Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Apple Releases Mac OS X 10.4.7

Apple today released the latest update to Mac OS X Tiger, 10.4.7, which you can get via Software Update or via Apple's downloads page.

10.4.7 adds numerous fixes, which are documented on the site. If you are using a MacBook Pro, apparently it adds the feature that was released with the MacBook that allows you to Ctrl+Click (right-click) using the trackpad by placing 2 fingers on the trackpad and clicking.

I've installed 10.4.7 and my system appears to be running a little bit more smoothly. It was a bit sluggish at times under 10.4.6, with far too many spinning beachballs of death for my liking. But at the moment, it seems to be a bit more responsive, which is not unusualy after an update from Apple.

That's one thing I love about Mac OS X. When it updates, it's usually the case that performance improves, unlike many other operating systems, which increase the required system specs with each upgrade, thus rendering older machines less usable. Upgrading from Panther to Tiger, for example, usually improves performance substantially.

There haven't been many reported issues that I've seen with this update, so I had no reservations in just jumping in and downloading it; 10.4.6 was getting on my nerves. Did anybody else find OS X 10.4.6 very sluggish compared to 10.4.5?

Monday, June 26, 2006

WWDC approaching; Digg 3.0 released today!

The Apple world has been noticeably devoid of news in recent days, but a lull in activity is not unusual before an important event. I'm talking about the World Wide Developer's Conference of course, which is coming up this August. Probably second only to the Macworld Expo in terms of significance in the Apple world, the WWDC has been one of Apple's favourite outlets for showing off awesome new products. This year is no different, and the most highly anticipated event at the WWDC will of course be the promised preview of the next version of OS X - 10.5 Leopard. Apple today announced, unsurprisingly, that Steve Jobs will be doing the keynotes speech - expect him to make Leopard look like the greatest thing ever, which it quite likely will be.

But since there hasn't been much going on in the world of Apple otherwise, I haven't had much to write about! One announcement worth a note though, is that Digg has launched the latest version of its website, Digg 3.0, today. If you haven't checked out Digg before, it's a great site. It's a social news network, where users submit and vote for stories, and the most popular get posted to the front page. Not too exciting for mainstream news, but Digg is the best source of interesting, amusing stories out there that you might not otherwise have discovered. It has a whole section devoted to Apple as well, so it's a great source of unique, user-submitted stories. And all the major stories make the front page too. I've been using Digg for a long time, and I really recommend that you go check it out if you haven't before!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

HoudaSpot now free from MacZOT!

HoudaSpot, which I reviewed in this post, is now available for free from MacZOT!

Hurry though, there are only just under 3000 free licenses left, and once they're gone, if you want a copy of HoudaSpot, you'll have to pay for it. When you sign up for your free copy, you get a license emailed to you, which you can then use to register your copy of HoudaSpot.

If you haven't heard of MacZOT before, I really do recommend that you go and check it out, and bookmark it. They have great discounts on great Mac software every day, and they have offers like this very frequently. I got my copy of AppZapper this way, for free. And one can actually understand why software developers support them. In order to bring the price of HoudaSpot down to $0.00, people had to blog about it, and for each blog, the price went down by $0.05. That's quite a lot of blog entries, considering that the original price was $14.95, and as such, quite a lot of publicity for the developers of HoudaSpot.

Even though the software itself isn't something I'd use regularly (it's not a bad piece of software though, very well designed), free stuff is always good, and MacZOT is just a fantastic way of promoting quality Mac software. It's a great concept that benefits developers and consumers alike.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Google Earth - downtown Baghdad light beam

I was trying out the new Google Earth 4 beta, which runs beautifully on the Mac by the way. But anyways, I was browsing around downtown Baghdad, and I came across this weird looking light beam:

What the heck is that? There are coordinates on the bottom of the image so you can check it out for yourself if you have Google Earth (click the image to enlarge).

Edit: Apparently it's a charge overflow in the CCD chip in the camera of the satellite that took the image, i.e. there was a spot that was too bright.

Either way, if you haven't checked out Google Earth for the Mac, do check it out, it works wonderfully, and it's great fun to stare at your house from a satellite photo. It also has improved integration with the newly released Mac version of SketchUp, which is a 3D modelling and design application that I really like. You can download both for free from the links provided.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Review: HoudahSpot - on MacZOT is offering a new application, HoudahSpot, today. And the deal is that for every blog entry that reviews HoudahSpot, MacZOT brings down its price by $0.05, with the eventual goal of having it available for free.

So here's my (brief) review of the software.

First and foremost, it's the interface of HoudahSpot that stands out. Upon launch, you're greeted with a crisp, simple looking Aqua interface that looks like this:

This window allows you to easily specify complex search terms, and once you're done, HoudaSpot essentially performs a Spotlight search on your system.

To be honest, whilst its interface is great, I don't see why this software is necessary. I don't see why you can't just create a Smart Folder and specify search terms within that to achieve the same effect that HoudaSpot does. Moreover, HoudaSpot didn't perform much better than Spotlight does, which would be necessary if I were to consider using it. For example, the reason I use Quicksilver (a phenomenal application which I can't live without) as a launcher, rather than Spotlight, is partly because it's lightning fast, among other things.

So whilst I wouldn't recommend the purchase of this particular software, it looks nice nonetheless. And if you haven't heard of MacZOT before, I definitely recommend checking it out; they offer great discounts on awesome Mac software every day, and sometimes you can get lucky and get free stuff. For example, I got AppZapper (which I have written about here) and SubEthaEdit for free off MacZOT, and they're both excellent pieces of software.

I'll probably be using AppZapper on HoudaSpot now - but whatever you make of this review, if you see this post on the 16th of June, do blog it and submit your review to MacZOT. Why? Because free stuff is always nice :).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

From - Leopard to run Windows apps?

I was navigating Apple's website and checking out the new 'Get a Mac' pages, when I came across something that excited me quite a bit. I went to the part of the website that tries to dispel reasons why one wouldn't buy a Mac, specifically the 'Macs aren't slow' page, which you can find here.

On that page, I came across this paragraph:

"Plus, since Apple designs and tests the operating system and new hardware at the same time, the company can optimize software and hardware to work well together. That means on such well-designed hardware, that MacBook Pro runs even some Windows software faster than PCs themselves, according to third party results. (They’re able to get these results with beta software from the next version of Mac OS X, Leopard. Apple Computer does not sell or support Microsoft Windows.)"

This both startled and excited me. What beta software are they talking about? Is this suggesting or confirming that Leopard will be able to run Windows applications without having to install Windows? So many questions spring up - if this is true, how has Apple been able to adopt the Windows API? Surely Microsoft didn't license this their own virtualisation technology?

I normally don't really like rumourmongering, but this is off Apple's own website!

Now I really can't wait to get a peek at Leopard during WWDC.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Passwords trick

In my last podcast, I shared one of my favourite tricks in OS X, which I use to store passwords and logins in one place in a secure, easy-to-access way. I thought I'd write it out for you, because it is definitely one of my favourite tips of all time.

It's the perfect solution to the age old problem of passwords and logins. Nowadays we have so many of them: for our email accounts, for our online banking, for individual websites and so much more. With so many passwords, it's difficult to keep them all safe. But at the same time, it's also difficult to remember the ones you don't use frequently, especially if you keep them too safe. This solution keeps passwords safe, but it also keeps them all in one easily accessible place - on your computer. By using an encrypted disk image, you can password-protect a text file, and use that text file to store all of your passwords and logins! Here's how to do it.

How to create the encrypted disk image:
  • Go to disk utility.
  • Press the 'New Image' button.
  • You'll receive a 'Save As' menu for your disk image.
  • Give your disk image a name and select where to save it.
  • Select the size of your new disk image from the first pull-down menu (for passwords, the smallest size will do).
  • Select AES-128 encryption from the second pull-down menu.
  • Make sure it says read/write disk image in the third pull-down menu.
  • Your final selections should look something like this:
  • Press 'Create' to finish creating the encrypted disk image.
  • Once you've done this, you'll be asked to enter a password (twice for verification) for the encrypted disk image. This will be the password you need to access the disk image and all of its contents. Create your password and enter it. Remember this password.
  • And voila! You have an encrypted disk image!

  • How to save and protect your passwords using this disk image:
  • Mount your disk image by double clicking it to open it.
  • You will be asked for the password that you entered when you created the disk image. Enter the password, and the disk image will mount like any other virtual disk image or external disk. You can now treat it as though it were such a disk, and edit its contents however you wish.
  • Create a text file (Word or TextEdit will do fine), enter all of the passwords and logins that you want to remember/protect and save this file to the mounted disk image. Do not keep an extra copy on your hard drive, that copy won't be protected.
  • Eject the mounted disk image.
  • Now your passwords and logins are protected! Nobody can access the disk image and its contents without your password. But at the same time, you can access all of your passwords and logins easily just by mounting the disk image and opening your text file! To edit or add passwords and logins, just mount the disk image, enter your password and edit the text file.

  • And there we go! A relatively simple way of keeping passwords both accessible and protected. I see this method as the perfect solution to the problem of keeping passwords and logins both a secret and easily accessible, and so far this is the only thing I use encrypted disk images for. However, this method can obvioulsy be used to protect any files that you might want to keep encrypted, and definitely feel free to do so (just make sure the size of your disk image is large enough to store what you want to encrypt).

    Feel free to give me some feedback if you found this tip helpful!

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Urge: Microsoft and MTV's iTunes competitor's terrible DRM

    Recently, Microsoft and MTV launched Urge, an online music service aimed aimed at competing with the iTunes Music Store. In doing so, they made a point of providing content in a WMV-only format, effectively alienating all iPod owners, as the Windows Media format is not recognised by the iPod. Some, including myself, would say that as a consequence of this, they are also shunning a large portion of their potential market. After all, most people who buy music online own MP3 players...and most people who own MP3 players own iPods, funny how Microsoft and MTV didn't do the math there. Thus, these people like myself argue that by using a format whose DRM shuts out the iPod market, Urge is essentially setting up its own demise. Why would you, as an iPod owner, switch to an online music service that doesn't support your MP3 player, when you have a compatible, easy-to-use alternative sitting right in the application that syncs your music to your library? I'm talking about iTunes of course.

    Well it seems like Urge may have further shot itself in the foot with its DRM. According to this article, it seems that the Urge service has some odd DRM and licensing restrictions in its terms of use. First of all, it only allows you to authorise 3 PCs to use your purchased music, which isn't that far. But on top of that, the article claims that each PC is only allowed to authorise 2 MP3 players to hold your purchased music, which seems reasonable...but this restriction is apparently for life. So, as the article says, if your MP3 player breaks or gets stolen, or you simply want to buy a new MP3 player, Microsoft and MTV are essentially saying that you have to go and buy a new PC as well...which I suppose would sell more Windows licenses...or not.

    Whether or not this article is accurate remains to be seen, and I do not attest to ever having used, considered using, or even checked out Urge, so I can't claim to be familiar with their terms of service. But if this article is true, then unless you want to stick with 2 MP3 players for life (and take extra good care of them), or risk having your music confined to your PC, never to be played on a portable device again ( buy a new PC), then Urge probably isn't going to be the service for you. And heck, if you own an iPod, they don't want you either.

    I think I'll stick with iTunes.

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Apple relaunches Back-To-School program, offering free iPod nano

    Good news for all college students out there, Apple today relaunched their back to school program. Through this program, with any Mac (other than the Mac Mini) purchased between now and September 16th, you not only get the traditional education discount, but you also get a US$179 rebate - equal to the price of the 2GB nano with the student discount applied - on any iPod purchased with the Mac in the same order. This basically means that you get a free 2GB nano, or an equivalent discount of another iPod, if you buy a Mac in this period.

    The way the offer works is that you pay for both initially in the same order, and then you submit a rebate form (keep the boxes of your products for this), and get the $179 back.

    I took advantage of this offer last year, when I purchased my iBook G4 in August, and it is definitely worth it if you need to/want to get a Mac before the next school period.

    Right now the offer seems to only exist on the US online store, but it's just been launched, so it should hit other countries' stores shortly.

    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    Podcast #6

    In today's show:

  • Apple + Nike partnership
  • Competing with the iPod
  • Apple OS on Dell support site
  • Apple Fifth Avenue time lapse marriage proposal story

  • Rumours
  • Apple Gaming project?
  • Apple phone? Simple or complex?

  • Apple Quality Control
  • Is it getting worse?
  • MacBook Pro story
  • Trying to understand the problems - a period of transition

  • BitTorrent on Mac
  • Intro + 3 BitTorrent clients
  • Official BitTorrent
  • Azureus
  • Tomato Torrent

  • Tip!
  • Great way of keeping passwords secure and easily accessible
  • Using an encrypted disk image

  • Listen to today's show here.

    Subscribe to my podcast! Go to iTunes, open the 'Advanced' menu, select 'Subscribe to Podcast', and paste the following URL into the box: