Thursday, June 29, 2006

Mac Jedi Desktop Switch

What am I talking about anyways, this title makes no sense? Well watch a little video I made showing what a Mac Jedi Desktop Switch is.

Using a Mac Book Pro or other Apple Laptop with the ambient light sensor (used to detect light changes and dim the keyboard) and two other pieces of software, you can switch between your virtual desktops with a wave of your hand over the left speaker grill (which houses the sensor).

How to set it up
Set up is suprisingly easy so lets get started.

1) Have a laptop with the sensor. You know if you have this if your keyboard can dim when the lights go down. Some laptops that have the sensor are the new Mac Book Pro and recent Powerbooks and some that don't are the Mac Books and 12inch Powerbooks.

2) Dowload and install VirtueDesktops from:

3) Download and install ShadowBook from:

4) Run VirtueDesktops and select Preferences from the menu (VirtueDesktos runs in the top bar).
a) The most important setting here is in the Layout and Pagers section which will allow you to be able to switch to all of your desktops. Unclick Stay in Current Row. VirtueDesktops Preferences to Run with ShadowBook

b)You can also change the animation settings under the Appearance tab to whatever suits you.

5) Run ShadowBook and adjust the settings
a) First adjust the Upper (Left Sensor) Slider so the bar is green normally and when you pass your hand over it the bar changes to yellow. This sets the trigger point. If you make it not sensitive enough your hand won't trigger it and too sensitive means your virtue desktops either will wiz past one after another or not change. ShadowBook Preferences to switch between VirtueDesktops

b) Second click on the "Send Notification when Triggered" check box to enable the switching. I also disabled the keyboard flash to save my backlight for the iTunes Visualizer below :o)

6) Thats it! Now just pass your hand over the left speaker grill while focusing the force to change between the desktops.

7) If the light changes where you are at, open ShadowBook and adjust the sliders again. Also, if your desktop starts fliping like crazy, cover up the grill, open ShadowBook, and readjust the sliders.

I would like to be able to use the right speaker to go the other way in the desktop list but it looks like it doesn't trigger unless the left one is active. If anyone has worked around this, let me know and I will try it and post it here!

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Mac Laptop iTunes Keyboard Backlight Visualizer

Hooks the keyboard backlight setting to iTunes as a visualizer. SO your keyboard backlight pulsates to the music. You can also set the backlight up to be a CPU load monitor as in an earlier digg.

My Video:

Here is a video someone else took of the plugin working:

Here is a YouTube video posted by someone using thie visualizer:

get the plugin! | digg |

Please Take Heed of the warning that was originally posted on the developer's site: This program comes with no warranty. It may crash iTunes, kill your cat or paint your PowerBook beige. --OR on the forum when it was posted-- Caution: Quick hack, largely untested. May crash iTunes, kill your cat or pee in your coffee. You have been warned.

PS.. to do this you must have a Mac Laptop with a backlit keyboard.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I am a Mac Convert!

Mac Convert -- Me and My Mac Book ProWell the unbelivable happened, I am now the proud owner of a new 17" Mac Book Pro. Who would have thunk it? I have always been a hard core Windows person and after my experiences with Macs during my research and schooling days I had no desire to go back to try a Mac. A funny thing happened, though, after Mac released their new Intel driven PC's and then Laptops I got mildly interested in it if nothing else because it was newsworthy.

Enter a new job where I am working closly with designers who are devoted Mac-anics. When I had the chance to upgrade my 4 year old Dell Optiplex (*shudder*) I thought what the heck lets give this mac thing a try. I researched laptops a ton and the more I learned the more excited I got about what Apple was doing with the Mac Book Pro's. Not only just the form which Apple has always been way out in front on but also now the function and the ability to run Windows natively if I needed.

OS X is what really pushed me over the edge, though. I had heard alot of buzz about the new UNIXish OS from Apple but hadn't really had a chance to see what they hype was all about (remember PC guy, no Apple). That is, until I got a link to a Google Video clip of Bill Gates' Windows Vista feature presentation with the video of Windows Vista replaced with the current version of OSX (see below).

I immediatly thought, well why should I wait for months for an OS to come out when a better one already exists? Plus since OS X is built upon a UNIX/LINUX esque kernel it is bound to be not only stable but allows me to SSH in and do other work with ease.

The combination of this awesome OS with the ability to run Windows XP seemlessly inside of OS X with Parallels or boot direclty into Windows with BootCamp sold me. After what seemed like a forever wait and a production delay by Apple my fully loaded Mac Book Pro arrived. I am extremly happy with the machine and am loving the OS. I am still making the mind switch over to the new functionality but the effort is well worth it.

I will keep you up to date on the switch!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mac Book Pro + World of Warcraft = AWESOME!

WoW Screenshot from my Old Toshiba Laptop on our First Rag Kill raidI recently switched to a Mac and one of my big questions I had when making the switch was would the new Mac Book Pro's have game?

I have been playing World of Warcraft (WoW) since March 2005 (Uldum server Slog, Liberation guild) and earlier in the year built a AMD 64 powered SLI sportin fairly competent Windows XP gaming box which was promptly hijacked by my wife so she could play WoW (Salenta / Uldum / Liberation). [Guys if this doesn't show pure love I don't know what does ...] Anyways I was stuck playing on my Toshiba laptop (1.5 Centrino, 64MB nVidea GeFORCE graphics, awesome ultra bright screen) which was DOG slow when playing World of Warcraft. I had my Toshiba laptop set to all of the lowest settings (no weather for me or shading or pretty scenes while she had nirvana ... moving on) and STILL I could not make it through IF without lagging into the pit or spinning in circles for five minutes while I tried to get through the Bank/AH corridor. It sucked.

Enter my new Mac Book Pro 17inch 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo 2GB Ram, 100GB 7200rpm HD beauty of a machine. When I first got it my plan was to install BootCamp and play WoW under BootCamp/XP. I heard, though, that Blizzard came out with a Universal binary version of World of Warcraft so I decided to just install it and then patch it to actually get the Intel Native version and see how it worked.

The verdict? World of Warcraft runs AWESOME on a Mac Book Pro. Not just awesome but FREAKING AWESOME! My first observations upon login was this rocks. The widescreen coupled with the super high resolution of the monitor is pure eye candy. Once I got into the game (after waiting in the queue of course) it just got better. The graphics were spectacular, rivaling that of my AMD box, and the performance was flawless.

My first trip was of course directly to IF to face the Lag Monster which had so frequently bested me on my previous laptop. Looks like the sultan of lag had heard I was packing a new Mac Book Pro and was no where to be found! I was running through IF at peak gaming times with 60+FPS and virtually no Lag. I could finally laugh at all those people spinning in the halls or falling into the IF pit. I then went out to Ungoro Crater to find me some rain and continue my vengeance on all the slimes who have previously wronged me. Once again perfect.

My second test was to max out all of the video settings. So, I drug all of the sliders over and clicked all of the boxes that would have normally brought my old Toshiba to a quivering mass of plastic. After I restarted the game, it was off to IF again to see how the Mac would respond at full video settings. AWESOME again! I was able to gallivant through IF with hardly any lag. I had just a few blips where my FPS went to 15-20 but then it would head back up to 30+. All of the eye candy with maxed resolution on the 17inch wide screen monitor was in a word .. PIMP.

Conclusions: World of Warcraft on a Mac Book Pro is WOW! I am sure that some of the other massively GPU intensive games might have problems but, at least for me, World of Warcraft played perfectly. (That review phrase is for you Joel Seigel)

Rant: Although the experience of playing the game was awesome the experience of trying to capture video footage to post with this review SUCKED hardcore. Since FRAPS exists only for the PC I was left trying to find Mac alternatives to record WoW gameplay footage. My search was ruled a failure after trying many of the available software packages. Either the software was not available for Intel based macs, or it crashed when trying to record WoW, or it just gave such crapy and choppy video that it was unusable. If anybody can let me know what software works to record WoW footage on an Intel based Mac Book I would love to know and I will give it a try!

UPDATE: 9.24.2006
I used Snapz Pro to record the WOW footage and it seems to work pretty well. Much Much Much better than any of the other 5 programs I previously tried. If you are looking to record World of Warcraft game footage on a Mac, especially an Intel Based Mac, this is your app.