Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advanced Step 1: Let's Go to Services

If you've used Mac OS X for any period of time, you've probably noticed that there's a menu called "Services" in every application. Here it is in Safari:

Services menu

Most people never use this menu, even though it can be tremendously time-saving. That's probably because the few useful services are lost within all the other ones, so the menu is a bit of a time waster.

First of all, let's reduce the number of services available. There are a huge number that most people will never use: Chinese Text Convertor is an obvious one for me, as well as Disk Utility and Speech Items. I think I'll remove a few more after looking at this screenshot, as I can't remember ever using "Send to Bluetooth Device" (I don't have any), and "TextEdit" and "Xpad" have been replaced by TextWrangler.

To remove services, download the freeware ServiceScrubber. You can just de-select the irrelevant ones:


And here it is, even more minimal than before:

Shortened services

Now, time to use Services. Suppose we're browsing trying to find the right Stata code on the company website. I'd like to find some information on seasonal ARIMA models, which tend to model crime rates pretty well. Looking around on Statalist, the help forum, I see a snippet of text that looks like what I'm interested in:


I select the text and then look in Services:

Services in Safari

And once clicked, you have a new Textwrangler file with the desired text copied right in.

textwrangler file

This comes in very handy when you're browsing and find a link you'd like to add to a text file, or a quote you won't remember but want to record. Start using Services and it will help keep the massive amounts of information organized. You may want to just setup a file to dump all of these things into. I use Voodoopad for random clippings that might be helpful or interesting but can't be read right now.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Aside: Keys to a Healthy Mac

If you're going to run Stata on a Mac, you need to have your Mac in good working order.

Your Mac does not need to be fast to run Stata effectively. As evidence, I present my own system specifications:

About this Mac

That's right, I have a non-Intel Mac with 0.75 G memory and a 1.33 Ghz processor. The standards for laptops sold today are more like 2 G memory, 2+ Ghz processor. Nonetheless Stata works fine on my Mac.

However, you need to have your Mac in good working order. Here are the five steps to doing so:

  1. Install a cleaning program. The best of the bunch are Onyx, Cocktail and my favorite MainMenu. These programs automate the background cleaning functions that are essential for keeping your Mac running well. Most of these programs do the same set of actions: clear caches, repair permissions, run maintenance scripts, clean logs and empty trash. The programs can also do system-related things like displaying invisible files, relaunching the finder and dock, and ejecting external drives. Even if you're a terminal expert - I'm not - these utilities make it extremely easy to do the essential background tasks.

    Here's what MainMenu looks like in the menubar:


    It's the "set of tools" icon in the center. And here are the options:

    Mainmenu options

  2. Reclaim some memory. The best way I know to do this is to disable Dashboard. Yes, Dashboard is fun, and I like the add-on games. But it really hogs the memory, each widget can take up as much as a medium-sized application. Mainmenu allows you to disable Dashboard. There are a number of other small things you can do, such as turning off Dock animation:

    Dock preferences

  3. BACK UP. Everyone know this, but it's easier said than done for many people. But there's plenty of free software that can help you do this very easily. I suggest SuperDuper, which makes a complete clone of your hard drive with preferences, spotlight indexes, everything. Here's a shot (I'm away from home so the backup drive isn't hooked up):


    In order to schedule backups, you need to register SuperDuper. I'm sure there are free ware options, but I just set an iCal nag to remind me to run this program from time to time. It will save my life one day.

  4. Delete things from your hard drive. If you're using a lot of memory, your computer uses some hard disk space as virtual memory. Make sure your hard disk isn't busting at the seams. Deleting movies and music (or moving them to a backup drive) is usually the easiest way to do this.

  5. Have a clean desktop. It doesn't seem like it should make a difference, but I've heard that it takes quite a bit of computer tower to render the graphic icons on the screen (please correct me if I'm wrong, I have little technical knowledge here). Here's my desktop, completely clear:

    Picture 1.jpg

    If you don't want the drives to appear, and I don't, change the settings in Finder:

    Finder preferences

For more ideas, see "52 Ways to Speed Up OS X." (Hat tip to Lifehacker, one of my favorite blogs.)

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