Forwarding Address: OS X

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Disabling CrashReporter

If you're developing an application chances are it probably crashes every now and then while you're working on it (if not, you're a better developer than I). It can get annoying seeing Apple's CrashReporter dialog box pop up every time this happens so to disable crash reporting type this into Terminal:
defaults write DialogType none

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Apple stock broke the $50 mark today for the first time in about four years. Yeah! iPod mania! I'd be more excited if I hadn't already sold the handful of shares I once owned -- for about half that price.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Smultron : The Next Generation

I've been obsessed with programmer's editors lately. I think what set me off was the latest BBEdit upgrade; a paid update lacking any must-have features is an incentive to survey the competition. I'm not going to list them all, but suffice it to say that I looked at pretty much every editor that will run on OS X, whether Cocoa, Java, terminal, or X11-based. In the end found that what I wanted most was something that: 1) had that nice native feel and 2) was open source, increasing the odds that it would stick around, get updated, and remain affordable. It needn't have the featureset of Eclipse or XCode.

The application I liked most that met those criteria was Smultron. It's impressively full featured for a 1.0, one-person effort. It's got syntax coloring, regular expression support, a novel one-window interface to multiple documents, user-extensible syntax coloring, multiple (human) language support, a nifty "code snippets" drawer, HTML preview, and lots more. It reminds me a bit of SciTE, but alas there is no Aqua version of SciTE.

Smultron is licensed under the GPL. I've exchanged some mail with Smultron's author, and while he's made it clear that he would like to retain his own Smultron branch, he would welcome a "competing" fork based on his code.

I've been playing with the source in XCode and have succeeded in fixing a couple cosmetic problems, writing a quick hack to work around a hanging bug, and even adding a feature that I wanted ("Run in Shell").

I'd like to fire up a Sourceforge project for this, but I can't possibly do it alone. Though I'm learning, my Cocoa skills at this point are not at a very high level. So I'm looking for other developers who would be interested in taking the Smultron codebase and collectively running with it. There are bugs to quash, features to add, and interface guidelines to uphold. If you're interested, email me. I'll set up a discussion list and we'll figure out whether this is worth doing, then move on to the gritty details.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

iPhoto Flickr Plugin Hits 1.0

Congrats to Mr Speirs on his 1.0 release. If you've been waiting for this to get out of beta before giving it a shot, now is the time.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Cool OS X util: fs_usage

All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth now

From The Daring Fireball Linked List comes a very cool article about a BSD filesystem reporting utility that previously I had know nothing about. If you haven't heard of fs_usage either, you might want to read up. It's one of those utils that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Liked calc? Check out cal

In my ongoing effort to convince OS X users that the command line is not to be feared but to be loved allow me to remind you of (or perhaps introduce you to) another incredibly useful little command line utility: cal.

'cal' is short for 'calendar' and as you've probably guessed it displays a calendar:

[bob-adamantium:~] bob% cal
    October 2004 
 S  M Tu  W Th  F  S 
                1  2 
 3  4  5  6  7  8  9 
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 
17 18 19 20 21 22 23 
24 25 26 27 28 29 30 
Which is nifty but not spectacular. But: ever want to know what day of the week your birthday was on in the year 1?
[bob-adamantium:~] bob% cal 1
The year 3003?
[bob-adamantium:~] bob% cal 3003
December of 8432?
[bob-adamantium:~] bob% cal 12 8432
Nice, no?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Quick calculator revisited: installing

Way back last Thursday I wrote about wanting a decent calculator from the command line in Quick Calculator. In the comments anonymous pointed out that there's a perl-based calculator available out there called the Astronomy-aware Unix calculator (don't let the name scare you) and I gotta say: it kicks some serious ass.

I was going to just post about its existence here, with the assumption that everyone would know how to install it but then I remembered a post awhile ago in which some reader comments mentioned that they'd like less geek-heavy content, which I took to mean: "more content presented in a way that didn't assume every reader spends their whole day writing code and compiling their own applications from source".

So instead I've written a complete installation guide for calc, which assumes, step-by-step, that the reader is new to the Terminal and command line. If you're already a command line user this probably won't be anything new to you; if you're not but you're curious about it and you want to explore another level of your Mac then this might be the starting point you need to bite through the crunchy Aqua shell and into the chewy command-line centre of OS X: Installing under OS X.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Mac reaches 10% market share... in spam subject lines

I don't know if my spamtrap addresses constitute a statistically significant sample, but I just noticed that I'm seeing an awful lot of Mac-specific spam subject lines in my spam logs. The logfiles only record header info, so I can't tell you what the messages said, but check out these subject line counts from the last week:
  69  Subject: New Member Incentive Program- Get an Apple computer!
  66  Subject: Get an Apple iMac G5 Desktop computer!
  55  Subject: Get the New Apple iMac G5 Desktop!
  46  Subject: Apple 17" iMac G5 Desktop!
  40  Subject: An Apple iMac G5 could be yours!
That's 276 out of 2713 spamtrapped messages. Double-digit market share!

It's not just for PowerBooks any more

OK, it's not "pitting", but then again, I use an iBook G4. The area under my left palm (which I rest much more than I rest my right hand) has an ugly, kinda dirty splotch. Soapy water doesn't remove it. It must have something to do with the plastic, because my iBook G3 didn't get the splotch after two years of constant use, and I had this splotch in about two months.

(No pictures, you don't really need to see a splotch to know its a splotch...)

PowerBook Pitting

Some of you may have heard of this problem with aluminum PowerBooks -- corrosion or "pitting" of the aluminum surface to the left and right of the trackpad area (1, 2, 3). But you've never seen a worse case than my poor little 12" PowerBook. I mean, check that out! the epicenters of the two problem areas map to the bases of my palms at rest. Apparently my body chemistry is on the caustic side -- must be all those Sour Patch Kids. This actually doesn't bug me terribly, but I'm coming up on the end of my warranty and am not planning on buying AppleCare, so now's the time to get it fixed. Though certain individuals have gotten this taken care of, Apple has no official program yet. So if you have this problem on your PowerBook, pipe up now! Post here, and call Apple (politely, of course). Alternatively, perhaps we can open a sideline business that makes replacement palmrests from birch veneer.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Quick calculator

I had a vague memory that there was a calculator available in OS X from the command line but couldn't remember what it was. Some Googling turned up bc which works just fine as a calculator but from its man page description appears to be so much more than that:
bc is a language that supports arbitrary precision numbers with inter- active execution of statements. There are some similarities in the syntax to the C programming language. A standard math library is available by command line option. If requested, the math library is defined before processing any files.
So a question: if you use a calculator from the command line, what do you use?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


Pine for Mac, along with some weak instructions on setting it up for .mac accounts. I'm not much on UNIX mailers, but my 3 year old iBook is feeling slower and slower as time goes on, and I'm using IMAP, so....

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


No, not C.H.U.D. but Apple's CHUD Tools, a collection of tools for optimizing your application's performance. Apple just released CHUD 4.0 [download] which most notably contains a signifigant update to Shark, an app that I am just beginning to truly appreciate.

Check out Apple's Optimizing with Shark article for pointers on how to use it.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Finder and directory traversal

Over on AnandTech Anand Lal Shimpi has written an excellent, seriously in-depth article on a die-hard Windows user's first foray into OS X:  A Month with a Mac: A Die-Hard PC User's Perspective. Great reading, even for Mac power users. Until I read Anand's article I had no idea that you could traverse the Finder's folders with Cmd-arrow keys: Command-Down arrow to open a folder (the same as Command-O) and Command-Up arrow to move up a level.

It's moments like this that make me love OS X.


Continuing on my open source rampage, I wanted to make sure to mention Scribus, a desktop publishing app that has been in development for a few years but seems to be really hitting its stride this fall. During my years doing design for magazines and newspapers I lived and breathed Quark XPress, and later I did some advertising work InDesign, so I have some pretty picky ideas about what an application like this should do. Scribus doesn't do it all by any means, and what it does it doesn't always do the way I'd like. But frankly I never thought we'd see an open source DTP app at all. I'm pretty thrilled that it's happening. When we have an open source equivalent to Filemaker (e.g. Kexi or Rekall, or whoever else gets there first), I think the open source desktop will have really arrived.

Other stuff: Check out the documentation. Of particular geeky interest is the Python script interface -- oh yeah! How many days of work would that have saved in my QX days. AquaScribus is a little helper applet that makes launching Scribus simpler and allows you to drop documents on it. FWIW, current Scribus version is 1.2.x, but if you install via Fink as I do you'll get something like 1.1.7. Update: I have been told this is wrong, and that 1.2 is available via Fink, but don't have time at the moment to investigate further. I guess you'll have to "fink install scribus" for yourself and see what happens...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Senuti - unlock your iPod.

Do you want to be able to share your iPod music to your desktop? Senuti might be a solution. I have a Mac at work and one at home and want to be able to keep them in sync. A regular mp3 player/usb hard disk works but using an iPod to do this was needlessly difficult. This is pretty much the only reason I don't own an iPod.

Well, this is nifty: a tidy, packaged Despite appearances, this is not an Aqua application -- you still need X11 installed. But it does make the software more accessible, especially to people who don't use Fink, DarwinPorts, or the command line.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

(Sorry if you happened upon the blog this afternoon to find 20+ copies of my previous post. I now know that when I try to submit a post to Blogger and Safari tells me "...could not load any data from this location," it really means, "I actually sent your post, but keep on pressing the Publish button, sucker!")

Serving Notice

One OS 8/9 feature I've often missed in OS X is that the old Notification Manager allowed background processes to display little floating windows, rather than big clunky dialog boxes, when they needed to tell you something. OS X has not made any new strides here; in fact, except for aesthetic touches like Quartz rendering and throbbing blue buttons, its notifications are arguably less sophisticated than those of its recent ancestors. (Ask me about the Safari bug involving tabs and undismissable alert dialogs.)

OS X does have the raw material for much-improved notification services, though. Note the success of application-specific enhancements like Mail.appetizer and the various iTunes what-song-is-playing helpers. Then there's Growl and LanOSD, both of which offer hooks allowing applications, AppleScripts, and shell scripts to easily trigger nice auto-dismissing alerts in a variety of styles. For example, here's an AppleScript that uses Growl to tell you what iTunes is playing:

tell application "iTunes"
	set theArtist to artist of current track
	set theName to name of current track
end tell
tell application "GrowlHelperApp"
	notify with title theArtist description theName icon of application "iTunes"
end tell
Here's the same thing for LanOSD:
tell application "iTunes"
	set theArtist to artist of current track
	set theTrack to name of current track
end tell
tell application "LanOSD"
	message kind "iTunes" text theArtist & " - " & theTrack icon "info"
end tell
These examples are of course not very useful by themselves, but they do show how easy these services are to use. It wouldn't be that hard, for example, to write a cron script that popped up a notice when your favorite RSS feed got a new post, or when your blog got a comment or trackback, or when local disk free space dropped below 10%. The main thing about this style of notification is that it is minimally intrusive -- you don't have to dismiss it, move it out of the way, or deal with " requires your attention" alerts that aren't even smart enough to dismiss themselves after you've activated the app in question.

I hope Apple takes the hint from all this activity and puts some of their supersmart interface people to work on making this part of the UI not just prettier, but better.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

AppKiDo - sweet

If you're a Cocoa developer then you might want to check out Andy Lee's AppKiDo, a:
free reference tool for Cocoa Objective-C programmers. The goal of AppKiDo is to help you find what you want in the Cocoa documentation. It does this by parsing the header files and the HTML doc files that were installed with your Developer Tools, and presenting the results in a form that is easy to navigate.

As a neophyte Cocoa developer I'm loving this thing (but it would be great if it was able to support other frameworks, like the AddressBook). And, as noted in the comments to this post, it also supports lesser-used frameworks, like AddressBook. Sweet.