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Posts Tagged ‘mac’

Chrome for Mac Review

I heard that Google released a version of Chrome for OS X, as I have firmly been using Safari since it was first available I thought that maybe I could try something new (I just never liked Firefox).

There are some really neat features in Chrome however the current release is just not good enough.

First things that I like over Safari:

  • Themes. I like being able to have an overall darker look to the browser compared to the grey of Safari.
  • Pages do feel like they are loading faster.
  • It uses less memory on my laptop, this is an issue when handling large files in Matlab.
  • The status bar only appears when the mouse is hovering over a link.
  • Zooming in using Cmd + is handy and functions better then Safari.

Parts that are not good enough:

  • I cannot set bookmark folders to open all the contents when clicked.
  • When loading 18 new tabs simultaneously some fail to load.
  • Chrome does not open PDF’s nor does it support Java well.
  • While watching a flash video in full screen the mouse cursor is constantly moving up and down by one pixel.
  • Difficulty logging into sites such as slashdot.org and getting Chrome to remember the login.
  • Terrible history menu. Instead of getting my history I get Most Visited and Recently Closed, not where I have been.
  • Cannot drag URL’s from the URL bar into the bookmark bar.
  • Accessing the system Keychain works sometimes and rarely remembers choices.
  • There is no obvious way to change themes once one is set.
  • Once a file is downloaded the download bar remains until the window is closed.

I also thought that it would be easy to sync bookmarks between OS X and Windows 7 via Dropbox with Chrome but I have not gotten it to work (not saying it cannot be done, just that it is not obvious). I have not done this with Safari but I know it can be done with Firefox.

I wanted to like Chrome but it just disappoints and falls short of a pleasurable web browsing experience.

Maybe in a few releases it might be worth coming back.

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It is easier to transfer files over for a new typewriter.

It is easier to transfer files over for a new typewriter.

Before I received my new laptop I had to make a decision: rely on Migration Assistant to move everything over or do it myself. I had a large library of photos so I decided to do it by hand.

With a large hard drive at hand I had to decide what to move over. Aside from the obvious such as documents, music and such I went through the Libraries (User and System) along with applications to see what I could move over. As well as what would actually help.

I grabbed what preferences seemed important and some application support files (Doom 3 keeps the save games in the User/Library/Application Support) and a handful of other I thought to be useful (RSS reader, Safari folder). What I forget to grab that turned out to be important: Keychain. I have a lot of useless websites with passwords saved and it is just easier for the computer to remember these.

Mail did not like being transfered over through a direct copy. In the end I just re-setup three of my e-mail accounts on the new laptop and archived the older folder. Luckily all of my accounts are IMAP so it just required a massive download (I don’t really clean or organize my e-mails).

The other tricky bit was Time Machine. I wanted to just plug it in to the new laptop and have it resume where it left off. No dice. I even tried to change the MAC address based on this Mac OS X Hints article and that did nothing.

I did find out that option-clicking on the Time Machine icon allows one to access other Time Machine’s on the give disk. This let me go into my Powerbook’s TIme Machine, delete some things taking up space and start a whole new Time Machine for my MacBook Pro. The only disadvantage of this system is that the Powerbook backups will not be deleted to make room so I need to keep an eye on it myself.

So far nothing was missed, then again I tended to keep an organized system to begin with, no personal documents outside the User file except for some save games in the applications folder.

We will see in a week or so if anything critical was left behind.

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There are a lot of windows out there.

There are a lot of windows out there.

With my new fancy x86 process I went and installed Windows on my MacBook Pro. I was unsure of how I wanted to go about doing this and in the end found a good method.

First my needs: I wanted a system that could run Windows programs alongside OS X and I wanted to be able to boot into the system to play games (Fallout 3). I thought that I would have to make two installs, one through Boot Camp and the other through Parallels. To my fortune I found that Parallels can run a Boot Camp partition as a virtual machine while still allowing a person to boot into it when the need arises. I was set.

The only concern with this is that it sees it as new hardware every time the boot method changes, luckily there is a workaround through Parallels to avoid this.

I created a 32GB FAT32 partition through the Boot Camp assistant for my Windows XP install. The only tricky bit is that when the XP installer asks if you want to format the partition you must say yes. The install failed my first time through.

Booting into the fresh Windows install I used the OS X install DVD to get the drivers and some boot camp software. Those helped as my resolution jumped quite a bit and the trackpad started to work better (though not perfectly). First thing I did was run windows update and install AVG Free Edition. With those completed and running smoothly I switched back to OS X.

Now the moment of truth, I started up Parallels. It instantly recognized the Boot Camp partition and started to convert it to one parallels could use. After what seemed like an hour it was ready and I started the virtual machine up. I installed Parallels Tools just to make things easier. I then booted into Windows to check if it still worked, it did! So back to OS X and the virtual machine, I installed a line of basic (free) software every computer needs:

  • AVG Free Edition – Anti-Virus, fairly non-intrusive and runs well
  • VLC – Video player
  • iTunes – Music player and internet radio
  • Firefox – A web browser to use instead of Internet Explorer
  • Lavasoft Adaware – For removing ad-ware when things start slowing down
  • Flash – To play all of those addictive flash games
  • 7zip – Unarchive .rar, .zip and all of the various archive formats out there
  • ImgBurn – For burning CD’s and DVD’s
  • Dropbox – A good way to keep files synched between computers and OS’s.

With those installed happily I moved on to customizing the Windows install to get away from the blue theme with rolling grassy hills in the background. For this I relied entirely on the Lifehacker article on customization.

I should also mention that my Parallels Virtual Machine settings are:

  • Half the System RAW (2GB)
  • One processor (at 2.8 GHz)
  • Half the dedicated video RAM (256 MB)
  • Assigned to Space 4 (I use a 2 x 2 grid for Spaces)

In the end when I am in OS X this is what my Windows space looks like:

My Parallels window of Windows.

My Parallels window of Windows.

Overall I am very happy with how Windows is running on my new computer. Planescape: Torment runs well in Parallels and Fallout 3 runs superbly in Boot Camp. Eventually I will try some other games and other programs. Until then I will enjoy a smoothly running system.

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An HDR of the Goleta Dock from beneath.

An HDR of the Goleta Dock from beneath.

I found this site that gives a package of geektool scripts, one of them is a better uptime command then what I had before:

Old: uptime | awk ‘{print “UPTIME : ” $3 ” “$4″ ” $5 “”}’

New: uptime | awk ‘{print “Uptime : ” $3 ” ” $4 ” ” $5 }’ | sed -e ‘s/.$//g’

I run them with a refresh of 240.

On this site there is also some dark grey sidebar images to use as a platform for various commands. It shows several possible configurations of the command set. I like this sites current IP command but I don’t move networks often enough to warrant its use.

For some of the scripts to work they need to be edited for local ZIP code and for one your GMail password.

I just need to find a Geektool script that shows current network activity.

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The doors of the Santa Barbara Mission.

The doors of the Santa Barbara Mission.

Always envious of the new laptops and computers being produced I recently started to feel a bit stale with my relatively old computer; I decided to try out a small bit of customization to freshen my OS X install up a bit.

After a bit of searching I found really only two applications to help my computer feel a bit newer. The first was easy enough, a simple dock coloring program. One feature of 10.5 that I really liked was the translucent menu bar, since I rotate my desktop background through my photos once a week or so it is nice to have a subtle color change at the top. With Dock Color I am able to now match my dock as well.

When looking up custom desktop setups one that grabbed me had system information embedded in the background, that is above the desktop wallpaper layer but below everything else (including icons). I found a way to do this through the application GeekTool. With it I my current system processes that use more then 0.1% of my processor listed, current system uptime, a basic calender and my current iTunes playlist.

This resulted in my current desktop which looks like:

My current desktop setup.

My current desktop setup.

On top of the basic OS X applications I found these programs to be essential to a smoothly operating system:

  • Quicksilver – A very fast application launcher, much better then spotlight on my system.
  • Dropbox – Online file backup and shared folders.
  • Caffeine – One-click to prevent display sleep, excellant with the power options being lost in the 10.5.5 update.
  • Synergy – Floating overlay that displays the new iTunes song, also adds global iTunes control hotkeys.

The first three are free and there are free alternatives to Synergy out there, in fact a replacement would be global hotkeys and an info display from GeekTools.

With several of these programs (Quicksilver and Geektools come to mind) I only scratching the surface of the potential, but I am perfectly happy sitting on the surface.

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Building software is not that relaxing.

Building software is not that relaxing.

 

I need a good CAD program on my mac laptop (Powerbook so no Windows emulation) and I have found my choices quite limited. As a student I want something free, legally free. Not due to not wanting to pirate software, rather there is not much software our there to pirate for what I am looking for.

Taking the advice of a TA I looked into the QCad community edition. The company releases their CAD software commercially with the binaries released under GPL. I like free open source software when available so I thought I would try it out.

I needed to build it myself, I have never done this before. I turned to my good friend Google and found this post. This gave rough instructions on how to do it and assumed a much deeper knowledge of the process then I had. I was starting from scratch. Here is what I did:

  1. I already had XCode and X11 installed on my computer from a while back so I did not need to install them. They can either be installed from the system install disks or downloaded from Apple (XCode at least).
  2. Next I downloaded and installed fink. fink is a program/terminal command that allows for easy acquisition and installation of packages.
  3. With fink I installed qt3mac by using the terminal command “fink install qt3mac” followed by the supplementary packages qt3mac-shlibs, qt3mac-apps and qt3mac-doc. These are installed by adding the “-shlibs” onto the fink install command.
  4. Next I used cd to go to the directly with QCad in it (the one that was downloaded) and set the path to qt3mac by using the command “export QMAKE=/sw/share/qt3mac” and “export QMAKESPEC=/sw/share/mkspecs/macx-g++”. This sets the correct paths for the build command of QCad.
  5. At this point I realized that I did not actually have gcc installed, I reinstalled it using the XCode installer. gcc is a C++ compiler or a collection of compilers. I think at least.
  6. There site I originally found has instructions regarding a patch but I could not figure out how to get it to work. So I skipped this.
  7. cd to the qcad directory /scripts/ and enter “./build_qcad.sh”. This will start the build of the program which should result in a nice QCad.app program to drop into your applications folder.

For me building the program failed. I think I needed the patch but since I could not apply it (alright I don’t know how) it failed. While doing all of this I found a pre-packaged version of QCad on this nice website. I think I also saw an intel version floating around somewhere, don’t know where I saw it though.

So none of this had to be done if I had just found this pre-compiled version first.

Ironically I finally opened up QCad to find out that it does not do what I need it to do.

I have installed Vectorworks 2009 instead with a student license and will try that out now. I could just break down and go use SolidWorks at one of the computer labs on campus, I just want to have a copy for me to use.

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Macworld 2009

 

Stacks would greatly help with HDR organization.

Stacks would greatly help with HDR organization.

I always look forward to Macworld, it one of the small bright spots in the sudden deluge of winter quarter. This year I was not hoping for much, I was not interested in a new Mini or iMac nor the new Macbook Pro.

What I wanted was a new iPhoto. A new iPhoto was released as part of iLife ‘09 but it did not go in the direction I wanted. I wanted a slightly more robust photo program along the lines of Aperture. A loupe feature, better editing (like being able to input numerical values), the ability to compare two photos side by side or more importantly stacks. If Stacks became available for the iPhoto I would buy it as soon as I possibly could.

But it does not. Instead iPhoto went towards online sharing with Facebook and Flickr (I use both so admittedly it would be nice). Some neat features sure, but not quite what I would use.

Something not really mentioned but I love is the small new feature of iWeb to upload to an FTP site instead of MobileMe. That tempts to buy iLife ‘09, except that I found a substitute through Flickr and even WordPress to some degree.

I can always keep dreaming.

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