June 15, 2007

Option... Command... Alt... Windows...


One of the first things I installed on my Mini was a program called DoubleCommand. Because I am using a Logitech G15 keyboard from the PC world on my Mini, and by default OS X maps the Alt key to the Option key and the Windows Key to the Apple key, everything is backwards!

This little program (actually a kernel extension) allows you to remap the Alt and Windows keys so that they correspond to the Command and Option keys on an Apple keyboard.

It can actually re-map and fiddle with the keyboard in various other ways as well but the main reason I installed it was so that the keyboard feels like a real Apple keyboard.

Lastly, the best thing about this app is that it's free and open source!


June 16, 2007

Annoying remotes

Maybe not having worked in the presence of a large number of Macs with little white remotes has made be ignorant about this little problem.

We have 2 Macs side by side and the little white remote, although not really that useful for anything other than showing people how cool your Mac is, can be annoying because when our little nearly 3 year picks it up and presses something, it can trigger both Macs.

Actually i take that sarcastic comment back about the remote, it's works great in Joost... but that's another days article.

A very simple trick is to simply pair up the remote with your one back so you don't disturb others around you. How you do this is by hold the Menu and the Right Arrow button the remote for approx 5 secs and you will see the following graphic on your screen.


And voila, your remote won't be bugging those around you... to unpair your remote with your computer, you go to System Preferences, Security, and click the Unpair Button near the bottom.



June 17, 2007

Carbon Copy Cloner


This is not really any breaking news and has been covered to death everywhere but CCC is a great free application that allows you to make a bootable clone of your HD without having to re-install your OS and your apps.

I'm using it to make transfer the contents of the slow 80GB HD in my Mini to a faster 7200rpm 320GB Seagate Barracuda in an AMS Venus DS3 external firewire enclosure to be my main disk.

I'm having a bit trouble with the clone failing after a few minutes... switching to USB seems to fix the problem and allows the clone to complete successfully, lucky the enclosure came with both cables.

So I'm guessing it has something to do with either the firewire controller on the enclosure or possibly a faulty firewire cable. I'll do some more troubleshooting shortly.

And of course you can also use it to make backups of your data and it has some built in scheduling functionality to help with this but I think there maybe other better approaches to backup just data.


June 19, 2007

Where did /etc /var /tmp come from?


Now, you successfully cloned and transferred your bootable OS X system onto an external hard drive and you're able to boot into it by holding the Option key when turning on the system and picking disc... everything works! Time to celebrate right?

Well, all except for one little annoyance, there are new directories that show when you open up a new Finder window, mainly: /etc /var and /tmp.

These are really not a big deal, especially if you're familiar with Unix but to most casual users that don't know or care about the Unix behind the scenes this could be a little disconcerting.... and besides, they really should be invisible because well, they normally are.

There's an easy fix but unfortunately you gotta dust off your original OS X installation discs.

The steps are simple:

1. Insert your Mac OS X installation disc.
2. Open Terminal and type the following commands, each on one line:
cd /Volumes
cd Mac\ OS\ X\ Install\ Disc\ 1/
cd System/Installation/Packages/OSInstall.mpkg/Contents/Resources/
sudo ./SetHidden / hidden_MacOS9

And you're done!

This is documented on the Apple support site, the article id is 301677.


June 20, 2007

MacFUSE and MacFusion

So you may or may not know, I keep an offsite backup of all my perceived to be important data... I used my webhost that gives me a crapload of space, they probably don't think most people use it all up but I sure do.

Since a webhost is what I considered to be an untrusted area, what I did in the past was on my Debian box run encfs over sshfs to create what is essentially an encrypted offsite storage drive... which then i rsync all my important data over to periodically. I rambled about it back in Feb.

Now that I'm completely on OS X, I need a way to access my offsite storage drive... and wow was it ever easy to do.

3 things to install:

  1. MacFUSE
  2. sshfs for MacFUSE, available at the same page as MacFUSE
  3. MacFusion
  4. EncFS Plugin for MacFusion

First, I setup my sshFS connection to my webhost:


Next, I setup the encfs mount:


Notice, I use the newly created sshfs Volume as the source.

Next I enter the password that I used to create my encfs drive months ago.... and Boom! ...just like that, my old encrypted offsite storage drive shows up as another mounted Volume on my machine, all files intact.

Now I'm able to run my old rsync script (slightly modified of course) to update my offsite data again!

Wonderful, I love Unix.


June 23, 2007

Washed out colors on OS X

Since I plugged in my 22" Dell into my Mac Mini, everything looked great to me until my wife pointed out that the colours looked a little washed out or faded.

I ignored her thinking she was just jealous of my awesome lcd panel but after a bit of time had passed I realized that I thought she was right.

Well, if this is happening to you, the fix is quite easy:

System Preferences -> Displays -> Color -> Calibrate


And afterwards just follow the instructions and when you're done answering the questions, I'm almost positive that the colors will look "nicer".. at least if your LCD panel was originally configured for a PC.


June 24, 2007

Mac Mini internal drive vs external drive

There is no comparison. I did a very unscientific test, but because the difference is so large, it doesn't matter about how precise my method really is:

My test, immediately after cloning my internal mini onto my external firewire disk I did this:

Power on the Mini with the Command key pressed and wait for the option to pick my boot drive. Click the drive to boot with one hand and start the stopwatch with the other.... wait for the dock to appear, click the stopwatch.

Built in 2.5" 80GB HD: 28.46 seconds
Seagate 3.5" 320 GB 7200 in a AMS DS3 USB enclosure: 29.3 seconds
Seagate 3.5" 320 GB 7200 in a AMS DS3 Firewire enclosure: 17.3 seconds

As you can see the built-in disk and the external disk over USB is about the same.... but however when the same disk is running over firewire....

The difference is over 10 seconds! This may not show real world daily usage performance but it does give a good indicator that a firewire drive with a decent drive out performs the internal 2.5" notebook drive pretty much hands down.

This is probably one of most most simple and worthwhile upgrades you can do to a Mac Mini.


June 26, 2007

Free Apple Seminars

Something that many people don't know about are the free Apple Online Seminars.

Lots of great free content on many different topics:

- Audio
- Business
- Design
- Photography
- Science
- Video


July 4, 2007

Easy video transcoding on OS X

A not-that-well-known way and one of the cheapest ways (free) to convert video on the Mac (or Windows for that matter) is to use a free program that many of you already probably are using VLC.

1) Launch VLC

2) Goto File -> Open File

3) Click Browse and choose the source file you wish to convert

4) Click the Streaming/Save check box and the settings button.

5) Click the file radio button and then Browse, then enter the filename you wish to use for the new file to be created.

6) Choose your Encapsulation Method, I chose AVI this time.

7) Click Video, choose your favourite video codec and the bitrate of the video you wish to encode to.

8) Click Audio, choose your favourite audio codec, the bitrate of the audio you wish to encode to and as well the number of channels of audio.

In this case I chose divx and mp3 for my codecs.

Click OK and VLC should create the new file and start transcoding your video to it. You can click "Window" and then "Information" to see the status of the current job, there will not be any video being displayed during this process....

Lastly one thing to note is to make sure you don't have any "Repeat" of any file playing otherwise your transcode will start over at the completion and then rewrite the output file... and you'll need to start over.

There you go, cheap and easy way to transcode video to and from almost any format for free!


July 5, 2007

Expose annoying you?

My wife has strong fingers.

She was complaining to me the other day about how Expose keeps popping up while she's trying to work. The problem is that her desk space to the right of the keyboard is quick small and she has to constantly pick up her mouse, bring it over and move it again to get the mouse cursor to move across the whole screen.... (yes mouse acceleration is her friend here)...

Anyway, when she picks up the mouse, she squeezes the side of the mightymouse and when u do that expose comes up.

Well, if this bugs you the fix is very simple:

Goto System Preferences -> Dashboard & Expose

Then unmap the mouse button to nothingness, you can always use the F9-F12 keys instead.



July 6, 2007

Booting from firewire disk by default

If you have an external firewire disk and you use as your main boot drive, it can become a pain in the butt if you constant have to hold onto the Command Key each time you reboot and choose the drive you want to boot from.

A simple solution to change the default boot disk to the external boot disk and this can be done in the System Preferences.

Basically, go to System Preferences -> Startup Disk and Highlight the drive you wish to have as your default boot disk


.... simple as that!


July 9, 2007

Online offsite backups


It seems that this is a great online backup service and they now have a OS X client.

The restore process is simple and the price is right ($4.95 / month) for unlimited storage, you really can't beat that.

You can use their encryption key or even specify your own.


July 13, 2007

JPG (or other format) Screenshots in Tiger

By default screen shots in OS X Tiger 10.4.x are saved as .PNG files.

If you want to have the screenshot saved in some other format, you can run the two following commands in Terminal:

$ defaults write com.apple.screencapture type graphicformat
$ killall SystemUIServer
Replacing graphicformat with one of jpg, tiff, png, bmp or even pdf!


July 16, 2007

Playing .wma files in OS X

Coming over from Windows and haVe a bunch of .wma files to convert so that work in iTunes?

A what use to be shareware program that has now gone free called Audion is a great tool to do so, and it should work on any .wma file that doesn't have any DRM on it.


Goto Tools -> Encode Item... and pick the files you want to convert and you'll find them magically appearing in your Music folder.

Since it has gone free now they even post a serial number you can use to get rid of the nags!


July 19, 2007

Album Art from Amazon


Fetch Art is a nifty little program that scans the id3 tags of all the music in iTunes collection and then looks for the appropriate matching album art from Amazon!

It does a pretty decent job and it's free!


July 28, 2007

Mac Cheat Sheet

I'm sure this has happened in the past, you need to call Apple or your ISP or some other vendor for some help and they ask you for information about your system and you don't have it all ready, thus they make you crawl underneath your desk, your closet... whereever, looking for serial numbers and hardware MAC addresses and such.

Well, Apple has a little "Cheat Sheet", which is just a simple checklist that you can fill out once and hide away, and when it comes time to need this information, it's all there in one place. It sounds like something you'd never use and even silly to fill out but one day it will come in handy.

Find My Mac Cheat Sheet at the Apple site.


July 30, 2007

Command + ,

Hold onto the Command key and press ","

This will bring out the Preference Pane in most applications... kind of a nice convenient quick keystroke that you should add to your arsenal Command keys such as Command+C and Command+V (Copy and Paste), especially for those who like to fiddle with Application settings.


August 22, 2007

iStat pro


Hey finally a widget that's useful! Ok, that's a little extreme... there are many useful widgets... iStat pro is definately one of them... and it's pretty cool, lots of cool system info including battery life, cpu temps, fanspeeds and much more... all in one place.

They also have a similiar application that sits on your menu bar called iStat menu.

Both are freeware but donations are encouraged if you like the software of course.


August 27, 2007

Secure sparse image's

Want to protect some data on your USB key? You can create a encrypted sparse image that you can mount/umount to store it all.

1) Plugin your USB key
2) cd /Volumes/UsbKeyName
3) hdiutil create SparseImageName -size 1g -encryption -type SPARSE -fs HFS+ -volname VolumeName
4) Enter the password you wish to use to protect the disk image.

Afterwards you'll have a file on your USB that can only be opened and written to if you have the password... protected with 128bit AES encryption...


September 27, 2007

Rev # for mythtv builds

Thank's for all the positive feedback regarding the Mac OS X MythTV builds, I'm glad they work for you guys.

As requested by numerous people, I've included the rev # as part of the filename so that you know exactly which version you're using/getting.


February 14, 2008

Jailbreaking the Ipod Touch to 1.1.3


It's all there.

I was already jailbroken to 1.1.2 and decided to take the plunge to 1.1.13 - used the nice fully automated upgrader that comes with Installer.app and it worked great.


March 17, 2008

MythTV 0.21 OS X intel

I've started putting up RELEASE binaries and FIXES binaries as a part of the collection of nightly svn TRUNK builds that I've been supplying....

And just in time too, as this weekend 0.21 was released:


February 14, 2009

AutoFetchInterval is now PCDefaultPollInterval

I was trying to figure out why modifying AutoFetchInterval in /var/mobile/Library/com.apple.mobilemail.plist to something lower than 15 minutes wasn't working...

Did some poking around and realized now it's located in /var/mobile/Library/com.apple.persistentconnection.plist and the key to modify is now called PCDefaultPollInterval and the value is now stated in seconds.


This is as of 2.2.1, not sure when this started happening, I'm guess sometime after 2.2 since that's when auto fetch started working again.

Oh BTW, for those of you who don't know I'm talking about, this is for making your iPhone / iPod Touch check email more often than the default 15 minutes.


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