Keyboard shortcuts for rating iTunes songs

20090413picture-5I’m on the hunt for a good Mac to-do list/GTD manager and while I’ve yet to settle on one of the multitude that are available, the search did lead me to a handy utility I’ve been looking for for ages. It’s called I Love Stars and it puts an iTunes star rating tool in the menu bar so you can rate songs as they’re being played without going into iTunes. Better still, you can assign keyboard shortcuts that work in any application — something I’ve had zero success with using Mac OS X’s own keyboard shortcut feature. (more…)

How to upgrade a Mac OS Time Machine drive

20090329time-machine-step-0Since it’s wholly automatic and completely transparent, it’s silly not to make use of the Mac OS Time Machine utility — as long as you’ve got a large enough external drive for it to work with, of course. I’ve been using it with a 320Gb Seagate FreeAgent Pro external USB drive, but this only gave a backup history of about a month with my 320Gb MacBook Pro drive (which has about 90Gb in use).

So, since I also had an old 500Gb Western Digital MyBook drive lying around, I thought I’d use that for backups instead — not only would its greater capacity offer a few more weeks’ backup history, but its FireWire 800 port should make Time Machine a bit quicker to work with, too.

Rather than simply plug in the MyBook and use it as a new Time Machine drive though, I wanted to transfer my old backups and simply add to them. There’s no obvious way to do this, but it can be done easily enough — here’s how. (more…)

Hands-on with the Palm Pre

20090324palm-preI’ve been sitting on this hands-on video of the Palm Pre for a week or so now, since I don’t have a suitable site to post it to at the moment. So although it’s not the kind of thing I’d normally post here, I thought I’d upload the video anyway rather than let it sit idle.

As far as I know, no one has seen such a close-up video of the Palm Pre in action in an informal environment like this, so this video is a bit of an exclusive…

The video is about 30 minutes long and in it, Palm’s EMEA Product Manager, Mark Easton, takes me through pretty much every feature of the Pre. I’ve been impressed with the Pre since I first saw it at CES and I’ve yet to see anything to damped my enthusiasm. I’m still a little lukewarm on the fiddly keyboard (it’s very similar to the keyboard on the  Treo Pro), but that’s pretty much the only negative comment I have so far. (more…)

Why your MacBook runs like crap

20090322macbook-family

I use a MacBook Pro as my my main computer, plugged into a desktop set-up. Like any right-thinking geek with such an arrangement, I removed the laptop’s battery to prevent it suffering from being charged all the time — the MacBook Pro is never used away from mains power and can’t be accidentally unplugged.

I only switched to Mac OS relatively recently (I ran Windows XP via Boot Camp for a spell), but in the few months I have been using it, one constant complaint has been about speed. Mac OS X 10.5.X seemed very slow in some circumstances and I was seeing the spinning beach ball far more often than I would see the hourglass in Windows (when simply switching to an open Firefox tab, for example).

After simply blaming this on the vagaries of Mac OS for a few months, something occurred to me this morning. I vaguely remembered reading a while ago about how MacBooks run slower when the battery is removed. Since I wasn’t a Mac user at the time, I didn’t follow the story that closely and assumed it only affected the new unibody MacBooks (which were launched around that time). I was wrong. (more…)

How to swap left and right speaker output in Mac OS X

My MacBook is set up as a desktop computer — it’s plugged into a Dell 22in LCD monitor (E228WFP) and sits on a fabulous Rain Design mStand so that I can use its screen as a second monitor. I have a pair of Logitech speakers plugged into the MacBook’s headphone socket, but since the MacBook sits on the left of my desk and the headphone socket is on the left of the MacBook, the (short) audio cable that runs to the right speaker is stretched rather tightly.

A simple 3.5mm male to 3.5mm female speaker cable would solve this, but I already have enough cables behind my desk, so I figured that it wold be easier to simply swap the speakers around so that the right one was nearer the MacBook. This would also reverse the speakers’ stereo image, of course, so I’d also need to swap the L-R speaker assignments in Mac OS X. Is such a thing possible? Fortunately, yes — here’s how. (more…)

How to make an external monitor the main display on a MacBook

mac-dual-displaysRunning a dual-monitor set-upon a MacBook is easy enough — just plug in the monitor and go to System Preferences > Displays to configure it. The first thing you’l need to do is click the Arrangment button and drag the external monitor so that it’s position is Displays matches that on your desk — so that it sits to the right, left or wherever of your MacBook screen, in other words. But if you want to use the external display as the main display, how do you move the menu bar and Dock from the MacBook screen?

Easy. Just drag the white menu bar from one monitor in the Arrangement pane of Display preferences from the display it’s on to the display you want it to appear, and the Menu bar and Dock will follow. Oh and don’t forget to disable ‘Mirror Displays’ if you want a different image on both displays…

How to sync an iPhone with two computers

apple-iphoneUnless you’re using over-the-air Microsoft Exchange syncing with your iPhone (via Google Mobile Sync, NuevaSync or a corporate Exchange server), you’re probably keeping its contact and calendar information in sync with Outlook or iCal using iTunes.

This works well enough, but what if your calendar and contact data is stored one computer (at the office, say) and your iTunes library is stored on another (maybe at home)? Try plugging the iPhone into both and you’ll quickly discover that iTunes is fond of erasing the data put in place by the other iTunes on every sync.

Fortunately, you can successfully synchronise an iPhone or iPod Touch with iTunes on two separate computers — here’s how. (more…)

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