Saturday, January 10, 2009

Safari, Firefox wildly crashing

Image representing Firefox as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseA few weeks ago I had huge problems with stability of my web browsers - at first it started with Firefox and although at first it was limited to it alone I quickly realized that I was wrong and that Safari just as happily crashes as Firefox. Since this was the first time I had any real stability issues since I switched to Mac I decided to take a bit more thorough look at how crash reporting is conducted on Mac.

(For a solution to why Firefox and Safari crashed as often as they did, you can skip to the end of article.)

Partial problem that prevented any useful debugging with Firefox was that Mozilla crash reporter only gives you a text area field to tell them what you did before the browser crashed. I was later informed by Brian King that Mozilla gets a lot more information than it shows to user and discovered this little gem - Mozilla Crash Reporter - basically, one can type about:crashes to get a list of links to crash reports as they were submited to Firefox developers or, if that is not an option (you're either offline or your Firefox crashes at start), look into ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Crash Reports/.

Few days after Firefox, Safari started crashing. If for Firefox I at first speculated that browser crashes when I visit secure web pages (it constantly crashed at Firefox Add-on page and at my banking site), this time I couldn't establish any meaningful pattern.

But Safari does show you Apples default Crash Reporter which gives you a lot more information by default and now I had to get down and dirty with the problem since browsing the web was no longer possible. After a bit of staring at the Crash Reporter log output I posted a thread at Apples Discussion forum and started to dig around for documentation related to Crash Reporter.

Luckily, the response at discussion board was almost instant (as said, solution below), but I still decided to get a bit more knowledge about Crash Reporter and managed to find Apples Technical Note TN2123 that gives deep insight about what is what and where in the crash report - most of the information is important only to developers but when you are faced with a problem similar to mine, this can just be your solution.

What I did notice is that its problem is not the lack of information, it is how these information ca be passed to third party developers - and this appears to be a rather long standing issue since it was discussed by John Gruber back in 2006 already and Apples recommendation is still the same.

After getting a bit more familiar with what Crash Reporter really wanted to say to me and still wondering what most of the services were, I was educated that the problem was with Apple Type Server, or ATS. As soon as this was mentioned I realized what the problem was all along - about two week back from when Safari started crashing I installed Windows fonts for some application.

At that time Font Book said that I have duplicate fonts and one corrupted one but I never imagined that those could cause any serious problems down the road so I moved along. Since I don't use Firefox daily and never quit Safari, fonts that browser used never got reloaded and only started causing problems when they were used on various web pages.

Removing duplicate and corrupted fonts resolved the issue for good.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Browsing Time Machine backups

OS X Leopard Time MachineImage by antwanp via FlickrAlthough Time Machine is a fantastic consumer-targeted solution for backups whose simplicity is fantastic, it unfortunately has it's drawbacks. It saved me quite some time when my graphic card died but when I wanted to browse through my backups on another computer (in my case with Ubuntu 8.10), I was quite surprised over details of implementation.

It appers that although you can browse through your Users directory, you can't just dive into any subdirectory and copy the file you are looking for to your current computer.

What you have to do is this (thanks to Carson!):

You have to run command ls -l which returns something like this:

me@desktop:/media/disk/Backups.backupdb/Computer Name/Latest/Disk/Users/username$ ls -l

-r--r--r-- 9891110 root 10239884 0 2008-04-21 20:19 Applications
-r--r--r-- 9861491 root 10239885 0 2008-04-21 20:19 Desktop
-r--r--r-- 10192194 root 10239886 0 2008-04-21 20:19 Dev
-r--r--r-- 10197872 root 10239887 0 2008-04-21 20:19 Documents

Here you have to take notice of the number in italic formating (forget about the bold for now). This number normally represents the number of files in that directory but in case of Time Machine this number is a unique identifier. To really access your file, you have to go to the top level directory of you external hard drive and look for a directory .HFS+ Private Directory Data - note the . before the name because it is a hidden directory.

Then you can either run command ls in that directory (but it will take some time and you get a bunch of directories that tell you nothing of it's content) or you can just type cd dir_10192194 (in this case I decided to look into the latest content of directory Dev that is printed in bold font before) that correctly lists all files in it. Note that if you want to go to a subdirectory, you again have to repeat the process and reference it in .HFS+ Private Directory Data.

Therefore restoring to a Windows/Linux system is possible, it's just not something you really want to be doing (especially to restore a large number of files). For that I would probably write a Python script or a new bash command (cdtm as in change directory time machine) to ease the pain of constantly checking which directory you have to go into to find your files.

Which could be a nice little project after I get my Macbook Pro back...

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When your Macbook Pro's graphic card dies

Time Machine (Apple software)Image via WikipediaAs it was noted in major publications several times already, NVidia made quite a mistake when they produced N84/N86 graphic cards with faulty parts. So when I became an early adopter and bought myself a Macbook Pro in July of 2007, I was also given one of these graphic cards and until now it's performance was nothing but breath taking. Unfortunately it appers that my usage patterns (probably a bit above-average carrying around, but not everyday) have finally brought it to it's knees and on Friday evening it died.

Since in Slovenia we can't use Apple Care I was more than pleased when Apple announced that they will be extending the warranty for their graphic cards to two years - I was just a month or so over warranty.

With my mind at rest about possible costs of repair I decided it was time to see how can I make the newest backup of the data on the hard drive. Since I could clearly see that my MBP successfully log-ins and connect to my home WI-FI network (broadcasting ping helped with that - ping -b, my first thought was that I should use SSH to log into the computer and then begin the painful process of copying somewhere around 100GB of data over 802.11G WI-FI and to the USB hard drive. But this didn't work because I have closed port 22 for SSH. For a laptop, that seemed quite reasonable at the time.

After discussing options like taking disk out and use converter for SATA/IDE-to-USB to plug it into other computer, mounting my MBP as target disk on my friend's Mac, etc., I was finally struck with divine inspiration - "If it can connect to WI-FI then obviously everything starts as normal, therefore I can just use Time Machine". The second I thought about it I was thinking to myself "how couldn't I thought of that before"?

Few minutes on and Time Machine was happily making backups.

So remember kids: Use backup and use a backup solution that can do EVERYTHING on itself with no buttons like "Yes, make me a backup".
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Neat chairs lying around Ljubljana

Since I am fully occupied this summer (first a trip to Belgium, Paris and Amsterdam, now internship at Zemanta) I am left to plea guilty on charges of neglecting my blog. ;)

For a start I would like to touch a bit lighter theme - does anyone know what all those chairs that lie around Ljubljana are for (besides sitting on them :-)? I have a feeling that they are meant to be there with some kind of artistic reason - if not that, were they at least put there at some special occasion or something?

"Ljubljana chairs" (that is written on them) is just a bit too general search term for Google...

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Visor, turns Terminal to quake-like console

A few days ago I went to Blacktree to download Quicksilver to give it another try (when I started with OS X I didn't saw value in it; few months later it really turns out that Spotlight is a bit limiting) and found a rather interesting add-on for standard Terminal - Visor. Visor gives you the ability to press a custom key combination to show Terminal - just like Quakes in-game console for advanced commands and finer tweaking of the game.

As far as I've been using it, it turns out to be quite useful. When you need to quickly do something in console it is already at your fingertips, but if you someday feel the need for a conventional stand-alone console you just press Command+N to open it.

I find it particularly useful because I can summon the console by just pressing alt+space instead of constantly trying to find the console with alt+tab+tab+tab ("Oh no, I just pressed tab one time too many and now landed on another Space. Again.")

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Download photos from Picasa Web

iPhoto 7Image via WikipediaFew days ago I had a problem of downloading pictures from one of Picasa web galleries. There was no download button and even if it were I would still need Picasa to download them. At first I was a bit disappointed by this and thought that I would have to write a script for myself or use a separate program to get them. But I then realized that Picasa Web makes a RSS feed for every gallery unless user specifically disables it.

I launched iPhoto and quickly found the solution to my problem - Subscribe to Photo Feed (Command+U) in File menu. Voila! Problem solved and entire album downloaded without the hasle to download another program just for a bunch of photos as it is suggested in one of the related articles.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Status updates on your pizzas

365 2008 05 12 - Day 222Image by brotherxii via FlickrBy pure coincidence I stumbled upon an interesting script - while reading Amit Gupta's Tumblr I noticed he linked to a python script that checks on regular intervals what is the status of pizza you ordered.

But more than the script I was plesantly surprised about the idea - pizzas were delivered to our homes even before internet but only now had the concept of live tracking came to life. For the time being, only in US.

It will take some time to be used widely even though ordering meals to your home is quite popular among students in Ljubljana and would probably be welcomed among them. When one is hungry minutes just seem to last forever and I can imagine that knowing what is happening to your meal would make a bit of a difference.

Personally I am not a fan of ordering food - with the notable exception of pizzas - everything just looks a bit weird to me when they deliver it to your door. But such live tracking would be awesome not just for food.