Mouseposť is a simple, fun, and occasionally useful application. It will be of particular interest to presenters and those who demonstrate OS X software in large rooms. It's also useful, though, in a text editing document when you've lost sight of the I-beam cursor. As you can see in the screenshot at left, Mouseposť is somewhat like Exposť for your mouse pointer. You activate it via a hotkey, and it then dims the screen and leaves an undimmed circle around the mouse, making it very easy to see the cursor's location. Once activated, you can continue to use your Mac as you normally would, and Mouseposť won't deactivate until you press its hotkey again.
Mouseposť runs as an application, so there's no "low level" compatibility issue to worry about (it's been very stable during my time using it). You can modify the size of the circle, the amount of dimming applied, and even the color of the dimming -- turn your screen a dark shade of red, for instance, while Mouseposť is active. You can also specify (somewhat) the hot key to be used to activate Mouseposť, and have it automatically deactivate after a specified interval of time instead of remaining active.
On the downside, the hot keys available are only the standard function keys; you can't add a modifier, nor can you assign any other key combo. I would much rather use something easier to reach on the keyboard and not give up a function key to the activation keystroke. Also, although Mouseposť is free, it does require you to register on Boinx's site to get a serial number -- name and email address are required, and you can opt out of their update mailings.
I intend to put this to use during my next OS X presentations, as I think it will help folks follow along with the cursor movements. Either that, or I'll put it on a friend's machine, set the dimming level to all black, give it a relatively large "light circle," and then assign it to his brightness key :).
Up until very recently, TextWrangler was Bare Bones' entry-level text editing product, priced at $49. But at Macworld Expo, they announced a new price: $0. For me, this was great news, as I don't need the full power of BBEdit enough to merit its $199 purchase price. TextWrangler takes the best of the old free BBEdit Lite, and adds a bunch of useful new features, including:
Single- and multi-file search and replace
Find differences between two files
Supports a bunch of BBEdit's plug-ins
Integrated OS X spell checker
Syntax coloring for many programming languages
Open files on FTP and SFTP servers
There's lots more, too -- check out the product page for links to multiple feature pages. TextWrangler has many of BBedit's features, and most of its look and feel, for a lot less money. For me, it does nearly anything I think I could ever need in a text editor -- I only marked it down for two reasons. First, I like to be able to view multiple documents in one split-screen window; you can't do that in TextWrangler (or BBedit, for that matter). Second, I wish it had HTML tag completion -- in jEdit, for instance, if you open a tag (<li>), then as soon as you type </, jEdit will type the closing li> for you. In TextWrangler, you have to type the closing tags yourself. But for free, it's really hard to beat the feature set in TextWrangler.
As an added bonus, if you're in the market for the full BBEdit program, you should download and register TextWrangler. When you do, you'll get an email with a URL that offers a generous discount on BBEdit -- $70 off the $199 list price!
Curious about the weather in various spots around the country and/or globe? WeatherPop, available in both a free and paid "Advance" version, puts an icon in your menubar that shows the current weather, including time of day (via the icon's background), temperature, and cloud cover. In free mode, that's about what you get, though you can store multiple locations and switch to them via a menu selection.
The Advance version, as seen at left (larger image), has all the bells and whistles. You can see the five-day forecast for the active city, as well as show the current conditions in up to two more locations, in the drop-down menu. In Advance mode's prefs, you can control which elements of the weather show up in the menu -- if you don't want to see dewpoint or the visibility, just disable them. You can also control the amount of color in the icons and the forecast update frequency.
I wish Advance would let you show more than two cities in the drop-down menu (it only takes one more row per city), and the prefs program (the prefs run as a separate application, complete with dock icon, as the main program is a faceless background app) quit on me once for no apparent reason. Other than that, though, it's worked great, and WeatherPop is a good way to keep an eye on the weather without a visit to a forecast website.
A quick and simple PotW this week (got to start slowly and pace myself into this new year, right?). I download a lot of apps and documents from a lot of places -- VersionTracker, MacUpdate, links from articles on news sites, entries on various forums, etc. I don't always have time to look at things right when I download them, so my Downloads folder rapidly fills up. At some point in the future, I'll look at something in the folder with a useful name like "om_en_7.54u1.dmg" and wonder 'What the heck is that, and where did I get that?'
If I don't clear my Download window in Safari, I can find out by control-clicking on the like-named object and choosing "Copy Address." But since I download so much, I clear out the list with regularity, so then I'm forced to mount the disk image, open it, and then hopefully see something that reveals what it is I've now mounted (Opera, in this example). Enter DownloadComment, from Ecamm Network. This free Safari plug-in saves the address of the download in the Finder's Comments box, making it a quick Get Info away -- just highlight the file in the Finder, hit Command-I, and check the Comments section for the download URL. That's usually enough to remind me of what's behind the cryptic name. DownloadComment installs in your global Library -> InputManagers folder, and includes a simple uninstaller in case you tire of its behavior. It doesn't get much easier than that.
A simple little thing, but quite handy if you download tons and tons of stuff.
Do you review lots of digital images, either from your camera or another source? Sure, you could use iPhoto, but that's a large app that takes a while to load and can be a bit unwieldy to work with. Thanks to a recent Macworld Mac Gems column by Dan Frakes, I've added another review tool to my toolkit. CocoViewX is a fast, easy to use tool with tons of features. For me, it makes short work of flipping through tons of images (many of which are sent by friends and relatives) and deciding whether or not I want to keep them.
Among the features you'll find in CocoViewX are a file exporter with image type and size conversions, quick export that lets you export the next image with the same settings as the last (for making quick thumbnails for a website, for instance), file management options (move, copy, rename, delete, etc.), and a wonderful keyboard-driven slideshow program (space to start the show, l and r to rotate an image, and any number of ways to move from one image to the next). There's also a "dropbox," which is actually a drawer where you can save often-viewed images, and menu options for setting an image as your desktop picture, mailing an image, or opening an image in Preview.
I typically use CocoViewX by dropping a folder of images onto its icon, and then just reviewing them in its default browser window. When I see an image I don't want, I hit Command-Delete and it's moved into the trash. In this way, I can work through a large number of images in a hurry.
I didn't give CocoViewX a 10 for a couple reasons. First, it's quit unexpectedly on me once or twice, which is a bit disconcerting. Second, if you're using the browser view and you rotate an image a number of times, it becomes temporarily blurry -- this goes away when you click off the image and back on it, but it's still a bit annoying. And finally, I'd love to be able to "mark for deletion" while using the full-screen slideshow mode in addition to the browse mode. But for a freeware app, CocoViewX is very feature-laden and makes a lot of image management tasks much easier...
Are you an Apple/Mac history fanatic? Is apple-history.com in your bookmarks bar? If so, you'll love this simple gem of an application. Thanks to Dan Frakes for pointing it out (in January's Macworld magazine, and in this weblog from back in September). Mactracker is a database of basically everything Apple has made since the days of the original Mac -- and by everything, I do mean everything. From the Apple QuickTake 100 to the Apple Color OneScanner to the Macintosh TV, they're all in there (even the clones are included). Double-click on any model in the list, and you get a new detailed product window with tabs that vary based on what you've chosen. For Macs, you get five tabs (Overview, RAM/Video, Expansion/Ports, History, and Resources); for non-Macs you get all but RAM/Video and Expansion/Ports.
Each detailed product window contains a wealth of info, from the CPU type and speed to cache, bus speed, hard drive sizes, weight and dimensions (click on the displayed values to toggle to/from metric), Mac OS versions, intro/discontinued dates, codenames, power consumption, number and type of slots, sound in/out features, and much much more. The History tab even has a photo of the machine, and (for most products) their original pricing. A button below each product takes you to the apple-history.com site for more info. There are even samples of the startup and death chimes for the various Macs.
As an example of the level of detail, here's the History blurb for the IIfx:
The MacIIfx was the fastest Mac ever built at the time. The IIfx shipped in a Mac II-style case, and could accommodate up to two Super Drives and internal SCSI hard disk. Dubbed "Wicked Fast" by the press, the IIfx also contained a number of proprietary ASICs designed to speed up the machine further. These required software written specifically for the IIfx to run at the top speed, but either way, it was an extremely powerful machine. It sold for $10,000 - $12,000 U.S., depending on configuration.
And to think people say Macs are too expensive now! :)
Mactracker includes a basic search feature, shows the products nicely organized by type, and there's even a Bug button you can use to send in corrections to the database. Finally, there's a great "Install for iPod" feature that tosses the whole database into your iPod's Notes section. It took less than 2MB of my iPod, and I'm now a walking encyclopedia of useless Mac historical trivia! In short, if you're interested in Apple's history, and would like access to the data when you don't have access to apple-history.com, check out Mactracker!
When I was a much younger person, I had grand aspirations to be a pro-level motocross rider. Unfortunately, three things stood in my way: lack of skill, lack of parental consent (they were clearly brighter than I was!), and an innate, horrid fear of breaking every bone in my body. Thanks to Aspyr, though, I can now live my dreams in the (relative?) safety of my office chair. MTX Mototrax (MTX from here on out) is, to my knowledge, the first motorcycle-based game to ship for the Mac, perhaps ever (anyone remember any?). The basic premise is that you're a budding off-road rider, and you need to work your way up through the ranks by winning races. As you win, you start earning money, attention from sponsors, getting better bikes, offers to ride for better teams, etc. You compete in three main events: supercross (stadium racing), motorcoss (outdoor racing), and freestyle (indoor trick arenas). In addition, "free ride" zones are provided where you can practice on the bike and earn more skills through a series of challenges.
As you can see from the small image at left (here's the bigger version), you can do some amazingly wild stunts in MTX. Instead of trying to describe them, I recorded a short movie of just a few of the 115ish stunts you can perform -- you can view either a small [6.6MB] or larger [14.4MB] version. There's a bit of distortion (I used iMovie to edit the clips and add the transitions, resulting in a 720x480 version of an 800x600 original), along with some obvious MPEG arifacts, but it's not too bad.
If you work with partitioned disks, there's a good chance you've eventually discovered that you gave too much space to one partition, and not enough to another. In the past, that meant a reformat, repartition, and reinstall process that would take a ton of time. PC users have an application called PartitionMagic that can do this work without erasing the disk in the process. Until recently, though, Mac users were stuck with starting from ground zero (which makes for a tedious and lengthy project). Not any more -- there are actually two products out there (that I know of) that can resize partitions without destroying data. The first is SubRosaSoft's VolumeWorks, which I have not used. The second is this week's PotW, iPartition.
WARNING: Resizing partitions on the fly can be very dangerous. You can lose data if things go wrong, even if the program works perfectly -- a power outage while writing changes to the disk would be disastrous. Make sure you have a backup before trying any program that offers partition resizing! In my case, I had my FireWire backup of the whole system, plus a burned DVD of my critical personal files ... and I copied a bunch of stuff to my PowerBook. You can't be too paranoid about backups!
On my machine, I have a boot/system partition that holds the OS and my user files, and then a bunch of other specialty partitions for things like audio, video, and graphics. Yea, I know it's not required and I don't get any speed gain, but it's just the way I prefer to organize things. Anyway, for a while now, my system/user partition had been filling up (less than 5GB free), and my smaller second drive was already bursting at the seams. After some looking around, I decided to replace the second drive with a 300GB Maxtor SATA unit. I moved all of my non-system and non-user partitions to the new internal drive, leaving a bunch of free space ... none of which was usable by the system drive, since it was all on the other partitions. That's where iPartition comes into play.
The combination of iChat and iSight are wonderful; they have helped keep my mother close to her granddaughter, for instance -- even though they're 1,300+ miles apart. However, it's not so great with less than perfect lighting conditions. The iSight, in its stock form, doesn't do so well in low light. As I prefer low light levels in the morning, I've run into this problem quite a bit. And that's where iGlasses comes into the picture, so to speak (couldn't resist!).
iGlasses is an iChat plug-in (it's installed in the /Library -> InputManagers folder) that offers much greater control over your iSight (it also activates video conferencing on machines slower than Apple's required G3/600MHz limit). A small floating palette (which can be closed when not in use) offers a set of useful presets, including enhanced, extra bright, super bright, black & white, sepia, crazy colors (rotates through the color palette, tinting your image in cycles), macro focus (for extreme closeups!), and night vision (for using the iSight in pitch blackness). You can also check boxes to invert the image (useful if you want to mount your camera upside down) and/or mirror the image. How well does it work? Quite well, as you can see here:
That's my cat sleeping on the floor of the den. On the left is the iSight with its standard settings. The middle picture is using iGlasses' "extra bright" setting, and the far right is set to "super bright." As you can see in the images, as you add light, you also add noise. However, there's no disputing the fact that the image on the right would make a usable video chat picture, whereas the one on the left would not. Of course, my cat can't talk, so video chats with him tend to be quite boring.
If that's not enough tweakability for you, iGlasses offers a full set of manual controls over brightness, edge enhancement, focus, gain, hue, saturation, shutter speed, and image temperature. It's a true control addict's dream (or nightmare, if you constantly like to fiddle). The only thing I marked it down from '10' for was that you can't easily see the currently active setting -- it'd be nice to know that I have 'enhanced' active, for instance. But if you use your iSight a lot in low light situations, or just want a useful tweak tool to get the most out of the camera, iGlasses is well worth the $8.00 asking price (and in my opinion, this functionality should be bundled with iChat, or at least included when you purchase an iSight). There's even a seven-day no-limits demo, so you can test it out for yourself first.
Ever since I've had a computer, I've been looking for the ideal way to catalog our belongings, primarily for insurance purposes. I've used everything from self-developed HyperCard stacks to FileMaker databases (both self-written and purchased). I even tried using Quicken. But in the end, all the tools suffered from one major downside: it was too much work to catalog everything we already had, and adding new purchases was very tedious.
Then along comes Delicious Library (DL for short). DL is an application that catalogs your books, DVDs, CDs, and video games using an intuitive graphical interface. It also greatly speeds the process by using your iSight (or other FireWire camera) to read the barcodes from your stuff and look up the values on the web. You'll have more info on your stuff than you might even have wanted -- publisher, publication date, Amazon users ratings, genres, etc. The use of the camera to read the barcodes is a nice innovation; I was able to catalog nearly 800 items in something less than six to eight hours of work, spread across three days.
This application absolutely blew me away with its features and interface (click the picture at left for a larger version), and so I thought I'd write a full-blown review on it. Then I realized that (a) I don't have the time to do that, and (b) lots[that's Ars Technica's review, the most thorough I've seen]ofotherpeoplehavealreadydonesimilarthings, and they've covered much of what I would have discussed! So instead, I'll just do my usual PotW summary, and let you read the above-linked reviews for the details. Oh yea, there's a small Easter Egg hiding in DL, too -- read on to find it :).