LeoColorBar fixes your Leopard menu

MD Softworks has a fabulous little utility called LeoColorBar which fixes the transparent menu “feature” in Leopard. It’s pretty simple, and simply puts a stripe (in a color of your choice) at the top of any picture you choose, and then sets that picture as your desktop background.

It doesn’t modify the original image, but rather stores a copy in your Pictures folder called “LeoColorBarDesktopPicture.jpg” with the appropriate crop settings, etc.

MD Softworks

Written on October 30, 2007

Time Machine for unsupported setups

My current backup setup consists of a 160GB external hard drive hooked up to a G4/400 Cube. I’m using a combination of ChronoSync and some shell scripts to create a nice archival backup of my home folder. (I don’t bother with apps and stuff because I’m too cheap to get a larger drive.)

Now there’s Time Machine in Leopard, and I’d really rather use it. It’s fully supported, so there’s no need for scripts and hacks, plus it has some nice features with iPhoto, etc.

But here’s the problem: Time Machine will only permit back ups to external hard disks attached to the backing-up Mac, or to other Macs with Leopard installed. Since my Cube can’t run Leopard, I’m stuck! (And an external HDD is out of the question – a backup that isn’t automated isn’t a back up at all, and I’ve lost the files to prove it!)

So here’s a couple tricks I’ve found that might work:

  1. Use Time Machine on any disk: This method involves creating an invisible file that flags the network drive as OK for Time Machine. It has to be an HFS+ disk (no problem), and it has to be mounted over AFP. The down side appears to be that it isn’t an automated backup; you have to manually mount the drive so that Time Machine can start using it. Hardly a deal breaker, as a script attached to Proxi (triggered when I connect to my home wifi network) can automatically mount the disk.

  2. Install Leopard on my Cube: As with other MacOS X installers, the Leopard DVD can be hacked so as to allow it to attempt an installation on any Mac, regardless of its configuration. Users report that people who don’t support the fancy new graphics in Leopard will find certain applications useless. (e.g. Time Machine shows up as a featureless black screen) Still, since my Cube’s really just a cheap server, I don’t see that as a big problem. Provided I can back up to it and it can run a few always-on applications, it ought to work just fine.

I don’t have Leopard yet, so I can’t try these tricks, but we’ll see how they come out. I’m kind of leaning toward #2, since that should give me the most ideal Time Machine experience and automate the whole deal. On the other hand, #1 would let me get going immediately, which is not without certain appeal.

Written on October 27, 2007

How I got rid of Airport's auto-connect delay

For the past few weeks, my MacBook has been slow to hook up to my home wifi network. Every time I booted up or woke my Mac from sleep, there would be a short (about 20-30 second) delay before it would properly auto-connect. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I have lots of scheduled apps (backups, updates, IM, etc.) and they’d all report errors or fail when they couldn’t promptly find a network connection.

Turns out the problem was simply one of priority. The top network in my “preferred networks” list was one that doesn’t broadcast it’s SSID (network name). By simply moving all such networks to the bottom of the list, I connected instantly. I figure that during the time Airport appeared to be non-responsive, it was actually attempting to connect to this hidden wireless network.

Written on September 7, 2007

Stop Firefox from downloading everything to the desktop!

Every time I download files in Firefox that I “auto process” (i.e. open with an application or whatnot), it puts the downloaded file on my desktop! This doesn’t happen at home, only at work, and never happens on my PC. Reinstalling Firefox (and extensions, themes, etc. – ugh!) didn’t fix a thing!

Well, thank you Riverside Rugby for showing me how to fix this problem for once and for all!

It seems that Firefox secretly looks at your Mac’s prefs for where to save files any time it saves a temp file. I know, I know, it would make way too much sense for it to use the same setting as your save-to-disk downloads in the Firefox prefs. But, hey, that’s why we love open-source software!

So all you have to do is change Safari’s prefs for where to save files. (Darn near any other Mac browser’s equivalent prefs will work, too.) Firefox will then honor that setting for its temporary files, but not for your downloads you wish to save to disk.

Written on August 30, 2007

Use those fancy iPhone web apps on your desktop

Are you tired of seeing news about special iPhone-only websites, when you don’t have an iPhone to try them out with?

Well now you can enjoy the world of really tiny rectangular web pages along with all those iPhonies out there! Either use Firefox and follow this excellent guide or use your browser of choice to change your browser’s user agent to:

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/1A538a Safari/419

Now sit back and enjoy the iPhone goodness!

Written on July 31, 2007

Adieu, Freehand

Aldus/Macromind/Macromedia/Adobe Freehand is no more.

For many people (myself among them) Freehand was the very best of the “illustration” programs on the market. While long-time users might miss its pen tool the most, it has much more to offer itself. While Illustrator is just a cog in the machine, and virtually requires a copy of InDesign (or another page layout program) to develop a layout, Freehand’s support for multiple pages (even different page sizes) made it an ideal tool for illustration-heavy page layout, provided your document was relatively small.

As I’m no longer heavily into design, this really affects me very little, but I remain sad to see the sun set on Freehand. If nothing else, there’s no longer any real competition in the illustration space (just as there isn’t in photo editing).

But, at the same time, there are some up-and-coming inexpensive illustration programs coming out on the Mac and in open source that may yet prove to be viable alternatives to Adobe’s offerings.

Written on May 17, 2007

You either need backups or lawyers, maybe both

They say that a big part of creating a backup system is testing its ability to recover your files if there’s a failure. Well, Business 2.0 learned a valuable lesson when they lost their magazine’s latest issue and found their backup system wasn’t up to the task of recovering it. Luckily, the lawyers had a copy of every article (presumably to approve every use of the term “nappy”) and saved the day.

I’ll refrain from any lawyer jokes.

Written on May 3, 2007

Repairing a corrupse sparse disk image

I recently came upon an excellent and detailed account of how to recover a damaged sparse disk image.

I use encrypted sparse images all the time to securely store files. Sparse images have the advantage of automatically resizing as you add more files, so that you don’t have to devote a huge amount of disk space for the image until it’s really needed.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for these images to become corrupt if the resizing process is cancelled before it’s completed (for example if if the Finder crashes while the image is resizing). As sparse images are also used for Filevault-protected Macs, this could potentially lead to a catastrophic loss of data.

So this technique, while somewhat involved, is a welcome addition to my disk repair arsenal.

Written on April 27, 2007