Alvin Alexander | Java, Scala, Unix, Perl, Mac OS X

At least once a week (and more likely once a day) I need to look up the spelling or meaning of a word. Interactive spell-checking is built into many Mac OS X applications (like TextMate), so that saves me when I'm typing. But a cool thing that's also built into many Mac OS X applications is the ability to easily get a dictionary definition for a word in a document.

Mac Finder FAQ: How can I delete a file using just the keyboard, i.e., some keystroke combination?

Lots of people ask me if the only way to delete a file is to drag it to the trash can on the Dock. After all, pressing the [delete] key sure doesn't delete it.

The short answer is yes, you can delete a file in the Mac Finder with the keyboard by:

If you're a mouse user, and you need to move up the folder hierarchy when using the Finder, an easy way to do this is to Command-click the folder name at the top of the current Finder window. I've shown this in the following image. To display this menu I didn't just click the folder icon, I held down the [Command] key while clicking it. This lets me easily move up one or more levels in the folder hierarchy just by selecting one of the other folder names in the drop-down list.

Every once in a while I get a similar message from a new Mac OS X user: Help, I've hidden a window from an application, how do I get it back? Having freaked out the first time I accidentally hid a window, I know what that feeling is like.

Fortunately bringing back a hidden window is easy, if not obvious. Just go to the Dock, and click the application icon for the window you accidentally hid. For instance, let's say you accidentally hid a Safari window. Just go to the Dock, and click the Safari icon. Instantly your hidden window comes back into view.

Mac OS X has a couple of cool tricks for helping you focus on just one application at a time. One of them is the "hide all other programs" trick.

To hide windows from all other applications, and just show windows from your current application, type [Option][Command][H]. Instantly all the other windows are hidden.

Mac Finder FAQ: Is there a simple way to go to a folder when using the Mac Finder?

If you're using the Finder on Mac OS X, and you know the path of the folder you want to open, you can do this quickly using the "go to folder" command. With a Finder window open (or, you can just click on the Desktop), press the [Shift][Command][G] key sequence, and you'll see this window displayed:

Mac text to speech software: Admittedly, every once in a while I go off the deep end, and today I'm experimenting with Apple's Mac OS X text to speech software. For example, as I type this blog post I'm also listening to this New York Times article being read by the Mac OS X Speech service.

I haven't purchased Mac OS X "Leopard" yet, but when I do Spaces will be the main reason for my purchase. In my earlier Unix days I used the multiple desktop feature quite a bit, and I look forward to using it again.

This NY Times article gives a little idea of operating systems sales on mobile phones. From this article and other sources, it looks like Apple thinks they will sell around 10M iPhones next year (either next year, or in the first 12 months), and Microsoft is projecting sales of 20M Windows Mobile devices in 2008, both of which were announced before Google's Android announcement today.

Wow, I thought I'd get really secure when I took my MacBook Pro on vacation recently. So secure that I managed to forget the root password after I changed it. (duh) Fortunately I found an easy way to change it after I lost it.

I was lucky enough that I created one of my login accounts as an administrator ("Admin") account, and that's all I needed. Well, that, a Terminal, and the sudo command. :) Here's what I did.

Mac screen capture FAQ: What are the keystrokes to create screen capture images on Mac OS X?

Mac OS X screen capture keystrokes

One of the great things about Mac OS X is that it's pretty easy to create a screen capture. You can capture the entire screen (like using the Print Screen button on a PC), select a region to capture, or capture an application window without needing any third-party tools. The only hard part about this is trying to remember the magic Mac screen capture keystrokes.

Have you ever seen Steve Jobs (or anyone else) do the "slow Genie" effect when minimizing a window on Mac OS X, and wondered how they did that?

Turns out it's pretty simple: just hold down the Shift key when clicking the yellow minimize button on any Mac OS X window. Assuming you have the Genie effect enabled (see your Dock preferences), the Genie effect will still work, but it will send your window to the Dock very slowly. This may not be too useful for everyday work, but it is kinda cool for presentations. :)


In an earlier post I wrote that my first impression of iMovie '08 was very positive, and now I'll add that my longer-term impression is also very favorable. I've created several short vacation-oriented movies so far, and I've been able to add movie clips, pictures, voiceovers, and sound effects without ever having to read a manual (which is really great, since I had never created a movie before).

MS fights back

The next step in this chess match is that MS won't take this lying down. On the Office front I don't think they can do much to fight back. Office applications should be a commodity -- they ran out of good new features years ago. ("Ribbon", anyone?)

Going after Windows and Office

In the business world I prefer being aggressive, and if someone is coming after me, I in turn am going to go after them -- but only if I think I can win the battle. So that becomes the question, can Google win this battle?

MS: The ultimate guard dog

Throughout their history MS has always acted like the ultimate guard dog. Not only do they protect their own territory (operating systems, applications, development tools), they also protect anything in their neighborhood. They're a little like this:

Aren't the Google Apps enough?

Next question: Why should Google create an operating system? Isn't it enough for them to create their own suite of Office applications (Google Apps) as a replacement for MS Office? Why get into the operating system battle?


After reading this article by John C. Dvorak, I can start buying into the need for Google to create their own operating system, aka, the GoogleOS. More specifically, the OS should be a binary-compatible replacement for Microsoft (MS) Windows.

Kudos to the Boston Red Sox for winning the 2007 World Series (and Colorado Rockies for getting there), and major poop on the classless acts of Scott Boras and Alex ("I make every team worse just by showing up") Rodriguez. "Announcing" that Rodriguez is going to be a free agent during Game 4 of the World Series is inexcusable and a terrible distraction from the game, and I hope MLB fines the crap out of them.