Eric Roller's Development Blog

Essential Mac Applications

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When installing Snow Leopard, it occurred to me that there are a number of applications that I like and that I (almost) always use. They are, in alphabetical order:

Calico ($59 keskus.com)

An easy to use tool to stitch together multiple photos into panoramas.

Camino (open source, caminobrowser.org)

While I use Safari almost throughout, my bank is the only one that is deliberately refusing to support it. Firefox is good a good browser, but for my purposes it is too big. Camino, being specifically for the Mac, is just what I need for my bank.

Chicken of the VNC (open source, sourceforge.net)

A simple VNC client.

Cyberduck (donateware, cyberduck.ch)

An FTP client will all the bells and whistles to keep you happy (for those cases where "Conntect To Server" in the Finder is not sufficient to your needs).

DrawBerry (donateware, raphaelbost.free.fr)

A simple graphics app.

Fission ($32 rogueamoeba.com)

An easy to use audio editor with a nice waveform viewer (where Garageband is just overkill).

GraphicConverter ($35, lemkesoft.com)

I still use version 5.9.2 since it works fine for my needs.

HexEdit (open source, sourceforge.net)

For those rare cases where you like to dig in and see the guts of a file. Unless you are Japanese, you should stay away from the Japanese "J" version (look under Files for the one without the "J").

iLife ($79 or free with every new Mac, apple.com)

I mainly use iPhoto and iWeb. Most recently, I opted out of installing iMovie and GarageBand since I simply never use them.

iVolume ($30, mani.de)

Analyses and adjusts the loudness of your songs in iTunes.

iWork ($79, apple.com)

I mostly use Pages, but have also discovered that Keynote can be used as a vector-based drawing tool. The only problem is that every new major version cost again $79, which is why I feel inclined to skip one or two versions before upgrading.

Pixelmator ($59, pixelmator.com)

A photo editor. Not quite yet on the same level as Photoshop, but much more affordable and it keeps getting better and better.

TextWrangler (freeware, barebones.com)

Not quite willing to pay for the infamous BBEdit, I find that TextWrangler is an excellent alternative. I particularly like the graphical "diff" tool and that you can launch it from the Terminal (via custom edit and twdiff commands)

Tunnelblick (open source, code.google.com/p/tunnelblick/)

An OpenVPN client for the Mac. Only useful if you use OpenVPN.

An old trap that I keep to be falling into is this one:

> find . -name "Frameworks" -prune -or -name "Info.plist"

Notice how the Frameworks folder is also returned (since -prune defaults to true), but the intention was to exclude it! The solution is to add -print:

> find . -name "Frameworks" -prune -or -name "Info.plist" -print

On Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) it appears to work fine, but when I quit my app, on a machine running 10.4 (Tiger), these messages appear in the Console:

2009-03-03 21:49:10.680 MyApp[6793] *** Illegal NSTableView data source
    (). Must implement numberOfRowsInTableView: and
2009-03-03 21:49:23.139 MyApp[6793] *** -[NSCFString count]:
    selector not recognized [self = 0x1bc7f00]
2009-03-03 21:49:23.140 MyApp[6793] Exception raised during posting
    of notification.  Ignored.  exception: *** -[NSCFString count]:
    selector not recognized [self = 0x1bc7f00]

The interesting fact is that the MyApp class is the delegate of the NSTableView since it implements support for drag & drop. However, it is not designed to be the data source for the NSTableView. Instead, I use an NSArrayController through a binding in the NSTableView instance. This works fine until one quits.

What I suspect is happening (on Tiger) is that the NSArrayController is purged before the NSApp, which suddely remains as the only data source of the NSTableView, but without the access methods implemented.

The solution would be to implement dummy methods in the MyApp class for numberOfRowsInTableView: and tableView:objectValueForTableColumn:row: where one returns 0 and nil, respectively.

We can use iTunes to play music while we do circuit training, i.e. 40 seconds music while we work out, and 15 seconds pause while we rest or go to the next station:

  • save the following AppleScript in ~/Library/iTunes/Scripts; you will probably have to create the Scripts directory;
  • open iTunes with a suitable playlist; we recommend a good song and a Genius playlist;
  • select the first song;
  • launch the script from Scripts menu.

Note: There exists a newer version of this script!

(* AppleScript for circuit training with iTunes.
The default circuits are 40 seconds each, with pauses of 15 seconds.
At the beginning, the script asks for different times.

©2009, Eric Roller

-- begin by asking for the workout and delay times
set tWork to the text returned of ¬
    (display dialog "Set the Workout Time [s]" default answer "40")
set tPause to the text returned of ¬
    (display dialog "Set the Delay Time [s]" default answer "15")

-- whether to skip to the next song, but only every other time
set skip to false

-- enter the forever loop
    -- start playing the music
    set volume without output muted
    tell application "iTunes" to play

    -- delay for 40 seconds by means of a dialog
    set answer to display dialog tWork & " Seconds Workout" ¬
        buttons "Stop" with title "Circuits Loop" ¬
        giving up after tWork
    -- stop if requested
    if the button returned of the answer is "Stop" then exit repeat

    -- stop the music, actually just mute it
    set volume with output muted
    if skip is true then
        -- every other time, change the track
        tell application "iTunes" to next track
    end if
    set skip to not skip

    -- wait 15 seconds (playing the song muted)
    set answer to display dialog tPause & " Seconds Pause" ¬
        buttons "Stop" with title "Circuits Loop" ¬
        giving up after tPause
    if the button returned of the answer is "Stop" then exit repeat
end repeat

-- finish by unmuting the volume and pausing iTunes
tell application "iTunes" to pause
set volume without output muted

Note that we go to the next track after every other workout. Also, since the volume is muted, we skip the first 15 seconds of every song. This is deliberate!

Let's first take a look at how Apache is configured (for Mac OS X 10.5.6 Leopard). In the Terminal:

> httpd -V
Server version: Apache/2.2.9 (Unix)
Server built:   Sep 19 2008 10:58:54
Server's Module Magic Number: 20051115:15
Server loaded:  APR 1.2.7, APR-Util 1.2.7
Compiled using: APR 1.2.7, APR-Util 1.2.7
Architecture:   32-bit
Server MPM:     Prefork
  threaded:     no
    forked:     yes (variable process count)
Server compiled with....
 -D APACHE_MPM_DIR="server/mpm/prefork"
 -D APR_HAVE_IPV6 (IPv4-mapped addresses enabled)
 -D HTTPD_ROOT="/usr"
 -D SUEXEC_BIN="/usr/bin/suexec"
 -D DEFAULT_PIDLOG="/private/var/run/httpd.pid"
 -D DEFAULT_SCOREBOARD="logs/apache_runtime_status"
 -D DEFAULT_LOCKFILE="/private/var/run/accept.lock"
 -D DEFAULT_ERRORLOG="logs/error_log"
 -D AP_TYPES_CONFIG_FILE="/private/etc/apache2/mime.types"
 -D SERVER_CONFIG_FILE="/private/etc/apache2/httpd.conf"

Notice where the configuration file is (see last line); this is the file we would use if we enabled the web server from the System Preferences : Sharing : Web Sharing. However, we much rather not change that configuration file; instead we shall simply supply a different one that we keep outside the /private/etc area.


Before we go ahead with our personal configuration file, it is a good idea to compare our settings to those provided by Apple; use a "diff" tool of your choice (I like twdiff that comes with BareBones' TextWrangler). Once our settings are complete, we shall begin with a syntax check:

> apachectl -f /path/to/conf/httpd-debug.conf -t
Syntax OK

To launch Apache with our own configuration, we run:

> sudo apachectl -f /path/to/conf/httpd-debug.conf -k start

To verify that it is running, we can issue this command (when o.k. we will get multiple lines for multiple httpd instances):

> ps -e | grep httpd | grep usr

Finally, to view the web site in Safari, we simply open the location: http://localhost/ .

Following the instructions on DroboShare, the Drobo disk must be reformatted as "MacOS Extended", i.e. not journalled. Furthermore, to prevent Time Machine from filling up the Drobo indefinitely, one may like to partitioned it:

Partition 1: Tardis (500GB) ... for Time Machine Partition 2: Dalek (1.5TB) ... for general use

Next problem was to copy the previous Time Machine image onto the new partition. For better performance, we did this with both the old backup disk (Diskus) and the Drobo (Tardis & Dalek) connected. This suggestion from an arstechnica forum appeared to do the trick:

sudo /usr/local/rsync/bin/rsync -aNHAXx --protect-args --fileflags \
    --force-change /Volumes/Diskus/Backups.backupdb /Volumes/Tardis

NB. that this is not the rsync that came with Mac OS X, but version 3.0.1 that we have compiled with support for extended attributes.

Searched for it online and found this solution, which worked fine for me (Xcode 3.0):

defaults write com.apple.xcode  PBXCustomTemplateMacroDefinitions  \
        '{ ORGANIZATIONNAME = "tredje design"; }'

Seen errors like this, e.g. upon "svn update" issued on a remote machine when the repository is on a server:

svn: Berkeley DB error for filesystem '.../Repositories/proj/db' while
opening 'nodes' table: Invalid argument
svn: bdb: file nodes (meta pgno = 0) has LSN [95][515282].
svn: bdb: end of log is [95][14597]
svn: bdb: .../Repositories/proj/db/nodes: unexpected file type or

Not sure what the main cause is, but it could be a bug with svnserve since it is the one who is running as root. Login with ssh on the server and cd to the directory mentioned in the error:

cd Repositories/proj/db
ls -l
-rw-r--r--   1 root  goblin   1048576 Aug  4 17:42 log.0000000095
-rw-r--r--   1 root  goblin   1048576 Aug  4 17:52 log.0000000096

Notice that there are files whose owner is root while the other files (not shown) are owned by globlin. We can fix that with chmod:

sudo chown goblin log.000000009*
cd ../..
svnadmin recover proj

Back on the remote machine, try again to run "svn update".

The goal is to access the preferences of a second application and to be able to change those preferences. I thus tried:

theDef = [[NSUserDefaults standardUserDefaults] retain];
[theDef addSuiteNamed:MyHelperAppDomain];

However, when a setting was changed and when I instruct the NSUserDefaults class to synchronize, the changes are not saved in the MyHelperAppDomain. This is because addSuiteNamed: only adds the settings from that domain; it does not change the domain!

How did I find the mistake? Tried this command in the Terminal:

> defaults find DateFormat
Found 1 keys in domain 'se.tredje.myapp': {DateFormat = "%+"; }
Found 1 keys in domain 'MyHelperApp': {DateFormat = "%F"; }

To change the preferences for a different application domain, I have found this alternative:

CFPreferencesSetAppValue( (CFStringRef) DefaultDateFormat,
    (CFStringRef) DefaultDateFormatDefault,
    (CFStringRef) MyHelperAppDomain );
CFPreferencesAppSynchronize( (CFStringRef) MyHelperAppDomain );

Saw this before version 2.2.2 and the solution was to use the current beta version of Apache (2.1.8-beta I think). Now I see it again for the new photo page.

Found some online forum message where they suggested to change the output_buffering value in /usr/local/lib/php.ini to something like "1048576" (1MB). I don't have pictures that large so I set it to "512000" (500kB). This solved the problem for me.