New year Clearout

By Graham K. Rogers

This week I had intended to have a series of disconnected jottings--information collected over recent months, but I have had to update some (and include others) owing to the way software changes occur.

• Most welcome was Apple's new web browser, Safari (Jaguar -- Safari, geddit?) a beta download of only 3MB that really flies. I loved the way that bookmarks are managed. Sending mail is a cinch, and other services available are sound: highlight text and it will be read out to you. This browser is bound to improve too.

• An old favourite returns: In 10.2.3 it is now possible to drag and drop a file onto the Print Center icon (I have an alias in the Dock) and it will print directly with some documents or open the print dialogue box with others.

MacTracker is another old favourite. This is particularly nice as this is freeware and Ian Page obviously has worked hard to keep this project going over the years. I have personally sent him thanks.

The latest version, for OSX is 1.73 but I have had a look at the beta of his most up-to-date issue which has lots of interesting items. The interface has been cleaned up and looks very OSX with its coloured images. There is now data on Desktops, Portables, non-Apple Macs (such as the Motorola), monitors and peripherals -- a couple of entries here were greyed out and I expect data to be added later. Each entry has a significant amount of technical data, which in the past has saved me some cash: checking before I made a decision to buy.

Unfortunately, a version for the Windows platform for those technical people who fix Macs but run PCs, has been shelved owing to lack of interest. Strange world.

Update 21 January 2003: MacTracker version 2.0 released.

The Scientist, august publication that it is, recently published its annual awards. In among the Zeiss laser-scanning microscope, QIAGEN Nucleic Acid Purification Kits and the Gilson Pipetman, Apple's iMac was joint winner of the "Coolest Design" award, along with Eppendorf Microcentrifuges; which puts a completely new spin on the iMac.

• Classic Spy (http://www.anoshkin.net/) is one of those little programs that is so useful one wonders why Apple themselves did not create it. It is sometimes necessary to access Classic (System 9) and I find it a bit mucky to click on a program icon (you have to find one first), or a document, or to dig down into the System Preferences. With the Classic Spy icon press Start (or Stop when all is done).

The corporate mind in Cupertino wants only hardware-related icons in the menu-bar, such as the modem, sound, Bluetooth, and graphics display; although there is a slight contradiction as iChat and the Clock are permissible. Classic Spy has a fix for this that can also be downloaded.

Oddly enough, the neat little 120KB pull-down calendar by Guido Neitzer did not need this workround. Guido is another one of these nice people who produces freeware for the Mac. In this case all he asks is a postcard from your city. MenuCalendar is available for download from VersionTracker. Just do a search and it will appear.

• Terminal is an interesting little hole through the GUI straight to the UNIX beneath. I have changed mine so that I have a green screen and yellow text just like an old monochrome monitor. Terminal contains a couple of interesting surprises like "telnet". I had almost forgotten how to use this window to an ISP. Also in Terminal are the text editors, Pico, and Emacs. I picked this up on a discussion forum and it was second-hand then:

In Terminal, type "emacs" (without the speechmarks) and hit return. Press the shift and esc keys. Type "xdoctor" and then hit return. Type in a question. Hit return twice after each question. To exit press the control and x keys; and then control and c.

I deny all responsibility for any self-doubts inflicted.

• I was about to criticise Apple for laxity in development of iSync, which had been in beta for months when version 1.0 arrived along with a new version 1.0.1 of iCal, the calendar program (3 January) and by Monday 6th it was up to 1.0.2 as they had forgotten that some people do live more than 10 hours after Greenwich Mean Time.

I had tried the iSync beta a few months ago but removed it, mainly because I prefer the brighter colours of the Palm desktop calendar -- iSync only works with iCal in this respect.

After installing the new version of iCal, I did a search and found that some extra calendar data was available for subscription. I already had the Thai holidays calendar but found that now there was a Formula 1 calendar also.

The Dock icon still shows 17th July when not running. Once activated, the current date is displayed. If you leave it running all night, it changes when you wake the computer in the morning: it did not before. Shut the program down and it does not now revert to 17 July as it did before, although it does if you log-out or shutdown, which I find infuriating. One rumour has it that the significance of the date is that this was when Steve Jobs made the keynote speech at Macworld New York 2002, and it was then that he announced iCal.

• If you are in doubt about whether you need a Macintosh, start up iTunes, plug in some headphones (or some speakers), turn down the lights, pour out your favourite tipple (or light up what you enjoy smoking most), and when the music is playing click on "Turn Visuals On" either using the icon at the bottom of the screen or in the Visuals menu.

• Apple's "Switcher" campaign has gone up a notch, from the randomness of Ellen Feiss, who has become an icon in her own right, to the class of Yo Yo Ma. QuickTime videos of both are online at http://www.apple.com/switcher/ along with several others.

• A few months ago, we reviewed some books on OSX and top of the list was David Pogue's, OSX: The Missing Manual. The copies I have are for 10.1 but now a new edition is available which covers 10.2.x (Jaguar). This is not simply an updated version of the original, but a complete rewrite with several new sections. An outline and samples from the book can be found on the O'Reilly website, from where it can aso be ordered online. This may be a little faster than local booksellers: one was asked about the book but denied all knowledge of its existence, despite there being two copies on the shelves.

• Security issues. For the more sober among us, it is sometimes necessary to have a higher level of security. As mentioned by James Hein a few weeks ago, Pretty Good Privacy has recently come out with the latest version for OSX . It comes in two flavours: vanilla, which covers mail use and a couple of other functions (free for the ordinary user); and professional (the one you pay for) which allows you to have secure disk images. These disks will not be mounted, so remain unavailable, until the password is entered. Companies and the paranoid will be interested in this one.

• What to do with old iMacs. This is not a personal choice as I would still be running any iMac: they are not old enough for someone of my resources to dump. Nevertheless, I am grateful to Peter from Had Yai who sent me this Spanish piscine solution. The site is http://www.macaquarium.com/ and you should not forget that little "a" in the middle: http://www.macquarium.com/ is a whole different ballgame.

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

Back to eXtensions
Back to homepage