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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.

Submitted by
Doug McLean

 
 

Stop the iPod touch's Constant Beeping

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I wasted no time after arriving home from vacation on Monday: I promptly purchased, downloaded, and installed the 2.0 software upgrade for my iPod touch. I wanted to catch up on what I'd missed while out of the country and start playing with new applications and test Apple's improvements. Almost immediately, the iPod started beeping at irregular intervals. I had downloaded a few applications, such as NetNewsWire, NYTimes, AIM, and WeatherBug, but there was no indication as to which application was responsible for the beeps.

A quick call for help on Twitter revealed the culprit: Mail. Apparently, the new version of Mail feels the need to beep every time a new message comes in, and that's a problem given that MobileMe's "push" option for email means that new messages are being received constantly. Maddening! (A number of people on Twitter confirmed that they were experiencing the same problem.)

Although I'm sure some people like email notification beeps, my MobileMe account receives a bunch of spam - approximately 30 messages per day - and not much else. I don't use the account for real work, and Apple Mail filters the spam fairly effectively on the Mac, so it's never been a problem before. But since I launch Mail on the Mac only about once a week, there are often hundreds of spam messages that make it through to the iPod touch in the interim. Until now, I've mostly used Mail on the iPod touch to familiarize myself with the technology, so having it beep constantly throughout the day required some action.

Two solutions present themselves, but neither is entirely satisfactory. First, you can turn off sound effects, in Settings > General > Sound Effects. The only problem with this is that sound effects are also used for calendar alerts. I'm not using those at this point, but I could easily see someone wanting to silence Mail while retaining calendar alerts. Luckily, timed alarms set in the Clock still make noise even if sound effects are off, as does the timer option in Clock. I don't know if any independent applications rely on the sound effects, but if so, I presume they'd be silenced as well, which could be good or bad.

(iPhone users don't have this problem with granularity. The iPhone offers Settings > General > Sounds, a settings sheet which has separate On/Off switches for new voicemail, new mail, sent mail, calendar alerts, and more.)

Second, you can switch Mail so it retrieves new messages manually whenever you enter Mail, rather than constantly (the Push setting) or on a schedule (Fetch). Change this in Settings > Fetch New Data > Advanced > yourAccountName. This won't silence Mail, but it will play its sounds only after retrieving messages, so you at least won't be surprised (or woken up) by them.

I understand Apple's desire to keep preferences to a minimum in the iPod touch, but this is an instance where the preference granularity used on the iPhone would be an improvement.

 

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