December 7, 2010

Syncing multiple computers to a single itunes library

Kevin Cheng twittered recently "Cannot find any iTunes solution that lets me have an external master library, laptop w/ synced subset, and synced ratings/metadata."

Ahh.. the holy grail. I've been pursuing it for some time because I often orbit between 3 or 4 machines. I'd go further. I also want my iphones to share the synced data and to be able to sync on multiple computers. It can be done! Here's how.

Assumptions: I assume Macintosh. I assume normal locations for your Music folder and for the iTunes folder. I assume matching usernames on all the computers. I have 2 sets of instructions the first is for a fresh start (new library), the second set is for converting an existing library. Most importantly I assume a Dropbox account (they're free).

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March 26, 2010

Mac Icons Circa 1985


Just discovered this Macpaint file collecting screenshots of various early Mac icons (some finder icons, some in-application icons, some resedit icons). Most are circa 1985, although several are later. 10 points to the person who can name them all.

Need a cheatsheet? Check out the insanely detailed Vintage Mac Museum which not only has icons, but also houses screenshots, of many — but not all — of these apps.

Want the story the sad mac icon's birth: Read here.

June 30, 2009


Imagine how much more fun the iOS video camera would be if it had a pause button. In camera cuts!

January 20, 2007

My iphone "i want" list

Like everyone else, I'm pretty exited about the iphone. But I won't be head over heels excited until I find out if 3rd parties can develop apps for it, because a slick phone would be neat, but a real version of OS X with 3rd party apps would be like cherries every day. This list of "I want" apps came to mind almost immediately. What's on your list?

1. I want to be able to find photographs on the net geotagged to my current location with a scroller that goes back chronologically. Imagine standing at a particular spot, and instantly be able to see what happened there last week, last month, last year. (idea originally from Jakob Lodwick)

2. I want fingerpainting. (allowing you to choose between watercolors, gouache, oils, etc... and with paint running down the screen based on the phone's orientation)

3. I want an intruder alert. In other words you lock your phone with a special code, and if someone picks up your phone it starts taking pictures, recording sound and sending you an email with photos and the recording. Also it should have a siren.

4. I want an alarm clock set to one of my itunes playlists.

5. I want Netnewswire.

6. I want a portable antfarm with virtual ants.

Continue reading My iphone "i want" list »

June 1, 2006

Motion Sensing and iSight Hacks on the Mac

If you own a late model Powerbook, or a Macbook, your machine has a motion sensor inside to shut off the hard drive in case of a tumble. Two hacks taking advantage of of the sensor in inventive ways have recently made the rounds of the Macosphere. Light Saber, turns your mac into a light saber, and SmackMac which ties into the excellent Mac virtual desktop utility Desktop Manager to allow you to smack your way through desktops. Both hacks are based on the work of Amit Singh a writer/programmer, who was the first person to publicize methods of using the sudden motion sensor creatively. These hacks led me on a search for other hacks which use the mac motion sensor. As of yet there are only a couple but I assume more are in the pipeline... (onscreen dice anyone?, how about a 'jiggle your dock icons with a bump' hack?)

Amit Singh's original proof of concepts:
Rotate D triggers screen orientation rotation.
HID Device turns the movement of the screen into an input device. Singh put up a nice page describing how to use HID Device to control games.
Tracker simply prints out the movement data.
Visualizer shows the orientation of your mac in 3D.
Stable Window is a cool little hack that puts up a window that tries to compensate for the rotation.

Erling Ellison's Smackbook Hack is described here (look in the comments for complied versions) (and as a sidenote, Ellison's blog is only 2 entries long and already looks promising... I haven't seen a good Mac Hack blog in a long time).
Smack Exposé and Bump Tunes both riff off SmackBook and are self explanatory.

Smack Exposé and Bump Tunes both riff off SmackBook and are self explanatory.

Dash Level is a dashboard widget that turns your mac into a level.

iAlertU is perhaps the most useful use of the motion sensor, it basically gives you a car alarm for your portable... if someone tries to move it, it goes off. Multialarm and Theft Sensor basically do the same thing.

MacSaber (your mac as a light saber in case you haven't downloaded it yet) can be found here. When my wife saw me giggling and playing with this, she stopped dead in her tracks, sputtered "Oh my god, you are such a nerd" and quickly left the room.

To turn your motion sensor off follow this hack.

All the googling for mac motion sensing led me to isight based motion sensing (ie motion sensor triggered video) which led me to iSight hacks.

Evocam has been around for a while and is still my favorite motion sensor video app. It's relatively cheap. I've yet to find a free alternative. With it you can produce motion sensor triggered video like this.

Motiondetect allows you to add motion detection effects to iMovie.

Miracle sight uses motion triggers to turn your mac into a magic mirror.

And speaking of magic mirrors, there are a number of iSight connected quartz composer hacks. The video basically goes through a filter and is output into quartz composition file. You can read these qtz files in Safari or use them as screensavers (just put them in Library/Screensaver) If you have a newer mac, you've seen this kind of effect in Photobooth (if you have an isight camera connected to your mac, click here to see a demo). The best of these can be found here:

Tatsuo Unemi's Crazy Mirror
Matthew Turk's Gravity Lens
& Sam Kass' Hack Page

Apple puts out a cool quick and dirty capture utility called Whacked TV. MulleSight is a similar small capture app and duhsoft creates a simple photo capture widget for the Dashboard.

EvoBarCode turns your iSight into a bar code reader and intergalactic allows you to capture images from the command line.

Finally if you are tired of video chatting in iChat you can check out Adobe's Flash based conferencing product Breeze (iChat is leagues better). I found it worked quite well with iSight.

And last but certainly not least is iGlasses which tweaks iSight's video output. This is most useful if you use iSight in dark rooms as it allows you to brighten up the image, change the contrast, etc.

That's quite a few... did I miss anything great?

May 18, 2006

Tip for Entourage Users

If you use Entourage 2005 on OS X 10.4, Microsoft has quietly released a major upgrade.

Once you've installed the update, start the program, nothing looks different, but go to the preferences and select Spotlight and click the option to "include entourage items in Spotlight search results' and hit the rebuild button.

Whammo. Your old email just got much more useful. Now instead of waiting minutes for entourage to churn through your email when you hit find, you can have results in seconds in spotlight. Your email database has just gone from being an inert repository to an incredibly rich resource. Of course it depends on how long you've saved your email (I have religiously upgraded my databases since pre-internet all text BBS days) but even if your database is small it's nice to have instant access to everything by plugging in a few search terms.

Another benefit, you can now sync Entourage with the Address Book and iCal. Yippee.

March 25, 2006

OS X 5 Years Later

John Siracusa my favorite writer about all things OS X notes that OS X is five years old. In honor of this anniversary I thought it might be fun to dig up one of my old web columns written in January 2000 a year before the official release OS X release. The writing style is annoying, but it's fun to see what I got wrong and what I got right. I've reposted it here. Note most of the links are dead, so just ignore them.

February 23, 2006

10 Semi-Obscure Mac Programs You Shouldn't Be Without

I keep seeing lists of 10 must have Mac programs, but the lists is they are well known can't-live-without programs like Launchbar and Windowshade already installed on Machead machines. Here are some slightly more obscure programs I use every day:

1. Inquisitor. Inquisitor adds live search to Safari. You start typing it starts searching/suggesting. 90% of the time I never even have to go to the google results page because I find exactly what I am looking for right in the search window.. After installing this program Safari will feel better, smarter, better looking.

2. Saft. Saft is another Safari enhancement that adds the function of many of the most popular Firefox extensions to Safari. Think fancy ad filtering, tab restoration on quit, history search etc. My favorite addition: the ability to drag tabs from one window to another. This + Inquisitor have brought me back to
Safari after a several month hiatus to Firefox.

3. Flip4Mac is an extension that allows you to view unprotected Windows Media Player content within Quicktime. Why would you want to use this when Microsoft provides a free player? 1. Because it's better than the MS player. 2. Because the MS player is now discontinued and Microsoft is now supporting the flip4mac extension.

4. AppleJack. If you're lucky you'll never have to use Applejack. It's a little utility that hides in the bowels of your machine and gives you simple non-techie access to most of OS X's built in maintenance routines. What does this mean to you? If your computer starts acting funky you can boot up with command-S and type in "applejack" and repair a host of common OS X problems. It can be a lifesaver.

5. Growl is a utility that gives you translucent status messages from background applications. That description is deeply unsexy, but once you start using Growl, you'll forget what it was like to work without it. Basically it will tell you when downloads are done, what song is playing, etc without you having to move from your work.

6. Chax adds a host of large and small improvements to ichat.

7. Screensavers are never essential, but Soundstream is at least sort of fun. It's a screensaver that responds to the ambient noise in the room. Fun when the stereo is blasting. [Short aside] Here's the screensaver I want: Screensaver captures images from your iSight camera at defined intervals and then plays the images as a looping movie onscreen. When you return to your computer you see what happened while you were gone.

8. Are you a keyboard navigator? If so Witch will make you happy. It lets you jump from window to window easily without touching your mouse.

9. Sbook is a little notepad with smarts. Type in an address and it knows it's an address. A phone number is a phone number etc. Handy.

10. Delicious Library is probably the least obscure item on the list, but I'm surprised how few people know of it. This program lets you scan your book, cd, and dvd barcodes looks up info about the media (title, cover, etc) and stores it all in an easy to use database.

11. Here's an 11th one for free. Jumpcut allows you to keep multiple clipboards. It's simple low weight and it just works.

Update: Someone in the comments reminded me of Texpander. I use this program so organically I had forgotten about it. Texpander allows you to create abbreviations that expand as you type them. So instead of typing my name into forms I just type rrgg and it instantly expands into my full name. You can add bits of text (and images) at will. Darned useful. Also the sBook site is back up.

November 5, 2005

Firefox G5

A Canadian by the name of Neil Bruce Lee has been compiling G5 optomized versions of Firefox. If you are a Mac G5 person, you want to use this. The speed (especially on duals) is almost startling. There are still a few bugs (the google search box is dead on my machine), but the speed is worth the tradeoff. And while you're optimizing, why not check out fasterfox as well.

September 16, 2005

File System Events, OS X

Hardcore Mac geeks read on, everyone else: as you were.

Recently I've been tormented by some mysterious preference files that keep showing up in my system folder with jibberish names. Tracking down which app has been writing these files as been difficult. Also my hard disk has been spinning seeming at random when I'm not doing anything. This too was hard to troubleshoot.

FSEventer to the rescue. This little program opens up a graphical display window that shows you every file written to disk (including invisible files) and gives authorship information with a click. Despite the esoteric name it features a friendly interface and is fun to watch (to see it go nuts fire up a browser and hit some MS sites which write a million cookies). I managed to track down both of my mysterious problems in minutes. This is a good little program for your toolbox.

March 25, 2005

Mini review of the LaCie Bigger Disk Extreme 1TB (1000gig) drive

It's big and heavy.
It's loud. Sounds like an old Volvo.
It's fast (65meg/sec transfer), but not nearly as fast as the 90meg/sec claimed by LaCie.

If I had to do it over again I would have probably bought a 2 500s.

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