Archive for the “Hacks” Category

Oooooo… Front Row

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I think it’s official that Front Row—Apple’s new media center app that’s bundled exclusively with the new iMac (that I missed by a month)—is a hit. Mac users everywhere want it. Now the question is whether Apple will answer the demand by making it available to all Mac users. Will it show up in Mac OS X 10.4.3? iLife 2006? I hope so.

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The Library is quite the busy place this week—at least for me it is. This is Access residency week. For those of you who don’t know, Access is Covenant’s distance education program. During residency week, Access students come into town for a week of high intensity course work for which they’ve been preparing during the previous months. While they’re in town, it’s a good opportunity to give them an orientation to the services that the seminary offers to its students, including library privileges. Thus, being the librarian in charge of public services (reference, circulation, bibliographic instruction, database access, etc.) I had to give a presentation to the Access students at residency for the first time.

Now Per, my brilliant predecessor, having presented at this orientation numerous times in the past, left me the nice PowerPoint slideshow that he has refined over the years. Nevertheless, I felt it necessary to make a few changes—to personalize it to my style. The first order of business was to nix the animated screen shots and go to live demos. Second, I had to rearrange a few things to better fit my intended flow. Third, I needed a new design template, since the one Per had used screamed 1990’s (which is probably when he first made the presentation after all). None of the factory-installed design templates struck my fancy, so I ventured onto Microsoft Office Online where I found a nice design featuring a stack of books—rather appropriate for a library, I thought. With a new, more contemporary design template featuring subtler, more natural coloration and a photographic accent, my PowerPoint slideshow was ready to go—and just in nick of time too!

I was pleased with how well the presentation went. I had to go pretty quick, but I managed to cover all the basics and I also answered quite a few follow-up questions along the way. The next day I had the opportunity to have lunch with the Access students, and many of them expressed their appreciation for my presentation. I was glad for the positive feedback.

Back home, I decided that I liked the design template that I had found so much that I wanted it on my home computers. I launched PowerPoint, but found that Office Online wasn’t as nicely integrated on the Mac as I had remembered it being on Windows at work. First, I tried Mactopia, Microsoft’s Mac specific website, but I couldn’t turn up any templates that were not already installed on my computer. I then ventured over to the generic Office site (where every page informs you that you are using an unsupported browser unless you are using IE… grrrr). I tracked down the template and downloaded it. However, when I tried to open the compressed file, I found that it was a .cab file that Stuffit Expander couldn’t open despite the nice Stuffit-style icon that had been assigned to it.

Not to be deterred, I headed over to Mac OS X Hints, where I found just the hint I was looking for. Someone had written in some time ago about an open-source, command-line .cab utility (although no executable binary was available, and it had to be built from the source code). In addition, much to my delight, one of the comments on the hint was someone announcing that he was going to put together a package for Fink. I launched FinkCommander, found cabextract, and installed it. Sure enough, cabextract did the trick. It opened the .cab file and I had my template. I just had to give it a sensible name (and appropriate file type and creator codes for good measure), and I was ready to go. The only snag is that I haven’t been able to figure out how to get the template to show up in the formatting palette along with the default templates. Hmmm…

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  1. Replace my iBook’s factory installed 10GB 4800 RPM hard drive with a new 60GB 5600 RPM hard drive.
  2. Install the old hard drive in an external Firewire enclosure.


  1. Install the new hard drive in the external enclosure.
  2. Use Carbon Copy Cloner to create a bootable copy of the old hard drive.
  3. Swap the hard drives.


My Workspace
Note the ice cube tray behind the laptop that I used for holding screws, the open binder containing the relevant sections of the Apple Service Manual, and the new hard drive in the external enlosure on the binder.
Naked iBook
The Inside of My iBook
The hard drive goes in the bottom left corner.
The Old Hard Drive
The Old Hard Drive
I originally thought that the black pins on the side of the hard drive were part of the hard drive case, and thus that the hard drive was proprietary. However, it turned out that the pins are actually Torx T-8 screws.
Back Together
It’s Alive!
Back together and fully functional. No screws left over either.

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Hard Drives

In college, I got a Blue & White PowerMac G3 tower, which came with a 6GB hard drive—not too bad, at the time. Later in college, when the six gigs got a bit tight, I bought and installed a 20GB hard drive in the extra hard drive slot. Eventually, the 20GB drive (“Aragorn”) became my boot drive and main storage drive, while the original 6GB drive (“Arwen”) was reserved for MP3’s. However, as the number of CD’s that I’ve ripped, multimedia files that I’ve collected, pictures that I’ve scanned or taken, and software titles that I’ve installed has grown, 26GB of total space has become quite inadequate. Thus, when my Dad asked what kind of graduation present he could give me, I suggested a new hard drive, and a voucher for that very item is exactly what I received.

Immediately afterwards, I noticed that Best Buy had a 120GB drive on sale (plus free shipping from their online store), and I put in my order promptly. In addition, since I had no more hard drive connections in my computer, I sought out a good deal on an external firewire enclosure, which I found at With the new hard drive and the empty enclosure in hand, I removed the original 6GB hard drive, installed it in the enclosure, and replaced it with the 120GB drive.

At this point I had to decide what to name my new hard drive. I considered dropping the Lord of the Rings naming scheme—my iBook’s hard drive is named Gandalf, and I have USB flash drives named Frodo and Sam. However, I instead returned to the original plan that I had decided upon a couple years ago when I first imagined having three hard drives attached to my tower—Aragorn, Legolas, & Gimli.

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I’ve made some small steps of progress on my electronics project. The other day I went to Radio Shack and bought a project box to assemble the project in.

Project Box
Power Adapter in Project Box

I also sawed out the AC cord receptacle from the plastic cover in which it was embedded.

Sawed Apart
Plastic Cover Sawed Apart

Close-Up of Receptacle

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