Tagged: Mac & OS X

Podcasts: What I’m listening to (part 1)

A few years ago, the TWiT network were about the only people putting out decent tech-related Podcasts. Now though, you have to spend a lot of time going through Podcasts to weed out the bad ones, rather than find the good ones.

I listen to a lot of different types of Podcasts, but for the purpose of this article, I’ll stick with just the tech-related ones. Generally speaking, I prefer shorter podcasts – they feel more relaxing to listen to and less like a chore I must complete.

70 Decibels podcasts

I came across the 70 Decibels network a while ago and have since subscribed to several of their podcasts. They’re very well produced, and cover a decent range of topics.

In particular, I’ve been listening to 11 Minutes, The 512 Podcast, Enough, and CMD+Space.

Many other tech-related podcasts have turned into something you might expect from a political talk show, with two or three people all talking over each other trying to get attention. None of the shows I’ve mentioned above have this problem.

Other shows available on the 70 Decibels network include cooking, freelancing, science fiction and general technology. All the 70 Decibels Podcasts offer an iTunes subscribe feed, as well as an RSS feed to stay up-to-date with newly released shows.


Mac OS Ken is one of my favorite Apple-related podcasts because it’s timely, and typically only 10 to 15 minutes long – perfect for listening to during the work commute or lunch. Ken Ray’s daily podcast includes most stories directly related to Apple, many stories indirectly related to Apple that stand a chance of affecting Apple’s business or its users, and tangentially related stories that are funny. Mac OS Ken has an iTunes and RSS subscription link on the homepage.

Create vector-based halftone and raster patterns with VectorRaster


Vectoraster is a Mac OS X graphics utility for creating vector-based raster patterns and halftones based on bitmap images, an effect that has been popular in illustration and design the last couple of years, but is quite tricky to achieve without the proper tools.

The raster patterns and point shapes can be freely configured to produce many different styles. The resulting rasters can then either be exported as vectors to EPS or PDF files, as images to JPEG, PNG or TIFF, or simply copied into most graphics software.

VectorRaster is $29 ($12 upgrade from previous versions) and a demo is available for download.

OS X and Mac App Store signals the death of desktop customization

Back in the day of Mac OS 7, 8 and 9, Apple didn’t make it too terribly difficult to customize the OS with themes and custom icons. Theming your desktop was so popular that it was nearly its own sub-culture. Theming websites sprout up almost weekly, offering window themes, icons, and other theming items. There were literally thousands of options. But that all changed when Apple released Mac OS X.


Mac OS X was a top-to-bottom change to the system architecture, and theming was infinitely more difficult. It took a long time before creative developers figured out a way to bring customization to OS X. There were themes, if only a few dozen, and of course you could still customize icons. But it was never to the extent that you could in Mac OS 9.

Eventually (I don’t remember if it was OS 10.4 or 10.5), theming became nearly impossible. But when Apple released the Mac App Store, customizing your Mac desktop all but died. Because of the code signing of all apps sold through the Mac App Store, altering files contained in individual apps (such as icons) rendered them either useless, or at the very least prevented you from updating them in the Mac App Store.

Between code signing, recently implemented Sandboxing rules, and the release of OS X Mountain Lion (which prevents theming of the Dock), it’s all but a dead art. If you need any more evidence, Panic Software recently announced they were sunsetting their icon customization tool, CandyBar. For many years, CandyBar was the gold-standard of customizing icons. Thankfully, Panic made CandyBar freely downloadable, and updated it for Mountain Lion. For those like me who used CandyBar for it’s icon collection organizing feature, and the ability to quickly and easily export app icons as PNG images with transparency intact, the fact that it still works is a bit of relief. But it’s future is most decidedly in doubt. It surely won’t be long before it can no longer customize System icons.

It’s sad to see theming and customization fade off into the sunset. But to be honest, Apple has improved the appearance of the OS to the point where even the most avid themed simply preferred the clean look of the standard theme. And right now, you can get an absolutely fantastic icon customizing and organizing app for free.

Recent acquisitions should make you wary of buying new apps

The headline sounds a bit over-the-top, I know. But it sums-up my point best. With Google acquiring Sparrow (the extremely popular email client software for OS X and iOS), and Facebook buying out Acrylic (makers of the popular RSS reader, Pulp), and Instagram, it’s clear that no matter how small or large your favorite app or service is – it’s entirely possible that it will cease to exist at any time.

Software acquisitions

With Instagram, Facebook chose to allow it to live-on for now – but I suspect it will eventually get fully integrated into Facebook’s brand apps. Unfortunately, Google has not been as kind. They’ve made it clear that they have no intention on adding features to it in the future. It’s dead. And while Facebook only hired the developers and not purchased the apps themselves, they’re essentially dead as well.

I’m not suggesting that you should not buy apps from independent developers. They’re what makes the Apple community great. And I absolutely do not blame any developer for selling their company for large sums of money. They worked hard to create a great app or service and they deserve the rewards.

But you should take these recent acquisitions into consideration when you purchase your next app that may be a mission-critical one. Let me give you an example. (more…)

Enlarge OS X Mail and Finder sidebar icons

Sidebar icon sizes

Large, medium and small icon options in OS X’s Mail sidebar

If you’re running OS X Lion on your Mac, you have the ability to enlarge the icons in the sidebar of Mail and the Finder. This is particularly useful for those with less than stellar eyesight, or who simply have large LCD screens and want an easier target to hit when dragging files to or otherwise clicking the icons.

Sidebar icon size preferencesChanging the sidebar icons in Mail is actually not an option if you adjust the size of the Finder’s sidebar icons. Oddly enough, both are controlled in the System Preferences under the General icon. Simply choose the size you wish from the drop-down menu next to the Sidebar Icon Size item and both Mail and the Finder’s sidebar icons will immediately adjust accordingly.

Learn your keyboard shortcuts with CheatSheet for Mac

CheatSheetKnowing and using keyboard shortcuts can save an incredible amount of time over the period of a full work day. Not to mention it doesn’t stop the flow of creativity.

Having used the Mac since the mid 80s, and Adobe Creative Suite apps just as long, my brain is trained to use keyboard shortcuts. I can’t remember the last time I moused up to the menubar for something that has a keyboard shortcut available.

Learning keyboard shortcuts can take a long time, but a clever Swedish developer has created CheatSheet for the Mac OS X 10.7 that displays all the available keyboard shortcuts for the app you’re working in with the click of a button.


Learning keyboard shortcuts is made easy with CheatSheet

CheatSheet is a faceless application. There is no interface, no preferences to set. You simply hold the Command key down and a large white overlay appears which displays all the keyboard shortcuts. CheatSheet runs on Lion only, and is free.

How to make navigating between Safari tabs suck less

Safari Browser

Here's how to make Safari's tab navigation not suck!

With the release of Mac OS X Lion, I switched back to Safari as my main browser. Almost all the extensions I want are available for it, and it’s much less buggy than Google Chrome was beginning to be. But there are a few things that bother me about Safari, one of which is the way you navigate between open tabs.

With every other browser, you can navigate between open tabs by hitting Command + the tab number (#2 would open the second tab from the left, #3 the third, etc.). But with Safari, hitting Command + a number opens the link number of whatever is in your bookmark bar. Handy if you actually have bookmarks in your bookmark bar, but I have nothing but folders. Hitting Command + Shift + } four times to reach the fifth tab from the left is a pain because it requires both hands.

Thankfully, Olivier Poitrey offers SafariTabSwitching, a SIMBL plugin that brings the Command + number feature to Safari. I’ve been using it so long that I actually forgot where I got it from. It’s quite a nice add-on, and I’ve never had a problem using it. The only foreseeable issue is that it is a SIMBL plugin, which Apple doesn’t condone, and could cease to function at any OS update in the future if Apple so chooses – such as OS X Mountain Lion, due later this summer.