Use DVD Player in Fullscreen Mode on an External Monitor

By default, DVD player will exit fullscreen mode when it’s not the active application.  This is a problem if you want to watch a movie on an external monitor while working on a primary monitor.  To get around it, go to Preferences in DVD Player (DVD Player -> Preferences… or command + ,), switch to the “Full Screen” tab, and ensure that “Remain in full screen when DVD Player is inactive” is checked.  This should achieve the desired results.

Source: Forums

Prevent Mac OS X Leopard from Prompting You to Start Synergyd Every Time You Use SynergyKM

So here’s an annoyance.  Having just installed SynergyKM, a great front-end for the awesome command-line utility Synergy, launching it would result in the following prompt:

The promt you get when launching SynergyKM
The promt you get when launching SynergyKM

To fix this, you need to remove the extended attribute that’s on the file.  Fire up Terminal and enter the following commands:

sudo xattr -d /Library/PreferencePanes/SynergyKM.prefPane/Contents/Resources/
sudo xattr -d /Library/PreferencePanes/SynergyKM.prefPane/Contents/Resources/

That will remove the flags and prevent the prompt.

Normally, you’d only see this prompt once, but since installing it for all users changes permissions such that your user account can’t remove the attribute, it isn’t removed.

Note: This is assuming that you’ve installed it for all users.  If you’ve installed it for one user, it’ll be in ~/Library, not /Library.

Update: I’ve submitted a patch to SynergyKM’s SourceForge page, so if they accept it this will no longer be an issue.

Computers are Disgusting

I recently wrote a script to automatically install firmware updates for our Macs. The problem with them is that for some, you have to hold down the power button to finish the installation after the machine has turned itself off. Now I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell don’t want to go around to 900 or so Macs and hold down their power button after installing an update. This script, while it can’t hold down the button for me, does allow student staff to automate the proces up to that point. I don’t have to give them a password they could use to break the system, they can do the update for me, everybody wins. It’s a beautiful system.

Well, today, I was testing the script out. The problem with testing it is that you can only test a given computer once; once the firmware update is installed, it won’t show up as needing to be installed anymore. So, I packed up my stuff and went to our biggest computer lab to do some testing. My test subjects were some “CyberStations,” computers we have with basic web-browsing and e-mail loadsets. They’re relatively unused during the summer, so if I broke any it wouldn’t be a big deal. I went up to one, ran the update, and waited. That’s when smoke came out of the back of the computer as the update ran. Oh shit, I thought, this thing is on fire!

Let’s go back a minute to my description of CyberStations. Their loadset consists of a vanilla Mac OS X Leopard install with some applications taken out, Firefox, Thunderbird, and Adium. Basically, it has the Apple-provided web browser, e-mail client, and IM program, as well as the leading open-source alternative for each. Nothing on these computers is too taxing. As a consequence, the fans never need to run too heavily, as the computer never really gets too hot.

Back to the smoking machine. I was sure it was on fire—where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? Well, the student employee to whom I was demonstrating the script wasn’t too sure. He placed his hand on the back of the computer (an iMac G5, not that it matters) and didn’t feel any heat. So, if it wasn’t smoke, what was it? That’s when I realized what had happened. The fans, never having been run too hard, hadn’t been blowing a whole lot of dust around. When they ran full speed during the firmware update, dust had come flying out of the computer’s vents. A white, puffy cloud composed largely of the dead skin cells that had fallen off of our users’ skin for years. It was coming out of the bottom, out of the back, and even where the screen met the case. I quickly held my breath and stepped back.

I’m really glad that we have student staff to do the rest of this.

Use Your MacBook Pro with an External Monitor Without Sleeping

So, in a similar vein as to what pushed me to write my Applescript to resize windows, I’ve been looking at what to do about going from using the LCD on the MacBook pro to an external monitor.  Now, everyone knows that in order to use an external display, you have to connect the display adapter while the notebook is closed, plug in an external keyboard (and your power supply), and press a button, and boom, you’ve got external display action at your monitor’s native resolution.  But what if you don’t want to wait the ten seconds or so it takes to go from awake to asleep?  Messing with it, I was happy to note that the following procedure seems to work:

  1. Plug in the external display, your keyboard/mouse, your power supply, etc—with your notebook open.  The external display will mirror your notebook’s LCD, at its resolution (if supported by the display.  If it isn’t, you’ll get the highest common denominator, I think).
  2. Close your notebook cover so the display turns off.
  3. Immediately open the notebook cover, then close it just as soon, then push a button on your keyboard.
  4. Presto! Your MacBook Pro should see the display and change the resolution how you want it.

I’ve only tested this on my machine, so let me know in the comments if it works/doesn’t work or if you have a better way.