Home Page Tributes to Steve Jobs

Posted by Aaron West at 12:11 PM in iPhone, Mac

I thought it was pretty cool big sites (and in some cases competitors) like Google.com and Amazon.com posted tributes to Steve Jobs on their home page. I looked around to see which other sites were doing this and have posted some screenshots after the break. If you know of others please let me know in the comments.

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I received an e-mail this morning from Seth, who was having difficulty getting his initial Time Machine backup completed. Seth graciously agreed to having his question posted here in another edition of Aaron Answers. Below is his question and after the break is my response.

Hi Aaron,

I really appreciate your blog, and wonder if you'd be willing to answer a Time Machine question i've run into. My old backup HD failed, so I bought a new 2T Iomega eGo desktop HD. Partitioned it into 3 partitions, including a 1.1T partition for my time machine backup. All seems to be working fine, except that the backup is too slow to get done unless I leave the computer running for 3-4 days, which I can't do as it's a laptop and I use it all the time. After the first night (8 hours of so) it had only done 20 Gb (out of my 400 Gb). After the second night, it did about 120 Gb. i don't know if I just need to find a 4-day window when I can leave my laptop backing up or if something is wrong with the software. I'm using the new USB2 cord, and it works nice and fast for manually backing up video files etc to other partitions in the drive. The drive seems to work quite fast. If you're able to offer any advice, that would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks, Seth

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During session breaks at BFlex yesterday I put together an OS X Automator workflow that works with the bit.ly URL shortener. I use bit.ly all the time and I wanted an easier way to create bit.ly shortened URLs in any application on OS X. Sure there are bit.ly tools available but none of them span the entirety of applications on my computer.

After whipping up my Automator workflow I can now shorten URLs by copying them to my clipboard, activating the workflow from the menu bar, and then pasting the contents of my clipboard into e-mail, Tweetie or any other app. The Automator workflow simply uses the contents of my clipboard to send a curl-based HTTP call to the bit.ly REST API, and replaces my clipboard contents with the returned API result.

Click the image below for a quick demo. It's pretty basic so far and some long URLs with unencoded URL parameters fail to create shortened results. I'd love your feedback and suggestions on the workflow, so feel free to download it and submit a comment on this post. You can be using it in less than a minute. NOTE: This requires a free bit.ly account.

In case you missed the download link above, click here to grab the script.


How To Fix Missing Plug-in Issue in Chrome

Posted by Aaron West at 12:28 PM in Mac

Back in April I blogged about an issue I found with the Chrome browser where the Flash Player debugger wasn't working properly. That post has received a number of views and has helped a few folks get around the issue. I recently ran into a similar issue where viewing PDF files in Chrome caused the following screen to display. NOTE: I believe this issue only pertains to the dev channel version of Chrome.

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Tab Key Trick in OS X and Linux

Posted by Aaron West at 10:56 AM in Hacks, Linux, Mac

I recently stumbled upon a little tab key trick in Mac OS X. I already knew you could press the tab key to autocomplete directory names, but I didn't know you could press the tab key additional times to resolve directory name ambiguity. How does it work? When you are typing directory names and paths, which you do with the change directory (cd) command, you can press the tab key to autocomplete the directory names. If two directories have similar names OS X and Linux will complete what you type up to the point one or more additional directory names match. If you continue to press the tab key a list of all possible directory names will display. This lets you determine what you are looking for and continue typing a directory name to resolve the ambiguity.

I'm stunned I didn't know about this neat feature of OS X and Linux, the two platforms I tested.

Check out the quick video demo below to see exactly what I'm talking about.

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A few weeks ago I started using Chrome on Mac OS X as my main Web browser. I had grown tired of Safari 4 chewing up nearly a gig of RAM after leaving it open for a week or more. Don't get me wrong, Safari is a fantastic browser and I wasn't happy about switching. But I can't have any browser chew through a gig of memory even if it takes it a week to do so. Chrome is nearly as fast as Safari (for me) and I've left it open for two weeks without any tab hogging memory. Each opened tab spawns its own process allowing a single tab to fail without affecting other tabs. In general I've found each tab occupies 25 MB to 40 MB of RAM. If you do that math you'll realize I can open around 25-40 tabs before Chrome takes up a gig of RAM.

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Import MacHeist Licenses Into 1Password

Posted by Aaron West at 9:10 AM in Mac

MacHeist is known for providing low cost software bundles that let users save ridiculous amounts of money on up and coming titles. Over the last few years I've bought bundles from MacHeist that got me using great software such as 1Password and Snapz Pro X. Last week MacHeist offered their second nanoBundle which I also purchased. Shortly after the sale ended purchasers could log into the site and download their nanoBundle 2 software licenses as a 1Password interchange file. This allows users of 1Password to import all their new license keys into 1Password 3's new Software management feature. If you bought the nanoBundle and you also use 1Password be sure to import your license keys following the directions on the 1Password blog.


I don't know about you but I can't stand the sound effect that plays when I use my MacBook Pro keyboard (or external Apple keyboard) to turn my volume up or down. It can be ear-piercing if you have a nice pair of headphones on. In the OS X 10.5 (Leopard) days there was a Terminal command you could run to turn off the sound effect. On OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) there's actually a setting in the Sound preference pane of System Preferences that controls whether the sound plays. Following the break is a screenshot that shows where you can turn the sound effect on or off.

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It didn't take long for the release of the iPad to spurn negative reactions from Apple fans and geeks everywhere. In fact, I heard 80% of the buying public was unimpressed with the iPad. Hitler wasn't impressed either as evident in the Downfall video meme you can watch here. But the best Downfall spin-off yet was when Doug McCune put Hitler in the speaker lineup for CFUnited 2009!


I write many blog posts that instruct readers to press command+this and command+that and for the longest time that's exactly how I wrote them. But isn't it much better to say press ⌘+i or press ⌘+m?

To display the ⌘ symbol online simply use the HTML Entity ⌘. This works in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, the only browsers I tested. And frankly, the only browsers worth using really.


How To Show All File Extensions on Mac

Posted by Aaron West at 2:43 PM in Mac, Leopard

I was on my new MacBook Pro the other day, working on some database stuff when I accidentally hit ⌘+comma in a Finder window. This keyboard sequence brings up the software preferences for whatever program you have activated. I was a bit surprised to see the Finder Preferences window pop up because I hadn't seen it in over a year. Since I was on a new machine I clicked through the various tabs in the window and noticed the Show all filename extensions in the Advanced tab. I'd never seen this setting before so I turned it on. And it did exactly what it says it does, makes all extensions of every file show up in all Finder windows.

I like this setting as I'm always editing file properties (⌘+i) that don't show an extension to force the behavior. The only downside to this setting - if you can call it that - is apps in the Applications Finder window show a .app extension. That's probably the only file type I don't want to show an extension.

Here's a screenshot of the Advanced tab settings in the Finder preferences window. Maybe someone else will be as excited to find this feature as I was. Incidentally, I thought this might've been a feature added in Snow Leopard. Sadly (sad that I didn't know), I checked an OS X 10.5 machine and saw the same setting.


The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Posted by Aaron West at 10:54 AM in Mac

I found this slide deck on the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs interesting. While I was reading I found myself thinking: "I know most of this." But, the hard part is actually doing the things Steve does. For instance, creating a "holy crap" moment in a presentation is tough. Especially if you're giving a talk on Web caching. Introducing a revolutionary product on the other hand comes with more "holy crap" fodder. I enjoyed this slide deck and thought I'd share.

Click here to view the deck.


This sounds totally crazy, but nearly five years ago I wrote a little AppleScript that allowed me preview an entire album on iTunes. I don't know the Apple Store didn't have this functionality from day one, but they didn't. Well, they've finally seen the light of day and created this in the latest edition of the store. Check it out.



Given how often I use Evernote for work and personal activities I'm quite surprised I've never blogged about it. I want to put an end to that right now and talk about one of Evernote's useful features, Web clipping.

I add notes into Evernote all the time. Whether I'm taking notes in meetings, doing research on what camera case to buy, or grabbing a quick screenshot of a map for use later on my iPhone, Evernote has become a critical component of my computer use. As I add or change content in Evernote on one computer, it is synced with my account on evernote.com, all my other Macs, and my iPhone!

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This is one of those blog posts where 99% of you will say "Huh, he's actually blogging about this?" It's true this might be one of the easiest things in the world to figure out but for those who've asked me already, and for those who might in the future, here's how you activate Safari's developer tools.

Open Safari's preferences window (command + comma) and click on the Advanced tab in the upper right. At the bottom of the resulting screen there will be a checkbox you can click to activate the developer tools. This will allow a new "Develop" option to show in Safari's menu bar.

Now that you have the tools activated read this overview and this detailed article to ensure you're getting the most from the Safari 4.