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ATPM 11.07
July 2005



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AppleScript: The Missing Manual

I bought and read this book with working knowledge of programming, but before I had even used an AppleScript. It’s really nice and probably useful for the average home office user, but it tells you way too little about the language to script applications that are not mentioned in the book. Understanding dictionaries seems to be an arcane art, and after frustratingly long trial and error sessions I will now get Matt Neuburg’s Definitive Guide.

—Tobias Weber

Indeed, Neuburg’s book is excellent at teaching you how to learn to script other applications.

—Michael Tsai

Mac OS X Themes

The sad thing is that themes can only be applied with one program at this time: ShapeShifter. There used to be several options, mostly free. Not that ShapeShifter will break the bank by any stretch…but now that everyone releases only a .guikit version, you’re locked in and have to pay to play. Never mind that most themes are really pretty much unusable for all-day use.


• • •

Themes are a great idea but the one thing they make (sometimes) painfully obvious is that GUI design is best left to the pros.


• • •

You can also use ThemeChanger, which is a free alternative to ShapeShifter. In my limited experience the program works well.


• • •

I used Windows since 3.1. There is a utility called Windowblinds at WinCustomize that allows one to radically alter the OS appearance. In all my time searching thousands of entries, I always wound up most satisfied with a “mimic” of the Mac.

That said, what I have seen in the Mac alterations has not swayed me that anyone has improved on the original. I think Apple got it right the first time.

—Michael K.

Buy a Mac mini or Upgrade Your Cube?

I am so proud of you! And happy to see someone writing about the beeeuteefull Cube. I have had just about every Mac since the IIcx! And I still have a working IIx. But there is nothing more lovely than a Cube. (Mine is elegantly displayed on a glass desk and the effect is astounding!) I haven’t done any upgrades…yet, but as of now my Cube is running my digital audio studio with the help of the new Tiger OS without skipping a beat (no pun intended). Thanks to your article; I will definitely be doing an upgrade in the very near future, and I’ll be thinking of you every step of the upgrade. What tops the cake and makes this upgrade a real right-on situation is I don’t have to transfer my files to another Mac. Power to the Cube, baby!


• • •

I think Grover Watson is in for a rude shock. Tiger does not support all the upgrades he’s got on his Mac. I know from sad experience: I bought Tiger for my G3 Blue & White that has a processor upgrade, and it will not load every way I tried. He’s probably stuck with 10.3.9 like me.

—Tom O’Grady

• • •

Matthew Glidden writes:

And as mentioned above, saving the trouble of moving all your applications to a new machine is a big win.

Baloney! The first thing a new purchaser of a new Macintosh sees is a option to connect your old computer to the new one via FireWire and sync the two systems. This is painless and complete, even copying my old account data, grabbing my personal files in Documents folder, and preserving my personal settings and account data in Mail and Safari. My third-party apps were exactly where I put them on the old machine.

If it weren’t for the new case on my AlBook-G4/1.5ghz, I wouldn’t have known there was anything different. I’m an Apple tech in my area, and could have done the whole thing by hand, but the FireWire sync feature saved me hours of setup and config time. Kudos to Apple all around!

—Paul Pollock

It depends. The migration assistant doesn’t transfer all Unix software, and some applications will require re-entry of their registration information. So it can still be a pain to move everything to a new Mac.

—Michael Tsai

Tiger’s New Stripes

You might also give kudos to Apple for finally fixing Rendezvous printing via AirPort.

My example: I own a AlBook and use it at home via an AirPort Express and print via a Brother HL-1440. At first, all was well and everything worked. (I could print wirelessly and still keep things moving on the Internet without problems, until OS X 10.3.5.)

Apple changed the protocol for AirPort Printing, requiring a compatible printer driver. None was ever forthcoming from Brother.

Enter Apple’s Bonjour software within Mac OS X 10.4! Load up AirPort Setup Assistant, upgrade the firmware in your AirPort, try to print a document, and select Bonjour from the print dialog. Voila! The printer shows up as an option. Henceforth, all print jobs route to the printer wirelessly. What is happening here (and why it required new AirPort firmware) is that there is no longer any need for a specific protocol. All USB printers now print via AirPort by routing the print drivers’ output (as if it were printing via a cable) and sending the standard printer driver output to a place other than the USB port. It gets rerouted to the AirPort and thence via the USB port there, to the printer.

Complicated to do (for Apple), but child’s play to use. While you may not do this sort of thing at home, this is a huge change for 10.4 and bodes well for other networking functions that are related. Users are going to find that many hard things are much easier.

—Paul Pollock

Bloggable: Upgrade Madness

All the way up to and including Mac OS X 10.3.9, OS X would run on Macs with upgrade cards in them. Not Tiger; I wonder why?

—Tom O’Grady

Apple does not support Tiger on Macs with upgrade cards (which means that Apple won’t help you troubleshoot problems even with paid support calls), but many upgrade cards are compatible with Tiger. Sonnet, PowerLogix, and Daystar G4 CPU cards are reported to work, although some require software updates. Accelerate Your Macintosh has info on specific cards and Tiger compatibility.

—Gregory Tetrault

NetNewsWire 2.0 Review

The new release of Safari’s well-known ad-filter plugin, PithHelmet, is now compatible with NetNewsWire. Those used to ad filtering know it was a pain to switch from (filtered) Safari pages to the same, non-filtered ones in NNW. Now, NNW really integrates Safari.

—Hervé Sainct

• • •

Regarding saving open tabs, try Saft. It can automatically save your open web pages/tabs when you quit or if Safari crashes.

—Don Morris

Shoebox Pro 1.2 Review

I agree that Shoebox has some growing up to do. I recently bought the non-pro version and I have grown to love it, in spite of its limitations.

The best thing, in my opinion, is the use of aliases. By setting up some thought-out alias folders, Shoebox knows that “Nathan” is my nephew, and my daughter’s cousin, and one of my sister’s offspring. I love being able to show different versions of the same photo-set this way. (I can see all pictures of “Nathan,” for example, or all of my daughters cousins, one of whom is Nathan).

I suppose you could do similar stuff with keywords in iPhoto, but it feels slicker to me in Shoebox.

It may feel like a downgrade from iView (which I never got the knack of) but, to me, it was a huge step forward from iPhoto where I never really felt organized.

I’ve had Shoebox for a couple of weeks and feel like I can find photos quickly—for the first time since I kept them in a real shoebox!


iceKey Review

I love the iceKey too. I love the feel of the keys. I would describe it as low-effort, yet precise.

One peculiarity is worth mentioning…all the keys have the same contour or profile, regardless of which row they’re on. This means if you want a Dvorak keyboard, you can easily swap the key caps around and convert the iceKey into one. With many (I would say most) other keyboards that isn’t practical.

—Tony Belding

TransPod FM

I saw your review of the TransPod. I have one for my Honda Accord with my fourth-generation iPod. I don’t know if it is the radio of the Accord or what, but the TransPod works great without any interference—always great. Also, the positioning of unit with the cigarette lighter works out great. Unfortunately, for the Odyssey 2005, no such luck. I saw your article, and like the position of the iPod, but the problem is that I don’t really see how you anchored the unit via the velcro to the various mounting pieces supplied with the TransPod. Also, did you run the power cables down to the lighters? Does the unit appear pretty stable with your use of velcro? Any insights and or pictures would be appreciated.


Yes, I ran the power cable down to the AC at the base of the center console. The cable stretches tight, but not too tight, and hugs the contours of the console pretty well, staying out of the way.

With regard to the mounting, rather than drill two holes into my dashboard, I used some Velcro strips I had on hand. I simply took two, and placed them on the back of the mounting bracket, then stuck that to the dash. The mounting bracket stays in the van all the time, and I just put the TransPod module on it when I need to.

The stability of the Velcro I used is what I would call borderline acceptable. I’m not sure if there are varying degrees of strength in Velcro; if there are, I would recommend the strongest available. I always feel like the mounting bracket may pull free from the dash when the main module is in place, but it hasn’t yet.

Please note I did not use either of the mounting arms provided in the kit. This was done only with the dashboard plate, the one with the two holes in it for the screws to go through.

—Christopher Turner

Pod People

I never even tried the iPod earbuds (after reading numerous reviews complaining about them). I also went to HeadRoom (from whom I had previously purchased some excellent Sennheiser headphones) and bought Etymotic Research ER6 earphones. The ER6 headphones are comfortable even after hours of use (including falling asleep with them). They block >20 dB of noise just by being inserted, and they deliver good sound. (I use the Small Speakers EQ setting.) I play my iPod in airplanes and while mowing my lawn, and I found the noise-blocking ability of the ER6 earphones to be equal or superior to noise cancellation headphones.

One caveat is the need for replacement filters. ER6 earphones use tiny filters mounted in a steel cylinder. The filters are required, and they eventually need replacing due to buildup of waxes, sweat, etc. (The filter can look clean but still be unusable.) Replacement filters are sold in packs of six with a list price of $15. The cheapest price I’ve seen is $13. I go through a pair of filters approximately every six weeks. Exercising or use in hot weather shortens filter life due to sweat and thinner ear wax.

Even with the need for filter replacement, I am pleased with the ER6 earphones and recommend them.

For anyone who, like me, has tinnitus, the ER6 earphones are highly recommended. I don’t listen to pure white noise, but I ripped a few CD albums of natural sounds (tropical rainfall, ocean surf, burbling streams, etc.) and some electronica music that I play through my iPod to reduce the annoyance of the constant buzzing, humming, or whistling noises of tinnitus.

—Gregory Tetrault

• • •

Long live the first-generation!

My good old Pod is still going strong. Sometimes I’m tempted by those new-fangled features like text notes or on-the-run track rating, but it still does what I bought it for beautifully, so it stays.

My white ear buds didn’t last long either (eaten by a lawn mower!). My B&O buds, with the nifty ear hooks, are much more comfortable with sound great sound.

—Oliver Boermans

LaunchBar 4.0.1 Review

It’s sort of like Orloff, but different. I used Quicksilver for months and was quite happy. I used LaunchBar for three days—and bought it. If you don’t have either one of these utilities, you work too hard.

—Aunt Martha

Tetris Elements Review

This package is a great mix of different variations to challenge all levels and methods of play.

I’m primarily a console gamer and have played Tetris on Nintendo as well as various clones, completed “The New Tetris” on Nintendo 64, and am currently working with “Tetris Worlds” on PlayStation 2. All are addicting and long since have learned to use alternate audio selections from my own collection in place of the given soundtrack to extend game play endurance.

Working with Tetris Elements, it was a refreshing change to find a computer based version that had the verity to keep a seasoned veteran enthused about the series. I’ve recommended Tetris Elements to numerous friends and family because its high customization ability allows for an experince tailored to any skill level in each variation.

—James A. Fitch

Outlining and Styles

Aw, man, what a bummer. I loved the history of XML article, and was curious for more. I am a quiet archeologist of these kinds of things, the histories that get us to where we are and why we do things the way we do. More to the point, the accidents and hidden choices that get us there. (Why, for example, do we use = to say equals? What a fascinating glyph, but it took a long time to arrive at that common language…)


About this article, thanks for the additional detail about Notebook. A colleague swears by it, and the indexing and other aspects do seem quite powerful. Perhaps I will finally check it out…


As it happens, I’ve made a study of the appearance of that equals sign. It is no small matter, neither in its history, nor in the implications behind it. The sign itself is one thing, but the notion of developing a graphical convention for equivalence is another. Having a “right side” and a “left” is one of those profound “geometry-meets-text” notions of which I think outlining is one.

Both the sign and the left-right idea were invented by Thomas Harriot in the 1580s, while studying Native American “mathematics” on an early voyage. You may know little of him as he never published and was always burning his notes to avoid a heretic’s death.

I found the actual site where he stayed with the Indians that winter and was able to purchase it for my home.

A neat coincidence you bringing that up.

—Ted Goranson

• • •

The XML column was quite a complex one, and I still haven’t fully digested it. It certainly goes against a trend that we see in many places of dumbing things down to get instant “Hey, that’s cool!” responses. Lack of response doesn’t signal lack of interest, though I guess there’s no way for you to know that!

You’ve certainly piqued my interest with styles, but I can imagine wasting a lot of time playing around with fonts and colors and coming up with a mess that wouldn’t really help me at all. I’d love to hear what styles you (or other more savvy users) use, or what you learned from cockpit displays.

—Rick Levine

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (1)

shirley wershba · July 2, 2005 - 13:29 EST #1
I absolutely love your e mag.

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