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!

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Leopard Compatibility Notes

10 Photoshop Selection Tips

Select a Layer Outline

Command-Click a layer thumbnail in the Layers palette to load a selection of its outline, including any anti-aliased (non-jaggy) edges. If your layer has an inherent opacity set (for example, if you opened a partially transparent PNG image), the opacity difference is included in the selection. Normal opacities set in the Layers palette, however, do not affect the selection.

Use Multiple Selections

Once a selection is made, there are a number of operations you can perform to modify your selection. Holding Shift and making an additional selection will add to your current selection, and Option will remove from it. Holding both Shift and Option will do something unique: wherever your two selections intersect will become the new selection.

Combine Layer Outlines

Using the first Command-click thumbnail hint with Shift, Option, or Shift+Option modifier keys, you can add, remove, or intersect selections using outlines of other layers. Your cursor will show +, -, or x to indicate which type of operation will be performed, respectively.

Move Selection While Dragging

While in the middle of dragging a selection, you can hold down the spacebar to move around the origin of the selection. This is extremely useful if you find that your selection is a bit off — Instead of re-making a new selection from scratch, you can make adjustments “on the fly.” When the spacebar is released, the selection seamlessly drops back into the default “grow” mode, using the new origin as the starting point.

Start at the Center

Hold down Option after starting a selection to expand from the middle, causing the outline to grow symmetrically in each cardinal direction. Add the Shift key into the mix Shift to maintain a square shaped ratio.

Fixed Ratios and Sizes

Using the selection tool options, you can set a fixed ratio or specific size, both of which are great for slicing out content with a pre-determined size, like that of a computer wallpaper. Using the ratio, you can select a portion of an image that would fit on your desktop. Once you have the portion selected, you can scale it down to the native resolution of your display, being sure that it will scale proportionally to the correct size.

Quick Mask Mode

By flipping into Quick Mask Mode, you can use paintbrush tools to “paint” the beginnings of a selection. When you leave Quick Mask Mode, the painted area becomes a selection which you can use right away or modify further.

Transform!

Use the Select->Transform Selection command to distort the current selection. Note that this applies to just the selection outline, not the content within it. (To change the content, do Edit->Transform->pick a type).

Selection Paste Target

By making a selection and then pasting content into it, you can target exactly where the pasted content will land. Without a selection, pasted content simply gets dumped in the middle of the document.

Save Selections with the PSD File

Once you have your beautiful selection made and ready to use, you might consider saving for future use if it was particularly complicated to make, or if it’s a handy, reusable shape. Photoshop provides two simple commands for saving and loading selections. Choose Select->Save Selection to commit your selection to a given name. Retrieving it is as simple as picking the Select->Load Selection command, and choosing the name you saved the selection under earlier. Best of all, these named selections are included in the file, meaning you can save and re-open the document, and reload selections at a later date.

10 Photoshop Selection Tips

How To: Put Together an Affordable Laptop Repair Kit

Having your prized laptop unexpectedly bite the dust is a real drag, but with an affordable set of tools ready, you can ensure your machine lives a long, healthy life with minimum downtime. Here are my personal picks that won’t break the bank:

Presented with a failing laptop, the first step on the road to recovery is figuring out where the problem lies. Even if you can’t yet narrow down the issue to a single component, identifying the essential parts and ordering them by “most likely” to “least likely to fail” will offer a prioritized checklist to run down while working. If you’re unsure of what may be causing a problem, a good rule of thumb is to start with the obvious and work your way back to the motherboard — often the source of problems is the least expensive part in the chain, as computer parts are generally purchased from the lowest bidder. If your laptop can’t find it’s operating system, the hard drive might be dead. No video on the LCD? Something screwy with the display assembly. CD won’t eject? Probably the optical drive. In most cases, replacing the motherboard on the computer is the most complicated and most expensive, so it’s worth your time and money to start at the cheap end and work your way back.

Researching problems on web forums is a prudent starting place, as are manufacturer service manuals. If you can clearly explain the problem you’re having and show that you’ve attempted to do some of your own research, most forum members (like those on MacNN) will gladly assist. As far as manufacturer-offered support goes, most manuals are free, however Apple in particular is picky about who gets this information. iFixit, MacFixIt, and xlr8YourMac are a few trustworthy and respected sites which help make up for Apple’s stinginess with documentation. If you look hard enough, though, Apple’s official repair guides can be found on the net, despite their best efforts (and, really, the iFixit guides are more detailed).

Screwdrivers

With knowledge in hand — or in PDF form — and the courage to crack open the case of your laptop, you can start with the basics: a screwdriver set. Many will make promises of years of durability and offer second-to-none craftsmanship, however I find that a cheap little set will do just fine for most projects. Stanley offers a $5 6-piece screwdriver set, with Phillips and flat screwdrivers of a couple sizes (also at Amazon. And if you’re not put off by Wal-Mart, you can pick one up there, as well.). Just one little set has served me well for years of computer repair, especially on laptops.

If you care to get a little fancier, you can find a more expansive $15 set on eBay. I also have one of these sets, and am unable to find a manufacturer on any of the parts, however identical looking screwdrivers can be found at RadioShack, made by Kronus. It includes a wide assortment of changeable bits, including hard to find ones like Torx T4 (for iPod logic boards and cell phones) and a number of Phillips sizes. Search eBay for ‘torx’ and look for the black and red handle and white bit case. This kit is, as advertised on eBay auctions, of surprisingly good quality, despite the curious absence of a manufacturer imprint on the tool or casing.

Nylon Pry Tool

An absolute must for performing professional-looking laptop repair is the ability to remove plastic bezels without chewing up the edges with a rigid metal tool. As noted in my earlier post, Apple recommends a nylon pry tool for accomplishing this, and I can vouch for its extreme utility on any brand laptop. Computer manufacturers often affix plastic covers with slightly flexible clips, and this $2 tool will effectively and cleanly undo them, allowing for future re-assembly.

Straightened Paper Clip

The standard computer fixing tool for many a geek, a straightened paperclip can be had for free, but offers the ability to exert pressure in the most narrow of spaces. It’s also no coincidence that nearly all tray-loading computer optical drives can be safely forced open using the tiny paperclip hole built into their front covers. Keep a few on hand.

Ice Cube Tray

Once you start getting deep into a laptop repair, keeping the screws of various sizes in order can be a monumental task of its own. By keeping a simple $1 ice cube tray nearby to hold loose screws (preferably labeled in a fashion you can understand hours or days from now), you’ll be able to remember how it all fits together. Keeping screws and parts organized takes time away from getting the job done, but if you’re interrupted or happen to bump the table, you won’t be utterly lost when it comes time to put everything back in place.

Hemostats

If you aren’t working alone on your laptop, nothing makes you look more tech-savvy than a pair of hemostats. Appearances aside, hemostats are outstanding tools for extracting otherwise impossible to reach connectors, as well as plugging them back in. The occasional runaway screw can also be retrieved with ease, possibly avoiding unnecessary disassembly. Prices range from $3 at RadioShack to upwards of $10, depending where you search. Both curved and straight nose hemostats are of nearly unlimited use.

Multi-meter

Last, but not required, is a small, decent multi-meter. Problems can often be traced to a lack of power or electrical connection, and even the cheapest of meters will indicate both. When set to measure voltage, you can check that a component has the necessary power, and when set to measure resistance, you can assert the continuity of a circuit just by touching a probe to either end of the wire and watching for a huge drop in resistance. Unconnected wires will show infinite resistance, while a good wire should have extremely low resistance. A self-contained, pocket-sized meter can be had for $20 at RadioShack, and is well worth the cost.

So there you have it: a complete kit for about $30, all of which will easily zip up into your laptop bag, ready to break out and make repairs on the go. Print out your specific laptop’s service guide for quick reference, and you’ll be poised to tackle problems whenever they may crop up. If you were expecting a “priceless” item on the list, then here you go: confidence. Work slowly, think before you pull on a connector or wire, and take pictures if you have to.

How To: Put Together an Affordable Laptop Repair Kit

Seagate Hard Drive RMA

In the past, I’ve had the best luck with Seagate brand hard drives — avoiding Maxtor like the plague — but just recently I had a 320 GB Seagate SATA drive start failing on me. It started with what sounded like a few small read/write head hiccups, and turned into widespread sector failure, causing several diagnostic utilities to red flag the drive.

I bought the drive from NewEgg, but they referred me to Seagate for support and returns. With no other alternatives available and a failing drive on my hands, I got in touch with Seagate and filled out their online return merchandise form. Just a few days after shipping off the dying drive, I received an email letting me know that a brand new drive was on its way to me. I’m happy to be kept in the loop while the return is in progress, and I’ll update this post when I get the new drive!

While I had to cover the nominal shipping costs myself, I feel compelled to note how easy and fast their service is. I’m attempting to make a habit of documenting good customer service as well as the bad. After having dealt with some online returns that are a real hassle, Seagate is a refreshing change from some of the other rather lame options out there.

Update: Received an entirely different “Certified Repaired” hard drive in a very well packed box! It works great and passes all my tests!

Seagate Hard Drive RMA

iPod, iPhone, and AppleTV Video Guide

iLounge just posted an outstanding guideto the formats used by Apple’s video-capable portable devices, including the iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV. While QuickTime Player [Pro] does a decent job of doing simple exports, it’s great to understand the details behind the scenes, including video aspect ratios and bitrates. If you own one or more of these devices and plan on converting video for them, this guide is a must-read!

iPod, iPhone, and AppleTV Video Guide

Back to Boot Camp

After getting used to working with Boot Camp on my new Intel Mac, I decided to borrow the second partition for a few days to dual boot two copies of Mac OS X (which worked flawlessly, by the way). Once I was done, I assumed I could pop in my Windows disc and do a clean format-and-install over the second Mac OS X partition. Boy, was I wrong.

Windows Setup displayed only one “partition” as it saw things — the entire 160 GB drive. Not wanting to blow away my entire main Mac OS X installation, I was unsure of how to get back to using Boot Camp normally. Launching Apple’s Boot Camp Assistant utility presented me with unhelpful messages such as “The startup disk must be formatted as a single Mac OS Extended (Journaled) volume or already partitioned by BCA for installing Windows” and “This startup disk is not supported.” What to do?

One fact I was sure of was that I did indeed have two real partitions on my hard drive. Disk Utility clearly showed two partitions under my single drive hardware device. Both partitions were formatted as Mac OS Extended Journalled (HFS+J) volumes, but Windows refused to see them as individual partitions, perhaps because it only comprehends the Microsoft-standard FAT32 and NTFS formats. Hoping to fix the matter, I used the diskutil command line tool to format the second partitions as “MS-DOS FAT32”, even though the Disk Utility point-and-click interface only offered HFS+ and HFS+J in its Format menu. diskutil noted that, because I was booted off the drive, the resulting partition would not be bootable.

diskutil‘s note about bootable volumes gave me an idea — boot from the Mac OS X Installation DVD and see what tools are available there. Upon booting the DVD that shipped with my machine and choosing English as my main lanugage, I found the Utilities menu at the top of the Installer. In there was a launchable copy of Disk Utility — the very same tool found in your /Applications/Utilities folder. It listed many more formats under the Erase tab for the second Boot Camp partition, and I happily formatted it as “MS-DOS”, knowing it would leave me with one HFS+J partition and one FAT32 partition. Erase and format was successful, so I rebooted and held down Option to force the OS selection screen to appear. [At this point I checked and found that, yes, Boot Camp Assistant will rediscover your partition and prompt you with the usual options. It must simply check for the existence of a FAT32 or NTFS volume to run properly.] I discovered moments later that it’s possible eject and insert disks while at this screen, so I popped in my Windows XP CD and let Setup begin once more. This time, Setup listed the following partitions:

E: Partition1 [Unknown] 200 MB (EFI)
F: Partition2 [Unknown] 133120 MB <The main Mac partition>
Unpartitioned space 128 MB
C: Partition3 (WINDOWS) [FAT32] 19052 MB
Unpartitioned space 126 MB

The C: FAT32 formatted partition was approximately the correct size, so I figured it had to be the correct choice. FAT32 can be limiting in file size, but Windows was able to easily re-format the partition to NTFS on the spot (Quick format is much faster than a full format). After babysitting the Windows installer for the next 30 to 40 minutes, everything was working again in Boot Camp land. Holding Option at startup is back to presenting the usual Macintosh HD and Windows operating systems, and booting into Windows is fast as it ever was.

Back to Boot Camp