Canon Mini-DV Camera & Firewire Bug

I spent way more time than I should have trying to figure out why my Canon ZR800 wasn’t being seen by my Mac. I tested the Firewire cable, I rebooted, I re-installed QuickTime. The Sony PD150 worked fine, but the Canon was a no-show.

Canon ZR800

Finally I dug up this Camcorder HQ post by Doug Van Doren

Actually, there’s one HUGE caveat with that: the new Canon ZR’s 800-850 will NOT work with a Mac that has another FireWire device plugged into it. If you have an external hard drive, your iPod or anything plugged into one of the other FireWire ports on the computer and then you plug in a Canon ZR800 series camcorder and launch iMovie or FCP or FCE, it will crash and freeze the Mac OS.

This is a huge bug I recently discovered when I bought a new Canon ZR-800 and ended up crashing all three of my Macs (I tried it on them all just to make sure).

It was a nightmare. Here’s the technical article from Apple:

It does not mention the ZR800’s specifically, but trust me, it applies to them as well.

If there’s nothing else plugged into the other FireWire ports, it works fine. The only trouble with that is that most people like to use an external firewire drive to put their digitized footage on. This is a big problem if that’s what you’re trying to do.

Luckily I did not experience any real crashes, just the fact that iMovie and Final Cut sort of ‘stuck’ while the camera was turned on, and then resumed when turned off. The System Profiler also failed to show any Firewire device when the camera was on. Everything is fine when no other Firewire devices are connected, so there is a workaround… Still, it’s an annoying bug I hope can be fixed in the future.


Multipurpose equals Slow

I’ve heard that multitasking burns more brain cycles due to switching between things, and even though you may think you are getting more done by multitasking, you really aren’t.

You know how your computer seems really fast when you get it, and then after a while it seems like it’s not quite so fast? It’s because of all that crap you add along the way. Those widget, and music scrobbling clients, and Twitter clients, and calendar agents, and notifiers, and on and on…

Video editing is resource intensive, and what I’ve found is that if I’m going to do just editing, I will log out any other users on my Mac (damn you fast user switching!) and then reboot, and then launch Activity Monitor, and quit (or force quit if necessary) any process not directly related to my task. So with a fresh reboot, and no silly little processing doing silly little things, I can go about my work. Alternately, I suppose I could create an account dedicated just to editing, and boot into that, but that’s more of a pain to me…

The reboot and quitting of processes is probably a five minute process, but saves me well over five minutes of time within an hour of editing.


NeoOffice and Innovation in Office Suites

Gabe wrote a post about his recent experiences with Office Suite software. I left a comment there, but thought I should expand on it here.


Here’s the comment I left:

I am very close to being 100% happy with NeoOffice (which is an offshoot of OpenOffice, for Mac OS X.)

I do not compare it to MS Office the way you might. For me, it is free and open source. This means I can install it on the 10+ Macs that I manage for $0 (in reality, I donated money to NeoOffice because I do find it valuable, and want it to flourish. Still, $25 for unlimited copies?) Anyway, the only features I care about is that it can open all those damn MS Office file formats. That’s it. For all I know, it completely sucks in every other respect. I don’t care. To me, it’s pretty much a viewer/converter. I do use it for simple document creation, but I could use other tools for that as well. It even handles Microsoft formats the the Mac version of Office can’t handle!

Sometimes innovation is found in just being an alternative.

Honestly, I’m coming at it from an entirely different direction that Gabe, so I’m in no way trying to discount his opinion, I’m just pointing out that different people have different needs. For the last 10 years I’ve been building web sites for clients, and sometimes those clients send me Word documents, from which I need to wrestle out the text. Believe me, try as you might to ask people to send you plain text files, or even RTF files, they just don’t get it. That’s fine. Today you can send me a Microsoft Word document, and I can open it, and get that precious text out of it. And I can install the software that does it on as many machines as I want, and not have to worry about license keys working, or buying more copies, or having to pay for upgrades, or any of that crap.

Years ago I was really excited about open source software that came out that dealt with things I did every day, text editing, web serving, graphics work, etc. But an office suite? It sounded like a movie with a cruel twist: “You get to work on open source software! By the way, it’s an office suite!” So the real innovation to me is the disruption in the status quo, being the alternative, the “here, this is free, it’s not perfect but may fit your needs just fine” compared to the polished commercial product filled with restrictions and hoop-jumping.

Big thanks goes out to the NeoOffice guys, as well as the OpenOffice folks, and all that contribute to open source software.


Virtualization via Parallels

I’m now running Windows XP on my new Intel-based iMac thanks to Parallels.

Previous to this I was using Virtual PC on my pre-Intel Mac, and it worked… slowly… but it worked. I was able to test web sites in IE5, IE6, and IE7 in Windows. It wasn’t fun, but it was pretty much required. Virtual PC for Mac was killed off by Microsoft, which meant I had these virtual machines laying around which were useless, until now.

I wasn’t paying attention to virtualization on the Mac until I got the new iMac and my days of using Virtual PC were over. I ended up taking a quick look at VMWare’s Fusion, which is in beta now and available for pre-ordering at a reduced price. It looked interesting, but as I did more research, it became clear that Parallels was exactly what I wanted. Why? Because of Transporter.

Transporter allows you to put to use those old Virtual PC machines you created. It migrates them over to the format required by Parallels. It’s not a quick process, but it works. I did hit a few issues along the way, the first being that I had no networking, which means the first virtual machine I had was completely useless. I searched through forums, tried a few things, and rebooted the virtual Windows machine, only to be told I had to activate Windows before I could log in. Since there was no network, I had to activate via phone. This is the nightmare that is Windows. After talking to a robot, where I read the robot a string of 50+ characters and then the robot read me a string of 50+ characters, Windows was activated, and I could log in. (Is Microsoft serious? This is how they do things? In all my years of using the Mac, I can’t remember anything as frustrating as this process to just use the system. Anyway…)

Adding a Network Adapter

Ok, so I finally figured out that in Parallels I had to go under Edit to Virtual Machine… and add a Network Adapter. I guess the original Virtual PC machine did not have a network adapter or something? I don’t know, but I did this to all the machines I migrated and they were all good after that.

So now I am running Windows. On my Mac. Again. Let the IE testing and swearing begin!


No Joost for me!

Phil Gerbyshak (the Make It Great! guy) sent me an invite to Joost.

Thanks Phil!

Sadly, Joost only runs on Intel-based Macs right now, so I couldn’t check it out.

That’s not great at all!