GrabFS for Leopard

Mac OS X Internals author Amit Singh has put together a unique plugin for MacFUSE called GrabFS, which is a virtual file system of running applications, in which you can navigate through windows and view current screenshots. That’s a lot going on in one sentence, so lets take it bit-by-bit:

MacFUSE is a Google project headed by Amit to port the FUSE (“Filesystem in userspace”) tool from Linux to Mac. Effectively, it mounts what appears to be a disk image, but the contents of the image can be from any source. The key to FUSE is that the apparent files and folders can be conjured up based on information obtained elsewhere, be it from other files and folders, a remote server, Flickr image streams, or process lists. Plugins allow authors to devise new ways of presenting a hierarchy to the end user, regardless of the original data format.

In the case of GrabFS, it lists each running application on your Mac as a folder inside the virtual FUSE disk. Inside every folder is a screenshot TIFF file for each window of that application, which you can view in place or copy out for later use.

MacFUSE isn’t a new project, but talented developers are continually thinking up new sources of information to plug right into your desktop.

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GrabFS for Leopard

PHP5 and MySQL 5 on Leopard

A few quick notes about building MySQL 5.x and getting it working under Leopard:

  • Follow Dan Benjamin’s excellent MySQL on Leopard tutorial.
  • Copy the PHP configuration example to the actual expected location: sudo cp /etc/php.ini.default /etc/php.ini
  • Edit it, and add /private/tmp/mysql.sock to both mysql.default_socket and mysqli.default_socket.
  • Save, and restart Apache: sudo apachectl graceful

Once completed, the default PHP5 setup that comes with Mac OS X 10.5.x will be able to communicate with the MySQL version built using the above linked tutorial. Time to get developing!

PHP5 and MySQL 5 on Leopard

How to Import and Export ICNS with Photoshop

If you’re interested in making replacement icons for Mac OS X applications, the Leopard Developer Tools received an updated version of the Icon Composer utility, which combines multiple PNG images into one ICNS file. Once exported, the combined file is suitable for use inside an application bundle, by choosing Show Package Contents from the Finder’s action menu (or a right-click) and browsing to Contents/Resources/ and replacing the appropriate ICNS file (make sure to rename your icon to match the existing one!).

To run the process the other way, first find the desired ICNS file inside the application, and open it with the built-in Preview application. Preview understands the transparency inherent to ICNS icons, and allows you to save the file as a PNG, ready to open and work on in Photoshop!

Update: After looking around on MacUpdate for something simple, I found img2icns, a freeware drag-and-drop icon converter that can turn a PNG image into a folder icon. With it, you can Get Info for the converted folder icon and copy and paste it onto another application or document. It’s the perfect little icon utility to go with this minimalist workflow, and it’s Leopard-ready!

How to Import and Export ICNS with Photoshop

AppleScripts for iTunes

AppleScript is the hidden “glue” language that binds software on the Mac together and allows for unparalleled interaction between apps. When built into a program, it allows anyone with the right tools to automate nearly any function of the appication. In fact, it’s what Apple’s Automator is built upon, making AppleScript more accessible to end users who don’t want to know or care about things like variables and loops. Where Automator is as easy as drag-and-drop, programming AppleScript can be complicated (perhaps more so for seasoned programmers).

Doug Adams, however, is an AppleScript wizard, and his huge library of scripts covers all kinds of Mac applications. Of particular interest are his iTunes scripts. He offers dozens upon dozens of cool and useful ready-to-run code samples that do all kinds of tricks with iTunes, including managing playlists, embedding and exporting album artwork, finding and replacing text in track names, and tons more. For getting more out of your Mac and iTunes, check out Doug’s AppleScripts library.

AppleScripts for iTunes

Leopard Compatibility Notes

Leopard is finally in the hands of thousands of Mac owners who are now getting their “new Mac” set up the way they prefer. While some found frustration with the Upgrade install, I backed up my important stuff and performed a full Erase and Install, resulting in a fresh system with no lingering apps or tweaks from the previous system. So far, my experience with Leopard has been a great one, with only a few software updates required to make things run like new. Here’s a run-down of some of the notes I made while getting software working:

  • Backup
    Apple’s .Mac-bundled “Backup” application received a small update bringing it up to Leopard standards, meaning many users can now successfully retrieve backups created before installing the system. Since I erased my previous OS install, being able to bring forth my backups stored on my networked G4 fileserver was one of the first things I needed to accomplish — something I’ll hopefully only need to do once with the advent of Time Machine. (Thanks for the tip, Jaron!)
  • Adobe CS3 Compatibility
    I had read a number of reports concerning CS3 compatibility with Leopard, and was wary of even installing them again, but I was glad to find that Adobe CS3 seems to work just fine in Leopard. I’ve run Photoshop, Illustrator, and Bridge for a few hours now without issue!
  • VMware Fusion
    I’m a big fan of using VMware on Windows to try out software before actually installing it on the host PC, and couldn’t be happier with the implementation on the Mac side of things, as well. VMware Fusion for Mac just hit 1.1 RC, and is nearing the final 1.1 release. The update brings, among other things, Leopard compatibility which works great.
  • Transmit & Unison
    My two must-have utilities from Panic, Transmit and Unison, are now Leopard ready and run with nary a hitch. Way to go, guys!
  • Font icons
    Images, PDFs, and Keynote presentations aren’t the only icons branded with the actual content they contain. Font files’ icons are updated to show the actual typeface on right on the icon. How cool is that?

I’m sure there’s a mountain of other cool things in Leopard just waiting to be discovered, and software developers will be publishing Leopard compatibility updates for the next few weeks at least. Keep an eye on MacOSXHints.com, one of the best places to check for the latest Leopard tweaks and tips!

Leopard Compatibility Notes

Inkscape and X11

While attempting to install the open source vector graphics program Inkscape, I found that I needed to install the latest version of X11 (a window system used on Unix systems as well as Mac OS X). However, I couldn’t easily find the installer on Apple’s site, but I did discover it buried on my MacBook Pro Install Disc 1 at: /System/Installation/Packages/X11User.pkg. It’s also likely available for installation during system setup and while booted off the disc, however no reboot is necessary to install and run X11.

Inkscape and X11

Summer Mac Updates

It’s about time Apple updated the iMac, iLife, and the Mac mini. We’ve all been expecting updates of the latter two for some time now, wondering if refreshes were simply delayed or products were about to be cut from the lineup. Thankfully, Apple was just polishing up the glass on the iMacs and dotting the ‘i’s on iLife and iWork, readying all of it for one well rounded Mac-centric update. With all the talk about iPhones, iPods, and multi-touch this and that, it’s great to see Apple back in full swing with Mac stuff again.

iMacs: Aluminum & Glass

The new “Aluminum and Glass” iMacs look quite good, and as Jason Fried noted, are taking on the iPhone look. (As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not yet sold on glossy screens, as I’m already picky enough about fingerprints on my display. Apple seems to be taking the glossy screens to every Mac they make, so I’ll have to get used to them at some point!) I’m also glad to see a CTO 2.8 GHz option, as well as 1 TB of storage. Packing that much data into one machine is still rather mind boggling; I remember owning an external 9 GB SCSI-2 hard drive back in the day and thinking I was hot stuff. Now we can lug around 100 times that data in half the space.

iLife/iPhoto

Apple continues to innovate on the professional front, and not long after making some big advances, some of the technology filters down into the consumer level products. One such advancement is Events in iPhoto. When you take photos and later download them into your Mac, photos are grouped into the identifiable chunks of time in which you took each subset. It automatically sifts through all the images and sorts them appropriately. Sometimes it’s off a little bit, but correcting it is just a few clicks away.

Mac Mini

Some suspected the Mac Mini was on the chopping block at Apple — it’s clear that Steve doesn’t care for the required cables — but it did receive a much needed Core 2 Duo and Gigabit Ethernet update. With the addition of Gigabit, I can now truly consider replacing my G4 home server with a less power hungry Mac Mini. (In addition to the Mac Mini, the iMac and the AirPort Extreme got Gigabit as well.)

Overall, a great summer consumer Mac update from Apple just in time for “back to school.” Be sure to grab the iWork ’08 trial if you haven’t placed your order already.

Summer Mac Updates