09
Jul 06

Apple Remote with VLC Player – Part 1 (Remote Buddy)

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VLC Player is a free cross-platform media player. It can play almost any video or audio thrown at it (check this). It can play media that Apple Quick Time or Front Row cannot play. For example, if you get a video with AC3 sound, Quick Time cannot render the audio for this, but VLC Player can. The biggest pain in watching a video with VLC player is that the Apple Remote does not work with it. You need to remain glued to your key board or mouse just to pause the movie when your phone rings.There is help at hand in form of an application called RemoteBuddy. With this application running on my Mac, I can now seat peacefully on the couch and watch movies on the VLC player, just like I would do with FrontRow.

This tool can do much more than remote control VLC player using the Apple remote. It also supports other applications like KeyNote, Real Player etc. Using Remote Buddy you can control 10+ applications using the Apple Remote.When you run RemoteBuddy it can autodetect if any supported application is running. Suppose VLC player is running, it will switch to VLC Player profile and now you will be able to control the VLC Player using the Apple remote. When Remote Buddy is running you can control it from the icon on the menu bar.

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With RemoteBuddy, you can do much more with the Apple Remote on you Macs.

Screenshots of Remote Buddy (click to expand thumbnails)

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01
Jul 06

Mac: CrossOver Wine to join the party with BootCamp & Parallels

CodeWeavers Inc. has been marketing a very competent set of products (CrossOver Office, Plugin) based on Wine Project for GNU/Linux. Recently the company announced that they will release a similar product for Intel Mac OSX. With this CodeWeavers will join the party of Windows on Mac with Apple’s Bootcamp & Parallel’s for Mac.

CrossOver Mac is Coming!CrossOver Mac — CodeWeavers’ latest Windows-compatability product — is on its way. Intended for Intel Mac OS X machines, CrossOver Mac will allow Mac users to run their favorite Windows applications seamlessly on their Mac, without the need for a Windows OS license of any kind. Below are answers to some of the questions we are receiving on the product.

CodeWeavers – CrossOver Mac

What is Wine ?

Wine is Not an Emulator – says it all. Wine project has created a set of core Windows API, foundation classes that will allow numerous windows applications to run natively on Linux, and perhaps now Intel Macs. Microsoft Windows being closed source, the Wine APIs are at best approximations, but are good enough to run 100s of Windows applications on Linux without having to install Windows or dual boot to Windows.

What is CrossOver ?

CrossOver is a commercial product based on Wine. It is easier to install and manage than the open source Wine. Let’s can CrossOver as Wine ++. On my Suse 9 I have used CrossOver Plugin. It allowed me to install and run Windows browser plugins like QuickTime, Windows Media… CrossOver can also run popular Windows applications like MS Office, Photoshop etc.

What will CrossOver Mac mean to us ?

On Intel Macs we have 2 options for running Windows Applications – dual boot with Apple’s BootCamp & Virtualization like Parallel’s. Read my earlier post on BootCamp & Parallels . At this point, let’s not debate why one would want to run Windows Apps on Mac. The fact that there are so many Windows on Mac products available can indicate that such a need exists.

CrossOver Mac is not yet available. If I go by my user experience on Linux, CrossOver Mac should be a very creditable alternative. The biggest USP for CrossOver is the ability to run Windows applications natively. So in an Intel Mac we could see Office 2003 run like a native Intel Mac application. We can have Windows media playing natively on Safari without Flip4Mac. We may be able to run Internet Explorer 7 on OSX for some nasty bank websites that only work with IE.

Lets Compare … BootCamp vs. Parallels Vs. CrossOver/Wine

BootCamp

  • It requires Windows a copy of Windows XP Sp2 to be installed in a dual boot setup.
  • Only supports Microsoft Windows.
  • All applications compatible with Windows XP can run at native speed.
  • Device Drivers for Mac hardware available from Apple.
  • Third Party hardware like printers, scanners work well
  • File Sharing between Mac OSX and Windows is a major problem. Some third part applications addresses this issues. Read this post.
  • Either Windows or Mac OSX Tiger can run at any one time.
  • BootCamp Beta available for FREE.

Parallel’s

  • Requires a copy of Windows ( 2000, XP…)
  • Can install other OSes like Linux, BSD (cross platform application developers should love this)
  • Problem’s have been reported on many usb devices
  • Can run OSX and Windows or other OS con-currently (how many you can run at a time depends on the amount of RAM you have)
  • Slight speed penalty on Windows or other guest OSes.
  • File sharing between Windows and OSX by using SMB file share.
  • Time limited fully functional demo available. Costs $49 to buy.

CrossOver

  • Only supports Microsoft Windows application.
  • It will not require us to buy or install MS Windows OS ( saves $$$$)
  • It should allow Windows application to be installed directly of Linux ( and later on Mac)
  • Wine runs lots of Windows applications, lots but not all. Most of the popular applications work on CrossOver/Wine.
  • Windows applications should be able to access Mac HFS+ drives natively. On Linux CrossOver lets all supported file systems to be accessed natively.
  • There may be some speed penalty on the Apps running on Wine/CrossOver.

Soon we shall know if CrossOver Mac will be as good as CrossOver Linux. At the moment all I can say is that the Windows on Mac market is getting crowded which is good for the users who will have more choices.

– Manas Kamal Bhattacharya

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18
Jun 06

Customize Web Search in Apple Safari with AcidSearch

I came across this free add-in for Apple Safari that lets you customize the we search engine settings. By default Safari only uses Google search. There is no documented way of switching to another search engine.

This add-in is called AcidSearch (get it from here).

You can operate it by clicking the magnifying glass icon on the Safari search box found on the top right of the Safari window. From here you can go to the AcidSearch settings. AcidSearch provides you by default a number of alternate search engines – Yahoo, A9, Vivisimo, AskJeeves .. You can also add your own search engine setting here. From the list here, you can select the search engine you like.

I found that the default url for AskJeeves provided by AcidSearch did not work. This was easily remedied by changing the url to : http://www.ask.com/web?q=.

Overall, this is a great tool that fills in a small void left by Apple.

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18
Jun 06

Mac: Can Apple Boot Camp and Parallels co-exist?

Apple has been known to make bold and mysterious decisions. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple choose to drop “Boot Camp” altogether in the 10.5 (Leopard) iteration of it’s Mac OSX. But the question is would they really drop Boot Camp in favor of virtualization ?

Here is an interesting question raised at TQAW blog :

I can’t even find Apple’s own Boot Camp mentioned on the ‘you can even run Windows’ page of Apple’s Get a Mac site – surprisingly, it’s Parallels Desktop that has the spotlight now. Could Apple be giving Boot Camp the back seat in favor of the no-rebooting convenience of Parallels Desktop?

Apple’s Windows site mentions Parallels Desktop instead of Boot Camp – The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Developing a new piece of software costs money. The software in question is Boot Camp !!! Cost of developing is much more than paying the developers, the QA folks who builds and tests the software, it’s much more than the cost of facility & infrastructure.

Being in product development myself, I can tell this much – the real cost is the time. For any software company engineering resources (dev, qa) is finite. If Apple didn’t have any intention to discontinue Boot Camp they would have used the resources to write Boot Camp. Simple. they could have used the time and the resources to write something else that would have got them more revenues.

If you compare Boot Camp to Parallel’s/ Desktop for Mac, you will notice that these two software are not altogether same.

For now, Boot Camp only allows us to install and dual boot between Mac OSX 10.4.6 and Windows XP SP2. No other OSes are supported. You can only boot to one OS at a time – either into OSX or into Windows XP. This similar to Grub or Lilo you would use to dual or multi boot Linux/Windows on a PC. The concept to Boot Camp comes with lot of advantages.

  • No matter which OS you have booted into, you get native speed and performance. With boot camp I played gaes on my Windows XP setup with quite good performance. Boot Camp transforms my Intel iMac Core Due 2Ghz into a great gaming PC. For everything else I use Tiger without any performance penalty.
  • With Boot Camp each supported OS runs natively and separately. So, if Windows XP has a trouble it will not impact my Tiger installation.

The trouble in Boot Camp’s paradise is sharing of files between the Windows and Tiger partitions. Tiger can read from the from Windows NTFS drive ( if you used FAT Tiber could both read and write, but using FAT file system is not a good idea at all). If you are booted to Windows, you wouldn’t be able to even see the Tiger’s HFS+ partition. There are 3rd party tools like MacDrive 6 that lets you use HFS+ drives from windows.

Parallel’s instead lets you run both Mac OSX and Windows (even Linux , BSD etc.) concurrently on you Mac. In this example let us take OSX Tiger and Windows XP. Since both are running concurrently, sharing files between them is as simple as accessing SMB shares over a TCP/IP network.

But Parallel’s or any other virtualization software (like Virtual PC, Vmware, XEN…) is not about sharing files ? There are some very good alternatives of Windows software for Mac. Then why would anyone want to use Parallel’s desktop. I can describe a use case where I have used virtualization regularly. Suppose, you are software developer who has to check cross platform compatibility of your software and you are tight on your hardware budget. This is where parallel’s or other virtualization software can help, on the same hardware you can run different OSes. In case of Parallel’s desktop you can run scores of OSes with it on you Mac.

Other then the above I cannot see much use case for parallels. In my tests of Windows XP running on Parallel’s I have found Windows run quite sluggishly. Surprisingly, if I remote desktop to the Windows XP (running on Parallel’s) the responsiveness is much better.

Of course, you can buy Parallels and run 20 OSes on you Mac. Why ? Just for fun 🙂

Different people have different needs and have different use cases. Neither Boot Camp nor Parallel’s can address everybody’s needs.

I don’t see Apple giving Boot Camp the boot any time soon. Boot camp and
virtualization softwares like Parallel’s will co-exist ( just like XEN
and Grub have co-existed). If you go by the rumors Leopard may even
have virtualization built into it by default.

Related Post :Mac: CrossOver Wine to join the party with BootCamp & Parallels

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09
May 06

Firefox on Mac – Useful Extensions (Part 1) – FlashGot Download Manager

Even in its default installation, the popular Open Source web browser, Firefox is quite feature rich. Most of the competing browsers are playing the catchup game, with the only exception is Opera. The key USP of Firefox is the ability to extend the default browser using the numerous extension available for free. There is a plethora of extension available at this site. There are extension for blocking web ads, for writing blogs, for tracking stocks, for managing downloads ………….

Over the next few days I will cover some of the most useful Firefox extension. For today, I intend to cover extensions for managing downloads. I am writing this post on Firefox 1.5.3 Mac OSX (universal).

FlashGot

Where to get : https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/220/

How to Install : From the above page click on the “Install Now” link.

How to configure: From Firefox menubar go to Tools -> Extensions. A new window pops up. Select FlashGot here and click “Preference” at the bpttom of the window.

At the time of writing this piece, FlashGot was the most downloaded extension on the mozilla.org extension site. The reason this extension is so popular is because the default download manager is firefox is quite inadequet for large file downloads.

Default Firefox Downloads Window

As you can see from the screenshot to the right, this is the stock download manager you will find in Frefox or Safari (this still is better than the one in IE6 or IE7 Beta). I still say this is inadequate because :

  1. It cannot resume broken downloads
  2. It cannot do multi part downloads which is critical is speeding the downloads

So, we have to depend on third party products like iGetter or Speed Download on Mac. Unfortunately the developers of these tools do not have plugins for Frefox.

FlashGot fills the important void by allowing us to seamlessly use these download acceletors from Firefox. This makes FlashGot a must have.

FlashGot supports lot of download managers or accelerators. After installation, FlashGot can autodetect which download manager you would want to us. In my case I use iGetter, and I will use iGetter as an example here.. Flashgot can autodetect downloads that needs to be transfered to iGetter by the type of content. Suppose, I need to download the latest update for firefox. FlashGot will see that this is a dmg file and pass this iGetter. Downloading with iGetter is far more secure and faster then the stock Firefox download manager.

FlashGot is designed for ease of use and can work without any custom configuration. For power users it also suports quite extensive set of configuration options.

Options