Mac 911

Aside from the gelatinous exterior, nothing separates human from amoeba so much as the bipedal form's desire to blaze its own path. Because the majority of my readers belong to the less slimy species, this month's Mac 911 examines alternate ways to open e-mail attachments, block network traffic by closing specific ports, and slow down scrolling. I also take a close look at the usefulness of the Mac OS X Developer Tools disc, creating e-mail autoreplies, and a common login problem.

Alternate Application

When I double-click on a PDF created in Acrobat that's attached to a message in Jaguar's Mail application, the attachment opens in Acrobat. I prefer to open the file in Preview. Is there a way to do so easily? Bill Jeffreys, Iowa City, Iowa

Two ways to accomplish this spring to mind. The first requires that you access Preview via drag and drop. This is easily done if you have a copy of Preview in the Dock, in a DragThing dock ($25; www.dragthing.com), or as an alias on your desktop. You just drag the file onto the Preview icon, and it will open in Preview.

The second way is to control-click (or click with the right mouse button if you have a third-party mouse with multiple buttons) on the attachment. When you do, a contextual menu that contains an Open With command appears. This command sports a submenu that lists the applications Mac OS believes can open the file (however, this list occasionally includes some that don't have a prayer of reading the file properly). Just choose Preview from the submenu, and the PDF opens in Preview. (You can also permanently reassign a file type to a specific application by holding down option while in the contextual menu and choosing Always Open With.)

You can also use the Open With command to scan attachments for viruses (see “The Attachment Method"). If your antivirus application doesn't appear in the submenu, select the Other command at the bottom of the submenu, navigate to your cootie killer, and choose Open in the navigation pane. The antivirus application will scan your file. Once you're assured of its cleanliness, you're welcome to open the file with another application that appears in the Open With submenu.

Thwarted Port

OS X 10.2's firewall allows me to block all ports except those used by specified services. However, I don't see an option to block a specific port. Is there a way to do this? Gary Mindlin Miguel, Macworld.com forums

The idea behind the interface found in the Firewall portion of the Sharing system preference is to deny access to all services by default and then allow you to choose access to common services such as Web sharing, file sharing, remote access, and FTP access. If you click on the New button in the Firewall window, you can selectively open other ports. But the opposite isn't true -- you can't leave everything open and then selectively close ports.

To close individual ports, you must either use a firewall utility such as Brian Hill's $25 Brickhouse (http://personalpages.tds.net/~brian_hill/brickhouse.html) or Pliris Software's $35 Firewalk X 2 (www.pliris-soft.com/products/firewalkx/index.html) or use Terminal to dig down into OS X's built-in firewall.

Both Brickhouse and Firewalk X are available in demo form, so I'll let you determine how easy each is for you to use. (I find Brickhouse's interface more intuitive.) Let's now turn our attention to Terminal.

With the firewall switched off, launch Terminal, type sudo ipfw show, and enter your password when prompted. Something along the lines of 65535 47378 7565485 allow ip from any to any will appear in the command line. This indicates that the firewall is not engaged. Now go back to the Sharing system preference and turn on the firewall by clicking on the Start button. Return to Terminal and once again type sudo ipfw show. Several lines of text appear, prominently featuring the words deny and allow. The deny entries are ranges of ports that are now blocked. The allow entries indicate ports that are now open (for example, port 548, for file sharing, may be listed).

If you wish to add to the list of denied ports, type sudo ipfw add 0 deny protocol from any to any port number. For example, if you wanted to block udp port 3464, you'd enter sudo ipfw add 0 deny udp from any to any 3464 and press return. When packets attempt to reach your Mac via udp port 3464, the firewall will turn them back.

Slower Scroller

I have a Power Mac G4 running OS 9.2. The windows on my Mac scroll much too quickly. Is there a way to throttle back the scrolling speed? Doug Bloomfield, Silver Springs, Maryland

You can put on the brakes with Marc Moini's $12 Smart Scroll (www.marcmoini.com/smartscroll.html). In addition to placing a speed governor on scroll bars, it provides you with a wide variety of arrow choices.

I've yet to hear anyone complain that windows scroll too quickly in OS X, which may explain why there are no similar utilities for Apple's latest operating system. I have, however, received numerous messages indicating that many find window scrolling too slow in OS X. For those of you thus afflicted, here's a tiny tip: To scroll quickly up or down a single page, option-click on the appropriate scroll arrow.

Tools of the Trade

I purchased a copy of Jaguar and opened the box to find a gray disc labeled “Mac OS X Developer Tools." What exactly is this and what can I do with it? “Watson," Macworld.com forums

As the name implies, the Developer Tools disc is intended mostly for those who want to develop applications for OS X 10.2. That doesn't mean, however, that mere mortals can't find some useful tidbits on the disc. For example, if you follow the path Developer: Applications: Extras, you'll find Sketch, a simple Java-based graphics application. This folder also includes an OS X-native version of SimpleText -- handy if you long for a really simple text editor that can record audio tidbits. Also among the inhabitants of this folder is WorldText, another text editor that offers greater typographic control than TextEdit and the ability to embed media within its documents.

In the Developers: Applications folder is Pixie, a program that allows you to zoom in on areas of the desktop and copy what you see -- useful if you want to edit icons at the pixel level (or just see how they're made). And you can use PackageMaker (also in the Applications folder) to create installer packages.

For people who'd like to take a crack at programming their own applications but who aren't versed in the ways of C++, there's AppleScript Studio, a collection of applications (including Project Builder, Interface Builder, and Script Editor) for creating AppleScripts that use elements of OS X's Aqua interface. To see some useful (and whimsical) examples of what you can do with AppleScript Studio, find your way to Developer: Examples: AppleScript Studio, and open one of the project folders. Then double-click on the .pbproj file within to launch Project Builder, and click on the hammer icon to compile the project. Once compiled, the application appears in the build folder in the host project folder.

Canned Response

I'd like to set up Outlook Express to send an automatic response that says I am out of the office. How would I do this? Greg Eckert, Macworld.com forums

You create autoreplies with rules (or, in Eudora-speak, filters). But before I tell you how to do this, I must caution you against the evil of the autoreply loop. This occurs when your autoreply meets another autoreply and the two bounce back and forth until hell freezes over. The following procedure will help you create an autoreply that can defeat those loops.

To create the rule in Outlook Express or Entourage, select Rules from the Tools menu and click on the New button in the upper left corner of the Rules window. In the resulting Edit Rule window, select Any To Recipient from the pop-up menu in the If portion of the window, and enter your e-mail address in the Contains field. In the Then portion of the window, select Change Subject from the first pop-up menu and Add Prefix from the second one, and then type the phrase My Autoreply in the field that appears next to the Add Prefix pop-up menu. Click on the Add Action button in the Then portion of the window and select Reply from the first pop-up menu. Now click on the Reply Text button; in the Reply Text window that appears, type an appropriate response: for example,: I'm repelling a pack of rabid wolverines at the moment. I'll reply to your message when the bandages come off. Click on OK to close the Reply Text window and save the text, and then click on OK again in the Edit Rule window to save the rule.

I'll reply to your message when the bandages come off. Click on OK to close the Reply Text window and save the text, and then click on OK again in the Edit Rule window to save the rule.

Create a new rule. In the If portion of the window, select Subject from the first pop-up menu and Contains from the second, and enter My Autoreply. In the Then portion of the window, select Move Message and a destination mailbox. Save this rule and move it to the top of your rules list so it has first priority.

This rule looks for replies containing the subject heading you created. If such a message comes to you in the form of an autoreply, your e-mail app will move it rather than reply to it, breaking the loop.

To make an autoreply effective, you must also create a schedule for your Mac to automatically log on to the Internet to send and retrieve mail. Select Schedules from the Tools menu. Determine how often you want the Mac to check e-mail by selecting the appropriate option from the pop-up menu in the When portion of the Edit Schedule window. In the window's Action portion, select Receive Mail from the first pop-up menu and your e-mail account from the second pop-up menu. Click on the Add Action button, and choose Send All from the pop-up menu that appears next to the second action. Click on OK to save the schedule.

Both Apple's Mail and Qualcomm's Eudora have similar capabilities. In Mail, select Preferences from the Mail menu, click on the Rules button in the resulting window, and click on the Add button to add a new rule. In Eudora, select Make Filter from the Special menu and click on the Add Details button to access the options for creating an autoreply.

To avoid setting up a never-ending autoreply loop, include a phrase unlikely to be found in a typical e-mail message (something like "kill autoreply loop") somewhere in the body of your reply. Now create a new rule that deletes any message with that phrase in its body. Place this rule at the top of your rules list so it will have first priority. If you receive an autoreply to your autoreply, the message will be deleted before your e-mail client has a chance to reply to it.

Login Jam

I just installed OS X 10.2 on my Power Mac G4 and noticed that after the system boots up, the menu bar doesn't appear. The telephone icon, the volume icon, and the clock are in evidence, but they appear against a blue background. When I click the mouse, the menu bar appears. What's going on? Philip Ellis,, New York, New York

You'll notice this behavior when a hidden application -- the Palm Desktop Background application, for example -- that you've configured to launch at start-up runs in front of the Finder. An easy way to diagnose the problem is to log out of OS X, log back in, and after entering your user name and password in the login screen, press return and hold down the shift key. This disables login items (much as holding down the shift key at start-up disables extensions in OS 9). If the menu bar appears as it should when the Mac fully boots, a login item is getting in the way.

You can pin the tail on the errant login item by launching System Preferences, clicking on the Login Items icon, removing one item at a time, and logging out and back in again, but it may be easier to reorder the login items by dragging an item from the middle of the list down to the bottom. Juggling a few of these items will likely move the culprit out of the way.

TIP

New in OS X 10.2 is the ability to burn multiple-session CDs. Here's how to make use of this feature:

Launch the Disk Copy application (found in the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder) and select New from Disk Copy's File menu to create a new image (a blank image, an image that mirrors a device, or an image from a folder or volume). Once you've created the image, select Burn Image from the File menu. In the After Burning section of the resulting Burn Disc window, make sure the Allow Additional Burns option is selected. Click on the Burn button to burn the contents of the image to the CD.

Repeat this procedure to burn additional images to the disc. Each session will appear on the desktop as a separate CD. Ronald C. F. Antony, Providence, Rhode Island

UNSOLICITED

If you've tried to burn an Audible.com file longer than 74 minutes in iTunes 3, you've undoubtedly encountered the frustrating warning that tells you the operation cannot proceed because the file you want to burn exceeds a CD's recordable length. So how do you transfer your Audible.com books to CD? Just so:

Create a new playlist in iTunes and drag your Audible.com file from the Library to this playlist. Open the playlist and click once on the file's title. Now press 1-I to produce the Song Information window. Click on the Options tab and enter 1:14:00 in the Stop Time field -- this tells Disc Burner to burn only the first 74 minutes of audio (the amount you can safely burn to a CD-R) to the disc. Click on OK, click on the Burn CD icon, insert a blank CD-R when asked to, and once again click on Burn CD to record the audio to disc.

To record the next 74 minutes of audio, follow the same procedure, but this time enter 1:14:00 in the Start Time field and 2:28:00 in the Stop Time field. Repeat for each succeeding 74 minutes of audio.

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