Burning Data DVD/CD from Mac OS X “Lion” (10.7.x), for use on non-apple devices

Slight alarm bells ringing here.  It’s been a while since I last had to burn optical media for anything other than DVD-video mastering, so it’s not an issue I’m likely to have come across since the early days of Mac OS X “Leopard” (10.5.x).

This afternoon I happily burned a DVD using Apple Finder as usual, and it all went fine, verifying as usual. Since the target is a mixture of users on Windows and Mac OS X, I asked a Windows-using colleague to check the burned DVD worked on her machine.  Epic Fail.  Came up with the usual dialogue box asking how to open the contents, and Explorer showed the disc as having nothing in the root directory.

When I took the disc back and mounted it on the Mac, I checked in Disk Utility and sure enough, the mounted drive is in the native HFS+ format for Macs. Totally useless on PC’s.  I’m sure Mac OS X used to burn Hybrid media suitable for use on either Mac or PC, but this seems to have changed somewhere in the last few years.

Googling the problem online doesn’t bring up obvious answers, so I had to do a little more digging.  One possible solution was found here in the Apple discussion forums, which I’m now trying for myself.

Burn (Freeware utility) for Mac OS, on Sourceforge

Image

So – I’ve told it to create a disk image suitable for PC’s (as shown in the dropdown menu above), and I’ll mount it in the Finder before burning to DVD to see what format the image actually has:

Image

Good sign – the Finder sees ISO 9660 (Joliet).  Now I just need to burn the image to disk, which I’m doing from inside the Burn app rather than asking Disk Utility to burn an ISO.  I’ll test that later.

So while I wait for the disk to burn. I’ll add to these notes that I need to check the disc on a Windows box, to check that the file names remain intact.  For some uses this might not matter, but for the application I have in mind (sending multitrack audio projects to multiple users for training purposes), the file and directory names to remain intact for Reaper (or any other audio sequencer) to find them again without having have the user point it to them.

As I write this I also realise that the burning process, despite being set to run at 8x (the fastest the drive supports) and the data-set and transfer rate remain the same as in Disk Utility, seems to be taking about twice as long as Disk Utility.

The final result:

Image

Also looking promising – let’s test it on a Windows box and see what it looks like!

UPDATE:  Fail. Comes up as blank DVD in Windows.  

Looks like the only option left in the time available is to transfer the content via USB key and burn the disk on Windows.

Anyone else have any better solutions that don’t involve spending money or reverting to the command-line?

DHL collections: A special type of customer service fail

So here’s a new customer service policy.

I had an expensive widget break down – a heavy widget.  So I sought help from the manufacturer who says “okay, we’ll repair it – and we’ll have someone collect it from you”.  Great.

So a couple of days later a DHL shipping label and a box arrive.  Dutifully, I put the widget in the box, then printed and attach shipping label to said box, waiting for courier to turn up.

Here’s where the wheels fall off the process:

Part of the process of the manufacturer booking the collection means that a weight for the package is printed on the shipping label. BUT: that data does not get transferred to the courier in the booking process.

So what happens is, the driver turns up, takes one look at the package and the weight, then says something like “too heavy. Someone will come round tomorrow”.  Except that nobody in our office remembers anyone doing that and the first I knew about it was a phone call that came in late yesterday to tell me what had happened.

So, rather than just calling me or a colleague to help with getting the heavy parcel into the van (about a 5 min job), they instead drive off to the next location, call it into base as too heavy, have someone call me to explain the situation, rebook after I get (hopefully not too) annoyed at them and insist it was picked up same-day, then someone else fails to turn up to do that job, then I end up spending most of my day trying to talk to someone about why things failed and how the heck we’re gonna get this thing outta my office today.  About 8 man-hours lost, along with lots more CO2 and a complaint made against a driver for not turning up.

Think it’s time DHL and other couriers get their act together to stop us wasting so much of our lives – and obvious flaws as crucial information not being fed through the data chain such as size and weight of the package really does need fixing. Surely this whole saga is costing DHL far more to sort out than it has me so far?

BBC iPlayer user interface fail

Just thought to post up something that’s really bugging me on the BBC iPlayer site lately.  Why does the search entry box not clear the text string “search” when clicked on, like pretty much any other search function on any other website I’ve ever encountered?  It would save maddening situations like this ever being a problem, however much the user knows about the web:

Confused, much?

Be / O2 Internet issues… again!

So on getting up this morning I found that I had no Internet (that is, web, mail or other IP) connectivity to any site outside of the UK, and even then the UK-based sites were patchy at best.  I thought at first that someone’s nearby WiFi box had switched channels again, but even over a cable things were still just as bad.  I kept an eye on the Be forums and discovered that this was a nationwide problem, with LINKS being blamed again by many.  As yet there’s no online confirmation of anything being fixed, but the connection reliability has been improving throughout the morning.

This the third such major outage I’ve experienced with Be/O2 over the last year, and it’s getting quite tiring.  Makes me wonder whether it’s time to change ISP again?

TV Licensing and address confusion

I live in a flat whose name has changed some years ago, but the name change has yet to be successfully acknowledged by the local council despite best efforts made by the landlords up until the time I moved here. Since then I’ve received several letters from TV Licensing (TVL) addressed to old property name, despite my having transferred my licence to what I knew to be the correct address for my property, and despite TVL having confirmed that they had linked the addresses on their database so that future mailing list imports will start the sorry correspondence trail again for no sane reason.

The helpful representative at the time also told me to ignore any future mailings I might receive of this nature provided that I keep up payments and keep a copy of the correct licence to show to an enforcement officer if they ever choose to show up. Having worked for TVL myself many years ago I can confirm from memory that this was the advice we were told to give to callers in similar situations to mine, for whatever reason.

So you can imagine my surprise when I received a written warning today of a pending court summons for the lack of a licence at the incorrect address, because I’ve not responded to their previous letters. Well DU-UUH! I’ve written to them this evening explaining the situation as it currently stands, enclosing a printed copy of my current valid licence asking them to honour their advice given to me when I last contacted them on this matter. Here’s hoping that common sense prevails and that their current database system is sane enough to understand that property addresses change from time to time, without the councils having had time to update their address lists. I await their response.

Believe it or not, it seems that according to this help page on their website, Royal Mail are not themselves the official registrar of postal addresses in the UK. Instead they get their data from the local councils who maintain their own lists, presumably for the purposes of tax collection and service provision. Their advice is that I now need to start chasing my local council to see if they can indeed update their records with what is now my correct address, which should hopefully stop this happening in the future.

More as it happens, as usual.

Where *not* to leave a mobile phone

Saw this earlier this evening and had to post. Where does one *not* leave a mobile phone? Where there is sensitive electronics of course…

…sound nerds/geeks among us might notice that the phone is left on top of a valve pre-amp, RF rejection capabilities unknown.

Ah well, their gig sounds pretty good so I won’t complain!

Silliness with BT Openzone

BACKGROUND

I’m an O2 iPhone customer, who happens to have free ‘unlimited’ WiFi bundled with my contract.  In theory, this means I can help O2 by letting their affiliated WiFi providers take some of the data strain as I wander around London navigating, browsing, status-updating, twitter-feeding or even knocking out some emails while I’m waiting for something to happen somewhere in meatspace. In my experience so far, BT Openzone has had more wifi hotspots than the other affiliated providers, so while waiting for a train one morning I attempted to log into one of the access points in Charing Cross.  Once logged in, the theory is that the phone remembers the network name and attaches to it whenever it finds it. There are problems however that BT/Apple/O2 really need to fix if they hope to maintain the best user (customer) experience.

PROBLEMS

  1. Logging in for the first time. With both iPhones I’ve had to call O2 to have them re-send my details to BT to have it added to the list of authorised users.  I had to wait an hour or two for this update to take effect. I then had to log into the base station, which required me to switch the WiFi to BT Openzone, then attempt to load a web page in Safari. If I tried to check my email or Facebook app, nothing happened except an error message after some minutes informing me that I had no connection to the Internet.  FYI, despite my technical background, knowledge and experience, I would argue that really the only thing that separates me from ‘normal’ users is my cantankerous determination to make my chosen products and devices behave as (or better than) advertised. I’m all too regularly disappointed by how much of my time and effort most products and services take to be coaxed into even the most basic levels of ‘does what it says on the tin’. This little exercise has been no exception.
  2. Network name confusion. When is a BT Openzone not a BT Openzone? When you’re at an airport, rail station or any other area with a captive audience, where the service is actually charged at a higher rate, regardless of whether one is an existing member or not.  Or even just because the owner of the building says so. It’s not just about me being a cheapskate. These stations exist in other areas too. If memory serves, BT Business users have the option built-in to their 2-Wire routers to use a limited amount of their ADSL bandwidth to create a secondary (chargeable) WiFi network for their staff, customers or visitors. In use this advertises itself as an Openzone site, but is excluded from the unlimited WiFi deal given to O2. Confusion reigns.
  3. Connection failures. Many of the base stations just plain don’t work. Either the logon process is borked or there’s no connection between the base station and the Internet.  We customers don’t often know where the boxes actually are, so we don’t know how to complain (or to whom we should) to get them fixed.  The result of this is that when walking through an unfamiliar part of London, iPhone users who sign up to the service even just once end up not being able to see or interact with anything requiring Internet connectivity until the WiFi features of their phone are turned off. That means no email updates. No navigation by the built-in Google Maps app. Nice.

SOLUTIONS

  • BT could rename the second tier Openzone charged service base stations, separating their Openzone brand from the allegedly ‘premier’ service. That way it’s clear from the network name that the base station is different, and may be charged differently.
  • BT certainly need to up their game with regards to maintaining their base stations.
  • O2 could renegotiate their terms such that all BT Openzone hotspots are covered, including those at Airports and other prime locations.
  • Apple could make their network stack switch more quickly back to the mobile network if the phone is unable to ping to one of their servers because WiFi is not working, not logged in etc.
  • Alternatively, Apple could provide a home-screen app or shortcut, toggling the WiFi capability on or off. Even on the multitasking iPhone 4 hardware and OS, it’s a bit of a chore to get to the settings menu and flip the WiFi switch.

In all cases, those designing, building, maintaining or selling such systems need to be using them, regularly and as designed, so they know the customer experience for themselves. No hacks, no workarounds, no inside knowledge. Exactly as the customer would be instructed. Then we will make progress.

Meanwhile, next time I’m near an Openzone network I’ll be telling my iPhone to ‘forget this network’. It’s a nice idea to be able to switch to WiFi and only use the mobile network when faster connections are not available, but as of right now it’s just not worth the hassle to the end user.

Or perhaps I’m the only one trying to use an iPhone to find my bearings when i’m out and about?

Letters to those unlikely to respond… #1

A Mother’s Day trip to Bristol today proved an interesting day all round – a great time for connecting with family, but a horrid day for transport and interactions with other people.

On the way home this evening we boarded our return coach, only to find that it was rammed, stinking of a vile combination of curry and the general bodily odour of a busy day’s human activity – whatever that may have been.

Finally we suffered the aural assault of the London Underground, as I think you’ll see below:

“Dear London Underground:

Please stop with the constant inane, overwhelming and soul-destroying chatter that you so regularly spout from your Public Address systems.  Please understand the following:

  1. If I see something suspicious or threatening, it will be reported.  I do not need to be reminded to do so at every opportunity.
  2. When I have luggage about my person, I do not intend to leave it behind anywhere except at my home when you eventually let me get there.
  3. I do not need to be reminded to stay behind the yellow line at all times.  The sheer height of the drop from the platform to the tracks, and the fact that I know of the electrified rails keeps me far enough away from the edge all by itself, thank you very much.
  4. Your repeated robotic pleas do not make me want to be any more considerate to the passengers who wish to get off the train than I already am.  My manners and attitude, things you have no control over except to worsen, will help here.  If I stand in the way of those in a hurry to alight, I deserve everything I get from them, short of physical force.  See Point number 1 for more on this.
  5. I know about the gap – it’s scary and it eats the unwary.  It does not need minding – it exists quite happily by itself.  I will avoid it where I see it.  Please just light the area properly or close the gap.  It’s not that hard.  I will warn others of the gaps if I see them.
  6. Announcements of a “good service operating on all London Underground lines” should not be necessary.  I mean really – are you celebrating getting through a period when you can say that?  Why?  We pay you for that good service.  Please just tell us if there are problems, or tell us nothing.
  7. TURN IT DOWN!  The volume, frequency of announcements, the tinny/distorted/painful speakers, and the inane content of each message is making me switch off my brain to all aural stimulation while using your services.
  8. TURN IT DOWN! (2)  If you need to announce everything at top volume, you’re doing it wrong.  Cut the background noise, fix your PA systems, train those who make announcements in correct speech and microphone announcements, and run the service properly.
  9. Learn to talk properly!  If I have a speech impediment or a particularly strong accent, I’m not going to make a great radio DJ unless I can learn to make myself understood properly.  So nobody will employ me.  Please stop making those who can neither speak nor properly understand English make announcements.  They’ll just get ignored or ridiculed, and you’ll still be wondering why we are all so frustrated.

Your prompt action to attend to these matters is desired but not expected.

Yours,

Frustrated of London.”