Monday, 30 July 2007

Capture a screenshot from a DVD

Earlier today I needed to grab a couple of shots from a DVD for work, from a presentation we were sent by a client, although there are some software packages for this, you can also easily do this from the terminal.

Open the terminal and type:- screencapture -i ~/Desktop/dvd.png

You should have some crosshairs, now press the spacebar and they change to a camera.
Position the camera over the DVD window and click and you should have a file on your desktop called DVD.png which is a grab of whatever was currently running in the DVD player.

If you plan on making multiple grabs, dont forget to rename the files as you save them or change the name in the terminal prompt to something else each time, e.g. dvd1, dvd2 etc.

Source for this and credit goes to Random Tech and this article

Friday, 27 July 2007

WD My Book Premium 500GB

(icons and link courtesy of MacUpdate)

I got hold of a WD My book yesterday, basically for making backups of my MB Pro and my wifes machine.

So far my first impressions of the drive are good, its quite compact and fairly elegant looking when compared to my other external drive cases and although there is some fan noise when switching on, afterwards it is quiet and runs quite well. The fans in my MB Pro were louder than the My Book when they came on, just to provide some perspective.

When I received the drive it was formatted for Windows, so I connected it to my mac via firewire , split it into two partitions, one to make a clone of my macs hard drive that I could boot from, the other to store a backup of the bootcamp partition and an image of my wifes notebook.

I then realised that in formatting I had of course erased the software that came with the drive (backup program and the button manager) - a quick trip to fixed that error on my part (but have the serial number of your drive handy as you will need it to download).

The backup program I confess to not using or even installing, I used Super Duper for my OSX partition and Winclone for the bootcamp partition, I didnt do my wife's notebook just yet.

The button manager is basically a small driver that on the mac at least, enables the second LED on the drive to display how much space has been used. This is represented by a ring that starts to fill up as the drive does. There is a second LED ring around this one that indicates the status of the drive, for example the LED lights circle the circumference when the drive is reading or writing and when inactive the whole ring pulses slowly. In the centre of the rings is a button which is you press it powers the drive on and off.

On the back of this model of drive there were connections for USB and firewire (two firewire ports), the power cable and a socket for a kensington security lock, otherwise the back, top and bottom edges have a grill effect to allow the air to flow through the case and cool the drive.

It took around 1h 30min, perhaps slightly longer to perform the initial backup of my drive from Superduper, thats for a 172 GB partition with 70GB free and using the erase and copy option in Superduper.

After Superduper had finished I started Winclone and made a backup of the 60GB Windows partition that I have, I believe this took around 45-50 minutes but I didnt time it so cant be sure.

During both of these operations I occasionally touched the drive to see how hot it was getting and was suprised to find it was quite cool still and certainly was quiet the whole time.

Overall so far it made a good first impression on me and based on this I might get on of the terrabyte drives in the future to store our ever expanding itunes and iphoto libraries. Its basically done what I would expect a hard disk to do, do its job quietly and efficiently without being a nuisance.

Incidentally, according to Superduper when I was backing up the transfer speeds start at 9mb and then increased to 17mb, this was of course over firewire.

If youre on a mac and looking for some good icons for this drive, theres a good set available here.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007


Cool - I got a slight mention on Technorati. because of this post :)

Remote Buddy

I found a nice program the other night but it seems Im late to the party based on some of the comments over at places like TUAW. As you may have guess from the title, the program is called Remote Buddy, its a fantastic program that enhances the functionality of the Apple Remote.

When you install it, it will ask to install a kernal extension to enable full functionality but there is an option to undo this in the program itself if you chose to go back or youre nervous.

After installation the functionality of the remote is improved a thousandfold at least, you're suddenly able to open pretty much any application on your mac or access any file. For example I can navigate to my movies folder, select a file, choose whether to open it in VLC or Quicktime and then switch to fullscreen to play it. While there I can also do things like adjust the brightness if I need to (if watching at night), volume as well as the usual controls such as pause, play, fast forward.

The program also includes a virtual mouse with (spotlight/halo effect), that you can use as you would a normal mouse or in a presentation, an on screen keyboard - admittedly a bit fiddly with the remote but good in a pinch.

I know that all of this may sound complicated but its surprising how easy and effortlessly it is, Ive tried a few programs for the remote and so far this is the best that I have came across but even so I didnt really "get it" or see the difference from the other programs until I tried it. So the main thing that I can recommend is to try the demo which works for 30 days, after which youll need to register. I bought my copy after 24 hours... it costs 20 euros but is well worth it.

The only small problem that I had was that after installation the remote functionality didnt seem to work in quicktime. I could switch the player to fullscreen and back but I couldnt pause it or adjust the volume in quicktime (though it still worked via the menu). I tried VLC and everything worked there fine.

My initial assumption was to do with the kernal extension that was installed and that given the integration of quicktime in the system that perhaps a reboot was solution. This proved true when I tried the program again the next day after shutting the computer down for the night (with the remote, not sleep but shutdown), as afterwards quicktime is working flawlessly.

Anyway this is really just a recommendation to try this program out, especially if you are using a mac as a media centre or if you're like me and like watching TV on your mac in bed - did I mention that it works with EyeTV too? :)

Well worth it, give it a look and if you have any questions let me know.


Sunday, 22 July 2007

Its Harry's fault

Sorry for the update drought yesterday but when we went to town my wife bought me the latest Harry Potter book as a surprise present so I spent yesterday reading it. I dont think that it was a bad close to the series but Rowling left doors open at the end...

One question I have though - and this is a slight spoiler, if the goblin ran of with the sword in the bank vault, then how could Neville put it out of the sorting hat to kill Nagini?

Friday, 20 July 2007

Vista and Games

I installed a few games onto the Vista partition the other night, in particular, Splinter Cell Double Agent, Supreme Commander and Company of Heroes.

Both Supreme Commander and Company of Heroes worked right out of the box without any trouble, I loaded both of them and tried the tutorial missions and they were both working out ok. I didnt play around too much with the graphics settings yet - I'll mess with those on the weekend. In COH I did try turning everything up to full just to see and the game was still quite playable, a bit sluggish now and then but playable.

Splinter Cell was a bit more interesting in terms of installation and setup. The initial install went fine but took a while, once complete though it asked me to install directx9c which being on Vista I refused. IT them promptly popped up the hardware detection utility and informed me that I didnt have the correct version of directx, graphics drivers and something else which unfortunately my tired brain can't remember at the moment. The long and short of it though was that I wouldnt be able to play the game.

I didnt believe as I had already played the game on this same computer on a Windows XP partition, so I knew it worked. So I simply cancelled the hardware utility and tried running the game and it ran quite happily with no issues that I could see, although I only tried the first 10 or 15 minutes of the first mission.

One thing to note here though is that the game ran better than it had under Windows XP. On XP I had a problem that the game was incredibly slow - I had to disable one of the processors in order for it to be playable (go into task manager, right click the game process and choose affinity). On Vista it played quite happily from the start without me having to make any changes.

I'm hoping to get some time to play during the weekend, so I will try tweaking graphics etc then and let you know what I found out. In the meantime I thought that this might be useful information for someone, even if its not very scientific ;)

Update : Thought it might be useful to post my machine specs for reference;

Macbook Pro, Core Duo 2ghz, 2GB RAM, ATI Radeon X1600 256MB

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Backup a windows bootcamp partition

Lots of places on the net deal with methods on how to back up your main OS X partition using a variety of utilities such as Superduper and Carboncopycloner.

Not to knock any of these articles but when I want to back up my computer, I'd typically like to back up everything, which means if youre using bootcamp even the windows partition.

I searched high and low for a while and the only option that I found to do it was this CopyCatX. While this looks like an excellent option at the time it was beyond my finances, so I found other ways around the problem.

A couple of weeks ago though I came across this - Winclone which is purpose built utility to backup and restore your bootcamp partition from OS X, for free. So far it has been working for me flawlessly, Ive had no issues backing up and restoring Windows partitions on my Macbook Pro.

I found out though, purely by chance how flexible this utility is, as an example let me share a story with you, I had a user come into my office with his Macbook and a new iMac that he'd bought. He'd also bought a scanner that was Windows only. A search on the internet just to be sure, revealed that there were no drivers for it etc, so it looked like it could be a bit of a dead end.

I offered to install Parallels or VMWare for him and to set the scanner up on there but after forking out for the computer plus scanner he was broke. So I offered to install Bootcamp for him and put the scanner there. He seemed quite happy with this solution and left me to it.

On opening the box of discs he'd brought with him though, I soon found out that there was no windows CD inside - argh. Thats when I remembered Winclone.

I installed Winclone onto his Macbook and backed up his Windows XP partition onto an external drive.
  • Next, I connect the drive to his iMac, installed winclone there and also downloaded and installed Bootcamp.
  • Once done I created a partition via Bootcamp that was the same size as the one on his Macbook (Ive since found out that you can also create the partition via Winclone but Ive yet to try this).
  • Then using Winclone I restored his Windows XP image from his Macbook into the new, empty partition on his iMac, the whole process went smoothly.
Once complete I rebooted into Windows and that was that - everything was working just as it did on his Macbook. I have to admit that at this stage I was a little surprised as I expected XP to complain about different drivers or something but it was quite happy, so kudos to Apple for the Bootcamp drivers and to TwoVolcanos for Winclone.

Needless to say that afterwards it was a simple case of plugging in the scanner and installing the drivers.

After my colleague returned I recommended that he should invest in Parallels or VMWare as both of them would let him start from his Bootcamp partition in OSX and save him having to reboot (I initially tried to get him to return the scanner but he didnt want to). I also explained to him about the additional Windows license but Im not sure that it got through to him.

Still at the end of the day the story had a happy ending and left me quite impressed with a good piece of free software.

Have any of you tried Winclone?

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Zonealarm and Vista BSOD

I was playing around with the installation of Vista on my Macbook a little yesterday and decided to try installing some anti-virus and firewall software. For the anti-virus I installed AVGFree, primarily because its free :) and also because Ive been using it for years now without any issues. Thankfully it held true to its reputation and is working quite happily under vista.

Zonealarm unfortunately didnt...

I downloaded and installed the latest free version from their site, which states that it supports Vista. I had no problems downloading it but halfway through the install it froze and then after a couple of minutes the whole computer locked up and became totally unresponsive. I left it alone for around 20 minutes to see if it would sort itself out but unfortunately no joy, so I performed a hard reset by holding down the power button.

After rebooting, Vista obviously complained and grumbled about being shutdown so rudely and went through a disk check, got to the logon screen and then before I could enter the password, boom there was a nice BSOD. First one in a long time I have to admit. I rebooted and got to the logon screen a second time and the same thing happened. Starting to see a pattern here? :)

Luckily having worked in IT for the past few years I have lots of patience for these types of problems so I booted up again, this time in safe mode and managed to log in. Oh happy day :) I then removed zonealarm, rebooted once more and since then everything has been fine and dandy. I think I will give it a couple more weeks and then try again, as like AVG, Ive used Zonealarm a lot in the past and never had problems with it. Admittedly Im not so worried about it as I only tend to game or "mess around" in windows, most of the time Im working in OS X but even so, you tend to feel naked without a firewall these days.

Has anyone else had much luck with firewalls under Vista? Any recommendations?

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Vista runs hot...

I installed Vista onto the bootcamp partition as mentioned in an earlier post and the Macbook seems to get quite hot as soon as you start doing anything with it.

To be honest Im mainly using it to keep my windows knowledge current (for work) and to play games, so its not really that big a deal as Im using it on a desk in those situations but it still worries me a little bit. From the research I've done though it seems that we are stuck until either Apple or Microsoft release appropriate drivers for the power management. Or do any of you out there know otherwise and have any tips that you wouldnt mind sharing?

In the meantime I'm using these... Cool Feet... They actually work quite well, Ive been using them for around 5 months now, the only problem I have with them is that sometimes the suction isn't as strong as it could be, so if you pick your laptop up to move it, they fall off. Its not all the time though and in general for just providing airflow beneath the computer they do a great job.

Well as I said if anyone has any tips for getting Vista to run slightly cooler Id be happy to hear them.


Macbook Pro Upgrade

Ive finally finished the last (for now) of the upgrades to my first gen core duo Macbook Pro and I have to admit that I'm quite happy at the moment.

The first upgrade was a few weeks ago, when I exchanged the superdrive that came with the laptop for another one, specifically an 8x speed, dual-layer burner (a step up from the 4x burner that came with the Macbook). The model is a HL-DT-ST DVD +- RW GWA4080M, which I found on eBay and is supposedly an authentic Apple replacement part (the sticker on the drive has the Apple logo on it). So far the drive has been working fine, Im playing with the idea of upgrading the firmware on it but on the other hand I'm thinking, if its not broken... I guess I need to do some more research first.

My second upgrade was a new hard drive - I installed the Western Digital Scorpio 250GB WD2500BEVS-11UST0, it formats to around 232GB which is still a big jump from the standard 100GB drive that came pre-installed.

I performed both upgrades following the guide available on which was a great help. There were a couple of points that they missed in the case of the hard drive installation though.

The first is that the bluetooth module is stuck to the side of the case with glue. This matters because the module is next to the drive and you need to be able to lift it up in order to get at the screws to remove the drive. A credit card or some other similar tool that you can slide down between the bluetooth module and the case in order to break the bond should do the trick.

The second issue is that you will need a Torx 7 screwdriver to remove the supporting struts from the original pre-installed hard drive, you will need to mount these onto your new drive to ensure that it stays snug and doesn't bounce around.

Neither of these are major sticking points but I thought Id share them with you so if there are any brave souls out there planning to do this you'll know what to expect.

For me both of the updates took 45 minutes to 1 hour but that was because I was being incredibly careful about it, I took time so that I wouldnt scratch the case, I made a labeled diagram and placed the screws on it in the correct location so Id know where to put them back later and so on. I think the extra care was worth it as both of the upgrades worked first time.

Afterwards I created a 170GB partition for OS X and a 62GB partition where I installed Windows Vista - but I'll save that for a later post.

Any questions let me know...

First Post!

This is my first ever blog and first ever post - so will be just playing for a while to get the feel of things