I’ve been looking for a solution to a very specific problem for years.  Today, I found it.  Oh happy day.

Here’s what I was looking for.

  1. A replacement for Mac OS X’s built-in Application Switcher.  The one that appears when you hit cmd + tab.
  2. It must show me all open windows for all open applications.  When you usually hit cmd+tab, it will only show you icons for the opens apps and not the individual windows of those apps.  For example, if you have 3 Chrome browser windows open and 2 PDFs open in Preview, it would only show you 1 icon for Chrome and 1 for Preview.  BTW, I’m aware that cmd+~ will switch between all windows of the active app but this can get fooled at times (mostly on YouTube pages) and isn’t nearly as fast as using cmd+tab, especially if the window I want to switch to isn’t currently active.
  3. It must actually override cmd+tab and not have it’s only keyboard shortcut as something else, like alt+tab.
  4. It must be free.

Enter HyperSwitch.  It’s in beta and has been for a year but it seems very solid and plan on just using the beta from now on.

There are great paid alternatives out there such as Witch or Contexts but $14 seems too much for an app like this.  If it were half this price I would have gladly paid it, especially to save on all the time I spent searching for HyperSwitch.

I’ve had a task on my to-do list for a couple years and it involved finding a program to remove the DRM from music I’ve purchased from the iTunes music store.  I despise DRM.  I realize despise is a bold word to use but it’s true.  This past weekend I found a piece of freeware software that will strip the DRM, replace the song with an identical one with the same name, and put the DRMed one in the Trash.

Here’s the play by play to get this to work on your Mac.

  1. Download Requiem 4.1
    • If you have updated to iTunes 11, you will need to downgrade your version of iTunes since Requiem doesn’t work with iTunes 11 (download iTunes 10.7 here)
  2. Install Requiem
  3. Ensure all the DRMed music you bought from iTunes has been added to your iTunes music collection and that you have authorized your Mac to play these songs.
  4. Run Requiem
  5. Requiem will being striping the DRM from your protected music one song at at time and put an identical (DRM-free) copy in the same folder as the original song.  Requiem is fast and will only take about 5-10 seconds per song to strip the protection from it.
    • I had trouble with a couple files that prevented Requiem from working at all.  My solution was to move all folders of artists out of my iTunes > iTunes Media > Music folder, then move a few folders back into the above folder (which Requiem scans when it starts up), and re-run Requiem and thus I found the troublesome file.  It took me a few minutes longer to do a batch of folders at a time but it worked.
  6. I went a step further and converted all my new DRM-free songs to .mp3.
    • Go into iTunes > Preferences
    • Next to “When you import a CD: ” click the Import Settings button
    • Change “Import using:” to MP3 Encoder and choose a “Setting:” of 192kbps or higher
    • Click ‘Ok’ twice.
    • Now right click on any song inside iTunes (or select all your songs by shift-clicking) and select “Create MP3 Version”.
  7. Now I can upload this music to Google Play or Amazon Cloud Player or use on an Android phone or any computer without needing to authorize that computer or be stopped cold from playing/uploading the song.

In the wake of the NSA Prism program scandal, I have revisited how to send/receive encrypted email using Gmail to ensure I can transfer sensitive information without prying eyes being able to read it…for at least a decade assuming their computers try cracking it.  Mailvelope brings PGP encryption to Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook.com and others.  It isn’t a complicated process to setup or to encrypt/decrypt messages but if you are not familiar with this it can be a little daunting.  Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through this.

Step 1: Read this article that describes how Public Key encryption works. It’s a simple enough concept and they explain it very well.

Step 2: Install the Mailvelope extension in your Chrome browser.

Step 3: Setup Mailvelope inside of Chrome.

  • Go to Mailvelope Options and click Generate Key (it’s a little padlock in the upper right of the browser extension toolbar or you can access it via the Menu > Window > Extensions)

  • Enter your name
  • Email address
  • Encryption method (I recommend making it the strongest possible, RSA/4096)
  • Enter a very strong passphrase (this can include spaces) A quote by a famous person is extremely secure passphrase e.g. Paper is poverty; it is the ghost of money and not money itself. Thomas Jefferson
  • You now need to share your public key with anyone you want to send encrypted emails with
  • Go to Display Keys
  • Click the blue export button and choose Display public key
  • In the ‘Export Key’ dialog box that appears, click Create file.
  • This will download your public key into a text file that you will share with anyone you want to email.
  • I have posted my public key on my website and will have it in Dropbox to easily send to anyone. (NEVER EVER SHARE YOUR PRIVATE KEY OR POST IT ANYWHERE)

Step 4.  Import the public keys for those you want to email. They can email you their public key as text or as an attachment. They will export their public key as descibed above. If you don’t have the other person’s public key, you won’t be able to encrypt the message for them.

Sending an encrypted message will add a few extra steps to your email workflow. I’ll write up the Cliff notes version here but you can read a more detailed description on http://www.mailvelope.com/help

Step 5.  Compose and Send your encrypted email

Click Gmail’s Compose button.

  • Inside your message body you should see an icon with a pen & paper on it. Click this.
  • A new composition window will open and this is where you’ll compose your message (not inside the regular Gmail compose window)
  • Type your message and when done, click the padlock button. This is where you choose who you will encrypt the message for (assuming you’ve been given their public key and imported it into Mailvelope)
  • Click Add for each email recipient you want to be able to decrypt the message.  Then click Ok.

  • The text you typed will change into a paragraph of alphanumeric characters which is your message but encrypted.
  • Now click the Transfer blue button and this will copy that text into the regular Gmail compose window)
  • Send your message to the same email address as the one you encrypted it for and the person on the other end will decrypt your message using their private key.
  • To decrypt a message, open the email and you’ll see this type of image.

  • Mailvelope will look for the corresponding private key that is needed to decrypt this message.  When it finds it, it will show this dialog box.

  • Enter your private key password and the message will be decrypted and displayed.

Would you like to test your website’s load time and plug up any bottlenecks that you identify?  I sure would and found a useful site for doing this very thing.

Enter Pingdom.com

Pingdom.com’s Full Page Test tool will load your entire site, give you a rating on the performance and conduct page analysis.

Best of all, it’s free.

 

Do you own the Toshiba Satellite C855D-S5320 laptop?  Do you hate Windows 8?  Want to install Windows 7 in its place?

I struggled for 10 hours to help my brother do just this and these few steps will save you a lot of googling, waiting, and from pulling your hair out.

  1. Go into the BIOS (by hitting F2 on boot) and make your CD the 1st boot device (it’s called ‘ODD’ under the ‘Boot’ menu).
  2. While in the BIOS, also change the ‘Boot Mode’ under Advanced > System Configuration from ‘UEFI Boot’ to ‘CSM Boot’.  Windows 7 requires CSM to boot from the Windows 7 CD/DVD and Windows 8 requires UEFI.  You may also need to disable ‘Fast Boot’ in the BIOS to be able to boot off the Win7 DVD.
  3. After installing Windows 7, open up Device Manager and you’ll notice a warning message next to 4 items.
    • Network Controller
    • SM Bus Controller
    • Universal Serial Bus (USB) Controller
    • USB2.0-CRW
  4. Don’t waste your time searching on Windows Update for these drivers, it does no good.
  5. Download this zip file and the tc50124300j.exe file  (it’s a Windows 8 driver but it still works)  [Also available here on Box.net, the zip file and the tc50124300j.exe.]  It includes the drivers to fix these errors and enable WiFi, the USB card reader, USB 3.0 suppor, and give you AMD’s Catalyst drivers.  The .exe file will fix the SM Bus Controller error.
  6. For the SM Bus Controller in Device Manager, right click on the ‘SM Bus Controller’ and choose Properties, then Update Driver.  Then Browse to where you extracted the tc50124300j.exe file  ‘…AMD Display Driver > Packages > Drivers > SBDrv > SMBus > W764A > SMBUSamd.inf ‘.  I believe I only have the SMBUS.amd.inf file in my .zip file and you need the driver itself not just the .inf file to install it.  That should do it.
  7. For the remainder of the devices in Device Manager, unzip my zip file and run the Setup file in each folder and afterwards run the amddriverdownloader.exe. (you can ignore the ‘t12 sm bus controller’ folder in my zip file because it only contains the SMBUSamd.inf and not the driver itself, my bad)

I tried unzipping a 300MB zip file today using the Mac OS X Archive Utility and nothing happened, no error message, nada.  Then I tried using The Unarchiver and I received an error I’ve never seen before, “error on decrunching”.   So how did I get the zipped file unarchived?  I renamed my file with a new extension, from .zip to .tar.  Then when I used The Unarchiver, voila, my file extracted without a problem.

I don’t know how many DVDs I burned and wasted when sending a Premiere Pro project to Adobe Encore to burn as a standard definition DVD.  The preview of the DVD inside Encore looked correct and didn’t show any black bars on the sides (known as pillaring) but these black bars showed up on every DVD I burned.

I googled for the answer and most solutions weren’t helpful until I found this guy’s blog.

I don’t want to plagiarize his text so I’ll summarize what he said in case his blog disappears.

The problem: A typical 16:9 (square pixel) project in Premiere Pro (or render from AE was 1280×720) dropped into a “widescreen DVD” Encore timeline leaves slight black bars on the sides (pillaring). These don’t appear in the preview but do after the DVD is burned.

Solution: Export a QuickTime file from AE/PPro at 720×480 (with a pixel aspect of 1.21), which is NOT exactly 16:9.  To do this, either drop your 720p comp (or my create a new 720×480 (aka: 480p) into a new AE comp that was this size. There’s a preset you can use, it’s the “NTSC DV Widescreen” preset. But you must then scale the source video down to fit the window (and thus cropping your picture and removing the black bars). It won’t fit exactly (obviously. that’s why we’re having to do this.) You will lose a slight bit of your actual video that gets cropped out on the top and bottom, but it’s better looking than Encore adding black space at the sides to preserve the original height.

Now burn your DVD using Encore and you’re good to go.

If you buy books from Amazon’s Kindle store and read them on your iPad, you may be frustrated on how to get your highlights/clippings into a different app so you could email them or study them offline.  If you don’t own an actual Kindle, you can’t transfer the My Clippings.txt file (that contains all your highlights) from an iPad but all is not lost.

Simply go to Kindle.Amazon.com and login.  At the top of the page, click “Your Highlights” and copy/paste away.

If you open a Microsoft Word document that ends with a .doc file extension and then open this in Word 2011 for Mac you wont’ find an option anywhere on how to shrink the size of your file by compressing the pictures in the document.

You first have to save the document in the newer .docx file format that enables additional features that the previous .doc format didn’t allow.

Once this is done, double-click on any picture in your document and inside the “Format Picture” tab at the top of the window there will be an option for “Compress”.  Click this and you will have plenty of options for compressing the photos in your file.

I am not yet inundated with Promoted Tweets in my Twitter timeline and as such haven’t had the need to block twitter users (aka: companies) who clutter up my timeline with what is tantamount to spam.

Until today, a friend of mine is getting overloaded with “spam”/promoted tweets in his timeline and I decided to figure out a way to help him.  The solution, TweetFilter, a browser extension that allows you to filter out and highlight tweets based on all sorts of criteria, including promoted tweets.

Available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and IE9.