For Sale: G5 PowerMac Dual 1.8, SD, 160GB+900GB RAID, 1GB

It’s likely heading for eBay soon, but not before I offer it to friends and family. The system bone stock is worth about $1,200 on eBay. Compare to a new dual 2.0 which is currently $2,000. With all the extra drive space and RAM, it should fetch about $1,600. If you don’t need 900GB of storage, I can pull the disks and cut the price. Photos are available here. The eBay ad follows.

If you are looking to buy a dual G5, I assume that you already know all about them so I won’t repeat the obvious.

This system includes EVERYTHING that shipped with it from the factory. Box, keyboard, mouse, USB extender, vga adapter, airport antennae, unopened manuals, software recovery DVD, power cord, and modem cable.

What is different about my G5 from other dual 1.8s:

1. Single owner – purchased new, a copy of the sales receipt is included.
2. Perfect eBay feedback – Bid with confidence!
3. Applecare – purchased with CPU, good through 12/9/06.
4. 1GB of RAM.
5. Stock 160GB drive + 900GB!
5.1. (3) top of the line 300GB DiamondMax 10 drives in a CCD RAID.
6. Fast-Ethernet PCI card (adds second ethernet port)
7. SeriTek 4 port SATA PCI-X card
8. Lots of valuable extras!

That’s right, $600 worth of hard drives, a 4 port SATA card ( $125), and the G5 Drive Bracket ( are used to pack a few more disks in there and make a killer file server. If 900+160GB is not enough for you, install a few larger drives and have even more space! Voila, one big box that works great as a workstation with gobs o’disk or use it for network attached storage (NAS).

Other Installed Software:
Continue reading “For Sale: G5 PowerMac Dual 1.8, SD, 160GB+900GB RAID, 1GB”


On the very day the Mac Book Pro was announced, I placed my order. In fact, the order was placed within 5 minutes of the Apple Store being re-enabled (it’s typically disabled during such events). I was very excited to get it but all the orders got bumped back so I decided to cancel it and get a 20″ iMac Core Duo since it was available right away. On Tuesday I returned from school to find it sitting next to my desk.

If you have never bought a new Mac, then you might not appreciate the care and elegance with which Apple packages their computers. I’ve done it so many times that I expect it and hardly noticed the nice, well designed packaging. I had work to get done so I ripped it open, yanked out the goodies, and settled into hard core work playtime.


After setting up the iMac on my desk, it created a significant problem. I already had the 20″ and 23″ Cinema Displays hooked up to the G5 dual and they commanded a large portion of my desk. Adding yet another 20″ display consumed what was left. To relieve the crowding problem, I have moved the 20″ into our bedroom for watching movies when connected to the laptop. That will work until it or the 23″ gets sold on eBay.

My intent for this system is to replace one of my dual G5 systems which I can then sell on eBay. The reason it may achieve that goal is Continue reading “IntelliMac”

iTunes Library Management

I recently ripped a whole bunch of wav files using iTunes and made the mistake of importing them into the iTunes library of a second computer. iTunes did not recognize the songs and wasn’t able to index them, so I made the brilliantly stupid mistake of letting iTunes manage my library, thinking that the index might be refreshed, but what happened instead was iTunes moved all the songs into a sub-directory named, “Unknown Album” in a directory named, “Unknown Artist.” Now I can’t identify artists or albums, only song titles. This has to do with wavs not having this information embedded. I’ve still got the original library file on the first computer, so I can manually link to each file, but at this point, I’ve ripped 851 songs and would like to find a way to do a mass reorganization of these files into appropriate album/artist directories. I believe embedding ID3 tags into the files, would facilitate this, but I’m not aware of an exiting method of accomplishing this. Any ideas?


Error #1: Using WAV file format. While there are valid arguments for ripping to WAV files instead of AAC or MP3, I can think of no good reason not to use AIFF instead of WAV. WAV is a file format, not a music format. WAV can consist of AIFF streams, PCM audio streams, or other raw data streams. If you are going to save music files, saving them in an appropriate music oriented format is wise.

Error #2: Unless you happen to have an unlimited supply of disk space or a tiny music collection, using AIFF or WAV files is wasteful. If you must use a loss-less encoding format, use ALE (which reduces file sizes by about half). If you’re obsessive and absolutely must have your files in a “standard” loss-less format, then use AIFF, the same format your files are already encoded in on the CD-ROM.

When you factor in the excellent sound quality achieved by even 128 bit AAC, using anything less space efficient than 160kbit AAC VBR gains you nothing in terms of audio quality. Lest you assume that I speak from ignorance, it’ll help to know that I play my music collection directly from AAC encoded files on my G5. The G5 is connected to the receiver via a Toslink (fiber-optic) cable. Speakers are reference grade Ascend Acoustics CBM-170. They have no detectable color (amazing!) and we use them for studio monitors when I’m playing Sound Engineer. When all filters (EQ, etc) are disabled, there is no discernable difference between my AAC files and the CD deck.

Caveat: The only purpose I can imagine for using a loss-less format is to remove the need to re-rip your CDs in the future. When a newer audio format arrives that you want to re-encode to, you simply insert your DVDs of lossless encoded music and use the iTunes -> Advanced -> Convert to ___ feature. This would be less laborious than re-ripping all your CDs. iTunes will encode the songs into your format of choice and replace the previous version of the song in your library. This has the added advantage of preserving all your iTunes metadata, such as listen count, song rating, etc.

Caveat Notes: Even if you proceed this way, you will still want to encode all your files to AAC or MP3. That’s the format you’ll use everywhere. Why? You want your song library to fit on your laptop hard drive, iPod, car MP3 player, etc. Using a compressed format with embedded ID tags such as MP3 or AAC will also prevent the problem that you are facing right now.

Now, what can be done about the existing situation?

The original iTunes library file (~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Library) file still exists on computer A. Since the file hierarchy is completely lost, it’s time for one of two options:

#1 – start over. Discard everything and re-rip. Follow my advise above.

#2 – all the info needed to sort out the files is embedded in the iTunes Library file, as well as the .xml file that iTunes creates. Write a perl script that parses through the file. Back the file up first! The Library file will have paths that look like this:

Music/Library/iTunes/iTunes Music/Nickelback/The Long Road/Someday.wav

The existing paths to the files looks like this:

Music/Library/iTunes/iTunes Music/Unknown Artist/Unknown Album/Someday.wav

The logic for the perl script will look something like this:

   for each file in Unknown Artist/Unknown Album
       check for matching song name in iTunes Library
          if there’s only one match
          create the artist and album directory
          move the file to the appropriate directory

That simple script will correctly identify and move 99% of the files in about 3 seconds. There will be a few songs with duplicate names that will need to manually moved. It’s faster to manually move them than to program the logic to fix them automatically.

I’d write an example script but I have two books to read and a greek exam to study for. This is enough to put you on the right track.

comment spam

Comment spam is one of the banes of blogging. I have blogged nearly a decade now, longer than blog has been a word. A few years back I switched from manually editing the HTML to Movable Type. It allowed folks to comment on my posts, which was very cool. That worked until the spammers figured out how to increase their Google pagerank by posting comment spam. MT soon became a liability as there was no good way to control comment spam (I tried many) so I disabled the comments feature (as did many).

Soon thereafter, WordPress arrived and I switched. It included a plugin architecture and plugins appeared like ants to a picnic. I tried several comment spam plugins and settled on SpamKarma. It uses a complex (and configurable) heuristic system to determine if a message is spam or not. The goal is that real users get their comments posted immediately and do not need to jump through hoops while spammers are ruthlessly deterred. It works, and it resolved all my problems with comment spam. And we all lived happily ever after…until last month.

As WordPress evolved, I installed newer versions and finally one day, SpamKarma broke, sort of. It still worked, but I would often get emails whining about a new comment spam. Today I installed the latest version of SpamKarma. I’m quite confident that now I can go back to life assured that people can post comments to my blog with ease but spammers get a swift kick in the groin.

If you blog, this is a solution I recommend.

Computers and Memory

You’ll seldom find an old-timer in the computer industry with a computer wanting for memory. However, that’s exactly the predicament I’m in. Allow me to explain, and then offer a quick lesson to the less computer savvy. Until yesterday my PowerBook had 1GB of RAM, and life was good. A friend need to run Windows on her iBook for a class she’s taking. I installed Virtual PC and Windows 98 but she had only 256MB of RAM. That is adequate for running Mac OS X, but not a “heavy” application like Virtual PC. After Virtual PC drug her her iBook to it’s knees, I pulled a 512MB chip out of my PowerBook and installed it in her iBook. Voila, one problem solved.

Today, while using my PowerBook, it was quite sluggish when working in iPhoto. A simple operation that should take 10 seconds would take two minutes. Since Greek has my brain running on overload, it took a while before I remembered that I only have 512MB of RAM now. The major clue was that my hard drive was very busy during that “long pause.” That’s a symptom of “swapping” and a huge clue that you need more RAM. With 2,900 photos in my library, 512MB of RAM is inadequate for the task.

When a computer runs out of memory, it starts using hard drive space as “virtual memory.” This is called swapping. It’s a reasonable solution, but hard drive space is at a few orders of magnitude slower than RAM. The only way to get the best performance from your computer is to make sure you have enough memory that it never swaps. For a few people, 512MB is sufficient. For anyone that uses the media features on a modern OS (Mac OS X, Windows XP), you need at least 768MB.

So, I ordered myself a 1GB module. When it arrives, my PowerBook will be back to it’s speedy little self. For reference, the Apple Store wants $500 for a 1GB memory module. I paid $130. I also purchased four extra 512MB laptop SO-DIMMS for $50 each. If you have an Apple laptop that’s running short on memory, come see me and I’ll even install the RAM for you.

Simerson Housing & Moving

Wow. So much has happened in the last few weeks. The biggest news is that our house in Michigan is SOLD! That happened on July 23rd, days before we lit out of town for Marco’s wedding in Nashville. This blessing came as a big surprise. For starters, there’s an excess of houses on the market in Cadillac, almost a years worth. Our listing price was $25k higher than the next most expensive house on our street. Our neighborhood isn’t the cities finest.

Because of those considerations, we expected to sit on the house for at least a year or two. We expected it so much that we had a renter all lined up and ready to move in as soon as we moved out. Then, as divine providence would have it, we got two excellent offers, a day apart. We had only to pick the best offer (cash, no contingencies) and just like that, our house was sold. Yesterday we signed all the closing documents and overnighted them back to Michigan. The closing will be completed next week.

In previous posts I made note of the moving out party and the blessing our friends were. I’ll pick up the story on Friday evening, the day before the truck arrived with all our stuff.

Because Jen didn’t want me to unload the entire truck by myself (again, as I did in our Atlanta to Cadillac move) we made arrangements to get Jordan (1st cousin, once removed) from the Air Force base in Wichita Falls. On Saturday AM, we discovered it was a 3 hour drive to get him and booked him tickets on a greyhound. The plan was to have the truck unloaded by Sunday evening, in time to take him back to the base.

The truck arrived at 9:20AM and Jordan would be arriving around 2PM, so I set to getting a head start on the unloading. As I was working, Omega, my neighbor across the street saw me working away. He inquired, and then changed his clothes and set to work helping me. Omega is about my size but with an apparent muscular build, hardy work ethic, and is acclimated to the heat. That man worked non-stop with me, all morning long. By 2:30PM when Jen and Jordan arrived, we were hauling in the last big piece of furniture.

For the rest of Saturday and Sunday, we 3 kings of unpacking were. We worked from one room to the next, tearing into boxes and dispersing their contents. Excepting the living room (due to a lack of bookshelves), there are no boxes left in the house. We have the following rooms in order: master bedroom, Kayla’s room, master & guest bath, and kitchen. It’s taken two days to arrange the office.

The office is complex due to sawing and installation of the rack in the guest room closet, stringing Ethernet cables through the attic from room to room, and setting up all the computers in their new environment. The file server is all set up in the server closet (instead of on Jen’s desk) and Jen’s primary computer is now the PowerBook (connected to the 20″ display and external keyboard/mouse).

Why I love technology

Today we drove from Cadillac, MI to Nashville, TN. It should have taken 10 hours, but it took eleven. We are quite thankful to have only been delayed by an hour, and we owe those thanks to technology. As we cruised through Indianapolis, I glimpsed a flashing sign that said something like “accident on SB I-65, closed at mile 50, seek alternate route”. The 50 mile marker was a good hour away so I cruised onward. We scanned the AM frequency several times looking for more traffic info and found nothing.

Once out of Indianapolis, I used my laptop and cellular Internet connection to Google “I-65 accident Indiana” and got no results. It hadn’t made the news wire yet so the flashing sign back in Indianapolis was the only clue that something was amiss. At mile marker 55, I noticed brake lights and a two lane parking lot where the Interstate should be. I noticed it just in time to catch an off ramp.

Southern Indiana consists of narrow single lane roads and lots of corn fields. We followed the traffic for a while on the most obvious alternate route. As the miles long procession crawled along, it became obvious that it was going to take a very long time (hours) to make it to the next freeway ramp. This is where technology saved the day.

Thanks to a GPS receiver and Route 66 (my mapping software) I had complete maps of the area, and I knew exactly where we were. I veered away from traffic and charted a course through the corn fields down country back roads scarcely a lane wide. My alternate route ended up being about 10 miles longer than the other option but was largely untraveled and much faster.

Today on I-65, motorists fell into four camps. The tragic were involved in the accident. The unfortunate didn’t see the warning sign(s) nor the sea of brake lights until they were stuck in miles of parked cars. The fortunate motorists detoured early, or got lucky and were able to get off the freeway. Of the fortunate, only the enlightened few had suitable maps of the area, or knew the area well enough to get through with only a minor setback. We were through Kentucky and into Tennessee before the State Troopers hoped to get traffic moving.

It wasn’t until late this evening that information became available. At about 9:30AM, a car had a blowout. A truck driver swerved and lost control of his truck. He crossed the median and Southbound lanes and was killed when his truck collided with a guard rail. At 3pm traffic was backed up at least 5 miles. Police hoped to have the scene cleared and traffic moving by 6PM.

Today, we were fortunate. Alert driving spotted the backup, luck provided an exit ramp, and technology allowed us to navigate through the corn fields and back to the freeway.

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/ 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/
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.

Enroute to Dallas

We’re cruising past Oklahoma City just now. So far we’ve had a perfectly uneventful trip. We’re about 3 hours from Dallas. The only “odd” thing to happen was getting an email shorty after getting out of Cadillac from a client with a “down server”. I have been unable to make a SSH connection from my Sprint cell phone connection, a recent problem. I need to figure out what’s up with that, but it just happened we were driving past my clients site so we stopped in and fixed his mail server.

They treated us to dinner, we each had to pack in a 22oz steak. It was awfully difficult work, but Justin and I managed to deal with it gracefully.

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.