Hard Drive Blues

Sorry for the delay in this week’s Mac Tweak. After 3 years of faithful service, the hard drive of my Powerbook G4 12 inch (867) decided to take a “hard dive”. Bethany and I came home from a wonderful breakfast at the Neighborhood Café to find my beloved laptop making a noise similar to a blender. Needless to say, I was in a panic. First off, I couldn’t afford to buy a Mac mini let alone a Powerbook. To make matters worse, The last backup I had was 2 months old. Two months! That is a century in the life of someone like me who uses his computer all day, everyday, for almost everything. It was a disaster.

To make a long story short, thanks to the beauty and generosity of Bethany I now have a new Powerbook G4 12 inch. A machine that will once again serve me for years to come.

Good Apple Related Repair Links

Apple’s Customer Installable Parts:
For the latest software versions:
Networking 101 and access to Unix help:
For direct returns of Apple iPods, iSights and exchanges:
Directions for repairing Apple Base Stations:
For base stations that are well out of warranty:
Apple Software Updates, Manuals & More:
Guess what this site does?:
Step by step iMac Upgrade/Repair instructions:
Links to everything Mac:
History and details of all the Macs since Apple I & Lisa:
Complete list of error codes and troubleshooting:

Monday Mac Tweek #3

It is Valentines Day today. Have you done your shopping for your loved one yet? I have a great girlfriend and I have gotten most of what I wanted to get her for our first Valentines Day together. I still have some shopping to do, but I am at work right now so I can’t. I can’t celebrate this glorious day by spending all day in bed with my sweetie showering her with gifts. Therefore, it is time to give Safari a little love instead.

We will start this off by downloading AcidSearch. AcidSearch, by Pozytron Software, is a free enhancement to the built in Google search field in your Safari toolbar. Install it and you can search a wide iety of sites, including Amazon, eBay, Versiontracker, Dictionary.com and more, right from your Safari toolbar search field. You can even customize it and add your own.

Next, let’s download and run Safari Debugger. This little utility reveals a hidden “Debug” menu in Safari that gives you a host of useful new options. For instance, have you ever been to a site that claims that “Your Browser is not supported”? This happens especially with Bank websites who’s web monkeys think they are smarter than you. With the debug menu you can now change the “User Agent” and make that site think you are on a Windows box using IE. Another cool feature is the ability to export your bookmarks. Therefore, if you ever want to switch to another browser you can take your bookmarks with you.

What was that? You are a Firefox user? Don’t worry, I have love for you too. Here is a way to give you a little more speed. And here is Sage, a fantastic RSS Sidebar Plugin

Monday Mac Tweak #2

Without certain applications and utilities, life on my Mac would not be the same. Here are a few of my favorites:

Konfabulator is a little hard to describe. It bills itself as “anything you want it to be” and that description is not far from the truth. Konfabulator itself is simply a “shell” program into which you can download and install what are called widgets. There are hundreds to choose from. The widgets display on your desktop and each offers a different degree of functionality.

For instance, you can download a widget that gives you the weather. Another can search Google, Amazon or even eBay right from your desktop. Another still will give you a live update of your available system memory. There are clocks, picture frames, RSS news readers and much much more. Because these are developed by a large and active community of independent developers, the possibilities of what these widgets can do seem endless.

LaunchBar by Objective Development is, in my opinion, the fastest way to launch items on your Mac. The way it does this is amazingly simple. LaunchBar runs as an application is triggered by typing Command-Space.You simply type the name or abbreviation (MSW for Microsoft Word for example) for the application, document, file or website you want and, once found in LaunchBar’s super fast list, hit Return to open that item. What’s more is that LaunchBar learns from you so the item that matches what you typed always comes up first.
WindowShade X gives you back a long missed feature of the Classic Mac OS – The ability to reduce any window to just its title bar. The Windowshade feature is handy if you want to get a quick look at something underneath a window without having to move or resize it.

Windowshade X does even more than it’s predecessor though. It also offers a nifty “Minnimize-in-Place”; feature that shrinks windows down to icon size. It’s your choice. Windowshade, Minimize in place or both at the same time.

Steveism: The Missing Manual

OK, so you go out and buy yourself a new, refurbished or used Macintosh Computer. You get your shiny new toy all packed up neatly in that beautifully, well thought out packaging that Apple is so famous for.

As a matter of fact, the way a product is packaged is as important to Apple as the product itself. Steve Jobs has always believed that the Macintosh computer experience should be an elegant, smart and beautiful one. That even extends to the box it comes in. I like to call this a “Steveism”;. It is one of those things that is so much a part of Steve’;s (and thus Apple’s) core philosophy that it speaks on many other levels of life beyond computers. It is one of those things that separates Apple from everyone else.

Another “Steveism”; is one I do not necessarily agree with. You see, Steve Jobs believes that Macs are so simple, they do not need a manual. A general user should just be able to plug it in and use it. As a matter of fact, it is said that he believes that if you included a manual with the product it would scare the “average”; user into thinking that the Mac was too technical. This is the reason that when you open that shinny new toy you will find, at most, a few disks, warranty sheet and a quick set up guide which basically only tells you how to plug the Mac in.

So, where can you get a manual for your shinny new toy? Well from Apple of course! Apple does write manuals for their products. They just don’t include them in the box. You can find manuals for any of Apple’s products here. You can download them in PDF format.

Of course, once you get the manual the next thing you should do is read it or, at the very least, browse thorough it. I am as guilty as anyone for not reading the manual but I find that when I do, it often answers questions or gives fixes to problems that come up. That in turn, will save you time and money in the long run.

Monday Mac Tweak #1

I am often asked about the many tools, tweaks, hacks and interface toys I use on my Mac. See, I am a Mac Tweaker. I am the sort of guy who believes that the most important word in the abbreviation PC is “Personal”. Therefore, for my amusement and that of others, I will post a new Mac Tweak every Monday. Heck, I may even post more or more often if the mood strikes. Today, for instance, I will mention two. Therefore, let us get started.

You Control: Desktops – I hate clutter. I can’t stand having windows on top of windows on on my computer desktop. I like to keep things nice, clean and simple. You Control: Desktops, from You Software, gives you multiple desktops and allows you to switch between them with a single click or key command. If you are familiar with the concept of multiple desktops in the Unix/Linux environment then you already understand the concept. You Control: Desktops takes that concept to all new, Mac only, levels. For those who are not familiar with the concept, the best way is to see it in action.

NewsFire – RSS Feeds with style! NewsFire is my favorite RSS news reader/aggregator for the Mac. Why? Well, first of all, it is very Mac like. Think of iTunes for Blogs. Secondly, it has amazing features like “Smart Feeds” that work like smart playlists in iTunes in that it can gather new items together on specific criteria. Give it a try and you will not regret it.

Original Mac Launch Video

And if you thought trying to get a stream of the MWSF 2005 Keynote was bad. Try getting to the recently unearthed video of the introduction of the original Macintosh. The original site has been Slashdotted to hell since the first post but it can be found at several mirrors including this one.
Insanely great!

Interesting Film Sound Info

Info on the three different digital audio systems in use in movie theaters

• DTS (Digital Theater Systems) has the 6 channels of audio on one or two CD ROMs synchronized to the film, 1.5 megabit bit stream. One channel is reserved for the subwoofer or LFE (low frequency effects) as it is called in the industry. DTS is the best system and uses the least amount of compression. DTS time code is printed between the picture and the analog track.

• SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) has its bit stream printed outside of the sprocket holes. Both sides are identical but are staggered in time. SDDS usually hiccups at splices. It is a 7.1 staggered in time. SDDS usually hiccups at splices. It is a 7.1 channel system, 3 behind the screen, 2 surround channels on the left side of the seating area, and 2 more on the right side. Some theaters fold it down to 5.1, with one left and one right surround. The 0.1 channel is for the subwoofer.

• Dolby Digital is a 5.1 channel system over which there is much controversy due to its very low bit rate of only 320 kilobits/ sec and extreme compression. It uses “bit pooling” so that if only one or two channels are active at a given moment, it or they get most of the bits. But when all 5.1 channels are active you can hear it run into trouble. Dolby Digital bit stream is printed “between” the sprocket holes.

Related Additional Info

• Some movies are analog only, usually in stereo; some also have one of the digital systems on the print, some have two digital systems on them and the big budget movies have all three.
• If a theater has one type of digital equipment but the movie does not have that system, that movie is played in analog. All three digital systems can revert to the analog track in the event of trouble.

• Most theaters that have digital are equipped with DTS because DTS is the least expensive system for a theater owner to install. This is ironic when you consider it is the best system. DTS can also supply CDROMs in different languages. Currently DTS is the only system that can be put on 70 mm film but no movies are released on 70 mm anymore and very few theaters have 70 mm equipment.

• Dolby Digital at the slightly higher bit rate of 384 kb/sec has been selected as the mandatory audio format for digital HDTV. This has caused much controversy. Dolby Digital is also the mandatory audio format for DVD.