Macintosh blog postings

Macintosh Postings

Earliest: June 26, 2003Latest: November 9, 2018Total: 269

February 2, 2018

Smart Converter

Shedworx's Smart Converter 2 tool is a great way to convert a media file from one format to another. It's a great quick media converter that just works well.

There are two Smart Converter versions, here's the key difference between the free version and the paid version:

In the Smart Converter Pro 2 version:

  • Search Meta-Data files
  • Automatically adds meta-data for searching
  • Subtitle support
  • Supports Multiple audio tracks
  • Define a different output location (You can avoid iTunes!)
  • Disable the ability to add media files to iTunes
  • Surround Sound support
  • Folder Monitoring (Have Smart Converter run everytime a file is placed in a folder.)

Product Description

Smart Converter Pro provides a faster, higher quality conversion than every other converter:

  • It's so smart - only converts stuff that needs converting, and leaves the rest alone--this means it's very fast and maintains the highest possible quality of video and audio.
  • Simple to use - drag, drop and click convert - Smart Converter Pro looks after the rest.
  • Movie and TV Show info - automatically add key info and artwork for your movies and TV shows.
  • Folder monitoring - automatically convert movies as they are added to nominated folders.
  • Subtitles - include subtitles, add external subtitles and even load subtitles from the web!
  • Supports 100's of media formats and converts to all your favourite devices and file types, including AppleTV, iPad, iPhone, Smart TV, PS3 and more.
  • iTunes Savvy - auto import your converted movies and music to iTunes.

Smart Converter21

Quick and Easy

I like Smart Converter because It can easily convert classic media files - such as Real Media files to MP4. It's a quick way to once again access old media files. (Without Smart Converter I would have to wait for Quicktime to convert old Sorxxx codec videos)

I also use Smart Converter to extract audio from MOV files. Useful when I just want the soundtrack and not have to watch the movie.

Haven't upgrade to the Pro version because I don't have the need for all the features of going pro. If you have a lot of files that need converting, then going pro is the way to go.

My Tips and Tricks

Some video screen capture files done in Snagit will not convert well. Apparently, there's a lot of masking between shots This means that you'll see some strange views in your final output.. (Not Smart Converter problem as Quicktime will have this same issue.) I have found ElMedia Player as a good converter in these cases.

Keep in mind that the final conversation is only as good as the source. Smart Converter can't make a video compress with Sorenson Codec look better in MP4.

Some mp4 files will not convert to audio-only. Haven't figured out why this is the case. ) I use Fission to extract the audio.

If you're not able to find your audio clip in iTunes it's because iTunes thinks it's a movie file.

Supports Converting 177 Media Types!

Here are all the file formats extensions supported by either version of Smart Converter:

avi, mp4, mkv, mts, m2ts, m4v, mp3, m4a, mov, flv, mpa, wmv, wma, wav, 3gp, 3g2, 3gp, 4xm, IFF, ISS, MTV, RoQ, aac, ac3, adts, aea, aiff, alaw, amr, anm, apc, ape, asf, asf_stream, ass, au, avi, avm2, avs, bethsoftvid, bfi, bink, c93, caf, cavsvideo, cdg, crc, daud, dirac, dnxhd, dsicin, dts, dv, dvd, dxa, ea, ea_cdata, eac3, f32be, f32le, f64be, f64le, ffm, film_cpk, filmstrip, flac, flic, flv, framecrc, gif, gsm, gxf, h261, h263, h264, idcin, image2, image2pipe, ingenient, ipmovie, ipod, iv8, lmlm4, m4v, mkv, matroska, mjpeg, mlp, mm, mmf, mov, mov, mp4, m4a, 3gp, 3g2, mj2, mp2, mp3, mp4, mpc, mpc8, mpeg, mpeg1video, mpeg2video, mpegts, mpegtsraw, mpegvideo, mpjpeg, msnwctcp, mulaw, mvi, mxf, mxf_d10, nc, nsv, null, nut, nuv, ogg, oma, psp, psxstr, pva, qcp, r3d, rawvideo, rcv, rl2, rm, rpl, rtp, rtsp, s16be, s16le, s24be, s24le, s32be, s32le, s8, sdp, shn, siff, smk, sol, sox, spdif, svcd, swf, thp, tiertexseq, tmv, truehd, tta, txd, u16be, u16le, u24be, u24le, u32be, u32le, u8, vc1, vc1test, vcd, vmd, voc, vqf, w64, wav, wc3movie, webm, wsaud, wsvqa, wv, xa, yop,

Getting Smart Converter

You can get the free version on the Apple Store or from ShedWorx Website.

January 26, 2018

ParticleShop

ParticleShop is a unique brush effect tool, it makes the brush come alive and adds all sorts of special effects. Basically, the brush comes alive as you apply it to the image. Based on the color/size and brush you get all sorts of unique special effects.

This is not your standard brush tool. It's a way to paint effect to your photos, such as fire, smoke and bubbles.

I originally purchased ParticleShop as part of the "Create Your 12 App MEGA Mac Bundle" from Bundle Hunt. I saw the description and thought it would be worth trying out. (It was priced at $49.99) I got the 12-App bundle for $19.99.

Description from the 'About ParticleShop' menu

Leave the physics to us; no static stamps here! Experience the strokes of grab-and-go living brushes that spring, flow, gravitate and glow based on your unique expression. Artistically enhance photos, designs, and illustrations with the realistic awe-inspiring results.

Craft your visual masterpiece with brushes that are built to perform with a pressure-sensitive tablet, touchscreen or mouse. Free yourself to create, ranter than configure by exploring an array of artistic brushes that require minimal setup and a clean and simple user interface in which to create.

Are you ready to get started? You can access ParticleShop resources online to find exciting new brushes, get help, and learn more about the product.

Demo of ParticleShop

Particle Shop Demo

Not a great artist, but I added a couple of effects to an image.

Cool Tool

ParticleShop is a cool tool, it comes with 11 brushes in the Core Pack. However, once you start playing around with it you quickly feel that 11 brushes aren't enough and you could do so much more with more brushes. In order to get new ones you have to purchase them on Painter's online store.

The prices for extra packs range from $29 to $79 - you can get the entire collection for $95. I think it's pretty expensive for my budget, but I guess if you're into brush touch up then it would be a reasonable amount of the creative brush effects that you get.

Particle Shop Brushes

At the End of the Day

I don't think I'll be using ParticleShop too much, it's a cool tool for people that spend a lot of time touching up photos and graphics files. Looks like having a pressure sensitive Wacom tablet would be practical to get the most out of the tool.

ParticleShop is a Photoshop Plug-in and does not work with Affinity Photo. Since I don't use Photoshop Elements 13 that much, I don't think that I'll be using ParticleShop.

January 19, 2018

Quadro Sync

Quadro Sync is a cool way to control your computer from your Smart Phone. You have the ability to assign specific functions so that when you open up the application your smartphone screen changes to display buttons of tasks to perform.

You can customize the button assignments and button designs. Giving you full control over how Quadro Sync works.

Quadro is an excellent application to help with common tasks that you encounter every day. If you been thinking about getting an external controller pad, consider trying Quadro first.

This is a two-bit application; there's the desktop app that is always listening! and interacting with iOS! and there's an iOS app that has to be running. After a few minutes of inactivity, the iOS app will go to sleep -saving your screen and device power.

If you're just going to charge your phone at your desk, why not put it to great use?

i Phone Promo

Description from Quadro Website

Here's a description from Quadro.me website:

Power up your workstation
Control your applications with a simplified yet enhanced personal interface. Automate any recurring iteration and optimize your workflow. Reduce the gap between ideation and execution. And have fun doing it.

Personal computing, truly
Personalize any function and representation of your actions. Use color, icons and images to convey meaning and smoothen your path to action.

Automate your workflow
Direct activation is cool again, but that's not enough. Sequence any action easily to create your cross-application macros and let Quadro do the dirty work for you.

BBEdit Screen Example

I spent a lot of time in BBEdit for PHP development and text cleanup. I spent some time thinking about what tools would make sense to make a Quadro action:

B B Edit Sync

  • Zap Gremlins - Clean up the selected text.
  • Paragraph - Create HTML Paragraph from selection
  • Backup to Evernote - Quick way to backup my document to Evernote.
  • Process Lines Containing - Quick Filter
  • Find - Open up the Find/Replace dialog box
  • Remove Line Breaks - Clean up the selected text.
  • Add Hyperlink - Open the Hyperlink dialog to add a link to the selected text.

Obviously all of these commands can be performed by keyboard shortcuts. Making them as action buttons in Quadro makes it quicker to apply these actions.

For example, I am opting to backup my documents to Evernote more often because the big green button is there to remind me.

Which Devices can You Install Quadro Sync?

If you have any old devices that are just sitting in storage, you may want to dust it off and make it your new Quadro pad.

The Quadro iOS App will work on any devices that can run iOS 8.0 or newer, according to Apple these are the devices that will run on iOS 8:

  • The iPhone 4S
  • The iPhone 5
  • The iPhone 5C
  • The iPhone 5S
  • The iPod Touch fifth generation
  • The iPad 2
  • The iPad with Retina Display
  • The iPad Air
  • The iPad Mini
  • The iPad Mini with Retina Display
  • Getting the Application

    To get started, visit the Quadro website and download the application.

    January 12, 2018

    PhotoBulk

    PhotoBulk is a neat little application where you can apply four different tasks to an unlimited set of images.

    This past summer, I got the application as part of the The Next Web software package deal. In September, they came out with an update - my purchase wasn't eligible for the free upgrade. However, they will offer a 50% discount on previous purchases, which is very good.

    Photo Bulk Screens
    The screen difference between the old view and the new view.

    Watermark

    There are four different watermarks that you can apply to each image:

    • Text - Simple text, (i.e. Copyright Info) with the ability to select different font sizes and color. You can also change the opacity. You can change the angle or location of the text.
    • Image - Place any image logo in simi
    • Script - Repeat a text watermark on your image.
    • Datestamp - Add a timestamp to your image. You have the same capabilities as the text

    Resize

    This is useful if you want to transform a bunch of images to a similar size. You can change By Width, By Height, Percentage, By Max file size, Free Size.

    Optimize

    You can reduce the size of images (JPG and PNG) files. The only bad part is that you can?t tell if the compression will cause a serious quality problem with the images.

    In my test, it actually did a pretty good job optimizing. I used the mid-point, called ?opt? and checked the files and they looked fine, I couldn?t tell any visual difference.

    Note: There is no preview functionality in the September update

    Rename

    Rename a the drop images. This is useful when you want to rename a bunch of common photos. Such as vacation photos.

    Performing Action

    When you start the action, the tasks will always create a new folder and put the new images in the folder. You don't have to worry about the original file.

    Overall View

    There are some useful functionality however, I think your better off using functiionality in GraphicConverter or PhotoScape X. These applications offer a lot more features. At the end of the day, you get more bang for your buck.

    The watermark feature in PhotoBulk is nice, but not something that I would be using frequently.

    January 5, 2018

    PhotoScape X December Update

    On December 20th, 2017, Photoscape X was updated with nine new features an unspecified number of bug fixes. The application is shaping up to be a very useful tool, and I certainly would recommend it as a compliment to Affinity Photo or Pixelmator.

    Here's a breakdown of the new Features released in the December update:

    Photoscape X Update
    Menus Options of the new features

    Draw Brushes

    There are now 11 new Draw Brushes. These brushes are useful to add additional effects to the images. There's a lot more capabilities in Affinity Photo and Pixelmator, including the ability to create your own brush.

    I played around with this and can see this would be a good way to quickly enhance images, especially using the Blend Mode.

    Scatter Brushes

    Nice to see scatter brushes back! This is a favorite paint feature that I am glad to see back on the Mac! I first encountered scattered brush in SuperPaint. Scatter brush is a way to display some brush strokes randomly. Usually done with a special shape brush such as Heart, Confetti, Snowflakes, Dog Prints and more.

    Photoscape X includes 11 brushes in this release. I am sure they will release some new ones in future updates. Very cool feature to use to add effects to images, such as snowflakes or adding Bokeh effects.

    Paint Bucket Tool

    The Paint Bucket tool will change a specific pixel to any color that you wish. I can see this would be useful if you have a solid color background and wanted to change it to some other color.

    I played around with this feature for a bit and don't see it very useful for photos. I think it will be good to touch up graphics files.

    Magic Color Filter

    The Magic Color filter is a quick way to brighten up your images. Now you don't have to play around with various Clarity and Brighten settings. Simply click on the "Magic Color" checkbox and instantly see the image improve.

    You can adjust the setting to better improve the image.

    I tested this feature with several images and it works very well. The images are nice and bright! A quick way to touch up an image if you don't have time to do it! This is a great tool to have and I certainly see this being used all the time.

    Touch-up Compairson

    PhotoScape Magic Touch

    In the above example, I ran the same photo through each application and selected the Auto Color Adjustment once. I didn't make any special changes to the image. I think Photoscape did a great job with bringing out the blue in the snow.

    December 29, 2017

    Best Macintosh Blog Posting of 2017

    This year I found some great Macintosh software - Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer and Keyboard Maestro. They all played into helping make 2017 a very productive year.

    Many of this year's post were around those applications. Next year might see a shift to more developer and video applications.

    Top Seven Macintosh Post of 2017

    In no particular order..

    You can find all the Macintosh post over on the Macintosh Blog Listing page.

    Lots of exciting Macintosh post are planned for 2018. If you have any tips/tricks that you would like to share, please let me know.

    December 22, 2017

    GraphSketcher

    Have you ever needed to make a simple line chart in Affinity Designer? Wish there was a simple way to create a vector base graph?

    Thankfully there is an app for that and it's free!

    GraphSketcher is a simple, elegant tool for quickly sketching graphs and plotting data -- but you don't even need data to get started. It's perfect for reports, presentations, and problem sets where you need to produce sharp-looking graphs on the fly.

    It's really easy to create charts for whatever data point that you want. Anytime you want a quick line graph, GraphSketcher is perfect.

    Graphic Sketcher

    Integrates Smoothly with Affinity Designer

    What's nice about GraphSketcher is that you can copy the Graph in GraphSketcher and then paste it in Affinity Designer. All the objects are put in their own layers and in their respective types. So you can still change the text and points on the chart!

    This is really cool when you want to put together a quick chart and use the power of Affinity Designer to touch it up.

    GraphSketcher History

    The application was created by Robin Stewart in 2007 and refined by the folks at Omni Group. In 2014, the application was retired from the product line and the code was put into open-source.

    There's only been one update since the code was put into open-source. That was to fix a bug with comma separated values.

    Getting GraphSketcher

    Download the Binary file from GitHub and place the file into the Application folder. Double click to open and start creating charts.

    Check out all the Inspector settings and see the capabilities of the application.

    Once your done, click on the 'Copy as Image' and then paste it into your Affinity Designer document. Now you can do additional modifications to make the chart look better. (Try putting the chart on a chalkboard for a unique look!)

    Pro-Tip

    After you paste in the chart, I would recommend grouping the objects together (Command-G). That will make it easier to manage all the objects. So after you, Command-C, do a Command-G.

    December 15, 2017

    Keyboard Maestro Browser Version

    Keyboard Maestro has a great integration with some popular browsers. Some macros that I created comes in handy when filing Jira Issues.

    Note: This is similar to a tip I reported a couple of years ago - "Getting the Browser Version" for TextExpander.

    Browser Version

    When reporting an issue, often I need to include the browser that I used so that Developers can see if the reported issue is related to a specific browser version. Since most of the modern browsers auto-update it can be a pain to track them.

    Chrome Version

    Chrome Version

    Execute the following AppleScript:

    tell application "Google Chrome"
    set theVersion to "Chrome " & version
    end tell

    So whenever I need to identify the version of Chrome, I just type in Chrome.Version and instantly the version of Chrome is deplayed. This saves me a lot of time to open up the 'About Chrome' and write the version number. Having this macro makes it easy to add this information to any Jira Issue or Slack chat.

    I also have macos setup for Firefox and Safari.

    Bonus Browser Version Macro

    There's a 'super' macro that will display all the browser versions that I have. Again, this just makes it easy to identify the browsers that I am testing with:

    Browser Versions

    December 8, 2017

    Dealing with the Grayed out song Listing in iTunes

    Do you manually move music to your iPhone or iPod? Have you ever encountered an issue where a song didn't get copied and you end up with something like this:

    iTunes Grid

    This has happened to me a lot and after playing around with the iTunes and the phone, I figured out why it's been happening.

    Here's the possibilities:

    iCloud song already there

    Apple doesn't want you to copy a song that you already have available in the iCloud. So the grayed out song means that the song already exists in the Cloud or you downloaded to the phone. You don't see it on iTunes because iTunes is only showing downloaded music.

    You Copied a Set of Song/Playlist and a Song Existed

    When you copy a playlist and a song exists in the cloud it will stop all the other songs that were to be copied over. You may see the grayed out song in the Playlist and not in the regular Song grid.

    Quick Solution

    I usually encounter this when I copy a playlist to my iPhone and not all the songs got copied over.

    The solution that I found to work: delete the grayed out song and try copying the other songs. For example, I would select the next four songs that didn't work or at least one at a time.

    If the grayed out song is something that I downloaded from someplace else, I found that renaming it also worked.

    December 1, 2017

    Headless Chrome and Keyboard Maestro

    In May, Google shipped headless functionality with Google Chrome 59. Google description of the feature:

    A headless browser is a great tool for running automated tests and server environments where you don't need to see the rendered output or have a visible UI shell.

    Thanks to Google Chrome Autoupdate, everyone should have this feature by now.

    Here's a simple script to take a screenshot of any particular website:

    Chrome Headless

    Shell Script Code:

    cd /Users/cryan/Desktop;
    alias chrome="/Applications/Google Chrome.app/Contents/MacOS/Google Chrome";
    chrome --headless --disable-gpu --screenshot --window-size=1280,2696 http://www.cryan.com/blog;

    Some Tips:

    Chrome saves every file as screenshot.png. There's currently no way to change the filename during command run. So I added the Keyboard Maestro built-in file rename immediately after the screen capture.

    The "window-size=1280,1696" is the size of a standard letterhead

    The iPhone 8 browser window size is 375x667

    The iPhone X browser window size is 375x812

    The Samsung Galaxy S8+ browser window size is 360x740

    Good Use of Keyboard Maestro v8 Cron Feature

    I added Keyboard Maestro's cron feature so that the screenshot process would run automatically. Here some example uses:

    • Take a screenshot of your company website every morning. At the end of the year, you can see how the site has changed
    • Take a screenshot of your company website in different browser sizes. (What are Mobile users seeing.)
    • Take a screenshot of your website after posting a blog entry
    • Take a screenshot of your CNN, Drudgereport or MSNBC. What were the top news of the day?
    • Take a screenshot of Amazon and BestBuy homepage.

    Setting this up as Cron feature allows you to set it and forget it. These will run as long as your computer is up and running.