Category: mac

This may seem like an obvious thing to some folks but it might be a mystery to others so I’m writing up a short post.

I have been recently working on sweepers for the ISD Podcast and Rick sent me a garage band file with a few audio clips that I didn’t have in my collection.  I wanted to extract these clips so I could cut them up and rework them with a tool such as Audacity.

From the finder, I simply right-clicked on the garage band file and clicked “show package contents”.  From there, I looked in the “media” folder that showed up and all the audio clips I needed were right there so I copied them out so I could work on them.

CutePDF Professional woes

I just switched a friend over to the Macintosh platform.  Love it, hate it, I don’t really care.  😛  He’s been loving it in any event which is what matters.  There have been a few things that we’ve needed to tweak though to get all the same functionality of his old Windows XP system that is running some very archaic proprietary software.  I wish I could call out the developer of this particular package because it’s absolutely one of the worst coding disasters I have EVER seen.  This piece of garbage is a perfect example of what happens when a developer tries to reimplement the GUI from the ground up without using mature APIs/SDKs.  He thought he could do it better…

Stepping back off my soapbox, my friend’s work flow involved using this program to draw a wire frame type of drawing for purpose of design and bidding.  After that, he would print to PDF with CutePDFWriter and then use CutePDFPro to annotate the PDF and modify it in all of the ways that the software that generated the drawing could not.  Here is where the problem came in.  It was extremely baffling and annoying.

We are running Windows XP on his new Mac in a Parallels virtual machine.  This is great because he can patch his system, install all the necessary programs he needs and then freeze a snapshot of it so he can always roll back to a known good state.  Being the minimalist I am, I was trying to keep his new VM extremely clean so it would perform in tip top shape.  When it came time to replicate his old setup, we install the crappy custom CAD program, then we installed CutePDF Pro and CutePDF Writer.  Now when he would attempt to open a PDF in CutePDF Pro, there was a big problem.  The file would instantly bring up ANOTHER dialog that said “file download”.  It would have the options to open, save or cancel and pre-populated was a temp file sort of name with some letter and numbers.pdf.  If you hit save, it would save it where you specified and repeat that loop with a new temp file name with incremented numbers.  This went on and on and on.  I didn’t know what could possibly be wrong so I turned to tech support (last resort, right?)  CutePDF provides only email support so I sent in the request and forgot about it.   I came back to solve this problem 2 weeks later.  Apparently they did end up answering the email but he didn’t notice.

I screwed around with the problem for another couple hours and then finally was going to reinstall so I searched his email for CutePDF to find his product key and saw that they had answered our plea for support.  The solution was simple but completely baffling to me:

“Dear Sir, Please install Adobe Reader 9.0.  That will solve your problem”

WHAT?!?  Are you kidding me?  Of course I tried it and it worked like a charm.  Everything was flawless and back as it should be.  Why though?  This strikes me the same as if you purchased Apple’s answer to Microsoft Office, iWork but when you went to run it, it told you, “Please install Microsoft Office to continue this operation”.

I mean, am I wrong to think that some people use alternatives like CutePDF Writer and Foxit Editor perhaps because they hate Adobe with a passion or if not, perhaps because they may be lighter weight applications that use less system resources and may run better on older hardware?  Having your competitor’s product be a critical requirement for your application to function correctly seems to be a bizarre business choice for me.

I tried to Google around for solutions to this issue and I’m fairly shocked now that I found out what the problem is that more people don’t have the same complaint.  </rant>

Apple’s new Mac app store

I was on the Infosec Daily Podcast tonight and one of the topics we covered was Apple’s new Mac App store. Mainly, since the podcast is security-focused, our angle was that the ‘DRM’ was already found be broken by some simple copy and pasting. That being said, it lead us down a rabbit hole of some further thoughts about the implications of this new app store.

Is Apple’s intention to close up the system and make it more like an iPod Touch or iPhone? If that’s the case, I would just as soon bail now and save myself the money and heartache later. Will I be forced to ‘jailbreak’ my MacBook Pro to obtain the same functionality the current version of Snow Leopard?  Will I want lose the ability to compile packages or eventually lose my command line interface?  I don’t think I’m the only one who would jump ship if any of these possible outcomes came to pass.

On a brighter note, this could be an EXCELLENT unified update management system. Software update is NOT bad in my experience but I do feel the iTunes app store is more effective. Seeing that sort of system come to OS X is exciting. As an added bonus, it’s been said that even apps that you did not originally purchase through the app store will be able to be updated through this new system.  Having a little icon in the corner that just pops up a little red number telling you how many updates are waiting sounds pretty nice to me.  Will Software update eventually be entirely merged with the app store for performing OS-level security updates?  That’s how it works on iTunes with an iPod/iPhone so it’s probably quite feasible and maybe more efficient in the end.

Here are some of my further fetched wishes… Will Xcode install and be manageable through the new app store?  Could ports be merged into the new app store? That would rule! I’d love to have everything manageable through a unified interface but if the past is an indication of the future, this is all wishful thinking. Can I get a command line interface to the new app store so I can update my system over a SSH session?  Definitely asking too much there….

On another tangent, I’d like to direct you to an interesting ‘blog’ post. I say blog in quotes because we’re talking about an HTML 1.0 type document…. Anyhow, it’s Tom Pittman’s vision of a perfect operating system.  The interesting portion is where he feels that OS X was a step backwards from System 9.0. Agree or disagree, he has a couple of interesting points and I feel the whole short document is worth a read.  Could the new app store be a natural progression?  Maybe Apple’s way of “righting the ship”?  It’s all food for thought.

For more information about how the app store is already broken in a DRM sense of the word, check out this link and enjoy….

I’ve been merging my address books in preparation for my new HTC EVO 4G that I’ll be getting on June 3rd.  As it sat, I had contacts in 3 seperate places.  There was the Mac address book, Google and Outlook in my Windows XP VM which I ONLY used for Activesync to backup my phone contacts.  First I exported everything from Outlook into a CSV file.  Then I imported that file to contacts in Gmail.  That went pretty smooth since I didn’t have many contacts in Gmail already.  Then I went into Mac Address Book into preferences and turned on “Syncronize with Google”.  I considered the warning that I was about to modify over 25% of my address book and I clicked “sync”.  There were a few conflicts resolved fairly automatically and it resynced.

After all that, I noticed tons of duplicate contacts.  I went into Gmail and from there I found a button in Gmail that allowed me to automatically clean up the duplicates.  I did this and it found 65 dupes out of 450 contacts.  Not bad.  That saved me a few minutes but then I wanted to reflect the changes in the Mac Address Book.  Low and behold, there is a button up in the menu bar on the right hand side that allows you to force a sync anytime you wish.  I posted a screen shot so you can see what I mean.

My favorite iPod apps

I’ve owned an iPod touch for about four months now.  Already it is an indispensable piece of equipment that I use many, many times every day.  For years I resisted the lure of an iPod because I thought of it as a glorified mp3 player.  100% not true.  In fact I don’t have any mp3’s on mine at all.  Just some podcasts and a few awesome apps.  I have not bothered to jailbreak my device because I don’t think it is necessary.  I plan to get an Android phone this summer when the Supersonic comes out and I plan to root that for my extra-functional fix.  Here are a few of the apps that I use all the time and couldn’t live without now:

Logmein Ignition – The ultimate app for the iPhone/iPod.  This allows you to remotely log in to your desktop or laptop computer and control anything on the screen possible.  If you have multiple monitors, shake it to switch screens.  Your mouse pointer stays in the middle of the screen and you move your desktop behind it.  Use gestures to zoom in, zoom out, scroll and more.  Best part is that it caches your login and password so you can jump right into your desktop quickly.  Control your Mac or Windows machine with this app.  It’s $30 but worth every penny and it works with the free version of logmein.

WordPress – This app allows you to blog right from your iPhone or iPod.  It ties straight into your admin panel and lets you skip the login if you like.  Great for when an idea strikes you and you are nowhere near your computer.  You have to toggle a setting in the admin panel to set it up but that’s easy.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars –  This game is a surprisingly good milepost in the series.  For a long time I judged it by the screen shots but it actually plays much better than you would think.  It has a good story and is well tweaked for the mobile platform.  Autosaves occur after every mission and you can put your iDevice to sleep in the middle of anything and when you come back, things will be as you left them.  It’s not nearly as involved as a ps2 or ps3 version but it’s a good little time killer when you have a few minutes.

Katamari Damacy – This game seems like a natural for this platform.  If you haven’t played it before, I strongly urge you to try it out.  If you have a ps2, do yourself a favor and grab the very first version of Katamari Damacy.  This game is simple in concept.  You roll a ball around an area and it gets larger as you roll over things.  The cubist art style makes the game more interesting and amusing.  I do wish you could switch between tilt controls and on-screen but other than that, this is one of my favorite console games so it’s nice to have it on the go.

O’Reilly books – The same O’Reilly books that are down at the bookstore for $20-$60/ea are available from the app store for $3-$5/ea.  I think that’s fair.  I’ve bought 3 of them so far and they are great.  For something like a programming language reference book these are especially nice since they are searchable and bookmarkable.  My only complaint is that in some of the books, the comments in the code samples get cut off for some reason.  Still, for $5 I’m not complaining at all.  It’s also nice to be able to fit a respectable O’Reilly library right in your pocket and always have it at your fingertips.

Speed Test – I use this app all the time.  It allows you to see how good (or bad) your internet connection is.  It also logs it along with a GPS coordinate.

FlowChat – IRC in my pocket.  If you thought IRC was dead and that twitter has taken it’s place, think again.  It’s live and kicking.  Most of the IRC networks I used to use in the 90’s are still there but irrelevant now in my opinion.  The server that seems to have the topics most interesting to me is Freenode.  If you jump on there, you’ll probably find me in #zipit.  I have not tried the competitor to Flowchat, Colloquy but I use Colloquy on my MacBook Pro and it works well on there so that might also be worth a look.

This list is by no means exhaustive but those are my top choices.  Honorable mentions go out to Twitteriffic, Kindle, Amazon, RingCentral, pTerm & Skype.  Please post in the comments if you have any cool apps that you can’t live without.

Have you ever wondered what to do with that obscure long number that is sometimes seen posted with files that you download?  If you have ANY suspicion on whether a file is legitimate or not, you should use that number to make sure you are getting the file from the correct source.  Other than checking for trojan’d files and other dirty deeds you can also check to make sure you downloaded the WHOLE file.  Why waste a DVD by burning a corrupted ISO?  It’s easy enough to run the checksum so that you don’t have to guess if the file is good or not.  Open up a terminal and type:

md5 filename

See?  It’s dead simple.  Just make sure the number matches the one that is posted on the trusted site where you downloaded the file.  If you want to get really fancy with the process, there is an automator script available from apple called MD5 Checksum 1.0 that allows you to right click and check any file right in the finder.

I’ve owned a Mac now since late 2008.  Soon after I bought it, I discovered how cool multi-monitor support is.  Oddly, this discovery didn’t quench more thirst for more screen real estate, it simply made me want more and more.  On my MacBook Pro, there is only one monitor output.  I would have assumed that was that and there would be no way to add more screens but then I found the Sewell Minideck SW-22857.

This ingenious device allows you to hook up to 5 extra monitors to a computer even as underpowered as a Atom-based netbook.  That is a testament to the fact that it doesn’t consume a lot of overhead.  On my system which is a 2.53GHz dual core, it seems to only take 1.2-2.2% of one of the CPU’s at idle and it spikes to 2.6% when I’m pushing it with window scrolling, etc. Works for me.

Now personally I would have assumed that a USB-based graphics card would be kind of a gimmick.  Surprisingly enough though, I think this adapter will work well enough to be useful.  I did try full motion video on it and it sucks.  Totally useless and choppy.  I would estimate I’m getting 15-20fps on it.  To me, this is pretty much unacceptable, YMMV.

I did a lot of research before I bought this device.  One thing surprised me.  It’s smaller than it looks in the picture.  Probably half the size of a standard external 2.5″ drive but a touch thicker.  Another thing worth mentioning is that you should just go to the website to get the latest driver.  From my understanding, the bundled one doesn’t work too well.

Supposedly this is one of the only USB-VGA/DVI/HDMI adapters that actually works properly with the Mac.  I’d believe that.  The bummer is that they know it and charge dearly for it.  I tried and tried to wait them out but the price never dropped.  I could not find this device ANYWHERE legitimately cheaper than $100.

The only problem I could find with the whole setup is that my monitor does not seem to properly sleep with this adapter.  The screen goes black but the back light stays on.  If I figure out what is going on with this, I’ll post an update.

Update 6/30/2010 – Still haven’t figured out the sleep mode on the screen but I have found that you cannot take a screenshot of anything running on USB-connected screen under Mac OS X

Lynx text-based web browser. It's not as complicated as it looks.

So you’ve installed Macports now and probably met your needs for the moment.  Did you ever wonder what else was available as a port?  Here is a short list of some other gems:

John the ripper – This is a password cracker.  It’s highly flexible.  Very handy for testing the strength of your own passwords or recovering a password in certain instances.  For instance, I’ve used it when administrating a web server when I have forgotten the password to a protected directory but I still have ssh or ftp access.  I’ll just grab the .htpasswd file and run it through John the Ripper and presto, it will give me one or more passwords.  It’s also good as a sysadmin if you want to make sure people are using good passwords.  You can run it against the password file, see which user’s passwords are returned and notify them that they need to set something stronger.  The port package is simply called john.

wget – Wget is one of my favorite handy little command line utilities.  All it does is downloads something from the internet and saves it.  This can be an html page or any file available on the web.  I use it when I want to download a tarball into a specific directory.  Instead of thumbing through directory trees on firefox, I’ll just copy and paste the URL into a shell and wget it.  Then it’s exactly where I need it and ready to be untarred.  The port package is called wget.

lynx – If you’ve never used Lynx before, now may not be the time to start.  Lynx is a command line, text-based web browser.  Before the days of Mosaic and Internet Explorer 1.0, Lynx was the browser of choice for early users of the web.  Some folks even snobbed the newer browsers reasoning that pictures just messed up the overage web experience.  Lynx is useful for when you are ssh’ing into your machine remotely and need to grab/install a file off the web or just do something similar quickly.  It supports cookies and many other modern features surprising enough.  The port package is called lynx.

There are TONS of other good packages out there.  Some other honorable mentions are bzip2, hexedit, hping3, nmap & tcpdump.  Feel free to post in the comments whatever cool packages you have found available as a Macport.

What is MacPorts?

Since getting my MacBook pro in early 2009 MacPorts has been one of the best and most useful tools I have discovered for it. MacPorts is a package management system similar to Debian’s apt-get. It allows you to install any of the 1000’s of packages that are available on other Unix platforms.  To use it, you’ll need Xcode which is Apple’s free integrated development environment.  Make sure you include both X11SDK and Unix Development when you grab the Xcode package.  Xcode is a huge package but it’s worth the space for ports and because it comes with Dashcode which is a nice little text editor that properly saves html, php, etc unlike text edit.

Once you have Xcode downloaded and installed, then grab the pre-built dmg file for your version of OS X from here.  One of the first commands you’ll want to make a note of is the update command.  That brings MacPorts itself up to date.  To run it you type:

sudo port -v selfupdate

More important is the package update command.  This one could take a while to run depending how many packages you have installed since it will download and recompile any outdated packages and dependencies you may have installed.  Be forwarded my computer took over an hour to upgrade.  To run it you type:

sudo port upgrade outdated

At the time of this blog post there are 6818 ports currently available.  You can see all of the ports right here.  The ports are categorized and searchable.  You can also search through all of the available ports right on the command line with these two commands:

ports list

ports search package

Once you find a package you want, installing it is a snap.  You just type:

sudo port install package

After you have installed a few ports, you can see a list of all ports and all dependencies that you currently have installed by typing:

port installed

Every time I look at the list I see new packages to install.  A few of my favorites are Perl, mysql, nmap & lynx.  You might laugh at Lynx but it really can be handy in a pinch.  Especially if you are SSH’ing into your Mac remotely.  Even if your package is not available, ports is really the best way to install dependencies for other packages that you may need to compile.  Things like gmake, autoconf & automake can be critical to running ./configure scripts and ports will make dependency hell a little less painful.

One final caveat is that when you upgrade to the next version of OS X, it will probably break some/most/all of your ports.  I haven’t had this experience yet but I’m guessing it won’t be much more painful than possibly upgrading Xcode, the MacPorts binary and running the upgrade command again.

Powered by WordPress. Theme: Motion by 85ideas.