iDVD Wonkiness


About every four months, I take the most recent crop of family videos and burn them to a DVD along with a slideshow of some of the better snapshots. This way the kids can always go back and watch themselves on TV , which they love, and I have a way to torture and chase away unwanted house guests. "Have you seen our latest DVD?!"

Anyway, the time came and I assembled all the various files and fired up the new iDVD. I got the little bouncy icon and got the start up window. I clicked "New Project" and iDVD thought about it for a bit and then just winked out of existence. Huh? Okay lets try that again. I fire up iDVD, click new project, and again the icon poofs on me. This is getting ugly. I'm having flashbacks to my days behind a windows machine when this type of glitchiness was the norm.

So I reverted to many years of drilled in windows training. I rebooted. Following the reboot I got the same problem. So I shut it down and then started it again. That is right, the Old Schooler's "cold boot." Again it failed.

At this point I was getting pretty frustrated and just a bit concerned that my machine may be having issues so I did a google search that came up empty and sent an email to one of my favorite Apple Genius pals. Then I went and worked in the yard. Nothing like pulling a few weeds to get things in perspective. I came back that evening to find an email from my Apple friend explaining there was a bug with iDVD and pointing me to a full explanation on the Apple boards. Sure enough, iDVD 08 does not play well with some of the old iDVD themes. I removed the offending themes and things worked great. Several of the new themes are, by the way, outstanding.

All is well that ends well but I must admit I'm disheartened that Apple would ship software that is not compatible with its own files. I mean it wasn't some third party application that caused this but Apple's own prior themes for the exact same program. Ummm ... who, exactly, was testing this?

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iMovie 08, I Like It

iMovie 08

The new iMovie really has some people up in arms. I'm not sure if it is just a vocal minority or Apple's got everyone mad. What happened is Apple dumbed it down. Gone is the timeline as well as several other tools. In is a really cool skimming feature and much simpler formatting and transitions.

So, I've been reading about all these rants and decided to give it a try. I had about 20 minutes of miscelaneous footage on my hard drive taken with the video function of my point-and-shoot Kodak that I haven't gotten around to processing in Final Cut because I just haven't had time. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to try this new "controversial" software.

I didn't crack the manual and just went for it. Importing the video was easy but time consuming. The program builds that skim library for you so it spends a little while chuging through. Rather than watch it go through that process, I had every intention of catching up on email but instead ended up playing frisbee with the neighbor's dog.

I came back about 15 minutes later and it was done. I don't know how long it took, but it was done. Then it was really easy. You scan the clips and drag the mouse to select the portion you want to use. You then drag the selected clip into your project. You can drop in transitions, titles, and music very easily. Frankly, I can't get over how quick and easy it was.

With about 10 minutes work, I had all the video cut down to a 7 minute funny clip with titles, transitions, and music. I then uploaded it to my .Mac account and had an email out to relatives across the US, London, and the Philippines. Apple, I get it.

For John Q Public, this program is excellent for getting video cut and completed with very little trouble. I also use Final Cut and I'm not willing to give up those extra tools but I also really like iMovie 08. If you want those extra tools you can still use iMovie 06, which remains availbable, but I recommend buying Final Cut Express. You get LiveType, Soundtrack, and all sorts of tools to unleash your inner Spielberg. The other nice thing about the new iMovie is you can export directly to Final Cut, which helps streamline my workflow for the serious stuff as well.

So at the end of the day, the new iMovie is a definite improvement in my video production. I appreciate the complainers, sort of. But with iMovie 06 still available, and the very powerful tools you can get with the $300 Final Cut Express, I also think they need to get over it.

Mac Hardware and Software Updates

New iMac

Although I generally don't consider MacSparky a "news" site, there is some great live coverage of the Mac event today at Engadget right here. At the time of this posting, Steve has released the new iMacs, iLife 08, and iWork 08 and a bump of .Mac drive space (I think) to 10 gb. The software updates look fantastic and will be finding their way on to my hard drive soon.

iPhoto Super Editing Mode



This one rates pretty high on the geek meter but is very helpful. While in iPhoto press the following combination.


Control + CapsLock + 9


Then hit the “Tab” key and you unlock the advanced editing features. This works really well for red eye reduction and retouch. I got this hint from an Apple Store genius but OSXhints covered it really nicely here.

Review - Spanning Sync and GooSync

Spanning Sync

One problem that continued to pester me is one that is near and dear to the heart of all attorneys, the calendar. My office uses a PC Network with a specialized legal application called "Timematters". Timematters is a PC only application and one of the things it does well is sync with my Treo 650. This way my secretary and staff is entering contacts, appointments, and task items which sync into my Treo. This is very helpful to me. The problem is when I want to look at my calendar at home on something other than the tiny Treo screen. So therein lies the challenge -- sync my Treo with my Mac without screwing up the data when I return to my office. (It would not be fun explaining to my colleagues how I managed to wipe out the contact database) As an aside I was never able to successfully do this on my old PC laptop either.



This is not as easy at it should seem. The Palm desktop may be the worst program ever written in both its PC and Mac variants. But I think the Mac version is particularly loathsome. I try to sync with it and it takes FOREVER. Furthermore, it doesn't always grab all the data and worse yet it seems to corrupt data when I send it back at work. I also tried "The Missing Sync" to no avail (although a lot people swear by it).



The good news is I've found a solution using Google Calendar and GooSync. GooSync can be found at and is made by a UK based company, Toffa International. GooSync allows you to sync your Google Calendar with just about any cell phone that has a calendar app. If you go to their site they have a list of supported phones. With my Treo it actually installed a small palm application that, with a press of a button, allows me to sync my treo to my google calendar. GooSync talks to my google calendar and sync’s all changes on both the phone and those on google. When I go back to the office it then integrates those changes straight into my windows based calendar software without a hiccup.



One nice feature of this is there are no cables. You can sync your phone from anywhere. I usually hit the GooSync button on my Treo as I drive home from the office and again in the morning as I head back in. The free version of GooSync will synchronize for 30 days. If you purchase a 1 year subscription at 20 pounds (which ended up costing me about $40, it will sync an entire year.


If you really want to go crazy, you can also buy Spanning Sync. This program installs a system preference tool that works very similar to the .mac synchronization. When you first set it up you can attach each of your google calendars to a separately created calendar in Apple iCal. I’ve had it running on my MacBook Pro now for 2 weeks with no problem whatsoever. Because it allows you to sync multiple calendars I can pull down my office calendar (uploaded with GooSync), my wife’s calendar, the Google US holiday calendar, and any other public google calendar. I can make adjustments to both calendars and the sync process puts it all together on both systems.


I’ve been very pleased with this program. My wife still works on a PC and it allows her and I to keep up with each other. This also lets me see my calendar, via google calendar, even when I’m away from my mac. It also works fine on multiple macs. I bought my daughter an iMac and the program works fine on my user account on her computer. If you don’t believe me then go to the website. They have a very nice video demonstration.



They offer a trial demonstration of 15 days. They have an interesting license schedule, its $25 a year or a one-time fee of $65. I bought the one year license. I highly recommend this program if you have need of viewing and editing your calendar from other computers, or share calendar data with other users (especially cross platform). It is a great little application that quietly does exactly what you expect it to every time.



The net result for me with these two programs is that my secretary, my wife, and I can all be looking at and changing my calendar from multiple locations and multiple platforms and at the end of the day everything syncs up flawlessly. Since my calendar is constantly changing, this is a very good thing.