Category Archives: Apple

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.

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.

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!

What do I do if my iPhone is Lost or Stolen?

Holy flaming monkey balls! I lost my iPhone! What do I do?

  1. Call AT&T Wireless at 800-331-0500 and use their menu to report a lost or stolen phone.
    This does not protect your data in any way, it only shuts down the ability of your phone to make or receive phone calls. (Your monthly bills will CONTINUE… haha.)
  2. File a police report.
  3. Try not to kick yourself for not following the rest of the instructions in this article…

That SUCKS. What Else Can I Do?

To bring back that lovely word we learned in 8th grade sex-ed: PREVENTION!

Even if you don’t like it…. it’s time to change the security settings on your phone.

  1. Enable Auto-Lock : Settings -> General –> Auto-Lock (must be ON, e.g. 3 minutes)
  2. Enable the Passcode Lock : Settings -> General –> Passcode Lock

    Turn Passcode ON (enter a 4 digit passcode twice)

  3. Require Passcode : set a time interval, e.g. “Immediately”, or “After 15 min.”
  4. Enable the Self Destruct : Erase Data –> ON (Erase all data on this iPhone after 10 failed passcode attempts)

    * Gulp… this one isn’t for the weak of heart. Ideally, all the data on your iPhone is only a copy, right? You’ve synced recently, RIGHT!? Well… there is the possibility that you’ll lose unique data if these feature ever kicks in. There’s also the possibility that some a-hole trickster buddy of yours will finger-mash your phone repeatedly in order to delete everything. No matter if your data is in the hands of nefarious users or deleted by rowdy friends, either way, this is a serious feature.
Passcode Lock Screen on the iPhone
Passcode Lock Screen on the iPhone

And for more privacy….

Turn OFF SMS Preview : Settings -> General –> Passcode Lock –> Turn OFF SMS Preview

* The preview is what displays on your phone when a text message comes in… by default the ENTIRE text and the sender’s name shows up on your screen without you having to unlock the phone. This could be embarrassing if the text is personal (e.g. if you are sleeping with your boss’s wife, and you get a bunch of XXO’s coming in during an important meeting). If you have the SMS Preview disabled, you’ll only see “New Text Message”.

And for the Good Samaritans…

There is a web site dedicated to lost and found iPhones:
www.ifoundyouriphone.com

You can register your serial number on your phone and put a message on your wallpaper where the person who finds your phone can go and contact you to get it properly returned. I encourage everyone to do this. There are a lot of good people out there, and hey, doing this simple step allows those people to be good. If all they got is a random phone that self-destructed its data, then they might just decide to keep it, but if they can look up your name and address, they might try to give it back to you. Think positively.



Taking Screen shots on an iPhone 3G

You can take screenshots of your iPhone by pressing and holding both buttons for about a second.
You can take screenshots of your iPhone by pressing and holding both buttons for about a second.

This is an (un)documented built-in feature on the iPhone 3G (i.e. phones with OS 2.0 or greater). Just prep your phone screen however you want it, then press the round application button and the power/sleep button at the top simultaneously (read: your phone’s only got 2 buttons, press them both). Hold the buttons for about a second, and if your sound is on, then you should get the obligatory shutter sound.

It’s a handy way to take screenshots!

Then the next question… how do get those pictures OFF my phone? Two easy ways: sync your phone (all the screenshots show up in your Photos application, just like anything you take using your camera). Or, view the photo in the Photos app, then email the photo to yourself. But this is a bummer because sometimes I’ve been unable to email the photo (Yahoo and a personal account).

You CAN sync up to any computer… if you plug your phone into any Mac computer, for example, iPhoto should be able to grab photos off your iPhone camera, but you can’t preview the PNG screenshots.

Don't be afraid! iPhoto can't preview PNG files, but you can use Preview to convert them to JPGs
Don't be afraid! iPhoto can't preview PNG files, but you can use Preview to convert them to JPGs

Don’t be afraid if you can’t see your screenshot! iPhoto can’t preview the PNG files, but you can drag them to the desktop and open them using Preview (or similar) to convert the file format.

5 Shortcomings of the iPhone 3G

iPhone
iPhone

Well, since I’m on the topic this week, I thought I’d mention my main grievances with my iPhone 3G.

1. Short battery life. My Motorola Razor could last a couple days without charging… perfect if I ended up crashing at a friend’s house or forgot my charger while traveling. But the iPhone pretty much needs juice every night. Moreover is that it seems inconsistent with its consumption rate. I don’t really understand how and when it’s doing stuff on the sly… like I THINK I turn it off, but it might secretly be gathering whether reports from Cuba or calculating the Shopping Days Until Christmas. (see my earlier rant).

2. Text messages don’t display dates and times on each message. I’m pretty forgetful, so sometimes I want to look back and find out when I texted someone… e.g. “Where were you on the night of the 22nd?” “Uh… I was at home.” “WHEN were you home?” “Oh, I texted my friend at… uh… oh crap…” I can just see someone going to jail for this somehow.

3. Keyboard is Vertical only. The Texting and Mailing apps don’t let you rotate the screen so you can have a WIDE keyboard… they’re stuck upright and cramped.

4. Can’t copy and paste text. Like say I’m surfing the web (cool)… then I want to send that link to a friend… uh… simple, yet impossible.

5. You can’t download stuff from web sites and save them to a file system. Yar. Even if you download them on your computer, it’s a tangled web of work-arounds to get files onto your phone. I’m stuck even trying to get my photo libraries on my phone… I know it’s possible, but I was stumped for about 5 minutes, then moved on to other more important things… like being a consumer whore (har har).

Six Weird iPhone Apps

Apple Mac
As some of you know, I recently got an iPhone 3G. I really like it… such an improvement over my other phone. What really blows me away is the vast array of applications for this device. Seriously. Who the hell is writing these things? Here is my list of strange iPhone apps, in random order.

1. Hello Cow — It’s an app that moos at you. Ok. It’s an improvement on the programmer’s perfunctory “Hello World.”

2. Useless $1000 App — Well… they pulled this one, but some guy made an app that did nothing and he charged $1000 for it. Some rich fools patronized him. Why didn’t I think of that?

3. Call Checker — This “handy” app calculates whether it’s a decent time for you to call someone… it handles times zones and such. It sounds remotely useful until you realize that the built-in clock on the iPhone can easily display times in any city and in any time zone. An improvement would be if the app could sense the mood of the person you were trying to call, e.g. if they were out on a date, asleep, with their OTHER boyfriend, or whatever… THAT would be a cool app. This app, unfortunately, isn’t.

4. iQuit — a program to help you quit smoking. Contains graphic images and in-your-face videos depicting the shocking truths behind nicotine addition. Wow. I hope this helps some people. I’m kinda upset that herds of chemists are out there working to make cigarettes as addictive as possible while some party-people just puff away without realizing how badly they might be damaging their bodies. Then again, a meteor might become crashed into us at any moment, and that would make my pompous commentary rather insignificant.

5. Wide Mail Keyboard — This one is overdue… the keypad for texting and emailing is amazing in theory, but in practice you tend to fat-finger things on an iPhone. Most apps will rotate if you put your phone into landscape position, but not the Text and Mail apps. Yar. This app promises to remedy that omission.

6. How Many Shopping Days Until Christmas? — Finally! An app for consumer whores! Seriously? Please. As a developer, I love that the platform is open, but if you want to open up development, then why not open up the other parts of development? Like product specs and quality control? This is one app that would never see the light of day if there were some sort of reality check in the process.

Well, I could go on, but I won’t. The point is that there is an app out there for just about anything. My favorites? Well, they’re kinda specific to me. I use an ear-training app…. other than that, I mostly stick to the defaults, but I will mention that the technology behind the Midomi app is amazing… you hum a part of a song, and it will tell you what song it is (and it’s pretty accurate, too!). The other app I use a lot (as a composer) is the Recorder… you can simply record stuff. Memos, song ideas, whatever. It’s really useful. You can then email the sound files around.