Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Spring Cleaning

I am playing music this week in, yes, the Catskills. BUT I still keep a vigilant eye on Mac news, so let me pass on a nice link on the Macworld site.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Mac-up bag. Part the Second.

Get it? Make-up bag, Mac-up bag. Oh God, that even embarrasses me and I'm the one who said it.

Continued from a few days ago, some not-in-the box necessities for me.

Text Expander


One of the great things about Snow Leopard, 10.6, is the ability in the Keyboard preference pane on System Preferences to add keyboard shortcuts. OMG, what took Apple so long. So if you just want to make a shortcut for say, your name, you need not spend the extra cash for a snippet editor like Text Expander, but if you regularly need to add longer snippets, or even want to add an image (like a scanned signature) then this may be one your most useful apps. I use it and love it. From the creators:

Save time and effort with TextExpander! Whether it's a simple email signature or several paragraphs of a standard response, you'll love how easy it is to use TextExpander to avoid typing the same thing over and over.
check markSave thousands of keystrokes by using short abbreviations to insert "snippets" containing frequently-used phrases and images
check markInsert standard greetings and signatures — including formatted text and pictures
check markAssign hotkeys to save even more time when creating, editing and searching your snippets.
check markReposition the cursor in the expanded snippet, or use our new fill-in-the-blank snippets to enter variable data in multiple fields.
check markOrganize snippets into groups
check markAdd snippet groups from external files and online sources
check markSync snippets via MobileMe or Dropbox
check markInsert the current date and time in any format you prefer
check markAdd common typos to your snippet library—TextExpander will automatically correct them for you! (more info)
check markType special characters without having to launch a special characters palette
check markTrigger snippet expansions automatically by typing the abbreviations you specify, or use any one of over 30 delimiter characters as a trigger
check markPosition the cursor wherever you want in your expanded snippet
check markProgrammers: make editor-independent code templates; invoke AppleScripts and shell scripts

$50, discounts for multiple copies


Musicians are always listening to recordings to learn new licks. One of the most useful digital learning tools is a music slow downer. There are a few on the market. I used to use Ronimusic.com's  Amazing Slowdowner (http://www.ronimusic.com/). But for the last 7 or 8 years I have used Seventh String's Transcribe! And that exclamation mark is not editorial, it's part of the application title. In my other line of work,  as a musician (talk about slowdowns (!!),thanks to the banking industry and Ponzi outlaws), I listen to alot of old scratchy recordings. I can pop a music file in Transcribe! and mark a section, and listen to what the hell that Gypsy fiddler is doing at any speed and any pitch. It is not exactly a pretty interface, but it sure makes that work easier. Now if people will start buying live music again.

From the creator:
The Transcribe! application is an assistant for people who sometimes want to work out a piece of music from a recording, in order to write it out, or play it themselves, or both. It doesn't do the transcribing for you, but it is essentially a specialised player program which is optimised for the purpose of transcription. It has many transcription-specific features not found on conventional music players.
It is also used by many people for play-along practice. It can change pitch and speed instantly, and you can store and recall any number of named loops. 

Amadeus Pro
$40 Single License, $25 Upgrade
Is this the best time for me to admit I am not a Garage Band user? Amadeus is my sound editor of choice. My needs are not too complicated, to be sure. But I have cut several demos with this. The interface is simple, it has enough editing tools  (like signal boosting, limiters, crossfades, etc.) I use this to take out long silences and do simple fixes. And with Transcribe! (above), iTunes and this, my workflow with sound files is pretty smooth. From the creators:
Amadeus Pro is a powerful multitrack audio editor supporting a variety of formats including MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, Apple Lossless, AIFF, Wave and many others.
Multitrack editor 

Amadeus Pro is a fully featured multitrack editor. Each track can have its volume adjusted independently from the others. Amadeus Pro fully supports multitrack WAVE files and allows you to render sound on up to 5 different loudspeakers simultaneously.

Batch processing 

There's that whole collection of files that you wanted to convert to Mp3, but you first wanted to normalize them and make them fade in and out nicely. Several hours of work in perspective? Let Amadeus Pro do the work for you! The powerful batch processor allows you not only to convert large numbers of files between any of the supported formats, but you can also instruct Amadeus Pro to apply any sequence of sound effects.

Repair centre

The handy repair centre allows you to find and to repair cracks with a simple click of the mouse. Furthermore, Amadeus Pro's powerful denoising functions allow you to easily get rid of that annoying hiss on your old tape recordings or of that 50Hz hum picked up by a badly insulated microphone.

By the way, check this out. 

Yes, that's us. We play Jewish instrumental music from the Carpathian Bow. Not your mother's klezmer, but her mother's. We look like this:

And here's another group of outlaws I play with.  That's me with Hank Sapoznik on tenor guitar and Mark Rubin on Tuba at Bud's BBQ in Richmond, VA and together we are Hank Sapoznik and The Youngers of Zion.

Don't forget, this holiday season, hire a musician or 3!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A few of my favorite things...Part the First.

$39 SIngle User, $59 Family(5 users)


Don't keep your passwords in a text file called "Passwords" or "Computer Info", or in a small notebook by your desk. That's right, you know who I'm talking to! 1Password is a password and identity manager that gets rave reviews. I love this program. Love, not like.There are editions for iPhone and iPad, also.

Free (!!!)


Onyx is a system utility application. It has a lot of functions and some nice bling. For those not fluent in Command Line Interface(in Terminal, the stuff the bad guys are always doing in the movies), this allows more flexibility and options than usually available to the average user.
From the creators:
OnyX is a multifunction utility for Mac OS X which allows you to verify the Startup Disk and the structure of its System files, to run misc tasks of system maintenance, to configure some hidden parameters of the Finder, Dock, QuickTime, Safari, iTunes, Login window, Spotlight and many Apple’s applications, to delete caches, to remove a certain number of files and folders that may become cumbersome and more.



Make a bootable backup of your system painlessly and easily. I can't TELL you how many OMG's this software has rescued me from. I just replaced my internal hard drive, and used SuperDuper to copy my old HD to the new BEFORE I installed it.
I run this along with Time Machine for a complete backup program.
Come on, for less than $30, you can have peace of mind that your precious files are backed up, and you don't have to be a techie to do it.
From the creators:
SuperDuper is the wildly acclaimed program that makes recovery painless, because it makes creating a fully bootable backup painless. Its incredibly clear, friendly interface is understandable, easy to use, and SuperDuper's built-in scheduler makes it trivial to back up automatically. It's the perfect complement to Time Machine under Leopard and Snow Leopard, allowing you to store a bootable backup alongside your Time Machine volume—and it runs beautifully on both Intel and Power PC Macs!
SuperDuper's interface confirms all your actions in simple, clear language to ensure that the end result is exactly what you intended.

 Red Velvet Cake!



  • Vegetable oil for the pans
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows
  • Crushed pecans, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour 3 (9 by 1 1/2-inch round) cake pans.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.
Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Place the pans in the oven evenly spaced apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.
Frost the cake. Place 1 layer, rounded-side down, in the middle of a rotating cake stand. Using a palette knife or offset spatula spread some of the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. (Spread enough frosting to make a 1/4 to 1/2-inch layer.) Carefully set another layer on top, rounded-side down, and repeat. Top with the remaining layer and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top with the pecans.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand-held electric mixer in a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and butter on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.)
Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the vanilla, raise the speed to high and mix briefly until fluffy (scrape down the bowl occasionally). Store in the refrigerator until somewhat stiff, before using. May be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Yield: enough to frost a 3 layer (9-inch) cake
Chef: Sara Moulton

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Things that don't come in the box.

You got a new Mac, and you set it up and decide to start right in to work and play. Is what comes in the box enough? No way. What do I automatically add to my new machines? Coming up tomorrow. Part one of Mama's Must Haves.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gallant keeps his desk clean. But what of poor Goofus?

Most of us use our digital desktop as a dumping ground. We use it as a place to put documents, photos, movies, music, website links, even applications or application aliases. I have  seen folks put so much stuff on their desktops, that it looks like a tornado site, post twister.

If you think of an analog desk (the kind with real drawers and a chair), the best workflow happens when you can keep the desktop clear to use as a workspace for whatever project you are busy with. The same goes for your computer.

The great thing about your Mac is that it is already set up with an organizational system in tact. If you look in your Home folder (the house with your account name on it in the finder window, click on a neutral area of the desktop and click Command-N to bring up a new finder window), you will see folders to keep your documents, movies, music and pictures. In each of these places, you can make as many folders as you like to organize your stuff.

Or, you can make a catch all folder called something like, oh I don't know, Catch All, or Stuff, or My Stuff, or Pinky's Plan for World Domination. The point is, keep your desktop clear of clutter. It will make your computer run smoother.

If you want to access your documents or applications, drag them to the right side of the dock (to the right of the dotted line). This makes an alias of them, and when you click on the dock alias, the display is lovely. Sometimes when it's raining outside, or I am grumpy (since I'm always on a friggin'diet), I click on the Application folder which I have put in the dock just to see the pretty colors. Look!

If that doesn't work, I go to Kitten Break:


And if THAT doesn't work...



Monday, December 6, 2010

Safe Online Shopping

We all do it. Sit up at 2 AM, scrolling through the Frye boots at Zappos, checking our our favorite sellers on ebay, jumping on the "limited time offers". Internet shopping is at an all time high. Check out this article at Macworld's site with some good safety tips about safe online shopping:


And consider buying an application like 1Password to create and protect your passwords.

More about that another time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cookies, Cache and History

I can't get websites to load! This is one of the top cries on the macmama's voicemail.

In order to speed up web browsing, web browsers  download web pages and store them locally on your computer's hard drive in an area called "cache". The cache contains a kind of travel record of the items you have seen, heard, or downloaded from the Web, including images, sounds, Web pages, even cookies. Typically these items are stored in the Temporary Internet Files folder.
When you visit the same page for a second time, the browser speeds up display time by loading the page locally from cache instead of downloading everything again. This sometimes results in less than current versions of web pages being displayed. When the cache fills up, performance can slow down and your hard drive may run out of space.
What is a "cookie"? There are tons of stuff on the web about this, but this site, allaboutcookies.org explains it pretty simply:
Cookies are small, usually randomly encoded, text files that help your browser navigate through a particular website. The cookie file is generated by the site you're browsing and is accepted and processed by your computer's browser software. The cookie file is stored in your browser's folder or subfolder.
Your browser accesses the cookie file again when you visit the website that created the cookie file. The browser uses the information stored in the cookie file to help ease your navigation of the website by letting you log in automatically or remembering settings you selected during your earlier visits to the website, among many other functions.
Any particular website cannot access information on your computer other than the cookie it set on your computer. The cookie is not executable code so it doesn't have any “life” of its own other than being used by the website that created it. As explained above, such use is limited to helping your browser process the information located on the website.
Although cookies are merely harmless text files that help your browsing experience, they are not free from controversy. Cookies can be used to track your browser's website browsing history. If you feel this impacts your privacy, you can change your browser's settings to limit the use of cookies on your computer to cut down on its ability to keep records of your browsing history.
Essentially this is the memory of your internet browser where you can find all your cookies stored in a format that facilitates easy retrieval by a browser.

You should periodically clear the cache and empty your cookies to allow your browser to function more efficiently. It's also a good idea to clear your history at the same time.
Here's how to do it on your Mac.
In Safari, click Safari from the menu bar and you'll see this:

So you can just select Empty Cache, or use the keyboard shortcut, and that's (remember the option key?) Option-Command-E.

Look right above for the Reset Safari command.

This is kind of a one-stop shopping for a fussy browser. The items I have checked are my usual choices. I actually NEVER allow Safari to remember my passwords, I use a fabulous password application called 1Password. More on that at a future time.

Or you could just empty the cache, and clear your history. To clear your history, click History from the menu bar, and you've got it, select Clear History:

If you use Mozilla's Firefox, it's a bit different and a little more complicated.
To empty the cache in Firefox 3.5 and above:

  1. Click Firefox menu in the menu bar.
  2. Select Preferences.
  3. Select Advanced.
  4. Click the Network tab.
  5. In the 'Offline Storage' section, click Clear Now.
  6. Click the OK button.

To clear the cookies:

  1. Click Firefox menu in the menu bar.
  2. Select Preferences.
  3. Select Privacy.
  4. Click the Remove Individual Cookies link.
  5. In the Cookies dialog box, click Remove All Cookies.
  6. Close the Cookies dialog box.
  7. Close Preferences.
To clear your history, you would think you should click on History in the menu bar. But no, click on Tools. Wait, what?

Yes, that's right, none of the one stop shopping like in Safari.

But this kind of maintenance is important to keep your browser working efficiently.