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Pay with an AmEx (Gift) Card in the iTunes Store Internet
A few days ago, I wanted to get iTunes to accept my AmEx Gift Card, but somehow it always said the security code was invalid. Different from VISA and MasterCard, the security code from an AmEx Card is on the front and is four digits long. There was no doubt this code was in fact valid, and I was typing it correctly.

Obviously I wasn't the only one with this problem -- Apple's Support Discussion Board was filled with people complaining about that, and the "hints" there weren't working at all.

As for me, it worked after I put an empty space after the last number on the card. The reason: iTunes wanted to have 4 4-digit parts (16 digits) of the credit card number, but the AmEx had only had 15 digits. This was causing the invalid security code.

However, you couldn't tell that in the first place, because all iTunes showed after rejecting the code was **** **** **** 4123. In fact, 123 were at positions 13 to 15 in the real credit card. But iTunes made them 14 to 16, and took one digit of the first three four-digit parts and made it position 13.

First I was concerned I might have done something I shouldn't have done (if it's even possible, which I doubt). Yesterday, though, I got my receipt from iTunes and checked AmEx -- it worked; iTunes was able to transfer from my credit card.

I don't know how many people actually have this problem, all I know is that the number isn't too small. And I hope that this will work for everybody with the same issue.
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10.6: Run Privoxy 3.0.16 on Snow Leopard Internet
Snow Leopard only hintI really like browsing without all the flashy ads around, so I've been using the filtering-proxy Privoxy now for many years. But there is no longer support for Mac OS X, as there isn't a maintainer for the Mac OS X port any more. MacPorts still has 3.0.12, which has some major bugs (timeouts), so I decided to build from source. Here's how to get it run...

First, get the source for Privoxy 3.0.16 from SourceForge (1.7MB direct download). Unpack the download somewhere, and make sure you have Xcode installed somewhere.

Open Terminal and change to the directory where you expanded Privoxy: cd ~/Downloads/privoxy-3.0.16-stable (or wherever you put it). You can drag the folder to the Terminal to complete the path, if you wish.
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Create RSS feeds for Google searches (with Google!) Internet
This isn't really Mac-specific, but it's very useful. There are a lot of reasons people like/want to create RSS feeds for Google searches (e.g. for their name, so they see when something new comes up). However, most of the ways out there for making feeds are very unreliable, available for Windows only, quickly out-of-date, and/or cumbersome. So here's a foolproof way using Google's own services.

This is very simple -- in fact, it involves using Google Alerts. All you have to do is create a new alert for the search you wish to create a feed for, then edit it. Click the Deliver To pop-up and select Feed instead of Email. This gives you an RSS feed that can be either directly added to Google Reader, or viewed in any RSS reader you wish to use.

[robg adds: This works; just make sure you save and verify the alert first, then you can edit it to turn it into an RSS feed.]
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Convert HTML documents to FictionBook format Internet
If you'd like to create FictionBook format (.fb2) electronic books on a Mac, here's a simple way to create one -- at least for documents that are in HTML format. In my case, it was an RTF document which was exported as a web page from Microsoft Word 2008.

Upload the file to any available public resource such as the Public folder in your Dropbox, or any other service that provides a public URL for your uploaded file. Next, copy that public URL to the clipboard, and go to This site converts HTML to FB2. The result will be a reference to a downloadable zip file.

If you want the file o nyour iPhone, you'll have to get it there via SSH for jailbroken devices, or use DropBox or any other utility that supports file transfer.

Hope this help somebody else, too.
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10.6: Easily manage the built-in web server with AppleScript Internet
Snow Leopard only hintIf you work with the built-in web server a lot, it's helpful to write some simple AppleScripts to open the files in your text editor, and to restart the server. Use AppleScript Editor to create the following scripts in your user's Library/Scripts folder.

A script to edit your httpd.conf file:
tell application "TextWrangler"
  open "/private/etc/apache2/httpd.conf"
end tell
A script to edit your user-specific httpd.conf file (if you use one):
tell application "TextWrangler"
  open "/private/etc/apache2/users/username.conf"
end tell
A script to edit your php.ini file (if you use PHP):
tell application "TextWrangler"
  open "/etc/php.ini"
end tell
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Ban Pure-FTPd login attempts by IP after three failures Internet
I run an FTP server on my machine, using Pure-FTPd. Lately, I was getting a lot of noise in my logs about unknown people trying to gain access on my FTP server. I wanted to automate the task of looking through the log and banning the bad IPs, so that my logs will be kept clean from all those try/fails attempts.

What I came up with is a bash script executed as a launchd user daemon whenever the file /var/log/ftp.log is being modified. Parts of the code come from , and irc2samus on the #bash channel (IRC on made the rest.

I thought this might help others, too, so here's the code.
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Sync to Dropbox from anywhere in your home folder Internet
I use Dropbox to keep files in sync between my work computer (a PC), my MacBook Pro, and an iMac at home. Although Dropbox is great, it keeps the files that it syncs to the cloud in a Dropbox folder. I have my own folder/file organization for projects, which I would prefer to maintain.

I found that I could keep a copy in the place where I usually would and sync with the cloud by creating symbolic links to the folders that I want to sync inside the Dropbox folder. Using this method, the file would be available in both places, without taking up any extra disk space.

To do this, you need to use the Terminal. Since Dropbox allows you to choose where your Dropbox folder resides, there's no "one size fits all" solution, but here's the general syntax (replace username, foldername, and path/to/dropbox with your own values):
ln -s /Users/username/Documents/foldername /Users/path/to/dropbox/Files/
You can also drag the source and destination folders into the Terminal window instead of typing the paths. Note that foldername has no trailing slash (/), but that Files/ bit does -- this is very important!

With symbolic links in place, you can save files where you normally would, and they'll still automatically sync to the cloud.
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10.6: Dial numbers in Google Voice using a Service Internet
I created a Service to send a selected phone number to Google Voice to be dialed. To do this, I actually use two files: The service, which should be installed in your user's Library/Services folder, and the google-voice-dialer php script, which does most of the heavy lifting; install that wherever.

Download the zip file (78KB), expand it and open the resulting folder, move the Service to your user's Services folder and the php script to wherever you'd like it to reside. Before using this Service, you need to open it in Automator for some editing. Within the AppleScript code in the Run AppleScript Action on the right, scroll through the code and change the following properties: usrnm, psswrd, phnm, myFilePath, and myFileName. Save those changes, and you should be good to go.

To use, select a phone number in any Cocoa application (Safari, Mail, Address Book, etc), Control-click on the selection, then go to Services » gvDialer, and Google Voice will dial the number.

[robg adds: I haven't tested this one.]
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Allow MSN Messenger when using Parental Controls Internet
If you activate parental control, MSN Messenger is not going to work. Some can argue that you can use other solutions, but your Kids will argue that this what their friends use. To get MSN Messenger working, you need to authorize at least, but I discovered that Adium is using more Microsoft servers, and as the list is quite long, here is a way to simply authorize MSN Messenger on a managed account with parental controls.
  1. In the Parental Controls System Preferences panel, go to the Content tab and choose the 'Try to limit ...' option.
  2. Click on Customize and allow MSN Messenger's server by adding the following addresses:, http://*.*, and https://*.*
That should allow full MSN Messenger functionality. However, if you need something more granular and you want to control every address, this Microsoft support page lists all the addresses used by MSN Messenger.
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10.6: Create a URL shortening Service Internet
One of the great new features of Snow Leopard is the ability thru Automator (and by extension, AppleScript) to make your own service. Automator can set-up services to accept specific inputs (ie files, images, or text) to act on. If you have selected the appropriate type of input, the service will show up in your context menu.

To create a service which generates a shortened URL when control-clicking a link in Safari. First, open Automator, and select Create a New Service. Set the Service to receive selected text in Safari. Find Run AppleScript from the Action library on the left, and drag that over to the right half of the Automator window. In that area, paste in the following:
on run {inText}
    tell application "Safari"
    set searchTerm to inText
    set xNow to do JavaScript " 
var x,
x = '" & searchTerm & "';
if (x != null) {
     x = x.toLowerCase();
     z = document.links;    
     for (i = 0; i < z.length; ++i) {
            if ((z[i].innerHTML && z[i].innerHTML.toLowerCase().indexOf(x) != -1) || z[i].href.toLowerCase().indexOf(x) != -1) {      
          z[i].style.color = '#2e2e2e !important';
            sndT = '' + escape(z[i].href);
            popup_window =;
" in document 1
  end tell
end run
Save your service, then go to Safari and find a link you want Control-click on that link, and you should see your new service at the bottom of the contextual menu.

[robg adds: I can't get this one to run properly on my machine, so I'm posting it in hopes that the community can figure out the issue -- it looks like it's working, but nothing actually seems to happen. In theory, this could be a very useful hint.]
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