Software

Make Firefox 4.0 Save Open Tabs When Quitting

I’m enjoying Firefox 4.0.  But the first issue to really frosted me was the loss of the ability to save open tabs when quitting.  In Firefox 3.x, it was possible to save open tabs and the restore them the next time the browser was opened.  I’m not sure why the feature is gone with the release of 4.0, but here’s an easy way to add it back.

  1. Enter this in the address bar of Firefox 4.0: about:config
  2. Click through the message warning you that its possible to really muck up the browser if you continue.  If you stick to changing this one setting there is nothing to worry about.
  3. Enter this string in the search field of the settings page: showQuitWarning
  4. Double click on the false statement at the end of the resulting line.  It will change to true.
That’s it!  Close out of the settings and relaunch the browser.  Going forward, Firefox will act as 3.x did and ask if you want to save your open tabs when quitting.

Glympse: Location Alert App for Smart Phones

This is one of those iPhone apps that fills a need most people didn’t know they had.  Its implementation is as close to perfect as I could imagine, and it brings functionality that all smart phones should ship with out of the box.  What it does, its does simply, it does cleanly, and it does very well.  And best of all— it does it for free.

The question to start an app review with is normally simple: What does the app do?  In this case, I think it’s easier to give an example of where and when Glympse can be used.  This makes the app a lot easier to explain.

So consider this situation…  You are running late for a meeting and you want to give the other meeting attendees a heads up about where you are and how long it will take for you to get to the meeting.  It’s a fair amount on information to convey especially if you are already on the run and already running late.  You could call and explain to the party on the other end.  But that could be awkward and end up being a longer conversation than you can deal with.  You could text, but that’s hard to do in a moving vehicle (whether you are driving or not (don’t text while driving!)).  And one text message could easily turn into a back and fourth volley that you don’t have time for.

Enter Glympse!  Glympse makes all of the pertinent information amazingly easy to pass to others.  The app sends your current GPS location to recipients so they can see where you are in real time.  This includes your current speed and updates your current position as you move.  No need to explain what is going on.  The person receiving the Glympse message knows where you are and has great insight into how long it will take you to arrive.  No fuss, and no discussion needed.  Just the facts of the situation and real time updates as time goes on.
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MyPhoneDesktop: The Missing App on Every iPhone

iphone-icon-3gsEvery once in a while I come across an iPhone app that is just plain essential.  This was the case when I first installed MyPhoneDesktop.  This app brings functionality to the iPhone that Apple should have included in the operating system.

Many iPhone users sit in front of a computer working for hours each day.  While they sit at their Mac working, their iPhone is dutifully at hand waiting to be used.  Need to text a friend?  Grab the iPhone and fire off a message and then its back to the Mac and the work at hand.  But with MyPhoneDesktop, the process becomes infinitely easier.  The app on the phone works with an application on the computer.  If I want to send a text via my cell phone, I can open up the computer-based application, select the message recipient from a list, quickly enter the message to send (via a standard easy to use conventional keyboard), and then tap send.  The desktop app hands the message off to the iPhone.  The iPhone enters the text into your text app and selects the recipient instantly.  All the user must do is tap send on the phone.  The application running my computer makes it much more efficient to compose the message, then hands it off to the phone for sending.
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Google Voice: The Official iPhone App

Google released the official Google Voice iPhone app this week.  Saying that this is a long awaited release is an understatement.  The app comes roughly 18 months after Apple pulled Google’s initial release from the App Store igniting great controversy.  And while it was never clear if it was Apple or AT&T company policy behind the removal of the Google Voice App, it looks like iPhone users can finally put the kerfuffle behind them.

For the purpose of this post, lets assume you understand how Google Voice works.  What I am really interested in at this time, is how the officially supported Google Voice App compares to other 3rd party apps such as GV Connect and GV Mobile +.

When Apple finally started to show signs of reversing the policies banning Google Voice type applications, apps like GV Connect and GV Mobile + quickly jumped in and filled the void before Google could get back in the game and devote resources to the project once again.  And while Google engineers spooled up to the task, GV Connect and GV Mobile + developers did an admirable job of filling the need to the best of their abilities.  But in my experience, there were key areas where their apps fell short.
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Watch MKV Files on the Xbox 360 the Easy Way

I was talking with my neighbor the other day and he was going on about his disappointment that while it was easy to watch Divx and Xvid movies over the network on his Xbox 360, there is no support for MKV files he had downloaded.  Each video he had was a 720p or 1080p high definition download.  And if he wanted to watch the video on his 360, he had to transcode the video to Xvid before he could watch it in his living room.  This was taking him 8-12 hours to transcode even on his high end Mac.

I did some digging and found an obscure reference in a forum indicating that the transcoding wasn’t really necessary after all as long as you had QuickTime Pro and used the correct settings.  It turns out that the QuickTime export for MP4 has an option in its video settings to allow “Video Passthrough”.  This lets us open a MKV file in QuickTime Player 7 and export the video out to MP4 (Xvid really) in a fraction of the time it takes to transcode the video.

There is something unusual in the newly released Mac OS X 10.6 that users will need to keep in mind.  The new version of the OS replaces (kinda) QuickTime 7 with a new version called QuickTime X.  The new version is the beginning of a “from the ground up” rewrite of QuickTime.  The problem is, as of 10.6, the new version only has basic functionality and lacks the support for many of the legacy video codecs and codecs that are new and not yet mainstream.
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Windows 7 and the Rootkit

I have to say that I have been very impressed with Windows 7.  I downloaded the RC 1 build the morning it was released to the masses.  I installed it on my MacBook Pro using Boot Camp the following day.  It was fast, visually very impressive, and really put a smile on my face.  Since that time, I have been working full time on my Mac but I roll over to Windows whenever possible to see how things are working on the other side of the street.

I installed Office 2007, Hamachi, Firefox, and Dropbox.  The usual core applications I like to keep handy.  Prior to all of this, of course, I installed Kaspersky Antivirus.  It was the first antivirus to catch my eye offering actual support (though preliminary as it is listed as a technical preview) for Windows 7.  I was impressed that the system didn’t seem unduly bogged down by the AV solution and off I went.

This morning I was listening to a podcast and thinking about Windows 7.  I thought I would try another antivirus just for the heck of it.  I have been wanting to install Eeye’s Blink, but its not working with 7 yet.  It simply fails to install.  Still, I want something free so I decided to give Avast’s free edition a shot.  I uninstalled Kaspersky and installed Avast.  I rebooted, updated the virus definitions, and let Avast start its scan.
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Keep Your Computers In Sync with DropBox

All computer users that routinely accesses more than one computer in the course of their normal routine share the same pain.  Keeping all of the files we need available to us at all times is nothing short of maddening.  I might have a spreadsheet I was working on all afternoon on my desktop computer, but when I grab my laptop and run out the door to meet a client I only have access to a version that is 2 days old.  Or I might have a series of files on my laptop that I need to work on.  But when I left my laptop at the office, there is no way I can access them from home.

A great solution called DropBox plans to make these craze inducing nightmares a thing of the past.  The user just installs DropBox on each individual system and links that computer to the DropBox account.  DropBox then uses the internet (often referred to as “the cloud”) to keep all of the data in sync.

As long as all of the data is stored in the DropBox directory on my Mac, and as long as I have an internet connection, DropBox does all of the work.  Say I have a spreadsheet that I updated on my workstation.  As soon as I save the update, that file is instantly transmitted to each of my other computers.  So, if I grab my laptop and run out to meet with a client, I can be confident that the most recent copy of that spreadsheet will also be sitting on my MacBook.  As long as all of my computers are connected to the internet, I’ll have up to date access to all of the data in my DropBox directory.
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Proximity Locking With Bluetooth

Here’s one I’ve been wanting for a long time.  I think it would be great to pair my cell phone with my computer and have the computer screen lock each time my phone leaves Bluetooth range.  Seems like a great security feature given the prevalence of cell phones these days.

To the best of my knowledge there are no Mac applications to facilitate this right now.  Fee apps or otherwise.  I read about one possibility a while back that was a series of scripts.  But when I played with it, it just didn’t work correctly.  Over at phoenixfreeze.com, it looks we might have a solution on the way.  Right now their product only supports Windows XP and Vista.  But according to the FAQ section, Mac support is planned.

Its not world class security, but it could keep your workstation locked down should you forget to lock it before you head out of the office to lunch.  Its not even out yet, for that matter but it will be a release worth watching for.

A couple of gotchas come to mind.  Some cell phones will only pair with 1 device at a time.  This could be a big problem if you sit at your desk with your cell paired with a headset that is also in range.  It would mean that the phone could only be paired with the headset or the computer but not both.  I believe most of the modern phones support multiple Bluetooth profiles now.  To my understanding that would allow the device to be paired with more than one devices at a time.  But it does seem limiting to only pair a cell phone to one devices at a time.


Steve

Predictive Text in Apple Mail 3.0

I was writing an email early this morning and made a mistake.  In the middle of typing a word I accidentally struck the Command+. keys (Apple+Period).  To my surprise, Apple Mail displayed a drop down list of possible completions for the word I had half entered.

At first I thought the feature was a novel idea.  But the more I considered it, the more I gained a genuine respect for what the feature represented.  For someone in some way keyboard challenged, this could represent a very efficient way to enter text (at least the larger and more complicated words).  For someone spelling impaired, the feature could be a powerful way to reference possible spellings without waiting for the spellcheck to call their bluff.
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OS X 10.5 Leopard: Instant Screen Sharing from the Finder

As the countdown to Leopard’s release continues, I continue to flip through the documentation recently released by Apple Inc.  In an interesting step forward in the evolution of the Mac OS, Apple engineers have added screen sharing to the list of features introduced in 10.5.

An extension of the Apple Remote Desktop software package and the VNC compatibility contained therein, the Mac OS will now be able to share screens as easily as it can share files.  The sidebar of each window in the Finder contains a list of shared computers on the network.  Clicking on the computer in that list makes it easy to mount any associated file share.  But when that computer name is clicked on, in the corner of the Finder window, there is a new button called Share Screen.  Just click that and a login prompt requests the username and password to be used when accessing the screen of the remote computer.
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