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Mount multiple iDisks using AppleScript Apps
I have several different iDisks and wanted to create scripts to automatically mount each iDisk. Here's what I came up with, and it seems to work well. Copy and paste the following into ScriptEditor, and replace the references to username and password with your iDisk account information. Save the script with a unique name, and each of your iDisks is now a double-click away.
tell application "Finder"
mount volume "afp://idisk.mac.com/username" as user name ¬
"username" with password "password"
end tell
[Editor's note: In case it doesn't come out correctly, the symbol after "as user name" is the Script Editor's line break symbol, entered with option-return. The 'mount' command is one line; it's broken up here for narrower display width.]
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Change Network Utility's whois server list Apps
If you use the Network Utility to do 'whois' lookups, but prefer to use a whois server that's not listed in Apple's choices, there's no apparent way to add your servers to the displayed list within the pop-up list -- so you end up typing in your preferred whois server each time you run the program. But with just a bit of preference editing, it's actually quite easy to add your preferred choices. Here's how to do it.
  1. Go to /Users/user_name/Library/Preferences.

  2. Quit Network Utility if it's running.

  3. Open com.apple.NetworkUtility.plist file in propertylisteditor (or TextEdit if you don't have the Dev Tools installed).

  4. Open the NUWhoisServers key (in TextEdit, look for <key>NUWhoisServers</key>). Add/delete additional strings with the whois servers you would like to keep/remove permanently from the Network Utilities server list (in TextEdit, insert additional <string>whois.server.name</string> values into the list, or delete the ones you don't wish to see).

  5. Save your changes and quit the editor.

  6. Re-launch Network Utility and see the new list of servers
[Editor's note: This hint serves as a good example of my first rule of OS X tweaking - if you wish to change an application's default behavior, and you don't see a preference for the item you wish to change, check out the app's preferences file. There are typically values set there which are easily edited (as seen here), even if they don't have a user interface to those settings within the program.]
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Try Adium as an AIM replacement Apps
If you use AIM (America Online's Instant Messenger), you should give Adium a try. This Cocoa replacement for AIM has a nice feature set, is completely free, has source code available, takes up minimal screen real estate, and is updated regularly.

Thanks to WCityMike for reminding me about this great little program!
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Remove Entourage X delay on quit Apps
It was taking Entourage 75 seconds to quit on my TiBook 500 with a gig of RAM. The windows would close, but the Entourage menu bar would still be there and the little triangle would be in the Dock indicating it was running. I could switch to other apps, but the point was, what was taking so long?

I don't know, but it turns out the delay goes away if I close my PPP connection before quitting Entourage. Then it only takes a normal two seconds to fully quit.

--Andy
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Office v.X (Word) and CPU usage Apps
After picking up Office v.X on Sunday afternoon, I'm in the midst of converting the source for the OS X Guidebook into Word (primarily to support higher res images, but also adding some new hints; look for a release by the weekend as a new PDF download). In working with Word (which I generally love, BTW), I've noticed that it's an extremely CPU-intensive application, even when just sitting in the background. With the Guidebook open (about a 3.5mb file), Word takes 40% - 60% of my CPU, whether it's in the foreground or the background. While working on the document, this isn't a problem, but it can be a bit of a problem when I've put Word into the background to do something else.

After some experimentation, I found a solution. It's not ideal, but it works. Simply close the document before switching applications. When I do this, Word's CPU usage drops to basically zero. It's also close to zero with a new blank document open. Somewhere between the blank document and my 3.5mb file, though, Word becomes quite CPU hungry -- and this is on a G4/733 with 1.2gb of RAM.

So if you want a responsive system, remember to close any large documents that you may have opened in Word before putting it in the background. I have not done any testing with Excel or PowerPoint to see if this same issue extends to those applications or not.

UPDATE: Based on an email from Philip D., I tweaked some settings and appear to have eliminated the problem (at least based on what's happening now). I have Word in the background with the 3.5mb file open, and it's using less than 1% of the CPU. What changes did I make? I turned off "Check spelling as you type" and "Check grammar as you type" in the "Spelling and Grammar" preferences tab. I also turned off "Show live word count" in the "Window" portion of the "View" preferences. This seems to have reduced Word's appetite for background CPU power to nearly zero.
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Force Entourage X to use another browser Apps
In Entourage X, clicking on a URL in an email message launched Internet Explorer, even though OmniWeb was my default browser. I couldn't find a preference setting to change this -- if it's there, never mind the following workaround.
  1. In the Finder, go to the Applications folder and temporarily rename Internet Explorer (I just added "xxx" to the end of the name so it became "Internet Explorerxxx").

  2. In Entourage, click on a URL in an email message. It can't find Internet Explorer, so it uses (in my case) OmniWeb instead.

  3. In the Finder, restore the name of Internet Explorer.
Henceforth, Entourage uses OmniWeb instead of IE, and I am happier. One reason, among many, is that OmniWeb has an option to open a new window when another application sends it a URL to open. IE reuses whichever window is frontmost.

[Editor's note: I have not tested this tip; I just installed Office v.X on Sunday, and have not yet launched Entourage. However, regarding IE, there's a prefs setting in Interface Extras where you can specify the behavior of the browser when answering requests from other applications.]
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Open OmniOutliner files in OmniGraffle Apps

This feature is actually mentioned on the OmniGraffle web site, but I think it worth publishing here on Mac OS X Hints as well because it is very cool.

Create an outline using OmniOutliner, and save it. Now drag the file onto the OmniGraffle icon. OmniGraffle will display the outline as a diagram. If you happen to be making a diagram that has a hierarchical organization, it is much easier to make it as an outline first. And even if this is a feature you could never use yourself, it's worth trying it out once anyway just to see it :-)

OmniGraffle will also display Project Builder project files, which could be very handy for Cocoa programmers, as well as some other formats.

[Editor's note: If you aren't familiar with them, OmniOutliner is a program that tries to let you capture your thoughts in an outline format, and OmniGraffle is a charting package. Both have freely downloadable versions available for you to try before buying, and are well worth a download.]

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Use MacReporter to browse news sites Apps
MacReporter is a $12 shareware application that runs as a dockling in OS X, and has some cool features that are worth a look. Similar to Slashdock and other dockling news browsers, MacReporter can pull headlines from various sites and display them in the dock. MacReporter makes use of live dock updates to show the number of unread articles in the dock icon, as seen in the screenshot (it may be a bit hard to see in the image, but it shows 24 unread articles). It also notes which articles you haven't read with a small diamond icon, and has access to sites which do not offer traditional RDF output. You can also choose how you'd like to be notified of new headlines - the dock icon, a sound, both, or no notification.

In its unregistered state, you get access to 20-ish news sites, and MacReporter is limited to displaying half the headlines from each site. This allows you to get a good sense of whether you feel MacReporter is worth your shareware fee or not, while still providing a compelling reason to register. macosxhints, unfortunately, is not in the preview version, but is available to registered users (and no, I don't get a kickback if you register! :-). In addition to macosxhints, you gain access to about 60 other sites; there's a full list on the MacReporter website.

MacReporter is a nicely done piece of shareware that's worth a look if you spend much time looking for news around the web.
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Don't use old themes and MetamorphX! Apps
MetaMorph X is a program which allows you to alter, via ‘themes,' the look and feel of the Macintosh system interface, not unlike what Kaleidoscope provides to Mac OS 9 users. However, it has the capability of causing great damage to your system under circumstances that can very easily befall any user.

If you install MetaMorph X, YOU MUST MAKE SURE that the theme you use is for the current version of your operating system. You cannot use a 10.0.4 theme on a 10.1 system, for example! If you have MetaMorph X installed and are installing a system update, MAKE SURE it is completely uninstalled and that you are in the "Aqua" theme that Apple packaged with Mac OS X before installing any update.

If you don't, what will befall you?

The next time you try to log back in, you will find that your system no longer presents you with a login window. (Enabling automatic login prior to theme installation is not a solution.)

If this happens, the only solution so far has been to re-install OS 10.0. The problem with that is that after the install of 10.0 is complete, many systems will experience kernel panics immediately at startup. Fortunately, you should be able to continue the upgrade to 10.1, which should cure the panic. (Fortunately, even though my computer was "panicking," the Upgrade CD still recognized the system as being eligible for an upgrade to Mac OS 10.1 — the disk was not greyed out. YMMV.)

According to a post in the MacFixIt Forums, the reason for all this sturm und drang may be that the Extras.rsrc file gets corrupted, and that this may be a bug with Apple's themes implementation.

[Editor's note: Whenever you decide to use something that modifies the lowest levels of your system, please make sure you backup your data first! It's just generally good advice in case you end up reformatting your drive.]
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Dragthing, AppleScripts and hot keys Apps
Okay, here is a quick run-down of how I fully utilize the power of DragThing. DragThing is a MacOS utility that provides multiple tabbed docks to store aliases, web links, etc. It also has a process dock that acts much like the MacOS X dock (with some customization differences).

What really hooked me, though, was the ability to add hot-keys and applescripts.

Read the rest of this article for some useful examples of both hot keys and AppleScripts with Drag Thing, including a script to automatically display an updated listing of your volumes in a dock layer.
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