Archive for the ‘OS X’ Category

My three complaints with the Macbook Aluminium

January 25, 2009
The cat appreciated the Macbook just as much as I did.

The cat appreciated the Macbook just as much as I did.

One of the Macbook Aluminium’s strong points is its cat compatability, as evidenced from the image above. And overall it is a fantastic laptop. In fact, it is easier to point out its flaws than its strong points.

I’ve had my Mac for about three months now, and these are my complaints:

  • The laptop easily slides around when placed on a smooth surface, such as a table. The rubber “knobs” on the bottom – which elevate the laptop from the surface it’s standing on and are meant to keep it steady – do not provide enough friction.When opened, the forward edge of the main chassis, where you will rest your palms when typing, is pretty sharp. Enough to be somewhat annoying to me, depending on what position I’m sitting in.
  • There are only two USB ports, and it seems only one of them is fully functional when running Windows – my external USB 2,5″ drive won’t spin when plugged into the other. Given the real estate on the left side of the laptop, Apple should have been to put in one more USB port and made all of them 100% functional.
  • And it does have its rough edges in Windows – the trackpad is a bit finicky – the drivers need some tweaking, and there is no right click-button on the keyboard.

You probably realise, given that these are my main objections to the Macbook Alu design, that I am pretty happy with it. In fact, I consider it the best computer I’ve ever owned.

Great keyboard, nice screen, splendid design (and quite robust), huge trackpad, decent graphics card and powerful specs, backlit keyboard, decent battery life. And you can run both Windows XP and OS X on it.

I use mostly Windows XP – it is faster, I can play games and it is less dependant on a pointing device (I am a keyboard enthusiast). However, it is nice to have OS X as a virus-proof backup, and I use Garageband and iMovie from time to time.

How do I move the focus to a popup dialog in OS X – using the keyboard? [Updated!]

November 7, 2007

Just can’t get there with the keyboard!
Ahrg – just can’t get there!

Update 11/11/07:
Previously, I posted that I couldn’t get to all dialogs using the keyboard (read more for details). Thanks to Archie on the Apple Discussions forum, I have now learned a workaround.

The VoiceOver utility has a function called Window Chooser. By turning on VoiceOver (in Universal Access), you can get to Window Chooser by pressing Ctrl+Option and hitting F2 twice. Cumbersome – but it works. Another workaround is to enable Mouse Keys and navigate the mouse cursor using the keyboard.

Of course, both of these solutions are rather hopeless – this is one of those keyboard accessability things Apple should just fix, for instance by including all windows spawned by an application in the Command+> sequence.

This is the scenario: I am installing something on my Mac that requires administrator privilegies, and I am doing it with my keyboard only. After agreeing to terms and conditions, a popup window comes up, asking me to verify that I am an administrator.

Accidentally, I task-switch to a different application.

Now – how do I get back to the Authenticate dialog, using the keyboard?

The popup dialog can’t be reached via command+tab, is not visible via Expose, and is not a sub-window of the installer process that spawned it, so I cannot get there with command+>. Seems to me like a good example of poor usability in OS X.

I haven’t been able to figure this out – I would be very grateful for any ideas!

Transmission: A fantastic Mac OS X torrenting application

May 10, 2007

I was actually trying to donate some money to the people behind Transmission, a fabulous BitTorrent client for OS X, but it seems they are not accepting donations.

Therefore, my respect and recommendations will have to suffice, at least until they start accepting donations. Transmission is very elegant, designed exactly like an OS X application should be – it is one of those applications that improves the aesthetics of your system. The interface is very, very clean. This is the first torrenting client I have tried where I have found every option I need without searching for it – where should the download go, which port is open and what are the download caps. And more.

On top of this, it uses a very small amount of system resources.

Bottom line – if you have a Mac, if you download stuff using the bittorrent protocol, you should try Transmission. Now!

Weird OS X crash – everything freezes, music from iTunes keeps playing

March 14, 2007
Photo 86


OS X crashed on me again. This has happened before, and I think the manner of the crash is weird enough to warrant a blog post. This is what happens.

1) I’m working on something, usually my thesis, using NeoOffice, Word, remote desktop, Firefox, Opera, tons of stuff.

2) Suddenly OS X freezes – meaning that my keyboard input doesn’t register, and although I can move the mouse cursor around, nothing happens when I click.

3) The music continues. If I am playing an MP3 in iTunes, it keeps playing, like nothing has happened. No stuttering, nothing.

4) I can close the lid on the Macbook, and it will eventually go to sleep. When I wake it up, I don’t get the logon screen, but am sent directly into the desktop again and the music resumes.

5) Eventually my patience runs out, and I do a hard shutdown on the Macbook using the power button.

In a word: Weird. As previously, nothing special in the logs. I’ll google this later, for now I have to do some work.

When That Which Is Not Supposed To Happen happens anyway

March 1, 2007

Rrrrright, you guessed it – total system freeze in OS X. I can move the cursor around, but that’s it. The only remedy was doing a hard shutdown with the power button.

I would have been less annoyed by this if I was doing something unusual, like running an application I’m not normally running, or trying out new hardware, or really REALLY pushing the system, but I was just doing nothing in particular. And I would also be less annoyed if /var/log/system.log had any information at all about what happened.

Maybe RAM issues, or some other hardward problem? I’ll have to check. In any event – in addition to all the reasons stated above, I am doubly annoyed because I’m on OS X, which isn’t supposed to crash. Pfffft.

Drag and drop in the OS X Finder stops working

January 27, 2007

I’ve been having my Macbook for about 7-8 months now, and this problem occurs on a regular basis: The drag and drop functionality in Finder stops working.

After googling for a bit, it seems Quicksilver is the problem. Drag and drop only goes away if QS is running, according to this forum thread. It seems the number of items Quicksilver is cataloguing might have something to do with it – it would certainly fit my profile, as I have about 70.000 items in the catalogue. Apparently, this can cause Quicksilver to experience errors and affect the Drag/drop functionality.

This post will be expanded as I look for solutions. Please leave a comment if you’ve also experienced this issue, or if you know of a workaround / solution.

Mac OS X Mini-annoyance: How to stop iPhoto automatically importing images in Mac OS X

December 31, 2006

The answer to this problem is really simple, but I’m making a post about it nonetheless as it is something that annoys me every time I get to a new Mac.

Pull up Spotlight, search for Image Capture. In Image Capture, open Preferences, and choose whatever application you want to be launched when connecting a camera or a memory card – if any. Done.

Mac OS X annoyances, part 3: The missing Finder keyboard shortcuts

October 20, 2006

This site has a great collection of OS X tips, but there are still a few things missing in the Finder.

OS X annoyances, part 3
Here be dragons

There is a contextual menu (the “action menu”) you can bring up for items by right-clicking on them. It is really handy – unfortunately there is no way to get to it without using the mouse, which makes it nearly worthless to me. Windows XP lets you use the right-click button on the keyboard (to the right of the spacebar, where the second Command key is located on the Mac) for this purpose.

Finder’s sidebar, called the Places sidebar in the previously mentioned site, lets you add shortcuts to directories or files you access often. Very neat, but again, there is no way to reach these shortcuts by using the keyboard.

There is also a nifty search feature in the Finder. Guess what – you click on the search box in the top left of your Finder window and enter your search string. If you want to modify where the search is looking, you also have to use the mouse. And when time comes to move the focus down to the search results… yep, the mouse.

On a related note, there is no way to make the search results include what directory the found item is in, so if you have several files with the same names, you have to click in the list, and key through them – the directory is listed at the bottom of the window. Why not include an option to customize the results list? This is a small detail which makes File & Folders search in Windows a lot more effective to use.

(Yes, I know about Spotlight, which by the way suffers from the same problem. Fortunately, Quicksilver is a lot more useful, but not quite stable on my machine at the moment – and not integrated with the Finder.)

These are just a few of my minor complaints with OS X. The sad part is that these are really, really easy to rectify, and I can’t understand why these (to me) obvious shortcuts are left out. On the whole, their absence make OS X a lot slower to use. Apple – please let me work faster with my Mac!

The Apple MacBook, three months on

October 8, 2006

After using my black 2,0 Ghz MacBook for three months, I thought I should write up a short review with the main positive and negative points this laptop has to offer.

I will contrast my MacBook experiences with those Margrethe has had with her Dell Inspiron 6400, which has similar specifications at a lower cost. The Dell is a much larger machine (15,4″ vs 13,3″ screen and a lot thicker) but I still believe it is a useful comparison. Most of my thoughts here would apply to the cheaper MacBook models, too.


Mac OS X annoyances, part 2: The startup chime

August 20, 2006

Among Windows users, those who haven’t changed the default “tam-tam-tam-tam-taaaaa” start-up sound are often ridiculed by those who consider it an unnecessary disturbance from the computer. And while playing the default sound in your own home is one thing, disturbing others with it is generally frowned upon – like having an overly annoying cell phone ring tone.

Of course, it is possible to turn off this start-up sound, or change it to whatever you like. Personally, I turned it off. Now, I am a Mac user, and OS X is generally more sophisticated and more elegant than Windows. (Some even say “more stable”, which is a statement I cannot entirely support after using OS X Tiger for a month’s time – more on this in a later post.)

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Mac startup chime cannot be turned off. You switch on your Mac, and it will say “daaaaa!”. If you mute the volume in OS X before you shut down, the “daaaaaa!” will be muted also, but that’s hardly a consolation. You have to remember to mute the sound before shutting down your computer, and if the startup sound is the only sound you want to mute, you’re out of luck.

Obviously, there should be a setting for turning off the chime. For some reason, there isn’t any. You can, however, get third-party programs that do this – but it’s pretty ridiculous to depend on third-party software for something this basic.

I would’ve liked to know why this feature is missing. Mac fans on the net would say what they nearly always do when confronted with an obvious lacking of the Mac platform (like no right-click button on trackpads) – “Oh, but Mac is different; you just have to get used to it. It’s actually better this way.”

No, it isn’t. There is no good reason why I shouldn’t be able to disable this chime without any further ado. Unfortunately, it appears that the chime has been present in Macs since 1989. Considering the still-missing right button on trackpads, that is not grounds for optimism.

Here’s hoping that the next version of OS X is advertised like this: “The new feature Super Shush enables you to turn on your computer – without a noise!” The fanfare with which the allmighty Wireless Mighty Mouse was launched can still make me laugh (“Now Apple Engineers have made the Mighty Mouse wireless – and that’s without losing a button along the way!”).

If you are still on a PowerPC Mac, it might be worth checking out StartupSound.prefPane:
It should be possible to mute the sound on shutdown and unmute on boot using a shell script. I haven’t tried this, but you could check out and give it a go.
Psst is an application that uses the shell script approach to quiet the chime. It works, but must be running in the background when you shut down.

PS: I know that it’s supposedly possible to mute the chime during boot by pressing F3 or Apple+F3 when the computer is turned on. However, it did not work for me, and it is not a viable solution in any case.