Archive for the 'Creations' Category

Application Locator

Friday, January 8th, 2010

This is a little one, inspired by a Growl discussion list thread. Enter the bundle identifier or name of an application, and Application Locator will reveal it in the Finder.

Translate Text 1.0.1

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

The new version adds a Sparkle public key, which should fix updating. Since updating was broken in all versions before 1.0.1, you’ll need to update manually from the Translate Text web page.

Ship-It Saturday: IconGrabber 2.0.1

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

The last time I released a version of IconGrabber was only a week after Valve released Half-Life 2—way back in 2004. That game wasn’t even on my radar then, since I couldn’t run it on my PowerPC-based Mac!

Just over five years later, I’ve played all of the Half-Life 2 games and love them, and IconGrabber returns with some bug fixes and support for the new bigger icon sizes introduced in Tiger and Leopard. Version 2.0.1 is available from the IconGrabber home page.

Ship-It Saturday: Translate Text

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Real artists ship.

Steve Jobs

With the idea that an application that’s 95% finished and in active use is better than an application waiting for 100% in the seclusion of my hard drive, Ship-It Saturday is where I dust off a program that I have 95% finished, call it done, and just ship it already. I hope to make this a regular feature, although I have no idea how frequently I’ll do it.

Today’s winner is Translate Text, an app I wrote to make handling Adium feedback emails easier. Just select some text, then choose the service corresponding to the language it’s in (or the auto-detect-language-and-then-translate service). A window will open with the original, a couple of language pop-up menus, and the translation.

Screenshot of myself invoking the French-to-English service through a contextual menu.

More information, both screenshots, and the downloads at the Translate Text web page.

RAM disks on Snow Leopard

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Make RAM Disk still works, which is not surprising, considering it’s based on a few built-in commands.

What’s changed is that the disk images system is now 64-bit, so if you have a 64-bit-capable Mac, you can create a single RAM disk bigger than 2 GiB—you no longer need to make multiple RAM disks and RAID them.

TimeMachineGrowler 1.0.1

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

The new version of TimeMachineGrowler includes compatibility with Snow Leopard and a few fixes. Plus, I’ve created a Google group for it, so you can get news of any further updates there.

TimeMachineGrowler 1.0

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Just in time for tomorrow’s release of Snow Leopard, TimeMachineGrowler is an app that will tell you how long Time Machine takes to create a back-up by posting Growl notifications when the back-up starts and finishes.

One of the promised “refinements” in Snow Leopard is faster back-ups, so you may find it interesting to compare how long a back-up takes on your machine running Leopard to how long it takes on Snow Leopard (assuming, of course, that you haven’t already abandoned Leopard for the Snow Leopard GM).

Copy UNIX path to Finder selection

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

UPDATE 2009-08-14: Or just use CopyPath, which looks like a much better implementation of exactly the same thing. Thanks to David Keegan, its author, for suggesting it in the comments.

The original post content follows.

This is a script application, which apparently you can drag into your Finder toolbar. (If it doesn’t let you, you didn’t drop it in the right spot. Finder is finicky about this. Keep trying.)

Once you’ve added it to your toolbar, you can just click on it to run it. The script will copy the UNIX path of whatever you have selected in Finder to the clipboard.

Inspired by a conversation with Alan Boyd.

Symbolicator 1.0.1

Friday, April 24th, 2009

It’s two-thirds faster, it works on more crash logs, and thanks to Augie Fackler, it’s now available from the Python Package Index. This means that you can just do this:

sudo easy_install symbolicator

If [you run a custom build of Python and] you don’t want to install setuptools, you can always get the Symbolicator from its webpage.

Oh, and there will be a 1.0.2 to fix some issues. At the moment, I’m going back to working on Growl things, so I won’t start on those for awhile; if you want to beat me to them, fork the project on Bitbucket, commit your fixes, and send me a pull request. (Make sure you co-ordinate your efforts on the ticket! I don’t want to have to choose from two independently-developed fixes.)

UPDATE 2009-04-25: Clarified above that installing setuptools is only necessary if you have installed Python yourself. Thanks to Augie for pointing this out in his comment.

Half-Life 2 Photography

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

My challenge to you:

Take a screenshot in any of the Half-Life 2 games (including Portal), and make it look and feel like an artistic or journalistic photograph. (I don’t mean filters; I mean framing and the scene itself.)

Here’s my first contribution:

A scene of the observer looking out a grimy window on to a Combine autogun emplacement.

If you want to join in, take a photographic-looking screenshot, and submit it to the Flickr group.

A note about ClickToFlash 1.2

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Christopher Bowns pointed out (thanks!) that Jonathan Rentzsch released ClickToFlash 1.2 yesterday.

This is the first version that incorporates any significant features from my fork. Specifically:

  • It now loads the Flash movie on mouse-up, not mouse-down.
  • It now draws the ClickToFlash view as concave when the mouse is down and within its bounds.
  • It now has a separator item in the contextual menu.

The first two of these came from my tree, a fact that I am very happy about. The last one he pulled from Troy Gaul’s tree instead, but it makes no difference, as it’s just an element in a xib document.

If you’re using 1.1+boredzo, you don’t need to upgrade. My version of 1.1 has all the features of his 1.2, plus the “Copy Address” contextual menu item and, of course, my own click-to-play symbol.

ClickToFlash 1.1+boredzo

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

My fork of Jonathan Rentzsch’s adopted WebKit plug-in lives on, as I release my version of ClickToFlash 1.1.

So far, he has not pulled any of my changes into his tree, so the list of features unique to my version has only grown:

  • It loads the Flash movie on mouse-up, not mouse-down, giving you a chance to back out by moving your mouse cursor off of the movie placeholder.

  • It changes to a concave appearance when you press the mouse on the placeholder, making it look, as well as act, more like a button.

  • It has a better (IMO) click-to-play image. (Screenshots on the other post.)

  • It adds a separator menu item to the contextual menu. (New in 1.1+boredzo, and the menu itself is new in 1.1)

  • It adds a “Copy address” menu item to the contextual menu (along with another separator). (New in 1.1+boredzo)

  • It incorporates Jason Foreman’s fix for websites such as According to him, that simple change fixes ClickToFlash on a lot of websites; I can vouch for it on, at least. (New in 1.1+boredzo)


The installer application, source code, and MIT license.

ClickToFlash: Visible edition

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

The WebKit plug-in ClickToFlash has been an instant hit over the past 24 hours. The original version was on a Google Code project, but that project is now closed to the public. Before the Google Code project went 0600, Jonathan Rentzsch set up a fork on GitHub to gather changes submitted by Gus Mueller and Jean-François Roy.

Unfortunately, both the original and Rentzsch’s current version have one immediately-noticeable deficiency: In place of the Flash movie, the plug-in displays only a blank gray gradient background. It’s easy to think that there’s simply nothing there, or that the page is not done loading.

I decided to solve the problem myself. I forked the fork and posted my own version (along with a binary installer).

My interpretation of the plug-in adds three features:

  1. Swap in the Flash movie on mouse-up, not mouse-down. This gives you a chance to back out by moving the mouse out of the view.
  2. Invert the gradient when the mouse is down. This makes the view look (as well as act) more like a button.
  3. Fixes the blank-background problem. A number of people have done this in other forks, but I think my solution is best:

My click-to-play symbol is a play symbol (right-pointing triangle) with a florin (ƒ), emulating the Flash logo, cut out of it.

The symbol's gradient inverts along with the background gradient.

My solution has two advantages:

  • Its drawing is fully vector-based, which means that that it will scale to fit the would-be movie’s area and will look good no matter how big the would-be movie is.
  • I designed the implementation so that you can replace it with different drawing code if you’d prefer a different click-to-play symbol.

The original, Jonathan Rentzsch’s fork, and my fork are all under the MIT license. And, of course, he is welcome to pull my changes upstream.

iPhone app settings

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

One of the ongoing debates among users of iPhone OS devices is whether an app’s settings belong in the app itself, or the Settings app.

I’m of the opinion that this wouldn’t even be a debate if it weren’t for Apple’s prescription in the iPhone HIG that every iPhone app’s settings should be in the Settings app. Mac apps don’t come with prefpanes for their preferences (with the exception of faceless background apps like Growl). Windows apps don’t, either, that I know of. GNOME and KDE apps don’t pollute Ubuntu’s Control Panel.

The iPhone is the only OS I know of whose developer recommends that app developers put their application settings in the system-wide Settings app.

As we’ve seen several times on every platform, it’s OK to break one of the local Human Interface Guidelines if and only if the violation makes the interface better.

I think this guideline is one that iPhone developers should violate flagrantly.

But there’s a problem. The iPhone doesn’t really have an icon for a Settings button. Most developers seem to use the Info icon that one of the frameworks apparently provides, but this isn’t the proper use of that icon. The Info icon means info, not application settings.

Another choice is the gear icon for Action buttons:


But, again, we have a conflation of functions. The button in question is not an Action button; it is a Settings button. This icon is not a Settings icon. (I suspect that most people who use the Action icon use it because it doesn’t have any particular association with “action”, either, other than Apple’s endorsement of it for that.)

The Iconfactory, wisely, chose differently in Twitterrific. I suspect that this was largely coincidence, as the Mac version of Twitterrific came first and already had a Settings icon; for the iPhone version, the developers simply used the same icon. It works well enough:

as seen in this screenshot of Twitterrific.

But it’s not perfect. A wrench does not say “settings”. (I offer myself as evidence: When I first saw it in the Mac version, I didn’t know it was the Preferences button.) Generally, a wrench means “edit this”, as in the context of a game.

What we need is an icon that says “settings”. Ideally, this icon should either convey the notion of a changeable state value (as the previously-favored light switch [Mac OS X through Tiger] and slider [Mac OS] did), or build on an existing association with the concept of settings.

Let’s go with the latter. I nominate the Settings app’s icon:

iPhone Settings icon

Familiar enough, wouldn’t you say?

That’s Apple’s version. Here’s my button-icon (a.k.a. template) version, in the 16-px size:

Settings button icon 16-px version.

I tried it out in the iPhone version of Twitterrific on my iPod touch. Before and a mock-up of after:


After I created this icon, I wondered what it would look like in the Mac version of Twitterrific.

Here’s the original:

…with the wrench icon.

… And right away we have a problem. These buttons are already framed; my white frame will glare here.

Fortunately, that’s easy to solve. With ten seconds of work, I created a frameless version. Here’s what that looks like:


I think we could all get used to this icon. This wouldn’t have worked at all before Apple changed the icon of System Preferences to match the iPhone Settings app, but now it can.

I don’t think it’s perfect. Perhaps a real icon designer (I’m just a programmer) can refine it. But I think it’s a good first draft. I’m curious to hear your opinions; please post constructive feedback in the comments.

If you want to use this icon, go ahead. Here’s the original Opacity document , from which you can build all the many variations of the icon. (Click on Inspector, then Factories, then find the version you want in the list and click its Build button.)

My CocoaHeads unit testing presentation

Monday, January 5th, 2009

One of the things that’s been keeping me busy lately (too busy, in fact, to keep up Framework Friday and Manpage Monday—sorry about that, and I’ll get back to them when I can) is preparing a video based on the presentation I gave at CocoaHeads last month.

I have now finished it. Its title is simply “Unit testing”.

The subject is unit testing for applications written in Cocoa to run on the Mac. I’m not an iPhone developer, so the video is only generally applicable to iPhone development (as much as it is to any other platform); for specific information about testing on the iPhone, see Colin’s blog post.

I corrected a few things that I got wrong in the original live presentation, and added a few new slides. Other than that, it’s basically the same.

The video is 13+½ minutes long (strangely, about half the length of the original live presentation), and is available in high-definition. You can even download the original file I uploaded, in case you’re so inclined; it uses the lossless Animation codec for the video track, and is 720p and 135.7 MiB.

I used several Creative Commons photographs in the slides. Here are the links back to them:

In other news, I love Keynote’s Instant Alpha feature.

iTunes smart playlist: Music only

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

A smart playlist selecting items that are not podcasts, whose Kind does not contain “URL”, [v]“ideo”, or “movie”, that are not in the Audiobooks special playlist, and whose Genre does not contain “Comedy” or “Spoken Word”.

Some explanation:

  • Kind does not contain URL: Excludes streams
  • Kind does not contain ideo: Excludes music videos
  • Genre does not contain Comedy or Spoken Word: Excludes anything that isn’t actually music

New service: Insert Mac OS X Build Number

Friday, November 21st, 2008


A service that inserts the build number (for example, 9F33) of your current Mac OS X installation.

The main purpose for this is so that, when filing bugs in Radar, you can precisely specify which build of Mac OS X you’re running. (Especially if you’re running a pre-release build of a future version of Mac OS X.)

I created it with ThisService, of course.

(And yes, I am also working on tonight’s Framework Friday post.)

New website: Are the iPhone APIs public yet?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

As of this writing,


But if Apple ever changes that, I’ll be sure to update that page.

New Mercurial extension: Bitbucket Extension

Monday, September 29th, 2008

If you’ve ever used Bazaar, you know that one of its features is a shorthand URL scheme for referring to Bazaar repositories on Launchpad. For example, to clone Sparkle’s main repository:

% bzr clone lp:sparkle

I’ve created an extension that enables you to do the same thing in Mercurial with Bitbucket repositories.

% hg clone bb://boredzo/bitbucketextension

The Bitbucket extension adds two URL schemes: bb:, and bb+ssh:. The bb: scheme communicates with Bitbucket over HTTPS; you can guess what bb+ssh does.

(Note: As of Mercurial 1.0.2, you must include the double-slash, because hg pull will interpret the URL as a relative path without it.)

New utility: rehash_services

Friday, September 19th, 2008

This is one that I’ve had kicking around for awhile. A tweet by Augie Fackler prompted me to post it.

rehash_services is a simple command-line tool that does exactly one thing: It updates the contents of your Services menu. You’d use this after installing or updating an app that provides services, in order to update the Services menu without logging out.

Note: You don’t need to use this when creating services with ThisService, as those services automatically refresh the Services menu on launch.

In case you’re wondering: It works by calling NSUpdateDynamicServices. That’s all. The program is really short.