Take note, Cupertino: Stop bundling horrible, unnecessary apps with MacOS. All this bloatware is making you look worse than a Verizon-branded Samsung phone!Also on:
The “Macs don’t get viruses” nonsense was never really true; it was only “common knowledge” because there was no practical reason to write viruses for Macs–the “security through obscurity” maxim protected the ecosystem since the mid-1980s. Since the rise of Apple’s marketshare in the 21st century, there has been an increase in the threat of malware and other nasty bits of code infecting so-called “immune” Macintosh computers. Once upon a time, antivirus for Mac was considered a joke and a ripoff. Today, it is an understated necessity.
Enter AVG–long have they been one of the bastions of security in the PC sphere, their flagship antivirus utility is now available for Mac. It’s a lightweight application that offers the level of protection one would expect from AVG on a PC, and it even scans for known PC and Android threats to prevent you from unwittingly spreading an infection to other devices!
In addition to AVG’s antivirus, they also offer a useful cleaner app that scans your Mac for detritus that can bog down the system and cause a loss in performance or valuable hard drive space. Many applications leave behind small breadcrumbs–configuration files or other nonessential bits of code–in the OSX Library or System folders, usually as hidden files or folders that even most advanced users wouldn’t necessarily know to look for after uninstalling. The AVG Cleaner app scours your hard drive for this kind of refuse and eliminates it. I ran it once and regained an easy 3.5GB of space!
It’s a brave new world out there, and we’re better off being prepared than we are posturing with austerity. You don’t have to use AVG, but for the price, it can’t be beat!Also on:
Ever get a document emailed to you that you need to sign and return? This usually involves printing the document, then signing it, then scanning it, then emailing it back. Now, with Autograph from Ten One Design, you can sign any document right from your computer using the trackpad!
It lives up in your menubar as a stylized “A” icon. Click it, and you will be prompted to “Autograph now” which brings up a small window–indicative of your trackpad–and traces your movements across the pad. Hit enter after scribbling and your signature will be pasted into your document as an image.
It’s convenient if you have a lot of electronic papers that you have to sign–or if you don’t want to go through the print-sign-scan dance–but for most folks, I don’t think it’ll be worth the $7 price tag.Also on:
I picked up Koingo’s AirRadar utility as part of a bundle of useful utilities that Stack Commerce was selling for a pretty good deal a while back. I don’t normally purchase utilities such as this one, but I look at it as a free bonus for buying a license to Crossover and Paragon. It’s actually pretty useful!
AirRadar scans the airwaves picked up by your wireless card and delivers all kinds of useful information regarding signal strength, noise ratios, encryption, and much more! The average Joe probably won’t use all the features presented, but power users and system administrators will enjoy being able to dial down into the minutiae of WiFi radio engineering.
So far, I’ve used AirRadar to find the clearest channel for my router to broadcast on–which has noticeably improved bandwidth in my crowded apartment complex. Most of the routers–Pace DSL gateways from AT&T (yet another piece of information you can glean from AirRadar)–are clustered around a handful of channels toward the middle of the spectrum, so I just moved my router over to an empty channel and voila! I’ve also learned that there are a lot of unsecured private networks near by–most likely because of a benign ignorance to information security. I’m tempted to access these unsecured networks and drop them a friendly note to let them know how easy it is for an unsavory character to gain access to their computers, but that would technically be illegal (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986). Maybe I should just triangulate the signal and knock on their door instead?
Another cool feature in AirRadar that I haven’t used yet is hotspot mapping. Open the app, start scanning, throw the lappy in the passenger seat, drive around, and soon you’ll have a nice map of all the access points along your route! Granted, only the publicly open hotspots should be disclosed, but a broadcast is a broadcast. Use this feature responsibly!
I’m not entirely sure that an average idiot would want to spend the $10 license fee, especially considering that there are similar applications available for free, but since it was part of a larger deal, it was worth it. If you’re a war driver or a radio aficionado, it might be worth your Hamilton, but I would’ve been just as content letting my router figure out the best channel to broadcast on automatically.Also on:
I ran across a special on Boing Boing for a bundle of Mac software that I couldn’t resist (Paragon NTFS For Mac alone was worth the discounted price), and made an impulse buy. I’ll write more about each application later as I play with them, but I wanted to give special recognition to this Synergy app from the mind of one Nick Bolton.
I have been working on Project Magnavox for almost 2 years now (It’s an ever-evolving project, as you dear readers have no doubt figured out), but I have always had to juggle between my laptop or tablet and the wireless keyboard that I have attached to the VCR. With Synergy, I am able to interact with the VCR using only the keyboard and trackpad on the laptop! Think of it as a sort of KVM switch, but instead of flipping a physical switch, you simply drag the mouse to the screen you need to interact with and you’re ready to go. Seamless.
Installation is a snap. Once you sign up and pay for an account, simply download the application to each computer you wish to connect. Enter your credentials on each computer, decide on a “host” machine (whose keyboard and mouse you will be using), and position the clients relative to the host’s monitor position. For example, my laptop is the host machine, and I simply drag the mouse off the top of the screen for it to appear on the TV connected to Project Magnavox. The best part is that I can sit comfortably at the table across the room, work on Project Magnavox, and need not worry about staying within range of my el cheapo wireless keyboard.
Synergy is software for sharing one keyboard and mouse between multiple computers.
Atari shows you how to properly replace RAM in a MacBook Pro.
MacBook Pro Memory Specifications:Also on:
Despite the plethora of freeware available to rip DVDs on a Windows or Linux machine, Mac users have been somewhat cast aside for one reason or another. Most search results direct a user to expensive software that doesn’t even allow for a proper trial before use. Handbrake is a popular freeware video conversion application for Mac (and Windows and Ubuntu) that can also be used to decode and record DVD titles as soft video files with just a little bit of tweaking.
First thing to do is install the latest version of Handbrake. Download the Mac disc image, mount it, and copy the app to your applications folder like you would any other. Launch Handbrake and insert a DVD into your optical drive (assuming you actually have one still). Due to licensing restrictions, Handbrake doesn’t include the proper DVD codecs stock, but will prompt you to download the open-source libdvdcss library. Download and run the package installer, then restart Handbrake.
Now you can open your DVD in Handbrake, choose the title you wish to rip, choose the appropriate settings, and click the “start” button!
If you run into problems, the DVD probably contains some level of copy-protection that will have to be circumvented. A word of warning here: the DMCA specifically prohibits breaking copy-protection, but as a freedom-loving American, I believe that once recorded media is legitimately obtained in any format, then it is within the rights of the owner of that media to convert it to any other format for personal consumption. For more information on the moral and legal implications of the Digital Millennium Copyright Atrocity, click here. In this case, open the DVD Player app, then navigate through the menus until the title you wish to rip is playing. In the menu bar, select “Go”, then “Title”, and note the title with the check mark next to it. Back in Handbrake, select “File” and “Open Source (Title Specific)”. Select your DVD, then enter the title number in the dialog before clicking the “Open Title” button.
There are a lot more settings that drill down into the fine details for each video file to be encoded, but I will leave their explanations to the fine folks at MacWorld who wrote the article on which this tutorial is based. You can read the full article here.Also on:
Macs aren’t known for their ability to play well with other (non-Apple) computers on a network, but with a little persuasion, you can map a network drive in OSX and even keep its location somewhat persistent!
From Finder, type Command+K to bring up the “Connect to Server” dialog. You can also reach this from the menu bar under the “Go” heading.
In the “Server Address” dialog, type in the network address of the share you wish to map (smb://location/share) and click the “Connect” button. Enter your credentials if prompted and make sure to save them to your keychain.
To make the mapping semi-persistent, you’ll need to add the share as a login item. Do this by going to the “Users & Groups” pane within the System Preferences dialog. Click the “Login Items” tab and the + button at the bottom of the list to add a new item. Navigate to the share you wish to have mount automatically and click “Add”. Exit from System Preferences and you’re finished.
Now, there’s a couple of things to note here: Firstly, if you leave the network with the attached drive, you MUST eject the drive from Finder before disconnecting or you may run into an instance of having a persistent copy of the drive (and that’s just not good for business, especially if you have your iTunes library or other files stored to the location). Second, if you reconnect to the network, you may want to reboot the computer to have a fresh connection to the drive. If you don’t reboot, you can still reconnect to the drive manually using the method above.
Adobe Update is a rather annoying piece of useless code that sits in your menu bar and lets you know that there are no updates for your software (I run CS5 still). There are lots of tutorials on how to disable the notification icon, but nothing–especially from Adobe itself–on how to remove Adobe Update from OSX entirely.
After a good bit of digging, I came across this blog that led me to the answer. He goes into a bit of detail on how the process launcher in OSX works (and it’s a good, short read), and the execution of the underlying code. I certainly recommend taking a few minutes and reading about it so you can apply the principle for other “unnecessary” applications running in background.
What you essentially want to do is open a Terminal session and type the following series of commands:
basename com.adobe.ARM.* .plist
This removes the process’s associated files as well as the entry from the launcher. Conversely, you could simple navigate to the same folder in Finder and delete the files manually, but it leaves the process entry in the launcher–which may or may not be an issue. I did it this way and have not experienced any problems, but your mileage may vary.Also on:
My site is safe…maybe. Regardless, as much as it is a pain in the ass to type everything out yourself, you shouldn’t blindly copy-paste terminal commands. Bad things can happen.