Thursday, November 29, 2012

Latest Flash "Update" for Macs

Flash on PowerPC is horribly insecure as it hasn't been updated since version 10.1, but since some sites like the BBC require it for their videos, some people insist on still using it. However, more and more sites are requiring version 11.5, and since we're no longer getting updates, users have to rely on a version string hack to get their 10.1 plugin to spoof itself as 11.5. MacRumors Forum member Wildy has made the latest hack available here. Again, it's the 10.1 plugin merely spoofing itself as 11.5.

I don't personally use flash anymore, but to make it slightly less insecure you should uninstall the plugin from your system's /Library/Internet Plug-Ins folder and put it in ~/Library/Internet Plug-Ins (the ~ denotes your home folder if ya didn't know). That way it's not installed system-wide for other users to stumble on. Also, you should run a browser with a flash blocker so you are only loading videos you specifically click on. Camino has a flash blocker in its preferences, Safari/Webkit has Click-to-Flash, and TenFourFox has the Flashblock or NoScript add-ons. None of this is guaranteed protection, keep in mind.

If you want to move completely beyond flash as you probably should, you can go over to Life without Flash: share your tips and tricks, a thread started by B-G. Also, for Linuxers, there's this Crunchbang forum thread with some useful info. And there's also my favorite little tool, quvi.

Monday, November 26, 2012

iTunes Alternative for Linux

For most of my music playing needs in Linux, I've relied on Audacious. It's a perfectly solid player that has the advantage of using relatively little memory. In a world where almost every Linux application is described as "lightweight," it's actually lightweight. But it lacks a few advanced features, most notably iPod support. Here's where Banshee comes in. Banshee is an advanced music player if you're looking to replace iTunes that has a similar and attractive feature set.

Banshee on Debian

As you can see from the screenshot above, it has pre-installed plugins for downloading album art and iPod support and has an interface instantly familiar to anyone who's used iTunes. It also has a context pane you can pop up which shows links to similar artists. In syncing an iPod, I found you have to mount it manually in a file manager, if your desktop doesn't automount, before it'll appear in Banshee. But otherwise syncing works as expected. I also tried syncing an iPad running iOS 5 from the instructions on this page and some troubleshooting advice here, but it didn't work. Though I could mount the iPad in a file manager, it's appearance in Banshee was purely decorative;)

Banshee is built on the Mono framework, so it's not native GTK, but I didn't notice any speed deficiencies. It'll use about 60 MB of RAM, so it's not lightweight like Audacious, but the extra features are impressive. The only issue I had was enabling the equalizer gave me stability problems, but an equalizer isn't a big deal to me.

Rhythmbox and Exaile are similar players, but I found them lacking in a few ways. Rhythmbox is a little too simplistic and hard to configure. Album art fetching doesn't work out of the box and Google tells me it would take some effort to get it running. Also, it too has a context pane, but you have to be a paid subscriber to to use it. Exaile comes with an iPod plugin which I couldn't get to do anything. I also had stability issues when changing the volume mid-song, and Exaile doesn't use its screen real estate well. And if you only want iPod syncing, there's gtkpod, but I found it extremely slow and the layout was confusing.

One last note on iPod support, the iPod Touch supposedly won't work because it doesn't mount like a typical usb storage device (thanks, Apple). Instead you have to go through hoops like with the above link to get it to mount, and even then getting it to sync is far from certain. In that respect, Touches are like iPhones and iPads, a pain in the rear for open sourcers. Best to quit fiddling with Apple and get a real usb device that mounts like one.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Some Random-ish News

I just noticed that Intuit announced their tax program TurboTax will no longer support PowerPC and will now require 10.6.8. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Although I was a bit surprised to see the company VP show up in this MacRumors Forum thread to explain the reasoning. It's just jarring that they're going from supporting every Tiger-capable Mac going back to the '90s to now only Snow Leopard. On the plus side, there's always TurboTax Online, and they also have an iPad app.

In more Linux adventures, I've been troubleshooting a couple of glitches with pulseaudio, which got installed as a dependency to Cairo-dock. Pulseaudio is like a face hugger from the Alien movies. It latches onto your system and it won't let go. Anyway, I fixed some problems and wrote the solutions in the sound section here in case you're interested.

And charging a Kindle on your Linux box is a lot less complicated than other web pages say. Many posts say you need to use the eject command from the command line for it to begin charging, but I found just clicking the eject button in PCManFM works, too (the Kindle mounts in /media/Kindle on Debian Wheezy, FYI). Now I just have to figure out the iPad.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Little About Resource Forks

"Resource forks are deprecated anyway and they will sooner or later disappear alltogether." "Sorry, this is deprecated."

That's right. I've been deprecated. I will disappear sooner or later anyway, and well, I should just go die already. You see, I have files with resource forks on my various computers and hard drives. And when resource forks aren't supported in file transfer applications like Cyberduck, they get destroyed when transferring between computers. And when resource forks get destroyed, sometimes the whole file is rendered unusable. So I thought I'd put up a little reminder that when transferring or backing up files with resource forks, you need to take steps to preserve them.

First a little background. Resource forks are mostly a relic from the classic Mac OS, though they also exist in OS X, that stored data on a file apart from the data fork. So each file had two forks, only one of which (the data fork) would be recognized on non-Mac systems. On normal files like .txt's or .png's this wasn't a problem because whatever was in their resource forks (custom icons?) wasn't required to open them. But for applications, Disk Copy images, and font files, this was a big problem because their resource forks contained data necessary for their operation. So say if you moved a Mac application to a Windows hard drive and then back again, it wouldn't open because the resource fork was stripped in the process.

So don't move around Mac files on non-Mac file systems, right? It's not quite that simple. There are a few other dangers to be aware of. First, when networking files you must use AFP (Apple Filing Protocol) which is implemented by the Personal File Sharing option in your OS X preference pane and in OS 9's File Sharing control panel. For Linux systems you will need to install Netatalk and then access the network drives in Nautilus or PCManFM (Thunar chokes on AFP networks). The one other networking option is the SSH associated scp -E command where the -E option preserves resource forks, but both machines must be running Tiger or later so the practicality of that is limited.

Besides networking, there's also backing up to disc. When burning files with resource forks to a DVD or CD-R, they must be recorded on a Mac filesystem. Burning in OS X's Finder will accomplish this, making what's known as a Mac + PC hybrid disc that's readable on both Macs and PCs. If you're using another burning application like Burn, don't use the PC or iso9660 option. You must use either Mac (HFS+) or Mac + PC (FYI, Mac + PC hybrid discs will automount in Linux, but Mac-only discs will not).

If none of this is an option and you have to upload files on a non-AFP network or a non-Mac filesystem, you can still preserve resource forks by compressing the file(s) in a .sit container. There's also documentation that says tar can do this, but don't use .zip. The only zip application that handles resource forks is MacZip for Mac OS 9, and it must be used for both compressing and unpacking (OOPS: BOMArchiveHelper in Tiger can create zips that preserve resource forks, too. It's the app used when you right click on a file and choose "Create Archive of..." Just make sure to unzip them with the same app which is the default when double-clicking--Credit to ClassicHasClass).

rsync I'd have to look into. From what little I've read on this, it looks possible but messy.

Just to reiterate, you don't have to preserve resource forks on normal files like .jpg's or .mp3's unless you have something like custom icons you want to keep. Resource forks are only essential for OS 9 applications or fonts or Disk Copy images (and possibly Hypercard stacks?). And it's not wholly limited to OS 9. Certain OS X files like .webloc and .textClipping files store all their data in resource forks or extended attributes, too.