Restore Leopard-like Exposé in Snow Leopard

March 17th, 2021

When I switched to Mac, Exposé was one of the features that I fell in love with particularly. Switching from Windows XP, the animation alone was incredible. And it was not only a visually appealing feature, but a very useful one too. When activated, Exposé drags all the windows out from underneath one another, letting you choose freely between all open windows.

One of the reasons why Exposé was so useful was that it arranged windows in a very similar way to the way you already had them arranged. If you had Safari on the left of the screen and Terminal on the right, then Exposé would try to place them as close to their respective original positions as possible. This made it very easy to find any given window quickly: you already knew where it was, you just used Exposé to reveal it from underneath another window.

Unfortunately, Snow Leopard (10.6) kind of ruined Exposé by modifying this window arrangement algorithm. Apple changed it to arrange windows in a neat grid, where each window was given the same size. This looked clean and organized, but the relative positions between the windows was completely disregarded. The Safari window on the left could be placed at any place, left or right, in the grid according to a completely unpredictable rule.

In Mountain Lion (10.8), an option was added to restore the old window arrangement behavior, but the damage was already done, as far as many users were concerned. Having gone two entire versions of OS X without any real useful version of Exposé, people had learned to rely on other strategies to navigate their windows. And an option is worth little compared to a default.

Fortunately for Snow Leopard users, though, there is a way to restore the old Exposé! It involves copying the Dock.app from an early beta build of Snow Leopard (10A380), in which the new behavior hadn’t yet been implemented. I’ve gone through the effort and uploaded the 10A380 version of Dock.app to several places:

You can replace your stock Dock.app with this older version via Terminal, as Finder doesn’t let you replace a running application. Further instructions, including on how to make it support other languages than English, are available in my MacRumors forum post (archived).

Classic Exposé in Snow Leopard

Attachments

Connect to encrypted e-mail servers from Snow Leopard’s Mail.app

March 16th, 2021

(Originally posted on the MacRumors forums.)

For some incomprehensible reason, few e-mail providers today support older versions of SSL, let alone unencrypted access. To connect to a modern e-mail server from an older client, such as the Mail.app included in Snow Leopard, you need a proxy server between your client and your server. One such proxy server is stunnel, a UNIX program that is also compatible with Mac OS X.

Here are instructions on how to install and configure stunnel for this. Note that you need to install MacPorts before doing any of this. Also, be careful. Some UNIX experience is required. If you feel you’re not up to the task, I think some version of Thunderbird would likely support both OS 10.6 and modern encryption.

Steps 4 and 6 (but not 5) can also be performed using LaunchControl.

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Stream audio from iOS to Snow Leopard via AirPlay

March 3rd, 2021

When I use Snow Leopard, I usually listen to music on my iPhone, which means I have to connect my headphones to my phone instead of my computer, and then back when I want to listen to something on the computer. This gets a bit annoying, especially if I get a call on the phone.

Luckily, I’ve found a way to play the audio from my iPhone on my Mac, even on an operating system as old as Snow Leopard. In fact, I suspect it would even work on Tiger. The solution is a piece of software called shairport-sync, which is available in the MacPorts repositories:

$ sudo port install shairport-sync

Now, you can start the receiving server:

$ shairport-sync -d

This starts it as a daemon. Use the -k option to kill it. If you want to start shairport-sync automatically at boot, I recommend using LaunchControl.

Now, you can select your Mac as an AirPlay audio output on your iOS device!

Update: For my Windows PC, I found Shairport4w, which provides a nice graphical interface as well.

New blog about personal computing

February 28th, 2021

The personal computer is something that is very dear to me. If there are two types of computer users in the world:

  1. those who see their computer as a means to an end, and
  2. those who identify themselves with their computer,

then I am part of the latter group. I care deeply about the way my computer works, especially with regards to the operating system and user interface. And once I’ve found an operating system that I like, I spend a lot of time learning it, customizing it and optimizing my workflow.

That’s why I created this blog. I’ve chosen to call it John’s Desktop. The theme is personal computing, but I thought desktop sounded better than PC. It’s been a while since I’ve done any blogging per se. I’ve written a few web articles throughout the years; I’m not sure that counts as blogging. But now I’m actually returning to it, with blog engine and all.

The posts are going to be focused on the operating systems that I use:

As you can see, it’s very much a mix of retro and modern. If you’re interested in the same kind of things – welcome! Feel free to stick around or subscribe to the feed.

John Ankarström