Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Your Daily Evil

Open your Terminal.app and type:

say -v Ralph wutcchuuloookin at muhduhfugga

Have fun!

Friday, July 23, 2010


I've been reading about people saying their MacBooks with Snow Leopard can take 40~50 seconds to boot. Well, I cold-booted my 10 year old Sawtooth running Tiger and got...

45 seconds.

Although the old System 6 beat the pants off everything. I swear my MacPlus with 6.0.8 booted in less than three seconds.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Energy Sapping Consequence of Open Windows

No, this is not a post about electricity conservation (although, really, you should). Rather, it's about the open windows on your computer. The fact is, when you're using an old G4 tower you need to squeeze every inch of performance out of that processor and be wary of ways which sap said performance.

What I'm talking about here are animated progress bars, scrolling text, etc. By keeping application windows open while their tasks run in the background, you're robbing your processor of precious speed. For example, that progress bar in your browser's download window uses CPU cycles. Close the window while it downloads and you'll see a percentage of your processor freed up. Another example--in iTunes the scrolling text while playing a track, or especially playing a radio station, uses an excessive amount of CPU. Close the window as the track continues playing, and your processor load will return to practically nil.

There are other examples. When I have Transmission's window open, the application uses 7-8 percent of total CPU. When I close the window and it continues seeding and leeching in the background, the CPU load decreases to less than 1 percent. The two video encoders, Handbrake and ffmpegX, both have animated progress bars that use up about 10 percent of my processor. Close the window and the encoding speed magically increases 10 percent (no overclocking necessary)!

Oftentimes you can also minimize the window to dock rather than close it out altogether.

Now each of these instances by themselves won't make that much difference, but when you have an iTunes track playing while Transmission seeds in the background and your browser is downloading a file, it can all add up to something substantial and make your 500MHz G4 Screaming Sawtooth suddenly feel like an old Edsel. And we don't want to go back there.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Proper Use of Shudder Quotes (Or How to Speed Up Gmail in Your Web Browser)

If the standard view of Gmail is a little slow in your browser, you can make it much snappier by clicking on "basic HTML" on the bottom of the page and setting it as your default.

Of course, then you'll be missing out on some "features," and we all know how limited email is without the additional "features."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Force Plain Text in Apple's Mail.app

You ever get an email that looks like this?

It's one of life's enduring mysteries why people who stylize their email text don't care whether it's readable for people on the other end. Sometimes I think everyone but me is secretly a graphics designer and they're deliberately sending me messages in the worst possible fonts and styles just to mess with my head.

Well, instead of going all tin foil and dropping off the face of the earth, there's another solution to this problem. If you're using Mail in OS X, open your terminal and enter the following command:

defaults write com.apple.mail PreferPlainText -bool TRUE

When you quit and relaunch Mail, you will now see that your emails received have been magically transformed to plain text. Wonderful, readable plain text. If you insist on seeing the original HTML version, just hit Command + ].

Of course, if you want to switch back to the original default, just change TRUE in the command above to FALSE and run it again.

Although, really, at this point you've been educated otherwise.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Faster Youtube on Macs

Don't get me wrong. I like slideshows just as much as the next person. Really, they can be incredibly useful. So when I heard about this new site called "Youtube," I went over and exclaimed, "Aha! A new slideshow website. Very good! Very good!"

Okay, so it turned out to be a video website and my slow processor was deceiving me. For years I've been frustrated by Youtube's stuttering and slideshowesque playback and hoped Adobe would come out with some miracle Flash update* that would magically solve all my problems. Never happened.

But lo and behold I tripped over a couple of solutions recently that bring stutter-free playback to even this old Sawtooth. The first isn't Mac specific. It merely involves adding to the end of the page's URL "&ftm=5". For example, if you want to view the video here:


just add &fmt=5 at the end like this:


So you may notice at this point that the picture quality is somewhat pixilated. There are other options you can play with like &fmt=18 or &fmt=34. Mileage may vary. A fuller list of options can be found here, and there are supposedly Greasemonkey scripts that automate the process.

There's also a Mac specific way to go at this. In fact, it's a separate application called MacTubes. It's a Youtube player with an iTunes-like interface, with a search-results main pane and a sidebar for playlists of your favorites. Download it and select Quicktime Player as the player type in preferences and you can play back stutter-free without the drop in picture quality as the &fmt=5 option. Plus it's also a downloader if you want to save the videos to your hard drive.

Now I can keep up with politicians' latest macaca moments and parents using their small children as Youtube fodder to my heart's delight!

*By the way, for those of you who downgraded to Flash 9 because Flash 10.0 for OS X was such a disaster, Flash 10.1 improves things and returns framerates back to version 9 levels, so it's safe to update.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Don't Let Your Computer Become a Brain Eating Zombie

It turns out there's a nasty little bug in Classic mode that turns your computers into sluggish zombies. You may have experienced this. When you put your computer to sleep with Classic running and later wake it up, you may notice that your computer inexplicably turns slow and dumb. Upon further investigating and opening Activity Monitor, you find that TrueBlueEnvironment is eating all your CPU. Eating it, I tell you! Knowing that TrueBlueEnvironment is the process name for Classic mode, you quit it and all returns to normal and your computer is once again its alive and kicking self.

This is a perfect illustration of why it's essential to have a system monitor like Menumeters in your menu bar. It's just a simple layout of graphs that can get your attention quickly should your CPU go nutso on you. Here it is with a network, CPU and hard drive monitors:

It's a preference pane, and there are several options to make it less (or more) obtrusive. Very simple.

Of course, if you always have your terminal window open, you can achieve something similar by running "top." Then again, if you always have your terminal window open you probably already know all this.

Nerd alert!