Ok. this is it. I have enough.

While I value the legit comments of my visitors, I'm deleting over 200 spam comments per day lately. This must stop. NOW.

Unfortunately, no technical measure currently available really prevents comment spam at least not without serious disadvantages.

Let me go into this:

  • Use a catpcha: Captchas can be broken and in fact ARE broken all over the place. No point in placing another hurdle that's easily overcome by machines, but can't be overcome at all by some humans. True: I could decrease the readability to make OCRing the thing harder, but what's the point? Once the captcha is unreadable, it can't be broken by machines, but it can't be solved by humans either.
  • Use a service like TypeKey to authenticate users and let only authenticated users post: Easy to implement, but unfortunately, noone seems to trust MT (neither do I - fully), so noone is using the service. Unfortunately, it doesn't solve the problem either as machines are well able to create TypeKey accounts (I doubt their captcha is so much better - and even if it currently is: Above problems apply to them aswell).
  • Create your own authentication service: While this may be more liked than TypeKey, it means a lot of work to integrate it into MT and has the same drawbacks (machines can create accounts unless you use a captcha, where my first point applies again).
  • Use a SpamAssassin-like system to get rid of the SPAM. MT has such a system, but it doesn't really work. Neither seem the blacklists to do their job.

So I come to the only tool that really works to take care of all comment spam: Turn off comments. No discriminating against visually impaired people, no possibility for even the smartest algorithm to sneak a comment into the system. Problem solved.

Personally, I think MT is lacking in terms of counter-spam measures and I will once more have a look at Serendipity which provides more fine-grained control. Until then, I'm sorry, but I have to disable comments on this site.

Spammers: 1, Freedom: 0

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Today I though I'd lost my mac.

I was creating a PDF from Word using Adobe Acrobat. While Mac OS provides a built-in method to generate PDFs, I was under the impression that using the distiller word macro will generate better PDFs - mostly because the macro knows meta information about the text it converts and thus can create links and other PDF hints.

The system completely locked up.

I was able to still move the mouse, but the rest was dead.

I did the 4 seconds power button trick to restart the machine in the hope that this was just the usual flakiness of distiller on intel macs

Unfortunately, the system just froze again after a short wile (seconds)

And on every restart, the freeze happened earlier till I could not even log in in the end.

Using bootcamp (which I'm only using for playing World of Warcraft currently) I determined that it was no hardware problem (Windows had no lockups) which made me considerably happier.

I also learned that you have to press and hold shift on boot until that progress indicator is displayed to boot in some kind of Safe Mode

Using that, I was able to boot, log in and even work in OSX without the crash. I began stripping my system.

I've uninstalled the newly released RC of Parallels, removed all startup items (/Library/StartupItems, /Users/pilif/Library/StartupItems) - thinking that one of those things may have caused the problem.

A reboot showed no improvement unfortunately. The system still locked up. The error log did not show anything of interest.

Googling about "lockup macbook pro" after rebooting yet again in safe mode (which takes AGES), showed me lots of people having this problem after the recent security update released by Apple.

Usually the hint was to reinstall the OS (like in the old days of windows...) and to skip installing that securtiy update. Unfortunately that was no option at all as I did not have the CDs in range and I'm completely against not installing a security relevant patch.

Remembering the crash first happening when using Acrobat, I opened the printer setup utility and got the message that no printer was installed.

This made me notice that Safe Mode also seemed to disable printers, giving me some hope that maybe Acrobat was the problem: More stuff to disable is always a good thing when debugging something like this.

The printer setup utility has a nice feature. It's called "Reset printing system..." and it's placed in the application menu.

The feature works exactly as advertized, thus removing that acrobat printer (and all other printers *sigh*).

I rebooted once more and... it worked.

That recent security update did something to Rosetta (I'm guessing, but the same lockups seem to happen with Adobe Version Cue and they don't happen on PPC systems) causing these lockups. And probably the printing system reinitializes the printer drivers after the updated.

And as I did not print after installing the update until now, the problem was triggered only just now.

While I'm happy that everything is working again, I'm certainly pissed right now.

A security update should never render your system unusable. I don't mind who screwed up here (Apple, Adobe, Rosetta), but something like this must not happen.

The only good thing is that I'm quite experienced with situations like this. But still: This is my first mac. It was sheer luck that I found out how to fix this.

If such situations can't be averted then please, please provide meaningful error reporting or just logging. Were there lines like 'initializing printers' in some logfile, I'd have known where the problem was.

But no. It just crashes with no way what so ever to just kill the hanging process. Why does failing to load a printer driver crash my whole system? Granted. The problem is probably in Rosetta, but something like this still MUST NOT happen.

The emulation layer stops responding? Easy: Kill and restart it.

This is majorly unpleasant. And it took away nearly two hours of my time which I'd have preferred to use for more useful stuff.

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I'm a fan of Mac Mail (Mail.app). It looks nice, it renders fonts very nicely it creates mails conforming to the relevant RFCs and it basically supports most of the requirements I've posted back in 2003.

There are some drawbacks though. First one is no proper IMAP search support. This is not as bad as it sounds as the local full text index works very nicely (faster than our exchange server) and it's even integrated into Spotlight.

Then, the threading support sucks as it's not multi-level. This does not matter as much as back in 2003 though as my daily dose of technology-update now comes from RSS and blogs. Actually I'm currently not subscribed to any mailing list.

Everything else on that list is supported and the beautiful UI and font-rendering convince me to live with those two drawbacks and not use Mozilla Thunderbird for example which supports the whole set of features but looks foreign to OS X.

BUT. There's a big BUT

Performance is awful.

Even though I'm using IMAP, Mail.app insists on downloading all messages - probably to index them. I know that you can turn this behavior off, but then it doesn't download any message at all, rendering the program useless in offline situations. In Thunderbird you can make the program just download the messages as you read them and then use the contents of the cache for later offline display.

Then again: I have no problem with downloading and it even displays new mail while still downloading in the background. It does a better job at not blocking the UI than Thunderbird too.

What sucks is the performance while doing its thing.

I have around 3GB of mails on my IMAP server and before I could use Mail.app for the first time, the program downloaded the whole thing, utilizing 100% of one CPU core (it's not SMP capable ;-) ), forcing my MacBook Pro to turn on the fans - it was louder than after playing 4 hours of World of Warcraft in Windows (via Boot Camp - it's around twice as fast than the mac version).

It also took lots and lots of RAM making working with the machine a non-fun experience.

Later I decided to throw away two years worth of Cron-Emails containing a basic "Job done" which were filtered away on the server so I never noticed them. Deleting those ~22000 emails took two hours - again with 100% CPU usage on one core.

Even worse: Mail.app does not send an IMAP move command to move the messages to the trash (or just mark them as deleted). It actually manually copies the messages over! Message by Message. From the local copy to the server. Then it deletes them. And then begins the awful "Writing Changes to disk", completely killing the performance of my MacBook.

Also annoying: Mail.app does not support IMAP folder subscriptions. It insists to fetch all folders - if you have a full calendar on your exchange server, it's going to fetch all those (useless for Mail.app) entries aswell - and we know now how well Mail.app works with large folders.

My conclusion is: Mail.app is perfect for reading and writing your daily mail. It fails miserably at all mail administration jobs.

I'm going to stick with it none the less as reading my daily mail is what I'm doing most of the time. It's just a good thing that Thunderbird exists and I'm going to use that for the next round of cleanup (hoping that Mail.app picks up the changes and does not take too long to mirror them to its local store).

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Today, another GB of RAM for my MacBook Pro arrived (I bought it at Heiniger AG. It's no original Apple RAM, but it's about a third as expensive as the original).

Installation was very easy to do (I link the instructions for the 17" model because that's what I found on the web - it works the same for the 15" model).

And I tell you: This is the best thing to ever happen to a computer of mine performance-wise.

While the system feels a lot snappier in "default mode", it shines even more when I'm running Parallels Workstation in the background (at full screen - using VirtueDesktop).

I'm inclined to say that the parallels-thing just got usable with this upgrade.

Funny thing: When you are working with Windows XP, you won't notice as much as a speed increase in normal operating mode when you upgrade your RAM from 1GB to 2GB. I guess the memory manager of OSX is just more eager to swap out stuff if RAM gets scarce. And as we all know: Swapping kills a system.

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