Mac Skype

Setting up Skype Voicemail on Mac client

[For the impatient, scroll down to see the solution]

I have used Skype for years. I work from home, and have a subscription and a Skype Online Number, to which my office phone number redirects, so that colleagues can still dial my extension and talk to me. As such, I rely on it.

I’m also a Mac user, and have witnessed so many changes to the Skype interface that I dread each time that an update alert appears. There is only so long one can ignore them. Somewhere in the current 5.x release cycle, it appears that my voicemail settings disappeared. A colleague alerted me to this today, that my number rang and rang (whilst I was making tea in the kitchen). I thought it would just be a case of re-ticking the “unanswered calls” button that I seem to remember being fairly obvious in the preferences panel of previous versions. But in their wisdom, the “Calls” panel of the current build of the Mac Skype client ( now looks like this:

Skype "Calls" options
"Calls" options in Skype

Now, forgive me for being picky, but where is the option to say “after 15 seconds go to voicemail”? Here, it seems as if I am offered four direct options. Do nothing and allow me to answer, the rather scary “answer automatically”, forward calls to another number, or just send them all to voicemail. It doesn’t seem that flexible, and I’m never going to remember to go into Skype and switch on voicemail manually.

In the “Set up Voicemail” panel, all you can do is record or play back your message; no further options are available. In “Set up Forwarding” you can set a time limit in seconds and enter numbers to which to redirect the call. No “send to voicemail” option.

The Solution

The rather unintuitive solution seems to be this. Open Skype Preferences (Skype > Preferences) then select the “Calls” tab. Next, select “Forward calls”. Then click “Set up Forwarding”. Enter the time in seconds after which you would like calls to be sent to voicemail. Don’t enter any phone numbers. Click “Done”. Back on the Calls panel switch to the fourth option, “Send to voicemail”. Your calls will now go to voicemail after the specified amount of time.

Come on Skype, that’s not obvious! Please make this process a lot more obvious in future builds, and bring back the “unanswered calls” settings.

Mac Software


I have just bought the latest MacHeist nanoBundle2 (after I found that there’s a $2 discount to existing MacHeist members) and MacJournal came as part of the bundle.

I do use DevonThink for most of my information organisation, but MacJournal’s, well, journal feel could be quite interesting. And it, hopefully, can publish to my blog, which is the real purpose for writing these words.

I may post more if the software become more useful. You never know.

[Update: 22/09/10] I don’t use it much, actually. I’ve added MacJournal to my Dock, in the hope I’ll jot down notes that could become posts.

Mac Technology

Backing up your data to the internet

The latest Dreamhost newsletter popped into my inbox yesterday, and amongst all the dry humour was a notice that they are giving all customers a 50GB of free space to use for personal backups. Although technically I have access to over 350GB of storage, their storage terms and conditions forbid its use for anything other than web content.

So now I have yet more storage “in the cloud” (as it is oh so fashionable to call it these days). So what is going to be the best way to access it?

When I created my backup account through the Dreamhost control panel I chose to access my space via SFTP, as any sensible person should do. I couldn’t log in for a while to check the account, but this was entirely my fault. I copied and pasted the username that they issued me, and discovered that I had also copied an errant space as well. A simple mistake we’ve all made from time to time 🙂

I then remembered about the MacFUSE project, and its GUI, MacFusion. In a nutshell, this allows me to easily integrate my 50GB of backup storage right into my OSX environment. A quick bit of dragging and dropping, and the backup ‘drive’ is listed in the Finder underneath my physical disks. A few ticks of some boxes in MacFusion, and it all connects automatically when I start up my Mac. Lovely!


While it’s nice to have a large chunk of space to use for manual backups, it relies upon you, the user, to transfer files to it. If you are as forgetful as I am, there is software that could handle backups automatically using rsync (such as the amusingly-named ArRsync), what about versioning?

Enter DropBox, who offer 2GB free accounts (or 5GB if you were an early beta tester like me), and soon-to-be-announced 50GB accounts for $9.99/month. The trick here, is that they have developed their own backup client. Upon installing the client, a new directory is created on your system, and on Macs, a Dropbox icon appears in your “Places” sidebar in the Finder. Any files that are put in this folder are automatically uploaded to your Dropbox storage. The trick is that they support versioning, and byte-level changes.

So, if you realise that somewhere along the line you accidentally deleted a paragraph or page of text from a Word document, you could retrieve an earlier version of the document and recover the words. If you are working on a large file, the whole file isn’t uploaded repeatedly, only the parts of the file that have changed. This saves on bandwidth, and makes the whole process almost transparent.

Because the files live on both your computer and the server, there is no delay opening files and no downloading required. Unless, of course, you are away from your machine and wish to access your files via a web browser (which is very easy to do thanks to a simple user interface).

I use DropBox as a bridge between my Mac at work and my Mac at home. I have the client running on both systems. If, for example, I download an album from iTunes, I can put it in my DropBox, and via the magic of sync, when I get home it’s also on my hard drive there.

Good stuff.

The bottleneck: ADSL upload speed

The only thing that is cumbersome about uploading to the cloud is the slow upload speed of ADSL in many parts of the UK. Where I live we don’t have ADSL2+ enabled in our telephone exchange yet, so uploads are squeezed slowly up the line at a speed of 300kbs. This is a big bottleneck, so larger files have to upload overnight. Hopefully this will change in the not-too-distant future.


While I am a big fan of off-site backups via the internet, there are still some things that concern me. One of them is the security of my data. Who can look at my files at the other end? None of the solutions above encrypt your data in any way, and I wouldn’t entrust any personal information to any online service to be honest, but it is something to consider.

If you’re interested in encrypted backups, have a look at Mozy, who offer unlimited space for $4.95/month. I haven’t used them for a while, but it has a good reputation.

Happy backing up!

Mac Software

Video on the BBC website / Installing Real Player on OSX

Warning – this one is a bit of a rant. With pictures.

I’ve just tried to watch a video on the BBC website on a new(ish) MacBook running the latest version of the Mac operating system (Leopard). But of course, I’d forgotten, you need Real Player or Windows Media Player to watch their video:

No Real Player

Grrr. Please use Flash video, as you’re using on the iPlayer, not clunky old RealPlayer. Anyway, I’ll download the wretched software and install it for the future. Or will I?

So I head off to to download the latest version. I click the big shiny “Download FREE RealPlayer” button. And a Windows .exe begins to download. Hello? I’m on a Mac! So the download is cancelled. I spot under the button in tiny writing “Other versions / languages”. It seems like the much touted version 11 of RealPlayer isn’t available for OSX, so I’ll have to use version 10 instead. Stupidly, I click the first link for OSX, and the download is offered in Spanish…

So I return to the previous page, and find the English version at the bottom. Most websites these days are able to tell your OS and your language automatically – can’t Real do that? Anyway, I select the rather old-fashioned link to the copy hosted by Demon Internet which downloads rather swiftly (Demon are my ISP).

The RealPlayer icon extracts itself from a dmg (disk image) into my downloads folder. Great! I can just drag it into my Applications folder like a normal Mac program!

Real Player icon

…well actually that’s not how it’s done, as I find out by double-clicking the icon…

RealPlayer setup

Another dialogue between me and the video (it’s just the weather forecast for heaven’s sake!). So I follow the necessary steps, agree to sell my soul by agreeing to the license without reading it, save this draft, let it close my browser, and (cue fanfare):

RealPlayer10Gold for the Mac

So I eagerly open my Safari web browser, and head off to the BBC Weather homepage to watch that all-important weather forecast (snow tomorrow, apparently, and we don’t get it that often here).

The fanfare rapidly turns into a parping sound:

No Real Player

I give up.

Please BBC, please fix your videos to use Flash video or something that will work with a modern slimline, cross-platform plugin.

This is now 2008. The process I’ve just been through feels like 1998, and I have deja vu…


After posting this, I had another close look and it seemed that the BBC site had decided that I chose Windows Media Player as my preference (which I hadn’t).

BBC video preferences

Just clicking on OK set my preference to RealPlayer, and lo, the holy Weather Forecast was watched:

BBC Weather forecast


Mac WordPress

WordPress Dashboard Widgets

Does anyone know of a decent OSX dashboard widget for posting to a WordPress blog? I’ve been using WordPressDash on and off for over two years now, and in Leopard some strange things have happened to its appearance. One that supports WP2.3’s tags would be nice.


Ideas, anyone?

Mac Uncategorized

17″ Apple PowerBook screen problems

[Update] The line is back, despite after disappearing temporarily after a reboot. See the photo below.
[Update 2: 2nd May] A second line has appeared 6 pixels to the left of the first one 🙁
[Update 3: 10th May]A third line, this time magenta, is now flickering on and off 495px in from the left. I’m going to need to get a new display.
[Update4: 8th June]I’ve now got 6 lines, cyan, magenta, and yellow. One right down the middle of my screen. I’ve now found a website dedicated to getting Apple to recognise this defect.

My 17″ PowerBook is now 2 years old. It’s been used every day since I’ve had it, and been my workhorse. Even though the new Intel MacBooks are out there I have had no (well, ok, a few) urges to upgrade, until today.

Just an hour ago, a vertical cyan line appeared running down the height of the screen on the right hand side. It would flash on and off randomly, as if the row of pixels were stuck. A quick Google revealed that I was not alone. Some afflicted PowerBook owners often reported that once you have had one line appear, you’ll probably get more. There are photos of some rather extreme examples at

I’ve just rebooted, and the line has gone away. Maybe it was a glitch, maybe it’ll return. If it does, I’ll take a photo and submit it to Crosspond’s “Bridget Riley” website.

Since I’m in the UK, and if the problem persists, I should be able to get Apple to replace the screen (under the Sale of Goods Act 1979), but I’m not sure. I’ll keep posting about it here, in case others with the same problem pop by.


[tags]apple, powerbook, screen defect, 17″ PowerBook G4, hardware[/tags]

Mac Software

On NewsFire an other feed readers

My feedreader of choice is, and has been for some 2 years, the excellent NetNewsWire Lite on a Mac. It handles my 244 feeds very well, and they’re all nicely categorised into groups.

But I’ve had a bit of trouble recently in that NetNewsWire Lite has begun to randomly jumble up individual posts. Rather than sorting them by arrival order, it’s just mixing them together. I’ve checked “View > Sort By > Arrival Order” and it’s checked. I’ve clicked everything and double-checked settings, and it should all be OK.

Just out of curiosity, I thought that I would try out NewsFireRSS. Its interface looks very clean, and I do actually have a license bought through the recent MacHeist promotion (I bought the MacHeist bundle primarily for Delicious Library and Rapidweaver). So I thought that I would give it a whirl.

NetNewsWire allows you to export your RSS subscriptions to an OPML file with two options: first, as a flat file, and second, preserving your subscription groups. I opted for the second option, as I’ve got them all nicely grouped, and it would takes ages to sort them again by hand.

Sadly, when I imported the OPML file into NewsFire, none of the groups were preserved. I had one huge list of subscriptions. Not good!

Just to test the exported OPML file, I imported it into the open source feed reader, Vienna. My groups were preserved, thankfully, so the OPML file did export correctly from NetNewsWire. It seems that NewsFire just can’t cope with OPML groups – a big shame! I might have to relent and re-group by hand – or just stick with NNW or Vienna.

Mac Software


Having just moved house, and having just packed all my books and CDs, I decided that I really ought to catalogue them. I’ve been tempted by Delicious Library for a while now and thought it an excellent time to buy it.

Luckily, I heard about MacHeist, who, at the time of writing, are offering Delicious Library and 8 other software titles for just $49. This includes RapidWeaver, Shapeshifter, TextMate, NewsFire, FotoMagico, Disco, iClip 4, DEVONthink Personal, and a Pangea game. To buy them all separately would cost you $307.74, so that’s rather a bargain.

For every $49, a proportion (25%) of that money is donated to a charity, so even better.

MacRumors point out that currently, MacHeist has raised over $100,000 for charities with this current offer. But it isn’t without some controversy. Without going in-depth at how MacHeist managed to make such a good offer (I’m not party to specifics), there are a number of critics mentioned on the MacRumors article.

It’s worth reading what MacHeist have to say about how it works, and to read the fors and againsts before you decide to take advantage of their next offer…