Archive for the 'apple' Category

Great Free Apple Mac Audio Converter

So I had a .flac file (lossless, and therefore very large) audio file. Apple iTunes wouldn’t touch the thing with a bargepole. Needed to convert into something it could read and then transfer to my shiny new 3rd Gen iPod Nano.

Mother Google had a macrumors.com thread listed discussing this very thing. Couple of people mentioned Max from sbooth.org. Downloaded the Universal binary, set it up to export to the first MPEG-4 listed with High quality at 256kbits/sec. Converted the file in less than 30 seconds (2.4Ghz Macbook Pro) and the result was happily imported into iTunes.

Best bit? Max converts to/from many, many formats, and is completely free (GPL)!

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Apple demonstrates being American can suck

When Apple took the wraps off the most hyped phone in history, the iPhone, the American public went “oooh” then quickly bought them off the shelves almost as fast as stocks would supply.

They paid what they thought was a reasonable price for the goods.

A mere two months on and Apple have dropped the price an astonishing $200. And dropped the smaller of the two models.

Some customers who bought the device most recently may be able to claim money back but Apple Chief Steve Jobs has publically stated that wholesale refunds are not an option. The forums are full of fuming customers who’ve wasted $200.

I guess being forced to wait because I’m outside the USA might have it’s advantages after all. Doesn’t make up for all the price hikes after the currency is converted though…

Edit: Steve Jobs probably just read this post. He’s made an announcement offering $100 store credit for every early iPhone adopter.

What Microsoft Mac BU should have said

Microsoft faced a savaging after Wednesday’s announcement of “Art of Office“, a web site promoting the sharing of work created by Mac Office Users.

With most comments clearly frustrated at Microsoft creating new applications while the long awaited Mac Office 2008 is delayed Microsoft responded in typical style asking for patience and promising previews from September.

Perhaps I can offer an alternative posting, one which would have had a slightly more positive effect. Here goes my attempt at a Microsoft announcement spoof.

An Office 2008 Update

Here at the Mac Business Unit we’re excited to be releasing a few screenshots of what we’ve been working on, and a little explanation on why it has taken so long to get where we are today.

Firstly you will be aware that our last Mac Office release was before Apple moved it’s hardware to Intel processors. You will also be aware that our colleagues on Windows Office recently released their newest version to retail. Both of these developments have led to considerable upheaval for Mac Office.

Let me explain the end product first.

Gone is the old interface, in comes a clean, fresh one based on the functionality of Windows Office. Compatibility is very important to us, so pretty much everything in the Windows interface is here now on the Mac version. Additionally we have some further interface improvements now on Mac which will be making their way across to Windows in the future. We also believe that products on Mac should look and behave like other Mac products, so we’ve included a completely native interface too. Whichever way you want to work, just select the right interface for you.

Entourage, our Mac Office mail and communications application, is now fully compatible with the latest Exchange server. We use Exchange all the time and this was one of the most obvious requirements we heard from customers. It is done. Don’t worry, you can still use IMAP and POP 3 mail servers. RSS and ATOM support is also there. Pretty much everything you can do in the latest Windows Outlook can be done in Entourage.

Word for Mac has seen significant improvements too. No longer is it just a word processor, today it can create pretty awesome looking web pages with tabular data from Excel and interactivity provided by PowerPoint. Far more to be discussed soon.

PowerPoint now has modules that are no longer tied to PowerPoint. Think of creating a nice graphical interactive presentation then exporting as a series of web page fragments with Silverlight for rich user experiences.

And Excel? The basics are there and improved with larger spreadsheet support, more mathematical functions and far faster. More than that though new wizards allow you to create documents that serve common purposes far faster. As a specific example, the PivotTable system is now far easier to understand and use. The presentational aspects are also far improved.

Clearly the specifics of our improvements are to come, but I wanted to give at least a few clues on what to expect in 2008.

Now a little look at why things have taken so long.

With Apple hardware moving to Intel and Office being given a new release on Windows, the Mac Office and Windows Office groups got together early on to discuss compatibility and came to the conclusion that as far as technically possible our code should be one and the same. So today we announce that aside from required platform differences and “a few” improvements in the Mac Office over the Windows office, they are essentially the same.

What you do on one should be pretty much the same procedure as within the same application on the other platform. And it is almost all the time. The differences come mainly in areas like File Open / Save As. Integration with other non-Office applications has to be different of course but the important compatibility is there. The business logic that creates the XML for Windows Office applications is the same code as that used by Mac Office.

To achieve this level of compatibility required an unprecedented level of API work for the Mac BU. Our development staff worked with Windows Office counterparts to build API code for the Mac which Windows Office components required. You can say that some of the Windows OS APIs now run on the Mac too, although only those required to run Office. For performance reasons some of our Mac code is native, like display routines, and these are optimized for both Tiger and Leopard, just as our Windows edition has XP and Vista optimizations.

it’s by far the closest we can get for compatibilty reasons and the more technical amongst you will hopefully now understand and appreciate the timeframes we required and how we are so confident Mac Office 2008 will rock your world.

Right now we are feature-complete. Today until RTM we are testing and bug fixing, and documenting. And yes, some of our bugs are being fixed in both Mac and Windows Office together.

Moving forward releases of Office on each platform should be much closer together. Clearly being so close has additional advantages too. Here’s one: All the languages Windows Office supports are in Mac Office 2008 too. Full read/write compatibility between platforms together with backward compatibility as well.

We’re sorry it has been so long, but the we promise the wait will be worth it. Roll on with the feature previews from September.

Over To You

That’s my take on what Microsoft should have said through their blog. Specifics are a little difficult to come up with but you get the sentiment. Question is, are the specific things you’d like to see in Office 2008 aside from obvious compatibility?

What happens when you run over a MacBook Pro

This guy left his MacBook Pro behind the trunk of his car. Crunch. Guess what, the damned thing still works! He even includes some pictures.

Damaged, sure. But at least it’s repairable. AppleCare says he’s not covered for accidental damage. Here in Blighty we can get Home and Contents Insurance and my laptop is covered for accidental damage anyway (saved me buying extra insurance when I went on holiday). Hope that guy checks his policy.

Secure File Delete on Mac OS X

Under Linux I always used wipe within a terminal to securely delete my files, and I was about to purchase “ShredIt X” to essentially perform the same thing under Mac OS X when I came across a comment on a software download forum mentioning srm.

srm is a Unix command-line tool to securely delete a file. It is installed by default for us Mac OS X users too, just open up a Terminal and type the following:

srm my-file.doc

Quick, right? You did type srm, not just rm, right? srm is designed to operate just like rm so it takes the same command line switches or options, but rather than just deleting the file (or the link between what is essentially an index of files and the actual location of the data on the physical disk which in reality is exactly what a normal delete does (hence it’s lightning quick)) it looks at the data on the physical disk and overwrites it.

Now, the US Department of Defence specifies certain requirements about the overwriting process to ensure the chances of recovery are limited. Basically hard disks are like magnets and file data is stored as magnetic fingerprints (yes, this is highly simplified) on those disks. Consider a fridge door with magnetic letters spelling out a message. Same difference. However, remove those letters and although the information cannot be read by the naked eye specialist data recovery firms (and law enforcement agencies) have methods and tools to retrieve the fingerprints just like they were ghosts or shadows of the original data. Very clever, very scary.

Anyway, the DoD specification reads quite simple compared with a data overwriting algorithm specified by a guy called Guttman which basically entails random data repeatedly written over the data thirty six times. The DoD I think specifies six.

There is a disadvantage to using Guttman’s method: The process is a whole lot slower than the DoD’s method and obviously orders of magnitude slower than a standard delete. Swings and roundabouts, as they say.

I prefer the more secure route. And srm uses the Guttman method by default. So that .doc file above really did go, unless you forgot the s.

Now, if you think you have already removed via Trash or rm files that you wish you’d securely deleted, there is a get out clause. You can ask Disk Utility to securely delete your free disk space. When a file is removed the normal (non-secure) way, the physical space on disk although not overwritten is now available for other files to be written to. Otherwise when you deleted a 1 gigabyte file you’re disk free space wouldn’t go up by the same amount! However, once it has been overwritten (in whole or in part) by future files like videos, emails, documents or resources used by your operating system, the physical area on the disk may or may not right now be in use. Areas not in use will be securely erased, areas in use obviously not.

Thank you Apple and open source software developers.

MacOffice Pro Just Re-Badged OpenOffice Suite?

So I spotted this post about MacOffice Pro, claiming to be a superior software suite for Mac cloning most of Microsoft Office including comptibility with Open XML, Microsoft’s new XML based file format for it’s Office applications as off 2007.

Ars Technica reviews the new kid on the block finding particular similarities with another application: OpenOffice. Can a DVD with 1 Gb of clipart and free technical support be worth almost $50 (discounted rate)?

The body text of OpenOffice’s Writer application appears to have been copy & pasted into MacOffice Pro’s details page on word processing – I can only see minor grammatical adjustments. There appears to be no accreditation to OpenOffice.org on MacOffice Pro’s web site although I may have missed it, and without the software itself I cannot check the documentation that shops with it.

Usually re-brands of open source material credit the original source somewhere and happily add value to it, generating own-brand revenues. This instance may generate the frown of the open source community, however.

“They” (assuming MacOffice Pro isn’t some bloke operating out of his bedroom) appear quite anonymous with no personal names listed. The whois record only reveils a street address in New York. Not sure where the added value is here.

Connecting Apple Laptop to T-Mobile Internet

So I called T-Mobile (UK) to get a data “bundle” added for one month to my phone. £12.50, rather expensive but still mighty useful.

Prior to leaving I had a little go at getting it running. I found some documentation on-line after clicking various things and getting no-where. It turns out the Apple mobile phone drivers don’t support my Sony Ericsson; in fact I don’t think they support any Sony Ericssoon, certainly not as a data connection device.

They (my Macbook Pro and my D750) could talk via Bluetooth, but no modem for other data connection. I found this though – a set of downloadable drivers. Just drop them into the directory specified and they are available in the modem set-up screen when you check “show all drivers”.

To be honest, it’s pretty easy. Set up a new Bluetooth device on the laptop, pair with your mobile handset, select GPRS or other high-speed data connection, and ensure the “Telephone Number” in the main dialog is “*99#” while in the Internet Connections applicatons the “Telephone Number” is set to “general.t-mobile.uk” (works as .co.uk too apparently), user is just “user”, password should be “pass”.

After entering all this and selecting Sony Ericsson GPRS CID1 under “Bluetooth Modem” it just worked.

Apple: Please make the bloody “Telephone Number” entry boxes simpler to use. Talk about confusing. One is a telephone number code *99# while the other is a gateway url. The T-Mobile woman on the support desk said my phone was not supported on Apple platforms but with the above drivers it definitely works, albeit over GPRS it is hideously slow compared to ADSL.