Monthly Archives: November 2007

Play AVI DivX codec Movies on Quicktime in Mac OS X Leopard

Quicktime under Mac OS X Leopard can’t play movie or video files saved in .avi format encoded with DivX format without a little help. Also if you get no sound from avi files on your Mac, the following avi audio codec will solve that problem for you.

Here’s what you need to make Quicktime on Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) play .avi movie files:

Quicktime Video Codec – Free Xvid Quicktime Component for DivX codec avi files

Quicktime Audio Codec – A52 avi audio codec for Quicktime

(Thanks Orca for the updated A52 link)

Download both of these disk image files (.dmg) and double click them to mount these files (make them visible and accessible through Finder as another Device (top left hand corner of Finder) on your Mac.

Next we need to put these components into the right folders. Within Finder, click on the Xvid Alpha device. Within this Finder window, you should see a file named Xvid_Codec 1.0 alpha.component. You need to copy and paste this item into /Library/QuickTime/ folder on your Mac. The easiest way to find this folder is click on the first device (looks like a metal hard disk) within Finder (mine is called Leopard), then find the folder named Library, and within that, another folder named QuickTime. Paste the Xvid Alpha file into this folder (or drag and drop it if you have two Finder windows open).

For the audio part of playing .avi files in QuickTime you need to place the A52 codec component into /Library/Audio/Plug-ins/Components/ folder. Luckily the author of the A52 audio codec for playing avi files in Mac made shortcuts right within the .dmg file for A52 Codec. When you double click the A52Codec .dmg file you’ll see two huge arrows pointing from the codec files to the folders they should be dropped into so simply drag and drop the two files into the folders (which are actually shortcuts to the correct folders on your Mac machine).

If you want QuickTime to recognize and play Dolby AC3 encoded audio from movies, copy the AC3MovieImport component into the /Library/QuickTime folder as well. This definitely won’t hurt and you’ll probably enjoy it later.

After this if you already have QuickTime running, Quit QuickTime (Command + Q), don’t just Close it, since QuickTime will still be running in the background. You need to fully quit QuickTime and restart it for the codecs to be loaded by QuickTime, so this step is necessary.

After all this try double-clicking your .avi movie file again and see if both audio and video are now being displayed by QuickTime.

Enjoy your movies

Fix Blue Tint Wake from Screensaver Mac / Macbook

Ever wake your Mac from screensaver and find a bizarre blue tint or blueish tint to the display screen? The blue tinge can be fixed or removed by opening up Display Preferences (from System Preferences Panel, Second Row [Hardware] => Displays). Simply opening the Displays preference window reverts the color profile to the last good color profile, effectively removing the blue tinge.

UPDATE: This permanent fix does not appear to work once you’ve changed your screensaver (or perhaps at all.  The above solution still works.) A more permanent fix to the sporadic blue tint, which may or may not work for you , is to change the file permissions on the color profiles located in /Library/ColorSync/Profiles/Displays. Note that this directory is not within your home directory, but the “root” of your volume or hard disk. You won’t normally be able to get to this directory through Finder alone so it’s time to use the Terminal to fix this.

UPDATE 2: Permanent Workaround – Sleep Display.  I haven’t seen a blue tint on my Macbook Pro screen for over a year now.  Then again, I no longer use a screen saver, rather, I sleep my display after a few minutes of idle time.  This is done in System Preferences -> Energy Saver -> adjust the slider for “Put the display to sleep when the computer is inactive for: ” 10 minutes or whatever time you like.  Although I no longer have beautiful screensavers dancing across my screen, I also never have to open up Display Preferences to get rid of the annoying blue tint after waking from a screen saver.  Note: I use a “Santa Rosa” MacBook Pro which has an LED backlit screen.  This display instantly reaches full brightness whenever the screen turns on or wakes from sleep.  I could imagine this workaround being annoying for those who have flourescent tube backlit monitors/screens, which would take a minute or two to reach full brightness and operate at full colour depth.

In your Applications folder, find the Utilities folder.

Within Utilities is the Terminal program. Double click Terminal to launch the program.

We need to change the permissions of the /Library/ColorSync/Profiles/Displays files so lets first go to that directory by entering the following into the Terminal:

cd /Library/ColorSync/Profiles/Displays

Next, we need to enter the command to change permissions. Enter this into Terminal:

sudo chmod 664 *

Terminal will then ask you for your password. Enter your password, hit Enter and the command will be executed.

After this, try starting your screensaver manually by opening System Preferences => Desktop & Screen Saver, clicking on the Screen Saver tab near the top middle, then clicking on the Hot Corners button at the bottom left. On the bottom right corner (or another corner of your choice), choose from the list / drop down box “Display Screen Saver”.

Click Ok then try starting the Screen Saver manually by moving your mouse into the “Hot Corner” you just created. Wake out of the Screen Saver by pressing the “fn” key (lower left hand corner of the keyboard) if you’re on a laptop or Shift if you’re on a desktop Apple. Repeat this multiple times, waiting varying lengths of time before waking out of the screensaver. Hopefully the blue tint should no longer occur after waking from the screen saver.

How to use Mac OS X Leopard Spaces Efficiently

Mac Spaces is a great feature that allows you to virtually have dual, triple, quadruple monitors (or more) on your Mac. Mac Spaces works by creating desktops where you can place program windows, allowing you to organize your running programs and open windows into logical “groups” or “themes”.

An easy way to imagine how Spaces works is to think of your display or monitor as a box with four sides. When you look at one side of the box, the other sides are hidden or out of view. On each of the four sides you can post pieces of paper, spread sheets, web pages, emails, etc. On each of these “sides” it would make sense to put certain programs together to follow a theme. For example, one side of this box could be dedicated to communications (Mail and instant messaging). Rotate the box to the right to see the next side. Now you have another empty space on which to put more running programs, such as iTunes.

The power behind this is that you don’t have a deep stack of program windows placed on top of one another and you can switch to viewing these “Spaces” where programs are fully visible beside one another, grouped into logical themes, all available with a quick button press to switch Spaces.

The majority of your time working (or playing) on your Mac is spent focusing on one thing, window or program at a time. The rest of the programs that you keep running such as iTunes or Mail are kept running because you refer to them from time to time, but you don’t need to stare at your email inbox waiting for mail to arrive you just check it periodically, which makes sense in terms of efficiency.

By default, Mac Spaces is not turned on. To enable Spaces, go to System Preferences => Exposé & Spaces => click Spaces tab on the middle top center (right beside Exposé which is blue highlighted), then check the checkbox on the left to Enable Spaces.

Moving between spaces takes a little time to get used to. Command + 2 moves to Space 2, Command + 3 moves you to Space 3, etc. Control + Down Arrow moves to the next lower space, wrapping back to the top if you’re already at the bottom.  You can also press F8 to go into “hover view” where you see all of your spaces on the desktop (like the first screenshot up above) whereupon you can choose a Space to move to by mouse clicking on it.

To move windows in Mac Spaces from one Space to another I find it easiest to put your mouse cursor on the title bar area of the window (where the name of the window is) then click and hold the mouse button, click and hold the Control button on the keyboard, then press one of the arrow buttons, depositing the window into that Space. You can also click and drag the window itself to one of the edges of your display, wait until it switches to that Space, then let go of the mouse button to deposit it into that Space. Being a hotkey freak myself, I prefer the mouse + control + arrow key combination which I find faster and more accurate.

No Space Left on Device Error

In a follow up to my post about how to dual boot Tiger and Leopard on your Mac, this post is about removing large (unnecessary) files from your hard disk and recovering disk space on your hard drive before attempting to repartition Macintosh drives and dual booting.

Many folks have been noticing that repartitioning disks using Leopard Disk Utility often fails with an error of “no space left on device”, even though there is plenty of space “left on the device”.

A solution that many have found is removing any “large” files from your Tiger partition before attempting Leopard Disk Utility repartitioning. By large files I’m talking single files that are in the range of 1GB+.

Before running off and deleting large files on your hard disk willy nilly, please, make a backup of your Mac hard drive using SuperDuper! (free / donation-ware) or move these large files off to a secondary external hard disk connected via USB or FireWire.  If you find that you actually need these files later, you can always move them back or revert to your complete backup you made to an external drive.

A great program that helps with finding and moving / removing large files on your disk is Disk Inventory X. Disk Inventory X generates a visual file map of your disk like the one displayed here. Click on the large squares and rectangles to inspect the details of the files. The usual suspects that you can get rid of safely include scratch disks such as the Photoshop scratch disk and the Apple safe sleep memory image. This safe sleep / hibernate memory file takes the contents of your physical RAM and copies it to disk (in a single file) so that your Mac can “hibernate” for an indefinite period, with or without power, without losing what you were working on. The downside of this is that it creates a file equal the size of your physical memory. That can be anywhere from 1GB to 4GB for Macbook users.

The skinny on how to get rid of this sleep image file: First find your current sleep setting by entering this in a Terminal window:

pmset -g | grep hibernatemode

That should return you something like “hibernatemode 3”. Remember this number, send an email to yourself, write it down on a scratch pad, whatever it takes to remember your default mode. Mode 3 keeps your RAM powered during sleep to allow super fast wake-up, but also writes an image file of all memory onto disk in case power is lost.

To change the hibernate safe sleep setting to not create an image file on the disk, i.e. mode 0 (mode zero, not the letter ‘o’), enter the following in a Terminal window:

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0

Enter your password when asked to do so, then delete the image file with the following Terminal command:

sudo rm /var/vm/sleepimage

Macworld has a great article with more information about safe sleep and hibernation on portable Macs.

The best solution to the “no space left on device” errors while partitioning your Mac hard disk is to continue with finding and deleting 1GB+ files that you can live without or can move off to a temporary external disk. Then get back to repartitioning your Mac hard disk in preparation to setup a dual boot of OS X Tiger and Leopard on your Macbook.

Use Camino Browser to Block Ads

Hate animated Flash ads while browsing? Get Camino. Go to Preferences, Web Features, Block Flash Animations and voilà, no more Flash based animated ads.

Without Flash Ads

With Flash Ads

I’m not sure about you, but I like my Jolie with as little extraneous distractions as possible.

I’ve mentioned the block flash ads feature with Camino in another post, but I think this feature is important enough that it warrants its own post. There’s nothing more annoying than loud, animated, dancing ads that loop continuously as you try to read (or stare at) content. I realize that a good portion of the web operates on advertising revenues and I’m not opposed to online advertisements, but Macromedia is overbearing. Their Flash software for browsers prevents you from stopping animated ads and you can’t even prevent an ad from looping forever, with poorly designed ads cranking the CPU up to 70C to blare the same annoying message over and over.

The ability to block ads is not unique to Camino. With Firefox Add-Ons such as Adblock Plus you can get roughly the same results as Camino’s Block Flash Ads feature, but when I say “rough”, I really mean “rough”. I discovered that the way Adblock Plus works with respect to Flash ads is that it changes the permissions that Flash has for writing cache files before displaying an animation. Basically Flash no longer has the ability to write cache files, thus it cannot display the animation properly. I found this out when moving from Mac OS X Tiger to Leopard.

Before the install I was attempting to repartition my hard disk, starting off with a “Verify Permissions” check before diving in. Strangely there were errors in permissions related to Flash/ShockWave. The permissions verification was telling me that these directories should have had Read Write access, but they had only Read access. This turned on a light bulb in my head as I had recently tried out Adblock Plus in Firefox. That’s a pretty dirty hack to use in order to block Flash animated ads.

In my experience the ads were still visible for a split second, then removed and replaced with a blank spot where the ad previously was located. Hovering over the area or moving the page through scrolling at times would reveal the ad again, which was probably due to the CSS hijinks going on as well. Overall, Camino’s way to block ads is very slick and doesn’t have the feel of something hacked together to work most of the time, like other ad blocking solutions.

With Camino, the power to stop intrusive, obnoxious web ads is returned to the user. This is a killer feature that was created due to popular demand and will make Camino a true contender in the browser lineup.

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Camino – Fastest & Best Browser on Mac OS X Leopard

Ok, it’s a bit early for me to be describing Camino as the Fastest and Best Browser on Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, but at the same time I can’t help but be overjoyed at the prospect of having full keyboard navigation functionality (i.e. searching, finding, clicking/navigating/opening a link purely through the keyboard) with the blazing speed of a true Mac based browser.

It’s been only three days since I started using Safari 3.04 on my Macbook Pro, due to Firefox’s painfully slow performance (about 3-5 times as slow as Safari or Camino). That switch from Mozilla Firefox to Webkit Safari was not all cookies and cake though. Along with that change I lost the ability to navigate links with search / Enter key combinations, i.e. find links through the search function, which automatically highlights the link and then open them by hitting Escape then Enter. When you’re constantly using web pages with hundreds of links like many programming language documentation sites have, full keyboard navigation of pages and links is pretty powerful.

Here are some more reasons why Camino is the fastest and best browser for Mac OS X Leopard:

  1. Fastest Browser web page rendering

    Rendering is the fancy term of reading HTML page code (<tags>, javascript, stylesheets, etc.) and producing the beautiful, formatted text, layout and pictures in the browser window. One would think that the time it takes to read and display the same web page code on different browsers would be identical between all browsers. Interestingly… it is not. Safari 3.04 and Camino 1.53, the fast web browsers, are up to 6x faster in rendering the same web page when compard to Firefox or Internet Explorer. The best example that I have is within I have no idea why these pages load so slow in Firefox, but they do. Sign up for a 30 day trial account (or a limitless developer account) and click through the various tabs on the account home (after logging in). Do this both in Firefox and within Camino, performing the exact same actions. In Firefox, at least for me, it renders the exact same pages but 3-4x slower. When you’re repeating the same actions over and over again (as is common in waiting 6-8 seconds for the same page to render is painful.

  2. Block Ads

    You heard me right: the ability to prevent/block/stop hyper annoying flash video ads from auto-playing and looping forever, which takes up tons of CPU processing power and can make your computer run like a slug… just to show a bloody ad. The worst part about flash advertisements is that you have zero control over it. At least on a television you can mute the volume (or speed/skip through it if you’re on Tivo or ReplayTV), but on a web page you’re forced to let it loop through it’s content for as long as you’re on the page. To set this up goto the top menu bar, select Camino, Preferences, Web Features, then check Block Flash Animations. After this, load up a page you know has flash ads such as and reload it a few times until you see a blank white box with a stylized “F” representing the now muted Flash ad. Camino… je t’aime. This doesn’t mean that sites that normally have videos are now useless as you can still watch the videos by simply clicking on the box containing the Flash symbols to start playing the video. But, it’s an incredible relief to have the power and ability to control my own browsing experience.

  3. Keyboard navigation

    Find links on web pages using inline search (find as you type) and open/navigate them by hitting the Enter button. This is more of a power-user feature, but it’s quite a big feature for those who know about it. Within Camino, when viewing a web page, if you see a link you want to click on (or you happen know the name of the link, often the case when reading documentation), hit the “single quote” key (‘) or “forward slash” (/), which turns on “find as you type” search and start typing the word that you are looking for. Using “single quote” will find links only, whereas “forward slash” will search all text. Camino will move the cursor to the word that matches the letters that you are typing and at any time you can hit Enter to navigate/open that link. Need to move to the next matching link? Hit Command + g (the normal “Find Next” hotkey for Mac). Previous match? Hit Shift + Command + g. This is much much faster than scrolling down a web page and moving your mouse pointer to hover over the link then clicking it. Try it and you’ll understand why I think this is such a big feature. Although, if you’re not exactly Speedy Gonzales on the keyboard, this may not be a big draw. For those who are wise in the ways of Keyboard-Fu… rejoice.

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Safari Fastest Browser on Mac

So something that came as a bit of a surprise to me was that on certain sites, Safari is 4-5x faster than Firefox on page rendering.  Recently I’ve been doing lots of work on and I was thinking: “Man, their site is hella slow”.

 After talking with a friend in Paris accessing the same site, but without all the slow loading issues I decided to give Safari on Leopard a try. The exact same pages, the exact same actions produced very different results.  Safari is by far the “fast browser” and Firefox, the slow browser, at least on OS X.  Pages that I would have to wait between 6-7 seconds to finish loading in Firefox would come up around the 1 second mark (or less) in Safari.  This is an enormous difference when you’re talking about browsing as 5-10 seconds is an eternity to wait for something to load, but too short of a time to do anything meaningful besides becoming frustrated.

Now if only Safari could navigate links using the keyboard only like it’s possible in Firefox.  In Firefox you can simply Ctrl + F to do a word search on the page (which is part of a link), when the partial word/link is highlighted, hit Esc to clear the search highlighting and you’re left with a cursor focused link that will respond to an Enter button press with opening the link.  Brilliantly fast, much faster than finding links through the mouse. Somehow we need to generate enough noise so that the Webkit (which is the basis of Safari) developers to take note and build this into the next release of their software. 

Load Bookmarks with Quicksilver Mac Application Loader

Quicksilver from Blacktree Software is a free Mac OS X program loader / launcher / starter. By launcher, I mean, it’s a way to start or run a program on your computer without using the mouse or trackpad. By setting up your favorites within Firefox or Safari or Camino in a certain way, you can make it extra easy and extremely fast to open your most visited sites.

Why would this be interesting or useful? Why wouldn’t I just click on the site’s bookmark or favorites entry and load the website that way?

Because moving the mouse pointer over the Bookmarks menu and clicking through various Bookmarked sites folders to find the name of the site you want to load is simply slow.

With Quicksilver for Mac, if you know the name of the site you want to visit, you can load it almost instantaneously, not with telepathy, but it feels like it.

This is how it works (full setup instructions for Quicksilver are below):

  1. Add a favorite to your browser’s bookmarks toolbar (the bookmarks that you see near the top of your browser on a toolbar), but name it like an acronym. Example: GMail? Name this favorite “G”. Google Finance? Make this favorite “GF”.
  2. Now restart or reload Quicksilver and test the new favorites shortcut. Hit your Quicksilver hotkey, Ctrl + Spacebar by default, then type the letter or letters of the new favorite you just made, for example: “GF” for Google Finance. The Quicksilver launcher window should now show the favorite you just made and to launch this site, just hit Enter. Once you get used to launching web pages this way, it takes less than a second to hit any of your favorite sites.

Full Instructions

Key to making keyboard shortcuts really fast is using Quicksilver, a launcher application for Mac. To load up my favourite web sites I use Ctrl + Spacebar, then one or two typed letters, then Enter. Firefox will then load the page in a new tab or a new window if it’s not already running. If you’re doing development and constantly loading up reference docs or checking your mail often, checking stock prices every 30 min., checking your Google analytics, then this system makes hitting your favourite pages a lot faster than hunting around with a mouse or trackpad for bookmarks.

Step 1: Get Quicksilver launcher

Install it.

Step 2: Install the Firefox/Mozilla or Safari Plugin Module

This allows Quicksilver to scan through your bookmarks to create catalog entries which will create launch items for each bookmark. This is the key to having one or two letter web browser bookmarks available through Quicksilver.

Step 1337: Bezel Interface

To get the Bezel Interface with Quicksilver, go to the Quicksilver Menu -> Preferences -> Appearance and choose: Bezel from the Command Interface and click on Superfluous visual effects and Load Icons for all results (if not already set). Why do this? Cause it looks “leet”.

Step 3: One or two letter bookmarks.

By one or two letter bookmarks I mean name your bookmarks with the initials of a website’s name, rather than the entire name of the website which is provided by default. For example, hit Command + D which is the make a bookmark shortcut in Firefox. The name that comes up is super long: Mac OS X Leopard & Tiger blah blah blah. You don’t need all that. Change the name to LT and save it in your Personal Bookmarks Toolbar, which is just enough letters to help you remember what this shortcut is for. More examples: I use the letter ‘G’. For Google Analytics I use ‘GA’.

Step 4: Rescan your bookmarks in Quicksilver.

From the Quicksilver menu, choose Rescan Catalog or hit Command + R if you have the Quicksilver application open and running in front of you. This will pick up any changes you’ve made to Firefox / Safari bookmarks.

To test out your shortcut, hit your Quicksilver activation hotkey (for me it’s Ctrl + Spacebar), then type the initials of your new bookmark. Within Quicksilver you should see an Earth graphic + Open URL (if you got leet in Step 1337).

Smack enter and Firefox will load up that web page in a new tab or a new window if it’s not already running.

Rinse and Repeat with more web pages that you constantly hit and leave behind your mouse jockeying ways.

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Santa Rosa MacBook LED backlight

Update March 1, 2008: More on LED backlighting on the MacBook Pro 15.4″

Probably the nicest feature introduced on the Santa Rosa MacBook Pro’s is the LED backlit screens. The reason? Instant brightness adjustment (which Leopard now fades in for that ultra smooth user experience…).

When waking up a dozing Santa Rosa the screen (in Tiger) gets to full brightness immediately. In Leopard it fades into the preset brightness in a couple seconds. This is really noticeable when using the lappy attached to a second external LCD which uses conventional fluroscent tube backlighting, which takes about 5 or so minutes to get to normal operating brightness.

Over the longterm screen brightness should stay quite a bit more constant as well. If you’ve ever compared laptop screens from the same model but from different ages, side by side you’ll notice the older laptop screen is not as bright as the fluro tube gets dimmer as it ages. Not too much of an issue as you can continue to increase brightness (unless you’re a max brightness kinda guy/gal already).

And finally, LEDs use less energy to produce the same lumens as a tube so you get a bit longer battery life as well.