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ATPM 14.06
June 2008



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Drive Genius 2

I had a drive fail recently. It was still operating fine, but SMARTreporter popped up and said the SMART status reported imminent failure. I was able to copy all my files off of it (that’s the advantage of an early warning utility), but Disk Utility would not let me zero out the data (in fact Disk Utility wouldn’t touch it at all). But using the Shred option in Drive Genius 2 I could overwrite the entire disk before sending it back to Apple. It did this even though it knew the SMART status was “failed” (it had changed from failing to failed over the course of a day) so that’s a very big plug for this program.


CD-ripping Rip-off

I make it a point to own a legit CD or legally download a copy of every song in my iTunes library. I want the artist who created it to benefit from the fact that I own a copy of his or her music. Once I buy it, it’s mine. If I want to use the disc for a $15 Frisbee, that’s my choice. All of my CDs are ripped for my three iPods.

If you want to save a buck or two, music lovers, buy a recycled or discounted CD from Amazon or you favorite local used CD store.

If the artists don’t get paid, they may quit making music and get a job at the local Wal-Mart selling other artist’s music. What a waste of talent that would be.

—Grover Watson

Another Ripping Rip-off

You’ve precisely illustrated the reason why I have chosen to never patronize a digital music download service (free or paid). The former goes against the very spirit of the copyright laws (supposedly) designed to protect the music artists; while the latter is enabling and encouraging ripping off the consumer, whom (if they go along with it) are effectively just “renting” the rights to play the music. It appears there is no middle ground.

—J. L. Eaton

Photoshop for the Curious

Thanks for the great ideas, Lee.

What a simple workaround to create a non-destructive dodge/burn layer. I’ve been experimenting with layer masks to get the same effect but haven’t come up with anything near this simple or elegant.

—Michael McKee

Exporting From FreeHand

I am not a designer and usually use FreeHand 10 only to make changes to images created by others, who have the same problem:

When exporting, FreeHand always defaults to .swf, so all of us have to pull down and change how we want the exported file saved. We always want to export as Macintosh .eps. Is there a way to change this permanently? Thanks for your help!


This may not be the answer you are looking for, but it might serve you better.

Instead of exporting to EPS, try a Save As and select Editable EPS as the format. I started using this instead of saving native FreeHand 10 files. It created an EPS that I was fully able to use in my various other DTP apps, and I could still double-click to open them into FreeHand 10. From then on, I didn’t have to select anything. I only needed to hit the regular Save button and it remained an EPS.

I concede there may be some FreeHand effects that aren’t properly retained when saving to an Editable EPS instead of FreeHand 10 format. But I also remind that I, personally, never encountered such trouble since I never really used advanced effects in FreeHand.

—Lee Bennett

Apple Keyboard

Agreed. This is probably the best keyboard Apple has made so far (though there are the die-hard “clack lovers” who swear by (the American-made models of) the Extended Keyboard II).

—Chris Ryland

• • •

My aluminum keyboard (wired) was probably the best keyboard I have ever used when I first got it. Much better than the MacBook keyboard I was so fond of. It was never as sturdy as this one is. I say when I first got it because I had an incident with it where I spilt a sticky drink over it. Now a few of the keys stick, but it still works pretty beautifully.

I have never been a connoisseur of keyboards, but I can say from my very limited experience of the previous Apple keyboard and a few Windows keyboards that this is my favourite.

—Nick Savage

• • •

Good news as I am in the market for a new keyboard. I have the Bluetooth white keyboard that came with my Mac Pro, and I’m not very happy with it. The keys stick (more correctly, the plastic grabs when pressing a key at an angle as I often do with the Command key), and they move around too much.

I’d much rather have a cheap ADB keyboard and get a USB converter than use this even though I very much like the wireless aspect.

—Christian Gwizdala

• • •

After months of a Apple Extended Keyboard (white with numeric keypad and the clear, dirt-revealing plastic), then a brief stint with a Dell USB keyboard (ugly, but at least those keys didn’t randomly not depress), I borrowed an aluminum keyboard from a friend who just got a new iMac.

It took me 10 minutes to go from, “Hm, weird. Don’t know if I like this…” to looking online for a cheap price and quick shipping on one for myself.

—Christopher Bowns

• • •

I absolutely love this keyboard; I love it so much every other keyboard feels like a monkey-spunked finger-waster straight from Dell. I now find it difficult to use other keyboards, due to the awareness of having to push those keys a pointlessly far distance.

I didn’t “get used” to the aluminum keyboard; I instead immediately found it to be the purest form of keyboard yet devised.

—Jeremy Roush

• • •

This iteration of the Apple Keyboard does not have rubber dome keyswitches (the previous, plastic-bodied one did). It has scissor keyswitches similar to the ones on modern laptop keyboards. This accounts for the better feel compared to other desktop keyboards that do use rubber dome switches.

—Andrew Witte

• • •

Finally, Apple have released a decent keyboard. Those late-90s iMac-era keyboards were junk in terms of both feel and build quality. In my opinion, they couldn’t even compete with those cheap $10 PC keyboards. Clearly they were trying for something different, but it just didn’t work.

The aluminum keyboard isn’t just decent; it’s rock solid, and it definitely benefits from its thin form factor. I think it’s now the most compelling keyboard from any of the big-name computer manufacturers. (and all this without messing with the keyboard layout, which is something both Logitech and Microsoft can’t seem to help themselves from doing. Grr.)

I was worried that the (brilliant) Caps-Lock delay would impact those who (smartly) remap Caps Lock to another key. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. When the Caps Lock key is remapped the delay doesn’t take effect.

Next up for Apple, a new mouse? (I actually like the feel of the Mighty Mouse, but the build quality is poor. Our school has a few general-purpose computer labs stocked with new iMacs, and the scroll ball on every single Mighty Mouse died within a few months of use.)


• • •

I’m a die hard “clack lover” who still has a couple of old Apple Extended ADB keyboards, and I really like the new Apple aluminum keyboard. It feels identical to the new MacBook Air keyboard; both have very solid frames that contribute substantially to the feel. The keys are easy to press down with no hesitation and are not mushy or stiff at all. I can type very fast on this keyboard. The MacBook keyboard is somewhat similar but does not feel nearly as good.

The other advantage is that this keyboard is silent, nice for typing in the bedroom, etc. (that’s why I bought it).

—Steve Lang

• • •

I grew up with a Selectric typewriter in the house, and I took it to college with me, saying goodbye to it only after buying my first computer. Every keyboard I’ve owned has been judged by its standard. Apple’s old style Pro came very very close, as did the first IBM computer keyboards. I’ve thrown away a lot of keyboards over the years and hated more than a couple notebooks because the keys were shaped wrong, they felt mushy, or the throw was too short, too long, too soft, or too hard.

When the ADB port was killed off, I tried a few USB-to-ADB adaptors and eventually accepted keyboard mediocrity. Then Matias brought out a keyboard that very nearly replicated my beloved Selectric. I bought three of them and just recently gave the first its burial. Two days prior to that, a new iMac had been delivered to my desk, so with a groan I grabbed that tiny thin aluminum keyboard and plugged it in. Amazing!

Of all the notebooks I’ve owned, my MacBook has the least lousy keyboard, and this new Apple keyboard is its twin. Once I stopped moving between the low-profile keyboard on the MacBook and the clacky long throw of the Matias board, I realized that it wasn’t just a not bad keyboard, it was a quite good keyboard. I wound up not pulling out a new Matias board—I quite like this thin little keyboard.

—David Benson

• • •

All I can say is, test it out first. I absolutely hated this keyboard and ended up, on the advice of MacInTouch readers, getting a USB MacAlly iKey instead. I had to get it used, but it had the feel I was looking for. I like a lot of laptop keyboards—the classic Vaios and the G4 iBooks, for example—but not this aluminum thing, as lovely as it was.

—David Zatz

• • •

I find that these new laptop-ish “short travel” keys feel fine for regular typing, but they’re a real shortcoming when it comes to chording two keys, for instance Command-Option.

With the classic “deep” keys, it was enough to slap the thumb over the gap between the keys and you could be reasonably certain that you’re holding both of them down together.

With the aluminum keyboard it’s a bit more of a balancing act to get both keys down correctly, and it gets especially awkward when adding Shift into the mix (pinky on Shift, thumb on Command-Option), since this contorted hand position makes it very hard to hold both keys with the side of the thumb.

I think that’s my only annoyance with the aluminum keyboard. Has anyone else found this to be a problem?

—Andrew Vit

I found that to be a big problem at first, but I got used to it within a week.

—Michael Tsai

Coping With Mac OS X’s Font Rendering

This may help Lex with his font issue. I have the usual post–middle age eyesight problems. My monitor is a Hewlett-Packard 23″ LCD with a 0.258 mm dot pitch (98 dots per inch) and a 1900×1200 resolution. Here’s how I set up my Mac to minimize eyestrain:

In the Appearance preference pane I chose the Medium font smoothing style and turned off smoothing for fonts 8 point or less. In the Finder preferences for window text, I chose the 12 point size, but that can be bumped up to 13 or 14 points for those with poorer eyesight.

In my Firefox browser I chose as default fonts 16 point New York (serif), 16 point Arial (sans serif), and 15 point Courier New (monospaced). I set the minimum font size to 14 points and unchecked the “Allow pages to choose their own fonts…” option.

For e-mail (Entourage), I chose 14 point Verdana for lists and 12 point Monaco for e-mail text. Again, those point sizes can be bumped up.

For applications like Word and Excel, I set up the default templates to display new documents at a zoom level of 125% or 150%. I do the same with most other text-heavy applications.

With this combination of choices, I am quite happy with OS X font rendering. If my eyes are tired, I increase the zoom level or use keystroke combinations to bump up font size.

—Gregory Tetrault

Increasing the sizes can certainly make the fonts more readable. Still, I believe that with better font rendering options they could be more readable at smaller sizes, thus allowing more efficient use of the available screen real estate.

—Michael Tsai

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