Mac OS X System Shortcuts: a nightmare

For many years Apple is struggling with providing the user a clean and easy hotkey interface for system services. But they failed with Mac OS 9, they failed with Mac OS X and even the latest addition in Panther is useless and unsuable. Try establishing a global shortcut for something you use often and is part of the OS. You will feel the pain early enough.

Simple example. There are two things that annoy me endlessly that I can‘t control them with the keyboard. One is the zoom button in windows: there is a shortcut for closing them (cmd-w), for minimizig them (cmd-m) but NO shortcut for zooming them (the green button). OS X‘s shortcut tool fails shamefully in letting me just set a keystroke combination for it.

The second one: I use my computer to write an awful lot of messages everyday. E-Mails, Posts, Notes, everything. A big part is done in german, many times I use english (like now). The built-in spell checker is useful to prevent errors but while there is a shortcut to enable spell-checking there is no way of switching the language to check for on the fly. Opening up the floating window, choosing the language from the popup takes many seconds and is annoying. Sometimes I finish typing earlier than I have a chance to think about mouse movements.

If anybody has an idea on how to make these two functions work in OS X please tell me.

NewsFire is a UI revolution

Okay, I am overstating here a bit but NewsFire really took me by surprise.

NewsFire is a very, very simple program. It is a RSS News Reader, like NetNewsWire or Shrook. But unlinke these established tools, it is really breaking things down to the basics. NewsFire is about reduction. But this doesn‘t mean getting less in the old box. The shiny part is the excellent yet simple user interface that doesn‘t get in your way and makes access to fast flowly information easy.

I use NewsFire for fast-changing channels that I want to follow regularly while NNW does it‘s job much better when being used daily, scanning the feeds as a whole.

Can‘t wait until NewsFire supports http authentication and https. This would be a very welcome move to use it for realtime monitoring of wikis, weblogs and other living web organisms.

CCC Documentation: NSA Field Station Teufelsberg Berlin – a late post mortem

Berlin in the cold war: on the top of an artificial hill called „Teufelsberg“ (devil‘s mountain) that was erected from the rubble of the final stages of the Second World War the NSA operated a huge field station essentially sitting in the heart of East Germany.

For a couple of years now the city of Berlin tried to get one or the other commercial project running but it all failed for either political reasons or mere incapability. Recently, the remaining security personal has been withdrawn and for a limited time it was possible to access the whole area.

The Chaos Computer Club undertook a couple of excursions to the field station and has put together a documentation with old maps, new photographs and explanations on how the facility was structured and operated: read NSA Field Station Teufelsberg Berlin – a late post mortem .


Euro Foo: Atmosphere, Bluesnarfing and how to open a Kensington lock with toilet paper

A couple of weeks ago, I was happy to be able to attend the EuroFoo Camp, organized by O‘Reilly for small group of geeks and similar life forms. They really succeeded bringing together a bunch of bright heads and overall communication was best described by Rop when he said: „you have to explain everything 0.7 times before somebody gets it“. hosts a nice video obviously produced by O‘Reilly for free redistribution. Check out the Euro Foo Video in various formats. It gives an impression on the atmosphere of the talks and presents two of the coolest hacks that have been demonstrated at EuroFoo: Adam demonstrating his Bluesnarfing tool live to the audience and Barry aka. The Toool showing how to open a Kensington Lock using the carton core of a toilet paper! There was this other remarkable demonstration recently but I think this is even cooler.

Doobee had doubts on the Bluesnarfing demo he saw at Defcon and obviously something must have gone terribly wrong as the demo ran without problems at Euro Foo. He first scanned the rooms for phones (you can see my „Phnord“ phone showing up in the video) and later demonstrated a read-out of a randomly chosen phone (of a vulnerable model of course).

Bluetooth statistics at EuroFoo were particular interesting. Adam was able to scan around 50 Bluetooth-enabled and „discoverable“ phones. I guess there were at least 100 Bluetooth-capable phones, but half of the crowd has probably switched off Bluetooth (or the phone completely) for the event. The really funny aspect of the statistics were that Adam did not find a single phone that was using a typical default name! Geeks.

IE7 brings IE in to the 21st Century

IE7 by Dean Edward is such a cool hack: a bunch of JavaScript files that enable good old Internet Explorer for Windows to actually do CSS2, transparent PNG and other modern web techniques that standards-savvy web designers are begging Microsoft for for years now.

All you have to do is to include a single .js file in the header of each HTML file you want to enable it in and you‘re done. There is even an IE Favelet you use IE to „update“ standards-compliance on the fly for any web page you are just looking at. Amazing.


Oh yes:

  • 0:18 Chaos is joy.
  • 0:19 Order a necessary evil.
  • 0:24 Death is o.k.
  • 0:34 Religion is a party game for at least 2 persons.
  • 1:01 Arcadia is everywhere.

Spend five minutes on reading them all: the english/german version „im uhrzeigersinn – directions for reality“ or the german/english version „clockwise – gebrauchsanweisung für die wirklichkeit“.

Befriend the primate within you!

Skype me

As so many, I tried Skype for Mac OS X and tried to compare it to iChat AV which has been a quite impressive experience so far. But I must say that Skype has been at least impressive if not more.

The sound quality of that little net telephony application is gorgeous and the echo cancellation works so good that I can use the built-in microphone of my laptop without any hassle. The user interface is as simple as it can be (although there are a couple of small things that can be improved: it‘s much more windows-ish when it comes to drag & drap).

But i should mention problems as well: in one out of two connections there has been noisy hisses and other sound artefacts that might stem from bugs in the beta version or from the protocol itself. Difficult to tell and it will be interesting to follow the upcoming development. If they manage to stomp out these remaining issues they have a winner product in their hands that will give SIP-based telephony a hard time (although I don‘t think that‘s stoppable in any way).

Another advantage of Skype is it‘s disadvantage as well: using Skype you don‘t lock yourself out of any of your other communication systems. It‘s an extension. But of course you lock yourself into Skype‘s system once you think about relying on that service (which might be tempting when adoption rate grows). As long as Skype is a proprietary and undisclosed protocol it won‘t be able to penetrate open source markets but it might get hold of a huge market share in general like ICQ did back then.

So if you like to go for a test or wanted to talked to me anyway you can look me up in Skype‘s phone book and give me a call if you like.