

This post was due to a comments discussion on how to turn off the macbook pro display when using an external display for Front Row.

When outputting a movie to an external TV or projector it’s nice to not show the video on your Mac’s main display since it’s distracting. Closing the lid on a MacBook Pro makes it go to sleep and the only way to prevent the MacBook from sleeping with the lid closed is through some serious kernel hacks.

Apple’s Front Row has a feature that makes the secondary screen will go blank and dark when the Front Row is started. The trick to make your main MacBook display go blank when outputting Front Row to the secondary screen is to make your secondary screen the primary display. This is done through System Preferences => Display Preferences.

When you have the DVI to Video Adapter connected to your MacBook Pro and connected to a TV or other type of external display, open up Display Preferences. Within Display Preferences, choose Arrangement. You should see two blue squares that represent each display, main and secondary. On the main display you’ll notice a bar along the top. Simply click and drag this bar from the Main Display (usually on the left and large) to the secondary display, to make it the Primary or Main display. Close Display Preferences. Launch Front Row by hitting Apple key + Esc or by hitting the Menu on your Apple Remote. Front Row will launch and turn off the MacBook main display so that you can enjoy a distraction free viewing experience for your movies and videos on an external display.

Enjoy.

Apple Spotlight PDF ATSServer

I recently copied over a set of PDF ebooks from an external drive to my “home” folder (usually your login name under Places within Finder) and a few minutes after that my Macbook Pro fan started to go nuts and I noticed my CPU temperature was up near the 70 degree C mark.

Cutting to the chase (fix): Open up System Preferences -> Spotlight Preferences -> Click Privacy button -> Click + button at bottom left and add the directory where you’ve just put your PDF files. In a few minutes, ATSServer will stop going nuts.

I quickly loaded up Activity Monitor (found under Applications -> Utilities in Finder, if nothing shows up after starting Activity Monitor, hit Apple key + 1), sorted processes by CPU descending (by clicking on the CPU column) and noticed that a process called ATSServer was hitting about 60% CPU time with mdworker below it at about 23%.

These two processes were really chewing up processor time and I had no idea what I had done to set this off, having never seen ATSServer before, I googled “What is ATSServer?” and found a forum thread on support.apple.com where people were batting around theories of what was causing ATSServer to go nuts.

For me it turned out to be the PDF books that I had just copied over to my Documents folder. Turns out that Spotlight, Apple’s file and text indexing service, tries to parse text in files, make thumbnails of pdfs (dear god),
and many other things including the kitchen sink.

Here’s an excerpt from Apple on Spotlight (warning PDF file) when they released Spotlight with Tiger (OS X 10.4):

Spotlight is comprehensive. Spotlight searches across your documents, images, movies, music, PDFs, email, calendar events, and system preferences. It can find some- thing by its text content, filename, or information associated with it, known as metadata. This allows you to find a photo by entering the brand of camera that took it, the name of the person who emailed it to you, or the date you last opened it.

I guess Spotlight is a bit too ambitious when it comes to PDF files. Simply copying over 300MB worth of PDF docs shouldn’t cause Spotlight to lose its mind. My guess is that it’s attempting to parse all the text within the PDFs and put those results into Spotlights database. Result: nastiness. PDF’s are exactly “fun” to parse I guess.

  1. Vista sucks.
  2. OS X rocks.
  3. Web Apps.
  4. Mac Bling.
  5. Mac at Last Gen PC Price.
  6. Bootcamp parachute.

Points 1 & 2 are self-explanatory.

3. Web Apps

People are no longer afraid of not being able to run their Windows apps because… nearly everything is becoming a web application. The only thing you need to run a web app is a web browser, which is free and already installed.

Most devastating to Microsoft’s crumbling empire was/is GMail. Email is the most used Internet service. Everyone gets email (even possibly the AOLers).

GMail virtually eliminated spam. And now, everyone has a GMail address.

GMail, is a web app.

Web App = Operating System Agnostic. Bye-bye chains of Windows servitude.

4. Bling

People like to show off their richesse. Ladies will buy a thousand dollar Louis Vuitton handbag to hold a set of house keys. Why not a sleek sexy Macbook Pro to hold their SSH keys?

5. Price… not so bad

Macs are more expensive than a similarly equipped PC. Regardless, with a Mac you’re getting more style, functional form, sexiness, and envious looks from the Dell drones. Mac’s are simply “badass”. Walk into any Apple flagship store and everything will make sense.

Now, consider the purchase price a current Mac. Most people buy a new computer every 3 to 5 years. The price of their last computer was likely similar or even more expensive than the current Mac / Macbook they’re eyeing. Perhaps this is why Mac sales can grow, even in a recessionary economy.

6. Bootcamp

The idea of plunging into uncharted waters of Mac-land is a scary prospect to the long-term PC crowd, myself included. Knowing that if you really needed to, you could jump back into Windows with a quick reboot, or through VMWare Fusion while still running OS X… is the golden parachute.

Bootcamp eliminated the worry of becoming the prodigal son and returning to the Windows scene, tail between legs.

Even if the newly converted enlightened never touch bootcamp, simply having it as an option, handholds a lot of people through the Windows to OS X transition and sells a lot of Macs.

Brilliant marketing.

Have I forgotten anything? Have your say by leaving a comment.

This will be painfully obvious to the old school Mac crew, but having been a recent convert from twenty years of PC’ing, I recently discovered how cool it is to play movies and videos from my Macbook Pro.  It’s like having a digital entertainment suite in your computer, complete with remote control that wows the crowd.

Front Row

Pressing Apple key + Escape key will fade out your screen to black and then Front Row will show up with selections such as Movies, which lists all video files in your Movies folder within Finder. If you’ve got your remote handy you can navigate this menu using the + and – buttons to go up and down the list, using Play/Pause to make a menu item selection. To go back or Up a menu selection you can either press the Escape key on the keyboard or the circular small Menu button on the remote.

If you haven’t already, consider install a DivX decoder and Perian so that you get great video format playback capabilities on your Mac.  Otherwise you may run into the situation where videos you’ve saved on your Mac play without sound and possibly without video either.

After having returned my original Macbook Pro battery (made by Sony) and receiving my new SMP made lithium-polymer battery unit, my “at rest” macbook pro battery life reads 5 hours 25 minutes upon fresh unplugging.

How long does your new Macbook Pro battery last?

If you’ve noticed that your Macbook or Macbook Pro purchased in 2006 or 2007 is losing its battery life at an alarming rate, you’re not alone. Apple has had a very large batch of Sony lithium-ion polymer batteries for their laptops that are losing their maximum charge capacity very quickly.

System Profiler - Power

If you’ve noticed that your 4 hour battery life dropping to just over 2 hours recently, check your System Profiler for some information about your laptop battery power system.

System Profile can be found in Finder => Applications => Utilities => System Profiler.

Once you have System Profiler open, find Power underneath Hardware. Click on that item and on the right side of the window, scroll down until you find the Battery Information heading.

The three values we’re interested in are Full charge capacity (mAh), Cycle count, and Battery health.

A normal reading for Full charge capacity is about 5200-5400 mAh (milliamp hours). That translates into just over 4 hours battery life. Cycle count is how many times the battery has been used to capacity and recharged. Battery health is a word describing overall life expectancy and condition of the battery.

Remember that Apple has published on its Apple Support site that their laptop batteries are designed to hold 80% of its original charge capacity after 300 cycles (see the footnotes).

Doing the math, that means the Full charge capacity should be around 4160 to 4320 mAh after 300 cycles. If your Macbook battery is failing, like mine, it should read less than 3250 mAh, with a Health of “Fair” after far less than 300 cycles.

But, don’t despair. With that juicy price paid for the best laptop available on the market comes pretty good customer service. Bring your Macbook into an authorized service center, an Apple flagship store, or call up Apple support hotline and explain the situation. Also note that there are several support forum threads on Apple.com about users describing the same situation and what Apple has done for them:

http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1227431&tstart=0

http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1300374&tstart=0

For Macbook users experience battery life problems as described above the warranty coverage is being extended to two years, so even if your Macbook is out of warranty, your battery may still be in warranty.

I currently have a battery being sent to me and we’ll see how things turn out.

Good luck.

Blocked Flash AdBlocking Flash in Camino has been an On/Off affair until recently. Camino browser had implemented the FlashBlock software directly into its browser, but unfortunately, it didn’t have a whitelist where you can specify sites to allow Flash to run. So you either blocked Flash from all sites or no sites.

Although this is still the case, there is a hack that allows you to create a whitelist of sites where Flash should still be enabled. The hack is reproduced here:

Create a userContent.css file within the Camino Application Support “chrome” directory. Open up a Terminal window (found under Applications/Utilities) and enter:

cd ~/Library/Application Support/Camino/chrome
touch userContent.css

If you’ve got Textmate

mate userContent.css

If not, go into Finder, find the above “chrome” directory underneath your “Home” directory (usually your login name) and open the userContent.css file by Cmd-Clicking or two finger tap “right clicking”, Open With > Other > TextEdit.

Paste in the following code:

@-moz-document domain(youtube.com), domain(google.com)
{
object[classid*=":D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000"],
object[codebase*="swflash.cab"],
object[data*=".swf"],
embed[type="application/x-shockwave-flash"],
embed[src*=".swf"],
object[type="application/x-shockwave-flash"],
object[src*=".swf"]
{ -moz-binding: none !important; }
}

Notice the YouTube.com and Google.com domains within “domain()”. Add more of those with the domain of sites you want to allow Flash to run. This is your whitelist of sites where Flash is permitted to run.

After this, save the userContent.css file and shut down Camino completely (Cmd-Q) and restart it. Then go into Camino Preferences > Web Features > Block Flash animations, check this tick box.

Now try opening up YouTube.com and you should see the page working as normal. All Flash based videos should still work. Now try out a site with an obscene amount of Flash Advertisements like http://bloomberg.com. Where the Flash ads would be normally you should see the Adobe “f” instead.

If this doesn’t work for you, make sure you named the file correctly “userContent.css”, put it in the right directory “~/Library/Application Support/Camino/chrome”, and have completely shut down Camino (not just its windows, but truly Quit the program), and restarted, and that you’ve turned on the Block Flash animations option under Web Features in Preferences.

The above hack was kindly provided by Camino at http://caminobrowser.org/documentation/annoyances/