By Collin Allen

MacBook Air Hard Drives

March 20, 2008

Looking through Apple’s technical documentation on the MacBook Air revealed that the 80 GB drive it ships with is a Samsung HS082HB 1.8” (4200 RPM, 8 MB cache) ZIF model, a departure from the Toshiba-dominated iPods. With the same size of only 5mm thin, I wouldn’t be surprised if these started showing up in iPod Classic 80 GB models – it seems likely, given that the low end Classic is the thinner of the two and exactly 80 GB in capacity. It seems many drive manufacturers are jumping on the 1.8” form factor bandwagon now, which will inevitably result in cheaper pocket-sized storage.

Photoshop Tip: Zoom While Transforming

March 2, 2008

When you use Adobe Photoshop day in and day out, certain things about its interface and workflow start to grate on you, like the inability to zoom while in the middle of a transform or applying Layer Effects. Much to my delight, Photoshop is also jam packed with hidden commands and modifier keys, which turned up a discovery today.

If you’re in the middle of a Transform or Layer Effects change and need to get your changes just right, you can adjust your view simply by holding the correct keys and using your mouse. On the Mac, hold Space and drag to pan around the background window. Command-Space-click on the document to zoom in, and Command-Option-Space-click to zoom out. Note that some of these key combos collide with the system-wide Spotlight commands, so you may consider remapping them in System Preferences, depending on your usage of each. Personally, I’ve moved Spotlight to Control-Space just to use these great hidden features of Photoshop.

iPod 5G Hack: Bluetooth and CompactFlash

February 26, 2008

Some clever modders at iPodHackers have put together a collection of iPod hacks all inside a single 5th generation iPod: Bluetooth audio streaming, CompactFlash solid-state storage, and a translucent replacement enclosure.

Using a tiny Bluetooth circuit to transmit audio to nearby speakers or headphones and a recently released iPod 5G CompactFlash adapter, the hacked-up iPod can now safely store movies and music without fear of the hard drive failing while stashed safely in a pocket. Of particular note is the custom run adapter, which is the first readily available adapter of its kind that allows storage devices other than hard drives to be attached to the ever-shrinking connectors inside the iPod. You can get the full details and photos here, and see more hacks at Instructables.

Finding the Perfect Programming Font

February 19, 2008

Inspired by The Typography of Code, I took a few snapshots of some of my favorite programming fonts.

BitStream Vera Sans Mono


BitStream Vera Sans Mono is a completely free font part of the GNU font package and has been my preferred coding font for the last few months. The characters are a little tall, but are very clear about which is which.

Panic Sans


Panic’s one-window web development application, Coda, ships with a great default programming font very similar to BitStream Vera Sans Mono. You can make system-wide use of this gem by digging through Coda’s application bundle content and copying it to your global Fonts folder.



Consolas ships with Windows Vista as part of Microsoft’s new font pack, and is so close to being my favorite programming font, however the blinking cursor is positioned a bit too low when displayed on a Mac. The fact that my focus is almost always exactly in that very spot makes Consolas like the smallest of pebbles in your shoe, despite its clearly differentiated characters, comfortable height, and curvier-than-average parentheses. It’s worth nothing that this issue doesn’t seem to occur on Vista and XP systems. More on the cursor issue here, including a fix



The old Mac programming standby, Monaco, has been around for many years, as it was originally designed in the early days of the Mac. You may recognize it better in aliased 9pt size in a BBEdit window. But this is the age of Mac OS X – give your eyes a break and use the built-in anti-aliasing and get rid of those jagged edges!

Droid Sans Mono


At last, I’ve found my perfect programming font! Droid Sans Mono comes with Google’s Android mobile phone, which ships with a pack of specially crafted fonts for the phone. The zero and oh characters aren’t as clear as some of the others, but that’s not typically a problem for me. Droid Sans Mono has the lower profile type of Consolas without the nagging cursor positioning bug. I think I’ll stick with this for the forseeable future.

GPT Protective Partitions and Windows XP

February 9, 2008

If you’ve formatted a bootable hard drive on an Intel Mac (or have perhaps been tinkering with the wholly unsupported OSx86 project) and later decided to put the drive to use under Windows XP, you might find that you’re unable to format the disk, with Windows Disk Management claiming the device is a “GPT Protective Partition.” You can’t format it, partition it, or even assign it drive letter. What gives?

The secret is that the GPT scheme protects itself from being read and possibly erased by utilities or operating systems which aren’t able to correctly interpret it. Until just recently, I wasn’t aware that a filesystem even had such a capability. I was under the false assumption that a utility running externally of the drive in question could always format a detected disk, no matter the filesystem in place. I doubt it could withstand the raw formatting power of DBAN, but it was enough to confuse Windows XP. How can the GPT scheme be undone? Typically, software that can create it can also destroy it. In my case, Leopard’s Disk Utility application was able re-partition the drive as follows:

  • Boot a Leopard DVD (retail or OSx86) and choose your native language at the first screen.
  • Run “Disk Utility” from the “Utilities” menu and highlight the offending drive on the left.
  • Navigate to the “Partition” tab, choose “1 Partition” from the Volume Scheme popup menu, select your new desired format (or “Free Space”), and make sure to click the “Options…” button
  • From the “Options” screen, you can choose between GUID Partition Table, Apple Partition Map (for PowerPC Macs), and Master Boot Record. Choose MBR, and click OK.
  • Click “Apply” to partition the drive using the more common MBR scheme, and thus completely erase all trace of the GPT partition.

Once the partitioning is complete, you’ll be able to format and use the drive under Windows XP, Mac OS 9, or any other system incapable of comprehending GPT Partitions.