iPhoto 5 crash solution

As anyone reading my blog knows, many consider me some sort of computing god that can miraculously fix anything that looks, smells, or in any other way resembles a computer. Some even feel that computers fear me, as my mere presense makes them work correctly. “Matt, why does it do….. now that’s funny, it’s working now. I swear it didn’t work yesterday when I did that!”

In reality, I’m nothing close to divine. What I am, beyond being gifted with computers, is highly pragmatic. I’m extremely good at solving problems. So today, I’ll walk you through a problem I just solved and teach you (and others) how to solve similar problems for yourselves.

Two days ago I had a buddy and business associate here at my home. I was demonstratrating some techniques for managing digital media workflow, particularly relating to video and DVD production. As part of this, I was showing off some cool stuff in iPhoto ’05 which I just upgraded to a couple weeks ago. However, I discovered that every time I clicked the “print” button, iPhoto crashed. This does not reflect well on Mr. Computer Wizard.

A quick google didn’t turn anything up, so I resolved to address the problem another day. Today was that day so I did a more extensive Google search which still didn’t turn up anything. There are millions of people using iPhoto, and many thousands that have upgraded to iPhoto ’05. Nobody else has reported this issue so that tells me that this problem is unique to my system. Oddly, everything else in iPhoto works perfectly. It occurred to me that I do have two export plugins installed (BetterHTMLExport & iPhoto2Gallery) so I removed both and still had the same problem.

One of the things I know and love about Mac OS X is that when an app crashes, it writes a crash log, like any good Operating System should. So, I checked out the contents of ~/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/iPhoto.crash.log. That file has all sorts of useful stuff in it for programmers, but it didn’t really indicate what the problem might be.

The next thing to check was the logs to see if they provided any clues. I perused through /var/log/system.log and found that iPhoto is a good app and does log errors to syslog but it didn’t log anything that would help me resolve this problem.

I finally turned to a last resort. I ran iPhoto from terminal (/Applications/iPhoto.app/Contents/MacOS/iPhoto) which runs iPhoto and spits any debug output to the terminal window. Not all applications are good enough to actually spit out useful error messages so this was really just a wing and a prayer but it turned out to be the clue that solved my problem. I tried clicking “print” in iPhoto and these were the last lines in my terminal windows as iPhoto crashed:

2005-04-08 11:08:26.042 iPhoto[4631] loaded /Applications/iPhoto.app/Contents/PlugIns/KeywordAssistant.bundle
Bus error

Oh yeah, I had that plug-in installed as well. Doh! I deinstalled it, and voila, my problem was solved. I checked out the developers site and sure enough, a new iPhoto 5 compatible version was available.

In summary, my problem with iPhoto was self-inflicted. I had installed a plug-in, forgotten about it, and then caused myself a problem when I upgraded to iLife ’05. Learn from my error. If you don’t have the skills or bravery to troubleshoot a problem like this, don’t install third party plug-ins. If you neglect this advise, don’t blame your primary vendor when something breaks, it’s most likely your own fault and you should be using techniques I have just demonstrated to determine exactly what the problem is.

Cell Phone Data Plans

I just have to take a minute to rave about how nice it is to have cell phone data service for my laptop. A couple weeks back on our departure flight from Grand Rapids, our flight was delayed a bit due to the inclement weather. We were already boarded on the jet and the attendants never provide you with enough information. I whipped out my laptop and cell phone, visited The Weather Channel and was able to inform the passengers that the storm was below us and unlike everyone in Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnatti, and Indianapolis, we would probably get to depart.

We’re now on our way home, sitting in Atlanta, waiting for our connecting flight. My emails are downloading in the background and I’m posting a blog entry. This is far better than paying for a subscription to WiFi service. With Sprint, I add a $15 Vision pack to my cell phone subscription. The WiFi subscriptions available in some airports cost that much, and only work in a few airports. I have access in any metro area in the country, and on most freeways. Nice.

Our flight back from Costa Rica to Atlanta was uneventful, exactly the way we like flights to be. The weather in Grand Rapids looks interesting, but not severe enough to impact our arrival. We should be home in about 6 more hours.

iMac 17″ for sale

Do you know someone looking for an iMac but can’t afford a new one? I have a 17″ iMac G4 (800MHz) for sale. I am the original purchasor, as this was Jen’s iMac. It was top of the line with the just released 17″ LCD display, 80GB hard drive, SuperDrive, 56k modem, Ethernet, and speakers. I bumped the RAM up to 768MB and added an Airport (WiFi) card. I did a price search on eBay and this system currently sells between $1,000 and $1,200. This system would lean towards the higher end of that range due to the SuperDrive, extra RAM, and Airport options. It’s a great little computer but it’s being replaced because a faster system is needed.

To buy it’s replacement (17″ iMac G5 1.8GHz, 512MB, SuperDrive) costs $1,700 direct from Apple. Despite this systems ability to fetch over $1k on eBay, I’d sell it for a little less to someone I know.

Some people don’t get the iPod

It’s no secret that in psychological terms, humans have a tendancy to project their world view onto others. Because of this, they often have have quite distorted views of reality. I found this iPod user review to be a classic example. It seems iPod users have been giving each other “the nod”. His assumption is that because he bought his to “be cool”, that so too have all other iPod users. How absurd.
Continue reading “Some people don’t get the iPod”

Cellular And IP Telephony Update

I’m now a Sprint PCS customer for the next 12 months. Despite not having quite the plan I wanted, and despite a very limited selection of phones (which do not support bluetooth), they do have a decent nation-wide plan, as well as adequate local service in northern Michigan. Almost as important, it saved a friend a $150 contract termination fee by taking over her contract.

For my purposes, data access is as important as the cell coverage. Sprint PCS has what they call “Vision”. Vision encompasses many things such as web surfing on your phone, picture exchange, etc. The short version is simply that for $15/mo I get internet access at ISDN speeds, anywhere Sprint has vision coverage (most everywhere). This is quite cool.

Today I purchased a $23 cable at Radio Shack. I plugged the cable into the phone and the USB port on my powerbook. Right now, Jen is driving 85mph down US-131 on our way to a Third Day concert in Ypsilanti. At the same time, my cell phone is charging (via my laptops USB port) and I’m typing this blog entry on my Powerbook, connected to the internet through my Sanyo 8100 cell phone. Slick.

Oh, and one more question just got answered. I can also receive calls from telemarketers on the cell phone while connected to the Intenet.

On a related note, my Packet 8 IP phone has a useful “forwarding” feature. Instead of doing a “normal” forward like your traditional (POTS) line, it forwards the call to a number and rings in on the IP phone at the same time. Whichever phone picks up the call first gets it. Now, should you call my home phone, after I fail to answer in two rings, it rings my cell phone. Very slick. 🙂

I am fairly pleased with Packet 8 but their call quality leaves a bit to be desired. As soon as VoicePulse provides service in my area, I’ll be jumping ship. Their service costs $5 more for unlimited national calling but offers a many more useful features in addition to better call quality. If I lived in an area where I could get my number transferred to VoicePulse, I’d do it poste haste.

NicTool announcement

NicTool is a project I’ve been slightly involved with for a few years. I happened upon it while searching for a DNS management application while working for HostPro in Bellevue, back in 2001. We liked it more than the commercial DNS management suites and purchased a license for it, essentially funding development of some features we needed. After that, the founders went their seperate ways and development ceased.

I approached them earlier this year, petitioning them to allow me to Open Source the code and give away NicTool under GPL terms. They agreed so I built the new NicTool web site, made some minor enhancements to the code, and have spent a fair bit of time writing documentation for it. The initial effort is complete. The code is available, documentation exists, and NicTool now has a future.

Cell Phone Conundrum

I need a cell phone and service, and getting the right deal has proven suprisingly difficult. Maybe you can help?

My reprieve from being married to a cell phone is nearing it’s end and I have a choice to make. Because of my personality, I have already done some research to determine what’s available that will suite my needs the best. I have found exactly what I want, I just can’t get it. My ideal service plan is as follows:

AT&T Shared GSM National, two lines with 900 shared anytime minutes (from anywhere, to anywhere), two bluetooth equipped phones (Nokia 6820, Motorola T616), unlimited nights and weekends, nights begin at 7pm, unlimited mobile to mobile, $0 setup, and $80 per month.

For my needs, this is absolutely perfect. We already have unlimited free long distance with our IP phone so it’s highly unlikely that we’d ever exceed the 900 minute plan and AT&T has fantastic coverage all over the country. The only problem with this plan is that I can’t buy it. AT&T doesn’t offer “local” coverage in Northern Michigan and willl not sell a service plan for use here.

I have exactly the same problem with T-mobile. They too offer a very similar package but once again, do not offer service here. I’ve checked with the regional cell phone providers in the area (Cellular One, Alltel) and neither offer a calling plan that I want to be limited by for a year. Cingular doesn’t offer service here, so the only option I see is Sprint.

I dislike Sprint for several reasons. The coverage up here is very spotty, I don’t like the phones they offer, their data service is expensive, and I’d have to pay a fair amount more to activate service and buy the phone. With AT&T and T-Mobile, I can get a cheap data plan, free phone & activation, and a good service plan.

Ideas for a solution anyone? Ideally I could get an AT&T plan but as far as I know, I cannot do so without crossing ethical boundaries.

Compact Flash – Finally!

My single biggest annoyance with my Nikon D70 camera has been swapping flash cards. I shoot in JPEG Fine so I can fit about 75 photos on a 256MB flash card. I have two of these and am quite adept at swapping them as soon as I’ve filled up the first. Having two 256MB flash cards just isn’t enough. When I shoot panoramas, I burn through 10-20 shots each. Shooting just a few of those will leave me in want of space.

On our Alaska trip I toted along my PowerBook to offload the photos as I filled the flash cards. I also took it to have a full darkroom at my disposal but there are occasions like our Isle Royale trip where it’s impractical to take the PowerBook, or even an iPod with Griffin’s media reader.

Until recently, the options for solving this problem have been: a) pay through the nose for a big (1GB +) flash card, buy an iPod mini or Nomad 4GB mp3 player for $250 and rip the 4GB flash card out of it, or just wait for the prices to become reasonable. Now that fast 1GB cards can be had for under $100, there’s no reason not to upgrade. Pick a fast card from Rob Gilbraith’s site and then use PriceGrabber to find it cheap.

I picked up a SanDisk Ultra II 1.0GB for $89 shipped to my door. That’s a far better deal than buying more 256MB flash cards locally for $60 each.

More IP phone problems

This evening our IP phone service went AWOL again. Apparently Packet 8 had a database issue where they lost a cluster of accounts. Ours was one of them so when we tried making a call, it didn’t work. Fortunately, we have three other phone lines in the house with which to call them.

They fixed the problem in about 10 minutes and are giving me a $4 credit for the inconvenience. I’m not as happy as if it hadn’t happened, but twice now I’ve called with a problem and I get a support person very quickly. They resolve issues very quickly as well. I am quite satisfied with their technical support thus far.

Phone works

After a phone call to Packet8 this morning, my old and new phone numbers now both work. Yay. 🙂