Posts Tagged ‘os x’

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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Easy to set up.

Easy to set up.

Windows 7 is finally all set up on my Macbook Pro through both Bootcamp and Parallels.

A few thing that caught me up in the installation:

  • Partitioning a large part of the hard drive could be difficult if you have large files that are frequently used, for me my XP Parallels files prevented me from partitioning my main hard drive.
  • Use the Bootcamp Assistant to start the installation process, otherwise everytime the installer restarts you will start to boot in OS X.
  • If installing the Student Upgrade edition it will only accept the License Key if the install detects a previous version of windows when it initially starts up. Install Windows 7 once then install again over it to get the product key to work (I had to wipe my XP Bootcamp before installing).
  • An “Untitled” Bootcamp partition can be renamed by changing the name of the C:/ drive on the Windows side.
  • Backup everything. After a clean install of Windows 7 is working use WinClone to back it up.

My only real complaint about Bootcamp and Windows 7 is that the trackpad tap to click is much more sensitive then in OS X.

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The forecast for the next seven days: rain.

The forecast for the next seven days: rain.

Within the first week of release I have been running OS 10.6 on my MacBook Pro and all was well.

Recently I noticed that I have been running on the integrated graphics card since moving to Seattle, this explained why it felt as if the system was sluggish. Once I switched over to the dedicated graphics card (NVidia GeForce 9600M GT) everything started moving faster. Almost everything.

Once an hour, once every twenty minutes or once every day the system would hang. For twenty seconds the system was not responsive, I could get in maybe two clicks before everything stopped. It was not lag as keystroked and mouseclicks made during this hang time were not registered in any way. The system just stopped. I have read about this on forums with one solution being to downgrade the EFI firmware from 1.7 to 1.6. This sounds risky since my computer shipped with 1.7 so 1.6 might just fail completely.

Sunday I decided to try to fix it on my own. First thing I did was verify the main hard drive and repair permissions. No major problems with either of these. Next was a hardware test off the original install discs, passed with no issues. The last hardware maneuver was to rest the PRAM. Back into running the OS I checked all the third party programs that run in the background. I found out that the major three that I use were out of date and lacking 10.6 support (Caffeine, Quicksilver and Keyremap4Macbook).

After these steps I have not had a hang in over a day. Usually I get a couple with Matlab running and I had it open most of the day. Hopefully this is a working solution else I will need to wait until 10.6.2 is released in the next month or so.

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This is the best uptime I have seen of any computer I have accessed.

This is the best uptime I have seen of any computer I have accessed.

The best uptime I have personal achieved was on my old Powerbook G4 with an uptime of 100 days when running 10.4. I have yet to be able to come anywhere near matching that uptime with either 10.5 or 10.6 (which has not broken ten days). Since I can now dual boot into Windows I will probably not be able to achieve a high uptime on my laptop. Even without the Windows partition I still have some issues to work out before I get it to be super stable.

The pictured uptime is from a computer in my lab, I just happened to check out uptime yesterday when it hit 500 days up. This particular one has a UPS and its own generator, it’s internet connection is also on a generator and UPS, so long as Seattle as a whole does not go on it will keep on going.

As for my laptop a few issues persist through 10.6. When I am running on my dedicated graphics card (instead of the integrated one) the system hangs for around twenty seconds every hour or so (so being ± 40 minutes). I think this is related to the 1.7 firmware update but I don’t know how comfortable I would be in downgrading the firmware. Especially since I think this computer shipped with 1.7 on it. The system also occasionally starts acting really weird requiring a logout. The last issue is that when I wake it from sleep some windows are blacked out for up to ten seconds before refreshing back to normal.

I might just need to do an erase and install with 10.6 instead of my current upgraded install. I don’t because my Microsoft Office and CS4 disks are in California while I am not. Add to those reinstalling Matlab (and Mathematica) and it is enough of a deterrent to reinstalling the OS, though I really should.

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A good script.

A good script.

I just finished setting up something neat for my MacBook Pro: a script that takes the IP address of the laptop on wake and writes it to a file that is then synced online via Dropbox.

It starts with the set of terminal commands on scripts called SleepWatcher. This program looks for a file called .sleep and .wakeup int he users home directory and executes them upon sleep and wake respectively. They can contain any UNIX script from say “Goodnight Michael” to, well, grabbing the current IP.

The command used to get the current IP and write it to a file is:

curl http://myip.ozymo.com -o /Users/michaelhutchins/Documents/Dropbox/wan_ip_mac.txt

With the /michaelhutchins… part replaced with your username and where you want the file to go (and be called). To make the use TextEdit or anything to make a file called sleep.txt. Then rename this to .sleep saying yes to all the warning of hidden files and removing the .txt extension. My full script is the above with one added line:

sleep 5;

curl http://myip.ozymo.com -o /Users/michaelhutchins/Documents/Dropbox/wan_ip_mac.txt;

The sleep 5 just waits five seconds so the computer can make the connection to the internet. Once it was done in Terminal I typed chmod +x .wakeup to make it executable. With this and sleepwatcher installed it now updated the IP address whenever it wakes up.

Why is this useful? I see it as a security measure. If my laptop is ever lost or stolen I can use the IP to SSH in to maybe find out where it went or at least narrow down the options. I can also use Screen Sharing through OS X to see what is on the screen by connecting with the IP address. Or if the IP is for a coffee house or public place a well placed “say “I am stolen!” on repeat may help.

Also in the future I may see about setting my computer up as a file server I can wake remotely in case I need to get a file. Though I have yet to experiment with that.

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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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The San Francisco Academy of Sciences, on the edge of the rain forest sphere.

The San Francisco Academy of Sciences, on the edge of the rain forest sphere.

Spotlight in 10.4 was an excellent addition to an operating system. Once used I utilized the quick search functionality for launching applications, finding documents and opening folders. I realized yesterday that I have stopped using it; slowly since my install of 10.5 I have been using Overflow for most of my programs and documents. Since then I installed Quicksilver and exclusively use it to launch applications.

This left Spotlight devoid of any use aside from the calculator and dictionary lookup. The main reason being it is now so very slow to operate. Typing immediately starts a search, that is fine, but continuing to type changes the search, on my system this does not work. Spotlight freezes up, goes slowly and if I mistyped something I have to start again since editing a word it too slow.

I procrastinated yesterday by looking into a solution; they ran from re-indexing to people saying how it works fine for them. I believe that it works for them, however I have a larger hard drive then the stock (I am using 190GB out of 250GB). It then hit me, Quicksilver is terrible at find documents and folders, Overflow I have stopped working: change what Spotlight searches.

I changed the privacy settings so only my home folder sans library are searched by Spotlight. While not the blazing speed I had in 10.4 (well maybe not blazing) it certainly has sped up searches.

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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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Now it is most definitely winter.

Now it is most definitely winter.

Yesterday I fell upon a link to a MacHeist software giveaway. And I love free software.

By signing up you get free copies of Synergy and Enigmo 2. Synergy is an iTunes extender program that I did not really care about, Enigmo though is a casual puzzle games and I thought I would try it out.

First I downloaded and installed Synergy. Since it normally cost money I figured that there must be some inherent value to it, it also downloaded faster then Enigmo 2 so I had some time to kill. 

Turns out to be a useful little program. It is active as a preference pane and a background process (4% CPU (G4) when used and 20MB memory). When a song in iTunes changes a transparent display pops up listing the new song, artist and album artwork. The size, transparency, duration and location can all be changed. It also automatically sets some iTunes hotkeys. While these can be set through the normal preference panes (Keyboard -> Keyboard Shortcuts) I never thought about doing it before. It also adds three buttons in the menu bar for previous, next and play/pause. So far a simple and handy program.

Enigmo 2 is a 3D puzzle game with the goal of getting dripping beads, lasers or plasmas to their respective location through the use of drums, mirrors and other tools. It feels slightly reminiscent of Lemmings. While an entertaining game with moderate difficulty there is some major problems with it. It could be that I am using a trackpad but the camera controls are really bad. I may be spoiled from using the control schemes of programs like 3D Studio Max and Wings3D but I cannot get the hang of the controls. The second problem is the minimal preference settings. There are little options to change the camera controls and no settings to adjust music and sound (if you wanted to play your own music in the background). The last one is that if you want to play in a window it is limited to the default window size (about 800 x 600 I think).

Getting past these problems the game is fun, especially for the price of free. 

As the second part of the giveaway there are two more free programs that will be available Christmas day plus two more if you refer two friends. So on Christmas there can be a total of four more free programs.

I like this Christmas spirit.

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