December 20, 2011

A Small Holiday Gift

I call this: mac,tech — Posted by KP @ 6:15 pm

This is not so much a holiday gift, as it is a re-gift. It’s a gift I’m giving to myself, that thanks to the wonder of digital property, I can re-gift to you at no cost to myself, with virtually no effort.

I have been a Mac user for almost 10 years now, and there are still a couple very basic, very useful keyboard shortcuts that I can never remember. And they’re the ones that aren’t just handy, you actually need them when you need them. Like how to bring up the Force Quit screen when your app has frozen and you can’t mouse over to it in the menu. Or how to put the computer to sleep when you’ve gone and unplugged the mouse (I don’t know exactly why, but this comes up more often than you might expect in my life).

So for a while I’ve had these two shortcuts (as well as another that I can never recall: how to bring up the dictionary) written on a post-it, because I got tired of having to Google them (on another computer or my phone, because of course the computer I’m trying to use them on is out of commission). But a post-it is rather ugly for something on long-term display, so I decided to print out a nicer-looking cheat sheet that I could tape to the shelf over my monitor with a little more dignity. I’m still embarrassed that I need them at all, but perhaps within the next decade I can actually learn them.


*Results would be even better if you don’t use a crappy printer!

If you’d like to have one of these of your very own, just steal the image up at the top of this post and print it out at 100%. It will be ever-so-slightly smaller than a business card (which is largely unintentional, but hey — you can bring it in your wallet if you’re really afraid of being caught without these shortcuts).


October 13, 2011

iOS 5 and iCloud Day

I call this: mac,phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 2:06 pm

I’m a little behind the curve because I spent all day yesterday in a theatre with slow wifi, so I just got around to doing the iOS 5 upgrade last night between 1 and 2AM, which I napped through, and then went straight to bed when it was done. The good news is, I appear to have missed the rush on the servers.

This morning I awoke intending to learn about all things iCloud, but after an easy and successful upgrade to Lion 10.7.2, I hit the wall of server meltdown that is no doubt occurring at Apple’s state-of-the-art, size-of-the-state-of-North-Carolina data center.

So here I sit, periodically clicking through the dozen or so screens of the iCloud sign-up process, only to meet rejection. It reminds me very much of the process of applying one’s Google+ invitation when it first came out.

The reason there are so many screens to click through is that Apple has done a nice job of making sure you understand the consequences of changing your MobileMe account to iCloud: stuff is going to go away. Mostly shared calendars are going to break unless the people you’re sharing with are also on iCloud. I, for one, have never used shared calendars on MobileMe or .Mac, but that’s mostly because not everyone wanted to pay $100 a year for a service that barely worked, and so I had few people to share with. Now that it’s free, maybe it will be a more attractive competitor for Google Calendar.

Also, some of the more obscure things that MobileMe synced (like dashboard widgets, keychain info, and mail accounts) are not synced with iCloud.

There are two other caveats to the upgrade that were cause for some slight concern:

1. All the Macs you sync with must be running Lion I have my old MacBook Pro on Snow Leopard as a contingency for needing to use something that doesn’t work in Lion. So right now I’m creating a Lion partition for that computer, so I can sync it with iCloud (which should be cool), but still boot into Snow Leopard in emergencies.

2. The iCloud sync app for Windows requires Vista or newer Sue me, I don’t think a Mac user should pay for two copies of Windows 7. So my Boot Camp partition is on 7, and my gaming rig still runs XP. As you might gather, I don’t do a whole lot of fancy modern gaming on it anymore. As a matter of fact, I’m currently not playing anything at the moment. You might wonder what the point of even turning it on is. There’s not one, really. But when I do I like to have my bookmarks synced to Safari. So now apparently I won’t be able to do that.

Let me tell ye: I’m not paying like $200 to sync my bookmarks to a computer I rarely use. And frankly, I’m not putting another dime into that computer unless I receive another windfall from whence it came: an overwhelming amount of disposable income from a Broadway show.

I still haven’t quite figured out how iCloud is going to impact my life. I like the idea that my stay-at-home Mac will share more of the same files. I’m hoping that somehow this means I can carry less of my music library on my iPhone, but still be able to quickly download a song or group of songs from the cloud if I find I need them (and yes, I mean need, professionally, not just feel like listening to). The 32GB capacity of the iPhone 4 was pretty sad when it came out over a year ago, and for me is the biggest incentive to get a 4S. I would like to be able to fit a few movies (and about 60 episodes of West Wing, if we’re dreaming big — even 64GB isn’t gonna cut it) on my phone in a quality that will look good on the retina display, and right now I can fit like 1 or 2 at a time. So I’m curious to see how much iCloud can do to reduce the importance of having a large amount of local storage.

But for now, I will have to keep trying again, as the screen suggests. And somehow I don’t expect the experience is going to be any better, with millions of people uploading their entire media libraries at once, until things have a chance to settle down a bit.

June 21, 2010

Resize Images for the Web Using Folder Actions

I call this: mac,tech — Posted by KP @ 2:38 pm

One repetitive task I do a lot is resizing images to be placed on the website. On the blog I don’t have to worry so much about it because WordPress handles all that stuff in the image uploader, but for the main site, I have a couple standard sizes I use.

No image on the site is ever wider than 500px. If it is, then a smaller images is created at 500px and I will build a link to the bigger picture. Sometimes I want more of a thumbnail, and the size can vary a bit, but 150px is kind of my standard.

Today I decided to play around with folder actions a bit. A folder action in Mac OS X is basically a script that runs when you drag a file onto a folder, that does something to that file. This seemed like a good project for a simple one.

I created the folder action using Automator, which is the GUI scripting tool that comes with OS X. It’s pretty simple to drag and drop different actions to perform basic tasks. Here’s what my folder action looks like:

The other one is the same except it reduces the image to 150px, and adds “_thumb” to the end of the filename.