Like most other Mac users, when I'm travelling, I often need to connect to a Wi-Fi network to access the Internet for email and Web browsing. But what if there are multiple available networks and I don't know which would be best to use? In the past, I would usually bring up iStumbler (MacStumbler hasn't been updated in years), but Take Control author Sharon Zardetto Aker alerted me to a simpler method that's built into Mac OS X. If you hold down the Option key when dropping the AirPort status menu, it lists available networks in order of signal strength, rather than the usual (and useless) alphabetical sort. Simple, yet effective, although the signal strength sort should arguably be the default, not the hidden option. Alas, the AirPort menu doesn't indicate which networks require a password for access. If you run into that problem regularly and don't mind running extra software all the time, check out Christoph Sinai's CoconutWiFi, which provides a constantly updating indicator of wireless network accessibility (see "CoconutWiFi Reveals Nearby Networks, Status," 2006-09-11).
Mac OS X Services in Snow Leopard
Mac OS X Services let one application supply its powers to another; for example, a Grab service helps TextEdit paste a screenshot into a document. Most users either don't know that Services exist, because they're in an obscure hierarchical menu (ApplicationName > Services), or they mostly don't use them because there are so many of them.
Snow Leopard makes it easier for the uninitiated to utilize this feature; only services appropriate to the current context appear. And in addition to the hierarchical menu, services are discoverable as custom contextual menu items - Control-click in a TextEdit document to access the Grab service, for instance.
In addition, the revamped Keyboard preference pane lets you manage services for the first time ever. You can enable and disable them, and even change their keyboard shortcuts.
- coconutWiFi Reveals Nearby Networks, Status (11 Sep 06)
Published in TidBITS 874.
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