Macintosh blog postings

Macintosh Postings

Earliest: June 26, 2003Latest: February 16, 2018Total: 231

January 20, 2017

Super Vectorizer 2

Super Vectorizer is a professional vector-tracing app that automatically converts bitmap image like JPEG, GIF, and PNG to clean, scalable vector graphics such as AI, SVG, DXF, and PDF. It supports tracing of color and grayscale, black-and-white, skeletonization, and line, as well. Super Vectorizer uses a totally new image-quantization algorithm that produces more natural color after vectorization. (Whew! That's a long complex description.)

Basically Super Vectorizer will take an image and convert it to be a scalable graphic file. This is useful if you want to make a low-quality image to display awesome in a high-resolution environment.

This is a very useful application where you want to convert a trace that you made with a pen/pencil into a vector object so that you can scale it to fit in any environment. If you don't convert it, when you take a scan file to a higher resolution image, the image may have jagged edges.

Converting a file to a vector format, helps make your graphic file look good in any situation.

Exports to four different format type:

  • SVG - Scalable Vector Graphics is an XML-based vector image format for two-dimensional graphics with support for interactivity and animation.
  • PDF - Portable Document Format
  • AI - Adobe Illustrator Format
  • dxf - AutoCAD format

Tip: Affinity Designer users should save files in the AI format.

I found the application to be somewhat useful to convert graphic files into vector objects. The more colors an object has the more blurry the final results may look. It takes a while to figure out all the different adjustment that makes your final image look good. The preview helps you figure out which combo works best for your particular image needs.

Super Vectorizer
Converting Donald's Trump hat to a vector format.

Check out the "Make America Great Again" vectorized hat that was done using Super Vectorizer 2

Purchase Super Vectorizer 2

You can buy Super Vectorizer on the App Store. It's currently on sale for $9.99 (Regularly $29.99). It's a good deal for anyone that likes to convert images into vector format for some are work.

January 13, 2017

imageSnap

image Snap

ImageSnap is a Public Domain command-line tool that lets you capture still images from an iSight or other video source. You can use scripting tools to automate when to take pictures.

Someone wrote a BASH scripts to take a picture of someone that has stolen their laptop computer. Pretty cool way to use the tool.

Example Script

This is an example BASH script I wrote to send a picture of me when I log into the computer every morning:

#! /bin/bash
imagesnap -q -w 2 ~/Desktop/$(date +%y%m%d%H%M%S).png
PHP Example
#!/usr/bin/php
<?php
$files=shell_exec("imagesnap -q -w 2 ~/Desktop/$(date +%y%m%d%H%M%S).png");
?>

By default the picture will use the laptop camera, so if I hook up an external display with a camera it won't use that. I added the 2 seconds warm up because without the warm up the picture appears to be dark.

I have an action in Keyboard Maestro to enable the script to run within a minute after I log into the computer.

Cron Job

You can easily set up a file, using either of the above examples and run a cron job:

31 17 * * * user /path/to/file.sh

I can see if I am in the same mood in the morning as in the evening.

Here's a quick guide to what each item on cron line means:

Cron Sheet

January 6, 2017

iMac Hard Drive Crash

This week my iMac internal hard drive crashed.

I believe that this happens because my computer was doing some read/write activity and the power went out. As a result, I couldn't boot up my internal hard drive.

When I first attempted to boot the computer the startup process appeared to be normal but then would just shut down right when the startup progress bar was about 2/3 completed.

Making a bootable Drive

Lucky for me that I got a couple of flash drives for Christmas. I took one of them and installed the latest Mac OS on it.

The key thing to remember about creating a bootable drive its that it has to be formatted correctly:

quickboot

Booting Up

I was able to boot up the computer using the flash drive by using the keyboard shortcut 'C' when the computer booted up.

I wasn't getting this to work with my Bluetooth keyboard and had to connect a USB keyboard to get it to work.

After the computer booted up, I saw the following message on my screen:

Repair Disk
"You can still open or copy files on the disk, but you can't save changes to files on the disk. Back up the disk and reformat it as soon as you can."

Lucky for me that the drive is accessible and that I have an opportunity to recover my files.

Manual Back Up Tips

If your manually backing up a computer, you should back up the following Directories:

  • /Users - This will get all your critical files: Music, Documents, Photos and Mail.
  • /Library/fonts - This will get any and all of your computer fonts, especially any that you might have installed.
  • /var/log - Useful if you want to research the startup issues.

Disk First Aid

Apple has a Disk First Aid which tries to fix hardware issues. I ran the program several times to see if it would fix it. However, it keeps failing

Disk First Aid

This isn't my first computer crash, but it's been a long time since I have had to deal with one.

Ten Things I learned

  • Back up your photos and documents frequently. Once they are backed up by various sources, remove them from the computer.
  • Remove things you don't need on the computer. I haven't used some of my virtual machines in a long time, there's no need to have it on the computer.
  • Create a bootable USB drive in case your main hard drive fails. 32 GB is plenty. It's a good $30 insurance policy.
  • Learn the MacOS startup keys, Apple Support Page has a useful list of keys to hold at startup.
  • One thing that I learn is the value of Amazon Prime Photos. I found their upload application easy to upload my photos to their server.
  • Always backup photos! Store the files in the cloud. Flickr, Google Photos, and Amazon photos are my go to choices.
  • Helps to tag or put photos in events. This way I am l not looking every place for a Boston picture.
  • YouTube is a good solution for those large video files that you don't know what to do with.
  • Amazon offers an Unlimited upload plan for $59 a year for Prime users. This is a good solution if you're looking for temporary storage.
  • The fastest way to move files from an iMac is via Thunderbolt.

Data Transfer Speeds

A quick chart that I put together showing how fast the four most common ways to transfer data off of an iMac.

Transfer Speed2

December 30, 2016

Repair vs InPainting Brush Tool

If you migrating from Pixelmator to Affinity Photo, you might be confused by a common tool: The Repair tool.

Pixelmator's Repair Tool

Pixelmator describes the Repair tool as:

Use the Repair Tool to correct imperfections, causing them to disappear into the surrounding image. The Repair Tool also matches the texture, lighting, transparency, and shading of the sampled pixels to the pixels being repaired. As a result, the repaired pixels blend seamlessly into the rest of the image.

Affinity Photo

The tool that produces the same effect in Affinity Photo is the InPainting Brush Tool. Some users may get confused because the Affinity Photo used the same bandaid icon for the Healing Brush Tool.

Affinity Photo describes the Inpainting Brush Tool:

The Inpainting Brush Tool restores damaged, lost, deteriorated or unwanted areas of an image.

To access the InPainting Brush Tool in Affinity you can select it from the toolbar or simply by typing the keyboard shortcut: J

ToolBars

Tip on using the Tool

When using the tool, it's best to use a smaller brush size, and to zoom into the area. If you use a large brush, you might encounter some unwanted objects replacing the area that you are trying to clean up.

Example Work

I tested both the Repair Tool in Pixelmator and the InPainting Brush Tool in Affinity Photo and they both produce the same output. I think the InPainting did a better job keeping the wood colors to match in my example.

In this example, I am removing the white words from the sign.

Affinity Example
Using the InPainting Brush Tool in Affinity Photo

Pixelmator Example
Using the Repair Tool in Pixelmator

December 23, 2016

Snappy Screen Capture Tool

snappy

Early this year, I reviewed several screen captue tool; Capo and TechSmith Snagit.

Recently I became aware of Snappy Screen Capture Tool by Nextwave SRL. The tool takes snapshots that always stays on top, has some annotation tools. The screenshots can be shared using various built-in tools - including the option to share a link with a password and set a destruct timer.

Easy Install and Use

You can install the application from the Mac App store for free.

Once installed, simply type Shift+Command+2 to take screenshots. The initial capture works the same way that the built-in screen capture does, select the area that you want to capture. You can also press the SPACE BAR to capture the current window.

After you Capture the image, the image stays on your screen. If you right click on the captured screen you have several options to modify the screen capture: Brush, Text, Cursor, Eraser, Quick Draw.

Snappy Tool Options

Snaps Library

The Snaps library is a great place to find all the previous snaps. You'll find images are sorted by:

  • Time - Last 24 Hours, Last 7 Days, and Last 30 Days
  • Shared - SnappyApp, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Imgur, and Slack
  • Apps - A list of all the different Apps that were active when you took a screen capture.
  • Devices - Snappy can easily be configured to be synchronize with the iCloud. The Devices allows you to see which snaps were taken on various devices.

In addition, you can search the entire library by the capture title.

Overview

Snappy is a good general replacement tool for the built-in screen capture in Mac OS X. You have a lot more powers to what to do with a screen capture immediately after you take it. You don't need to open up any third party application to make modifications to your image.

There are some functions that are missing that are available in other screen capture tools:

  • Timed Screenshots
  • Record Video
  • Arrow annotation
  • Blur
  • Crop

If you're looking for a simple replacement tool for Apple's Screen Capture than Snappy would be it. However, if screen capture is an essential tool to doing your job, then I would highly recommend using TechSmith Snagit.

December 16, 2016

LaunchBar Keyboard Shortcuts

Here's a list of all the default Keyboard Shortcuts that are in the LaunchBar application:

General Functions

  • ⌘ R Shows Running Apps
  • ⌘ B Show Recent Items
  • ⌘ K Shows Clipboard History
  • ⌘ L Shows Location
  • ⌘ G Get Finder Selection
  • ⌘ D Drop Finder Selection
  • ⌘ = Calculator
  • ⌘ , Preferences

Update Index

Typing these shortcuts will update the particular Index category.

  • ⌘ 1 Applications
  • ⌘ 2 Contacts
  • ⌘ 3 Bookmarks
  • ⌘ 4 Home Folders
  • ⌘ 5 Other Folders
  • ⌘ 6 Libraries
  • ⌘ 7 Modules
  • ⌘ 0 All Rules

Clipboard

  • ⌘ Shift V Select from Clipboard
  • ⌘ Option V Drop from Clipboard

Index

  • ⌘ Option I Show Index
  • ⌘ Option P Index Progress
  • ⌘ Option F Search Index

App

  • ⌘ Option L License
  • ⌘ Option U Usage
  • ⌘ Option E Action Editor

I am working on a cool keyboard graphic. Will be up soon!

December 9, 2016

Cheat Sheet Application

Cheat Sheet Icon

One of the nice things about the Macintosh applications is that developers will assign keyboard shortcuts to common applications. After performing certain actions, you begin to learn that using the short cuts is a quick way to get things done.

After a while you begin to learn some of the fundamental shortcuts that are in most applications:

q Quit Application
w Close Application Window
, Application Preferences
f Find
c Copy
v Paste

Apple has a macOS Human Interface Guideline that has specific recommended keyboard shortcuts that developers should use.

Application Shortcut Help

Learning application specific shortcuts can be tricky. One way is to pull down every menu and see what shortcuts are available. Some applications do list the menu and command shortcuts in their help section.

A really cool way is to use Cheat Sheet by Media Atelier. Here's how they describe how CheatSheet works:

Just hold the ⌘-Key a bit longer to get a list of all active short cuts of the current application. It's as simple as that.

Once installed, go into any application and hold the ⌘ key for a couple of seconds and a Window will pop up to show all the Menu shortcuts that are available:

B B Edit Cheat Sheet
CheatCheat view of BBEdit Shortcuts.

Once you let go of the ⌘ key the window goes away.

Note that this only shows Menu based tips. Some applications will have hotkeys, for example, Pixelmator has hotkeys to select various tools in the toolbar. For those you'll have to access the application specific help pages.

CheatSheet Tip

Did you know that you could print out the tips?

On the bottom of the CheatSheet window is a Cog icon, click on it and you'll see a Print option. You can print out a copy, or create a PDF cheatsheet.

Additional Shortcut Reference

There are tons of cool keyboard shortcut guides, these are very useful to print out and keep by your computer. Spending a few minutes learning the various keys can save you lots of time when your working on a project.

Here are some very cool Shortcut Guides that I have found.

  • Chrome Browser - Google has an extensive list of all the various keyboard shortcuts.
  • Pixelmator - Good PDF of all the possible keyboard shortcuts.
  • Affinity Designer - Cool reference layout from the company that makes Affinity Designer.

December 2, 2016

Affinity Designer Backgrounds

One of the things that you can't easily do in Affinity Designer is to add an image as a background pattern. Especially if you have a small seamless image (96 x 96) and you want to make a repeating pattern.

Example:

Background Example

OmniGraffle Professional

Lucky for me, I have OmniGraffle Professional 5.4.4. It turns out that complements very well with Affinity Designer. Using OmniGraffle I am able to create a Shape Tool and add a background image and title it. I can even scale the background repeating image so that it looks the way that I want.

First I created a shape, for that I used 568px x 266px Rectangle. I then open up the Inspector and select the Image Style. I then drag/drop an image into the placeholder. Then I select the title icon to the left of the image upload. Then I play around with the scale and opacity slider to make it look good.

Once I am satisfied that the pattern looks the way I want, I then select the shape and Copy it.

Omni Affinity
OmniGraffle has some great shape configurations.

I then switch over to Affinity Designer and Paste the shape. The Shape appears on its own layer as a vector curve object. Now I can do lots of cool things with that object.

Background Styles

The first thing I decided to do was create a bunch of background styles, so that I would have a library to choose from whenever I needed it. I thought it would be cool to have a category of seamless background images.

Using a small selection of background images that I had from Open Door, I was able to generate 13 background styles. Now I have a nice selection of styles to use whenever I want.

Affinity Designer Bacground

I don't know that this is the best way to create background images, but it suits my needs and it was very easy to implement.

Download the Affinity Designer Style!

If you have Affinity Designer, you can add these to your collection. Note: these images are low quality and may not look good in print.

Download my Affinity Designer Background Style.

To install this:

  • Download the "Backgrounds.afstyles.zip" file and unzip it.
  • Open up Affinity Designer.
  • Select the Style Tab
  • Click on the Panel Preferences and select 'Import Styles category'
  • Find the unzip file
  • Enjoy!

November 25, 2016

The Grouch

The Grouch Icon

Back in the 1990s there was a System Extension called "The Grouch." The extension would run an annimated Oscar the Grouch and sound byte whenever the system trash would be empty.

This became a cool novelty that kids would put stuff in the trash just to see the animation and sound. This is from the version 2.0 Read Me file:

The Extension version of "The Grouch" plays an animation every time "Empty Trash" is selected from the Finder's "Special" menu. This version must be placed into your System Folder (or Extensions folder under System 7) and you must "Restart" your system for it to work.

The Application version was created after several parents informed me that their children liked "The Grouch" so much they threw out all of the files on their hard disks. This version is child-proof as far as I can tell since it is completely self- contained. It does not modify the Finder and draws the animation in a window instead of on the desktop. It does not require the Extension to be present.

Sadly the developer, Eric Shapiro never ported over to Mac OS X.

Audio Clip

Here's a copy of the sound that people would hear when the animation was run. This is a combination of the two sound bites:

November 18, 2016

Hypercard

HyperCard was an application program for Apple Macintosh and was an influence for the first web browser. It allowed developers to create stacks of information and link the stacks together. Developers would program stacks using HyperTalk, an object-oriented scripting language.

From the Introduction Stack on HyperCard Help screen:

HyperCard is a Macintosh Software environment that allows you to create your own way of doing things on your computer.

If you're new to HyperCard, you should go through the HyperCard Tour Stack to find out how HyperCard works. You can also use the book "Getting Started with HyperCard" for some beginning practice.

If you're interested in HyperTalk, the language you use to write scripts, choose HyperTalk Reference from the Help Menu.

Hypercard was distributed free with any new Macintosh purchase.

HyperTalk was popular among Macintosh users as consumers could easily create their own stacks for their computer needs. Some examples of HyperCard

  • Excel 4.0 Tutorial was written in HyperCard
  • PowerLock Registration was a Hypercard stack. Once you filled in the information, the data would be sent to Rohan Cook.
  • PageMaker included a Hypercard Stack to demonstrate the flexibility of PageMaker Scripting.
  • Random Insults - Would show you a random insult every timet the stack loads.
  • QuickTurtle documentation was distributed as a Hypercard Stack.
  • Smithsonian Institution's Office of Printing & Photographic Services photo catalog was available as a HyperCard database stack.

Welcome to Hypercard

Bit of Apple humor in the "HyperCard And You" Technical Note that some developers might have missed:

The 15 Billion Horsemen of the Apocalypse

With the introduction of HyperCard 2.0, many of the old bugs were quashed, and absolutely no new bugs were created. In fact, the software was so bug-free that it immediately attained Nirvana and Apple has had problems getting it to do anything since. Just kidding.

Boston Computer Society

In the early 1990s, the Boston Computer Society distributed HyperCard stacks of Boston Freedom Trail and a Welcome to Boston on its CD. The CD were released at MacWorld Boston and available for sale at Trade booths and later via mail order.

HyperCard application was included on version 11 CD but was removed on version 12 and 13. Not sure exactly why it was removed in later CD versions.

Boston Computer Society?s Freedom Trail Stack

The Boston Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile, red-lined route that leads you to 16 historically significant sites ? each one an authentic treasure. The Boston Computer Society created a set of HyperCard Stacks so that people would learn about the 16 historical sites. This was a very popular HyperCard stack collection.

The application has trail maps and pictures of the various sites around the City of Boston.

Freedom Trial Hypercard

Boston Computer Society?s Boston City Guide Stack

At the 1992 MacWorld Expo, The Boston Computer Society put together a HyperCard Stack of getting around the City of Boston. The stack featured 16 different categories of places to visit and important phone numbers.

Boston City Guide