Scanning and submitting expense receipts

As many of us do, I have to submit expense reports to the company I work for.  We have to submit receipts with each report, and the system is a bit old, so those receipts must be in small (under 2mb) TIFF format (named .tif as well).  This can be a bit of a pain not only scanning receipts (such as parking receipts) but then getting them into the proper format, especially when the Mac prefers PDF.

I have an awesome Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M which works great for bills and such, but it is not so hot on smaller receipts.  It tears them up, or they get caught in the mechanism, etc.  I could always just scan my credit card, but I do not like redacting one hundred line items just to expense five.

I tried a couple of camera solutions, but none worked until I found Scanner Pro for $6.99 on the App Store.  It is a nice little app that takes scans, converts the scans to black and white saves them into a PDF document.  Some of the plusses for my system include:

  • Easy management of multiple PDF documents (can rename documents, has a badge for number of pages)
  • Automatic uploading of the documents (once saved) to DropBox
  • Ability to add new scans to existing documents
  • Creates nice, high contrast images

This solved one of my problems – Timely scanning.  I can now scan a parking receipt while in the parking garage elevator and have the receipt in a document (such as August Parking) and uploaded to DropBox by the time I reach my car.  Score!

This did not resolve my issue with the system at work needing .tifs.  This proved to be a royal pain, because exporting as TIFF from Preview makes HUGE images.  Each receipt was around 2-3mb.  The size is not only an issue due to the constraints of our system, but also an image that large takes over a minute to upload.

I turned to my trust old friend from decades past, Graphic Converter.  At $39 on the Mac App Store, it is not cheap, but it sure is useful.  The user interface is fairly terrible, but it works!  The command I used is “Convert & Modify” from the file menu.  Once you use the terrible file browser to select your folder of PDFs from Scanner Pro, and select a destination folder, you do the following:

        • Function: Convert
        • Format: TIFF
        • Options: LZW with Prediction, Single Page File, uncheck all metadata
        • Check “WWW Ready”
        • Check “Use Batch”
        • Add two commands to the Batch Table:
          • Scale: proportional 50%
          • Resolution 72×72 ppi




Graphic Converter will remember these settings (The Export settings feature failed miserably on 10.8) Once everything is set up, press “Go.”  In about 5 seconds you will have one file for each page in the document named “August Parking1.tif” “August Parking2.tif” etc.  These files for a typical gas station sized receipt will average 100k in filesize.

Upload tiny documents, archive, and repeat next month.

Update: Sam Grover says that he uses automator to do the part I am using Graphic Converter for!

It’s iCloudy and time for an umbrella

The Apple ecosystem is growing faster than anyone could have imagined.  We buy music, apps for our phones, apps for our Macs, videos, and books all via our iTunes accounts.  We can even pay for our Netflix accounts via iTunes now.

This is convenient and nice, but as people come together and form families, things can start to become a mess.  Some music is bought on one spouse’s account, while some apps are bought on another.  Kids are typically set up with an allowance on a parent’s account.  Some families that existed when the Apple ecosystem started have adopted to buy everything under one master account.  Some families have, sadly, broken apart and have to deal with figuring out who gets the main account and who starts over.

In all of these cases, it would be easier to let everyone have their own iTunes account, and then combine them under an iCloud umbrella.  The umbrella would give permission for everyone under the umbrella to use the assets of the other accounts.  The umbrella simply manages the keys needed to access the assets.  If someone is removed from the umbrella, those keys would be revoked.

This system would allow my wife to access the apps that I bought, and vice vera.  We would not have to play the login game to keep our apps up to date.  We could access each other’s music and album art without playing games.

This is Apple after all.  It should “just work.”

Apple, shield us from the rainy iCloud days and give us iTunes account umbrellas.

Presenting Lion

I will be giving a class on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion at MacCamp this fall.  We are going to have three classes on Lion, and should be covering iOS 5 and iCloud.

If you are in the Oregon/Washington area and are looking for an excuse to spend a couple of days in the beautiful forest with other Mac users, consider signing up for MacCamp!

Getting Ready for Lion

Mac OS X Lion (10.7) is going to be released soon.  Are you ready?  If not, I suggest you wait for 10.7.1 to be released.  Let others find the bugs and issues.  In the meantime, make a list of your printers and other peripherals, then research their Lion compatibility before upgrading.

Another great resource to help prepare you for Lion is Macworld’s Article on Getting Ready for Lion.  Be sure to check it out before considering upgrading to Lion.

Whatever you do, create a full clone backup of your hard drive before installing Lion.  This will allow you to revert to a known working system should something go awry.

Changes coming to us Mac users

Apple’s announcements about Mac OS X Lion didn’t come as a surprise to some of us.  I’ve been preaching the concept to my friends that Apple will start to merge OS X and iOS.  Apple went a little farther than I expected this soon with the iPad’s application launcher and folder manager, LaunchPad, however I think for novice users this will be a welcome user interface.


I love how they defocus the background to try and make the application icons pop.

Ground Control to Major Tom

Along with the LaunchPad, Apple has begun a hard core push for full screen applications.  It appears that OS X Lion has better mechanism for going full screen which are supported by Apple’s new “Mission Control,” which is a new application and window manager that utilizes Exposé, Spaces, Dashboard and these new full screen applications.  I really like this actually as the typical Macintosh user did not have a clue as to how to utilize Spaces.  It appears that each fullscreen application gets its own space, as well as the Desktop and Dashboard.  This allows the LaunchPad to swipe right to show the dashboard from the Desktop and then swipe left to get right back to the Desktop.


In the image above, you can see full screen applications across the top, your windowed applications in the middle with their windows stacked in piles and the dock across the bottom.

Mac App Store

Apple also announced the Mac App Store, something I had written to Steve Jobs about quite awhile ago and Apple delivered on every feature.  Applications will be checked by Apple for crashes, viruses and trojan horses.  You will be able to run a purchased application on any of your personal Macs.  You will be able to update your software in one click.

There are some downsides to the Mac App Store, albeit small ones.  First off, if you update a application and the new version has a unforeseen bug, you are kinda stuck.  Unless Apple gives developers to push out signed, licensed versions, you will have to wait for Apple to approve the update before you can get it.  Ken Case of Omnigroup makes the point that developers can still deliver betas the old fashion way, however I think that many customers won’t know what the old fashion way is before too long.

Finally, not all software will be available via the Mac App Store.  Software that need to install kernel extensions or plugins will have to wait.  My hope is that Apple makes these types of software easier to install by having the operating system find the software, instead of the software needing to be installed in a specific location.  I would like to see a signed application announce it has kernel extensions, iPhoto plugins, etc and the operating system just handles it, with permission of course.  If you download VMWare from the Mac App Store, the OS should install and activate VMWare’s extensions to the OS.  This would require Apple to make it possible to install and uninstall this type of software without a reboot, which is technically possible today, if not a tad dicey to do.  When you were done with VMWare, you could simply delete the application via the LaunchPad and VMWare along with its remnants would disappear forever, never again to silently confuse the next OS update.  A geek can dream, can’t he?

Cost of Software

I would not count on getting super cheap Mac applications.  Macintosh software is far more complex to develop than iOS software.  There is a broader range of devices to test on as well as several major OS releases to support, if a developer chooses to do so.  Users of Macintosh software are much more abusive of the software, so the software has to be hardened even more.  On a Mac, it is much easier to get that 96 megabyte image onto the clipboard to try and paste into an application.


I’m interested to see how far Apple goes with this.  As I have posited at PMUG in the past, the Mac as we know it could cease to exist within five to seven years.  The computer may become a more powerful, capable iPad.  Apple lent further evidence of this with the introduction of the new MacBook Air, asking “what would happen if an iPad and MacBook hooked up?”  Macs will always be more capable devices, but the days of running DiskWarrior might be over soon, as Apple will lock down the system so users can make fewer and fewer decisions about how their computer operates.

Can Adobe get worse? Yes! Photoshop Elements Downloader hell

I head to to check out Photoshop Elements 8. They have a trial version so I give it a shot.

First, a browser window pops up asking you to log in to I complete that. Then it says it will download an Akamai Downloader.

The Akamai Downloader downloads and mounts the disk image. It asks me where to save, defaulting to my home directory of all places.

I choose Downloads. This is a Macintosh after all.

I run the Akamai Downloader, and it puts up a minimal window with just a title and a progress bar beneath it. Yes, this “Window” is 20 pixels tall.

Then the window flashes several times and it quits. Now I am sitting at the Finder, with no UI. No Adobe nor Akami apps are running.

I look in Activity Monitor and see this new process, “rsmac_3276” running. That is a very descriptive process name.

Next i bring Safari forward and now, in the same window I originally downloaded this Akamai Downloader from, is a progress bar with the download.

So apparently, this Akamai Downloader is a Safari Plugin.

The download finishes and it asks me if I want to open the disk image. I select yes, but the disk image is corrupted, so it won’t mount.


Meanwhile, I close the installer window in Safari and I notice this rsmac_4276 process is still running, still using cycles. About 0.3% cpu.

I force quit the process and it immediately launches again.

So awesome, now they have some daemon that won’t go away and is using cpu cycles for no reason. Maybe it is tracking my use of the trial and dialing home, I have not checked yet.

What an awful, awful experience. Should I have expected better?


I had to delete com.akamai.client.plist from ~/Library/LaunchAgents/ and reboot in order to get rid of this software.

Update 2:

I found a bunch of other daemons installed, like bresink’s for an older hardware monitor I had used two machines ago, a textwrangler agent when I tested that for someone, and three, yes three Google daemons for updating software and such.

I wrote about this before but really, Apple needs to fix this mess of a software model.

Using meta folders for time machine exclusion

Time Machine, Apple’s awesome automatic backup software is very aggressive about backing up your data because, well, that is it’s job.

I’m beta testing a game with a large number of files that change constantly. The folder for the game is around 16GB of data, so I don’t want any of this backed up. I used Time Machine’s exclusion list (found by clicking the Options button in the Time Machine System Preference Pane) to add the game’s beta folder. This worked fantastic, until….

Recently they asked us to delete the game and install from scratch. Not a problem. However, while the new installer did it’s job, it put all of the new content in “Game Beta-Temp”, instead of “Game Beta” Time Machine saw this and starting backing up the now constantly changing temp folder which at the time contained over 10gb of data.

Hmm, what to do. Well, I could add the temp folder to the exclusion list, but what if they change the name of the temp folder in the next build? My solution was simple, I created a folder that would hold the game, and added that folder to Time Machine’s exclusion list.

Now, I have /Application/Game Beta Time Machine Exclusion Folder/

When the game asks where to install, I select the exclusion folder and install inside of that. I have added the Exclusion Folder to Time Machine’s Exclusion list such that anything created by the game or it’s installers in the future will never be backed up.


Boxwave case for iPhone 4 helps reception

When the iPhone 4 shipped, Boxwave ran a promotion to get a free case (for $4.50 shipping). My case finally arrived some 5 weeks or so later.

I ordered [an eclipse crystal slip](]. The case is quite nice. It provides enough grip so the phone doesn’t slide everywhere, but is also slick enough to not grip my wallet when in a pocket.

The case does not attract lint, but does attract fingerprints. It pulls over the edges fairly easily.

The best part is, the case resolved whatever signal drop issues I had with my microcell. Even in the worst death grip possible, I only dropped to 2 bars and while a tad garbled, I could hear the caller, they could hear me and the call never dropped.

The color isn’t my favorite, it is more brown than “smoke gray”

It feels as though the case is thick enough to take off some of the concern of dropping an iPhone 4 on a corner and shattering it. However, the case is also thin enough with large enough openings to make access to the silence switch easy, even for those with short fingernails.

So while you’re not going to show this case off to friends for how cool it looks, (and after all, the iPhone without a case is about as cool as it gets) this is certainly an affordable option to protect your iPhone 4 and possibly help with any reception issue you might be having.

It’s time for major change in the iWorld

Apple’s been fantastically successful, there is no denying that. Starting with the iMac, then with the hit iPod, moving to the iPhone and now the iPad, Apple has been hitting product home runs for 12 years now.

The Macintosh software that controls the iOS world, however, has been evolutionary at best. It is obvious that the software teams are scrambling to keep up with new devices and new features coming at a blistering pace.

iTunes has suffered the most. If ever there was a case study for the bastardization of a piece of software, it is iTunes. iTunes was originally derived from Cassady & Green’s wonderful Sound Jam. Apple bought the software and has been hacking on it ever since.

Let’s take a quick overview of a Macintosh user’s experience with using an iPhone, for example.

  • I can buy software for my iPhone in iTunes on the Mac, or the App Store application on the iPhone
  • I sync music to and from my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync applications to and from my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync podcasts to and from my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync movies I bought from Apple to and from my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync movies I made with iMovie on the Mac to my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync movies I made with iMovie on my iPhone to my Mac with iPhoto
  • I sync photos I have on my Mac to my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync photos I took on my iPhone to my Mac with iPhoto
  • I access movies I took on my iPhone with iMovie on the Mac via iPhoto
  • I sync my contacts/bookmarks/notes via mobile me, or via itunes, or via google.

I could go on. Confused? Yeah, so is every other Apple customer.

The iWorld has to change.

As a Macintosh user since February of 1984, I’ve seen plenty of changes in the OS I use from Apple. Some good, some not so good. Other areas, such as application install and removal are horrendous on the Mac.

The iPhone, however, is fairly straightforward. Updating your software on the iPhone is a one button task. That is very nice.

Wouldn’t it be nice if updating software on your Mac was a one button process? Wouldn’t it be nice if moving your data to and from an iOS device was a one button process?

I think this is where Apple should go, is going but we just don’t know how nor when.

First off, Apple will drop “OS X” as the Macintosh operating name. It’ll simply become iOS for Mac. The “X” part was short lived anyway. We all know it. Steve has shown that he has the cajones to make these big changes, and frankly, people who are not fans of Macs, yet know about Macs, don’t know about “OS X” as a brand. They know “Mac” as the brand name.

So ok, we have a name change. Then what?

I think we need an App Store for the Mac. Now this would not be the same kind of App store that other iOS devices have, in that it would not be the only way to get software on your Mac, but if you were a Mac developer, you’d sure want it to be a way for people to get your software.

iOS 7 for Mac (the renamed OS X 10.7) would support a number of cool changes. Applications would be bundled as signed entities, so customers knew they were getting legit software. These bundled applications could include screensavers, kernel extensions, launch demons, fonts, spotlight plugins, quicklook plugins, basically every piece of software a Mac application needs.

When a user installs an application via the App Store, all of the included software is enabled. No need to reboot. It just works. When the user deletes the application, all of the software is removed from the system (including kernel extensions) No muss, no fuss.

Ok so what about data? Applications would be given a default storage location in the user’s documents. This is different from how iOS works on your iPhone for example (where each application is given a complete Documents file system) but the software doesn’t care as it uses APIs to find the folders in the first place, right developers?

Ok so now we have a quick way to get apps on and off of a Macintosh, very similar to an iPhone or iPad. Novice users can feel good about getting their software this way, as it has been run through at least some Apple tools to look for malware and the like. Advanced users can install software any way they like, but it won’t be as easily removed.

Novice users also know that they can look in a known place for their documents. Again, all defaults, but if they stick with that, fine, it works for them.

Removing an application gets rid of every bit of software the application polluted your computer with. Removing the application does not remove your documents, which is different than the iPhone, but hey, this is a computer.

Next up is sharing data. Soon we’ll have iOS Apple TVs, cloud syncing to North Carolina, two iPhones per average family, two iPads, two or three Macs and we’ll need a better way to share content.

Apple will introduce in iOS 7 for Mac a new centralized content sharing system. I like the term system because it connotes a strong bond between user and software to understand how things should work.

This new system will have a central syncing component. It will handing syncing all of your iWorld data, including contacts, bookmarks, notes, movies, music, photos. Think of it as iSync done right.

You won’t care how this all happens. The data coming from your iDevices will be stored in well-known places. Software, such as iTunes, iPhoto and iMovie will change to use the database index over this data for faster access.

You’ll never have to launch an app again to sync. You’ll just plug in. Or it’ll happen wirelessly, over your lan, or via the cloud in North Carolina. You just won’t care.

Apple will release the App Store app for iOS for Macintosh. You’ll use it to buy new software. You’ll be able to do this via a web browser, too. Just buy it and it automatically starts syncing to the computers you decide, right there and then. It’s like using an app to schedule your DVR. Same concept. Buy, direct, use.

You’ll shoot video on your phone, walk in the house and it will start syncing to your iWorld. This could include one, or many Macs. It may have syncing to the cloud already while you were in the car. The options are clear in the software. You choose.

You walk in the door, turn on your TV and your movie that you edited in iMovie for iPad is there for you to share with your wife. Simple as that. And there is a good chance the movie is already backed up to your Time Capsule by now.

The Mac needs to remain a computer, but it also needs to become an appliance. Purchase, set it up and use it. We should no longer be required to have IT degrees to manage our home networks.

Once Apple has all of the iWorld pieces in place, we’ll mock ourselves for how we did things back in 2010.

SuperDrive in i7 MacBook Pro works!

The SuperDrive in my late 2008 MacBook Pro rarely worked. I would get medium sense errors, or read errors, all sorts of issues.

Since Apple replaced the machine with an i7, I’ve been testing things out and this machine is fantastic.

I just burned a 1.7gb folder of movies to the exact same media batch that would constantly fail on the old machine.

Good times.

Amazing Apple Store support, again

What can I say about Washington Square Apple Store genius’ other than awesome?

Brandon and Kari went above and beyond my expectations in dealing with my Late 2008 MacBook Pro that kept kernel panicing in games. On top of that, it had a flakey superdrive, so they upgraded me to an all new laptop.

Talk about fantastic and unexpected. Thank you guys so much!


P.S. 3 hours in WoW so far, no kernel panics. Keeping fingers crossed!

P.P.S. Once again, Time Capsule rocks. Now to get Time Machine to finish its first backup after the restore. It seems to be a little confused and has started over from scratch once.

More on iPhone 4 signal strength

When connected to the microcell, I can lay in bed on my back and cause the signal to drop from 5 bars to 1 bar. If I turn on my side, it goes back to 5 bars.

I can only surmise that my body is blocking enough signal to cause the iPhone to give up all hope.

Is this fixable or is it simple physics?

iPhone 4 Road Trip Report

My wife and I travelled to Canada over the weekend to visit family and I had the chance to test the iPhone 4 on the road.

My wife drove up so I was able to test the iPhone 4 during the 5 hour drive from Portland to Vancouver, BC.

I used the phone until the border, when I ran out of AT&T service.


Along the route, I had signal for 98% of the distance. Most of that was 3G, with sections of EDGE in between.

The signal strength ran the gamut, from 1 through 5 bars. When I ran out of 3G, the phone quickly switched over to EDGE and more often than not, continued data transfer with whatever I was doing.

A couple of times, some process, such as loading a web page or checking mail would stall. Starting the process over fixed the issue.

At one point, I received an email from my brother with a 7MB video attached. I looked at the minute mark on the clock and began the download. The download completed before the minute mark ticked over! That was the most impressive experience of the trip.


The GPS experience on the iPhone 4 is much, much better than on the 3GS. I used both Navigon and Google Maps to test out the accuracy and was consistently surprised.

Navigon would pick up the GPS in a matter of seconds. The directions were spot on, the signage in Navigon was always correct and it even showed a tunnel graphic when we were in the coveted express lanes in Seattle.

The coolest demo if the accuracy came in the mountains before Bellingham. Navigon puts up a little speed limit sign to let you know how fast you can drive, legally that is. The current limit was 70mph and I saw a sign coming up dropping the rate to 60.

As we passed the sign, and I mean exactly as we passed the sign, Navigon’s icon changed to 60 mph. I was astonished and convinced that the GPS is much, much better in the iPhone 4.


Our hosts have no need for WiFi and as such, don’t have a base station. In order to allow us to tool around on the internet, I used Internet Sharing on my MacBook Pro to share their internet connection over WiFi.

Their house is sturdily built. I would float between 1 and 3 bars of signal. Sometimes the iPhone would stop working entirely, other times it worked fine.

I did place a FaceTime call to my brother which worked fairly well. We had two incidences where the call froze, but it resumed in about 10 seconds. My niece asked if the power had gone out. 🙂

At home, the WiFi signal is strong throughout, so if you have a strong base station, you should be ok on the iPhone 4. If you’re using a weaker base station, such as a MacBook Pro, try to not place it in the basement.

The other test of WiFi was while we were at lunch. The restaurant had free WiFi so we used it to load up google maps of the local area (We didn’t want to pay the $15/mb data roaming fees!) and find all of our local destinations. Once we had those, we were able to find our way around quite easily. Unlike at the house, the wifi at the restaurant was rock solid.


I burned about 50% of my phone’s battery in 3 hours. While using Navigon, I used a belkin car charger on the quick charge side. That worked well for charging the phone up quickly.

The iPhone 4 does use battery quickly, but it seems to have more longevity than the 3GS.


The iPhone 4 made a very long drive much more pleasant. I was able to check email, surf the web, check facebook, check twitter and read news with Reeder. I look forward to the day that I can FaceTime while traveling at 70 mph, as a passenger at least.


How long will it be before we have ScreenTime? Start a FaceTime call and switch to showing what is my screen (sans the image of the other person). Would be useful for support, no?