Tag Archives: Mac OS X

Mac Steam is a Great Thing

There are a lot of myths about the Mac, and a lot of them are pretty much bollocks, but if there’s one that I, as a Mac-only user, find it hard to argue with, it’s that the platform is rubbish for games. Warcraft III, Tales of Monkey Island, World of Goo, DEFCON, and a large ScummVM library is as far as my Mac’s current selection goes, and all but one of those was either long after its Windows counterpart or emulated.

It’s not something I miss, to be honest, because I consider myself predominantly a console gamer, but the announcement of the Mac version of Steam is a great thing, and the biggest shot in the arm for Mac gaming since… well, ever.

Valve has a deserved reputation for going above and beyond for fans, with seemingly endless support and free updates for its games, but what has been announced for the Mac version is a phenomenal move. Not only will the Steam Cloud allow settings and saves to be continued across different computers running different operating systems, but Steam Play means that if you own the Windows version, you own the Mac one too. Blizzard’s done this on disc for years, and Telltale allows you to download either version of Tales of Monkey Island once you’ve bought it, but I can’t remember it being done retrospectively on such a scale before.

It’s also an extremely astute business move for Valve. The Mac gaming scene has been moribund for a while now, but OS X has been gaining market share, particularly among groups like students – not many gamers there, obviously – and, with Steam, Valve will not only encourage growth but be in on the ground floor to take a huge chunk of the market as it expands. Steam is already the de facto standard for digital distribution of gaming on Windows, and that’s with competition from the likes of Direct2Drive. With Steam Play, Valve will go from a Windows-only studio to the most prolific developer on my Mac, at no cost to me and with no real competition, and that’s smart.

Steam genuinely is a gaming platform in itself now. It bridges two separate operating systems and allows complete integration between them: stop playing Half-Life 2 on your Windows PC and pick it up where you left off on your MacBook, with all your saves just there; do the same with Team Fortress 2 or Counter-Strike and your custom key bindings will make the transition transparently.

That sort of interoperability has been promised for years, such as between the GameCube and GBA or PS3 and PSP, and now it’s available on two rival computer platforms. Not every publisher is Valve, admittedly – I woudn’t expect to see ‘free’ other versions of Activision games, for example – but Newell’s company has shown the way. It’s down to the others to follow it.

One console future? Could this be how it happens? How long before we get a Steam box under the TV? I’m intrigued already…

A Couple of Days with Mac OS X Leopard

It says something that a new OS X release is an event to be celebrated in the Mac world, whereas even a Windows service pack is approached with trepidation and furious backup-taking. And while forums across the world are filled with moaning about recalcitrant Vista installs and pining for the good ol’ XP days (remember how much fun those were pre-SP2?), I’m enjoying Mac OS X 10.5.

Leopard isn’t without flaws though, and I suppose you have to give the benefit of the doubt to any new OS release to a certain extent. Here’s what I think so far. Mac geekery will follow.

The new Finder is a good improvement that’s been needed for a while. I like it and the only feature that I really want is a way to easily set the default window size and layout style so that I can set certain folders to open in Cover Flow (awesome way to navigate images and PDFs, incidentally), etc.

Quick Look is probably the thing that I’m going to use the most. I have a lot of similarly-titled Word documents that I rely on Spotlight to look through and this just adds another way to quickly navigate documents.

Spaces is quite useful when you’re doing something that involves a lot of different programs. I was doing some website work earlier and so had the play programs (Camino, Adium, iTunes) open in one, TextWrangler (text editor) and Transmit (FTP) open in the other, and Photoshop open in the third one. It definitely makes things less cluttered when you’re working with limited screen space and don’t want to keep minimising and hiding programs to keep them out of the way. Too bad that it can’t magically add more RAM though, eh?

Continue reading A Couple of Days with Mac OS X Leopard

Boot Camp

Apple Boot Camp

This is sensational news – Apple now support dual booting OS X and Windows XP on Intel Macs with their new Boot Camp utility, to be included as a part of 10.5 Leopard when that’s released.

I’ve been considering upgrading my iBook to an Intel model when those are released and now I see absolutely no reason not to. The ability to dual-boot was made available a few weeks ago when some enterprising individual released a hack, but this is a matter of turning on the computer and clicking the one you want to use.

No shitty text bootloaders and no more worrying about whether an app is available on OS X or not. This could seriously be an Apple killer app.

What I loved though, were the quotes on the Boot Camp page like this one:

Macs use an ultra-modern industry standard technology called EFI to handle booting. Sadly, Windows XP, and even the upcoming Vista, are stuck in the 1980s with old-fashioned BIOS. But with Boot Camp, the Mac can operate smoothly in both centuries.


What I’m more interested in, however, is the effect on the Mac gaming market. It’s been steadily growing with companies like Aspyr producing a steady stream of decent ports and official support from big names like id and Blizzard, but I have a feeling that this will kill it off, since developers will assume that Mac users who want to play games will have Windows anyway. They seem optimistic, but we’ll have to wait and see.


We Mac users have had the short end of the stick to a certain extent with the Xbox 360, since all that lovely Media Center functionality requires Windows XP or Windows Media Center. No more! The lovely folks at Nullriver who brought us PSPWare have just released the first version of Connect360, which lets you stream MP3s and JPGs from your iTunes and iPhoto libraries to the 360. That’s the same stuff that Windows XP can do, and hopefully future versions will add transcoding of AACs and maybe even video streaming.

I tried it out and it certainly seems to do everything that it promises. I booted up the 360 and it immediately found my iBook over the network, and I could look at all of my photos in their full HD glory on my TV. Music worked similarly well although like they say AACs, both protected and otherwise, don’t work yet. Now we just need it to stream video (I’d kill to be able to watch 720p H.264 on the 360) and we’ll be set.

It’s in beta at the moment so you can get it with free updates for life for $10. Not a bad deal…

Microsoft The Innovators

Now this is genius, and I just found it from listening to the latest episode of TWiT. It’s the audio from the live Windows Vista demonstration from CES where Microsoft were showing off the latest innovations that will be in the new Windows whenever that turns up. The twist is that the video shows all the same features in Mac OS X right now, and indeed since Tiger shipped way back in April 2005. There’s another one here showing yet more search and control functions that Mac users have been enjoying for the best part of a year.

Nice to see that Windows is staying as innovative as ever. Now I just need the money for a MacBook Pro

Curiosity (Nearly) Killed The Mac

You have my permission to kick me if you ever hear me saying that even an idiot could mess up an OS X system. If that’s the case I must be more than an idiot because I nearly rendered my Mac unusable, ably demonstrating how an urge to meddle and something less than a comprehensive knowledge can really land you in it.

When installing Tiger yesterday afternoon I’d accidentally installed about 1.5GB of language files that I was never going to need so a quick Google search found Monolingual, a utility to remove unwanted ones. I ran that to remove all languages except English, and then removed all input options except English and Japanese since that’s all I need. Everything works fine so I open up Firefox to go check some message boards, only to find that I can’t type anything. Certain keys which aren’t language-specific (control, command, option, shift, etc) work but no alphabet or number keys. I go into the language preferences and find that the English keyboard layout has gone. Shit.

I try everything I can think of to get it back – reinstall from the OS X disc, download it, etc – but as anyone familiar with OS X knows, it requires an admin password to do anything that affects the OS, including booting from a CD to reformat. I have no way to type my password which basically means I have no way to do anything about it. By now I’m very worried and having visions of sending my iBook away for a month again and losing all my data as Apple reformat it for me. I’m in a huge catch 22 because I need to install the input menu to type but I need to type my password to install the input menu.

The Monolingual site suggests in their FAQ that I can restore it by copying it from another Mac, and thankfully there’s a Powerbook in the other room, so I browse the the relevant location over the network and try to copy it over. No dice. I don’t have the priviledges to copy files from that directory. So I physically go to that computer and copy the files to their desktop, and since I won’t be able to copy them into that directory on my iBook over the network I run back and copy them to my desktop and then into the relevant folder. I need to type my admin password. Shit again.

Now back in the same conundrum as before, I start despondently searching the options for some way to save myself from myself. That’s when my saviour presented itself – Remote Login. I’m no UNIX god, but I certainly know enough to be able to copy some files through the Terminal. I enable it and rush to the computer with every appendage crossed, making it hard to rush very fast, and fire up Terminal on the Powerbook.

ssh Olly@

I type my password and it logs me in, and finally I can see the end of the tunnel.

cd ~/Desktop
sudo cp -r Keyboard\ Layouts /System/Library/

I get no errors so I assume all is well, and there is much rejoicing. I restart the iBook to be safe and open Firefox to try typing, and breathe one of the biggest sighs of relief of my life when it responds. I’ve lost Japanese support (I just did an archive and install of Tiger to get it back) but I managed to do it. Learn from my mistakes and don’t mess around with parts of operating systems that you don’t know about when they’re designed to be secure against people modifying them. It’s usually fixable but not without aging yourself ten years.