Friday, December 28, 2012

LibreOffice OS X vs. LibreOffice Linux on PPC

I tried to like Abiword. Really, I gave it the old college try, but in the end I had to admit I...what's the phrase I'm groping for...utterly despise it. It's onscreen font rendering, especially monospace fonts, is terrible. Formatting large documents often caused freezes. And despite being the "lightweight" alternative to LibreOffice, it felt slow and clunky like it was ported from somewhere else, not a native Linux application. Which brings me to one of the tangential subjects of this post--the dearth of word processors on Linux.

On OS X there are the big ones, Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, Pages, etc., and there are also several lighter alternatives like Bean and iText Express, to name two. However, on Linux there's basically LibreOffice, Calligra (KOffice), and Abiword. There used to be TED, which was a lightweight RTF editor, but after being unmaintained for years it was dropped from Debian's repositories. There was just recently an update, though, but Debian hasn't reintroduced it due to the author's lack of clarity on licensing issues. I decided to waste fifteen minutes of my life compiling it only to get errors, and sure enough, it exited with errors. So here I was basically left with LibreOffice as my only fallback. Thankfully LibreOffice is a much different (and better) performer on Linux than on OS X, and I've found I can use it for actual composing and not just formatting after the fact.

Usually in OS X when I write something, I use iText Express for the actual writing and then switch to LibreOffice or a dated Microsoft Word if I need to perform advanced formatting. LibreOffice on Tiger is just too slow to actually write on. Writer uses about 130-140 MB of RAM and also has a few display bugs in monospace fonts. Em-dashes typed as "--" are displayed as "—" in Courier, though when you save and open it in another word processor, it will show the correct "--". Also, Courier and Monaco have a spacing problem with "f" followed by "i" detailed in this bug report (UPDATE: These bugs have been fixed). And it suffers from the same slight font blur I talked about in this post on OpenOffice Aqua. Not to totally slag LibreOffice. It still supports Tiger PowerPC and still works despite the quirks.

On Linux, though, LibreOffice is much snappier. Despite being on the same PowerPC hardware, Writer uses about 90-100 MB of RAM and has fast scrolling and selecting of text, none of the clunkiness seen on OS X. Also none of the font problems I mentioned above. This is something I can actually compose on. Just make sure to install it alongside the libreoffice-gtk package for GTK integration. It's a bit similar to Mozilla products, where Mozilla applications have always been more lightweight and snappier on Linux than on OS X on the same PowerPC hardware. Cool!

I still don't get the Abiword thing. It's pretty much universally praised elsewhere, so maybe it's a PowerPC thing. Also, if you're looking for one of those WriteRoom clones for Linux, FocusWriter is good. It's not strictly a word processor as it lacks page margins and a ruler, but it has basic rich text formatting like bold and italics. Overall it's a great tool for getting writing done.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Some Ogg Vorbis Tools for Your Mac

When it came time to choose a format to encode my audio CDs with, I could have set up my own double-blind testing regimen and carefully tabulated the results in a spreadsheet, but the good folks at Hydrogen Audio already did that so why reinvent the wheel? Their conclusion was that Ogg Vorbis offered the best sound for lossy formats, better than MP3 LAME, so that's what I went with.

Obviously Linux comes with support for encoding and playing .ogg files out of the box, but on OS X you have to download a couple of tools first. To play .ogg files in iTunes, download's Quicktime Components (also, check out their FAQ for info on using it with 64-bit Macs). Afterward, you may notice your .ogg files are out of order when added to your playlist. To fix this, download Rescan QuickTime metadata (the second one on the list)* from this page, unpack it, and add it to your home/Library/iTunes/Scripts folder (UPDATE: this script works in iTunes 7, but not 9, I didn't try it with 8). When you restart iTunes you'll notice the item "Rescan QuickTime metadata 2" in the scripts menu. Next, just highlight the songs you want fixed, choose the script from the menu, and your songs will magically be re-arranged in the correct order.

For encoding .ogg files, I'd been using Max for awhile, but recently it failed to look up a CD's metadata. Maybe the MusicBrainz server was down, but since Max was getting long in the tooth (last update 3+ years ago), I went looking for something newer. I went straight to X Lossless Decoder and saw their latest update (10/27/12) still supports Tiger PowerPC. Cool!

(UPDATE: I found a bug where embedding cover images in Ogg Vorbis files makes about half the files play only silence. My simple workaround for now is to disable embedding cover art in the preferences. I'll file a bug report and see what the maintainer says.) The Xiph plugin and my version of VLC were old and don't support METADATA_BLOCK_PICTURE. Newer decoders work fine.

One thing about encoding in the program, by default it dumps all the files into the parent music folder you choose in the preferences. However, if you want to organize your files in separate /Artist/Album folders, you need to go to "Format of filename" in the General preferences and add "%A/%T/%n - %t" to the text field. The forward slashes will create folders.

X Lossless Decoder prefrences

And for playing .ogg files on an iPod? Rockbox will let you do that, though it's not yet compatible with all models. And if you have something newer like an iPhone or iPad, ditch it and get an Android device that isn't crippled out of the box ;)

*Also, this page has an iTunes script that combines the metadata rescan with ReplayGain, though ReplayGain requires vorbis-tools be installed "(e.g. through Fink)."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sharing Files Across OS X, Classic, and Linux Macs

If all else fails, there's the cloud. But if you want something faster, say a home network and you have a mixed environment with Tiger, Lion, OS 9, and Linux Macs to share files on, you have several options to play with.

Target Disk Mode

If you don't mind rebooting and need to move large files quickly, Target Disk Mode is a good option. Target Disk Mode works on any Mac with native firewire. Just start up holding the "t" key, attach it to another Mac via firewire, and it will automount as an external hard drive on Macs running Mac OS 8.6 or later, and on any recent Linux distribution, too.


Another option is AFP (Apple Filing Protocol). This is the "Personal File Sharing" option in OS X's Sharing preferences. After Tiger it was changed to just "File Sharing," which is also the name of the corresponding control panel in OS 9. In Linux, you need to install the Netatalk package for AFP client and server capabilities, no post-install configuration necessary unless you want to do something fancy;)

For sharing between OS X machines, just activate the File Sharing option on the server side, then on the other Mac choose "Connect to Server..." from the Finder's Go menu, enter its router IP address (afp://, followed by the server machine's administrator name and password. To connect a Linux machine, go to the network folder in your file manager and where you see your host's network icon, double click it and enter name and password. If you don't see the icon you can also enter the IP address in the text field.

When adding OS 9 to the mix, there are a few caveats. Apple has been deprecating legacy Appleshare and Apple Talk services like crazy, so a lot of the older stuff doesn't "just work." I can say that I can network with Tiger and Linux hosts using the Network Browser application in OS 9. And when using OS 9 as a server, make sure the TCP/IP box is checked in OS 9's File Sharing control panel. With Snow Leopard, I could only connect to an OS 9 server, not the other way around. It may take some trial and error to figure out what works on your setup, especially if you have Snow Leopard and up, but I'll leave you some links:

This System 7 Today link shows how to network System 7 and Leopard.

A 68k Macintosh Liberation Army thread goes through a lot about Lion and old Macs, and down thread has a hack to replace Lion's with Leopard's to enable connecting with OS 9.

Also, Lion deprecated older AFP authentication methods causing connections to fail, so look here to re-enable them.

(UPDATE: And here's probably the most useful link of all, a very comprehensive post on Mac networking, including a handy chart showing your networking options depending on what Mac OS version you're on.)


There's also SSH and SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol). The server side is activated in OS X with the Remote Login option in the Sharing preferences. Linux systems usually have the client and server software automatically installed with the openssh-client and openssh-server packages. As far as clients go, Cyberduck is a great SFTP client for OS X (3.2.1 for Tiger available in their changelog section). There's Filezilla or bareFTP for Linux, or you can even connect through a file manager. And there's an OS 9 SSH client called Nifty Telnet SSH.

There's also ftp, but that's too boring to write about, har. And if you're transfering files from OS 9, check out my post about resource forks.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Latest Flash "Update" for Macs

Flash on PowerPC is horribly insecure as it hasn't been updated since version 10.1, but since some sites like the BBC require it for their videos, some people insist on still using it. However, more and more sites are requiring version 11.5, and since we're no longer getting updates, users have to rely on a version string hack to get their 10.1 plugin to spoof itself as 11.5. MacRumors Forum member Wildy has made the latest hack available here. Again, it's the 10.1 plugin merely spoofing itself as 11.5.

I don't personally use flash anymore, but to make it slightly less insecure you should uninstall the plugin from your system's /Library/Internet Plug-Ins folder and put it in ~/Library/Internet Plug-Ins (the ~ denotes your home folder if ya didn't know). That way it's not installed system-wide for other users to stumble on. Also, you should run a browser with a flash blocker so you are only loading videos you specifically click on. Camino has a flash blocker in its preferences, Safari/Webkit has Click-to-Flash, and TenFourFox has the Flashblock or NoScript add-ons. None of this is guaranteed protection, keep in mind.

If you want to move completely beyond flash as you probably should, you can go over to Life without Flash: share your tips and tricks, a thread started by B-G. Also, for Linuxers, there's this Crunchbang forum thread with some useful info. And there's also my favorite little tool, quvi.

Monday, November 26, 2012

iTunes Alternative for Linux

For most of my music playing needs in Linux, I've relied on Audacious. It's a perfectly solid player that has the advantage of using relatively little memory. In a world where almost every Linux application is described as "lightweight," it's actually lightweight. But it lacks a few advanced features, most notably iPod support. Here's where Banshee comes in. Banshee is an advanced music player if you're looking to replace iTunes that has a similar and attractive feature set.

Banshee on Debian

As you can see from the screenshot above, it has pre-installed plugins for downloading album art and iPod support and has an interface instantly familiar to anyone who's used iTunes. It also has a context pane you can pop up which shows links to similar artists. In syncing an iPod, I found you have to mount it manually in a file manager, if your desktop doesn't automount, before it'll appear in Banshee. But otherwise syncing works as expected. I also tried syncing an iPad running iOS 5 from the instructions on this page and some troubleshooting advice here, but it didn't work. Though I could mount the iPad in a file manager, it's appearance in Banshee was purely decorative;)

Banshee is built on the Mono framework, so it's not native GTK, but I didn't notice any speed deficiencies. It'll use about 60 MB of RAM, so it's not lightweight like Audacious, but the extra features are impressive. The only issue I had was enabling the equalizer gave me stability problems, but an equalizer isn't a big deal to me.

Rhythmbox and Exaile are similar players, but I found them lacking in a few ways. Rhythmbox is a little too simplistic and hard to configure. Album art fetching doesn't work out of the box and Google tells me it would take some effort to get it running. Also, it too has a context pane, but you have to be a paid subscriber to to use it. Exaile comes with an iPod plugin which I couldn't get to do anything. I also had stability issues when changing the volume mid-song, and Exaile doesn't use its screen real estate well. And if you only want iPod syncing, there's gtkpod, but I found it extremely slow and the layout was confusing.

One last note on iPod support, the iPod Touch supposedly won't work because it doesn't mount like a typical usb storage device (thanks, Apple). Instead you have to go through hoops like with the above link to get it to mount, and even then getting it to sync is far from certain. In that respect, Touches are like iPhones and iPads, a pain in the rear for open sourcers. Best to quit fiddling with Apple and get a real usb device that mounts like one.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Some Random-ish News

I just noticed that Intuit announced their tax program TurboTax will no longer support PowerPC and will now require 10.6.8. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Although I was a bit surprised to see the company VP show up in this MacRumors Forum thread to explain the reasoning. It's just jarring that they're going from supporting every Tiger-capable Mac going back to the '90s to now only Snow Leopard. On the plus side, there's always TurboTax Online, and they also have an iPad app.

In more Linux adventures, I've been troubleshooting a couple of glitches with pulseaudio, which got installed as a dependency to Cairo-dock. Pulseaudio is like a face hugger from the Alien movies. It latches onto your system and it won't let go. Anyway, I fixed some problems and wrote the solutions in the sound section here in case you're interested.

And charging a Kindle on your Linux box is a lot less complicated than other web pages say. Many posts say you need to use the eject command from the command line for it to begin charging, but I found just clicking the eject button in PCManFM works, too (the Kindle mounts in /media/Kindle on Debian Wheezy, FYI). Now I just have to figure out the iPad.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Little About Resource Forks

"Resource forks are deprecated anyway and they will sooner or later disappear alltogether." "Sorry, this is deprecated."

That's right. I've been deprecated. I will disappear sooner or later anyway, and well, I should just go die already. You see, I have files with resource forks on my various computers and hard drives. And when resource forks aren't supported in file transfer applications like Cyberduck, they get destroyed when transferring between computers. And when resource forks get destroyed, sometimes the whole file is rendered unusable. So I thought I'd put up a little reminder that when transferring or backing up files with resource forks, you need to take steps to preserve them.

First a little background. Resource forks are mostly a relic from the classic Mac OS, though they also exist in OS X, that stored data on a file apart from the data fork. So each file had two forks, only one of which (the data fork) would be recognized on non-Mac systems. On normal files like .txt's or .png's this wasn't a problem because whatever was in their resource forks (custom icons?) wasn't required to open them. But for applications, Disk Copy images, and font files, this was a big problem because their resource forks contained data necessary for their operation. So say if you moved a Mac application to a Windows hard drive and then back again, it wouldn't open because the resource fork was stripped in the process.

So don't move around Mac files on non-Mac file systems, right? It's not quite that simple. There are a few other dangers to be aware of. First, when networking files you must use AFP (Apple Filing Protocol) which is implemented by the Personal File Sharing option in your OS X preference pane and in OS 9's File Sharing control panel. For Linux systems you will need to install Netatalk and then access the network drives in Nautilus or PCManFM (Thunar chokes on AFP networks). The one other networking option is the SSH associated scp -E command where the -E option preserves resource forks, but both machines must be running Tiger or later so the practicality of that is limited.

Besides networking, there's also backing up to disc. When burning files with resource forks to a DVD or CD-R, they must be recorded on a Mac filesystem. Burning in OS X's Finder will accomplish this, making what's known as a Mac + PC hybrid disc that's readable on both Macs and PCs. If you're using another burning application like Burn, don't use the PC or iso9660 option. You must use either Mac (HFS+) or Mac + PC (FYI, Mac + PC hybrid discs will automount in Linux, but Mac-only discs will not).

If none of this is an option and you have to upload files on a non-AFP network or a non-Mac filesystem, you can still preserve resource forks by compressing the file(s) in a .sit container. There's also documentation that says tar can do this, but don't use .zip. The only zip application that handles resource forks is MacZip for Mac OS 9, and it must be used for both compressing and unpacking (OOPS: BOMArchiveHelper in Tiger can create zips that preserve resource forks, too. It's the app used when you right click on a file and choose "Create Archive of..." Just make sure to unzip them with the same app which is the default when double-clicking--Credit to ClassicHasClass).

rsync I'd have to look into. From what little I've read on this, it looks possible but messy.

Just to reiterate, you don't have to preserve resource forks on normal files like .jpg's or .mp3's unless you have something like custom icons you want to keep. Resource forks are only essential for OS 9 applications or fonts or Disk Copy images (and possibly Hypercard stacks?). And it's not wholly limited to OS 9. Certain OS X files like .webloc and .textClipping files store all their data in resource forks or extended attributes, too.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

OS X Dictionary Alternative for Linux

One of the killer features of OS X (since Tiger, I believe) is when you right-click any word in a cocoa app, you get a menu with a "Look Up in Dictionary" option to bring up a popup showing a quick dictionary definition of the word and its synonyms. Well, somebody got the bright idea to develop something similar for Linux and it's called Artha. It's in the Debian and Ubuntu repositories, and when you install it, it works in a similar way. You highlight a word and press the hotkey combination (default is ctl + alt + w) and it brings up a window with a definition of the word and also options for synonyms, antonyms, derivatives, and more. In addition to those extra choices, it also outdoes OS X by working within Firefox/Iceweasel, something OS X's dictionary can't.

Launching Artha initially has it running as a background process where you need to invoke it with the hotkey combo for it to do anything. The exception is on first run when it shows you a brief info message and takes you to the main window. Notice the red quit button in the toolbar. If you quit with that, Artha will no longer run in the background and invoking it with the hotkey won't work, so to close the window you'll want to use the close window button only. Also, to have it running automatically after startup, you need to add the "artha" command to whatever autostart scheme you're using.

Artha performs well except for one major bug. When looking up some verbs ending in ing, it crashes with a segmentation fault. Specifically verbs ending in ie and replaced with ing like tying, vying, and lying. Also verbs with a second consonant added like swimming, sitting, and falling. And, inexplicably, matter, but not tatter or slammer. These faults are somewhat predictable and can be avoided, but I'm going to file a bug report against the Debian Wheezy package, anyway. If you can reproduce this bug on Ubuntu, feel free to file a bug report there, too.

I found a couple of other minor bugs. First, there's supposed to be a notification feature where if you hit the hotkey combo it brings up a notification popup with a simple definition instead of bringing up the main window. However, the dependency libnotify1 has been pulled from Debian Testing (temporarily?), so that feature can't work. Also, I tried changing the hotkey combo, but either I did it wrong or it's another bug, 'cause I couldn't change it.

I'll update this space with any news on the ing bug, but I wanted to post about it now because this package shows a lot of promise and is still somewhat early in its development.

Friday, October 26, 2012

New Mac OS 9 Site

Via a MacRumors Forum thread, I've just discovered a brand new OS 9 site called Mac OS 9 Lives. It's still building (in fact, when I wasn't looking they added a new Digital Audio Workstation section), and it has a user forum, so go over and check it out.

Also of interest are a few other OS 9 links: (some of their links may be old)
68k Macintosh Liberation Army Forums
Old Mac Archive - Abandonware for pre-OSX Macintosh computers
Macintosh Garden - Celebrating macintosh abandonware!

Scribus for PowerPC Macs

There's a lot of cool open source, pro-level production software available for Macs: GIMP, Inkscape, Blender, etc. Some of these have dropped support for PowerPC, but you can download older PowerPC versions that are mature and still useful. Scribus is one such example. It's a layout and publishing application for publishers needing a wee bit more than Microsoft Office, yet finding a pre-compiled installer for a PowerPC version was like being on a scavenger hunt. Even their Sourceforge site seemed to be scrubbed of older versions. After a bit of googling, I finally found one lonely download link at 1-2-3 Printing. Scroll down to the link for "" and download. This version will run on Tiger and up. I also included this in my Mediafire folder in case the above link disappears.

When you first start Scribus, you get this error:

Scribus Ghostscript warning

So to use those features, you need to install Ghostscript available here. After installing, then go into Scribus's preferences in the External Tools section, and under PostScript Interpreter enter /usr/local/bin/gs for name of executable. That's the path to Ghostscript. Then you should be good to go.

To get a newer version of Scribus, I suppose you could install it via Macports or Fink, but if you wanna endure that pain, you might as well go full-on Linux:)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Icons On Your Linux Desktop

Furthering my quest to get a more Mac-like interface on my desktop while still remaining (fairly) lightweight, I'm now going to tackle icons on the desktop. There are several ways to get this on an Openbox desktop. There's using Nautilus to draw the desktop, but Nautilus is slower than my preferred file manager, Thunar. There's also PCManFM for desktop icons, but PCManFM can crash occasionally and when it does it takes your entire desktop with it. So I poked around to see if there was a Thunar/XFCE way of doing it, and yes there is.

Full details are on this Crunchbang wiki, but the gist of it is to install xfdesktop4, though you launch it as xfdesktop without the 4. Then check your ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs file and make sure it points the desktop directory to your ~/Desktop folder like this:


Then after you launch, you get this. What do you think?

desktop icons on openbox

A few notes. First, the new desktop will take over the right and middle-click menus in Openbox, but xfdesktop's right-click menu includes an applications menu, and middle-click brings down a similar workspace menu. You can still access both Openbox menus by clicking on tint2 if you have that installed (check the above link for the configuration). Also, xfdesktop will display your wallpaper, so using Nitrogen or feh for that is redundant. To set the wallpaper, right click on the desktop, go to "Desktop Settings..." and click the "+" button to add your own wallpaper. And don't forget to comment out any wallpaper entries when adding xfdesktop & to your autostart file.

I don't know if this is a bug or a feature, but dragging a file from Thunar to the actual desktop will copy it, not move it. You have to drag it to the Desktop folder shortcut on the side pane to simply move it.

One last thing. Future versions of XFCE will supposedly have all this set up from within Thunar, so installing xfdesktop won't be necessary. Either way, I've found XFCE's desktop icons to be snappy and sleek. Now if I can only get a global menubar.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

An OS X-ish Dock for Linux

So say you want your Linux install to be a bit more familiar. Coming from OS X, you expect to see a dock. Taskbars are nice, but they're just so Windows-like, you know? Probably the simplest way to get a dock is to use lxpanel. You can configure it to look like a dock, and it's quick and easy. But I want to show you something a little more advanced. It's called Cairo-Dock, and it's loaded with features, including sub-docks, desklets, applets, and anything else you can think of.

cairo-dock on openbox

On first run, it'll ask you if you want it to launch in OpenGL. I'm not sure PowerPC users can use it in OpenGL given the state of graphics drivers, so I chose "no." This doesn't mean you can't have 3d effects. In fact, you don't need 3d acceleration running, either. You just need a composite manager like xcompmgr (see how to set up xcompmgr here). Otherwise, you may get a black box around it.

As you can see, there are applets in addition to simple launchers such as a clock, cpu meter, bandwidth monitor, desktop switcher, applications menu, and session management for logging out, sleeping, or shutting down. Memory usage is fairly light, and there are several settings available to lighten the cpu load. In fact, in the settings pane if you click the advanced button, you'll find so many options you'll get lost and never be found again.

I tried one other dock, called Docky, and it was okay, but it wasn't as feature-rich as Cairo-Dock and it was a little hard on my cpu. So Cairo-Dock comes out the winner.

EDIT: I forgot to add, to put it in your autostart file, use the command cairo-dock -c for the cairo backend and cairo-dock -o for the OpenGL backend. And make sure to end the line with an & if it's an Openbox autostart file.

EDIT II: As long as we're on the subject of things I forgot, I installed with sudo aptitude install cairo-dock-core and then sudo aptitude install cairo-dock-plug-ins --without-recommends. I did the --without-recommends part to keep it from installing a bunch of extra stuff I didn't want including the dreaded apt-xapian-index (a package indexer that isn't vital and will bring low end systems to a screeching, and I mean screeching, halt).

EDIT III: One more thing and I promise I'll go. Cairo-dock's plug-in package will install pulseaudio as a dependency. If pulseaudio gives you any problems, I wrote a little about it here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Et Tu, LowEndMac? Et Tu?

I'm a bit late on this because I spend the bulk of my time proving my horrible time-management skills instead of checking my email, but I just saw the minor brouhaha that started when Zen at PowerPC Liberation put up an excellent post about Linux keeping PowerPC relevant. Well, LowEndMac responded with the following:
We love old Macs here at Low End Mac, and we've fiddled with BSD and Linux from time to time, but I take just the opposite perspective here. Windows is huge. Macs are big. Linux is small, maybe 2-3% of the desktop market, and most Linux software is compiled for x86 PCs, not old PowerPC Macs. Further, going from the Classic Mac OS or Mac OS X to Linux is a giant step backward in ease of use. Sure, it may be more secure, but we're Mac users because we love the Mac experience. Ditching the Mac OS for Linux is like taking a luxury car and replacing the automatic transmission because you want more control. I'd rather enjoy the smooth ride and the scenery than think about shifting gears, so even though I do have a Linux box here at Low End Mac headquarters, it's not a bastardized Mac. My 2¢.
And LowEndMac's Daniel Jansen added in Zen's comment section:
We're linking to your article in this week's Vintage Mac News, and while I wish you and other PPC Linux users the best, I think you're only creating an even smaller platform.
Ouch. I have to say, I'm vaguely insulted by all this talk about Linux not being user-friendly given my widely disseminated and universally acclaimed install guide that if followed faithfully and with a true heart will lead to the user-friendliness that Mac users crave.

If you saw my install guide posts earlier but not lately, I've spent the last several weeks revising and adding to them. I've added several sections to Part IV, including Gamma Settings, Trackpad, CPU Frequency Scaling, Fonts, Search, and GTK Themes. Also, I turned the Graphics Acceleration section into a short novel. If you're like me you can spend way too much time googling information for your own personal install guide, but feel free to crib off mine and hopefully it'll save you some time. ;)

In the meantime I, and I expect others, will keep writing about Linux because with OS X dead on PowerPC and increasingly restrictive toward developers on Intel, it's becoming less interesting these days.

And to prove me right, Zen is promising more posts about Lubuntu including an install guide.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Skitch Alternative for Linux

Welcome to another episode of How Do I Do That?, where you're using a piece of software in OS X, and you want to do the same thing in Linux and you ask, "How do I do that?" Today's title is a nifty screenshot tool called Shutter, an alternative to Skitch that enables you to not only take screenshots of desktops, windows, and menus, etc., but also annotate and edit them. Kind of like Skitch! Here's a screenshot of the main window:

Shutter main window

I gave it a picture within a picture effect just for kicks. And here's the editor window:

Shutter editor window

Okay, now I'm getting confused. You can see the basic editing tools on the side pane. You can also use several plug-ins for special effects like 3D effects, sepia tones, or making it look like a polaroid. And it comes with special upload tools for uploading via ftp or to Ubuntu One or to a number of other image hosters.

The only minuses I found were Imageshack uploading was broken in my Wheezy version, and jpeg compression was poor, leaving artifacts on annotations. So it's best to save in png format and use another viewer/editor to convert to jpeg if you must. CORRECTION: JPEG compression is the same in other programs. I must've been seeing things.

And I'm also informed that the Evernoting of Skitch is nearly complete as Evernote is eliminating all old Skitch sharing accounts and making users migrate to Evernote to take advantage of syncing! and searching! but apparently no direct links. Users have until October 10th to download their old images. Thanks, whoever sold Skitch to Evernote.

Friday, September 28, 2012

TenFourFox New Version Alert

A new alpha of TenFourFox 17 is out for testing. Since this will be an ESR (Extended Support Release) and since 18 and onward will likely have increased memory requirements, this may be the last version some of you will use, so in the words of Cameron Kaiser, "I want people banging on this version hard." Report any bugs to the friendly helpers at the TenFourFox support page.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

ToyViewer and Seashore Alternative for Linux

Everybody's heard of Photoshop and GIMP, but what if you want to do a quick photo edit, like a quick sharpen or gamma correction, without having to open a massive application that takes forever to load? In OS X, you could always choose ToyViewer and Seashore, two lightweight and deceptively powerful photo editors, for such occasions. But what about Linux? Besides the GIMP, what is there? There are photo browsers like gThumb and Mirage that have very rudimentary editing capabilities, but ToyViewer and Seashore offered much more. This is where Fotoxx comes in. Fotoxx is a lightweight, fast, and feature-rich photo editor that offers all the basics and more without making you stare at a splash screen all day or trying to navigate your way around a myriad of window panes.


The features are too long to list here, but you can see some of them in the menu above. For a full list you can visit their website. There's a bit of a, I wouldn't call it a learning curve, but more an adjustment period. The menu options aren't listed in a traditional way and it takes a minute to find what you're looking for at first, but once you get over that, it's a great tool to have. The only caution I have is that it wants to index all your photos on first launch. This can take awhile if you have a ton, but it's supposed to bring you fast search results of meta tags. If you have no need for this, you can always point the indexer to a subfolder with few or no pictures in it (i.e., not ~/Pictures) when you first run it. There's a brand new version that makes indexing optional, but the Debian Wheezy version is a tad older.

Have fun cropping and embossing!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Another Useful MacRumors Forum Thread

Here's another useful thread from the MacRumors Forums:
Simple scripts to stream videos to VLC and CorePlayer

Here user B-G has made a bunch of applescripts to stream videos in VLC and CorePlayer, and his latest additions are scripts that run mplayer from the shell:)

Check it out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quicksilver Alternatives for Linux

I should make this a regular feature, where I take an application in OS X and point out its nearest Linux equivalent. Kind of like, "I used to do that s___ in OS X. Now I got Linux. How do I do that?"

First up is Quicksilver. If you don't know, Quicksilver is an OS X application launcher and much more. It basically allows you to open any application, document, or task using only the keyboard. It has a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it greatly speeds up your workflow.

There are two Linux alternatives I'll write about today, Kupfer and Synapse. Ubuntu's Unity and the new Gnome Shell have a similar feature built-in, but there's no reason those of us running Openbox or some other lightweight environment have to do without the snazzy features of a modern desktop. And Kupfer gets things off to a good start.

Kupfer on Openbox

It's immediately familiar to Quicksilver users, and with its array of plug-ins pre-installed, comes with a lot of functionality out of the box. You invoke it with ctrl + spacebar or clicking on it in your system tray and then start typing and tabbing and arrow-keying. It's pretty intuitive. It has a fairly light memory footprint and a helpful preferences section where you can choose auto-load on login without having to edit config files. Imagine that.

Synapse on Openbox

Synapse is slightly different. It has a similar interface and comes with different skins, but it comes with less plug-ins built in and less functionality out of the box. Instead, it uses the Zeitgeist backend. Zeitgeist basically logs all your recent activity and how often you do certain tasks, and with Synapse utilizing it, can anticipate what you want almost before you type. Once you train it, Synapse just might be the more powerful in the long run. It's also fairly lightweight and has a similar preference panel where you can choose auto-launch on login instead of editing config files. Imagine that.

If they're both invoked with ctrl + spacebar, make sure they're not both set to auto-launch, though.

The only glitch I found (on both) was with drop shadows causing artifacts after the popup windows closed. I fixed it by adding f and -D1 options to my xcompmgr settings like this:

xcompmgr -cCf -D1

This adds fading and sets the interval to the lowest setting to make it imperceptible. That fixed it.

"This blog isn't dead yet!" he said screaming into the wind.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yet Another Flash Alternative

[UPDATE: Youtube broke quvi. Waiting for an update... A new version (0.4.8-3) of libquvi-scripts has migrated to Wheezy which fixes the Youtube problem, so you can update your repositories and reinstall]

Since myself and others have written about the thousand or more flash alternatives out there, I thought I'd add one more to the mix. I've discovered a new tool for Linux called quvi. It works from the command line and streams Youtube videos to your player of choice. It basically works like this:

Install quvi, create the file ~/.quvirc and add:

exec = "yourplayer %u"
format = your preferred format

where yourplayer can be vlc or smplayer or whichever. I prefer to run mplayer from the command line with arguments, so my exec line is "mplayer -really-quiet -framedrop -cache 8192 -cache-min 10 %u". (EDIT: if mplayer's picture is lagging behind the sound, add the argument "-lavdopts skiploopfilter=all" and choose a WebM format instead of mp4 as those have less pixelation when skipping the loop filters)

For your preferred format, typical Youtube formats are fmt18_360p, fmt22_720p, and fmt37_1080p, which play mp4s in those resolutions (WebM videos are fmt43_360p, fmt44_480p, fmt45_720p, and fmt46_1080p, and flv videos are fmt5_240p, fmt34_360p, and fmt35_480p). My preferred format is fmt18_360p.

After saving the file, playing videos is as simple as copying the video URL from your browser (don't forget the http://) and then pasting it in a terminal window in quotes after the quvi command like this:

quvi "Youtube URL"

Incidentally, to paste something in an xterm or aterm window, middle-click while the mouse cursor is over the terminal window.

A full list of available formats can be found with:

quvi "Youtube URL" --query-formats

See much more at quvi's man page. It's supposed to support other sites besides Youtube, but I haven't tested them. Also, a similar command line tool for saving videos to disk is called cclive.

When using quvi with mplayer, I find this the most cpu-efficient way to waste time, I mean, watch Youtube videos, and I can even watch them without frame-skipping on a G3 laptop, something I couldn't say for Mactubes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Save Electricity With Absolute Load Control

I've been noticing lately that more pages in TenFourFox don't finish loading, or rather they finish except for one pesky process where the status bar displays "Transferring from" or some bs. This isn't a problem except that if you open a lot of tabs on the same site, all your tabs will have spinning progress animations going indefinitely as the pages refuse to finish. On older computers like PowerPCs, this can take up a large percentage of your CPU power, and if you're on a laptop, a large percentage of your battery.

If you have many tabs open, it can be inconvenient to go to each one and manually hit the stop button which is where the Firefox add-on Absolute Load Control comes in. After installing it, you simply right-click, or control-click, on the stop button and it drops down a menu with among other options "Stop All Tabs." Problem nixed and fixed. Now enjoy your newly freed computer.

In other news, Samsung has been ordered to pay a billion dollars for violating Apple's patent of the rectangle.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Use WebDAV to Mount Your Box Drive in the Finder

(UPDATE: Since I wrote this, has changed its WebDAV address to, so I've edited the post below to reflect that.)

I was reading about offering a new sync application for their personal accounts (Intel-only, natch) when I came across this little tip on how to mount your Box drive on your desktop. I never got into Box that much because its web interface was kind of a hassle and uploads were unreliable. Half the time they wouldn't start and I would just be staring at a barbershop progress bar. So I was curious to check this out.

The procedure is simple. In the Finder, click on the Go menu, choose Connect to Server, and under Server Address enter and click connect. Then enter your Box username and password and a new volume will mount in the Finder called /dav. Like magic!

There was just one problem. Uploads were still unreliable in the same way, and I had to force quit mount_webdav in Activity Monitor to kill the stalled progress bar and get my Finder back.

Then I thought, wait a minute, I've heard of WebDAV though I wasn't quite sure what it was. Don't they have dedicated clients for that? Let's see what google has to say.

Bingo! Cyberduck supports WebDAV connections. Leopard PowerPC users can download the latest version, though Tiger users will have to go here and look for version 3.2.1. Click the "Open Connection" button, then paste in in the server field and you'll see it automatically adds "/dav" to your Path field:

Then fill in your Box username and password and click "Connect". Afterward, your connection's settings will be in your Bookmarks menu under "History", so no need to fill out the fields every time. One weird thing: if you copy and paste in the server field, it works fine, but if you manually type the full url including the "/dav" at the end, the connection fails (shrugs).

Once I had my Box folder mounted successfully, uploads worked flawlessly. I could also choose the Synchronize option to easily sync folders from the desktop to my Box folder, though not vice versa, so it's not pure syncing like Dropbox. However it's a good online backup solution that's quick, cross platform (you can also mount WebDAV volumes in Linux in a variety of ways, in the true Linux tradition), and I don't have to mess around with symlinks on Dropbox or a java application like on Wuala or Mozy.

One last note, if you accidentally delete something in the Cyberduck interface, it's still recoverable by going to's web interface and finding it in your Trash folder. This procedure truncated my heart attack last night.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

New PowerPC Blog!

The stork just arrived for a brand new PowerPC blog, PowerPC Liberation. Among the early offerings are a MacRumors Forum survival guide and tips for video playback on G4/G5s (with a post on G3s promised later). He uses two very upgraded Sawtooths, so it should be interesting to see what follows.

PowerPC Liberation

Does Your iBook G3 Keyboard Smell Bad?

One thing that was driving me crazy was I had this smell coming from my dual USB iBook keyboard that would not go away. No matter how much I cleaned it and how many natural and unnatural substances I cleaned it with, it would not come out. Via a link at MAC POWERPC came my answer. MAC POWERPC wrote a piece about The iBook Guy, so I went over to his website and saw this little article titled, "Why does my iBook G3 smell bad?" Putting on my Sherlock Holmes hat and using my amazing skills at deductibility, I followed said link.

Long story short, the odor isn't from any germs or anything. It's from the glue underneath the keyboard apparently decomposing. Other than removing the glue, the only solution is to keep the laptop open when not in use. Or maybe wave it through a cloud of perfume, but that's probably more expensive than the iBook's worth;)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Uh oh...

Via comments at TenFourFox Development Blog, I see Dr. Dave's favorite Firefox add-on FlashVideoReplacer has announced they're ceasing development. From the developer's website:
Due to changes in Google policy in regard to third-party YouTube apps, FlashVideoReplacer development and distribution has been suspended, until further notice.
Too bad for FlashVideoReplacer, but even more alarming are the implications for other Youtube third party clients like MacTubes and YouView. The next time Google makes some change to Youtube's url scheme, FlashVideoReplacer will break, but will MacTubes and YouView follow suit? So far I haven't found any statements from their developers, but I'll keep my eye out. In the meantime watch as many videos as you can. To get you started, here's some clips of Germans playing video games:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New Replacement Parts for Your Old PowerPC

Eventually batteries die, AC adapters give out, and hard drives go to hard drive heaven. If you think as a PowerPC owner your only options are eBay or other used parts outlets, you're happily wrong. I want to let you know about two online stores that specialize in new replacement parts and accessories for Macs including old PowerPCs.

Our first online outlet is MacWizards. They specialize in laptops and also have accessories for mobile devices. For everything from MacBooks all the way back to clamshell iBooks, you can purchase newly manufactured batteries and AC adapters made specifically for Macs. Their product pages are very helpful in determining which part is right for your particular model, and they also offer wireless antennas, MacBolt locks, car adapters, and more. They have a variety of shipping options and their prices are quite reasonable, so give their website a look.

Another outlet is Other World Computing (OWC). These people sell everything under the sun, including batteries and AC adapters for old 'Books, hard drives (ATA, SATA, and SSD), and also G4 CPU upgrades for your Power Mac. Their prices are similar to MacWizards, sometimes less, sometimes more depending on the part. And like MacWizards, everything's new and comes with a warranty. Just be careful browsing their website. It's easy to get lost in their huge selection and find your shopping cart suddenly full of hard drive adapters, iPod battery kits, and other accessories you didn't know you needed.

I was recently on the market for a Powerbook AC adapter and bought a Newer Tech model from OWC and had a good experience with them. It's good to know, with things like batteries and AC adapters, that you can still buy new and not have to cross your fingers on eBay.

Also, as another option, I want to point out Low End Mac's Amazon store for a wide variety of Macs and accessories (and purchasing through their Amazon storefront helps support Low End Mac). The fact that six years have passed since Apple abandoned PowerPC and there's still a market for these parts shows the endurance of the platform.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Record Vinyl on Your Mac

In this age of Spotify streaming and mp3s and flacs, only a true luddite would have CDs still burning the midnight laser. So what does that say for people who have vinyl? I probably have to trot out words like Mezozoic or Paleozoic to describe you freaks of nature. Luckily there are ways to bring you into the modern age and digitize your old record collection so you can play them on your iPods, iPhones, and iClouds.

There are several ways to go about this. You could get a USB turntable to hook up to your Mac, but their quality can be dodgy. You can get an iMic, made for laptops with no microphone-in jack, and use it in conjunction with Final Vinyl, but you're not likely to get the best sound quality out of that method either. If you have RCA cables, you could get an RCA to USB adapter, or probably best of all, you could get a PCI card with RCA jacks for analog I/O. As far as software goes, in addition to the above mentioned Final Vinyl, there's also Audacity which is a great freeware solution, and there's also Roxio's CD Spin Doctor which requires Toast.

But if you're like me, you don't do any of that. Because if you're like me, you have a spare Power Mac 7600 in your closet with built-in RCA ports that you can fire up to bring back a whiff of the good old days when hearts were young, skies were blue, and your Mac greeted you with a smiley face. All of which brings me to talking about probably my favorite utility ever made for the Mac. It's called Coaster and, though purely a Mac program, it exemplifies that old Unix credo, "one thing well." Simply put, it records audio to disk as aiff files. And it's intuitive enough to split tracks into separate files. It runs exclusively on Mac OS 8-9 and is as good an excuse as any to make that old Power Mac useful and rip your ancient vinyl collection that's been gathering dust. And for symmetry's sake, a 7500 or 7600 can probably be found for about the same price as a PCI card.

The only downside to all of this is there's no way around the having-to-play-it-to-record-it problem, so if you're ripping a large collection, bring snacks.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Browser Round Up

After installing TenFourFox 10 and seeing it was an Extended Support Release, I decided to give myself a break from the constant upgrading and skipped the betas for 11, 12, and 13. Now 14 has come around, and as the internet keeps getting slower, I wanted to see if the new version offered any speed improvements.

The UI differences from 10 and 14 are probably too trivial to mention, but I did see a speed improvement. 14 seems a bit faster on javascript-heavy pages. I say "seems" because I didn't actually benchmark it, so I have to use touchy-feely words like "seems," "feels like," and "makes me all warm and fuzzy inside." On some pages the difference is more noticeable than others. Safeway's coupon pages show a definite improvement, whereas Gawker and their crime-against-humanity new commenting system showed not much. As with all TenFourFox releases, even betas, stability is excellent.

However, if you're using Leopard, TenFourFox is not your only option. There have been a few newer browsers to join the fight and continue to support PowerPC:

The first is Leopard-Webkit. It's a build of the current Webkit sources, basically an updated Safari, and also supports h.264 video.

More recently there's AuroraFox (Firefox alpha channel), which is like a bleeding-edge version of TenFourFox. Though on their website they announced they'll reach "Judgment Day" with the release of version 17 since that's when Mozilla drops Leopard support.

Finally there's a new kid on the block, Seamonkey-PPC. Also Leopard-only, it's Mozilla's all-in-one browser suite with email, IRC, and more. It's goal " to maintain a working version of SeaMonkey for PPC based Macs." So check it out!

Some of you may also add Stainless to the list, but I'm not sure how active the project is (only one update in the last year).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

E-Book Tools for PowerPC

If you've been here before, you may have noticed I've added an e-book ad on the right for a science fiction novel called "Timejump." Normally I don't run ads on this site, but it's my book and cue all the sticking-out-your-tongue emoticons :p >:P :-P x-p :b :-b!

To make this post slightly less insufferable, I'm going to give you a run down of some e-book tools for PowerPC. At first I didn't think I'd need any of this stuff because one site I published on, Smashwords, requires a doc file for upload, and the other, Amazon, takes a variety of file types including doc and html. I thought I was gonna be all badass and submit an html file and make whatever adjustments needed to be made in the raw code. But after using an Intel system for the Intel-only KindleGen and Kindle Previewer, I had major problems. The generated file displayed fine in Kindle Previewer but was completely fouled up when viewed on an actual Kindle. The font size was microscopic and extra spaces were inserted between paragraphs. To make matters worse, when I looked in the html I couldn't find the sources of the tiny fonts and unwanted spaces. So I retired my badass persona and rued the day I ever turned to Intel and went looking for some tools on PowerPC.

For simple epub reading, there's Adobe Digital Editions. As a reader it leaves a lot to be desired (it is Adobe, after all), but it's useful for checking your formatting before submitting epub files for publication. This isn't only good for submitting to epub sites like Barnes & Noble's PubIt!, but also for Amazon as they accept the epub format for uploads, too. The Digital Editions download link didn't work for me because it apparently requires a newer version of flash than I have (Oh, Adobe, you still kill me), but there's a PPC download link at the bottom of this page (new download link here).

For converting files bewtween formats, there's calibre. It takes odt as an input format, so you can use OpenOffice/LibreOffice to convert a doc file to odt and then convert to epub or Amazon's mobi format in calibre. If you're just interested in converting your existing library between more convenient formats, calibre is great, too. The last version that supports OS X PowerPC is 0.7.28, but Linux PowerPC users can install newer versions.

For editing the html in epub files, there's Sigil. Unfortunately they stopped PowerPC support as well, but downloads for the last versions to support Leopard and Tiger (0.30 and 0.24 respectively) are here using the "All downloads" search filter. Sigil is great if you need to make adjustments in the code but aren't expert in html. You can make edits in rich text and then switch to html view to view the changes in code, and vice versa.

There's also an AppleScript utility called epubcheck that checks your epub files for errors before publishing. You can download it from this thread. The first post seems to be updated with new versions. The latest version as of this date is 1.2 and works on Tiger.

Back to my adventures, at first I used calibre to convert to mobi, but Amazon gave me a technical error warning on upload. So then I used calibre to convert to epub, uploaded successfully, but I got a really strange issue on the Kindle where some of the text above italicized lines was smudged out. I almost didn't catch this. So finally I downloaded the epub file generated at Smashwords (they output to a variety of different formats) as a base, did some editing in Sigil, and then uploaded without a hitch to Amazon. Adventure concluded.

And finally, I'm making "Timejump" available as a free download for the next five days. Just take the code WL36Q (expires 7/20/12) to Smashwords, and you can download it for your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or other devices. If you like noir and science fiction and like them even better combined, you should like my book.

Also, I noticed MacPowerPC recently put out an e-book of their entire blog for an easy reference guide. It must be e-book season:)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Power Consumption on Power Macs


In this day and age with most longtime Mac users moving to Intel systems but still having perfectly good PowerPC hardware in the closet, many ask, "What can I do with those old computers? I'm not really a modder and don't need a fish tank. Is there anything close to their original purpose I can use them for?" The answer most people come up with, if it isn't eBay, is some sort of server: a file server, music/media, or even a web server. And given Power Macs have multiple drive bays, they'd seem ideal for this task. There's just the one issue of power consumption. Since these computers will generally always be on, it's a good idea to look at their wattage efficiency to see which models would be best served being servers of the served.

I think everybody knows that G5 Power Macs suck a lot of power. They give off enough heat, so much that they're sometimes referred to as space heaters. In fact, most G5s idle (on but no processor activity) at around 150 watts. As a comparison, most laptops and minis idle at around 20-30 watts and even iMac G5s can idle at less than half the Power Mac's wattage with the screen asleep. So G5s aren't ideal as servers, especially since they're limited to two drive bays.

So let's go back a generation. I assumed the MDD Power Macs would be much more efficient, at least in a processor idle state, since they're equipped with G4s rather that G5s. But this article at Apple's website was a real eye-popper, and not in a good way. The MDDs are practically just as power hungry as G5s. The single processor 1.25 GHz G4 which was the last Mac to boot OS 9 wasn't so bad. It idled at 80 watts, but the others, particularly the dualies, all idled at 130-150 watts. That's asking for a pretty big hit in the wallet when the power bill comes.

You have to go back to the Quicksilvers and Sawtooths to find Power Macs that idle in the 50-75 watt range, and it also so happens that those models are much more reliable than what followed. So if you're looking to utilize a server with multiple drive bays, those might be your best options.

One last note, as a way to conserve power you can run G5 processors as "reduced" in the Energy Saver preferences pane. That might save you a little electricity. Also, G4s can utilize Nap Mode in CHUD Tools. I'm not intimately familiar with this, but googling it will give you plenty of links.

*Dan Knight in comments points out the "big drive" disadvantage pre-Quicksilver Power Macs have with not supporting drives greater than 128 GB without a third party card. Also, in this xlr8yourmac page users report that Nap Mode reduces watt usage in MDDs up to 35% to 40% at idle. Interesting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Skitch Alternatives for Tiger Users

Ever since Olivia Munn made it famous, Skitch has been all the rage for annotating and drawing on pictures and screenshots. Recently, though, Tiger users got a nasty surprise when the beta version they were using expired and the upgrade required Leopard. No warning, really. Tiger users just woke up one day and found out it wasn't working. A Skitch rep left a download link to the expired version in their forums, but it's...still expired. Not sure what the thinking was there. Long story short, Skitch is dead on Tiger.

So I got to thinking alternatives. What are some applications that can do the same thing and still have Skitch's ease of use and simplicity? Unfortunately there isn't one that combines all its functionality (screen capture, annotating, and sharing) but there are a few simple steps you can do to somewhat recreate the Skitch experience.

First, as a screen capture tool you can use Grab. It's installed in your Utilities folder and it's very simple, but you don't even need that. For screen capture on a Mac, you only need to know three keyboard commands. Command + Shift + 3 captures your entire screen, Command + Shift + 4 gives you crosshairs to select a portion of your screen, and Command + Shift + 4 then pressing the spacebar gives you a camera icon allowing you to capture a specific window.

Next, drawing. The easiest application I can think of to add drawing or text to an image is Seashore. It's based on GIMP but much more simplified. The shareware GraphicConverter would be a good choice here, too. With Seashore, there are two downloads available, one "stable," and the other a beta which is a major update with a single window interface. Although I'm partial to the old floating window interface, the beta has one important advantage in annotating text -- you can move the text before committing. With the older version, you had to click on a spot and hope it was exactly right. The only thing I don't like is how the interior of outlined text is transparent. If you want text that stands out clearly from the background, you need to add a new layer, add your outlined text, then use the paint can tool to fill the letters in with a different color. A bit time-consuming.

Skitch alternative

As for sharing, well, there are all sorts of ways. Heck, you could even have your iPhone hacked and have all your racy Skitch files released to the world;)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Flash Alternatives for Debian/MintPPC

UPDATE: The Minitube problem is actually a Gstreamer bug that prevents playback of some mp4s encoded with ffmpeg.

UPDATE 2: FlashVideoReplacer has ceased development and the developer has removed it from Firefox's add-on site. I subsequently wrote about another flash alternative, quvi, here, and some cross platform alternatives here.

Given that the Youtube player Minitube is somewhat broken in Debian Wheezy (about half the videos don't load), Linux PowerPC users may be interested to know there are some alternatives to Flash so you too won't be deprived of watching time-wasting Youtube videos day and night (this is not a confession).

Probably the best way is with the Iceweasel add-on FlashVideoReplacer. I've written about this add-on before for OS X, but the Linux version allows you to pass on videos to a standalone player, no flash or Quicktime plug-ins necessary. So you can have them stream in gnome-mplayer or xine or whatever, and you got Youtube videos on your desktop. Or if your CPU's too slow to be downloading and playing simultaneously, you can just use FlashVideoReplacer's download option and play the video afterward.

There's just one problem with that, though. FlashVideoReplacer only works on Mozilla browsers, so if you're using Midori (webkit) you're out of luck. Or are you? Turns out Midori can use some Greasemonkey scripts, one of which is Viewtube. You have to enable user add-ons in the extensions section of the preferences, then at go to the Viewtube page and click the install button. The next time you visit Youtube you'll see non-flash playback options just above the video frame.

There's also html 5, but on PowerPC I don't think you get any hardware acceleration so you probably need a G5 to get something playable. Also, a flash section at Ubuntu's PowerPC FAQ talks about Gnash and Lightspark and a few other suggestions like spoofing your browser's user agent to a mobile device.

Also, Defunct, alas.

h/t to the users at the MintPPC forums for providing much of this information.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Add Security to Dropbox with TrueCrypt

UPDATE: This is probably the dumbest post I've ever written. As many people in comment sections of articles on this subject point out, this isn't %100 secure. And there are all sorts of complications with having synced volumes mounted on two computers simultaneously. So if you want privacy, just use Wuala or SpiderOak. (And I should stop linking to Lifehacker posts, not only for this, but because the other day they had a post that was supposed to give tips on how to survive with a laptop without a DVD drive, and when you open the article it just says basically to buy an external DVD drive. Gee, thanks.)

A couple weeks back I wrote about file syncing on PowerPC Macs and noted that Dropbox had one disadvantage compared to services like Wuala and SpiderOak, and that was security. By remotely storing your password on their servers, it implies that a Dropbox employee could hypothetically give your password to third parties like governments or copyright litigants. And security holes aren't just hypothetical. Awhile back, in a hilarious snafu of laughtastic proportions, all Dropbox accounts were open to anyone without password access one day for several hours. In fact, if you walk by a bar to this day and hear random laughter, that's probably Dropbox users still sharing a hearty laugh about it.

Well, if you've tried the other services and are still attached to Dropbox's simplicity/performance/Je ne sais quoi, you can still have your security and eat it, too. After stumbling on this Lifehacker post, I found out you can encrypt selected files within your Dropbox folder (or even your whole Dropbox folder) with TrueCrypt, a free and open source encryption program. And lookie here, both Dropbox and TrueCrypt still support Tiger PowerPC!

So how secure is TrueCrypt? It's been well established for years and gives you several different encryption schemes to choose from, and even the FBI was stymied in its efforts to crack it. So as a non-expert, that sounds pretty secure. The only caveat, if you're like those reviewers on Macupdate and flame every GUI that isn't sufficiently Mac-like, you'll probably have the same reaction with TrueCrypt because it's decidedly un-Mac-like. But it does the job and does it well.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Unofficial Builds for PowerPC

In light of my previous post on an updated Transmission for Tiger users, I thought I'd put all in one post a collection of unofficial builds for applications that have officially left Leopard and Tiger behind but have had users step up and compile unofficial builds that run on those systems. Most have these have already appeared here in previous posts, but some are new.

Transmission 2.31 for Tiger can still be found on the 5th post of this thread (UPDATE: Download link in that thread is dead. Here's a new one.)

Filezilla, a full featured FTP client, has a page of Tiger builds here.

Handbrake 0.9.5 for Leopard PPC is here.

Songbird for Tiger and Leopard PPC is still hosted at Thomas Legg's Geek Blog here.

A universal binary for the racing simulator TORCS courtesy of Stephen Hudson is in my Mediafire folder. It's for v1.3.0 (the last official Mac build was for 1.2.4).

zDoom, an enhanced port of the original Doom, has Mac builds on this page. The latest stable release is 2.5.0 at the bottom. You need the original game files to play this as it's just an engine.

And of course there's TenFourFox and TenFourBird, though they might be considered forks rather than unofficial builds. And also there's Leopard-Webkit for those of you who want a webkit browser.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Updated Transmission for Tiger

(UPDATE: via the comments, a new version 2.84 is available at this link new link here)

I've been using Transmission for quite some time as my main bittorrent client, though the last version that supports Tiger is 1.54. However, via the MacRumors PowerPC Forum, I've found a user build of v2.31 for Tiger in this thread which supports magnet links, DHT, and UDP trackers.

I'm using it now and, though it's not a cocoa app and uses the Qt interface, I'm pleasantly surprised at the performance. It takes awhile to start up and doesn't support drag and drop, but other than that it performs the same as the old Transmission, using very little of cpu and memory resources. And it supports magnet links and DHT, two modern features that are becoming more and more essential.

The download is a universal binary, and though the first download in the thread is for 2.30b4, down thread a bit is 2.31 (direct download here is here). Happy bitting! Er, torrenting! Or whatever.

Monday, May 28, 2012

File Syncing on PowerPC

Since file syncing is what all the kids are into these days, I thought I'd do a rundown on all the choices we PowerPC users have. It's not just Dropbox, right? There must be more...

Well, for Leopard users, yes. There's SugarSync, SpiderOak, and Wuala in addition to Dropbox (a couple of others, Minus and Mozy Stash, say they support Leopard but are Intel only). However, for Tiger users, there's only Wuala. I'll write more about Wuala and Dropbox below since I've tested them on Tiger, but since I don't have Leopard here's a quick feature breakdown of the other services:

SugarSync starts off with 5 GB free storage and has pricing plans for 30, 60, 100, 250, and 500 GB. The main difference with DropBox is you can sync any folder, no need for symlinks. It also supports music playback and public links. However, there doesn't appear to be any LAN syncing, and the consensus is that the desktop client uses more system resources.

SpiderOak is all about security as your password is stored locally on your computer. No one at SpiderOak knows it, so they haven't suffered from embarrassing security snafus like Dropbox has. They offer 2 GB free storage, plus $10 a month for each 100 GB increment thereafter. Like SugarSync, you can sync any folder, and it also lets you back up external/thumb drives.

And now for the Tiger clients:

Wuala is much like SpiderOak in that the client stores your password locally so not even Wuala employees can access your account. Security and privacy are paramount. They offer 5 GB free storage plus 20, 50, and 100 GB paid plans.

It's a testament to how the onset of "apps" have made us feel dumb by how a client with a little complexity like Wuala makes me feel, well, dumb. It's not the super simple client like Dropbox, but it offers more flexibility. You can choose any folders to either backup or sync, and the client works basically like another Finder window. It's a bit of a learning curve, but after a few minutes you get the hang of it. One downside, the web interface requires the java plugin, which if you care about security, you may want to avoid. Also, the desktop client uses a bit more system resources than Dropbox.

Finally we have Dropbox, which due to its simplicity, many users new to syncing may want to use for its... simplicity. Signup and usage are as easy as it gets. They offer 2 GB free storage, plus paid plans of 50 and 100 GB (with some bonuses for referrals). All you do is drop the files/folders you want to sync in your Dropbox folder and it takes care of the rest fairly quietly in the background. It's not as flexible as the others as to which folders you choose to sync, but they have a nice web interface. There they make it much easier to get sharing links than in Wuala. Also, a big plus is syncing over a LAN network. So if you want ease of use and performance over flexibility and security, Dropbox is your best bet.

And if you're just looking for simple online backup without syncing, Mozy has a good desktop client with regularly scheduled backups of specified files and folders. Though their new syncing client Mozy Stash is Intel only, as noted above.

One last thing, I added another link to the sidebar for My Mac Collection. There's a lot of good stuff there the last few days, so check them out!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Speed Up TenFourFox

With its rapid release schedule, TenFourFox has been in a constant arms race with website coders who are more determined than ever to make their sites slower. Except for Amazon. I'll give credit where credit's due. Amazon is the only site that recently had a revamp that didn't turn it into molasses. But just because Cameron Kaiser & company are on the case doesn't mean we have to take it sitting down. There are several things we the end user can do to speed up TenFourFox, so I thought I'd drop a list of some of my best tips:

First, install the NoScript add-on. A lot of what slows down site loading is javascript and NoScript will let you block all scripts except for those you specifically allow. This is a bit of a pain the first time you visit your regular sites and figure out what functionality to allow, but after that it makes for much smoother surfing.

You can also install Greasemonkey for scripts that unclutter and tailor a website to your needs. One Greasemonkey script I'll point out is the Neetzan Zimmerman Post Destroyer which, if you're familiar with Gawker, you'll totally understand.

There are a couple of tweaks to about:config you can make. First, set browser.tabs.animate to false to eliminate animated tabs. Second, change to false to keep the download manager from opening when you begin a download. That progress bar uses a nontrivial amount of CPU.

You may be occasionally annoyed at how animated gifs slow things down, especially in forum threads where every user insists on having one for an avatar. The quickest way to nix them is by hitting the esc key, but if you want to preemptively keep all animated gifs from looping, change image.animation_mode from normal to once (for animating through a single loop) or none (for no animation).

One of my favorite tricks is something I got clued in on while using Classilla. Classilla masks itself as a mobile device so websites default to their mobile pages which load much faster. So just find a site's mobile address and a website that was glacially slow becomes an instant loader. This is especially true for Twitter. Compare to

Finally, don't install too many add-ons if you don't need them as they can slow your startup time and take up memory. The only two add-ons I have are the above mentioned, and for ad blocking I have a UserContent.css file instead of Adblock Plus (the ad_blocking.css file embedded in is a good starting point).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Luddite iPad Review

So my dad got my mom an iPad as an anniversary gift, and given I'm the family's designated tech support it befell me to set the thing up.  So I thought I'd give you some quick first impressions/diatribes that are no doubt entirely unwarranted and represent a violation of Apple's reality distortion field and can't possibly exist in the physical universe.

First up, the hardware.  The dimensions and weight are good.  Out of the box, it feels like a good handshake.  I also love that the screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio.  Finally a small victory against the wide screen fascists.  Also, the speaker sounded surprisingly good, not awesome, but better than I expected.  And this model has the new retina display, and it's incredible.

Now that I've got you in a good mood, let's talk about the iOS.  It sucks.  Like hard.  Remember the dashboard, that new feature introduced in Tiger where you can display widgets for everything from stocks to the weather, and the world forgot about it because nobody actually used it?  Quite simply, the iOS is the revenge of the dashboard.  Widgets are now "apps," or in other words, glorified bookmarks that are dependent on information retrieved from the web and can just as easily be displayed in a web page.  Some apps contain more functionality, but not enough to earn the vaunted "Full software, not an app!" badge.

I read someone say the iOS makes you feel like a monkey and I agree.  It's so limiting, it dumbs me down about 100 IQ points.  Multitasking is difficult as each app takes up the full screen.  It's hard to make apps interact with each other because the are generally no files to manipulate.

Which brings me to the biggest problem with the iOS--no file system.  That's right, no Finder, no hierarchal folders, nada.  You're supposed to manage all your files, mp3s, videos, etc., through iTunes somehow.  To tell you the truth, I didn't even bother looking at it.  The whole idea made me want to gag.  But worse than that, there are several apps like Goodreader that have their own way of managing files, and there are yet more apps that use Dropbox syncing as a way to manage files.  With so many apps offering different ways to manage files, it's more confusing than anything and an unnecessary pain in the ass.

Speaking of syncing, the iPad requires Leopard for iTunes syncing, so no Tiger support.  Tiger users will have to find alternatives like Dropbox or VNC for networking/syncing.  I know the Kindle touch can mount on a Tiger desktop as a separate volume.  Why can't the iPad?

The one thing that took me aback was how many apps are ad supported.  When it's an app like TVGuide, it's not so disconcerting, but ads on writing apps like Simplenote and PlainText?  Are you kidding me?  When I'm trying to write?  They say you can get rid of the ads by paying for the full version, but ads on a writing app is just freaking extortion.

On the plus side, it comes with a nice calendar app, printing with an Epson wireless printer is easy with Epson iPrint, and there are useful/fun things like handwriting apps, crossword puzzles, and streaming apps, etc., so it should be useful as an addition to a computer.  But, man, keep me away from that OS.  I'm gonna hurt my knuckles banging on that screen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Press Release From the Future


Cupertino, California--May 4, 2018--Apple® has unveiled a developer preview release of the next incarnation of their popular operating system OS X code-named "Persian Kitty."  The release comes ahead of schedule and includes a bevy of new features ported from their iOS such as lick gestures and scratch 'n sniff.

"We're beyond excited about the new features," said Apple CEO Tim Cook.  "We're putting the finishing touches on a journal app that not only looks like moldy old paper, it smells like it, too!"

The new operating system is targeted for official release in September at a retail price of $159, though its moniker at this point is still a matter of contention.  "We're not completely sold on the Persian Kitty name," added Cook, "but we're running out of cats."

As with all new releases, users of certain hardware, i.e. Macs made before 2017, will be unsupported* and must upgrade.  In addition, this release marks the end of several legacy technologies such as the Finder, menus, and preferences.  Login will be disabled without a credit card number.

Apple designs Macs, the most bestest computers in the world, along with OS X, iMWatchingYou, iForYourOwnGood, and iMustNotResist.  Apple leads the digital music revolution with its credit card swipe iPods, and continues to reinvent everything from phones to toasters to even the hair on your ass.  Also, too--iPad.

*Except for only the most condescending of security updates.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Protect Yourself

I'm a little late on this Flashback scourge infecting the internet. As recounted on the TenFourFox development blog, it's a virus that takes advantage of a weakness in java to gain access to your system. Apple has a patch for this, but unfortunately it's for Snow Leopard and up, so PowerPC users are left to the wolves. The good news is there's no evidence Flashback has been compiled to run on PowerPC computers, but that won't necessarily remain true, so in order to keep safe you need to disable the java plug-in in all your browsers. In the preferences for Camino and Safari, there's a checkbox you can uncheck, and in TenFourFox, if you have plug-ins enabled, go to the add-ons manager and click the disable button for the java plug-in. I briefly looked into removing java system-wide, but read indications that it would involve extensive surgery and that it wasn't really necessary anyway. But this is a serious threat, so it's highly recommended you disable java in your browsers (Leopard users can also open Java Preferences in the Utilities folder and disable java applets).

In other news, apparently there's a twelve percent chance all our motherboards are gonna be fried in an apocalyptic solar storm by 2020, if you believe the prognosticators. Something like this actually happened before in 1859; there's all sorts of fascinating reading on the Carrington Event. The only thing electronic in the day was the telegraph machine and there was much mayhem. Fortunately if something like that happened again, we'd have at least a few hours warning, so we can all rush and turn off our electronic devices before the storm arrives. Although I'm not sure what people are supposed to do if they have those cars where the computer system is always on. Hello, $30,000 brick. Anyway, the point of all this longwindedness is to say it's probably a good idea to back up your data not only in the cloud but on physical media, too. It doesn't take long to burn a disc and it's good to have peace of mind. And it's not only solar storms after servers. It's also hackers, and they don't wait 150 years between major events.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Essential Additions To Your Mac OS 9 Default Install

When you install OS 9, it comes with many things out of the box, some of which are cool, and some of which are hopelessly outdated like IE 5 and Netscape 4. So I thought I'd compile a short list of additional software that will bring your OS 9 system more up to date in the age of bell bottoms. Bell bottoms--those are a thing now, right?

Anyway, here's the list:

Audion was iTunes before iTunes and in addition to mp3s also plays ogg files. Attractive, non-intrusive interface.

Classilla is a web browser based on Mozilla and still under development. Comes with NoScript built-in and you can set its user agent to a mobile device to have websites default to their mobile sites for speed.

Acuity is a simple rss reader.

FLVPlayer plays flv files saved to disk.

YTBrowser9 plays Youtube on OS 9! The homepage is in Japanese, so check here for english instructions.

Flash 7 is required for YTBrowser9, I believe.

Divx 5.1.1 plays some divx encoded videos, but not all. It's a bit of a crapshoot.

Xvid Delegate Component delegates xvid files to be played with the Divx codec. I've never tried this, but it's worth a shot.

iText is a word processor that saves to rtf and was updated as recently as 2009.

ATI_OS9_RADEON_Update_9_2_2_jan2005 is the final update for ATI drivers and is required for later cards like a Radeon 9000. The link takes you to a thread with download links and more information.

DVD Extractor is needed to mount .toast images.

NetPresenz provides ftp for OS 9, which may be the only networking option with Macs running Lion.

CreaseProof fixes creator code problems that might arise from networking files.

PrinTtoPDF duplicates the built-in function in OS X.

MacPython is an OS 9 development environment for python, so if you want to write your own python scripts, go crazy.

Mini vMac on OS 9 is a bit of nostalgia within nostalgia as it emulates a Macplus.

And Virtual PC is needed for bittorrent because the only bittorrent clients that still work on OS 9 were for Windows:(

And there you have it. With these titles installed, you'll find the OS to be not quite as ancient. In fact, when I boot into OS 9 to do something specific, I find myself lingering. What, with writing and playing my ogg collection and surfing the web, I can go on using OS 9 much like I was using OS X.

Monday, April 16, 2012

TenFourBird (or the App Icon Hall of Fame)

As TenFourFox is to Firefox, TenFourBird is to Thunderbird. At least you'd think, right? Well, now it is as a new developer took Cameron Kaiser's lead and released a brand new version of Thunderbird for PowerPC users called, naturally, TenFourBird. I downloaded and installed it and the results were excellent.

Setting up an email account was easier than with any other client I've used. It basically just needed an email address and password and the rest was automated. Importing mailboxes from Apple Mail was successful and so was importing from OS X's Address Book. I couldn't find anything in the preferences about blocking remote images, but it turns out it's done by default. Performance was snappy, though if you notice high cpu usage after importing, it's most likely from indexing the new mailboxes. The only thing buggy I found was a zombie progress bar the first time I ran it, but that disappeared after subsequent startups. Overall I'm really impressed, but that's not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about TenFourBird's icon:

tenfourbird icon

This is the best icon ever. Now, I'm a fan of "bad" icons, ones that draw the howls of Apple's carefully cultivated aesthetic-fascists but are actually creative and have a well-placed sense of humor about these things. So with that in mind, I thought I'd share my icon Hall of Fame, masterworks of hand-drawn desperation, a clip art purée for your dock's delight, and see if you'll agree.

tenfourfox icon

Let's start off with TenFourFox. This is a marginal choice because, say what you want to say, it at least looks professionally done. But I'm including it here because so many people hate it.

handbrake icon

Then there's Handbrake. The application isn't as fun as the icon, but what was fun was reading the reviews on Macupdate where they'd constantly beg to change the icon.

sheepshaver icon

I couldn't leave out Sheepshaver, not only because it's so literal, but because it's got that 8 bit look to it.

mactheripper icon

MacTheRipper wins the award for most homicidal icon.

phoenix slides icon

And finally Phoenix Slides' first icon. I feel like adding my commentary to this is like trying to add words to the Mona Lisa, so I won't even try. I'll just let this sit here, and linger, until it becomes burned in your retina and you can never shake it loose.