Friday, April 24, 2009

Hide all Firefox Toolbars with a single click

I just clicked randomly in the top right corner of a bucket of windows and something funny happened: the address bar and navigation bars disappeared and the content part of the window took over. It was rather nice. Check it out:

Here's the before, with all Navigation Toolbar (where the Address box and Search boxes are), the Bookmarks Toolbar, and even the Web Developer's Toolbar.

Firefox - hide toolbars

Click that little button in the top right corner, and poof, they all disappear, giving you much more space for the Web site you're looking at (or taking screenshots of, or whatever):

Firefox - hide toolbars

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The best way to label photos

I'm not in the car often enough to listen to very many podcasts, but I have three favorites: This American Life, NPR's Sunday Puzzler, and Internauta.

This last is a program offered by Catalunya Radio and at least for me, serves the dual purpose of keeping me connected with Catalunya and keeping me up to date on technology there (and here).

The other day I was listening to an interview of David Iglesias, the head of the "Photographic Archive of Girona" about the best ways to organize and manage collections of photos. They have more than 3,000,000 photos!

There were a couple points I found very interesting. First, he recommended scanning positives, not negatives. Second, he suggested scanning at a size that would result in a photo measuring about 2000 x 3000 pixels. Thirdly, he said, make sure you label your photos.

If you don't label, the first two suggestions won't matter because you'll never find the photos anyway.

One lovely advantage of modern digital photos over photos of yesteryear on paper is that the digital ones are automatically dated. So, as soon as you take your camera out of the box, be sure and set the date, and set it correctly.

Next, use a photo organization program like iPhoto, Picasa, or whatever. Even if you do nothing more than put your photos in that program, you'll automatically have your photos organized at least by date (which is much better than having them scattered on your desktop).

The next step is to label them. I have way more photos than I can humanly label, so even if I promise myself a million times that I will label them all, I know I won't. I couldn't if I tried. But the worst part is that thinking I can do it will keep all my photos unlabeled. Instead, I figured out a great shortcut:

I exhaustively label each group of imported photos (in iPhoto these are now Events, but used to be called Rolls, in other programs sometimes they are Albums or Folders) with the names of every single person that appears in that group of photos, as well as the name of the event, location, and any other significant information.

Organizing photos

Note that I don't do it before I import (though that is possible in iPhoto) because I don't know who's in the Event at that point. Instead, I make the window a good size so that I can see everyone and still have a place to type in names into the Event window.

Later, I can search for a person's name, and this set of photos will appear. I will have to find the photo of the particular person I want, but that's a piece of cake now that I know it's in this reduced group of photos.

It reminds me of this great quote I saw the other day: "Organizing your email is like alphabetizing your recycling"... which in my mind means, "Don't do more work than you have to".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Switch tools in InDesign

This is a tiny tip but I love it. You already know that in InDesign you can choose the Selection tool by pressing the letter V and the Direct Selection tool by pressing the letter A. But what do you do if you're writing in a text box?

Hold down the Command key to temporarily switch to the Selection tool, click outside of the text box, and then press V or A, as you need.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Time Machine doesn't back up iPhoto

I've confessed before to having a scary number of photographs in my iPhoto library. However, since Steve Jobs promised that iPhoto could handle "hundreds of thousands" and since I only have a measly 40,000 I get downright testy when folks from Apple say I have too many.

This happened the other day. First, Time Machine just stopped working. Up and failed. Said it couldn't find the external drive I had just hooked up even though it had started running because said drive had just been hooked up.

I called Apple's tech support. The guy was nice and knowledgeable. Told me I had formatted the disk incorrectly, that instead of "Apple Partition Map" I should have used "GUID Partition Table" (because I have a MacBook with Intel processor). The only solution was reformatting the drive (using Disk Utility, selecting the drive, clicking the Partition tab, then clicking Options and choosing GUID).

"Why," I asked, "has it worked just fine for the last six months and today it decides it doesn't like that partition system?"

He said it was pretty random. OK, whatever. I reformat the drive.

I do a full backup, Time Machine seems much happier, but I notice that the backup file only takes up 150gb. How can that be if my iPhoto library alone takes up 162gb?

I call Apple up again. The new guy says, oh well, that sounds about right, you know, because of the compression.

But on Apple's site, it specifically says that Time Machine "copies every file exactly (without compression), skipping caches and other files that aren’t required to restore your Mac to its original state".

I point out this discrepancy and he puts me on hold as he goes to check it again.

While he's gone, I go into the backup file to see if my iPhoto Library is even there. Of course, it is not. (How could it be?)

When the Apple guy gets back on the phone, I tell him that Time Machine has not backed up my iPhoto Library at all and he says, with jaw-dropping alacrity:

"Well, it's not perfect."

I'm shocked. A backup program that skips my most important files is "not perfect".

He says, "Well, why don't you just drag the iPhoto Library to your external drive to back it up?"

Apart from the fact that it takes several hours to copy the entire library, and that this seems like a pretty lame workaround for updating the few photos that I might back up each day, I am just flabbergasted that he doesn't admit that the program has a fatal flaw. It doesn't do what it promises.

He offers no apology, no recognition that this is a big deal. I get off quickly before he can harangue me with "Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

I immediately call back and speak to Apple support guy #3. He gets that skipping my iPhoto Library is serious and has me send him my log file. He promises to get it to the engineers and get a response back within 3-5 days. It's been 3 and so far, no news.

Meanwhile, I can't not backup my iPhoto Library so I find another external drive, and copy the whole thing over. When I'm done, I decide to do one last test. I close iPhoto and try Time Machine again. This time it works, iPhoto Library and all.

So, the moral of the story is, first, make sure Time Machine is backing up your large important files. How? Open the drive where Time Machine stores the backups, open the folder "backups.backupdb", open the folder with your user name, open the folder of one of the dated backups, and go through your file structure until you find the files you're most interested in. (They should be in the same places as on your computer.)

Second, if you have a large iPhoto Library (and perhaps even a small one), make sure it's closed at least some of the time when Time Machine is running.

It unnerves me to no end to know that Time Machine may randomly decide not to back up certain files. If this is really the case, then I need a new backup program. I'll let you know what Apple says.

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