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.
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.
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.
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 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-upgradable) 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 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.
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.
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.
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 :)
An address-book style application for storing items such as credit card numbers and serial numbers/registration details secured with 448-bit Blowfish encryption.
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…
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’).
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.
Allows you to pause applications when you need the CPU back. Err, okay…
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 waveforms 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.
Note taking and organising application.
What appears to be a minimalist browser on top of the WebKit/Safari engine.
Space cowboy shoot-em-up game.
What appears to be monkeys fighting for their life on an American Football pitch. Not really my thing.
Extends the use of your Apple Remote to applications besides iTunes and FrontRow :)
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 ;-)
Alarm Clock 2
Wake up every morning to your iTunes playlist without the danger of an app launching it and having a problem/update pending that prevents you getting to work on time.
Alarm Clock 2 also includes Timers (great for a quick 20 minute power nap) and Stopwatches alongside the normal one-off or regular scheduled alarm that will bring both you and your machine out of sleep ready for that early-morning email check.
If you need to keep an eye on what your WiFi connection is doing AP Grapher can help a little by showing you noise and signal levels over time.
Quick tip: Hold down Alt when going to the normal Apple WiFi menu to see some stats on your current connection.
Keeping your apps up to date can often be a pain and until Apple extend Software Update out to third parties we’ll have to use alternative solutions.
AppFresh is much more reliable than the previous Software Update widget which I was previously using. It still has the odd problem recognising unusal version numbering such as build numbers and beta’s but otherwise does a pretty good job.
I’ve been using FireFTP for a while under OS X but as I find myself spending more and more time in Safari and less in Firefox I wanted a standalone FTP client that’s a little better than using the command line or Connect To Server disk-mounting option.
Thankfully Cyberduck comes in to play and apart from not supporting my favourite column-mode and no option to make default connections passive it does the job quite well.
There are a number of legal and legitimate reasons for grabbing songs back off your iPod (hard drive crash, removing music from your laptop to make space, overenthusiastic parents and siblings cleaning up your machine…)
Senuti helps save the day by letting you get your tracks back off your iPod and onto your Mac.
I must confess I haven’t had time to try this yet but if you want to syncronise your Windows Mobile phone with your Mac and don’t want to pay up for MissingSync (or pay extra just to get Leopard compatibility, grrr) then SyncMate is your only option although how long it stays free beyond beta remains to be seen.
Deeper takes you further that System Preferences and provides access to a number of extra options such as Finders graphical effects, layout, spacing and menus, as well as some extra options for Dashboard, Dock, Expose, Login and more.
As an extra cool treat you can also select a screen-saver to be your desktop background just to show off how smooth, slick and system-deep the transparency, scaling and hardware acceleration go in OS X.
I’ve commented before on how I like the Mac’s simple installation mechanism that involves just dragging a folder out of the disk image to where you want it, or in some cases running a package but uninstalling should be just as simple. Thanks to AppTrap it is.
AppTrap watches your Trash and if it detects an application being disposed of asks you if you would like to remove the support files. Great.
0xED Cocoa hex editor
Every hardcore user needs a hex editor from time to time and 0xED is free and very capable.
Features include unlimited file size, interpreting bytes as strings in a variety of encodings, or as integers, floats, doubles and support both big and little endian bytes.
0xED also supports a plug-in mechanism so you can write your own custom data types. The plug-in page includes one for interpreting four bytes as an IP address (v4).
Until I can get my hands on a Hitachi’s 200GB/7200 replacement internal drive for my MacBook Pro I’m stuck having to prune my photo, music and applications in order to make space.
Most Mac applications now ship in Universal format which means they contain binaries for both PowerPC and Intel architectures. Drag one of these applications to TrimTheFat and it will remove the part your current machine doesn’t need.
If you need a reason to install this try Hicksdesign’s Google Reader Theme to make Google Reader look much more like a Mac application.
The Mac’s built-in BOMArchiveHelper is a useful decompressor for archives but for when it can’t handle a format turn to The Unarchiver.
Thanks to the libxad library it uses formats include: Zip .zip, RAR .rar, 7-Zip .7z, LhA .lha .lzh, StuffIt .sit, BinHex .hqx, MacBinary .bin, .macbin, Gzip .gz, .gzip .tgz, .tar-gz, BZip2 .bz2, .bz, .bzip2 .tbz .tbz2, Tar .tar .gnutar, Unix compress .z .taz .tar-z, ACE .ace, Microsoft CAB .cab, Comic Book .cbz .cbr, Linux RPM .rpm, DiskDoubler .dd, Self-Extracting .sea .exe, CPIO .cpio .cpgz, Pax .pax, HA .ha, Amiga disk image .adf, .adz .dms .dcs .pkd .xms .zom, Amiga archive .f .lzx
Choosing your Ruby packages
I have decided to get to grips with Ruby on Rails and get it set-up on my MacBook Pro. There seem to be a variety of options available:
- Use Locomotive – an all-in-one standalone developer package
- Official sources – configure, compile and install each
- MacPorts – package management for free software
- Fink – package management for free software
As I already use Fink for installing the majority of free software on my Mac I decided I’d go with that. At least until Leopard ships with Ruby on Rails in-the-box.
And choose the option for unstable trees. Then type:
fink selfupdate fink index fink scanpackages
And make sure you have rsync or cvs updating turned on to get the descriptions.
Ruby (via Fink)
Ruby is the language we wish to use and Fink currently supports 1.6 and 1.8 The following commands will install 1.8 for us and the Ruby Gems package management system:
fink install ruby fink install rubygems-rb18
Rails (via Gem)
Now we need the Rails web framework which will be installed using gem.
gem install rails --include-dependencies
Choosing your web server
There are a number of options available again here including Apache, LightTPD and Mongrel. I wanted to give LightTPD a shot as it is on Fink and less of a beast than Apache. I tried various combinations but even having installed the lighttpd-fastcgi module I couldn’t get the fastcgi gem to do anything but spew errors so Mongrel it is.
Mongrel (via Gem)
Back at that Terminal window type:
sudo gem install mongrel --include-dependencies
Select the mongrel 1.0.1 (ruby) and fastthread 1.0 (ruby) options as prompted.
Testing Ruby, Rails & Mongrel
Again at the Terminal window:
A number of files should be created if Ruby & Rails are working correctly. Now type:
cd mytest script/server
You should see a line stating Starting Mongrel listening at 0.0.0.0:3000
Open your browser of choice and navigate to http://localhost:3000
Choosing a database
You can go with MySQL, PostgreSQL or SQLite from Fink alone. I went with MySQL for a change.
Whilst Mac OS X Server comes with MySQL the standard edition does not. Rather than use the Fink port I went with the official MySQL 5.0 package primarily to get the preferences pane that allows me to start and stop it as required however it also includes a helpful monitoring widget.
To install download and run the MySQL…x86 package.
Copy MySQL.prefPane to /Library/PreferencePanes and re-open System Preferences. Head into the new MySQL pane and start MySQL up.
To manage MySQL and download the Mac OS X version of the GUI management tool.
Run the MySQL Administrator application and connect to localhost on the default port of 3306 with the user name root and a blank password. Don’t forget to change the password by heading over to the Account pane.
Ruby with MySQL
Install the native Ruby to MySQL library to improve db performance by heading back to the Terminal window and executing:
sudo gem install mysql -- --with-mysql-config=/usr/local/mysql/bin/mysql_config
Select the option for mysql 2.7 (ruby)
Testing the database
As MySQL doesn’t include a sample database head into MySQL Administrator and into the Catalogs pane. Create a new database by pressing the + button and giving it the name mytest.
Select mytest from the left then choose Create Table… from the Table Actions drop-down list.
Enter the table name products then use the + button to create the following columns:
|Name||Type||Primary Key?||Nullable?||Auto Increment?|
Click Apply, Execute, OK then Close.
Go to the Terminal window and cd into the mytest folder you generated earlier.
Edit the config/database.yml file using nano or TextEdit and change the database name from mytest_development to mytest. You will also need to enter the password here – either for your root account or ideally a special application-specific account you set-up in MySQL Administrator.
Back at the trusty Terminal execute:
script/generate scaffold product script/server
Now open your browser to http://localhost:3000/products/ and try creating, editing and deleting some products.
- Watch these great Rails screencasts
- Run through some of these 12 tutorials
- Read the Agile Web Development with Rails book
And of course trying to find an editor/IDE that supports Ruby as Xcode certainly doesn’t and TextMate costs money (I’m happy to pay for things when I’m committed to the tech – not before)