OSX security tip: create a screensaver shortcut in your dock

If you need to secure your Macbook from prying eyes, you can enable the screensaver and require a password to unlock. The usual way to go about this is using a hot corner to activate the screensaver. But if you, like me, are all over the place with your mouse, you might want to create a screensaver shortcut in your dock. Here’s how:

  1. Open Finder, navigate to System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Versions/Resources/
  2. Note: System/Library/
  3. Drag ScreenSaverEngine to dock
  4. Profit

Use Microsofts official Internet Explorer Virtual PC testing images in VirtualBox on OSX

If you need to test Internet Explorer 6 on your Mac, but don’t want to resort to multibooting, you can download the free VirtualBox software, and grab one of Microsofts free VirtualPC testing images and get up and running.

  1. Download a VPC image of your choice.
  2. Rename the .exe file to .rar, then unpack using a RAR unpacker on the Mac
  3. Create a new Virtual Machine in Virtualbox. When you get the chance to select an existing disk, do that and point to the VPC image.
  4. Boot. The VPC image may require activation and/or a password (which resides inside the .txt file that came with the VPC image)

Yep. There’s the activation hassle. It’s Microsoft. What did you expect? It’s still easier than manually installing Windows XP.

Webdesigner #316: “Just Get A Mac” (Mac vs. PC Round 2, TwentyTen Edition)

Slowly, one by one, my colleagues are switching out their desktop PCs with portable Macs. Except for me. Consistently, I’m suggested to “just get a Mac already”, implying the OSXperience will change my life for the better.

Standard_Mac

Here’s where I think it will change my life for the better, and where it won’t.

Pros of getting a Mac

  • Coda becomes available to me.
  • The keyboard layout is great for PHP and Javascript with great locations for $, { } and [ ]. This is a big one.
  • Expose is great for switching between open apps.
  • Getting to the desktop, finding a file, dragging it to an app in the dock for it to open, works great. This doesn’t work nowhere near as nicely on Windows.

Cons of getting a Mac

  • The selection model is virtually useless. If you didn’t start your selection next to the right character, you might as well start over.
  • You can’t live with the dock, you can’t live without it. It pops in whenever you don’t need it, which is when you scale a window.
  • Scaling windows is a miserable pain, especially if you don’t have Cinch installed. Sure it’s “clean” that I can only scale in the bottom right corner of a window. But what the hell is up with that?
  • StrokeIt (systemwide mouse gestures) is not available to me.
  • Directory Opus (superb file manager) is not available to me (and Pathfinder is not an alternative).
  • Expose is horrible for switching to minimized apps, i.e. it can’t.
  • There’s no fullscreen feature, and maximize behavior is inconsistent.
  • Since there’s no fullscreen, there’s no inherent app background, so clicking the space between app panels invokes the desktop. Stupid stupid.
  • OSX creates .DS_Store files in every fricken folder everywhere, and I can only disable it for network drives.
  • OSX hides period-prepended filenames (as it should by default, but if I disable this feature so I can more easily edit a .htaccess file, my desktop becomes cluttered with other files I really don’t want to see).

For the record, I dislike both Windows and OSX now.

Microsoft, Apple, j’accuse!

Running Windows On The Mac: Did It Ever Work? [Update 3: Returning It]

Just last week, I bought myself a brand new unibody Macbook Pro 15, a rather expensive piece of hardware. I bought it, expecting it to run Windows natively via multi-boot; Apple advertises that their Boot Camp feature will do just this:

[Mac OSX] Leopard is the world’s most advanced operating system. So advanced, it even lets you run Windows if there’s a PC application you need to use. […] Setup is simple and straightforward – just as you’d expect with a Mac.

As it turns out, sure, setup is easy, but that’s pretty much where the trademark simple and straightforward ends. Windows, running on my late 2008 Macbook crashes, freezes and Blue Screen Of Deaths me constantly, as in at every 10 minutes of plain use. To preempt your question, “Why run Windows at all?”: gaming.

There are a number of problems:

  • Windows doesn’t seem to control the cooling fans at all, and so it overheats
  • Windows can’t switch between the two (fast or power friendly) graphics adapters
  • Windows freezes when simply browsing websites

So overall, Windows on the Mac is a consistently unpleasant experience, which brings me to the purpose of this post. I need to decide whether I should return the Mac for a full refund and buy a different laptop for half the price, or alternatively, establish whether it’s likely that Apple will address all of these issues given reasonable time. It would really be a pity to return the unit, as I have already grown quite fond of the hardware. Furthermore, despite prior gripes, I can actually now see myself switching to OSX for day to day work, only to boot Windows for the occasional game of Fallout, whereas I bought this Mac with the expectation to do both while in Windows.

Because I genuinely want to make this thing work, I have a number of questions I would love to hear your opinions on, and preferrably before thursday this week where my 14-day right of return expires:

  • Do you have a late 2008 Unibody 15 Macbook running Windows, and are you having similar troubles?
  • Do you have any other Mac running Windows, and if so, is that unit running perfectly?
  • Have you had problems like these on older Mac hardware, which Apple fixed with firmware and software updates?
  • If you are running Windows on a Mac, is it Vista or XP, and did switching from one to the other fix your troubles?

Please note again that I’m referring to Windows running in Boot Camp, not in emulation or virtualization like Parallels or VirtualBox.

While I have done some a lot of research on the topic and found that quite a few others are having the same troubles, and even articles on Apple supposedly working on a fix for these issues, I would love to hear updated feedback on this. As a point of note: OSX runs just fine, doesn’t crash and cools the machine aptly, which leads me to believe this is mainly a Boot Camp software / driver issue, rather than solely a hardware issue.

So there it is, the current state of my fling with The Mac. Please help me turn this into a love-affair. I’ll end this with a Steve Jobs quote:

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

If you’re reading, Steve, right now it doesn’t work.

Update: I’m putting a signed print of your choice on the line for the author of the comment that fixes the problems I’ve been having—not that I think that’s possible without Apple actually getting involved, but it’s worth a shot.

Update 2: After reading an article on The Inquirer, I’m now finding it likely that this Macbook and many others are suffering from bad Nvidia hardware. Please help me decide whether I should return the unit, or request a repair.

Update 3: Returning it. More to follow.

Flash And Quicktime: Not Sitting In A Tree

In a recent piece, News Flash: No Flash, John Gruber writes that he finds it unlikely for Flash to appear on the iPhone any time soon. He’s right, as usual, but he’s got a few details wrong.

The single most popular thing people use Flash for is to watch YouTube videos, which you can already watch a subset of using the native Mobile OS X YouTube app. In short, is the lack of Flash keeping people from buying iPhones and iPod Touches?

Right, but wrong. Video is great, but the coming battle won’t be about video. I dare predict that Apple has a dirty secret in their pocket, a secret that’s ready to explode. A secret that’ll bring them head to head (more so) with Adobe, Microsoft and Mozilla. Possibly even Sony and Nintendo.

Flash and the future of Flash, is not only about video. Sure, video was what really got Flash to the mass-market via YouTube and the likes, but the true future of Flash relies upon a new Adobe technology called AIR1. AIR is something we’ll see quite a lot more of in the coming year. The idea is that HTML is too limiting for web-apps such as Google Docs, Flickr, Twitter and so on. Yes, it works, but could it work better?

Enter Flash. There’s good Flash and there’s bad Flash. For the last decade or so, we’ve mostly seen bad Flash. YouTube was the exception, so much that in mainstream terms, Flash is now about video, when in fact that’s only a tiny subset of what Flash does. Flash does RSS, HTML, app-scripting, fullscreen, video, mp3 and graphics with advanced filters including scalable vector graphics. Theoretically, you could rewrite Gmail in Flash and AIR to make it an offline application with functionality rivaling that of other email apps such as Outlook and Thunderbird. Did I mention Flash does games as well?

Of course this is when you should splash yourself with cold water, smell the coffee and so on. There’s a real good reason why only video has really succeeded for Flash. The bulk of the reason is lack of usability (and accessibility), the cherry on top being that Flash is really CPU intensive. But Adobe is working on that. Real, no-bullshit hardware acceleration could possibly solve many of the CPU problems that plague Flash and AIR is making headway with regards to usability and accessibility.

As such, I believe the next great Internet battle will surround offline applications. Adobe has AIR, Microsoft has Silverlight and Mozilla is positioning both Firefox 3, Mozilla Prism and Mozilla Weave. The purpose of each of these frameworks is to allow people to create widgets, applications, games, music and video that you can take with you offline and even to your cellphone.

Apples website shows no trace of Flash, even though it could be used for their videos, hardware presentations and interactive website elements. Things might even work slightly better than it does now. So why doesn’t Apple just use Flash? Because Apple wants in on it.

Apple makes widgets, applications, games, music and video. Right now you can take your music, video, and most recently, your games with you offline and to your iDevices. As Gruber mentions, the iPhone even has a great amount of really good HTML/CSS/JavaScript powered applications. The iPhone even does YouTube video without the use of Flash. Apple wants you to know that you really don’t need Flash, because their big dirty secret is that they’re going to position Quicktime as an alternative to Flash/AIR and Silverlight.

Think about it. Really get it in there. Quicktime is a widespread plugin. Maybe not as much as Flash, but spread enough. Add to that Apples hardware accelerated Core Animation technology, and you’ve got graphical prowess that matches that of both Flash and Silverlight. Combine that with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and you’ll get video, music, games and applications through Quicktime. All of it, stuff we thought would be on either Adobes or Microsofts turf once the dust settled. With portable games, Apple might even face off with Nintendos and Sonys handhelds2.

Keep thinking about it. Apple has been real quiet about iPhone application SDKs. Very few games have been released. People are supposed to write applications using web-technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript). Why all the secrecy? Could it be that Apples engineers are hard at work combining Core Animation and Quicktime into a lightweight browser plugin? My prediction: yes. Count on it. In 6-10 months, Apple will unveil the new Quicktime, a browser plugin for Windows and Mac that brings Core Animation to the browser. Build your websites, movie-microsites, games, web-apps and play your videos directly in Coretime! Oh, and there’s one more thing. Once you’re done building: take it with you to your dashboard, your iPods and your iPhones.

  1. Not coincidentally, AIR is RIA a spelled backwards, RIA for Rich Internet Application  
  2. That said, they’ll probably go after Nokias NGage platform first and we all know how that’ll play out. Spoiler alert: Nokia doesn’t stand a chance.  

Firefox 3 Beta 3

Arstechnica previews the most recent Firefox 3 Beta 3. A lot of polished edges, including the first taste of the new Firefox branding, the “back / forward” keyhole design—which I honestly think requires a bit of polish. That said, the thing is shaping up quite impressively. The builds I’ve tried are fast again, and Firefox 3 looks like a winner, overall. Mac users will be thrilled to know that Firefox now supports native widgets—a feat they said couldn’t be done, even though Camino did it.