Apple – TipsFor.us http://tipsfor.us Tech Tips, Reviews, Tutorials, Occasional Rants Fri, 21 Mar 2014 05:03:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Unlocking the iPhone 3G: is it worth it? http://tipsfor.us/2009/04/23/unlocking-the-iphone-3g-is-it-worth-it/ Thu, 23 Apr 2009 14:00:29 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=859 Continue reading Unlocking the iPhone 3G: is it worth it? ]]> Unlock Me.  I dare you.
Unlock Me. I dare you.

I was going to write an article detailing how to unlock your iPhone 3G, but the process is commonplace now… videos on YouTube and blog instructions abound. I don’t have the guts to try it on my phone — I just don’t have time. Furthermore, I have seen the quirky behavior of my friends’ phones after unlocking them, and well… I’d rather not deal with that stuff. Some of the bad behavior that I’m aware of directly from friends includes the following:

Potential Problems with Unlocked iPhones

  • Phone does not ring unless it is active (i.e. you’re in an application or viewing apps on its “Desktop”). This is REALLY annoying if you’re hypothetically being held against your will in a foreign country and REALLY need to call your friend’s iPhone so she can translate for you.
  • Random loss or corruption of contact data (e.g. all names disappear from address book or showing only numbers)
  • No access to the 3G network (which can effectively kill some of the more useful apps like Google Maps, any Location Services, Safari, etc.)
  • Bricked phones with an Incorrect SIM message stuck on the screen

After some quick searches, I found horror stories of people who actually had to buy new phones after unsuccessfully attempting to unlock their phones. Ouch!

There are commercial software packages available for the task that theoretically are more reliable. At least you’d have someone to call for help after Apple gives you the finger (I mean “the finger” as in the rigid digit pointing towards the notice in the store that says “Don’t hack the phone”).

Commercial Software for Unlocking iPhones

Ultimately, I thought it would be more interesting to put the question to the readers: do you think it’s worth it to unlock your iPhone? What are the benefits? The savings? What things can’t you do with an unlocked phone? Did anything break? What are your stories?

We want to hear from you.

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Getting Ripped DVDs to Your iPhone or iPod http://tipsfor.us/2009/04/21/getting-ripped-dvds-to-your-iphone-or-ipod/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/04/21/getting-ripped-dvds-to-your-iphone-or-ipod/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2009 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1431 Continue reading Getting Ripped DVDs to Your iPhone or iPod ]]> You’ve got movies, and you want to watch them… you just want to watch them on your iPhone or on your iPod. Well, that shouldn’t be a problem… you simply go to Google, search for some kind of tutorial for ripping the DVDs, and then you’ll be on your way… but you didn’t anticipate the stench-filled sewers you would have to crawl through to attain your goal. You didn’t think you’d have to stoop this low to complete your journey. No, I’m not talking about digital rights management… I’m talking about the fact that someone made a tutorial that showed how to rip a DVD… using the putrid footage of Quentin Tarentino’s Kill Bill.

Comment by Brian: Yes, that is our very own TipsFor.us author Everett playing the role of Quentin Tarentino just for this post. Wow.

Some friends of mine have tried to convince me that Kill Bill wasn’t that bad, but *obviously* their minds have been corroded by Hollywood mediocrity. You can watch the original South Park episode I spoofed above, but I’m warning you: Matt and Trey made a horrible omission when they only took down M. Night Shyamalan and Michael Bay and neglected to reign in the sadistic wanker Tarentino. (Thanks to Nick Broomfield and JG Ballard for including Kill Bill in their lists of the worst movies of all time.)

Required Software (and Hardware)

Okay, on to the main event. There are several ways to skin this cat, and there are a lot of how-tos out there, but I wanted to at least mention some of the pitfalls you might encounter for our take on this topic. The instructions here are valid for Mac and Windows computers, but I’ve got more details about the Mac side of things.

You need to 1) crack the copy protection (i.e. rip the DVD), then you need to 2) transcode it into a format that your iPhone or iPod can read. The latter task is the one that is more problematic — the success rate of the transcoding software varies greatly in my experience, so you may have to try out a few methods to get this to work.

  • Handbrake — this is a multi-threaded video transcoder that you can use to encode (not rip) DVDs on your Mac, Windows, or Linux machine. Just keep in mind that it does not strip copy protection, so you’ll have to use some other software for that task when necessary (e.g. Fairmount or Mac the Ripper).
  • iPhone or iPod — uh, you’re clear on the concept of this article, right? You can stop reading the serious stuff and go watch that South Park episode if you don’t actually have a device to transfer the file to.

Ripping DVDs to iTunes: The Simple Process using Handbrake

Handbrake essentially converts the format of the DVD into something that iTunes (and your iPhone) can read. Handbrake doesn’t circumvent any copy protection though! It’s not a ripper!

  1. Put a DVD into your computer. If the DVD player launches, quit it.
  2. Launch the Handbrake application. Be sure that you’ve installed it in the Applications directory… Handbrake can get squirrely if you install it elsewhere.
  3. Open the DVD. From within Handbrake, select the entire DVD (not just the VIDEO_TS or the AUDIO_TS folders… select the entire volume).
  4. Select a File Destination. Where do you want to save the resulting file? It can be large, so choose a drive that has adequate space.
  5. Choose the correct output Preset. If you don’t see the presets drawer, you can hide/show it from the “Window” menu (or press Apple-T). Notice that there are only 3 relevant presets: iPhone / iPod Touch, iPod High-Rez, iPod Low-Rez. Consider your hardware, and choose.
  6. Click Start. Encoding can take a while… if it doesn’t, you may have a problem. If Handbrake says it’s finished after about 2 seconds, then you have to move onto a more complicated solution. Skip ahead to the next section.
  7. Add the File to iTunes. After you’ve got a playable file, add it to iTunes in your normal way… double-click it or drag the file onto the iTunes icon.
  8. Sync your iPhone or iPod. Depending on your settings, your device may sync everything in your library, or you may have to manually sync the playlist containing the movie. As long as you’ve encoded the DVD on your hard disk in an encoding iTunes can read, then you should be able to transfer it to your iPhone or iPod.

Ripping DVDs to iTunes: Circumventing Copy Protection

* My reading of US Copyright law is that you are permitted to make a backup copy of your DVDs… but I’m not a lawyer.
Sometimes Handbrake gets sassy and you get a flippant message saying Put down that cocktail… Your Handbrake encode is done! It should take a few minutes to encode a DVD… something didn’t work if it’s magically “done” in about 2 seconds. Another possibility is that Handbrake just crashes repeatedly. Either way, it’s not fun. (I only had this problem while attempting the encode on OS 10.4). Check out this related article:

FAQ: My DVD won’t Rip

Well… the problem may be that many DVDs have copy protection that Handbrake does not circumvent. It’s not a ripper, remember? It’s an encoder only.

Before you give up on Handbrake, try the process on a Mac running OS 10.5. My strong suspicion is that something in the PPC/older version of Handbrake was causing problems.

If Handbrake is having trouble because of the copy protection, you need to first strip the DVD (or the disk image) of its copy protection. You can do this using several programs such as Mac the Ripper — there are some instructions here, but the solution described there is no longer free. Below is a brief description of how to use Fairmount on OS X — this will strip the copy protection, but you’ll still need something like Handbrake to handle the transcoding. Windows has lots of ways to strip the copy protection as well, such as DVD43.

  1. Use Fairmount (or similar) to decrypt the DVD. This can happen pretty fast… it doesn’t actually import anything, it just decodes it. You’ll see that the DVD icon changes to a standard disk image icon.
  2. Copy the VIDEO_TS files to your hard drive. Now you only need to encode the video files into a format that iTunes (and your iPhone) can read — Handbrake is designed for this transcoding operation (I hope it’s not giving you grief). Instead of transcoding the DVD, you’ll transcode the VIDEO_TS folder that’s now on your hard drive.

The REALLY Simple Process: Buying and Renting DVDs from iTunes

This probably wasn’t why you came to this article, but consider this option: Go to the iTunes Store and just buy the stupid DVD. I know it sucks to pay for it twice, but you can spend a lot of time trying to make this work and at some point, it’s just not worth your time. Downloading is perfectly Ok. You’re not accepting defeat, you’re merely choosing your battles wisely. You can even rent movies on iTunes now. Nice.

Commercial Alternatives

If you are interested, there are other software packages that are perhaps less prone to error than Handbrake, you just have to pay for them. Here’s a list of some commercial alternatives.

Windows users, be sure to also see Brian’s guide to ripping DVDs using FormatFactory for Free.

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Skin Your Mac OS X Leopard with Magnifique http://tipsfor.us/2009/03/01/skin-your-mac-os-x-leopard-with-magnifique/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/03/01/skin-your-mac-os-x-leopard-with-magnifique/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2009 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1913 Continue reading Skin Your Mac OS X Leopard with Magnifique ]]> Tired of the way Mac OS X Leopard looks? No, me neither. Still, if you want a change of scenery, it’s easy to try some new Leopard themes with the Magnifique theme manager.

Magnifique – Main site

To get started, install the Magnifique app (drag and drop). Here’s the main program window:

Magnifique - Main
Magnifique - Main

Themes available for download are shown in the bottom-left corner. There are only about 16 themes available as of this typing, but I expect that number to grow soon. You can get a preview (and download) of the theme just by selecting it.

Once you apply a new theme, you can see its new effects by hitting the Restart Finder and Restart Dock buttons at the top of the app. It’s the same as issuing the killall Finder and killall Dock commands in the Terminal.

One quick note: when applying a new theme, notice that you have a few choices available. Certain themes will allow more choices than others.

Be wary when applying a new theme and choosing the Apply custom mods option (if available). Whether malicious or not, it leaves the most room for the developer to harm your system. Read any and all documentation about that theme before you enable this option!

Some Sample Skins

Here are a few themes that I have tried:

Veritas

A beautiful, streamlined theme that includes skins for Quicktime, VLC, and Adium.

Nothing drastic, but this is my favorite theme that I have tried so far. What can I say? I appreciate elegance.

Veritas comes with a dock mod, custom mods, and a selection of wallpapers.

Black Mac OS X

As the name implies, this is a dark theme for Leopard. I tend to like dark themes in general, but this one is not as satisfying as I thought it would be.

The blue and black clash pretty hard. If you have some custom icon packs, that would definitely help.

I’d love to see a dark skin that fully enshrouds the Finder, erasing all blue elements.

Milk (Leopard Port)

This is a lighter-colored theme modeled after a popular Linux skin.

Like most of the available themes, the changes are subtle, but noticeable. Actually, if I were to offer any complaint about Magnifique, it’s that most of the available themes don’t offer much striking contrast. Hopefully that will change with the addition of more themes.

To remove a theme and get back to normal, just hit the Uninstall theme button. Your original Leopard theme will be quickly restored.

Do you have a favorite Magnifique skin for Leopard? Do you use a different skinning program? Let us know in the comments.

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Traveling Internationally with your iPhone http://tipsfor.us/2009/02/23/traveling-internationally-with-your-iphone/ http://tipsfor.us/2009/02/23/traveling-internationally-with-your-iphone/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2009 13:00:35 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1875 Continue reading Traveling Internationally with your iPhone ]]> I’m planning on doing some international travel soon, and I’ve been wondering whether or not I should take my iPhone with me. I had a lot of questions about how international travel works with my trusty phone, and ultimately, in my case, I concluded it was just too expensive to travel with my iPhone. Read on to learn what I found out.

Traveling the World with your iPhone
Traveling the World with your iPhone

Does calling US numbers while abroad incur international roaming fees?

YES. And it ain’t cheap. You’re looking at fees around $2 per minute in most countries. You can check AT&T’s site and use their widget to see how much a particular country will cost. Just in case you’re bad at math, let me give you this reality check:HOLY !@#$%^ THAT’S EXPENSIVE!!! $2/minute is $120/hour! Unless you’re a lawyer or surgeon, you’ll go out of business calling your clients while overseas!

How much does it cost to use your iPhone internationally?
How much does it cost to use your iPhone internationally?

Does calling local numbers in that foreign country incur international roaming fees?

YES. ANY calls you make in a foreign country are subject to international roaming charges. Gulp!

The rates change periodically, but here’s an idea of what you might be spending:

Country Cost per Min. Cost per Min.
using AT&T World Traveler
($5.99 / month)
Thailand $1.99 $1.29
Japan $2.29 $1.69
Germany $1.29 $0.99

* Source of data: http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/international/roaming/international-roaming.jsp prices change.

How much does it cost to access Data with my iPhone?

About $20 per MB. If you recall from earlier articles, the iPhone has a lot of extra features that will drain your battery, but while traveling they could drain your wallet too! If you are paying international rates for data usage, YOU WILL PAY THROUGH THE NOSE!!!.

International Data Plans

20MB $24.99
50MB $59.99
100MB $119.99
200MB $199.99

You may wonder “how much data do I use?” You can see for yourself: on your iPhone, go to Settings → General → Usage. You’ll want to reset the statistics and monitor your usage for a week or so, but you may be surprised by how much data you use. I was using about 40MB in a couple weeks… if I had been traveling internationally, this would have cost me $20 per MB, or $800. Holy flaming monkey balls!

Data Usage on iPhone: You may be using more than you think
Data Usage on iPhone: You may be using more than you think

How will my Calls be Handled while I’m Traveling?

Normally. If you take your phone with you, it’ll ring like normal (but you’ll pay for answering it). If you turn it off and leave it at home, calls will go directly to voicemail.

My strong suggestion is to turn the phone off and leave it at home — it’s safer there anyway.

How can I check my iPhone’s Voicemail while Traveling?

To check your voicemail, simply call your phone, then interrupt the greeting by pressing * — the default password is your 7 digit mobile number (i.e. your number without area code), and you should set up a unique passcode for it as soon as possible. Call AT&T to have the password reset: 1-800-331-0500.

Alternatively, you can forward incoming phone calls to another phone number, e.g. to a friend or relative or to an answering service (you can’t forward calls to toll-free numbers, suspended numbers, or to international numbers). You set up forwarding by calling AT&T at 1-800-331-0500; they set up forwarding for you IMMEDIATELY; there’s no way to schedule forwarding to begin next week, for example, and the only way to stop forwarding is to call AT&T again. There is no fee for this service.

How are my Texts handled if my Phone is Off?

Normally (probably). Normally, the texts just queue up, and when you turn your phone back on, they all come streaming in, BUT THIS IS NOT GUARANTEED, and it’s even “less guaranteed” if your phone is inactive for long periods of time. In fact, texts in general are not guaranteed. Just like email, texting is an unverifiable protocol. Don’t bank on it. There is no external way to access your text messages; you must access them using your phone, so I hope you’re not expecting any important texts.

Can I get a new SIM card once I’m in a foreign country?

NO, not with an iPhone. On most phones, you can request from AT&T the “subsidy unlock code”; it releases the phone and enables it to be used in another network by another carrier with a new SIM (it unlocks the phone). For most phones, you can request this code in the United States BEFORE YOU TRAVEL. But you can’t get this code for iPhones! That’s the whole weird restriction that iPhones must be on the AT&T network, remember? The only reason you’d want to unlock a phone is if you needed to take THAT particular phone with you. For most of us travelers, we just need ANY phone, so doing this is rare.

If you decide to unlock your phone for international use, you are essentially flying off of AT&T’s radar because you start dealing with another carrier. And, to complicate matters, iPhones don’t like to be unlocked… you have to crack the phone, which is just one more complication that you’d have to deal with while traveling. Keep in mind that unlocked iPhones have quirky and unreliable behavior (e.g. they don’t always ring, the contacts disappear, etc.).

Can I take my SIM card with me and use a different phone?

YES, but this is a bad idea.. You get the worst of both worlds: you leave your nice iPhone at home, but you still pay those high roaming prices. The only valid reason I can think of for doing this is if you MUST have your phone number working at all times for a VERY important call (or maybe your company is paying your phone bill).

If you’ve got another travel-ready phone, or you can buy a cheap phone from AT&T for $39.99 (e.g. Nokia 2600) that will work in most countries (but again, if you are doing this all through the “proper channels”, you’ll still be paying the hefty international roaming charges). Check to see if your phone will work in the countries you’ll be traveling to. AT&T has a handy widget to help you. head over AT&T’s site, and under the “Getting Started” section, click on the “wireless device link” and build an itinerary of countries you’ll be visiting, then choose a phone, and you’ll get a list of whether or not it’ll work in those countries. Or call 1-800-331-0500 and ask for assistance.

Will my Phone work in that Country?  Check AT&T's handy widget.
Will my Phone work in that Country? Check AT&T's handy widget.

Recommendations

Leave your phone at home! Unless you’re in some really special circumstances, it’s not worth the money or risk to travel with your iPhone.

Buy a calling card once you are abroad. It’s cheap to use them to call the US… perhaps 5 or 10 cents per minute for some countries. They’re cheap!

If you NEED a phone, buy a cheap phone once you’re in the destination country. Realize that it may only work in that one country, and as soon as you cross a border, it may break or incur roaming charges. Alternatively, check AT&T’s site and find a phone that will work in the countries where you are traveling (or call 1-800-331-0500 to ask for assistance), then buy a cheap used phone before you leave the US (e.g. Craigslist) that will work in those countries and get a SIM and a calling plan once you get there. You can then use a calling card to call back to the United States.

Make sure you can check your voicemail on your iPhone using another phone! Don’t wait until you’re thousands of miles away to discover there’s a problem with accessing your voicemail remotely.

Talk with AT&T to turn off additional features of your account. Why pay for unlimited texting if you won’t be using your phone? Turn off additional “plan-perks” before you go and save some money if you can. This may only be possible if you’re traveling for a long time and/or your trip coincides nicely with your billing cycles.

Tips for Stubborn People who Must Travel with their iPhone

Get the AT&T World Traveler option. With the astronomical rates for international roaming, it’ll pay for itself with a single call.

Get an international data usage plan! Otherwise, you’ll pay about $20 per megabyte, and remember: your iPhone likes to check weather reports in Cuba and gather Tokyo stock quotes behind your back, so this gets expensive quickly.

Turn off all unnecessary services: Data Roaming “OFF”, 3G Off, Fetch New Data: Off.

Watch your Phone! Cell phones make great targets for thieves, and they are difficult to insure! Be sure to read our article about what to do if your iPhone is lost or stolen.

Safe travels!

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Printing in OS X: Parallel Ports, Drivers, and Mayem http://tipsfor.us/2008/12/30/printing-in-os-x-parallel-ports-drivers-and-mayem/ Tue, 30 Dec 2008 13:00:11 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=911 Continue reading Printing in OS X: Parallel Ports, Drivers, and Mayem ]]> Don't Buy One of These! They Don't Work!
Don

This is a quick tip. In a word, do not buy the USB to Parallel conversion cables. They SOMETIMES work, which is worse than not working, because then you start believing that they might work, but when it comes time to print something serious (like a 100 page document), you will go insane… you’ll print 3 pages, then the print queue will jam, you’ll have to reset it, and it will take 4 or 5 minutes to get the next 3 pages into the queue, then it will jam again, and again and again. It’s nuts. You will have wasted $10 or $20 bucks and you won’t be able to print anything reliably.

Using Parallel Printers with OS X

So how do you use a parallel printer with an OS X computer? Macs haven’t had parallel ports on them for years, but there are still plenty of printers out there that do. Here’s my hot tip: get a dedicated print server and hook this into your network. This works, it works well, AND it’s scalable. If you get another USB printer, this option will cover you. If you have multiple computers in your house that need to share a printer, boom, you’re in luck.

This guy is a good friend to OS X
This little guy is a good friend to OS X

I recommend the
TRENDnet TEW-P21G
($110) because I’ve been using it for about 2 years and I haven’t had any problems with it. I simply plugged it into my router, plugged in the printer, and poof… OS X was able to find it. I’m not using the wireless option on this device, but it is there if I ever need it — if you don’t need the wireless option, TRENDnet has cheaper models. It has two USB 2.0 and one Parallel printer port. I’m sure there are other similar products out there, but the point is to let this little “computer” handle the printing instead of trying to make OS X do the difficult (?) job of translating printing to a parallel port. Check out a print server like this if you need to interface with a parallel port printer on OS X. It’s well worth the money.

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Changing your iPhone’s Battery and 10 tips for Longer Battery Life http://tipsfor.us/2008/12/28/changing-your-iphones-battery-and-10-tips-for-longer-battery-life/ http://tipsfor.us/2008/12/28/changing-your-iphones-battery-and-10-tips-for-longer-battery-life/#comments Sun, 28 Dec 2008 22:32:27 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1512 Continue reading Changing your iPhone’s Battery and 10 tips for Longer Battery Life ]]> iPhone
iPhone

I mentioned in a previous post that the iPhone’s battery needs more attention than simpler phones. And you can’t change the battery yourself! That thing is soldered into place… so unless you are REALLY good with a soldering iron or if you don’t care much about the very real possibility of frying your phone, then changing the batter requires a trip to the Apple store.

Changing your iPhone Battery

Take the phone to an Apple store. The charge for replacing the battery is $79 plus shipping and handling, and just like a laptop repair, it usually takes 3 days. The store can loan you a phone for a fee.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND TRYING TO REPLACE THE BATTERY YOURSELF. If you were looking for a DIY article, then let me try to talk some sense into you. This is a DELICATE device. It was not soldered by a human… it was soldered together with very precise robotic machinery. Don’t kid yourself… you are much more likely to kill your phone than you are to successfully replace the battery.

If you are concerned about battery life, there are a couple products available that can extend or augment battery life, e.g. Backup iPhone Battery, Juice Pack, or check out the recommendations below.

10 Tips for Extending your iPhone’s Battery Life

  1. Lock It — Just turn off the display.
  2. Turn Off Bluetooth — If you don’t have any Bluetooth devices (or if you aren’t using any), disable this in the Settings.
  3. Disable Wi-Fi — This isn’t as much of an energy saver as Airplane Mode, but if you don’t need to join any networks (e.g. if there aren’t any or if you’re happy using the 3G network), then just turn off the Wi-Fi searching under Settings –> Wi-Fi
  4. Turn on Airplane Mode — yes, you can do this on the ground, and it basically makes your iPhone into an iPod… you can’t use the internet or BlueTooth and you can’t make or receive calls. But it really extends the battery life.
  5. Turn off Location Services — Settings –> General. Some applications (like Locly) use your phone’s current location to do stuff, but your battery pays the price when you’re phone is repeatedly asking the world “Where am I?”
  6. Turn Off 3G — If you’re traveling where you’re only ever seeing the Edge network (the tiny E in your status bar), then you can probably loose the 3G functionality. Go to Settings –> General –> Network
  7. Turn off Sound Check and EQ— sound enhancement requires more processing and often more amplification. I also recommend using small earphones (e.g. the white earbuds) because they require less power than a big set of headphones. Yes, louder volume drains the batter faster, so keep the volume down. Settings –> iPod
  8. Fetch Mail Less Often — Settings –> Fetch New Data. Try checking email manually (i.e. when you launch the application).
  9. Store it at Room Temperature — don’t subject your phone (and its battery) to extreme temperatures. The basic rule of thumb is that it’ll be comfortable where you are comfortable, so don’t leave it in a hot car or in a freezer. Extremes will shorten the battery life.
  10. Plug it In — Yes, the iPhone works perfectly when it’s plugged in. It’s good to take it out and use it now and then to make sure the battery gets its exercise, though.
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10 Great OS X Applications for the Web Developer http://tipsfor.us/2008/12/20/10-great-os-x-applications-for-the-web-developer/ http://tipsfor.us/2008/12/20/10-great-os-x-applications-for-the-web-developer/#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2008 07:00:15 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1369 Continue reading 10 Great OS X Applications for the Web Developer ]]> One of the things I think of every single working day is how great a platform OS X is for software development. Now, take that with a grain of salt… I do development in a LAMP dev shop running Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/PHP, but we’re running some enormous sites (LowFares.com, IdentityTheft.com, and Low.com). All of those technologies are open-source, and (in my opinion) very well suited for serious commercial sites. Java is fine if you need to send a man to the moon, but it you just need to say “Hello World!”, you’re still might be dealing with a rocket launch…

Peanut Gallery Java Pot-Shots

.NET isn’t any better… every .NET shop I’ve dealt with has had horrible down-times and massive release delays… but I digress…

Why is OS X Awesome for Software Development?

  1. Exposé — this feature saves me 30 to 45 minutes per day (yes, I’ve timed it). It’s unbelievable how much time you can save if you can quickly get between documents and apps.
  2. The BSD Subsystem — if you’re working with Linux/PHP/Perl/MySQL, it saves so much time to have OS X’s Terminal right there with a Unix variant under its hood. No need to emulate with Cygwin or go remote with Putty. You can test your Apache config or database queries without ever having to connect to the network.
  3. My Mac Runs Windows! — I can test my web pages in all major browsers by flipping between OS X and Parallels Desktop running Windows, or by using VirtualBox.
  4. It’s Not Windows — ha ha… I had to slip that one in. Sorry if you’re suffering through XP. I mean Vista. I mean the NT kernel.

Top 10 Applications for Software Developers on OS X

Ok, on to the main event. Here are ten great applications for a software developer working in OS X. These are the applications that have found an integral place in my workflow. Not all of them are free, but I have tried to list a free alternative when appropriate. I’m not recommending you get ALL of these, but depending on what exactly you’re doing, you might want to try out a handful of them.

iTerm: A Better Terminal

1. iTerm (Free)

Link – iTerm

This is to the command line what Firefox is to browsers: if the Terminal is IE, iTerm is like Firefox. It is simply a better Terminal. It allows tabs and bookmarks for those of you who log into multiple servers.

TextMate: a powerful interface and editor2. TextMate ($57)

Link –TextMate

I do like Smultron a lot (it’s free), but TextMate’s interface is preferable to me. It’s similar to a full-featured IDE such as Eclipse (which is also free) because it gives you a full folder-structure view in its document drawer (something that Smultron or TextWranger do not).

One thing – unlike Eclipse, TextMate is lightweight and fast without ump-teen Preference pages. If you need an IDE, give NetBeans (free) a try.

Transmit: a Powerful FTP/SFTP client with a great interface3. Transmit ($30)

Link –Transmit

Although there are free FTP clients out there, Transmit has one of the best interfaces because it incorporates Mac OS X’s column view. To be fair, I have had some problems connecting to certain servers when using Transmit, but I don’t know enough of the firewall internals to know why one client performed better than another.

If you prefer a free alternative, my recommendation is Cyberduck (free).

Sequel Pro is the sequel to CocoaMySQL4. Sequel Pro (Free)

Link –Sequel Pro (Free)

There are only a couple of choices when it comes to GUI MySQL interfaces for OS X, the other big one being Navicat (they have a lite version that’s free). The other popular choice for a long time was CocoaMySQL, which is still available for 10.4 users, but development on it has been abandoned and the project has moved over to Sequel Pro (the sequel… get it?) Sequel Pro offers an improved interface for 10.5 users (I prefer it to Navicat).

OmniGraffle: graphing, flowcharts, and designs5. Omnigraffle (Bundled with OS X, or $100, or $200 – Pro)

Link – OmniGraffle

Imagine Microsoft Visio, but clean and not bloated and well… not Microsoft. If you have to diagram databases or put together product requirements for documentation, this is a beautiful little product that may have come bundled with your Mac. The Standard version can almost get you through the medium and large projects. I haven’t seen anything on the Mac that comes close to what this application offers, and even though I get the feeling that the high price tag is getting validated by riding Visio’s bandwagon, I still think this is a good bit of software.

6. PhotoDrop (Free)

Link – PhotoDrop

This is a very simple app that lets you create droplets for bulk image processing. Each droplet can do things like convert images between formats, perform scaling and cropping, even watermarking. If you are doing web development, this is just a simple (and much cheaper) alternative to running Photoshop’s Save for Web feature over and over and over again. Very, very handy.

unArchiver: never type a weird command-line un-tar statement again.7. The Unarchiver (Free)

Link – The Unarchiver

This is handy if you’re frequently dealing with Zip, Tar, GZip, BZip2, Rar, 7-zip, LhA, and StuffIt files. Yes, you can handle many of these on the command line, but if you’d rather deal with a GUI, this tool is handy.

8. Nvu (Free)

Link – Nvu

This is a complete Web Authoring System for Linux, Windows and OS X. It’s like a free version of Dreamweaver (which maybe you’ve already outgrown?).

It has good support for style sheets and a Javascript console, but one irk is that the tabs that show multiple open documents seem to disappear if you are viewing the HTML source for the document (instead of the “Normal” WYSIWYG view). If you’re beyond the integrated WYSIWYG type of thing, have a good look at Eclipse (Free)… it’s a big framework that does a lot of things, but a number of web developers I know use it for its convenient browsing and previewing capabilities. Eclipse also integrates with versioning software (like SVN), but because it’s heavy-hitting, I only recommend it for more mature users. NetBeans looks to be a lighter alternative to Eclipse, but I haven’t tried it myself.

9. Seashore (Free)

Link – Seashore

This is a lightweight photo-editing application. It’s got all the things in Photoshop that I use frequently (layers, brushes, and exporting for web). It’s got some handy keyboard short-cuts, but it’s missing others.

SuperDuper: Elegant and Powerful Backups10. SuperDuper! (Shareware, $28)

Link – SuperDuper!

This is a popular backup utility. If you’re serious about doing development work, you know there is a lot of effort put into maintaining your valuable code and prior versions of it. You can use SuperDuper to create bootable clones of a drive, too. Hot stuff.

You can use SuperDuper! for free (forever), but the advanced features are available for a $28 fee.


Honorable Mention: Fluid (Free)

I mention this little app because I’ve found it extremely handy over the past couple days. If you compile a site into its own app, you can take advantage of the built-in Apple-tab shortcut to get to it. Another really helpful thing about working within the application-switching workflow is that you can assign the application(s) its own icon. That’s REALLY helpful when you’re working with a dev and a production version of a site… honestly, those simple little things can prevent disaster.

But the real reason I was compelled to mention Fluid is its inspector. It breaks a page down into the html tags, images, and style sheets ridiculously well. In my opinion, the layout of this program is sickly good… IMHO it’s better than the revered debugging plugin Firebug for Firefox. Wow. Yes, really. I’ve never had an easier time tracking down problematic HTML or a goofed up CSS declaration. However, the Fluid-compiled web site seems to have some weird behavior with its caching… you know the drill: make your edits, clear the cache, refresh the page. But sometimes the Fluid version doesn’t refresh correctly. I don’t know if this is something I can configure or if its an artifact of compilation, but I really hope it’s the former. The DOM inspector is just too slick to overlook. For more information, check out Brian’s post about Fluid.

Summary

I hope you’ve benefited from my sharing of this short list. I don’t recommend that you rush out to get all of these programs: some of them may be more relevant than others. If you think one looks interesting or practical, give it a try and see if you like it. Feel free to post your own suggestions about helpful OS X applications for software and web development.

Feature image credit: Guillermo Esteves
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Create Your Own Desktop Webapps with Fluid (Mac OS X) http://tipsfor.us/2008/12/05/create-your-own-desktop-webapps-with-fluid-mac-os-x/ http://tipsfor.us/2008/12/05/create-your-own-desktop-webapps-with-fluid-mac-os-x/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2008 13:00:47 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1154 Continue reading Create Your Own Desktop Webapps with Fluid (Mac OS X) ]]> This is neat. How would you like the ability to create your own standalone webapps on your Mac OS X desktop? In other words, what if you could turn any website into a Mac desktop application?

Fluid can do just that.

Download Fluid – requires OS 10.5 or later

In seconds, Fluid can take a given website – such as Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook, eBay, YouTube, or whatever you want – and package it into its own Site Specific Browser (SSB). The SSBs can then run as complete and independent Cocoa applications, complete with their own dock icons and menu bars! Fluid SSBs are based on Safari’s WebKit rendering engine.

Creating the Application

Creating your own SSB is simple: just launch Fluid and fill in the URL and the name of the App you wish to create.

Choose a place to save your new App (defaults to Applications). If you wish to attach a picture for the Dock icon, you may do so. Otherwise, Fluid will grab the site’s favicon.

Note: two good places to hunt for Fluid App icons are here and here.

Here is my new Gmail SSB. Notice the application name and the custom icon in the Dock.

That’s all there is to it. In this example, Gmail runs as its own self-contained browser App on my desktop. Pretty slick.

Run as a Menu Item

With a few extra clicks, you can turn any Fluid App into a Menu item. Just look under the Application name in the menu and click on Convert to MenuExtra SSB.

The App will disappear from the Dock and relaunch as a Menu item.

Because Fluid Apps are based on WebKit, you can even browse sites using Cover Flow. Neat!

Fluid may seem like a novelty, but if there is a website that you tend to leave open most of the time, Fluid can come in handy. Because it’s self-contained, you don’t have to worry about a random browser crash taking down all your open sites.

Speaking of novelty, here’s a link where you can download your very own TipsFor.us desktop application! Yes, that’s right, it will undoubtedly be your least-commonly used Fluid app, perhaps used once before it’s relegated to its rightful place in the Trash!

Fluid itself requires Mac OS 10.5 or greater, but I see no reason why the Apps it creates won’t run on 10.4 or earlier. I’ve upgraded to 10.5, but if someone could verify or disprove me by testing that TipsFor.us App in the above paragraph, I would appreciate it.

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iAntiVirus for Mac (Free) – Worth Using? http://tipsfor.us/2008/12/04/iantivirus-for-mac-free-worth-using/ http://tipsfor.us/2008/12/04/iantivirus-for-mac-free-worth-using/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2008 13:00:45 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1124 Continue reading iAntiVirus for Mac (Free) – Worth Using? ]]> There has been quite a bit of fuss in the news recently about whether or not Apple recommends anti-virus software for Macs.

My take: I’m not a fanboy of any sort. I am comfortable with multiple operating systems, and I simply prefer to use whatever tool I deem best for any given job. That said, no one can argue that the overwhelming majority of malware writers target the Windows operating system. I also doubt that anyone can convincingly argue that every single Mac needs anti-virus software. Mac OS X is inherently tougher for malware writers to penetrate, but no operating system is perfect. I agree that the best defense against malware is common sense, but lots of people are gullible, and social engineering will find ways around users’ better judgment (or the lack thereof).

As a lover of free software, I choose to run (free) anti-virus software on the Windows-based computers that I manage. I also choose to run anti-virus software on my Mac.

That brings us to iAntiVirus. Many Mac users already know about ClamXav, but iAntiVirus is the other free antivirus product for Mac OS X.

iAntiVirus is developed by PC Tools, the same creators of Spyware Doctor and the AntiVirus Free Edition for Windows (see my review of an earlier version).

First of all, iAntiVirus is indeed FREE (for home and home office use), though it is currently labeled erroneously as shareware on MacUpdate. Just like many free anti-virus products in the Windows world, there is a paid upgrade available that allows for business/commercial usage plus 24/7 support. Otherwise, there is no difference between the free and paid versions.

Requirements: iAntivirus requires an Intel-based Mac running 10.5 or later.

Usage

The main program window of iAntiVirus has a simple elegance to it.

Clicking the Scan my Mac button offers three different scan types: Quick, Normal, and Custom.

Updating

Like any anti-virus program worth its salt, iAntiVirus offers automatic updates. If you want to manually check for definition updates, just click the Smart Update button in the top-right corner.

In the program preferences, you can also set a schedule for both updating and scanning.

Footprint and Scanning

Running a Quick scan on my first-generation Macbook took only 12 minutes. A Normal scan took substantially longer – over two hours. As expected, neither scan detected any infections.

Fortunately, iAntiVirus is very light on resources. Activity Monitor reports that iAntivirus only uses about 10 MB of RAM while silently monitoring in the background. Not bad at all. On my machine, the Finder occupies about 19 MB, while the Dock alone uses just over 6 MB. As I type this, Firefox is consuming about 146 MB. Geez.

During a Normal scan, memory usage crept up to 19.4 MB. Still quite acceptable.

Types of Protection

iAntiVirus offers real-time protection against viruses and other malware.

This is important: iAntiVirus only scans for Mac-specific malware. It does NOT detect any infections specific to Windows. This is both good and bad: It’s GOOD because the program has no need to bloat itself with tons of Windows-specific definitions. It’s BAD because it eliminated one of the main arguments for running anti-virus software on a Mac: to avoid passing on infections to unsuspecting Windows users.

My take: I’m fine with the Mac-specific nature of iAntiVirus. I will gladly accept more system resources on my Mac. Let the Windows anti-virus programs do their job.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I only have two complaints:

  1. You cannot access the program preferences while a scan is running.
  2. I’m having trouble finding any Mac-specific malware. I’m not kidding! I want to test this program.

So, is iAntiVirus worth using? In my opinion, yes. Do you need it right now for fear that you will fall victim to a malware attack? Probably not. But considering that it’s free and uses very few system resources, I see little reason NOT to use it. Despite what many Apple apologists might think, Mac OS X is not infallible, and I welcome another free anti-virus program to the Mac.

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Bulk Image Processing: How to shrink a bunch of images using iPhoto on OS X http://tipsfor.us/2008/12/01/bulk-image-processing-how-to-shrink-a-bunch-of-images-using-iphoto-on-os-x/ Mon, 01 Dec 2008 19:42:49 +0000 http://www.tipsfor.us/?p=1100 Continue reading Bulk Image Processing: How to shrink a bunch of images using iPhoto on OS X ]]> Here’s a real quick tip. Let’s pretend that you took a bunch of nice big photos with your nice digital camera. But your friend wants copies… and you can’t email them because the files are huge! How do you shrink down hundreds of images quickly? Let iPhoto and Mail help…

See the video for this tip in action, or follow these simple steps:

1. Open iPhoto and highlight the images you want
2. Choose to Mail the photos by clicking the Mail icon at the bottom of iPhoto.
3. Choose the size that you want for your new images.
4. When the new Mail message opens up, you could actually send the message at this point (assuming that Mail is configured correctly to send and receive messages), OR you can select all, then drag the message contents over into a desktop folder.
5. You can zip up the contents of the Desktop folder and be done!

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