iDVD is still broken in iLife ’11

Apple recently announced their new version of their iLife suite. Now I love this series of programs. I use iMovie, iDVD and iPhoto very often. Recently I’ve been converting a bunch of home video VHS tapes from my family and my girlfriend’s family. They love being able to have their VHS home videos on DVD with chapters and nice menus.

The problem is that iDVD version 7.0.4 (the latest version from iLife ’09) is riddled with bugs. Things just don’t work. One frustrating example is that if you choose an older theme, such as the ‘Watercolor’ theme (which is nice for family DVDs) it is impossible to edit the text in the chapters menu! Or other places as well. You can select the button, you can right-click on it, but no matter what you do, you can not change the text. So after you’ve arranged the chapters, changed the frames, moved the boxes where you want them – you can’t edit the text. The only way for you to edit the text is to temporarily switch themes, edit the text, and switch back. Losing all of your custom placement, frames, and editing. This is beyond frustrating. The only thing you can edit is the name of the menu itself.

I hoped that since iLife ’11 included iDVD they would have updated it. This didn’t seem the case, however the Apple Store site mentions that iDVD is now version 7.1, instead of the current 7.0.4. I hoped they would have fixed these issues. Sadly they remain in version 7.1 – it seems 7.1 was just made to possibly be compatible with the new version of iMovie.

Yes the themes are older and Apple probably isn’t going to fix them, but why include them if they’re broken? It’s very frustrating, especially when working with a load of similar projects. I would also love the ability to use a previous project and replace just the main video. I would like a template of the chapter titles and visual button placement/theme to stay the same, and just edit the content. That is impossible as well.

Yes Apple may be running toward the notion of digital download videos, but making DVDs is still one of the easiest ways to share videos with your family. Especially for Grandma which doesn’t have a computer and already knows how to use a DVD player. Apple needs to fix iDVD, or create a whole new version like they did with iMovie.

Apple TechStep Diagnostic Tool

Have you ever heard of an Apple TechStep? Well this was a tool used in the early 1990’s by an Apple Tech to test a Macintosh computer. The tool was only sold privately to authorized Apple dealers, but later on Apple released it publicly for a price of $999. I recently picked up one of these on eBay for about $25.

The purpose of this tool is to test a Mac’s components. The Mac actually boots off of this device, the device can then run tests on the Power Supply, RAM, Motherboard, Drives, or Ports. The TechStep has a little LCD screen which displays only text. The numbered keypad has some text on it also to help you navigate around. On the back of the device are a few ports to connect to the computer: 25-pin SCSI, ADB (2 ports), Modem serial, Printer serial, and 3.5mm Stereo Mini-Jack. Also on the left side of the unit is an AC adapter port, the On/Off switch, and a secondary Serial port used for transferring diagnostic reports to a healthy Mac. The unit can run off of it’s AC power adapter or a single 9 volt battery, mine did not come with an adapter but the battery works just fine.

The TechStep uses ROM packs to load the computer diagnostic information. These are similar to GameBoy cartridges, the TechStep can hold two at a time. Each ROM has a sticker which lists which machines it is compatible with. Two were included with my unit “CPU Tests, Vol 1, v. 1.1.1” and “CPU Tests, Vol. 2, v. 1.0”. Volume 1 works with Macintosh Classic, SE, SE/30, II, IIx, and IIcx models. Volume 2 works with Macintosh LCD, LCD II, and Classic II models. There are additional ROM packs, but these are very hard to come by.

To start using the TechStep shut off your Mac and the TechStep and connect a 25-pin SCSI cable, Serial Cable (Modem port works best for me) and an ADB cable running from your Mac to your TechStep. These cables are all male-to-male and are regular cables, no special adapters needed. Insert a 9-volt battery (after removing the ports section) or attach your AC cord, turn the unit on via the switch on the left.  The LCD screen will display which ROM card is in Slot A and will show an “Identify CPU” screen, listing the computers it’s compatible with. Press the number next to the machine, for example in my case I was using a Macintosh Classic, so I selected 1 for Classic.

You are brought to a “Home” screen showing you the list of the many tests you can run. I selected 3 for “Logic” and selected 1 again for the “All” function so I can run all of the available tests. The TechStep instructs you to turn on the Mac, once the Mac is turned on it will boot from the TechStep entirely – no disks needed! The Mac will go to a ‘Sad Mac’ face, but do not worry since your Mac is not being harmed. Your selected test will run and when it is finished you may save the results. Hold the * key and press the 7 (Save) button on the TechStep. You will be asked if you want to overwrite an older log if there is one. Now that you’ve run your test switch off your TechStep and your Mac.

With the TechStep software on your Mac you can test your Diagnostic Tool or retrieve logs from your TechStep unit. The ‘Report Generator’ program retrieves the logs from your unit. Plug in a serial cable from the Modem port on your Mac to the serial port on the left side of the TechStep next to the Power switch. Turn the TechStep on. Open the ‘Report Generator’ program and select “Receive Log” from the “Options menu” – a waiting dialog will come up. Eventually you will see the log the TechStep has generated on your screen. A detailed list of every test with the results is shown, you can save this or generate a report for printing out.

The TechStep is a very cool little device, it has become a hot item for vintage Apple and Mac collectors. If you find a unit be sure it includes a ROM pack (it’s A and B slots will be visibly blank without them) – without these ROM packs the TechStep can not function and will just display a “ROM Pack Not Found” screen.


Below is a diagnostic report which was saved onto my TechStep when I got it.

Telling the difference between a Mac OS X Restore Disc and a Retail Install Disc (Archive)

Note: This article was transferred from my original blog.

A lot more people have Macs today, which leads to a lot more people with a lot more questions. One frequent mix-up comes when a user needs to re-install Mac OS X or when someone wants to upgrade their copy of Mac OS X. Either they lose their discs or they decide to use one from a friend and they discover it just doesn’t work. They wonder why, that’s because not all discs will work with all Macs.

This happens because there are two common types of Mac OS X install discs. Three if you want to be specific. The first type is a Restore disc. These are gray-covered discs that come with your Mac when you buy it new. Usually there are two DVDs included, one has the Mac OS X software and the other has additional programs such as iLife. These discs will only work with that specific Mac model it was included with. For example a restore disc that came bundled with a MacBook will not work on an iMac. Or even a newer (2008) or older (2006) MacBook restore disc, may not work with your 2007 MacBook model.

The second type of a install disc is a Retail Install Disc. This is the type of disc you will buy from Apple. This is a full install disc and will work on any Mac that supports the minimum system requirements. It will install on an iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro, Mac Mini, etc. This version however does not include some bundled software that originally would of came with your Mac, such as iLife and some additional applications.

The third type of install disc is a variant of the Retail Install Disc, this is a Retail Upgrade Disc. These discs are usually received through Apple’s Up-To-Date program. You would receive this disc if you bought a Mac with the older software pre-installed on the system right after Apple has started shipping a newer version. For example if Mac OS X 10.5 came installed on your iMac and Apple released Mac OS X 10.6 a few days earlier, your iMac gets an upgrade. There may be a small charge to receive the updated discs. These discs will only install if it detects the older version of Mac OS X installed. For example it will not work on a Mac with no version of Mac OS X installed, or a version older then the previous version.

This can sound a bit confusing, but there is a simple way to tell the discs apart. A Restore disc has a gray cover and will say the model of the Mac it is for on the front along with a version number and a date. A Retail install disc will have a pretty graphic on the front and not mention a model such as iMac or MacBook. A Retail upgrade disc will look very similar to the Retail install disc, but it may say “CPU Drop-in DVD”, “Upgrade Disc” or “Update Disc” on it. This signifies that the install disc will check for a previous (and existing) installation of Mac OS X before it can install the updated version of the software, and will not work on a Mac that has no software on it.

So if you bought a new hard drive for your Mac and it’s blank, you will need a Retail install disc or the appropriate Restore disc for your Mac. An Upgrade disc will not work in this situation. Above is a graphic showing the difference between a restore disc and a retail install disc. I hope this helps with some confusion about the different Mac OS X install discs. Happy installing!!