Saturday, September 16, 2006

When updates don't - console is your friend..

A cautionary tale to keep the wires warm as behind the scenes we prepare for wefcpug's next season...I'll probably be expanding on this theme elsewhere!

The good news came with this week's 'Software Update' - updates to Quicktime and to Compressor, which brings Compressor up to 2.3 Not much information about this, beyond saying it improves performance and stability. There have been many reports (and I've seen for myself) that 'high-quality' VBR compressions - the slower, 2-pass version - can be lower quality than quick once-over compressions. So, with luck this will have been fixed (it wasn't the case with earlier versions of Compressor).

With a couple of other updates (iTunes, QMaster) showing, and a second machine to install on, I opted for my usual 'Update and Keep Packages' technique, which saves download time and bandwidth, because the same packages can be used on the local network. Enough there for the 1st machine be left alone to download and upgrade itself.

When I came back to it, some 30 minutes later, all appeared fine (restarts are involved with the QT upgrade) until I ran Compressor to check the performance of the upgraded version. The icon appeared then vanished again, each time I tried to run the program - not a good sign.

Without an error to see, what's an editor to do? Look for consolation of course (sorry about that, been trying to work the pun in for several paragraphs) by running 'Console'. This is the program that partially lifts the lid on the running engine(s) that are Mac OS X. I won't pretend to understand much of what the screens say - but when there's a misbehaving program, this is where the error messages will be found. Sure enough, there was a host of lines written by Compressor, mostly incomprehensible, but all referring to a missing 'framework' called Helium. I'd already tried a cold-boot of the Mac, and the usual voodoo of permissions repair, so there was nothing to it but to re-install something. Compressor seemed a good bet, so I dusted off my recent Intel upgraded disc set for FCP, and made a CUSTOM install of Compressor only. Quick check, this version worked - nothing reported amiss in Console. Fingers crossed, I re-applied the downloaded upgrade - and guess what, all is now well. And better still, the 2-pass VBR compression works again and is giving very good results on the latest work.

Messages to you all: have a peek at Console (usually it's within Applications/Utilities) before you need to.
If you're not familiar with updates from stored packages - the option, in the top menu bar, is BEFORE you hit 'OK' on the Software Update Dialog. Packages (ie downloaded software updates) are stored in Library>Packages on your system disc. To install a package, you click on the .pkg and it works just like you're used to doing on a download.

Why did mine go wrong first time? Ah, if only I knew... Obviously the downloaded package was fine (downloads are checked by the system before they're run) - maybe it was something to do with having FCP running on another machine on my network when I first ran the updated Compressor. It IS legal to have 2 copies of FCP, under the Apple SLA, and in fact mine are the classic 1 on a laptop, 1 on a G5 desktop, but you can't run both simultaneously: normally you get a reminder dialog box (either from Compressor or from FCP) not a crash though!

Now, next challenge is to get clustered compression working....any hints from anyone?

Comments and suggestions please.