Murphy Mac - Screencasts and Tutorials » Posts in 'Utilities' category

Airport Extreme E-Book

bookI’ve never understood how non-techies make sense of things like private IP addressing, DHCP, Wifi, etc. When they troubleshoot –  where do they start? The only thing more baffling to Murphy is how the technically-disinclined manage to upgrade their WordPress installs.

But for anyone looking for guidance with an Apple Airport configuration (or any wifi network) there’s help: Glenn Fleishman’s Ebook, Take Control of Your 802.11n Airport Network. The 265 pages are packed with information for anyone trying to get the most from their Apple Airport, Time Capsule, or Airport Express.

This ebook is part of an entire series of ebooks managed by publishers Adam and Tonya Engst. The catalog is extensive – and based on Take Control of Your 802.11n Airport Network – the quality is excellent. I hadn’t read many electronic books before but one benefit became instantly obvious: searchable text. The book is also well hyperlinked, allowing easy hops from what you’re reading to related content.

So – do you really need this book? If you typically guess your way through networking and have set up wireless networks before you’ll probably get your Airport up and running using the Airport Utility’s guided setup mode. But is up and running good enough for you?  Consider these questions:

  • Should your wifi be running on the 2.6 ghz radio or the 5 ghz?
  • Can you stop your iPhone from slowing down your Mac’s wifi?
  • Could an Airport Extreme be the bottleneck between your lan and an ultra-fast Internet provider?
  • Do you know what channel is best for wifi in your home or office?
  • Do you want to allow outside traffic into your network?
  • Do you want to extend your signal outside or beyond the range of a single Airport?
  • What kind of encryption is best for your network?
  • Does it take entirely too long to copy video files across your network?
  • Do you know how to interpret the information in Airport Utility, like the chart displayed here?

If you’re looking for guidance on any of those questions -or if you think the Airport should have included a detailed manual – you should take a look at Glenn’s book.

Your Airport has many configuration options, not all of them are obvious.  For example, when selecting a radio mode only a few choices are listed in the drop-down list.  Yet option-clicking the list yielded the choice I was looking for along with many others.  How was Murphy supposed to know that?  Read the book.

Advanced configurations can get confusing with two radios.  What are the best options for naming the two networks?  How will your guests access the network?  Are you going to allow access for 802.11a?  Glenn covers these questions in his book.

Yes, the Airport came with a 36 page manual. But the first eight pages explain how to plug it in and the last five cover how big it is and whether or not you can use it at the North Pole. In between you’ll find the same vague information found in many Apple publications. On the other hand, Take Control of Your 802.11n Airport Network is one of the longer Taking Control titles – and it’s packed with useful information.  The material covers a wide swath of networking information with just the right amount of depth.

The book starts out by covering many general networking concepts, quite an undertaking in itself. But it’s not overwhelming and it won’t bog you down. All the content is cleanly presented with plenty of screen captures and diagrams – helping you understand the roles Apple networking products can handle. The presentation is easy on the eyes; the content is well written.

For those already familiar with the ins and outs of Ethernet and IP networking there’s an in-depth discussion about channels used by wifi networking gear. Glenn explains how wifi signals can be constrained by walls as well as devices in your home such as microwave ovens and cordless phones- as well as many other culprits.    The topic is covered even further in a new appendix.

Sure, some people can get their network running themselves.  But maybe you’d like to get a handle on networking yourself – or you’re considering calling the Geek Squad.  With this book you can easily set up a network without outside help.  A generous sample is available on the ebook website.  Don’t forget to check out the other Taking Control titles.

Taking Control of your 802.11n Airport | Permalink

Direct Access to Screen Sharing

Screen SharingMurphy has a new favorite Snippet for TextExpander. Direct access to a Screen Sharing session with a couple of key strokes, from anywhere. Let’s back up and see Murphy’s awkward way first.

The Screen Sharing application is arguably tucked away, it’s not sitting in your Applications folder. Don’t know why. But you can select a computer on your network in the Finder and then click Screen Sharing to launch a session. For Murphy, this usually involved some keystrokes to bring a Finder window up front and then some mouse movement. Too much energy.

Now, wherever Murphy is within OS X, he can type a few characters on his keyboard, like ssz.   He doesn’t need to be in Finder, he doesn’t need to open Spotlight, he doesn’t need to poke around with the mouse. A window opens instantly with the Screen Sharing session live and ready to go.  It even works while running a full-screen Fusion session.

If you aren’t familiar with TextExpander ($29.95) take a look at Murphy’s introduction. The utility allows you to create “Snippets” – a series of keyboard characters that trigger different results. Snippets can replace “mmz” with the text “Murphy Mac” wherever you’re entering text. Or they can run a shell script or Applescript. In Murphy’s Screen Sharing example a brief Applescript runs to launch the session whenever “ssz” is entered. The key combination is up to you, but it’s probably best to come up with a system – and to not use words you’re likely to type just for the sake of typing them.

Here’s what the Applescript looks like. Not much to say about that. Change the ip address to the ip of the machine you want to control. That’s it. We’ll assume you’ve activated Screen Sharing on the remote machine.


What about the entry you need to make in TextExpander? That’s pretty easy too.
Here’s Murphy’s TextExpander entry. Very simple: The type of entry is AppleScript. Then the AppleScript itself. And finally the text string you want to type to kick off the script. TextExpander

Murphy posted a while back about opening web pages directly with TextExpander. Here are a couple other related posts:

Launch applications from Terminal
Launch applications from Spotlight

TextExpander - Free Trial | Permalink

Dropbox, SSH, and iPhone

Mrs. Murphy called and said she wanted to download a file from a Mac back home to her Macbook Air on the road. Away from the house I thought for a second about the easiest way to send her the file. I flicked through my iPhone apps and saw a simple solution.

My iPhone has both TouchTerm and Dropbox (syncs a local folder to the cloud) installed. TouchTerm let me ssh into the Mac at the house which was awake and recording a television show. From there a simple copy command let me copy the file into my Dropbox public folder. That was the hardest part.

Once the file copied over I launched the Dropbox app on the iPhone. The file was listed in my Dropbox public folder – allowing me to use the mail-a-link function in the app. Mrs. Murphy got the email, clicked the link to download her file – and she was all set.

Back when Murphy had more time to tinker he came up with far crazier solutions, like Retrieve a File on Your Mac by Email. Which is still great if you’re up against certain firewall restrictions or other obstacles. Better yet, that solution would have worked as soon as the Mac woke up, had it been asleep.

But this solution required far less preparation. I had ssh running on the remote Mac, and Dropbox was installed on both the Mac and my iPhone. That’s it. I could have used the Dropbox web interface instead of the app.

I realize there are other solutions Mrs. Murphy could have used. Logmein. FTP. VNC. Etc. Everyone has their preference, but I found this direct and efficient.

What do you think?

Get Dropbox | Permalink

Snow Leopard Unboxing

snow_leopardJust kidding, Murph doesn’t unbox.

But Snow Leopard did arrive today.  And while I was pleased last month that it seemed Apple was keeping to its word — it’s not about shiny new features —  I kind of wished there were a few more today.  That said, I admire the goal Apple set for itself here, and I hope Snow Leopard proves itself with increased stability and performance.

Here are a handful of observations:

  • My in-place install took 40 minutes.
  • I reclaimed 20GB of space.
  • The text replacement feature doesn’t apply to Terminal.
  • Screenshots are now named with a date-time stamp.
  • The new Expose stuff is nice.  Hover the mouse over a window and tap the spacebar to zoom in.
  • I’ve never really used Stacks, but I’ll give it another shot with Snow Leopard.

And that’s about as far as I got.

I had two issues with applications.  I’m a big fan of 1Password.  There’s a slightly unusual situation there. They have a beta that’s compatible with Snow Leopard, jumping the product to version 3. That product is still in beta but available now with reduced pricing.  Working fine for Murphy so far.  If you stick with version 2 you’ll need to run Safari in 32bit mode, which can be done by selecting Safari in Finder and bringing up its Get Info panel.

The other issue was with Airfoil.  Same thing:  I had to run Safari in 32bit mode to make it work with Snow Leopard.

That’s about all I’ve gotten to so far.

| Permalink

AirFoil Adds Features

Murphy uses AirFoil to send audio from a web browser to an Airport Express or an Apple TV.   It’s great for listening to Pandora throughout the house, with various speakers all in sync.  There’s an Apple TV connected to the stereo and an Airport Express connected to a Tivoli radio in the kitchen.  AirFoil can also send audio to another Mac, like the G5 upstairs that has decent speakers connected.  Three sets of speakers all playing one stream throughout the house.

Airfoil keeps getting better.  Recently it gained the ability to ‘hijack’ audio from an application that’s already running.  Previously, you had to start AirFoil, and then launch the application from AirFoil to send its audio to another device.  Not anymore – AirFoil can access already-running applications now.  And they’ve added an iPhone app.  So Murphy can bring a portable radio out on the porch – connect an iPod touch – and listen to the same stream that’s playing in the house.  In a nutshell, it turns an iPhone or touch into a battery powered Airport Express in terms of music streaming.

The software is rock solid, no drop-outs.  The interface is simple and unobtrusive.

Using Quicktime Murphy could listen to the aapl quarterly conference call over AirFoil.  Sending the stream into the kitchen beats lugging a laptop in there.  It’s great for Songza, Pandora, YouTube – or whatever audio you want to transmit.  You can even transmit an iTunes stream to your iPhone or touch – enhancing its multi-speaker functionality.

The iPhone / touch application is free.   The desktop software is $25.  AirFoil for Mac / Windows.  There’s a bundle with both for $40.

AirFoil | Permalink