Monthly Archives: April 2011

Getting Your Stuff Off of Your iPhone

There will come a time when you realize that you want to get something off of your iPhone, and yet you don’t have access to the Mac your normally sync with, or your Mac’s hard drive has failed. That’s when getting information off of your iPhone can become a daunting task. Here are a few different ways to recover different types of data from your iPhone.

iPhone Photo Library

The good news is that you can access the iPhone photos you’ve taken from any Mac (and not just the one you sync with) using the OS X Image Capture app. In fact, you can even use the iPad Camera Adapter.  The iPhone itself will look like any other camera that you connect to either your Mac or your iPad. You also even use iPhoto or Aperture directly to perform the transfer. Some of the techniques outlined below can also be used to directly copy image files off of the iPhone when importing from iPhoto fails.Image Capture

iPod Music Files

Ever since the arrival of the iPod, there have been ways to extract music from your Apple device. These same utilities are still applicable to the iPhone. The tricky part is that the files and directory structure are not represented in human friendly text. There is a database file that Apple uses to translate the gibberish back into the artist, album, song format you are familiar with.  Many of the free solutions like Macroplant’s iPhone Explorer, will allow you to copy the music files directly from the iPhone to your Mac in the nonsense naming format they are in on the iPhone.

iPhone ExplorerSo long as you have iTunes configured to “Copy  files to your iTunes Media folder”, as well as to “Keep iTunes Media File organized”, then the file names will all be restored once you have imported the music back into your iTunes Library.  It will retrieve the names of the artist, album and song from the ID3v2 tag embedded in the music file.

iTunes Preferences

Other free solutions like HeadLightSoft’s DeTune (formerly know as expod) will perform the translation before you transfer the files. There are other paid solutions like FadingRed’s Senuti for $18.99, which are also quite good at what they do. But for the money, DeTunes offers a more than adequate solution if all you want to do is recover your device-locked music.


iOS App Data and More

Sometimes you may have to get app and data regarding iPhone usage from your phone to your computer outside of iTunes. While you can use Macroplant’s iPhone Explorer to perform this task, I have found that their Pod to Mac product for $19.95 delivers more value.  Also in this category, and my personal preference is Ecamm’s PhoneView also for $19.95. Both Pod to Mac and PhoneView offer a way to access SMS Messages, VoiceMail, Call History, Contacts, and Calendar information.  They also offer solutions to access your Photos, Media Files and even the locally stored files for each app you have installed.


Secret Location Data

There has been a lot of press regarding the storage of location information in the consolidated.db file on your iPhone. Apple recently revealed that it actually provides a database of cell and Wi-Fi tower locations in and around where you use your device, but the info is still interesting. While not part of a formal product offering, there is a crude yet effective tool called iPhone Tracker on GitHub that lets you see it.

iPhone Tracker

Extract From Backup

Sometimes something has happened to your iPhone and you need to extract a file from your iPhone backups. This includes accessing any photos you had on your iPhone at the time of your last backup. There are two utilities that I use to perform this task, SuperCrazyAwesome’s iPhone Backup Extractor which is a free utility, and addPod’s Juice Phone, also free.  Neither solution will work if you have encrypted your backup files. Both allow you to access the backed up data as if the iPhone was connected to your Mac.

Juice Phone

So until Apple comes up with a solid cloud-based solution for iOS products, the fact remains that all iOS devices are just satellites to their Mac hosts.  And so long as you need to sync between your Mac and your iOS device, there is a chance that either your Mac will fail, or your iOS device will fail.  The above solutions will have you covered until Apple comes up with a better solution of its own.

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Managing /var/tmp

If you run a multi-user system one of the many things that you will want to do is prevent any one user from being able to consume all the resources on the system. Solaris has plenty of features for managing CPU resources and even memory resources.

One of the perennial problems is how to control the use of temporary file systems such as /tmp and /var/tmp. If you set quotas on the file systems then you have to then have a job that will clear the file system at boot time however that results in a non deterministic boot time as file systems that contain many files can take many minutes or even hours to empty.

However there is a way to have fixed boot time and user quotas when using ZFS.

The principle is simple.

Have an empty file systems that has quotas configured on it. Then
have an SMF service that destroys the existing filesystem for
/var/tmp and then snapshots and clones the empty filesystem with a
mount point of /var/tmp.

You can easily see the relationship of the file systems with zfs

$ zfs list -o name,origin,creation,mountpoint -rt all rpool/tmp_template rpool/tmp NAME                         ORIGIN                       CREATION               MOUNTPOINT rpool/tmp                    rpool/tmp_template@snapshot  Wed Apr 27  7:00 2011  /var/tmp rpool/tmp_template           -                            Tue Apr 26 14:09 2011  none rpool/tmp_template@snapshot  -                            Wed Apr 27  7:00 2011  - $

To achieve this you first need to create a new SMF service.

Mine is called svc:/system/filesystem/create_var_tmp and that has to depend on the service svc:/system/filesystem/minimal and be depended on by svc:/system/filesystem/local so that the new file system is set up before filesystem/local runs.

$ svcs -l  svc:/system/filesystem/create_var_tmp:default fmri         svc:/system/filesystem/create_var_tmp:default name         Create /var/tmp enabled      true state        online next_state   none state_time   Wed Apr 27 10:16:56 2011 logfile      /var/svc/log/system-filesystem-create_var_tmp:default.log restarter    svc:/system/svc/restarter:default dependency   require_all/none svc:/system/filesystem/minimal (online) $ svcs -D  svc:/system/filesystem/create_var_tmp:default STATE          STIME    FMRI online         10:16:56 svc:/system/filesystem/local:default $

With this in place the reboot time is consistent but you do have to edit the users quota on both file systems.

5 Great Mac Tools for Designing Apps

There comes a point in the creation of every great app that you move from concept to implementation.  On the design side, this is when you feel like you have your wireframes and storyboard walk-throughs (or collection of bar napkins) at a point where you want to start “real” development.  There are definitely some great tools for the iPad to help solidify your app concept from a more abstract design point of view. Looking at the more tangible side of visual design, I’ve found the following tools available in the Mac App Store to be quite helpful.

Choosing the Right Colors

ColorBenderColorBlender ($1.99). When choosing a color palette for your App, you either have an eye for it or you don’t. For those of us who don’t have it, ColorBlender can help out.  There have been a lot of studies on how humans are affected by different colors, and there are certainly combinations of colors that are hard on the eyes.  The main function of ColorBlender is to create a palette with six harmonious colors that will make looking at your app pleasant, or at least tolerable, for most people.  The only thing this app is missing is a good color picker, but that’s quickly remedied using OS X’s included DigitalColor Meter utility. After choosing a base color in the DigitalColor Meter, ColorBender will help you select a collection of harmonious colors to use throughout your app.

AppControlsAppControls ($19.99). Once you have a solid color palette picked out, the next step will be to use that palette when creating various controls throughout your app. AppControls will help you create the artifacts necessary to create some great looking controls. You can copy the values of the colors generated in ColorBender, and paste them into the Color Picker of AppControls. Even if you don’t like the limit of six colors that ColorBender generates, you can at least use it to select the two colors that will be used to create a smooth gradient on your controls. All you need to do is the following:App Control Color Bender Walkthrough

  1. Use the DigitalColor Meter to select the color you want to use as your primary color, and hit the Shift+Cmd+H key combination to hold the colors on the screen.
  2. Type the color codes into ColorBlender to set your six harmonious colors.
  3. Copy the value of the color you want to use directly from ColorBlender’s screen and paste it into AppControls color picker.

Preparing for App Store Submission

LittleIpsumLittleIpsum (Free). How many time have you tried to size up how a data entry or large text display field will look by pounding random keys on the keyboard? A tool named LittleIpsum provides a better way. It generates Latin text in varying lengths including words, sentences and paragraphs. The text is then copied to your clipboard, and ready to paste into your app.

StatusBarredStatus Barred ($0.99). Occasionally, you may want to pull together a collection of screen shots for the current state of the application, either to update documentation when designing a change in the way the application works or simply to craft your marketing material.  Status Barred is a simple little app that will crop off the carrier status bar from the images you take so that the focus in on your app, and not your carrier.

iOSIconsIcons ($2.99). The final Mac App in this collection of design apps will help in the creation of icons, both for and within the app.  It can also be used to help with the design of any support or marketing web sites that will be created.  Icons could not be easier to use. Start with a 512×512 square image, drop it into the tool, and generate your icons.  You can even round the edges and add that cool glass look.

While these tools individually are no match for Adobe’s creative suite of tools, for the price, they add up to a competitive package. And like the start of a thousand bee stings, it only makes sense that this tightly focused new breed of apps help others create more great task-specific software as the App Store model continues to propagate.

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Ten ‘Easter Eggs’ to Find in Your Mac OS and Applications

While this week many people are searching for Easter Eggs or the Afikoman, here are 10 hidden settings you can find in your Mac apps and OS X. These are all small changes you can make that make using the applications and the system slightly better.

First off, you’ll need to open up the Terminal application (/Applications > Utilities > Terminal), since these ‘Easter Eggs’ have to be run from the command line. Once you’ve got that open, you can copy and paste the commands below. Each command is one line only, and you should press Return after pasting in each command. To turn these off after, replace YES with NO (or vice-versa) and repeat the command.

Allow Dashboard Widgets to be Dragged Onto the Desktop

Sometimes it’s useful to keep one of you Dashboard widgets around after you close Dashboard, so paste the following into Terminal:

defaults write devmode YES && killall Dock

To use this ability, click and hold a widget and then close Dashboard using your keyboard hotkey (usually F4 on newer Macs).

Stop Twitter’s Compose Window Floating

The compose window in Twitter for Mac floats above all other windows at all times, which can get annoying. To stop it floating, paste this into Terminal, then restart Twitter for Mac.

defaults write com.twitter.twitter-mac NormalComposeWindowLevel -bool NO

Allow Escape to Close Twitter Compose Window

Another one for Twitter for Mac, this allows you to press Esc to close the new tweet window. Once again, paste and then restart Twitter for Mac.

defaults write com.twitter.twitter-mac ESCClosesComposeWindow -bool YES

Show Hidden Files in the Finder

There are some files which the Finder keeps hidden, but you might want to be able to see them sometimes, such as .htaccess files for web developers. To show hidden files, paste this into Terminal:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles -bool YES && killall Finder

Your hidden files should now show up.

Disable the ‘Unexpectedly Quit’ Dialog

When an application crashes, you’ll see a dialog telling you the application quit unexpectedly. This can get annoying if it happens often, so you can disable that dialog using

defaults write DialogType none

You may need to restart your computer for changes to take effect. To turn this back on again, replace ‘none’ with ‘prompt’.

Enable ‘X-Ray Folders’ in QuickLook

The QuickLook feature of Finder is great, but if you use it on a folder, you won’t see anything except a folder icon. Using this hidden setting, you’ll be able to see the contents of the folder when you use QuickLook.

defaults write QLEnableXRayFolders 1 && killall Finder

To turn off, replace the ’1? with a ’0?.

Show the File Path in the Finder Window Title

It’s easy to get lost in your file system, so enable this to show the path of the current folder in the title bar of your Finder window. That should make it easier to remember where you are.

defaults write _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES && killall Finder

Disable iTunes Arrow Links

You’ll often see tips on how to change the arrow links in iTunes’ list view to go to your library instead of the store, but what about turning them off altogether? Paste this command and restart iTunes.

defaults write _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES

Stop the Help Window From Floating

Another troublesome floating window is the Help window which appears when you click Help in most applications. To stop it floating, use

defaults write NormalWindow -boolean yes

Change the Desktop Picture on the Login Screen

If you don’t like the default image shown behind the login screen, you can change it to any other image using the following command. Just add the path of the image after the word ‘path’.

defaults write /Library/Preferences/ DesktopPicture -path

Bonus: Control Even More Hidden Settings Using Secrets

Secrets is a preference pane which allows you to control even more hidden settings in Mac applications using a friendly interface, rather than having to use Terminal. You can download it here, and once installed you’ll find it at the bottom of System Preferences.

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