Archive for the ‘Mac’ Category

TapSnow chains not needed

19 Oct 2009 10:06 by Rick

Snow LeopardFive weeks after the package arrived I have installed Snow Leopard—and it was a bit of a non-event.

First I image-copied the boot disk using SuperDuper! This is a great little program that does exactly what it says on the tin and I had a convenient empty hard drive that came free when I bought my new NAS system. This took almost exactly one hour. I had previously verified that copies made this way were bootable A caution worth observing before you do this is to make sure nothing auto-starts at login that modifies data; for example your mail program which could download new mail. Otherwise you could lose things as you switch the boot from one drive to another.

Then insert the DVD and follow the instructions; it couldn’t be easier. It said it would take 55 minutes but was waiting for login in 35.

And then what? … Nothing really. It had forgotten my wallpaper preferences. It went away for five minute to install the first patch (10.6.1 announced a couple of weeks ago). Although it had remembered most of my preferences, some, like the Spaces assignments and the auto-start programs didn’t take affect immediately (I think the second reboot after the patch cleared most of that—Update: Skype seems to ignore its Spaces assignment). Otherwise everything looks and works just the same. I had read about some of the enhancements but wouldn’t have found them for quite a while without being told. I saved 8G of disk space, big deal! And I have so much spare capacity having overspec’d the machine that I can’t see any performance improvement. Never mind, it is a warm feeling being up to date.

Did anything not work? Well I had to re-install Popfile my anti-spam system as the proxy ports weren’t linking up. BBC iPlayer seemed to have a bit of a problem; it kept asking for permission to access my keychain and then proceeded to expire a program I had only downloaded a few days ago. I will have to keep an eye on that one. The Sonos desktop needed to re-register with the Firewall.

What haven’t I mentioned? I must confess to a bit of deception at the beginning. Before step 1, the backup, I had done quite a bit of research and upgraded every program in the box to the latest edition. That is why I am so late in making the move. It wasn’t until last week that all the programs I rely on had been fixed. There are a few others that I am still waiting on patches for e.g. Springy but I can live without that for a bit (the basic program works anyway). Crossover requires a paid for upgrade but a hack has been published for version 7. Update: blowed if I can get it to work. I may abandon that one rather than have to fork out every six months for the sake of a single application.

Update: Canon printing required the driver to be re-installed though the scanner side of the networked MFP was fine. As expected, CyberDuck FTP needed the beta test version installing. For reference Adobe Flash & Shockwave, Firefox, Thunderbird, SoundSource, SoundFlower, LineIn, KeyPassX, TextWrangler, NeoOffice, Adium, µTorrent, SoundApp Reborn, Lame, Silverlight, Max CD Ripper, Growl, The Gimp, Silverlight, Audacity (v2), XNJB MP3 sync and VMware Fusion (I am still on v2) gave no problems at all.

Canon Easy-PhotoPrint required Rosetta, I was expecting at least one package to require this though I hadn’t checked before hand. What is curious is that, when I now look at the System Profiler Software page, almost every program is mentioned twice, sometimes with identical information. I don’t know what is going on there. Update 2: Problem solved; it is using Spotlight and that was searching my SuperDuper copy of the previous system as well as the current one. A quick change to the preferences fixed it.

I still need to thoroughly test the Canon Camera stuff and so I will update this over the next week as I do that.

TapCrossover for Mac Pricing

11 Sep 2009 12:03 by Rick

Codeweavers, the makers of Crossover for Mac have the most peculiar pricing/support structure I have come across. This package allows you to run many Windows programs on a Mac; there is a version for Linux as well. It is especially useful for that odd application that you might have for which there is no suitable Mac replacement. In my case it is WaveCorrector which is by far the best vinyl clean-up tool available—but for Windows only.

I purchased and installed Crossover back when I first bought the Mac (April 2008) to enable me to run this one program, and it has been fine. I don’t need any more features from Crossover and have never had to call on their support. So when their support ended after six months it didn’t bother me too much at the time.

Now Snow Leopard has come out and for about £20 I have received my DVD. I have been checking all the software I need for compatibility and the majority have already upgraded or are in the process of doing so. All but one has at least a beta version available and that includes the freeware. There is no patch for my version of Crossover and, if there was, I could not download it because my support has expired. They do have a new version which does support Snow Leopard but to get it I have to re-purchase the product to bring my support up to date; That is $40—more than the MacOS upgrade itself!

TapTime Capsule Pricing

3 Aug 2009 09:40 by Rick

We know that accessories for the Mac (in fact all Apple things) are a little spendy but the pricing for the Time Capsule doesn’t make sense.

The Time Capsule is basically an Airport Extreme with a disk drive added (and support for Time Machine. Update: I am told you can do Time Machine to an Extreme as well so even that is not an addition). An Airport Extreme sets you back £139 ($179). For the Time Capsule 1TB disk you pay an additional £90 ($120) which, for Apple gear, is not bad; but for the 1TB more in the larger model you are stung for an extra £150 ($200). That is silly.

TapAudio Routing in MacOS X 10.5 (Leopard)

26 Jul 2009 22:08 by Rick

This is a short tutorial on how the audio system works in MacOS X and how to get the best out of it.

If you are a basic user of sound, such as listening to iTunes, streamed music from the internet and perhaps the Skype telephone system then you will have found that it all works straight out of the box. What you will be using can be shown like this…

Simple Audio Routing

This shows the program in the centre and on each side are the audio selectors for default input and output shown as rotary switches to indicate that only one can be selected at a time. Simple programs always take input from ‘Default In’ and send output to ‘Default Out’. Obviously playback-only programs will only use the output side but others, like Skype, may use an input microphone as well. Depending on the model of your Mac you will have different inputs and outputs available. My experience is with a Mac Pro and I have on the input side ‘Line In’ (Analogue) and ‘Digital In’ (I don’t seem to have a Mic socket which I always thought was a bit odd). On the Output side I have ‘Line Out’ (Analogue), ‘Digital Out’, ‘Internal Speakers’ and ‘Headphones’. I have bought a USB desk microphone so that adds to the input options.

The selector switches allow you to control what channel is assigned to the default input and output and this is done using the Sound panel in System Preferences as you would expect. On some devices (the analogue ones) you also have a volume control and a mute which are shown as variable pots and the analogue stereo output ones will have pan controls. Digital channels have fixed volumes and pan.

So, if for example, you have connected your desktop speakers to the ‘Line Out’ socket then you would switch ‘Default Output” to “Line Out’ and everything will be fine. Quite honestly, I find the Preferences panel confusing, especially the volume controls. If you are regularly switching things around then a useful accessory to get is SoundSource from Rogue Amoeba. This puts a control up on the menu bar which does the same as the System Preferences (and more) in a more convenient and intuitive form. For instance you can assign ‘System Sounds’ such as the bings and bonks issued by programs to a separate output—I send mine to the ‘Internal Speakers’ out of the way.

[Edit 20 Apr 2013] N.B. For those reading this and trying it on later versions of Mac OS. Lion (10.7) requires the latest version (v2.5.1) however this doesn’t work on Mountain Lion (10.8). Perversely the previous version (v2.5) does, so hunt around the internet for that. You need to run it manually the first time and some people have reported that it can affect the keyboard volume controls (which doesn’t bother me).

In all of this, ‘Headphones’ is a special case. They don’t appear in the System Preferences until you plug them in. What can be convenient is that when you plug them in they mute the other outputs—this is controllable in SoundSource but not anywhere else that I know of.

Monitoring

Moving on to more sophisticated programs, some like to control their input and output sources for themselves and bypass the ‘Default Input’ and ‘Default Output’. Skype is like this and allows you to select which microphone you would like to use (if you have more than one). Another little gadget I find useful is LineIn also by Rogue Amoeba. This is a very simple applications, best run automatically at login time, which simply routes input through to output with no modification except a mute button. Not only is this handy for monitoring the input sources if your recorder doesn’t do this, but is also useful just for listening to an external source on your Mac speakers.

Recording

Now if you want to record audio on your mac there are a number of applications that will do it. There is the quite sophisticated Garage Band from Apple and also the freeware Audacity which offers a lot of facilities and plugins. Using the diagram below you can see how to take an input signal, monitor it, record it and subsequently play it back. I use a Windows application called WaveCorrector which has state of the art click removal facilities. To get it to work here I run it under Crossover for Mac which works really well. The Crossover Windows interface only provides basic default input and output channels so I use SoundSource for routing. It does come with a monitoring facility but I prefer to use LineIn because it is there before I start setting up the recorder.

Audio Routing with LineIn for Monitoring

But what if what you want to record is sound that is generated on the computer itself—for instance a streaming radio station via the web browser? There is no way to get the output of, say, Safari, to the input of your recorder. Here another little gadget comes to the rescue…

SoundFlower

This little application from Cycling74, despite its daft name, does just what is required: but this is where it starts getting a little tricky to remember how to set it up. We will only be using the 2ch option—I think if you are into multi track recording then you are probably beyond this tutorial. Let’s start with a diagram…

Audio Routing with SoundFlower

Tracking it through from the top you can see that the browser outputs to ‘Default Output”. We have routed this through to SoundFlower using SoundSource. Now SoundFlower does its magic and sends it around to the front again. We set the ‘Default Input” to SoundFlower using SoundSource again and there it is ready to go into the recorder. No sound comes out of the speakers because we have intercepted it so we could use LineIn as before to do the monitoring but SoundFlower comes with its own tool called SoundFlowerBed. This is another application which you run at Login (it can be found in /Applications/Soundflower/Soundflowerbed) and sits on the menu bar as a little flower. You use this (shown as SFB on the diagram) to say where (else) you would like to route the SoundFlower signal to, so we set it to ‘Line Out’ so we can listen to it on the speakers.

Putting it all together

My main audio activities on the Mac are

  1. Listening to external source (LineIn)
  2. Recording them (add in WaveCorrector)
  3. Listening to Internet sources (Native)
  4. Recording them (add in SoundFlower)

To achieve this conveniently the settings I use are

Default Output = SoundFlower.
System Output = ‘Internal Speakers’
LineIn input = ‘Line In’ (actually ‘Digital In because my feed is digital)
LineIn output = ‘Line Out’
SoundFlowerBed = ‘Line Out’

This copes with 1. (output goes via LineIn) and 3. (Output goes to SoundFlower then ‘Line Out’ via SoundFlowerBed), Skype ringing goes to the internal speakers.

For recording I set “Default Input’ to ‘Line in’ (actually ‘Digital In’ in my case) for external sources (2.) and SoundFlower for internal sources (4.). Just one switch to change!

Finally a few cautions. I have found that some recording programs, including mine, like to have the routing set up before you start them up. They ignore any changes afterwards. Secondly be very careful with monitoring options. If used rashly then you can set up a feedback loop and make horrible loud noises. Lastly, if you want to record vinyl records via the ‘Line In’ socket then you will need a device called a “Phono Pre-Amplifier” to boost the signal and also provide some tonal correction. Even though there is this extra complication, a good old fashioned turntable gives much better quality than the USB-ready plastic turntables you can buy these days.

TapFirefox 3.5 Extensions

2 Jul 2009 06:12 by Rick

Rather quietly, certainly without the fanfare of version 3, Firefox 3.5 was released a couple of days ago.

This is an update to my earlier post about difficult extensions bringing the version numbers and locations up to date. There are still a few that I found that could be simply hacked to enable them to load. I haven’t altered the functionality at all, just changed the maximum version number to 3.* and tested them. They work on my system but you use them at your own risk on yours.

Stop-or-Reload Button 0.2.2 — The page says it works up to Firefox 3.0 (but it doesn’t even do that). The Hacked version 0.2.2.99 still works with Firefox 3.5.

UK Threat Level 0.16Hacked version 0.16.99

British English Dictionary 1.19 — The page says it works with Firefox 3.6 but it doesn’t. The Hacked version 1.19.99 still works with Firefox 3.5. This extension is also suitable for Thunderbird 2.*. It is not entirely clear if this dictionary is needed for Firefox 3+ or if there is one built into the English (British) basic download.

Google Pagerank Status 0.9.8 — Although the web site doesn’t say so, the version there is now 0.9.9 and does support Firefox 3 but not 3.5. Hacked version 0.9.9.99

Objection 0.3.3 doesn’t support Firefox 3.5 though they are working on a version 0.4. Update 6 Jul 2009: v0.3.4 is now available.

Minimize to Tray 0.0.1.2006102615+ (Windows) doesn’t work with Firefox 3 — The Hacked version 0.0.1.2006102615.99 also works with Thunderbird 2.*.

TapMacOS with Safari 4

17 Jun 2009 11:30 by Rick

This is a companion post to the previous one about Windows without Internet Explorer, which now seems to be possible.

It has been discovered that, once you install Safari 4 on MacOS, you cannot remove it. The only backwards route is to reinstall the operating system from scratch. This is a seriously BAD THING. Microsoft got a lot of stick for embedding IE deep into Windows so it could not be removed (possibly not deliberately, but as a consequence). There are many reasons that you may wish to remove an application—shortage of space is only one. It was possible to remove the Beta versions so why not the real thing? It is possible to remove Safari from Windows.

TapWindows without IE

15 Jun 2009 10:45 by Rick

There is some talk around about Microsoft issuing a special version of Windows 7 for EU countries which doesn’t have Internet Explorer bundled in.

In some senses, this is good news; it exposes the lie that Internet Explorer cannot be removed from Windows because its use is deeply embedded into the operating system. It also means that Windows Update will have to be able to work with alternative browsers (or another mechanism altogether); something it can’t do at the moment.

On the other hand, I don’t see why they need to ship without it at all. Potentially the machines become useless for the average consumer who can’t access the web even to download a browser to access the web! There are suggestions that Microsoft are just posturing.

Apple ships machines with Safari which is a very similar situation so I don’t see why Windows shouldn’t ship with IE—so long as it is possible to remove it if people don’t want it. In practice, I don’t remove Safari, I just don’t use it except for cross browser code checks, and it would be the same with IE; but it would be nice to know that I could. A similar situation should exist for Media Player/iTunes verses competitors.

TapOedipus Mac

6 Jun 2009 10:12 by Rick

Windows is like my body. It will take virtually anything I throw at it with little more than a hangover afterwards. Normally it is wide awake and ready for anything but it has a tendency to sulk and sometimes will embarrass me in public. Just occasionally it gives up altogether for no explicable reason. As it gets older it gets a little fatter and slows down. There are visible scars from past accidents and mistakes that never quite fade away. One day it will fail to boot altogether.

Linux is like my mates. There are lots of them and they are always good for a laugh, but a little bit naughty. A few drift away and I never hear from them again but new ones come along. Some remain faithful but begin to look a lot like me; they buy a suit and get a bit over weight.

MacOS is like my mother, always telling me to wash behind my ears and nothing but the best is good enough for her boy. She is always there for me and everything I do is the greatest. She doesn’t mind when a few mates come around so long as she doesn’t have to talk to them. One day I will take a friend out but I expect that when I look closely, she will be a lot like my mother.

TapWhy I don’t like the iPhone

8 May 2009 08:52 by Rick

It is purely selfish. Since it was introduced, all the good Apple news, rumour and help sites are full of dross. It is not easy to pick out the good Mac stuff from the useless iPhone stuff so it takes me twice as long to browse through the daily feed.

TapMigrating to Mac (Part 2)

6 Feb 2009 09:48 by Rick

When I wrote Part 1 last April, I promised an update in a few weeks—well I forgot.

My continued impression is that the hardware is excellent and I am now very comfortable using the machine. Even my worries about the Mighty Mouse have, so far, been unfounded, though I do have to clean it fairly often. I discovered that the “not quite full screen” problem was only for certain applications and Firefox in particular was fixed with a later release.

The problems with Time Machine and sleep mode have meant that I have given up using the sleep facility altogether and now shut the machine right down every night. The regular updates keep rolling in and I continue to be surprised how many of them require a system reboot.

The number of applications regularly using the VMware Windows guest has reduced to three (Family Tree Maker, MediaMonkey and EasyWorship) and I am now using Crossover for WaveCorrector. For others I have found native applications and the number of these becoming available is increasing as Apple’s market share improves.

To the details. I have omitted areas where there has been no change.

Browsing/Web

  • Firefox. Version 3 is much better, eliminating most problems and integrating with the Mac much more smoothly though it hangs sometimes—the “My eBay” page is a regular one.
  • I never found the “seamless FTP built into Finder” that I was told about so got CyberDuck instead which is very good, though it seems to get confused if I try to multi-task it.

eMail/IM

  • Thunderbird. A similar experience to Firefox—very good but it occasionally hangs, in particular on the first reply message of the day. I am looking forward to Version 3.
  • Pop Peeper was abandoned in favour of a Thunderbird account configuration which downloads headers only. This works fine and means less clutter on the desktop.
  • I have adopted Adium for IM which seems to do the job quite well though I have no need for conference rooms any more. We have also started using Skype occasionally and I found a USB desk mic (Logitech AK5370) which works very well.

Document processing

  • I am a bit concerned that NeoOffice is lagging well behind OpenOffice in updates but it works ok. I am looking forward to it being able to create and edit PowerPoint files that EasyWorship will accept.
  • So far I am using The Gimp native for picture editing. It is rather clumsy working under X and some people have said that it works better under VMware but if I was going to do that I would revive PaintShop Pro. I would like something better (I can’t justify the cost of PhotoShop) and while researching this post I noticed that the Gimp version I am using is rather old so I will update and see if it is better..
  • For plain text and HTML/CSS editing I have found TextWrangler which has some very good features including a very slick file compare.

Family History

  • Family Tree Maker for Windows works well in the VMware guest. I can’t see me replacing this as the pain of file conversion would be too much to consider; unless they come out with a Mac version perhaps :D .

Music preparation

  • Rip—Max seems to do a similar job to Exact Audio Copy and works very well. It even picks up many album details
  • Digitise—I am now using Wave Corrector from Crossover as it is a bit more responsive than from the VMware guest. I have got used to the Mighty Mouse but, for this application, something a bit more precise on the scroll wheels would be better.
  • Encoding— I have installed LAME in a number of places; native for Max and Audacity, in the VMware guest and also in the WaveCorrector Crossover bottle.
  • Edit—Audacity works fine but it doesn’t get used much. A handy tool to have in the box.
  • Download—µTorrent is now available in beta and it works just fine. I am glad to be rid of BitTorrent which continually dropped out and was very slow.
  • MP3 player—I have a plain MP3 player not an iPod and also don’t use iTunes so I needed something else to load it. XNJB was designed for the Creative range of players but it works well with other similar models including my Samsung and there is a good list on their site.

GPS/Mapping

  • Garmin MapInstall, MapManager, POI Loader and WebUpdater is now available for the Mac. It wasn’t easy to install and find all the stuff required, some of it had to be transferred from an existing Windows install including the big maps but it works ok now. Garmin have a rather protective attitude to software downloads.

Presentation

  • A hardware failure on the church system forced me to review this and, in order to loan my own Windows system to them, I transferred everything into the VMware guest on the Mac. EasyWorship now works very well since VMware started supporting multiple monitors.

Security

  • I don’t know what went wrong when I first tried to configure the OS X firewall but it is fine now. I am a bit concerned about how effective it is but I don’t think the risks are too great. I am sure it is something Apple will come under a lot of pressure to get right. I am having a few problems with the Canon MFP (MP600R) Scanner interface, which doesn’t surprise me, but otherwise no problems any more.
  • I have now abandoned PINS for password management and use KeePass on Windows and KeePassX on the Mac which use a compatible database. Both versions are installed on my memory stick so can be used anywhere I go without installing.

Backup/Restore

  • Backup4all. Works fine in the VMware guest, though there is now very little data to worry about. The new version of VMware makes it much easier to use Mac directories in the Windows guest transparently.
  • I haven’t found a good application to sync. memory sticks yet so I still use Pen Drive Manager on my office Windows system. It is disconcerting that, if the VMware guest window has focus, it automatically picks up anything you plug into the USB socket without asking.
  • I am using Springy for ZIP files. The built in mechanism was just about ok for extracting files but pretty useless for creating them.

Hardware

  • The dual head graphics card on the Mac is very good and with the addition of the built-in Spaces feature for virtual screens, this gives me all the window area I need.
  • The sound system is every bit as good quality as I expected and with some additional software, such as SoundFlower, LineIn and SoundSource allows me to configure it just as I would like. A clever feature is being able to configure the internal speaker separately so I send the system bings and bonks there so they are unobtrusive. I will post later about the sound configuration as it is quite interesting. If I need any more then AudioHijack looks excellent.

As a consequence of loaning out my Windows system, all data has been transferred and, except for a small panic when I lost some very old files, it has all gone smoothly. The next thing I will need to do is look at upgrading/enlarging the NAS as it is almost full. I would really like one that supports TimeMachine if that is possible. I would also like to find out what Bonjour is all about.

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