URL Update

I’ve been doing a pretty bad job of updating this blog. Part of the reason is that I wanted to update the URL to move the blog to the root. I finally got around to doing that today. It’s not that painful, so I don’t know why I waited so long to do it.

In the meantime, I’ll start off by sharing an interesting WordPress trick that I picked up here. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to stop spambots from registering on this site and my many other WordPress sites. I may have finally figured out a way to do that. I just implemented it. We’ll see how well it works.

The trick is to add the following block of code to your .htaccess file in the root of your WordPress installation.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} .wp-signup.php*
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !.galaxycow.com. [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^$
RewriteRule (.*) http://die-spammers.com/ [R=301,L]

Of course, you need to change “galaxycow.com” in the above code to reflect what your site is using.

We’ll see how well it works. Thanks to D’Arcy Norman for that neat trick.

How to Fix Wii Disk Read Errors | GameFront

Are you curious how I will spend the first day of the new year? Well, here you go. Our Wii has been jacked up for a few days now.

How to Fix Wii Disk Read Errors | GameFront

Mac Productivity Tip: Tagging Files

Here’s a little productivity tip for those of you who may need it. In OS X, one of the features that I find is vastly underused is Spotlight comments. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a way to tag your files quickly and easily with say… a “TODO” tag or something so you could easily find them and remember to work on something?

Using Automator, you can do this very quickly. Open up Automator and build out a Service that looks like this:

Automator TODO

Like I said, you did this as a Service. So Save it. Now, anytime you have a file selected, the Service to tag this will become available in the top menu bar.

This is useful, but let’s make it more useful. Let’s assign a keyboard shortcut. Go to System Preferences/Keyboard and select Keyboard Shortcuts. Choose “Services” on the left-hand side and scroll down to your new Service. Tick the checkbox and assign it a keystroke. For me, I assigned it CTRL-CMD-T.

Now, when you select a file, hit your keyboard shortcut and the file will automatically be tagged.

That’s neat, but let’s make it EVEN NEATER.

Now go to Finder and make a new Smart Folder. Tell it you want to display files that meet criteria of a Spotlight comment containing “TODO”. You’ll end up with a view like this:

Finder TODO

See the comments field? Now you can see the tag there. If you really wanted to get fancy, you could make Services with other tags and carve out smart folders for them. Good stuff.

Saving iPad Documents to Dropbox

This is a crosspost from The Cat Convention.

If you’re not familiar with Dropbox by now, you should be. Dropbox is what MobileMe‘s iDisk aspires to be one day. For now, it isn’t.

For the uninitiated, Dropbox is a fantastic cross-platform bit of code that synchronizes files across all of your computers. It also provides a look into the folders via a web browser if you should need it. They also offer an iPad app that allows you to browse and download files to local applications such as Pages.

Alas, Pages on the iPad, however, doesn’t speak Dropbox. It will allow you to edit the documents and export them to:

  • An email
  • iWork.com
  • iDisk
  • A webdav server

Dropbox is missing from that list. You could save your files back to your iDisk, but then you’d need to go to a regular machine and copy that file from the iDisk to your Dropbox folder. That’s pretty obtuse.

While we wait for Apple to purchase Dropbox and implement it as an iDisk replacement, we can use the magic of Apple Mail and Applescript to create a nifty workaround. Today I spent some time on a script that will do the following:

  • Take the contents of an email message with a particular subject line
  • Extract the attachment
  • Save the attachment in a Dropbox folder depending on the keyword you use in the subject line of the message

Since Dropbox runs all the time on your Mac, it will notice the file change event and automatically sync the file to all of your computers linked to that Dropbox account.

Making an Applescript that will save an attachment to your file system is quite easy. Linking a mail rule to that Applescript is also quite easy. Therefore, the implementation of this is easy. What makes this script a little different is that you can specify keywords in the subject line and it will decide where to put the file inside your Dropbox folder based on the keyword. Editing those keywords are completely up to you.

To implement, download the “Save Attachment to Dropbox.scpt” file below. You should open /Utilities/Applescript Editor.app and modify the script’s keywords for the subject lines you plan to use. Save the .scpt file to your favorite location for AppleScripts. (For Mail scripts, I use “~/Library/Scripts/Mail”).

Next, create a rule in your Apple Mail using criteria to judge when to fire off the rule. In my case, I told it to look for messages that meet all of these criteria:

  1. Messages coming from a particular email address
  2. Containing a subject line keyword that starts with“-savedb”

The script will execute and look at the subject line of your email message. The subject line should start with “-savedb…” and have some kind of keyword in there. You edited the script to define those, right? Well, you don’t use the rule to define those keywords. Note that I said in the keyword to use “starts with” the string “-savedb”. The script will determine what to do with it based on what you code there.

I also recommend adding an action to move the processed messages over to a folder. In my case, I created a folder called “Processed to Dropbox” and told the rule to move the message there.

An important note: the script will overwrite any files that have the same name as the file. I felt that this was a safe thing to do since Dropbox automatically backs up 30 copies of the file on the site and you can retrieve any version you like. Deleted versions of the files are tossed in the Trash. They are not deleted completely until you empty the Trash. If you still do not like this behavior, feel free to modify the script to remove that action.

Now all you have to do is send yourself an email from the proper address with the proper keyword from your favorite app on the iPad and voila, it’s instantly synced to all of your computers and backed up.

Another way to use this is via “DropDAV” at http://dropdav.com. I was close to using that solution until I read more about it. I decided I wasn’t entirely comfortable with giving another third party my Dropbox username and password, so I developed this method instead.

If you want to encourage the developers of Dropbox to add WebDAV support, be sure to give them a +1 vote here.

I hope you enjoy this script and it helps band-aid the interruption in workflow until Apple purchases Dropbox. 🙂 If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.

Click here to download “Save Attachment to Dropbox.scpt”.

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Move SteamApps Folder on a Mac

On a Windows machine, the Steam application allows you to relocate the “SteamApps” folder to a different drive. This allows you to effectively shift your content around anywhere you like. When you install a new game, it’ll even ask you where you want to install it.

For some bizarre reason they did not afford the same convenience to Mac users. Initially when Steam was released for the Mac they even forced you to keep the SteamApps folder in your Documents folder. This made it really painful to use a portable home directory. Valve relented after a huge user outcry and relocated the folder to ~/Library/Application Support/Steam, which is probably where it belonged anyway.

Now what if you want to move it out of there to an external drive? I have roughly 40gb of games wrapped up in that directory and frankly, there’s no reason for it to exist in my home directory. I studied around on the forums and Steam support site and discovered they did not have any ability to shift this content around natively. That won’t defeat me, however.

I moved the SteamApps folder to a location on an external drive and first tried to make an alias of the new location to ~/Library/Application Support/Steam/SteamApps. This didn’t work. When I launched Steam, it told me that it had to exist on a case-insensitive volume. That’s rather odd. My external drive is formatted with HFS+ case-insensitive. No matter. I deleted the alias and tried a UNIX-style link:

ln -sf /Volumes/DS4600/Storage/SteamApps ~/Library/Application Support/Steam/SteamApps

I then started Steam back up and I heard the DS4600 RAID-5 volume (which is where the SteamApps now reside) spin. I looked in the library and voila, all of my games were present.

That wasn’t so hard. Wonder why Valve won’t let you do this? I’ll keep it running this way for a while and see if it blows up.

iPhone Software 2.0.1 offers multiple syncing

I have this blog post percolating in my head in which I will impart unto you my knowledge of using several tools on the Mac and PC for syncing your calendar, email, tasks and contact information. It’s a pretty large post and probably deserves to be its own article. I want to offer suggestions on how to accomplish many syncing scenarios for several situations that might fit your bill. I’ve experimented with enough of these syncing utilities to know what works best and what doesn’t… well, for me anyway. If it works for me, it’s gotta work for someone else, so I will write it up in the hopes that it will help someone who has one foot in the Mac world and one foot in the PC world.

For now, however, I’ll offer up a discovery today. When I was in the iPhone 2.0 beta program, one of the nagging things that I filed a bug against was the lack of syncing .Mac (which is now MobileMe) information if you engaged ActiveSync on the iPhone. Back then, if you added an ActiveSync account to your iPhone and set it up, the phone would only sync calendars and contacts against the Exchange server. Better yet, if you wanted the GAL lookup functionality, you had to enable the contact syncing with ActiveSync and kiss your MobileMe contacts goodbye. They could sit on your Mac, sure… and sync across your Macs… but the iPhone wasn’t going to talk to it.

I’m happy to report that with iPhone 2.0.1, it’s now possible to have the best of all worlds. You can sync all of your iCal calendars against MobileMe in addition to your Exchange ActiveSync calendar… and this goes for contact information as well. As a matter of fact, you even get to keep the GAL lookup functionality.

Don’t believe me? Tap “Settings”, then go to “Mail, contacts and calandars” and enable all of them for your ActiveSync account… then back up one screen and do the same for your MobileMe account. Now when you visit Contacts and Calendars, you will see all of your calendars and all of your contacts with selectors to choose between the different sources or show them all aggregated together in one view.

VERY slick. Windows Mobile and Blackberry can’t do this one. Good move, Apple… and you just made your iPhone all the more valuable to me. It was already a great device – but now syncing ALL of this information in one place makes it killer. Kudos!

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Java update begs you to install OpenOffice

I was just installing the latest Java update on my Windows VM and noticed that it was pushing me to install OpenOffice. Not only did it offer to do this for me, it checked the box by default.

I unchecked it, then while receiving the Java update I was fed an ad on why OpenOffice is good.

The press would be eviscerating Microsoft for doing this in an update – why aren’t we saying anything to Sun? Is it because they’re “not evil” in some respect?