Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Leopard Spots: Paste from Finder to Terminal

Actually, I don't know if this is a new Leopard thing or not, but it's massively useful. The other day, I needed to move some JAR files from one place to another, and I already had my trusty terminal window open on the destination directory. I wasn't sure which ones I needed in the giant pile in the source directory, so a wildcard expedition in Quicksilver didn't seem like the right way to go. So, I went to Finder and visually sighted the 4 files I needed. Wouldn't it be nice if I could just copy and paste them into the terminal? Why not try? So I did. Now, it didn't copy the files, but it did give me fully qualified path names to each of the files, separated with a space. A quick "cp" added to the front and an " ." added to the end, and they're copied. I don't know if Finder has always allowed you to copy and paste fully qualified file names, but it sure does now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Once a year, the MacHeist web site comes out with a bundle of a bunch of Mac software, with  a bundle price much lower than the sum of the individual products. And they only offer it for 2 weeks. We're already 1 week into this year's MacHeist, and it has come great software in it (including 1Password, which I talked about in an earlier post). The applications this year:

  • 1Password
  • CoverSutra
  • Cha-Ching
  • iStopMotion
  • Awaken
  • Speed Download
  • AppZapper
  • TaskPaper
  • CssEdit
  • Snap Pro X
  • Pixelmator
I use 1Password, Speed Download, AppZapper, and Snap Pro X all the time, and the combination of those applications alone is worth the heist price of $49. Check it out -- it's a great deal.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Drowning in Receipts

This is probably only useful to those who travel a lot with expense accounts. I generate lots of receipts. One of my former co-workers was diligent about scanning or copying all his receipts and keeping the originals, so that he never had to worry about the US Postal service eating them. Good idea, but too labor intensive.

Recently, I was talking to another of my colleagues this very topic. He had a clever trick: he carries a portable scanner with him. That allows him to scan the paper receipts as soon as he generates them, then he has multiple copies; he can send them in with expense reports via email, and he always keeps a copy. Sold! The only problem was that he was using NeatReceipts, a hardware/software combination that only works on Windows.

After a little research, I ended up buying this light, portable scanner from Amazon. For software, I use either Preview (yes, it can act as a TWAIN device to capture scanner input) or GraphicConverter, my preferred Swiss-army chain-saw for image manipulation. I scan the receipts as PDF, then combine all the files (using Acrobat, the full blown version) to create a nice little receipts package for expenses. This is great for me because I have a terrible time keeping up with the little scraps of paper.

One Password

Generating and keeping track of hundreds of strong passwords is a giant pain. I've used several different schemes in the past (and software to manage it), but haven't found a good alternative for the computer + iPhone situation...until now. When I got my new laptop, I tried 1Password (commercial), based on a review I read somewhere. I was hoping just for good password generation and browser plug-ins, but it has one great trick up its sleeve that I hadn't anticipated: synching with the iPhone.

No, it doesn't hack the iPhone and install an application. It writes a password protected web page to the file system on the iPhone, and you access it through the browser. So, the URL you look at starts with "file:///", but it acts just like a web page on the phone. 

I haven't tried many of the other similar applications, but it seems to have a pretty killer combination of password storage, strong generation, and synching. And, they are beta-ing a service to securely keep passwords on their site so that you can access them across machines. I'll have to see what that looks like when it appears, but I'm pretty happy even without that.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Scary Screen Mode

One of the joys of using a laptop is portability. But as anyone who has tried to use a laptop outside in the sunlight knows, the screen is hard to read.

Which brings up this keyboard shortcut: CTRL-OPTION-APPLE-8, which switches to "inverse" mode. Basically, it inverts all the colors on the screen. Try it -- I'll wait. Notice this this is "8", not "F8".

See? Scary, huh? Great for using your laptop outside, though.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Calendar Madness

I've been trying to coordinate my calendars for a long time. My wife has her calendar and of course I have several of my own for all the traveling I do. For a while, I had iCal files hosted in a protected part of my web site. But that wasn't sufficient: several other people (who don't use Macs) also need access to some of my calendars, and I don't want to be in the business of permissions, software, etc. to make the old system work.

Then I found what I'm looking for: Spanning Sync. This is a commercial piece of software that automagically synchronizes iCal calendars with Google calendars. You can have as many calendars synchronizing as you want. It's licensed by Google account login, so now I can use calendars from any one of my machines and ensure that they all get synced (and that includes my wife's computer, which is using my same Google calendar account). And, I can selectively expose which calendars I want through the sharing mechanism at Google calendars.

The initial synchronization takes a long time, but after that it just runs in the lint bar, syncing on a regular basis (which is configurable). I've used it for about a month now, and it meets my goals: invisibly synchronizing all my calendars so that I have a single source of schedule information.

Now, if dopplr would only subscribe to Google calendar...