Posts in category apple - page 4

Four Windows apps for home-sick Mac users

Libra (like Delicious Library)

Delicious Library is a DVD, game and book organization tool I’ve been using since my PowerBook G4 and a 2.0 version has been dangling from Wil Shipley’s mouth longer than I care to remember.

Windows users however will find Libra a very interesting clone and it features some of the same great features such as bar-code scanning via a web cam, tracking loans, a rendered virtual shelf and fast queries.

Unlike Delicious Library 1.x it also features sharing your library on-line, tweaking the types and rendering and a more advanced query engine and is available free for non-commercial use.

E Text Editor (like TextMate)

TextMate is a programming editor for the Mac that can be extended through the use of Bundles to provide additional syntax highlighting, menu options and command processing. It is fast, feels lightweight and therefore incredibly customizable all of which contribute to it’s success.

E Text Editor is a Windows clone of TextMate that doesn’t just mimic the user interface but also provides compatibility with TextMate bundles allowing you to take advantage of some of the many great enhancements available and at $34 is almost half the price although it doesn’t feel as snappy as it’s Mac counterpart.

Digsby (like Adium)

Adium is my instant messaging client of choice allowing me a single app to manage MSN, ICQ and Google Talk (I wish they would get basic Skype support in there too).

Digsby provides similar functionality whilst also throwing social networking (Facebook, Twitter) and email notification (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail etc.) into the mix.

Dash (like Quicksilver)

QuickSilver provides a quick keyboard-based entry system for performing a wide variety of tasks and selections within Mac OS X and what it doesn’t do can often be added with plug-ins.

Dash achieves a similar effect on Windows but I have to admit I’m not really sold on either yet. I think the movement from keyboard to mouse and back every now and then must be a good break for your hands if not for your productivity…

[)amien

What being open means to Apple & Microsoft

Apple

Former Apple engineer Jens Alfke believes Apple’s external image has been polished until featureless. The restrictive staff blogging policies, the veil of secrecy around future plans and a carefully orchestrated three-person spokes-team of Jobs, Schiller and Ive lead to a very impersonal closed business.

It certainly wasn’t always this way. The original Mac team appeared in Rolling Stone magazine with credit in about boxes, a practice that was continued at NeXT but abolished by Mac OS X Beta. Jobs makes regular comparisons between engineers and artists and touted individual thinking in the Think Different campaign and artists like recognition with signatures on art and credits on film.

Conversely Apple’s Mac OS X operating system is built on open software and standards. The kernel is derived from open elements bundled up as Darwin which Apple provides back along with compilers, debug tools, programming language, command line tools, Bonjour, device driver kit and a bunch of drivers. All are open.

The web rendering technology in Safari (WebKit based on KHTML) is also open and changes rolled back to the communities often reveal unannounced insights into Apple’s plans (e.g. Safari for Windows).

And yet how many engineers write or talk about Apple? Do you know the names of any product managers? Could you find any out with Google? (LinkedIn doesn’t count ;-)

These aren’t academic questions, what if you have a great idea for a feature you’d like to see added? How can you discuss how a product could evolve to fit your needs? What about a simple bug report or advanced access to technology? (The answers are “send it to feedback@apple.com and don’t hold your breath”, “you can’t” and “join the developer program”)

Heaven forbid you do actually find out what their plans might be – you could find yourself talking to their lawyers like the ill-fated ThinkSecret site that featured rumors, speculation and the occasional insider info.

Microsoft

Jens makes a passing mention to Microsoft’s relaxed blogging policies.

Microsoft is a company that rarely provides the source, never ships or builds upon existing free software and yet not only discusses plans and road-maps but actively solicits feedback in the design process through conferences, user groups, forums, mailing lists and even on-site review teams. Employees such as Scott Guthrie and Brad Abrams have become quite well known within .NET communities often being the first to break announcements and provide quick feedback through their blogs.

The center of this effort is engineering thanks to sites like Channel 9 providing regular interviews, Microsoft Research providing experiments to play with and CodePlex hosting open projects.

But they aren’t the only ones reaching out.

Microsoft’s HR & recruiting team and individuals are also putting up interesting insights and thoughts on how the company operates and head of the Xbox Live! is so active in this area that the name Major Nelson is known to any serious 360 owner.

Being open

How strange that Apple embraces open technologies yet keeps communication closed and Microsoft’s technologies are still quite closed yet communication is very much open.

What does it mean to be open and where will each company’s approach lead them?

[)amien

What’s in your laptop bag?

Since my new laptop arrived I’ve been fine tuning my accessories in search of the developer-on-the-move setup. Here is my current contents complete with shameless Amazon Affiliate product links where applicable ;-)

Brenthaven Pro BackPack

My parents bought me the Brenthaven Pro 15-17 Backpack for Christmas. It has a great number of sections and compartments yet can still be thinly packed with the padding contributing to a comfortable wear. The only negatives are that the finish seems a little rough in places and that the rigid laptop protection area seems to be designed to hold a laptop almost twice as thick as a MacBook Pro despite claims of being ‘Designed for a 15.4″ MacBook and 17″ MacBook Pro’.

Of course the dream laptop bag would have an external USB port that would power and charge various devices within ;-)

RadTech sleeve & protector

I’ve owned RadTech sleeves for all three of my Apple laptop’s to date and they’ve all been excellent. Snug fitting, soft but hard-wearing and well-made they keep the machines clean and scratch-free. Now available in a multitude of colors but call me a traditionalist I’ve stuck with aluminum-grey. I also recommend grabbing a screen protector that sits between the keyboard and screen that doubles up as a cleaning cloth.

OCZ Rally 2 4GB USB stick

Another gift I received is the ever-useful USB memory stick for those odd file transfer tasks. The OCZ 4GB Rally 2 USB 2.0 Flash Drive can double up as a Vista ReadyBoost cache (providing you are booted natively, neither Parallels or VMware Fusion emulate it fast enough) and is housed in a small black metal enclosure the size of my little finger. Minor downsides are the easily-lost cap and the green led that casts an eerie glow over the geek at the keyboard.

Microsoft Wireless Notebook Laser Mouse 600

I’ve been using mice with laptops less over the years as my comfort with track-pads has grown and i have found myself without desk space for a mouse. The Microsoft Wireless Notebook Laser Mouse 600 works quite well however and the battery seems to last for ages. It is quite light and possibly a bit too small to be comfortable and if I was to replace it I’d go with something Bluetooth to avoid the dongle (which clips into the mouse when not in use).

iPod Nano

I purchased a iPod Nano 8GB 3G late last year after my 60GB iPod died. The device is incredibly small with a good battery life and fantastic display. Not convinced that the screen or control is suited for video or games but it makes a great little music player – I’m just hoping the flash models have a longer lifespan.

Philips Earbuds

These Philips HN060/37 ‘Noise-Canceling’ Earbuds are pretty good considering the price, size and battery life. Whilst they don’t cancel noise out the combination of the in-ear mechanism, volume booster and the active circuity does help suppress noise levels somewhat and I have found them particularly useful on flights. Some people find the high-pitched white noise the circuitry generates annoying and others find in-ear plugs irritating however. Personally the only problem I have with them is that the rubber pieces tend to come off and get lost quite easily but you can buy generic replacement packs from many airport/music stores.

My Book Pro 500GB External Drive

Leopard’s Time Machine combined with a Western Digital My Book Studio 500GB External Hard Drive provides me with a simple backup strategy that is lightning fast via FireWire 800 (800 Mbps) and still speedy over USB 2 (480 Mbps).

The Studio drive I linked to also provides eSATA support (couldn’t find mine on Amazon). It isn’t always in my backpack but does make a regular appearance.

Cables etc.

The bane of every techie’s life. Currently includes 1m USB extender, a USB to mini-USB cable that connects my TyTN, PSP, BlackBerry and Canon EOS 400D to my MacBook Pro and the Apple DVI to VGA adapter for presentations. The Apple-supplied remote also sits in there for exactly that purpose.

Stationary

I like to keep a Moleskine pocket notepad tucked away, ruled by preference until they make a graph-paper version. This is normally coupled with a Pilot G2 at the moment which is comfy and smooth but takes too long to dry and is still too thick in the 0.38mm ’05’ version. Without sounding like a pen obsessive I’m going to try a Uni-Ball Signo Bit 0.18 next! There is also a nondescript mechanical pencil and large eraser.

Reading

Yes, there is still room in this TARDIS of a laptop bag for reading material. At the moment it is alternating between Designing Type, Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager and The Art of Intrusion all of which were Christmas gifts :)

That’s it! would love to find out what other people keep in their laptop bags and hear suggestions on some of my weak spots. I wish I could fit a full-size tactile keyboard in it but I guess I’ll live!

[)amien

Mac freebies for Christmas

MouseWarp

Spaces is new in Leopard bringing virtual desktops to the masses. Leopard gives you a number of ways to switch between spaces including a menu-item drop down and configurable keyboard shortcuts.

To move a window to another space you drag it to the edge of the screen and wait a moment but curiously you can’t use this great technique without a window to switch!

MouseWarp adds that missing feature and provides configurable delay, an optional keyboard modifier to activate it and the choice of whether the mouse stays where it was or flips to the opposing edge on the new space.

BitRocket

I’ve tried and recommended a number of Bit Torrent programs in previous Mac software posts but BitRocket sports a great modern Mac look. The user interface tends to get a bit confused wen switching around a bit but being open source this could be fixed quite promptly.

Update: I can’t recommend this program whilst it crashes so often, check out the alternatives Jane suggests in the comments.

LiteIcon

Tools to replace the Mac’s choice of system icons are surely only going to get more popular with Leopard’s annoying almost-identical watermarked folders. Whilst LiteIcon isn’t quite as slick as the commercial app CandyBar it is $29 cheaper and still lets you use the multitude of pre-made iContainer packs from the likes of IconFactory.

Think

Are you one of those people that get distracted by other apps on the screen? Me too, which is why I now use Spaces but Think is an alternative darkens the other running applications to your taste.

Carbon Copy Cloner

If you are a Boot Camp user like myself you might want to be able to backup that Windows partition to disk somewhere and Carbon Copy Cloner comes to the rescue. This is fine for the occasional backup but I’m finding myself wanting something like Time Machine for Windows – suggestions anyone?

MacHeist

MacHeist is an odd concept to explain but starts with a couple of free apps and alternate reality game. If you can solve the missions then your name is probably Jonathan Creek but the rest of us can take tips, or combinations wholesale, from the official forums where those with more brains, resources or time have collaborated on solving it.

As you enter more combinations you unlock additional free (but non-up-gradable) applications and the odd discount for a forthcoming bundle in January which you are under no obligation to buy. You can also get an extra free app for Christmas by referring a friend. Just remember to backup the downloadable installers and serial numbers as once they’re gone that’s it!

So far the apps are (and I’ll update this tomorrow when I can unwrap the other three:

WireTap Pro

WireTap Pro lets you record any sound your Mac can make – thereby effectively allowing you to rip anything you can play if you don’t mind the the degradation in quality of lossy re-compression. It also lets you record snippets from DVDs you are watching or games you are playing for perhaps review purposes.

BitClamp

Encryption has lots of uses, not all nefarious, and BitClamp offers simple drag-and-drop encryption of your files into 256-bit AES or Serpent encryption or super-secure 448 bit Blowfish. It also offers gzip compression and the ability to bundle a Mac-only decryption program into the file.

Mouseposé

Screen-casts are getting slicker by the download and now includes web-cam-in-picture and a variety of keyboard and mouse trigger effects so you can see what they are doing. Mouseposé won’t help you with the webcam bit but it can darken the rest of the screen and highlight the mouse, visually show clicks on the screen and display your keystrokes.

Runic

A free game that I haven’t yet played, sorry. The only gaming I’ve been doing of late is Guitar Hero II/III although I’m hoping to get a couple of DS games tomorrow as well as a nice backpack to store my shiny new laptop in :)

Wallet

An address-book style application for storing items such as credit card numbers and serial numbers/registration details secured with 448-bit Blowfish encryption.

Catalog

Let’s you store an index of all your media on your computer for ease of scanning. These sorts of programs made sense in the days of floppy disks and small hard drives but seem pointless to me now…

Enigmo

Weird puzzle game that bears a little resemblance to the pipe-mania style games (that also made an appearance in BioShock under the guise of ‘hacking’).

Podcast Maker

Assembles XML files to describe Pod-casts with support for adding images and links. Useful because it’s free but I can’t see how anyone would have previously paid $29.95 for an interface to editing specific XML files.

Freeze Frame

Allows you to pause applications when you need the CPU back. Err, okay…

Voice Candy

Here’s a cool fun little app reminiscent of 80’s TV show Whiz Kids and later messing around on my Amiga. It basically lets you talk into your computer whereby it will adjust the wave-forms so you sound different. Like a chipmunk, Darth Vader, a robot, on the telephone, on an old radio, like a bad sci-fi movie, a sore throat or a mouse. You can also record the audio for later mixing up in GarageBand. Good fun and if the next version includes configurable effects I might have to actually buy a copy.

DEVONnote

Note taking and organizing application.

Hana

What appears to be a minimalist browser on top of the WebKit/Safari engine.

Billy Frontier

Space cowboy shoot-em-up game.

Monkey Lover

What appears to be monkeys fighting for their life on an American Football pitch. Not really my thing.

Sofa Control

Extends the use of your Apple Remote to applications besides iTunes and FrontRow :)

Xslimmer

Another tool to prune applications of the languages and architecture segments you do not require albeit with a much better interface than Monolingual.

Hope you have a great Christmas (or a great Tuesday if you don’t celebrate that ;-)

[)amien