Posts Tagged Apple

Mac Gems – Part 4

(continues)

 

I recommended Rudix at one point as the easy to use unix tools package for OS X. While it is that, I found Homebrew. Yes it is not new (well not that new) and I am a bit late to the game but here is the thing that I really love about Homebrew. It installs everything from source (much like Gentoo did) and it is dead simple to use if you know anything about Unix/Linux. The configuration files are done in Ruby and Homebrew covers quite a few applications making it absolutely great. Oh yeah and it also minimizes storage space by reusing libraries. OFC that makes it unable to play with other package managers and very much OS X unlike. But I absolutely love it. I had quite a few other managers installed (MacPorts and Fink) and had installed stuff by hand. Well I went and deleted everything from /usr/local (in fact the whole /usr/local) and am now a happy Homebrew user. I actually ended up removing htop and reinstalling it through Homebrew. Took virtually no time since I was writing the first could of sentences of this post while doing it. Keep in mind that some packages are missing and this is not quite as good as gentoo or ubunty but hey this is the best that I have seem. No offence to MacPorts and Fink but if you ever run into a problem with an installation you will know why I dislike both. Plus I suppose I have a bit of sentimental feelings for gentoo like installers.

 

Anyway, if you need console utilities/Unix programmes give Homebrew a shot.

https://github.com/robolson/homebrew

 

Oh yeah use the script installer if you don’t have git installed as the gui one installs everything with sudo. This effectively goes agains the idea that you don’t use sudo with Homebrew and could compromise your security.

the command is

ruby homebrew-install.rb (just in case you were wondering). And yes OS X does come with Ruby installed by default. (10.5 and up)

Advertisements

, , ,

2 Comments

Audio tools for Mac/iTunes users

if you have never heard of iTunes FS there is a lot that you are missing. First of all, if you are a Windows user … sorry but this is never coming your way. The effort that is required to port something like this to Windows is huge and if I were you I’d just save up for a Mac.

If you are already a Mac user, good for you and here is what you need to know. You know how you can mount drives and images and such? Well iTunes FS basically creates a virtual drive that has all of your iTunes music sorted in virtual folders in a way that resembles the iTunes organization. On top of that, you can actually use Spotlight to search iTunes FS and since everything looks and feels like folders on an external drive, comping files from your iTunes library to anywhere is a breeze. You can just let iTunes do it’s organizational magic and the fact that it creates a bit of a mess would never bother you again.

There is a small catch though. iTunes FS is kind of a stand alone application so it is not always on. You can set it up to start with the computer ( through System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items ) but you have to manually add a new item. Anyway the application shows up in your Apps so even if you eject the drive it’s easy to start up again. One thing that I have noticed is that iTunes FS does not update the database info always (or maybe ever). So if some information looks wrong you might have to eject the drive and start it up again. But for a free application I can’t really complain. Oh, I almost forgot. iTunes FS is essentially a MacFUSE “plugin” (not the technical term) so you should install MacFUSE first. At the time of the writing, MacFUSE still does not come with a 64 bit preference panel application. You would probably never need to use it, but if you do and it annoys you, then using google you can find one of the unofficial 64 bit builds. Not sure what the address is cause they change from time to time but I can vouch for the fact that one does exist and it does work.

Anyway, once you have MacFUSE installed, you can get iTunes FS from

http://www.mulle-kybernetik.com/znek/public/en/default/software/iTunesFS/index.html

Copy it to Applications, start it up and you are ready to go. I must confess this little tool was the biggest boost of productivity that I have ever gotten from an iTunes plugin. Have been using it for months not and things like moving playlists to an external drive, batch editing tags in Tagr, etc. are simple again.

Oh yeah Tagr is the best ID3 tag editor for Mac that I have found so far. Some of the functionality is a bit hidden, and it seems like it’s a poor substitute for Mp3Tag (windows only) but that is only a first impression. For the last 2 years I have completely switched to Tagr and it does everything I need it to. Oh yeah it’s also free.

http://www.entwicklungsfreu.de/

And last but not least, there is XLD which is by far the best audio converter on any platform. I use it to convert FLAC files to ACC which with XDL is a one step solution. The tool has no graphical interface when you start it up but you can drag the file over to the Dock icon to start the conversion. It comes with support for quite a few encoders, such as the latest version of Lame and you can configure everything through the preference menu (Cmd + , ).
You can get it from

http://tmkk.pv.land.to/xld/index_e.html

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Apple and the NFC race

There have been rumours about Apple including NFC capability in both iPad 2 and iPhone 5. Just to be clear about this, Apple has no choice in the matter if they are to sell a high end device. This is not at all the same as LTE. LTE is a network with is currently under consideration by most mobile operators and some have started running trials. Coverage is bad, the chips are still in their first generation meaning that if you want backwards compatibility you have to include a 2nd chip, and at the end of the day all you get with LTE currently is faster data speeds. That might be great for iPad but is hardly anything for the iPhone. Considering that the coverage is currently horrible and Apple revises hardware annually it is no wonder that LTE is not being considered for the upcoming iteration. Actually it probably won’t be considered for the next one either.

NFC however, has been around for many years. The problem was that noone seemed to care about NFC and various IC manufacturers had their own implementation. Well the smart card manufacturers (mostly of Europe) have come to an agreement and there is an NFC standard and an organization that does nothing but promotes the technology. Various pilots were completed and the response is overwhelmingly positive. Telcos and financial institutions are all onboard and have mostly come to an agreement as to the revenue split and all is about to explode. Apple has no choice other than to include NFC. The 2nd half of 2011 will be marked by multiple operators around the globe releasing NFC enabled SIM cards and devices simply have to be ready for them. The way NFC will go forward is with a SIM embedded NFC application that uses the antenna provided with your phone. Now that most likely does not mean the same antenna as the one you use to connect to the telco but the phone has to be NFC enable too. Apple sells premium devices and the NFC cards will first go to premium users so there is nothing to think about and Apple simply follows the needs of the market.

There is however one issue about NFC that is important. See you don’t have to use NFC only for payments. Yes it is a painfully slow connection and you will not be transferring files over it any time soon. However, cleverly designed applications can use NFC for some quite innovative and cool things. And if Apple wants to have the competitive advantage over Android, they simply have to allow developers full access to NFC. Unlike what Google would like you to believe, there is no issue with security. Payment applications are stored on the SIM itself. What that means is that the only way you can access that data is with the SDK that was used to program the SIM. Well I don’t know much but I know this, you can write SIM programs in a way that noone has access to their data and not only that but most of them are exactly like that. Also data out of the SIM for the payment applications would be encrypted and you cannot decrypt AES on the fly on any mobile that will be released in the next 10-15 years.

, , ,

Leave a comment

the unexpected genius of iPad

[sorry but i went back and changed the original content. Was a bit on the rambling side]

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year, you know how big of a success the iPad has been. Actually a calculation that I recently did tends to suggest that the iPad sales mover almost exactly like what the iPhone used to be for the first so many quarters only on a higher scale. All that aside, I think that the genius of the iPad is in providing a very minimalistic interface (3 buttons 2 of which control the volume) and basically allowing you to live out your childhood dreams. Anyone that has ever used a computer know the frustration of having to use a mouse. Sometimes you just want to grab things on the screen and move them. Well tablets give you exactly that ability and with iOS you actually have only controls that ARE designed for finger gestures (of the nice kind). But I’ll write about that some other time.

So you know how people have been talking about digital versions of things replacing the analog/physical ones? It never really happened did it? Applications help you do things faster but only after a paradigm shift i.e. there is a learning curve. iPhone and iOS in general gave  us software with almost horizontal learning curve. You didn’t even need to know how to use a computer to achieve that. Actually you would love the iPad/iPhone if you have never seen a computer. It has a very natural and almost child like approach to controls and that is the beauty of it. But what the iPad has is a large enough screen so that you actually don’t feel a need to use a computer. Ok it was not like that until recently but now that 4.2 is out you really have a self sustained computing device. And yet the device is so simple and so flexible. And that’s exactly where the appeal lies. You get a digital tub of putty, and you can create anything you like from it (provided that you have the skills). The screen is large enough so that you can actually create large interfaces and you don’t need a lot of tricks to get things to feel natural. Yes the iPad is an ebook reader but 3rd party developers have made it into so much more that that. You have digital guitar effects, drawing boards, information management and so many other things. And yes iPad cannot do everything! But what it did do and will keep doing is it makes computer usage fun and enjoyable. And it does so in a very life enriching manner. I supposed the iPad is a simple enough device yet the SDK is easy enough that you get an amazing combination.

So talking about digital substitutes of physical ones, there is this game Settlers of Catan (yeah I know it’s old news). Problem is the board version cost about £15 on Amazon and then you pay even more for each expansion. If you buy one board game in your life (for use with your family or friends) this is the one to get. It is a tat bit harder than monopoly but a lot more fun. It’s been available for iPhone for a while now and trust me it is a lot of fun even when you play against the computer. So I though I’d check if they have it for iPad. Just imagine this, you have an actual digital board game. Yeah sure, the size of the board is about 10″ but the cost is less than a 1/3 of the board game, the size of the game is … well virtually 0 and the cool factor is huge. Anyway if you have an iPad that you think was not the best investment because you do not use it enough do yourself a favour, buy Catan HD. Your whole family will love it!

It is unbelievable but a computer can actually create a social experience. This reminds me very much of what Nintendo’s party games used to do and is quite unexpected because the purpose of iPad was to provide a personal experience …

A word of caution, the game is only available in the US and UK app stores.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

Mac Gems – Part 3

Continuing the list of useful applications for OS X.

So you know how OS X is Unix underneath … well unfortunately at some point Apple decide not to ship all the cool Unix tools with the Desktop version. Yes there are projects such as Fink and MacPorts but I tend to like a bit more mac-ie solutions. So here is my poison:

Rudix!

Never head of it? Look it up it’s well worth your time and bandwidth. ~380mb

Speaking of console applications you should always get yourself

Most if you know a bit about unix … less is greater than more and most tops both 🙂
If you are not sure what those are, all 3 a console applications with more/less being the default viewer for man pages (help files for console apps). Most however is the best there is and yes you can run it on OS X although it does not come with it by default. All are free.

and nowadays you can also run

htop

on OS X. I must admit, htop is probably one of the coolest console tools to come out of linux. It used to not run on OS X because OS X does not have /proc but nowadays it’s all peachy and if for whatever reason you don’t have it you should go and get it pronto!

[for those who have no idea what htop is, you know how top shows you processes and stuff? Well htop does the same only in color, had easy keyboard navigation and about a thousand other cool features] It is almost like Activity Monitor only it run’s in the console. Sorry no dtrace integration.

For RoR admins there is Ruby Mine which is a regular (GUI) OS X application and makes deployment of RoR sites a bit easier. If you know RoR well you probably won’t care much, but it is a nice tool so it get’s a mention too.

A few desktop tools that are free and should have been included in OS X by default (hint Apple). Apple most definitely can afford to buy the respective software rights an make the apps part of the OS.

AppTrap you know how uninstalling Windows applications NEVER gets rid of all the changes that were made to your OS (and yes that is absolutely true). Well apparently, Apple though that that’s not such a bad thing. So here comes AppTrap. Every time you delete an application it checks for preference files in the usual location and it asks you if you want to delete those too. It shows you a list of the files just in case you want to know. Now sometime you don’t want to delete those files, like when you are upgrading an application or just want to save the registration for some future purpose. However, most of the time you do and this is where AppTrap is indispensable. Oh and it’s my favourite cause it’s FREE!

Caffeine prevent screen from dimming

InsomniaX keeps the computer from sleeping when the lid is closed. Has a bit of a hick up problem with the latest MBP’s when closing the screen. Still it does work!

Growl the notification system that Apple … well forgot to build. For whatever reason Apple continues to ignore this. Only most developers use Growl so right now the only thing that Apple can do is just bundle it with the OS. It is an OSS project so no purchase is possible.

Lab Tick gives you full control over the keyboard backlighting, as in you can turn it on even if the room is very well lit up

Visor lets you pull down the terminal ala Quake style from any application. Downside: Terminal has to be open! Ok, so it’s not really anything special but it is the coolest geek tool ever! Oh and performance is absolutely stellar.

TwoUp this is just like windows 7’s stupid split screen feature. Only this one is controlled with a keyboard shortcut which means that the sides of your screen are still usable! Didn’t think of that did you stupid MS designer. So there you go … best of both and it is a very useful productivity tool. There is also a paid version with more functionality (different name)

And some that a not free but I couldn’t recommend them enough:

DiskRadar simply gorgeous application showcasing why OS X applications are better than Windows counterparts. This is a disk visualizer/explorer. Scans a 320gb hdd (a slow one) in about 1 min and you get every file on your hdd with size and attributes and a gorgeous chart of disk usage. The application is 64 bit multi core/cpu compatible i.e. it does use multiple threads for analysis of hdd information. Still in beta but very stable. The application has a 2nd part and that makes it unique. It checks the health of your HDD, based on SMART status and some application magic and shows you a rough percentage of health. Basically, you get an idea of when you will need a new HDD before it actually does happen. Sadly, the stock macbook HDD is already at 60 odd % after less than a year of usage …

OmniFocus expensive but quite possibly the best personal planner. It has a corporate quality and look and feel yet is easy to use. I wish there was a Windows version so I can nag IT to buy it for my work computer (sadly I am stuck with an Adamo wannabe at work …)

Papaya OMG I have no words to describe how nice this application is. It is the easiest way to share files and by far the quickest too. It basically creates a web server that other network users can connect to and either send you files or download files that you have shared with them. It also works over Internet if you have an open port. It is well worth the money if you work in a small team and you have no IT dept. to annoy you (sorry support you).

And last but not least so other cool apps that I have found useful but don’t really fit in the above categories:

Perian the codec pack that every Mac user needs! Apple didn’t include it cause it’s got some potential licensing issues.

MacFUSE and iTunesOS those 2 give you the best and easiest way to copy files from your iTunes library (especially if it is being sorted by iTunes). If you buy music from iTunes it get’s shoved in some obscure location, well you shouldn’t care with the above combo. You get your iTunes library mounted as a drive and it’s organized in virtual folders a bit like what iTunes does. Oh and you can use Spotlight to search it!

Warp pretty cool tool for when you work with virtual monitors. Find it useful quite a few times.

MarsEdit which is what I am using now to write this post. It is nice and quite useful but it is not one of those to die for tools. It is great because if you ever choose to move your blog you take the messages with you (well with the app). But it’s a bit expensive if you are a casual blogger and I would probably never use it if I didn’t get a free licence …

Transmission if you want to download anything from bittorent this is the ultimate client. It is rock solid and is the best client that I have seen on any platform. A few of the cool features are a bit hidden like cmd+t, cmd+r, etc. but if you are new to OS X you just have to get used to the idea that the keyboard is your friend. Mac users LOVE keyboard shortcuts. Oh and if the ones already there are not enough for you … you can define your own! (in OS X I mean)

Vox you know how iTunes is the go-to music player? Well Vox is another one. It has a very simple interface, is free and does some quick music playing if that is what you are after. Does not create a library and that’s exactly what I sometimes need. It is great and even had the same command keys as iTunes (a bit of a problem if both are running). Oh and you can control it trough the taskbar icon (not every option).

Sophos never though I’d say this but here we go … if you really need an antivirus software, Sophos for Mac is free for personal use (maybe even in general). OFC this is due to the lack of paying consumers and you are basically a tester. But the software integrates with OS X better than Symantec’s entry works very well, and best of all it FREE. So take it with a grain of salt if you must. I keep it around just in case I need to help a needy mate with a virus infected windows computer … or something like that …

————————————————————————————————————————

Sure there are other applications that I use, but the above ones I consider either essential or a great example of good software that gets things does and stays out of my way.

So there you go, the best of the not so well known Mac world. This is not really an official guide but all of the above are cool programs that I have used over the past several years and are a true testament that while some Windows applications do not run on OS X they are surely not missed at the least!

Peace!

, , ,

Leave a comment

Mac Gems – Part 2

So I wrote a post about Relationship a while ago. I’ve been using for some time now and it is a very good piece of software. I must admit for a free application it is an amazing iOS one. It is a bit slow on the start up but it does work very well.

I have been looking for an app that lets me scan business cards and sadly none work as well as they should. I ended up buying WorldCard only to find out that while it does support multiple languages it does not support multiple languages on the same side of a business card. Also I ended up facing the horrors on iOS contact management. Apparently when you decide to use contacts from a server and particularly from an exchange server, you open a huge bag of hurt. I cannot describe how much I hate exchange after the last 2 months. I have had my battery drained a couple of times due to exchange not being able to sync to the server, constant crashed when attempting to delete contacts that got synced to an exchange account and several other problems.

It turns out that iOS makes Exchange the default account even for your address book and unfortunately certain management tasks are not that easy to do in iOS.

Anyway back to the business card issue. It is nice that you can scan cards with a picture but you should be warned. It works best on iPhone 4 (more resolution) and under a very well lit conditions. The OCR algorithm that WorldCard uses is good however it cannot deal with tilted letters so you have to have your camera as parallel to the business card as possible. Once you get the hang of it, and if you have no contacts problems, it all works well. Plus there is a desktop application that you can sync to (other than Address Book). Still, the solution is very far from what I would like it to be so I am still looking for a better one. I really would like to not spend £100+ on a business card scanner but it might be the best solution given the state of affairs.

[EDIT:] Ok so apparently I was having a problem with some of the Address Book preference files. Had to export the library, delete the /Home/Library files and then restore. All in all syncing is back to normal and the business cards are a heck of a lot more useful now. Still the auto OCR is not perfect but at least my computer setup is working now. In all honesty should’ve known that something was wrong when the add button in Address Book for some of the categories disappeared …

, , ,

5 Comments

Mac Gems – Part 1

So here are a couple of applications that I have found quite useful and somewhat of a surprise.

Recently discovered Jumpsoft’s Relationship. Amazing tool and is exactly what I have been missing. Ok the company has this other project management tool which I wish was integrated with Relationship but oh well.

So anywho, Relationship is a task manager that lets you create and manage teams of users, projects, and assign users to projects. You can also add simple notes and a whole bunch of cool little things like that. Learning curve is almost nonexistent and is simply a beautiful piece of software. Oh and on top of that there is a free iPhone version. You know how the Calendar on the iPhone is a bit … well  basic? Well Relationship gives you full access to the Calendar that you already know (same interface) and then a whole bunch more things. You have your address book, to-do list, notes, projects. And all that is for free. I actually think I’ll start using it as a Calendar replacement. Oh yeah and it all integrates with the desktop version. Not as well as Thinks but hey it is cheaper and more capable and with better integration with tools that you already use.

All that aside, you know how Apple canceled the Xserver line? Well I have had this thought for over a week now and I am pretty sure now that Apple is not done with the server world. Not by a long shot. If you have followed the server world for a while you know that cloud computing is going to be big one day. Only while it stands very little chance for a desktop replacement (read personal computer) because of the constantly dropping price of portable devices and the ever increasing power that they hold. Only there is another place where you can use cloud computing and quite successfully too. I’m talking about servers. Why buy your own if you can use a hired one? You don’t even need an actual physical server. You can actually sell virtual ones if you can convince your clients that you can securely store their data and provide them with the highest possible accessibility. Right? I think so. Actually I am absolutely convinced that Apple will one day sell virtual servers. And it has a very strong business case. You get amazing performance (virtual CPUs, GPUs, etc.), enough storage and secure storage of data, and the best internet connectivity possible. Oh and all that on one single bill much lower than the sum of the individual costs that it replaces. Yeah there is a great business case and just like everything else that Apple makes it does not try to target the whole market but rather a specific forward thinking part of it. And we can go on and on why it makes sense but the point is that I personally ting that Apple is building the NC datacenter as a server for hire farm. And if successful this is one of several around the globe. It is a massive project and would also explain why Apple has been hoarding all that cash.

I am so excited about this prospect that I actually really want to see this happening. Ha ha … it will make stupid IT admins finally aware of the benefits of using OS X. And who knows, maybe one day my work computer would be some kind of Macbook rather then a stupid Dell Adamo wannabe ….

Oh and as far as announcing it, I think Apple will wait until Lion is ready for release (at the least). Tomorrow’s even is not about the NC facility. Tomorrow is about iPhone and iPad and the Mac App Store. Anyway, that’s from me for now.

, , ,

8 Comments