Looking up Mac specs..

Did I mention I love TextExpander? Yeah.. so, to make a long story short: clients ask me questions about their computers, upgrades, lifespans, etc. I don’t normally remember all the details of their Macs so I get them to send me the Serial Number (Open the Apple menu, click About This Mac and it should be right there.)

Once you have it you can go by Apple’s support site and look it up… but that takes too long.

Make a new TextExpander snippet with Applescript as the content type:
property theURL : ""
set theURL to "http://support.apple.com/specs/#" & (the clipboard)
do shell script "open " & theURL

Then you just copy the serial number, and anywhere you can type use !specs to invoke it and up pops open Apple spec page a few seconds later.

Using Adobe Acrobat to view PDF’s in Safari 5.1.x and Mac OS X 10.6.8

Safari no longer displays PDF files.. and hasn’t done so on my machine for months. It does not bother me much, as I prefer to download them anyway, by clicking in the URL bar and then holding option and then hitting return, which downloads them.

But a client called and complained that they needed to be able to fill in online pdf forms, and when they clicked the link all they got was a black screen, so I went and figured it out:

On Mac OS X 10.6.8 with up to date versions of Safari, you need to make sure that Safari is running in 64 bit mode for the Acrobat reader plugin to work.

To get it to do so, quit Safari, go to it in your applications folder, right click on Safari and Get Info. Empty the checkbox that says “Open in 32 bit mode”. Launch Safari, and viewing PDF’s in Safari with Acrobat Reader will now work.

You can also run into problems if you have Acrobat Reader and Acrobat Pro installed, any updates to the Pro version may mess up your browser plugins. To fix this you need to delete the plugins and reinstall Acrobat Reader.

The AdobePDFViewer plug-in is used to display PDF files in Safari using Acrobat and Reader. This plug-in is installed as part of the Acrobat X or Reader X installation. The location of this plug-in is:

Macintosh HD/Library/Internet Plug-ins/AdobePDFViewer.plugin

Details are from Adobe’s Help page: Troubleshoot Safari Plug-in

To remove the plugin: Quit Safari, then go and delete the plugin. Yes there’s a second one, called AdobePDFViewerNPAPI.plugin, you can ignore it.

Then reinstall the latest version of Acrobat reader. You can find various installers on Adobe’s Acrobat Reader Download Page.

I should also mention: if you have need to use Acrobat Reader to view PDF’s in Safari and would prefer to use the built in viewer, just go and delete both the plugins mentioned above and then restart Safari.

How to buy a used Mac

A client asked what the best approach would be to buying a few used iMacs for her family for Christmas, to which I replied:

I would not use eBay at all, I would go to Kijiji and Craigslist. That way you can actually go and see the computer before buying it. Yes, you probably will pay a bit more for it.. but it will be less headaches in the end!

As for which models to buy, go download the Mactracker app for iPhone or Mac, and use it to look up and compare with what is for sale. The models you want to avoid are ones that do not meet the requirements for running Lion:


Don’t worry if the iMac you are looking at does not already have 10.6 or 10.7 on it, just look at the CPU speed and RAM, the OS itself you can update later since you already own copies.

Once you find a likely iMac, ask the seller for the serial number. If they are unable or unwilling to provide it, move on.. once you have it, put it into this page:


Which will return the warranty and service details on the iMac, and this page:


Which will return the specs on the iMac. Oh, I also ask the sellers about pets and smokers.. since my kids have allergies, and I can’t stand the smoke smell. My biases, it’s up to you to ask in advance, or decide when you get on site. Once you have those details you can decide if it’s worth looking into further. I’m assuming you’re going to read all about how to avoid scams, so I will not go into any of those details.

Next step? You’ve contacted the seller, have brought a friend along, and are meeting the seller and looking at the iMac. Ignore the iMac for a minute and look around, that will tell you a lot more than looking at the iMac itself. Once you are back at the iMac, boot it up and make sure it is the same one you were told about, basically check under “About this Mac” for the serial number, CPU and RAM details. If you have a usb key you can check each USB port to make sure it works, and if you have a DVD you can make sure the drive works. That’s about it.

Once you have it back at home use your handy OS X 10.6 install DVD and erase the hard drive and reinstall the OS from scratch. Unless you have a 10.7 installer.. at which point you should use that instead!

Have fun, and feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions!

p.s. RAM is cheap and easy to upgrade on an iMac, so you might take that into consideration as well, low RAM in the iMac might be a benefit as you can get a good deal for it and then add RAM yourself. Not sure what kind of RAM you need, and what the costs are? Take a look at http://canadaram.com for details.

On Steve Jobs dieing…

I think Apple said it best, in their Think Different campaign:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore.

They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Mac Classes coming up: Introduction to Mac

Tom and I are offering starting another set of classes this month: our “Intro to Mac” class on Tuesday the 22nd, and on the Tuesday after that we are doing part 2, and the last part on October 6th.

This class covers the physical computer itself, a guided tour of the Mac interface, the Desktop, Menus, key System Preferences, the Finder, using CDs, DVDs, & USB keys, and a brief discussion about organizing and finding files. The second night we will be introducing Safari along with some useful plugins, iChat, Skype, discussing online safety, Preview, Address Book, and Time Machine. And on the third night, the Dashboard and its many widgets, managing your email with Mail.app, organizing your life with iCal, using iTunes to play music and videos, a quick introduction to the iLife and iWork suites of programs, and trouble-shooting.

Interested? To register and reserve a space, you can either call me at 613-262-4705 or email classes@darnermedia.ca.

More details on the dates: September 22, 29 and October 6th (Tuesdays), from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM. Price: $180, location: the Routhier Community Center.

Details of our other classes can be found on Darner Media page for the classes.

Bringing up your Mac’s Color Picker anywhere!

I was wandering through Smoking Apples earlier today, and ran across their article: Deconstructing the Mac OS X Color Picker. Now, honestly, I do not use it very often.. but it is a very useful tool to keep track of a few favorite colors, and an easy way to pickup new colors from something else on your screen.

They also mention a few plugins, one of which I am going to grab ASAP: a hexadecimal color picker, which you can use to get color values for use in your web pages.

Last, and not least, is the super simple way to open the picker from anywhere! Make a new script in your Script Editor and type in ‘choose color’ and save the script as an application. When you run it up comes the color picker! Feeling too lazy to open Script Editor? The folks at Smoking Apples made the script and put a nice icon on it already. It’s in their article.

Thanks guys!

“Introduction to Mac” Workshop coming up on January 26th

I will only quote part of the announcement regarding the Workshop Tom and I are offering next weekend… all the details are on Tom’s site: Introduction to Mac course, in Ottawa, Ontario, on January 26th, 2008.

As you can guess from the course title, we will be doing an introduction to the Mac, from the outside in!

Some of the major applications which will be covered include; Mail, Safari, Address Book, iCal, iChat, and the iLife suite of applications. There will be time at the end to address specific questions, which we expect will arise!

As Tom says:

Now that the details are (finally) worked out, I can safely announce that Dave Rostenne and I are offering our first combined course for users who are new to Macs, or have just "switched". The course will take place over at the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (SPAO), and you can find details on their special events page or in this printable PDF file.


Saturday, January 26th, 2008 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, with an additional hour afterwards (4:00 PM to 5:00 PM) for questions and answers.

The cost and how to register

The cost is a very reasonable $79, and to register, you can either call (613) 562-3824 or email ADMIN@SPAO.CA. Register soon, because seating is limited to 20 people!

We hope to see you there!