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A bit naughty…

…but funny me thinks. Though I probably shouldn’t given the donor shortage of late.

do not card front.jpg

do not card back.jpg

From b3ta. (Original Donor card here).

MacHeist II

A peculiar thing I’ve noticed with Mac software is that there seems to be a lot sales and offers on where by you can buy bundles of apps for next to nowt.

I was oh so tempted by Give Good Food to your Mac back in December but just couldn’t work out what to get. The idea behind it was the more apps you picked the more of a discount you got. I was looking at trying to get an 80% discount but you had to pick 10 apps and that was like a $100 minimum and to be honest most of it was chaff… so in the end I couldn’t decide, which was a pity since there where a couple of apps I was very tempted by, namely CSSEdit and Pixelmator.

As it turns out though, another bundle sale cropped up, MacHeist II (which at the time of writing has 6 days left). And unlike Give Food to your Mac, its blissfully simple. 12 apps for $49. And two of them happen to be CSSEdit and Pixelmator! Normally they’d cost $29.95 and $59.00 respectively so even for just those, I got a bargain! There are also some weird mission style things going on in the forums where you can get extra stuff for free and I managed, by doing very little, to get a further $4 knocked off.

It’s also worth noting that 25% of the sales go to various charities, which sounds like a good idea. There’s 10 in total and when you buy you have the option of either donate to a selected one or all.

MacHeistIIApps.png

I’ve not had chance to tinker with the rest of the apps properly, but a couple stand out. AppZapper has come in very handy at tidying up the slew of apps I’ve being trying out and found I don’t want anymore. The clever thing with AppZapper is it’s able to work out where an app has put it grubby hands with regards to settings, files and related gubbins and just deletes it all. Speed Download also has come in handy, I’d say it’s Windows equivalent is GetRight which I used to use occasionally for downloads that were really slow or a pain to get.

Anyhoo, MacHeist is well worth a look!

Oh and first post from ecto… it’s pretty good actually! Seems to do a lot of what BlogJet does.

Edit: Hmmm, ecto seems to output really messy HTML so I’ve had to fix it with BlogJet.

One from the Help Desk

We got this lovely email through to the help desk today:

OneFromTheHelpDesk

It consists of a completely black screenshot, no subject or any text in the email describing what the problem might be, other than the standard signature and 20 lines of disclaimer telling you not to divulge the contents of the email to your pet squirrel (grey squirrels are terrible gossips) and the usual pseudo legal gubbins (the fact that this at the end of the email where you technically could miss reading it therefore making it pointless is another matter).

Anyhoo, I, with all the subtlety of an elephant on Viagra, would have loved to have replied with “That’s nice dear” and left it at that, but fortunately for us, I’m not on help desk and so the crack team that is, handled it with their usual slickness.

The email did however have some use and reminded me of one of my many favourite sketches from The Fast Show:

MacBook Air and Time Capsule

Mmmmmm MacBook Air. Just watched the full Macworld 2008 keynote, pretty impressive stuff.

Air2

The Air is a really cool piece of kit and pretty well specced for an ultra portable. What gets me is how dinky it is. At it thickest, at 0.76”, it’s still smaller than the thinnest part of a Sony TZ Series! There are a couple of things that aren’t so good such as only 1 USB port and the lack of a removal battery, but I could probably live with that!

I was also impressed by the Time Capsule. A wireless n network hub + 500GB hard drive isn’t bad for £200. I remember reading up on home NAS style devices in PC Pro not so long back and they were more expensive than that.

Promo_timecapsule_20080115

The user reviews on Amazon for the NAS stuff listed in PC Pro came back with some real horror stories of them just been generally useless and a pain to connect too. I’d hope with the Time Capsule it’d be a doodle to setup and use!

It’s very tempting… Damn you Apple and your shiny new products!

Ars Technica has the full beef on it.

Team Fortress 2 in Lego

Variation on a theme and clearly someone with too much time on their hands… bit like me for looking at his photos.

TF2GroupOriginal

Before

TF2GroupInLego

After

Oh and of course there’s Portal in Lego too.

PortalInLego

Found via BoingBoing.

Edit: Hooray first post of 2008! More to come in the next week :)

Word of Day – Somnambulism

Pretty apt I think at this time of morning:

Somnambulism (or sleepwalking) describes an apparently aimless nighttime walking in an unconscious state, accompanied by motor activity of varying degrees of complexity. The next day, the sleeper has no memory of the episode. Sleepwalking episodes, which occur during the first part of the night, last from a few seconds to around thirty minutes.

And away we go!

Winter Hols – Benidorm

We’re jet setting off tomorrow for a week to Benidorm to get some winter sun (fingers crossed) so no idle waffle from me for a week.

Benidorm

Upon my return I might sort out those terrafusion stats…

Mac on the cheap: The Hackintosh

Lisa1This is typical Lifehacker, they point our something incredibly useful after I’ve already gone with the expensive option! The idea is pretty simple, since Mac OS X now runs on Intel gubbins, you buy your own PC hardware, cobble it all together and then install Leopard on it. And call it the Hackintosh. Top idea you’d think? Well no, not really. The article is full of crater sized holes.

It’s based around the premise of spending less than $800 but that’s just on hardware and it’s a cheat at that. The author uses coupons to bring the price down since the parts are actually over $800 ($842.90 at the time of posting). 

Plus you need a patched version of Leopard, because by default it only installs on Apple hardware, which is fair enough. The article describes two methods of acquiring said patched Leopard, one is to go download a copy via Bittorrent or the alternative is to manually patch your copy of Leopard… but there is no mention of having a copy already. It’s just kind of assumed. It’s another $129 if you don’t have it or free if you pirate it.

Shuttle N00bAnd it’s at that point I think it’s a lot of work for not much gain. Why would you build a Hackintosh if you’ve already got a Mac with Leopard on? Why would you want to go through the pain of building your own box? (I don’t want to have to do that again!) Why would I want to bother with either spending hours downloading a hacked copy of Leopard or laboriously making one myself? Do I want a fugly PC looking box again? 

The answer is no, I don’t. The reason I switched to Mac was to make things easier. To use software that designed to work with it’s hardware from the beginning. In cost terms, yes, it is cheaper to go down the Hackintosh route, it’s less than a $1000 where as my iMac comes in at $1,799. (I’m using dollars as the comparison since that’s what Lifehacker uses.)

But as they say, time is money, and now I would rather pay extra for a proper Mac and then waste my time more wisely on other things :).

These two comments sum it all up for me:

BY CDC AT 11/13/07 01:22 PM

I think people miss the point with getting a Mac. The idea behind the Mac is that it is an experience not only with software, but with hardware as well. Having both the software and hardware talk to each other and get along makes that user experience. Once you take Mac OS X out of the hardware, even though it is still a great piece of software, you lose the whole experience. And Apple Hardware isn’t that much more expensive than PC’s if you compare apple’s to apple’s (pun intended)

The emphasis on this next comment is exactly what I think:

BY BRIAN LITTLE AT 11/13/07 01:41 PM

Adam,

I don’t want to discount the creativity of this project, which is impressive. I was a system builder for many years, so I know how much fun this can be. This is why it probably says a great deal about me that I just don’t see any point in doing this kind of thing. Really.

When I was 18 years younger and single, with more or less unlimited free time and a lot of discretionary income, I might have done this and enjoyed it. But I have a kid and a mortgage, and have better things to do with my time. I have come, lately, to see the value of my time versus the value of my things.

Which is to say that the time you spent hacking together a machine that will be a maintenance nightmare is time I get to spend with my daughter. Money you saved in the short term is money that I spent up front to get a machine that works right, right out of the box.

All things being equal, I think I came out ahead. But that probably means I’m not part of the audience you’re writing to, doesn’t it. :)

Nice piece of work, even if I do agree with your critics that you aren’t being up front about the complete costs

So all said and done, I’d much rather have my shiny iMac any day.

There’s some fun benchmarks on how well the Hackintosh runs, which, amusingly, is better than actual Macs do.

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.

MyiMacInstallingLeopard

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).

Leopardesktop

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.

Timemachine_gallery01_20071016

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:

LockMac1

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

LockMac2

Next go back to System Preferences and select Security.

LockMac3

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.

LockMac4

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…

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