Me, my life, my interests

Mac OS X Leopard upgrade

I picked up a copy of Apple's Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard on Saturday morning, and set out to upgrade our three Macs in the afternoon. All three installs went without a hitch on our 17" iMac, 15" MacBook Pro and our 13" MacBook. I found this Macworld article helpful in preparing me for my first Mac OS X upgrade experience. For my MacBook Pro, I did the most preparation, by:

  1. Performing a complete data backup
  2. disabling some login items
  3. removing unwanted (or dodgey) preference pane applications
  4. verifying the hard drive
  5. checking application compatibility
  6. checking preference pane application compatibility

For the MacBook, I did a cursory check, and a complete data backup.

For the iMac, I just inserted the disk and upgraded away. There was no data on this anyway - it's all on our ReadyNAS NV+ network storage.

Removed applications

I removed the following from my MacBook Pro after doing a check using Google for Leopard compatibility:

  • efssmartd
  • Application Enhancer, and ClearDock
  • ExtFSManager
  • Flip4MacWMV
  • LockTight
  • DesktopplePro

The following startup items / applications remained:

  • Growl
  • Skype
  • Quicksilver
  • HardwareGrowler
  • iTunesHelper
  • Adium
  • SpanningSync
  • Chronosync
  • Synergy

Based on the reports of the installation hanging after the reboot, I'm glad that I went to this trouble and removed the Application Enhancer app!

There are now some useful articles about application compatibility for Leopard, as well as some that describe some workarounds.

After the upgrade the following applications needed to be reinstalled or reconfigured:

  • Parallels - reinstall
  • Synergy - reinstall and reconfigure (plus fix firewall settings)
  • Skype - reinstall after Skype stopped and wouldn't start again - EDIT: you can get the Skype 2.7 beta via this link at as the 2.6 version seemed to have the problem of stopping and not being able to restart after a period of time.
  • Printers - all my printers disappeared and needed to be reinstalled

The only minor issue that I had with the MacBook Pro, was that the Installation could not find my hard disk... but booting off the DVD allows you to run Disk Utility, which reassured me that it hadn't disappeared, and also let me do another Disk Verification. Once this completed successfully, the install application found the HDD fine.

Upgrade Method and times

Upgrade method

  • iMac - Upgrade
  • MacBook Pro - Archive and Install (preserve User and Network Settings)
  • MacBook - Upgrade


  • iMac - 31 minutes after DVD verified
  • MacBook Pro - 37 minutes after DVD verified (which took 30 minutes
  • MacBook - 47 minutes after DVD verified (which took 33 minutes)

I also had a problem later with the NDAS driver on my iMac that allows me to read the drive in my MediaGate media player connected to my Telly. This driver caused a kernel panic whenever the MediaGate was detected over the network. Restarting in safe mode and uninstalling the driver fixed the issue, but I have not yet attempted to reinstall or find a Leopard compatible version.

Leopard is very impressive - I am very pleased with everything so far.

Presenting tips follow up

By way of follow-up to my recent post about contrasting presentations styles, I am led to this round up of good advice for presenters via Vitamin News. The news article points to Nick Fink's round-up post that sifts through the myriad of sites that talk about how to do better presentations. Nick compiled his list of top five articles for presenters. It's worth the trip, and without stealing his thunder:

First on his list is Seven Steps to better presentation by Jeff Veen. Jeff succinctly lists some simple but effective points that can transform a presentation - They're simple thing that you can just start doing now, from changing where you stand to starting and ending clearly and confidently. He supports his recommendations with examples that are easy to relate to.

Next up is How To Give A Great Presentation by D. Keith Robinson. This is a really detailed look at preparing and presenting. Preparation covers not only your subject, but yourself. Some of the tips are things that you can do straight away to improve the presentation you're giving tomorrow, and some are steps that you can take to better equip yourself over the long term.

Next up is How to Get a Standing Ovation by Guy Kawasaki. Again another great set of tips based on 20 years of Guy's experience, this time more focused on Keynote speeches. Something to aim for I guess. Guy made reference to this article which has a look at the things that Steve Jobs does in preparing for his Speeches.

It's interesting to note that telling stories is a common theme between these three.

Picking up on the story theme and shaking it up a bit is Better Beginnings: how to start a presentation, book, article by Kathy Sierra. This is an entertaining read that obviously shows that Kathy's tips can equally apply in writing as well as presenting. I love the fact that the tips really are around cutting to the chase and cutting the boring crap out of your presentation.

Finally we have The Problem With Presentations by Doc Searls which looks at tips that help get the tool out of the way of delivering the message. Some really good tips in here about how to construct your story.

To sum up, the key points that were important to me

  • Skip the crap and start at the interesting bit
  • Be yourself
  • Have a conversation not a monologue
  • Have a story to tell, and one that people want to find out the ending to
  • Practice
  • Deliver it well - start well and clearly, converse and engage, end well and clearly

You can find my presentation links at

On communicating; and Vista remote admin

Running Scheduled XP Tasks Without A Password

Sometimes it's handy to have a scheduled task do something in Windows XP. I use a couple for different reasons. One is to do a weekly backup of data from one disk to another, and the other is to do a daily grab of the TV guide from IceTV to process and deliver to my Topfield PVR. Annoyingly, but probably appropriately, XP doesn't let you run scheduled tasks by default without a password set on the user account. This is described in Microsoft knowledge base article 310715.

Instead of creating a password for my login at home, and instead of creating a 'dummy' account with a password just for scheduled tasks, I found this: Scheduled Tasks - Running Tasks Without A Password.

For XP Pro: Go to Start/Administrative Tools/Local Security Policy/Security Settings/Local Policies/Security Options Accounts: Limit local account use of blank passwords to console logon only. This is enabled by default, disable it.For XP Home: (Keith Miller) Go to Start/Run/Regedit and navigate to this key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa

Value name: limitblankpassworduse, Type: REG_DWORD, Data: 0 (disabled) 1 (enabled)

Anyway, it works...

Serving mediawiki from a subdomain

I just managed to get MediaWiki working from a subdomain, rather than from /wiki. There are two changes that you need to make to localsettings.php when trying to serve MediaWiki from a subdomain. The first is to change

$wgScriptPath = "" ;

from whatever the path was, and the second is to insert:

$wgServer = "http://subdomain.yourdomain.tld";

The first setting stops the scripts from being called from the wiki subdirectory (which is now your subdomain) and the second tells bits of MediaWiki where to find things like the skins and images. That's the best explanation I can come up with right now!

Reference Installing MediaWiki on a subdomain and Serving MediaWiki from a Subdomain

Hard Disk Recovery (or “what a way to spend a weekend”)

Last weekend, I had a hard disk failure on one of my external drives. It was kind of frustrating, but I have recovered data from a failed disk before. Of course, the corruption occurred late at night, and just after I had archived some data off my Shuttle XPC. Note I had "archived", not "backed up" so I really did need to get it back.This is an external enclosure made by Welland ME-740 Classic with a Seagate 160GB drive with USB2.0 and Firewire connectivity to my Shuttle XPC. I had it connected to the Shuttle via the firewire port.

First up I ran Chkdsk and it fixed up some errors and I was away again. But not for long. Soon the entire disk was unreadable!

Given the suspected disk crash, I turned to a product called SpinRite, which although required a bootable CD to run in DOS mode to directly access the disk, did its job of scanning the disk. Mind you, I had to remove the disk from the external enclosure and plug it into the PC's IDE port, because the standard bootable SpinRite disk did not include firewire or USB drivers.

SpinRite reported not a single physical problem with the disk. Of course it didn't. It was a Seagate disk.

OK, so my efforts now needed to shift to Data Recovery, not disk recovery. So after a quick Google search I settled on a product called GetDataBack, since that is what I wanted to do, and it allowed a free trial. It was reasonably priced assuming the scan that it performed (free) found the data that you wanted to recover. Nice trick that - holding me to ransom. But it worked, and it worked well. I have no idea whether it is the best product on the market, but it did what it said it would do.

So, the disk was ok, I had the ability to recover my data, and all I needed was somewhere to put it. I brought my other Archive disk home from work the next day and late that night proceeded to recover all my data. It was at the point of verifying that I had recovered everything that I needed that the other disk failed. Same thing.

OK. I get it. Disk not a problem. Computer a problem. Or at least the connection between the computer and the external enclosure was a problem. This other disk had been working at work for months, so I was pretty confident that it was ok, so I think it had something to do with the firewire port on the Shuttle.

But these enclosures were USB2.0 as well, so I started up GetDataBack again on the other drive and waited to see how I went.

I also had another problem to solve. I now had well over 200GB of data to recover off two disks.

With my heart in my mouth, I purchased yet another enclosure and hard disk.

To cut a long story short, I was able to recover well over 95% of the data with a couple of files corrupted beyond repair.

I also found one reference to a similar problem on the shuttle and an external drive, but as a friend pointed out this weekend, it could simply be that the firewire cable is the problem. I did use a different cable at work (it had a mini plug on one end). But, I think that I will never know, because I am quite reluctant to plug any of the drives in the firewire port...

UPDATE: Edited link to the Welland site

Basis of the site is done!

This time last week, I'd never heard of WordPress. Six months ago I started mucking around with blogger, but found the lack of categories a bit of a drag, really. And I guess because I wasn't really happy that things weren't just the way that I wanted them, I kinda lost a bit of interest. So from setting up a hosted site, creating a new blog and loving WordPress in the process, I could see that the tools that I wanted were finally at my fingertips. All I now needed was my own domain some place to host it and then I could get cracking with my own fully customisable installation of WordPress.

I timed it well too. WordPress 2.0 was just officially released so I spared myself of having to upgrade.

I would like to thank a few people too. From people who have taken the trouble to write up their experiences with getting everything working, to others who are publishing themes and styles and plug-ins and all sorts of wonderful stuff.

There have been a bunch of other inspirational sites as well, (and we can't forget the WordPress wiki).

Anyway - off to add some more photos now!

XP Hint:Screen refresh rate

This is a big one for me: Flickering monitors. I personally find them very annoying, but others seem to tolerate them much more than I do, but complain that their eyes are tired. Whenever I help someone out at their PC I fix their monitor refresh rate. Why is this a problem? On CRT monitors, they need to constantly refresh the screen to display the image, otherwise it fades away. If the refresh rate is too slow, under certain conditions the flicker (fade then refresh) becomes noticeable. This is particularly relevant for larger screens, and irrelevant for LCD monitors which don't have the same fade issues - if a pixel is on, it is on.

What can be done to fix it? In XP the default refresh rate is 60Hz (times per second). For high resolution GUIs something above 72Hz. But you need to make sure that your monitor can handle the higher refresh rates. XP has some neat protection to help ensure that you don't end up with a blank screen, by allowing the setting to be confirmed (or not) before it times out and reverts to the previous setting. If your monitor is correctly detected by XP then you should be pretty right.

  1. You can make the refresh rate change by going to Start > Control Panel > Display to bring up the Display Properties dialog box
  2. Select the Settings tab, and click the Advanced button - the Plug and Play Monitor Dialog box will be displayed.
  3. Depending on your video card in your PC, you may see five or six tabs on the dialog box, or there may be more than 10.
  4. In the Plug and Play Monitor dialog box, click the Monitor tab.
  5. In the Monitor Settings area, ensure that the Hide modes that this monitor cannot display checkbox is checked. This will help ensure that we don't select a refresh rate that is too high.
  6. In the Monitor Settings area, from the Screen Refresh Rate drop down list, select a refresh rate higher of 72Hz or higher.
  7. Click Apply. XP will now test the setting. If the display looks ok, click Yes to keep the settings. Generally speaking, the higher the refresh rate the better.
  8. Click OK on the Plug and Play Monitor dialog box, and the Display Properties dialog box and close the Control Panel.
  9. Finally, you may need to adjust the monitor to optimise the display height, width and positioning on the screen as the refresh rate can sometime affect these. Use the controls on the front of your monitor to make these adjustments.

You can also get information from XP help by searching for screen refresh frequency in XP's Help and Support tool available off the Start menu.

By the way, the same flicker is present in most fluorescent lights in office buildings. If you can get some natural light in, this can help ease the load on your eyes, or alternatively get an incandescent desk lamp.


Office Hint: Moving paragraphs up, down, in and out

Sometimes I want to resequence a list of items in Word, Powerpoint or OneNote. I use the keyboard shortcut ALT+SHIFT+arrow to move paragraphs up or down. You can also change the indentation level as well by pressing the left or right arrow keys as part of this sequence.

This also works for multiple selected items as well.


btw this has a different effect in Word when you are positioned in a table, whereupon it will move the whole row up or down. Not sure how to move individual paragraphs (with the keyboard) when positioned within a table. Anyone?

Cam’s Handy Hints

A collection of hints and tips for all sorts of things. Mainly from the things that I do, and from the questions that people often ask me about how to do stuff. This is my log of how to do stuff, so that at least I remember, and if it helps other people, then great. When I buy some new things, or use something new, I'll try to write it up here.

I could write about what I've learned about Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), but there many useful sites out there - I found a couple:

My template is pretty basic, and needs some more work, but hey, it's mine!