How To Convert Text To Audio Using Automator On OS X

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’d know we’re big fans using tools that’ll save us time or effort, however small it may be. After all, computers are the best at doing manual, repetitive work and doing it much better than humans would do.

OS X has a lot of little tools and utilities to help us save time and one of my favorite tools for automating any kind of workflow is Automator. We’ve written about this earlier and we’re back with another nifty trick up Automator’s sleeves.

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How To Reindex Your Folders Or Rebuild The Spotlight Index

Spotlight is without a doubt, one of my favorite technologies in Mac OS X. I’ve been a fan every since it was first introduced with Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger”. Spotlight, at it’s core, is essentially a database or an index of all the files on your hard drive.

The user facing part of spotlight lets a user query this index and get results almost instantaneously. In fact, I’ve gotten so used to spotlight, I’ve almost forgotten those days when we used to meticulously keep our important files in various folders and maintain the folder structures religiously, lest we save a file in some folder and can’t find it later. With spotlight, I never have to worry about folders. I just type a few letters of the filename or even it’s content, and spotlight will invariably get me the correct file.

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Stream The Latest BlockBusters For Free Using Popcorn Time

Hollywood has a pretty tight grip on the business of streaming movies and if you’re someone who’d like to watch the latest blockbusters from the comfort of your own couch, you basically have no option but to wait for the theatrical release, even if you’re willing to pay money to companies such as Netflix.

In my opinion, this is the only reason for the massive popularity of mediums such as bittorrent for pirating movies and music. Downloading a good quality print of a movie from a torrent search engine isn’t rocket science but it’s still something that a lot of non-techies don’t know how to do, and they’d be more than willing to pay a fee to the hollywood studios if they’d let them download and see the movies at home. In the absence of any such option, it is natural for people to resort to piracy.

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How To Enable php On Apache With OS X Mavericks

phpIf you’re an OS X user developing php based application, you’d have realised that the apache configuration shipped with OS X doesn’t have php enabled out of the box. If you try to open a php script using your browser, you’ll just see the php code as text and not the rendered HTML you’re expecting.

But, don’t fret. It’s actually pretty simple to enable php on OS X. Here is what you should do.

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How To Start Apache Server In OS X Mavericks

ApacheMac OS X used to be the one of the easiest operating systems around to get a basic web development setup. For anyone interested in learning HTML/CSS/JS etc, all they had to do was open the sharing pane from system preferences and enable the web sharing option. On OS X 10.9, web sharing has been removed.

That doesn’t mean apache isn’t installed, by default. It is, its just hidden away waiting to be manually invoked using a Terminal command.

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How to view HTML source in Safari And Firefox

If you’re a Linux and a Mac OS X user, like I am, chances are that you tend to stick to the same browser in both the operating systems, maybe because you’re familiar with it or maybe because you just like that one browser. In my case, that’s usually the Mozilla Firefox browser. While I have both Chrome and Firefox installed on both my machines, I still tend to come back to Firefox always. Anyway, I digress.

I’ve been using Firefox to debug and display a ruby on rails app that I’m working on and it was going fine till I decided to use Safari for the same work, because I thought I should test in both the browsers.

Now, if you’ve developed any HTML based app before, you’d know how important and useful the “view source” function is, that any modern browser incorporates. HTML is a simple markup language and mostly you can just debug your markup by just looking at the browser UI, but sometimes, especially when you’re dynamically generating content and pages, as in case of Ruby on rails, you need to view the source to figure out what’s happening.

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How To Create A Bootable OS X Mountain Lion USB Thumb Drive

If you’ve followed our previous instructions on installing OS X Mountain Lion on your Mac, you have a backup of the Mountain Lion installer somewhere on a disk lying around. You can take this disk to any OS X computer running Lion and run the installer over there to upgrade it to Mountain Lion. If, on the other hand, you have an older Mac with a version of OS X that cannot be upgraded directly to Mountain Lion, or you want to do a clean re-install of the OS, this is the guide you should follow to create a bootable Mountain Lion USB Thumb Drive.

Search the drawers for an 8GB Thumb Drive. The Mountain Lion installer is about 5GB so anything more than that should do. Insert the key into your Mac.

Now, find the Mountain Lion installer that you copied away safely earlier. If you don’t have it, download it again from the Mac App Store’s Purchases section.

When the download completes, the installer will launch. Quit it.

Use the Finder to browse over to the Applications folder if you just downloaded the installer or the folder where you copied the previously downloaded installer.

Right click the Installer icon and select the Show Package Contents option.

Browse to the Contents/Shared Support folder.

There will be two files in this folder. We are interested in the DMG file named InstallESD.dmg.

Right-click this file and select the Open With->Disk Utility option.

This will open Disk Utility and you should be able to see your USB key as well as the InstallESD DMG file in the left side column.

Select the USB key and click on the Partition tab.

From the Partition Layout tab, select 1 Partition and then click the Options button below the partition layout graphic.

Make sure that the GUID Partition Table radio button is selected. Click Ok and hit Apply. If Disk Utility warns you about your disk being erased, click Ok and let it proceed.

Now, select and right click the InstallESD DMG file in the left column and choose the Open Disk Image option.

Select the newly mounted Mac OS X Install ESD volume and click on the Restore tab on the right side.

The Source field in the Restore tab should now be set to Mac OS X Install ESD. In the Destination field, drag and drop the partition that we earlier created on the USB Key and then press the Restore button.

This will copy the contents of the Installer image to the USB key.

You can now use this USB key as a bootable installer on any Mac.

How To Prepare Your Mac For Mountain Lion

As you all probably know by now, Mountain Lion was released yesterday. Unless, you’re one of those early adapter types, you’re probably holding out on upgrading your Mac for the weekend. In my opinion, though, the best time to upgrade to a new version of an operating system is when the first update comes out. In Mountain Lion’s case, that would be 10.8.1. The first version is when the really annoying bugs are fixed and the chances of the operating system screwing the user’s computer are really low.

If you still think you’re ready for the first version of Apple’s latest, greatest, this guide should help you prepare your Mac for the onslaught!

Backup

I cannot stress this point enough. Please make a backup of all your important documents before upgrading. While, Apple definitely tests their installation process hundreds, if not thousands, of times, this is a computer and murphy will strike when you lease expect him to. Since, I use Time Machine for backups, I always have a backup of my data with me. I still verified if all was well with the data and proceeded to the next step.

Take a backup of your data and thank me later.

Verify Disk/File System

This is a step that I’ve not seen anyone recommend but it is, in my opinion, the most important step in the whole upgrade process. Mac OS X uses the hfs file system for storing all your files. Normally, a file system is something the user should not be concerned with, but when things go wrong in the file system, the user has the most to lose. A bad sector on the hard disk or an error with the file system structures can lead to data loss and more.

Reboot your Mac and press and hold the Option key when the computer is booting up. This will bring up a menu that’ll let let you select the recovery partition to boot into. Now, select the disk utility option from the window that pops up on the screen.

When Disk Utility launches, select your hard disk volume from the column on the left and click the Repair Disk button on the right. Depending on the size of your hard disk, this process might take a little time. Use this time to find a spare USB drive or an external hard drive with atleast 5 GBs of free space. We’ll need it for the next step.

Download Mountain Lion

This one’s easy!

Reboot your computer back to Lion and start downloading Mountain Lion from the Mac App Store. It costs $19 and Apple really couldn’t have made it easier to download it. The installer is about 4.6GB so this might take a while, if you like in a Bandwidth impoverished countries of the world like I do.

When the download completes, the installer will launch automatically. Quit it (Use Command+Q since the installer doesn’t have an option to quit).

Go to the Applications folder and copy the installer (named Mountain Lion Installer) to the spare disk you found earlier. This is needed because once Mountain Lion is installed the installer is deleted and to use it again you’ll have to download the full 4.6GBs again, which may be a little painful.

Installation

That’s it! You’re all set to install Mountain Lion. The installer itself is pretty simple and doesn’t require too much user intervention. Let the installer do it’s magic.

How To Test The RAM On Your Computer

The RAM is arguably the most important part of your computer. Apart from the processor, of course, but without some kind of memory, even the process is pretty much useless. A computer, without RAM, cannot run any application that you tell it to and might as well be a dead paper weight.

If you’ve noticed unusual freezes and random operating system/application crashes on your computer, the RAM should be your first line of diagnosis. The RAM on a modern computer is composed of millions of cells that store the data for the computer to process and failure of even a single cell can cause weird errors that can be extremely difficult to diagnose.

Memtest is an open source utility that verifies the RAM installed on your computer for any defects. Since, this is an open source tool, there are versions available for practically every operating system and I’m going to use the Mac OS X version of memtest today since that is what I’m most familiar with. You should be able to use the same command line switches with the version of memtest available for your operating system.

Download MemTest For Free

Memtest is available as a free download so just download it to your computer and unzip the file. You should now have a .pkg installer that you can just double click to install memtest. This installer does nothing other than installing the memtest binary to /usr/bin.

To start testing the RAM on your computer, launch Terminal.app and execute memtest.

Sharninders-iMac:~ sharninder$ memtest all 1

The above command will make memtest run through it’s complete test suite once. In general, it is better to test at least twice, or even let it run for a few hours if you want to be completely sure. If you don’t specify any number after the “all”, memtest runs indefinitely and will have to be stopped by pressing the ctrl+c key combination manually.

If Memtest throws up an error or memtest itself freezes, you’ll know for sure that the RAM is bad. If not, well, time to start diagnosing other parts of the computer.

Memtest for PCs

If you’re not running a Mac, you can still use memtest to diagnose the RAM of your PC, though the process is a little different. For PCs, memtest is distributed as images that you can burn onto CDs or USB flash drives.

Download one of the many pre-built images and burn it to a CD or to a USB flash drive, depending on the image. Now, shutdown your computer and reboot it using the CD/USB Key that you just burned. That should start Memtest straight away. Let the diagnostics run for a while or till you’re sure that the RAM has been tested thoroughly.

Have you ever had the RAM in your computer go bad ? How did you diagnose it ?

 

Mac: How To Encrypt An External Hard Drive In Lion

Most computer users use or carry around some kind of portable hard drive or flash disk these days. Considering how we use our computers, almost all of those portable drives tend to store an alarming amount of sensitive data. Have you ever thought what would happen if you lose the disk and the data gets into the wrong hands ?

There are a lot of software solutions available that’ll let you encrypt the data on your disks but most of them are confusing to use and just a pain really. Not, if you’re a Mac OS X user.

Mac OS X lets you encrypt and password protect the contents of any connected disk. Follow our little guide to know how.

First of all, if it wasn’t obvious, connect your disk (using USB) to your Mac and launch the Disk Utility application.

The Disk Utility application will display all the drives that OS X has recognized on your computer in the sidebar. Select the drive that you want to encrypt.

Note: To Encrypt a drive, OS X has to format it and so you will lose all the existing data on the drive. If there is any important data on the drive, copy it to another location and then copy it back later.

Now, select the Erase tab and from the Format drop down list select “Mac OS Extended (Journaled, Encrypted).

You can also select the Case-Sensitive, Journaled, Encrypted option if you want your file system to be case sensitive.

Now, click the Erase button.

Disk Utility will now ask you to enter a password that you will use to access the contents of the encrypted disk. If you can’t think of a strong and memorable password yourself, I’d definitely suggest using the Password Assistant. Click on the little key icon next to the password text box and play around with the password assistant till you find a nice password that you can remember and one that is secure.

That’s it. Now, wait for Disk Utility to finish partitioning and encrypting the disk.

When the disk is ready for use, as indicated by Disk Utility, I’d suggest that you eject it and insert it again just to check if everything works as it should. If you followed the procedure properly, Mac OS X will ask you for a password to access your disk when you insert it again.

That’s it. Enter your password and you should be able to access the contents of your disk as always. When you’re finished using the disk, make sure you eject it properly so that no one else with access to your computer can access your data.

The only problem with this method of encrypting your external hard disks is that the data on the disk can only be viewed on a Mac OS X computer. Depending on your preferences, though, that may well be a good thing!