Category: Mac

Improve the Mac’s ability to display colors

 

Important
This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on a blog called The Michigan Telephone Blog, which in turn was reposted with the permission of the original author from a now-defunct Macintosh-oriented blog. It is reposted with his permission.

This article was originally posted in January, 2009.

One issue that some Mac “switchers” have encountered is that the colors on the Mac display look just a bit washed out compared to those on a PC. It’s generally not enough of a difference that anyone would complain; in fact, many new Mac users would think it was their imagination, or would attribute the difference to hardware variations (different display or graphics card).

In reality, however, there is a difference, and it is due to a configuration choice made by Apple. There is a page that describes the issue in some depth:

A solution to Mac “Save For Web” colour discrepancies

The gist of the problem is that Apple has chosen to, by default, go with a gamma setting of 1.8, whereas other systems use 2.2 as the default. On the above-mentioned page, it gives this bit of wisdom: “Unless you have a color management expert instructing you otherwise, select a 2.2 gamma and a D65 white point.” However, the white point is not as important as the gamma, and you may wish to use the default white point that has been determined to be right for your display. It’s most important to change the gamma setting, and calibrate the display in the process. How do you do this? By setting up a new color profile. This is fairly easy to do.

First of all, if you are using the “Shades” program (or any other program that gives you software control over display brightness or any other display parameter), go into the program or preference panel and turn it off before you begin this process, otherwise it may fight you at every step of the calibration process, turning an easy task into a really difficult one with less than satisfactory results.

Go to System Preferences, click on Displays, then go to the “Color” tab, then click on “Calibrate”:

System Preferences-Display-Color Tab
System Preferences-Display-Color Tab

Then follow the instructions. BUT, before you change the setting of your display’s contrast (using the control on the display itself), make a note of the current setting. You will be changing it as part of the calibration process but once you are all finished, you may decide that you want to go back to that setting, or something reasonably close.

During the calibration, when you are asked to adjust the monitor’s brightness, it will say to set it to where you can “just see” the oval:

Display Adjustment screen
Display Adjustment screen

The only problem is, Apple’s idea of “just seeing it” and yours might be a bit different. We wound up using a setting that was a bit more than where the oval was just barely perceptible, but still a bit less than where the two halves of the surrounding rectangle started to appear as different, and that seemed to work best. Originally we tried setting it where the oval was just barely perceptible, but then after the adjustments were completed we couldn’t get a monitor setting that we liked (everything was too dark for our liking, particularly on some of the wallpaper).

When you get to this screen:

Target Gamma Selection
Target Gamma Selection

You want to select the “2.2 Television Gamma” because that is the setting used on most non-Apple computers, and therefore that is the setting that most graphics (including those on the Web) are adjusted for. This is the setting that Apple probably should have used in the first place – at least they give you the option to use it, but we think it should have been the default. On the next screen you’ll be asked to select a target white point:

Target white point selection
Target white point selection

We suspect that “D65″ and “Native” are very close on modern displays (perhaps even identical). You can try both and see which works best, or you can just go with the recommendation from the above-mentioned article to use D65.

EDIT: The second time I attempted to do this, the display calibrator crashed before I could save the settings.  If it happens to you, try this: In Finder navigate to Macintosh HD/System/Library/ColorSync/Calibrators/Display Calibrator.app and right-click on the application, then click on “Get Info”, and when the information panel is displayed, you should see a checkbox for “Open Using Rosetta.”  Check that box, and the problem goes away (at least it did for me, and for the people who posted replies in this thread).

When you are all through, you are likely to see color in places that only looked grey or washed out before. That is because Apple’s default color profile and gamma setting tends to wash out certain colors. But, unless you have just acquired your Mac, it will look strange to you, because it’s not what you’ve become used to. You may have to try adjusting the monitor’s brightness and contrast to get something you like. The interesting thing is that whites may seem “whiter” than before and that may throw you a bit, but it will also show how screwed up Apple’s default color profile is. Try it for at least a day or two before you decide you don’t like it. We found that by setting the monitor’s contrast back to the original setting (the one we told you to note in the previous paragraph) and then using the brightness to adjust the monitor for best picture yielded the best results, but your results may be different.

If you decide you really hate the calibrated profile, you can always go back to the default Mac color profile for your monitor, but then you can expect displays on other computers to look strange. Keep in mind that if you’ve gotten used to looking at washed out colors, it may take some time to adjust!

Stop entering passwords: How to set up ssh public/private key authentication for connections to a remote server

 

Important
This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on a blog called The Michigan Telephone Blog, which in turn was reposted with the permission of the original author from a now-defunct Macintosh-oriented blog. It is reposted with his permission. Comments dated before the year 2013 were originally posted to The Michigan Telephone Blog.

This article assumes that you are already able to ssh into a remote server using a password (that is, that your account has been created on the remote system and you are able to access it). Here’s how to set up ssh public/private key authentication so you don’t have to use the password on future logins, or so you can use Public Key authentication with MacFusion.

First, open a terminal or iTerm window as we will be using it for most of the following operations. First, navigate to your home directory, and see if there is a folder called .ssh. Note that Finder will NOT show you this directory unless you have it set to show all file extensions, so since we are at a command line prompt anyway, it’s easiest to just type “cd ~” (without the quotes) to go to your home directory in Terminal or iTerm and type “ls -a” (again without the quotes – always omit the quotes when we quote a command) to see if the .ssh directory exists. If it does, go into the directory (”cd .ssh”) and see if there are two files called id_rsa and id_rsa.pub (use “ls -a” again). If either the directory or the files do not exist, you will need to create them.

ssh-keygen -t rsa -f ~/.ssh/id_rsa -C "your@emailaddress.com"

Replace your@emailaddress.com with your email address – this is just to make sure the keys are unique, because by default it will use your_user_name@your_machine_name.local, which might come up with something too generic, like john@Mac.local. It’s unlikely that anyone else is using your e-mail address in a key.  If this process fails with a “Permission denied” error, it might be because SELinux is enabled.  To check that theory, see How to Disable SELinux, which will show you how to disable it temporarily (for testing) or permanently.

Now, from your terminal window on your local system, execute this command:

ssh-copy-id username@remote

You can run ssh-copy-id -h or man ssh-copy-id to see the available options, but normally you don’t need any. In the event your system does not have ssh-copy-id installed, you can instead run the following three commands from a terminal or iTerm window on your local system. Whichever method you use, replace username with your login name and remote with the address of the remote system. Note that you should NOT be logged into the remote system when you execute these – these are run from a command prompt on your local system, and you probably will be prompted to enter your password (for the remote system):

ssh username@remote ‘mkdir ~/.ssh;chmod 700 ~/.ssh’

The above creates the .ssh directory on the remote system and gives it the correct permissions. If the command fails (for example, I’ve had it complain that mkdir isn’t a valid command, even though it is on just about every Unix/Linux system), then either you have copied and pasted the above line and WordPress changed the single quotes to the “prettified” versions (so change them back) or you may have to actually log into the remote system (using a password) and enter the two commands individually (mkdir ~/.ssh followed by chmod 700 ~/.ssh). Then, if you don’t already have an authorized_keys file on the remote system, go back to your local terminal or iTerm window for this:

scp ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub username@remote:~/.ssh/authorized_keys

The above creates a new list of authorized keys on the remote system (overwriting any existing file with that name) and copies your public key to it.  If you already have such a file and don’t want it overwritten, then you’ll have to manually add the contents of your local ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub file to the end of the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file on the remote system.

ssh username@remote ‘chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys’

This fixes the permissions on the authorized_keys file on the remote system. Once again, there may be the odd situation where you can only run the command within the single quotes from the remote system.

And, that’s basically all there is to it. If you are the system administrator of the remote system, but you don’t ever plan to login from a remote location as root, then for extra security edit the file /etc/ssh/sshd_config on the remote system (you’ll probably have to be root, or use sudo to do this task). Just use your favorite text editor on the remote system to open the file, and look for a line that says:

PermitRootLogin yes

And change the “yes” to “no”.

If you are still asked for a password after you are finished making the above changes, look for a line in /etc/ssh/sshd_config that says:

StrictModes yes

And change the “yes” to “no”. You’ll need to reboot or restart the ssh server for this to take effect. An alternate, and probably more secure fix is to check the permissions on your home directory – if it is not writable by anyone but the owner, then it should not be necessary to change the StrictModes parameter. For more troubleshooting hints see Debugging SSH public key authentication problems.

The above are very basic instructions for setting up ssh public/private key authentication. There are other ways to do this (including some that are arguably a bit more secure) but we wanted to keep it simple. Hopefully this will help someone who is using ssh, MacFusion, etc. and wants something a bit more secure and less bothersome than password access.

One other note:  If you find the connection drops within a minute or so, particularly after you’ve just purchased a new router, then on the client machine running Mac OS X edit the file /private/etc/ssh_config (under Linux it’s /etc/ssh/sshd_config and I don’t know what it would be called under Windows, or if they even have such a file) and add this line:

ClientAliveInterval 60

If it still stops working lower the timeout to 30. See How to fix ssh timeout problems for more information.

If you find my instructions confusing, try SSH Passwordless Login Using SSH Keygen in 5 Easy Steps.

And, for hints on making ssh more secure (particularly if you permit access from the Internet in general and not just your local network), see this article on Securing OpenSSH (via the CentOS wiki).

How to install Midnight Commander under Mac OS X (the easy way, using Rudix)

 

Important
This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on a blog called The Michigan Telephone Blog, which was written by a friend before he decided to stop blogging. It is reposted with his permission. Comments dated before the year 2013 were originally posted to his blog.
Mc-screenshot
Image via Wikipedia

EDIT: New article for Midnight Commander users: Fixing Midnight Commander’s unreadable dropdown menus.

EDIT: This article has been revised to show the latest information as of 2012. Note that these instructions probably will not work unless you are running a relatively recent version of OS X. Also, you really should read How to install Midnight Commander under Mac OS X (the easiest way?) before using the procedure shown here!

I have to admit, I am one of those people who dislikes Linux for one major reason: Whenever you ask for help in any online forum, the knowledgeable people all seem to be command-line devotees, and they invariably give you instructions that involve typing long, arcane commands into the command line. I hate using the command line – if I had wanted to use a command line, I’d never have moved away from MS-DOS, and i cannot understand why Linux geeks insist on using it, and on trying to get others to use it.  Even users of Linux distributions such as Ubuntu have found that when they go online asking how to do some function that could easily be accomplished using one of the GUI tools, often some obnoxious twit helpful person will reply by giving a bunch of stuff (that makes no sense at all to the uninitiated) to type in at the command line. One of the things I like most about Mac OS X is that you almost never have to do anything from a terminal prompt if you don’t want to, and Mac users seem to have a healthy disdain for using a computer as if it were still the 1970’s.

Long ago, when I was using MS-DOS, there was one tool that I had to have on any system I was using: Norton Commander.  The original, dual-pane file manager that made it oh-so-easy to do typical file manipulations like copying and moving files, viewing and editing text files, launching executables, etc.  without typing in DOS commands.  Norton Commander was such a great program that it inspired similar programs on other platforms, such as Total Commander under Windows, and the cross-platform muCommander that runs on just about anything (if it has Java installed).  In the Linux world, KDE users have Krusader, and Gnome users have Gnome Commander.

Mac OS X users have a number of choices, including the aforementioned muCommander and Xfolders, both of which are free.  Possibly the best alternative today is XtraFinder, which is excellent and free — it add tabs and other features to the OS X Finder, and can display dual panes in either a horizontal or vertical alignment.

However, despite your best intentions, there may come a time when you find yourself working at a shell prompt.  Maybe you are working with a Linux server, or on a Mac, maybe you can’t get OS X to come up but you are able to get to a terminal prompt (in my early days of using a Mac, this happened to me twice after OS X upgrades). More commonly, you are getting a permissions error on some file and can’t understand why – that’s very rare on the Mac, but it happens, and now you find yourself in the terminal trying to remember how to change permissions or ownership on a file (by the way, in most cases you should be doing this by right-clicking on the file in Finder,  then clicking on “Get Info” in the context menu, and then using the Sharing & Permissions section at the bottom of the information panel. But there are occasions when nothing else seems to work, and you want to go a bit deeper into the guts of the system). It is at those times when Midnight Commander may be the tool you want.

However, up until now there has not been a really easy way to install Midnight Commander on a Mac running OS X (at least not that I’ve seen).  But now, there is a package by Rudá Moura called Rudix, which is described this way:

Rudix features a world class collection of pre-compiled and ready to use Unix compatible software which are not available from a fresh installation of Mac OS X but are popular among other Unix environments. Here you can find utilities, programming languages, libraries and tools delivered as standard Mac OS X packages.

Now, I hear some of you “cut-my-teeth-on-Unix” types screaming, “What about MacPorts? What about the Fink project?”  Those are all well and good if that’s your cup of tea, but they require a much higher lever of Unix “geekiness” to install, and they add a lot of code that the typical user doesn’t need.  Rudix will let you add a whole bunch of Unix utilities if you really want to do that, but if you only want a few needed utilities then the “Custom Install” button in the Rudix installation lets you select exactly what you want, and no more.

So here is how you would install Midnight Commander in Mac OS X, using Rudix:

Go to the Rudix mc: Midnight Commander page. Select the correct package for your version of OS (filename ends in .pkg) and click on the package filename. On the next page, click the package filename again to download it to your computer. When it has downloaded, double click on it to run it. You should see a screen like this:

Rudix - Midnight Commander installer
Rudix – Midnight Commander installer

Click “Continue” and continue to do so until it has been installed. That’s all there is to it!

I should point out that this used to be a much more convoluted process, and there was a much longer set of instructions here explaining it, but all those old instructions are superfluous now.

Once you have installed Midnight Commander, you will realize that you can easily install many other utilities commonly found on Unix/Linux systems, if they are available in the Rudix package list. Personally, I would not go hog wild on this – I’d only install the utilities you actually need, as you need them. One package I typically install is wget, because so many scripts (such as those written in Perl) expect it to be present.

Edit March 28, 2008: I made an interesting discovery tonight.  Normally I use iTerm as my terminal program, and Midnight Commander runs fine in that. What it does not seem to run so well under is the Terminal.app program that comes with OS X. What specifically does not work in Terminal.app, at least on my system, is the mouse.  Under iTerm, mouse clicks get passed to Midnight Commander in the normal manner, but under Terminal.app that doesn’t seem to be the case. Another thing that you can do in iTerm (but not Terminal) is hold down the ⌘ (Command) key and right click on a file to select it. So, for the “best user experience”, so to speak, I’d suggest downloading and installing iTerm, which has a lot of other nice features you’ll probably appreciate (and did I mention it’s free?).

Edit April 1, 2008: If, for some reason, you want to modify the color theme of Midnight Commander, here are a couple of blog posts that show how to do that:

And, the Midnight Commander manual is another good source of information on this subject.

Command line haters of the world, untype!

BETA Perl script for Caller ID popups when using Linksys/Sipura devices

 

Important
This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on a blog called The Michigan Telephone Blog, which was written by a friend before he decided to stop blogging. It is reposted with his permission. Comments dated before the year 2013 were originally posted to his blog.

Creative Commons License photo credit: bcostin

PLEASE NOTE: This  article has been updated as of December 30, 2008.  This now works with a Mac or Win32 computer (and Linux computers with libnotify installed or readily available, such as those running Ubuntu) and has been updated to reflect that fact. Also, please note that previous versions may have failed on devices/phones with more than two lines – this is (hopefully) fixed as of version 0.7.

If all of the following are true:

You have a Macintosh computer with OS X installed, or a PC with any 32-bit version of Windows installed (basically Windows ’98 through XP), or any version of Linux with libnotify installed

Growl icon
Image via Wikipedia

You have Growl (if you have a Mac) or Snarl (if you have a PC) notifications installed (EDIT: There is now a version of Growl for Windows but at the moment I only have an experimental version of the script for that – see bottom of this page for more information.  It MIGHT work with 32-bit OR 64-bit Windows 7 – feel free to test it).

You have a Linksys or Sipura VoIP adapter on your local subnet or home network and receive calls over it

You would like to see Growl, Snarl or libnotify popups on your computer when a call comes in, showing the caller’s name and number, along with the line that the call came in on and the time and date the call arrived (in case you are out when the call comes in)

You have previously run Perl scripts on your computer, OR are reasonably good at following instructions and problem-solving

AND you are willing to run a script that comes with NO WARRANTY whatsoever (if it breaks, you can keep all the pieces)

Then download this file (now at version 0.92), unzip it and read the Instructions.txt file in the folder appropriate to your computer.

This script is being offered under the GNU General Public License, so if you want to modify it to work on other platforms, you can do that under certain conditions (see the Instructions.txt file for details). Mainly, I’d hope that you’d contribute the modifications back (and please leave a comment on this article if you do that).

I don’t have any kind of regular web page up for this yet, for one thing it’s very rough (very little error-checking) and for another I’m very tired, having spent way too many late nights trying to get this to work. So this post will be more terse than most of my posts, but I think most everything you need to know is in Instructions.txt (and for Mac users, the “How to run at login.rtfd” file) inside the .zip file. Feel free to repost this information to other forums if you think anyone else might be interested.

For those Mac users that wish this were an app: I understand that there is an app called Platypus that allows Perl scripts (and any other types of scripts) to be converted to OS X app bundles. However, what it does not seem to include is any way to specify the command line options, or to load any missing Perl modules. So for now, this script will probably only be usable by those with sufficient knowledge to run a Perl script on their Mac. If I were a bit more knowledgeable, I’d build a preference pane to go in System Preferences, and then have the script read that for its configuration options. But I still have no idea how to make an app install missing Perl modules, particularly when OS X does not come with “make” installed until and unless the Developer Tools are installed (adding something like 3 GB of stuff that is mostly useless to non-developers to your hard drive!).

EDIT: I read somewhere that you can install make without installing the bloated Developer Tools package if you instead install Fink. Then, from a terminal prompt, you can type fink -b install make and supposedly that will do the trick. However, I am told that Fink has not been updated for Snow Leopard, but there is a make package in Rudix that should work with Snow Leopard (mind your paths – Rudix installs make in the /usr/local/bin directory and by default CPAN expects it in /usr/bin, so you may want to adjust the path during CPAN setup, or make a symbolic link in /usr/bin). Since I have not personally tried either of these I have not updated the instructions in the download to reflect this, but if it works you can skip the whole process involved in installing the Developer Tools.

Because this is a Perl script, it lends itself to custom modifications. For example, let’s suppose you have this script running on a Mac, and you are sending Growl notifications to the Mac, but you also have a home theater PC that runs XBMC and/or Boxee, and you’d like to send Caller ID notifications to it as well.  Assuming that Boxee and/or XBMC is configured to allow control via a Web interface, at a fixed IP address and port (192.168.0.150 port 8080 in this example), you could add a line such as this to the script (this is all one line; select and copy to get it all if it gets truncated on your display):

eval {get "http://192.168.0.150:8080/xbmcCmds/xbmcHttp?command=ExecBuiltIn&parameter=XBMC.Notification(Call%20from%20%22$displayname%22%2C$phonenum%20calling%20$lineid[$count]%2C15000%2C%2Fhome%2Fusername%2Fphone.png)"};

The above assumes that you have placed the icon file phone.png (shown at right — right click on the icon and save it) in the user home directory on the destination system (the one running XBMC or Boxee), and that you change ‘username’ to the actual name of the user’s home directory. Note that the icon path requires %2F in place of forward slashes (therefore %2Fhome%2Fusername%2Fphone.png really means /home/username/phone.png) Phone icon - right click and copy imageand this refers to the icon directory and filename — if you choose not to use an icon then leave that part out, along with the %2C that comes just before it.  If you are running XBMC or Boxee on the same system that’s running the script then you should be able to replace 192.168.0.150 with localhost or 127.0.0.1. The above line should be inserted just above the comment line “# Make output string in chosen format” near the end of the Perl script. Keep in mind that this won’t work if you don’t enable control via Web server in XBMC or Boxee, and make sure the port number matches the port in your added line.  Depending on the skin you use, this is generally accomplished by going to Settings, then Network (and in Boxee, then Servers). Then check “Allow control of XBMC via HTTP” (in XBMC) or enable the Web server (in Boxee) and verify the port number is correct.

Starting in Version 0.7 there is a minimal logging function, allowing all detected incoming calls (whether answered or not) to be saved to a text file and/or a comma-quote delimited file. I probably could support other simple formats, but don’t even think about asking for anything more complex (like a rather humorous friend of mine who asked for MySQL integration – considering that he knows how little knowledge I have about Perl programming, and that I have even less knowledge about databases, I’m sure he thought it extremely amusing to make that request). The one thing I really don’t like about offering these scripts in Perl is that it requires the user to know how to install modules from CPAN (or an alternative source if using Win32), but I barely know how to do this stuff in Perl and don’t know any other languages (well, except for QBASIC under MSDOS, but that’s even less compatible across platforms than Perl!).

Starting in Version 0.9 you can use a plain-text file of number-name substitutions, so (for example) if calls from a particular number always display a cryptic Caller ID name, you can change them to say “Uncle Bob” (or some other name if Bob’s not your Uncle, or it’s someone else’s number!). Read the sample config file to see the file formats. Note that the plain text file of number-name substitutions is a separate file, not a section of the optional configuration file, and also note that you must enter the numbers exactly as your VoIP provider sends them (in other words, if they send 8005551234 and you use 18005551234 or 800-555-1234 it will NOT match!).

Starting in Version 0.91 you can use a plain-text file of number-path/file substitutions, so (for example) if calls from a particular number are always from Uncle Bob, you can display Uncle Bob’s picture as the icon whenever a call arrives from that number. Read the sample config file for more information. Note that the plain text file of number-path/file substitutions is a separate file, not a section of the optional configuration file, and also note once again that you must enter the numbers exactly as your VoIP provider sends them.

Version 0.92 sets a rather short timeout on page fetches (still much longer than should be necessary to get the data), in an attempt to resolve a problem where very occasionally the script would just go into a coma, not exiting cleanly but still using memory and CPU cycles, without doing anything useful. I have been running this version for over six months now and have yet to see the script go into a coma, as it often seemed to do in previous versions.

(EDIT added September, 2010:) NOTE regarding EXPERIMENTAL version to work with Growl for Windows.  You should still download the main archive to get the instructions and such, but if you’d prefer to use Growl for Windows rather than Snarl, you can try this experimental version of the script. If you do try it, please let me know if it works as expected (and thanks to Andy Singh for his help with getting this working under Windows 7). Please read the Perl source code to find the module requirements (mentioned on or near line 15 of the script) as they differ slightly from the Snarl version.

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