I was searching for a way to automatically scan my Music folder with iTunes on a regular basis to keep my Library up to date. What seemed like an easy enough task turned into a nightmare of a trip - mainly because of the weird interaction between cron and Applescript.
My goal was to write a simple cron task that called a simple AppleScript stored in a text file or compiled script. The AppleScript was easy enough - but getting it to run in cron was a DOG!!! I don't know exactly what the interaction is between cron and osascript - but it ain't pretty. I spent hours researching other peoples efforts and finally came up with a viable solution.
The OS X version of FileMaker Pro does not support the dial function (who knows why). Anyway, it is a real pain for people who want to dial an individual from their database. I finally figured it out and thought it might be worth sharing, because it may be a long time before the dial function is put back into the program.
Last weekend I reinstalled OS X from scratch on my iBook. I had a backup of my iPhoto Library, but when I opened the freshly installed iPhoto (with the old Library folder), I noticed that my old keywords were no longer there. iPhoto showed the standard set of keywords instead.
I had a copy of my old ~/Library/Preferences/ folder, and when I replaced the new com.apple.iPhoto.plist with the older copy and re-launched iPhoto, my keywords were back. At first I expected that all photos would have lost their associated keywords, but that wasn't the case; all keywords returned as soon as I replaced the .plist file.
So, if you want to backup an iPhoto Library to reinstall your OS, and you use your own keywords in iPhoto, make sure to save a copy of the com.apple.iPhoto.plist file in a safe place.
[Editor's note: In general, preference files in OS X tend to store a lot of very useful information, often well beyond what you might expect from the OS 9 versions. For example, the Finder's preference file also stores your Finder Toolbar settings. So even if you slack off on backing up your full system, you may very well wish to drag a copy of the whole ~/Library/Preferences folder to a safe place, just in case your prefs ever get corrupted. I can speak from experience that recreating a well crafted Finder Toolbar is not necessarily a fun task!]
Not sure if this has been mentioned before but for those of us running OSX on PowerBooks (at least the 1st rev Titaniums and earlier, since I know they swapped some keys on the 2nd rev Ti) there is a very helpful key command to scroll windows in IE: option plus up/down arrow which scrolls up/down one page.
This helps a lot because we don't have true page up and page down keys. The advertised key command involves the 'fn' key which is all the way on the left and the arrows which are all the way on the right. Grrrr.
Also, just in case people don't know, command plus the up/down arrow keys navigate to the top/bottom of the current page, and command plus the left/right arrow keys mimic the "back" and "forward" buttons.
[Editor's note: These keyboard shortcuts work on desktop machines as well, since they are features of IE itself.]
Using Speed Disk to optimize an OS X volume usually doesn't help much with the spining beachball problem because it doesn't put OS X files at the fastest parts of the disk. To help fix this problem, use the Speed Disk Profile editor to create a new profile. The goal is to put important OS X stuff at the fastest part of the disk.
Make a category called OS X. Specify a criteria. Don't specify a file type. Specify a folders (up to 4) - Now enter the OS X system folders, like "system", "user", "library", etc. Since I never use Classic or any OS 9 stuff, I put anything in the "System Folder" and all OS 9 stuff at the bottom of the sorting list. I made another category for the Apps I often use like Mail, iTunes, Internet Explorer etc. I named it FaveApps put it 2nd in the list. I made the free space category the 3rd item in the list.
After I optimised using this profile, I found the beach ball would appear much less frequently. Since I don't have another partition for my swap file, I don't know if this is better than that technique for killing the beachball.
[Editor's note: I have never used Speed Disk so I can't vouch for the effectiveness of this particular tip.]
This is a simple tip, but I wanted to submit it just in case.
When using iTunes, if you only have the Library selected, then the leftmost column of the main display be empty. If you have a playlist selected, the leftmost column will display numbers.
Why is this important? Well, if you choose to sort the list by using these numbers, when you enable shuffle mode you can see the order in which the songs are going to play. It's a little more user-friendly than watching the Library list jumping all over the place during shuffle play.
To do this if you don't have any playlists, just create one and add all the songs from your library to it.
I'm sure some users out there already know this, but Ogg Vorbis really needs to reach more people. Ogg Vorbis is an audio compression format that rivals MP3 even with the alt-presets. With vorbis, you can store files with higher quality at smaller file sizes.
Anyway, a QuickTime Components project has been started at Sourceforge, focusing on QT development of popular open source audio and video components. Their first project integrates Ogg Vorbis encoding and decoding into QuickTime (with a plugin a la divx or 3ivx). This is great news because conversion to/from ogg vorbis is done simply through qt player's 'export' function and ogg vorbis files will now play in iTunes! The files must be renamed from .ogg to .mov though.
The downloaded .qtx file goes into the /Library/Quicktime/ directory (like DivX); it is an import/export and playback plugin for Quicktime Player. Just open up a sound/music file in QT Player, choose export, then select Ogg Vorbis in the formats menu. The only option in this process is the quality slider. Even though the plugin is in the early stages of development and contains a bug or two, overall performance (including encoding and playback) is quite excellent; Vorbis is truly the MP3 killer.
Since we seem to be on the subject of backups today (see the story below this one), I thought this would be a good time to mention Carbon Copy Cloner, a $5.00 donationware (uncrippled shareware) AppleScript Studio project written by Mike Bombich. I've actually used this several times in the last few months, and kept meaning to write something up about it. Carbon Copy Cloner creates clones of one OS X installation onto other drives. This can be very useful not only for full backups, but also for creating identical mass installations of OS X (as in a lab environment, which is what drove Mike to create the program)
Carbon Copy Cloner uses AppleScript Studio to put an easy to use interface in front of AppleScript. When you launch the program, you choose source and destination disks with pop-up menus, specify which (if any) folders you do not want cloned, decide whether or not to recreate Darwin links and bless the system folder, and then simply hit the "Clone" button. Carbon Copy Cloner then proceeds to create a fully bootable copy of your existing installation.
Carbon Copy Cloner's focus is in cloning an entire drive; it's not targeted at programs like Retrospect that let you create backup sets, incremental backups, etc. But if you just want the security of knowing you have a full bootable backup of your existing installation, or you need to install a customized OS X folder on 100 hard drives, it's a near perfect tool for the job.
Posting to the X4U mailing list, Judi S. noticed that both InDesign 2 and Photoshop 7 allow for keyboard manipulation of any numerical value. Judi writes (and gave permission to repost here):
You can manipulate *any* measurement with the keyboard. This works in dialog boxes (such as Paragraph Rules...) and palettes (such as the Type or Paragraph or Info). Just click on the unit of measurement to the left of the input field. So if you wanted to change the width of a box you would click once on the "W:" in the Info palette. Now use your up and down arrow keys to either increase or decrease the measurement (set the increment in the preferences). This is wonderful if you want to adjust a drop shadow, or change kerning, or nudge something. No fudging with numbers!
I'm not sure if this was a feature in previous versions of the programs or not, but it seems like a real time saver.
One other thing in her post that caught my eye had to do with switching Photoshop to the background during long operations. After noting that you can do this and continue to work smoothly in other apps, Judi wrote:
In OS X, you get a progress bar on the Photoshop dock icon! No more clicking back and forth to see how things are going!
A great example of how the dynamic nature of the dock can be put to good use.
If you use Snapz Pro for your screenshots, you may find these tips on screen captures useful. Andrew Welch sent them to a Snapz Pro mailing list and granted permission to reproduce them here.
If you're snapping a picture of an entire window, try setting the clipping border to "Small" (in the Preferences pane), and the image border set to "Fade to White" (on the main Snapz Pro X pane), or "Fade to Black" if the screenshots will go up on a web page with a black background. These setting result in a smoother looking capture, as you can see in Ambrosia's sample screenshot.
If you're capturing just a portion of an interface item, Andrew suggests just using "Fade to white" and selecting an area (eight pixels or so) larger than that which you wish to capture. Although more subtle, you can still see the differences in this comparative screenshot.
I recently put these tips to work on a small project at work, and the results are clearly nicer than the drop shadow border I used for all the image captures in the OS X Solutions Guidebook. If there weren't 100+ images to re-shoot, I'd go back and re-do all of my originals :-).