Entries from June 2006 ↓

Disc images in Mac OS X

Disc images are a fairly common packaging standard for large software programs. If you want to try out a new Linux distribution, for example, chances are you’ll need to download a disc image in ISO format and burn it to a blank CD-ROM or DVD.

But ever since I began using Mac OS X, I’ve been perpetually confused about how to burn ISO images. I’m used to disc burning utilities that have an obvious, explicit command like “Burn ISO Image to CD”. To make life even more confusing, OS X’s Disk Utility does have a Burn command, but it becomes disabled when you click on a disc you want to burn to.

The problem here is that most Mac disc utilities, including the built-in Disk Utility, take a different approach when it comes to image burning. Instead of telling the program you want to burn an image, then choosing the file, you’re supposed to do the reverse: You choose the file, then tell the program you want to burn it.

So, to burn an ISO image to disc, here’s what to do:

  1. Insert a blank disc.
  2. Start Disk Utility.
  3. From the File menu, choose Open Disk Image and select the ISO to be burned.
  4. In the list of volumes, you will now see an item representing the ISO file. Select it.
  5. Click the Burn button and follow the instructions.

That’s it! Sure, it may seem simple enough, but when you’ve been using Linux and Windows utilities for years, these steps can be a little perplexing and hard to remember.

UPDATE (6/22): This tip has been published on Mac OS X Hints.

Disk Utilityscreensnapz008

Another slightly mystifying scenario is when you want to make a backup of a disc. Games, for instance, often require you to keep the original disc in your computer as a form of copy protection. Unfortunately, getting the disc out of its case every time you want to play can scratch it up. And of course, it’s simply inconvenient.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could copy an image of the disc to your hard drive, then somehow trick the game into thinking that the disc is inserted when it isn’t? Well, OS X can do that for you, but the steps aren’t obvious. Disk Utility requires you to make a number of choices: Do you copy from the CD volume, its session, or the drive itself? Do you create a “CD/DVD master” or a “read/write” image?

To clear things up, here are the exact steps to create a perfect image of a disc:

  1. Insert the disc.
  2. Start Disk Utility.
  3. You will see that three items have appeared in the list of volumes: The drive itself, one or more sessions, and the contents of the CD. Select one of the sessions.
  4. Click the New Image button.
  5. For Image Format, make sure “Compressed” is selected. Leave Encryption as “none”. Click Save.

Disk Utility will then create a Disk Image (DMG) file for you. When the process is finished, you can eject the disc, then mount the image by double-clicking it. Ta-da! All programs will now think the image is the real McCoy, and you can put the true disc into storage for safekeeping.

Just Right cereal now available on Amazon

I consider myself a cereal connoisseur. It’s true: I’m as picky and eclectic with cold cereal as the French are with wine and cheese. Keep that in mind when I say this: Kellogg’s Just Right is the pinnacle of deliciousness. It brings a refined and sensuous enjoyment to epicureans who have the good fortune to taste this scrumptious blend of dates, raisins, and almonds. It is, of course, just right.

For those without the good fortune to have tried this cereal, it tastes a bit like müsli (but with extra sugar). Perhaps that’s why I like it so much: My part-German heritage still craves that Old World flavor.


You can imagine my disappointment, then, when the two grocery chains in my area removed Just Right from their shelves. My protests led nowhere, and I resigned myself to pale imitations.

Today my luck has changed. Amazon now sells hundreds of grocery items through the mail, and I was able to order a 5-pack of Just Right cereal for $20. I think I’ll start stockpiling it; who knows when a natural disaster might once again separate me from my beloved…

Citibank’s Identity Theft Commercials

For the last couple of years, Citibank has been promoting its identity theft protection services through a series of TV commercials. The somewhat humorous spots have become quite popular and have even earned Citibank an Emmy award.

Thelma And Norma

Somehow, I’ve always found these commercials slightly annoying. I never knew why; there was just something about them that bothered me. Today I happened to catch the “Thelma and Norma” spot while watching the NBA Finals, and that’s when it hit me: The commercials have it all backwards!

You see, the premise of each commercial is that the person on-screen has had his or her identity stolen. That’s the reason why the characters speak in a voice that doesn’t match their appearance. But wait a minute… That’s not how identity theft works!

If someone steals my identity, they’ve effectively stolen my “voice,” right? In other words, identity theft allows a criminal to speak with the victim’s voice. But Citibank shows the exact opposite: The victims speak with the criminals’ voices, which makes no sense at all. I realize that these commercials are supposed to be funny, but you’d think they’d at least get the concept right.

Oh, well. Now that I know why the commercials always felt wrong to me, maybe I can begin to enjoy them for what they are.

Back online

The four or five people who read this blog may have been asking themselves why it was unavailable for the last two weeks. Was there a major power outage? Did the web server crash? Did Trevor forget to pay his hosting bills? No. It was all because of a single DMCA take-down notice (more on that later).

It began with a recent post to my blog. I had cut-and-pasted an informative comment Brian D. Foy had made on another blog. The next day I received an email from Mr. Foy, which read, in part:

Can you trim the quoted material please? Taking the whole response oversteps fair use by quite a bit and is a bit rude.

Rude? I went back to look at the post again. Did I insult him somehow? Had I misspelled his name? No, I had given him the proper attribution and linked to both the original post and to two of his websites, which may bring more traffic (and customers!) to him. That doesn’t seem rude to me.

Confused, I replied to his email and told him I thought he was overreacting. After all, I wasn’t copying from a book or article; it was a simple blog comment, only a few paragraphs. Mr. Foy then sent me a reply, which read, in part:

I’m not giving you an implied license to reprint anything. I responded to Erica’s blog and I’d like to keep my reply there. You can excerpt the parts that you like and link to the whole thing, but otherwise I’d like you to respect my copyright now that I’ve made my intent clear.

Okay, so let’s forget about this whole “rude” thing. The real issue here is that Mr. Foy is claiming I have violated copyright law.

Have I? Consider this:

  • Look at the bottom of any page in Erica’s blog. It’s licensed under the Creative Commons. What does that mean? It means I have the right to copy, distribute, and modify the page as long as I provide attribution and don’t use it for any commercial purpose. Clearly, my blog is non-commercial, and as I said, I gave full attribution to the source.
  • Mr. Foy has acknowledged that Erica’s blog is licensed under the Creative Commons; he’s only asserting copyright to his comment. But this is not possible! When one adds content to a public work that’s distributed under an open documentation license (such as Creative Commons or the GNU FDL), that content automatically falls under the same license. This is common practice on Wikipedia, for example, which is licensed under the GNU FDL. If you add content to Wikipedia, you have no right to claim copyright infringement when someone copies that content (assuming, of course, that the copying complies with the FDL). If Mr. Foy did not want to license his words under the Creative Commons, then he should not have posted them to Erica’s blog.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation addresses this issue in its Bloggers’ FAQ: “When a person enters comments on a blog for the purpose of public display, he is probably giving an implied license at least for that display and the incidental copying that goes along with it.”
  • Posting a comment to a blog is like sending a letter to the editor of a newspaper. If you write a letter to a newspaper, do you own the copyright to that letter? Can you sue the newspaper for copyright infringement when they publish your letter without permission? I’m not a lawyer, but I doubt any court in the country would allow that. They’d probably say you’re giving the newspaper an implicit copyright to your letter, allowing them to publish it, post it on their website, and so on. And if a third party copies the letter from the newspaper? Well, that’s a gray area, but if anyone were to claim copyright infringement, it would be the newspaper, not the author of the letter. Likewise, I might expect Erica to complain when I copied from her blog, but not Mr. Foy.

Given all of the above, I’m certain I’m not violating anyone’s copyright. Unfortunately, Mr. Foy still didn’t agree, and he immediately shut down my blog! How did he have the power to do that?

It’s all because of a controversial law, passed in 1998, called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. The law gives copyright holders the right to force potentially infringing material to be removed from the Internet for 10 business days. The two weeks allow them to prepare a lawsuit against the alleged infringer. In other words, the DMCA makes those who post content online “guilty until proven innocent.” Knowing this, Mr. Foy filed a DMCA take-down notice with my hosting provider, who immediately took down my blog.

Well, yesterday was the 10th day, and My. Foy never bothered to sue me. His DMCA take-down notice seems to have been nothing more than saber-rattling. Apparently my copyright violation, if one exists, is not important enough to pursue, which is exactly what I was trying to tell him in the first place. He ended up wasting his time and mine.

And I never did find out why Mr. Foy thought I was being rude or why he was so determined to prevent his blog comment from being copied. Perhaps I would have been more likely to comply with his request if he had simply explained himself. Maybe he posted the comment by mistake, or maybe he was planning to publish the comment in a magazine article. Instead, he simply called me rude and insisted that I meet his demands. Naturally, I wasn’t very receptive.

On the bright side, I got a DMCA take-down notice and a potential lawsuit about a week after I started my blog. That’s gotta be a record, right?