Mac OS X 10.8.5 update breaks Skype video

Apple_logo_black.svgSkype_logo.svgI updated to the most recent version of the operating system on our Mac laptop a day or two ago. Suddenly, Skype stopped recognizing our built-in Facetime video camera.

I googled around for a bit and quickly found that other users were reporting the same symptoms.

Here‘s where I found the fix. Continue reading Mac OS X 10.8.5 update breaks Skype video

Easy multi-platform file sharing with Dropbox

You know what a big pain it is to send a bunch of pictures or other files via email?  You can zip ’em up to together, but that doesn’t really shrink the file size if you’re sending media content like movies or images or sound files (they’re most likely already compressed, and zipping them doesn’t compress them further).  And if your email provider limits the total message size, you have to decide whether to resize your pictures (boo!) or send multiple emails.  Plus, there’s the tarbomb issue – unzipped files lying around in your nice clean folders all willy-nilly.

Or maybe these are files you don’t want to publish on your webpage or via flickr or picasa or whatever and you don’t have a file server hooked up to the internet at your disposal.

Try Dropbox.  You can drag and drop files through your operating systems’ native file management programs (i.e., Finder on Mac OS X, your file manager of choice on Linux, or even Windows Explorer on Windows) and they magically appear on remote users’ computers.  You define which files and which remote users.  Even your parents can do it (provided they can get the picures off of their camera). 

Here are the details:

  • It works on Macs, PCs, and Linux (more about the Linux version below).
  • You need a login (an email address) and password, which you set up at  You also need to know the email addresses of the people with whom you want to share files.
  • You set up folders containing files and then set the permissions on a per-folder basis.  This way, you’re not sharing all your content with everyone all the time.  Example:  you and your siblings can collaborate on a birthday present for a parent by keeping the files you want to share in the Planning Mom’s Birthday folder without Mom getting wind of it.  And Mom can still share files with you via other folders.
  • You don’t really have to install any of the software, since it’s all doable via the website, but the easiest way to do it is after installing the software.
  • It’s free – for up to a couple GB of storage.  If you need more, you can pay for it.

I’ve been using it for about a year I guess on our Mac and it works really well.  Thanks to Carrie Jo for suggesting it to me originally.

Now, more about that Linux stuff I mentioned above:

  • There are packages available for Fedora Core and Ubuntu and, of course, souce.
  • Wait, the Ubuntu packages require Nautilus and/or other GNOMEy stuff?  What about Kubuntu or KDE users in general?
  • Google is your friend.  I found the following advice, which worked great:Dropbox without Gnome : Sounds From The Dungeon

Those instructions work, but here are a few more details. 

  • In step #2, “$HOME” means your home directory; probably /home/yourusernamehere
  • In step #3, I had to start the daemon from the command line with an ‘&’ at the end of the command.  The wizard didn’t seem to want to work otherwise.

After that, it was cake.

Safari 4 Beta Out

I’m writing this with the Safari 4 beta for Mac OS X Leopard.

First impressions:

  • Whoa, it’s fast.
    I’d seen Safari billed as the fastest browser out there, but had never seen anything close to approximating fast on Safari in the past — neither Windows XP nor this Mac. Definitely not the fastest browser on my lap or desktop. But I kept it around anyways, because it has its uses. As long as the final version of Safari 4 stays this fast, this will become the primary browser on the Mac for sure. I haven’t read up on it; I’m not sure if it’s the rendering engine or what, but this program simply feels fast while I’m using it — especially when doing AJAXy stuff.

  • Tabs across the top
    Now why did they do that? For some reason, the tabs are the top-most thing in the program window now, and not the address bar. I guess it doesn’t bother me; Google Chrome does that too. It’ll just take some getting used to.

  • Keyboard Shortcuts
    I had to google this one to figure it out. Cmd+shift+arrow key moves you from tab to tab. This is useful information for us home-row typists. But why don’t they document that in the Safari help files?

  • Cover Flow
    You like that nifty graphical flip-through of songs in your iTunes library? Safari 4 beta gives you that for your browser history. It’s definitely a gimmick, but it’s neat.

  • Top Sites
    This looks like something they stole from Opera (probably the world’s ugliest browser!). But they made it pretty and fun and Apple-y.

So far, I’m enjoying it. Go get your own copy at (oh, sorry Linux fans. You’re still outta luck).

geeky updates

Mac stuff

Today something weird happened on our Mac mini (running OS 10.5, known as Leopard). It “forgot” that it had a built-in sound card. How weird is that?

I quickly found all kinds of suggestions online for how to remind it. Checking permissions on the disk with the Disk Utility application, zapping PRAM (whatever that means), tweaking MIDI settings, and a lot more.

You know what worked? Rebooting with the Shift key held down so the Mac would boot in Safe Mode.

What kind of Wintel crap is that?

Linux stuff

I upgraded both our Linux machines to Kubuntu Hardy Heron (8.04) this weekend…I mean, starting Wednesday evening. Things seem to work pretty well, but the b43 driver thingies that are supposedly included by default in the version of the 2.6.24 series kernel still had to be downloaded and installed and configured through the Hardware Drivers Manager…requiring a network connection. I guess it’s not a big deal for our lappy, since I can walk it over to our router and connect an ethernet cable, but it was a pain for our desktop machine, given that it’s on another floor of our house. How do you go out into the series of tubes to get stuff you need to make teh intarwebs work on your computer if you don’t already have that stuff?

Skype 2.7 for Mac OS X, 2.0 Beta for Linux

Good news and bad news!

You want the bad news first? OK, here it comes.

I couldn’t get Skype for Mac OS X to work. I used the built-in uploader thing to look for a new version and download and install itself. Then, when trying to log in afterwards, it never worked. The “Signing in…” rotating graphic thing just kept spinning. I tried a couple different approaches:

  • rebooting (sorry — reflex holdover from my Windows days)
  • dragging the Skype application icon from the Applications folder out onto the desktop, and then dragging it back into the Applications folder (this helped, amazingly, with the iSync application after upgrading to Mac OS X 10.5.2 — it was just a shot in the dark)
  • Doing a fresh download of Skype for Mac OS X from and overwriting the previous installation

None of that stuff worked. In the end, I found a copy of version for Mac OS X that I downloaded from which I installed. It appears to work better, since I can log in properly, but I must confess, I haven’t actually tested it yet.

Now for the good news!

I was poking around for an updated version of Skype for use on Linux, and I noticed they’d released a beta version of 2.0 for Linux — including video support! I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Downloaded the Ubuntu package and with sudo dpkg -i skype-debian_2.0.0.43-1_i386.deb on the command line it was all installed and ready to go. Even better (or actually worse, financially) news: I didn’t need to buy those USB microphone and camera for use with the Mac after all — audio works great on Linux (like it always has) and even my ancient Intel Create & Share CS330 webcam (I remember paying like $50 for it at Costco back in the day) seems like it will work. Haven’t tested it yet directly. Those who know how to reach me on Skype, please do so to take the 2.0 beta on Linux for a spin with me.

yeah, I’m writing about a computer thing again

So sue me.

I’m so begeistert of this Mac. I managed to rescue our iTunes music off of our dead Windows machine. I bought a cheapo webcam which works with Skype (thanks Tammy, Matthias, and Uncle Bernie for helping me test it) after installing a plug-in called macam.

The gripes: that camera together with macam and iChat don’t all play nice together. But it works with Skype, and I’d rather pay 15€ at a local Saturn store than 80€ at the German Apple online store for a Logitech QuickCam thingie.

That might be the only gripe, surprisingly. Or not?

this mac mini is pretty sweet!

For Christmas and our birthdays, Sarah and I got ourselves a cute little Mac mini. As previously noted, our main Windows machine recently refused to start (I suspect power supply failure), and even trying Cristi’s approach to trick the BIOS didn’t work.

So, really, we were forced into this.

It sure is easy on the eyes — all aspects of this computer scream “nice design!” at me. Assimilating myself mac-wise is going pretty smoothly. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

  • I was about to gent bent out of shape due to firing it up and finding OS X Tiger installed — didn’t notice the extra OS X Leopard DVD in the package, which I appreciated.
  • Keyboard things are a little weird when you’re coming from Windows hardware (that’s what the mini is — just the case and some components and an operating system. You’re on your own for keyboard and mouse and a monitor). I’ve learned pretty quickly how to do these characters on my German keyboard aimed at the Windows market:
    • ~ (Alt Gr +n, then a deadkey space) – need that all the time in a unix derivative, don’t we?
    • | (Alt Gr + 7)
    • ^ (thankfully, just the caret key followed by a deadkey space)
    • the control key (strng on a German keyboard) doesn’t work like I expect it to — but the superfluous Windows does behaves like the control key
    • emacs keystrokes for cursor positioning seems to work using the real control keys in a lot of applications (^A to take you to the beginning of a line, ^E to take you to the end). Learning those keystrokes back in the day for PINE on seems to have paid off (of course, some of them work in vim too).
    • [ and ] are on the 5 and 6 keys when used with Alt Gr
    • { and } are misleadingly on the 7 and 8 keys when used with Alt Gr — the keyboard has labels that indicate those characters should be on the 7 and 0 keys
    • € and µ (does anyone ever really use that outside of The Even Dorkier, out there measuring µFarads or masking µProcessors? I mean, c’mon).
    • I still need to find some way to get used to not having keyboard commands for selecting or jumping to/past whole words at a time, or find a way to actually do it under Mac OS X. School me?
  • OS X Tiger was frustrating as I tried to set up the wireless network here in the apartment. The simple setup wizard just wasn’t cutting it. I had to go into the network diagnostics wizard and specify a 40-bit ASCII or hex key for it to work. Not sure if that’s related to my network or the OS, but after erasing and installing OS X Leopard from scratch this evening, the simple setup under *Leopard* worked just fine.
  • I have *got* to remember to look for application menus always way up at the top of the screen, and not at the top of the application window. In desperation, I right-click, hoping to be able to unhide some critical menu item, like “File” or “Edit.” That usually doesn’t help me much. That is killing me at the moment. For the truly dorky, I’m sure this clearly explains to why I picked KDE over Gnome on Linux.

got a new computer!You might think I’m all jazzed up about this new computer, staying up late and whatnot. Well, it is late, and I am jazzed up, but I think it’s really the jet lag that’s done it to me. At least the only thing on the docket for tomorrow is cleaning up my desk and making some stuffed peppers using the sauce from this recipe. That’s OK. By the way: tomorrow’s the last day of the Christmas market on Neupfarrplatz. Here’s what we did today for lunch:
Wurst! Wurst!