Thursday, November 25, 2004

Hebrew Macintosh forums

I found the following Hebrew-language resources for Macintosh users (additions welcome):

In addition, there are at least two English-language lisst aside from Isramac:

  • Mac-Support list at Bar-Ilan University (restricted access)
  • Mac-Users list at Bar-Ilan University (unrestricted access, presumably membership limited to Bar-Ilan community)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Screen spanning doctor

Screen spanning is the act of running more than one independent monitor, which can be very nice if you need to preview web sites while coding them, or just need a lot of screen real estate. Powerbooks and G3 and G5 towers all support screen spanning out of the box. iBooks and iMacs have the feature crippled: the video output of these machines mirrors the main screen. This may be great for hooking a machine up to a presentation projector without configuration hassles, but leaves something to be desired for some users.

Screen Spanning Doctor offers a nondestructive way to disable the restriction, on machines with graphics cards that can handle the extra real estate (list of supported machines). It is basically nothing more than a script that sets some options in Open Firmware and resets the machine. I tried it on a 15" flat-panel iMac with a 15" external monitor added: the machine did appear to be less stable after the patch but this may have been coincidental, as its motherboard turned out to be faulty.

Virtual screens/desktops

Many former Unix users have asked me why Mac OS X doesn't have a "multiple desktops" or "virtual screens" feature, i.e. where one can flip back and forth between multiple "virtual desktops" (say, one which has your mail stuff, another in which you program, a third for web browsing,...). Actually, there is one family of commercial programs, as well as two freeware utilities, that allow this.

Codetek Virtual Desktop 2, Virtual Desktop Lite 3, and Virtual Desktop Pro 3 are the commercial offerings: see here for a feature comparison. I was a beta tester for version 1.0 of Virtual Desktop and, having only a 15" screen at the time, thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. I still run CTVD Lite 3 on my laptop, but have less need for it at work with an additional 20" screen. Unregistered versions are limited to two desktop (enough to check out what the code does): registered copies can handle as many as 100. One can flip between virtual screens using a pager (with miniature outlines of windows on each screen), or configure hotkeys: the Pro version allows switching by moving the mouse pointer beyond the screen edges.

Virtue is an open source project that presently stands at version 0.5.1. Unlike the pager-oriented CTVD, mouse-driven switching is the default mode of operation here.

Desktop Manager (interview with developer here) is likewise open source: it can be used with a pager, but its unique approach involves putting icons for the virtual screens in the menu bar. Clearly, this is only usable on wide screens, since on a 12" iBook or Powerbook with some menu extras loaded, there just ain't no room anymore in the menu bar.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Cell phones, iSync, Bluetooth, GPRS

The road warriors among us may be interested in the following possible with present-day technology (as more and more cellular phones have BlueTooth, and simple USB to BlueTooth adapters are available for Macs that don't have it built-in):

  • Syncing the address book/phone number list and iCal appointment calendar between computer and cell phone
  • Internet access via cellular phone

Apple has its own synchronization technology called iSync. The following cellular phone models available in Israel appear on Apple's iSync supported devices list: Sony Ericsson T630, Z600, and Z1010; Nokia 6600. [At the time of writing, Orange offers the T630 and Nokia 6600, Cellcom the Z1010, and the Z600 can be purchased from at least one independent vendor.] Several isramac list members report success with the T630, and a kind colleague of mine at the Technion reported success with the pricier Nokia 6600 as well as demonstrated that his Powerbook could use it as a GPRS modem to access the net. (Drivers and provider settings for various GPRS phones; see also this article.)

One known bug with the T630 (and presumably the Z600) and calendar syncing is that the T630 ignores "all-day" events: as a workaround, assign them times that last all day.

Several other Bluetooth phones available in Israel are not supported (yet) by iCal, but can be synced using third-party software, e.g. Phone Director for the Nokia 6230, or the bare-bones GSM Remote.

Finally, Bluetooth-savvy cell phones can remote-control many functions of your Mac using Salling Clicker.

UPDATE 1: Somebody even posted a modem script for Iridium satellite phones.

UPDATE 2: GPRS Script Generator

Firefox 1.0

Firefox 1.0 is finally out (simultaneously for Windoze 98 and up, Linux, and Mac OS X), and if you're only going to be using one web browser, I guess this would be the one. (You can even download a version with menus and help files in Hebrew, should you be so inclined.)

You may however have noticed that the browser is a bit sluggish on G4 and G5 Macs. That is, not really slow, but not as snappy either as one'd expect from such powerful CPUs. Of course, the official build was compiled for G3 processors, and does not exploit any of the additional capabilities of G4, let alone G5 CPUs.

Here you can download builds optimized for G4 (which will also work on G5, but probably not on G3 machines). ("Aviary" is the codename for the release version.) And here you can find G5 builds. Note that the icons on these builds look different from "official" builds (as required by the Mozilla team). ["Nightly build" junkies can get their fixes at these sites as well: Burning Edge blog details bug fixes and feature additions.]

I have been using the G4 "Aviary" build for about a week now on both my office and home machines, and it is every bit as stable as the original build and noticeably snappier.

Quick searches: It turns out that Firefox has a built-in functionality not unlike Sogudi. One can add keyword searches to the URL bar with very little effort. Essentially any Sogudi shortcut (collection here) will work if you replace '@@@' by '%s'. To add any of the following to your browser, right-click (or ctrl-click) on them, pick "Add bookmark", then select "Quick Searches". This will pick up the name and the URL. You will have to add the keywords manually by means of "Manage Bookmarks" and the "Properties" button there. Suggested keyword appears in left column:

oed Lookup in Oxford English Dictionary (subscription required)
gnews Search in Google News
usd2ils Convert from US Dollar to Shekel
ils2usd Convert from Shekel to US Dollar
phone Example lookup in organizational phone book
wis Example Google on own site
mw Merriam-Webster dictionary lookup
mwt Merriam-Webster thesaurus lookup
wikip Wikipedia lookup
merck Search in Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy
webbook NIST WebBook lookup
scirus SCIRUS Science search engine
scholar Search in Google Scholar
acs Open paper in ACS journal by 9-character code
vt Search VersionTracker
heb Babylon English-Hebrew dictionary
calc Opens expression calculator (knows PI, sin, cos, exp,...)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Cloning junk mail filters

Thought this might be useful for some:

I have iMacs at work and at home, both running OS X 10.3.x. One of them
was trained pretty carefully to filter out junk mail and did so quite well,
the other wouldn't recognize ANY junk mail.

Pawing into ~/Library/Mail, there was one file that I couldn't clearly
identify: ~/Library/Mail/LSMMap2. I Googled the name, and sure enough,
the following story came up:

Briefly, ~/Library/Mail/LSMMap2 is the "brains" of the junk mail
filtering system. To start junk mail retraining from zero, quit, erase the file, and relaunch mail. To copy over rules
"learned" on another computer, copy over that file from said computer
and presto.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Safari Sogudi

For a really neat addition to Safari, have a look at Sogudi. It allows typable shortcuts for various sites and especially searches.

Example: defining the following shortcut as "heb"

and typing "heb feckless" in the URL bar will look up a Hebrew translation for the word

You can make similar shortcuts, where @@@ will be substituted by the 2nd and further words you type in. A Wiki-collection of shortcuts can be found here.

Remote system upgrades via terminal

Mike Bombich (of Carbon Copy Cloner fame) explains how to remotely carry out software updates via an ssh shell login.

  • softwareupdate -l lists all available software updates
  • sudo softwareupdate -i -a downloads and installs all available software. (You may need to do sudo reboot afterwards.)
  • sudo softwareupdate -i NAME-OF-UPDATE1 NAME-OF-UPDATE2 ... installs just that/those particular update(s)

Welcome to the Isramac blog

Welcome to the companion blog of the Isramac Email list. Check back here in the next several days for some solutions to frequently asked questions.