Especially for Bal #2

Next time Bal re-installs Windows and wants to know how to stop Windows Explorer automatically expanding folders when you click on them, just whack the following in the registry (via RegEdit):

  • Browse to the User Key of:
    • \Software
    • \Microsoft
    • \Windows
    • \CurrentVersion
    • \Explorer
    • \Advanced
  • Add / Edit the Value Name of FriendlyTree
  • Its Data Type should be REG_DWORD (DWORD Value)
  • Set its Value Data to 0 for disabled or 1 for enabled

Stop being so friendly Explorer!

Part #1.

Preview songs in iTunes Store

Another niggle and this isn’t a Mac specific one, but I did wonder how to preview a song before deciding to buy it on iTunes:

iTunes Store Previews

To listen to a preview of a song in the iTunes Store, double-click the song. If your network connection is slower than 128 Kbps, the preview may sound jittery. Choose iTunes > Preferences (Windows — Edit > Preferences), and in the Store pane select the “Load complete preview before playing” checkbox.

Apple like their simple(ish) interfaces but a preview button next to the buy button wouldn’t have killed them! This was a little too obvious for me.

A month with Leopard

LeopardBoxI didn’t want to be left out from the other 2 million or so that purchased Leopard, so I took the plunge and upgraded from Mac OS X Tiger to Leopard a month ago to the day.

I was pleasantly surprised that my copy arrived on launch day, Friday 26th October, at bang on 12pm via TNT (as a topical aside, they did a better job with my one disc than they did with a certain governments two discs). Anyhoo, from the email Apple sent me, Leopard shipped late Thursday night and was giving an estimated delivery of the 29th / 30th (i.e. Monday / Tuesday the following week).

As it turned out, it arrived in a small cardboard box and when unwrapped, was in a further dinky but very cool and metallic looking box (which looks great in person, but terrible when photographed, hence the lack of. There are some good ones here though). That opened up to show the Leopard DVD with the manual being tucked anyway in a compartment behind. That’s the cool thing with Apple stuff, they get the first impressions right.

I decided to upgrade since that’s what the default choice seemed to be (Lifehacker has a good guide on the process) and I thought if worst came to the worst, I could just a nuke it anyway since I’ve only been running it for a couple of months. As it turns out, it was a painless process. I popped the DVD in, restarted, answered a few questions and off it went.


It took about 20 minutes to do a DVD consistency check and then the actual install fired off. It’s unlike any Windows install I’ve done in that after you’ve done the first bit, you can leave it completely unattended. Initially it was saying it was going to take an hour and twenty minutes to run which seemed to match up with what I’d been reading (i.e. that it was about a 2 hour job).


But as it turned out, some 25 minutes later it had done the business and rebooted into a shiny and new Leopard installation. In total it took less than an hour. There was a bit of hard disk grinding to start with as Spotlight got into it’s stride, but that it was.

Index_spaces_20071016The full list of the 300 changes just boggles the mind and one of the first things I started using was Spaces, which is a fantastic implementation of the multiple desktop within one screen mechanism (aka Virtual Desktops). It’s hardly a new thing, Linux in it’s various incarnations has had it for ages and I remember trying to run some Norton crap back on Windows 95 that did a similar thing, but that didn’t work since Windows / my hardware at the time wasn’t up to the job.

I really like about it is how you can bring it up to view all your desktops and then still use Expose to untangle your windows. The implementation is excellent. I also like the ability to assign what desktop various apps will load up in. However I have found that when viewing all your desktops at once it does get laggy if you have lots of windows and apps open, which can be a tad jarring.

Timemachine_icon20071016Time Machine is also excellent. I plugged up a 250GB external USB drive and set it up just for Time Machine to use. In fact I didn’t have much choice in the matter since Leopard pestered me into it! Any external drive I connected before configuring Time Machine, it wanted to use. That said I like the whole idea of automated backups and I was pondering on how to manage my backups, now I no longer need to bother. It just works in the background. 

Plus Apple have done the amazing and made a backup app interesting. The whole way Time Machine looks is just so damn cool. You can be in various apps like Finder, iPhoto 08 and just load up Time Machine and window then slides upwards and appears in a weird sort of timeline in space. From there you can then zoom back and forth in time, looking at old files and restoring them.


That said, I can totally see why some people wouldn’t want to use it since it isn’t the most configurable thing in the world. It keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month and then weekly backups for anything older than that. It’ll keep doing that until you run out of space. And that’s your lot, no tweaking outside of that schedule. My initial backup was about 110GB and it’s used further 10GB since then. For me, I find it ideal.

I did find it kind of quaint that a sizable group of Mac users on the Ars Technica forums still do full drive images using things like SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner. I remember doing that a few times, yongs ago with Norton Ghost, but I never really found it practical with Windows. I’m more than happy with doing a fresh Leopard install then a Time Machine restore if I have hard drive failure. The key thing is keep your data safe.

Desktop_stacks20071016The new dock is interesting, I like it’s 3D style but I’m not so sure on how it highlights apps that are running. In Tiger you got a black arrow pointing upwards from beneath the icon, now you just get a blue coloured orb that isn’t much of a contrast different from the dock. There is a hack to put it back to the Tiger way of working, but to be honest, after using it for a while, I’m not that bothered that’d I change it. I can’t say I take much notice of them.

Stacks I’m not so sure on. I like the way they display things when clicked, arcing upwards from left to right, with the newest items at the bottom (although this depends on how you’re sorted your stack). The main problem I have with though is their lack of visibility on the Dock. You’d expect it to show some kind of folder icon to distinguish them, but instead its one of the items stored in the stack, which does change, so there is no consistency. So I’ve used the following hack to get round my little problem. It’s not prefect, but it does help!

I like the option of Cover Flow in the Finder… but I don’t tend to use it much. I much prefer Quick Look, which is where you can be browsing through files in Finder and can just press Space which then shows a preview window without having to load anything up. You can then quickly navigate though files in this mode.

Bootcamp_assistant20071016Bootcamp is also cool, but most people who were interested in it probably downloaded the beta on Tiger, got whatever they needed working done and left it at that. All I’ve done since going to Leopard is let Bootcamp update it’s various drivers and leave my Vista partition as is.

Networking seems more stable to Windows boxes too. I’d been connecting my Mac to Vista laptops and found it a bit unreliable at times on Tiger. That’s not the case anymore. If the connection is lost it seems to gracefully recover instead of showing the spinning beach ball of death. (Gom, my question the other night was because that was the first time I done Vista to Mac, i.e. the other way round).

SpotLightSpotlight has had a ton of tweaks too. Two that I find really useful is that by default now, Spotlight puts Applications at the top of it’s search results which for me has effectively replaced the use of QuickSilver. That said I still use QuickSilver, I’m a big fan of app launchers on Windows (Slickrun and Launchy) and I’ve been tinkering with various plug-ins for it. The other tweak is that you can now do calculations in Spotlight, which I find really useful!

Overall, it’s definitely been worth the upgrade for me. I didn’t have a proper backup strategy in place so Time Machine was a must. Plus I love the whole Spaces virtual desktop thing. And I’m a sucker for a new look and feel, so I’m sold :)

The Ars Technica review is the thing to read if you’re interested in a full review of Leopard.

How to lock Mac OS X

One thing I do miss on Mac OS X is the ability to quickly lock a machine. In Windows you just press Windows Key and L and it’s job done. On OS X no such option exists by default, however there is a relatively simple way to set it up.

Fire up System Preferences and select Expose & Spaces:


In there change one of the Active Screen Corners to Start Screen Saver. I’ve selected Bottom Left.


Next go back to System Preferences and select Security.


In Security, make sure the General tab is selected and then tick the top option of Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver.


That’s it! So when you want to lock your Mac, just move your mouse to the Active Screen Corner you picked and the screen saver should fire off and effectively lock your Mac.

Edit: Damnit looks like OS X Daily has the same info as my post. And there’s me thinking I was a smart arse…

iPhoto 08 Fixed

I did a quick update on Saturday morning to my previous post on iPhoto 08. The long and the short of it is that it looks like the random lockup / crash I was experiencing when rotating images has been fixed with the 7.1.1 update.

I can say that pretty much for definite since I’ve just been going through the wadge of photos from our weekend in Whitby and rotatorised a good few with no issues at all. So yay and stuff!

iPhoto 08 was a tad flaky

Edit 2007–11–17: Looks like the rotate crash bug has been fixed in 7.1.1 (some details on the Apple site and Ars Technica). Go run Software Update to fix it!


IPhoto_IconI’ve been tinkering with iPhoto 08, getting the hang of how it works, and publishing some photos up to my .Mac space (work in progress!), which, on the whole, works amazingly well. The syncing of local photos to the web automagically is ace.

Anyhoo, iPhoto does seem to fall over with frightening frequency when I want to rotate lots of photos. What I’ve been doing is going through my various events and fixing those photos that have been taken with the camera held vertically instead of horizontal. And it does seem that iPhoto gets bored with such a mundane task and decides to spice things up by locking up.

At first I thought it was because I was rapidly firing through them, so I tried it at normal speed, then at a slow canter and finally a grandma slipper shuffle and it still got it’s knickers in a twist.

The end result is, if I’m lucky, the last two images I was working on haven’t been changed. If I’m unlucky, well the last one has, and it’s usually that the thumbnail is updated to it’s new rotation, but the actual image isn’t. Feck and biscuits. On a couple of occasions I’ve been able to select the photo in question and do a Revert to Original (you have to be careful with that though), but I’ve had a few where that doesn’t work.

However, there is a way to fix it, which involves starting up iPhoto and pressing the Option and Command keys together whilst it loads (more details on the Apple site). It then prompts with the following:


I tried Rebuild the photos’ small thumbnails. No joy. So I tried Rebuild all of the photos’ thumbnails (this may take a while) and that did work, however, like it says, it ain’t quick and in my case took half an hour to run (my iPhoto library is 11GB which I wouldn’t exactly say is huge).

So, doh, not all is fantastic in the land of Macs (but it’s a rare snag!). I can kind of tell when it’s going to crash and I find having to steer a piece of software kind of quaint.

Automator is aces

This isn’t anything new to Mac OS X users, but for me as a newly baked one, Automator sure is a handy little tool. It’s basically an app for automating tasks. You create a workflow made up of various actions, which come from your installed apps. It seems pretty much anything will have actions set up that you can use in Automator. 

Here’s one I knocked up for doing my last post:

Automator - Convert tf2 piccys

Team Fortress 2 dumps its screen shots out as TGA files but for my blog I wanted them in JPEG format. Its dead simple with Automator.

In Finder (Macs version of Explorer), I selected the files I was after, right clicked, then selected More > Automator > Create Workflow… That gave me a new workflow with the top section automatically added. I then searched through the list of the Actions on the left for Change Type of Images, which when added gave me a prompt to add in the Copy Finder Items. I made the copy put the files in a subfolder off where they originally were and then changed the image type to JPEG.

And that was it, I hit Run and it did the job. There is nothing built into Windows that does anything like that! (As far as I’m aware?) Previously I’d have to had some kind of image program installed in order to do that. Yay for Macs!

Outlook rules that actually work

I’m not the worlds biggest fan of Outlook and whilst the new lick of paint in Office 2007 makes it slightly more bearable, one thing that has constantly driven me up the wall has been it’s inability to run rules properly.

It seems as if I’m the only one in the office afflicted with this problem and no matter what I try to fix it, they just won’t run. Exporting, deleting and re-importing my rules did nowt. Running Outlook.exe with /cleanrules didn’t help and even going as far as deleting my mail profile and recreating it gave the same useless result. Which, incidentally, is not a fun thing to do, having Outlook resync your OST over a VPN is not pleasant at the best of times.

Plus it’s not specific to a machine, I’ve switched to three different machines in the last six months, four if you include the virtual machine I ran for a while, but none seemed to want to work.

I wouldn’t mind but it’s not like I have anything fancy set up, my seven rules (yes, seven) consist of moving email’s to different folders depending on various things like who sent it, keywords in the body and subject, update info, etc. Hardly rocket science.

However, I now have an answer, an add-on for Outlook called Auto-Mate, who’s job is to run rules, and nothing but rules. It’s a bit options overload at first, but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of and I love the Preview option. This is genius since it makes checking what you’ve just set up a doddle.


It’s not quite as flexible as Outlook rules for setting some things up. For example, if you have email’s that have slightly different subject lines and you want them to go in the same folder. In Outlook you can have just one rule and specify two different things to match on. In Auto-Mate you need two rules. Not the end of the world, just something worth knowing.

Also, Auto-Mate isn’t free, there are two different versions, Standard ($29.99) and Pro ($59.99). The Pro version seems a bit steep to me and I’m a bit miffed that I’ll most likely have to shell out for something that should just work in Outlook!

The reason for such desperate measures is because of the barrage of email’s I now get that strictly speaking don’t require immediate attention. I like to keep my Inbox relatively clear and just have things in there that I’m working on or are currently of interest. As such, filing email’s automatically has become incredibly important. So Auto-Mate, along with SpeedFiler, makes Outlook just about manageable!

Useful Utils #5 – Darik’s Boot and Nuke

DBAN1Now this is a fun little app! We had some old boxes in the office that needing nuking before taking them off to be recycled and I remembered I’d seen a post on LifeHacker a while back on it.

It’s incredibly simple to use. You’ve got a few options as to how to run it, but I just downloaded the .ISO file from SourceForge and burnt it to CD. With that I was able to boot the machines directly into DBAN and nuke the drives.

There’s nothing flash to it, it’s purely functional. It’s running a cut down Linux kernel which looks like an old DOS app. You’ve got various options for what level of write you want, but I just went with DoD Short since it was relatively quick at an hour per machine.