Category Archives: Software

Solving the MacBook’s lack of a Right-Click Button

When will Apple embrace the right-click button? Even though Apple’s operating system supports right-click, their laptops notoriously lack a right-click button.

I’m not a Mac developer (don’t even own a Mac yet) but I have an idea that could solve the problem:

The Mac’s Touchpad already detects a number of events like scrolling, two-finger scrolling, tap and double-tap. So theoreticaly one could hack the thouchpad’s software to detect taps on the right side of the touchpad as right-clicks… don’t you think?

Leave a comment if you know of any utilities that do this, or if Apple’s driver allows it already.

UPDATE: I went to the local Apple Store and opened the Touchpad preferences… These allow you (among other things) to tap on the touchpad to simulate a button click and also to place two fingers on the touchpad while clicking the button below the touchpad to simulate a right-click. Not quite what I asked for, but close enough.

Apple Stores should embrace XP

It’s a simple idea: every Apple Store should have one computer running Windows XP via Parallels Desktop software.

Why? I believe it would help convince wannabe-switchers to take that final step and purchase a Mac.

When the first MacIntels came out, I began seriously thinking about switching from my all XP set-up. Running the Vista Beta simply made the decision easier (it lasted only two weeks on my laptop before I happily went back to XP SP2).

I depend on XP for part of my work, since I do all my software development on Microsoft’s Visual programming languages. The rest of my work revolves around the internet and Web2.0, for which the MacIntels suit me just fine.

But try finding an Apple Store where you can try out Windows… I haven’t received so many funny looks since the day my sister dyed my hair orange while I slept out in the sun.

I eventually stumbled into Apple’s Lincoln Road store on Miami Beach, where XP was being installed on an iMac (via BootCamp). As weird as it may seem, it’s quite reassuring to see XP boot up on these alien machines.

But there’s still this sense of secrecy around XP in the Apple Stores… Parallels Desktop software was unavailable on the shelves (but they had copies out in the back, they said). The next week, they were on display only to misteriously disappear the next day.

Apple needs to understand that running XP can only boost sales of their computers. Ideally, they should have a computer running XP and several important applications that may or may not be available on the Mac platform.

Now I just need to wait for the Core 2 Duo laptops…

More on the web: see “On Getting Closer to a Mac Tipping Point” for additional views on the subject.

Google’s Flickr Killer

… or why Yahoo needs to buy a desktop photo managing app, pronto.

I’ve been using Flickr for a while now – I even have a Pro account (I previously used smugmug). I also use Picasa to manage my photos (having tried several versions of Adobe’s Photoshop Album). I like Picasa’s simplicity, instant image fix-ups, and Gmail integration (for major alterations, I use Photoshop CS2). However, getting images into my Flickr account is a major operation. I can use Flickr’s Upload Tool to store my images on Flickr, but I usually like to crop, color-correct or otherwise fix my photos before showing them. So after fixing them in Picasa, I must export them to a new folder, which I must then upload to Flickr.

Ideally, Picasa would upload to Flickr, making tagging, editing and arranging files a breeze. I doubt Google will do that, though (Picasa doesn’t even upload to third-party blogs, limiting itself to Google’s own Blogger service).

Google has been recently testing an online photo storage and album service: Picasa Web Albums. While it’s still no Flickr, its integration with Picasa is a killer feature and Yahoo/Flickr should take notice. I expect it will eventually integrate with Google Maps/Earth for geotagging, and Checkout for selling your photos, among other Google services. Once Picasa Web is out of beta there really shouldn’t be any reason for Picasa users to keep using Flickr. We all know how long Google’s betas last, so there’s still time for Yahoo to catch-up, but the ball is certainly flying out of the stadium.

Comment in you have any suggestions on which software Yahoo should buy.

Activating Session Restore in Firefox 2 Beta 1

Firefox 2 Beta 1 includes a new feature that restores your browsing session when the browser crashes. So, if you were looking at twenty different tabs when your browser froze or bit the dust, your tabs won’t go to wherever it is that electronic dust-bunnies end up.

Fire up your trusty browser and up will come all your tabs (along with a dialog box allowing you to stop this from happening, in case it was one of your open tabs that caused the crash in the first place).
But what if you want Firefox to always remember your browsing session? Out of the box, Firefox should restore your browsing session when you restart from the Add-On dialog and, I think, when you suffer a crash. I’m not sure if an installed extensions somehow disabled my copy of Firefox, but mine was unable to restore tabs after a crash or after a normal shutdown.

The fix is quite easy…

Open a new tab (Ctrl-T) in Firefox and type about:config in the address bar. This will take you to the secret place where Firefox stores all your preferences.

In the Filter box type sessions to show only those keys including the word “sessions”. You may or may not see several lines beggining with “browser.sessionstore.”.

You need three entries (or keys) in your configuration. These are:

browser.sessionstore.enabled | Type: boolean | Value: true

browser.sessionstore.interval | Type: integer | Value: 30000 (equals 30 seconds, adjust to taste)

browser.sessionstore.resume_session | Type: boolean | Value: true

My copy of Firefox also has the following key (the previous three I added myself):

browser.sessionstore.resume_session_once | Type: boolean | Value: true

If these keys exist in your Firefox config, then you should be all set to use session restore. If not, then you need to create each one by right-clicking anywhere on the page, selecting New, choosing the Type of key from the flyout menu, and entering the key name and Value when prompted.

Restart Firefox and you may now enjoy the comfort of session restore.

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Ideas for Desktop Search Tools

Ever wanted to send an attachment using your web mail? Don’t you hate having to dig through your hard drive until you find the right file? While drag-and-drop capabilities would be great, it would be even better if the Desktop Search Tools already on our systems were smart enough to let us directly find the file from within the file-upload box.

In the particular case of Gmail, Google already makes a decent desktop search product which can even index all of your Gmail, so I’d really like to see them integrate it better with Gmail. Microsoft could do the same with their desktop search product.

I haven’t delved into the implementation details, but it seems possible. Google already does something similar with Google Suggest (you start typing your query into Google, and a list of like terms pops-up), so I’m guessing it would be feasible to code this into Gmail and your local copy of Google Desktop Search.

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Google GMail security bug shares your chat contacts

UPDATE: This security flaw has been fixed by Google.

I’ve found an interesting security bug in Google’s GMail that could potentially expose your entire GTalk/GChat contact list (i.e., your Quick Contacts).

I. The security flaw can be exposed this way (you will need two GMail accounts):

1. Open yor browser (tested on Internet Explorer and Firefox) and log in to your GMail account.

2. Open another browser window or tab and navigate to GMail. Your current account will open. Sign out and log back in with the second GMail account.

You should now have two browser windows open to GMail. Each one logged into a different account (although only the second one will be functional):



3. Now go to the first window and wait (might take a while). Do not click on anything, do not refresh (clicking on anything will display a new page stating you’ve been signed out of GMail.) Eventually, your Quick Contacts list will show the Quick Contacts and tag line for the second account.


You can click on any contact to access its details (Name & Email).


You will not be able to send them an email, because GMail will tell you that “Your account has been signed out” but that’s just a minor inconvenience.


II. Exploiting this security flaw:

1. You’ll need to log into your GMail account and somehow hide that window from your victim. Suggestions: open lots of tabs so that your tab gets hidden in the clutter or minimize the window and leave another window open for yout victim to use.

2. In a new tab or window access GMail and sign out, leaving the GMail sign in window displayed. Hopefully, your victim will use this window to access GMail.

3. Return to your victim’s computer and take a look at their Quick Contacts in your “hidden” GMail window.

III. Protecting yourself from this security flaw:

1. Alway sign out of GMail when using a shared computer.

2. Before login on to your GMail account, make sure there are no hidden windows or tabs already logged into someone else’s GMail account.

IV. Contacting me:

You may contact me through this blog’s comment system, gmail me (granier) or skype me (anonymonk).


Google has been informed of this bug.

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Music & File Sharing, the GMail way

I wonder how long it’ll take before someone does this, and how long it’ll take the GMail team to stomp it.

What you need:

If on Linux: GmailFS (GmailFS provides a mountable Linux filesystem which uses your Gmail account as its storage medium).If on WinXP: GMail Drive (GMail Drive is a Shell Namespace Extension that creates a virtual filesystem around your Google GMail account, allowing you to use GMail as a storage medium).

A bunch of music files or videos (limited to 10MB each).

A bunch of friends to share your files with.

1. Simply set up your system -using the above software tools- to mount your GMail 1GB account as a local drive.
2. Copy your music collection to the virtual drive: this will upload each file to GMail as an attachment.
3. Share your login information with your friends (or better yet ask them to install the above software on their system) and let the file sharing begin.

I haven’t tried this yet… but I can’t see why it won’t work. Also, if you need more than 1GB, simply use your GMail invites to invite yourself (ad infinitum) and create more accounts.

Note: Though Google has usually been very open about user extensions to their systems, I believe the implications of this file sharing system -and Google being a public company now- will lead them to actively shut down these initiatives (even if the system has legitimate uses as well).