The Beach-Head Is Secured

Life with the new toy is going well. So well that it has already moved up to the "front and center" position on my desk, and is currently the only computer with a monitor attached.

After some foolish dilly-dallying with Fink and Darwin Ports, I came to my senses and realize that they represent much of what I was trying to escape in the first place. I expect to be using neither of them very much if at all. Most useful things that actually work on OSX (e.g., Privoxy) have normal .pkg installers.

Playing movies: out of the box, QuickTime works fine for QuickTimes, and I held my breath and installed Windows Media Player (shut up. I don't care.) which works ok for WMVs. Then I installed some plugin from which made QuickTime able to play AVI. But there are still some MPEGs that I can't play; I don't know what's special about them, but is there some other obvious thing I should install? (If the trick involves the word "mplayer", with which I already have some experience, then I will take that to mean simply, "get used to the fact that you can't play those." I'll live.

SSH KeyChain is awesome! This is what "ssh-agent/ssh-add" always wanted to be when they grew up.

Second screen: iMacs have a miniVGA port on them, but are advertised to only do mirroring, not multiple desktops. But, there's a hack for that that makes it work, so now I've got two monitors hooked up, yay!

Five monitors! Something Must Be Done.
But, compared to the built-in LCD on the iMac, the other monitor (a Mitsubishi DiamondPro 2070SB, that I apparently paid way too much for only a year or two ago) looks like shit! All the text looks blurry. I know there are settings for antialiased fonts that are different depending on whether you're using LCD or CRT, but that's not what's going on, because it still looks like crap even in windows in which no antialiasing is going on (e.g., remote Xlib programs.) This makes me sad. I sense a new monitor in my future.

Keyboard: My keyboard has both PS/2 and USB connectors on it, so you'd assume that would mean it just does both, right? Uh, no. Turns out this keyboard contains three separate devices: a PS/2 keyboard, a PS/2 left trackpad, and a USB right trackpad. WTF? So I had to get an adapter, and it takes up two USB ports if you want to enable both trackpads. Craziness. Works fine, though.

Mouse: By default, the Evoluent mouse only has the wheel, pointer-finger, and middle-finger buttons enabled. USB Overdrive lets me enable thumb, wheel-click, etc. But it's nagware. Is there a free driver, or is USB Overdrive the only game in town?

Perl hacking: I haven't had any luck installing Perl libraries with CPAN. E.g., "cpan install Image::Magick" has compilation errors even after I've Finked as many relevant libraries as I can. What's the trick here?

    Update: Apparently the problem is that Fink was installing ImageMagick 5.x and Perl wanted to install PerlMagick 6.x. I got it working by: uninstalling the Fink version of ImageMagick 5.x; installing the DarwinPorts version of ImageMagick 6.x; hand-hacking the Makefile.PL that CPAN downloaded to include -L/opt/local/lib and -I/opt/local/include; and running "make all install" from inside the .cpan build directory. That sucked, but it worked.

XEmacs: The Carbonated XEmacs was easy to build and install, but it's crash-happy. With my .emacs file loaded, it crashes as soon as I visit the first file. And I am sad. I'm typing this in XEmacs running under X11, and that's not so bad, but X11 programs have some goofy keyboard-focus issues (Growl notifications steal focus from X but not from "real" Mac apps, for example.)

Maybe I'll try to kick it all 1980s style and learn to live with xemacs -nw in a Terminal. How do I make the Meta key work there?

Fonts: OSX does something wacky with fonts. I think that it notices when it is rendering light text on a dark background, and uses a different font in that case! And that font looks to have been software-boldified or something. Try it! Take the DNA page, save a copy, and swap the foreground and background colors (or make it white-on-black.) Look at them side by side: they're different! The dark one is bolder. And it's still bolder if you grab a screen shot and invert the colors, so it's not just an optical illusion. Both Firefox and Safari do this, so it must be an OS-level thing.

Dock: The Dock still really sucks. Aren't the Apple UI designers supposed to know about Fitt's Law, and that it's a bad idea for click targets to move around the screen at random? Because the dock centers (no matter where you put it) the Trashcan is never in the same place twice! (But the Gnome Panel Window List applet was even worse, so hey.)

Dashboard: Monumentally, stunningly useless. Some of the apps might be useful if they were apps and not segregated into some weird all-or-nothing layer of their own. And you can't seem to turn it off. Did they have to hype this dumb thing up because saying "10.4 is the bug-fix release of 10.3" wasn't sexy enough?

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85 Responses:

  1. cliph says:

    For playing those videos you're having some difficulty with give VLC a go. It'll work, almost certainly.

    • superlib says:

      Seconded. mplayer sucks on a mac - it actually breaks my video output when it goes into full-screen mode. (which it does by default). VLC, however, plays anything and just works.

  2. ydna says:

    Just hide the fucking Dock. It's useless. Get Quicksilver

  3. allartburns says:

    VLC will play most video, there's also a WMP9 from Microsoft if you have to go that way.

    Check the resolution you're driving your monitor at, you might need to tweak the refresh and crank the font smoothing down a bit lower.

    If you make your dock icons really huge, or put enough stuff in your doc, the trashcan stays in the same place. There are also a lot of keyboard shortcuts in OS X that didn't exist in classic, so you can trash documents with key commands now.

    Oh, and Tiger? Big waste of time from what I can tell so far. I don't get Dashboard at all, just something else to get in my way while I'm trying to work.

    I switch between fvwm2 (SHUT UP!) and OS X throughout the day, the only thing that I'm really disliking is going between Expose' and virtual panning of a huge desktop.

    If you need VNC, ChickenOfTheVNC is the least-sucky I've found.

    • duskwuff says:

      As far as the Dock goes, you can also pin it to one end:

      sh % defaults write pinning end

      • violentbloom says:

        my dock doesn't move around...drag more icons into it!
        System prefs>dock>turn off the auto hide/show. I'm sure you found that by now.

        quicktime is probably the best player for support for the variety of playback, it will even do 3gp :) for all your cell phone animation needs. no really it's the next big thing. Sadly I've actually explored this, I recommend QT as the least painful.

        tiger=more testing job security?
        also it doesn't ship with any version of IE which I think is a good thing
        and you can update the java version:
        not that you probably care, I know I don't!

  4. ralesk says:

    VLC is indeed your multi-platform friend.

    I've been trying to use Dock-like applications on Windows, and never liked it enough (though they mimicked the basic functionality pretty well (as I could see it later in PearPC)) to keep them.

    I wonder if WMP for the Mac is anywhere as terrible as QuickTime for Win32 is. Because if anything, the pre-7.0 WMP is a decent little thing (and for an open-source approximation, Media Player Classic).

    • vincel says:

      Or, from a shell you can issue "defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean YES".

    • natenate says:

      No real need to explicitly disable Dashboard. The first time you drop into Dashboard on a freshly booted system, all open widgets will start their own processes. If you never drop into Dashboard, those processes will never run. If you'd like to kill off all widget processes in one fell swoop -- without rebooting -- just restart with Activity Monitor or some adjunct.

  5. vincel says:

    XEmacs: The Carbonated XEmacs was easy to build and install, but it's crash-happy. With my .emacs file loaded, it crashes as soon as I visit the first file. And I am sad.

    Try removing your default-mode-line-format.

  6. maebmij says:

    To get the dock to stick to a corner rather than centering, you could try TinkerTool - I haven't used it much, but it seems to work.

  7. jonxp says:

    Well, even though you've been told twelve times now, I figured I'd beat the horse too. VLC will work for your media needs. It's not the most stable ( I don't mean it crashes constantly, but while playing through my library of all of the Simpsons, it crashes after about 48 hours) but it plays just about anything.

  8. vxo says:

    The color differences could be due to OSX's builtin color correction. Under System Preferences / Displays / Color, there's a calibration tool you can use to adjust the gamma and color balance for your monitors. (And I waited how long for a usable tool to do that on Linux?!)

    By the way, the Mplayer OS X project has removed every smegging bit of GUI stupidity from mplayer. It has a very simple file select/playlist box, and that's it. It's worth checking out.

    As far as I know, WMP is the only thing that'll play WMV3 video on a Mac. The older codec will run in mplayer, but they don't seem to have a way of decoding the new one yet.

    • shayel says:

      There's a quicktime component for WMV (including WMV3/Media Player 9). Costs ten bucks for player only version, $50 for a version that also allows importing into quicktime hosts.

      And IMO, the most sensible video player on Mac OS X is probably XinePlayer, as it is the only one (sans quicktime player), that has the controls in the same window as the video.

    • jwz says:

      It's not a color/brightness issue; it's fuzzy. I did run the color calibrator, it didn't de-fuzz it.

      • danpat says:

        Hate to state the obvious, but is the resolution for the second monitor configured correct? I see this kind of behaviour when I line up two LCD monitors that have different "native" resolutions but are configured the same under OSX. Setting a different resolution for the second different screen (i.e. main screen on powerbook at 1440x960, second LCD at 1280x1024).

      • ajaxxx says:

        it may simply be a bandwidth issue. mirroring doesn't require any extra bandwidth from the DAC, but extended desktop does. lowering the resolution on the CRT would help some, but perhaps not enough.

        what this also means is that getting a new monitor may not actually fix anything.

        • fantasygoat says:

          I use a laptop and connect a second monitor to it. The LCD is obviously very crisp while the monitor is slightly fuzzy and I have to run it at a lower resolution.

          I doubt this is a setting problem - I believe it is just the nature of an analog CRT vs. an LCD. If he gets a new monitor it should be another LCD.

          • ajaxxx says:

            LCDs are perfectly capable of looking like crap too. in fact their PLLs are usually shit because they expect to be driven with super-precise DVI signals rather than the analog soup of VGA, so they don't sync properly and you get lovely wavey green-and-purple effects as pixel boundaries in the signal cross pixel boundaries on the screen. and he'll be driving any new LCD with VGA because the iMac doesn't have a DVI connector.

            if he does get a new monitor it should certainly be an LCD, but that's because the fighting sync from having a CRT next to an LCD hurts ones eyes. my point was that the DAC on the card might not have sufficient bandwidth to drive both the built-in LCD and a high resolution external CRT. which just might be the reason they disabled anything but mirror mode by default.

      • reify says:

        it might be a perception thing. To me, it looks like CRTs are all soft and a bit blurry, now that I've seen LCDs up close. I use a Cornerstone P1450, a 17" CRT I've had for years. If I sit at it for a while, it looks fine. But a couple weeks ago I bought one of the Apple Cinema Displays, set it on the same desk, and suddenly the LCD is crisp and the CRT is blurry. Hurts to look between them. Maybe you're spoiled now.

        I think it's because the LCD's pixels are very sharp and well-defined - tight squares with rapid brightness transitions against their field. The CRT dots are round, seem brighter in the center, and on mask instead of grill monitors, packed in a non-grid pattern. It's inherent, and putting the two technologies together makes the differences jump out.

        I actually took the LCD back. It's hell of crisp, but the cost of that is jaggies - you can see the square outlines of the pixels themselves. Anti-aliasing blurs the outlines more than I like, still leaving some jaggies, and doesn't work well at small sizes. The Cornerstone's blurring and non-grid pixel arrangement works like a mechanical anti-aliasing that's less annoying for small to midsize text, which is about all I care about. If I spend time with only one monitor, my eyes adjust to the Cornerstone's blurring, but LCD jaggies don't go away. Reminds me of sitting close to a digital projection theater screen. Resolutions aren't high enough yet, and the older styles degrade more gracefully.

  9. blarglefiend says:

    Media playback: Real Player on OS X fails to suck anywhere near as much as it does on Windows. It's quite usable and will play its own stuff as well as anything QuickTime can. VLC is... Well, people keep advocating it, and I bought into that for a while, but I found that the sound kept changing pitch on me. Very bloody annoying if you're watching a movie. Presumably that doesn't happen to everyone, but I'd keep an ear out for it. I'd thought it was dodgy source material for quite a while until testing with other players showed it was VLC doing it.

    Dock: I've been using a thing called "DockMover" for years. You run it once, the dock is pinned to a screen edge (I have it on the left side of the screen pinned to the bottom, the trash is thus always bottom-left). It stays that way unless you trash your dock prefs.

  10. kirinator says:

    VLC is indeed a good way to play those files QT refuses to handle. AFAIK, VLC and mplayer both use the ffmpeg library to play files, so the same files should be compatible with both. I think that VLC has a slight edge so far as UI goes - they've really got the whole metal-controller thing down pat - but mplayer's de-blocking algorithm is slightly better. WMP is horrid, but sometimes a necessary evil. It doesn't play content encoded by WMP10, though.

    The dock is a product demo gone wrong. Even the NEXTStep 'dock' was better than OS X's (although docklings died a mercifully swift death). There are two options: you can use a tool like OnyX to pin the dock to one side of the screen, ensuring the trash is always in the same place. Alternatively, you can buy DragThing, which gives you a dock which works, a trash on the desktop, and other things.

    • jwz says:

      Well, since I have a right mouse button, I always just use Move To Trash on the context menu; that's way faster than dragging.

      I still find the dock hard to use for its other three purposes, though (listing favorite apps, listing running apps, listing open windows).

      • kaseijin says:

        I still find the dock hard to use for its other three purposes, though (listing favorite apps, listing running apps, listing open windows).

        It took me a long time to make peace with the dock. I finally settled on right side, end-pinned (defaults write pinning end) so the trash is stable, starting empty except for Finder, Terminal, and Trash. With Quicksilver for launching and minimize/hide/Exposè for window management, it makes a passable list of running apps/collection of drop targets.

      • sfritz says:

        I belive it's apple+delete, though I lack an apple keyboard here so it might be a different second key. Learn the HIG shortcuts because they are pretty much universal and save you a whole lot of time. (And I know you don't believe me because you haven't used them yet, and every other os has applications that have 50000 different shortcuts for the same thing, but they really are pretty universal in OSX).

      • e_notimpl says:

        Last time I played with a Mac, there was an option to adjust the mouseover magnification of dock items. Set it to zero and they won't move anymore.

  11. baconmonkey says:

    Some of the kids in the office have it set up so the dock is small and doesn't change size. never paid enough attention to know what they did, but B or DK probably know. I don't think that will solve the problem of the trashcan moving when more or fewer apps are running.

  12. cyflea says:

    Terminal, Window Settings, Keyboard. - "use option as meta key".

    careful - don't hit command-w if you mean option-w...

  13. hawkeyemi says:

    "10.4 is the bug-fix release of 10.3"

    Some bugfix. It has way more bugs than 10.3 did. I'm pretty disappointed.

  14. autopope says:

    "I haven't had any luck installing Perl libraries with CPAN. E.g., "cpan install Image::Magick" has compilation errors even after I've Finked as many relevant libraries as I can. What's the trick here?"

    ... Not to use fink. Or rather, to use fink for Image Magick itself (including the developer libraries and, oh, preferably to build them from sources rather than just grabbing the set of random stuff that some fink packager thought everyone could get by with), but to avoid fink like the plague when it comes to Perl and everything perl-related.

    It took me quite a long time to figure out that Apple in their infinite wisdom strong-armed Perl into installing all its libraries and modules in non-standard places, that there are two copies of Perl on the system (as far as I can tell the one in /Private/Library is used by OS/X for system maintenance tasks and the one that stashes everything under /Library is for the users to mess with), and that fink randomly removes (as well as installs) modules the random-fink-packager-dudes figure you need. fink doesn't really map well onto the CPAN module inheritance tree.

    I'd suggest going to your linux box, using perl -MCPAN -e autobundle to generate a bundle file listing your current module set, edit it by hand to remove linux-specific stuff, then feeding it to cpan (while logged in as root) to sort everything out.

    • autopope says:

      Ahem: s/\/Private\/Library/\/System\/Library/g

      (It's too early in the morning for my brain to work.)

      Oh, and try not to rebuild the Perl binaries if you can avoid it. They might have fixed it in 5.8.1 so that it doesn't barf everything up in the wrong place, but I'm not risking it again (at least, not without asking a real Perl-OS/X guru.)

  15. mattlazycat says:

    You mightn't have come across it yet, but Mac OS X has a nasty habit of shitting .DS_Store files all over network shares. This little Finder hack will stop it doing that. At last.

    Look out for the dashboard Weather Widget, it leaks (ugh). Quicksilver is indeed a sexy launcher and file utility. Most of its cleverness is hidden away, but the documentation shows you how you can work on groups of files, do web-related actions (like imdb searches), and quick command-line stuff, etc.

    VLC is a bit buggy for me on Tiger (it'll crash occasionally when coming out of full-screen on my TV), but it's handled every mpeg I've thrown at it, plus DivX and xvid, OGMs, and older WMVs (albeit badly).

    I don't know if you do IM, but Proteus and Adium are all the rage in multiprotocol land, they both use libgaim, with all the powers of said beast.

    Panic do a saucy FTP client (Transmit) and newsreader (Unison) if you want good GUIs. Speaking of which, the "Window settings" option in the Terminal menu has a tickybox in the Keyboard section that turns the alt/option key into a meta key, which is nice for emacs (unless, gasp, you were using the alt key for something else). I also recommend turning on the option that asks for confirmation when closing a window, because I sure as hell know I do Command-W instead of Meta-W often enough.

    Apple are slowly getting the hang of Fitt's law - Tiger's better than Panther for that. Throw the mouse into a screen corner like the Apple menu, the spotlight icon, the Dashboard (+) thing, or a screen edge like the dock and it'll do the right thing when you click, rather than nothing: the icons don't appear to touch the edges or corners, but their clickable areas do. You can also assign some actions to the screen corners, like start/disable screensaver, show all windows, etc. And the keyboard preference pane lets you disable or reassign Caps Lock to some other action, which makes me happy. No Fittslawian trashcan yet though, sorry. Konfabulator comes with a trashcan widget you can stick anywhere on the screen - that'll do the job, if you don't mind paying $20 for .. well, basically Dashboard Pro :)

    SubEthaEdit is a nice simple text editor if you want to try something more Maccy than Emacs. On the subject of Perl-hacking, I've found that some things are installed in folders that Apple have decided are sacred, so you need to sudo things like PHP's PEAR package installer, and maybe CPAN too. Your default user account is an Administrator, but it's not root by a long shot.

    Good luck!

    • nyankolove says:

      I can also vouch for Panic's Transmit. SubEthaEdit is a good start, though I found the syntax highlighting to be sub-par... not compared to emacs though :) Compared to BBEdit, which is my coding tool of choice.

      • mattlazycat says:

        I might give BBEdit the time of day if it didn't cost two hundred dollars. Ye fucking gods, I thought $35 was a lot for a text editor. :P

        • taffer says:

          Yeah, that seemed a bit insane; that's what made me try out SubEthaEdit (free for personal use) instead of "BBEdit Lite" or whatever. Clearly, the company is insane and I want no part of their software.

        • darkengobot says:

          Worth every penny, IMO. You can use their TextWrangler if you want free. BBEdit is emacs without requiring you to learn lisp. Hell, you can even have it respond to emacs key bindings (or at least you could w/ v4.5).

  16. superbacana says:

    Fitts' Law does seem to work nicely with expanding targets, although the Apple version isn't quite the best you can do. (Demos)

    • 205guy says:

      I think I gave up on computer science when I learned about Fitt's law. Don't need a weatherman to know that it's easier to click on a bigger icon. Yeah, and I know it's more than that, but does it really matter?

      Problem is we need GUI design classes for the techno-geeks, and maybe the only thing engineers can understand is a formula (even if it does include "blog"). But then we have interfaces designed for approximations of human behavior not humans. Just like modern medicine.

      And to think I created a LJ (an LJ?) account to post this.

  17. pleaseremove says:

    wow, I'm going to have to look into the VLC player...seems very popular.
    I also cant help but wonder why you haven't got a KVM yet? although it does sound like you have some rather complicated connection issues with your keyboard. I'm sure you could find something to get rid of a few of them tho.

  18. packetslave says:

    I echo the recommendation to use VLC, but for playing MPEG2 in QuickTime there's actually a separate component you need to buy from Apple (note that this was true under QT6, not 100% if it's true under 7/Tiger). There was some kind of deal with licensing rights or something where Apple couldn't include the MPEG codec for free.

    Annoying, but there you go.

    • nester says:

      That was my assumption.. MPEG2 codec.. might try to play those MPEG files in a DVD player.

      Under windows, if you have a DVD decoder installed, you can open MPEG2 in any video app, but not sure how mac handles that..

    • substitute says:

      I second that. It's $20 and the problem is solved. Totally worth it. With that plus the DivX codex I've been able to play anything I wanted.

  19. psr says:

    No really.

    I don't know what you mean when you say that Darwin Ports and Fink represent much of what I was trying to escape in the first place. Surely proper package management systems are just about the best thing about Linux? They mean that you get bug fixes to the software you install as they come out, without having to subscribe to a thousand different mailing lists and you don't have to worry about compatibility problems. Downloading and installing individual packages one at a time sounds much too much like hard work, with much too little reward, even if you don't have to build them from source!

    I can see why a ports system would sound like a bad idea (I have friends who use Gentoo. Every time a new point release of OpenOffice comes out, emerge spends the best part of a day building it on each of their machines. They say it's great, I don't quite see the attraction myself), but as far as I can see the problem with Fink isn't apt, it's the quality of their repositories, and the lack of a decent GUI for apt under OSX.

    So now you have different video players with different GUIs for different file formats, and I bet they don't use standard widgets. So much for unity of interface. I bet you can't skip the interminable introductions on DVDs either. The reaction from the Mac OS peanut gallery? You didn't try vlc!. This when other video players under Linux are actually starting to become pretty useful!

    Oh, and your mouse driver is nagware. Your mouse driver.

    Maybe you're right that Mac OS X is better than any of the Linux distributions available at the moment - you certainly don't have to use any of them for very long to realise that things aren't all sweetness and light - but it doesn't sound like there's very much in it, and it looks like the best of the Linux distributions aspire to be something very much better.

    I don't think I'll be switching any time soon.

    • psr says:

      I think I should temper that last post a bit.

      It wasn't trying to say that you never should have switched, or that Mac OS is rubbish, or that you're a traitorous wretch. If you're more comfortable in Mac OS, then so be it.

      I also wasn't trying to say that you should have tried switching distributions before switching to another platform. You'd still have been left with Linux, and lets face it, it isn't easy to live with if you ever want to do something that you don't already know how to do.

      That said, switching distributions would have fixed some of your specific problems (I know you hate people saying that, and I wouldn't if it weren't so very obvious that whatever you were using before was a piece of shit) e.g. with your soundcard. I have an SB Live, and it works fine (I'm not using digital out though). The reason I didn't post a reply when you were asking about it is that I don't know why it works. It just does, like it should.

      My question was simply meant to be:
      Doesn't not having a decent version of apt or something like it, having to have more than one video player, and having a shareware mouse driver annoy you? It sounds pretty annoying to me.

  20. evan says:

    This pretty much was my experience as well: don't expect / try to make it work like what you're used to and you'll get along pretty well. I know you've had problems with mplayer in the past, but there's a .pkg-clicky-clicky-installable version that I had success with in the past.

    Fonts: I recall reading some discussion about the way to properly antialias dark/light is different from light/dark, which is why antialiased light/dark looks bad on Linux. (The guy who did the antialiasing work is aware of the problem, but for some reason hasn't fixed it yet; I don't really know what it is.) I vaguely believe it has something to do with gamma correction.

    Dock: just resize it to tiny and don't use it. Definitely try QuickSilver, and make the Expose window-switching into a hot corner on your desktop. (Again, this is an example of biting the bullet and learning the Way They Do It. I wouldn't say it's worse or better, just mostly different.) This is the way most mac-heads I know use their computer.

    If you really really miss alt-drag to move windows (that was my biggest hurdle), try looking at "GeekBind": it's sorta janky but it almost works.

  21. jayguevara says:

    In addition to the dozen replies suggesting VLC as your video player, I'd also point your attention to "Mplayer OS X". I know, you said you're sick of mplayer - but this is a non-headache-inducing, slickly-bundled OS X equivalent of the same. I use VLC as my main video player, but there are a small percentage of videos (less than 1%) which it chokes on that Mplayer will play.

    • solarbird says:

      Yeah, I know it's been said, but mplayer for OSX is just nice. Simple, clean, works. And it has the best performance of any player I've tried, so my old 867Mhz G4 powerbook plays everything smoothly. That's just not true for the Quicktime plug-ins I've found.

      Making "play" be:

      /Library/Application\ Support/ffmpegX/mplayer -fs -cache 500 -framedrop "$1"

      ...means that "play " ...just works. Every time. I did not have to fuck with drivers, config files, weird install practices. Install, try, oh look MST3K is on my monitor! Cooooooooool.

      The best part was that I actually already had it installed because I had previously installed a video file format converter that used it. Heh.

  22. sfritz says:

    Go ahead and install vlc, it's clean and doesn't feel crappy like mplayer. It plays about everything out of the bo.x

  23. nyankolove says:

    Second Screen: You might also enjoy Desktop Manager to get virtual desktop functionality back. This is something I wish OS X shipped with. Also! Before you trash your DiamondPro, which would be an absolute travesty, please consider opening it up and messing with the adjusters inside. My bf had the same problem (major fuzziness) with a ViewSonic that he thought was toast... turned out it probably just got jiggled too much from moving apartment to apartment. There are usually adjustment screws inside the monitor case for fine-tuning the shadow mask etc... just avoid any capacitors :)

    Dock: Might I suggest DragThing? Yeah, it's shareware, but it's won a ton of awards and praise and I'm not sure what I'd do without it. I have a little trash can on my desktop, a dock of currently running apps, and a drawer hidden along the right side of my screen with all my more commonly-used apps. It's just nice to have everything right at your fingertips.

  24. mr_chip says:

    One of my favorite OSX tricks is to bind one of my mouse buttons to Expose's "show all windows" feature. Then you just click & hold, move mouse to target window, and release. It's fucking fantastic.

  25. zeique says:

    osX is the only platform, and definitely the only UNIX, that I am aware of that doesn't have an implementation of xemacs (or emacs) that doesn't suck. Good luck finding a complete implementation (if you find one, please blog about it).

    • sapp3r says:

      there's something strange about seeing jwz discussing a buggy version of xemacs for a newly adopted platform and wondering aloud what to do about it, without mentioning the possibility of doing a decent native port. if it's own father can't do it, who can?

      on behalf of those of us that can't claim the skill level needed to port the beast correctly, but who'd like to use it rather than std. emacs on osx, i hope that jamie will consider assisting in getting a decent port available.

      respectfully submitted.

  26. mark242 says:

    Monitor fuzziness: I'm going to go out on a limb and say that your CRT second screen is suffering from OS X attempting to use sub-pixel rendering on it. When you go into your System Preferences / Appearance and change the "Font smoothing style" dropdown, do you notice any difference on your CRT?

    If you were running true 2-desktop support, I suspect this wouldn't be an issue, as my G4 tower's dual-screen setup does correct sub-pixel rendering on the LCD, and turns it off on the CRT. If you're going for a new monitor, get an LCD, but make sure that you can bring it back to the store if the sub-pixel rendering doesn't work correctly (it's a type of big-endian/little-endian issue.. RGB vs BGR).

    • mark242 says:

      I should be more clear: sub-pixel rendering takes place not only for fonts, but for all graphics on the desktop. Fire up an image with a diagonal black line over a white background, and drag it between your LCD and CRT.

  27. lovingboth says:

    I wonder which of these will be the straw?

    My favourite "joy of Apple" story affecting friends: his Mac worked with OS X, but it didn't work with version 10.1 unless he took out half the RAM or the good graphics card. Apple's solution: buy a new Mac.

    And he did!

  28. devnevyn says:

    Yep, VLC is what you want for video.

    Except for WMV. For WMV, you do NOT want WMP. You want the Flip4Mac Quicktime component over at . It's payware, but worth it (just $10 for the player version)

    For app launching, use Quicksilver, not the dock.

    SubEthaEdit is really neat.

  29. solios says:

    The only thing Dashboard has done on my machine is suck up RAM. Lots and lots of RAM. It's about as useful as the jigsaw puzzle that shipped with OS 8 - which is to say, not at all.

    For some reason it makes some people incredibly moist, but they are, by and large, the kind of people who don't actually use a computer to do anything.

  30. scosol says:

    mplayer on mac puts mplayer on linux to shame, and yeah- vlc :)

  31. jhenrywaugh says:

    I never could get the auto-cpan deal working properly on my powerbook. Instead, I just had to resort to the old school perl makefile.PL; make; make installsequence after DLing and uncompressing the package tarball.

    I used to use desktop manager for multiple desktops, but multiple monitors (and I don't have multiple displays on my wife's iMac) but multiple monitors work great with PB.

    Haven't used Fink since 10.2, if I want something bad enough, I'll build it myself. X11 in post 10.3 world is good enough for the few apps (primarily Gimp) I run.

    There's a hack out that addresses the X11/Mac focus thing, though I can't remember more about it...

    XEmacs, over the last few years, I've learned to do without Emacs and now primarily use Vim or jEdit (when I want a source printout with syntax highlighting).

    Haven't had a problem playing mpg, but some avi even with DivX don't play, though I'm not enough of a video geek to care...

  32. terryray says:

    I was looking forward to installing Tiger so that I could use the dashboard to monitor some ever-changing work-related web-based charts and graphs. Before 10.4, I was using GeekTool for this, which was OK, but it had bugs and I didn't really like it in my desktop. Dashboard seemed like it would be great.

    When I finally installed 10.4, I was shocked to realize that nobody had written a dashboard widget that did what I wanted. So, I wrote one myself. If you have graphs or a webcam that you want to monitor, then I think dashboard is perfectly wonderful, providing you have installed my wonderful widget.

    Besides that, it's an OK place to keep a calculator and the dictionary tool, but I agree it's not worth the overhead for that alone.

  33. chloralone says:

    I 54th the recommendation for VLC. You need it. Period.

    PKG files:
    They kind of suck in that there's no clean way to uninstall them. Of course, you can install or uninstall anything with fink.

    It rocks, you'll eventually love it and Expose. I SWEAR to you. Incidently, you can bring Dashboard widgets to the desktop: bring up dashboard, click, hold, and slightly move a widget, keep the mouse button down, hit F12 to dismiss Dashboard, release mouse button, voila, widget on your desktop.

    Also you can press and hold F12 to momentarily view Dashboard. It will go away when you release the F12 key.

    Perl modules:
    I broke down and use fink binary for this. If there's isnt a fink binary for it, I don't use it. I've been using UNIX too long to bother doing "it's way" of installing shit anymore. That's why I switched to OS X.

    I have mine statically sized, magnification and hiding turned off. My shit stays in the same spot always. I also hate the genie effect and use "scale" instead. Seems faster, too.

    Second screen:
    Watch for their deals on Dell LCD panels (2005fpw). You can regularly pick up a coupon for a 20" widescreen LCD for around $370-$390 shipped. Uses the exact same LCD panel as the Apple LCD's do. Fucking great deal. You may have to wait a week or maybe two, but a coupon WILL show up. Swivel, 1600x1050 resolution, input connectors out the ass, PIP, etc

    If you want a terminal app that works right, get iTerm. However, iTerm's interface fucking sucks ass (especially its preference system). But alas, I'd like to be able to use ANSI colors and my page up and page down keys properly, so I s(h)it with iTerm.

    • unixbigot says:

      Forget iTerm until they grok the fullness of the META key. Only does meta properly (if you click the preference box).

      If you can live without unicode wankage, selecting an 8-bit charset makes much faster.

  34. jokerwonga says:

    Perl: The only two things I've had to do to get perl to behave properly is to install the dev tools (which you probably have done) and run all of my cpan installs as sudo.

    Dock: I'll join the chorus: yeah, it sucks. I had Cocktail move it to the bottom left of my screen and it only shows running apps. Quicksilver handles my app launching stuff- not having to lift my hands from the keyboard to start a new app is a behavior I learned using xterms all the time, I'm glad I can still do it.

  35. vincel says:
    XEmacs: The Carbonated XEmacs was easy to build and install, but it's crash-happy. With my .emacs file loaded, it crashes as soon as I visit the first file. And I am sad.

    Try removing your default-mode-line-format.

    No, that won't help. It's blowing up because of:

      buffer-file-coding-system-for-read 'undecided-unix

    Just comment that out for now.

    • jwz says:

      Hey, that was it! Thanks!

      How do I change it from yellow-on-green to black-on-white? Do I have to dick around with set-face-foreground, or is there some simpler way?

      • vincel says:

        I don't think there's a simpler way. I have a shitload of custom-set-faces anyhow, so I just added it to the list.

  36. Fink is nice once the binaries stabilize ( seems they did 06.09 ). I use Fink for binary builds when I lazy, and Darwin Ports for when I want something to work better with Mac OS X ( readline support ).

    Perl modules I just install from 'sudo perl -MCPAN -e shell' interface.

    As for Quicktime components to install, supposedly the DivX component is broken for Tiger ( 10.4 ). I also have installed the following components for quicktime:

    3ivx D4
    XVid Delegate
    QT Components

    The codec detection under Quicktime 7 sucks ass, and links to a pretty useless page @ Apple for 3rd party plugins. It would be nice if it reported what codec the media was looking for.

    Another sucky thing about Quicktime 7 is that they nickle and dime you for the Pro features and MPEG2 support

    Between Quicktime, VLC, and MPlayer OS X ( in that order ), you should be able to view any avi/mpg/mov ( and yes, the Windows Media Player and Real Player too. Most problems I have seen with Windows Media Player is DRM issues with movies ripped to WMP V10, I boycott *wmv myself ).

    The dock is a waste of space, I used TinkerTool to pin it to the lower right hand corner of the screen, minimized the icon size, and dragged non-essential icons into the trash. Trash can stays in the lower right hand corner now.

    I would recommend Quicksilver as did <lj user="ydna">.

    Dashboard seems to be a clone of Konfabulator with the crack based, put it on another screen implementation.

    10.4 was definitely *not* a bug release, other than Quicktime 7, Spotlight ( never use it, seems like Windows Indexing Service to me ), and Dashboard ( rip of Konfabulator ).

    The MacOSX list had a list of favourite software recently as well

  37. d1663m says:

    It aint gui, but it works very nicely. I've been using this for almost 2 years and it's awesome. Developed by Gentoo but Debian has a package for it.

    I help manage ~300 or so HP, Sun and Linux boxes, (gentoo) keychain saves my sanity. "Corporate security best practices" tries hard to undo that. :(

  38. slashclee says:

    There's an option in the "Window Settings" dialog (somewhere under Keyboard, I think) to enable "Alt/Option as Meta" key. That's probably what you want.

  39. crypticreign says:

    I _HIGHLY_ recommend VideoLAN ( for all your video playing needs. It plays all video files wonderfully. Simple interface, no bloat, etc.

  40. jimm3uller says:

    Also on the subject of chord keys, note that as of 10.4 System Preferences > Keyboard and Mouse > Keyboard > Modifier Keys allows you to remap the worse-than-useless Caps-lock key to be Ctl, Inactive, or whatever you like.

    Or, if you really hate yourself, use it to make Command and Control act like caps lock.

  41. To "fix" the Dock turn off the magnification effect and use TinkerTool to pin it to the left bottom or right bottom of the screen. Trash can then ends up in the bottom corner making a nice fat Fitt's Law target.

  42. nothings says:

    Re: the font light/dark vs. dark/light, we had a big discussion about this on a game technology list prompted by observing a similar behavior in Windows (I can't say about Mac since I don't have one, but bear with me).

    I can't say for sure it's not just based on some random pysch research that says to make 'em bolder, but it's probably due to gamma (and, if it's visible, to gamma being wrong).

    Explanation, if you really want: let's say our pixels are anti-aliased based on pixel coverage. So some pixel on the edge of a character is 50% covered. A monitor gamma of, say, 2.0 means that a pixel value of 0.5 (on a 0 to 1 scale) displays as 0.5^2, or 0.25. So if we want the pixel to show as 50%, we need to store sqrt(0.5), i.e. 0.707 (that's the gamma correction).

    Ok, but now if that was black on white, and now we display white on black, a 50% pixel will _still_ be 0.707. If we then took that image, and inverted it (naively, without gamma correction, by just taking 1-x), we isntead get a display value of 0.293. So linearly inverting the font colors, rendering with gamma correction, and linearly inverting the pixels will give different results than the original rendering. (Which may or may not explain one of your observations, depending on how you're inverting the image.)

    Now, you shouldn't see the light-on-dark and dark-on-light cases as different, except if your gamma setting is wrong. If it's wrong, then 0.707 isn't actually 50%. Maybe it's 60% white. But now your pixel that computes as being 50% covered shows as 60% white whether it's white on black or black on white--so it shows as more-foregroundy with black background and more-backgroundy with white background--hence bolder white on black. This is then the theoretical explanation for your observation--the fonts are being gamma corrected with the wrong gamma value.

    Finally, if you have two monitors with different gamma and can drag stuff between them, I bet you're just screwed; I don't think anything's going to recompute the gamma as pixels move from one to the other.

    Mind you, this is all fairly speculative. It's just something we'd expect to happen, which does seem to match the observables.