Archive for the Mac tag


My Menu Bar

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While I was looking for a weather app for my Menu Bar, I came across a site where people post their Menu Bars. As someone who likes to post my iPhone home screen (but always forget to do it), I was a huge fan of this site. And I wanted to share mine.


I’ll just go left to right.

Skitch – Not always open, only when I need to take a screen shot, like now. It’s great for taking a quick screen shot, editing it, drawing on it, and taking full page shots out of Safari. It’s free on the Mac App Store. Evernote bought them and made it free.

Dropbox – Shouldn’t need to explain Dropbox. Not sure it really needs an icon, it only lets me know if it’s updating. I didn’t see a setting to hide it.

Meteorologist – This is what I found to replace WeatherBug. It has tons of settings, so try everything out. The drop down can be setup to show the forecast for the next few days and quickly switch between cities. You can even have it rotate between cities (and display the city name).

Divvy – Saw this deal for $1.99 on the Mac App Store last week. It’s a quick way of sizing windows to a grid. Of course you can just resize your windows, but I’ve found this handy so far. Mac OS doesn’t handle switching between laptop and monitor modes and my windows wind up all over the place when I switch.

YouControl Tunes – Free
Skip Tunes – 99 cents
Yes, two of these. I’ll explain. I feel like I’ve had YouControl since I got my Mac. It let me control iTunes and rate tracks. I just recently removed the rating stars from the menu bar since I don’t listen to my music in iTunes anymore. I still use iTunes for podcasts (sadly), so I still wanted those controls (actually I only need Play/Pause, so I think I’ll remove ‘Next’).

I listen to all my music in Spotify. So I found Skip Tunes. It actually works with both Spotify and iTunes (and Rdio). However, it isn’t as easy to quickly flip between them, you have to go into the Preferences and it’s enough of a hassle that I’m keeping both of these until Skip Tunes gives me a way of quickly switching between apps.

Eye-Fi – You have an Eye-Fi, right? You should.

Time Machine – For some reason the ‘Back Up Now’ option is only available with this drop down. It also let’s me know if the disk is active. Otherwise, not much need for the icon.

The Rest – You have all of these. I keep the volume up there to easily see if the sound is muted. A very handy thing for when sitting in class. I also remember taking a lot of time to customize the time to the format I wanted.

That’s my Menu Bar. It doesn’t change very often but the WeatherBug issue had me thinking about it and led me to looking for something to control Spotify. Maybe I’ll do my Dock next.

WeatherBug Note: I had been using WeatherBug to show the temperature on my Menu Bar but found that a bug in the app was causing my Mac to take more than 30 seconds to go to sleep. As soon as I quit WeatherBug, sleeping took less than 3 seconds.


I’ve had Lion for a while, now it’s time to complain

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I installed Lion the day it came out, and I hated it. I tried not to rant about it too much and decided to give it a try for a while before judging. Maybe Apple is smarter than me.

For the most part, I like the idea of the new features, such as Mission Control and Full Screen Apps. Actually, I really like them. What I don’t like is that some built in functionality was removed (gesture to switch applications) and there are so many bugs, that using Mission Control in any logical manner just doesn’t work.

The #1 thing I want out of Lion: A developer that uses Lion with Mission Control and multiple desktops.

Some specifics on my problems …
Open Mission Control, which shows my Dock (I started hiding it in Lion). Click on an app in my Dock that is open and it doesn’t matter if I’m on the same desktop or not (happens in both cases). What happens? A different app gains focus. Not the one I just clicked. Seems like a major bug to me.

Use an app in full screen mode. Move mouse to bottom of the screen to bring up hidden Dock. Dock opens … sometimes. Sometimes right away, sometimes after waiting a bit, sometimes right after moving away, a lot of times not at all. I’d like the option to bring up the Dock in this way, but even if that wasn’t an option when in a full screen app, then follow that. This randomness is a huge pain.

Some other things I want …
Four finger swipe (left and right) for switching applications – They just pulled this one out of the options and now I have nothing assigned to this gesture. The application switcher was what I used the majority of the time when changing between apps. I tried BetterTouchTool at first but it was a little buggy. I also decided to give Lion a chance and maybe there was a better way to do things. I’ve adjusted to switching apps with Mission Control but I’m going to try BetterTouchTool again to hopefully get my app switching gesture back.

About the four-finger swipe … I went in to settings and found that swiping between desktops could be assigned to this gesture. I had this one disabled because I was using the gesture so much expecting the application switcher to show up that it was screwing me up. I still don’t have any desire for this functionality. I want to know where my swipe is taking me. This seems like I’d be going on an adventure to find the desktop I want. Mission Control will take me right where I want to go without a potential adventure.

Full screen Coda – Not an Apple issue, but with Parallels 7 supporting Lion (although $50 to get full support for a new OS is kind of ridiculous) it looks like Coda is the only app that I would use as full screen.

Dedicated desktops that disappear when not in use – Ok, I’ll make the last one an Apple problem. The reason I want Coda (and wanted Parallels) to be full screen apps are because they are two Apps that had their own desktop assigned to them. However, they aren’t open all the time, so there were empty desktops hanging around my Mission Control. iTunes was the 4th Space I had (that’s the two I mentioned along with my main desktop) in Snow Leopard, but that was full screen ready at launch for Lion.

Lion is just frustrating. Snow Leopard was solid, I loved it right away. Lion just seems lazy. I’m not surprised Apple shipped something with so many bugs, they have glaring bugs that they take forever to fix all the time on the iPhone. But usually, when it’s related to a major new feature, they polish it to make sure it’s adopted.

The next big launch for Lion will be iCloud. Which I sadly have to be excited for since iOS has things too locked down to make Dropbox useable for anything other than viewing on devices.

I’ll just be here, hanging my hopes on iOS 5 being wonderful.ikoni


Am I the only one excited for the Mac App Store?

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I acknowledge this isn’t the sort of thing regular people get excited for. I was even more excited the other night when I saw the first Sandy Bridge review went up.

The Mac App Store was just too easy and an obvious move after the iOS App Store. Thinking about it now, I can’t believe no one else attempted this. While iOS is setup to only allow Apple’s App Store, the Mac would not be so limited. You have other options to get software other than the App Store. Even Android is open enough to allow for multiple stores. Anyone could have likely pulled together all the smaller developers and would have probably offered a better deal than Apple will. If it became popular enough, it probably could have gotten some bigger name publishers before Apple showed up.

It will make it easier for any app to get acknowledged. Just like in the current App Store. Currently I will see an app on a blog and then have to dig around their web site to find out more and buy it. When I need something now, I’ll just be able to search the App Store. Then check out the charts to see what is selling best and read reviews.

I’m curious how any protection will work. Do I no longer have to worry about serial numbers? Did the developers have to modify their code to work with the App Store authorization? I could probably look in to this stuff, but I’ll just wait the two days until I can see it in action.

The real reason I’m excited is that it’s likely iWork 11 will be released on the same day. I skipped the last version of iWork, so I’ve been anxious to get my hands on the new version.


Hulu Desktop

Mike, Tech No Comment

I’ve had Hulu Desktop on my machine probably since it came out a while back but never really used it. They haven’t really figured out a good way to navigate around all the content they have. It is designed to be able to be used with just a remote, but you quickly get lost in layer and layer of menus.

So why did I try it out tonight?

I have my MacBook hooked up to a 20″ LCD. It sits on my desk, closed unless I take it for a trip. I decided tonight that I wanted to watch Hulu on the MacBook screen while I do stuff on the LCD. It kind of works but the Hulu video is always so small. I attempted to put it in full screen on the MacBook. It works if you have no desire to do anything else with the computer. As soon as I click anything on the monitor it jumps out of full screen mode. With dual monitor setups becoming more and more common I can’t believe this simple feature hasn’t been figured out.

I remembered having Hulu Desktop around and figured I’d give it a shot. It doesn’t solve the full screen issue but comes pretty close. The video fits to the window and you can resize the window. So I have the window maximized, which is 95% as good as full screen. It also solves some of my other issues with Hulu, such as always having to select 480p and it shows the buffer without having to pause.

Now that I’m aware of this I think Hulu Desktop will be how I Hulu. I just haven’t found how to get embed code from inside the application. After using it, hopefully I’ll get used to the interface and see what the designers were going for.

Update: Actually fullscreen does work for Hulu Desktop. I just had to find it.


The Story of My New MacBook

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The old MacBook was just over 2 years old. My usual update schedule is 2 years but that was when building my own average spec’d Windows machine. With Macs, if you buy right after a refresh, the specs are just about top of the line. The machine was starting to slow down, but not dramatically. The real need for the replacement was my hard drive filling up and the new model MacBook looking to offer quite a bit.

Things I wanted in the new MacBook
250gb Hard Drive – The old MacBook’s hard drive was 160gb. I had it upgraded at time of purchase from Apple. With a Windows partition, it cut the size down even more. Now with a 250gb drive my main concern is that my 320gb external is not going to be enough for Time Machine and some decent amount of backup space.

Backlit Keys – I usually use my MacBook as a desktop machine. Meaning it’s connected to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. A few months ago I started using it more as an actual laptop. It was pretty nice but it really bothered me that I couldn’t see the keys.

Better Video Card – Not that I game but just the OSX animations need something decent to run. My only concern is the shared 256mb that comes out of my 2gb of RAM. I think it will be fine for now, I will likely upgrade the RAM once the DDR3 sticks come down a bit in price.

Things Lost with the New MacBook
FireWire – I used FireWire for my external hard drive. It has the option for USB, so not a huge deal. I also used FireWire for my video camera. This could be a pain but I’m not sure the camera still works. If I have to, I will use one of the old Macs with FireWire around the house.

I didn’t go with a MacBook Pro because I thought it might be a little larger than I wanted. I thought my MacBook screen was a little small. I compared it to my HP Laptop, which is the perfect size. I had always thought the HP was 15″. Turns out, I was wrong. It was 14″. I don’t know of many 14″ laptops so I’ve excused my stupidity. I think my feeling that the MacBook was took small when it is almost the same size as my HP comes down to what I use it for. On my HP I’m using a web browser 98% of the time. On the MacBook I was trying to use it just like I do on my 20″ widescreen monitor. Obviously that’s going to be different.

I ordered the MacBook from Amazon, their deal was the best I saw from a place I knew I could trust. The free shipping took about as long as it would have from Apple. Fast shipping from China (Apple) vs Slow shipping from Maryland (Amazon). I also didn’t need to customize, which I could have only done with Apple. If the prices were the same I likely would have ordered from Apple and upgraded the RAM, but in a few months it will still be cheaper to have ordered from Amazon and buying the RAM and putting it in myself.

I opened it up and started with the Migration Assistant. This was my first experience using the tool. All I had to do was connected an Ethernet cable between the 2 MacBooks. Then it went on its way transferring about 120gb. It took a little more than 3 hours to complete the process. Easy enough. I was then presented with a registration screen. As I typed in my email address, I came across a problem. The O key didn’t feel right when I was typing in .com. It felt like it was stuck. Thanks to the backlit keyboard, I was able to see a piece of plastic under the key keeping it from being pressed down normally like the others.

I was upset that I hadn’t realized the problem before spending the 3 hours waiting for everything to copy to the new machine. It only took clicks to do that process, I didn’t have to use the keyboard at all. Since it would be going back somewhere I had to clear the hard drive and reinstall OSX.

I gave my first ever call to Apple Tech Support. I expected to just be told to go deal with Amazon, but I’ve heard stories of Apple having excellent Tech Support, so I figured I’d at least give it a shot. I was given 2 options: return to Amazon for a new replacement or return to Apple to be repaired. Since it was the 1st day with the machine I knew I wanted a new machine. Before hanging up I asked for a case number in case Amazon was too much of a hassle and I decided I wanted to do the repair. As he was typing in the description of the problem he told me something popped up on his screen and he put me on hold. When he came back he said I was being transferred to a specialist.

When I first got to the specialist I described my problem again, but it didn’t seem like it was going any differently than the previous rep. I figured I would still be calling Amazon. Then he explained to me that this broken key issue was a problem Apple was investigating so they wanted my machine to take a look at it. I was given 2 options: repair or replacement from Apple. The replacement would take a few more days, which doesn’t seem to make sense. My only guess is that they’d rather repair so they need some difference to get some people to opt for the repair. I went with the replacement but then I asked if I could speed things up by going to the Apple Store. At the very least I figured they would handle the shipping back to Apple and then I would wait for my new unit. I was told that would be just fine and (as I was hoping) if they had any in stock I would given a replacement in the store. Score! I scheduled a Genius Bar appointment for early Saturday morning.

I chose an early Genius Bar time because the Apple Store is always a zoo and the mall this time of year would make things exponentially more ridiculous. When I got the the mall the Apple Store was already a little busy and getting crowded by the time I left.

I got to my Genius and he took a look at the machine. He was perplexed when he tried and the key seemed to work alright to him. I was getting a little nervous that this was actually a problem and I didn’t tend to make up problems just so I could take a trip to the Apple Store. The fact that the key might be fine now was not at all shocking since I had hit the key a few times trying to get it to work originally and now I’ve put it back in the box and transported it to the store. If the bused piece wasn’t in the way, they key might work fine forever. But knowing it was busted in some way, I wanted it replaced. After some more attempts he finally noticed the problem. He had to fill out some stuff on his computer and find a manger. Then I was given a brand new MacBook and sent on my way.

After getting it home the first thing I did was play with all the keys. I almost asked to do that in the store. The keys were fine so I initiated the migration again and anxiously waited the 3+ hours.

So far the machine has been just fine. I haven’t done anything all that intense. I have hard drive space and flash videos don’t seem as choppy.

My lesson from all of this is that Apple does indeed have solid Tech Support. I may even consider AppleCare for this machine ($199 at Amazon doesn’t seem terrible). My tip for any dealings with them is to have a ticket created. If I wouldn’t have asked for that, I’m not sure it would have been flagged and I’d be waiting to get my new machine for another week or two.


Mac: Software to get started

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Since I got my first Mac I have encouraged a few of my friends to get them as well. To help them out I sent them a list of things to download to get started. This is the list, along with a few newer things that deserve to be on the list.

Instant Messenger Client. Let’s you customize a lot, depending on how crazy you want to get. Can use all the various IMs in 1 buddy list. The interface is a lot quicker than iChat, as far as checking status goes. You lose the audio/video abilities of iChat but I never have used those.

Instead of iChat I used Skype for my audio/video. It isn’t perfect but if you are patient it gets the job done.

Web Browser. Safari bugs me, but its getting better. See here and here. Camino is made by the same people as Firefox. Firefox has been a little weird on Mac. I’ve been using Firefox 3 a bit and it seems solid. When its finally released (or Camino goes whacky for a few days) I will give it another look.

Player for Windows Media. It’s certainly not perfect but if you want to play Windows Media files online you need it. Microsoft stopped making Windows Media Player for Mac so this is what they recommend now.

Video Player. If you come across a video that won’t play in Quicktime or Flip4Mac then try it out in VLC. If that doesn’t work then the file is likely bad.

Flickr Uploadr
If you put this on your Dock you can drag right from iPhoto then upload to flickr. Sometimes it puts pictures out of order, which really bugs me. FlickrExport probably does a better job, but it costs a few bucks.
Keeps track of what you listen to in iTunes, suggests other stuff you might like. The next version fixes some issues in tracking what you listen to on your iPod.

Google Notifier
Will let you know you have new Gmail (it also works with Google Calendar). It even gives you a preview of the message.

You Control:Tunes
iTunes controls on the menu bar. I have mine setup so I can play, change tracks, and rate the current song. It also has a pop-up that shows you information about each song when it begins to play.

If you have a Sirius subscription this is a great app to listen. Especially since the Sirius Player only seems to work well in Internet Explorer.

Radar In Motion
Current weather radar. I love radar.

Sing That iTune!
Will download lyrics for the currently playing song in iTunes. Is far from perfect but is the best available. The site isn’t in English, I usually download from here.

Happy Birthdays!
Shows you all the upcoming birthdays for the people in your Address Book. That is the Apple link since this is another non-English developed Widget.

Delivery Status
Put in the tracking info for just about any service and it will give you updates via Growl.

iStat Pro
All sorts of details about your system. I use it most often to see what program is hogging my CPUs instead of opening up Activity Monitor.

TV Forecast
Tells you when the next new episode of all your shows is coming.


Safari – 1 Step Closer

Mike No Comment

Just saw this command to enable single window mode in Safari. No more of those annoying new windows!

You just need to enter this in Terminal: defaults write TargetedClicksCreateTabs -bool true

This needs to be a preference within Safari. A command like this will work for me, but anyone else I tell likely won’t even know what Terminal is.


Will I become a Safari User?

Mike No Comment

Apple released Safari 3.1 today for Mac and Windows. For a while now I’ve been using Camino as my main browser. Firefox was a little buggy for me and there are a few things in Safari that bother me enough to not use it all the time. I have been paying close attention to Safari development. They have been talking up these speed enhancements and support of a lot of new standards.

Reasons I haven’t used Safari:
Double-click on the tab bar does not open a new tab. This now works in 3.1! It may sound like a small nuisance but it really drove me nuts. I’ve become so used to it in my other browsers. Now that this is fixed it brings me a lot closer to using Safari.

Open In Tabs – I keep most of my tabs on the Bookmarks Bar. I have a bunch of folders and even subfolders inside of those. When I click Open in Tabs it opens all the bookmarks at that level but also all the bookmarks in the subfolders. This is not how Firefox got me used to the Open in Tabs functionality. I like having the level of organization and still open a bunch of pages at once, I just want them to be the pages in that folder. Apparently it was changed to this behavior in Safari 1.3, here is the Apple Doc.

New windows are created instead of tabs. Please just give me the option to go all in on tabs.

After opening a folder in Bookmarks Bar hovering over a different folder does not open it. Too crazy? I’ve gotten used to this not working because Camino doesn’t do it. Firefox does. It really took me a while to get used to. It’d be nice to have, but I can live without it.

WordPress support. Usually Safari would screw up any post I tried to make in WordPress. This is the first one I’m trying with 3.1. (Update: It still removes all line-breaks. Not sure whose fault this is, I guess we’ll find out when WordPress 2.5 comes out soon.)

I am very happy with the double-click for new tab functionality but without fixing the Open in Tabs I can’t use Safari all the time. I know there are some add-ons, so if anyone knows of one that will support this please let me know. I’m not thrilled about that, but I’d give it a shot. The WebKit engine behind the scenes is great, I’d just like to be able to use it without going crazy.

I have similar nitpicks with iChat which have led me to avoid using that as well. I’ll cover that later.


The List

Mike No Comment

I don’t know what took so long to think of this. Bandwagon Jumping really didn’t work for what I was going for. I’ve had Lists for years, so it makes perfect sense. There are many lists. When someone crosses me, they are threatened with being put on The List. But there can be good lists as well. You can have a list for just about anything. For now, we’ll keep it simple: Good and Bad.


MAC OS X Leopard
This will be my first new OS release since being a Mac user. I’ve been excited for OS releases before. Windows 95 and XP being the most notable. The release of Leopard is a little different. An OS is a big change and its not something you want to screw up. So I try to wait until its out for a little while to make sure every computer it touches isn’t bursting into flames. Apple is doing such an amazing job marketing this thing that I’m strongly considering pre-ordering. The biggest hurdle is how ridiculous it is to pre-order an OS. Video games, movies, DVDs, sure. But not software and especially not an OS. I think I’m going to wait a few days. I’m not going to be around for the weekend of the release. When I get back on Sunday or Monday I’ll read up and what people have been going through. If everything seems to be going alright then I’ll swing by the Apple Store one day.

Apple Keyboard
While we’re on the subject of Apple … I decided to order the new Apple Keyboard a few weeks ago and I’m loving the purchase. I previously had the old Apple Keyboard with Bluetooth. The Bluetooth was beginning to act strange, telling me my batteries were dead when I had just charged them. Instead of going through all the trouble of figuring out what was wrong I just ordered the new one, which had just been released. I had gone to the Apple Store and played around with one right after they came out and really liked the feel. The keys are more like a laptop keyboard. It took a little while to get completely used to but now I love it. The only way I’d improve it would be to have some sort of indication on the function keys so I can find them without looking. I went with the wired version because the wireless one doesn’t have a numeric keypad.


Football Announcers
This week Andre Ware and Brian Baldinger were the color analysts for my college and NFL games this week. If you just listened to Ware you’d be shocked to learn that PSU is a good team and won the game. He spent the entire game talking up Hardy, the Indiana WR. It was so bad a friend of mine had to call and vent about how horrible it was. Baldinger was his usual self. Actually, while Baldy really bothered me during today’s Eagles game, thinking again about Ware makes Baldy look great. One note on Baldy, I think he has positioned himself perfectly to step in for Madden when the time comes. They both have a similar style and even sound a little alike, if you can imagine what Madden might have sounded like 30 years ago. Take a listen next game.