A bit of fun

Happy Chinese New Year!!!

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MacBook CPU and Fan test

I recall my MacBook (13.3-inch unibody aluminum macbook) once reached over 70 degrees celsius and didn’t remember the fan speed went up much. So did a search and came across a discussion on Mac Rumors forum. It appears that many use a utility called CPUTest to stress CPU (to 100%) to test the notebook’s cooling system. Some reported that their notebook’s temperature reached 108 degrees celsius while the fan speed stayed at 2000rpm; some say it’s normal for fan to stay at 2000rpm at 90 degrees.

I downloaded the free little app and copied it to the Applications folder. I did the test on both cores with 10 repetitions. All 220 tests went successfully within 4 minutes 43 seconds. During the test, I saw fan speeding up when temperature rising to around 70 degrees. The temperature peaked at 90 degrees briefly, and fan speed was continuously increasing and peaked at the end of the test (fan peak speed 4317rpm). I used iStat Menus (see Top 10 Mac Apps) to monitor the CPU temperature and the fan speed.

I’ve subsequently observed that the fan speed could go around 5200rpm – when the system temperature was maintained above 70 degrees for a long period of time (e.g. 20-30 minutes).

Therefore, my MacBook is satisfactory with regard to temperature control!!!

During my normal use, I noticed that the MacBook temperature is around 40 degrees and the fan speed is usually a little below 2000rpm. I also noticed that whenever I start up the VMware virtual machine, the temperature will rise to around 55 degrees.

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Change Mac OS X Language after installation

Have you ever wandered whether you can change the display language of your Mac OS X after installation? You might have installed your Mac OS X using the default English Language, but now you would like to change it to your native language. You may wander do I have to reinstall the whole system. It turns out that changing Mac OS X’s default language after installation is actually quite simple.

Just go to System Preferences -> Language & Text -> drag a preferred language to the top of the list (e.g. Simplified Chinese). Your system’s default language is now set to the one you chose.

However, the login window still uses the language when you first installed the system. In order to change the login language, in terminal:

sudo /System/Library/Coreservices/Language\ Chooser.app/Contents/MacOS/Language\ Chooser

Select the language of your choice from the popup window, click the arrow at the bottom right, and you are set!

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Top 10 Mac OS X Apps

The top 10 Mac applications that I always recommend to my friends are:

  • VLC player – This is an all-in-one video player. It plays almost all video types including real media without the need to obtain additional codecs. The best of all, it’s free (open source software).
  • Google Chrome – Compared with Safari and Firefox, Google Chrome is lightweight and fast. It is constantly updated, which may upset you occasionally when an updated version breaks some of your favourite webpages, but it usually get fixed very quickly. See my earlier post regarding an issue with Google software: Google stops my Mac from sleeping.
  • Adium – A free online messaging application, but I use it for managing all my email accounts with hotmail and yahoo (notifying me when new emails arrive).
  • iStat Menus – This application allows you to monitor various properties of your OS X including: memory, CPU, network, temperature and fan speed. Version 2.0 of this application was free. It’s now a paid application.
  • Little Snitch – If you are worried about Internet Security, then this network monitor software is a must have. It notifies you whenever an application tries to connect to the Internet and the destination IP address. It’s a paid application but it well worth the money.
  • Skype – The free cross-platform video chat application beats all it’s alternatives. The built-in iChat only work with Mac-to-Mac chat.
  • Google Picasa – It’s a free photo organiser. It also has some photo editing capabilities. It can auto adjust various setting for your photo and improve the quality. If you don’t know much about manual photo editing using Adobe Photoshop, this free application would come in handy.
  • TextWrangler – A free text editor that offers syntax highlighting for HTML/XHTML, XML, PHP, JavaScript, Perl, Python, Ruby, Lua, Java, ANSI C, C++, Objective-C, and more. Although paid alternatives such as BBEdit and TextMate offer more capabilities, the free one is more than adequate for most of us.
  • VMware Fusion – if you can’t live without Windows, this is a must have. I prefer VMware to Parallels simply because the same virtual machines can be used across all platforms.
  • Cyberduck – An open source FTP client (also support Secure FTP on port 22). Works reliably for your FTP/SFTP needs, although the commercial alternative Transmit offers better user experience.

Other useful applications include:

  • Tunnelblick – a very good and free OpenVPN client for Mac. OS X has built in support for PPTP VPN if that is needed.
  • Neo Office – based on Open Office, Neo Office is the best MS Office replacement on Mac and it’s free.

Many Mac guru would suggest QuickSilver as an application launcher (although it can do much more). I noticed that OS X’s spotlight is just as good as QuickSilver for acting as an application launcher.


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Stop Mac OS X from automounting all the drives

Mac OS X normally automatically mount all volumes or partitions it recognises at boot time. Sometimes you may not want this to happen (e.g. you have another Leopard or Snow Leopard installed for recovery purposes, when you boot one OS, you don’t want the others to be automounted).

This can be resolved using the file /etc/fstab. This file may not exist. You will need to create this file if it didn’t exist.

First, you need to find out the partition’s UUID.

UUID is Universally Unique IDentifier. It’s an identification code given to each storage device (e.g. partitions on your hard drives, USB sticks, DVD drives) on your system, aimed to help you uniquely identify each device. UUID ensures that the system recognises the same drive or partition when changes are made to the system (e.g. delete/create/merge partitions, or add new hard drives – these changes may change the device names).

A volume’s UUID can be obtained with the Disk Utility, select a volume from the Disk Utility, and click the Info button, the UUID of the selected volume will be shown, e.g. 1E749B30-355B-3881-B15A-03069F2C778E

In order to suppress automounting of the volume, issue the follow command in a terminal to edit the file /etc/fstab (it would create the file if it didn’t exist):

sudo pico /etc/fstab

and add the following content on one line:

UUID=1E749B30-355B-3881-B15A-03069F2C778E none hfs ro,noauto

To find out what each field means, use the following command at a terminal:

man fstab

Basically, the third field is the type of the file system (hfs is used by Mac OS X), and the fourth field is for the mounting options: ‘ro’ means read only (use ‘rw’ if you want read write after mount), ‘noauto’ means no automount at boot time, but you can mount the volume using the Disk Utility.

Save (ctrl-o followed by ctrl-x) the file and restart your mac for the effect to take place.

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Google stops my Mac from sleeping

Recently I noticed that my Macbook won’t go to sleep according to the Energy Saver settings in the System Preferences when idle. However, I can put it to sleep if I close the lid.

I only noticed this behaviour when I left the Macbook on one night for it to complete a long maintenance script, expecting it to automatically go to sleep afterwards, only to find out the next morning that it drained the battery.

I initially thought it might be the recent update to Mac OS X 10.6.5. After a bit of investigation, I found that Google Chrome was the root cause. Along with any google software you install on your mac, it also installs Google Software Update, and it checks for updates for all the google software you installed periodically (it could be a couple of times an hour). Without google chrome (I don’t have any other google software installed), my macbook goes to sleep when idle fine; it won’t go to sleep with google chrome installed even when idle.

The issue was solved by disabling Google Software Update from checking for updates. This is done by executing the following in the Terminal application:

$ defaults write com.google.Keystone.Agent checkInterval 0


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Change Time Machine backup interval

Objective: to set up a flexible schedule (instead of hourly) for automatic Time Machine backup.

Problem: the Snow Leopard Time Machine is default to an hourly backup schedule. You cannot change the backup frequency through the System Preferences Panel if you would like to backup more/less frequently.

Solution: manually modify the default value within com.apple.backupd-auto.plist. The file is located under /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/. Issue the following command at terminal to open the file and make changes:

sudo pico /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.backupd-auto.plist

Find the default value 3600 (seconds) and change it to 7200 if you would like it to backup in 2-hourly intervals (or 1800 for half-hourly backup). Ctrl-O to save the file and Ctrl-X to exit editing. The changes should take effect after reboot.


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