capsule review

Gems Grab Bag

Not all Mac Gems are full-featured products; some just do one or two simple things really well. Today I cover a few of these utilities.

Better Boot Camp switching

Apple’s Boot Camp, which lets you run Windows on an Intel Mac, is very cool technology. However, unlike solutions that let you run Windows while booted in Mac OS X, Boot Camp requires you to restart your Mac and boot into Windows as if you were using any other Windows PC.

Kevin Wojniak has made that restarting process ever-so-easier, and more convenient, with BootChamp 0.1 (free). Launch BootChamp and after entering your admin-level account password, your Mac will restart into Windows.

What’s so convenient about this? Two things. First, you don’t have to open the Startup Disk pane of System Preferences and change the startup disk to your Windows partition, or hold down the Option key at startup and wait for bootable volumes to appear; place BootChamp in the Dock, for example, and booting into Windows is just a click away. Second, when using BootChamp, your official startup disk remains unchanged; the next time you restart after using Windows, you’ll boot back into OS X without any intervention on your part.

Caveats: your Boot Camp partition must be formatted as NTFS and mounted when you launch BootChamp. And I haven’t been able to test it to see what would happen if you somehow have multiple Boot Camp (Windows) partitions or volumes on your Mac.

Better screen inversion

I know a number of people who use OS X’s built-in screen-inversion feature, which gives your screen an instant photonegative-like (white on black instead of black on white) makeover. Available via the Seeing screen of the Universal Access pane of System Preferences, this feature is designed to make objects on the screen easier to read for those with difficulty seeing. But it can also be useful for using your laptop in dim lighting (or total darkness), since there’s less contrast between the screen and surrounding light, and for reading text, since white text on black offers less glare than black text on white.

Nocturne settings
Nocturne 1.0.4 3.5 mice

You can use Nocturne’s additional options independently, so you can switch to monochrome mode, or use the tint feature, without inverting your display.

Unfortunately, Nocturne doesn’t always work as expected with multiple displays. For example, the Tint and Hide Desktop options apply only to the display on which the Nocturne window is located; to get them to work on a different display, you need to move the Nocturne window to that display and then set them again. And I wish you could configure sets of settings for quick switching, instead of having to manually check every option each time. Still, Nocturne is a nifty tool; I’ve found it especially useful when using my MacBook Pro at night.

Do not disturb

Apple’s laptops are configured to automatically wake from sleep mode when you open the screen. This is normally a useful feature; pop open the lid and you’re up and running in a few seconds. But there are times when this isn’t the best setup. For example, more than a few laptop users have opened their bag only to find their battery dead and their laptop scorchingly hot; turns out the notebook got jostled around in the bag and the screen opened just enough for the computer to wake up on its own. (This can happen with MacBooks, which don’t have a physical latch, but it can also happen with PowerBooks and MacBook Pros, especially older models with latches that have loosened up over time.)

iLid window
iLid 1.0 3.5 mice

iLid isn’t doing anything you couldn’t do yourself with a simple command in Terminal. (Specifically,

sudo pmset -a lidwake 0
to prevent wake-on-open;
sudo pmset -a lidwake 1
reverts to the original behavior.) In fact, those commands are exactly what iLid uses to perform its tasks. But iLid is much easier to use—and much less intimidating for the Terminal-adverse.

Both Nocturne and iLid require Mac OS X 10.4 and are Universal Binaries. BootChamp requires Mac OS X 10.4, Boot Camp, and an Intel Mac.

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