Tag Archives: Mac OS X

A useful on-screen keyboard

19 Dec

If you don’t have a lot of space on your desktop (the one that holds your computer and peripherals) and you can’t have both your keyboard and Wacom tablet next to each other, using a virtual keyboard seems like a sensible solution.

I tried Apple’s built-in Keyboard Viewer, which has the big drawback that it doesn’t behave like a real keyboard. Things like Command-Q to quit a Mac OS X program don’t work. In fact, Keyboard Viewer is nothing more than an alternative to the Character Palette application. Because of it’s very limited use, I will not go into how to make it possible to launch Keyboard Viewer as a menu item (in the menu bar).

Searching for an alternative on VersionTracker, I found this neat application of an Italian software developer called VirtualKeyboard. It costs $19.95 for use on a single user account, and $49,95 if you want to use it up to 7 Macs. There is a 14 day trial period to test it out. It is meant for people with a disability, but you don’t  have to be disabled to use it.

To find out if VirtualKeyboard is actually useful, I tried it on this piece of text. It’s not as intuitive as typing ten fingers blind (touch typing), but, if you don’t have to type massive amounts of text, it works quite well. (Mind you, I’m editing this piece of text using a real keyboard.)

The application has a limited option for text expansion, good for casual use. For power users among you I suggest reading an excellent blog post by Crass Pip: Text Expansion: Wasting time trying to save time. Even if you don’t care for his review, he does mention the three text expansion applications available on Mac OS X. One of those will probably serve your needs better than what VirtualKeyboard has to offer.

That is all.

Creating a bootable USB stick with Mac OS X in 10 easy steps

14 Oct

I heard a presentation about Intel’s new Linux distro for mobile Internet devices, called Moblin. Now I didn’t want to create a Live CD, but rather a “Live USB stick”, which would be so much easier than connecting an external DVD drive to my netbook (a MSI wind).

Until now I only had found a Windows solution for this, which required a physical Windows machine. Since I don’t have such a device, it was a bit of a dud. I did some more poking around with Google, and found a Dutch description of how one might do this with Mac OS X sec, so without any additional software.

Of course, you need to format your USB stick so, that both Mac OS X and a PC can read it, in other words, use the lowest common denominator, also known as FAT32 (or: MS-DOS format). That wasn’t included in the instruction, because it is so obvious. However, one can’t assume someone landing on this page to know of such things, so I added that to the instruction (sort of).


Logged in as administrator
Because you are going to use the sudo command, you have to be logged in as an administrator. A non-administrative account will not work.
Formatted as FAT32
Start the application Disk Utility (located in the folder /Applications/Utilities/ of your Macintosh HD volume), stick in your USB stick, and format it as FAT32. If you don’t know how to do that, read this instruction on the AppleInsider forum, or do a Google search on FAT32 disk utility.

The Ten Steps

Here are the steps in words:

  1. Download the .iso file. This also can be an .img file. Let’s call it moblin.img.
  2. Rename the .iso file to .dmg. In our case, rename moblin.img to moblin.dmg.
  3. Right-click on the .dmg file and select Get Info. Write down the full path name as mentioned in the dialog box. We will need that for step 9.
  4. Start a Terminal window. The Terminal application is located in the folder /Applications/Utilities/ of your Macintosh HD volume.
  5. In the Terminal window, type:
    diskutil list
    and press the Enter key. Now a list of your storage devices is displayed in the Terminal window, underneath what you typed earlier.
  6. Put the USB stick in the USB port of your Mac.
  7. In the Terminal window, type again:
    diskutil list
    and press the Enter key. Now you see the same list, but with an extra storage device. The location of that device has the format /dev/diskN, where N is a number. In my case it was /dev/disk4. Write that down.
  8. In Terminal, type
    diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskN
    and press the Enter key. Use the N from step 7. This will unmount the USB stick (it will disappear from your desktop).
  9. In Terminal, type
    sudo dd if=/path/to/file.dmg of=/dev/diskN bs=1m
    and press the Enter key, where /path/to/file.dmg is the full path from step 3, and /dev/diskN from step 7. You will be asked to enter a password. This is why you must be logged in as an administrator, a non-administrator does not have to privileges to perform this operation. This operation takes quite a while (10 minutes in my case). Be patient and let it do its thing.
  10. In Terminal, type
    diskutil eject /dev/diskN
    and press the Enter key. Again N is the number we established in step 7.

Now you can take out your USB stick and use it to boot your netbook. Booting your netbook from a USB stick is a whole other matter, which I won’t discuss here.

That is all.

(January 11, 2010: I noticed that the Terminal command is “unmountDisk” and not “unmount” as was written in an earlier version of this post. Sorry for any inconvenience.)

Color palettes

10 Feb

Creating a good color palette is an art in itself. I haven’t mastered that art yet, but I now have two tools to make it easier, and take the guesswork out of picking colors from the standard color palette. As a bonus, I can now create my own custom color palettes. How cool is that?

First, there is the free Adobe Kuler web application, which also has a desktop application, based on Adobe AIR. I tried both, because the desktop application has just a subset of the web application, yet the desktop application is more compact and therefore easier to use.

Basically, with Adobe Kuler, you create color palettes containing five colors. You can also use color palette others have made. Once you’ve registered an Adobe Account and use it to log in to the Adobe Kuler website, you can store your own color palettes online. I like the option to create a palette based on an image, either on your computer, or on Flickr.

Now you have your color palette in your Adobe Kuler application, and then what? Well, unless you have an Adobe application from the CS3 or CS4 suite, not much. You can enjoy the colors in the palette you’ve created.

Enter ColorSchemer Studio OSX. This is a for-pay application ($49.99 USD) to create custom color palettes for several applications, include those of Adobe. More interestingly for me is that you can create Mac OS X color palette files (.clr), that are stored in the color subfolder of your own user library folder (located at ~/library/color/).

Now if you open the color palette in any application that offers that feature (all drawing applications, and many other applications as well), you can select your own color palette from the Color Palettes menu (see screenshot). The default is Apple, but you can select your own from the drop down menu.

color palette menu

So, how do you import the colors in the color palette you created in Adobe Kuler into ColorSchemer? Here is a brief description of how I did it.

I used this photo of a giraffe to create this custom color palette in Adobe Kuler.

Giraffe Portrait - Woburn Safari Park - Monday August 27th 2007 Adobe Kuler custom giraffe color palette

To copy the colors in the Adobe Kuler color palette I used the color picker tool in ColorSchemer Studio OSX, which picks a color as base color. Drag this base color into the Favorite Colors section. Now repeat for each of the five colors. Next, rename the colors into meaningful color names (see screenshot).

ColorSchemer Studio OSX

It is a bit of a hack, but hey, it works!

If you want to use this color palette in other applications on your Mac, you should export Favorite Colors to an Apple color palette file (with the file extension “.clr”), with the export function of ColorSchemer Studio OSX. The file should be stored into the appropriate location on your hard drive (color sub-folder of the library folder of your user account). From then on, the color palette should be available for all programs that offer a color palette based on Apple’s color palette subsystem.

After I did all that, I fired up PaintBrush, and drew a giraffe from memory, using the color palette. In addition to the colors of the giraffe, I created two additional colors, one for the grass, and one for the sky.

Giraffe from memory

I like drawing with a limited color palette, because it makes the result so much clearer. Picking the right colors is crucial, and it is nice to have some applications to help you with that. I highly recommend both Adobe Kuler (freeware) and ColorSchemer Studio OSX ($49.99 USD).

That is all.

Alien being

1 Feb

This alien being is created by modifying a photo in PaintBrush.App on Mac OS X. I also did some retouch in GIMP.


That is all.

For aspiring musicians

29 Jan

If you want to start making music with Apple Garageband, be sure to check out these websites:

That is all.

Creating a fun photo with your msi webcam and Snap!

25 Jan

I thought it would be fun to create a composite photograph, using the built-in webcam of the msi wind and the snapshot program Snap! (which has some nice features).

I took this shapshot with the webcam of the msi wind, using Snap! Snap! lets you put clipart on top of your webcam picture. You just reposition yourself, and resize the clipart, so it becomes more or less “believable”.

Snapshot with me in it

To create a composite photo, I had to take a snapshot without myself in the picture. It will then simply be a matter of importing both snapshots into an image editor, put the one without me on top, and rub the part where my face is out on the top layer, so I magically appear from the layer below.

Snapshot without me in it

Here I put the snapshot without me on top of a snapshot with me in it, and rubbed out part of the top layer, so it showed the layer underneath. I did this in Art Rage 2 on Mac OS X, but it could just as well have been an image editor.

Composite photo

The last step in creating this fun photo is to crop and resize the image, so it shows only me in a monkey space suite. I did this on the Mac, using Pixelmator.

Final image Monkey Purplebox

That is all.

No more jerkiness while drawing

15 Jan

I thought there was some issue between Windows 7 beta and my Wacom Intuos 3 tablet. This was not the case. It was simply a matter of installing the Vista driver for the pen tablet in Windows 7 beta. After that, no more jerkiness of the mouse pointer when I used the Intuos 3.

The drawing was made by tracing a photo I found on the Internet.

Panda Paint.Net

That is all.