Forwarding Address: OS X

Friday, March 29, 2002

I don't remember if anyone else has said this yet, but if you want just one program to view and edit graphics files, grab Graphic Converter. It does everything from slide shows to touching-up photos. It doesn't excel at any of these things, but most of us are pretty fumbly with graphics and just want something simple and fairly complete. The cost is US$35 unless you live in Europe, where it is US$5 cheaper. (Nice twist, that.) I registered mine eons ago and have been able to make every upgrade since.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I updated SearchGoogle to be aware of search contexts (application grain). Now, when you select text in Project Builder (say a class name), a browser window with a search is launched. You can also define your own contexts and related search URLs as well as change the default (if you don't like google or want to add some refinements to the search URL). Bonus: the installer actually allows you to install the service without the login/out hassle as well. public domain.

Monday, March 25, 2002

Palm has released a final version of Palm Desktop 4.0. I've been using the beta for a while. Have they actually fixed the OS X bugs now? We'll soon see... [Preliminary report: seems fine, though in the minor irks department the installer wants to restart when a logout will do.]

Somewhat OS X related, for PC migrators: Apple asks PC users about their decision (or indecision) about switching to a Mac.

What boggles my mind: No survey. No automated form. Just an email address! It will be hell on earth to aggregate the data, but I like the user-friendliness of welcoming organic email messages.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Export your Entourage Notes and Events to your iPod with these little OS X apps. Notes: Link, Events: Link Discuss

Remember Dmitry Skylarov, the Russian scientist the US imprisoned last year for showing people how pointless Adobe's PDF "security" was? And whose former employer the US is still pursuing?

Well, time to add another notorious pirate organization to the list of defendants: Apple.

"Mac OS X's Preview program is able to ignore the security settings in an Acrobat encrypted file and do whatever it wants with the file. And if OS X's Preview can do this, then any program can be written to exploit this security hole. ... The process of destroying the security settings in an encrypted PDF document is surprisingly easy and straightforward."
See the link below for explicit, step-by-step instructions for gaining access to the files you've purchased, even if the person who created them has set "protection" flags that defeat fair use, format-shifting, excerpting, and the Doctrine of First Sale. Link Discuss (Thanks, Seth!)

Day 26 of Andrew Plotkin's My Very Secret MacOSX Diary (no permalink, just scroll to the end) provides a simple Perl recipe for killing the QuickTime Pro ad that appears every time you start QuickTime.

Apropos of this, Plotkin writes:

One day I will be having lunch with Steve, and I will say "Hey, Steve, I love your computers. I own five of them. Never use anything else. BTW, remember those QuickTime Pro pop-up ads?" Then I will push his boiling-hot coffee off the table onto his crotch, and walk away.

Saturday, March 23, 2002

Mail archiver for Entourage for Mac OS X:
Entourage Email Archive (EEA X) is a simple and fast utility for archiving emails and attachments you have received or sent using Microsoft Entourage. Entourage Email Archive X can archive your email in three different ways:

* 1 - Archive email and/or attachments in the Finder
* 2 - Export or append email in a text file
* 3 - Export or append email in tab-text format
(for this function a freeware FileMaker Pro template is enclosed in EEA X folder)

* Settings 1 produce produce a Finder-structured-folders archive where emails and/or attachments are grouped by day.
* Settings 2 produce a long “paper trail” file that can be viewed with a robust text editor like BBEdit, Apple TextEdit or Microsoft Word.
* Settings 3 produce a tab-text file that can be imported into computer database programs like Filemaker Pro.

Link Discuss

As soon as I saw the Contacts import for the new iPod update, I immediately wondered why Apple hadn't released a Notes and To-Do version -- simple data-types that should be easy to import. Well, just a couple days later, there are two Cocoa OSX apps that allow you to put unstructured notes into your Contacts folder. Unfortunately, neither is particularily user-friendly; both require that you launch the app, tell it which text you want on the note, hit Save, locate your Contacts folder on your mounted iPod, enter a filename, hit save again. A much better version would be an OSX service or Scriptie that grabs the highlighted text, prompts you for a title and saves the file (giving it a title like "00Note__, so that all the notes are grouped together at the top of the list). Still, it's quite promising. Link (Podnotes), Link (iPod Text Editor) Discuss (via MacSlash)

Thursday, March 21, 2002

At MacWorld Tokyo today, Steve Jobs announced OS X support for Bluetooth.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

I've updated my notes on running Mailfilter, adding among other things this little AppleScript I now run as a cron job (using the osascriptcommand):
do shell script "/usr/local/bin/mailfilter"
tell application "Eudora"
	connect with checking
end tell
So simple.

Monday, March 18, 2002

At last, a full-featured location manager for OS X.
Mac OS X. Location X allows you to, with a single click, change network, time zone, email settings, default printer, run AppleScripts and more all at once.

Macintosh portable users who travel between different locations often have to reconfigure their Macs for use at home, school, the office, the hotel, the east coast office, China (you get the picture). Configuring Location X to do this for you is easy using its intuitive and elegant Aqua interface. Now using your laptop in different places is a snap.

Pseudo-X related: I've decided to stop supporting ASCII Shall Receive and have instead released the source of the last active version (2.1) under the GPL. It is now free for the world do with as it pleases.

Saturday, March 16, 2002

Tired of retyping the same long words over and over again in BBEdit? I've just scored this terrific freeware autocompletion module for BBEdit for OS X -- just type the first few letters of a word that appears in any of your open windows, type cmd-/ and biff-bam, the first matching word is inserted; keep hitting cmd-/ to get to the right word. Autocomplete is just about my favorite thing for computers to do. Link Discuss

I'm pleased to announce Blosxom, version 0+3i, my lightweight yet feature-packed Weblog application designed from the ground up with simplicity, usability, and interoperability in mind. Still <= 61 lines of code ;-), version 0+3i adds: * Multiple blogs under one Blosxom installation and * RSS syndication. Coming up in 0+4i, honest-to-goodness lightweight RSS aggregation. I can hardly wait!

Friday, March 15, 2002

3DOSX is a three-dimensional Finder replacement for OS X that runs on machines with OpenGL accelerated hardware. Link Discuss (Thanks, Scoo!)

>why would I use this over VNC when this costs $299 US and VNC is free?

Support. The VNC web site looks like it hasn't been touched in a year. There is nothing there about OSX or Windows ME, for example. AT&T Labs has been largely gutted, so long-term support seems unlikely.

This is all sad, of course, because VNC looks great, and open source for something like this is a Good Thing.

Apple has announced the Apple Remote Desktop, a remote admin system. Interesting but my question is: why would I use this over VNC when this costs $299 US and VNC is free?

Thursday, March 14, 2002

I wrote up some notes on running Mailfilter under OS X. I also include links to other spam-filtering solutions (Razor, SpamAssassin, etc.). I'm very interested in feedback.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Reader Woody Hanscom wants to let everybody know that internal snapshots of OmniWeb he received show CSS support getting much, much better.

Also, reader Chris Barrus wrote in to let us know about a dockable Cocoa bookmark manager called BookIt that works with OmniWeb.


As long as we're talking about browsers: Mozilla 0.9.9 has been released.

Several of the bugs I had been meaning to submit seem to have been fixed. Mozilla is the browser I use the most, though it ain't pretty and creating new windows can be quite sluggish. The tabs are addictive -- with a maximized window it's the closest thing we've got to the fullscreen modes mentioned earlier. (I still have high hopes for the Mozilla-derived Chimera too). And if you want to get pumped up about the significance of Mozilla, read Andrew Leonard's new piece in Salon.

I've relied on Launchbar for bookmark parsing for the past several months, since I use three or four browsers regularly and Launchbar is capable of scanning all their bookmark files. Now I'm experimenting with a folder-based system (scanned by Launchbar, natch). Too bad you can't drag a bookmark from the browser toolbar to a folder in the Dock, grr. (And yes, I know, URL Manager! I am still in therapy exploring my deep-seated resistance to this program.)

Speaking of URL Manager, reader Morley Chalmers writes in:
I was using OmniWeb, but have switched back to IE for one simple reason --
URL Manager. This handy little tool lets me create and manage bookmarks like
absolutely nothing else I've seen. Alas, the folks at Omniweb have not
enabled their product to work with utilities like URL Manager.

URL Manager lets me save and store bookmarks immediately in the structure
that makes sense to me. For some reason I was never able to get my head
around OmniWeb's approach.

IE, while not outstanding, is nevertheless adequate for the job.
For some reason, I never use bookmarks in a browser, I'm more likely to put them in a file or in my blog's sidebar if I visit the site frequently. I guess that comes from switching browsers so frequently throughout the years.

Following up on yesterday's browser topic, I asked a good friend who is very techy with OSX which browsers he uses. He said IE 85% of the time and Mozilla 15% because he likes the Mozilla bookmarks better. So I installed Mozilla and used it for a while. I was unthrilled. I used to be a huge Netscape fan (heck, I wrote Netscape for Dummies), but Mozilla seems like Just Another Browser. It also seems a tad slower than IE, but not by much. At least it worked well for modern web sites (it did CSS a bit better than IE).

As for better bookmark keepers, I have to tell my friend about URL Manager Pro. It's pricy ($25), but it does everything I want for keeping URLs and making them easy to edit.

The folks at the MacGPG project have released v1.0.1 of GPGPreferences, a prefs panel-based GUI fpr your MacGPG preferences.

Note that during installation it will try to install in the general /Library/PreferencePanes directory by default when it should really be installing in your user /PreferencePanes dir instead. That can be switched during installation.

Monday, March 11, 2002

Reader Dave Hendler chimes in on OmniWeb issues:
OmniWeb is cool.  Being a Cocoa app, you do get the cool anti-aliasing
features of OS X.  And if pages are designed the right way, it probably is
one of the best looking browsers out there.

My major current problem with OmniWeb is its lack of support for Cascading
Style Sheets, one of the more important standards that is doing a lot of
good for the web.  Take a look at my site,, in
OmniWeb, then in IE5, Mozilla, or Opera.  I use CSS for layout that looks
pretty good on most Mac browsers.  Netscape 4 is smart enough to know it
can't do the CSS, so you get a plain page.  OmniWeb, however, tries to do
its own thing which ends up creating a mess you can't read.  It doesn't
admit to not knowing CSS, which creates a problem for us designers and
developers.  So any site that tries to use fairly sophisticated CSS to
control how their site looks end up being terribly munged in OmniWeb even
though they are doing everything in their power, including adhering to
published standards, to make it right.  That's my main beef with OmniWeb.

I do believe it will get better with subsequent releases.  And it does do a
good job with most current sites.  It's real problem is that it isn't yet
forward compatible with where the web _should_ be heading, regardless of
whether it is or not.

So there are my two cents.
Thanks Dave!

Paul and Patrick: I'd be interested in your hyper-critical views of OmniWeb. Besides reading blogs, I only use a web browser to search google for papers and information usually contained in mailing lists or really bland barely-HTML pages. Warning:Editing Blogger templates in OmniWeb is at your own risk. The <$Blogger$> tags get munged. Other than that, I use OmniWeb for an awful lot.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

Patrick is right that this is annoying and a design problem. Windows users are familiar with running applications in full-screen mode, which has none of the problems Patrick describes (but confuses the hell out of users of typical intelligence who can't grok the Alt-Tab idea).

The way I reduce the problem in OSX is to put the dock on the top right side of the screen and to size my initial IE window to be about an inch shorter vertically than the screen and about an inch and a half narrower. When I open the second window, it appears diagonally down but not hitting the bottom, and I can open a third window that way as well.

I'm interested to hear what other web browsers do. I have avoided Mozilla and Netscape and Opera because they seemed incomplete and slow, but I haven't tested with them in six months. I wanted to like Opera, but there were too many pages it could not render the way the designer intended, and it did SSL miserably. I assume that it is "better" now, but how much better?

Just to rant a little bit more on OS X window management: I would pay cash money for products that made it less of a pain. For instance, MSIE invariably responds to "new window" calls by generating a window cascaded diagonally southeast of the existing one, which means I have to grab the mouse every time and move the new window upwards so I don't lose its bottom under the Dock. If you need to read a lot of different web pages in quick succession and make heavy use of "Open in New Window," this gets really old. Computers are supposed to relieve us from having to do the same thing over and over again, even when we're, uh, doing the same thing over and over again.

Similarly, I'd like to torpedo MSIE's habit of creating a new empty window to exactly the dimensions of the last window created, which yields really stupid results when the last window was a farking pop-under.

Yeah, I know, use Mozilla, and for some things, I do. But I could list as many window-management eccentricities for any number of Mac programs, Classic and OS X alike. (Office for OS X is particularly inscrutable in this regard.) Web browsers tend to highlight these problems because it's in the nature of Web browsing to create a lot of windows in quick succession. Surely I'm not the only user nutty enough to care about this.

Paradigm shift: After weeks of shuttling the Dock all over the place and shrinking it down as far as my middle-aged eyes can tolerate (I have "presbyopia," which means my eyes are opposed to rule by bishops), I've suddenly realized that if you just make the damn thing really big suddenly you can see beautifully-detailed icons of all your minimized windows, and that moreover in many cases you can watch as processes in those windows go through their paces. (A minimized Terminal window is particularly nifty in this regard.) This is actually worth losing screen real-estate for. Rocking.

Thursday, March 07, 2002

For the sake of migrators missing their favorite app switcher I figured I should post these Dock tips while the list is fresh in my mind. Nobody loves the Dock, but you might as well fully use what's there... (and then you should buy LaunchBar)
  • option-click to hide current app when switching
  • control-click to pull up a menu immediately
  • cmd-click to show item in Finder
  • cmd-option-click to switch and Hide Others
  • cmd-tab cycles forward; cmd-shift-tab cycles backward; then:
    • cmd-shift to cycle backward
    • cmd-q to quit selected app without foregrounding
    • cmd-h to hide selected app
  • cmd-option-D toggles dock hiding.

No classic apps in regular use here, either. I boot Classic occasionally to copy one of my VCDs to my hard drive (using QuickTime Pro), since OS X still won't read VCDs directly.

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

Stepwise is running an article on writing Aspect-Oriented programs with Java and WebObjects.

As for the Classic apps I run: none. I didn't come to OS X from Classic MacOS so I had no Macintosh baggage, just Unix baggage.

To answer Patrick's question about which Classic apps I still use, I'm proud to say the answer is damned near none. At this point, I still reboot into OS9 to scan occassionally, but that is it.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

I'd love to get multiple desktops for OS X. There's a Dockletish thing out there--I think it was mentioned earlier on this very page--that sort of emulates the effect by hiding and unhiding apps and sets of apps, but it's not the same. And it's not really keyboard-operable. You can't use the keyboard to jump from virtual desktop to virtual desktop, or move windows from one virtual desktop to the next, or make them show up in every desktop.

This ability to manage every aspect of every open window from the keyboard--to minimize windows, maximize them, restore them, resize them, move them, maximize them in just one dimension ("maximize vertically"--surprisingly useful), and pop them from one virtual screen to the next--is built into just about every open-source X window manager written by obsessive lunatics and given away for free. It should be built into this gold-plated and otherwise wonderful implementation of Unix-for-the-desktop as well. Yes, you can probably do two-thirds of these things from the keyboard, sometimes, if you're willing to hit cmd-F2 and laboriously scroll rightward across the menu bar. But that's silly. And meanwhile, while you can generally minimize a window with cmd-M, is there a similar keystroke for getting that minimized window back up out of the Dock?

I love OS X, but it's kind of pathetic that every so often I find myself starting XDarwin in fullscreen mode just to have another virtual desktop--or firing it up rootlessly just so I can have some xterms I can move around the screen at need, without having to constantly grab the damn mouse.

Speaking of rootlessly, I'm a little surprised nobody seems to have mentioned OroborosX, an X window manager specifically designed to run rootlessly under OS X. It's a bit of a CPU hog and it's sufficiently Mac-like to suffer from exactly the keyboard deficiencies I'm griping about above, but for some kinds of work it's exactly the right thing. Usually, though, I just run icewm.

A discussion question, and then I'll stop. What Classic utilities are you still wedded to, this far along? (My own submission would be the unkillable Disktop, a ten-year-old copy of which is as solid and useful on this OS X machine as it was on the Mac my wife and I shared ten years ago.)

For Rael: a.) Space (development has halted).

On my *nix POV haxies wishlist for OS X: a) multiple windows/desktops a la Gnome/KDE/vern32/et al; and b) xmouse-like focus-follows-mouse functionality affording focus to a particular window by simply passing your mouse over the window of your choice. I've been surprised not to have run across such beasties.

i'll add a few of my "must have" and "nice/fun to have" resources to Paul's list:

  • MacMinute: more frequently updated than MacCentral and MacNN and just as good
  • Mac OS X Hints: seems to have something useful every day
  • MacSlash: predates, so it's got a personality all its own
  • O'Reilly Network: Mac DevCenter: not super-frequently updated, but always carries interesting stuff for even the most casual Mac OS X developer
  • Mac OS Rumors: they usually try to pass off pure speculation as reliable information, but it's fun to try to guess when the next CPU will come from Apple
  • Think Secret: often better-founded gossip (ie, developer seed builds of applications, etc)

For OS X migrators with a non-Mac background, I wanted to share my shortlist of Mac sites worth visiting daily (hourly, weekly, whatever). Most are not devoted to OS X exclusively, but all have valuable info from time to time. I'll omit my editorial comments; check each out for a few days and see what clicks. I'm sure others will add to this (I cop to learning about apple.slashdot from this very page!)

Monday, March 04, 2002

George wrote: "is this [post] what Rael was talking about ... "blog local, publish global." Indeed, George. I have MovableType running locally on my iBook, configured for my public server, blogging to localhost and rsyncing the content on up to my public server when something changes. I've turned off the comments feature since I don't run MT on my public server, but I could just as well have left it on locally and had my public server MT. All you're doing manually with search-and-replace can be circumvented by configuring MT for your public server. And the uploading is handled nicely by rsynch (over SSH or FTP if you like).

re: my last post -- is this what Rael was talking about last month with his "blog local, publish global" post? if it is, i feel like a doofus. if it isn't then i just might have contributed something.

Sometimes the little things are the best: Classic Spy is a menu extra that tells you when Classic is running. It also lets you start/stop Classic from the menubar. Very nice.

i took an extra second or two to take another look at what MovableType produces, and it looks like there is a way to get MT to generate "stand-alone" HTML (like Blogger or Radio UserLand: if your blog's set to http://localhost/mt/blog/ you can copy the whole directory (archives and all) out to a different location (say, your "Documents" folder) and do a search-and-replace for the string "http://localhost/mt/blog" (substituting whatever path you want to use on your remote host). re-save the files and upload everything to your remote host. i did all of this manually and used BBEdit Lite for my searching-and-replacing, but no doubt you could use your scripting language of choice to automate the process and run it at regular or event-triggered intervals.

the downside is that anything that relies on any of the MT CGIs won't work (obviously). that, and there's nothing more tedious than having to upload the whole blog to the remote server every time -- some sort of differential upload would be nice.

i also have Rael's blosxom up and running on my PowerBook. it surely must be the lightest-weight blogging tool out there!

Saturday, March 02, 2002

If you are upgrading to OSX and you need to add memory to your system, but you aren't sure what kind of memory is already there, take a look at MacTracker. It's a freeware list of all known Macs and really useful information about each. It covers version info on Mac OS's as well. A wonderful resource. And, yes, there is an OSX-specific version.

Think the Control key is in the wrong place? Put it back where it belongs (according to UN*X standards) with uControl (was: iControl)! Also check out the extra emacs-Cocoa built-in bindings and talking cat (UN*X cat using the OSX speech framework). From the same human comes a utility for those of you that have a knack for half keyboards: Twerq (gzip'd DMG).

Friday, March 01, 2002

This has potential: OmniWeb browser windows will show updates even when minimized in the dock. Combined with the "refresh" meta tag this opens the door to all kinds of crude but easy docklets like stock tickers, server monitors, weather icons, etc. Here's a simple digital clock in PHP that demonstrates the concept. Note the use of the title tag to convey mouseover information (the date in this case). Such a fine line between cool and stupid...