Saturday, March 27, 2010

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Friday, August 28, 2009

How to Convert from ICNS to PNG

Simple and easy, using Terminal. Get the low-down here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Converting Japanese from AppleWorks

I have some really old files with Japanese in them in AppleWorks format. If you try to just copy and past the text, it comes out as gibberish. However, there's a method to the madness of the gibberish, so you can convert it back to the original language. It's a bit of a hassle, but doable. (I'll bet this happens automatically when you use Apple's newer Pages to open AppleWorks files, but as I don't have pages I'm stuck with this method.)
  1. Open the AppleWorks file and copy the text you want.
  2. Make a new TextEdit file.
  3. Select Format > Make Plain Text.
  4. Paste the Japanese text into the file.
  5. Save it as whatever name you like in the "Western (Mac OS Roman)" encoding.
  6. Open that text file in Safari.
  7. Select View > Text Encoding > Japanese (Shift JIS).
  8. Copy the text in the Safari window, and paste it wherever you like.

You can do similar thing with other encodings; just change Japanese (Shift JIS) with the appropriate encoding for your language.

Monday, December 15, 2008

How to Type Chinese Pinyin on a Mac

Street-Smart Language Learning has the explanation here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Shades: Darken your screen's brightness more than Apple's built-in ability

I am that guy. You come up to my computer, squint, and say, "How do you see with it so dark?" I don't know what it is, but my eyes are easily irritated by bright computer screens. I almost invariably have the screen set to the minimal brightness that Apple will allow, but I've found that over my last few laptops the minimal brightness has gotten brighter with each new purchase.

That's why I was so glad to come across Shades (via Surfbits). Implemented as a preference pane, Shades does a simple but very effective job of making your screen darker. Apple's brightness control buttons allow 17 different levels of brightness (16 represented by the bars in the bevel and then one more for effectively off), but the jump from the dimmest screen to off is big. You might imagine that Apple's 16 visible levels cover from 16 to 32 on some kind of brightness measurement. Shades, via either a menu bar item, a floating bevel controller, or the control panel, let's you slide that range down so the levels controlled by brightness keys might be from 1 to 17, 8 to 24, etc. In other words, you can still use the Apple brightness control buttons to dim and brighten the screen, but the darkest dark and the brightest bright will both be darker.

Simple, well-implemented, effective, and with all the options you'd need, I wholeheartedly recommend this program to any of you out there who can't stand bright screens.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

How to Read Adobe Digital Editions on Mac OS X 10.5.x

I've got a bunch of old ebooks from Adobe with DRM (don't read me?) protection, which I fittingly wanted to read. I first got these books back in 2003 or 2004, and over that time I've had plenty of issues in opening them. I had to pluck around the depths of the internets at least twice before to resolve issues in opening these ebooks.

Well, I had to do it once again. I came to find out that Adobe's official position is that Mac OS X v10.5 (Leopard) is not presently supported." However, digging a bit further into their message boards, I found that that isn't exactly the case; you can in fact read them on Leopard, it just requires a work-around.

The work-around is as follows (thanks to Adobe forum member reklessen for posting this work-around):
        1.        Use Safari to open this page. Although I didn't personally test anything, there may be issues when using other browsers.
        2.        From the "Select a Version" pull-down menu on that web page, select "10.2.8 - 10.4.2".
        3.        Download this earlier version of Acrobat Reader
        4.        Quit all Adobe software.
        5.        Install the version of Adobe Reader that you just downloaded.
        6.        Open Adobe Reader, go to File > Digital Editions > Authorize Devices, and go through the steps to authorize the computer you're using.
        7.        Make sure the computer you are using is listed in the list of authorized devices at the bottom of digital editions accounts webpage.
        8.        Open any digital editions with Adobe Reader by either dragging and dropping the digital edition on the app's icon in the dock, control-clicking the digital edition file and selecting "Open With" Adobe Reader, or selecting File > Open within Adobe Reader
Afterwards, ignore all of the pleas from Adobe updating software to update to version 8 or any other higher version, and you should be able to continue reading any of digital editions you have simply by opening them with Adobe Reader

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Change No. 261: No more end-to-end scrolling through application switcher

Here's a small but annoying change. Up through 10.4, when using the command tab application switcher (if you don't know what I'm talking about, press tab while holding down the command button and you'll see what I mean), you could click the left arrow when on the first (i.e., left-most) open application to go to the last (i.e., right-most) open application in the application switcher and vice versa. This was especially useful when you wanted to dig up a program that you hid a while ago (in the application switcher, hiding a program has the effect of putting it all the way to the right).

Now, in Leopard, what happens when you are on the first open application (which, by the way, is always right next to the one selected when the application switcher is opened) and press the left arrow? Nothing. It no longer rolls through to the other side. The ends of the application switcher are no dead ends, meaning you've got to click an arrow key a bunch of times to get to the right side.

You can, however, continue to scroll from right to left with the tab button and left to right with the shift + tab button, but I don't find those methods as easy as the arrow keys.

Come on, Apple! This is a bush league omission.

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Change No. 296: Goodbye lookupd -flushcache, Hello dscacheutil -flushcache

Lately I've had the good fortune of having my lovely (read: slow) Verizon Avenue internet service go to crap. It was working fine (albeit slowly), but all of a sudden about a week ago it got all funky. Now I can't access my GMail via POP or IMAP, I can't send mail via SMTP, I can't use FTP, I can't sign on to any chat accounts (AIM, GTalk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Yahoo!), and I can't access the iTunes Store. And this is true across three different computers - a MacBook Pro on 10.5 and a PowerBook G4 and an iBook G4 on 10.4. In fact, just about the only thing I can do is visit HTTP websites and download my email from AOL and another account via IMAP. Verizon was typically clueless as to why there was some connectivity but some wasn't working and, as these guys tend to do, they tried to pass the buck. (The money quote from the call was "You may need to call Mac".)

One suggestion that Verizon had that did sound useful (the first person I spoke with was totally lost but the second seemed to know what he was talking about) was trying to clear the DNS cache. Now even I'm totally lost as to what that really means, but sometimes the DNS cache can mess up connectivity to the internet. This happened to me once before and I had to "flush the DNS cache" before things got back to normal. A long time ago I remember somebody had made a little Mac OS X program where you just press a button to do this. That program appears to be no more, but I recalled that you can also do this via the command line.

A few minutes of googling and I found the command: lookupd -flushcache. Entering that, however, just got me -bash: lookupd: command not found. So I tried putting a sudo in front of that, as the internets directed me, but the result was the same. Some websites even said that you might want to begin it with su, or put a su in before entering it (this appears to be a pretty dangerous stunt, judging by the dire warnings that seemed to accompany the descriptions of su, but I dove in with the reckless abandon of an overly confident advanced-but-not-technically-inclined user), but again to no avail. In fact, this put another obstacle in my path: after doing the whole password bit as required by su, the result was su: Sorry. Huh?

So it was back to hitting the internets. A few more rounds of googling had me convinced that lookupd -flushcache was right. This is, until I came across this bit in Macsploitation. After running into the same problem as me, the author, who is clearly more technically inclined than me, was digging around in his computer's man pages (I just barely fended off the temptation to insert a male pornography joke here), which apparently can tell you all about these commands, and discovered that the command to flush the DNS cache has indeed been changed.

You'll be pleased to find out that in Mac OS X Leopard you can flush the DNS cache by entering dscacheutil -flushcache in the Terminal.

And it's as simple as that.

So does anyone who is a bit more technically inclined than me have any idea as to why this might be an improvement? (I'd like to maintain my optimistic assumption that if it weren't an improvement Apple wouldn't have changed it.)

Unfortunately, this did nothing to fix my connection problem. I went to Starbucks and was able to connect to everything from their computer without a problem on said MacBook Pro and said iBook. I then went to an area covered by my apartment building's wireless network (i.e., the same Verizon connection) and was able to connect without a problem via the same two computers. Yet here, with the ethernet cord plugged directly into these computers, the problem remained. I think I've safely eliminated the possibility that it's our computers. Anyone have any idea what might cause something like this?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

eMusic: Legal DRM-free MP3s for $0.33 per song or less

eMusic is a music download site that lets you buy songs in DRM-free MP3 format by means of a monthly subscription that lets you keep your downloaded songs (i.e., they don't disappear if you end your subscription) for $0.33 or less per song. Apparently they're number two behind the iTunes Store, having just hit their 100 millionth download this week.

eMusic recently snagged me with the 25 free-of-charge songs they give you to try out their service. (By the way, if you want to join, send me an email at vp at-sign vincent pace dot info and I'll invite you. If you become a subscriber, I get 50 free songs. Spread the joy (to me) this holiday season.)

Anyway, they give you a two-week trial period in which you can download 25 free songs. You have to supply a credit card, which I did. If you don't cancel before the two-week trial period ends, your subscription begins. I can confirm to you that it's easy to cancel, should you want to do so; just click on Your Account at the top of the page, click on Change Account Status on the left side of the page, and then you get to the cancellation process. The only thing I couldn't find was an obvious way to downgrade your account from premium to basic or plus (see below).

Now this isn't the typical subscription service under which your songs just up and disappear when you stop subscribing; these songs are yours to keep after the subscription ends. They're in DRM-free MP3 format, meaning that you don't have to hassle with any annoying restrictions (here they've even got the iTunes Store beat).

eMusic offers you three subscription plans, which compare to iTunes as follows:

PlanNumber of songs you can download to own per monthCostCost per song
eMusic Basic30$9.99$0.33
eMusic Plus50$14.99$0.30
eMusic Premium75$19.99$0.27
iTunes Storen/an/a$0.99

Probably the biggest drawback is the smaller selection than the iTunes Store. It seems that few major music stars are to be found, although I had little trouble digging up the ancient Bing Crosby Christmas album I was looking for. Some other big names include Ya Lo Tengo and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Clearly you can see that mainstream artists haven't ventured here yet.

However, for those classical fans out there, this site seems to be geared towards you, with classical music search options featuring right in the search mechanism of the website.

I would suggest a few improvements. By far, the most important drawback of eMusic is its lack of integration with iTunes. eMusic doesn't provide you with a jukebox program (and thankfully so, since there's very little chance that they'd be able to pull off anything as good as iTunes). When you download a song from eMusic, it's just plopped down somewhere on your hard drive and you have to put it into iTunes yourself. Back when I frequented Limewire I remember that it used to put songs right into iTunes in a new play list, something that would be particularly suitable for eMusic as well. But I would take it a step farther, by making eMusic's default file naming conventions the same as iTunes. To take it a step further, eMusic should make sure all the MP3 tags are the same as those in iTunes songs and, as a kicker, automatically download album artwork (which is not included in your eMusic download).

Overall, I'm sold. There's enough good stuff in here to keep a music lover happy, and, thank goodness, it's all DRM free. While it's certainly not going to replace the iTunes Store, it certainly is a nice supplement that has many of the songs that are on the iTunes Store.

Relatedly, here are ten good reasons why a content provider would choose to avoid using DRM and here is a list of DRM-free-content providers.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, December 31, 2005

How to Make Invisible Mail Messages Reappear

I'm just getting over a harddrive death. I had to send my harddrive to get scanned and just got back the files back yesterday. I ran into a strange problem.

Apple Mail was telling me that there were a number of unread messages in any number of folders. However, when I went to open these folders, no messages were showing up.

I had no idea what was going on so I hit Google. This led me to a bunch of posts discussing disappearing Mail messages. However, nothing in any of those posts worked for me.

I took out all the contents of ~/Library/Mail/ and put them in another folder. Then I opened up Mail, followed the instructions in the pop-up window, which repopulated ~/Library/Mail/. Then I again took out all of the contents of ~/Library/Mail/ and put them aside in a new folder. I then brought back all the original files and put them back into ~/Library/Mail/. I then reopened Mail (actually with the intent of taking screenshots of my problem to post online) and everything was working.

The only thing about this is is that this was not the first time I did that, and it didn't get fixed the other times. I can't figure out what I did differently so I can't explain why this worked now but not before.