Sunday, May 27, 2007

What's up with Mac OS X mouse cursor?

Almost everyone who owns a Mac believes it's not only the most advanced operating system, it's also graphically superior. The Apple Human Interface Guidelines indeed lay out a comprehensive set of rules to follow. True indeed, I've seen the same program for windows and Mac, and the Mac version looks far superior.

"We made the buttons on the screen look so good you'll want to lick them."

Despite its aesthetic graphic appeal, there is one weak area which Apple remains to work upon.

Let's face it, all Mac users: It's the OS X mouse pointer.

It's primitive, way too small, and looks like a destitute orphan when compared to other parts of OS X interface. In other words, the default pointer in Mac OS X is ugggggggly.

Windows --- |---Ubuntu--- | ---Mac OS X

Not only the graphic appearance is ugly and not user-friendly, also the display is buggy at times. When typing my documents in NeoOffice, sometimes the cursor just vanishes, only to come back after I scribble on the trackpad frantically. Sometimes the cursor is just there, but it's so beautifully camoflauged in its black color that I'm not able to see it at all!

There are ways to make it look bigger, and I tried one of them. I thought that a bigger pointer will be easier to see. But the result was disappointing, it now looks ugggggglier.

What the heck? Reminds me of a 80's arcade blip-blop game.

In my opinion, the default mouse cursor in Mac OS X needs some work - at least make it look like the default one in Windows. That will save my eyes some diopters (- and some money to my pocket because I won't be forced to buy that $10 software to change my default mouse pointer).

For those who do want to spend money to customize the pointer, check these out:
Also see iCursor

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mac OS X: "Airport" process using more than 99% CPU

I don't remember when it started, but I noticed my MacBook is running hotter these days, and the fan switches on to full speed after few minutes of login. iStat Pro, the dashboard widget, tells me that the process "airport" has very high CPU (about 99-100%). There is no application named airport in my system, so it's a child process of some other application.

After much tinkering around, I found the solution. The culprit was Vine Server, a VNC server application. I had deleted the application from my applications folder earlier, but apparently it left something behind. What did it leave? Spotlight didn't show any results for "VNC", but Quicksilver showed this:

Image Hosted by

So I deleted this app from my hard drive (I had to enter password), rebooted, and now everything works fine.

Lesson for Mac Users: If "airport" shows very high CPU usage, remove everything related to VNC.
Lesson for Apple: Please include a clean uninstaller with OS X.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How to easily switch between different language input methods in OS X

I'm a trilingual person, and need to change frequently between different input methods. Sometimes I use all the three languages in the same email message.

OS X provides a tool to change language input methods in International preference pane. But it's a pain to evoke that each time I want to change the input method. So I have come up with a shortcut to accomplish the same task, but in a more convenient way.

Follow these steps to create a convenient keyboard shortcut for changing input language in OS X:

1. Open System Preferences and go to "International".

2. Go to "Input Menu" tab and make sure the languages you want are checked.

3. Click the "keyboard shortcuts" button at the buttom of Input Menu tab of International.

4. Search for "Input Menu" in the list of applications registered with Keyboard Shortcuts.

5. Check the "Select Previous input menu", click the "Shortcut" box next to it, and press Command and [ key at the same time.

6. Check the "Select Next input menu", click the "Shortcut" box next to it, and press Command and ] key at the same time.

7. Close the keyboard shortcuts preferences pane.

Start any application (e.g. TextEdit) and type a sentence. Now press command and [ and type another sentence. If all goes well, congratulations! You are now able to switch between different language input methods using a simple keyboard shortcut!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Quicksilver for slow typists

Quicksilver is a great tool for all Mac users. I use it all the times.

The problem arises when one of my friends wants to use quicksilver, and she's a damn slow typist. She presses one key per second. And Quicksilver resets the search being typed after a short interval (less than a second). A quick fix to this is the following:

1. Invoke quicksilver by pressing ctrl+space or whatever key you have set it up to.
2. Open Quicksilver preferences by pressing command+, while Quicksilver search interface is still open.
3. Go to the Preferences tab, if it's not already selected.
4. Click on Command in the left side pane.
5. In the bottom, there is a little slider named "Reset search after". Make sure it's checked, and slide it towards right and make it 2.00 seconds.

Quicksilver preferences

6. Now close the preferences, and try Quicksilver again, but type real slow. It'll now work for slow typists! :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Google adds graphical usage indicator in Gmail

I signed in to my Gmail account today, and noticed that in addition to text-based usage notification ("You are currently using 1726 MB (60%) of your 2852 MB"), there is a graphic bar to indicate that too:

Interestingly enough, I could make this show up only on Firefox! IE doesn't display this as yet!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Steve Jobs' 20 rules of success

Steve Jobs' rules for success:
  • First thing: As soon as you join/start a company, make a list of strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your company on a piece of paper.
  • Don't hesitate in throwing bad apples out of the company.
  • Don't worry about too many things at once. Take a handful of simple things to begin with, and then progress to more complex ones.
  • People judge you by your performance, so focus on the outcome.
  • Success generates more success. So be hungry for it. "I've always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do."
  • Ask for feedback, from people with diverse backgrounds. Each one will tell you one useful thing.
  • If you're at the top of the chain, sometimes people won't give you honest feedback because they're afraid. In this case, disguise yourself, or get feedback from other sources (Steve Jobs actually called Apple Customer Care disguising himself as a customer, just to check on them).
  • Focus on those who will use your product - listen to your customers first.
  • Advertise. If they don't know it, they won't buy your product.
  • Pay attention to design. "We made the buttons on the screen look so good you'll want to lick them." "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."
  • "Innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower." If there's a better technology available, use it no matter if anyone else is not using it. Be the first, and make it an industry standard. “I think this is the start of something really big. Sometimes that first step is the hardest one, and we've just taken it.”
  • “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
  • Learn to criticize your enemies openly, but honestly.
  • If you partner someone whom you don't like, learn to like them - praise them and benefit from them - "Ecosystem approach"
  • Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.
  • Do your best at every job. No sleep!
  • Think about not just tomorrow, but the future. “I want to put a ding in the universe.”
  • There's always "one more thing" to learn!
  • "Better be a pirate than to join the navy"
  • "Think different"

Friday, May 11, 2007

How (and why) to disable apache server signature on your web pages

In the default configuration of Apache, any error pages will contain the full signature of the server (version number) which could be exploited by hackers. Each version has some deficiencies that could be exploited, and a hacker who knows your version number may benefit from it by focused attacks.

To disable server signature, you will need to edit your /etc/apache2/apache2.conf file.

sudo nano /etc/apache2/apache2.conf

Press Ctrl+w to search for "ServerSignature" and press return. If you find it, edit it to:

ServerSignature Off
ServerTokens Prod
If you don't find it, just scroll to the end of the file and add these two lines.

Then, we need to reload apache configuration to put this new change in effect:

sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 reload

Check the new configuration by entering an invalid address on your server URL (e.g. You should not see the server signature now, just the server name.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Mac OS X: Show hidden files and folders in Finder

1. The easy way:

To show hidden files, just download and run this app.
To hide them again, download and run this app.
(Word of warning: Both these applications relaunch the Finder. So make sure you don't have any applications running, otherwise everything works just fine)

2. A little more geeky way:

To show hidden files and folders in Finder, open a terminal window and type this:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE

(the above sentence is all in one line), press return, and then type:

killall Finder
(and press return)

Finder will relaunch and you will be able to see hidden files and folders.

To revert (hide hidden items), type this in terminal:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles FALSE

(all in one line again), press return, and then this:

killall Finder
(and press return)
That's it!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Control fan speed in your macbook

iStat Pro widget tells me that my CPU temperature is in excess of 50 degrees celsius while doing casual work, and it's not good. I want a cool laptop so that it doesn't burn my lap. I was thinking of buying a laptop cooler, but Google directed me to some other place.

There is this little program "smc fan control" which lets you adjust your minimum fan speed. The default is 1500rpm, but you can adjust the minimum speed to anything between 1500 and 6000 rpm. I find that setting the minimum fan speed to 3000rpm keeps the macbook cooler, and does not produce much fan-sound either.

Download here:

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Deny.hosts file

I described last week how many (zombie) computers are attempting to gain anauthorized access to my server via open SSH port. Though I haven't been able to configure my iptables firewall as per my wishes, here's a temporary fix:

This guy has released his hosts.deny file to the public, so that we can ban these bad guys. Just copy it to your /etc/ directory (overwriting existing deny.hosts file) and restart your network or computer. It'll start working straightaway.

Additionally, here is a very nice and easy tutorial about installing denyhosts, an automated program which scans your logs for multiple unauthorized login attempts, and bans those hosts from accessing your computer।

To install Denyhosts on Ubuntu:
sudo apt-get install denyhosts

The default installation of Denyhosts in Ubuntu comes with reasonably secure default settings. It also adds a daemon at startup! Being a zero-configuration daemon, I recommend it over fail2ban (which does require configuration by hand in Ubuntu).

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

How to backup iWeb sites in Mac OSX

iWeb is an incredibly simple application to make web-pages. I have made websites for myself and a few friends using iWeb, and now it's time for a system reinstall. Now, how do I backup (and restore) those websites? Here's the answer:

1. Open finder and go to the folder: /%username%/Library/Application Support/iWeb/
2. There will be a file named "Domain.sites" there - this is the file you want to backup. (If you have chosen to hide file extensions, this file will just be visible as "Domain"). Copy this file to a flash-drive or any other external location.
3. Reinstall the system, and then place this file in the same directory back again!

That's it! You can now make backups of your iWeb sites! :-)