April 14th, 2010, 7 Comments »
It recently occurred to me that my recent Apple hardware has performed worse than my old PC desktops. Consider this list of ills:
- Julie’s old iMac suffered from swollen capacitors, a factory defect that sounds a little dirty.
- My old white MacBook had a bad fan, and I replaced the cracked faceplate around the keyboard twice before just living with that defect.
- My newish iMac is somehow b0rked, in that it takes about 10 minutes to reboot into OS X after running it in Windows.
- My MacBook Air’s fan recently started making an all-too-audio grinding sound, as if my laptop is constantly de-winging mosquitoes.
I know I’m whinging, but it’s a little disappointing. Before I switched to Apple, I had some issues (I recall a noisy fan, for example), but never so many.
A friend recently bought a new iMac, and she asked me if she should get AppleCare, Apple’s expensive extended warranty. What do you think I told her?
It’s not like I’m going to switch back to Windows any time soon–the software alone is more than worth using Apple machines. But here’s the lesson I take away: they may look slicker, but Apple’s machines are no more reliable than their generic Windows equivalents.
UPDATE: And now my iMac looks like this. Oy.
7 Comments »
February 3rd, 2009, 6 Comments »
I was fortunate to get a bunch more recommendations for OS X apps from Twitter and my previous post. I’ve included most of them below. I skipped a few that seemed particularly specialized, or specific to a particular profession (for example, software developer, web designer, and so forth). Here they are:
AppTrap – Ensures that all files are removed when you uninstall software.
Boxee – From what I gather, a kind of free, open source media centre.
Calaboration – For syncing Google Calendar with iCal. I’ve tried three solutions, and this is the only one that’s worked without serious agony.
CrossOver Games – Apparently a ‘seamless’ tool for playing PC games on OS X.
DoubleCommand – A utility for remapping your keyboard. Apparently useful for using a non-Apple keyboard with OS X. I’m going to give this a try, as I want to use my big old Windows keyboard instead of the dainty one that came with my iMac.
DropBox – Storage app and syncing service for storing and sharing files. For what it’s worth, I tried this tool on OS X 10.4 and had a difficult time uninstalling it.
Evernote – Very handy research, note-taking and forget-me-not tool. I’ve never used their software, but have lately used their Firefox add-ons for research on our book.
Freedom – Turns off your network connection for eight hours, enabling you to temporarily defeat your Internet addiction so you can do actual work.
iAlertU – A car alarm for your laptop. It uses your Mac’s built-in motion sensor to trigger an alarm and snap a photo of the apparent thief with the iSite camera.
iTunes Alarm – Predictably, turns iTunes into an alarm clock.
Jumpcut – Access your clipboard’s history, and edit the contents on the fly.
LittleSnapper – Yet another screen capture app.
Little Snitch – A firewall app that can tell you what’s coming in and out of your computer’s network connection.
MacTheRipper – Extracts DVDs to video files. I used this app about a year ago, and it worked like a charm.
Mojo – Looks like a modern-day Napster or Kazza.
Popcorn – Another tool for extracting your DVDs to your computer.
Scrivener – Another app specifically built for the writer. Looks quite cool, though I wonder how a tool like this influences the kind of work you might create.
TextExpander – Saves you time by enabling you to create customized keyboard shortcuts for commonly-used phrases.
Transmission – A pretty terrific BitTorrent client that I’ve used on occasion.
TrueCrypt – “Free open-source disk encryption software for Windows Vista/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux.”
Thanks to Aaron, Masey, Newley, Rebecca, Darren, Chris, Mike, Ross, Kerry, Peter and Brian for the suggestions.
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February 2nd, 2009, 24 Comments »
This week I got a new iMac. It’s the first machine I’ve had that’s running OS X 10.5 (that would be Leopard for all you cat-lovers), the current version of Apple’s operating system. I thought I’d ask on Twitter about the Apple desktop apps that the cool kids are using. Here’s what I heard back. I expect that Apple power users will be familiar with all of these.
UPDATE: If this post interests, you might want to check out part two as well.
1Password – A password manager and form completer.
Adium – The popular all-in-one instant messaging client.
Bento – “Personal file organization and database”. I’m a little unclear on why I’d want this. Anyone?
Boot Camp – The app that enables you to run Windows on my iMac. Assuming I can acquire a copy of Windows, I plan to install it for running Windows-only games.
Caffeine – “Caffeine is a tiny program that puts an icon in the right side of your menu bar. Click it to prevent your Mac from automatically going to sleep, dimming the screen or starting screen savers. Click it again to go back.” I gather this is for when you’re watching longer web-based videos, where the screen goes dim without inputs after a while?
ClicktoFlash – A Safari plug-in that turns all Flash elements in a web page to gray boxes until you click them. I’m a Firefox user myself, so FlashBlock looks like the equivalent.
FileVault – Software for encrypting one’s files. Boris assures me that I “can ignore FileVault — it’s for encrypting your home directory. Only uber nerds use it.” I am not an uber-nerd, so I’ll take his advice.
FileZilla – An open-source FTP client. I’ve always used CyberDuck, for no particular reason. They both have incredibly goofy names.
Fluid – Make site-specific browsers for your favourite web apps. I’ve been using Google Gears to get certain web app icons in my desktop’s dock, but this will work better.
HandBrake – “An open-source, GPL-licensed, multi-platform, multithreaded, DVD to MPEG-4 converter, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.”
KeePassX – Another password manager. Yes, I’m troubled by that creative spelling of “key”.
Layers – If I understand it correctly, it enables you to build multi-window screen captures? Seems kind of like a nail in search of a hammer, but who am I to judge?
Mailplane – This is kind of a custom email browser for Gmail that makes the web-based email app act more like desktop software. I’ve used this on my laptop for a while, but lately (probably due to Gmail, not Mailplane itself) I’ve found it rather sluggish. So these days I’m giving Apple Mail a try.
PersonalBrain – A mind-mapping tool, from what I can gather.
Quicksilver – Hard to describe, so here’s Wikipedia: “allows users to use the keyboard to rapidly perform tasks such as launching applications, manipulating files and data, running scripts, or sending e-mail.” I’ve had this installed on my laptop for some time, but I barely ever think to use it.
Skitch – The very handy, exceptionally usable screen capture and quick illustration app.
Snackr – An Adobe AIR app that, I gather, turns part of your desktop into a kind of CNN news ticker, powered by the RSS feeds of your choice.
Storyist – A word processor designed for novelists and screenwriters.
TextMate – A fancier TextEdit. I used NotePad++ on my Windows desktop–I must check to see if there’s a OS X version.
Things – Task management software. Boris, if I recall correctly, described the Areas of Responsibility feature as a ‘game-changer’.
Ted – Combines RSS and BitTorrent to automagically download the TV shows you specify. I’m familiar with another app that does the same thing, TVShows.
Time Machine – Apple’s fancy backup system.
Tinderbox – “A personal content assistant that helps you visualize, analyze, and share your notes.”
VideoLan – The workhouse, almost-never-fails video player I’ve come to know and love. Nowhere is Apple more irrational than in its ridiculously narrow native support of video formats.
Yojimbo – Yet another information manager.
Thanks to Avi, Ian, Chris, Miranda, Graeme, Andrew, David, Kerry, Derek, Chris, Ryan, John, Danny, Martin and Masey. Apologies if I referred to you as a geek if you are, in fact, a Normal Human.
That’s a good start. What favourite app would you add to this list?
24 Comments »
November 22nd, 2007, 11 Comments »
I’m not sure when this happened, but at some point my Apple computer started spell-checking on the fly in nearly every application. A little red underline appears under any word I misspell. You just right-click on that word, and choose the correct spelling (or teach the dictionary your word) from the pop-up menu.
It recently occurred to me that, as a result of this functionality, I rarely spell check documents the old fashioned way (by clicking Tools and then Spell Check, or whatever). It’s easy to visually scan a document for the little red lines.
These are, I think, some of the most valuable technology innovations. They subtly, slowly change your behaviour without you noticing. It’s like Slow Food for your operating system.
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November 8th, 2007, 18 Comments »
I’m a relatively recent convert to the Cult of Apple after a lifetime of Windows usage. I’ve had a nagging question which I hope one of my dear veteran OS X readers can answer.
Here’s the use case: I make a site map in OmniGraffle, and export it as a PDF to send to a client. I open up a Finder window, and I have to navigate through five or six levels of directories to locate the attachment, which I then drag and drop into an email message.
I spend a lot of time just locating files in Finder after I’ve been working with them in a particular app. How can I speed up this process?
I’m imagining a constantly-updating search in a Finder window or separate application that shows me the most recently modified files under Documents.
Alternately, it’d be nice if OmniGraffle (and Pages and Numbers and so forth) had ‘Reveal this file in Finder’ functionality (thought that probably wouldn’t help with my exported PDF case above). Maybe they do?
I never perceived this problem on Windows, so either my usage patterns have changed, or I’ve forgotten about some useful bit of Windows functionality.
18 Comments »
October 29th, 2007, 10 Comments »
Anil writes about the arrogance of Apple, and makes specific reference to the feline monikers that they apply to each operating system upgrade:
Referring to versions of OS X by cat names, when those names appear nowhere in the operating system itself, seems astoundingly user-hostile. I have no idea what the cat name is for the operating system I’m running, and yet when I try to evaluate shareware, the authors are often asking me if I’m a panther or a tiger or something. Hasn’t anybody noticed how stupid that is over at Apple?
Since switching to Apple a couple of years ago, this practice has always been a minor irritant. However, I don’t agree that it’s stupid.
Apple are masters of the cool, and this big cat argot is another means of differentiating Mac users from the unwashed masses. It’s a bit of secret taxonomy slang that’s only known to those higher-level acolytes in the Order. In a way, it’s sort of a lexical equivalent of vendor lock-in: “Learn the language and stick with us.”
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May 9th, 2007, 13 Comments »
Our Maltese cable provider, Melita, has a fairly Draconian approach to web access and bandwidth. Their best non-business package has a download limit of 10 GB (!) per thirty-day period.
They do, however, have a very reasonable loophole. They offer unlimited downloading between 11:00pm and 7:00am, local time. That provides plenty of time for me to download TV shows (no TV here, and besides, I gather much of it is in Italian and Maltese) and synch my laptop with my large online music archive.
However, I don’t get up until about 8:15am, and want to shut down network access to my G4 PowerBook shortly before 7:00am.
My first, brute force solution–use OS X’s Energy Saver setting to shutdown the laptop at 6:45am–failed because Oboe, MP3Tunes’ synching software, wouldn’t close or stop synching when my Mac asked it to.
Does anybody have any bright ideas about how I might schedule my Mac to turn off internet access at a particular time? I’d prefer that they didn’t include writing code, because, well, I pretty much can’t (besides, you know, 10 PRINT “EAT MY SHORTS”, 20 GOTO 10″). Maybe there’s some kind of cyber-nanny software that will do it?
UPDATE: I believe Travis’s AppleScript solution worked, but I forgot to turn off the automatic shutdown. Still, clearly I managed to close all the apps and then shutdown the computer, so we have success. Thanks again for all the suggestions!
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