Monday, December 28, 2009

There's a better way to access your emails from everywhere - use IMAP

If you haven't heard yet, IMAP is the best method for accessing and organizing your email.

Here's why:
  • You can access and modify your email from web, phone or local computer applications and have the changes synced automatically.
  • It's faster and more efficient to access emails and email headers.
  • Folders are synced between the server and all clients.
  • Move an email to a folder and it gets moved everywhere.
  • Most popular email clients support IMAP.
  • Emails can be copied between server and locally very easily using drag and drop (even large volumes).
These reasons were enough to convince me. So turn off your POP3 access and convert to IMAP. I use gmail as my mail client, but yahoo supports IMAP as well. The iPhone, Android and Blackberry use IMAP., Outlook and Thunderbird all support IMAP too so there's no excuse. And you can connect to your IMAP account and copy your existing POP3 emails over.

Do it, do it now. Or when you've got a few hours to kill. You won't regret it.

iPhone apps worth looking at

These apps have worked their way into my life and are worth checking out.

Everyday or frequently:
Safari, Tweetie 2, Now Playing,, YoContacts, iTalk, IMDB, Squarespace, Analytics, Tumblr, Mint, Kindle, Google, RedLaser, AroundMe, Files, Labyrinth 2, Dragon's Lair, TheDeep, Kayak, Zenbe, Facebook, Todo

Sometimes but good:
1Password, BeejiveIM, Darkroom, Driver, Flickr, GPS Drive, GoodReader, Google Earth, Gowalla, Instapaper, Lose It!, Matches, NOVA, OpenTable, PAC-MAN, Pandora, Postman, Pzizz Relax, Remote, Rotton Tomatoes, Shazam, Skype, Taxi Magic, Trails, TripIt, Yelp, Zipcar, iTimeLapse, iWant

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Upgrading? Archive your old iPhone backup folders and save space

I upgraded my old iPhone 3G to a 3GS and lost about 8 gig of disk space. If you have successfully upgraded your iPhone to a new version the old backups are retained here:

$HOME/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup

Look at in Finder, sort by date and then just move those folders to an external backup drive you aren't using any more. Note, you will definitely want to keep the most recent folder as that is the active backup of your iPhone. This worked for my setup, but please use caution cause these are your iPhone backups - move, don't delete!

It's worth it to get 8 gig or so back.

Finding open files on a Mac: lsof

If you want a way to find open files on a Mac, you can use the "lsof" command at the terminal (located: /usr/sbin/lsof). Open Terminal (under Applications | Utilities) and type:

lsof | more
This will list all open files and be a long list. To restrict the list, say, to all files on mounted volumes, use grep:

lsof | grep "Volumes"
I wanted an alternative to the useful windows "handle" command-line utility to locate open file handles. The new Snow Leopard finder tells you what program has open files on a mounted volume, but earlier versions of Mac OS/X won't.

The application name is the first item in the list and the file is the last.

Friday, November 06, 2009

SQLite database browser

If you're looking for a SQLite database browser, the SQLite Data Browser sourceforge project may be what you're looking for. It's developed in Trolltech QT so runs on Windows, Mac and Linux but needs to run under Rosetta so performance may be a little slow. It's great on Windows though so I thought I'd give it a try on the Mac.
You can get it here.

Chrome beta for Mac is available!

Chrome is now available for download on the Mac, in beta form.

I know I shouldn't be as excited as this but, okay, I'M EXCITED. Chrome is SO MUCH FASTER than Firefox or Safari on the Mac. Finally, a really quick browser. So far, so good.

I use Chrome on my work PC all the time and apart from excessive swapping when many (30+) tabs are active, it's a great, fast browser to use.

And being able to close tabs consuming too much CPU is SO WELCOME.

I still use Firefox because it's a nice browser but Chrome is fast and stable, and that matters.

I'm going to have a little lie down now.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Down memory lane with a TrueType VT 220 Font

Viacheslav Slavinsky created a DEC VT 220 truetype font so you can take a nostalgic trip down memory lane when using Terminal. Just download the font, double-click and install in Font Book. Then go into terminal, duplicate your current profile in preferences and change the font. Size 20 works best on Macs. Change the color to green and we're walking back down memory lane. Or change it to any color you want :)
Thanks to Simon for the tip.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Looking for a free SQLite database manager?

Since developing for iPhone OS 3.0 I've been creating, editing and maintaining sqlite databases. The command-line tool "sqlite3" is quite nice to use but sometimes you just want a graphical editor.

Mike Titlebaum has created the ridiculously literally named: "Mike T's SQLite Database Administrator Tool". It's free and even goes further than the basics to offer an import function, SQL query autocomplete, a comprehensive schema view and export functionality. You can also create new tables and edit data.

It does have its quirks but for a free app it's worth a look.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Snow Leopard disk eject quirkiness

After installing Snow Leopard the eject button in the Finder for external hard disks occasionally fails. If you click eject and nothing happens (repeatedly) the solution is to right-click on the drive and choose the "Eject" menu entry. This will just about always eject the disk (unless it's still spinning up and Finder is waiting for the control signal to kick in). You would think the selectors for the widget and menu item are the same, but they mustn't be. I thought I'd mention it here in case anyone else had the problem.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Convert any text to your own mp3 automatically!

I heard Andy Ihnatko on MacBreak Weekly saying you could convert any text to an audio clip using an automator action in the services menu. This is handy for any time you want to hear something read back to you but listen on your iPod (in the car, for example). Andy was right - this is an awesome feature of Snow Leopard. Here's how to do it.

Launch Automator or if in Automator, File | New
  • Choose "Service" type of workflow
  • Make sure the service receives "text" in "any application"
  • Search for "audio" in the Variables pane
  • Choose "Text to Audio File" and drag to workflow workspace (right-hand pane)
  • Choose a voice (default is Alex)
  • Choose a file name: TextRecording
  • Choose a location (default is desktop)
  • Search for "audio" in the Variables pane
  • Drag "Import Audio Files" under the "Text to Audio File" workflow action
  • To save space, check "Delete source files after encoding".
  • Click Save, call the service "Text to mp3"
The service will now be available. To test, go to mail, highlight some text and choose from the menu: "Mail | Services | Text to mp3". The automator action will take the text, convert it to speech and convert that to an mp3 file in iTunes. The file can then be played straight away or synced to your iPod or media player.

If you want to run the automator action, search for "Get Specified Text" from the Actions pane and drag "Get Specified Text" above the "Text to Audio File" action. This will let you type text and run the workflow in Automator. You will have to remove the "Get Specified Text" action to save the workflow as a service.

Thanks Andy and thanks Apple for this amazing, easy feature.

(And if you were wondering where this magically puts the services entry, go to System Preferences, Keyboard, KeyBoard Shortcuts, Services and you'll see a list there you can modify)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gatting and iPhone - the joke's on you

The iPhone's auto-correct mechanism makes Gatting (a famous English cricketer) out to be an arse. As you can imagine, Australians particularly like this joke.

Gatting auto-corrects to be farting. The keys are close together... many thanks to my Aussie friend Michael for pointing this out.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Warning: Parallels 3.0 does NOT work with Snow Leopard and upgrading will cost you $50

I found out that Parallels 3.0 doesn't work with Snow Leopard when I tried running it today. This is highly annoying because version 4.0 costs $50 to upgrade. If you don't upgrade, your virtual machines will be inaccessible under Snow Leopard.

Parallels will not support version 3.0 under Snow Leopard in the future according to their website.

So I'm stuck with the forced upgrade. I wonder how many other customers feel annoyed at being forced to spend $50. Not cool Parallels and not appreciated. VMWare Fusion works fine on Snow Leopard. I'll be moving my machine to that as soon as I can.

Taking out the trash - keyboard shortcut to empty the trash

Ok, this is trivial but how do you empty the trash using a keyboard shortcut?

empties the trash with prompt.

and if you're really sure:
empties the trash WITHOUT a prompt.

Note: A friendly warning, if you rely on this too much, it'll become a habit so beware! You might lose something you want.

The most annoying Xcode error ever: The Info.plist for application at (null) specifies a CFBundleExecutable of (null), which does not exist.

If you're developing an iPhone application in XCode and getting the error:
“The Info.plist for application at (null) specifies a CFBundleExecutable of (null), which does not exist.”
here's how to fix it:

In Xcode, choose "Executables" from the project hierarchy. Click your project executable then press Command-I. Choose the General tab and set the working directory to "Build Products directory".

This fixed the problem. The advisory from Apple did not help much, but did mention the Build Products directory. Under SDK release notes for iPhone OS 3.1, XCode/Developer Tools:

"Changing an iPhone Executable's working directory from “Build Products directory” may cause the application not to install properly with the error message “The Info.plist for application at (null) specifies a CFBundleExecutable of (null), which does not exist.”"
Hope this saves you a little time. It frustrated me for a while.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Snow Leopard, Message Filer, Mail ActOn

I just installed Snow Leopard and most things are working (except calendar sync unfortunately). My version 1.0 version of Mail ActOn was incompatible in I checked the Mail ActOn site and they are now $25 to buy version 2. Mail Acton is a great product but it's worth $10 or maybe $15 at the most to me so I didn't buy it. There's a 30 day trial if you want to try it.

I looked around and Message Filer works with Snow Leopard. There's a free working version with nag screens every now and again. It just lets you move messages to folders, has a nice search feature in the pop-up window and works on multiple highlighted items. So I recommend it.

And even better, it's $8 which is the right price.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A keyboard shortcut to add hyperlinks in

Finally! For years, I wanted an easy way to press COMMAND-K to add a hyperlink in instead of using Edit | Link | Add.

Hawk Wings has a how-to. Just follow the directions and it will work.

Thank you! I will use this every day...

The trick is to set the keyboard shortcut through the system preferences then reference the menu item through it's title "Add...". This, amazingly, works. You can now press COMMAND-K, paste in the link and it's done.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MacVim: vi never looked so pretty

Vi is a text editor with an absolute bastard of a vertical learning curve.

It's so tough, you'll think you're crazy learning it.

And now its lickable on the Mac thanks to the MacVim Mac app!

MacVim adds a slick wrapper of services around the familiar gvim interface including auto-updating with Sparkle, nice integration with Mac copy and paste, Apple-N for new windows, a multiple window interface and transparency (:set trans=10).

Vi is powerful and fast and awesome. It's search and replace regex support is rich and you can run vim commands as scripts. It has syntax highlighting, spell checking and limitless undo. You can navigate without moving your hands from the keyboard. And the keyboard movement controls are used again and again on computers, from unix man pages to's The Big Picture.

This little app is so famous, you can run Microsoft Outlook, Word and Visual Studio 2008 with vi editing in-line on a PC using viemu (that app's not free like vim unfortunately).

Thanks to Bram Moolenaar at for his awesome work and for an application I wouldn't want to live without. Look on for vim on your operating system.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Growl, email and potential insanity

If you use Growl for system-wide notifications, then you may want to check out the MailMe notification. This is only useful for people that reserve Growl for important notifications or it will REALLY irritate you. WARNING: Dial down your notifications in subscribing apps first.

Once turned on, you give permission for Growl to send emails. When a Growl notification happens (like an IM chat starting in Adium), a message will be sent to the nominated email account.

This has come in handy when I've been away from my computer (like at lunch, in a meeting, out) and want to know what my system is up to. I have an iPhone so I get email everywhere.

Use it as you will - but dial down your notifications to things you really want to know about or it will drive you nuts.

Top - find those greedy processes using Terminal

Want to find those greedy processes? Wanna bet it's Firefox? Just kidding. Sort of. Just run this at the Terminal window (Applications folder | Utilities folder | Terminal, or just launch Quicksilver and type "Terminal"):

top -ocpu

This will list all your running processes by CPU utilization. The offender will be at the top.

Press "q" to quit. The PID can be used to kill the process as well, but that's probably only for more advanced users. I use this technique occasionally when I need to SSH into my mac box and kill some process that's sucking on the resource pipe a little too hard :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Suspend your virtual machine - it's faster!

If you still need the occasional windows world application, consider using suspend to speed up the process.

When I need a Windows application I can boot up Parallels or VMWare Fusion, press play and the virtual machine is available within about a minute or so. This is much faster than a cold boot.

When you’re done, just go to Virtual Machine | Suspend and within about 30 seconds you can quit the app and you’re done.

It’s on-demand computing, fast and convenient.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

NTFS for Mac

NTFS for Mac (Paragon) is a file system plugin for Mac OS/X allowing access to Windows NTFS drives. I've got history with this product. The current version I'm using (v6.5.1) works very well. I can access my external NTFS drives and read and write to them.

The previous version I installed didn't work - in fact it messed with random files during file operations rendering them useless after copying. I'm very glad I did tests first. It didn't destroy the file allocation indexes, fortunately, but I immediately uninstalled the product and it took me months to get the courage to try again. I just used a gigabit local network and a windows laptop to copy files in the meantime.

Paragon support was responsive and offered a new version to try but I didn't try it immediately because if there's one product that must not fail, it is filesystem driver software!

Months later I downloaded their updated version and tried a few tentative tests and it worked fine for me. Since then I've used it for over six months and it's been good.

So my advice: buy it if you work with external NTFS drives. But test thoroughly first before using with your hardware. And if the data is REALLY important, use a gigabit network or NAS (network attached storage) device to bridge the Mac-PC divide.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Git now available on Mac OS/X

If you love git or want to try git, you now can on Mac OS/X.

Get the git installer on Google Code:

Git is a (relatively) new source control system that uses crypto hashes to guarantee the consistency of the repository and do some magically-fast branch comparisons. It also facilitates local commits, cheap branches and fast distributed workflow for teams.

Find out more on There's a windows (cygwin, msysgit) version available and of course linux, where git was originally borned :)

Right now I can only see support on the Mac for a subset of git commands {git, git-cvsserver, git-shell, git-upload-pack, gitk} so git-svn and git-daemon are missing but it's a great start and works very well - much quicker than the windows cygwin-based version. Props for getting gitk to work - that's a great branch visualisation tool.

Thanks to the team that put the installer together - git is great for tracking changes to local projects even if you don't have an upstream workflow to push or pull from.