How To Automatically Start Up and Shut Down Your Mac

If you’re as lazy as I am, you really couldn’t be bothered with shutting down your computer every night before sleeping, and then having to turn it on again in the morning. Besides, being a minor annoyance, this really shouldn’t be a necessity in the 21st century! I mean, shouldn’t the computer know when I’m not using it, and turn itself off automatically?

Imagine if your computer would shutdown on it’s own every night after you’ve finished using it and then be available the first thing in the morning as soon as you wake up? Imagine the amount of electricity you would be saving ?

If I were to tell you, you could have this functionality for free, right now with Mac OS X, would you believe me ?

Well, it turns out that Apple really did think about people like you and I while designing Mac OS X, because they have a solution for this very problem.

Start by opening System Preferences

Click on the Energy Saver icon as indicated above. This is where you make all settings related to power management and energy use on your Mac, including the auto start up and shutdown settings we’re interested in. Click the Schedule button.

A pop-up dialogue will appear where you can indicate the time you want your Mac to start up and shutdown. You can also choose a setting to, say, reboot the Mac every Wednesday. Unfortunately there is no way to have multiple settings for one event.

You can, of course, also choose to only put your Mac to sleep instead of a full shutdown if that’s what you prefer.

This is just one of the many hidden gems in Mac OS X that’d make your computing life so much easier. Do you guys know of any other little know OS X features ? Let us know of your favorite ones in the comments.

 

UnInstall Applications On Mac OS X Using AppCleaner

AppCleanerFor all it’s UI slickness and user friendliness, Mac OS doesn’t really provide a good way to uninstall applications. The designers of OS X assumed that most people will install applications using the drag and drop approach and uninstalling application will be as simple as dragging the application icon to trash.

While that is how a majority of applications on Mac OS X work and dragging them to trash does remove the application, most applications also create temporary files in the user’s home directory and those are not removed when you drag the application icon to trash.

I’ve written about one method for uninstalling .pkg packages earlier but that is the Geeky Ninja way. An easier way to uninstall applications is to use a tool such as AppCleaner.

AppCleaner is free software that lets you uninstall unwanted apps. AppCleaner works by finding all the files belonging to an application that are scattered throughout the filesystem and offers to remove all of them when you uninstall the application.

Using AppCleaner

AppCleaner is a pretty simple utility to use. When you first launch it, you’ll see a blank screen with the words “Drop Apps Here”. This is your cue !

AppCleaner - Uninstaller for Mac OS X

Drag and drop the app that you want to uninstall to this window and AppCleaner will search all the files that it can find related to that app.

AppCleaner

Pretty neat, isn’t it ?

AppCleaner can also automatically search for the installed applications and let you select multiple applications to uninstall from a list in one go. Very useful if you want to uninstall more than one app at the same time and do some spring cleaning of your Mac.

AppCleaner

Apart from uninstalling applications, AppCleaner can also be used to remove unwanted widgets and plugins from your computer. Just click on the Widgets or Others button and follow the same procedure to uninstall them.

Summary

AppCleaner is a must have tool for any OS X user. The best part about AppCleaner is the price and while there are paid tools that offer a few more features, AppCleaner works for most use cases.

One feature that I’d love AppCleaner to add is the ability to delete hidden files along with the applications that created them. A lot of applications for OS X follow the Unix tradition of creating hidden files (files named with a leading dot) to store configuration information and AppCleaner doesn’t clean them when uninstalling apps.

All said, I think AppCleaner is a pretty neat tool and you really can’t go wrong with the features it provides.

Do you use any other similar tool for uninstalling apps on Mac OS X ? Let me know in the comments.

Download AppCleaner For Free.

How To Stop Skype From Starting Automatically on Mac OS X

Skype LogoI have to confess I’m not a big Skype user. I live in India and the rates offered by skype for various locations are usually more than those offered by the local service providers so its much more convenient (and cheap) to just pick up the phone and call. But, I’m sure many among you, in this increasingly connected world of ours, are skype addicts .. oops, I meant fans. But, ever since I came to the US on a business trip, I’ve been using Skype more and more to speak to my wife and folks back home.

Here in the US, things are a little different. Skype offers better rates, and surprisingly better voice clarity and so it has become my preferred mode for calling anyone in the US. So, as soon as I got my new MacBook Pro, I installed Skype on it … and went to sleep. When I rebooted, skype came back up automatically. Now, I know most people have skype running on their computers all day long and prefer this behavior, but I don’t like to have programs load up automatically and so went around looking for a way to disable this behavior. Well, it turns out Skype doesn’t have an option to disable this “load on startup” behavior. So, if you’ve also tried to find this option and gave up in frustration, I’ve got two ways that you can disable skype and similar programs from loading on startup on Mac OS X. I hope you find this post informative.

Using The Skype Context Menu

One way to disable Skype from loading on startup is to right click the Skype icon in the OS X dock and then selecting (untick) the “Options->Open at Login” menu item.

Skype Right Click Context Menu

This will prevent Skype from starting up the next time you reboot.

The problem with this approach is that it only works for Skype and probably a few other applications but then you have to repeat the same process for all the applications.

If you want to control the startup behavior of all programs, a better place to do that is the StartUp Items that are defined for each user on OS X. I’ll show you how.

Disable Programs From The StartUp Items List

Open System Preferences and click on Accounts. This will take you to the user accounts management screen. Select your username from the list on the left hand side and click on the “Login Items” tab.

Login Items

Now, you can just uncheck those applications that you don’t want starting up automatically. The advantage of using this approach is that it’ll work for all applications and you can stop multiple applications from running at startup at the same time.

Did you find this tip useful ? Would you like to read about more such Mac OS X Tips ?

How To Combine PDFs Using Automator

Automator - LogoAutomator is one of my favorite applications on OS X. Wait … scratch that ! It is my favorite automation tool. Period.

Now, there are automation tools available for all consumer operating systems but as far as I know there isn’t any that makes automating tasks as easy as Automator. It’s really a pity that the drag and drop convenience that it brings to Automation, only works on OS X.

Coming back to the topic of this post, I’ll be teaching you how to automate a task that is fairly easy and simple to do manually, but takes more “clicks” and effort. Exactly the kind of task that you’d like to automate – Combining PDF files.

Suppose you have two PDF files that you want to combine into one file. One way is to open the first file in Preview and then select and drag the second file into the sidebar pane. This is fine for one file but quickly becomes a pain if there are more than two files that you want to combine.

This is where Automator comes in. We’ll create a service using Automator that lets us combine PDF files with a single click.

First of all launch Automator and select the Service template.

Automator

Since, we’re only interested in working with PDF files, make the following selections from the drop down at the top of the workflow window. This will ensure that our context sensitive service is only active when we select PDF files in the Finder application.

Automator - Select PDF Files

The next step is to drag in some Automator actions to our workflow. Search for the action named “Combine PDF Pages” in the left side pane and drag it to the main workflow window.

Automator - Combine PDF Pages

That is essentially all that we want to do. At this point, we have a service that will let you select multiple PDF files in Finder and then combine them all by appending pages and create a single PDF file out of them. But, we still don’t know where that new file will be saved. Automator will, by default, save the file in some esoteric system location but that is not what we want. Let’s drag the action named “Move Finder Items” to the workflow.

Automator - Move Finder Items

The default select of moving items to the Desktop should be fine, unless you want to move the newly create file to another folder.

Save the workflow and give it a nice descriptive name. You can quit Automator now.

Now, whenever you want to combine PDF files, just select them in Finder, right click and choose the service that we just created.

Automator - right click

OS X will now combine the two (or more) PDF files and create a new file on the desktop.

Are there any other cool Automator actions that you guys want to know more about ? Have you guys any other cool actions in the past ? Let me know in the comments.

How To Make Your Mac Boot In 64-bit Mode

Apple likes to claim that Mac OS X is the world’s most advanced operating system. While that claim may or may not be true, one thing is certain that it definitely is among the finest desktop operating systems in use today.

For all it’s technical and visual appeal, there are still some areas where Mac OS X is quite a bit behind it’s competitors such as Linux and Windows. One such shortcoming of OS X that I can think of is lack of a 64-bit mode, by default.

Now, let me be clear on this. Mac OS X does support 64-bit applications and most of it’s user-land applications actually do run in 64 bit. It’s the kernel that boots up in 32-bit mode, mostly. It’s a complicated affair really and if you have a modern Mac, it most probably is 64-bit compatible and even though it boots up the 32-bit kernel, by default, today I’ll teach you to boot it in 64-bit mode.

What kernel am I on anyway ?

To find out the bitness of your Mac’s currently running kernel, launch the System Profiler application and scroll down to the software list in the contents pane.

If it displays a “Yes” against 64-bit kernel and extensions, that means you’re already running a 64-bit system, if not, read on to find out how to move to one.

The Easy (and temporary) way

One way you can make your Mac boot up with a 64-bit kernel is to press the “6” and “4” keys together when the computer is booting up. This will make Mac OS X select the 64-bit kernel to boot up and is helpful if you just want to test if all your applications work correctly in 64-bit mode. The change is temporary and the next time you reboot, the kernel will be back to 32-bit.

The Permanent Fix

If all your applications work fine in 64-bit mode and you’d like to move permanently to it, you have to make a few changes to the boot files of your Mac.

Edit the com.apple.Boot.plist file found in /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration. Use a plain text editor for this. I’d suggest something like MacVim or TextWrangler for the task.

Add the following string exactly as shown, right below the line that says <key>Kernel Flags</key>.

<string>arch=x86_64</string>

The file after the change should look like this

That’s it. The next time you boot, your Mac should boot up in 64-bit mode by default.

How To Recover Data From a Memory Card

Memory Cards are as much a part of our daily computing as hard disks and RAM is. The Digital cameras that we use everyday, the mobile phones that we rely on and even some of those tiny netbooks that we use, more often than not use some kind of memory card based storage to store data.

Improvements in technology have made memory cards pretty reliable but there are times when even the best technology fails and when that times comes, you’d be glad to have included a memory card data recovery software in your toolkit.

Since, I’m a Mac OS X user, I’ll be talking about data recovery software that you can use on a Mac to recover data from corrupted memory cards, but there are similar software available for almost all platforms and in fact, the open source program that I’m going to walk you through today is available for Windows and Linux also.

To get started, download TestDisk from CGSecurity. Both the tools are distributed in a single tar.bz2 bundle named after TestDisk, so don’t look too hard if you can’t find PhotoRec on the CGSecurity site. I downloaded version 6.12 since I don’t have Rosetta installed on my Mac. If you have Rosetta installed, download the 6.11 stable version and that should also work for you.

Open the archive and since both of these are command line based tools, launch Terminal and browse over to the directory where you extracted the files.

Run the PhotoRec utility from the command line like this

darkstar:testdisk-6.12-WIP sharninder$ ./photorec

Select the disk that you want to recover data from and hit enter.

The next step is to select the type of partition table that the disk/memory card has. If this disk was being used on a regular PC, it’d most likely have an Intel type partition table, or if you like me use an Intel based Mac then you’d have an EFI/GPT type partition table. If the disk that you’re trying to recover data from is a memory card, it’d most likely be using the Intel partition table format. Select the appropriate choice and hit the enter key.

PhotoRec will now search the hard disk for any partitions of the selected type and display them on the next screen. Select a partition from the list and proceed.

The next step is to choose the type of filesystem. For a memory card, this would most likely be FAT, so select “Other” and hit enter. Photorec will now ask you to select a directory on your system where the recovered files will be saved. Use the arrow keys to to move to whichever directory you want and press ‘C’.

Photorec will now start scanning the entire disk and will save any files that it finds to the directory that you selected earlier.

Let me warn you, though, this is a very long process and scanning an entire disk can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the size of the disk.

The process is also not fool proof. Depending on how much the disk has been used after deleting a particular file, you may or may not be able to recover all your deleted files. This is not Photorec’s fault, though. This is just how filesystems on most modern operating systems work.

Mac: How To Create An Encrypted Disk To Securely Store Your Data

Disk UtilityApple likes to claim that Mac OS X is one of the most secure operating systems available.

While it may be true that a default install of OS X, is usually more secure than a similar default install of a consumer Linux distribution, it is also true that the average Mac OS X user is far less computer savvy than an average Linux user. A default OS X install has almost no open network ports and even secure encrypted services such as ssh have to be started manually for the first time after installation. This, in my opinion, does make OS X a much safer bet for a home user than, say, Windows or even Linux.

But, if you’re still paranoid about securing your data and would like to store all your data encrypted on your computer, OS X has ways to do that also. OS X lets you create an encrypted volume on your computer that you can use to store your data. Access to this volume is through a password and without the password all an attacker would get access to is encrypted junk.

Disk Utility

To create an encrypted disk image, launch the Disk Utility application that is bundled with OS X and click on the New Image button. Make sure that you don’t select any volume from the sidebar when you click the New Image button as that will tell Disk Utility to create a copy of that volume instead.

Disk Utility

Select a name and size for your new disk and from the Encryption drop down select an encryption scheme. Apple offers two encryption schemes, 128-bit AES and 256-bit AES. Choose the one that suits you. Select Read/Write Image from the image format drop down and click on the Create button.

Disk Utility will then prompt you to enter a password. You can even use a password assistant that can help you create a reasonably strong password. Store the password in your keychain, if it’s too hard to remember it.

That’s it !

Disk Utility will now create a disk image and once it’s done, it’ll be mounted for you to use it for the first time. Copy your data to this Volume and unmount it to keep it away from prying eyes. The next time you double click on the disk image, OS X will ask for a password to open it for you.

Optimize Images For The Web Using ImageOptim

As the saying goes, An image is worth a thousand words.

As a tech blogger, I absolutely live by that saying. I like to include a lot of images in my posts for reference and also because sometimes it’s just easier to explain a concept with a single image rather than writing a couple of paragraphs on it.

The only problem with including a large number of images is that the size of an individual page increases and so does the load time. Even though the average home user who reads this blog now has a lot more bandwidth at his/her disposal, page load times are still a factor to keep in mind while designing web sites. And that is the reason why most image editing applications such as Photoshop or The Gimp come with an option to save an image For The Web.

What this option does is that it removes unnecessary information such as color profiles, comments and whitespace from the image and makes the size of the image smaller so that it loads faster over slow internet connections.

But, you don’t have to buy Photoshop or download The Gimp for just this simple task. ImageOptim can do it for you and that too for free.

ImageOptim is an open source application for OS X that does one thing and does it well. It optimizes and reduces the size of any image file that you pass to it.

It is also probably one of the easiest applications to use and understand, that I’ve ever seen. The whole operation is a simple drag and drop affair. Just drag your image file and drop it on the ImageOptim window and ImageOptim gets to work right away.

ImageOptim overwrites the original file with the new optimised image and while some may think of this as a limitation, I think it is just this simplicity that makes the application such a joy to use.

You can even download and install a Finder service that’ll let you optimize your images with just a right click without even launching ImageOptim.

Do you guys struggle with keeping the size of the images on your websites in control ? Do you use any tools for the purpose ?

Please give ImageOptim a try and let me know how that works out for you.

[Mac] How To use Automator to Test your Website’s iPhone version

Automator - LogoBefore the iPhone came, only the largest websites had a separate version exclusively for mobile visitors which was usually based on WAP. And since there weren’t too many mobile visitors anyway, a lot of site owners just didn’t bother with creating a lighter version of their websites. The mobile web was a mess and those of us (un)fortunate enough to have meddled with it back then were a bruised lot !

The iPhone definitely changed the mobile web landscape for the better. The  iPhone’s browser was probably the first mobile browser that could actually display regular websites almost as well as desktop based browsers.

But, the consumers wanted even more. They weren’t happy with pinching, zooming and double tapping their way around to navigate a website and wanted all websites to have a version for the iPhone.

So, let’s say you have made the decision to build an iPhone version of your website, coded it all up and now want a way to test your new iPhone optimized site. What are your options ?

Continue reading “[Mac] How To use Automator to Test your Website’s iPhone version”

Manipulate and Manage PDF files using Preview – Mac

preview-logoThe PDF file format has always been an integral part of the Mac OS X user interface because of the fact that the underlying technology behind the graphical interface, Quartz, is based on PDF.

That is why, while other operating systems needed third party tools to enable things like printing a file to a PDF printer, OS X has this feature built-in.

OS X also ships with a lightweight PDF viewer application called Preview that also doubles up as an image viewer. If your PDF editing requirements are as simple as mine, show some love to Preview and make use of some of it’s cool features that we’re going to walk you through today .

Continue reading “Manipulate and Manage PDF files using Preview – Mac”