Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Opening DiskDoubler files from Mac OS 9



Back in the day
The first external hard drive I bought was a 40 megabyte SCSI device, and it cost about $400. That’s correct, 40 MB for $400. Today you can’t even fit Mac OS X (just the system, with no other program files) on anything less than several gigabytes, but in 1989, when I bought that home-assembled drive from a guy in Scotts Valey, CA, that was considered a pretty big drive. In fact it was big — physically at least; it measured about 12" by 3" by 5" — about the size of 12 DVD cases together.

Back then, most programs fit on an 800k floppy drive, and if you had data files bigger than 800k, you were really pushing the envelope with your computing. In 1988 through 1992, I was publishing Western Front News, and began to scan grayscale photos for the newspaper and impose them on Quark XPress pages for high quality digital output. This was cutting edge for the time, given that large metropolitan newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle were still pasting up their pages by hand using paper, wax, and traditional halftone photos laid in by hand with hairline tape.

Grayscale images could make pretty big file sizes, however, and the layout program I was using to design the newspaper, Quark XPress, could make pretty big files too, unless you split your publication into separate files (e.g. “Front Page.qxd”, “Page 2-3.qxd”, etc.) which I did. But even using these tricks, files were beginning to get bigger than many people had space for, and hard drives were simply too costly for many people. This was also before removable solutions like Zip disks became popular.

Compression technology
Along came compression technology for the Mac like StuffIt and DiskDoubler, which used algorithms to look at the data in the files, close up gaps, and scrunch down needlessly duplicative parts (this is my vast oversimplification of how compression works). This was great for archiving files, but not very useful for files you were using all the time, since a file that had been DiskDoubled was unusable by the original creator program until you un-DiskDoubled it. Just like a ZIP file, which is what today’s modern OS X system uses for default compression.

After an edition of my paper was done and at the printer, I'd compress the Quark XPress files with Diskdoubler and then archive them on a few separate floppies. Then I could delete the originals from my $400 40 MB hard drive and free up a meg or two of space to work on other things.

DiskDoubler
DiskDoubler was great because you could enact it from the Desktop, which was uncommon then. You didn’t have to start it up each time you wanted to compress or uncompress a file, you could just select the file in the Finder and use a pulldown menu from the main Apple menu bar.

I was using DiskDoubler as early as System 6 and 7 (I think I bought it shortly after it was released in 1990), and I was definitely still using it as late as System 8 and 9. By the time I’d finally switched fully to OS X around 2002, DiskDoubler had been bought once or twice by other companies and future development had been shelved. I was still using it occasionally, but by then hard drives had become a lot more affordable, not to mention much larger in capacity.

Orphaned DiskDoubler files
It wasn’t until around 2006, when I bought a Mac Pro, that I realized I could no longer open these ancient archives I’d made in DiskDoubler. Until then, my trusty Mac G4 desktop could boot OS X and OS 9 at the same time, and while it wasn’t a perfect solution for using OS 9-only apps, there were so few instances that I needed OS 9 that it didn’t seem to matter.

The later version of OS X I had on my Mac Pro, on the other hand, did not boot OS 9. Now that I had this shiny new silver Mac and gigantic hard drives were pretty cheap (and I could fit up to four inside!), I’d moved most of my old files over from CDs and Zip disks and the like, thinking I could finally put old client files and other stuff in some logical order instead of having them all strewn all about. This would be especially helpful on those admittedly rare occasions when a client from ten years ago would call me up out of the blue and ask if I still had a map or logo or something (which happens about once every two or three years).

But even after ditching Zip disks and culling old files from CD-ROMs and putting them all on my Mac Pro, I still had lots of files that were .dd file format; they were DiskDoubled. In other words, I had files I couldn’t open. To make matters worse, I had about 100 floppy disks from waaaay back in the day, which contained some of my earliest client designs and most of my Western Front News archives. And all of those files were compressed using DD.

I had hung on to my older G4 for just this sort of reason. I knew it was the only way I was going to be able to open my old Quark XPress files, since I’d abandoned XPress long ago for InDesign and had no intention of purchasing the costly OS X version of XPress just so I could open ancient files that I only wanted to convert to PDFs.

I booted OS 9 and only then did I realize I’d never installed DiskDoubler on this Mac. I’d been using it at work, and I had it on an older Mac I hadn’t touched in years (and didn’t even have an extra monitor for). Not only that, I couldn’t find the program anywhere on my HDs.

The hunt is on
I tried every modern compression app I could think of, but none seemed to support DD format anymore (this was particularly disappointing of StuffIt, which used to be able to open DD files). I scoured the far-flung reaches of the Internets for a solution, to no avail. I saw random posts on various Mac help forums, people in the same boat as me, with age-old orphan files they wanted access to.

I eventually found one OS X program, The Unarchiver, that claimed to decompress DiskDoubler files, but it never worked. Finally, reading the developer’s support forum, I discovered that he just hadn’t gotten to implementing support for DD format yet.



Treasure found
At long last, yesterday I located an old backup CD of my utility applications from two or three computers ago. The CD is from 1999, but thank bog I held on to it, because it contained a working copy of Norton DiskDoubler Pro version 4.1, which runs under Mac System 9x and actually opens my Diskdoubler files. Hurrah!

A gift for those in need
As I mentioned before, I came across forum posts by other people trying to solve this same predicament over the years. Hopefully they’ll find this post via Google (I’ve tried to pepper the text with as many relevant SEO-able keywords as possible), and get some positive results from it.



Download Norton DiskDoubler Pro version 4.1 for Mac System 9

Recommendations for use
In order to use DiskDoubler you will need a Mac capable of booting OS 9.

The download file above is a ZIP archive made on OS X. You should download and unarchive it on OS X, then transfer the resulting folder to your Mac OS 9 volume (if you don’t have OS X and you can’t open the ZIP (I think you’ll be able to, though), leave a comment and I’ll see if I can use an older archive format).



On your OS 9 volume, open the folder Norton DiskDoubler Pro 4.1, and simply drag and drop any DiskDoubled file onto the application icon (see screenshot above). The file should compress to the same folder as the original, without deleting or moving the original. Those settings can be configured in the application, if you like.

Please comment
If you found this article helpful, have your own recommendations for using the app, or other advice to solve the orphaned DiskDoubler files problem, please leave a comment. If this article saved your life and you want to show your infinite gratitude by heaping mounds of money on me, please contact me directly and I will forward my offshore account info to you.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rawr

Finally updated the Mac Pro (my desktop machine) to Leopard, having done the other three computers in my household long ago (Velma’s, my laptop, and the Mac Mini entertainment center).

It was a little more complicated than normal, since my quad-core Intel Mac Pro shipped with a hard drive that had been formatted using the Apple Partition Table, and Leopard won’t install on such a drive, so you have to erase it and reformat it using GUID Partition Table.

I had to use Disk Utility to copy my main OS drive and all my settings (using the Restore function) to a separate HD I fortunately had enough space on, then reboot from the new copy to make sure it was bootable, then completely erase and repartition my prior OS drive (always scary), then reboot from the Leopard install disk, install Leopard using the function that will let you copy your account/network/personal settings from another Mac (or another drive), and finally reboot from the freshly updated Leopard OS that replaced the old Tiger OS.

It seems to have worked alright; since you’re reading this, that means I have Internet access and have not found any major problems yet that require me to go quietly, or more likely loudly, insane. But I haven’t checked all my apps yet, so there’s still time.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Syncing your home and office Macs

I was leaving my job and had accumulated three-plus years of contacts, website bookmarks, emails, etc., that I wanted to keep and transfer to my home computer, but I didn't necessarily want to use the same apps at home that my company used. For example, Mac users in my office used Microsoft's Entourage (the Mac equivalent of Outlook) for address book, shared calendering, and email.

Despite two or three super-annoying bugs that Microsoft never fixed in the three-plus years I used it, I actually liked Entourage more than any Microsoft software I've used since the old System 9 days when the Mac version of Internet Explorer was the only really decent browser on the market for a few years (obviously this was before Safari, Netscape had been swallowed whole by AOL and was beginning to suck pretty bad, and Firefox hadn't even been invented).

But why would I splurge for Microsoft's Entourage at home when my Mac comes with three great free apps (Address Book, iCal, and Mail) that do fundamentally the same things Entourage does, and all work together too?

So I needed to figure out a way to sync data from the work computer with the home computer, while also switching from some apps to different ones. There were a lot of tips on the web about how to switch from Entourage to Address Book or how to go from Outlook to Entourage, but these tips all required that you were either doing this on one computer, or had the two computers in the same room.

I needed solutions that would work between work and home. It took me a few days of researching and experimenting, but I came up with some solutions that worked well.

Read on for solutions to these problems:
Problem #1: Can I export my Entourage contacts and email?
Problem #2: How do I get my IM contacts to my home computer?
Problem #3: How do I sync that newly exported data from work to home?
Problem #4: How can I take my web browser's bookmarks home?
Problem #5: I don't want to lose all my web site passwords saved in my browser!
Problem #6: How do I open Word documents at home?
Problem #7: Can I consolidate my home and work iTunes libraries?




Problem #1: Can I export my Entourage contacts and email?



Entourage to Address Book
This was easier than I expected. Entourage on OS X lets you export your contacts as vCards, which is a cross-platform text format (.vcf) that is recognized by almost any contact app (like Apple's Address Book). It's simple: In the Finder, make a new folder called vCards. In Entourage, select all your contacts, and just drag them all to the folder (it may take a couple minutes if you have a lot of contacts). Then, in Address Book, simply select File > Import > vCards... from the menu (see picture below), and navigate in the dialog box to the vCards folder you dumped your Entourage contacts into.

After that, I could sync my Address Book with .Mac to get them to the home computer. But more about that in a moment.








Entourage to Mail
This bit was unexpectedly simple too. Similar to the previous scenario, if you just drag an Entourage email folder or your entire in-box from the program to the Finder, all the data gets exported and packaged into the popular .mbox format. It even includes attachments, much to my surprise.

After that, all you have to do is transfer all those .mbox files to your home computer, and if you're going to use Apple's own Mail app at home like me, you simply open Mail and select File > Import Mailboxes... from the menu (see picture below).



Next you'll see a dialog box named Import (see picture below), in which you'll want to select Other from the list and hit Continue. Then you just use the ensuing dialog box to navigate to the .mbox files on your hard drive and then Mail will churn through them all (it may take a while if you have a lot of email) and put them in a new folder titled "Import."






Problem #2: How do I get my IM contacts to my home computer?



I use the excellent, multi-service, open source Adium X at both work and home, but Adium stores some of its contact data locally. So if you've added a nickname to a contact to remember that, for example, pirate2am is Hilary, then you only have that notation on the one computer, and the next time pirate2am IMs you while you're on the other computer, you may not remember who that is (don't you hate having to ask somebody "Who are you?" on IM?).

So my solution concentrated on finding a way to export my contact list from Adium at work and then syncing it with my contact list at home. There's no built-in function for this, and sadly there's not even an export function in Adium (although the latter is on their development roadmap), so I couldn't just export a tab-delimited or CSV file to take home and import.

At the same time, I also had duplicate contacts in Adium and Address Book, but in the IM client you normally have little more than their username, their IM service (AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, etc.), and maybe an avatar. In Address Book, you obviously have a lot more fields. But if you're like me, for some people's entries you don't have their IM, you always just have that in your IM client, so why bother? And perhaps you want to capture their avatar from the IM client and copy it into Address Book's nifty picture field.

Doing a Google search brought me (eventually) to Adium Book, a little OS X AppleScript app made by a Brazilian programmer named Aurelio.

This little app worked great, looking at Adium X and Address Book at the same time, comparing records, and giving me a simple interface for resolving conflicts (see picture below) like duplicate names and/or differing data for the same name. It even let me copy avatars back and forth, and if I had two different ones for a single person, it let me choose which one to use, or to keep a different one in each app.



Now that I had all my IM contacts copied from Adium X to Address Book, I still needed to get them home. So it was time to sync using .Mac.




Problem #3: How do I sync that newly exported data from work to home?



I'd been avoiding getting a .Mac account for years, since I couldn't justify paying $99 a year for things that I can already do on my own website (e.g. web pages, blogging, webmail, etc.), or through other services that have more robust features (e.g. photo sharing, bookmark syncing, etc.).

But because I've avoided .Mac, I've never been able to take advantage of the easy-to-use sync features that are built into all Macs. Because I had a deadline by which I needed to have my work data backed up and transfered to my home Mac, I thought it was time to give .Mac a whirl. Plus I could take advantage of the 60-day free trial and accomplish everything I wanted to do, and then if I still didn't think .Mac was worth it, I could drop it before having to pay for a full year.

There are actually two or three features of .Mac that I really like, and that are difficult to reproduce using other services (and certainly not in the easy and built-in way that .Mac works). Those features are: 1) Sync, 2) iDisk, and 3) Back to My Mac. That last one is only available to Leopard users, so until I upgrade I can't use it. But in the meantime, the first two make .Mac worth a try, and I must admit that Sync works so effortlessly that I'd almost be willing to pay for .Mac just because of that.



With .Mac you can sync your Safari bookmarks, Address Book contacts, email, calendars, keychains, and more (Leopard adds Dashboard widgets too). I wish it also worked with Firefox bookmarks, but I have other methods for that, described later.

Once I signed up for the .Mac trial period, I could suddenly sync my Address Book at work (which remember now contains all my contacts from Entourage and all my IM contacts), to .Mac's servers, and then go home and sync .Mac with my local machine(s). Suddenly I have exact copies of all my contacts at home as well as at work, plus I've got them on the web with .Mac, so I can access them from almost anywhere.




Problem #4: How can I take my web browser's bookmarks home?



.Mac also syncs your Safari bookmarks, but I primarily use Firefox, so .Mac wasn't going to cut it in this regard. Luckily, it's extremely simple to export/back up your Firefox bookmarks. Just select Bookmarks > Organize Bookmarks... from the menu (see picture below).



Firefox will bring up the Bookmarks Manager, in which you simply seelct File > Export... (see picture below), and you save the file as something like "Bookmarks_Firefox_January2008.html" on your hard drive. Then you move the file to your home computer, open the Bookmarks Manager in Firefox again, and select File > Import... from the menu.



There are some apps out there to help you resolve any duplicates, but that's a long, involved, and therefore separate tutorial, so I'm going to save that for another time. At least you now haven't lost all your bookmarks you collected on your computer at work.

Oh, and while I'm thinking of it, it's a pretty good idea to regularly export those bookmarks on your computer anyway, as a backup. I keep several years' worth of them in my Documents folder, all dated and organized by browser. I lost several years worth of bookmarks once in a hard browser crash, and I'm not going to risk that ever again.




Problem #5: I don't want to lose all my web site passwords saved in my browser!



If you're a Firefox user like me, you probably like Firefox's useful ability to store usernames and passwords at the many sites you have to log into every day, week, or month. If you're not using it, you can turn it on from the Firefox > Preferences... menu, then click on the Security icon/tab in the prefs dialog box that comes up (see picture below).



Obviously this functionality is only viable if you're not on a shared computer, and if you are using Apple's Keychain to securely store your master password. Otherwise, other people will see your username/password combination when they go to log in to Yahoo! or places like that.

I was switching from the work computer to full-time on the home computer, and I dreaded having to remember — and re-type! — all those passwords that I regularly used on the work computer. I searched in vain for an app that would export these from Firefox (which does not support this function itself, although it should) so I finally had to bite the bullet and type them all into a text file (you can't even drag and drop them out of FF's list!) which I then transferred to home and will have to re-enter.

Update: I don't know how I overlooked the Firefox extension Password Exporter when I was first looking for a solution. I've installed it now, but haven't tried it out yet. The documentation leads me to believe it can import as well, which would by useful.




Problem #6: How do I open Word documents at home?

This wasn't actually a problem for me, since I've avoided Word for years, and there are already plenty of alternatives to Word on the Mac, and even several web apps you can use instead. But for sake of completeness and because I predict there will be people who find this article who do use Word a lot, I'll mention some solutions.



TextEdit
This app is free and comes installed on every Mac with OS X, but most people don't realize it opens Word's .doc format. I use TextEdit for almost every simple text document I need to write that will eventually get printed or made into a PDF. You can drag-and-drop or cut-and-paste images into it with ease, and I think you can even drag-and-drop tabular data from other apps into it (I never need this, however, so I'm not positive). It lacks many of the vast "features" that make Word the worst of the bloatware in my book, but I never have any need for those features, and if I need to do complex layouts, why in hell would I use a text editor anyway? That's what layout programs like InDesign or Illustrator are for.

Oh, and a word to the wise about Word's .doc files: On a Mac (and on PCs too, for that matter), there's never any reason to save anything as a .doc file, which is proprietary to Microsoft and just means that anyone you send the document to is almost always going to need Word to open it. The simple alternative, which supports 99% of the functionality anyone will ever need in a .doc file, is the .rtf format. Just save everything as .rtf and the whole world will love you.

xPad
I've been using this little notepad app for years and I can't live without it. xPad does everything TextEdit above does, but it also auto-saves and adds an extremely handy tray to the side of your document window and keeps all your docs listed there, making organizing your frequently-accessed text documents incredibly easier. I keep to-do lists in there, five or ten half-written blog entries at any given time (I wrote this tutorial in it, screengrabs and all!), drafts of emails, link lists, and much more (see picture below).






Problem #7: Can I consolidate my home and work iTunes libraries?



Now this was a big one. I worked in a place where lots of music was available (Download.com has over 100,000 free MP3s, for example), and I occasionally happened upon treasure troves on the net that I was all too happy to queue up for download on the fast connection at work.

Eventually I had amassed quite a collection of songs that I didn't have at home, and when it came time to leave my job I certainly didn't want to lose those. It would be simple enough to copy them all to a hard drive, bring them home, and then drag them into iTunes to import. But I'd spent a lot of time building playlists to listen to at work, not to mention rating most of those songs. I wanted to retain that metadata!

I saw two vendors at MacWorld Expo who offered a potential solution, and I picked SuperSync because it seemed to offer a lot more robust features, even if the interface on the other one was a little cleaner and easier to understand. Plus I met the actual developer there at the booth, hawking SuperSync, so I was able to spend 10 or 15 minutes asking him "Will it do..." and "What if..." until I was satisfied that it'd probably work great for me.

That said, I purchased SuperSync but I haven't actually had time to try it yet, so I'll have to update this post after I've given it a whirl. ; )






Conclusion
I hope some of these tips come in helpful to you. I'd like to hear from you if they do. Or, if you have any additions, corrections, or alternative methods you'd like to share, please post them in a comment below, or write them up for your own site and post a link here.

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Thursday, May 01, 2003

Inaugural post using Blogger

I’ve just installed this weblog on my site and I’m experimenting with it. I’m using Blogger for the backend, which was relatively easy to install (a few glitches later, I’m up and running), which is cool because it allows me to post through a web browser from any computer.

I’m also going to experiment with some Mac OS X freeware and shareware apps I found at VersionTracker.com to see if I can automate the process even further, such as a handy AppleScript I found there that’ll allow me to Blog from any application. If it works...I’ll let ya know!

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