How to Change the Short Name of a User Account in Mac OS X

May 20, 2011 - 21 Comments

Change a User Short Name in Mac OS X

In Mac OS X, a users short name is what their home folder is named after and it’s also the shorthand name for logging into the Mac either from a lock screen or a network connection with remote access through SSH and SFTP. There’s various reasons that you’d want to change the user short name, but it’s not just a matter of changing the name listed on a user account. We’ll cover four different ways to do this, a simple way that just changes the short user name for login purposes, and three more complete methods that will change not only the short user name but also the users directory name to match. Go with what is appropriate for your skill level.

It’s important to note here that spelling matters, as does capitalization, any differences in spelling or capitalization and things will not work. Do not attempt to use a short user name or account name that has spaces or special characters, keep it simple with normal characters.

Before proceeding, make sure you have a recent backup of your Mac and it’s important data. If you haven’t backed up in a while, you can force a manual backup in Time Machine easily. Once you’re backed up, read on.

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By William Pearson - Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks - 21 Comments

Apple Working on Displays with Privacy Viewing Mode Option

May 20, 2011 - 2 Comments


A newly discovered patent shows that Apple is working to build displays that have a unique ability to direct their viewing angle, creating a controllable privacy mode that blocks peripheral observation of the screen. This ‘privacy mode’ would be activated by something like a touch event that would instantly change the displays viewing angle. As usual, this patent was found by Patently Apple, who says:

The patent describes a method of allowing a user to steer display light beams in various directions to effectively provide themselves with a new privacy option. The new privacy option mode only allows those directly in front of the display to view its content. Anyone on the periphery would simply see a blank display

The patent diagram shows a design similar to an iPod Classic, but PatentlyApple says “don’t get caught up into the illustration showing an older iPod” because the patent application is focused on a wide array of touch compatible portable hardware, ranging from music and video players, to computers and televisions, and even medical equipment.

This is one of a variety of Apple patents that have surfaced recently that demonstrate just how innovative Apple is. Like all patents, this may never see the light of day in an actual product, but it does provide a fascinating insight into Apple inventions, and who knows, maybe we’ll see a controllable privacy mode in iPads sometime down the road?

By Paul Horowitz - iPhone, Mac - 2 Comments

Pause Downloads from the Mac App Store

May 20, 2011 - 4 Comments

Pause downloads from the Mac App Store

You can pause any active download from the Mac App Store by right-clicking on the apps icon in the Dock and selecting “Pause” from the menu. Resuming the download is just a matter of right-clicking again and selecting Unpause.

This is a useful tip if you want to quickly preserve bandwidth for another task, or if you started a download on something like a tethered data connection and you want to save your precious data plan and finish the download later.

This tip should be familiar to anyone who has paused an iPhone or iOS download by tapping and holding on an apps icon. The idea of pausing and unpausing app store downloads is clearly borrowed from the iOS world and for good reason, it’s useful!

By Paul Horowitz - Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks - 4 Comments

Lodsys Autocorrects to Losers – Best iPhone Autocorrect Ever?

May 19, 2011 - 3 Comments

Lodsys autocorrects to losers

This is hilarious. Lodsys aka everyones favorite patent trolls who are now famous for trying to extort iOS developers for using in-app purchases, autocorrects to “losers” on the iPhone or iPad. Seriously, try it out yourself, type ‘lodsys’ and it will suggest “losers” as the correction.

Is this the best iPhone autocorrect example ever? I think so.

I saw this on MacGasm and thought they were just joking around, so I tried it myself and low and behold, lodsys wants to be losers. Fitting isn’t it? Major props to MacGasm for discovering this, they deserve some kind of award.

By Paul Horowitz - Fun, iPhone - 3 Comments

3 Free iPad Games for Cats (Seriously)

May 19, 2011 - 9 Comments

Remember the so-called “Worlds Best Video Game for Cats” for iPad that was put out by an iOS developer? Of course not, but anyway, now they have some competition from none other than Purina Friskies, who has released three free games for iPad exclusively for your furry friends.

In case you’re skeptical that cats will actually play games on an iPad, watch the video above, or just open the links below from a tablet and let your cats go to town:

The games are basic and feature things like fish swimming around or pieces of kibble exploding into more kibble as the cat (or you, if you’re so inclined) touch the screen. Not to spoil the iPad cat party, but the games will actually run on any browser or tablet thanks to HTML5, meaning they’ll run on any iOS device and Android too.

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By Paul Horowitz - Fun, iPad - 9 Comments

TermKit is the Terminal Beautifully Reimagined, Here’s How to Install It

May 19, 2011 - 34 Comments

TermKit is a GUI Terminal

If you’re tired of the antiquated (retro?) text-only appearance of the command line and, check out the fascinating new TermKit project.

TermKit aims to bridge aspects of the GUI with the command line, allowing this re-imagined terminal to see anything from icons to images, with progress bars and indicators that commands have executed successfully or failed, displaying anything that a modern web browser can (including HTML5 content), meaning there’s even fancy transitions and animations too. The developer cautions that TermKit is not a full terminal emulator, but it’s definitely very compelling even with its current limitations.

TermKit Installation Requirements and Steps

If you want to try TermKit out yourself, you’ll need some familiarity with compiling apps in the command line since TermKit is very much alpha and is somewhat of a hassle to install. Here’s a more accurate list of things you’ll need and steps to take to get the app running, I found the initial instructions on the projects homepage vague and missing some elements:

  • Install XCode 4 – registered developers can install Xcode 3 from a Mac OS X Installer DVD and upgrade manually to 4 or anyone can download Xcode 4 from the Mac App Store for $5
  • Install HomeBrew:
  • ruby -e "$(curl -fsSLk"

  • Install Node.JS:
  • brew install node git

  • Install NPM (Node Package Manager):
  • curl | sh

  • Install MIME using the newly installed NPM:
  • npm install mime

  • Use git to grab the TermKit source (note: if you run into permissions errors, pull off the –recursive flag):
  • git clone --recursive

  • Run Nodekit daemon:
  • cd TermKit/Node; node nodekit.js

  • Unzip
  • unzip Build/

  • Launch
  • open Build/

The usefulness is debatable at this point, and as the developer humorously says “nothing works yet” but there’s no doubt that TermKit is beautiful. Here are some more screenshots of TermKit in action:

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By William Pearson - Command Line, Mac OS X - 34 Comments

iTunes Cloud Music Streaming Confirmed by Apple Patent?

May 19, 2011 - 5 Comments

overview of Apple iTunes Cloud Streaming

As if there was any remaining doubt that Apple was working on a cloud player for your iTunes library, a patent has surfaced that describes just how part of the service will work. Somewhat amusingly, one of the drawings contained within the patent is, well, of a cloud.

So how will this work for the end user? The gist is that iOS devices will have the option to locally store small cached snippets of songs you want to play, and the remaining portion of the song will be downloaded and streamed while that initial local cache is playing. This setting will be contained within iTunes, as indicated in the patent image at the bottom of this post. Patently Apple describes this further:

The electronic device could receive and locally store initial portions of media items in the electronic device. When a user then instructs the device to play back a media item, the electronic device could initiate playback of the locally stored portion of media item while requesting a stream from the user’s media library for the remaining portion of the media item

Also, in an indicator that Apple is planning far into the future, the iTunes cloud patent shows that users will be able to select the speed of the network that which they are streaming onto. These network settings include 3G, WiFi, and, somewhat surprisingly, 5G coverage. This is also referenced in the graphic below.

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By Paul Horowitz - iPhone, iTunes, News - 5 Comments

Evidence Points to Thinner iPhone & iPod Touch Models

May 19, 2011 - 5 Comments

side view of iPhone 4

There is increasing evidence to suggest that Apple will be releasing thinner iPhone and iPod touch models sometime in the near future, although it’s unlikely to be the “iPhone 4S” update that is expected in September.

Thinner Camera Means Thinner iPod Touch?
The first piece of evidence comes via MacRumors, who tells us that Apple’s preferred camera sensor supplier, OmniVision Technologies, has just released a new 5MP camera lens that is 20% thinner than existing versions. With rumors saying that the next iPhone will have an 8MP camera, this new OmniVision camera seems a better fit for an iPod touch since “Apple has had to sacrifice on the camera quality and resort to thinner, lower-resolution sensors on those models,according to MacRumors.

Tiny SIM Card Suggests Thinner & Smaller iPhones… But We Still Have SIM Cards
Next up is news from Reuters that “Apple has proposed a standardized SIM card smaller than those it currently uses in the iPhone and iPad in order to be able to produce thinner devices.” This is certainly good news for a thinner and small iPhone, but, as MacGasm points out, bad news for the universal SIM or SIM-free iPhones that were conceptualized and even patented. The idea behind a SIM-free phone allowed users to let cell carriers bid for their business and thus reduce rates for consumers, but MacGasm suggests rightly so that this idea probably didn’t go over so well with cellular carriers. In this case, the consolation prize for the consumer is likely a future smaller phone.

2+2 = Smaller and Thinner iOS Hardware
Combining these two pieces of news with various reports from earlier in the year looks to confirm Apple’s continued effort to minimize the iOS hardware footprint. In February, Bloomberg reported that Apple was working on a smaller iPhone, that report that was later substantiated by the Wall Street Journal only to be contradicted by another from the NYT. Now that smaller hardware components are turning up, it doesn’t take much to put 2 and 2 together, and that gives a decent chance we’ll at least see a redesigned, and maybe even smaller, iPod touch in September.

By Paul Horowitz - iPhone, News - 5 Comments

Final Fantasy Tactics for iPhone & iPad Coming Soon

May 18, 2011 - 1 Comment

Final Fantasy Tactics for iPhone and iPad

The much anticipated Final Fantasy Tactics is going to finally make an appearance on the iOS platform in the very near future. First up will be a release for iPhone in the “late June -mid-July” timeframe, and then followed by an HD release with higher resolution 1024×768 graphics specifically for the iPad.

This information comes directly from the official Final Fantasy Tactics Facebook page, where a few screenshots were posted. They also provided this sample of the redrawn graphics for the iPad:


It looks snazzy and Square RPG fans should be excited for another release to hit the iOS App Store. I saw this on MacStories, who points out that pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but considering Final Fantasy 3 for iPad is $16.99 the price tag will likely be similar at least for the iPad version.

By Paul Horowitz - Games, iPad, iPhone - 1 Comment

Turn an Apple TV 2 into a Web Server

May 18, 2011 - 11 Comments

Turn Apple TV2 into a Web Server

So you already setup your Apple TV2 to run XBMC, and now you’re bored with it. Why not turn the ATV2 into a webserver like the guys at MacMiniVault did? Yes this link opens a web page served from an Apple TV2. You can do this yourself with your own Apple TV without too much work, just a bit of patience.

Before getting started, you’ll need to jailbreak the Apple TV2 with Seas0nPass, Seas0nPass is the easiest jailbreak utility around, but you could use PwnageTool or Redsn0w if that floats your boat. After you’ve done this, here’s a rundown of what you’ll need to do:

  • SSH into the newly jailbroken Apple TV2 from the Terminal, the default root password is ‘alpine’ and you’ll need to know the AppleTV2′s IP address or you can try using the hostname apple-tv.local:
  • ssh root@apple-tv.local

  • Change the root password from alpine to something else by typing ‘passwd’
  • Install Lighttpd onto the Apple TV2 by using apt-get:
  • apt-get install lighttpd

  • Use your favorite SFTP app (CyberDuck is free) to upload a lighttpd config file to /etc/lighttpd.conf – here’s a sample lighttpd.conf to work from
  • Now launch lighttpd server with (you may need to run this as /usr/sbin/lighttpd-angel):
  • lighttpd-angel -f /etc/lighttpd.conf

Your Apple TV2 web server should now be up and running, this can be verified by pulling up the ATV’s IP address in a web browser.

If you want the webserver to automatically start when the Apple TV boots or reboots, you’ll need to add a launch agent plist to /Library/LaunchDaemons/, plist files are different than bash scripts in that you have to spell out each individual flag and argument as a string. In this case, the command to execute lighttpd-angel would translate to plist keys looking something like this:

This walkthrough isn’t perfect yet, it’s an elaborated version from the super simplified instructions on MacMiniVault who setup this live Apple TV webserver just to see how well it will handle the traffic load.

Migrate Files from PC to Mac Easily with Parallels Transporter

May 18, 2011 - 3 Comments

Migrate files from PC to Mac

Migrating from a Windows PC to Mac just got a whole lot easier thanks to an app called Parallels Transporter. It’s actually two apps, one client that runs on the Windows PC and the other runs in Mac OS X, install both and they’ll talk to each other and do almost the entire file migration for you.

Key features of Parallels Transporter include:

  • Gathers and moves all your personal files, music, movies, photos, from a Windows PC and automatically transfers them to the appropriate locations in Mac OS X (My Documents -> Documents, My Photos -> Pictures, etc)
  • Moves your Windows PC web bookmarks to the default web browser in Mac OS X (Safari, or otherwise)
  • Transfers data through either direct USB connection, WiFi, or an external storage device (USB key, hard drive)
  • Migrates Windows applications to a virtual machine on the Mac, allowing you to run any necessary Windows apps directly on your Mac (this feature requires the separate optional purchase of Parallels VM to use)

Is there an easier way to move files from a PC to Mac? Probably not.

You can buy Parallels Transporter on the Mac App Store, it’s just $0.99 for now but the usual price is $39.99. That’s a pretty huge discount, so if you or someone else has any plans on ditching a PC anytime in the near future, do yourself a favor and buy it now for the whopping discount.

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By Matt Chan - Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks - 3 Comments

Show Image Dimensions in Mac OS X Finder Windows & Desktop

May 18, 2011 - 10 Comments

Show image dimensions under files in Mac OS X

The default setting in Mac OS X Finder is to display no file information, but you can easily set the Finder, Windows, and the Desktop to show image dimensions through a setting in View Options. Basically, you’ll see the complete resolution of a picture highlighted in blue underneath the file name, hugely useful for Mac users who do a lot of image work and editing.

Here’s how to enable this great feature and view the image file dimensions right from the Mac Finder.

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By Paul Horowitz - Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks - 10 Comments

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