Apple Trackpad on Windows with 3-finger drag!

A month ago, when I needed to get a new laptop for work, I switched from a MacBook Pro to a Dell XPS 9750, saving £100’s of pounds for what on paper is an almost identical laptop. Except it isn’t. Dell’s XPS is astonishingly good, and it’s a priviledge to own one, but I’ve become an Apple devotee over the years and can’t change it. My days are spent programming for Windows so I need a fast PC development environment and therefore the XPS makes sense. With the MBP I need to use VMWare Fusion or Parallels, and Apple are really pushing my (and other people’s) limits by charging so much money for memory and SSD upgrades. So I went for the XPS. 

Of all the little things I miss, 3 finger dragging is way up there. To be fair, the XPS’s trackpad is one of the best out there for Windows laptops, and with Windows 10 there is a double-tap to drag gesture which is fantastic. But the trackpad is too small and two taps (versus a single 3-finger drag) are one tap too many.

After a bit of Googling, I found Magic Utilities, a company that make drivers and utilities for Apple wireless keyboards, the magic mouse, and the Magic Trackpad. When I used Windows as a virtual machine on the MBP I got used to a particular mapping of the Alt and Cmd keys; the keyboard utility app lets me restore these mapping. Also, I’ve just discovered that the Eject key now becomes delete, although my fingers have 5 years of muscle memory which means that delete = Function + Backspace.

(Now, with the Apple keyboard, the function and control keys are where they should be IMO! There are loads of people asking Dell whether it’s possible to swap these keys on the Dell keyboards but it really can’t be done.)

Apple’s wireless Magic Trackpad performs terribly on Windows 10 by default. There are few (if any) gestures, and the whole feel of the cursor on the screen is terrible. Magic Utilities Trackpad app changes this completely:

Now I can scroll, drag, single-finder tap, and not a mechanical click in sight. 

I’ve now bought a one year licence after trialling this for a couple of weeks without any problems. Now I work with the XPS lid closed and just the wireless mouse and keyboard in front of an external 4K monitor. 

For the odd occasional where I might work 12 hours a day the little things, both positive and negative, soon accumulate, so the ~£20 cost of this bundle is really a bargain. 

Now if I could just find a similar utility to turn Windows 10 into Mac OS… 😀

iOS mail signature woes

This morning I decided to update my company email signatures and synchronise them between the MacBook Pro (Mavericks), the iPhone and the iPad.

A couple of hours later I finally cracked it!

The main issue I had was preventing iOS from automatically converting numbers and addresses into links. This is a particular problem when it gets it wrong and doesn’t provide any obvious means of editing/cancelling the links.

First I used an online HTML editor to make my signature:


Then I copied the rendered output to the mail app on Mavericks:


Then I tried emailing myself using the new signature. On Mavericks it looked perfect, but on the iPhone it misinterpreted some of the  information:


In this case just the company number was displayed as a telephone number link. But on one of my other email accounts half of the address was converted to a link while the other half remained as text.

I don’t think it’s possible to suppress this automatic conversion, and I can live with it because usually it works quite well.

My iPhone and iPad problems started when I tried to copy the signature to the clipboard and paste it into the signature box on the settings app:

So, the copy and paste has worked, but it’s not what I want. I’ve lost the font type and size, and nearly everything is blue.

I then tried using the online HTML editor on the iPhone but the rendered output had automatic link conversions on the telephone numbers. Not really a problem but it was still doing things I didn’t want.

Then I decided to try a cunning plan: I sent myself an email with the signature broken into multiple lines, so that no one line appeared to contain a useable telephone number or address:


Then I copied the message to the iPhone’s email signature editor but it lost the font!

Finally, as I was considering giving up, I went back to the MacBook and pasted my signature onto Evernote and split it into multiple lines again. Back on the iPhone I copied the mangled signature  from Evernote to the signature editor:


Progress! Next I edited the signature to remove the line breaks:


And finally an email:


Ok, so the telephone numbers have been converted into links but I suspect I can never prevent that, and since these are telephone numbers then I’m fine with it. But I’ve got my font type and size, and the company number is just a number (not a link), and I’ve roughly got what I wanted.

Then I repeated the last few steps again on the iPad.

There are plenty of iOS apps for making signatures but I really wanted to have the in-built signature working. And now I have it. But there must be a better way, either now or in the future. And once Apple and Google start talking to each other I might even see emails as they arrive without having to restart the mail app on Mavericks.

OS X, Python 3.3, LiClipse

Yesterday I tried to get Eclipse and PyDev installed on my MacBook Pro (running Mavericks). After a couple of hours of struggling I gave up and discovered LiClipse which is a highly recommended system for working with Python and many other languages from the Eclipse framework.

I used a clean OS X Mavericks virtual machine to get my installation nailed down, especially important since I wanted to work with Python 3.x.


Download and install:

  1. Python 3.x.
  2. Java 7.
  3. LiClipse: click the Google Drive link, select the latest version (currently 0.9.6), click and download the OS X file (currently liclipse_0.9.6_macosx.cocoa.x86_64.dmg), then install using all default options.


Eject all download package (DMG) folders on the desktop.

Use Finder and go to Applications, open the liclipse folder, then drag the LiClipse app to the dock.

Run LiClipse. If a software update prompt appears for Java SE 6 then install it.

Accept all defaults when starting for the first time and restart the app.
Select File / New project, then select PyDev/PyDev Project:

Hit Next, then set a project name and click the link to configure an interpreter:


Select the advanced configuration option:


Then select python3.3:


On the next screen make sure all folders are selected:


Back on the new project screen make any other changes – I opted not to configure the Python path – then click Finish:


The Open Associated Perspective prompt may appear – I chose to associate the project with the PyDev perspective:


These Python and perspective settings will be used the next time LiClipse is started for Python projects.

Quick Python test

Following on from the above new I added a new Python file, entered a couple of lines of code, and ran it:







If the debugger is used, for example by stepping through the code, there’ll be an option to switch to another perspective – this should be used for debugging:


This presents more window areas for examining variables, viewing the editor and console output, etc:


After the debugging session is complete the Debug perspective will still be active. To switch back to the original perspective use the menus:
  • Window | Open Perspective | Other, then select PyDev.

Standing desk (ikea hack)

I’m starting my third week of standing, rather than sitting, at work. There’s been much written on this subject and I’m not 100% sure that it’s the right long term solution but so far I feel more focussed and less like a 12-hour-a-day slob.

My office already had some Ikea Expedit shelves on the wall, and I’d tried converting my table into a simple standing desk. But the table was around 6 inches too low and due to it having just four very extended legs it was also quite wobbly.

2013-12-03 09.15.08

Then I saw this excellent Ikea Hack for an Expedit Standing Desk.

My hack is a variation on the above desk system; I strengthened the front 5*1 unit by retaining the first and last internal panels – this had the advantage of providing a bit more storage as well. The wall shelves came down and formed sides to the desk, and now it’s starting to feel pretty cool (this being day 2 of this configuration).

I modelled the system on Google Sketchup:

i1 i2 i3 i4

Then I built it, and here it is:

2013-12-16 18.37.43 2013-12-16 18.38.12

Once I can lose the bits and bobs on the floor and tidy up the shelves it’s going to be super cool.

OS X Pages 5.0 graphics in header

The latest version of Pages for OS X and iOS is great for iCloud users who want to edit documents on both desktop and mobile with maximum compatibility. But Pages for OS X has lost many features to attain this compatibility.

Yesterday I tried to create a new document with a company logo in the header, so that it would repeat on every page. The process wasn’t intuitive!

First off the Pages 5.0 manual is easiest to find via Pages, rather than Googling for it:


Then the trick is discovering master objects.

You can add text, watermarks, logos, or other images that appear in the same place in the background of every page of your document. These repeated elements are called master objects.

So here’s my sequence of events for getting an image into the document header so that it repeats on every page:

  1. New (blank) document.
  2. Turn on Layout View (⇧⌘L). This makes it a little easier to see where the header and body areas of the document are.
  3. Drag and drop the logo to the document body.
  4. Resize the logo and drag to the appropriate location in the header. Caution: if the resized logo fits within the header cell boundary it seems difficult or impossible to re-select it. I made mine slightly larger so that the mouse cursor could just click it.
  5. With the logo selected use the menu Arrange | Section Masters | Move Object to Section Master to make the logo a master object.
  6. If the logo needs to be repositioned use the Arrange | Section Masters | Make Master Objects Selectable to allow this and any other background objects to be selected.

Shapes for header/foot borders

This technique can also be used with shapes to allow the header and/or foot to have a full width border. For example, after setting up the header text try adding a simple shape to the document:


Resize the shape and add any effects, move it below the header, use the menus again to make it a master object:


When viewed as a PDF in Preview:



This is all possible on the iPad, give or take a few frustrating finger taps and Googling!

The user manual is here.