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One of the greatest time wasters today has got to be social-networking websites. More specifically, Facebook and Twitter. I found myself spending unnecessary amounts of time on both of those websites during work or when I had nothing else to do. Let’s not lie, it’s an addiction, and many people are guilty of it besides me. Fortunately, there have already been temporary solutions such as SelfControl, a  freeware application developed by Steve Lambert. In the past I used SelfControl because it was simple and allowed me to setup a time frame that I could block out Facebook and/or Twitter. For students, I can almost certainly recommend using that application during finals week or when preparing for any exams in general. However, I wanted to stop frequenting Facebook on my Mac, so I needed a more permanent solution other than deactivating my account because I still want to be able to access Facebook from my iPhone. With a view commands in Terminal, this can be done in no time!

  1. Open up Terminal in /Applications/Utilities.
  2. In the command line, type in "sudo nano /etc/hosts".
  3. When asked, type your admin password.
  4. In the screen that will appear, you’ll see the host database for your computer.
  5. Using your down arrow, go to the bottom, right under where it says, "127.0.0.1 localhost".
  6. Type in "127.0.0.1 facebook.com".
  7. On a new line, type in "127.0.0.1 www.facebook.com"; this is for extra measure.
  8. Now, hold down Control + “O”. This will save the changes to the host database.
  9. Hit “Return” and then Control + “X” to exit the screen.
  10. Remove the existing cache by typing in "sudo dscacheutil -flushcache" in the command line, this refreshes the existing cache on the host database.
  11. You should receive an “Unable to connect” error message when you go to Facebook.com now.
  12. Now, back to doing something more productive…

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mamp icon

Recently I was working on a website using an eCommerce platform, which requires a database. In a situation like that, where I’ll need PHP and MySQL, I prefer to use MAMP for its simplicity. It’s a great application for the Mac that enables you to setup a local server environment in a matter of seconds. Yet, I came across a rather bothersome problem the other day when I opened up MAMP and noticed a red circle for the “MySQL Server” status, which prohibited me from being able to work on the website. Fortunately, with Activity Monitor or Terminal, there are two very quick solutions to this problem.

Using Terminal

  1. First, if MAMP is currently open, go ahead and quit it.
  2. Open up Terminal from the Utilities folder within Applications.
  3. In the command line, type in "sudo killall mysqld".
  4. Type in your admin password when asked.
  5. If you open MAMP, you should now see two green statuses.

screenshots: 2 3 5

Using Activity Monitor

  1. First, if MAMP is currently open, go ahead and quit it.
  2. Open up Activity Monitor from the Utilities folder in Applications.
  3. Look for “mysqld” under the list of processes currently running.
  4. Select it, and click on the red “Quit Process” button in the top left corner.
  5. Choose “Force Quit” when the drop-down window appears.
  6. Now, when you open MAMP, there will be a green status next to MySQL Server.

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One of the biggest annoyances when I am doing a Skype video call with a friend is when I hear a notification of a message. Yes — I know — it’s nice to be able to know when a message has been sent, however when I am chatting with someone, that noise is very distracting (especially when you’re messaging with another person while doing a video call). Luckily, there is an easy fix for this.

  1. Open Skype and login with your username and password.
  2. Go to Preferences under Skype menu.
  3. In the Notifications section, go to “Message Received” under the Event drop-down menu.
  4. Beneath, uncheck “Play sound” and the notification sound will no longer occur.
  5. (Repeat step 3 with “Message Sent” as well).

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In the most recent release of iTunes, the layout has had some major interface changes. One of the most obvious being the close, minimize, and maximize buttons (red, yellow, and green buttons) being in a vertical layout instead of a horizontal layout. Here’s how to fix it:

  1. If iTunes is open, please quit it.
  2. Open up Terminal in the Applications/Utilities folder.
  3. Type "defaults write com.apple.iTunes full-window -boolean YES"
  4. Now, open iTunes and you’ll see that the red, yellow, and green buttons are horizontal.

screenshots: 3 4

One of the best parts about using Gmail is accessibility. I can be on a mobile device, work computer, or desktop and always have access to my email, calendar, documents, etc. Thanks to Google, all of this is possible. It’s just as easy to configure your Gmail account on Mac OS X Mail as it is to access it online. Today, I’m going to show you how to setup iCal with your Google Calendar — it’s actually quite simple.

  1. In iCal, go to Preferences under the iCal menu.
  2. Select the “Accounts” tab in the Preferences window.
  3. Click the “+” button on the bottom left corner to add a server account.
  4. When the “Add an Account” pop-up window appears, select “Google” for “Account type”. Fill out your email address and password.
  5. Now click the “Create” button.
  6. You should be in the “Account Information” section now.
  7. If you’d like to, you can change how often iCal refreshes the calendars by choosing from the “Refresh calendars” drop-down menu.
  8. If you have special calendars such as “US Holidays” go to the “Delegation” tab and enable them.
  9. To add special calendars to your Google Calendar, read these instructions from Google.

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When it comes to web browsers, the one that stands out the most is Firefox. It has a wide variety of add-ons, themes, and settings which are very customizable. The most powerful part — the add-ons — is where the true beauty lies within Firefox. One add-on in particular — Greasemonkey — is extremely useful. It can change any website to display extra information, re-organize site layouts, and unlock “hidden features” of a site to make it easier to use. For example, a website like Grooveshark has a humongous advertisement panel on the right side of the screen. In my opinion, it gets in the way when using their site. With Greasemonkey’s Grooveshark script, it completely removes that advertisement panel so you’re free from distractions. That’s just one example of how you can use Greasemonkey. Other Greasemonkey scripts that I use almost daily include De-Sidebar Facebook, Remove Digg Ads, Flickr Buddy Icon Reply, Flickr Ad Removal, Flickr Titles + Descriptions Batch Tools. For more Greasemonkey scripts, please visit Userscripts.org.

Screenshots: Grooveshark without Greasemonkey script Grooveshark with Greasemonkey script

One of the few annoyances I have found with Flickr is the method by which it sorts your photos. Typically, in most photo editing programs all the images are sorted by the date/time they are taken. However, with Flickr, the pictures are organized in your photostream by the date/time they are uploaded. Big difference. Finally, it was becoming quite bothersome to the overall organization of my photostream that I wanted to find a solution. Luckily, I came across a website called SortMyPhotostream which does just that — sorts my photostream. The developer, Michael Tyson, put together multiple PHP scripts, so the whole process goes by rather quickly. If you’re worried about losing your photos (which is highly unlikely to happen), Michael provided an option to download a backup file which can be restored later. The easiest way to start this sorting process is to first login to your Flickr account and then visit SortMyPhotostream. Once you’re there, click on the “Proceed” button” and read the instructions. Anytime you want to upload a photo that’s from an earlier date/time, just re-visit SortMyPhotostream and follow the directions. Note: the oldest upload date can’t be before the day you joined Flickr — so if you were wondering why, now you know.

Last month, I made the choice to upgrade from the free version of Flickr to the Pro version. For only $24.95/year I figured, why not? Do not think that I made this purchase without first researching other online services comparable to Flickr. Most noteworthy being SmugMug. In fact, I know at least 2 other photographers who have been more than happy with SmugMug’s services which include custom page layouts and pricing/selling your images. I’m not going to give a list of pros and cons for SmugMug and Flickr because you can easily look those up on Google. Instead, I’m just going to mention a few things that are important for me and how that impacted my decision to go with Flickr.

Being a hobbyist, I wanted to keep things as simple as I can for my photography portfolio. Flickr allows me to keep a basic portfolio with albums (a.k.a “Sets“) of all my pictures. Taking into consideration the fact that I am by no means a professional photographer, I like exploring other photographers’ Flickr photostreams to see their styles of photography. In my opinion, aside from going out to take pictures, looking at other photographers work is one of the best possible ways to get better. SmugMug, is not nearly as “explorable” as Flickr in terms of being able to look at millions of other people’s pictures. For me, one of the biggest benefits of being able to look at other people’s photostreams on Flickr is that I can find local places that I never would have imagined of going to. It’s great being able to get ideas from other people and learning of places to travel. Another useful feature of Flickr is how accessible it is. Whether you’re on a mobile device or a desktop computer, as long as you have an internet or mobile connection, Flickr can be easily displayed. After uploading images, you can make them more accessible (search-able by online users) by adding “tags” (e.g. “Myrtle Beach”, “Uncle Sam”, Olympics) and uploading your images to Groups. Even data (EXIF) that gets stored within your images is displayed on Flickr (Exposure settings, camera model, date). For under $25, Flickr is a very powerful tool that allows users to share their photography around the world in an easy way.


During the week, I like to come up with designs in Photoshop of random objects.  One of my favorite tools, the Brush tool, is often times overlooked. With the Brush tool, I’ve created realistic objects such as earth or even graffiti. The latter of those two, I will be showing you how to create from scratch with just the Brush tool, Layer Styles, and Filters.

  1. Open up Photoshop and create a new document with any size you want.
  2. If you know what you want to write, I suggest you base your document size off that.
  3. Because most graffiti appears on the street, I’m going to create a brick wall.
  4. Set the foreground and background colors to the colors of the brick you want.
  5. Rename this layer “Brick”.
  6. Go to the Gradient tool (G), set it to the colors you want in the toolbar and create a linear gradient from the middle (closer to top) on the image.
  7. Go to Filter > Texture > Texturizer.
  8. In the Texturizer window select “Brick” from the Texture drop-down menu.
  9. Adjust the Scaling and Relief to your liking, then select which direction you want light to come from in the Light drop-down menu.
  10. Feel free to select “Invert” if you want to invert lighting as well.
  11. Click OK when you are done making the brick texture.
  12. If you know how many words you are making, create that many layers (e.g. my name would be 2 layers).
  13. Label each of those layers with the names you are making.
  14. Set the foreground and background colors for the gradient you want to use.
  15. Double click on one of the layers you want to paint graffiti on to show the Layer Styles.
  16. Check Drop Shadow. Make the Opacity: 100%, Angle: 90°, Distance: 0px, Spread: 70%, Size: 15px.
  17. Check Gradient Overlay. Make sure the Gradient is showing the foreground and background colors you set. Set the Angle to 90° and Scale to 100%.
  18. Now, go to the Brush tool (B). Change the Brush to a Spatter brush (Spatter 24 px).
  19. Now, paint the graffiti you want with the Brush tool.
  20. Right-click on the layer you just painted on and select “Copy Layer Style”
  21. On the next layer, right-click and select “Paste Layer Style”.
  22. Double click on the layer you haven’t painted on yet and change the Gradient Overlay colors in Layer Styles.
  23. Finish painting your graffiti. Save it.
  24. Download a graffiti font (free) from DaFont.
  25. Double click the font file (once it has downloaded) to install it.
  26. Quit and re-open Photoshop.
  27. Open up the graffiti document.
  28. Select the Type tool and a graffiti font. Type “by your street name”.
  29. Double click the text layer and add a black stroke under Layer Styles – Stroke.
  30. Right-click on the Brick layer, select Duplicate Layer.
  31. Drag the Brick layer duplicate so it’s on top of all the other layers.
  32. Now, set it to Overlay mode. And make Fill between 45-60%.
  33. Save. Done.

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Have you ever not found a song you wanted on iTunes? Annoying, right? For me, I typically find my music on SadSteve or YouTube (yes — YouTube). A while ago, MacHeist hosted a mission which included some handy applications, such as WireTap Pro. At first, I had no reason to use this application, then I discovered its amazing capabilities for recording line-in audio (e.g. YouTube music videos). Unfortunately, Ambrosia Software feels that it’s necessary to make WireTap Pro ridiculously expensive ($69). I believe it’s important to make money as a software developer, but that’s just insane. Due to the fact many of you reading this tutorial either did not win the mission on MacHeist (two years ago) or you don’t want to spend $69 on WireTap Pro, I’m going to show you how to record (streaming) audio for free, with Audacity.

  1. Download AudacitySoundflower (special audio plugin, free), and LAME MP3 Encoder (exports MP3).
  2. Open up Soundflower in /Applications/Soundflower/Soundflowerbed.
  3. Click the Soundflower icon in the menubar.
  4. Make sure under Soundflower (2ch) “Built-in Output” is selected.
  5. Open up the Sound preference pane in System Preferences.
  6. In both the Output and Input sections, select Soundflower (2ch).
  7. Open up Audacity, and go to Preferences.
  8. In the Devices section, set Soundflower (2ch) as the Recording Device and 2 (Stereo) as the Recording Channels.
  9. Leave “Built-in Output” as the Playback device.
  10. In Audacity Preferences, go to the Libraries section.
  11. Click the Locate button next to MP3 Library.
  12. The location should be “/usr/local/lib/audacity/libmp3lame.dylib”. Click Browse, then click Open to load it.
  13. Click OK. You may need to quit and re-open Audacity for the MP3 library to work.
  14. Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for…
  15. Go to YouTube and type in the name of the song you want. Select the music video for the song.
  16. Click the record button in Audacity (red circle button) and start recording the song from the YouTube music video.
  17. When the song is over, click the stop button (yellow square button) in Audacity.
  18. Go to File > Export.
  19. Type in the song information (title, year, genre, artist). Click OK.
  20. In the Save As window, type in the song title as the filename. Change the Format to MP3 Files.
  21. Click Options if you want to adjust the MP3 settings. Then click Save.
  22. Import the song file into your iTunes library.
  23. Done.

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