Apple Mail Error 471

A couple of weeks ago I finally got around to actually upgrading to Leopard on my laptop. One of the things I was interested in trying out once I got upgraded was Apple Mail’s new Note feature.

I fired up Mail and clicked on the note icon and…nothing happened. Hmmm, check the Menu bar. Go to File → New Note…nothing again. Well okay, I thought to myself, somethings wrong here. Maybe I should do a Google search. Hmmm, what to search. Mail Notes Error. Umm, okay too generic, I’ll try being more specific. Apple Mail error opening new note. Grrr. Try several other search strings. #@$%*! 1

Okay, so it’s become clear to me at this point that Googling the problem is just not going to work. I decide to fire up Console to see if there are any enlightening error codes. Console does at least offer me something, in the form of “Mail[471] font-family cannot be nil”.

Mail Error-font-family cannot be nil

Hmm, that looks like gibberish to me. I do some more unsuccessful Google searches. Finally, I decide to attempt to decode that error again. That error means that somewhere a font family is not selected or unavailable. We know it’s happening when a new note is being created. I opened up Mail again and started pursuing the preferences. Low and behold, under the tab for Fonts & Colors, I found this:

Mail Preference Pane for Fonts and Colors

The field for the Note font is completely blank. I selected a font and attempted to open a new note. Success!

As it turned out, this happened to be a very simple solution for a very silly problem. That solution took me over an hour to figure out. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to figure out why that field was blank in the first place. I wonder how many other people have had this exact same problem and just given up on trying to figure it out.

  1. Side Rant: What exactly was Apple thinking when they named their email client “Mail.” Could they have thought of a worse name? It is impossible to search for information about a problem with the program because “mail” could refer to so many things. It’s kind of like buying a computer, that has the model name of “computer.” Then say said computer one day won’t start up. You find another computer and start doing a search for the problem. Your query string is going to look something like this: [brand name] computer won’t start. Completely useless.

Spore Creature Creator

I just got a chance to try out the new Spore Creature Creator, for which you can download a trial version. There are only a few different options enabled in the trial version but it is really neat. You can make all sorts of funny looking creatures.

Here is my cute little guy, which I named Morsel.

The best part is when you get to go take the creature for a spin and tell it to do all sorts of preprogrammed actions. You can also take video of your creature in this screen.

Make sure to check this one out. I can’t wait until the game comes out in September.

MIT Stata Center

A couple of weeks ago when I was browsing through Google Earth, I came across some photographs of the MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center, more commonly known as simply the Stata Center.

This building has always amazed me ever since the first time I stumbled upon it. It is quite an impressive sight. Oddly enough, I live within walking distance of this building. I didn’t realize until I read the Wikipedia entry on the building that several notable people have their offices in the Stata Center, including Noam Chomsky, Tim Berners-Lee and Richard Stallman.

The funniest thing for me about the architecture of the building is that it has always given me a very visceral reminder of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. Every time I see the building I think that it looks like something Howard Roark would have built.

I have no idea why I always have this reaction, because when I actually stop to think about it, I believe that Roark would hate the Stata Center. He would hate it because it doesn’t make any sense. Excerpts from the Wiki entry only highlight this fact:

There is also one lecture room where, because of the slight lean of the wall panels, some people have been known to experience vertigo. Sound insulation is almost absent. The building has also been criticized as insensitive to the needs of its inhabitants, poorly designed for day-to-day use[…]

Also later in the entry:

On October 31, 2007,[9] MIT sued[10] architect Frank Gehry and the construction company, Skanska USA Building Inc., for “providing deficient design services and drawings” which caused leaks to spring, masonry to crack, mold to grow, drainage to back up, and falling ice and debris to block emergency exits.[8] A Skanska spokesperson said that prior to construction Gehry ignored warnings from Skanska and a consulting company regarding flaws in his design of the amphitheater, and rejected a formal request from Skanska to modify the design.

This is most certainly not something that Roark would have done. If not this though, what would one of Roark’s buildings actually have looked like? It is apparently a common speculation that Rand based Roark’s architecture on that of Frank Lloyd Wright. Although she has specifically denied this, it seems to me to be a very close match based upon her descriptions of Roark’s architecture.

Firefox 3 and OS X Networked Home Directories

AFP548 is reporting a bug with Firefox 3 where apparently it doesn’t work with Macs that are set up to use a networked home directory.

When I updated to Firefox 3, I immediately noticed that Bookmarks were not visible under bookmarks menu. The Search engine field had a generic icon and when I selected ‘Manage Search Engines’, the dialog box was frozen and I couldn’t get out of it without quitting Firefox. When I tried to enter a URL into the URL field and press ‘enter’, nothing happens. However, when double-click on a URL in an e-mail message, that appears to work. […] When I switched to a local admin account (i.e., Firefox profile on the local hard drive), it seems to work fine. However, when I switch back to my network home account (on our XServe), it still displays the problems described above. I tried other user accounts on our XServe with the same problems.

This is kind of unbelievable to me that Firefox 3 was released with such a show-stopping bug on the Mac side. I’m pretty sure that most companies that use Macs use them with networked home directories (at least in the Academic world). It’s good to know though before I start adding Firefox to the images for fall semester.

Apparently this is a documented bug and as a commenter suggested, will be fixed in the future. You can read the bug track in Bugzilla to see how the fix is progressing.

Cardboard Sculptures by Chris Gilmour

Artist Chris Gilmour has a whole bunch of photographs of his amazing life size cardboard sculptures. Here are two samples:

Chris Gilmour Lambretta 1
Chris Gilmour Labretta 2

Via Kottke.



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