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Posts Tagged Mac

Taking Notes

Most people reading this blog carry around a computer every day, whether its a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Yet many of us still reach for paper and pen when it’s time to take notes.

For many of us, it’s because pen and paper are what we’re familiar with, and we know how they work. There’s a bunch of note-taking apps out there, and they don’t all work the same, or even similarly in many cases.

I recently decided that I was going to try to take notes in a digital format whenever possible and went on an adventure to see which of the most popular apps fit my needs. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted when I started, and I’ve spent a few days trying to find an app that was just the right fit for me.

I put together a few apps I found and a list of the features that I directly compared between them below, and hopefully it helps someone in the same position that I’m in decide which works best for them:

OneNote 2016 Evernote Bear Turtl Apple Notes
Publisher Microsoft Evernote Shiny Frog Lyon Bros Apple
Price Free Free-$7.99/mo Free-$1.49/mo Free Free
Platforms Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android, Web Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Web Mac, iPad, iPhone Windows, Mac, Linux, Android Mac, iPad, iPhone
Cloud Sync Yes, via OneDrive Yes, via Evernote Yes, via CloudKit (Subscription only) Yes Yes, via iCloud/CloudKit
Self-hosted sync option No No No Yes No
Offline access Yes Paid plans only Yes Yes Yes
Local storage option No Yes No No Yes
Organization Notebooks, Sections, Pages Notebooks, Notes Notes, Hashtags Boards, Notes Folders, Notes
File attachments within notes Yes Yes Images and photos only Yes No
OCR within attachments Partial Yes N/A No No
Encryption Yes, per section Yes, selected portions of notes No Yes Yes, per note
Encryption Strength AES-256 AES-128 N/A AES-256 AES-128
Encrypts media within notes Yes No N/A Yes Yes
Web Clipping Yes Yes No No No
Sharing Yes Paid plans only No Yes No
Drawing/Write anywhere Yes Mobile apps only No No No
Markdown support No Partial, as typing shortcuts Yes Yes No
Language syntax highlighting No No Yes No No
Note history No With paid plan only No No No
Import options Print to OneNote, Import from Evernote zip file Apple Notes, Evernote, DayOne, Vesper, Ulysses None ENEX
Export options OneNote, Word, PDF, XPS, mht ENEX, HTML HTML, PDF, DOCX, MD, JPG None PDF

There are a lot more options out there than just these. In fact, there’s a whole Wikipedia page here.

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Installing GIMP on Mac OS X with ELA Script-Fu

This article will walk you through installing GIMP on OS X with an ELA (Error Level Analysis) plugin to detect editing.

To learn more about reading ELA results, read this:
      http://fotoforensics.com/tutorial-ela.php

First, download GIMP from here: https://www.gimp.org/downloads/

Next, grab elsamuko-error-level-analysis.scm from the bottom of this page: https://sites.google.com/site/elsamuko/forensics/ela – Save it for later.

GimpElsamuko

After downloading this .scm file, open it in your favorite text editor and locate the following line:

SF-STRING      "Temporary File Name"   "error-level-analysis-tmp.jpg"

Change it to the following:

SF-STRING      "Temporary File Name"   "/tmp/error-level-analysis-tmp.jpg"

And save the file. This fixes an issue with images not being able to be processed as the default location is not writable by GIMP.

Now double-click the GIMP .dmg file you downloaded, and copy GIMP to your Applications folder as shown:

CopyGimpToApps

Once you have it copied over, you will want to open the package contents by alt-clicking and selecting “Show Package Contents“.

GimpShowPackageContents

From here, navigate to Contents > Resources > share > gimp > 2.0 > scripts and drop in the elsamuko-error-level-analysis.scm file you download earlier.

GimpScriptsElsamuko

Now, run GIMP. Because of security-related things and stuff, the first time you run you will have to alt-click on GIMP and select Open. After doing this for the first time, you won’t have to do it again.

GimpOpen

GIMP will appear to freeze for about 5 minutes while it builds its initial caches. This will cause GIMP to appear unresponsive. Do not force-kill it during this time, simply be patient until it opens.

Now, you can perform ELA on an image by opening it, and selecting Image > Error Level Analysis from the menu.

GimpELA

 

Once you’ve done that, running it against an image will produce an ELA mask as an additional layer, which you can use to analyze an image.

You can toggle the ELA layer visibility by clicking the eye shown in the following screenshot.

GimpToggleELALayer

(Sample image from http://fotoforensics.com/tutorial-ela.php, retrieved April 11th, 2016)

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Disable and remove .DS_Store files stored on network locations

So today I was going through my Synology NAS and noticed .DS_Store files all over the place.

These are actually files containing extended attributes created by Finder in Mac OS X. But, since they get written out to network locations, they can cause backup and versionining issues.

To disable them from being created on network locations, open a Terminal and run the following

defaults write com.apple.desktopservices DSDontWriteNetworkStores true

(Note: This only affects the currently-logged-in user)

Now in my case, I had these files all over my Synology NAS, so I was able to easily get rid of them by SSHing into the box and running the following:

find / -name .DS_Store -delete

And… done.

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MacBook optical drive dust cover causing stuck CDs

If you have an older MacBook and are having problems with CDs getting stuck in the drive, the drive itself might not be to blame. In the case of one particular MacBook that I’ve worked on, it was the dust cover of the drive itself. It had hardened enough over time from dust and dirt to put resistance on the CDs enough to keep them from ejecting.

Below you can see two photos of the dust cover on the MacBook, showing the dirt buildup on the dust cover:

So, the first step is to disassemble the MacBook and get access to the dust cover. Follow this YouTube video for the disassembly, right down to removing the optical drive

Once the optical drive is removed, remove the four screws shown in the following photos, and then remove the dust cover assembly.

Carefully pry the dust cover assembly off. It will be stuck to the plastic base with adhesive, so the use of a tool is recommended.

Here’s a shot of the dust cover, removed:

The dust cover itself is little more than fabric glued to the magnesium bracket. You can easily peel it off. This one only left a little reside and I was able to easily clean it with some alcohol.

Mag bracket, dust cover removed:

Now, just reinstall the bracket, and reverse the above.

You’ll notice the small gap where the dust cover used to be, but CDs no longer get stuck! I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to fabricate a replacement for the dust cover.

Feel free to comment below. 

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How to install wget in Mac OS X

wget is a really handy command line utility, but unfortunately not included in OS X. Curl could be a suitable replacement, but frequently scripts are written with wget, and it can be difficult and time-consuming to convert them to using curl.

Users interested in installing wget should first install Homebrew and then run:

brew install wget

This will install wget from Homebrew.

The below steps are deprecated and likely no longer work at all:

Below are the steps required to install a working wget on Mac OS X. This has been tested on OS X 10.6 Lion.

Install XCode from http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/xcode/id497799835?ls=1&mt=12 (at this time, it’s a 1.5GB download.)

Launch XCode, updating if necessary.

Go to Preferences > Downloads, and install Command Line Tools

Now open a terminal and perform the following steps at the command line one at a time to download, extract, configure, compile, and install wget:

curl -O http://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/wget/wget-1.14.tar.gz
tar xvzf wget-1.14.tar.gz
cd wget-1.14
./configure --with-ssl=openssl
make
sudo make install

You should now have a working wget installed in /usr/local/bin. Confirm by trying

$ wget
wget: missing URL
Usage: wget [OPTION]... [URL]...
Try `wget --help' for more options.

Feel free to comment below. Thanks!

2/7/2016: I got an email from someone who says this no longer works and gives the following message:

configure: error: –with-ssl=openssl was given, but SSL is not available.

If anyone has advice, please contact me. Thanks!

 

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Set up an encrypted VPN using DD-WRT

DD-WRT is feature-rich alternative firmware for a large number of home router models. It adds a wonderful array of new features, VPN being one of them. This walkthrough will show you how to quickly and easily configure a PPTP VPN server on your DD-WRT-powered router, so you can connect to your home network from afar, create a secure tunnel so you can safely use a public Wifi point with your laptop, or secure your iOS or Android device.

Setting up the VPN Server

So here’s how to get started. First, you’ll need a build of DD-WRT supported by your router which includes the VPN software. If you’re doing this on an Internet connection which has an IP address that changes periodically (i.e. residential), you’ll likely want a Free DynDNS hostname to point to your IP address. You’ll also need a basic familiarity of networking.

For the remainder of this guide, I will assume your router’s internal (LAN) IP address is 192.168.1.1.

Start by going to http://192.168.1.1 and login to your router’s administration panel.

Go to Services > VPN and set PPTP Server to enable. After doing that, a few new options will appear. The only ones you need to set are Server IP, Client IP(s), and CHAP Secrets. Set them as follows:

Server IP: You can set this to your router’s LAN IP, i.e. 192.168.1.1

Client IPs: Set this to an IP range OUTSIDE your DHCP range (See Setup > Basic Setup to figure your DHCP range) A good example value would be 192.168.1.200-250 for clients to receive addresses within that range.

CHAP Secrets: This is the username/password combinations for your VPN clients. Format is:
username*password*
Example:
myname * mypassword *

Neither the username nor password can contain spaces, and must be all-lowercase.

You’re done with this page; Click Apply Settings.

Now go to Security > VPN Passthrough and make sure PPTP is set to Enabled. Click Apply Settings if you had to change the setting.

You should now be able to connect to your VPN using your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer by setting up a PPTP connection to your public (WAN) IP or hostname.

Troubleshooting

Can’t get connected? First, try setting up your connection to the router itself, using the LAN IP (192.168.1.1). If that works, then the VPN server is set up correctly; the problem is likely on the WAN side. Keep reading for suggestions. If you weren’t able to get connected, go back to the top and double-check your settings.

iOS-Specific changes

You may need to make the following settings adjustment if you are having trouble connecting specifically from your iOS device running iOS 4.3 or above. Go to Administration > Commands and paste the following in the box. Click Save Startup.

#!/bin/sh
echo "nopcomp" >> /tmp/pptpd/options.pptpd
echo "noaccomp" >> /tmp/pptpd/options.pptpd
kill `ps | grep pptp | cut -d ' ' -f 1`
pptpd -c /tmp/pptpd/pptpd.conf -o /tmp/pptpd/options.pptpd

(Source: DD-WRT Wiki)

If you can connect from the LAN side, but are still having trouble connecting from the WAN side, it’s likely your ISP or your gateway device (modem) is blocking the needed GRE protocol or the needed PPTP port or traffic. Contact your ISP for further assistance.

Do you have any experience or tips to share regarding VPN connections to a DD-WRT-powered router, or any suggestions in addition to the above? Please feel free to share them in the comments below. Thank you!

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Google Music vs iTunes Match

Google and Apple each brought their own services which allow users to upload their music library and stream it to their devices in the form of Google Music and iTunes Match, respectively. But how do those services compare?

Let’s take a side-by-side comparative look at some of the features:

Feature Google Music iTunes Match
Number of songs 20,000 songs not purchased from Android Market 25,000 songs not purchased from iTunes
Price Free $25/yr
Supported devices Works on common browsers on Win / Mac / Linux / Android / iOS (1) Works on Win / Mac running iTunes; iOS devices supporting iCloud
Sync Automatically sync music to Google Music using Win / Mac / Linux client Automatically sync music to iTunes Match using iTunes
Sync Selection Select which songs to upload using sync client All songs from iTunes library are synchronized.
Local Storage Save music to your Win / Mac / Linux / Android device for offline playback Save music to your Win / Mac / iOS device for offline playback
Uploading Every song must be uploaded Matching is performed prior to upload; Only unmatched songs are uploaded
Supported file formats Mp3, AAC (m4a), wma, flac, ogg (source) Same as iTunes
Excluded formats None 24-bit audio; Bitrates under 96 kbps; File over 200MB (source)

(1) Although Google Music is reported to work on iOS devices, I wasn’t able to get it to display any of the songs in my library — (screenshot). UPDATE: I can confirm it does work on iOS (iPhone), but only as the desktop site (which is clunky and requires zooming on an iPhone screen). Screenshots one, two, and three. The mobile site still shows I have no music in my library.

As you can see, Google Music is aimed at the Android crowd, while iTunes Match is aimed at the iOS crowd. However, a few of the major points in Google Music’s favor that I see are that it supports playback from a web browser, has a Linux client, and is free.

I’m interested in everyone else’s opinion as well. Which streaming music service do you prefer, and why? Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments below. Thank you!

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How to rip a DVD to m4v (mp4) or mkv using HandBrake in Ubuntu, Windows, or Mac

After writing my previous post about ripping DVD to avi using k9copy (and the ddrescue workaround), I found HandBrake. After doing a little reading on it, the general consensus is it does a better job at reading DVDs, even those with some issues. I was able to get HandBrake to completely convert my DVD easily and, although it is a little slower than k9copy, it is quite capable. Another nice thing about HandBrake is it’s cross-platofrm support — it’s available for Windows (exe), Mac (dmg), Ubuntu (PPA/deb), and Fedora (rpm).

This comes with the same general disclaimer as the previous post: Notice: This walk-through is not intended to encourage or facilitate piracy. It is the user’s responsibility to observe all applicable licensing and copyright laws.

That said, on with the how-to.

Installing HandBrake

You can either install HandBrake via the HandBrake Releases PPA (Ubuntu) or the HandBrake download page (Windows, Mac, Fedora).

PPA for Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic) or newer (Recommended): Open a terminal and enter the following three commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:stebbins/handbrake-releases
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install handbrake-gtk

Direct downloaders: Download your installation file from the download link above and follow the installation procedure for your operating system.

Using HandBrake – Ubuntu Linux

HandBrake has a lot more flexibility (and therefore a lot more options) but only a few need to be changed to get the best rip possible. You can find HandBrake in the launcher after installing it.

After starting up HandBrake, click the Source button in the top left.

In the new window that opens, go to the bottom and find the “Detected DVD devices” drop-down box. Select the device appropriate for your system and click the Ok button.

After a few moments of scanning your DVD, the summary tab will populate with information.

On the video tab, click the “Target Size (MB)” radio button. The default value of 700 is correct.

Go to the chapters tab and uncheck “Chapter Markers”

Click Start to begin the ripping process.

Using HandBrake – Windows

Windows usage is similar to the above, but with some slight modifications. Also, the below is based on the latest version (0.9.8).

First, go to Tools > Options > Output Files and make sure a directory is selected for Default Path.

hb_tools_options_outputfiles

Next, insert your disc and click the Source drop-down, and select the disc.

After a few moments, select your preset on the right (based on the intended playback device — if unsure, use Regular > Normal).

Then, click Chapters and uncheck Create chapter markers.

Now, click Start to rip the DVD.

For more information, see the HandBrake Users Guide.

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Windows, Linux dual-boot system time issues

Multiple Boot Systems Time Conflicts

From The Ubuntu Community:

Operating systems store and retrieve the time in the hardware clock located on your motherboard so that it can keep track of the time even when the system does not have power. Most operating systems (Linux/Unix/Mac) store the time on the hardware clock as UTC by default, though some systems (notably Microsoft Windows) store the time on the hardware clock as the ‘local’ time. This causes problems in a dual boot system if both systems view the hardware clock differently.

The advantage of having the hardware clock as UTC is that you don’t need to change the hardware clock when moving between timezones or when Daylight Savings Time (DST) begins or ends as UTC does not have DST or timezone offsets.

Changing Linux to use local time is easier and more reliable than changing Windows to use UTC, so dual-boot Linux/Windows systems tend to use local time.

Since Ubuntu Intrepid (8.10), the hardware clock is set to UTC by default.

Make Windows use UTC

Note: This method was not initially supported on Windows Vista and Server 2008, but came back with Vista SP2, Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2.

To make MS Windows calculate the time from the hardware clock as UTC.

Via regedit:

Run regedit and navigate to

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\TimeZoneInformation

Right-click in the right-side panel and select New > DWORD Value. Create the key named RealTimeIsUniversal and give it a value of 1.

Using a registry file

Create a file named WindowsTimeFixUTC.reg with the following contents and then double click on it to merge the contents with the registry:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\TimeZoneInformation]
"RealTimeIsUniversal"=dword:00000001

Make Linux use ‘Local’ time

To tell your Ubuntu system that the hardware clock is set to ‘local’ time:

1. edit /etc/default/rcS

2. Set UTC=yes if your hardware clock is set to UTC (GMT), or UTC=no to have the hardware clock set to local time.

It’s come to my attention that this issue also affects Macs which dual boot via bootcamp or other methods. 

Questions, comments, and feedback is welcome and appreciated.

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