Category Archives: OSX

ZipZapMac Solves Annoying OSX Issues

ZipZapMac is a small developer team based in Prague that has made a name for themselves by offering a handful of extremely useful apps that solve some of the glaring headaches that OSX and MacOS users come to experience. I ran across them when I picked up their Memory Cleaner app bundled with a handful of other utilities being offered by Boing Boing, and while I can’t see myself using their paid apps (they tend to focus on surveillance tools, presumably because Eastern Europe), some of their free tools are quite excellent! (Disclosure: No one has compensated me to write this review. I found these applications on my own, and I simply wanted to share them!)

Clear your RAM and free up memory with Memory Cleaner

I’m still rocking a 2010 13″ MacBook Pro as my daily driver, so it stands to reason that I run into the Spinning Beach Ball of Death every so often. I did upgrade the RAM to the maximum compatible with the logic board, but I’m usually running memory pig applications like Chrome, Firefox, and Final Cut Pro more often than I am not. Because I’ve only got 8GB to work with, I need to keep an eye on usage lest I get bogged down in rendering my latest YouTube offering! Memory Cleaner sits in the Menubar and keeps a display of my available RAM. I can click the readout for a breakdown of the greediest applications or I can run a quick cleaning to free up a couple gigabytes that might have been tied up in a cached process! Memory Cleaner will also automatically run at a specified threshold, so you’ll always have enough memory for your application!

Immediately open a Terminal window with Go2Shell

Terminal work is undoubtedly quite powerful, and for developers, it’s essential. The problem with Terminal is that navigating the folder structure can be quite a pain, especially when having to type long file names that incorporate version numbers and the like. Go2Shell solves this problem by adding an “Open In Terminal” option to Finder’s right-click context menu. Just install the application, point it to your Terminal emulator, and install the action to Finder. Never again do you have to type cd cd cd cd to get to the correct folder from Home!

Get usable text in one click with Get Plain Text

Copying and pasting text in OSX and MacOS is too smart for its own good. When Apple’s OS copies, it copies everything–formatting included–to the clipboard. When you want to drop this text into place (such as when quoting for an article or shortcutting some Terminal commands), the copied formatting often screws up the established formatting of the working document, leading to headaches and pixel hunts trying to get all the new characters to match! Get Plain Text lives in the menu bar (but can be hidden if you prefer your bar tidy), and offers a context option as well as a keyboard shortcut to remove all formatting from the clipboard!

How to Enable NTFS Support in OSX (MacOS)

There has been a format war raging since the dawn of the personal computer, between Microsoft and Apple, for the best disk storage file system. Microsoft began with the FAT (File Allocation Table) which eventually evolved into NTFS (New Technology File System) in the early 2000s. Apple, on the other hand, has always stuck with the Unix-friendly Hierarchical File System (HFS)—barring the short-lived Macintosh File System from the early 1980s. This never seemed to be much of a problem until the late 2000s, when Apple’s growing market share made it increasingly apparent that there needed to be a way to bridge the gap between the two—especially since Windows XP could now run natively on Apple hardware. Open-source implementations of HFS-FAT had existed for some time now, but XP was an NTFS-based system. There needed to be a way to enable NTFS support in OSX.

Free/Open-Source Option

Finnish outfit Tuxera was the foremost professional developer in the world of *Nix-Windows crossovers (Unix/Linux), having developed the best and most prolific open source tools to enable native FAT support in Linux. This led them to develop and publish NTFS-3G, a free and open source implementation of the native NTFS driver for Linux and OSX. Tuxera finally killed off official support for NTFS-3G in 2012, but the source code for the driver is still maintained on Sourceforge by volunteers.

Personally, I don’t recommend this method to enable NTFS support in OSX as it is extremely buggy now, you have to compile the driver yourself (which is always a pain in the ass), there is no support to speak of, it has paltry read/write speeds, and there are just better ways of doing it now.

Terminal-Based Option

It’s still free, and it’s still buggy, and it’s still tedious, but starting in OSX Tiger, Apple tucked away a developer option to allow write support via the Terminal. It’s an experimental feature, and not officially supported by the Coop, so I still don’t recommend it as your primary option. If you need to occasionally enable NTFS support in OSX or MacOS, you might go for it, but I use NTFS drives far too often to rely on this method.

First, connect the NTFS drive to the Mac, then get the UUID for the drive by invoking the following command in Terminal:

diskutil info /Volumes/DRIVENAME | grep UUID

Now, you’ll need to append the drive’s UUID to the NTFS read/write support list in /etc/fstab:

sudo echo “UUID=ENTER_UUID_HERE none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse” >> /etc/fstab

You’ll now be able to access the drive’s directory in Finder by invoking the following command:

open /Volumes

You can also create an alias for the drive on the desktop by invoking:

sudo ln -s /Volumes/DRIVENAME ~/Desktop/DRIVENAME

Commercial (Paid) Option

Disclosure: this review is unbiased insofar as I have not received any compensation from either of these companies to review their products. I have used all the options in this article at one time or another, and I presently use a paid copy of Paragon’s NTFS for Mac.

Tuxera abandoned their free version of the NTFS driver in favor of a paid option, which is very popular, and comes with a Disk Manager utility for easy drive maintenance actions such as format, check, and repair. The software is $30, but is available for a trial period. Upgrades are free for existing customers.

Paragon Software also has a commercial NTFS driver, priced at only $20, but does not come with the disk management utility. Personally, I use this one as it will natively enable NTFS support in OSX utilities such as the stock Disk Utility app, eliminating the need for an extra application.

Both drivers enable NTFS support for OSX and MacOS at read/write speeds comparable to native HFS+ speeds, and offer full support in multiple languages. Both offer a two-week trial period and free upgrades for life.

As much as a fan of FOSS as I am, sometimes you do need to put a little money down for a proper utility—especially one that has had years of active development. My biggest argument for a commercial solution here is one of stability: The commercial drivers natively mount NTFS partitions and allow manipulation just like any other drive, and have been used and tested against data loss and corruption. If you have the coin, drop it on one of the commercial options. You’ll be glad you did!

Backup Files On Schedule With CrashPlan

If you need a simple backup scheduler, give Code 42’s CrashPlan a try. CrashPlan is available for Windows, Linux, and OSX and allows file backups to local, networked, and off-site locations with a simple, easy-to-use setup.

Download and install CrashPlan Free to each computer you want to backup and one the machine you will use as a backup server. You can have any number of machines connected to your “cloud” with the only limitation being the available space on the server. I have it backing up my Macbook Pro and VCR to an external hard drive connected to the VCR. These backups are also mirrored in an encrypted folder on a computer at my office across town.

CREDIT: Code42

Cloud backup storage is also available from CrashPlan for a nominal fee, but with off-site storage being as easy as connecting your work computer, I don’t see much need for it.

Swinsian Is The iTunes Killer You’ve Been Looking For

Remember, once upon a time, when iTunes was the end-all, beat-all music library organizer and MP3 player for Macintosh? (Yes, I am solidly in the “WinAmp was the best fucking MP3 player application ever written and don’t you fucking forget it” camp, but we’re not talking about Windows right now). I think it was about the time version 11 came out (maybe 12, I’m not terribly certain) that iTunes just started to feel…stale. Many of the features that I came to know and love just fizzled away for the sake of pushing the store and streaming music.

Now, I’m not against streaming music in the least (I used to while away many, many hours on the road listening to Pandora and Slacker Radio on my Blackberry Storm), but I find it offensive when the mission of a particular piece of software that I have used for years flips from curating and organizing my thousands upon thousands of audio files to selling me a streaming and cloud storage service that I don’t want or need! As Apple has moved more into the streaming game, I have started looking for a suitable alternative to organize and play my local library.

My criteria are as follows:

  • The software must automatically organize the file structure in the library folder based on changes to the ID3 tags.
  • The software must edit universal ID3 tags.
  • The software should look pretty good.
  • The software must catalogue and be searchable.

You would think that these could be simple criteria to fill on any operating system–and on Linux or Windows, you would be right–but it seems that the Coop has a chokehold on media management for MacOS as there are no solid applications that mimic iTunes without the headaches of iTunes. At least, there are no free ones.

James Burton has suffered the same problems with iTunes that I have and took that as an opportunity to develop his own application, Swinsian. Swinsian is classic iTunes, focused on cataloguing and organization, with none of the bloat that has crept into Apple’s application over the past few years. The cool thing about Swinsian (and something sure to impress those FLAC-loving weirdo audiophiles and OGG-hearted die-hard open sourcers) is that it supports almost all major formats! It’ll even play WMA files (good luck doing that natively on a Mac now that Perian is dead)!

I’ve been using Swinsian to manage my library for almost a year now, and I’ve gladly given up the sales-oriented nonsense that is iTunes. I can easily edit my ID3 tags and have those changes reflected in the file structure of the library; I can easily catalogue and search my library; and the application has a great visual aesthetic that emphasizes the album art that I gave up when I moved to digital.

Yes, you will need to pay for Swinsian (at time of writing, it’s $20US), but as Andrew Lewis observed: “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” While this isn’t a universal truth, it is often the case in walled gardens like post-Jobs Apple. If you’re a collector of digital music (as most audio junkies from the 1990s are), Swinsian is a Jackson well spent!

How To Customize Your Terminal Prompt

This is a bit of a goofy hack, but some of the options can be useful if you need a little more information on your terminal prompt. Basically, I’m using it to put a Space Invader as my command prompt.screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-10-02-38-pmThis technique is for OSX/MacOS, but it will likely work on various Linux distros as they share a common terminal shell implementation.

In Terminal, open the .bash_profile file using the nano text editor
sudo nano .bash_profile

Add a new line containing the following code:
PS1=" "

Inside the quotes, you could add nearly anything you want. There are a handful of official switches that generate specific outputs:

  • \d Current Date
  • \t Current Time
  • \h Host Name
  • # Command Number
  • \u User Name
  • \W Current Working Directory (/Folder)
  • \w Current Working Directory, Full Path (~/Desktop/Folder)

Now, if you want to drop a Space Invader inside the quotes, just add it (or any other emoji) from the Edit>Emoji & Symbols menu.

How To Speed Up a MacBook Pro

My 2010 MacBook Pro is getting a little long in the tooth, so I’ve been working on a few ways to speed up its performance. There’s a level of wear that can’t easily be corrected for, but there are a few tricks you can perform to stretch a little more life out of the system.

Naturally, my first reaction is to add some more RAM–especially since I don’t have the maximum amount compatible with my logic board. You can see how to do that in a previous article and how-to video.

Meanwhile, if you’re still having hiccoughs and spinning beach balls of death, there’s a few software tools to help improve performance. First off, start the system in Safe Mode (yes, Mac has a Safe Mode). To access Safe Mode, shut down the MacBook and wait at least 10 seconds. Turn the MacBook back on, then press and hold the Shift key as soon as possible after the startup tone plays. Release the Shift key once the Apple logo and progress indicator appear.

Once you’ve booted into Safe Mode, open the Disk Utility located in the Utilities folder of the Launchpad. Select the startup disk in the panel on the left and click “First Aid”. If the utility indicates that the disk is about to fail, you’ll need to backup the disk and replace it. Otherwise, click “Verify Disk” to see if there are any reparable problems.

If all else fails, you can attempt to reset the System Management Controller (SMC). To reset the SMC, shut down the computer and attach the power supply. Hold Shift-Control-Option on the left-hand side of the keyboard and press the power button once. Release all the keys, then press the power button to boot the computer.

How To Eliminate Transparency in OSX Yosemite

Apple keeps fiddling around with their flagship OS, changing little things here and there. One of the less intrusive, yet still annoying changes from Mavericks to Yosemite and El Capitan is the addition of a “transparency” effect that gives this sort of frosted glass look to menu bars and drop-downs. I prefer my easily-read opaque menus, thankyouverymuch. Fortunately for Apple Luddites like me, there is a way to eliminate transparency in OSX altogether.

Just like the tap-to-drag settings, reverting any of Apple’s silly aesthetic choices is as simple as finding them in the Accessibility pane under System Settings. In the menu on the left, highlight “Display” and check the box next to “Reduce Transparency”.

Not reduce, but eliminate transparency in OSXBob’s your uncle.