SITX files

“SITX”: his is a file format for unstuffit. I have “Unarchiver”: which is like 7zip on Windows. It unarchives most obscure formats, but with SITX, it tries and then says it can’t. Only way to extract a SITX file on the Mac is to use Stuffit’s free expander utility


“Appigo ToDo”: was recommended by John. He is right. It is a terrific To Do list manager and it syncs up into the cloud. I’ve normally used Outlook’s Notes to do this between PC and Blackberry (for free!), but iPhone doesn’t support notes nor does Mac Mail and so there is no sync into the cloud.

In any case, this is another example of a smaller dedicated application being better. In truth, I think dividing Calendar, Address Book, Mail and Notes makes more sense than having one monolithic application particularly on devices like iPhone and on today’s fast computers.

Now if only someone made a group scheduling application that worked seamlessly across Mac, iPhone and Blackberry, I’d be happy! And please don’t suggest Exchange with Entourage, it doesn’t do so many important things. Here’s a list:

# iPhone to Exchange. Doesn’t let you add invites from the iPhone. Doesn’t let you schedule recurring meetings that happen say on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday every week.
# Mac Entourage to Exchange. Doesn’t let an assistant see invites coming over email so invites just stack up in someone’s folders. Fix looks like some sort of server rule forwarding which should be form based.
# iCal to Exchange. Well, this one doesn’t work at all without a third party server side piece or very slow client side synchronization using iSync that is very buggy.
# Blackberry to Exchange. This does work fine. Although there seem to be bugs.
# PC to Exchange. Outlook does work well.

The alternative is to go to Google Calendar, and these are the issues:

# iPhone to gCal. No such client that I can find. Google Calendar doesn’t support ActiveSync which is the way that iPhone talk to the world.
# iCal to gCal. No way that I can find that this works natively. That is it synchronizes properly
# Entourage to gCal. Same deal
# Outlook to gCal. This does work but only via an Outlook add-in
# Blackberry to gCal. They have an automatic synchronizer that works.

So gCal works in the Blackberry/PC world, but not in the Mac/iPhone world. Steve had better tell Eric next time there is an Apple board meeting 🙂

Surround Speaker Systems

Well after picking out the Epson 1080UB Pro Cinema projector as the projector of choice and great for movie afternoons, what do you do about the all important sound system? Well, normally, you normally buy a big honking box that’s called an AVR (audio/video receiver) and then speakers that need big old analog wires. But if everything is digital isn’t there a better way to get 7.1 surround sound without the wires.

Ideally we need a set of wireless speakers that connect via some sort of USB connector to a MacBook to produce great sound and are ideally just use traditional Wifi to get the digital inputs. Each would then have their own amplifier and all you need is the power. So what’s a person to do if you don’t want dedicated A/V components and want to use just a Mac? Well, its a little hard to search for google:”home theater sound system”, but here are some choices that don’t require a wiring closet:

* “Yamaha YSP-4000″: Well, one solution is a single speaker that uses signal procesing to get simulated surround sound. This is the top of the line $1800 all-in-one that is 40.5″x7.6″x575” and weighs 34 pounds. It mounts on the wall below your projection screen/flat screen TV. You then get a matching subwoofer YST-FSW150 for $280, run a calibration for your room and you are set! It processes all formats from Dolby Digital, DTS, DTS:Neo 6 and only misses Dolby TrueHD found on Blueray. The inputs are optical/coax digital and two HDMI inputs. So from a computer, you need a DVI/HDMI converter cable (cheap) and then you need some magic box and software that takes USB and makes it coax digital (need to find that one). The main issue is that even with a bigger subwoofer, it lacks punch (maybe a gigantic “SVS”: can 20-39 PC Plus subwoofer for $850 would help get you down to 20Hz!)
* “Thiel THIELnet”: is brand new, but basically each speaker SCS4D has a 250-watt amplifier and the Subwoofer SSD1 area ll IP addressable. There is a magic box, the dB1 that takes traditional signals and convert them to internet protocol. There is just a “”: website right now, but it is the rigth way to do things. There is a dB1 distributed processor that you put in your wiring closet. It knows where the IP speakers are and there is a Windows application that talks to it. You can have 8 zones for instance.

There are as an aside a host of really good internet only home theater folks I’ve used. You don’t need to buy in a store and the quality is amazingly good cutting out the middle man. Both “Axiom”: and “SVS”: have been great vendors for me.

Reset iCal and Entourage

I’ve had terrible problems with both iCal and Entourage. With iCal, I first tried to use Google Calendar and then started deleting excessive calendars. Then, when I rebooted, I discovered that I couldn’t see any calendars and also that when I tried to add another calendar with New calendar, iCal just hung.

First thing to do when this happens is to start the Console (go to spotlight at upper right and type _console_ and in the search box, type “ical”. I saw right away there was an “Coredata uncaught exception” so something was wrong. A little research showed Coredata are the internal Apple library for managing databases, so it sure feels like a database corruption. First thing to do is to try to reset iCal

Apple – Support – Discussions – How do I completely reset iCal? …

How do I completely reset iCal? I want a really clean startup situation as if iCal has never run on this account. I tried:

rm -rf ~/Library/{Caches,Caches/Metadata,Preferences,Application\ Support}/*iCal*

but when I start iCal after that I get still a calendar mentioned (which I created a while back but is empty) besides Home and Work. I tried removing as above and logging out and in but that also did not work

Unfortunately, this is not quite correct. There is another database called ~/Library/Calendars which is your list of all calendar data. This what was corrupt which is why there was no left pane. There is a problem. Delete these many files and all is really reset.

Now Entourage somehow decided to take one recurring Birthday and make it a daily event spanning 46 years and then repeat that every year. Didn’t appear in Exchange, so this was something in the Entourage not liking what it saw in Exchange. Solution is to complete wide Entourage. Even a database rebuild (in Spotlight, search for Microsoft Database Utility) didn’t help. So you have to go to Account Settings and delete the offending and reinstall. Also delete in ~/Library/Microsoft all the Entourage databases.

Remote desktop between Mac and PC

I use Microsoft Remote Desktop between Windows machines and it is very convenient to logon and see the screen of another computer. For Apple, they have something called Share Screen which is the same thing and is based on “VNC”: protocol that lets you control one computer from another. But what if you want to do this between a Mac to a Windows machine. Very useful if some application only run on a PC and you don’t like the overhead of running Parallels or having to reboot with Basecamp. Just have a Windows machine somewhere and use VNC.

Here is how:

# Use an open source free VNC server and viewer like “RealVNC”: They have paid version, but the free one works for Windows and includes a client and a server.
# On the “Mac”:, there is already a VNC server built in. Go to System Preferences/Sharing and turn on Screen Sharing. It nicely gives you the IP address you use if you have Windows, otherwise if you are controlling this computer from another Mac, you can just see it as a button when you go to the sharing section of finder.
# You still need a Mac client to complete the picture, so you can control a PC. And Tao of Mac recommends “JollysFastVNC”: although “Chicken of the VNC”: comes up first in google:”mac vnc client”

The Tao of Mac – Virtual Network Computing (VNC)

Mac OS X includes a VNC server (check the Sharing preference pane, it’s part of Apple Remote Desktop).

2 port USB car charger and power inverter

I’m such a nerd, right now, I need no less than six car chargers in my car. Here is what I need:

# Escort 9500i. This actually has a dedicated cord that attaches to its own charger. Shame on them for not just using 5V, but OTOH, it works super well I have to say. There is a new model out that let’s you download radar traps online like the TomTom does. It has a GPS, so its logical. Wish I had the new one. So I need one adapter for this.
# iPhone 3G. Just need a USB adapter that is USB
# Jawbone headphone. Has a strange head, but is just USB on the charging end.
# TomTom 720. This is mini USB on one end and regular USB on the other
# Blackberry. This is my chinese phone. Need a mini USB here. It is a high current device, so needs more than 500mA, so doesn’t work with all car adapters.
# MacBook Air. For those long trips, nice to plug it in. Require unfortunately a 120V AC adapter as for some reason the MacBook only has an airplane adapter. Everything fits, but it doesn’t work. This draws 45 watts VAC for the MacBook, so need about 4 amps without losses at 12VDC. Most of these circuits are 8-10 amps out of the car, so that means it should work OK.

Even a new 2008 Mazda with two 12V adapters doesn’t have enough, so here’s a solution:

# Two port USB, I can get the TomTom and the iPhone working. That’s two devices.
# Four adapter on the inside has the 120VAC adapter, then two splitters with a total of four USB ports for the Jabra, Blackberry, Escort, MacBook with one left over.