Archives: “apple, mac, and cupertino”

My (current) iPhone Apps


For anyone who owns an iPhone, one of the most common questions you hear from other iPhone folks is, “what apps do you use?”

Never one to pass up the opportunity to blog (AHEM), I shall take this moment to do a quick dump of the apps I currently have installed.

I tend to delete unused applications with abandon, so these are all apps that I’ve either used recently enough to warrant keeping, or are still in that uncomfortable initial “you’re new, let’s get to know each other” phase.

No links to the iTunes store, because I’m lazy, and because Apple put that rounded search field in iTunes for a reason, right?

Items whose names are in red are on my home screen, so you know it’s good stuff.


  • Things - Keeps your ass out of the fire. This is the iPhone companion app for probably one of the better/best to-do productivity applications available for any operating system.
  • Appigo Todo - Things is awesome, but I tend to keep more personal stuff (grocery lists, errand reminders, etc.) in this application, syncing up to the cloud via the Remember The Milk web site.
  • Ultralingua Collins French-English dictionary - Parce que je ne parle pas français très bien.
  • Antidote Mobile - Idem, lire ci-dessus.
  • Simplenote Awesome replacement for the built-in (and rather anemic) Notes app. This syncs with the web site and on my desktop using JustNotes.
  • Dragon Dictation - “I dictated this morning using this out not forget call me I guess.” (Translation: “I dictated this line using this app - doesn’t seem to like me I guess.”)
  • Convert - Very nice units conversion app with an excellent UI
  • TextExpander - Sort of implements the very useful desktop application TextExpander on the iPhone, though syncing one’s text snippets to the phone was kind of PITA-y the last time I tried it.
  • Google Earth - It’s the EARTH. On your fucking PHONE.

Photo-related apps

  • Flickr - there are many alternatives, but this works fine for me
  • CameraBag - This is the main “let’s make iPhone photos look like they weren’t taken by an iPhone” app that I use the most often
  • Best Camera - Weird UI, but this has some nice effects.
  • Photoshop Mobile - It’s Photoshop! On my iPhone! OMG!
  • Camera Genius - I keep forgetting I have this installed, but it sure looks useful
  • Mill Colour - A few people have recommended this app, but I really haven’t gotten around to using it on anything yet.
  • Autostitch - Creates rather decent panoramas, such as this one.

Music-related apps

  • Shazam - Indistinguishable from magic.
  • CBC Radio - Doesn’t support Mobile Safari’s support for playing audio in the background (you did know iPhone 3.x supported this, right?), so I mostly use a home screen bookmark to this list of online radio streams I hacked together. Knock yourself out.
  • SimplifyMedia 2 - I have a Mac Mini at home that hosts my entire iTunes library, and this application allows me to listen to it, anywhere I can access data. Worthy!
  • - I don’t use this that much anymore, but it’s good if I’m in the mood for something different.
  • WunderRadio - I bought this thinking it’d solve my yen for internet radio, but it turns out using my radio streams page is more useful for me.
  • Remote - Not something I use a lot at home, but it’s great at the office for controlling and requesting tunes from the work iTunes computer.
  • Bloom- I rarely use this or Trippy, but they’re fun distractions and great to pull the “look how cool my iPhone is” maneuver while standing in line at Starbucks.
  • Trippy - ^

Media and Words

  • NFB - Amazing, especially considering this and all of the content is free.
  • McSweeney’s - Yeah, yeah, Dave Eggers is boring/too hip/overrated/&c. I still find good stuff here all the time, so it works for me.
  • Amazon Kindle - This (and Stanza) are both pretty decent ebook applications, though I have to admit reading an entire book on the iPhone is still a bit of a far off dream, or the domain of people with eyes much better than mine.
  • Stanza - ^
  • Tumblr - Good for those occasional “I am bored, entertain me” moments, but I much prefer looking at this stuff on my laptop.
  • Instapaper - I fucking love this app. Seriously, it’s the one I use the most often besides the phone and Mail. Instapaper lets you grab articles and stuff you want to read later to its web site, which you can then sync to your phone with stripped-down, easier to read formatting.
  • Reeder - (see below)
  • Byline / Netnewswire

I was jumping between NetNewsWire and Byline for quite a while (Byline is overall better, but NetNewsWire has a few very useful features like Post to Instapaper), and am giving Reeder a try. So far, it’s quite nice, but lacks offline support, which is kind of sad-making.

Chat, VOIP, Messaging

  • BeejiveIM - Arguably the best IM client for the iPhone. Way too many options, but it works great, and does push.
  • Colloquy - My employer uses IRC for almost everything, and this (as far as I can tell) is the best IRC application for the iPhone. Still kind of odd in places, but nothing else comes close.
  • Skype - Mostly kept around “just in case”. I use this (and the next three apps) over 3G using 3G Unrestrictor - yes, my phone is jailbroken.
  • Nimbuzz - ^
  • Truphone - ^
  • WhatsApp - My brother forced me to install this, and then never actually uses it to send me messages. So feel free to add me if you know my phone number and send me bad jokes.
  • Tweetie 2 - Lots of competition in this area, but this is the most useful / least annoying twitter client I’ve used so far.
  • Facebook - Not sure where this should go, but creating a separate category for “things I use that make me feel a bit greasy afterwards” seemed a bit much.
  • Prowl - Highly, highly recommended if you can take advantage of its features. Basically, this allows you to set up push notifications for pretty much any application that supports Growl. I have this set up with push notifications for my work IMAP account and my main personal Gmail account using Notify.

Utilities / Technical

  • iSSH - Not used that often, but when you need terminal access to a server, it’s manna.
  • 1Password - One of the essential applications on all of my macs.
  • TouchPad - Gives you a virtual trackpad to remote systems - I’ve used this to control the home Mac Mini entertainment system.
  • Jaadu VNC - Again, not something I use a lot, but when I need to access my system at home or when I’m too lazy to get up off the couch, this works well.
  • iStat - Pushes a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo to your iPhone (stats, uptime, ram usage, blahblahblah) from systems you install the remote application onto.
  • Pingdom - Push notifications and alerts for servers that have fallen over and can’t get up.
  • Speed Test - Companion application for the much-loved online internet connection testing web site.


  • - For some reason this is only available via the U.S. iTunes store, which is stupid, but I don’t make these rules, I just have to live by them.
  • RedLaser - Neat and actually useful application that takes a photo of a bar code and returns back online shopping info (prices, availability, etc.).
  • eBay - Who am I kidding, I never use this site.

Files / Cloud stuff

  • Dropbox - Companion app for the frickin’ awesome file backup/syncing service. Seriously, Best. Thing. Ever. (though I wish it supported more video formats, but #firstworldproblem.)
  • Evernote - Companion app (I just like saying those words) for the desktop application / web service.
  • iDisk - With the two applications above, I rarely use my iDisk for anything these days, but it’s nice to have an application that accesses my big Mac Cloud full ‘o’ nothing, anyway.


I went through a short-lived burst of enthusiasm for iPhone games, but soon realize that i rarely actually play the damn things. I mostly keep these ones around because a) they’re enjoyable, and b) I keep expecting I’ll be stuck somewhere intensely boring one day and need the distraction.

Honestly, I don’t have much to say here - you either really enjoy gaming on your phone, or you don’t. I suppose I fall mostly into the latter.

  • FlightControl
  • Zen Bound
  • Modern Combat Sandstorm
  • Rolando 2
  • Zenonia
  • TheDeep Pinball

Kid stuff

Because life with a toddler is so much easier when you have the magic of an iPhone to keep them busy.

  • Babysitter2Go
  • DressChica
  • Toddler Teaser Quizzing
  • Preschool Adventure
  • Preschool Music


  • The Weather Network - Has excruciatingly ugly ads, but does the trick, and is “more accurate” than the built-in Weather app, if using those words in conjunction with a weather forecasting app isn’t an oxymoron.
  • pzizz relax - Helps you nap. Seems to work for me, but honestly, I can never tell how much of this is the placebo effect. Then again, the ends justify the means, right?
  • Urbanspoon - Find a restaurant that doesn’t suck. I’ve had mostly good luck with this application, but obviously ymmv.
  • Red Rocket - Purportedly serves up schedules and such for the TTC, but let’s be honest: with the state of the TTC these days, this app is mostly just window-dressing.
  • Air Canada - I installed this mostly because it’s free. You can check in and get an electronic boarding pass sent to the phone, but the one time I used this, it ended up being a bit of a pain to not have a physical copy. But for those of you who travel a lot, it may be useful.
  • RunKeeper - This is a really nice running / distance exercise application, but since I switched to the treadmill I’ve mostly been using the built-in Nike app. Still, if you run/walk/ride outside, it’s really great, and syncs to an online service as well.
  • Awaken - Alarm / flashlight application. I haven’t gotten a lot of use out of this, but I bought this because I use the desktop version (which works well).
  • Zipcar - I don’t even have a Zipcar membership (we use AutoShare at the moment), but I wanted to install this to check out the UI.
  • Inrix Traffic - This is probably getting deleted soon, but I suppose if you cared about traffic congestion it’d be useful.

Got any suggestions for any of these categories? Post ‘em in the comments.

Activate Mac OS X’s Terminal using a keyboard shortcut

Word on the street is that those little hacky but oh-so-useful tidbits known as InputManagers do not work in the upcoming Mac OS X 10.6 (“Snow Leopard”). Apple has been threatening to remove support for these since Mac OS X 10.5 was announced so it’s no surprise that this day may have finally come.

Unfortunately, if this is true it means the death of a lot of really useful add-ons, such as Ecamm’s iSight plugin iGlasses, hetima’s insanely useful Safari enhancement SafariStand, and Mike Solomon’s application patching mechanism SIMBL (which in itself allows developers to “hijack” applications to add more functionality as a kind of hack-enabler).

A SIMBL plugin I use all the time is Visor, developed by Nicholas Jitkoff. Visor patches Apple’s Terminal to make it available system-wide via a hotkey (ala Quake’s console window). With Visor, you hit a pre-determined keyboard shortcut and voila, a Terminal window slides into view.

I use the shit out of this all the time, and if Mac OS X 10.6 truly does kill InputManager support my muscle memory will be downright achy-breaky. So I set out to roughly duplicate this functionality using a method that should continue to work in future OS updates.

Luckily, Applescript seems to be a usable solution, albeit just slightly less responsive than Visor was (and without the slick “slide out” effect). That said, this script still works well enough for my purposes and may fit your workflow as well.

Download the Open Terminal Window script (posted June 9, 2009, version 1.0)
  1. Download the disk image from the link above and mount it.
  2. Move the resulting Open Terminal Window.scpt file into your home library’s Scripts folder (/Users/username/Library/Scripts/). There’s a shortcut in the disk image that should work.
  3. Now we need some freeware assistance to assign a keyboard shortcut to run the script. Download Red Sweater’s free Fastscripts Lite application (direct download link), mount the disk image, and copy the FastScripts Lite application into your applications folder.
  4. Launch the FastScripts Lite application. It’ll appear in your menu bar (the icon looks like a scroll). Click on the FastScripts Lite icon and select Preferences from the FastScripts Lite submenu:


  5. Select the Script Shortcuts tab and double-click the (None) text beside the Open Terminal Window.scpt item. Now you can set a quick key that will run this script. I use control+option+command+0 (zero).
  6. That’s it! Now you can close the FastScripts Lite window and try out your quick key. Assuming you didn’t choose one that conflicts with an existing system-wide keyboard short cut you should see the Terminal application launch and a new window activate. You also will probably want to add FastScripts Lite to your startup items so it launches when you log in.

This script should be smart enough to detect if there is a Terminal window currently open and will reuse it if the window isn’t busy doing something (running top, viewing a man page, etc.). If the current window is busy, the script will open a new tab.

I haven’t tested this that much but it works perfectly for me. Leave feedback in the comments if you run into issues, or if it’s working for you.

Firefox 3.0.8 optimized build for Mac Intel

Blue Globe iconThe eighth Firefox 3 security / maintenance release is now available and I have an optimized build available for Intel macs.

Check out the official Mozilla Firefox web site to see what’s new in Firefox 3.0.8.

G4/G5 macfolk: At the moment I do not have reliable access to G4 or G5 machines to do builds, so I’m at least temporarily discontinuing builds for these two CPUs. I don’t want to leave old, insecure versions up for download and at the same time I don’t want to have such long periods between updates, so discontinuing them seems like the best option at the moment. I do plan to post comprehensive “how to build” steps, but for now the Mozilla developer centre simple build instructions are pretty good place to start. Also check this post’s comments for other optimized build sources.

Downloads and caveats

Confused why this download is called “Minefield” and has a different icon? See below.

If you really aren’t a big fan of the new redesigned theme, I highly recommend aronnax’s lovely GrApple Firefox themes which basically make Firefox look a heck of a lot like Safari. Not a bad thing in my book, but your mileage may vary.

Without further ado:

Download Minefield (Firefox) 3.0.8 for Intel

»Mirror » Mirror

Totally not required, but if you feel like donating to help with bandwidth costs, etc., I’d be most grateful. Any excess money raised will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). Thanks!

What the hell is Minefield?

So for those of you who have followed my Firefox builds, you all know the drill - those builds used the Mozilla development codename “BonEcho” because it was against the Firefox trademark to distribute non-official builds using that name or icon. With Firefox 3 the development name has changed from BonEcho to Minefield, so all of the Firefox 3 builds available from this site will be called that instead of Firefox.

Minefield iconAs for the icon, in the past I either used the default development icon (the blue earth) or a slightly tweaked version. Minefield’s development icon changed, though, and it’s just… grotesque. Sorry, I can’t mince words here - basically someone took the blue earth icon from BonEcho and tacked on a fuse to it. Get it? Minefield? Bomb? Ahem.

With these builds I’ve reverted back to the blue globe icon instead of using the default development icon, partially for consistency’s sake, and partially because it’s still a heck of a lot better than the bomb icon.

Moving forward there will no longer be more Firefox 2.x builds - as far as I’m concerned it’s obsolete and in the past. That said, I am still chipping away at complete instructions on how to build your own optimized Firefox builds from the comfort of your own home; watch for those in the coming weeks.

As usual, please post feedback and other effluvia in the comments. Enjoy, folks!

Block Retweets in Twitterrific (and Twitter in general)

blockretweets.pngHere’s the thing: for the most part I really enjoy and get a lot of personal value out of Twitter. But besides the annoying (but easily ignored) infiltration of Twitter by the PR/marketing webcockerati the one thing that’s harder to ignore is the “retweet”.


Retweeting (or simply “RT”) is when someone reposts someone else’s tweet. It’s really that simple. And it drives me nuts, for a few reasons:

  1. Chances are if I was interested in the person being retweeted I probably follow them already, so the retweet just ends up being duplication and noise.
  2. If there’s something Big and Momentous going on (see: sporting events, political brouhahas, Apple announcements, etc.), many people often retweet the same tweet, which is like #1 but even more annoying.
  3. Many retweets often consist of links to “cool stuff”. For the most part I’m not really that interested as I already have enough sources for cool links (delicious, digg, my newsreader, Tumblr, etc.), and the value of Twitter for me is more in stalking staying in touch with friends than in any so-called “viral messaging”.

    I just gave myself gas typing those two words. The things I do for this web site.

  4. If you absolutely had to retweet something, common courtesy would be to link to that person’s tweet rather than regurgitate the text wholesale. The same courtesy already exists for weblogs, so why not microblogs like Twitter?

So, fuck ‘em. For those of you who use Twitterrific, here’s a little application that sets up retweet blocking.

Download the Block Retweets application (posted March 14, 2009, version 1.1)

(Looking for the source code? It’s available from the project page on Github.)

Instructions on how to use this and how it works are included, but don’t worry: this is completely safe and 100% reversible. Basically, download, decompress, run, click “Block”, and enjoy your retweet-free Twitterrific.

How do I block retweets on the Twitter web site?

For those of you using the Twitter web site with Firefox or Safari there’s still hope. With the Firefox Greasemonkey add-on or the GreaseKit plugin (which works in Safari, OmniWeb, Fluid, or any other WebKit-based browser) you can block retweets with “beejaminBoy’s” No Retweets userscript. I just installed it and it’s working for me, but I didn’t write this so your mileage may vary.

IR_Black theme for Espresso

Espresso IconJust because I have so much extra time I don’t know what to do with myself (ahem), here’s a version of Todd Werth’s TextMate theme IR_Black for MacRabbit’s new all-in-one (and as of this moment still in public beta) web development editor Espresso. For those of you who haven’t seen what IR_Black looks like, here’s a screenshot:


To install the theme, download the file below, decompress the zip file, and copy the IR_Black.css file to /Users/Your Username/Library/Application Support/Espresso/Themes

Those of you using The Other Mac OS X All-In-One Web Development Editor (Panic’s Coda) aren’t left out of the dark theme er, party either: check out my version of IR_Black for Coda.

Feel like editing these themes? Head on over to the Github public repositories and go nuts:

The tear-inducing irony in all of this is I’m still mostly a TextMate man. I really need better hobbies.

How to run Safari 4 beta and Safari 3 on the same mac

Apple dropped the first public beta release of Safari 4 today, and installing it overwrites the old version of Safari as well as the system Webkit frameworks. This means it’s not possible to run the current Safari 3 release and the beta on the same system. That is, not possible without some fiddling.

Here’s a quick how-to get both Safari 3 and 4 beta running on the same system. You will need to use the terminal for part of this, and we will download an older copy of Webkit, which is Apple’s development builds of Safari.

(It’s a bit confusing, but there are Webkit frameworks, which Safari uses to render web pages, and a Webkit application, which is what Apple uses to test development versions of the Webkit frameworks.)

I am not responsible if this blows up your computer, causes your pants to spontaneously fall to your ankles causing you to flash your junk to the world, provokes fire to shoot out of your fingertips, etc.. Caveat nerd!

  1. Download and install the Safari 4 beta. You’ll need to reboot after the install because of the system framework changes.
  2. After rebooting, rename the new in your Applications folder to
  3. Download the Webkit build from 11/22/2008.

    Safari 3.2.1 was released on 11/24/2008 so I’m guessing this build is very close to that version.

  4. Mount the Webkit disk image and copy the application to your desktop.
  5. Rename to and move it to your Applications folder. In your Applications folder you should now have and

    The Safari 4 installer backs up the previous version as an invisible file located at /Library/Application Support/Apple/.Safari4PreviewArchive.tar.gz. We need the original bundle as the old version of Webkit we downloaded will not work with the new Safari 4 bundle.

  6. Launch the terminal and change directories:

    cd "/Library/Application Support/Apple/"

  7. Expand the backed up archive: tar -zxvf .Safari4PreviewArchive.tar.gz. This creates a few new folders in the current directory: Applications, System, and usr.
  8. You can now copy the old which is now available the the newly created Applications folder to the top-level /Applications folder. You can either use the terminal (running the command cp -R "/Library/Application Support/Apple/Applications/" /Applications/) or by navigating to Library » Application Support » Apple » Applications in the Finder and copying the Safari application bundle that way.

After all of this, you should have,, and in your top-level Applications folder. To run the Safari 4 beta launch, and to run the original Safari 3 launch You may be able to run as well (I was able to launch it and it identifies itself as Safari 3.2.1) but I wouldn’t recommend this as it uses the system webkit frameworks, which were replaced when Safari 4 was installed.

IR_Black theme for Coda


For those of you who use Panic’s “all in one window” web development tool Coda, here is a port of Todd Werth’s excellent Textmate theme IR_Black. (Note that Todd also has an equally nice version of IR_Black colours for the Terminal - check out his post “A black OS X Leopard Terminal theme that is actually readable” for the deets.)

I’ve ported over the syntax colours for HTML, PHP-HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Here’s a full window screenshot so you can see the syntax colours in action. (The font used in all of these previews is the wonderful (and free) Inconsolata at 12pts):

screenshot of IR_Black

To install, download the zip below, decompress, and import the files into Coda’s syntax color preference pane. You’ll need to select the matching language with the file you’re importing first, and I highly recommend you export a copy of the original colours just in case you change your mind and want to revert.


You’ll need to check off the Use Inverted Colors preference as seen in the above screenshot to get the dark background and properly match the colours.

Download the IR_Black theme for Coda (posted December 30, 2008)

For what it’s worth, I really want to like Coda, but Textmate’s stupidly powerful bundles and plugins keep pulling me back. Maybe by 2.0 Coda will fit better with my workflow, but for now I’ll keep jumping between TextMate, MacRabbit’s CSSEdit, and Panic’s Transmit. I have vague hopes for MacRabbit’s Coda-competitor Espresso, but what I’ve seen of the just released public beta hasn’t impressed me much, yet.

Post in the comments if you have any feedback, comments, hate mail, etc.

(Use MacRabbit’s Espresso instead? Check out IR_Black for Espresso.)

Back in the saddle

Not that anyone probably noticed, but the engine that powers the BeatnikPad (Movable Type) was having some major conniptions after I moved servers just over a week ago. Happily things seem to be working again, including comments, so one more thing is right in the world.

Since I have your attention, I wanted to confirm that there will be optimized Firefox 3 release builds available within a day or so of the official release (slated for June 17th, I believe). Firefox 3 has native form widgets built in (finally!) so there will be no more need for separate builds.

As this is a major release I definitely will build for all three platforms (G4, G5, and Intel) assuming the access I have to a G5 machine doesn’t go down.

So: web site is working again, Firefox 3 builds coming, and I am polishing off fairly complete instructions on how to build your own optimized copies of Firefox to follow soon afterwards.

That is all.

Optimized Firefox for G5 & Intel Macs

firefoxFirefox is now available and I have put together Intel Mac optimized builds, available below.

Unless Mozilla releases a major update I’ll probably skip every other maintenance / bug release as they seem to be monthly, and I just don’t have the extra time to build new releases every month. Just so you know.

I know I promised G4 builds last time and I still plan to get to these for the release. The main issue is the only G4 machine I have is a Powerbook and it takes forever to build Firefox on it… but I’ll do my best to build for this platform when I have a spare moment.

Here’s what’s new in according to the Mozilla change notes:

That’s it!


Intel Mac-optimized Firefox

G5-optimized Firefox

As I mentioned about, G4 builds should be when I have some time to actually get to them.

Why is the name / icon different?

I really shouldn’t have to keep repeating this, but every time I post a new Firefox release I still seem to get people annoyed / pissed off / confused as to why these builds are missing the Firefox name and icon. So here comes the strong emphasis:

The Firefox name and icon are trademarked and cannot be used with non-official builds. These are non-official builds, so they cannot have the official branding. Pretty straight-forward. Please don’t ask me to build versions with the official branding.

As always, feel free to post your thoughts / experiences / etc. in the comments. Enjoy!

iPhoning it in and a Quicksilver tip

Seeing how it’s all about the quick fixes these days (with the bulk of my time taken up with more pleasant pursuits), I wanted to take a minute to spew out some random nerd potpourri.

To iPhone, or not to iPhone

iPhoneI got a chance this afternoon to finally play around a bit with an iPhone, and from the brief time that I had to play with it I was very impressed. I think one thing that was really striking is how familiar the whole interface felt even though the only exposure I’ve had to its UI was via online video and some photos. Within seconds of getting my greasy, greedy fingers on it I was happily pinching and flipping and scrolling around like there was no tomorrow.

Seeing how no one has (yet) unlocked the iPhone to work on any non-AT&T GSM networks, I have to try and determine if it’s a worthwhile risk to buy one and use it solely as a WiFi-enabled iPod. One big plus is Toronto Hydro’s OneZone, which has adequate enough coverage that it could work fairly well as a replacement for Roger’s stupidly expensive EDGE network. It’s only $29 a month for unlimited access, too, so it’s not an expensive option.

The one concern I have with buying one now is the possibility that Apple may not be able to prod Rogers (Canada’s sole GSM provider) to loosen their grip on their bandwidth charges, Right now with Rogers for $5 a month extra you get a measly 5mbs of data transfer. The double kick in the balls is:

  1. This is only WAP data - HTML pages are charged at 0.05 per kilobyte. This means that downloading the HTML version of the Globe and Mail’s front page (weighing in at 1.14mbs total) would cost me 58 dollars if my math is correct.
  2. This is only a limited list of “mobile internet partners” — any WAP site not on this list is charged at the 0.05 per kb rate.

With AT&T offering unlimited data for all of their plans, Rogers’ price gouging is just fucking ridiculous.

So my concern is that Apple may end up giving Rogers a big middle finger and go with one of the CDMA providers (Bell Mobility, Telus, etc.) instead. Yes, there isn’t a CDMA iPhone yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. This would leave any early Canadian adopters who purchased one of the GSM iPhones hoping for an eventual Rogers / Apple deal cellular-less and sad-faced.

Sure, this is all conjecture at this point. Who knows, maybe Rogers might actually capitulate to Apple and completely revamp their data pricing. If I do end up buying an iPhone now I will definitely have to hope so, less I end up with a very expensive WiFi iPod with a useless phone feature.

Quicksilver tip: Assign quick keys based on the current application

QuicksilverI love the fact that I’ve been using Quicksilver nearly since it was first released and I still keep finding new stuff it can do. Here’s a tip I found recently: you can assign quick keys in Quicksilver on a per-application basis.

I recently implemented John Gruber’s killer non-top posting applescripts for Apple Mail and also followed his advice to use FastScripts to override Mail’s default menu keys and run these scripts instead.

I just realized you can do this from within Quicksilver, alleviating the need for FastScripts. The secret is when you are creating a new quick key action in Quicksilver to switch to the Scope tab in the quick key settings:


Here you can constrain the quick key to a specific application, to any application but the one you specific, or allow it to work in all applications. You can get to the Scope tab by clicking on the (i) button at the bottom right-hand corner of the Quicksilver quick key prefpane.

Hey, maybe it’s obvious, but it’s the first time I noticed it, so hopefully this is news to you, too. Anyone else have Quicksilver tips they want to share?

A prediction of sorts

With all of the mac fanboys biting their pillows tonight in delirious agony, I thought this would be as good time as any to make a small prediction regarding the just-delayed OS X 10.5. Actually, scratch that -- this is more of a guess than anything based on any real information, but here goes:

When OS X 10.5 is released, .Mac will be radically changed (how, I don't know) and in its place many of the iApps will have Google integration. So iCal will have true syncing with Google Calendar, iPhoto will allow you to push photos to Google's online photo service, and Address Book will sync directly with Gmail's online contacts.

Why do I think this? Well, partially because .Mac sucks pretty hard these days, and partially because I don't expect Apple wants to invest a lot of energy continuing to provide web services. Jobs hinted that Google and Apple had some other products up their sleeves during the iPhone demo at the last Macworld, so it seems like a natural fit. Replacing the mostly craptacular .Mac service with Google's much more robust offerings would solve most of the outstanding .Mac issues in one fell swoop.

Anyway, it's a thought. As far as the announced delay in OS X 10.5 shipping it really doesn't provoke more than a insubstantial “meh” from me. I have more important things to get worked up about than the delayed release of an operating system.

Update: Forbes posted an article covering the Google - Apple relationship and what this could bring. Also, I was reminded a couple of days ago that Yahoo! (how could I forget?) is providing the push email solution for Apple's basically vapourware iPhone, so that may also be a consideration.

Optimized Firefox for G4, G5, and Intel Macs (updated)

firefoxLess than a month after the previous maintenance release comes yet another Firefox maintenance release, version

According to the release notes, this update has “fixes for various web compatibility regressions” as well as a fixed for FTP “port-scanning” security hole.

(Folks, if you were wondering why it took me a little while to build this update, the preceding paragraph is all the reason you need. This is really just a minuscule, low-priority update.)

Speaking of which, can someone explain to me exactly what the difference is between a 2.0.0.x release and a 2.0.x release? I really would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the idea to add yet another decimal point to the version number was discussed…

As usual there are two different versions available - one with “Firefoxy” form widgets applied, and one with the more OS X-looking aqua form widgets. The default user agent has also been tweaked to identify these builds correctly as Firefox.


G4-optimized Firefox

G5 and Intel mac builds

There are new builds of Firefox now available — download them from here.

Why is the name / icon different?

I really shouldn’t have to keep repeating this, but every time I post a new Firefox release I still seem to get people annoyed / pissed off / confused as to why these builds are missing the Firefox name and icon. So here comes the strong emphasis:

The Firefox name and icon are trademarked and cannot be used with non-official builds. These are non-official builds, so they cannot have the official branding. Pretty straight-forward. Please don’t ask me to build versions with the official branding.

As always, feel free to post your thoughts / experiences / etc. in the comments. Enjoy!

Intel Mac version of Meteorologist

May 3, 2007: I updated the download today with a fix. changed a few things on the server and it broken updates, but it should be working now. As usual, let me know in the comments if this build isn’t (or is) working for you.

iconOne type of application that I use countless times every day is the “weather in the menubar” application. I’m not sure if my mild fascination with the weather is the product of being Canadian, or just a harmless personality quirk. It’s probably a bit of both.

There are a number of menubar weather applications available, though the ones that I’ve used the most up to now were After Ten’s WeatherMenu, Glu’s WeatherPop, and the open source Meteorologist. Each one of these has its pluses and minuses.

WeatherMenu used to work very well but tended to break any time its source ( changed. Perhaps because of this fragility it is no longer supported and very badly broken. I don’t think it’s been updated in over a year so you can basically consider it deadware.

WeatherPop uses multiple information sources for more reliability (USA Today, AOL, wunderground, the U.S. National Weather Service) but lacks the depth of information that WeatherMenu or Meteorologist provides. It’s also not free if you want information from a city not covered by the U.S.-only National Weather Service. It’s only $8 US, however, though it doesn’t seem to get updated that often, and new features are very slow to come.

Meteorologist is free, uses for its information source, and displays tons of information including radar images and multiple cities. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as pretty as WeatherPop and is not available as a universal binary (optimized for both Intel and PPC macs). The kicker however is that it been seemingly abandoned by its developers — a new stable version hasn’t been released in over a year.

Thank goodness for lucky breaks and search engines

Luckily because Meteorologist is open source the code is freely available. That said, it required some massaging and a couple of other elements build before it could be compiled as a Universal Binary, After much finagling, cursing, and sacrificing of virgin bloody marys I’ve managed to build an Intel-only version, which I’ve made available for download.

A few things to note:

  1. This is an Intel-only build — it will not run on PPC macs. The current version that is available from the Meteorologist web site is PPC-only and works fine, so if you’re running a G4 or G5 machine that’s where you should go.
  2. This is build from the Meteorologist 1.4.4 source, so it has the same features (and bugs) as that version.
  3. Here comes the bold text again; I am not a developer. Please don’t come asking me for support or send me feature requests or bugs. I don’t know Objective-C or cocoa from a hole in the ground so I can’t help you.
  4. I highly recommend you disable the version checking mechanism as it will constantly tell you that a new version is available. Don’t download it as it will be the PPC version of Meteorologist 1.4.4.


All of that said, here’s the download link:

» Download the Intel-only build of Meteorologist 1.4.4

Feel free to post in the comments if this works for you or not. And enjoy!

Now if only I could prod the folks at Ambrosia software to release a universal binary of Snapz Pro X

Updated Feb. 10:

How to fix City Search in Meteorologist 1.4.4

For those of you still using PPC machines, here’s how you can fix city search in the last released version of Meteorologist.

  1. Quit Meteorologist.
  2. Download this file (Right-click on the link and save to your desktop).
  3. Navigate in the Finder / Path Finder to where the Meteorologist application is. Make a copy of Meteorologist (just in case).
  4. Right-click / control-click on Meteorologist and select “Show Package Contents” from the contextual menu.
  5. A new window will open with a folder called Contents showing. Open the Contents folder, and then open the Resources folder.
  6. Drag and drop the weather.xml file you downloaded in step 1 into the Resources folder and confirm that you want to replace the existing file.
  7. Restart Meteorologist. City search should now be working.

This seems to be working for me, but as always your mileage may vary.

Optimized Firefox for G4, G5, and Intel Macs

Updated January 6: G4-optimized versions are now available! I haven’t had much time to test these, but from what I can tell they work just fine.

I had a bit of time between jousting with other frantic last-minute Christmas shoppers and relaxing with my family to build some optimized versions of the recent Firefox maintenance release, nee version

What’s new?

firefoxThe release notes on what’s new shows that this release is mainly bug fixes and security updates. If you want all of the gory details you can pop on over to the Mozilla site.

Update: Hey, it looks like this version fixes the “I hit command-w with only one tab open and the window won’t close” bug that 2.0 shipped with. Hooray! Oh, and it also looks like people just can’t be bothered to actually read this entire entry before commenting. Ah well.

New aqua form widgets and user agent tweakage

As usual there are two different versions available - one with “Firefoxy” form widgets applied, and one with the more OS X-looking aqua form widgets.

These builds are the first ones to have an overhauled version of the aqua form widgets. I’ve spent some time tweaking them to fix a bunch of the rendering and alignment issues found in earlier versions. Let me know if you notice anything looking out of place.

I have also tweaked the user agent so that these builds identify themselves as Firefox instead of BonEcho.


Updated - A newer version is now available.

(Cutting and pasting this from the last update ‘cause I’m lazy and tired of having to repeat it)

Why is the name / icon different?

I really shouldn’t have to keep repeating this, but every time I post a new Firefox release I still seem to get people annoyed / pissed off / confused as to why these builds are missing the Firefox name and icon. So here comes the strong emphasis:

The Firefox name and icon are copyrighted and cannot be used with non-official builds. These are non-official builds, so they cannot have the official branding. Pretty straight-forward. Please don’t ask me to build versions with the official branding.

Optimized Firefox 2.0 for G4, G5, and Intel Macs

Firefox theme

For those of you who somehow missed the news, the long-awaited release of Firefox 2.0 is finally here, and so are optimized builds!

There’s a bunch of new features and fixes in this release, so instead of repeating what’s already been said I’ll just point interested parties to the Firefox 2.0 release notes.

Why is the name / icon different?

firefoxI really shouldn’t have to keep repeating this, but every time I post a new Firefox release I still seem to get people annoyed / pissed off / confused as to why these builds are missing the Firefox name and icon. So here comes the strong emphasis:

The Firefox name and icon are copyrighted and cannot be used with non-official builds. These are non-official builds, so they cannot have the official branding. Pretty straight-forward. Please don’t ask me to build versions with the official branding.

So, without further ado…


Make sure to choose the build that matches your processor. If you’re not sure what processor you have in your machine you can find out this information in the “About this Mac” window (Apple menu > About this Mac).

Previous download links removed. A newer version of Firefox is now available.

Recommended downloads

Here’s a small list of extensions and whatnot that I highly recommend:

  • Nightly Tester Tools: Every Firefox update means that some (if not all) of your extensions and themes break due to version incompatibility. This extension helps you to cajole extensions to work and helps baby firefoxes sleep well at night.
  • Pinstripe theme | Aronnax’s Firefox themes: One of the big “new features” of Firefox 2.0 is a “visual refresh”. (How many “times” can I do “air rabbit ears” in one paragraph?) Anyway, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but I personally don’t get it. For those of you that cringe when they see Firefox’s new duds these themes may prove to be the panacea you were looking for.
  • Tab Mix Plus: The new close tab buttons in Firefox 2.0 are a nice addition, but overall Firefox’s tab feature is still lacking that je ne sais quoi. (Does anyone else think the default Firefox tabs are too damn wide?) Tab Mix Plus makes Firefox’s tabs much more customizable and adds in a bunch of other nice features, too. This is a link to the development builds that are compatible with Firefox 2.0.
  • Stop and Reload extension: Toolbar space is at a premium. This extension combines the stop and reload button into one, ala Safari. You’ll need to use the Nightly Tester Tools above to install this one as it hasn’t been updated for Firefox 2.0 yet.
  • Fission: Puts the loading status indicator into the address bar ala Safari. I hated this when Safari was first released, but I’ve gotten used to it and now whenever I use a browser that doesn’t have this feature I miss it a lot.
  • Do you like this theme I’ve been working on? If there’s enough interest I’ll get it fixed up for Firefox 2.0 and post it for download.

Posts on “essential extensions to use with Firefox” are seemingly a dime a dozen these days, so I’ll end here. Feel free to post in the comments any feedback, thoughts, rants, praises, or anything else that comes to mind that is Firefox-related.

Enjoy, folks!

(Who wants to lay money on when Firefox 2.0.1 will be released?)

Post-Digg update: Jumping jehosaphat, people, you just burned through over 150 gigabytes of bandwidth in just over 5 hours. Yikes. More here.

Optimized Firefox for G4, G5, and Intel

Updated 19.08.06: Firefox builds are now available for download. Because the only change in is a bug fix for playing Windows media content I’ve simply updated this post with new download links.

firefoxOkay, okay: you can stop haranguing me now - optimized builds of Firefox are now available for G4, G5, and Intel Macs.

These teensy updates from the happy nerds at the Mozilla corporation are starting to become a monthly occurrence, but hey, if it wasn’t for these you’d never come ‘round for a visit, right?

Here’s the changelog:


  • Fixed an issue with playing Windows Media content


  • Improvements to product stability
  • Added changes for Frisian locale (fy-NL)
  • A literal clambake of security fixes

That’s it. I suppose the Frisians out there must be happy with these changes, but I for one am looking forward to when a Firefox changelog is longer than three lines. Firefox 2.0, don’t fail me now.

As with previous optimized releases the G4 and Intel builds come with both Firefoxy form widgets as well as the more integrated and mac-like aqua form widgets. The G5 version is aqua form widgets only.

The usual spiel: these builds are called DeerPark and doesn’t have the official icon because the Firefox name and branding are reserved for official release; this comes with zero support (read: you’re on your own); I’m not responsible if anything medieval should transpire.

Oh, and in lieu of donations I highly recommend you take your destiny into your own hands and buy those pants you’ve been thinking about. Black leather pants in the middle of the summer? Now that’s hardcore.


A newer version of Firefox is now available: Go and get it.

Optimized Firefox for G4, G5, and Intel

firefoxI just finished building optimized Firefox builds and have now posted them for download. There are now optimized builds for every Mac CPU currently available (G4, G5, and Intel Mac) and Firefoxy and native aqua form widgets available for the G4 and Intel builds. The G5 build is aqua form widgets only (and no, there won’t be a Firefoxy build for the G5 so don’t ask).

Here’s what’s new according to the Mozilla changelog for Firefox

  • Improvements to product stability
  • Security fixes (more details on this here)

The usual caveats apply: I don’t support these builds, they’re called DeerPark because of trademark issues, and please don’t run these if you’re not comfortable running untested, unofficial releases. In lieu of donations, I ask that you take the time to phone your mom and / or dad - I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

Now that I’ve spun these builds and posted them, who wants to lay money on how long before Firefox is released? I hope for later rather than sooner - a guy’s gotta do real work with his computer sometimes, you know.


Edited 07/29/06: A new version is now available and you can get the details (and downloads) from here.

After banging my head against a tree and cursing loudly in German (hey, you never know) I finally gave up on trying to figure out how to set up an auto-update server for these builds. The instructions made my head throb mightly and I had to rush off and take a long, cold shower before I inadvertently burst something valuable. Ah well.

Okay, comments are back on. The Digg effect coupled with a nasty CPU issue related to Movable Type’s comment CGI file basically crippled my server. Thankfully the fix was fairly easy: read how to fix the comments.cgi CPU issue here.

G4, G5, and Intel optimized Firefox 2.0 alpha 2

mactel_firefox.pngDamn, there are a lot of nerd posts on this site these days…

Anyway, for all of you bleeding edge, early adopter, thrill-seeking nerds out there I’ve built an optimized version of the Firefox 2.0 alpha release (codenamed “Bon Echo”) for G4 and Mac Intel machines that includes aqua form widgets. A G5-optimized version is also available.

Folks, the name has “alpha” in it for a reason - if you’re not comfortable running pre-pre-release software, then stay far, far away from this build.

Check out more deets on Bon Echo, including an abbreviated what’s new and other goodies.

Updated May 15: I’ve built a brand new version of the Firefox 2.0 (“Bon Echo”) alpha, version 2.0a2. I will continue to update this post as the Mozilla group updates the official Firefox 2.0 pre-release builds.

The Mozilla links weblog (which I believe is new?) has a really good overview of what’s new in Firefox 2.0, so check it out.


No, I’m not going to build a version with Firefoxy widgets, at least not yet. This is an alpha, after all, so subsequent builds are pretty much guaranteed. Once the final Firefox 2.0 release is available, however, I will build versions with both form widgets. But for now it’s aqua or nothing.

Okay, now it’s time to go and see The National and forget that I’m a nerd for a few hours…

How to Run Windows on an Intel Mac with Q

Windows XP on Mac

If you’re a mac nerd (heck, if you’re a plain ol’ nerd) you’ve probably heard about the success of a couple of guys to get Windows XP installed and booting on one of the new Intel macs.

For any mac user who wants to play games (once video drivers are found) or work directly with hardware (which is often difficult or impossible under emulation), this is great news. Once a more streamlined, simple process is found I’m sure this will cause more than a few Windows users to take the plunge and switch.

But working stiffs like me need a method of quickly jumping into Windows to test something, jump back to our text editor / graphics program / whatever to make a change, jump back into Windows to test that change, and so on. Having to shut Mac OS X down and boot into Windows just to test small changes would be a huge productivity drain (not to mention a big pain in the ass).

Up until recently Virtual PC (created by Connectix and now owned by Microsoft) was the best-known and fastest solution to the dilemma of running Windows programs on a mac. It allows you to run Windows in, well, a window under Mac OS X, just like any other application. Windows runs emulated (meaning all of the Windows code is translated on-the-fly), so the speed isn’t anything to shout to the rooftops about, but it’s usable.

(An aside: Considering that Rosetta (Apple’s technology for running PPC programs on Intel Macs) is basically on-the-fly emulation that translates PPC programs into something the Intel macs can understand, I would assume it’s not so crazy that a version of Rosetta could do the same for Windows programs. While I have my doubts that Apple would add this feature to Mac OS X any time soon, wouldn’t that be an incredible way to entice Windows users to switch? Hey you, got a Windows program and want to run it on Mac SO X? Just double-click on it and bang, it will just work. Ah, we can only dream.)

Unfortunately, Virtual PC doesn’t run on the new Intel macs yet, Microsoft has stated that they plan to port it over at some point, but what to do until then?

Enter Q.

» How to Run Windows on an Intel Mac with Q continues...

Firefox optimized for Mac Intel (nightly)

Intel iMacI just received one of the Intel-based iMac Core Duos on Friday. I wasn’t planning to order one of the new machines so soon, but with a surprisingly high number of Path Finder customers with Mac Intel machines, I needed to pick one up for testing. I feel so bleeding edge.

Colour me impressed

I’m planning to write a fairly in-depth review of my new acquisition once I’ve worked with it for a while, but first impressions are very positive. This machine is pretty damn fast, and the transition from my G5 iMac to the new platform was almost seamless. Photoshop run a bit slow, but I’m almost never doing print-related stuff so it’s bearable for now. Rosetta is incredible - pretty much any application I’ve thrown at it just works.

If you decide to order one of the new Intel machines, my advice to you is to max out the ram, because you’re going to need it. But this is easily the fastest mac I’ve ever owned, and so far I’m pleased.

Optimized Firefox build

mactel_firefox.pngOf course, like any slack-jawed nerd one of the first things I needed to figure out was how to build an optimized build of Firefox for the new processors. With warped priorities like this, sometimes I wonder why Renée puts up with me.

It took quite a while, as a bunch of stuff has changed, but I managed to get a build working, and wow, is it fast. Even building the application was fast. Normally, building Firefox on my G5 from scratch takes around two hours or so. On my new machine, the build took maybe 45 minutes.

The hardest thing was figuring out what to put on the icon. I couldn’t bring myself to put “Intel” on it, and using “Core Duo” seemed overlong and a bit misleading, as this build should run fine on any Mac Intel machine. So Mactel it is, for now. I know it’s kind of sucky. Intel needs to come up with snappier names for their processors, I guess.

At any rate, this build has the aqua form widgets applied (see this post for a screencap of what they look like) and has my first run at processor-specific optimizations. It’s important to note that this build is based on the latest nightly code which will eventually become Firefox 2.0 - it is not based on code from an official release. But it’s working like a champ so far.

As usual, the icon and name are still DeerPark, and I am not responsible if anything should freak out or throw a hissy fit. And now it’s time to crack out the bold:

This build is for Intel machines ONLY. It will not run on a non-Intel Mac machine. If you’re looking for G5 and G4-optimized builds, check out this post.

Firefox 2.0 is now available - Get it from here.

I will probably start updating these every couple of days, so keep your eyes peeled for a dedicated nightly builds post. If you have any questions about this build or the machine it was created on, feel free to post them in the comments, but keep in mind that as usual I’m not providing support for this build.

G4 and G5-optimized Firefox now available

Alrighty, folks - I’ve just finished building optimized versions of the new Firefox release. There are builds available for both the G4 and and G5 processor.

Here’s the changelog as writ by the Mozilla folks:

  • Improved stability.
  • Improved support for Mac OS X.
  • International Domain Name support for Iceland (.is) is now enabled.
  • Fixes for several memory leaks.
  • Several security enhancements.

All great, especially the OS X support and IDN support for Iceland. I’m all about the Iceland. Get the full details in all of their nerdy glory from the Burning Edge.

Form Widgets a go-go

Each processor’s build is available in two separate flavours - one with aqua form widgets, that look like this:

aqua form widgets

… and one that has the Firefoxy form widgets, that look like this:

firefoxy widgets

What’s the big difference? Besides the obvious visual differences, the main key notable is that the aqua form widgets are not affected by styles, and the Firefoxy widgets are. So if a site you’re visiting has applied visual styles to the form widgets, you won’t see them with the aqua widgets. Not a huge deal, but some people prefer to see a site as the designer intended it so I’m making both available.

G4-optimized Firefox builds

This is if you’re running a Powerbook, an iBook from the last three years or so, an eMac, Power Mac towers before June of 2003, or a Mac Mini.

Download the G4-optimized Firefox release (disabled) A newer version than this is now available

G5-optimized Firefox builds

You’ll know if you’re running a G5.

Download the G5-optimized Firefox release (disabled) A newer version than this is now available

Because I constantly have to answer these questions, I’ll get them out of the way here:

  1. These are unofficial builds and come with absolutely no support or warranty. I am not a Firefox developer and cannot fix bugs, troubleshoot issues on your system, listen to you rant about how much you hate Firefox, etc. There are better places for that.
  2. The reason these are called “DeerPark” and don’t have the swank Jon Hicks Firefox icon is because both the icon and the Firefox name are trademarks of the Mozilla corporation, and only official builds can use the official branding.
  3. No, I’m not accepting donations - hell, all I’m doing is entering a few commands and swapping a few things around. The builds are hosted on my .Mac account, so Apple is covering the bandwidth. I appreciate the thought, but I’m cool.

Enjoy, and feel free to post your thoughts (bearing the above in mind) in the comments.

Bare Bones releases Yojimbo

Path Finder 4 released

pf4.pngI normally don’t pimp work that I’ve done, but this is a bit different. I’ve been working with Steve at Cocoatech for nearly three years now, and this day has been a long time coming.

Late this afternoon I pushed up the new Path Finder release to the Cocoatech servers, as well as a bit of a design “touch-up” to the site. I wish I could say I’m incredibly proud of the site design, but to be honest I’ve been so freaking busy lately this was more of a quick tweak than a full-fledged redesign.

I’m much more proud of the actual application. I first started working with Steve because I was a big fan of Path Finder, but wasn’t too happy with the direction the Cocoatech web site was going. Frankly, it was a mess. A quick email and a short discussion later and I was working on design mockups for a brand new site.

From there my involvement in Path Finder and his company has grown to the point where I’m handling pretty much everything except for coding the application. The site design, marketing, tech support, writing documentation, doing some interface design, handling the alpha and beta testing - even though I haven’t touched a line of Path Finder’s code, this release has a lot of me in it.

Path Finder 4 is a massive update from the previous version. Steve basically ripped the application down to the basics and re-wrote over 80% of the code to make it more efficient and easier to update. Along the way we added a ton of customer-submitted feature requests, including tabs, a bookmark bar, and a whole bunch of other tasty stuff. Icon Master General Jon Hicks lent us some of his icon making magic and created Path Finder a swank new icon, too.

So check out the site and the application. Path Finder 4 was over 18 months in development and we worked our asses off on it. I’ve learned a ton and I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I’d like to take a selfish moment anyway and say that I’m pretty damn proud of what we’ve accomplished.

Update: Oh crap. (These were all received in the past 18 hour period). Where’s Merlin’s inbox-fu when I need it?


Optimized Firefox 1.5 with Mac OS X form widgets

One of the biggest complaints that Mac OS X users have about Firefox is that the default form widgets look, well, terrible. Besides the fact that they look rather austere, it’s also a constant reminder that the application you’re using orginated on a different operating system.

Up until now, the option was either to grin and bear it, use a program called “Firefoxy” to apply prettier (but still not Mac-like) form widgets, or to use Camino, which uses Mac native form widgets but doesn’t support any of the great Firefox extensions. Firefox is supposed to get native form widgets at some point, but this looks like it won’t happen until Firefox 3.0.

Thanks to the efforts of a wily fellow named “Pu7o” in the Mozillazine forums, you can now enjoy the ultimate browser mashup: Firefox with the more native-looking form widgets from Camino. Here’s what they look like:

form widgets

Because these use the OS’s resources to draw the form widgets, even themes work. Here’s what they look like under Max Rudberg’s awesome Milk theme:

form widgets

In celebration of this geeky but momentous occasion, I’ve built a Firefox 1.5 G4-optimized build that incorporates this hack. Yes, it’s a hack, but from everything I can see it works just great. There are a few small alignment issues here and there, and I’ve seen a couple of places where the very edge of buttons are cut off, but it’s 100% usable and looks so, so much better.

Newer versions of these builds are now available, so the download links that were once here have been retired.

There are also G5-optimized Firefox versions built from the latest nightly code - cutting edge, potentially unstable, but with all of the latest changes and updates - that have the aqua form controls applied.

G4-optimized Firefox 1.5 released

Firefox G4For those of you with G4 processors and feeling left out of the G5-optimized Firefox build goodliness, I now have a G4-optimized Firefox 1.5 build just for you.

If you’re not sure what kind of processor you have in your mac (and really, who keeps track of these things? Well, besides me, that is), chances are if you bought your mac in mid- to late 2001 or later you’re golden. To confirm for sure, check out this handy guide. If your processor is a G4 and the version number is 7450 or higher, you can run this build.

(Edited: As far as I know these builds will work as expected with nearly any G4 processor. Only the earliest processors (the first run of G4-enabled PowerBooks and PowerMacs, I think) may not work. But give it a try anyway as I haven’t heard of any issues yet.)

(Note: If you’re using a machine with a G5 processor, you’ll want to check out the G5-optimized Firefox build instead.)

Download link removed - there is a newer release available

As usual, this build comes with a slightly different icon and Philippe Wittenberg’s “pretty” form widgets. To answer the #1 question I keep receiving about this builds: the reason the application is called “DeerPark” and the icon is different than the official Firefox release is because both the Firefox name and icon are restricted to just official releases.

If you’re looking for Firefox 1.5-compatible extensions, I have a small list of extensions that I’ve tweaked to work with the new release.


Update (Dec. 4th, 1:30 EST): I just built a new version of Firefox 1.5 with support for <canvas> as requested by quite a few people. I’m not doing requests here, but this should have been turned on when I originally ran the build, but I forgot. If you pull down a new copy from the link above you’ll get the new version.

In case you didn’t know about it, there’s also an RSS feed specifically for Mozilla / Firefox posts that includes these builds, in case you wanted to know when new builds and such are posted.

G5-optimized Firefox 1.5 released

Looking for an optimized Firefox for your PowerBook, iBook, or older PowerMac? Look no further: I have just built a G4-optimized Firefox 1.5 build.

firefoxIt’s been a long time coming, but Firefox 1.5 is finally rocking the house and making nerds salivate into their indie beards with delight.

The official changelog includes such top ten hits as:

  • Automated update to streamline product upgrades.
  • Faster browser navigation with improvements to back and forward button performance.
  • Drag and drop reordering for browser tabs.
  • Improvements to popup blocking.
  • Clear Private Data feature provides an easy way to quickly remove personal data through a menu item or keyboard shortcut.
  • is added to the search engine list.
  • Improvements to product usability including descriptive error pages, redesigned options menu, RSS discovery, and “Safe Mode” experience.
  • Better accessibility including support for DHTML accessibility and various assistive technologies.
  • Report a broken Web site wizard to report Web sites that are not working in Firefox.
  • Better support for Mac OS X (10.2 and greater) including profile migration from Safari and Mac Internet Explorer.
  • New support for Web Standards including SVG, CSS 2 and CSS 3, and JavaScript 1.6.

And everyone’s favourite tune, “many security enhancements”. If you want to bask in some hardcore changelog goodness, check out the “comprehensive changelog” for the dirty details.

As usual, there is now a G5-optimized build for your browsing pleasure:

Download link removed - there is new a newer release available.

With this fairly major upgrade, most extensions will need to be updated. I have tweaked a bunch of the extensions I use to work with the new version, but I haven’t had time to update that post, so you might want to check out the official Mozilla update site first.

Enjoy, folks, and don’t forget to clean those indie beards before you go out in public.

Neil (feeling tired, giddy, and more than a little bit strange.)

.Mac Typography


Maybe it’s just me being a big pedantic fussypants, but for those of you who have .Mac accounts, have you noticed how bad the main service homepage looks?

I’m not talking about the .Mac product page, which is the page you’ll get if you’re either not a member or not logged in. I’m talking about the page you get once you’ve logged in.

For those of you who don’t have a .Mac account, this is what the current member homepage looks like, and this is the area I’m talking about.

That text looks like it’s been tossed out quickly without any thought to aesthetics. There’s something seemingly uncaring and throwaway in the gigantic font size (that screams “I’M AN H1 TAG!”) and awkward letter spacing. Considering how well Apple gets the importance of design (cf. iPod, Apple Displays, yadda), the glaring lack of detail and care that the .Mac pages seem to have received is jarring.

dotmac groupsI suppose this is partially because the member’s home page is lacking in content (the “fill-empty-space-with-large-text” syndrome) but compared to other Apple web pages, there are some shockingly amateurish problems with the type that just shouldn’t be there (like the bizarrely centre-aligned text of the new .Mac Groups section).

These are pretty nitpicky details. But we’ve come to expect good design from Apple, and it just makes the rare occasions when errors or poor design appear seem all the more glaring.

So, yo, Apple! Give that .Mac homepage some lovin’, stat!

G5-optimized Firefox 1.0.7 released

Looking for nightly builds or optimized Firefox 1.5 beta builds? Get ‘em here.

Hey, it’s another Firefox release! The Mozilla group squeezes out another teensy update that addresses mostly security issues. The changelog:

  • Fix for a potential buffer overflow vulnerability when loading a hostname with all soft-hyphens
  • Fix to prevent URLs passed from external programs from being parsed by the shell (Linux only)
  • Fix to prevent a crash when loading a Proxy Auto-Config (PAC) script that uses an "eval" statement
  • Fix to restore InstallTrigger.getVersion() for Extension authors
  • Other stability and security fixes

I’ll keep building these as they release them, but I’ll probably be a day or so late as I need to wait for the source to be posted to the Mozilla FTP server. So those of you who have been sending me repeat emails, please stop.

Anyway, this isn’t an official build, I’m not responsible if you suddenly gain (or lose) super powers or your computer explodes, etc., etc. I’m sure you know the drill, but it needs to be said anyway just to be clear.

Download the G5-optimized Firefox 1.0.7 release (disabled) A newer version than this is now available

There’s also a Firefox-specific news feed available in case you really could care less (understandably) about anything else on this web site:

Subscribe to the Firefox / Mozilla feed

Google Talk

Google Talk, the ultra-hyped Google instant messaging service that every tech reporter and his dog was writing about this week, is now live. No official announcement yet, but apparently something is due out on Tuesday.

It’s based on Jabber, but there’s also voice chat (computer-to-computer - you can’t dial out to landlines, at least not yet), and the rumour is you’ll be able to use their voice chat with iChat, AIM, MSN, and other users at some point soon. I have no idea if they support Jabber gateways that allow you to connect to other services such as MSN, ICQ, AOL, etc., using existing service logins, but my guess is it should work.

I’m not sure how this is going to distinguish itself in the already very crowded IM landscape, but I’m sure Google has some crazy-ass feature in their back pockets that they’re just waiting to whip out to beat the crap out of MSN messenger with. The fact that you should be able to connect to other services already makes it a trillion times better than seriously weak MSN, but that can’t be all of the goodies.

I was about to post a how-to for configuring Adiumx, my IM client of choice, to access Google Talk, but I just found the set-up instructions for Adiumx on the Google Talk help site. It looks like Google means to keep Google Talk open and easy to access - here’s what they said:

We can say this, though: we believe strongly in user choice and open standards, and we are committed to letting users access Google Talk using the client and platform of their choice, as well as to enabling our users to talk with users from other service providers.

The big just keep getting bigger and bigger.

G5-optimized Firefox 1.0.6 released

Welcome, Macworld readers! Due to the lag time between article writing and publishing, the Macworld link is an old one. Follow this link to get the most recent G5-optimized Firefox version.

Looking for the G5-optimized nightly builds of Firefox? Head on over this way.

firefoxWell golly, it’s another Firefox release. I’ll try to keep this brief - here’s the changelog for this release:

  • Restore API compatibility for extensions and web applications that did not work in Firefox 1.0.5.

This was built on Mac OS X 10.4.2 using XCode 2.1 and has not been tested on Mac OS X 10.3 but should work just fine. Mac OS X 10.2 is not supported. This is not an official build, your mileage may vary, there are no guarantees in life, etc., etc..

As always, please post any observations or major issues that you cannot reproduce using the official release in the comments.

Download the G5-optimized Firefox 1.0.6 release (disabled) A newer version than this is now available

I have created a special BeatnikPad Mozilla / Firefox feed for those of you who are interested in just Firefox and other Mozilla-related updates. See how much I care?

For those of you who want the full BeatnikPad feed (which includes Firefox updates) you can use this feed instead. Enjoy!

G5-optimized Firefox 1.0.5 released

Looking for the G5-optimized nightly builds of Firefox? They be over here, yo.

firefoxWell, that was quick. Just a week after I finally got a G5-optimized build of the Firefox 1.0.4 release posted comes the release of Firefox 1.0.5. This will (hopefully) be the last official release from the Mozilla kith & kin before Firefox 1.1 makes an appearance “at the end of the summer” (says Firefox dude Asa Dotzler).

This also means that I can stop posting these Firefox updates and get back to posting about the quality of my boxer shorts, the cut of my jib, and other fascinating topics.

» G5-optimized Firefox 1.0.5 released continues...

Running, Playing, Working, Broken

Montreal Subway floor

Renée and I are off this weekend to Ottawa for the Ottawa marathon. I’d love to say that I’m running the marathon this year (going to beat last year’s time by at least 45, yessir), but the sad fact is I’m merely a lazy ass spectator. I have started running, ‘tis true, but my report on the status of that endeavor will have to wait for another day when my self-esteem can handle the shame.

Renée has been training to run the half marathon for over eight months, and I’m going to cheer her on, run along side her trailing links of energy-providing bierwursts and kegs of Macedonian wheat grog, and generally make a complete idiot of myself screaming out the melody to Chariots of Fire until I’m hoarse. I would have made a killer cheerleader.

» Running, Playing, Working, Broken continues...

21 Years of the Macintosh

mac128k.jpgToday marks the 21st anniversary of the introduction of the Macintosh, which was launched on January 24, 1984 accompanied by the now famous Ridley Scott directed Super Bowl commercial. I remember this vaguely - I was only 13 at the time, after all. Our first family computer was an Apple ][+ we used to play Breakout and Castle Wolfenstein on, so we were familiar with the Apple name.

To celebrate this milestone, TextLab has posted a video to their weblog of Steve Jobs introducing the Macintosh to Apple shareholders from that day:

Fear not, faithful Mac believers. We have found it. We have found what seems to be the only copy of a public TV broadcast on that very day. It was recorded and preserved by Scott Knaster, the “legendary Mac hacker”, as Amazon puts it. Scott kept the tape (a NTSC Betamax III longplay) for 21 years since he keeps everything. Andy Hertzfeld saw it when he wrote the story “The Times They Are A-Changin’” on From there we followed the hints, and that’s how we found it.

We worked with Scott to convert it from NTSC to PAL, we’ve polished it, cleaned it, huged it and digitzed it. Here it is. It goes back to the people who’ve made the Macintosh, and to the world. The complete material of about 2 hours is returned to Scott, Andy and the people, and this weblog will report the story of the “missing 1984 video” in detail. We’ll release other clips in the coming days, so bookmark and check back.

They’ve been looking for people to mirror the video as their servers are getting massacred (they got Slashdotted, c|net’ed, and linked to by pretty much every Mac fan boy out there), and who am I to resist?

So, here it is: a very young-looking Steven P. Jobs introducing the Macintosh. Chariots of Fire never sounded so good.

G5-optimized Firefox nightly builds

July 7th: Thanks to the wily geek powers of Voon Siong Wong, we now have a reasonably consistent source for nightly Firefox G5 builds. Voon was nice enough to allow me to link directly to his builds from here, as quite a few people have this page bookmarked. I’ll update this page with new build links as they appear.

You might want to check out the mozillazine thread, too.

firefoxI’ve started building G5-optimized Firefox again, this time pulling from the latest nightly code. Thanks to everyone who sent in compliments, complaints, and feedback on the previous set of builds.

For those who missed it the first time around, these unofficial builds have been created with optimizations for Apple’s G5 processor, found in the more recent Powermacs and the latest iMac models. They should be faster and more responsive than the official builds. You can read more about these builds and comments from users in the initial post.

Keep in mind that because these builds are being created from the most recent, mostly untested Firefox code, there will be bugs, missing features, and other stuff. In other words:

If you are not comfortable using pre-release software, don’t use these builds.

» G5-optimized Firefox nightly builds continues...

iTunes Canada launches


A few days late, but Apple has (finally) rolled out the Canadian iTunes store. Songs are priced at 99 cents Canadian per track, or $9.99 for a complete album, which is great, as I wasn’t sure if Apple would change the price to reflect the currency rate differences between Canada and the U.S. No official notice from Apple yet, or any idea if the number of tracks available are different than other iTunes stores, but it’s all moot. It’s finally here.

All I can say is, oh my, this can’t be good for my wallet.

Optimized Firefox for the Apple G5 processor

WARNING: This is an unofficial Firefox build and comes with no guarantee that it will work properly. It is built from the same code as the Firefox 1.0 release, and seems to be working fine for the majority of people testing it. That said, this is still an unofficial build, so caveat emptor. I am not responsible if this doesn’t work, screws with your profile, causes blood to pour from your computer’s speakers, renders you impotent, or anything else.

That said, they work for the vast majority of people using it. So give it a shot, and post in the comments if you’ve decided that you love or hate me.

firefoxJanuary 16: I’ve started building optimized Firefox builds from the latest nightly code, so if you’re interested in the latest, greatest, and most probably buggy, check out the latest nightly builds. If you’re interested in the optimized G5 builds which are more stable, download the Firefox 1.0 build linked below.

For the past two weeks or so I have been running a totally kick-ass nightly build of the Mozilla Firefox web browser optimized for the Powerbook G4 processor. Because it was created specifically for my laptop’s CPU, it is noticeably faster than the normal nightly builds. If you use a Powerbook (or iBook G4), you should check it out.

(Edit: I wanted to clarify that Kai Rune is the person responsible for the G4 builds, not me - I’ve seen some misleading linkage on the internets which makes it sound like I built the wonderful G4 version. The G5 builds are 100% my fault, however.)

Now that I own an iMac G5 (which I plan to post more about soon), I figured it would be interesting to see if I could build a version of Mozilla Firefox for the G5 processor.

With help I managed to get a version to build successfully. All of the rampant nerdiness was worth it: Wow, does this build fly on my iMac. For those of you who run a machine with a G5 processor in it (and who use FireFox), give it a try and let me know what you think.

» Optimized Firefox for the Apple G5 processor continues...

Geekery with an AirPort Express, a SMC 2804WBR, and WDS

APX and SMC(Editorial warning: incoming copious nerdish acronyms)

In the interests of adding this knowledge to the global encyclopedia, here’s how I managed to get my Apple AirPort Express to extend a wireless network created by a SMC Barricade 2804WBR vers. 2. This is accomplished using the Wireless Distribution System (WDS) that the AirPort Express supports. Unfortunately, Apple only provides instructions for setting up in conjunction with their AirPort Extreme base station.

But, it does work with other configurations, so read on for the gory, geeky details.

» Geekery with an AirPort Express, a SMC 2804WBR, and WDS continues...

Fruity loops and Nerdish tendencies

One of my favourite things about moving is how it forces you to run every single possession through the “to move or not?” filter. Everything is up for grabs - old books, music that hasn’t been listened, unworn clothes that reek of a funky combination of dust and that alienlike new smell, geek tools that seemed like a good idea at the time (and now seem, well, geeky) - all is vulnerable to trashing.

powerbookIt’s in this spirit, and heavily aided and abetted by a very generous Apple developer discount provided by a client of mine that I decided to go for broke. It’s time for my big, heavy tower to go, and for portability to swoop in and save the day. In the process of lightening my geeky load, I’ve officially ordered more Apple gear than I ever have before.

Replacing my beloved tower (which was briefly for sale but snapped up the day I posted it) is:

I’m really hoping that the build quality with these 2nd generation aluminum powerbooks is improved over the first release. We had 32 of the first-gen albooks at the college, and the quality just completely sucked: white spots on all of the screens, dark, back-light problems, superdrive failures and tons of RAM issues were commonplace.

I’ll post a review of the new gear once it arrives. <Sigh>. I am such a nerd.

New G5s on the way released!

First, Apple released the Airport Express, which looks totally swank and very useful, and now this morning, I noticed this:


Methinks new G5’s are on the way. Oh where art thou, fairest chequebook?

Update: Yup. Here there are, and liquid-cooled, too - how incredibly geeky!


Mac OS X Software Inventory

I’ve been noticing that more and more people are posting a list of software they use on a regular basis. Who am I to resist such introspective geekness?

I’ll update this as I update my software usage habits, and also keep a running list of other sites that have posted such lists. If you have a list and want me to add it here, send me your URL.

So, without further ado, here is a list of software I use on a daily or regular basis. All prices are in U.S. dollars.

» Mac OS X Software Inventory continues...

Studio Display (17” LCD) for sale sold!

asd17I love how resaleable Apple products are. Thanks to everyone who was interested!

I'm finally at the point where I can afford (and justify) upgrading to a bigger monitor, so it's time to sell my 17" LCD studio display. I've had it for just over two years, and it has performed brilliantly throughout.

If you're a specs-geek, check out the official 17" ASD page. There's also an overview in PDF format on the displays. Don't forget: you either need a computer that has a ADC port (Powermac G4 Gigabit models and higher), or a DVI port and a converter like the Apple DVI to ADC adapter.

With the aforementioned adapter, this display may also be used with the DVI Powerbooks, or (apparently) even a DVI-enabled PC, though I've never tried that myself.

There is a single dead pixel located approximately a inch away from the right-hand side of the screen, which I honestly never notice, but people purchasing LCD's usually want to know about these things, so there you have it. I should also mention that this display is covered by an Extended AppleCare warranty until November, 2004.

If you're interested, get in touch with me. I'm asking $650 Cdn, which at the time of this writing is around $490 US, and I'll ship anywhere that the buyer is willing to pay for.

I originally made the move to LCD displays due to rather severe eyestrain caused by glaucoma, and haven't regretted it for a moment. This really has been the most beautful, highest quality display I've ever used, and after years of headaches, blurry vision, and other eyestrain-related annoyances, the trouble-free peace of the Apple LCD's has been a godsend. Once you've tried one, using a standard CRT seems like a compromise.

If you were wondering what I'm upgrading to, I'm sticking with the tested and true: an Apple 20" cinema display. Of course, this means that display updates are due any day, as I seem to have the uncanny ability to purchase Apple products just before they release new, upgraded versions. Heh.


Speaking of visual beauty, the Mac OS X screensaver entitled Hotel Magritte is possibly one of the strangest, and most beautiful things I've ever seen.

Check out the screenshots.


Lots of interesting new software released today, which is always fun. Well, fun if you're a geek, that is. Two new web browsers hit the pavement today, as well as a major update of one of the best screen capture utilities for any platform.


SafariApple bumps the version number of their little browser that could to 1.2. Some of the improvements in this version include better CSS rendering and secure certificate compatibility - the CSS text-transform bug I submitted has finally been fixed [yes!]. This version is also noticeably speedier in the page loading department, which is always nice, thanks in part to a new version of the WebCore frameworks that Safari uses to render HTML.

You can also now tab through all of a page's links now, as well as control the minimum font size of text, which is also welcome. For those of you using the great Pith Helmet to block and filter ads in Safari, there's a small tweak that you'll need to do to ensure that Pith Helmet continues to make your life ad banner-free.

» Update-o-Rama continues...

Mac Software Business List

Brent Simmons, the mastermind behind the essential NetNewsWire, has started up a mailing list over at Yahoo Groups entitled Mac Software Business.

This group is for small, independent Macintosh developers who want to talk with other developers about the business of Mac development. Questions on pricing, packaging, advertising, e-commerce providers, and so on are on-topic.

Seeing as how one of my clients is Cocoatech, creator of Path Finder, this looks to me like a winner.



Shapeshifter + Milk = UI bliss

iCal To Do display

Lazy Web, I've been looking everywhere for a small application that allows you to display and edit iCal to do lists on the desktop, in an elegant, unobtrusive window. Transparency and other Quartz niceties are always welcome, too.

I know that there's a few Konfabulator widgets that have a similar function, but I was thinking that there has to be a shareware or freeware application out there that does just this, and does it well. Anyone?

Logs to nowhere

For those of you running Macs, if you haven't picked up Mac OS 10.3 (silly marketing name: Panther), don't let the isolated reports about Firewire drive problems or the new secure FileVault feature scare you off. The latest update (10.3.1, which is out a mere two weeks after 10.3 hit the shelves) fixes most of these problems, and the speed and maturity of 10.3 is totally, totally worth the cost.

Much has been posted about how this release is really one about refinement, and I'm not going to dive into the fray with another review. But there's one thing that annoys me.

crash.gifApple has added in the capability for users to send in reports whenever there's a crash. That's a great idea, which builds on the "bug" button that the Apple Safari browser ships with. But this dialog window appears whenever any application crashes, and not just an Apple application.

(For those of you who can't read French, this dialogue says the familiar: "The application MozillaFirebird-bin has unexpectedly quit... The system and other applications are not affected. Would you like to send a bug report to Apple?")

So unsuspecting users are sending their crash reports into Apple for all sorts of applications. My guess is that the majority of these reports are discarded or ignored, even if they involve Apple code. What's worse is that any valuable information that could help a 3rd-party developer fix their applications is also being sent into this crash log black hole.

I've logged a bug report with Apple - hopefully they'll tweak the dialogue, so you can send reports to a custom email address, or save the crash log to your desktop for easy email attaching. It's annoying to see a perfectly good mode of communication poorly implemented.

And no, the irony of logging a bug report to notify Apple of a problem with bug reporting isn't lost on me.

Various Mac nuggets of note

There's been quite a few updates released recently for some excellent Mac OS X software. Just because I don't post about geek stuff too often, indulge me for a moment as I run down a list of a few of the more interesting releases:

Mailsmith 2.0.1

Barebones, the purveyors of software that "doesn't suck", has released a maintenance update for their email client. With this release, this comes very close to fulfilling what I would consider the perfect email client. It's fast, stable, and surprisingly powerful, and the changelog for this release is miles long and comprehensive.

Biggest beefs: no support for IMAP (a deal breaker for me), and the search capabilities are great, but still need some improvement. Still, this is getting more and more worthy, and may be worth buying once IMAP support is baked in.

DEVONthink 1.7

I stumbled across this application while searching for a way to deal with multiple PDF files. I have folders filled with PDF manuals, and it was kind of annoying that I couldn't search through them without opening each one in a PDF reader. DEVONthink looked like a good solution.

According to the application's web site it's a lot of things: it's "a notepad, outliner, scrapbook manager, information manager, freeform database, archive, bookmark manager and image database. Your personal supplementary brain". Bad grammar aside, from fooling around with the application for a bit, I think these claims may not just be marketing hyperbole.

DEVONthink is, for all intents and purposes, a search-enabled content storage bin. It holds all kinds of files (PDF, text, word documents, images of all kinds, web pages, movies, etc.), allowing you to group and categorize them, search through them, organize them, and generally helps keep content assets arranged in a easy-to-access way. It looks pretty powerful, and might be the ticket for people who work with lots of files and information.

EasyFind 2.8.2

(scroll down a bit to find the info): Since I mentioned DEVONthink, it only makes sense to also point out EasyFind. This freeware application is a easy-to-use search tool which allows you to quickly search your files and folders, and comes from the same developers as DEVONthink. The big difference between this and the built-in search feature in Jaguar? You can do content searches (searching the contents of files) without having to index your files first. In fact, EasyFind works without having to index your system whatsoever, which is a real timesaver. And did I mention it's free?

WeatherMan Extras 3.3.0

WeatherMan Puts the weather, and a whole lot more weather-geek information into your menubar. Now that the freeware Meteorologist has been dropped by its developer due to lack of time and inclination, this is probably the best weather application out there. It's closely followed in the rankings by Glu's WeatherPop, but WeatherPop suffers from infrequent poor data problems. WeatherMan Extra is cheap ($7 US), accurate, and well-supported by its developer.

DVBackup 1.1

I haven't actually tried this, but the concept is so ingenious that it bears mention. DVBackup is a small application ($30 US) that allows you to do full, incremental, and compressed backups to a large number of firewire camcorders. According to the documentation, you can also schedule backups, store full table-of-contents listings for each tape, and other handy archival info.

Because you can fit a lot of information on DV tape (up to 10gb per hour of tape, or 15gb in LP mode), and because DV tape is generally pretty cheap, this sounds like a great option for folks who cannot afford the more expensive tape backup options. Speaking as someone who has gone through the horrors of losing everything in ill-fated hard drive crashes, I can solemnly say: if you don't back up your files, you deserve all of the agony you will no doubtedly endure when your turn rolls around. Backup!

My Kingdom for an Email Client

Mail IconWith all of the attention given to Mac web browsers in the past year, web surfers have been blessed with a veritable bounty of good-looking, standards-compliant, and fast-loading browsers to choose from. Apple's Safari. the Mozilla group's Camino and Firebird, and the upcoming Omnigroup's OmniWeb are all excellent products. Choice is groovy.

So I would like to send my plea out into the electronic ether: will someone please make an equally excellent email client for Mac OS X? For an application that I spend almost as much time in (if not more), the selection of complete (for me) email clients out there is woefully underwhelming.

I was using CTMDev's Powermail for a while, but the HTML and IMAP support sucks, and CTMDev's customer support makes me sometimes think that they've abandoned the product. Apple's Mail looks nice, and has pretty good IMAP support, but it's slow, has very poor attachment encoding support (nonexistent, almost), and half-baked applescript support.

gyazmailIcon.gifGoichi Hirakawa's Gyazmail looks promising, but has zero HTML, IMAP, and applescript support; a to-do list on Hirakawa's site indicates that it may be a contender by the end of the year. Microsoft's Entourage is crash-obsessed, has a proprietary database that corrupts easily, and has the extra crud of a calendar and address book (both of which do not coexist well with Apple's offerings).

There are a bunch of options out there at the moment, and I've tried almost all of them. All of them either lack essential functionality, look like dog pants, or just plain suck.

So. This would be my wish list for the perfect email client (for me):

» My Kingdom for an Email Client continues...


In a fit of pure narcissism (I guess that's what it was), I submitted shots of yours truly to the Baby Picture Project over at When I Was Little. There's thirty years separating these two photographs. I don't know what I should think about that.

In more congratulatory news, congraulations are in order once more to Jeffrey Zeldman and Carrie Bickner on their upcoming wedding plans. (Insert bad joke here about web standards and validation). Love is a many splendored thing.

One of my students loaned me the DVD set of Six Feet Under's first season. Being HBO-deficient, this is a cause for celebration.

Thanks to this tip over at MacOSXHints, Apple's Safari moves one step closer to becoming my default browser. Now all they need to do is make the tab system work like Camino's: I like to have external links open in existing windows, and not in a new tab, but I can't have both. If I want tabs, external links have to open in a new tab. Hopefully this is fixed at some point.

I could always go begging over at Safari developer David Hyatt's weblog, but that would be rude, wouldn't it?

Edit:Now that I'm using Safari part-time, I just found a bug in Safari's CSS-handling. If you're using Safari, you'll see the title for these posts repeated twice.

I'm using the :first-letter pseudo-class to change the colour and size of just the first letter of each entries titles - it seems Safari doesn't like that very much. Time to file a bug report...

Ad Blocking in Safari (Firefox, OmniWeb, etc.) Using CSS

(Updated September 25, 2005 with rules to hide ads, seeing how there seems to be a lot of people being referred from there. Folks, the instructions below have been amended and are now current.

safariIcon.gifOne thing I've really missed in Apple's Safari was the ability to block ads. This is something I've taken for granted after using Mozilla and Camino [nee Chimera]; once you've gotten used to surfing without the visual noise of ad banners, it's pretty damn hard to go back.

Mike Solomon's Pith Helmet came to the rescue early on by tapping into private APIs built into Safari to block ads. And it was good.

Well, you have to wonder how seriously some people are taking their NDAs seeing how often leaked builds are getting posted online. The good news is that the leaked builds have something that everyone has been talking about: Tabs.

The bad news is that the latest leaked builds broke Pith Helmet's filtering completely. Mike has been good about releasing a fix within a day of the leaked builds hitting the Web, but the fix isn't working quite right. Plus, I don't believe Pith Helmet can filter out iframe or JavaScript ads, which are omnipresent online. (Edit: Mike informs me that Pith Helmet can filter iframe and Javascript ads.)

Cascading Style Sheets to the rescue! I was pretty chuffed to discover that the CSS3 selectors trick that works in the Gecko browsers (Mozilla, Firefox) seems to work just fine in Safari. Want to learn how to use this technique?

» Ad Blocking in Safari (Firefox, OmniWeb, etc.) Using CSS continues...

Stuff for Sale

As an avowed (and sometimes guilty) geek, I've got my share of computer equipment that I just don't use anymore, for a seemingly endless list of reasons.

Well, my loss is your gain: buy my stuff for cheap! (All prices are negotiable - make me an offer I can't refuse.)

What do I have to sell? A computer! A monitor! A printer! A scanner! A laptop! Read on for the savoury details...

» Stuff for Sale continues...

Path Finder and ChangeDesktop

Path FinderPath Finder is Cocoatech's ├╝berpowered replacement for Apple's Mac OS X and its anemic Finder. It taps into a lot of Mac OS X's command line power by putting a friendly interface onto some of X's Unix underpinnings, adds plenty of time-saving functionality, and basically does everything you would expect 's Finder to do (but doesn't).

On the Cocoatech Web site, there's a rather lengthy and convoluted process to get OS X to use Path Finder as a complete replacement for the Finder. The basic gist is that 's Finder literally gets replaced by Path Finder - you remove the original Finder and put Path Finder (renamed "") in its place.

The big problem here is that this kills software updates that update the original Finder. Plus, it's just too much work. Things don't need to be this complex, however.

All you need to do to get Path Finder to run as your Finder is to:

  1. Launch 's, usually located in /Applications/Utilities
  2. Copy and paste the following command:
      defaults write com.loginwindow Finder "/Path/To/Path"
    (Don't forget to change /Path/To to the actual location of Path Finder, make sure there's a space between Path and Finder, and yes, you need the quotes. This all goes on one line, too.)
  3. Quit the, and logout.

When you log in, Path Finder should automatically launch as your filebrowser. Hallelujah!

ChangeDesktopOne thing that's currently missing from Path Finder is the ability to randomly display desktop backgrounds. Brian Bergstrand comes to the rescue with the freeware (and insanely great) ChangeDesktop, which works splendidly with Path Finder. Make sure that "Notify Applications" is checked in the ChangeDesktop preferences, and you're all set!

My personal wishlist for Path Finder:

  1. Speed, speed, and more speed. Path Finder has made major advances in application speed, but it could still be springier. Path Finder is noticeably slower when drawing windows, especially in column view, and drawing menus. Speaking of springy...
  2. Support 's method of spring-loaded folders. There is spring-loaded functionality already, but there's no way to trigger the "spring" (ie. with the spacebar), and no way to shorten the wait before the folder springs open. Also, it'd be really nice to actually have context-friendly spring-loadedness (open the folder in a new column when in column view, open a new window in icon view, and trigger the disclosure triangle in list view).
  3. Allow for folder-specific view settings. At the moment Path Finder only has settings for icon, list, and column view - there's no way to set a single folder to a specific setting.

Still, for day-to-day use, Path Finder's advanced functionality more than makes up for missing features, and developer Steve Gehrman is one of the hardest working coders around, releasing point-one updates that have more additions than most company's point-zeros. In a word: Worthy!

For the last time

Well, if my stats are any indication, has a runaway hit on their hands with their new web browser Safari. People visiting this site using Safari has gone up something like 45% since Safari was first introduced. Considering that puts Safari as the most popular Mac OS X browser being used, and the fact that Safari has only been out for a week and is still in beta, that's pretty darn impressive.

A gentleman named Matthew Thomas has also linked to this site, to a small quote I made about Safari and the brushed metal interface. This normally wouldn't be a huge deal, except that he's been sending rather surprising numbers of referrers here, and he mentions my name in the same general vicinity of the esteemed Edward Tufte. I think this will probably be the closest I ever get to Tufte, so I better enjoy it.

Oh, and as if there wasn't already enough Mac OS X web browsers, industrious soul Kevin Gerich has assembled an experimental build of Phoenix for the aqua-laden operating system. This is noteworthy because Phoenix is presently only available for Windows and Linux systems, and also because the thing is damn fast - it's Mozilla reimagined as a lithe and bloat-free web browser (no email, chat client, toilet plunger, or stain remover). So many browsers...

More Safari

Wow, I'm a bit flabbergast at the massive amount of coverage that 's new browser Safari is getting in the online world.

The good news is that David Hyatt, one of Safari's lead programmers (originally the head honcho of probably the most worthy Mac OS X browser out there, Chimera) has been very responsive to bug reports and criticisms posted online. He's chronicling some of the updates (and some of his responses) on his weblog. Very cool.

In other news (and I promise this will be one of the last Safari / geek posts for a little while), Daniel "Waferbaby" Bogan (aka "The hardest working man in cyberspace") has posted a quick 'n' dirty Chimera to Safari bookmark converter. If you're a Chimera user, this might be of use. If you're not (but you use Mac OS X), I highly recommend you give Chimera a whirl. It's just great.

Transmit / Gyazmail

I rarely get excited about software.

Okay, that's a boldfaced lie. I'm such a bleeding edge geek. At any rate, I spend a lot of time using e-mail and FTP, so I'm always on the lookout for better clients for both.

I do believe that I've found possibly the best overall FTP client I've ever tried (and I've tried all of them). Panic Software's spanking new Transmit 2 is pleasant on the eyes, feature-complete (without being overkill), speedy, has a built-in text editor, and supports geek stuff like secure connections, batch transfers, and site mirroring.

Being a point-zero release there are a few small quirks, and the fact that Transmit 2 drops the original's support for editing files in the most commonly used (and best) text editor available (BBEdit) is a bit of an oversight. That said, Panic is working on an update that will address all of these issues. It's apparently due "any day now".

I know, it's hard to get excited about file transfer programs, but it's damn refreshing to finally discover a program that does everything I've wanted a FTP program to do, without feature-itis or poor interface design. Heck, the Panic Web site is damn fine looking too, which doesn't hurt.

With 's not bad iCal now out, and Mac OS 10.2's built-in Address Book, I'm finding I need the swiss army knife of Mac OS X personal information managers (Microsoft's Entourage) less and less. Because of that, I've been on the hunt for a good e-mail only client.

I'm going to have to keep looking, but one client I tried out which may turn into something worthy is GyazMail, programmed by Japanese coder Goichi Hirakawa.

GyazMail is still in beta (it's at version 0.93 as I write this), but it's surprisingly usable and feature-rich even in its unfinished state. The only thing it's missing right now is support for HTML e-mail, but Hirakawa says this will be available some time after the 1.0 version is released. Personally, I'm hoping he doesn't support HTML e-mail in the end (it's all spam, anyway), and does what some clients do and just strip all HTML out. You're left with just the text, which is all that matters.

Besides that, however, it's not too shabby, with fairly good mail filtering capability, multiple account support, message threading, and a speedy search function.

Check it out if you're using 's built in Mail client - GyazMail is very fast, not too resource-intensive, and well-designed. I'm still on the hunt, though....

beatnikPod and other thoughts

Client invoices are paid, money is in pocket, MP3s need to be listened to, contacts need to be organized, and calendars need to be synced:

I succumbed.

(Oh, and I'm feeling better; thanks for the get-well emails.)

Other recent thoughts about products:

  1. The school got in a bunch of Apple's eMac. Considering how acclaimed Apple's industrial design work has been (iMac, the Titanium Powerbook, and the aforementioned iPod for starters), I expected the eMac to look better in person than the photos I'd seen. Nope - the eMac is an ugly, stubby machine. They're also very chinzy and cheap-feeling, with loose plastic everywhere. A disappointment.
  2. Since I've got an iPod to play with, I downloaded the iSync beta to sync up my contacts and calendars to my laptop and desktop, as well as the iPod. For a beta, not bad: it worked, it did what it was supposed to do, and it didn't break anything.
  3. I tried switching from Entourage to iCal, Mail, and Address book for my productivity needs, but eventually switched back. iCal is just too slow for daily work, and Mail is still a very immature program. Will any programmers out there finally built the ultimate e-mail client? Please?

That's that. Enough one-track-mindedness for one day.


iCal iConAs anyone following (even casually) knows, the creator of all things cyber-chic has released another beastie from the "i" family: iCal. It's possibly one of the most beautiful calendaring applications I've ever seen; calls it elegant, and it is.

(Note: Did I mention that it only runs on Mac OS 10.2? Pity.)

The problem is it's astoundingly sluggish. Even on my fairly speedy Quicksilver Powermac it runs frightfully slow in areas. Let's not even talk about importing Microsoft Entourage calendars: it's nigh comatose.

I'm hoping will work the bugs out in the inevitable update, as this could be a very easy, fun way to stay organized; an area I always need improvement with. <heaves mighty sigh>

One cool use for iCal has already popped up: Morbus Iff has worked out a rather nifty conduit between Movable Type and iCal, which I'm fiddling with for the site.

For your calendaring pleasure, try reading BeatnikPad journal entries from within iCal by subscribing to the BeatnikPad journal iCalendar. Kind of neat.

This joins some more orthodox methods of syndicating the Beatnikpad for your reading enjoyment - namely, the BeatnikPad RSS and RDF feeds, readable using RSS parsing software like the worthy NetNewsWire lite. Word up.

Also: my September 11th index page is now archived here.

Why I love my Mac: iTunes, Unix, and scrumptious Aqua

More reasons why Bill Gates just isn't making the dollar bills jump out of my wallet:

Today, with the help of Adriaan Tijsseling's super Mac OS X tips, I got sendmail running on my system. What that means now is that I'm no longer at the mercy of my rather flaky ISP's mail delivery SMTP server. I can send mail directly from my computer, and Mac OS X's tasty Unix underbelly and sendmail does all of the magic.

Velvet XOn top of that, I can also do some seriously cool shit, like the currently playing iTunes track info now in the featured slot of this very Web site (just under the home page "bay window" image). It works by utilizing the one-two punch of script to gather the information on what song is playing from iTunes, and a Unix shell script to automagically upload this info to the BeatnikPad's server.

I found the information on Adriaan's new Weblog. He's also gathered all of this stuff up into a nice and tidy click-and-run application for those folks who prefer such a thing. Go pay him a visit.

In other geek news, announced the new update for OS X, codenamed "Jaguar". From the list of new functionality I've read, and 's teaser page, I'm getting about as excited as one can realistically get about a forthcoming operating system upgrade. The truth is, makes using computers fun, while still providing some serious computing power to get real work done at the same time. That's good eatin'.

X marks the Spot

Have I told lately you how much I love the new Mac OS X operating system? It truly is groovy, good-looking, and pretty darn usable.


Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but I personally find OS X's aqua interface to be quite spiffy. The best thing about it in my book, though, is the fact that I have finally harmonized my development and desktop environments. For the first time I can work in Microsoft Word, do some Photoshopping, and run MySQL and PHP scripts on the local Apache server - all simultaneously, and all on the same machine.

And, if I have the want of Microsoft Windows, I simply start up Virtual PC and keep on working.

Normally I don't do the public ga-ga thing about products, but (and this sounds stupidly geeky) running Mac OS X actually makes working on the computer FUN. I can't believe I just typed that.

I suppose this post could be construed as jumping on the "Let's talk " bandwagon. But, seeing as how mania has exploded in feverish anticipation of Monday's Macworld and the expected announcement of such goodies as a LCD iMac, new iBooks, 1gHz+ PowerMacs, 's cosumer photo manipulation software iPhoto (and heavily rumoured items like an PDA called iWalk, a wireless tablet called iDock, [iEnough already!] and the hard-to-believe rumoured porting of Mac OS X to run on Intel PCs), it's all in context.

I'm not obsessed with (like some are), but boy, they sure make great products.

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