Is Disco a Toast Killer?

There is a new CD/DVD burning application for the Mac, called Disco, that has been getting a lot of attention lately. It actually looks very cool, so I started to wonder… Is Disco a Toast killer? Unfortunately, the answer is NO… at least not for me.

Now, Disco is currently in public beta, so some of these items may change in future releases.


One of the features in Disco that I was most interested in is, Spandex. It allows you to make a backup across multiple CDs and DVDs without manually breaking up your files in appropriately sized chunks first. You just select everything and hit go, and Disco is supposed to segment everything for you. Toast 7 has a similar feature. They just call it disc spanning.

Unfortunately, Toast does this well, and Disco doesn’t. Toast has the ability to span a single file… meaning if you have 1 file that won’t fit onto a single CD or DVD (like large video files), Toast can actually segment that single file onto multiple discs, and then reassemble it later. It’s extremely handy. Unfortunately, Disco can’t do this. If you try to burn a file that won’t fit onto a single disc, you just get an error message that says “Insufficient space”.

Disco can span smaller files and folders across multiple discs, but in my testing, it showed a very inefficient method of doing this. In some cases, there were actually hundreds of megs of space left on the CD it was burning when it kicked it out and asked for the next CD. It did this to maintain a certain folder structure. But, there are better ways of going about this, and Disco’s method is pretty wasteful. Depending on your folder structure, you could end up using a lot more discs than are necessary for you backups.


For my work, I need to burn a lot of hybrid discs (Mac and PC). With Toast, you have the ability to configure which files will be visible on the Mac side, and on the PC side, individually. I need this functionality because I’m building CD-based presentations that should only show the appropriate files to the corresponding platform. While Disco does burn hybrid discs, it give you no control over visibility of files. Both platforms can see all files.


The next feature I was interested in was, Discography. It’s a built in cataloging feature that will keep track of everything you burn, making it easy to go back and search for files later. Unfortunately, it isn’t working, at least not on my machine (admittedly, this is beta software). If this ends up working well, it’s a big plus for Disco. But, so far I haven’t seen any documentation on if they will be allowing you to catalog discs that have already been burned with another application. If they don’t add this capability, then this feature isn’t very useful, at least not to me. I already have hundreds of backup discs. I need them to all be cataloged under one tool, otherwise it’s just not an efficient workflow.


Disco has the potential to be a really nice application. But, currently it biggest appeal is its looks and eye-candy (it’s a beautiful app). It’s actual feature set isn’t really anything all that special. You can get much of it’s functionality through the built in tools in OS X, or through a free alternative, like Liquid CD. If you need more burning power, then Toast is still your best bet.

Making Apple’s Mail work with IMAP

Now that my host offers a better webmail client, I decided to switch my email account from POP over to IMAP, so I could access all my mail from anywhere. I was a very disappointed on how poorly Apple’s Mail application supported IMAP right out of the box.

If you’re using a .Mac address it works great, but it just didn’t work using a non .Mac account… at least not without some extra configuration.


After setting up the account through my host, and setting up the IMAP account in Apple’s Mail, I found that items weren’t being synced as they should. Anything I did through the webmail client did show up in Mail, but things I did in Mail did NOT show up in the webmail client. For instance, I could send an email from Mail, and it would send, but it didn’t get written to the ‘Sent’ folder… it just disappears into oblivion without so much as an error message. I would call that a bug.


When you first set up the account in Mail, you should see the folders that exist on the server, listed directly under the accounts inbox (see the updated content at the bottom of this post). For this example I’ve created an account called “my email”. Although Mail can see these folders, it has no idea what they are, so it refuses to write anything to them unless you actually drag and drop a message on to them. So, we need to educate Mail on what these folders are supposed to be used for. It’s very simple to do.

In the accounts list, select one of the folders listed under your new IMAP account. In this case I’m using the “Drafts” folder. Now, go to the “Mailbox” pull-down menu, and go down to “Use This Mailbox For” menu item, and select “Drafts”. When you do this, you’ll see that Drafts item you had selected in your account list jump from just under the account, down to the larger “Drafts” folder (the one with the folded paper icon). Now, Mail understands that this folder is meant for Drafts on your new account and will properly write draft emails to that folder, and in turn sync them to the server.

As you can see from the screen shot above, there are also items for “Sent”, “Trash”, and “Junk”. You’ll need to repeat the procedure listed above for those items as well. In my case, the junk mail folder on the server was called “Spam” by default, but that doesn’t matter. It can be mapped to my “Junk” item.

Once you remap these folders, everything should sync in both directions from Apple Mail, to webmail, and back again.


If you’re like me, you don’t want to store everything in your Inbox. You’ll probably want to create custom folders to file your email. When I first tried to make a new remote folder through Mail, I got an error message saying that Mail could not write the folder to the server. But, I did find a way around this. First, quit Apple Mail. Then, log in through your webmail client, and create at least one custom folder. Now, open Apple Mail again. You should see the folder that you just created through webmail, and you should now be able to create new remote folders through Mail. I’m not exactly sure why this works, but I suspect it’s because Mail doesn’t know where to write the remote folder, without having at least one custom remote folder that already exists to act as a guide.

That’s it. You should now be able to use IMAP with Apple Mail.

UPDATE (11.1.06):

IMAP under @

A comment was left on this post yesterday by Paul Connolley, suggesting that I should also fill in the “IMAP Path Prefix” under the Advanced tab in Mail’s account preferences in order for my IMAP account to function properly. I double checked with my host, Media Temple, and they told me it was unnecessary. But, I tried Paul’s suggestion anyway, and upon doing so my folders associated with this account jumped from just below it’s inbox (as illustrated earlier in this post), to the bottom of Mail’s sidebar under a new folder with an “@” symbol (illustrated above). After looking around online last night, I discovered that this new display (under the @) is actually how it should be displaying. It should not be listed under the inbox, as it was earlier in this post. I told this to Media Temple, and they said I should go ahead and use “INBOX” as my Path Prefix, as Paul had suggested. note: “INBOX” works for my Media Temple account, and from my understanding is a fairly common Path Prefix, but you’ll want to double check with your host on what you should be using.

Thanks for the great tip, Paul.

note: this new screenshot is taken prior to remapping the folders, as described earlier, that’s why all the folders are still together. Even with using “INBOX” as your Path Prefix, you’ll want to follow the procedure listed above to educate mail on what these folders should be used for. After you remap the folders, you should only see your custom folders listed under the @, and not the standard folders, like Sent, Trash, Drafts, etc…

Migrating from Media Temple’s Shared-Server (ss) to Grid-Server (gs): part III

@mail - Simple and Advanced


Media Temple’s new Grid-Server (gs) offers both PHP 4 and 5 (default is 4). The PHP ‘safe-mode’ limitation that existed under the old Shared-Server (ss) is gone (yay!). But, PHP on the (gs) package is running as CGI. I’m not very knowledgeable about this, so I don’t know exactly what this means… but I have heard that PHP runs slower as CGI. If any PHP gurus out there can shed any light on this, please leave a comment


The (gs) package is much better at handling email accounts than the old (ss) package was. When you created a user under (ss), you wouldn’t be able to specify which domain it was for. This isn’t a problem if you only have one domain, but if you were hosting multiple domains under the same account, this was a big pain. Under (gs) this limitation is no longer in effect. Email account handling is much more standard.

However, any email address that you already had created prior to migrating from (ss) to (gs) is locked into “all domains” mode, and you are unable to edit it in your account center. To get around this limitation, you’ll need to delete the existing account, and re-create the account. At that point you’ll be able to specify what domain the account goes with. Don’t forget to back up your email before you go deleting accounts on the server.


Media Temple has ditched Squirrel Mail, the horribly ugly webmail client that was used under the (ss) package. They have replaced it with @mail. With @mail, you have 4 options when logging in: “Simple (Any Browser)”, “Simple (Ajax)”, “Advanced (IE6+)”, and “Advanced (Mozilla)”. These options will determine the look and functionality of your webmail. Unfortunately, only “Simple (Any Browser)” is compatible with Safari (my browser of choice). It’s still head and shoulders above Squirrel Mail, but it’s not quite as functional as some of the other options. If you run Firefox on the Mac, you can use the more advanced options. From a looks standpoint, “Simple” is a nice clean interface, and “Advanced” looks more like Outlook.

Related Articles:
Part I, Part II

Migrating from Media Temple’s Shared-Server (ss) to Grid-Server (gs): part II

Migrate to the grid

In Part I of this story, I mentioned that I recently completed the migration from Media Temple’s Shared-Server (ss) to their new Grid-Server (gs). The process went very smoothly… much more so than I was anticipating. But, as smoothly as it went, you may want to wait a while longer before you do this. I think they still have some bugs in their Grid-Server system.

I completed the process late Friday night. Most of Saturday the site was down. But, it wasn’t from the migration process itself. Apparently, on Saturday, Media Temple discovered a bug in some of their new Grid hardware. Under certain conditions, the hardware is forced into a diagnostic cycle. It’s a built in “feature” that is designed to protect the system. Unfortunately, it was falsely going into that cycle all-day Saturday. Media Temple was working with the hardware vendor to apply firmware updates to correct the problem. Also, I have noticed that my sites seem a little slower than they did under the Shared-Server package. So, I would say unless you really want the new features, you may want to stay where you are for at least a little while longer.

Before I talk about the process, it may be helpful to know what I was hosting on the Shared-Server package:

  • This site – (WordPress 2.0.4, Mint 1.29)
  • Alternate domain for this site (pointer) –
  • My other blog – (WordPress 2.0.4)
  • My girlfriends portfolio site (Static HTML / Flash)


The process for migrating is very straight forward. Simply login to your Media Temple Control Panel (it’s been recently updated), and select “Migrate to the Grid!”. You’ll then be presented with 3 steps. Instead of retyping everything, here’s a screen-shot…

3 steps to (gs) migration) width=

As the first step mentions, it does take about 12 hours for their DNS changes to kick in, so plan ahead if you are going to be doing this. You don’t really need to do anything for step #1, other than click “go”. 12 hours later you’ll be able to move on to step #2.

Step #2 is primarily a billing step. You need to specify which plan you want to migrate / upgrade to. As an existing customer of mt, you can opt for the Grid-Server Lite package. They don’t really give you any information about this until you are actually in the process of doing it, so here’s the breakdown:

Media Temple Grid vs Grid Lite

The Lite package is only available to current Shared-Server customers. New MT Customers are only able to do the full package. The Lite package is designed to be similar in features to the old Shared-Server package.

Step #3 is just like it sounds. It packs up all you data, databases, email accounts, etc…, moves them over to your new account, and then deletes your old SS account. This step takes 5-25 minutes, depending on the size of your media. I have a lot of media, so mine took the full 25 minutes.

That’s it! The process is remarkably simple. I would say that Media Temple did a good job building this migration tool. My sites stayed up through most of this process. They went down during the last 3-5 minutes, so it wasn’t a big deal at all.


How did it all work out you ask? Well, here’s the breakdown, starting with the least complicated site…

My girlfriend’s portfolio site… no problem at all. Since it was just static HTML, the migration tool moved it and set everything up like it should. and… Almost no problems at all. I was worried about my WordPress sites, as one of the biggest changes in the configuration differences between Shared-Server and Grid-Server is the location of the MySQL databases. You can no longer use ‘LocalHost’ in the WP-config file, you need to actually specify a path to the database. I thought I was going to have to do this manually after the migration, but the migration tool re-wrote my wp-config file for me, changing the path (that’s awesome!). It did the same thing for my Mint installation. I was actually surprised about Mint, because I named my folder something other than “Mint”. But, it found it anyway and changed the path. Currently, Media Temple says they can auto-update these apps: WordPress, Movabletype, Mint, PHPBB, and PHPNuke. The one problem I had after the move was with one of my plugins, Google Sitemap Generator. It didn’t want to function after the move, and was causing errors in the sites. I’ve deactivated it for now, but as a precaution, you may want to turn off all non-essential plugins before doing the migration. And, as always, you may want to do a full backup of your files and databases before doing the migration. Once you finish the migration, you’ll want to do another backup… remember, the migration tool auto-changed some of your wp configuration files.

Strangely, my domain pointer,, did not function after the move. I wasn’t able to fix this through the control panel, as it said it was working properly. I had to call tech support and have them finish it.

One other thing to note, is I did receive a strange Error message at the end of the migration process:

“You do not have access to this portion of the site.

For your safety, this action has been logged. Numerous deliberate offenses could result in the suspension of you accout or the permanent denial of your IP address to the Media Temple netwrork.”

I never did figure out why I got this error, and MT tech support didn’t know either.

So, as of now, the sites are moved, and things are working reasonably well. Hopefully, MT has flushed out most of the bugs in the new system.

As this post has now ballooned into a long read, I’ll save the other items I wanted to mention for a part III post. It will go over a few more things that may be helpful if you are planning to do the migration.

Related Articles:
Part I, Part III

Migrating from Media Temple’s Shared-Server (ss) to Grid-Server (gs): part I

Media Temple Grid-Server

Three months ago I moved this site to Media Temple’s Shared-Server (ss) package. It wasn’t all I wanted it to be, but at that time they were beta testing their new and improved Shared-Server (ss6), which had the features I wanted. Sometime between then and now, they dumped the idea, or at least the name, Shared-Server, because when their new system recently came out of beta, it was renamed Grid-Server (gs).

I’m going to be writing about the experience of migrating my site from the Shared-Server to the Grid-Server… what worked, and what didn’t. But first, here’s some of the basic differences between the two packages (simplified). Media Temple’s Shared-Sever was much like everyone else’s shared server packages. Basically, the websites being hosted don’t have a server (hardware box) of their own, the hosting company puts your website, and X number of other sites on a single box. That box is then put into a room with other boxes that also have X number of sites on them. Even though they may be placed together, each box runs independently. This is the most common type of hosting for small to medium sized sites, because it’s the cheapest.

The biggest downside to shared hosting is you don’t have much (or any) control over what server you are put on. If you’re lucky, and you share a server with only small sites that don’t get much traffic, you probably won’t have much trouble. But, if you are put onto a server that is being taxed by to much traffic, either from your own site, or others, you can start to have a lot of problems. And, if one of the sites on your box should cause the server to crash, your site will go down too.

Media Temple has hopefully reduced these kinds of problems with their new Grid-Server. Essentially, it’s still a shared sever, but instead of each box running X number of sites independently, they’ve connected all the boxes into a “grid”. Your site is essentially running on many, or all, of the boxes simultaneously (instead of on just one box). Theoretically, this will have some great advantages over traditional shared hosting. Since all the sites being served are running on all the servers, the system can better absorb sudden increases in resource usage or traffic from individual sites, and individual boxes can crash without affecting the rest of the grid.

A few months ago I ended up on, and had a sudden increase of traffic. In order to prevent my site from crashing the server, my host deactivated my account. Theoretically, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen under the Grid-Server, because it is supposed to be able to absorb those sudden spikes in traffic, without adversely affecting anyone else’s site. We’ll see if that is really the case.

I won’t go into the other new features of the Grid-Server right now. But you can get details on the package over at Media Temple if you’re interested.

At some point Media Temple will be transitioning all current Shared-Server clients over to the new system, but you can do it now if you don’t want to wait. Unfortunately, the new Grid-Server costs a fair amount more than their old Shared-Server. It’s now $20/mo. or $200/yr. If you are an existing Media Temple customer, you can opt for the Grid-Server Lite package. According to Media Temple, the price will be based on what you are currently paying for your Shared-Server package. In my case, the price was slightly different, but not enough for me to cause a fuss. My new price is $10/mo or $100/yr. I’ll be going over the differences in the two packages in part II of this story. Unfortunately, the Lite package isn’t available for new Media Temple customers… You’re stuck with the $20/mo, $200/yr price.

Related Articles:
Part II, Part III

odl on the move

My host, Media Temple, has made some big changes to their hosting plans. They have dropped shared hosting all-together, and replaced it with something they call Grid-Server. All-in-all it looks like a better service, but it does require me to do some setup to move the site. I’ll be initiating the move today. The site may, or may not go down during this process.

I’ll be writing more about the move, and the new service as soon as the transition is complete.

New .Mac webmail is live

.Mac Webmail

You may remember Apple gave us a sneak peak at the new .Mac webmail a couple of weeks ago… well, it just went live a few minutes ago. If you have a .Mac account you should be able to login online to see the changes.

I’ve only just started playing with it, but it does look like it has some really nice new features. It includes a revamped version of the online address book too.

.Mac mail Quick Reply

UPDATE: The new compose window is awesome! It works just like Mail’s compose window… you can start typing in the name and options are presented from your address book in a drop-down. The spellchecker is great too. One of the really nice new features is the “Quick Reply”… it’s a small button to the right of each email that brings up a quick text dialog for replying without loading any new pages. The button is hidden until you roll over it. Don’t forget to go into your prefs to turn on and off some of the new features.

Ghost Pods of San Zhi

Abandoned Pods of San Zhi
Photo credit: Cypher

I can’t remember where I originally saw this story, but the image above is from an abandoned ‘Pod City’ in San Zhi, Taiwan.

Apparently, this podular housing was meant as a luxury vacation spot. But, after numerous fatal accidents during construction, the project was abandoned. Locals say the area is now haunted by those who died in vain and because they are not remembered, they linger there unable to pass on.

Unfortunately, the project may never be restarted, or even torn down because destroying the homes of spirits and lost souls is a HUGE no-no in Asian culture. So, it may just sit there rusting away for a long, long time.

I think these look really cool, but honestly, I half expect to see the Dharma Initiative logo stenciled on the side.

There’s more info and pictures here. Higher resolution images here. And, you can view the site in Google Earth with this file.