What to do When Firefox Chooses the Wrong Monitor

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

A recent crash of Firefox 3.6 B3 Namoroka led to an unusual and annoying situation. My main Mac is a MacBook laptop connected to a large external monitor. When docked, I use the larger externally display is my main monitor. The menubar goes there and most of my attention goes there. However, Firefox started opening windows on the smaller laptop display that’s off to my left, and that I have to crane my neck to see.

This seems to be a regular problem, or at least it used to be circa Firefox 3.0. However, the solution I found on the Web — deleting the localstore.rdf file —had no effect. Various other things I tried were equally ineffectual. What eventually worked, was the following:

Windows Vista Network Printer Offline

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Here’s a troubleshooting tips it took me a few days to figure out. If Windows Vista reports your network printer as off-line and won’t print anything, but the printer will print just fine from other computers on the network, especially Macs, check to see if the printer picked up a new IP address from the DHCP server. Macs are smart enough to still recognize and find the printer even when its IP address has changed. Windows Vista PCs aren’t, and get seriously confused when a printer moves from one IP to another.

If this is indeed what happened, you’ll need to delete the old printer from the printer control panel and add the printer as if it’s a completely new printer. I don’t happen to know how to retrieve or reassign any jobs still pending for the off-line printer.

AUI Bloopers

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Minor user interface inconsistencies still annoy me, even in otherwise excellent products. Usually the problems I notice are GUI problems. However, recently I’ve noticed an audio user interface problem, this time in Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Why, oh why, do you put the microphone to sleep by saying, “Stop listening” but wake it up by saying, “Listen to me”? Obviously, the correct, parallel command is “Start listening”. And while I’m on the subject of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, why can I say, “Cap that”, but not “Capitalize that”?

Digital Photography Tip #3: Check Your Clock

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Don’t forget to update the time in your digital camera to account for the recent Daylight Savings Time shift. Cameras are not as smart as our modern computers and cable boxes. They don’t automatically update for changing to and from Daylight Savings Time. you also need to remember to change the time settings in your camera when you move between time zones. Otherwise, a few months later you can find yourself puzzling over photos of diurnal raptors that seem to have been taken at 3 AM in the morning.

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens is for the Birds

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

This weekend I rented a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM zoom lens. This is the first L series lens I’ve used for any length of time. Unfortunately, yesterday was too rainy and overcast to give it a real workout; but today was much clearer and I got to the park bright and early around 8 AM. Wow. the difference between this lens and the lenses I had been using bird photography was like night and day. Just look at this House Sparrow:

Male House Sparrow

With and without flash, the images were crisp, sharp, and more often than not in focus. I was actually able to start choosing which images to keep based on composition and the interest of the picture. I no longer had to select only the one or two sharp images out of 100. For the first time, I was able to take super telephoto pictures that came out as sharp as the images taken with my hundred millimeter prime lens.

Hard Drive Upgrade Complete

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

It took a quick trip to the hardware store in the rain to locate a Torx T-8 screwdriver, but my MacBook now has more than double the disk space it started with:

Little Boy

The hard drive is the new Western Digital 640GB 5400RPM Scorpio Blue. Western Digital makes make a couple of even more capacious 2.5in drives, but those are a few millimeters too thick to fit in the MacBook. It’s a little noisy, but I think that’s just because Time Machine is doing a complete backup of it. It should quiet down once Time Machine is done.

Possibly I should have gone with a 7200RPM 500GB drive instead, but the extra space was too tempting. Or I could have gone with a wicked fast SSD drive, but that would have traded space for speed. I used SuperDuper and an AcomData USB enclosure to copy the old hard drive to the new one before swapping them around. That seems to have worked reasonably well so far. Firefox gotten a little confused trying to restore its sessions, but that’s minor.

Now I can get serious about combining my Windows apps onto this one laptop, using either Parallels or VMWare Fusion. I’ve actually been spending more time in Windows lately for two critical apps: Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Aion.

Both Parallels and VMWare say they’ll import my existing PC onto the Mac, but I’m not sure that will work since Dell cheaped out and installed an OEM edition of Windows Vista instead of the full version. I’ve got full install discs of Windows 2000 around here somewhere, but I’m not sure that will run all the software I want. Anyone know the cheapest way to get a copy of Windows (XP or later) for the Mac?