Posts tagged mac os x

Some Mac software link clouds

Beautiful colours and clouds

As I said previously, I tend to wipe and reinstall the operating systems on my computers at least once a year, then I go about reinstalling software. Here's a cloud showing my current Mac software, current as of this post. I would discuss software from the future, but that would be in violation of the Temporal Prime Directive.

Cyberduck
Slick little (S)FTP client
Gimp
Photoshop replacement for editing pictures
Inkscape
Vector graphics editor
iStat Pro
For monitoring temperature, memory etc from the Dashboard
MacFuse
For easily mounting tons of file systems, and for TrueCrypt
MacPorts
OS X free software package manager
MacVim
Beautiful Aqua-native Gvim text editor
Mozilla Firefox
With these mostly-security extensions because I’m paranoid
Perian
QuickTime codec library, so Finder can create video thumbnails
TrueCrypt
Encrypted volume creator and manager
TweetDeck
Full screen Twitter client with interchangable columns
VLC (Intel)
For actually playing most of my video!

From MacPorts I build copies of:

ImageMagick
Easy command line image converting
LAME
For encoding podcasts
Midnight Commander
Still my primary file manager!
Music on Console
For listening to online radio, smaller than iTunes
Python 2.6
A kind of snake, also a British comedy troupe

Broken Mac The Sims 2 equals bummer

Error when loading The Sims 2 for Mac
Screenshot taken with [CMD]+[C] as the game starts

I like to reformat my computers at least once a year to keep them from accumulating too much clutter. Unfortunately after reinstalling a fresh copy of Mac OS X Leopard on my first generation Core Duo MacBook Pro, a copy of The Sims 2 without expansions refuses to load. This despite the fact it was working just fine before the reformat!

When loading The Sims 2 on Mac OS X 10.5.7 with QuickTime 7.6, it displays the Electronic Arts logo, then shows the above screen instead of the Maxis logo. After the the introductory video has played, the game quits and displays a "The application The Sims 2 has quit unexpectedly" error dialog box. Bummer.

The Sims 2 dock iconConsidering I had just reformmated the machine and didn't have anything else on it yet, I reformatted it again back to 10.5.4 with QuickTime 7.5 and didn't do any software updates. The exact same error appears.

These were the steps I took to reinstall the game.

  1. Repaired permissions with Disk Utility.app
  2. Copied "The Sims 2" directory from the installation DVD to "/Applications/"
  3. Downloaded and applied the Sims21.0RevF.dmg update without issues
  4. Downloaded and copied over the Sims21.0RevF.reissue executable

As I said before what's frustrating is that this worked before, so I know this machine is capable of it. Twice I've tried running it, with the latest software updates installed and with the bare 10.5.4 DVD install. Nothing. Nada. Zippo.

I've emailed Aspyr technical support, in the meantime it seems I'll need to find another means of escaping!


Testing pkgsrc on my MacBook Pro

Testing whether I got the NetBSD pkgsrc system installed properly on my MacBook Pro. Everything seems to be in order! Now to install Gnumeric and other free and open source goodness.

% uname -mrs
Darwin 9.7.0 i386
% figlet Rubenerd
 ____        _                             _
|  _  _   _| |__   ___ _ __   ___ _ __ __| |
| |_) | | | | '_  / _  '_  / _  '__/ _` |
|  _ <| |_| | |_) |  __/ | | |  __/ | | (_| |
|_| _\__,_|_.__/ ___|_| |_|___|_|  __,_|

Last.fm and the biggest text file of all time

Last.fm's 13.74GB log file

For the last couple of weeks I was having issues with the Last.fm scrobbler on my MacBook Pro. Whenever I launched it, it went into hiding without showing an icon in the Dock or the menu bar. After 15 minutes or so of playing music in iTunes the cooling fans for the machine would kick into overdrive and a quick inspection of the actively running processes with top would show the Last.fm app running at close to 100% CPU power. Thank heavens for dual core chips.

I admit I've been so busy these last couple of weeks I just gave up and stopped using it as you can tell from my lack of scrobbling activity. Doing some hard drive cleaning this morning though I came across possibly one of the biggest files on my drive.

That's right folks, as you can see above Last.fm's log file on my hard drive is 13.74GB. To put this into context if you're not aware, a log file is simply a text file! Most of my ripped movies are smaller in size than this text file!

No wonder Last.fm has been crapping out on this machine. And no wonder I couldn't account for where all my drive space was going.


If you’ve never tried Midnight Commander…

FreeBSD Midnight Commander through SSH on my Mac
Midnight Commander on a FreeBSD machine running in an SSH session on my Mac

Perhaps it's because the first computer I ever used had DOS on it, but ever since I started using it in late 2005 I absolutely adore the Midnight Commander and use it almost exclusively to deal with file management tasks on my Macs and FreeBSD machines. If you've never used it before, you're missing out on a treat.

Midnight Commander is a text based, "orthodox" file maneger that adopts the interface of the venerable Norton Commander (Wikipedia) on DOS. The screen is split into two panes for showing the contents of folders, along with a menu bar, a shortcut key help pane at the bottom and a prompt you can use to enter regular shell commands, view their results and return. I often joke that last feature means you often never have to leave!

As Norton Commander did in DOS, Midnight Commander can be used to easily create and modify your file system without having to use Unix commands with possibly confusing arrays of options. If you're like me you already know how to create folders and symbolic links, move files, change permissions, rename folders and so forth, but as the existence of numerous graphical file managers attests to, sometimes it's just easier for larger projects and tasks to let a program do it for you.

Midnight Commander Light
Midnight Commander Light > in urxvt > in Openbox > on FreeBSD!

Regardless of whether you choose to use the original Midnight Commander or Midnight Commander Light they're also a cinch to configure via easy to use dialog boxes under the Options menu, no need to edit text files then relaunch the applications! Things that can be customised include the view (between horizontal or vertical panes), colour schemes, file highlighting and audible alerts. They also contain a slew of other features such as virtual filesystems which I admit I haven't even tried yet!

Most people who use Unix-like operating systems probably already are well aware of Midnight Commander, but for those of you just giving Linux, FreeBSD and so forth a try, you might want to look into it. The fact you don't need to launch an X11 graphical environment to do file management tasks is a huge plus, and you can even use it to easily maintain systems remotely through a secure shell. Very cool.

Midnight Commander is available from NetBSD's pkgsrc under /sysutils, the FreeBSD ports system under /misc and Mac OS X's MacPorts under /sysutils amongst others.


Using Herrie to listen to Whole Wheat Radio

Herrie tuned into Whole Wheat Radio on my Mac

Just finished polishing up the Herrie media player page on the Whole Wheat Radio wiki. Over time I've being going through each media player and adding instructions with screenshots so hopefully any new person who has never tuned in before can get up and running easily.

  1. Download a "Listen" playlist from the sidebar of the wiki
  2. Launch herrie in playlist mode: % herrie -x
  3. Navigate to the saved listen.pls file by using your arrow keys
  4. Add it to your playlist by pressing "A"
  5. Change focus to your playlist by pressing "Tab" then press "X" to start playing!
  6. When you’re done, press "Q" to quit

I think Jim really intended these pages to just be explanations for the players that appear on the Who's listening page, but I figure if at least one person found the information helpful it was worth it. Heck I owe the existence of this blog to that philosophy… right? ^_^


My belated review of VirtualBox for Mac

FreeBSD, MS-DOS and Windows 2000 in VirtualBox
FreeBSD 7.1 with Xfce, MS-DOS with XTreeGold and Windows 2000

In my quest to find the most useful virtualisation software for Mac I've so far used Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion and Q.app in various capacities. Today I decided to take a closer look at VirtualBox, the free and open source virtualisation software by Sun Microsystems.

Firstly the good news: VirtualBox is fast. Because it can take advantage of VT-x in the Intel processors of modern Macs the performance is in an entirely different league to QEMU based applications and much closer in performance to expensive (at least in the eyes of a university student!) commercial products from VMware and Parallels.

Because of it's higher performance, VirtualBox can run all current flavours of BSD, Linux and Windows that I've thrown at it just beautifully. Creating machines is a snap, and the shortcut keys for commands such as hard reset (command-R) are the best of any Mac virtualisation product I've used.

The main VirtualBox graphical control window

Unfortunately for me there have been some problems. For starters, considering it's a Sun product I found it disheartening to find OpenSolaris 08.11 can't pass the initial boot stage to install without giving an error which is a shame. FreeBSD has difficulty using the emulated optical drive which in practical usage is fine but it means you need to initally install over a network, no easy install of an ISO is possible. And for my electronic nostalgia, VirtualBox crashes whenever I attempt to load either the EMM386 or UMBCPI upper memory managers in MS-DOS 6.22 or PC DOS 2000 despite exhaustive attempts to map the correct memory addresses.

As I said on my Q.app review, my first generation Core Duo MacBook Pro seems to be a very quirky machine for virtualisation: it seems to have troubles than most Apple people don't seem to have! Keeping this in mind I'm ready to chalk these problems up to my eccentric machine, but it's still a bit disheartening.

VirtualBox has the potential to be an amazing product, and certainly for Windows and Linux it does the job beautifully — especially for the price! Unfortunately for my own current needs though I'm going to have to give it a pass; while it does run Windows 2000 amazingly well I'd prefer not to have to use several higher end virtualisation products for different things.


Reading and writing Windows drives on Mac

One of the questions I'm most often asked by people moving to Mac (the latest is my dad!) is whether or not their new Mac can read their external hard drives and memory keys. To save myself typing long responses every time, I'm creating this post instead.

The short answer is: YES your Mac can READ Windows formatted drives with no problems. The problem is writing.

Modern versions of Windows format drives either as FAT32 or NTFS:

FAT32
Can be read and written to by Macs but because it’s older it only supports drives up to a certain file size. Most USB memory keys use this.

NTFS
Is more robust and reliable and is used by most external hard drives now. Macs can only read not write such volumes out of the box, but if you download and install the NTFS-3G project drivers you’ll be able to write without problems.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich
I’ve never been able to get Windows or Mac OS X read or write to a grilled cheese sandwich, but I intend to start a SourceForge project to accomplish this once I get a $50,000 grant to develop it. If anyone here is willing to sponsor me with this, feel free to contact me.

My belated review of Q.app

Q running Windows NT 4.0, FreeDOS with OpenGEM and MS-DOS 6.02 with Windows 3.11
Q running retro Windows NT 4.0, FreeDOS with OpenGEM and MS-DOS 6.22 with Windows 3.11

Due to some silly distractions I had to postpone my reviews of Mac virtualisation software. Today's review is for Q.app, a free and open source native Mac port of the QEMU processor emulator.

Q.app can be described in one word: svelte! In a download that weighs in at under 10MiB, this tiny application can create and run fully contained virtual machines; it's very impressive! It's also clear a lot of care and attention has been put into the interface: because it's a native Cocoa port the interface feels like a real Mac application and the guests you create are bundled into native OS X packages.

ASIDE: As a matter of disclosure, I am not affiliated with the Q.app project or QEMU, nor was I given a financial incentive to positively review their application, though now it’s after the fact I would be more than happy to accept such payments. Thank you.

Q.app iconBecause Q.app uses QEMU it doesn't have the sophisticated performance or graphics of much heavier (and far more expensive) apps like VMware Fusion which I've previously blogged about, but apps that require those kinds of resources aren't the intended use of it anyway.

Provided you use more modest operating systems instead of trying to shoehorn Windows 7 or Ubuntu with Gnome into it, it's very usable. Windows 2000, the BSDs and lighter distributions of GNU/Linux run just fine. Windows 95 and DOS (including the latest FreeDOS) absolutely scream! As with any VM software, the key is finding the oldest OS that can run the software you need, unless you intend on using the Internet in it for security reasons.

Q running Windows 2000 and FreeBSD 7.1-R
Windows 2000 and FreeBSD 7.1-R also run just fine.

I have had some stability issues with Q on my first generation Core Duo MacBook Pro, and the Q drivers to enable a Samba share between my Windows 2000 guest and my Mac stubbornly refuse to work, but I'm willing to chalk both these problems up to a problem with the operator not necessarily the software! My iBook G3 was obviously slower, but didn't have either of these issues.

If you need to run a application written for another OS (or with caveats perhaps even another processor!) and you don't have time or inclination to register for and download a huge product like Fusion or Parallels, or if you're like me and just want to run a ton of older OSs for silly nostalgic reasons, you can't go wrong with Q.app. The folks behind this app have done a great job.


Restoring files with MacVim, Vim

MacVim informting me of a file that can be restored

It seems deliriously (some of you might say schadenfreude) ridiculous that I would take so much time to create a follow-up post to my initial MacVim review and include some commentary regarding my forgetful nature… then forget to add something. Can banging your head on a table cause brain damage?

One more reason to consider MacVim if you’re looking for an all purpose text editor for Mac is a feature it shares with regular Vim: the ability to restore text files that were lost as a result of the program quitting unexpectedly. If you relaunch MacVim you’re asked if you want to restore the text file to the condition it was last in regardless of when you saved it.

As with most Mac applications MacVim has never crashed on me before, but that’s not to say I haven’t been the victim of an old battery that decides to turn the computer off!

That reminds me, I need to buy a new battery. This one is shot worse than a politically incorrect reference to Dick Cheney. Wow, that was over three years ago already?


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