Utilities for the Mac
Shortly after buying the last of those computers, I began noticing, straining my keen powers of observation to their fullest, that lots of people were carrying around small computers, computer much smaller than mine, computers that could fit on their laps -- 'top-o-the-lappers', I think the kids call them; or just 'neuterers' for short -- and realised that I wanted one of them. (It was not just that I coveted Sexy Small Technology; the main motivating factor -- really! -- was that the people with laptops could access the wireless networks that were frequently present at homeworks in order easily to check their mail, whereas I had to join the feral masses squabbling for use of the one slow terminal allocated for guests' e-mail checking.) Proactive go-getter that I am, I did nothing about this until the fall of 2004, at which point, swinging promptly into action, I whinged to all and sundry that I wanted a laptop (because, you know, maybe the Laptop Fairy was listening). "Yes, yes, so get one and shut up about it, OK?" was all that most people said; but my mentor, S, had some more definite advice: "Yes, yes," said he, "so get one and shut up about it, OK? -- but make sure you get a Mac." I made the gagging and choking noises I thought were appropriate, but he was effusive in his endorsement, and I began seriously to consider it. Once again a bold decisiveness carried me through, and it only took me until the summer of 2005 actually to get around to buying the computer, which is (as I hinted above) a Powerbook. (In case, dear reader, you find in reading this précis that it is unacceptably brief and curt, and cry out, exasperated, "Where, Loren, are the details, the real meat of this fascinating story?", I encourage you to visit my post The amazing dexterity of Loren from several months ago and scroll down several paragraphs; having done which, you will find all -- well, some -- of your desires satiated.)
Dear reader, you, faithful as you are, remember the title of this post, which is "Utilities for the Mac". I pondered expressing my admiration for these objects by calling them "useful utilities for the Mac", but fortunately realised that this was redundant and backed away from the precipice. (I do wonder what to call a small program which does not serve any desired purpose -- an 'inutility'?). While, I can tell even as I write this, you are reeling in admiration of my dramatic storytelling ability, not to mention of the profusion of footnotes unaccountably linking amongst themselves, I know that you must be wondering (but guiltily) "Is this really the topic of this post? Do these sentences, gorgeously well-crafted as they are, describe utilities for the Mac?" Your instincts do not lead you astray. I have not, so far, addressed the title of this post. The reasons for this are two.
My previous post was only two sentences long, and at that consisted only of a link to external content. Were I to make another post with little content, you might think that this blog was turning into a link farm, or that the aliens had come and replaced me with someone who could craft readable sentences.
We cannot just hand out potent utilities willy-nilly. We must first weed out the weak, and there is no surer way to do this than to subject them to mind-numbing paragraphs of text. You, the strong, have come this far (unless you scrolled down, cheating natural selection); it is for you that I record these links.
Now on to the utilities themselves. When I got the Mac, I struggled to learn in one swoop the analogues of the many keyboard shortcuts the knowledge of which I had gradually accumulated on the PC, and without which I felt I could not go on. By dint of such strategies as posting comments on Slashdot saying that one couldn't do certain things on the Mac using a keyboard, I was able quickly to find out how to do the most important things, but one task (whether executed by keyboard or by mouse) eluded me -- how to 'cut' (rather than 'copy') a file in Finder? I noticed the item was greyed out in the menu bar, but assumed that a little cleverness would lead me to a solution. It did not, and, since one of the items I saw mentioned (before the WWDC) in a guess-list for Leopard features was "cut capability in Finder", I think it is not just that my ignorance has blinded me to a well-known solution. There's always the old "drag it to the desktop, then drag it to the target folder" strategy, and similar kludges, but these don't work well if, for example, one wishes to cut a large file on a remote volume. Thankfully, khsu (to whom I must say: "Bless you") is more dedicated to finding a solution than I, and he (or she, or it) provides the heaven-sent utility XShelf to simulate the desired functionality. Setting aside the slight problem of trying to write into a write-protected folder (XShelf doesn't wait for one to authenticate properly -- as soon as it sees that there's any problem with writing, it dumps the desired file off the shelf and back into its original location), this is just what I have long desired.
The other utility is less commonly useful; but, when I need it, I am very glad to have it. This is timdoug's unpkg. The purpose of this utility is very simple -- as the name suggests, it unpackages a .pkg file, leaving one to handle for oneself the important task of, say, copying an application into the /Applications folder, or a library to the /Library folder. (If you want to unpackage a .mpkg file, you still need the non-free Pacifist.) Since I like to have control over what's happening on my computer (not least so that I can know what changes need to be backed up), and also since I like to keep my applications organised in subdirectories rather than in a single flat applications directory, this has been extremely helpful to me.