Cool Geek Tricks
Geeks are the magicians of the Mac community. Like Houdini, we use our knowledge to get out of bad situations. And like David Copperfield, we use sleight of hand to dazzle the uninformed. With these three tricks, you can conjure up some magic of your own in the New Year.
Resurrect Lost Print Jobs
You printed something weeks ago—perhaps an airline-ticket receipt. Now you want to print it again, but you didn’t save a copy of the Web page and can’t find the information on the airline’s site. What to do? Reprint it from your automatically saved backup of every document you’ve ever printed, of course.
The first thing you need to know is that a piece of Unix software called CUPS (Common Unix Printing System) controls printing in OS X. CUPS includes an option that lets you save and reprint previously printed documents (print jobs). Here’s how:
Edit the CUPS File To enable the option, you have to access and edit a file named cupsd.conf (save a copy of the original). Select the Go To Folder command from the Finder’s File menu and type
/etc/cups. Locate the cupsd.conf file.
If you have Bare Bones Software’s $49 TextWrangler or $179 BBEdit, you can open the file by dragging it to the application icon. If you’re using TextEdit, get Brian R. Hill’s $15 utility Pseudo and drag the TextEdit icon to its icon. This opens TextEdit with root access, which you need in order to save the edited file. (BBEdit and TextWrangler have this ability built in.)
Next, locate the following text in the document:
Yesand delete the pound symbol (
#) at the start of this line. This tells the CUPS software to save print jobs and to treat the line as an active instruction rather than as a comment to be ignored.
Change the line so it reads
MaxJobs 50. (Again, you are deleting the pound symbol.) You don’t have to reduce the number, but your hard drive will thank you. Finally, save these changes. If you opened TextEdit using Pseudo, the document should save directly. If you’re using BBEdit or TextWrangler, OS X will ask for your password.
Find a Saved Job Your next step is to figure out how to locate and reprint a specific saved job. To access the Web-based interface for the CUPS printing software, launch Safari (or your preferred browser) and type the following URL in the address field:
Select Do Administration Tasks. If you’re using OS X 10.3.4 or later, a sheet will drop down asking you to fill in your name and password. Do so and click on the Log In button. You now have administrative access to the CUPS software.
Click on the Manage Jobs button. In the screen that appears, click on the Show Completed Jobs button. To see your most-recent print jobs, scroll to the bottom of the window that appears. To reprint a job, click on the Restart Job button next to its name.
Password Hassles If after you click on the Restart Job button, CUPS rejects your correct password, you may be mired in a Panther problem. Panther uses a new form of password encryption that CUPS can’t decrypt. That’s a problem if you created a brand-new user account in Panther and you’re running OS X 10.3.4 or later.
Apple intends to fix this; in the meantime, you can delete the section of the cupsd.conf file that requires the password. Your Mac will be less secure, but you’ll be able to use the feature. Locate the following lines near the end of the cupsd file:
Delete these four lines, or add a pound symbol before each one to make them inactive.—TED LANDAU
Prevent Server-Log Wipeout
Every week, your Web server kicks out a log file that you want to download with the $39 Interarchy file-transfer software ( November 2004 ) and process with your log-analysis program. This sounds simple enough—but there’s a glitch. By default, Interarchy uses file-name extensions to decide how to download files. Your logs use the .log extension; therefore, Interarchy doesn’t recognize them as text files. What’s a Webmaster to do?;
From an Interarchy file listing, select one of your log files and choose Listing: Get Info. In the Get Info window, choose BBEdit or your favorite text editor from the Application pop-up menus for Open, View, and Edit (in case you want to view or edit the file). Then choose Text from the Encoding pop-up menu, choose your log-analysis program from the Post Process Application pop-up menu, and close the Get Info window. Now Interarchy will download all your log files as BBEdit text files and process them automatically in your log-analysis program.—ADAM C. ENGST
Put iChat on Autopilot
A friend of mine who recently began working from home told me he was terrified to step away from the computer in case the boss sent a message via iChat. I said bathroom breaks were acceptable. “Well,” he began with some hesitation, “what if I need to take the dog to the beach?”
Obviously, he needed an iChat autoresponder that could identify a chat initiated by the boss and type a series of responses. Here’s how to whip one up using Pygmy Software’s free iCAR utility, an iChat plug-in for creating autoresponses, and Script Software’s $20 iKey, a very cool macro utility.
It works this way: in iChat you must click on a chat window to make it active. iCAR performs this service for you, but it also does something once it activates that window—it sends a message or triggers an AppleScript. If it sends a message, it reveals to your correspondent that it’s autoresponding. Instead, you can set it to trigger an AppleScript—but you leave the AppleScript field empty. This generates an inconsequential error message that doesn’t appear. Then iKey steps in and types your phony response.
The Setup To access iCAR’s settings, install it and then open iChat. Choose iChat: Preferences, and click on the Auto-Reply tab. Set it to autoreply when your status is Available, Away, and Idle. Under Timing, choose Reply To Every Message. To keep iCAR from revealing that you’re autoresponding, switch off the Message Prefix option at the bottom of the window, which by default types
Auto-reply:. Under Source, select AppleScript and leave the selection field blank.
Next turn to iKey to create the sequence of responses. First select Shortcut: New Set: Select An Application and navigate to iChat. When you find it, click on Select. Choose Shortcuts: New Sequence. In the Shortcut: Sequence window, enable the Programmed option and choose After Activate from its pop-up menu. In the same window, select Defined from the Repeat pop-up menu and enter
10in the Number Of Times field.
Now click on the Sequence tab and select Shortcuts: Utility: Wait Front Window With Title. In the window that appears, click on the Utility tab, choose Wait Window Title Contains from the Action pop-up menu, and enter your boss’s iChat handle (whatever appears in the title bar when you two chat) in the Title/String In Title field. This tells iKey to wait until your boss initiates a chat.
In the same window, choose Shortcuts: Utility: Make A Pause, click on the Utility tab in the resulting window, and enter
8.0in the Delay field. This tells iKey to pause in a natural manner before issuing its first response.
Next, choose Shortcuts: Keyboard: Type Text. Click on the Keyboard tab in the resulting window and type
Hang on a sec, I’m on the phone...(a busy but casual response). Choose Shortcuts: Keyboard: Type/Press/Release Keys. Click on the Keyboard tab, click on the Key field, and press the Mac’s return key. This sends the response to the boss.
I’ve set up a number of responses in this way, with longer pauses between each one. A quick way to do this is to simply copy, paste, and customize the steps you composed earlier. Finally, tell iKey to type
Bye!to end it. Create a 4-second pause. And for some final insurance, use the Type/Press/Release Keys shortcut to type Command-W and end the chat before your boss can ask questions. When you’re done with the sequence, click on OK.
The Caveats Before you leave your Mac, make iChat the active application. iKey may not see the chat window if it’s running in the background. If your boss logs out of the chat before the sequence is complete, he or she is going to be suspicious when you continue to send updates about how your call is going. And if your boss tries to contact you later in the day and is greeted with the same scheme, you’re so busted.—CHRISTOPHER BREENOnce you’ve modified your cupsd.conf file, you can click on Restart Job to reprint a document even if you’ve since lost or deleted the original file.The boss won’t wise up to those 45-minute coffee breaks you’re taking if you have a customized iChat autoreplier in place.Here’s the complete sequence of lifelike replies we created in iKey.
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