Posts in category apple - page 9

Seven ideas for topping up your iPod

It’s been almost two years since I last blogged on what content I was feeding my iPod so here’s an update on what’s keeping mine fresh.

Music you don’t know the name of

If you get a song in your head you’d like but don’t know what it is then Midomi might be what you are looking for.

The site takes 10 seconds or more of your attempts at singing or humming the track and then tries to match it against the songs it knows about. The catalog isn’t particularly comprehensive right now but it has a reasonable selection of tracks. You can also help it improve results by singing a fragment of a song that it will use for matching providing you don’t mind anyone being able to listen to it.

Educational tracks for free

This May Apple launched iTunes U – a section of the iTunes Store featuring free educational content from various US colleges and universities.

The tracks are mostly unedited and lack polish but some of the content covers everything from philosophy to economics and technology so there should be something to interest you.

Audio books for free

  • Simply Audio-books have a small selection their library available for free as well as a rental club and purchasing options that ship physical media. The download club option is not compatible with the iPod. (Microsoft’s PlaysForSure is worst name ever – it doesn’t play on the iPod or Microsoft’s own Zune)
  • LibriVox use volunteers to record chapters of books available in the public domain and put the completed audio books up in mp3 and ogg formats. The quality of speaker can be variable and the content spans classical literature.

Podcasts for free

The podcast scene just keeps growing but finding what suits you can be tricky. My favorites currently include:

Improve audio quality with iTunes Plus

Apple’s plan to remove digital rights management (DRM) whilst increasing audio quality on iTunes gains momentum with music publishers each day – no doubt enticed on by the increased margin and ability to get an extra few pence or cents from existing owners.

Besides the crisper sound and larger file sizes the other noticeable difference is that iTunes music sharing works with these tracks (Sharing protected AAC involves an authorization landmine).

Head to the Tunes Plus link in the Quick Links box at the top right of the main store page. You should see an option to upgrade your library if any tracks can be upgraded but bear in mind it’s an all-tracks-or-nothing deal that costs £0.20 per track.

Watch your DVDs

Why not take a DVD you like, or better yet one you haven’t yet seen, with you on your iPod Video.

There are a number of tools to help you with the job of copying from DVD into an iPod friendly format but Handbrake is free, cross-platform and easy to use. As a bonus it also includes presets for other portable video devices such as the PlayStation Portable.

Watch YouTube

Why should iPhone owners have all the phone when the iPod Video is perfectly capable of watching YouTube content providing you upload it to your iPod before you set out.

There are many tools to do the download & conversion job but DVDVideoSoft’s one for Windows works quite well. For the Mac the latest 1.9 version of Squared 5 would appear to do the job but I haven’t yet tried it.


Windows Mobile 6 on the HTC TyTN with a Mac

Windows Mobile 6 on the HTC TyTNIt’s been a while coming but HTC have announced Windows Mobile 6 for the TyTN (Hermes, Dopod 838Pro, iMate JASJAM , SoftBank X01HT).

Curiously the update isn’t available on their site yet despite the announcement however the enterprising folks at XDA Developers Forums have made the official HTC versions available for download.

Upgrade process

The Windows-only (crack out Parallels) upgrade process didn’t go too smoothly, perhaps because I’d been running an unofficial pre-release version.

The first two attempts failed despite following the instructions to the letter. On the third attempt I left it on the familiar red-green-blue boot-screen a previous attempt had left it on and just ignored all the on-screen instructions and it flashed just fine.

Sync on the Mac

There is no official Windows Mobile sync software available on the Mac however Missing Sync for Windows Mobile is a capable, if somewhat temperamental, solution.

Version 4 is required for Windows Mobile 6 compatibility and is capable of syncing files, music, notes, bookmarks and photos as well as the expected contacts and calendars.

The initial problem is getting the Bluetooth to start syncing is a bit of a nightmare. The best advice is if it fails to do anything when you try to sync then delete both ends of the Bluetooth pair, reboot the Mac and follow the help instructions again.

Calendar sync problems

Everything was now syncing nicely with the exception of the iCal entries. The log gives the cryptic error:

Mark/Space Calendar Events: NSInvalidArgumentException [ISyncConjunctionFilter shouldApplyRecord:withRecordIdentifier:]: the record should have an entity name, but instead it is {}

Over in iCal I couldn’t find anything looking corrupt but a quick Back up Database… followed by a Restore Database Backup… took care of it.


Hidden menu options on the Mac

Apple tends to hide away unusual functionality in order to keep the user interface easy to use.

Here are a few hidden menu options that magically appear when you press the Shift, Alt or Ctrl modifier keys.

The Apple System Menu

Standard menus

Apple menu

  • Alt > System Profiler… (Leopard only)
  • Alt > Shut Down (with no confirmation)
  • Alt > Restart (with no confirmation)
  • Alt > Log Off (with no confirmation)
  • Shift > Force Quit ? (current application)

File menu

  • Alt > Close All (in some applications)

Edit menu

  • Alt > Deselect All (in some applications)

Window menu

  • Alt > Minimize All
  • Alt > Zoom All
  • Alt > Arrange in Front


Finder menu

  • Alt > Empty Trash (no confirmation)
  • Alt > Secure Empty Trash (no confirmation)

File menu

  • Alt > Always Open With
  • Alt > Show Inspector (like Get Info but changes to reflect whatever you select)
  • Shift > Slideshow (Leopard only)
  • Shift > Add to Favorites
  • Shift > Find by Name… (Leopard only)
  • Ctrl > Open in this Window (Leopard only)
  • Ctrl > Get Summary Info

View menu

  • Alt > Clean Up
  • Alt > Keep Arranged By (Leopard only)

Go menu

  • Ctrl > Enclosing Folder in this Window (Leopard only)


Application running menu

  • Alt > Hide Others
  • Alt > Force Quit


Application menu

  • Alt > Private Browsing (no confirmation)

File menu

  • Alt > Close All Windows
  • Alt > Close Other Tabs

Bookmarks menu

  • Shift > Add Bookmark to Menu


Edit menu

  • Alt > Delete Page (no confirmation)

Insert menu

  • Alt > Custom Footmark…

QuickTime Player

Window menu

  • Alt > Show Movie Info


Photos menu

  • Ctrl > Hide Flagged Photos
  • Ctrl > Move Flagged to Trash
  • Alt > Clear All Flags

Events menu

  • Alt > Merge With Next


Buddies menu

  • Alt > Send Direct Message

Window menu

  • Ctrl > Logout Jabber List


File menu

  • Ctrl > New Empty File
  • Ctrl > Close Project
  • Alt > Open in Separate Editor
  • Alt > Reveal in Finder
  • Alt > Show Inspector
  • Alt > Save All…
  • Alt > Save a Copy As…

View menu

  • Alt > Zoom Editor In Fully
  • Alt > Split View Horizontally

Project menu

  • Shift > Ungroup

Run menu

  • Alt > Step Into Instruction
  • Alt > Step Over Instruction

Find menu

  • Shift > Find Previous
  • Shift > Replace and Find Previous
  • Alt > Find Select Regex in Project (Damn useful!)
  • Alt > Replace All


File menu

  • Alt > Save As…

Bookmarks menu

  • Alt > Open Bookmarks Window
  • Ctrl > Open All Changed Bookmarks

OmniGraffle Pro

Edit menu

  • Alt > Select None

Arrange menu

  • Alt > Bring Forward
  • Alt > Send Backward

Note: OmniGraffle Pro also toggles various toolbar buttons on Alt including lock/unlock and which side the utilities drawer slides out.

OmniOutliner & OmniFocus

View menu

  • Alt > Expand Line Completely
  • Alt > Collapse Line Completely

VMware Fusion

Virtual Machine menu

  • Alt > Start Up Guest
  • Alt > Shut Down Guest
  • Alt > Suspend Guest
  • Alt > Restart Guest


View menu

  • Alt > Show Inspector
  • Alt > Mark All

Window menu

  • Alt > Select Previous Active Panel
  • Alt > Select Next Active Panel


View menu

  • Alt > Reload All Tabs
  • Shift > Force Reload Page

Bookmark menu

  • Shift > Bookmark Current Page
  • Shift > Bookmark Current Tabs as Tab Group

If you like keyboard short cuts you might also want to check out KeyCue which can display all of an applications short cuts on in a single list when you hold down the Apple key including these key-modified options.

Heavy keyboard users may also want to head to the Keyboard & Mouse preferences pane where you can switch on full keyboard navigation allowing you to tab through all controls in a window. It also shows a number of useful key-navigation options you may not be aware of such as pressing CtrlF3 to select an item from the dock.


Getting started with Ruby on Rails on Mac OS X

Choosing your Ruby packages

I have decided to get to grips with Ruby on Rails and get it set-up on my MacBook Pro. There seem to be a variety of options available:

  1. Use Locomotive – an all-in-one standalone developer package
  2. Official sources – configure, compile and install each
  3. MacPorts – package management for free software
  4. Fink – package management for free software

As Scott Stevenson points out this is too many options for a system that is described as Convention over configuration.

As I already use Fink for installing the majority of free software on my Mac I decided I’d go with that. At least until Leopard ships with Ruby on Rails in-the-box.

Preparing Fink

GrinGod gave me a heads-up that we’ll need to turn on the unstable packages to get the gems package and latest version of Ruby. The details are in the Fink FAQ but in summary:

fink configure

And choose the option for unstable trees. Then type:

fink selfupdate
fink index
fink scanpackages

And make sure you have rsync or cvs updating turned on to get the descriptions.

Ruby (via Fink)

Ruby is the language we wish to use and Fink currently supports 1.6 and 1.8 The following commands will install 1.8 for us and the Ruby Gems package management system:

fink install ruby
fink install rubygems-rb18

Rails (via Gem)

Now we need the Rails web framework which will be installed using gem.

gem install rails --include-dependencies

Choosing your web server

There are a number of options available again here including Apache, LightTPD and Mongrel. I wanted to give LightTPD a shot as it is on Fink and less of a beast than Apache. I tried various combinations but even having installed the lighttpd-fastcgi module I couldn’t get the fastcgi gem to do anything but spew errors so Mongrel it is.

Mongrel (via Gem)

Back at that Terminal window type:

sudo gem install mongrel --include-dependencies

Select the mongrel 1.0.1 (ruby) and fastthread 1.0 (ruby) options as prompted.

Testing Ruby, Rails & Mongrel

Again at the Terminal window:

rails mytest

A number of files should be created if Ruby & Rails are working correctly. Now type:

cd mytest

You should see a line stating Starting Mongrel listening at

Open your browser of choice and navigate to http://localhost:3000

Choosing a database

You can go with MySQL, PostgreSQL or SQLite from Fink alone. I went with MySQL for a change.

MySQL 5.0

Whilst Mac OS X Server comes with MySQL the standard edition does not. Rather than use the Fink port I went with the official MySQL 5.0 package primarily to get the preferences pane that allows me to start and stop it as required however it also includes a helpful monitoring widget.

To install download and run the MySQL…x86 package.

Copy MySQL.prefPane to /Library/PreferencePanes and re-open System Preferences. Head into the new MySQL pane and start MySQL up.

MySQL Tools

To manage MySQL and download the Mac OS X version of the GUI management tool.

Run the MySQL Administrator application and connect to localhost on the default port of 3306 with the user name root and a blank password. Don’t forget to change the password by heading over to the Account pane.

Ruby with MySQL

Install the native Ruby to MySQL library to improve db performance by heading back to the Terminal window and executing:

sudo gem install mysql -- --with-mysql-config=/usr/local/mysql/bin/mysql_config

Select the option for mysql 2.7 (ruby)

Testing the database

As MySQL doesn’t include a sample database head into MySQL Administrator and into the Catalogs pane. Create a new database by pressing the + button and giving it the name mytest.

Select mytest from the left then choose Create Table… from the Table Actions drop-down list.

Enter the table name products then use the + button to create the following columns:

Name Type Primary Key? Nullable? Auto Increment?
id INT Y N Y
name VARCHAR(255) N N N

Click Apply, Execute, OK then Close.

Go to the Terminal window and cd into the mytest folder you generated earlier.

Edit the config/database.yml file using nano or TextEdit and change the database name from mytest_development to mytest. You will also need to enter the password here – either for your root account or ideally a special application-specific account you set-up in MySQL Administrator.

Back at the trusty Terminal execute:

script/generate scaffold product

Now open your browser to http://localhost:3000/products/ and try creating, editing and deleting some products.

Next steps

And of course trying to find an editor/IDE that supports Ruby as Xcode certainly doesn’t and TextMate costs money (I’m happy to pay for things when I’m committed to the tech – not before)