Archive for January, 2009

31st January

The quick, physical way to hibernate your MacBook.

written by Mark Wheadon

When you close your MacBook’s lid, the machine sleeps. But you’ve probably noticed that it still uses power in its sleep — about 20% of the battery per day, so after about five days it’s flat.

What you may not know is that you can put the MacBook into a much deeper state, where the machine uses almost no power at all. A full battery will then last for months rather than days — useful if you know you’re not going to use your MacBook for a while.

Now, you could install freeware to put your MacBook into this deep-sleep state (often call hibernation) and indeed I have, and it’s good: Deep Sleep. But for the hell of it, here’s a physical way of doing the same, with no additional software required.

Hibernating your MacBook

Check it’s safe to do so

First, close your MacBook’s lid. The illuminated Apple logo on the lid will extinguish almost immediately, but we’re not looking at that.

Look at the light on the front:

MacBook Pro front litIt will eventually start pulsing (breathing ūüôā in its sleep). If that happens almost immediately then sorry, but your MacBook is probably too old for this to work (it hasn’t copied its state to disk), so please don’t carry out the rest of these instructions — you may cause damage.

If, on the other hand, it takes tens of seconds before the light goes from solid-on to pulsing (typically twenty seconds or so) then your MacBook is recent enough for this to work, and you’re ready for the next step.

Let the fun commence

If the power light is now happily pulsing and it took a while to get to that state (whilst the MacBook copied its state to disk) then its time to interrupt the power.

Flip your MacBook over and press the battery-bay latch:

MacBook Pro front unlatchThen remove the cover:

MacBook Pro front cover offand remove the battery, just for a couple of seconds:

MacBook Pro front battery outThen put it all back together and hey-presto, the power light is off and its consuming almost no power at all.

MacBook Pro front not litWhen you next wish to use your MacBook, just open it up and press the power button. (Because it’s off off —¬†really off — you do need to press the power button; opening the lid or pressing a key isn’t enough.) Mac OS X will begin to boot and then show a progress marker while the system’s state is restored from disk:

MacBook Pro unhibernate

After a short while (about 35 seconds on my late-2008 MacBook Pro with 4GB of RAM), your MacBook will spring back to life in the same state as it was when you closed the lid, and with the same battery life!

How’s this work?

Modern Macs do what Windows Vista (for example) calls a Hybrid Sleep whereby it saves its state to disk as well as maintaining the same state using battery power. When you close the lid, the illuminated Apple logo goes off immediately so that you know it’s going to sleep, but actually the MacBook spends the next 20 seconds or so copying its state (mostly the contents of its RAM) on to disk. This is so that, should the battery go flat (and it will do within days, even if it’s full to start with), you won’t lose any data — you just have to wait longer for the machine to wake up once power is restored.

The MacBook then enters a light sleep (usually called standby) whereby the MacBook’s state is preserved by maintaining power to the machine’s RAM, and it’s that power feed that drains the battery.

When you pull the power for a moment, the machine no longer has any live state to preserve and so is essentially off and pulling no power. When you eventually switch it on again, Mac OS X restores its state from the hard drive and¬†everything’s¬†back as it was. It just takes a little longer, that’s all.


Here are some things you need to consider before indulging in any of above:

  • You can’t do this on older MacBooks (the clue is in how long the power light takes to reach the sleeping state (pulsing on and off) — if it’s near instant then¬†hybrid sleep isn’t happening and this isn’t going to work).
  • You must wait until the power light is pulsing before pulling the battery;
  • I¬†suggest¬†you don’t do this over-frequently (for example, every day is probably a bad idea) as the battery contacts may not be designed for such a high level of wear-and-tear. (Are there people who remove their MacBook’s battery every day for years on end? I wouldn’t be at all surprised.)
  • Don’t plug in fresh USB devices whilst the Mac is asleep and then wake it from hibernation, as you may find your Mac is less than happy about it.

The software approach

If you don’t like the thought of removing your battery then not to worry — there are several software solutions that will also do the job, and there’s a good guide to them¬†over at Geek Guides.

30th January

Conflicting advice.

written by Mark Wheadon

facebook flabby adverts


Facebook just can’t decide about me at the moment, so it’s decided to cover all the bases. Here’s a snapshot of the adverts down the side of my facebook home page for today.

Just what are they trying to tell me? ūüėÄ

30th January

Free music — yes, really.

written by Mark Wheadon

Face the music

Spotify is a source of music that seems too good to be true, but it’s there, it’s legit, and it allows you to listen to pretty much any music you like for free.


The player runs on both PC and Mac (and even Linux¬†under Wine), and it would seem to have an extensive catalogue. The Enemy, for example, is recent and not exactly mainstream pop, but they’re there to be listened to. (They’re good — why not check them out?)

Spotify also has a radio tab, where you can specify which genres you’re interested in, and which decades and the player feeds you relevant music (interspersed with adverts but hey, what did you expect?).

Stop press!

Spotify has announced that they’re allowing UK users to join without the need for an invitation — so if you’re¬†based¬†in the UK then the rest of this article is no longer relevant to you — you can simply visit¬† and sign up.

Sorry ‚ÄĒ no invitations left

I’ve handed out all my invitations now I’m afraid — sorry. This article used to say:

If you’re outside of the UK then Spotify is free by invitation only (if at all), and I have some invitations to give away. If you’d like an invitation then drop a comment at the end of this article and I’ll send you one, while stocks last ūüôā

I’m not connected with the guys at spotify in any way, but such a worthy app deserves to be heard.

Once you’re invited

There will be a link in the email — follow that link, download the app, and you’re there.

27th January

A problem with Huey Pro and Mac OS Leopard, and the fix.

written by Mark Wheadon

The problem

If, like me, you have a Huey Pro¬†and you’re using it under Mac OS X leopard then you may have hit this problem: once you’ve restarted your machine, the screen no longer adjusts its brightness automatically. If you start up and then quit the Huey Pro software then all’s well again until next time you log out or reboot.

It’s strange that (certainly in version 1.5.0) Pantone haven’t fixed this (surely the Mac is a major market for them?), but until they do, here’s a work-around.

The fix

The problem arises because¬†Pantone Huey Pro‘s helper application isn’t started automatically. The fix is to manually add it to the list of applications that start when you log in.

You can’t simply select the helper application as it’s buried within the Huey Pro¬†package, so you need to do the following:

Go to System Preferences->Accounts and select Login Items, then click on + to add an application.

run-helper-at-startupNow, leave that window for now and use a separate Finder window to go to Applications and scroll down to Huey Pro. Then right click (ctrl+click) and select Show Package Contents:


Now browse to Contents->Resources->Support¬†and select hueyAmbient. Don’t double-click it as that will simply start it up. Insteady, drag¬†hueyAmbient¬†to the Add Login¬†Item¬†window you opened earlier and that will select the¬†hueyAmbient¬†helper.


Now click on Add,¬†and you’re done.

26th January

A cheap, effective waterproof case for the Sony PRS-505 / PRS-700.

written by Mark Wheadon

Fancy reading your e-book in the bath? Your long wait is over — I have the answer¬†(cue long drum roll). Hours of selfless testing has proved its worth, and it’ll cost you pennies.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the Sony Reader waterproof case!

Sony Reader waterproof wide

A Sainsbury’s ziplock polythene bag ūüôā

I wouldn’t immerse the whole thing in water (so don’t use it if you have a tendency to nod off in the bath), but it’s certainly proof against splashes. It’s so effective because with an electronic book,¬†you don’t need to physically turn the pages, so having it inside a plastic bag is no hassle at all.


Sony Reader waterproof case 2

In my next article, I discover a simple solution to the common cold. Maybe.

23rd January

How to set up an external editor for Thunderbird under Mac OS X.

written by Mark Wheadon

If you use Thunderbird on your Mac then you may wish to use an¬†external¬†editor to compose your email rather than the internal one. In my case I’m a long-time vi¬†user so I find it convenient to drop into vi¬†at times, when the editing starts to get non-trivial.

There’s a plugin for Thunderbird which allows you to do this, but setting it up can be tricky, so I thought I’d document it here.


22nd January

Some differences between Windows and MAc OS X can be dangerous…

written by Mark Wheadon

Having just moved my world from Windows (XP and Vista) to Mac OS X, I thought I’d share some of the differences I’ve come across which can cause irritation or even data loss for the unwary.


21st January

Synching time from multiple NTP servers in Mac OS X.

written by Mark Wheadon

If you’ve set up your MacBook to set its date and time automatically, then there’s a problem: it can’t necessarily connect to any one server from all networks — if you’re behind a corporate firewall for example then you’ll need to use the local NTP server, but that connection will fail when you’re out and about, or sitting at home.

The answer seems to be undocumented, but you can in fact type more than one host name or IP address into the Set date & time automatically field in the Date & Time settings — separated by spaces.

I have mine set like above, so it picks up my ISP (Zen)’s NTP server when I’m at home, the local NTP server if there is one (they’re usually called ntp0, ntp1 etc. or maybe just ntp), or if all else fails.

21st January

Having problems with networking in VMWare’s Fusion? Here’s one possible cause and it’s associated fix.

written by Mark Wheadon

I was having network problems with Vmware’s Fusion (version 2.0.1) — Net BIOS / WINS name resolution failing, occasional long pauses in data flow, and slow startup of the networking in the VM after a suspend.

The fix is t go into the virtual machine’s settings, select Network¬†and then change the setting from Share the Mac’s network connection¬†to Connect directly to the physical network (bridged).

Vmware Fusion network settings

This results in your virtual machine DHCPing etc. in the same way as the Mac, rather than straining your VM’s networking through NAT running on the Mac.

If your network provides DHCP then changing the above setting may result in better, more robust networking.

20th January

A case of clashing of hot-keys.

written by Mark Wheadon

Surely Adobe’s Photoshop and Mac OS X Leopard¬†wouldn’t¬†share a keyboard accelerator for something important, would they?

Yup ūüôā Feathering a selection’s edge in Photoshop using Command+Option D (cmd+alt D) in Photoshop on the Mac results in the dock hiding itself. And if you’re an experienced PS user then you probably feather selections all the time.

hide dock shortcut

The fix? Change the Mac OS accelerator for ”Automatically hide and show the Dock” to something different (I use cmd+alt+o).

System Preferences->Keyboard & Mouse->Keyboard Shortcuts