Thursday, July 20, 2006

XML Editing on a Mac

My job requires that I analyse and edit XML documents frequently. I thought I'd share a couple of things I've learnt about XML editing on the Mac.

1- Software: First thing is XML editing software. With my old VAIO, I would use XMLSpy Free Edition - a Windows only program that allows you to validate and 'pretty-print' XML among a whole host of other features for free. Unfortunately, I have not found an equivalent program for free on the Mac. However, I did find a good XML editor called 'oXygen' ( which has a Mac port. Again, it allows validation and 'pretty-printing' but expires after about 14 days.

2- Browsers: To test the XML is create, I submit XML text to a website which then returns a response in an ASPX wrapper. I found that Apple Safari tends to reformat the ASPX response returned by then system so that I can't see the tags relating to the data in the response. As a result, I have found Apple Safari was not particularly good for my line of work and switched to using Firefox ( for my XML tasks.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Remote Desktop Connection for Macs

today I discovered a cool tool available from Microsoft. As 'The only Mac in the village' it is important that I can interact with Windows users and wondered if there was any way of me being bale to make a remote desktop connection to a Windows machine without going through Parallels (which, as cool as it is, does put a strain on system resources). I found that I can using a piece of software that is free on Microsoft's 'Mactopia' site:

In 5 minutes, I was able to be maintaining the Windows server on the other side of the room. The only downside is that the colours are in a low resolution but it doesn't matter if it allows you the ability to make some important config change remotely.

Hats off to Microsoft on this one!

Using 2 Buttons with Mighty Mouse

I went to a gig the other day and got talking with a guy I went to uni with. We got talking about Music tech and I asked with whether he had tried any Mac programs. He replied by saying 'sorry, I just can't give up my right mouse button!'. I think my friend has a point - as much as the Mac seems to have been built on the principle that 'one button is enough', Windows users (including myself) find it hard to give up that 2 button thang.

When I got my Mac Mini, I bought a Mighty Mouse because I wanted to use a KVM switch between my Mac and my Windows PC and the Mighty Mouse has 2 buttons recognised by Windows. Funnily enough, it never crossed my mind that I could use the 2 buttons in Mac OS! While that might sound a bit silly, my belief did have logic - when you plug a Mighty Mouse into a Mac, by default, it will function as a one button mouse with a scrollwheel (oh, and dashboard/expose buttons). However, you can have 2 buttons:

Go to 'System Preferences'-'Keyboard & Mouse' and go to the 'Mouse' tab
You will see that an image of the mouse appears with labels for all the functions. By default, a Mighty Mouse sets the right label to 'Primary Button'. Look at the drop down list and you will see 'Secondary Button' as an option!

Once you have saved this change, your Mac will seem like a far friendlier environment for users with a background in Windows.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tabbing to a button

Ok, to start things off, I thought I'd mention the issue of tabbing. I was used to tabbing my way through the data entry websites i use everyday for my job. One of my pet peeves about using my Mac was that I couldn't just rely on the keyboard - whenever i would come to a button on a website, I needed to use my mouse to click on it. I thought this was strange as I wondered what some users with accessibility issues would do under this situation. I then found that this was actually a config option and Mac OS X just comes with tabbing to a button as disabled. You can resole this by doing the following:

Click on System Preferences-Keyboard & Mouse
Click on the 'Keyboard Shortcuts' tab
Under 'full keyboard access' choose the 'All controls' radio button.

Thats it! Now you should be able to tab through Forms and webpages with ease :)

My introduction into the world of Apple technology

Hello! My name is Martin and I recently switched to using Apple Macs. My encounters with Apple technology started when I was a kid and my mum worked for the local university. My first encounter of software development was at 7 when I made a little game in Hypercard. My mum changed jobs and the Mac went byebye. I continued being interested in computing via Windows and enjoyed learning how to maintain and build Windows machines. I studied computing, psychology and Spanish at university where I next encountered the Mac. I have to say we didn't get on very well - my catch-phrase over my time using SPSS for my psych stats coursework was 'Fucking Macs!!!'. I then forgot about Macs for the next 2 years until they were brought to my attention via the iPod. I bought an iPod but didn't really experience the fabled Halo effect concerning their computers. However, the iPod DID make me aware of Apple again. I was later required to configure a Powerbook for a colleague of mine at work. It was then that I began to appreciate how good Macs were. Within a relatively short period of time, I had his machine doing all the basic tasks needed of the job and within about a month he was WIndows free. during that time I found his Mac to be a quick machine with an Operating System that was intuitive, clean, reliable and fun.

My birthday rolled around and my parents very kindly bought me a Mac Mini. I am a musician and was quite curious to try out some of the music tools available for the Mac like Garageband and Logic. This was it - I was sold. I was blown away by Garageband. Having used PC sequencers all my youth, I was a bit jaded because I had not found any tools that were powerful, reliable and easy to use. Cakewalk was pretty good but always crashed on me. I began recording music and fell in love.

Having had pleasant experiences at home, I wanted to return to working with a Mac in my professional life. In my time at this company I have brought to laptops to their knees. They would work fine at first but then, with time, they would get slower and slower because of what I can only term as 'Windows Bloat'. It's pretty well accepted that Windows PCs need rebuilds to keep them running tight but that is very disruptive in a professional environment. I don't load crap on my work PCs and always used anti-virus and anti-spyware but still found that my laps would eventually run like dogs. My first one (purchased 2004, with 1gb ram) now takes 10+minutes to load. I knew it was possible for it to do everything I needed at work but didn't have to use in the office!

That all changed about 1 month ago when I was given a Macbook by the company as they knew I was lusting for one.

So what do I want to do with this blog?

Well, I've learnt quite a bit over the last year about using Macs in the workplace (either via my own or by maintaining others) and I wanted to share the knowledge I have acquired. I am no guru but there are lots of little tidbits that I hope will be useful to people who have spent their life using Windows.

I want to make it clear that I am not a creative professional and use my Mac in a software testing organization. I hope to think that while I am very happy with my Mac, that I am not a zealot and still happily work with Windows. I have not qualms with Microsoft and hope that my opinions are relatively balanced. Insecure defence of myself over!

I hope you find something useful on this blog and I would really appreciate any additional input people can add to the topics I bring up.

Good luck in MacLand!
Martin BG