Category: Mac Software

I think something might be wrong. Let’s hope actually finding something on the computer takes less time.

For the record, 124,392 hours is the equivalent to 14 years, 2 months, 12 days and 10 hours.

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I really like finding little applications that do a single specialized task really well. In this case, it is a Dashboard widget called Deep Sleep that puts your computer into hibernation. I discovered it on MacOSXHints and have been using it regularly for a few weeks.

Mac laptops use three sleep mechanisms: Safe sleep, deep sleep and quick sleep. The primary difference between them is how the computer reacts when all power is removed. Safe sleep is the default behaviour and will resume normally even after the power source is completely disconnected (that means you can change batteries without fully shutting the computer down). Deep sleep also wakes normally (albeit more slowly) and draws no power at all. Quick sleep will not remember any data when started after a power loss.

The nice part about this widget is that it enables you to use the deep sleep method once, then have it revert back to the standard form afterwards. It is especially convenient for when you know the computer won’t be needed for a few hours, but you’ll need the full battery afterwards. This ability is also useful for when the battery has aged and no longer holds the original power (like mine).

So if you need to put your computer away for a while, but still want power when you wake it again, give Deep Sleep a try.

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UPDATE: TV.com (which I use to find the show titles) has since changed their format, so I cannot guarantee that this script works as advertised. I will confirm it in the near future.
UPDATE 2: This Applescript has been replaced by a more efficient and lightweight Bash script.

After picking up a 750 GB hard drive for my Airport Extreme, I’ve started to rip my DVDs so that I can watch them on my computer. The problem is that the files don’t come out with descriptive episode titles, leaving you guessing when you want to pick a show to watch. If you decide to add the titles yourself, the process can be tedious and time consuming, not to mention downright annoying.

That is why I’ve created a combination Automator/Applescript workflow to do the job automatically. After entering the name of the TV show you’re looking for, the program takes the selected files and searches TV.com’s vast episode guide for the correct titles. Once the data has been collected, the titles are added to the selected files. The only preparation you must do is rename the files in the format SxxExx where S is the season number, and E is the episode number (S02E05, for example). This step is very easy when you use a program like NameMangler, which can add sequential filenames in one pass.

Download

Get TV Titles Application Download and run as standard application
Get TV Titles Workflow Automator workflow that can be saved as an application or Finder plugin
Get TV Titles Finder Plugin Can be run from the Finder contextual menu (right-click). To install, download and save to the folder Userfolder/Workflows/Applications/Finder.

Instructions

  1. Collect files and rename them in the SxxExx format. Using NameMangler seems to work best, but there are other applications out there to do the same thing.
  2. Select all the files you wish to add titles to.
  3. Start the program in whichever way you’ve downloaded: directly from Automator, the standalone application, or by the contextual right-click menu and navigating to More > Automator > Get TV Titles.
  4. Type in the name of the TV show you’re looking for episodes from.
  5. If you’re running it via the contextual menu, you’ll see this status message in the Finder menubar.
  6. Once the computer has processed the data, you’ll see all the episodes neatly named.

So far I’ve been able to edit more than 20 files at once. Of course, your mileage may vary, so please comment with feedback and results.

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It’s been just over 1 year since I waited in line on October 27, 2007 for Leopard. Now that I’ve had 52 weeks to use and abuse the operating system, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve come to like, dislike and can’t live without.

The Good

QuickLook
This tiny little addition to the Finder has changed the way I open files. Having the ability to preview a movie, view a PDF and view inside a ZIP archive (with plugins) has made working much easier. Moving to a Mac still on Tiger is quite annoying now because any file I wish to preview must be opened in its original application. It also makes viewing slideshows of folders full of images exceptionally easy.

Time Machine
Fortunately, I haven’t had the need to restore my entire computer from a Time Machine backup. What I do use the utility for, however, is to restore revisions that have gone awry. Most files, programs or projects contain numerous versions that need to be organized, and when a version gets unusable for any reason, I can easily go back in time to restore the original copy. Having a constant update is always comforting, and this is truly one of the “set it and forget it” kind of applications. I’m sure it has saved many other people from having to start over from scratch, and that is precisely what it was meant to do in the first place.

New Finder Sidebar
Some people love it, some people hate it. I’ve found the network share part of the sidebar to be incredibly useful. Having one-click access to other computers or hard drives on the network has proven to be consistently fast and effective in most network setups. However, the other element of the new sidebar, Search for, is rather annoying, because it cannot be removed. Sure you can collapse it, but it doesn’t free the same space that erasing it completely would.

Preview
Preview is here because of a single addition: the change size tool. Writing blog posts, updating websites and general media work requires a lot of image resizing, and having the ability to resize images quickly, efficiently and with high quality results saves a lot of time over opening Photoshop.

The Bad

Spaces
I’ve yet to fully make use of Spaces. Right now I have 2 Spaces, with all my primary work being done on Space 1, and use full screen apps like Parallels or VNC on the second space to make things more organized. It works nicely, but that’s all I can see myself using Spaces for. What would help me adopt it more readily would be providing the option for disconnecting a specific application from all Spaces. What that could mean is choosing Finder in Space Y opens a new window instead of going to back to the Finer window in Space X. Some applications you want to open normally regardless of what is open around it.

Front Row
Recently I’ve gotten into the whole Network Area Storage media center thing by getting a 750GB drive connected to my Airport Extreme (more details on that to come in a later post). This is great for sharing all my media in a way that I can access it from anywhere in the house, and even view the shows on my TV by streaming on my MacBook. It’s like having an TV without having an TV. But after using Front Row more and more, I’ve found some rather basic things that could improve the app significantly.

First, TV shows that I have carefully labelled and organized inside iTunes don’t display the order you might expect. You’d think that the natural order to display TV shows is by Season, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In a TV show with 4 seasons, the links are displayed Season 4, 2, 3, 1 which is very weird. On top of that, you can’t tell you’ve entered the wrong season until clicking through because Front Row only displays the show name rather than the season. By adding the ability to sort by show, then season, navigating the system would be made a lot easier. Another annoyance is Front Row’s inability to use network shares or other storage medium with the Source menu. The only way to view media outside iTunes, iPhoto and the Movies folder is to use an alias (I’ll explain that later too). I hope Apple makes some of these changes for the upcoming versions, as these basic modifications could make using a Mac for a media center even more elegant.

iCal information
My final beef represents the largest step backwards from Tiger to Leopard. In iCal versions predating 10.5, editing activities and events was as easy as opening the drawer on the right side of the window. This meant that to edit a new event, you only needed to select the item on the calendar, and the drawer would update accordingly. That all changed with iCal 3, as changing an event now requires the Command+I keystroke, or for you to double click the event on the calendar. Not only is this an extra, unnecessary step, but it covers up space on the calendar that is likely needed to compare events. In terms of usability, it is definitely a step back.

I don’t know if Apple has any of these changes in store for Snow Leopard, but let’s hope that they keep the great stuff, and find a way to improve the features that aren’t quite as useful as they should be.

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Yesterday Apple released new iPods at their special event in San Francisco, and also unveiled the next version of their jukebox software, iTunes 8.

There have been a few things I’ve noticed about the new application — both good and bad — that make this version highly recommended for all users.

Genius

The biggest new feature of iTunes 8 is most certainly Genius. This is a feature that analyzes the metadata in your iTunes library and sends this data to the iTunes Store, which then recommends music that is both in your library and in the Store. You can make playlists with songs you own based on these suggestions. The initial analysis takes a few minutes, and on my library of 1800 songs, it was about 5 minutes.

You can activate the feature by choosing a song from your library and opening the drawer on the side of the screen. This shows songs in the iTunes Store that are related, which you can then purchase. As soon as you do this, iTunes sends the related songs that you own into a Genius playlist, accessible in the Sources panel of iTunes. The ability to find related songs works best if you listen to well known, established musicians, though I imagine once more people share data on less known acts, the choices will improve.

Album view

Apple also introduced another new way to view music, through an album cover group. This of course only really works if your music has album covers. While it is cool to see all your music as albums, it is not something I find practical.

Assorted bug fixes

As usual with application updates, iTunes 8 also kills some bugs that were annoying people earlier on. One of the biggest things was the time it takes iTunes to back up and sync iPod touch and iPhones. My initial sync seemed to take less time than normally, but that could just be excitement.

The image above is a slightly annoying interface bug that seems to have come up in this version. When browsing the iTunes store, the program doesn’t shrink the data into the window — meaning you need to scroll across to view the entire screen. While not critically important, it is a simple thing that could make viewing the store much easier.

iTunes 8 is another evolutionary improvement to an already good jukebox application. The Genius feature shows promise and other refinements make it one of the best music organization programs out there.

[tags]iTunes, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, iPhone[/tags]

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