Macintosh blog postings

Macintosh Postings

Earliest: June 26, 2003Latest: July 13, 2018Total: 252

October 6, 2017

FFMpeg

If your looking for a powerful multimedia framework check out FFmpeg. It's a powerful command line utility that has a strong user base and easy to learn.

ffmepg doesn?t have a fancy user interface, which may turn away some users. I believe It worth learning FFmpeg because you'll learn more about creating multimedia files.

Three Examples

Show MetaData

Find out some MetaData on your multimedia file. Here's what information that Quicktime and Finder shows:

Finder Metadata

This is what FFmpeg displays when you run the command:

ffmpeg -i

Input #0, mov,mp4,m4a,3gp,3g2,mj2, from '/Volumes/MONOCARPOUS/Computers/2003/3.17.03/done/mitt.mov':
  Metadata:
    creation_time   : 2003-03-16T05:31:43.000000Z
    encoder         : Encoded with Cleaner 5
    encoder-eng     : Encoded with Cleaner 5
  Duration: 00:00:30.06, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 491 kb/s
    Stream #0:0(eng): Video: svq1 (SVQ1 / 0x31515653), yuv410p, 320x240, 442 kb/s, 15 fps, 15 tbr, 600 tbn, 600 tbc (default)
    Metadata:
      creation_time   : 2003-03-16T05:31:43.000000Z
      handler_name    : Apple Alias Data Handler
      encoder         : Sorenson Video
    Stream #0:1(eng): Audio: qdm2 (QDM2 / 0x324D4451), 44100 Hz, mono, s16, 48 kb/s (default)
    Metadata:
      creation_time   : 2003-03-16T05:31:43.000000Z
      handler_name    : Apple Alias Data Handler

Convert old .MOV to the latest .MP4 standards

This is a basic functionality of FFmpeg. The core command is:

ffmpeg -i filename.mov filename.mp4

A more advance example would be:

for FILE in *.swf; do ffmpeg -i "$FILE" "${FILE[@]/%swf/mp4}"; done;

That will convert all Flash SWF files in a directory to the industry standard h264 format. This is very useful to view Flash video if you don't have a Flash player.

As you learn more about the FFmpeg, you'll understand which compression will work for your multimedia and distribution method.

Create a Looping File

Let's say you have a howling wolf audio clip and you wanted to have a longer version. Here's an example of how you would go about doing that using FFmpeg.

ffmpeg -stream_loop 4 -i howl.mp3 -c copy howl4.mp3

Real Video Files

I thought I might be interesting to see if FFmpeg would convert some old Real Media files to MP4. I tested converting a couple of Real Video and Real Audio files, some that you can see on this site, and they converted from Real Video 10 to H264 successfully.

Stream #0:1 -> #0:0 (rv10 (native) -> h264 (libx264))
Stream #0:0 -> #0:1 (ac3 (native) -> aac (native))

The video quality was bad. However, it was probably because when I encoded it I went for the smallest file size as possible.

September 29, 2017

Keyboard Maestro Date Formatting

Last week Keyboard Maestro was upgraded to version 8. It?s packed with a lot of features, and I thought it would be time to do a change up and switch from TextExpander 5.1.4 to Keyboard Maestro.

Note: I didn't upgrade to TextExpander 6 because I didn't like to have to pay for a yearly subscription for a Macintosh utility program.

I have been moving a lot of my TextExpander Snippets to Keyboard Maestro's Macros. It?s been a slow transition as it?s a bit hard to get used to Keyboard Maestro?s interface. It?s complicated for a reason - they're so much more you can do using Keyboard Maestro.

Date/Time Variable Reference Chart

Here?s a handy chart to convert Day/Time data from Text Expander to Keyboard Maestro. This is useful when converting your snippets to Keyboard Maestro and want to keep the same date format.

DateTimeChart_sm.jpg
Click on image for a larger version.

Date Time Display

This is a sample Macro that I have set up to display the current date time.

USA Date Format

I have three macros to easily display the current date in the following formats:

  • Standard US Date
  • European Date Format
  • ODBC Date Format (Database Format)

Try Out Keyboard Maestro

Try out Keyboard Maestro 8 as its more user-friendly. Watch the YouTube videos to get an idea on how best to use it. The forum is a great place to get ideas and tips from other users.

September 22, 2017

Seamless Images in Affinity Designer

Someone added a comment to a previous blog post asking how I was able to make a background image in Affinity Designer. It's pretty easy to do.

Here are the steps on creating a seamless asset in Affinity Designer. To do this, I'll utilize some functionality in OmniGraffle.

A seamless background image is a pattern that looks the same no matter how big the background is. Think of it as wallpaper pattern.

Steps to create the pattern

  • Open up OmniGraffle
  • Drag and drop the Seamless Background image
  • Omni Image

    In the Image Setting, in the Object Panel, select the 'Tile Image to fit Shape' icon.
  • Now reshape the shape to a large size, such as 1000 px. It's important to keep the image ratio, this is done by holding the shift key and drag the corners.
  • Once done, simply copy the object.
  • Open up Affinity Designer
  • Create a new document.
  • Paste in the file.
  • Open up the Style Panel
  • Right Click on the Image and select the 'Create Style'

Now you have a style that has the background image.

September 15, 2017

FontDoc Copy/Paste

Earlier this year I wrote about how FontDoc was a useful application to see what font looks best for a given text. You type in any text and in a few seconds, you see your text using all the fonts on your computer. Simply scroll through to see all your options

This is certainly better than judging a typeface by the name - after all many fonts look different when you mix upper and lowercase characters.

FontDoc Cool Feature

There is a cool benefit that I didn't mention - copy and paste. You can copy the text and paste it into any document and it will paste in the text using the font style you selected. How cool is that!

Font Doc Example

This makes it really easy to look at header text in different font styles and then paste in the one that you like the most. This will work in any application - Affinity Designer, Photoshop, OmniGraffle, Microsoft Word and more. Any document that supports rich text (RTF) will support this.

This is way better than judging what looks better based on the WYSIWYG menu.

Drag and Drop Works!

Fontdoc Drag Drop

You can simply select the text and drag and drop it into your application. In the above screenshot, I dragged and drop the text to Microsoft Word.

One Exception to the rule

The only caveat is that the font has to be installed. So if you're using FontDoc to check Fonts that are not on your computer, the pasted text will be pasted in Helvetica font style.

The fix is easy, simply install the font and try again. Note: You may need to quit and reopen the application in order for the application to recognize the font.

September 8, 2017

Intensify CK

Intensify CK is an Mac OS Application that makes it easy to touch up images. You don't need to be an expert in understanding how vibrance, Saturation and Luminosity works. There are some cool presets that can help you get the most clarity and intensity from your images.

From Macphun's website:

Intensify helps photographers of all skill levels create powerful images with unprecedented drama and detail. Precise control of contrast, structure, detail, and sharpening across different tonal ranges delivers high-quality results every time.

Intensify features special algorithms to prevent image artifacts, stackable image adjustments with opacity control, dozens of professionally created presets, adjustment brushes, RAW image support, vignettes and the ability to run as a standalone application or as a plug-in for popular host applications. combine to make Intensify Pro an essential part of any photo editing toolbox.

Intensity Side2

Main Preset Categories

  • Architecture
  • Black & White
  • Creative
  • Detail Enhancement
  • Image Tune
  • Landscape
  • Soft

Making Standard Photos Awesome

I like Intensity because it can help make simple photos taken with the iPhone to look so much better. Check out how using the basic Artistic Preset changes the sky in this Fenway Park picture:

intensifyckexample2

When I load up a file in Intensify CK, I then select one of the Presets, and use the down arrow key to see the change in the image with the different selections.

Lynda.com Class

If you want to get more from Intensify CK, check out the Advance Intensity CK class at Lynda.com. Richard Harrington will help you understand some of the advanced options in Intensify CK. It's a good way to learn to use the software.

Summary

I purchased Intensity CK from a recent Bundle Hunt deal. I don't think that I would use this frequently but think that it's a nice tool to have when I need it.

Check it out for yourself, there is a 15 day trial. Where you can play around with the various presets and see how they can make your photos look different.

For example, there are 9 different Black and White presets. Which is kind of neat to see the difference that each one can do to an image.

September 1, 2017

Command One

Commander One is a file manager for Mac, a program like Finder to copy, delete, compress/uncompress files, connect to an FTP server, etc. However, Commander One can do much more than Finder, e.g. search for files with specific pattern across all drives and archives, mount MTP and iOS devices, view processes in the system, etc.

Having multiple windows can be complicated to manage. A Dual-pane browser window can make it easy to navigate between folders and services. With Command One Pro, you can connect to the most popular cloud services and manage them all with one familiar interface.

Command One

Ten things I learned about Commander One Pro
  • Command One Pro is part of the Setup Subscription Service. For $9.99 a month you can have access to 60+ applications. It's a good way to try out various apps to see which ones you may like.
  • A Command One Pro Personal License only allows you access to one installation of Commander One Pro, if you have multiple Macintosh computers you need a Team License.
  • To view folder contents size you have to press the space bar. (There should be a setting so that folder size is always displayed)
  • You can connect your DropBox account and manage it without having to install the DropBox app. Very handy if you have limited disk space on your computer.
  • One good use I got out of this was the ability to back up certain files to a thumb drive. I did a quick search for brush files (.abr) and moved them to my thumb drive so that I had a backup of brushes. Command One made it easy to find the files and move them to the folder on my thumb drive.
  • Really cool that you can open up ZIP and WAR file without extracting. I have quite a few files that have images and text data that I can access whenever I want.
  • Just about every functionality is configurable to a hot key. This makes it easy to make certain tasks easy to perform. (For some reason Command-F is assigned to the Connections dialog. I think it should be assigned to search, fortunately, you can change it.)
  • I found the search to be very helpful in managing misc files on the computer.
  • The Disk List bar makes it easy to switch between connected accounts/drives. Making it very easy to move files between connected USB thumb drives.
  • The Pro pack includes DropBox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, OneDrive and WebDAV. Giving you more power than the standard web interface.

August 26, 2017

Apple External Keyboard Stopped Working

This week my Apple External Keyboard just stopped working for no reason. I have a MacBook Pro connected to a Thunderbolt display. All of a sudden the keyboard just stopped working.

  • I removed the USB end from the display and reconnected it, no such luck.
  • I plugged the keyboard directly into the computer, restarted - no keyboard was found.
  • The Apple Keyboard didn't even show up in the System Information.
  • The caps lock key never lit up.

How did I get it to work?

I read various Apple forums from other customers having the same issue. The "easy" solution was to connect the keyboard to a USB hub. I simply connected my USB Mighty Man hub to the computer and then the Keyboard USB to the hub. That worked!

Keyboard Solution
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Seems like a weird solution. But the advice on Apple.stackexchanged.com worked!

I am wondering if my Optical Gaming Mouse that is connected to the Thunderbolt display is draining out the USB power. Although it doesn't explain why connecting the keyboard directly to the computer didn't work.

The USB Gaming Mouse (Holtek Semiconductor) has a current required 100 (mA), where as the Apple Keyboard has a current required on 20 (mA).

U S B Man Hub
USB Hub Man to the Rescue

In any case, not sure why all of a sudden this started happening. I have been using the Keyboard/Mouse/Thunderbolt connection for about 6 months now with no problems. The system is running macOS Sierra version 10.12.6 with the update installed 17 days ago.

August 25, 2017

Fluid Mask 3

fluidmask

Fluid Mask is an easy way to remove/replace background images. People use this when they want to extract people or objects out of photograph.

This is a professional graphic tool that is more powerful than mask functionality that you may encounter in Pixelmator or Photoshop. This gives the user more power to strip out unwanted backgrounds. The net-net results is a cleaner cut with no ugly pixelated edges.

Some example uses:

  • Change the background from a cloudy day to a nice sunny one.
  • Add someone to a photograph to make it appear that they were at the family outing even though they couldn't make it.
  • Take the 'Welcome to Boston' sign out of a picture and place it on your website header.
  • Remove unwanted objects from your photos.
  • An tool in your photography toolbox to create great images for social media.

From their website:

Extract the true character of an image -- fast! Make super fine mask selections and apply the most powerful blending algorithms for truly professional results.

Good Tools have a Learning Curve

It takes a while to understand how to use this tool. Fortunately, there are plenty of video tutorials to watch and understand the fundamental ideas. Every image is different so learning the fundamentals can help tackle the toughest task.

I did find the layout to be a bit hard to understand but watching the videos and playing around with the software help with the learning curve.

Start off slow. I would recommend just doing a basic background replacement and slowly work your way to more complex masking.

Some Examples of Work

Here are a couple of images that I was able to extract using Fluid Mask.

yosemite at night
A little touch up with Pixlr to keep the colors about the same.

trump white house

Getting Fluid Mask

You don't need Photoshop to use Fluid Mask. It works perfectly fine as a stand alone application. The downside of the standalone version is you can't drag and drop images to open - you need to open the image via the File -> Open option within the application.

You can download a trial version from their website. If you find the tool to be a time saver you can purchase a license for $99.

This might seem a bit expensive for the casual photographer and blogger. However, the tool will save you a lot of time which could justify

August 18, 2017

Smartmockups

Smart Mockup makes it easy to display any image as if it was on a monitor/computer/displays. The application has 458 templates whereas the website only has 157 mockups.

The nice thing about using SmartMockups is that you can present a website in a different view. You simply pick out the design first and then add your image or enter a URL.

Pro Tip: If your website requires a login, you'll need to do a screenshot import since you can't interact with the URL Screen capture in SmartMockups. When you do your screen captures, I would recommend using different browser resolutions. This will give you some choices when you select the right mock-up.

You have the option of exporting the image or simply use the 'Share' link to instantly share the image in Slack or Jira.

Framingham MBTA Train

Some Notes about the application

  • There is no glare reflection effect on the mockup image. (Instructions on how to add it in Photoshop.)
  • In order to run the SmartMockups app you need to be connected to the Internet.
  • Check out some of the designs and use the 'Favorites' feature on ones you like. This will save you time later.
  • After you upload an image, you have the opportunity to resize it so that it fits in the placeholder template.
  • There are four image sizes on export. If all the sizes are big, you can always resize the exported image to whatever you want.
  • There a Suggestion box where you can add and vote on other ideas. You can also see what ideas that might get implemented soon.
  • Keep checking the application once and a while, you never know when new designs come in.
  • Smartmockups now support GIFs. However, they don't support GIFs larger that 8 MB.

This is a useful tool to have if you do any type of blogging or social media advertising. It can help make screenshot and photos look better than by themselves.

There is a one-time fee of $49 for the application. The software is available for Windows and Macintosh users. You can download the application from their website. Check around the Internet, you may find discounts from various vendors. I was able to pick up a license for $19.

August 11, 2017

Transmit 5

Transmit is a communication software that allows you to transfer files. This is a great tool to use for anyone managing websites.

I have been a long time Panic's Transmit customer. My first Transmit license was purchased on September 27, 2006 (Version 3). I upgraded to version 4.0 on March 15, 2013. ( Checkout my earlier blog post)

I have been a very happy customer of Transmit and pretty much every file that has been moved to the cryan.com server was done using Transmit.

Finally an Update

On July 18, 2016 Panic.com announced a major upgrade to Transmit. This is the first major update since 2010. I decided to take a look at what's new with my favorite software.

Panic's press release has highlighted three major changes:

  • Connect to More Servers
  • Faster Connection
  • New UI

Here's a couple of things that caught my attention when I tried out the software for a few days.

More Servers

It's nice that Transmit can now connect to a lot more services. They went from supporting four to ten.

Transmit Feature

My file transfer needs are a bit basic. Currently, I don't have any account on the other services, but that may change. I basically use Transmit to copy from my own SFTP server.

I am pretty sure that it's only a matter of time before I'll be having accounts on Amazon S3, Blackblaze B2 or Microsoft Azure. Cloud storage is growing and you're better off storing files there than on a DVD.

Places Bar

The Places Bar is very cool. When you open up a connection there's a new bookmark type of bar on the top of the file listing. The bar stores all your favorite locations that you use for that location.

Now I can navigate between folders a lot easier. It's easier to zoom between folders - definitely a huge time saver.

In Transmit 4, I had set up different 'Favorite' locations on the same server. In version 5, I can simplify things and have my website as a favorite and then use the Places Bar to navigate around common folders. I can quickly move between the Template folder and my Includes folder.

Overall View

I am very happy that Transmit has gotten an update - even happier that they didn't go to a yearly subscription plan like other software vendors have done.

Right now I can't justify upgrading. But it's nice to know that when I get onto additional clouds solutions, that Transmit will be a solution that I can use.

If you're moving files between services, I would highly recommend checking out Transmit. The seven-day trial is plenty of time to see how it's a great time saver.