I recently stumbled upon a very nice minimalist launcher app for OS X. It seems to be from the OPENSTEP days and has now made its way to Apple's latest consumer OS. It's set up so that you just hit command-space and then start typing in the name of what you want to launch, then press retrun when it's selecting what you want. Very fast, very minimal. It's called LaunchBar and can be found at:
The LWP suite of Perl modules and applications is a popular choice for developing powerful automated web clients in Perl. However, if you install it under Mac OS X, it could make a dangerous change to your system (if Mac OS X is installed on an HFS+ file system).
LWP creates an executable program called /usr/bin/HEAD. Because the file system is case-insensitive, this ends up replacing the essential Unix utility called /usr/bin/head. After you install LWP, you can rename /usr/bin/HEAD to /usr/bin/HEAD_LWP, and copy /usr/bin/head from your Mac OS X install CD. I learned about this problem from:
One of the big beefs most folks have with OS X is application launch times. But one of the great things about OS X is its virtual memory system. This can be used to avoid waiting for applications to launch.
If you hide (command-H) an application when you're done using it instead of quitting it, you avoid the delay which occurs when you need to use that application again. There's almost no penalty for doing this, except perhaps a slightly overcrowded dock.
Now, for example, when you want to view a help page, you'll get to view it immediately, rather than having to wait for the Help application to launch.
[Editor's note: There's almost no penalty to a point. If you start to hear lots and lots of hard drive activity, you're probably pushing the limit. The more RAM you have, obviously, the more apps you can leave open.]
I didn't realize just how useful the Console app is until I noticed the Open Log... item in the File menu. This allows you to choose the log file for any running service and monitor it in real time. (This is just like running 'tail logname' from the command line, but the Console app does the work for you. In fact it uses tail to do its thing.)
Turn on FTP access in the Sharing Pane of System Preferences.
Open the Console (in Applications/Utilities).
Choose File - Open Log... (It should take you to /var/log automatically, but if it doesn't, enter /var/log in the Go to field.) Select ftp.log.
Open the Terminal (also in Applications/Utilities).
Type ftp localhost at the prompt.
Watch the messages which appear in the console window. Very cool!
The really nice thing is you can monitor any number of logs in this manner, as each will open in its own window.
The Stickies note database lives in ~/Library/.StickiesDatabase. Since the database is named with a dot as the first character of its name, its invisible in the GUI. So if you're using the Finder to move pieces of your home directory around (say in preparation for a new hard drive), make sure you grab the Stickies database in the terminal in order to save your notes. From the terminal, simply:
cd ~/Library cp .StickiesDatabase /path/to/new/location/.StickiesDatabase
This will copy your Stickies database to its new home. As you use OS X, there may be other "dot files" placed in your home directory, so it may be worth an occasional glance in the terminal if you're planning on moving stuff around. Use ls -al to show the dot files in a terminal directory listing.
Although I usually only post usability tips within applications, if I find a particular application I think is interesting, I'll post about the actual program.
DesktopCalendar, freeware by Takashi T. Hamada, is just such a program. It doesn't do all that much, but what it does, it does very well. It simply places a fully configurable floating calendar anywhere on your desktop that you want it. You control the font sizes and colors, placement of the month, year, and calendar, and the degree of transparency.
Although you can use the included Clock application, DesktopCalendar seems much more elegant in its functionality. And since I keep a clean desktop in X, there's plenty of room for it (I have it just below the menu bar, at screen top right).
Worth a look-see if you're interested in having a calendar floating about on your desktop!
I always thought the Column view was cool, especially because of the preview pane that comes up when you click on image or movie files. I was bummed that this preview was only available in column view, as I thought it would be useful in list and icon views as well.
Well, it turns out that this feature already exists!
When viewing a folder in icon or list view, click on a file and get info (Cmd-I). This brings up the info window. Select Preview from the popup menu in the info window, and volia! Click on different files to see a preview of each one. Neato.
Not sure if this is exactly news, but it's a big help for any other students in science classes out there or anyone else who needs to occasionally convert picometers to fathoms. In the terminal, just type units, which is a UNIX app that knows how to convert between 501 different units of measurement, everything from inches to furlongs to stones.
[Editor's note: Type "man units" to get a couple of useful pages that explain how to use the program. Note that it will not do Fahrenheit/Celcius, but it looks like it can handle almost anything else!]
There's a great thread on the MacNN boards talking about removing OS X without erasing a hard drive. "Schmoo" (who may be an Apple employee; check the MacNN thread!) presented an AppleScript that can be used to easily remove all traces of OS X from a hard drive. So if you have a version installed that you'd like to remove, check out Schmoo's script in the Update soon and Applescript to Uninstall X thread.
[Editor's note: I've pasted Schmoo's AppleScript into the second part of the article; read the rest if you'd like to see it...]