Category Archives: Apple

Making CSS UL Menu’s Browser-Consistent

If you’ve ever made a web site and wanted it to look consistent from one browser to the next, then you’re well away of the difficulties that are involved. Fixing these sorts of styling issues can be a major annoyance, however, I like to hunt down issues on my own pages from time to time and stand up to the challenge.

One issue that I can across today was dealing with horizontal menu positioning using unordered lists (<UL>) and some positioning. The positioning wasn’t consistent between browsers or even operating systems.

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[How to] Create a bootable USB stick on OS X

A couple of days ago I decided to reinstall my operating system since it was failing. I quickly realized that the only functional system that I had at the time was my MacBook Pro. After a bit of Googling, I came up with a pretty straightforward guide, but they really could have formated it to make it easier to follow.

I’m going to run you through the same steps and you should be able to use this guide to create a bootable USB stick for Windows, Ubuntu, Fedora, etc.

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Ubuntu Software Center vs. Mac App Store

As many of you may already know, Mac OS X now comes installed with a “Mac App Store”. Ubuntu also comes installed with an “Ubuntu Software Center”. Both of these applications serve the same general functionality in very similar formats, but I’m going to take a look at what needs to be improved in the Ubuntu Software Center.

First off, lets take a look at both of these applications from a first impressions point of view. Its pretty obvious at a glance that the user interface of these applications are eerily similar. It’s also pretty obvious that one app has received a little more attention to detail and aesthetics.

First Glance

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Using Synergy with Mac and Ubuntu

This is just a quick guide for those of you who also use both Mac and Ubuntu (or really any flavor of Linux) side by side. If you’re not already familiar with Synergy, it’s a small application that connects your mouse and keyboard to one or more machines for a more continuous experience.

Mac and Linux use a graphical front-end for Synergy known as QuickSynergy. Here’s how to get it configured for use between Mac and Ubuntu…

Hostnames

You can find the hostnames to use simply by opening a Terminal window, or if you’re unsure still, simply type hostname and press enter. πŸ˜‰

If you used the hostname command in Ubuntu, you probably noticed that the “.local” part is not printed out, but it is necessary when dealing with Mac OS X.

Connecting the Two

After selecting the system you’d like to share, configure the Use or Share tab as necessary similar to the examples below:

After configuring Synergy/QuickSynergy you’re all set to start making your life easier!

Mac OS X 10.7

Stumbling upon a download for Mac OS X 10.7 Developer Preview, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to give install it on my MacBook and see how things went.

So far it seems that OS X 10.7 has several tweaks and added bells and whistles, but LaunchPad is the only significant difference that I’ve found.

After the upgrade completes and your computer is restarted, you’re presented with a typical OS X intro video with some music that turns into the “Thank You” that you see above.

Quick look at About This Mac.

With LaunchPad, you’re presented with a “Home” screen similar to what you might find on an iPhone/iPod touch/iPad. This screen lists your default apps first as you would see on your i-device and other applications on subsequent pages.

The old style Dashboard is no longer lowered in and floating above your desktop or workspace, but instead slides in from the left where it occupies its own workspace area.

I don’t see a real advantage to this over the previous style Dashboard and it feels like a change for the sake of change, but I’m sure there is a better reason behind this UI change.

The Mail app has been updated, cleaned up and rearranged. I find the new layout to be nicer overall and easy to get used it. Hotmail has used a similar design for a while now, but its never felt as user friendly as this.

Spot Light also got a few updates. Tooltips appear for some files and resources with more details without having to click anything. For instance, definitions that are listed in the results now display a tooltip with everything you need.

Several of the mouse gestures have changed by default and the up/down scrolling motion has been reversed by default to mimic a touch device such as your iPhone. This is the only thing that I’ve switched back thus far as I couldn’t stand the scrolling working opposite of what I’m used to.

Looking through my Sharing settings I noticed that FTP is no longer listed. I’m hoping its only been moved and has not been removed, but time will tell.

AirDrop looks to be promising, though I have no one to test it with just yet. Also, FaceTime is now installed by default.

Windows are now resizeable from all sides and corners. Windows are now animated to when clicking the plus button to enlarge or shrink a window.

There are many more changes in OS X 10.7, most of them are simple visual tweaks. The window controls for close/minimize/maximize have been slightly updated, however the controls displayed in iTunes have yet to be updated and still use the styling from OS X 10.6.6.

Mac OS X 10.7 Developer Preview is turning out to be a pretty stable and promising update so far. Some features show since of performance problems, but I’m sure many of the remaining issues will be resolved in time for its official release.

Crossing my fingers that more new features find there way into OS X 10.7 before its released, but its probably not very likely at this point.

How Little I Use Windows

Here’s a funny screenshot that I took earlier today that shows how little I actually use Windows these days.

Its funny to me, because for a while now I’ve only booted up in Windows to manually run updates and quick virus checks with the occasional Steam gaming session.

I run updates and scans almost religiously, so I know that October 3, 2010 was the last time that I even used this partition. Thats nearly 4 months of booting only in Linux (Ubuntu and Fedora) on my Desktop.

I do, however, use Mac OS X now on my new MacBook though. I’ve still not gotten around to installing Ubuntu on it, but maybe one day I’ll stop being lazy and just give it a spin.

I’ve known for a while that I could finally cut the cord from Windows, but this just officially confirmed it for me. That said, I won’t soon be giving up my free (via School) copy of Windows 7 Professional. πŸ˜€

Opera 11 in OS X

This is a post that I started a couple of months ago, but finally just got around to revising (since Opera 11 has since been released) and finishing. Hopefully its all in tact. πŸ˜‰

Being fairly new to Mac OS X, I was excited to install Opera and see how it compares to the default browser Safari as well as others such as Firefox and Google Chrome in terms usability and appearance.

While I hadn’t used Mac OS much since version 9 and then briefly OS X (with my old iBook before it died), I did remember that Opera didn’t exactly have the most elegant user interface. Nor did most other third party web browsers that I tested at the time. Then again, OS X wasn’t as refined then as it is now either. Keep in mind, these are my opinions and you are free to have your own. πŸ˜‰

I was happy to find that Opera seems to have the most natural feeling user interface when compared to Firefox and Google Chrome, using Safari as the standard since most die-hard Mac users are likely familiar with it the most.

While I didn’t capture Safari in a view where the tabs are visible, the image above is a decent comparison of the browsers’ default address bars and navigation buttons.

As you can see, the buttons, address box and search box in Opera mimic those found in Safari quite well and are not much of a change at all for any ex-Safari user. The tabs used in Opera are also very similar to those found in Safari (pictured below), with the most significant exception being that they are flipped vertically and placed above the address bar (in Opera) rather than below (like in Safari).

While some people may prefer Firefox or Google Chrome over both Opera and Safari, the point remains that their designs are inconsistent with the overall look and feel of the OS in general. That’s not to say that Opera doesn’t have some inconsistencies of its own. There are a few of them, but most of what I’ve found are minor detail tweaks that are needed to perfect the skin.

Just to mention a few things that are stand out to me, the “New tab” icon size should be decreased slightly, retaining the Opera style while removing the unnecessary bold touch. If you compare this button to the same button found in Safari you’ll notice that Opera’s approach is a bit too bold and that changing this makes it more elegant looking (in my opinion of course).

The borders for the navigation buttons, address box and search box should all be slightly adjusted to match the colors used for these in Safari. There are slight inconsistencies among these, with disabled button borders being darker than enabled button borders.

Another inconsistency with Opera is that text boxes in the address bar are not highlighted with a blue glowing border when they are focused…as they are in Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome. Its difficult for me to see if this is advantageous or simply an oversight, however, the “pro-integration” side of me certainly thinks this should be fixed to match the behavior of other browsers in OS X.

Various icons throughout the user interface need to be desaturated to remove color for consistency. An example of this can be found in the address box with the drop down icon. If you look close, the drop down icon is actually blue whereas other similar icons, like the drop down icon in the search box, are gray scaled. This is also a bug I’ve seen in the Windows and Linux skins, but the OS that demands attention to detail is likely the one that this is most noticeable on.

The Speed Dial page, though it was “invented” before the other spin-offs, now uses a darker background that makes it feel a bit more familiar to Safari’s implementation. I find this to add to the integration effect, whereas previous Speed Dial background images felt out of place. On the other hand, Opera doesn’t boast comparatively appealing 3D thumbnails or features to those found in Safari. Instead, the Opera Speed Dial packs in a redundant search box and no immediate method of searching through your history (visually at that!) or displaying your top visited sites automatically.

With a default Speed Dial tab open, knowingly or not, you’re looking at three different ways of searching the Internet…all with the same available list of search engines. You can search from the address bar by simply prepending your search terms with a specific search engine “keyword”, from the dedicated search box in the address box or from the additional search box in the Speed Dial. If I had any influence on this design, I would remove both dedicated search boxes and make the address box smarter and more visually suggestive of performing a search when it is in use.

While I’m suggesting changes to the Speed Dial tab, why not take advantage of Opera’s ability to generate thumbnails of pages to give the user a visual of the pages they are searching through just like Safari is capable of? With the ability to generate these thumbnails already, there is no reason why Opera shouldn’t implement a similarly more appealing visual search of previously visited sites.

As I said before, all browsers have their problems with UI design and integration, especially in Mac OS X. Of the available browsers for this platform, the one with the most features and the best OS X integration is far and away Opera 11. The performance improvement isn’t bad either, with my test results showing Opera 11 beating out Safari 5.0.3 easily in the SunSpider benchmark. You can take my opinions with a grain of salt if you wish, but you should undoubtedly give Opera 11 a spin if you haven’t already!

Windicators

Just a quick thought about windicators that were proposed by Mark Shuttleworth back in May 2010 and similarities to Mac OS X.

It seems that nearly everyone agrees that Windicators in Ubuntu is a bad idea. Not only will they add a little confusion to the Ubuntu learning curve, but they will also just add clutter to the title bar. That being said, I for one would like to see them implemented as long as there is an option to enable/disable them freely.

Over the past year or so, Ubuntu has received a great deal of criticism regarding the placement of the window controls for close, minimize and maximize. If you’ve not kept up with this, basically the controls moved from the right side of the title bar (like in Windows) to the left side of the title bar (like in Mac OS X). I still see complaints about this every other day (even though there are ways to change this already posted throughout the net).

With many people accusing Ubuntu of simply trying to look like Mac OS X, I wasn’t as quick to point fingers and agree. I like to hold judgment on products at least until they are completed or deemed “stable”. Lately, however, its beginning to be a chore to deny this “OS X”-like transition with the changes that are coming in Ubuntu 11.04.

Two major changes in Ubuntu 11.04 include:

  • a new panel that seems more like a hybrid between the new Windows 7 taskbar and the Mac OS X Dock.
  • application menus and application titles in the top panel.

These new changes, paired with the window controls on the left and indicator style menus in the top panel give Ubuntu 11.04 an eerily similar appearance to OS X. Not to mention the windicators (as this post started out talking about)..

If you visit a secure web address in Safari, a lock icon appears in the upper right corner of the title bar to indicate a secure page. I’d not noticed this before, being an Opera fanatic and all, so I’m unable to tell who was first: the idea of Windicators or this feature in Safari.

Safari seems to pull this off well and the icon isn’t in my way at all. This is one reason why I would like to see them appear in Ubuntu eventually, but only if they can easily be disabled and they are implemented correctly.

Last that I heard, Windicators were put on the back burner to let more important features reach the public first (as they should be). Lets just hope that if Ubuntu continues to follow a close path to Mac OS X that they follow a better path. πŸ˜€

What do you think about the similarities? Too similar? Not similar enough? Not similar at all? Or you don’t care? πŸ˜€

Macbuntu, Part 3

I’ve finally gotten around to contacting the Macbuntu maintainer about some of my changes and modifications and have now been granted administrative access to the project!

Most of the changes I’m making are in the details, as most of the features are already available. I’ve contributed plenty of code and images to make Docky appear nearly identical to the Dock in OS X and even made the Docky bar image in Inkscape myself. πŸ˜€

I’ve contributed an Opera skin, that I mentioned in my last post, but it is still very unfinished. Over all it looks well, but there are several areas that need to be corrected and the skin itself needs to be slimmed down a bit.

The Docky icons zoom by default, though its not an OS X default setting to the best of my knowledge. It can very easily be toggled on or off from the Docky settings window.

I’ve removed the Docky settings icon that was seen in previous screenshots so that the Nautilus application launcher (Finder icon) is the first item in Docky as it is in OS X. You can still access Docky settings by right-clicking the separator on Docky between the Trash icon and the others.

I’ve also written a very very simple application that toggles the Widget layer, which is powered by Compiz, on and is handily disguised by the Dashboard icon…meaning it reveals the widgets. As of writing this, there are no default widgets installed.

Eventually I plan to work in Screenlets and preinstall a few default ones as you would find in OS X, but I’m still waiting to make sure that my tiny tool works pre-compiled on other computers (is 32/64 bit versions). πŸ˜‰

A lot of people are impressed with Compiz’s ability to render your workspaces in a Cube, Sphere or Cylinder. I’m pretty impressed with this feature myself, but having used it for a long time in the past I’ve found that I usually end up just switching workspaces with the keyboard and not paying much attention to the fancy cube in all of its transparent glory.

Honestly, this is one thing that should appeal to even OS X users as it looks cool and can give you a good quick visual of your windows. However, in Mac OS X 10.7 there will be a feature for Mac users that gives them a quick look at all of their activities and may possibly pass this Cube design right on by. Who knows? πŸ˜›

One feature that you couldn’t see in the first Cube screenshot was the 3D window aspects and stacking. This is a neat feature and helps make the Cube look a little less boring. Especially when you can see how busy, or possibly bored, you are!

As always, proof that this is indeed Ubuntu Linux. πŸ˜‰

Several other changes that I’ve contributed to this project include:

  • New transparency for the Top Gnome-Panel and all Menus
  • Alpha blurring for Docky
  • Added folders to Docky for the Applications, Documents, Downloads and Dropbox folders (where relavent)
  • Added detection for other applications and add them to Docky upon installation
  • Re-arranged several Docky launchers
  • Brand new Docky theme — Macbuntu
  • Reset the default wallpaper to the Snow LeopardΒ  wallpaper (was the Leopard wallpaper)
  • Changed the clock format the match OS X’s clock (with tips from OMG! Ubuntu)
  • Added setting to ensure that people with multiple monitors see the workspace cube as One big cube instead of each screen rotating separately.
  • Default the screensaver to blank in case its already set to something like Gnome Feet, but it would be neat to have an elegant OS X screensaver!
  • Various other bug fixes, minor details and cleanups.

Its great to see a project come together, but its even nicer to have the ability to speed it up. πŸ˜€

A few ideas that I’ve got include pre-installing Gloobus for a feature that mimics “Quick Look,” but until I find a good way to install this and until I can work out the bugs with this tool myself, it won’t be getting any prime time in Macbuntu.

The Docky Stacks feature that was covered at OMG! Ubuntu is also on the map, but is currently far too unstable to be included. I’ve been testing it out for a few days, but it consistently crashes Docky and ceases to function. When I come across a stable ppa for this tool, it will be adding to Macbuntu in a hurry!

Obviously there are several areas that I/we won’t be able to mimic thoroughly. Mac OS X is a great operating system and has a great deal of “simplicity” worked into it by design, somethings that just aren’t possible by “skinning” Ubuntu Linux.

If you have any suggests that are actually feasible, I’d love to here them! The biggest area that I’d like to work on is the GTK theme and get the theme’s quality up tremendously. I’ve had no part in the GTK theme (originally known as GTK Leopard) thus far, and its actually a great piece of work, but it still has a long way to go before being smooth and finished.

One last thing thats interesting is the fact that someone has already began a spin of Macbuntu, dubbing it Macbuntu-iso, and it is available for download in 32 and 64-bit!