Synkron and I don't see eye to eye

I’ve been using Synkron lately to keep several directories synced up across a couple of external drives — a backup of sorts, just in case one of the drives decides to kick the bucket. I’ve also been cleaning up my drive, and something drove me bonkers: I couldn’t figure out why, in spite of my best efforts to clean up the drive, I couldn’t get 100GB free or more on my MBP (total HD size is 250GB). It just didn’t make sense; after all, I’d been able to do it just a couple of months ago, before I filled up my drive with photos from Austria and Romania. Why couldn’t I do it now?!

I decided to download Disk Inventory X, a drive space analysis tool based on WinDirStat, which I’d already used on a couple of Windows machines. What do you think was the biggest culprit on my MBP’s hard drive? The Synkron cache.

It was eating up 30.6GB of my space, without me even realizing it…

Look, Synkron, you may have a nice, shiny icon, and you may be able to put a nice GUI on rsync or subversion (not sure which you’re built on), but I’m sorry, when you can’t clean up after yourself or at least take up less space on my drive, you’re no good to me — into the Trash you go.

If you’re using Synkron as well, and you’ve noticed your free space shrinking inexplicably, you may want to give Disk Inventory X a try, and to consider whether another utility to sync your files may be a better option. I’m not ruling out Synkron completely, and I hope that its developers decide to fix this cache issue at some point.

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Cannot change WP theme if Turbo mode is enabled

I’ve been wondering what sort of bug I’ve had in my WP installs for the last few weeks, and only now figured out what’s going on.The Turbo mode for WP is done through Google Gears. There’s a bug in the Turbo mode that will not allow you to change your blog’s theme. It works by not displaying the “x” (Close) or the “Activate …” options in the DHTML layer that opens up when you preview a theme.

Try it out if you want. Enable Turbo mode, then go to Design >> Themes and click on a theme that you’d like to preview and possibly activate. It’ll open as a full page instead of opening in a separate layer above the regular page, and the option to activate it will not display. In essence, you’re locked out of switching themes. You have to hit the Back button to get back to the Admin panel, else you’re stuck in a Live Preview mode.

This has nothing to do with file permissions, as I originally thought, or with corrupt theme files. No, it has everything to do with Turbo/Google Gears and the way WP implemented this. It’s a bug that needs to get fixed. The only way to enable theme-switching for now is to disable Turbo mode. After that, things work just fine.

This bug is present even in the latest WP version, 2.6.3. I hope it gets fixed soon.

If iMovie '08 crashes…

You can try bothering with the preferences files, or the codecs, or the color profiles, as the forums tell you to do, or you can do the following:

  1. Go to your home folder > Movies > iMovie Events. Locate the folder with the last clips you imported. Delete the iMovie Cache and iMovie Thumbnails folders.
  2. Restart iMovie. For most of you, that’s all you’ll need to do.
  3. If it still crashes, that means one or more of the actual clips themselves weren’t closed properly by the video camera (perhaps you ran out of battery, space on the card, etc.). Open them up in Quicktime (if you have Quicktime Pro) or some other application (like the software that came with the camera) and snip 1-2 seconds off the end of each clip. Save them, then delete the iMovie Cache and iMovie Thumbnails folders (in case iMovie re-created them).
  4. Now restart iMovie. It should work fine now.

A few words to explain some things:

  • If a movie clip doesn’t open at all from the Finder, then it is corrupted. Perhaps only its header is messed up for some reason. At any rate, I have not yet found software that will fix those movie clips. I searched enough, and only found spyware that promises to do it.
  • If a movie clip opens and plays fine in Quicktime, but iMovie crashes when trying to import it, then its ending is corrupted, as explained in step #3 above. Cutting 1-2 seconds off the end of the clip in some software other than iMovie will restore its ending and let you import it without crashes in iMovie.
  • The method I described above has worked reliably for me on three occasions now, and this is after I wasted hours on the phone with Apple Support. It only occurred to them to let me re-import video clips after having me try all of that other stuff, including a re-install of iMovie ’08 and also the creation of a new account to see if the problems re-occur there. Pointless. I say go to the root of the problem and take care of it right away, don’t beat around the bush.

Hope this helps you too.

One more reason why Microsoft doesn't get it

At work, I use Windows Vista Ultimate Edition. I tried to install Vista SP1 on my computer yesterday. I created a restore point, just in case something went badly, and started the install. Here’s the error message that I got:

Vista SP1 cannot install

Apparently, Vista SP1 cannot install on my machine, because I’ve got too many language packs installed. Fine, I can understand that. But what I don’t understand is why Microsoft itself kept tagging the extra language packs as “Important Updates”, basically shoving them down my throat and forcing me to install them in the first place. Don’t believe me? Hang on, I’ll give you proof of it below.

I started to remove the language packs, and the uninstall process itself is just horrible. You cannot remove more than one language pack at a time, and it takes at least 10 minutes to do it. Try it yourselves and see. It’s a three-step process. You run the uninstaller from the Control Panel, it takes a few minutes for that, then you’re prompted to reboot, you do so, it takes a few more minutes for the second step, then reboots and runs the third step, which takes the longest. It’s insanely frustrating and a big waste of time. I’m hard-pressed to think Microsoft couldn’t have come up with a better and faster way to install/uninstall language packs.

I had about 7-8 extra languages installed (other than the standard EN/FR/IT/JP). I only did it because Windows wouldn’t quit bugging me to update it by installing the language packs in the first place, and now I find I have to waste more than an hour of my time uninstalling them after having already wasted more than an hour installing them a few months ago. Thanks, Microsoft! Increased productivity my foot…

I uninstalled a few of them yesterday, and here’s the message that I got from Windows after doing that:

Windows Update: Available Updates

See those 5 important updates tagged with yellow, that Windows advises me to install in order to “enhance my computer’s security and performance”. That’s Microsoft-speak for “waste your time and decrease your computer’s performance”. Guess what they are?

Windows Update: Available Updates

As you can see, it’s the very five language packs that I uninstalled. Windows wants me to install them right back, just so I can’t upgrade to SP1. Isn’t that grand? Don’t you just love Microsoft for their obvious programming logic?

That’s exactly the same type of message I kept getting from Windows before I installed the damned things in the first place. I only installed them so Windows would leave me alone. I guess that won’t happen any time soon, because I now see the same “Available Updates” icon in the taskbar, glaring at me, nagging me to install the stupid language packs. Do you see it below? It’s the blue icon with some sort of orange satellite flying around it.

Windows taskbar available updates icon

I only hope Vista SP1 will fix this annoying behavior, but somehow I doubt it. I have a feeling I’m going to have to revert to an earlier system restore point, which would be a real shame, but then again, it would be just what I’d expect from Microsoft.