Feb 07

Inquisitor 3 : Neat Enhancement to Web Search in Apple’s Safari Web Browser

The built in web search in Apple Mac Safari 2 & 3 web browsers leaves much to be desired in comparison to Firefox 2.0 ( or the new Firefox 3 Betas). This is where a nice little addon called Inquisitor brings in the much needed parity for Apple’s Safari web browser. When compared to Firefox’s (v2.0) built in search Apple Safari 2.0 and the Safari 3.1 lacks 2 very important features :

  1. Safari does not allow search engine customization. Only Google search can be used.
  2. Safari cannot provide live search suggestions like Firefox 2.0/3.0

Get Inquisitor 3 from the developer’s site located here [external link]. The developer has made Inquisitor freely available. The developer’s web page has link to PayPal for donation.

Installing/Uninstalling Inquisitor 3

Installation is pretty straight forward. The downloaded dmg file contains a installation app. Just execute the app and restart Safari. Inquisitor 3 now also works on OSX 10.5 (Leopard).Inquisitor, does not install in the Application folder, so in case you want to uninstall Inquisitor, you can use the same Install app – which gives an option for uninstalling Inquisitor 3.

Getting Started with Inquisitor 3

Once Inquisitor is installed and Safari is restarted, just try a web search on the Apple Safari’s search box on the top right hand corner. I just typed “Gone With the Wind”. Pronto, a beautiful pop up appears below the Safari search box with 3 site suggestions and some keyword suggestions. Inquisitor can use both Google or Yahoo to provide search suggestions. Check out the screenshot below. The way the search suggestion are displayed give Safari one up on Firefox 2.0. This looks so beautiful, so very Apple like.

Inquisitor default provides only Google search. New search engines can be easily added from the Inquisitor preference pane located inside the Safari preference pane. I quickly added Yahoo, IMDb and Wikipedia search for the predefined filters already provide by Inquisitor. For each search engine, I was required to provide a keyboard shortcut. All these were done in less than a minute. Inquisitor also allows adding on custom search engine. In my case I added Ask.com by adding the search url- http://www.ask.com/web?q=%@ .

Inquisitor 3 provides some basic configuring options. It also allows previous search history to be used to refine suggestions. With Inquisitor switching the search engine is not easy as in Firefox. The way it works i that the user is required to assign a unique keyboard short cut for each search engine selected. After the user types the search term in the search box, the appropriate shortcut keys needs to be pressed. By default, pressing enter/return results in Google search being used. In the screenshots above, I have assigned Cmd+Y for Yahoo search, Cmd+W for Wikipedia. If someone uses many different search engines, it will be a pain to remember keyboard shortcuts assigned to each search engine.

A work around for it is that as soon as the search key work is typed, wait for the pop-up to appear below the web search box (see screenshot on the left). Here there will be a list of search engines configured, use the mouse to click on the search engine you want to use for this search.

Conclusion & Recommendation

Overall, Inquisitor 3 is an excellent and high quality addon for Apple Safari web browser. It enhances the user experience on Safari web browser in a very neat way. Users should at least give Inquisitor 3 a try.

The reader should also check out the review of Acid Search addon for Apple Safari browser. Like Inquisitor, Acid Search allows customization of search engine in Safari, but cannot do search suggestion.

Test Setup Used for this review:

  • Safari 2.0.4 (419.3) Mac OSX Version 10.4.8 (Tiger), iMac 20′ with Intel Core Duo (Early 2006)
  • Safari 3.1 (5525.13) Mac OSX Version10.5.2 (Leopard), iMac 20′ with Intel Core Duo (Early 2006)

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Feb 07

Netscape 9 browser on Mac OSX and Linux

After the windows only Netscape 8 disaster, there is Netscape 9 web browser being planned. Interestingly, according to this post [external link] in the Netscape blog, the Netscape 9 will be released for Mac OSX, Linux and Windows simultaneously.

For AOL Netscape has been a long and painful story of missed opportunity. Long back they could have used the Geeko engine as the default platform for their AOL browser. Instead they choose to persist with the Internet Explorer core and shut out the non Windows users. As a result, the Netscape platform became an non-entity in an internet ecosystem dominated by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

AOL has still not got it’s strategy right on what to do with the Netscape. The windows only Netscape 9, the super bloated Netscape 6 or even the new avatar of the digg-alike Netscape.com clearly illustrates this.

For a Mac user Netscape 9 will just be an alternative to Firefox or Safari. For Linux users Netscape 9 will just be an alternative to Firefox or Konqueror.
Considering how well Firefox web browser is doing, why do we need one more browser ?

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Sep 06

Universal AC3 codec for QuickTime

Finally we have a working AC3 codec that works on the Intel Macs. Get it from A52Codec 1.7.2 – VersionTracker. This one really works 🙂

Usually you will find AC3 audio on those common DivX movies, DVDs etc. Until now ac3 audio would not play on the Intel Macs- both on Front Row or Quick Time. Sometime back, somewhere on the web, I came across another universal ac3 code for QT, but this one just kept crashing the QA player or Front Row.

With this new A52Codec v 1.7.2 universal binary available at Version Tracker, ac3 audio playes great on QT or Front row. The code appears pretty stable and the audio clear.

The download comes in a dmg format. After clicking on the DMG from the Finder, it’s almost drag and drop install.

  1. Drag & drop the A52Codec.component into /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components
  2. Drag & drop the AC3MovieImport.compontent into /Library/QuickTime
  3. Drag & drop A52Preferences.app to your Applications folder.

Big thanks to the creators of of this codec.

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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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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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