Useful (or not) OS X (10.3) Stuff
(Note: I'm now running 10.4, but I haven't had time to update this page. I'll add a few notes now. The main thing to watch out for is that many of the Fink packages I used in 10.3 have not (as of July 2005) been updated for 10.4 and/or Xcode 2.1, so if you rely on a lot of fink packages you may want to wait.)
First, my biases: Windows is good for games and little else. All the
real work I've done in the last dozen or so years has been in some
version of UNIX or Linux, so I thought it was rather decent of Apple
to come up with a nice user friendly and easy to use UNIX that could
even run those evil MS Office apps if I were ever forced to
(occasionally it happens). I don't mind mucking about with Linux for
my desktop/rackmount machines, but my laptop goes everywhere, and I
want it to just work. (If you've ever traveled a lot with a Linux
laptop, well, you know it's a high maintenence setup.) So in December
of 2003 I got a 12" G4 iBook with OS 10.3.
What follows are links and scripts that I've found useful (or at least
amusing) on my iBook. This is all for 10.3, if you are using
something earlier YMMV.
- The first thing you will want coming from Linux is a workspace
manager. First, play with Expose (see your system prefs) -- once you
start using that, you'll want it in Linux. But then you'll want a
workspace manager too. Note that none of these work as smoothly as
Linux workspace managers, but they are getting better fast (and I
think CTVD is pretty close).
CodeTek VirtualDesktop is what I
use for now, even though it costs money -- it has more or
less all the functionality you will miss from Linux workspace
managers, plus lots of extra functions like focus follows mouse.
CodeTek recently got a new developer, and this is now compatible with
both Firefox and 10.4.
activating some functions (like focus follows
mouse) used to really slow down the interface (they claim this is improved in
3.1 but I got so used to not using it that I haven't tried again
since v3.0), and using mouse speed instead of a delay to move from space
to space feels a bit wonky, like I'm beating my cursor against the
side of the screen
to get over a space and I always leave it at the lowest speed, which
leads to lots of accidental workspace switching (they claim they may
add the delay option in a future release). One of my coworkers
complains because some non-X
windows will always come to the top when you use focus follows mouse,
CodeTek says they are working on this but it's a hard problem. Finally
there is a minor bug where the first xterm that appears after you start
X11 looses focus a few seconds after it appears, even if you are typing
in it, but I've gotten used to it.
- Other desktop manager options that I know of:
- Space.app is a pretty
good basic workspace manager, but you can't move between workspaces or
easily move windows between workspaces, you just have several
independent workspaces. There are sticky windows, and features are
added all the time.
(formerly WorkspaceManager) is an open source virtual desktop manager
that has some nice features, but its lack of
sticky windows made me quit using it after a few days. (It now offers
"support" for sticky windows, but they don't appear to work right.) I
assume someday they will get this to work.
The goal is very linux-like though and I
have high hopes for it.
- Virtue is one
I have not tried yet. It's a spinoff of, or related to, or something
like DesktopManager, and is also open source.
- I did try You
Control:Desktops but I wasn't impressed -- it seemed
like a bloated version of Space with only the flashiest and least
from Space and
DesktopManager added in, but with much less utility than the second --
it's space with
no pager and a slightly easier way to move something to a different
desktop, but still not an easy or smooth way. Like space, the
completely independent, it's not like having one huge virtual workspace
(which is what I really want),
it's like having multiple computers, or doing fast user switching but all
the users are you. It's still a Beta, but it's far from being anything
like you expect coming from Linux, and not even close to CodeTek VirtualDesktop.
- You want fink, it's a
version of the Debian package manager, for ports of open source Linux
stuff to OS X. The install instructions are not well documented,
basically you need to: (a) install Apple's X11; (b) install Apple's
Xcode developer tools, the installer is either in your
Applications/Installers/Developer Tools/Packages directory
(I think Developer.mpkg ?)
somewhere on one of your CDs, or you can sign up for a developer
account and download it from Apple's web site; then finally (c)
install fink. And install FinkCommander for a
nice GUI interface.
(Note that as of July 2005 many Fink packages have not yet been updated for 10.4 "Tiger" and/or Xcode 2.1.)
Other useful pages:
- xwallpaper.tcl is a tcl script I
wrote when I moved into a windowless (the glass kind) office, to use a
high resolution webcam pointed out my window at home for my Linux
desktop background. I later added more webcams and ported it to OS
10.3, feel free to try it. There are a few things you will need to
edit in the script to use it on your computer, and if you look at the
code it should be obvious how to add new webcams. Note that each time
you kill it, it will leave the last picture it used behind . . . maybe
someday I'll make it better. (Not yet tested with 10.4!)
is a nice system monitor app for the menu bar -- cpu, disk, network usage
in text, graphs, etc. Very configurable, nice looking, low cpu impact, handy
for noticing those occasional program runaways (tcsh runs away on me every
once in a while when I quit X11, and before I had this I usually didn't
notice until the fan came on). I tried the CPU only Cee Pee You first, but it's not
nearly as nice as MenuMeters.
- TigerLaunch will give you a list
of all applications it finds on the hard drive (in the folders you tell it to search).
I don't really care for the normal way of getting at apps not in the dock in OS X,
and I played with a few things for this purpose and settled on TigerLaunch. (I also
tried CodeTek DockExtender, and found it annoyingly slow.)
Monitor displays data from any temperature sensors in your apple (my
G4 iBook has 4).
- Mac Stumbler is useful
for figuring out which wireless network you should connect to.
Spanning Doctor enables a firmware setting to allow some ibooks
to do screen spanning
to an external monitor (instead of just mirroring) and to display at
higher resolutions to the external monitors. Other ibooks it just
kills apparently. Do a little research, and make sure you have the
right chipset before you
even consider trying it.
USE AT YOUR OWN RISK!
- iChatter is a plugin
for iChat that I can't live without now. It uses the built in speech
in OS X to speak whatever is said in iChat. If you are doing several things
on a small display (like operating a telescope and instrument with cameras
and spectrographs) and communicating with your coworkers over iChat, it's
great to be able to listen to the chat instead of having to pull up the chat
window every time you hear the "bloop" sound.
- iGlasses is another
program by the ecamm folks, and it gives you much greater control over
your iSight. The most useful settings are the increased brightness
settings which allow you to get a good picture in less than fully lit rooms.
You can also flip or invert the video, so you can use your iSight upside down.
The one problem I've run into is that once iGlasses slowed way down to the
point of being unusable, the solution to this was deleting the preferences
file, then all was well.
Why are you here? / What does it all mean? /
Last modified: Mon Jul 12 21:07:46 EDT 2004