Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How to backup iCal calendars in OS X

I was looking for a way to backup and restore iCal calendars on my MacBook running OS X. A quick Google search took me to a page on Apple's website. I tried to follow the instructions but it appears the page is outdated. Here is the correct information:

iCal saves your calendars as .ics files in this folder: ~/Library/Application Support/iCal/Sources/. There should be some folders in the Sources folder - each one corresponds to a particular calendar in your iCal (e.g. home, office etc). I have no idea why their names appear so funny - lots of alphabets just jumbled up together. Anyhow, you can back up your calendars by copying this folder to your backup location (file server, external hard drive, CD-ROM, and so forth).

Monday, June 25, 2007

Quickest way to spell in OS X

I just discovered this:

If you're typing a word in Mac OS X, and are stuck midway because you don't know how to spell the rest of it, OS X can offer you suggestions based on its built-in dictionary. To evoke the suggestions, just press "escape" key on the keyboard while the cursor is at the end of incomplete word. It's ultra-handy!

Note: The same feature could also be accessed by pressing F5, but I feel escape button is a lot more easy to press. That's why it's called "escape" key :P

Monday, June 18, 2007

Five days without a computer

My mac was refusing to sleep, and I decided to take it to the Apple store for diagnostics as the 1 year warranty is ending next month. The Apple Genius decided it needs surgery, so he kept it there. He told me I can get my computer back after five days. I said "O.K." and came back.

After coming back, the first thing I did was to rush for my desk and check my email.

But look, there's no computer! Oh stupid me! I just sent it for repairs! How can I forget? A sudden feeling of handicap grasps me. I am restless for half an hour, and then decide to sleep because I can't find a keyboard or a mouse to place my restless fingers! I wake up after two hours and suddenly discover how refreshing a daytime nap can be! I never had any afternoon naps in the last ten years, I think because I had a computer all this while!

Day passes, evening comes. I wasn't finding enough time to study for physician licensing exam over the last month or so. But that evening, I just sit in the living room couch with the book, and I spent five hours there at one stretch! Perhaps that is my longest uninterrupted time with books in the last ten years!

I get fidgety in the night because I want to chat with my sister in India, just like every other day. By now I have understood that I actually do not have any working computer, so I call her on phone. She's very pleasantly surprised to receive my phone call, and we chat for two hours. I just made her day!

Next morning, I have more time for my girlfriend, she's happy as well. I also finish several incomplete tasks in "real world" like fixing the sandwich maker and tidying up the kitchen shelves. After that I take some extra time to cook a delicious Indian curry. Post prandium, I also have the desire to take out that food processor from its box (for the first time ever I bought it last year) and actually place some litchi shake with coconut water. Man that was awesome!

I didn't have any computer for five days straight, and boy, life was fun! I pampered myself so much, like never before!

And damn! My masters' thesis topic is "Determinants of Internet Addiction".

I am sure gonna write my own experience somewhere in the introduction to my thesis!!!

And now that my computer is back, I am rediscovering "how to use a computer". What I know so far - "use it sparingly, like a medicine".

Sunday, June 17, 2007

How to change your OS X drive icons to any picture of your choice

I want to place my picture as my Macintosh hard drive icon. This is pretty easy to do.

Software required:

  1. Open the picture you want to convert in your favorite image editor. Make a square selection of what you want to convert into an icon. The length should be exactly equal to the width. (Press Shift key when dragging your selection in GIMPshop)
  2. Crop the picture and save a copy somewhere.
  3. Resize the image to 128x128 pixels.
  4. Adjust the brightness, contrast and colors to your liking. You should adjust these values after resizing the image because some images lose their "shine" when you make them small. You might also want to sharpen the image a bit to compensate for this. Using GIMPshop, I use a sharpness level of 60.

    Before -------------- After

  5. When you're done, save the file again, and close GIMPshop.
  6. Now open the same file you saved, with "Preview". Start dragging a rectangle in preview, and make sure you select all of the file.

  7. Now hit "Command+C" to copy the contents of the file.
  8. Click on the drive icon you want to change, and press "Command+I". This will get info for that drive.
  9. In the info pane, there will be a small icon for the drive on the top. Click on this icon, and then press "Command+V".

  10. Viola! You now have the picture you wanted as your drive icon! :)

Friday, June 15, 2007

She lost her job because she used openoffice

One of my friends (let's call her Alice) got her first computer recently. She had just joined a interior design company, and wanted to make her life easy by learning "office software". I asked her to be specific. She said she wants to learn "Microsoft".

"She wants to learn Microsoft"?

I made some alphabetical calculations in my mind and came up with "Do you mean Microsoft Office? Like Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc?". She promptly nodded in affirmative.

I asked her budget, and quickly came the answer "Can I get it for free?"

Being an open source enthusiast, I said "Well, if you don't mind using office software by another company, you can get it for free".

I wanted to tell her what open source is, and how can she benefit from it. But it appeared that she was just itching to get the download link. I downloaded openoffice.org, and burned a CD for her.

She went back and installed her brand new "office software", and started learning on her own. Smart lady!

After about 10 days, she calls me, crying on the phone "You know what... (sob) these damned people (sob)... they took my job (sob)... I'm fired (sob)... because my presentation didn't open (sob)..."

It took me some time to calm her down, and soon figured out what happened:

She had to work on an important presentation due on Monday. So she thought she'd work on it during the weekend at home. She used openoffice to make the presentation, saved it with her name (alice.odp), and took it along on Monday. She arrives in the office at 9am and everyone is waiting for her to make the presentation. She plugs in her USB drive in the computer confidently, double clicks the file, and the computer says "Windows doesn't know how to open this file. Choose another program from the list".

She chose Microsoft PowerPoint from the list, but the presentation won't open. PowerPoint says it's not a presentation at all! Her technical superviser tried to help, but even he had no idea how to open .odp files. Smarty also tried changing the extension to .ppt but it didn't work.

Her boss was infuriated because it was a very very important business presentation, it wasn't working, and the client left. Alice was fired immediately.

Now I'll think not twice, but thrice before advocating open source software to noobs like Alice.

I still feel confused, shocked, and guilty.

Who is to blame for this?

Her boss?

I think all of the above.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

When you take your Mac to an Apple Genius

My MacBook hasn't slept for six months now, and its warranty will be expiring soon. Therefore I thought I should have it checked by an Apple Genius. I took it to the nearest Apple Store, and there are a few things I would like to share with every Mac user.


1. Perform a full system backup
If he finds there is a problem with your Mac and it needs to be fixed in their workshop, you will get your Mac back after 3-5 working days. It is advisable to make a full system backup just in case something goes bad during repair.

2. Print out all the contacts from Address Book
If you're like me, you like to access all your contacts phones, emails and addresses from your Mac's Address Book application. Quicksilver makes things so easy, doesn't it? But now you don't have your Mac because the Apple Genius is taking it apart for repairs, and you need to call or email someone urgently, and you're frantically looking for your paper address book which you stopped updating years back anyway. A printed list of contacts is very handy in such a case.

3. Deauthorize your computer for iTunes account
You can play the items you bought from iTunes online store on upto five computers. If the hard drive dies or is erased during repairs, you lose one of those five golden chances. To prevent this from happening, deauthorize your computer to play iTunes content before every possible hard disk erasure.

4. If you installed third party RAM, also take your original Apple RAM
If the problem is due to third party RAM, the Genius will want to replace that with the original RAM that came with your Mac. In most cases they should have spare RAM to test with (as they did in my case) but I had to wait for 5 minutes before he could find it in his tool box. Therefore it's a good idea to take your original Apple RAM with you to the Apple Genius.

5. Remove any disks in the drive.

6. What if you need an alternative computer to with with as your Mac is out for repairs?
Call Apple beforehand and let them know. There is someone who badly needed to work as his Mac was gone for repairs, and Apple was kind enough to send him another Mac to work with temporarily.


7. Look for your name on the screen
In the store, the Apple folks display a neat list of people who are waiting to see the Apple Genius. So you can see your name in the queue on the screen. Also, they'll call out your name when they're ready to see you. So keep your ears alert.

8. Remember to get a printed receipt from the Genius.
The receipt is a proof that your Mac is with them for repairs, and it contains additional information about what kind of repairs might be needed, and if you need to pay anything (if you ran out of warranty or AppleCare protection plan). Do not lose it.


9. Check the status of repairs
Click here to check the repair status (sign in with your apple ID - easiest way)

10. Check your phone voicemail.
They'll call you when your Mac is ready to be picked up.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Visual anatomy of Blogger CSS

Click this image to see an overview of the gross visual anatomy of blogger css code. This image will tell you which code goes where: