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Sep 20, 2009

MacBook Pro Triple Boot With Arch Linux, XP and OS X

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We just hired some new people at Six Feet Up which means we had to buy new laptops. Every once in a while I will assert my seniority and upgrade to the latest and greatest Apple hardware and pass mine on down the line. This time around the hardware I couldn't resist was the unibody MacBook Pro. I love the look and the feel of it. I had been putting off re-installing and upgrading the hard drive in my old MBP for a while. Procrastination pays off again! Installing the 320GB drive in the unibody MBP took all of fifteen minutes.

The reason for the HD upgrade was two-fold, one was a slight bump in performance (7200 RPM) and the other was obviously storage size. Recently I have become less impressed with OS X as a development platform and have been wanting to try another OS. We have a few people at the office that are running Arch Linux and our summer intern showed me some pretty cool features of the OS. I liked the Arch philosophy and it looked like a good candidate for a dev platform.

Now this is where the 320GB HD comes in handy :)

The Triple Threat

I had seen my fellow colleagues dual booting into OS X and Arch Linux. They were using reFit as a boot loader and I was pretty impressed with the set up. Having been a long time Parallels user, I also remembered that it could take a bootcamp partition and use it as a VM in OS X. Thus the dream was born, the triple boot: OS X, Arch Linux and Windows XP.

Having just received a copy of Snow Leopard I decided it was finally time to re-install and give my OS X installation a breath of fresh air. So first things first, I created a clone of my drive with Carbon Copy Cloner and proceeded to google around a bit to find some hints on how to install all three OSes on my MBP.

I ended up using several different sources to get started. First was a blog entry that covered the most of the information that I needed. Of course it was aimed at using Vista and Ubuntu so I had to interpret it slightly. Looking back at it, there is still one thing I need to do, set up a swap file.

Update: I found a nice how-to about how to set up swap space on linux (quite old but still relevant it seems). Here is the gist of what I ended up doing:

$ sudo mkdir /work
## make a 1GB swapfile
$ sudo dd bs=1024 count=1M if=/dev/zero of=/work/swapfile.1
$ sudo mkswap /work/swapfile.1
$ sudo swapon /work/swapfile.1

Then add the entry at the end of your /etc/fstab so that it gets created on boot.

$ sudo vim /etc/fstab
## here is the swap file entry
/work/swapfile.1 none swap pri=5,defaults 0 0

You can add more swap as needed by adding more swapfile.n files. I had to go in later and add a total of 6GB (double my RAM). end update

Second I used the AchWiki page dedicated to the MacBook to setup the Arch Linux side of things. The ArchWiki is quite impressive and is loaded with useful information. Sometimes you have to use several pages to really figure out what is going on, but overall it's pretty concise. One handy tip was to change the UID and GID of your OS X account before using it so you can line it up with the same IDs in Arch Linux, thus making sharing home directories easier. One extra step that was needed was to create a new 'group' in the 'Accounts' preference pane in OS X so that my group showed up with a name and not just a GID.

Live and Learn

I learned a few valuable lessons while installing everything. The first lesson was realizing I should have read the bootcamp docs before I started. There is some helpful info in there including the fact that you have to use XP SP2 or higher to install. All I had lying around was an original XP Pro install disc. I attempted the first install with that disc and ended up nuking my OS X install since only one partition was showing. Common sense should have prevailed here, but I was in a hurry. A download of SP3 and a re-install of OS X later and I was back on track.


The biggest pain I had while installing the three OSes was accidentally installing GRUB directly onto /dev/sda. Both the tutorials I was using told me NOT to do this, but apparently I was in opposite day mode. The GRUB install had the immediate effect of not allowing me to boot into Windows but still but still able to boot OS X. I was still able to boot into Arch Linux via the GRUB screen. As an interim fix, I added windows to the GRUB config file. Arch Linux sets up a windows partition example, I just had to change the partition number.

I finally got around to backing up my OS X partition so I was able to try fixing the situation (and potentially borking all the installs). First thing I tried was to use the XP install CD. Which included following these steps:

  1. Boot up with the Windows install CD
  2. Go into recovery mode
  3. Select windows install (usually number 1)
  4. Run the FIXMBR program from the prompt: C:\> FIXMBR

This didn't quite fix the issue, Windows would now just boot up to a black screen and Linux wasn't an option from reFit anymore. After some more googling around I was able to find a post with a potential fix on the Apple support forums.

I booted up into single user mode to fix the master boot record.

# fdisk -u /dev/rdisk0
new MBR [y/n]: y

This fixed it, now I was able to boot into OS X and XP! I'm not sure if the FIXMBR was required or not, YMMV. Next I just had to re-install GRUB on the linux partition. I used the steps on the Arch Linux wiki about re-installing GRUB and installed it into the same partition as my Linux install (/dev/sda3).

Now reFit shows and boots into all three OSes properly. Success!

Bootcamp and Parallels

Next objective was to get the bootcamp partition working with Parallels. I chose to use NTFS for my XP install. Snow Leopard can read this by default, but it doesn't read and write by default. I found a little snippet on a MacFUSE forum somewhere that showed how to turn on the native read write support in Snow Leopard. Here is what I had to do.

Get the UUID of the partition with Windows installed on it (my XP install is on the fourth partition)

$ echo `sudo /System/Library/Filesystems/ntfs.fs/ntfs.util -k disk0s4`

Use your favorite editor to modify the fstab.

$ sudo vim /etc/fstab

Then add the following (replacing your HDs UUID)

# bootcamp partition in read/write
UUID=6369b368-57d8-46e6-80c6-e6ac095fb604 none ntfs rw

Next time you boot up you will have an NTFS partition that is read write in OS X. The rest of the Parallels install was straight forward. Now I can use my XP boot partition as a VM in OS X!

Final remarks

I'm quite excited to have three bootable OSes on my laptop giving me the best of all worlds! I learned a lot about boot loaders during this exercise as well. Though I'm still a bit hazy on how this works with reFit. Whatever you do, DO NOT install GRUB into /dev/sda! This set me back a couple days since I was using the laptop for work purposes as well.

Next step for me is to get OS X to recognize the ext3 partition and for Arch Linux to use HFS+ read write. None of the MacFUSE modules and ext3 helpers seem to work on Snow Leopard at the moment. Anyone know of any working solutions out there for Snow Leopard?

Update: I was able to mount the ext3 filesystem with fuse-ext2 using the following commands.

$ mkdir /Volumes/ARCHIE
$ sudo fuse-ext2 /dev/disk0s3 /Volumes/ARCHIE -o force,allow_other,volname=ARCHIE

This mounts the FS at the /Volumes/ARCHIE folder with read write capability and names the volume ARCHIE. One last thing that I haven't figures out is how to get this to work properly in /etc/fstab in Snow Leopard. end update

Jun 10, 2009

Launcher Showdown: Quicksilver vs LaunchBar

A good app launcher makes all the difference in the world to me. It is really painful when there isn't one available, "How the hell do I open an application?!?!". On OS X there is always the Spotlight functionality, but that has never satisfied my needs. I need to be able to manipulate the item from the launcher, not just open it. I guess "launcher" is a really bad term for it, in reality it's a "do a bunch of awesome stuff thingamajig", but that's not easy to say.

Quicksilver has been my "launcher" of choice for quite some time now and before that I was using Butler, which I originally tried out because of its clipboard implementation. Quicksilver was recently open sourced, since the lead developer now works for Google and their launcher product called Google Quick Search Box. This was pretty much the beginning of the end for QS. While there are still some folks working on the open source version, it has been a slow process.

I recently overheard Andi Zeidler talking about LaunchBar on Twitter, so I decided to give it a try. That has turned out to be an excellent choice. Quicksilver has been plagued with some really strange issues for quite some time. Most of them are bearable, but sometimes it can be really annoying when you are trying to get something done fast. In the week and a half that I've been using it, the program has really exceeded all my expectations. So what makes it better?

LaunchBar Pros

There are a lot of really nice features in LaunchBar. Here is a rundown of some of the features that make it one of the best I've used.

  • Web searches are quoted properly, you can search for "Bob Marley & the Wailers" and get the proper results
  • Setup of LaunchBar is orders of magnitude easier than Quicksilver. If you've ever set up the clipboard and shelf in Quicksilver then you know what I'm talking about.
  • The default setup of LaunchBar makes much more sense, which is helpful for n00bs
  • The clipboard in LaunchBar is really nice
  • It doesn't assume that everything with a dot in it is a URL
  • You can access each line of a copied item from a sub menu
  • The clipboard menu tells you where the item was copied, and how many characters and lines it contains
  • You can merge multiple clippings into one by using the ClipMerge functionality
  • Using the OS X services menu items in LaunchBar actually works. This makes things like WordService useful again!
  • LaunchBar is really fast compared to Quicksilver
  • LaunchBar doesn't randomly forget its settings like Quicksilver would with the actions sometimes

LaunchBar Cons

While it has been an overall positive experience, there are still some things LaunchBar could learn from Quicksilver.

  • No custom triggers. This was one of my favorite things about Quicksilver. You could assign a keyboard shortcut to any "subject, verb" action. LaunchBar does not have this concept. It has "abbreviations", but it's not the same. I liked to be able to type "ctrl + option + cmd + l" and go to the login window. You can still do this in LaunchBar, but it takes more keystrokes.
  • No social bookmarking support. Quicksilver has a nice delicious integration that allows for the indexing of all your bookmarks and their corresponding tags. I used this feature A LOT. My brain is on the web, Quicksilver helped me query it very quickly.
  • LaunchBar doesn't have the concept of plugins like Quicksilver does. If it isn't there, then your only option is Applescript. Applescript sucks.
  • LaunchBar doesn't have the concept of a persistent clipboard or shelf. This is another feature from Quicksilver that I use A LOT.
  • Running unix executables from LaunchBar requires an open terminal window. Quicksilver can do these tasks in the background. LaunchBar has the ability for these scripts to be placed in the "Actions" folder. However, you have to have a property list file next to it that tells LaunchBar to run it in the background. This is less than optimal, especially for pre-existing executables.
  • LaunchBar doesn't have the same "comma trick" as Quicksilver does. I rarely use this feature, so it's not a big deal for me. You might be able to exchange some of the behavior by using the ClipMerge facility in LaunchBar.
  • With LaunchBar, you really need to read the docs to get the most out of it. There are a a lot of hidden gems in the form of keyboard combos. With Quicksilver it was usually pretty self-explanatory how to do things. Luckily the LaunchBar docs are very informative.
  • You can't start entering text like you could with Quicksilver by presssing "." and typing some text. LaunchBar has an "Enter Text" action that allows you to do something similar. Someone in the forums suggested that you assign "," to the "Enter Text" action. This works out well.
  • Performing "actions" on the "subject" are not as easy in LaunchBar. For instance, there are usually some actions hidden in the context menu of the item, you can right click or use a keyboard combo to open it up, but that's kind of a pain


In my humble opinion, LaunchBar is the best launcher out there right now. It could still stand to learn a few things from Quicksilver. But overall LaunchBar is the superior application. Hopefully there are devs watching the LaunchBar forums that will implement my requests :) While I wait for them to be implemented, I'm using a stripped down Quicksilver that just contains the delicious and shelf plugins to fill in for that missing functionality of LaunchBar.

If you haven't given a try yet, I strongly recommend you download a trial of LaunchBar 5 and take it for a spin.

Jan 24, 2009

AppleScript + Party Shuffle Pt. II

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We're back for another round of AppleScript and Party Shuffle. Last month I wrote about adding missing party shuffle features using AppleScript. I noticed that there was one issue with the scripts. If you selected an album that had multiple discs then it would add all the discs to the party shuffle ordered by track number. So for example, you have an album that has two discs with three tracks a piece. Then you would get this:

Disc One Track 1
Disc Two Track 1
Disc One Track 2
Disc Two Track 2
Disc One Track 3
Disc Two Track 3

This is obviously not what we wanted. I spent a little time today updating the scripts so that they behave correctly. Now if you select the same album as our example above this is what you will get:

Disc One Track 1
Disc One Track 2
Disc One Track 3
Disc Two Track 1
Disc Two Track 2
Disc Two Track 3

This of course assumes that you have properly set up the disc number and disc count for your tracks. I'm pretty anal about this kind of stuff, so my library has them all set (even Disc 1 of 1). If the disc count is not set then the script will assume that there is only one disc and won't go through the disc sorting routine. You can get the latest scripts here:

Dec 11, 2008

AppleScripting Missing iTunes Party Shuffle Features

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My name is claytron and I'm a party shuffle addict.  There, I said it.  In my opinion the iTunes party shuffle feature is pure awesomeness.  I have been using it like mad since it was introduced.  I'm still amazed when I talk to iTunes users that haven't used it.

My typical modus operandi is to set the party shuffle to a rated smart playlist (3 stars and up or 4 stars and up).  Then if i want to add an album in the mix I can select it and 'Play Next in Party Shuffle' or 'Add to Party Shuffle'.  This is where AppleScript can come in handy.  Doug Adams wrote a nifty little AppleScript that allows you to select a track and add that track's album to the party shuffle!  This really comes in handy when my eMusic downloads arrive in iTunes.  I can sort my library by 'Date Added' and then select a track from one of the newly imported albums and have it start playing next in the party shuffle.  Totally effing awesome.

So herein lies the next issue.  Let's say I just downloaded five albums and imported them into iTunes.  You would think you could highlight a track from each album and then use the 'Play Next in Party Shuffle' script.  But instead it pops up with a selection dialog with all the albums in your library.  For me this is completely useless, I have 2000+ albums.  So I went ahead and modified the script to add the album for each selected track.

After doing so I emailed Doug about the modifications.  As you might guess, he gets a ton of emails with modifications and fixes for all the scripts posted on his site and can't possibly include them all.  I also don't think he quite understood the purpose of the modification.  But since most of the scripts are licensed under the GPL you can still benefit from my mods!

There are two scripts.  The first one is the 'Play Album(s) Next in Party Shuffle'  which allows you to select one or more tracks and have each track's album be cued up next in party shuffle.  The second script is 'Add Album(s) to Party Shuffle' which does the same thing except it adds the album to the end of the party shuffle.  That way you don't have to add an album in the middle of another!

Both of these scripts require that the party shuffle is currently playing.  I couldn't find a way around that in AppleScript (but I'm still an AppleScript n00b).  The only other item to mention is that I added a property to the top of each script called 'show_party_shuffle'.  If this is true then you'll be taken to the party shuffle after adding the tracks.  If you don't want to be switched over, you can set it to false.

Feb 02, 2007

MacFUSE makes sense to me now

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There has been all sorts of excitement about Amit Singh's MacFUSE product recently on the internets. For the life of me I could not figure out why. Amit went ahead and cleared all that up for me in his Macworld 2007 talk titled "Taming Mac OS X File Systems".

The thing that really got me excited about this technology is the interweaving of the web and your computer. When he started showing of the DocsFS I was sold. The PicassawebFS was quite interesting as well. I wonder if the same thing would be possible with Flickr?

Jan 20, 2007

Quicksilver ate my baby!

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Ok so maybe no small children were eaten but Quicksilver is a very impressive app. I finally decided to give it a try a couple weeks ago and I'm still playing around with all the features. It took about three days until I could drop Butler and now I'm using QS exclusively. I had most of my Butler functionality set up within minutes. Triggers (keyboard shortcuts) for sleep and logout were a snap (using the extra scripts). The only difficult part was getting the clipboard history (pasteboard) to show up. I enabled the plugin but had to refresh the catalog for the Shelf & Clipboard. (UPDATE: Apparently you need to access the shelf and the clipboard before you can catalog them and use them via the QS menus. To do this, go to the QS menu -> Plug-Ins (underneath help) and then open them up) The last piece for me was getting custom pasteboards working again. This is where the shelf comes in handy. You can create a text clipping and send it over to the shelf for safe keeping and then access it via the QS menu (or via a trigger for the Shelf which I also have set up).

The possibilities really seem limitless for this app. I keep running into more and more excellent tips and tricks. Here are some links to help you on your merry way.

I have also been busy hacking away trying to make QS do my bidding. I wrote a little script that can open a terminal in iTerm for me based on my bookmarks. I've run out of sensical ctrl + cmd shortcuts so this fits the bill nicely. Now all I do is invoke QS, type single quote to go into text mode, type my bookmark name and then tab over to select my 'iTerm Tab.scpt'. Here is the code for the script. Just copy it and paste it into a file and save it as 'iTerm Tab.scpt' and put that script into your '~/Library/Application Support/Quicksilver/Actions' folder (create it if it doesn't already exist)

using terms from application "Quicksilver"
	on process text thetext
		if thetext is "" then return 0
		tell application "iTerm"
			-- talk to the first terminal
			tell the first terminal
				launch session thetext
			end tell
		end tell
	end process text
end using terms from

Jul 11, 2006

Did I spelll this write?

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Camino will have spell checking built in soon. Last week Infinite Loop had a link to a blog entry in Sucking less, on a budget where pinkerton reported that he had checked in spell checking to the trunk of Camino. Although three days later he posted a new entry saying:

I realized i biffed the static target on the branch, so the branch builds still don't have spellcheck. Sigh. I'll fix it when I get back to virginia

Even though it's not quite there yet I'm still excited to know that this feature is on it's way to my desktop as I'm writing this blog entry in Camino right now!

Now if we can just get address book integration with Thunderbird in OS X...

UPDATE: The latest alpha release of Camino 1.1 includes spell checking and many more improvements. I'm afraid to upgrade as it will break Inquisitor which no longer supports Camino :(

Jul 05, 2006

This thing is getting out of control

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In my last post I described most of the applications I use. There were a lot of menu bar programs in the list. I dont think I can fit anymore programs into my menu bar at this point. Especially when some programs have a lot of menus then you lose some of the items there. I'll have to resist the urge to add more programs that use the menu bar as their home. Here is what it currently looks like.

Menu Bar

From left to right: Remote Buddy, VirtueDesktops, Synergy, Butler, Menu Meters (Disk I/O, Network Traffic Transmited/Received, RAM Used/Free, Swap Pages In/Out and Total, Processor Usage for both cores), AirPort, Sound, Power, MenuCalendarClock, Tunnelblick, Spotlight

I don't really use Remote Buddy that often so I could probably not have that one start up at login time if need be. And the only thing I ever use the Butler menu for is fast user switching even though I only have one account on my MacBook Pro right now. It is handy on my PowerBook since Lucie is using it right now.

The most useful of all the menu bar additions is Menu Meters. Especially when developing with Zope and Plone. Sometimes you create some code that really stresses the machine and you'll see it right away in the menu bar. I also know that when iTunes goes to update podcasts that it will eat up all my processor power.

Jul 03, 2006

Apps and Oranges

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I officialy retired from the Windoze world in October 2003 when I bought my first Mac, an Aluminum PowerBook G4. It's the best thing that ever happened to my computing world. One thing I've noticed in the OS X world is the amazing applications. They all intertwine to create a powerful workspace. One example is transferring files with iChat. Just drag the file or folder onto the text input and hit return. It's that easy! In my two plus years of Mac usage I've come across some really nice programs of which I'll share here.

  • Butler -- Butler is a program that has many useful features. The two that I utilize most often are the pasteboard and the application launcher. The original reason I stumbled across this gem was the need for a pasteboard. I had tried several other apps like iClip and some other lame program but none compared to the pasteboard inside butler. You can assign keyboard shortcuts to anything inside butler so access to my pasteboard is a snap. And opening an application is as few as four keystrokes away! There are so many other things this program can do that I don't even use but it's nice to know they are there and that they are highly customizable.
  • iTunes -- Obviously can't live without this one! With a music library of more than 14,000 songs iTunes makes everything easy to manage. Just the fact that it keeps everything organized on my hard drive based on id3 tags is enough for me.
  • Synergy Classic -- Synergy is a program that interacts with iTunes. It gives me the ability to assign keyboard shortcuts to many of the functions of iTunes I use a lot like rating, playing/stoping and showing the application. Synergy also provides menu bar icons to play/pause and rewind/fast-forward and a drop down menu. The other feature I really like about this program is the floating window that displays track information above all windows.
  • Menu Meters -- This program gives me up to the second system information in my menu bar. It has four customizable system readings including hard disk activity, network activity, RAM and processor usage. This comes in handy when your system starts to freak out. You can quickly find the cause and remedy it.
  • Witch -- Excellent little PreferencePane app that gives you keyboard shortcuts to show all application windows or all of one applications windows. Nice if you often have a billion windows open.
  • Shrook -- This is a really good RSS and Atom news reader. I just recently forced myself to start subscribing to RSS feeds and it's really nice to be on top of the things you care about.
  • Camino/Firefox -- I rarely use the built-in browser on the Mac, Safari. It just feels foreign to me and I don't know why. I constantly switch between Mozilla's Camino and Firefox. Camino is a cocoa version of the Mozilla rendering engine and it's super fast. It has just recently received more attention from add on developers. While Camino is fast it still doesn't have the extensibility of Firefox. If I am developing XHTML/CSS pages then I'll switch over to Firefox. But if I'm just perusing the web it's Camino all the way.
  • Thunderbird -- Another Mozilla application that I use instead of the default Apple application. I like the interface of Apple Mail but it just doesn't understand the IMAP protocol enough for me to use it. So I have been using Thunderbird for quite some time now. It has some drawbacks but it's the best at handling IMAP that I've found.
  • Colloquy -- This is an IRC chat program. It is still under quite a bit of development so it tends to be a bit buggy at times but it's still the best IRC client on OS X.
  • svnX -- This app is a gui front-end for subversion. It has most of the features you'll need for everyday use and keeps getting better as new releases come out. The only big thing it is missing is the ability to edit svn properties. But still the best solution for a graphical subversion client.
  • iTerm -- Another program I've been using for a long long time. iTerm is a tabbed terminal program. It's nice but could use a bit more TLC from the developers but overall a nice Terminal replacement.
  • Acquisition -- The best p2p program on the Mac. Integrates nicely with iTunes so that when you download a song it adds it to iTunes automatically. These guys put out more releases of an application than I've ever seen so be prepared to download the latest quite often.
  • Parallels -- An amazing virtualization program. This allows me to run Windoze XP, PC-BSD and any other OS I can get my hands on directly in OS X. It's a million times faster than Virtual PC ever was and works like a charm.
  • SubEthaEdit -- SubEthaEdit is a collaborative editing program. It utilizes the Bonjour zero conf networking to allow you to edit a document with a group of people. Very nice for when you want a colleague to take a look at your code. The newest version has brought a slew of new features along with it making it more powerful than ever.
  • VirtueDesktops -- This is an application that I've just stumbled across recently. It gives you the ability to have multiple desktops like you can on Linux and Unix window managers. Basically it's like having Fast User Switching for yourself. And there are four of you! Good looking piece of software for such an early version. I look forward to seeing how it evolves.
  • Path Finder -- A Finder replacement that gives you a tabbed interface and a whole lot more. I've just started using this one so I'm not completely sold yet. But it is nice to have tabs in a Finder window.
  • Remote Buddy -- If you have a Mac with a remote then you'll love this program. It gives you control of a lot more apps than the default Front Row apps. It also gives you a way to use the mouse and the keyboard via the remote.
  • Transmit -- The best FTP program for the Mac.
  • OmniGraffle -- Nice app to create UML diagrams, visual mockups and all sorts of other things.
  • OmniOutliner -- Another app from the Omni Group that gives you the ability to make very detailed outlines and lists. I wish you could merge two copies of the same outline though. That would be boss.
  • VLC -- A video player that supports most video formats. If it didn't work in Quicktime then try it in VLC. Chances are it will work better in VLC. I've recently had problems playing a few DVDs in DVD Player and had to revert to this fine program.
  • Airfoil -- Admittedly I don't use this program very much but it is quite cool. It gives you the ability to stream any audio source from your computer to an AirPort Express.
  • Digital Performer -- When I upgraded from AudioDesk (the default software that came with my FireWire audio interface) I faced a dilemma. It was either Digital Performer or Logic Pro. I like Apple apps but I was already familiar with the DP interface so I decided to upgrade to Digital Performer. And I think that was the correct decision. It's a very professional audio/MIDI workspace. It's a bit overwhelming sometimes but it's never failed me.
  • Genesis Plus -- The best Genesis and Master System emulator for the Mac.
  • Nestopia -- The best NES emulator for the Mac. Wish it had the network play like Nesticle used to though.
  • Stella -- Best Atari emulator that I've found for the Mac. Head on over to Atariage and pick up some roms.
  • Cocktail -- I love to tweak the settings on my computer. This app helps me do just that. It gives you an interface to set all sorts of hidden system options and more. My favorite is the verbose mode startup so I can see all the details when my Mac starts up.
  • Delicious Library -- If you own a lot of DVDs, books, video games and music then this is the application for you. It gives you a nice interface to catalog all that you own. You can scan in all your collection using your iSight and the barcodes on the things you want to add. Makes quick work of cataloging your collection. And you can use some tools to export everything and create a website of your collection.
  • Google Earth -- If you haven't used this app yet you really should. It allows you to explore the world via satellite. Probably one of the coolest programs I've ever used. And it's really freakin' addicting.
  • Logorrhea -- This utility allows you to search your iChat logs. Spotlight can do it to but not as fast. And Chax has a log viewer built in but the search is weak. So I'm still using this fine app to get the low down.
  • MenuCalendarClock iCal -- I'm really picky about how my menu clock shows me information. The default clock info just doesn't cut for me. So I found this program that allows me to display the date and time in any format I want. Genius! It also gives you a little calender sub menu when you click on it in the menu bar that can show upcoming events.
  • Service Scrubber -- The OS X services are a nice little touch to the operating system. But I rarely use them because they are so cluttered with all kinds of useless functions that I never use. This program allows you to clean up that list. And it also allows you to redefine the keyboard shortcuts for all the services (some of which conflict with existing shortcuts). Use this in conjunction with Hot Service and you've got a usable services menu. Unfortunately Hot Service doesn't work with Intel Macs yet.
  • EvoCam -- This is a web cam app that I find quite amusing. If you have an iSight or any other web cam for the Mac then you should try this out for kicks. You can set up this program to upload images to your web site, use it for surveillance and a myriad of other things.
  • Xyle scope -- If you've used the DOM Inspector in Firefox then you have probably had that not so fresh feeling. It's written in XUL and the interface is a bit lacking. While Xyle Scope isn't as powerful as the DOM Inspector it does offer a much nicer interface and some usability enhancements that make me really want to love it. It's a really nice app for exploring the DOM but it still needs some love to surpass the Mozilla app.
  • Paparazzi! -- Have you ever wanted to take a screenshot of a web page that was longer than your screen. Well now you can with this slick little app.
  • Chax -- There are some things about iChat that are really annoying. Like having to click accept on every new IM, that's just silly. Chax puts an end to my misery by fixing almost every gripe I had about iChat.
  • Tunnelblick -- If you use OpenVPN then this little menu bar app will be right up your alley. Easily turn VPN access on and off via the menu bar.
  • Artis Screen Tools -- In particular the Artis Screen Ruler. This on screen ruler is the best in it's class. They have actually upgraded this software to a different product named xScope that I think is less user friendly and overly complicated. So if you need a simple on screen ruler then this is your best bet.

I probably missed something in there. But that's a pretty good list for now.

Jun 20, 2006

My computer won't boot?!?!

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Yesterday I rebooted my MacBook Pro. That sounds simple enough. I have verbose mode on at all times thanks to Cocktail so I normally watch all the output of the startup. Hey, i'm a geek, that's what geeks do. So everything looks fine and then OS X launches the login window app. All I get is a blue screen. No login box. This scares the shit out of me.

So now what? Lucie had a similar problem with her old Titanium Powerbook recently so I was accustomed to using the single user mode. There is a really good resource about single user mode here. First order of business, run fsck. Everything checks out fine. No errors on the hard drive. So now what? Well I tried every remedy I could find online, move the netinfo db out of the way, move the login window prefs out of the way, move network settings out of the way. None of that was working. Then suddenly it dawned on me. It must have been that piece of crap program I just installed last night! That's right, I had installed a program called DoubleCommand to remap the enter key on my keyboard to fn so that I could forward delete easily on my computer. That timesaver sure backfired on me. So in the end I just had to remove DoubleCommand from /Library/StartupItems, problem solved.

The moral of the story: If you install a program that runs on startup check to make sure it works when you install it. Not a few days later.