In Command, Not Control: Why i-Mac and Think You Should Too

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Posts Tagged ‘mac’

What’s In My Dock

Posted by bradringel on April 29, 2009

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My Dock

Hey Guys. I just wanted to give you a little rundown of the apps that I keep on my dock right now. I’ll give you a brief description of each app and what I use it for, and then will provide a link to the software. So without further ado…

First up is Finder. This program basically runs Mac OSX. Ok so maybe not runs it, but it is the program you open up to find all your files and folders and various other bits of information that are stored on your computer or on a connected disk. Everyone on a Mac should know what the Finder is and how to use it. Comes with every Mac.

Next is Dashboard. Opening up Dashboard causes your chosen widgets to fly in over your current screen and give you up to date information on just about everything. I currently use mine to check the weather and monitor my system among other things. Comes preinstalled on every Mac, you should really try it out if you haven’t already.

Mail. Another Apple Default App (ADA as I will call them now) that lets you check your email under various protocols and hosts. I use mine to check my Gmail accounts. As you may or may not have noticed, there is a green badge on the Mail icon which is not standard. This was created using a plugin called Mail Badger (cute right?) to help me track the number of messages I flagged in my Inbox. You can grab Mail Badger here and find Mail in your Applications folder.

Firefox. A great web browser that is a good alternative to Safari. While it is not my browser of choice at the moment, It comes in handy when there is a page not loading correctly in Safari, which happens on occasion. Firefox is Open source by Mozilla and has loads of great add-ons and themes to choose from to really make the browser your own. You can pick up your copy of Firefox here.

Safari. The default web browser that ships with Mac OSX. While not as expandable as Firefox, I find Safari’s interface to be easy to use and nice to look at. Right now I am using the Beta 4 version which you should really check out if you want to use Safari. I haven’t had many crashes with the beta version which is nice because I use it as my daily browser. You can get the Beta version here and the stable release version 3 here.

iChat. Another ADA that I use for chatting with my friends on AIM. There is a fierce debate in the Mac community about iChat vs Adium, a free, open source client that supports many more add ons and protocols, but I prefer the streamlined interface of iChat, just as I do Safari. iChat is easy to set up, just fill in your logins and start chatting with your friends with support for up to 4 way video conference and multiple audio conversations. Look for it in your applications folder.

iCal. More ADAs, I like to keep them to the left side of the Dock. A great app to handle your calendar and daily schedules. Supports CalDAV and subscribed calendars to make finding your events easier than ever.

NetBeans. An awesome IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for writing code in various Languages. I currently use it to develop Java applications. With its built in GUI editor, making your application look nice and usable is even easier, as the programs helps you to get past those annoying creation aspects of the GUI and lets you just write the code you need. You can pick it up here.

BlueJ. Another IDE. This one is more lightweight and is better used for teaching and learning Java. I use this for developing very very light applications and things that I do in my Java class at school. This programs helps you understand how the various aspects of a program really interact with each other, and has a streamlined interface that lets you get right into the code and doesn’t have fancy components that might confuse a novice coder. You can grab your copy of BlueJ here.

The Hit List. The Hit List(THL) is a robust task management application that really lends itself to any style of organization you want. I picked this up from the MacHeist Bundle(see post here) and couldn’t be happier. Though still in beta, we are getting very close to a 1.0 release. The developer is a very responsive guy who writes great software. You should seriously check out THL here if you have ever had issues remembering your tasks for the day. (There is also talk of an iPhone/iPod Touch application in the works so that you can take your tasks on the go).  I plan on taking a closer look at THL soon.

Evernote. Have you ever been out and about when an idea for the next great Box Office hit crossed your mind but you had nowhere to write it down? Enter Evernote. The clever solution to your note taking problems. Log into the Evernote website or access it from your computer or iPhone/iPod Touch and type in your note, or take a picture and upload it. Evernote stores this note on its server in the cloud, and updates it to all your clients where you are logged in. Take a note on your iPhone, have it automatically appear on your Mac or PC. The part that I think is even cooler about Evernote every not is fully searchable, and if you upload a picture with words in it, say a billboard, or a recipt, Evernote will analyse the picture and when you search for a word in that picture, the image will come up as a result. You can get Evernote here.

EventBox. This is a really nice app that combines all your social networks into one box, so to speak. It will grab updates from Twitter, Facebook, as well as RSS feeds, Flicker and Reddit. If you use more than one of these services and want to get your updates all together this is a nice app for that. I personally only use it for Twitter, and it grabs my FB feeds but I don’t really read them on there. The Facebook feature is nice, but I mean, who really wants to read every single one of your friends status updates. Overall a good concept though. You can grab it here.

NetNewsWire. While I previously stated that EventBox can be used to read your RSS feeds, I personally like NetNewsWire. This is nothing against EventBox. Reading feeds on EventBox works great and has great functionality, just in my mind, EventBox is my Twitter client, so when I see a number on the badge in the dock, I want that to be my unread Twitters. NNW however has one nice feature that basically made me switch to it from EventBox. Syncing. NNW syncs to the NewsGator service which means that you can get your feeds anywhere and have your read/unread status synced across platforms. This is great for when I read feeds on my iPhone using the NNW app, because then stories I have already read are marked read on my Mac. Not at your home computer? You can read your feeds online as well and have the status synced as well. One of the most popular RSS readers for Mac, pick it up over here.

Times. Wow looks like I really have an overload of RSS readers here. This is one I picked up in the MacHeist Bundle. It has a really unique approach to reading your feeds. RSS feeds are basically streams of news right? Well why not read them the way news was meant to be read, in a newspaper. Times UI looks just like the newspaper that landed on your doorstep this morning. It’s separated into columns and pages that contain different types of feeds. Its great for catching up on CNN or NYT feeds, not so much for FML :D. Take a look at it over here.

MindNode. If you are familiar with the concept of Mind Maps and have been looking for a way to do it on your computer, MindNode is great for that. Not going to go too indepth into the features here, if you Mind Map, you already know what should be there. Get it.

StoryMill. If you have ever tried to write a novel or a screenplay or some other form of creative writing using Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, Quite frankly, you were doing it wrong. While I’m sure there are plenty of published authors out there that have used a Word Processing application to bang out their manuscripts, using a program such as StoryMill is a nice touch. With support for characters, settings, scenes and chapters, its easy to organize your writing in a way that makes sense to you. The full screen mode really helps you block out the other distractions of the internet and focus on your next best-selling novel. Go grab it here.

Word. If you don’t know what to do with Word, well, then you should probably retake your whole Freshman year of High School. A full featured word processing application that has become the norm just about everywhere. Great for writing papers or letters or even your novel if you don’t feel like taking my advice from the paragraph above. Check it out here.

Preview. The ADA for viewing just about any image file on your Mac. I leave it on my dock because most of the time it is open anyways, so I didn’t want to constantly see it appear and disappear. Good for reading your PDFs, viewing JPEGS or TIFFS or just about anything else. Comes preinstalled on your Mac.

iTunes. If you don’t know about iTunes you might have been living under a rock for the past few years. If that is the case then here is the lowdown. the ADA for your music and video files. Listen and manage your music library, rip and burn CDs, Watch Movies and TV Shows. The most fun part about iTunes, the Store. Hop over the the iTunes Store to download your favourite tracks, movies and TV series all at a low price. Now supports renting movies and can download applications for the iPhone as well. Use it to add music and video to your iPod or iPhone as well.

GarageBand. The ADA for editing music. Add in loops as well as inputs from any microphone, including the one built into your iSight camera. I use it to record songs that I am working on as well as make fun little jams with the loops Apple provides. GarageBand ’09 has a cool new feature called Lessons where you can take a virtual guitar or piano lesson from a famous artist and learn to play their most popular songs.

Vuze. My current torrent client of choice. I was previously a Transmission user until I saw a blog post somewhere about Vuze. Vuze evolved from Azereus with some new features. My personal favourite, Devices. After you are finished downloading that totally legal movie or TV show, do you really want to be stuck watching it on that little 13 inch screen of your MacBook? With Vuze you can drag it over to the PS3 or XBox device and have it converted and onto the Vuze personal media server for your viewing pleasure. You then turn on your console, and start streaming your video onto your big screen tv. If you want to take your movies on the go, drag them over to the iTunes device, where you can then select the actual physical device you use, whether it is Apple TV or iPhone, and have the video transcoded into the correct format and auto-added into your iTunes library. Aside from the Devices feature, Vuze comes with its own torrent search field that searches major torrent networks, and support for RSS subscriptions, to automatically start downloading your favourite TV series the moment the torrent hits the net. Take a look at Vuze over here.

System Preferences. Really a no brainer but this is the place on your Mac where you come to change lots of options in your system. ADA

Real quick rundown on my stacks to the left of the line. First up, Dockables, a folder full of icons that do cool things like lock the screen or log you out, just google them. Next to that, Documents, then Applications, and Downloads, followed by the Trash.

Well that about wraps up my Dock, if you have any questions about any of the Apps, or would like a more in depth review on any of them, leave a post in the comments and I will get that for you. Thanks for reading

~Brad.

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Posted in Apps | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

The Big Switch – Why I Crossed Over to the Dark Side

Posted by bradringel on April 14, 2009

The Mac Vs. PC debate is quite likely one of the most heated debates of our generation.  Started years ago, this argument was brought into the mainstream media with a series of ads run by Apple in which two computers are depicted as people, the cooler Mac guy, and the dorky, work obsessed Windows user.  Mac users have laughed at the silly quips that were thrown at the PC and agreed with the ideas presented in the ads.  Macs are better for doing things with your media, are cooler, easier to work with, and also happen to be the #1 notebook on college campuses, while your Windows running computer is only good for spreadsheets.  While not entirely true, these claims do bring some things to light.  While it is possible to run media editing apps on Windows, Mac has them built into its Operation System.  Another claim thrown around is the vulnerability to viruses and how Macs apparently lack this issue.  While true at the moment this may not always be true.  Currently it is not profitable or worth it to write viruses for the Mac platform because of the small market share.  Windows users assure us that as our market share continues to grow, someone will attack us.  But back to the main topic of this post, the switch.

I myself was once a PC user, in fact, up until around a year ago I was pulling hard for that poor PC, typing away on my Dell Laptop.  I knew my OS had issues, but whose didn’t right?  I put up with the frequent trips that my fingers took to the CTL-ALT-DEL keys in order to run my games and have a good time on my PC.  As I rolled around to the middle of my Junior year in High School, I began to realize how sluggish my computer was running.  This had nothing to do with the OS, it was simply the fact that an 80GB Hard Drive with 512 MB of RAM couldn’t sustain me anymore.  I knew it was time for a new computer and began shopping around the Dell website, staying far away from the dreaded Apple.com.  Then I started seeing things on my favourite websites about how Vista ran, and quite frankly, how bad it was.  Not to say that Microsoft hasn’t fixed its bugs by now, but at the time, Vista was a fledgling Operating System that was having its share of problems, as did Mac OS X when it first came out.  Then I started thinking back to those commercials.  Was what they had to say really true?  Could I have an easier and more enjoyable computer experience by switching to Mac?  I flipped over to Apple’s site.  Man, these things are expensive.  I could easily get a more powerful PC for that same amount of money.  At this time I didn’t have a very high opinion of Macs, having only used the ones at my school, which were not new to say the least.   The majority of the iMacs at my school were over 5 years old and not running the latest OS update, Leopard.  Many had G3 processors that ran at 500Mhz and had little memory available.  Not exactly the best example machines for me to play with.  So what did I do? Luckily, there was an Apple Store nearby that I could walk into and play around with the new Macbooks with.  I was thrilled.  Opening up Firefox or Safari took only seconds, and iTunes was a snap.  Add on to that more than double my current Hard Drive space and 4 times the memory and I was sold.  Well, almost.  There was still the price factor.  Some of you may have heard of something called the “Apple Tax.”  That is what we poor ignorant Mac users pay to Apple for no apparent reason, so that we can have our computers.  The fact that you can buy a similarly speced HP or Sony laptop that ran Vista, the price increase was the Apple Tax.  Now I knew that they were expensive, but considering that my Dell cost almost the same amount of money 3 years ago as the Macbook Pro I was looking at (I later settled on a Macbook) I thought I could swing the price factor to my parents.  They bought it, and the four of us, including my brother trooped off to the Apple Store early one Saturday morning to claim our prizes(my brother would get whatever laptop I got).  While in the store, my Dad talked to our sales rep about the High end black Macbook as opposed to the $500 extra Macbook Pro and we decided on two of those instead.  We grabbed our boxes and headed back to the car to open them up and start our boot sequences.  With both Macbooks sitting on the kitchen table, we hit the power buttons and heard the unmistakable chime that told us we were starting up.  The computer booted up in a minute and we sat down to the setup wizard.  Within 5 minutes I had both Macbooks set up on our home wireless network, User accounts set up (complete with pictures from the built in iSight), and was looking at the pretty purple aurora background that shipped with Leopard.  We moved upstairs and grabbed files from my old laptop and my family computer and were done.  We were now ready to do, well anything.  We could record some music, make a photo album…well you’ve seen the ad.

And now I’m sitting here, roughly 12 months from the purchase of this Macbook, with only good things to say.  I love being able to video-chat with friends in iChat, the easy integration of your media from iTunes in the OS, and love love love the drag and drop installation.  I myself have had to re-install Leopard once but didn’t lose any files, while my brother reports no problems.  We loved our Macs so much that we even convinced my parents to switch over to a new iMac when the time came to retire their Dell.  My whole house is now In Command, not Control.

If you have any questions at all about my experience with my Mac or questions about using it, please feel free to leave them in the comments section and I will get back to you.

~Brad

Posted in Mac General | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

MacHeist III, What a trip

Posted by bradringel on April 14, 2009

12 Top Mac Apps

14 Top Mac Apps

As some of you may or may not know, the Mac community has recently finished the MacHeist 3 Bundle.  In one sentence, the bundle is an outrageously low priced pack of applications for your Mac that is released and sold for a short period of time, this year two weeks.  But MacHeist is much more than just the bundle buy.  In the month or so leading up to the bundle reveal, members, or agents as we prefer to be called, participate in various challenges and puzzles in order to unlock even more free apps for our beloved machine.  The overall number of apps I downloaded came to over 30 I believe.  The best part about MacHeist though, the community.  Whenever I was stuck on a mission or wanted some info on how an app worked, there was always someone in the forums or in the chat room to help.  Now let me give you a quick rundown on all the apps from the bundle so that you know exactly how awesome this promotion was.

First up: iSale.  If you tend to sell a lot of your possessions on eBay, this was the app for you.  With functionality to not only create awesome looking auction pages, but to help you track your current auction and even coordinate shipping with the winner, this app would do any eBayer proud.

Next: Picturesque.  If you’ve ever wanted to create stunning looking graphics to go into a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation, or just wanted to add that little bit of embellishment to your family photos, Picturesque is for you.  With four simple tools for making your pictures look great, this app really sets itself apart.  You can rotate, reflect, cast a shadow and add a border to your photos to make them look great for your blog or presentation.

SousChef:  While I did end up giving this one to my mom, this app just plain looks cool.  Out of ideas for what to make for dinner, search the online recipe database for something with your favourite ingredient, a preferred cuisine or by keyword.  The coolest feature however is the 10-foot mode.  Fire up SousChef while you are in the kitchen and your Mac will read the Recipe and directions to you and allow you to control the application with your voice, so you never have to risk spilling soy sauce on your Macbook again.

World of Goo: While the game looks silly, this addicting title will have anyone hooked.  The user is prompted to solve puzzles by creating structures out of goo balls, while having to retain a certain number of them in order to pass the level.  I myself have spent hours sitting and dragging these bouncy little goo balls all over my screen.

PhoneView: Okay so maybe not everyone has an iPhone, but to those of you who do, this app is great.  With the ability to use your iPhone as a disk, view your SMS conversations and save them on your computer, as well as edit the notes that are not accessible anywhere else(serious design flaw on Apple’s part), this app could just save you from losing your paper that is due in 5 minutes and you left your computer in your dorm room.

LittleSnapper:  Ah what a nice app.  When I bought MacHeist I wasn’t sure what use I would have for LittleSnapper.  After all, it only takes screenshots and I can do that without the app in Leopard.  Wrong, not only does LittleSnapper have its own library that it stores your snaps in, you can tag and organize them however you want.  I litterally installed and started the app thinking I was not going to use it, and 20 minutes later I had snapped the page of a product to put on my buy list.  With shortcut keys to snap the current page in Safari, Any window, the entire screen or some area, its a lifesaver.  Notation tools help you remember what exactly you snapped that picture for.

Acorn: Offering the power of Photoshop in a simple user interface, this is a nice app to have.  I haven’t played with it that much as i haven’t done much image editing, but it does everything you think it should do.

Kinemac:  An awesome 3d modeling and motion application.  Again I haven’t played with it  that much, but from what i have played with, if you need any sort of 3d modeling for video or some other task, this is the app to use.

WireTap Studio:  But my Mac already has a recording app you say, I can use GarageBand for this.  WireTap will let you capture the audio stream from certain applications, such as Safari or Skype and will then convert it into various forms.  A great app for recording multi-person podcasts.

BoinxTV: Basically it’s a full fledged TV studio on your Mac.  With live layer editing and with a very professional feel, this app would be a must for anyone who produces video podcasts or a TV show.

The Hit List:  Quite possibly the reason I bought the bundle.  A great task manager that gives you a lot of flexibility in how you want to manage yourself.  Add contexts and tags for quick grouping, as well as folders and lists for organization.  I was previously a Things user but now am only on THL which is still in beta so you can pick it up for a reduced price.

Espresso: An awesome web editor that features live previewing and easy publishing.  For the web developer that doesn’t like iWeb and still hand codes his or her sites.

Four of the apps were locked for download until a certain amount of money for charity was reached.  Yes part of your bundle sale goes to charity, while the rest is split between developers and MacHeist of course.  There were also a few bonus apps that were included in the bundle that I won’t elaborate on.  Basically, the moral of this story is, that if you have Mac, which would be the main reason you are reading my blog, point your favourite web browser over to http://www.macheist.com and register so that you can receive updates about future missions and bundle sales.  Its great and did i mention 25% of your purchase goes to the charity of your choice? Just one more reason to love MacHeist.  This year we raised 850,000 dollars for charity, will you help us do more next year?

Just another reason I’m in command and not control

~Brad

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