MacMost: Archives

MacMost Now 73: Ten iPod Uses Other Than Playing Music
4/25/08
Gary Rosenzweig looks at 10 things you can do with your standard 5G, 5.5G or iPod Classic other than playing music.
4/24/08

It’s no big revelation that Mac fans love rumors. There are several sites dedicated to Apple rumors that get more traffic than sites dedicate to actual Apple news. I guess we just like to daydream about the computers and gadgets in our near future.
But this obsession with rumors makes it easy for lots of bad information to get out there. How many Apple rumors in the past 10 years have turned out to be slightly off, or completely wrong? There are several origins to Apple rumors.
First, there is the old whisper-down-the-lane phenomenon. Person A, at an event, with no real facts, speculates that Apple will come out with a touch screen Mac. Wouldn’t that be neat? Person B is listening to them, then repeats this to person C. Person C assumes that person B has heard this from a good source, and so starts spreading the rumor.
A second source of Apple rumors is: thin air. I believe there are people out there purposely starting rumors they know not to be true. All you need to do is come up with a reasonable rumor that many people want to see come true. In many cases, artists create fake images or videos to support a rumor. Fortunately, these are easier to call out as fakes than a single bit of information.
I don’t think it is the rumor sites that are behind these false rumors. In fact, they are the victims.
A third source of Apple rumors is our misunderstanding of how Apple works. For instance, every time they file a patent, we assume it will become a product. A company like Apple is researching all sorts of things, and they are sure to patent everything they think is patentable. But it certainly doesn’t mean that they will ever build it.
Also, rumor pundits frequently forget that Apple sometimes announces products way ahead of time, like the iPhone. So a rumor that product X will be coming out in August, may actually be somewhat correct, except that product X will be announced in August, but not released until December.
Of course these three sources are for false or misleading Apple rumors. A fourth source exists: actual facts. These are the rumors that come true. A lot of times this comes from Apple employees or the employees of stores that resell Apple products. For instance, a new iPod would appear on a Best Buy computer system the day before release. Unless it is that specific, it is usually only partially correct. For instance, just before the iPhone release, there were a lot of rumors about the iPhone. All were right in that Jobs did announce an iPhone at MacWorld, but no one got the specifics right.
So the next time you hear a juicy rumor about Apple, remember these potential sources and don’t believe everything you read.
Note: We actually round up and link to rumor stories at our MacMost Apple Rumors page. Here you can quickly see who is writing about each rumor and what they are saying.

MacMost Now 72: Forcing Applications to Quit
4/23/08
Gary Rosenzweig looks at various ways to force broken applications to quit. He also shows some handy keyboard shortcuts for logging out, restarting, shutting down and quitting instantly.
MacMost Now 71: Storing Passwords Securely
4/21/08
Gary Rosenzweig takes a look at best practices for making and storing passwords. You should have a different password for every account, use secure passwords and store them in using a security utility.
MacMost Now 70: Command Line Basics
4/18/08
Gary Rosenzweig of MacMost.com shows you the basics of using the Terminal application. Learn how to navigate, list files, rename, copy and delete. Also learn some shortcuts that experts use.
4/17/08

So in news today, NBC Universal chief digital officer George Kliavkoff said he thinks that Apple should have iTunes checking your iPod for pirated content.
As an engineer and programmer, I’m scratching my head at this. How is this supposed to happen?
Recognizing that a piece of media has DRM on it is easy. DRM is additional secure information attached to media. But without DRM, you just have raw media. In other words, audio or video in a standard format like mp3 or mp4.
You can only assume that if a piece of media doesn’t have DRM, that it must be illegal. But you can purchase DRM-free music from a variety of sources, including Amazon. You can also import music from CDs in non-DRM format. You can do the same with video, though companies like NBC like to think you can’t.
So, if you are like me, you don’t pirate media, and you also don’t support those who use DRM. So I only buy music from sources that are DRM-free. Mostly, I buy CDs. So how does NBC think iTunes can tell the difference between my legal DRM-free mp3s, and illegal mp3s? They can’t.
I hope that Kliavkoff said this as part of some sort of strategy to justify NBC’s absence from iTunes, and allow them to come back to iTunes soon. Because otherwise, it just shows that NBC has someone in charge of this that doesn’t understand technology.

4/16/08

The whole Psystar $399 Computer to run OSX, brings to light an interesting issue about software ownership. The Psystar spokesman is reported to have said “What if Honda said that, after you buy their car, you could only drive it on the roads they said you could?”. This is a straw man argument. When you purchase software, you are purchasing a license to use the software, and to use the car analogy, it’s more like leasing a car. If you lease a Honda, it’s a violation of the lease agreement to modify and race the car. End User Licensing Agreements (EULAs) are exactly like lease agreements, You purchase the right to use the software as a licensee after agreeing to the terms of the EULA. Good, bad or indifferent, that’s the way it is.
The other Argument by Psystar is that this is a anti-trust case citing that “What if Microsoft said you could only install Windows on Dell computers?”. If that were the case, then perhaps that would be a violation of the Sherman Anti-trust act for collusion, but if Microsoft bought Dell and then only sold Windows to owners of Microsoft computers that is not a violation. Back to the car analogy, Honda makes Honda engines to run Honda cars (and Acuras), if you want to put a Honda engine into your Miata ,you could probably do that with some hacking. Now, if a company started selling Miatas with leased Honda S2000 engines pre-installed for $5000 dollars less a than a Honda S-20000 and called it the “Open Honda” it would be the exact same thing as the Psystar case. This would violate the engine lease agreement and it’s a trademark infringement. Not that I wouldn’t want a 240 HP Miata , the same way I want a Mac Mini with a 512 Meg graphics card in it. Hello? Mazda and Apple are you listening?
So unfortunately, I don’t think Psystar has a leg to stand on. The old advice to RTFM might have to be changed to include RTFEULA as well. On a side note, Psystar’s website is back up and they are no longer offering the “Open Mac” It’s been renamed the “Open Computer.” Like Mae West said “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

MacMost Now 69: OS X Directory Basics
4/16/08
Gary Rosenzweig takes a look at the basic structure of Mac OS X, especially the user folder, and gives suggestions on how to organize your files.
4/15/08

Open Mac If you want a visit from Apple’s lawyers, one way to get their attention, is to announce that you’re selling a $399 Computer preloaded with Mac OSX 10.5 Leopard. That’s just what a company named Psystar did this weekend. Pystar is selling a standard PC tower called “Open Mac” and is using the EFI emulator to run OSX on it with “minimal patching.”
Psystar is touting the computer as a cheaper more expandable alternative to a Mac Mini saying :

When comparing base configurations, the Mac Mini costs 150% of the price of the OpenMac while offering poorer performance, smaller storage space, and RAM. Not only that but the Mac Mini doesn’t have the option for an nVidia GeForce 8600 video card like the OpenMac does so playing games on it is a lost cause.

The idea of running Second Life, or W.O.W. on a “Mac” with a 512 graphics card for under a thousand bucks does have it’s appeal for many users, me included. But I would be wary.
The Open Mac brings back memories of my Power Computing Tower a few years back. The Power Computing computer had it’s compatibility issues with, then Mac System 7 and I remember that the CD drive was a constant nightmare. And the Power Computing computer was legal, the Open Mac is not. Also note that installing Leopard on non-Apple hardware is a specific violation of the OS’s End User License Agreement (EULA).
You can just hear Steve Jobs shouting “Release the hounds!” Apple’s lawyers will surely try to take the party out of any third party hardware company trying to sell anything loaded with Mac operating systems. So the Open Mac may already be a closed case.

(Ed.Note) Apple Lawyers have already shut down the Pystar site as of this morning.

4/15/08

So, with the rumors of an iPhone v2 with 3G capabilities and maybe some other bells and whistles, what will this mean for existing iPhone owners. I assume many of us will be waiting in line again and “upgrading” to a new iPhone when the time comes. But what about our 2-year commitment to AT&T? I see several possibilities.
The worst case scenario is that you have to sign up for another 2 years. So if you bought one year ago, and then upgrade to iPhone v2, you have to add another 2 years to your contract. This is unlikely.
The best case scenario is that nothing changes. Getting iPhone v2 is just like replacing a broken iPhone right now. You just transfer your sim card from one to the other, and your standing with AT&T doesn’t change. I see this as somewhat likely.
When my SideKick II broke a few years back, I bought a new one. I had the option to pay the full price for the SideKick, or pay the discounted price, as long as I added another year to my contract with T-Mobile. So you can see where the worst case scenario isn’t that far-fetched.
Another option would be that you have to restart your 2 year contract with AT&T. Could be.
I think the one certainty is that there will be confusion. When the iPhone plans were first announced, a lot of people complained about the $59 (really $70) plan as a one-size-fits-all thing. You could add extra minutes, but that was it. Now, there are many more options, including family plans and, data-only plans, purchasing extras like unlimited text messaging, etc. I personally hate this. I think the only reason that most mobile phone plans offer so many options is that the phone companies hope to confuse us into spending more money. AT&T offers all sorts of plans for unlimited voice and extra features, but it is unclear which work with iPhone plans. Not that I get anywhere near the 450 daytime minutes on my iPhone anyway.

MacMost Now 68: Shockwave is Back
4/14/08
Gary Rosenzweig looks at the new Shockwave plug-in for the Intel-based Mac. This is the first time Shockwave has been available for newer Macs. You can use Shockwave to play free online games like the ones at http://GameScene.com.
MacMost Now 67: Optimizing Mail
4/11/08
Gary Rosenzweig takes a look at how to clean up and optimize Apple Mail to save some hard drive space and speed it up.
MacMost Now 66: Using SSH Tunneling for Secure Connections
4/9/08
Gary Rosenzweig looks at using two Macs to connect to the Internet securely while traveling.
4/8/08

I remember a time when the thought of a Web browser crashing was unheard of. I mean, it’s only a Web browser, what is there to crash? When Firefox was launched back in 2004 . My first thought was why does the world need another Web browser? Windows users have IE and Mac users have Safari for free. Soon though Firefox won me over, primarily because of the Web developer tools plug-in greatly simplifies Web development and Firfefox displays valid Webpages and CSS more accurately than IE or Safari. And let’s face it, there are some pages out there that don’t display correctly using IE and there are some pages that ignore the Safari browser.

This was all well and good up until about six months ago. Then I started noticing the dreaded beach ball of death appearing more and more often. Then Firefox would stop responding altogether and I would have to force quit the application. Having to force quit an app is pretty drastic in my opinion, and indicates some serious bugs. I’ve reinstalled the latest version and only added the Web Dev add-on, yet at least once a day I’m having to force quit Firefox. It’s gotten to the point that I surf with both Safari and Firefox open. I’d go over to only Safari but WordPress admin doesn’t seem to like Safari, and I’m still attached to the Web Dev add-on for Firefox.

What to do? The Apple crash reporter sends to Apple not Mozilla, and it IS a free app. I mean I would expect a complex app with millions of lines of code like Photoshop to crash every once in while, but a Web browser? Cmon.

4/8/08

Of all the applications that come as part of the Mac OS, iTunes is without a doubt the oddest creature in the zoo. First off like the blind men describing an elephant, if you ask ten people what iTunes is, you’ll get ten different answers.
For podcasters, it’s the place to subscribe to and sync podcasts, But only if the podcast has been submitted to the podcast directory of the iTunes store. Also iTunes and Quicktime Player are the only applications that will play “enhanced” (.M4a format) Podcast.
For a DJ, iTunes is a great way to put together a playlist for a set. And it’s the only way to play songs from your iPod through your computer. I you want to play music from your ipod from a third party DJ program you are outta luck.
The other thing is that Syncing your music though i Tunes, doesn’t sync it at all. Sync would mean that you would have the same music on your computer and your iPod, but iTunes version of “sync” is a one way deal. It only moves new music from your computer to your iPod. Forget getting music to your computer from your iPod. That’s a No-No because that would make it too easy for you to steal and copy music. The Sync Process makes it WAAY too easy to wipe all your songs from your iPod that you may have put on there from an older Mac or some other source. losing music (or any other data) is never good.
It’s good that iTunes makes it easy to buy music from the iTunes store, but it’s horribly bad that most the music is AAC DRM encoded music. Screw that !I’m buying .mp3s from Amazon or E-music.
Buying TV shows is pretty cool if you don’t mind watching TV on your computer. But the movie rentals are absurd.,the 24 hour limit to watch a movie is just plain silly.
Also you can use iTunes to convert sound files import CDs and Burn CDs. But you had better be a power user to figure it out. Here’s a situation that comes up in my Music class all the time.Let’s say you have an imported .wav file on your desktop and you want to convert it to .mp3. Do you know how to do it in iTunes? It’s simple:
1. Open iTunes
2. Go to the file menu select Add to Library, navigate to the desktop and add the wave file to the Library.
3. Find the file in your music library by going to the recently added items playlist.
4. Go to the iTunes menu and select Preferences.
5. go to the advanced Tab and select Importing.
6. Select MP3 Encoder from the pull down selector and choose a sampling rate. and click on the OK button
7. Go back to your file in the recently added items playlist and highlight the file.
8.Go to the Advanced Menu (or option click on the file) and choose Convert Selection to MP3.
9. Once the file is converted to MP3 you will have 2 files with the same name in your playlist, one of them is a .wav file and the other is your converted .mp3 file. To tell which file is which, go to the View menu and select view options, Then make sure that the kind checkbox is checked.
10. In the playlist window scroll right to expose the kind column. You will see that one of the files is an .mp3.
11. Finally option Click on the .mp3 file and select Show in Finder, to find where iTunes saved your .Mp3 file. And then ypou can drag the file to where you actually want it.
See, an easy eleven step process.
There are many other reasons I love/hate iTunes. I’d love to hear a few of yours.

MacMost Now 65: Baseball Box Scores
4/7/08
Gary Rosenzweig takes a look at some sites that allow you to follow major league baseball games on your Mac.
MacMost Now 64: Guitar Hero III
4/4/08
Gary Rosenzweig takes a look at Guitar Hero III, the first guitar simulation game for the Mac.
4/3/08

Reports say that Apple has data saying the iTunes music store is now the top retailer in the U.S. So, where do they do from here?
Well, the answer is obvious: they need to use their top position to get rid of DRM.
Steve Jobs has commented before that he doesn’t like DRM. iTunes introduced DRM-free music more than a year ago, but for only a small portion of its content, and at a higher price. Meanwhile, Amazon, the number 4 music retailer, has only DRM-free music downloads, and cheaper than iTunes’ crippled music.
At this point, Apple should set a deadline for the music labels. They should announce that they will only sell DRM-free music starting on Jan. 1, 2009. Maybe they should even join with the other online retailers in solidarity. Amazon is already there, so they should sign up right away.
Now Apple has another reason to want DRM, besides bowing to the desires of the music labels. DRM has enabled Apple to have iTunes-downloaded music only work on the iPod. So once you start downloading from iTunes, you are locked into using iPods.
But the iPod has clearly won the MP3-player wars. Time to move on. THe future of the iPod is the iPhone and iPod Touch anyway, which will continue to win the war based on features and interface, not DRM tricks.

MacMost Now 63: Safari Snap Back
4/2/08
Gary Rosenzweig takes a look at the snap back feature of Safari that allows you to temporarily mark Web pages and search results to return to them quickly.
MacMost Now 62: New Safari 3.1 Features
3/31/08
Gary Rosenzweig takes a look at what is new in Safari 3.1, including style-sheet animation, embedded Web fonts and the video tag.