Enable iTunes track notifications in the Dock

A variety of third-party utilities can display details about the track that's currently playing in iTunes. But Hints reader Keir-thomas discovered a secret preference setting built into OS X Lion that allows song notifications to pop up over the iTunes Dock icon. Here’s how to enable them:

First, quit iTunes if it’s already running. Fire up Terminal (from /Applications/Utilities/) and paste in the following command, then hit Return:

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Toggle between iTunes Match and local syncing

When you enable iTunes Match on an iOS device (Settings -> Music -> iTunes Match), you'll see a warning that “iTunes Match will replace the music library on this device.” When iTunes Match was still in beta, that message was true to its word: Any music you had on your device was indeed deleted, in favor of the library you'd uploaded to the cloud via iTunes Match. But in the official version of iTunes Match released Monday, that’s no longer the case. In truth, any music that was on your iOS device before you enabled iTunes Match will still be there—and that fact can save you on time and bandwidth.

In our testing, this message is a big fat lie.

After you've enabled iTunes Match, it downloads songs to your iOS device on an as-needed basis: When you tap on an individual song, iTunes Match downloads it first, then starts playing it. (That accounts for the slight delay you'll notice before the track begins; iTunes is buffering the download.) After you've played that song once, the downloaded copy stays on your device. The next time you want to play it, it’ll already be there; it doesn't need to be downloaded again. Tracks that are available via iTunes Match but haven't been downloaded yet are marked with an iCloud icon. Once you tap to play them, that icon disappears.

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Share Reminders with iCloud, add them with Siri

While the new Reminders app that Apple built into iOS 5 isn’t as full-featured as some other task management apps in the App Store, it does offer a few clever niceties. Among the app’s best features are its ability to sync to-do lists and share them with other users via iCloud and its tight integration with Siri on the iPhone 4S.

You’d be forgiven, though, if you didn’t know about that first one—the ability to subscribe to and share to-do lists with other folks—because it’s not actually discoverable from within the app itself. Instead, you first need to head over to iCloud.com and log in with your iCloud email account. (If the iCloud website immediately takes you to the Find My iPhone screen when you log in, press the Back button in your browser or click on the small cloud icon near the upper left to get to the main menu of options.)

There’s no Reminders option on the iCloud homepage. Instead, you need to click on the Calendar icon; just as Reminders syncs with iCal on the Mac, it syncs with the Calendar app in iCloud. On the left side of the Calendar view, you’ll see a list of your iCloud-synced calendars, followed by any iCloud-synced Reminders lists.

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Add a Mickey Mouse clock to your Dashboard

Thanks to Dashboard's Web clipping feature, you can turn almost anything you see on a webpage into a widget. Hints reader Freethought realized that you can use that capability to grab your very own Mickey Mouse clock for your desktop. The key: Mickey is one of the numerous clock faces Apple now offers on the iPod nano, and Apple shows a full working, ticking preview of the clock on its website. Here’s how to grab it for your Mac.

First, go to Apple’s iPod nano page in Safari. Control-click (right-click) on a white, empty section of the webpage, and choose Open in Dashboard from the contextual menu that appears. Then, click once on the Mickey Mouse clock face, which places it in a white, resizable box. Adjust the box by dragging the handles so that it completely contains the clock. When you’re ready, click on the Add button at the upper right corner of your Safari window.

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Fix a Lion file-opening hang in Mac OS X 10.7.2

Acorn ( ), my favorite image editor, was giving me trouble. Whenever I’d open a file in the app, the image would appear immediately—but then the app would hang for five, 20, even 60 seconds. I saw the spinning beach ball of doom, and couldn’t do anything else in the app. I was running the latest version of Lion and the latest version of Acorn, and I checked with a few of my fellow Acorn-using Macworld coworkers; not one of them was having my issue.

Acorn is developed by Flying Meat Software, so I reached out to the company for tech support. After a lot of investigative back and forth, Flying Meat’s president Gus Mueller figured out the solution, discovering two scary truths in the process: First, the hang wasn’t actually Acorn’s fault at all; the second, other apps—among them iA Writer—could suffer the same issue.

Mueller suggested that I check the permissions on a folder I hadn’t heard of before: ~/Library/Application Support/Ubiquity/. It turns out that Ubiquity is an internal name that Lion uses to refer to iCloud. Mueller learned that occasionally the folder’s permissions become mistakenly tweaked, leaving the folder owned by the root user instead of the logged-in user’s account. When that happens, Mueller discovered, the exact hangs I experienced could occur in a variety of apps—even though those apps don’t (yet) use iCloud.

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Change application categories in Lion

In Lion's Finder, you can group files, folders, and applications in a variety of ways—by name or date last opened, for example, or, in the case of applications only, by application category. (View -> Arrange By -> Application Category.) Unfortunately, OS X lumps many apps into a catch-all Other category. Even when it does categorize an app more specifically, you might disagree with that categorization: For example, Amazon classifies the Kindle app as Reference, but I consider it Entertainment. Hints reader sd figured out how to change or add categories to applications yourself.

Quit the app if it’s running and find its icon in your /Applications folder. Then, Control-click (right-click) on the app in question and choose Show Package Contents from the contextual menu that appears. Open the Contents folder, look for the info.plist file, and open it in your plain-text editor of choice. (You may be prompted as to whether or not you really want to unlock the file for editing; assure OS X that you would indeed like to do so.)

If your app is already categorized in something other than Other, search for the string LSApplicationCategoryType. If you can’t find it, or if this is a previously-uncategorized app, you’ll need to add the new key yourself. (If you do find it, skip the next paragraph.)

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Turn off iOS 5 notifications

In iOS 4, there was a toggle-switch that let you turn Notifications off and on. (If you’re still running iOS 4, that’s in Settings -> Notifications.) But with iOS 5’s Notifications overhaul, there’s no longer an obvious means of disabling all notifications on your iPhone or iPad.

This toggle vanishes in iOS 5.

So what do you do if you don’t want to disable your notifications one app at a time, but you still want to be free from them once in a while? The answer depends upon your particular situation.

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