Posts Tagged ‘Windows’

16th May
2009

Windows Vista prompts for you password every time it comes out of sleep / hibernation. If you’d rather it didn’t then here’s how to disable that behaviour.

written by Mark Wheadon

If you have a Windows Vista machine in a secure (enough ūüôā ) environment then you may not want it to prompt for a password every time it comes out of standby. With previous versions of Windows it was pretty obvious how to choose this behaviour (in XP it’s¬†under the Advanced tab of the current power scheme in¬†Power options for example — in fact, it’s still there in Vista but it’s buried deep).

Under Vista it’s far less obvious, but the setting is there if you know where to look for it.

First, go to Power options in the control panel. I find it easiest to do this kind of thing by bringing up the Start menu and then typing (in this case) power, and then selecting Power Options:

start-menuNext, in the Power Options window, don’t click on¬†change plan settings as it’s somewhat buried in there nowadays. Instead, select the¬†Require a password on wakeup link that’s lurking in the top-left of the window:

power-optionsYou will then be presented with a window which looks useful, but in fact the Don’t require a password option you’ve been looking for is greyed out — you can’t select it! This is because you first need to click on¬†Change settings that are currently unavailable:

power-options-system-settingsThen confirm you’re happy for the change to be made:

permission-to-continue

And finally you’re in a position to select the option:

dont-require-passwordThen click on Save changes and you’re done. (I know, it shouldn’t be that hard, but c’est la vie with Vista at times.)

It’s worth repeating that you should only set this option if you’re happy that someone with no knowledge of your login details can walk up to your suspended Vista session, wake it up, and start doing stuff as you.

26th April
2009

The Open Source Community and Microsoft do have something in common after all.

written by Mark Wheadon

I was trying to figure out why firefox doesn’t sit as well on Mac OS as I’d expect — why it feels slightly alien on there (as does thunderbird), and then it occurred to me: firefox, thunderbird, et. al. are, in some ways, more akin to¬†Windows than Mac OS.

I’ll explain (I think I’d better ūüôā ).

Mac OS is pretty complete out of the box. If you’d like to burn an ISO image onto CD, or browse that ISO image, or ssh to another host, or use VNC, or… then it’s all already there, well integrated and working from the start.

Windows isn’t like that — the basic OS lacks a lot of functionality. If you’re going to burn an ISO, or browse one then you’ll need something like Nero. If you’d like to ssh to another machine then you download putty, if you’re going to connect to another machine using VNC then you’ll need that, and so on.

What you end up with is a whole host of extra software, all pretty much working, but all pulling in slightly different directions and all clearly written by different companies with different ideas about the user interface, and differing levels of integration with the whole.

Firefox and friends are also a little like that. The basic functionality is in the application, but all the extra frills are plugins, written by many different people. Many of the plugins are a little quirky, and they all tend to pull in slightly different directions — sometimes interacting badly with each other. It works, but it’s not elegant.

Microsoft and the Open Source Community do this for very different reasons. Microsoft does it to spread their programming effort as thinly as possible (I guess they’d say as efficiently as possible), always concentrating on ‘value’, and never on quality. The Open Source Community do it out of necessity: not everyone can be hacking the central code all the time, it’s just not practical, and the plugin approach enables a huge number of people to work on additional functionality whilst keeping the project manageable.

The world would be a much poorer place without open source software, but there is a price to pay. The plugin approach that open source development engenders leads to some great software (I wouldn’t give up my Squeezeboxes for the world for example, and my squeezeserver is bristling with plugins), but those systems do sometimes feel like they’re¬†all elbows and knees — rather¬†awkward, and somewhat less than elegant.

15th February
2009

Windows-L for the Mac.

written by Mark Wheadon

The need

Coming to Mac OS X from Windows (XP and Vista), I missed being able to lock my session using a simple key-chord. I work in a shared office so it’s sensible to lock the session every time I walk away — something I do regularly.

In Windows, you simply press Windows-L and that’s it — time to go. Mac OS X Leopard doesn’t provide anything as succinct as standard, but there are ways.

Firstly, there are a couple of solutions that are accepted as standard¬†ways of doing this — but unfortunately¬†both have problems. I’ll cover these methods first in case they work for you, and then I’ll cover a solution that really is as quick and easy to use as the Windows’ lock screen key chord.

Partial solution number one: use a hot corner

A hot corner allows you to drop into the screen saver by moving the cursor to a chosen corner of the screen. To do this, first go to System Preferences->Desktop & Screen Saver and click on Hot Corners… Then select Start Screen Saver for one of the corners:

hot-corner-screensaverNow, when you place the cursor in that corner (I chose the bottom-left), the screen saver will start.

Of course, this doesn’t help unless your system is configured to require a password when woken from the screen saver. You can set that in System Preferences->Security:

require-password

And that’s it. Now, before you walk away from your Mac, just drop the cursor into the bottom-left corner of the screen.

However, there is a problem with this method — at least for me — as I don’t want the system to prompt for a password on wakeup. I end up typing my password far too often — every time I’ve left the machine alone long enough for the screen saver to start.

What I want is the Mac to remain unlocked until I explicitly lock it. So, on to solution two…

Partial solution number two: select a pull-down from the menu bar

Here’s another way of locking the machine, and this one doesn’t require that you tick Require password to wake up this computer from sleep or screen saver.

The trick is to enable fast user switching in System Preferences->Accounts->Login Options:

enable-fast-user-switching

which will then place your user name in the menu bar at the top of the screen.

When you want to lock the session, just click on your user name:login-window-from-userand select Login Window… and you’re done. (You can also achieve a similar result by ticking Show Status in Menu Bar in Keychain‘s preferences if you prefer.)

What’s my beef with this solution? The problem is that it’s still rather slow and fiddly — and it’s something I do regularly, so I want to just press and go, just as I did with Windows.

A full solution

To implement a full Windows-L style solution we need Dockables to provide us with an application that locks the Mac OS session, and Quicksilver to launch that application.

First, download and install Dockables from cocoaapp.com. This gives you a bunch of useful applications in a sub-folder of your Applications folder:

dockables

and the one we’re interested in is Lock Screen.

exit-quicksilver-windowNext, download and install Blacktree’s Quicksilver and run it to configure a new Lock Screen key-chord. Quicksilver will present you with its main window — just quit that and instead move to Quicksilver’s menu bar at the top of the screen and select Triggers… from the drop-down menu.

quicksilver-triggers

In the Triggers window that appears, click on the + at the bottom and select HotKey.

add-hotkey

A new window will appear. Click on the first field and start to type lock screen. Quicksilver will rapidly find the Lock Screen dockable you installed earlier. Click Save.

type-lock-screen

Nearly there

You now have a new command, but with no trigger. So click on the None in your new command,

click-on-noneclick in the input field labelled¬†Hot Key: and press the key combination you wish to use to lock your session from now on. (I chose alt+cmd+L because the obvious choice —¬†cmd+L — is already used by Thunderbird — my email client.)

press-hotkeys-copy

I suggest you don’t use the¬†ctrl key as part of your hot key-chord. If you do then¬†quicksilver presents this dialog every time you type the chord:

press-run

Now, having typed a key-chord (which doesn’t include ctrl),¬†exit the Triggers window and you have yourself a new Lock Screen hot key-chord:¬†alt+cmd+L in the example above.

And finally, tweak some settings

You need quicksilver to run at all times, so bring up Quicksilver’s preferences (available from the Quicksilver menu in the menu bar at the top of the screen):

quicksilver-start-at-loginand tick Start at login. You may also want to tidy up the dock a little — as quicksilver is running all the time I’d rather it didn’t appear in the dock and instead appeared in the menu bar:

alt+cmd+Lso I untick Show icon in dock (and I also tick the option check for updates):

quicksilver-full-prefsAnd that’s everything sorted. Any time you need your display locked, just type alt+cmd+L…

cmd+alt+L

and walk away…

30th January
2009

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.

spotify-in-action

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¬†www.spotify.com 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.

22nd January
2009

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.

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20th January
2009

Does the output from your Epson R800, R1800, R900, R1900 look faint? Are you printing from Mac OS but hosting the printer from Windows? Here’s the fix.

written by Mark Wheadon

[ I guess this will also be true of other Epson¬†inkjet printers¬†such as the newer R900 and R1900 ‚ÄĒMark ]

I have an Epson R1800 (the A3 variant of the R800) plugged into a PC running Windows and shared on the home network.

The other day I set up my MacBook Pro to print to that printer share and all was well until I collected the output — it was really faint, we’re talking about something like 50% opacity — only half there!

To cut a long story short: if you want top-quality output, with full control over the gloss etc. then you’re going to have to plug the printer into your Mac, but you can get close with the printer hosted on a Windows machine. The answer to the faint-print problem is that you need a newer version of the Gutenprint drivers for Mac OS X. The old versions supplied with Mac OS leopard are seriously broken (although they do save on ink :-).

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