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Take iSight snapshots during invalid login attempts Laptop Macs
With the new MacBook Pro's including built-in iSight cameras, I thought it would be useful to take an iSight snapshot of anyone trying to break into my laptop. This is done by tailing /var/log/asl.log for invalid login attempts (both at the login screen and screen saver). I have created an authsight program (1.5KB download) that provides a monitoring daemon which calls the camera after an invalid login attempt, and also includes a launchd manifest. An iSight command line tool named iSightCapture is also required.

It would not be too difficult to modify this tool to call home and even email photos should a laptop be stolen.

[robg adds: I haven't tested this one, but there are easy install/uninstall instructions in the package.]
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Reduce pressure on laptop power cord connectors Laptop Macs
This may be old news, but I thought it was a worthy suggestion to prolong the life of any Mac power adapter cord that has the small u-shaped sliding cord keeper. The idea is useful enough that it might save Apple some complaints about their shorted-lived cords.

Slide the cord keeper right up to the reinforcement at the male end, as seen in the image at right. Insert the plug into your Mac. About three inches from Mac, make a loop and double the cord back on itself and insert the doubled portion into the cord keeper to maintain the loop. This reinforces the connection to the computer, holding it at a 90 degree angle from computer. It also serves as a shock absorber, as the loop will release first before pulling the cord from the computer.

[robg adds: I have a setup at home that's conducive to fraying the power cord -- the power cord runs out the side of the MacBook Pro, then backwards through a hole in the desk, leading to some direct pressure on the connector. I hadn't thought to use the cord keeper, but this is a great solution -- I put the clip somewhat further away from the power connector, and made the loop larger, than seen in the provided photo above. I feel much more comfortable with this setup; there's now no direct backwards pressure on the cable.]
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Use custom laptop fan speeds while booted in Windows Laptop Macs
I always liked using smcFanControl to control my MacBook Pro's fan speed to keep it running cooler. I always wished to do the same while booted in Windows via Boot Camp. After discovering that smcFanControl settings will stick through a restart, I tried the following and it worked:
  1. While booted in Mac OS X, use smcFanControl to keep it cool enough. I found that 3500rpm is adequate.
  2. Quit all apps and restart your MacBook pro -- do not shut it down.
  3. After hold down the Option key and choosing Windows, your fan settings will stick unless the machine sleeps.
[robg adds: I haven't tested this one in Windows, but the fan speed settings certainly seem to stick through a restart.]
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Swap out some laptops' batteries via hibernation mode Laptop Macs
This maybe well known and well used already, but not to me, so I suspect to others also. There have been some hints here on putting your Mac into Safe Sleep mode. But this hint is about using Safe Sleep (and its hibernation mode) to swap out the battery in your laptop.

I recently bought a second battery for my PowerBook, and kept running into the situation of having to swap out, but without having a power source to plug into. I did not trust the idea of the supposed five-minute residue, wherein things were supposed to stay in the Mac when you power down for a battery swap. And more importantly, I did not want to shut down all my work.

So I realised if I ran my Safe Sleep toggle script to enter hibernation mode directly, I could then put the Mac to sleep and swap out the battery. After power up, I'd be exactly where I left off, with all my windows and work as they were at the start. The script is here is an old one I wrote a while back, but there are others (some in the referenced hints above) that also get the job done.

[robg adds: This is probably obvious to most, but now it's documented here. Also, you do not have to enter full hibernation mode to swap out batteries. I actually wrote about this for Macworld a while back, and created a video (embedded Flash version in the above link, or watch it in QuickTime) showing that you can remove the battery even while the machine is in normal sleep mode. That's because Safe Sleep writes the contents of RAM to the hard drive when you enter normal sleep mode; once the indicator light starts its normal "blink-blink I'm sleeping" activity, you can safely remove all power sources. I've demonstrated this several times in public, and never had an issue with it.]
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Scroll with one finger on newer Apple laptops Laptop Macs
This might be obvious but I just discovered it today: If you have one of the newer two-finger-scrolling trackpads, you can keep one finger anywhere on the trackpad while moving only one finger to scroll.

[robg adds: Probably obvious to some, but worth sharing if you haven't realized you don't need to drag both fingers...]
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Take advantage of auto-muting laptops Laptop Macs
I can't test this on any system other than my MacBook, but it probably holds true for other Apple portables: My MacBook remembers whether my computer was muted or not muted when I unplug the headphones. Let me explain...

Normally my computer volume is set to mute so I don't disturb people in the library or classes. Then I often plug in headphones and un-mute the volume to listen to a song or YouTube. When I remove the headphones, the computer automatically goes back to mute. This is similar to the iPod's behavior of pausing a track when removing headphones.

However, if your computer was not muted before you plugged in the headphones, then nothing happens when you remove the headphones. The computer only reverts if you follow this sequence:

Mute computer –> plug in headphones –> un-mute computer -> remove headphones -> computer automatically mutes volume

If you have removed your headphones and the portable has muted your volume, when you put the headphones back in, the computer un-mutes your sound. Thus you can enter a state where whenever you plug your headphones in, the portable automatically un-mutes your sound, and when you remove your headphones, the computer re-mutes your sound.

[robg adds: I tested this on our 12" PowerBook G4, and it didn't seem to work. It definitely works on the MacBook, though.]
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Toggle external screen mode on iBooks Laptop Macs
By chance, I just discovered that although there's no special marker on the iBook's keyboard, it is possible to toggle between the mirror- and the screen-spanning mode with one keystroke:
  1. Install the Extended Desktop patch to use screen spanning on your external display.
  2. Press Shift-Command-F7 to toggle between screen-spanning and mirror modes.
By pressing the shortcut twice, it's also a nice way to put all your windows back on the notebook screen, in case you won't power on your connected external display. Maybe this is some new feature introduced with the MacBook that back-propagated to the older consumer notebooks. I use Mac OS X 10.4.8 on a "late G4 iBook" (Sep 2005 edition).

[robg adds: I can't test this one...]
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Fix extra-sensitive laptop keys Laptop Macs
This seems to have fixed a problem with a super-senstive S-key on two PowerBook G4 laptops (the story behind which is a little convoluded). The keys would register a keypress if the user put his finger on the key (not pressed it), though the other keys work fine.

Anyway, I discovered the following while trying to find a hack that would make my Mac usable without buying a new keyboard for it. Apparently, the problem was in software not hardware, and was fixed by turning the repeat rate way down, then turning it back up (in the Keyboard tab of the Keyboard & Mouse System Preferences panel). This fixed my laptop as well as that of a new aquaintance's from class. Hopefully, it'll help someone else, too!
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Use zoom scroll on new laptop trackpads via Mighty Mouse Laptop Macs
If you have a (new) Mighty Mouse, and have enabled the function for "zoom using scroll ball while holding..." (in System preferences -> Keyboard and Mouse -> Mouse), then when you use the laptop without the mouse, and hold down the key that you have selected in the above option and do a two finger scroll, it zooms with the scroll, as if you were using the scroll ball of your Mighty Mouse. It rocks my socks!

Whilst only tested on my MacBook Pro, I assume this works on MacBooks as well.

[robg adds: While this makes sense, I hadn't thought to try it -- and yes, it does indeed work on the MacBook as well.]
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A couple of scripts to help track a laptop's location Laptop Macs
Okay, so I am kind of paranoid about my belongings, especially my PowerBook. One thought I often have is "what if it were to get legs and disappear?" I mean, my PowerBook is my digital life, what if it were to get stolen?

Understanding that no solution is perfect, and that there are several ways to skin the proverbial cat (most of them posted on this web site), I developed my own solution for having my PowerBook 'phone home' on a regular basis, thus providing me with location information in the event my PowerBook ends up in hands other than my own. In the spirit of the recent Labor Day holiday, I am making the fruit of my labor available for the world, for free. Enter PBphoneHome (8KB download, macosxhints mirror), which is a simple 'application' that is intended to provide detailed information about the installed computer system.
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