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Parallel Desktops

The application Mail quit unexpectedly – GrowlMail problems

One of my favorite–yet least mentioned–free utilities is Growl, a universal notification service for Mac that lets applications notify you of events. Now instead of each application deciding on how they want to present notifications for things like new mail, incoming tweets, etc. you can control it in a single place, assuming the application supports Growl or an extension has been written for it.

Such is the case with Mail.app. Though Mail.app is not written to support Growl the developers for Growl have created an “extra” that can provide that functionality. I’ve been using this setup for a while now and have been quite pleased with it.

After upgrading to Safari 4 I suddenly found that Mail.app was crashing on me as soon as a new e-mail came in. Here is the error message I was getting:

Which was followed by:

Reset and relaunch had no effect – Mail.app just crashed again. It turns out that an error has been introduced into Growl after upgrading to Safari 4 that creates this crash. There are two solutions to this problem:

Solution 1: Change Mail.app notification to Summary
The problem for Growl is when individual e-mail notifications come in; that’s what is causing the crash. If you don’t have any new e-mail (which causes the crash) you can load up the Mail.app preferences and switch to the Growl tab, then change the setting to summary mode:

If however you can’t load mail up to get to that setting you can accomplish it by changing it through the terminal. Load up a terminal window and enter the following command:

defaults write com.apple.mail GMSummaryMode -int 2

This will change the setting for you and allow you to load up Mail.app. The downside to this is if you still want individual mail message notifications. For that you can use Solution 2.

Solution 2: Install Growl Beta 1.1.5B2
There is a beta version of Growl that addresses this issue; you can grab it from the Growl beta page. Just download the DMG and install the latest Growl package AND the newer Mail.app extension (in the Extra folder). This is of course beta software but I’ve been running it for a while on two of my Macs and it’s been running fine so far.

If you have any work-arounds on this please drop a note in the comments. I was able to find most of this information but it was a bit scattered. Hopefully people searching when they get the error will find this helpful.

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Parallel Desktops

Switching from Windows to Mac – Power users can also play

Lately I’ve been thinking about why I enjoy working with Macs so much. Since switching to Macs from Windows a little over a year ago I’ve tried as much as possible to approach it objectively, calling out both the good and bad as I learned my way around OS X, and recording my findings here in this blog.

It’s easy to cite the UI consistency I enjoy with Mac based applications. As a software developer that obsesses with user interface design I have a deep appreciation for disparate applications using similar controls and metaphors. It’s difficult enough for people to understand the underlying tasks and logic a software application can perform, making them learn different control surfaces is like asking someone to navigate through their own family room after you have rearranged the furniture and turned off the lights; lots of stubbed toes and muttered curse words are sure to ensue.

Instead of the UI, I’m finding the real draw for me has been how productive I am as a power user. As a Windows user I never questioned the Mac’s user interface. It looked “pretty”, a back-handed compliment if there ever was one. What I did not know, and not a single Mac advocate ever mentioned to me for fear of scaring me away (I assume), was that Macs could channel that inner power user like no other machine could.

At any given time I’m running a dozen or so applications, many comfortably set up in their own Spaces window. I can switch between the programs by hitting the familiar Command-Tab. If I need to launch a new application I use LaunchBar, without question one of the best productivity tools you can get for a Mac (Quicksilver provides a similar capability). No reaching for the mouse and hunting for the application I want to run; I simply hit Command-Space, type 2-3 letters and hit Return and my application is loaded almost immediately. If the application is already running it just switches to it.

My Mac Pro serves as my communications center as well, serving up my email through Apple’s Mail program, AIM and Gmail chat through Adium, my Twitter feeds through TweetDeck and my incoming and outgoing phone calls through Skype. If I need to call a number I hit Command-Space, type “call” and enter (or paste) the phone number I want to dial.

If I decide I want to contact someone that’s not visible through Adium I’ll just hit Command-Space and start typing their name. Once their name appears in the LaunchBar menu I can hit the right arrow key and choose either an email address or phone number. If I choose an email address a new mail message is created with them as the recipient and I’m ready to start composing my message. If I select a phone number Skype takes over, gradually muting the John Coltrane track I have playing on iTunes as the phone begins to ring. I hang up the call and the music comes back.

Meanwhile down in my development Space I’ve got TextMate (my preferred programming editor), MySQL query browser and three terminal windows open. In one of the terminal windows I have an SSH session to one of my production servers open and am running a tail on one of my logs. The other two terminal windows are positioned in specific directories so that I can quickly execute commands for my Ruby on Rails based application and monitor the debug output from my local server instance. Safari is open in that same Space with the local version of SharedStatus up and running in it.

I even have Windows XP running in a VMware Fusion instance with Internet Explorer loaded and accessing my local version of SharedStatus so that I can be sure it works properly in that particular browser.

If you are a power Windows user that wants to dismiss the Mac as just a simplistic and trendy consumer machine—something I was guilty of—you may want to reevaluate that position. In my experience I’ve found Macs to be the computing equivalent of automotive sleepers; they look soft and simple on the outside but as soon as you push it you realize it’s capable of extreme performance.

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Parallel Desktops

iStat Server – remotely monitoring your Mac

I’ve always been a big fan of iStat menus, the freeware system monitoring utility. It’s a great way to quickly see what’s going on with my Mac, whether it’s CPU, disk or memory utilization, temperature, etc.

Bjango, the iPhone side of iSlayer (producers of iStat menus), has recently released iStat Server, a free Mac application that runs in the background. It sends your Mac’s system monitoring information to your iPhone for actual monitoring. On the iPhone side you buy the $1.99 iStat – System Monitoring application, which then connects with your Mac and displays your monitoring information on your iPhone.

If you want to remotely monitor one or more of your Macs for the ridiculously affordable price of $2 then this is a very cool set up.

The first step is to download and install iStat Server on any of the Macs you want to monitor. Once installed and running you will get the main iStat Server window:


It will display a code that you will need to enter on your iPhone once you connect; mine is currently locked so it displays as asterisks.

The next step is to download and install iStat – System Monitoring (ISM) from the App Store. Once you start that application up you can either monitor your local phone’s resources:


Or you can connect to any of the Macs you installed iStat Server on. If they are on your local network ISM will detect them automatically. If you are using remote servers you can manually add them, using the IP address and port number they are broadcasting their information on.


Viewing a server that’s running iStat Server gives you a great view of the monitors you would normally see with iStat menus, including consolidated CPU utilization, memory, disk usage, networking traffic use and every temperature that you could ever want to see.


Rounding out SSM it also includes a Ping and Traceroute utility as well as the ability to free the memory on your iPhone and send your iPhone’s unique identifier or MAC address through e-mail.

On the iStat Server side you don’t need to leave the application window open or even keep it hidden; just quit the application and it will continue to broadcast iStat server data until you uninstall it. On my Mac Pro it uses just under 3MB or real memory.

If you really want to monitor your Mac’s performance from virtually anywhere (assuming you’ve set up your Firewall / router), iStat Server Monitoring is an excellent way to do it.

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