Charles Moore's Mailbag

WindowShade for 10.6 in Beta, Dangers of Hacks, Blocking Flash, Unreasonable Expectations, and More

Charles Moore - 2010.04.21 - Tip Jar

WindowShade X for 10.6 in Beta

From Andrew in response to Charles Moore Finally Installs Snow Leopard:


I see you've bitten the bullet and installed [Mac OS X] 10.6 on a second partition, though you're still waiting for a Snow Leopard compatible version of WindowShade X. I'm still working in 10.5, for several reasons, the lack of WindowShade also being one of them.

I don't know where "LEM reader John" gets his information, but suspect it's more of the nature of rumor than solid data. True, Unsanity has been mysteriously and frustratingly near-silent about 10.6, but from discussions I've seen it does seem clear that while Apple has apparently modified 10.6 in some ways perhaps specifically intended to prevent Unsanity's APE haxies from working - not the first time Apple has displayed a distinct hostility toward this company's products. Unsanity's programmers are still plugging away at it, if perhaps not so consistently as their many customers/users might like.

Anyway, I came across this note on Unsanity's weblog, which says you can get betas by signing up as a "follower" on their Twitter whatever-it-is. I recall you mentioning somewhere you have no interest in Twitter; same here, but after emailing Unsanity and getting no response, I decided to go ahead and sign up for this. All the handles I wanted were already used, but I finally figured one out, and how to "follow" their @haxiesbeta account. You can't see it unless you sign up, but it does seem they're continuing to work on at least their major utilities (FruitMenu, Xounds, Labels, WindowShade, APE), if slowly. The latest WindowShade posted is 5.0b2, Feb 16.

I have 10.6 installed on an external utilities disk; I just started from that disk and installed the latest APE and WindowShade betas. Seems to work fine; it says it's a demo, but I tried the registration info from my present copy, and it worked. From the comments on the weblog post, it appears that for those who don't have a previous registration the betas are expiring, while no new betas have appeared for a while. A lot of the comments are rather unfriendly, which I guess is sort-of understandable, but hardly a way to encourage Unsanity to accelerate their rather lackadaisical work pace.

Meanwhile, I guess we can hope that Unsanity, having apparently put quite a bit of work already into these 10.6 version betas, will not give up - despite the really unfriendly feedback being posted (some of which they deserve, it must be said) - and will eventually release finished versions of their software.

Best wishes,

From Evan:


Just wanted to let you know, if you begin following @haxiesbeta on Twitter, you can download APE and WindowShade X for Snow Leopard. They're still in beta, but they work for me and are free. Good luck switching (or not!). I went to Snow Leopard directly from [Mac OS X 10.4] Tiger, so it's a major improvement for me, but I can see why coming from [OS X 10.5] Leopard it might not be so advantageous.

One thing I noticed is that MS Office '04 became almost unusably slow on my 2007 MacBook. I presume this would be the case for any Rosetta app.


Hi Andrew and Evan.

That's great news. Thanks! I've applied to follow @haxiesbeta on Twitter and am waiting pending approval. Will be following this up. No point in beating on Unsanity about this. I expect they're doing what they're able, and that it's not a holdup of their making or that they would've chosen.

Evan, I agree that Carbon apps seem to run relatively sluggishly in Snow Leopard, but the two I use most, Tex-Edit Plus and Color It!, are so intrinsically fast that it's not a big issue with them. A lot better than not being able to use them!

I know what you mean about the difference between Tiger and Leopard/Snow Leopard. I still use Tiger on my Pismo PowerBooks, so I get a daily back-to-back comparison. I love Tiger, but I love Leopard even more, which is why once I installed the upgrade in 2007, I never seriously considered going back to Tiger on my then main axe - a 1.33 GHz 17" G4 PowerBook - even though I took a general performance hit (liveliness) on that machine and had to grit my teeth and live without Windowshade X for the first 4 to 5 months. There are a bunch of Leopard things (e.g.: Spaces and QuickLook) that I really miss when I'm working in Tiger (usually 3 to 4 hours a day - sometimes more).

However, going from Leopard to Snow Leopard, not so much. Indeed, I'm still trying to discern any net advantage other than compatibility with 10.6-only software, and on balance, there are a bunch of negatives (for me), although workable Windowshade X would eliminate the most egregious one.


The Danger of Haxies, Input Managers, and Hacks

From John:


To be fair, this isn't a case of Apple picking on Unsanity out of spite. Unsanity's Application Enhancer system was at the root of a major fiasco when Leopard launched:

"the biggest problem seems to be that many of these blue screen sufferers had no idea APE was installed on their systems."

Logitech had been installing Unsanity's APE as part of its mouse driver. That was a simply horrendous thing to do. Haxies aren't - and never were p supported by Apple, and Logitech's unsuspecting customers were running hacks on their Macs which led to failed Leopard upgrades. How were they to know that a component of that mouse driver they had installed way back when was the cause of their total upgrade failure? Apple, inevitably, had to take the flak.

Turns out I was mistaken about APE being an Input Manager hack. Its hooks go deeper into the system than that. Apple introduced code signing and memory space randomisation as security measures, among many major changes as OS X matures. It is the need to work around all these combined - with a rightfully annoyed Apple looking on - that has been the immovable object to Unsanity's once unstoppable force.

Logitech switched from a Haxie to an Input Manager hack for its mouse driver and kept causing unexpected problems. Besides, Input Managers are a deprecated feature, with no 64-bit support in Snow Leopard, and are on the way to being discontinued. After reading Input Managers Are Not 'Plug-ins', you might understand why.

"This is not to say that you can't choose to install whatever patches you want, as long as you're aware of the risks in security, the dangers in updating, and the general facts behind putting someone else's code in an application's address space. You just shouldn't be misled by the press into thinking one kind of hack is implicitly 'better' than another kind."

A well known Safari "plug-in", which is actually just such a hack, is Safari Adblock, which has to warn users against running in 64-bit mode.

So, I can't say that I disagree with Apple on such hacks. Not least when they are discussed as "plug-ins" by the community and press, implying Apple's support when none was offered. Some enterprising coders are always happy to find new ways to play old tricks in an open system, which is fine and well, but there is a line to be crossed when users install such things without understanding precisely what they are.


Hi John,

You're probably right about the technicalities of this, and Apple's reasoning, and I'm not suggesting that they are blocking implementation of APE out of spite, although Unsanity did find a way to get APE and Windowshade X working on Leopard in a way that seems entirely unproblematical - at least it has been on my machines.

My perspective is more simplistic. I am totally addicted to windowshading, find all substitutes hopelessly lame and frustrating, and am deeply dismayed at the prospect of someday having to live without it, as I'm dong right now provisionally after installing Snow Leopard as a trial ballloon last weekend.

What really frosts me is Apple dropping the windowshading feature from OS X in the first place.


OS X 10.6.3 Update Available

From Thomas:

Your article on Snow Leopard indicated that you updated to 10.6.2, there is a recent 10..6.3 update that might fix some of your problems.

Hi Thomas,

Yes, in fact there's now a Mac OS X v10.6.3 v1.1 Update (Combo) released, which I've now downloaded, but haven't had time to install yet.

Will post an update if it fixes any of the problems.


Update: I've since installed the 10.6.3 v1.1 update. So far I haven't noticed any resolution of the troublesome issues.

Snow Leopard Custom Installation

From Alan Zisman:

re. Rosetta - A habit I got into a long time ago is to always check the options in any software installation, Mac OS version included . . . if you do that, along with the ability to save a bit on space, you'll see an option to add Rosetta into the initial install.

If instead, you click OK to everything, you'll get the programmer's idea of a default set up - which may not be yours - and in this case, as far as Rosetta is concerned, it wasn't.

As you mentioned, however, when Snow Leopard discovers it needs Rosetta, it gets it pretty smoothly - without requiring that you dig out the DVD disc. It does the same with printer drivers - while earlier OS X versions blindly installed multi-gigabytes of print drivers whether you needed them or not (though this could - to some extent - be modified by customizing the install options), Snow Leopard doesn't install drivers for printers that are not currently installed . . . but goes and gets them if they are needed.

By making the assumption that people generally are connected online these days, it is able to make some saner installation decisions.

Alan's website:

Hi Alan,

You're absolutely right. I also used to routinely hit the "Custom" button on the installer and tailor my chosen bits.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Guess I'm out of practise. However, it never occurred to me that Rosetta would not be part of the default install. I use several Carbin apps. on a regular basis, Tex Edit Plus and Color It! 4.5 being the most notable. There is no really adequate substitute for either in Intel native software in my estimation.

As you say, the online Rosetta upgrade is pretty painless. THe pain for me is that TE+ documents when double-clicked open in Text Edit, which is driving me nuts. It may even be a worse aggravation than being bereft of Windowshading. I don't thnk I'll be able to put uo with this for long, and a return to Leopard beckons.


In both Windows and OS X you can 'right click' (or control-click) a document, choose Open With, and pick the application to use to open the document. In Windows, however, there's an option to use that alternative application with 'all documents of this file type' . . . it would be nice to have something similar in OS X.

As an experiment, I recently copied MS Office 2008 to a USB key, then deleted the original folder . . . much to my pleasure, double-clicking a *.doc or *.xls document opens it automatically in OpenOffice . . . you might want to do something similar, getting rid of TextEdit and seeing if the documents now open in Tex-Edit Plus.

Hi Alan,

Thanks for the further observations.

For my Tex-Edit Plus issue, the cure proved absurdly simple. I just opened Get Info on a text document that had been created in TE+, went to the Open With section, selected Tex-Edit Plus from the pull-down menu, and then clicked the "Use this application to open all documents like this one" Change All button. Problem solved. All my TE+ documents now open in TE+ on double-click.

D'oh. I'm getting slow on the uptake.


Ah - "Use this application to open all documents like this one" Change All - somehow, I've missed this one in complaining about OS X vs Windows . . . maybe it's a Snow Leopard addition. Or I've been blind for a long time now!

Hi Alan,

Actually, that feature has been around since OS X 10.2 Jaguar at least, and maybe since the first OS X. I've used it before, for instance to make all PDFs open in Preview rather than powerful but ponderous Adobe Reader. I'd just forgotten about it in this context, never having encountered the phenomenon of documents created in an application failing to open in it by default, which seems to be a new issue with (at least some) Carbon apps in Snow Leopard.

I'm sure there are tons of things in OS X that I haven't kept up to speed on. It's an ongoing process of learning (and/or remembering!).


Thunderbird and Overheating 'Books

From Michael in response to Hot 'Book? It Could Be Your Apps:

Hi Charles,

I also came to a similar conclusion about my MacBook.

I recently jumped to Snow Leopard, and after a fresh install switched to Thunderbird 3.0. About fifteen minutes after opening the program, the fans turned on louder than I had ever heard them. Evidently there is a known bug that causes the computer to keep processing and processing. I ended up downgrading to 2.0, and the problem is gone. I have to wonder what kind of fancy bell or whistle caused the problem.

Has Opera fixed itself? I used it for a while but found that it was unusable, as version 9.0 usually ended up choking and/or crashing. So I use Firefox and disable the Flash to keep the computer cooler.

Thanks for all your insightful articles and your common sense,


Hi Michael,

You're welcome, and thanks for the kind compliment.

Just downgrading to T-Bird 3 (currently 3.0.4) cooled things down a lot compared to Lanekai (T-Bird 3.1 beta). Maybe I should go back to version 2 as well. I do like the tabs in version 3.x.

I'm an Opera addict, and I've found it, especially the final versions, rock solid stable since the late version 9 builds. I'm running 10.52 Beta 2 these days (the speed is intoxicating), and it's admirably stable as well, although the Spaces bug is an annoyance in Snow Leopard.


Blocking Flash

From Jeremy:

Step one, install Snow Leopard.

Step two, watch as Flash websites burn up your CPU (flash runs in it's own process under Snow Leopard and Safari).

Step three, install a flash blocker.



Hi Jeremy,

Have done Nos. 1 and 2, and am finding several things about 10.6 much more annoying than the Flash/temperature issues. The MacBook actually seems to run a bit cooler in Snow Leopard.

Unfortunately, ClickToFlash only supports Safari, which is maybe my sixth or seventh favorite browser, and I very rarely use it.

Know of any Flash blockers that work with Firefox, Opera, and Chrome?


I don't understand why you don't like Safari. It runs very well on every MacBook/Mac mini/iMac that I've used. I don't like the "previews" that Safari does, but I turn that off in the preferences.

There are flash blockers for Firefox. I'm not sure about Chrome. I know they have plugins, but I'm not sure how far along the version of Chrome for Mac is.

I often run my web browser (Safari) with over 100 tabs open when I am researching something. Under 10.6, Flash runs in it's own process, so you can actually see how much CPU it is using in activity viewer. Even though you may be able to block Flash with a plugin for Firefox, you won't be able to actually visualize how much processor speed it is using.

Under Safari on 10.6, when Flash is using a lot of CPU, I just kill it. Safari keeps running without skipping a beat.

What are the things about 10.6 that are annoying you?


Hi Jeremy,

Just a matter ot taste I guess. I dion't mean to imply that there's anything wrong with Safari. It's a very reliaible browser, and I used to use it on my Pismos until the latest version of Shiira was released (also based on Apple's Webkit), which I like a lot better (interface and liveliness, not as much overhead to deal with on a machine limited to 1 GB of RAM).

I find the Safari interface boring and unattractive. Ditto for FireFox, but with it I use a third-party skin plugin. On my MacBook, I use Opera and Chome, which are blazingly fast and have my current favorite default browser interfaces (Opera has some great optional appearance skins too). I also much prefer their download managers and "feel." Firefox is the third browser I keep up and running, as I find it is the most compatible with all sites.

Frankly, I've never been much of a fan of Apple's application software since the late lamented HyperCard way back when. I was a big Microsoft Word 5.1 fan back in the day. I don't like or use Mail or iPhoto, much preferring Thunderbird/Eudora (and Eudora Classic on the Tiger machines) and the Bridge in Photoshop Elements respectively. I gave Pages a go but was not a happy camper, largely because I'm a totally besotted Tex-Edit Plus addict, and when I absolutely need Word document compatibility, I use the excellent freeware Bean or DevonTHINK.

I've got no quarrel with folks who like Apple's apps, but they don't click with me.


Interesting. I have Pages, but I still type in Word. I use iPhoto and Mail. That's pretty much the only apps I use on my Mac. I don't do art or websites, just lots of email and browsing. I really like the way MobileMe ties my iPad, iPhone, and Macs toghether, even though I think it's way overpriced.

Happy Mac'ing.


Hi Jeremy,

Thanks. Back at ya'.

I did forget to mention that I use iTunes.


Unreasonable Expectations

From Mark in response to iMac G5 System Support Dilemma:

Dear Charles:

The exchange with Jim has some issues that probably will not be resolved to his satisfaction.

1. Apple does not sell the update he specifically needs, 10.4, though the current version is 10.6. Apple, or any type of company, is not required to keep selling older versions of their products.

ex. Car dealerships. Is it reasonable to expect a Ford dealership to continue selling 4- or 5-year-old models of a car? New models come out, and that is what they sell . . . they do not want to keep older units on the lot. Would Jim expect a car dealership to function in the way he expected Apple as far as the OS is concerned? Ford may be able to sell parts that still match that older model, but not have a complete copy of the car that was originally purchased. Even Ford will not continue making an older part forever, and finding that part will then be a matter of the used/salvage yard route.

2. Jim makes no complaints toward the manufacturer of the HP printer he recently purchased. Why not blame HP for not continuing to make a printer that works in 10.6, 10.5, 10.4, all the way back to whatever Mac OS a person has? HP could do it, if they wanted to spend a lot of money on software code development for Mac OS that are years out of date. It is just not cost effective for HP to spend that extra expense on a brand new printer model that they want to be compatible with the current major computer OS . . . Windows or Apple versions. My advice to Jim would be to look for an older used printer, if he is unwilling to track down a copy of 10.4 or 10.5 on the used market.

3. Jim's fears of purchasing on the Internet do not help him in any way. If he is afraid of it, do it the old fashioned way: Locate a source and give them a phone call. That is the old fashioned mail order way, which hopefully he does not fear. Alternatively, get a friend or family member to place the order for him . . . or ask one of the IT staff at where he works to do it for him.

4. TurboTax problem. He tries to buy the current version, and it does not run in 10.3 that he has. That is not big surprise. It falls into the same category of HP not writing print drivers that go back to the original Mac OS for current printers. Jim did not complain about Intuit putting out a software program that would not work on his Mac, just that Apple had failed/disappointed him.

5. Word for Mac problem. Probably the exact same issue as TurboTax. Version of Word is current from his workplace, but not compatible back to 10.3. Jim also did not complain or expect Microsoft to make their version of Word backwards compatible with 10.3 . . . why not?

6. He buys the "same" iMac for a stepdaughter about a year later. It does not have the same problems, because it probably has 10.4 installed, or the stepdaughter has already upgraded her iMac to 10.4 or 10.5. His stepdaughter might need to be the one to help him track down and purchase a 10.4 or 10.5 install DVD.

7. I have not checked, but I suspect that Microsoft also does not continue to sell upgrades to their OS after similar periods of time. Can you still buy Windows 98 directly from Microsoft? Unlikely.

8. He blames Apple for not having the solution at hand, i.e., still selling the upgrade disks for older Mac OS. That is enough to swear off any future Apple purchases. A real pity. It would be nice if Apple had these available until all the G5 iMacs finally disappeared from the earth [one of the reasons I use Macs, their long shelf life, but I also know to keep them as up to date as possible and know they will not work with every brand new device - camera, printer, etc. - that comes out over time].

9. Legit copies of 10.4 or 10.5 retail installs will be hard to locate, but not impossible. I suspect that Jim will not accept that he has to pay $125 or more to get a copy. The reality is that Apple is under no obligation to continue manufacturing these discs, and that means they end up in the "antique" category sooner then Jim would like. The same situation would happen if he was upgrading an old Windows computer from W98 or 2000 - he would not understand why it was so hard to locate a copy of Windows XP, even though he traveled all the way to Microsoft headquarters in Redmond.

Please note, I am not trying to be so negative, but some of his logic displayed in his communications bothered me, not just because his negative comments were aimed only at Apple [not at HP or Intuit or Microsoft], but that he expected Apple to provide a service that I think is unreasonable for most of the business world. Apple makes customer support mistakes, just the same as any large corporation. I still continue to prefer the Mac OS for my computer work.

10. If Jim really dislikes his G5 iMac, I would suggest he mail it to me, after he gets his replacement Windows computer, and I will reimburse him the cost of shipping. There are probably other readers of your column who would still see value in his "bad" Apple.

Yours truly,

Hi Mark,

Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

I have to say that I don't find your automotive analogy really works for me. Just because you can't buy a new '06 model car doesn't mean it's no longer usable under current highway conditions. If we were talking computer hardware, no argument, but an operating system is a whole different dimension, since there are still an awful lot of PowerPC Macs in service that can't run Snow Leopard. I'm astonished that Apple would stop selling at least Leopard to accommodate the later models.

I still have two 10-year-old Pismo PowerBooks in daily use, and while I'm not complaining that they don't support newer OS versions than Tiger (officially), and I'm in good shape since I have a Tiger install disk for system reinstalls, there is still a healthy demand for these old machines, but someone buying say a cherry example that had been sitting around in a drawer or closet for years (it happens) would be up the creek without a paddle in terms of finding a contemporary OS install disk. It isn't like it would be difficult or expensive for Apple to keep making older OS version install disks available. They could even make a modest profit on it, since the cost factor is negligible. It's impossible not to imagine that not doing so is a policy decision calculated to dragoon users into buying new hardware.

Your Windows 98 analogy hardly applies here. Microsoft still sells Windows XP, which came out in 2001.

Jim is partly the author of his own misfortune, but some folks just aren't interested in the nuts and bolts of computing, and he's been particularly spared the necessity, thanks to his school's IT support department for his office computer, but the end of this story will likely see him replacing the iMac with a Windows PC - not the wisest choice IMHO, but that certainly is not to Apple's benefit. Maintaining customer good will is important.


Combo USB/DisplayPort Connector Is Half-baked

From Ed:

In your latest Mac News Review, you link to a story about Apple exploring a combo USB/DisplayPort. (I think that idea is half-baked. If they're going to do a combo, they should do one like the fairly common combo eSATA/USB ports that work with completely standard eSATA cables and completely standard USB cables; they shouldn't make a new plug that is different from both DP and USB.)

But you make the comment about Apple supporting audio on mDP. They do now on the just-released MacBook Pros.

Thanks for the comment, Ed.


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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