Regular readers here will know I'm always on the lookout for the next great "search the Internet from the desktop" tool -- previous winners of the PotW include ShadowGoogle and Searchling. This week, Huevos takes the spotlight as another variant on the same theme. Huevos features most everything I look for in an offline search tool:
Activation via the keyboard (modifiable hot key)
Select search engines via the keyboard
Expandable list of search sites
Small and unobtrusive GUI
What makes Huevos particularly nice are the inclusion of search functions for both the PHP and MySQL sites (along with some other less common sites), the ability to easily define additional search sites, and user-assignable hotkeys for the various search engines. For example, if you search Google Images quite often, you can assign Command-I to switch the search engine to Google Images.
The two changes I'd like to see in Huevos are (1) an option to hide the dock icon and yet still have the Prefs menu selectable via some method (drop-down menu or somesuch) and (2) re-order the search site list via drag and drop -- as it works now, the list is sorted by alpha, and I'd like to put my top five sites at the top of the list. But these are fairly minor quibbles -- the ability to add new sites and fully control Huevos via the keyboard give it a great edge in usability, and you can't beat the price. I'm not sure it's completely replacing Searchling for me (as I do like the fact that Searchling doesn't take a spot in the dock), but Huevos definitely earned a spot in my DragThing launcher!
Although mentioned here a few times previously (including this hint from a year ago), Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) has never been listed as a Pick of the Week. This is a definite oversight on my part, as it's an amazing little program.
I'll let the original article and comments do most of the explaining, but basically CCC allows you to clone one OS X hard drive to another, maintaining permissions and ownership, and copying all the hidden files. Since the original hint on CCC was published in April 2002, the code has gotten even better, and new features have been added that allow you to use CCC as a backup system. If you run a lab, you can also use CCC to create a NetBoot image for installation on all machines, using a fully customized OS X installation.
I've used CCC a few times when I just wanted to do some experimenting on my "good" boot drive. I run CCC and mirror it to another volume, then modify the OS X install on that volume and reboot from it. It's really an amazing little program and well worth checking out if you've never given it a look.
I ran across Clutter in one of the comments to the various "adding album art to iTunes" hints that appeared a week or so ago. What does clutter do? Theoretically, it's designed to let you 'clutter' your desktop with a bunch of virtual albums. Once launched, Clutter displays a small window showing the current iTunes track information, some forward/pause/rewind buttons, and the album cover for the current song. But the album art information doesn't come from iTunes, it comes from Amazon, assuming you're connected to the internet. As each album is found, a local copy of the artwork JPEG is stored on your hard drive, so future lookups are local, not internet based.
Once you have a cover, the way you clutter your desktop is pure Macintosh -- just drag the cover artwork out of the Clutter window and drop it where you wish. This creates a virtual album that can be control-clicked on, allowing easy management of songs on albums, as seen at left (larger image). Over time, you begin to accumulate favorite albums scattered across your desktop, hence the name Clutter. But having cluttered your desk, you'll find it really easy to find that favorite song you wanted to hear without having to visit iTunes to do so. When you're tired of an album on your desktop, just click once and hit delete.
Until yesterday, if you wanted the Clutter artwork directly in iTunes, you had to manually go into the Clutter artwork download folder and drag and drop the image into iTunes. But Clutter version 1.0d13 adds a new "Copy Cover to iTunes" menu item to make the process really easy.
After using Clutter for a week or so, though, I've found that I use it in a different manner than the author intended. Although you can clutter your desktop with imagery, and easily copy the artwork to iTunes, I do neither of those things. Instead, Clutter has replaced my iTunes window. I no longer leave even the minimized window open. I simply create a small Clutter window, and I have song, artist, album, play, previous track, next track, and cover artwork available at a glance. The other side benefit is that when I switch to iTunes, I now get the full size window (since it opens a new one when activated), instead of having to manually click the expand button on my minimized window.
The only reason I gave Clutter nine stars instead of ten is that the newest version seems to have a problem with the play control buttons losing their functionality -- the 1.0d12 version didn't have this problem at all, so I hope it's temporary. Basically, sometimes when I try to click any of the buttons, they don't respond. It takes some combination of window resizing and switching apps to restore their functionality. Other than that one glitch, though, I think Clutter is perfect!
I spent much of my time this weekend working on a new site for our family pages. The original site was pure HTML, and as a result (you know what's coming), it was never updated. So this weekend I installed something like 12 different blogs on my OS X box and started playing around with them. After much research, I decided that Textpattern was the package that best fit my needs. But that's a different story (or a future Pick of the Week, perhaps).
In the course of setting up Textpattern, I was browsing their forums and stumbled across a post explaining how to put iTunes song information on your Textpattern page using an application called Kung-Tunes. Kung-Tunes has been previously hinted here, but I'd never seen it (full proof that I no longer have the time to try absolutely every program that gets mentioned!).
After downloading Kung-Tunes and playing with its capabilities, I came away impressed enough to make it this week's Pick of the Week. Using a template, you can create an HTML file that gets updated each time your song changes (or on a schedule you specify). You control what information (track, artist, etc.) gets presented, as well as how many songs are presented. Since the file you're creating is straight HTML, you can embed tables, formatting, etc., to really make some sharp looking output. The forum post I was reading even explained how to include URLs for the CDDB, so the songs, artists, and albums are all linked back to informational pages. Once created, the file is then transferred to your webserver via FTP or other methods.
Kung-Tunes has a few limitations, mainly imposed by AppleScript and iTunes itself -- you can't post lists of songs if your library and songs live on your iPod, and iTunes AppleScript support of the Music Store is currently missing. But that's about all I ran across during my use this weekend.
Kung-Tunes may not be the most important application ever released, but it's a fun way to add some dynamic content to your website, as long as you're willing to tell the world what type of music you listen to!
Ever had an interest in running a webcam for any reason? If so, I highly recommend you take a look at EvoCam from Evological. Working through a simple one-window (four tab) interface, you configure the camera, the options you want on your webcam display (graphics overlays, time/date stamp, text captions, even QuickTime special effects), and then choose how you'd like to serve your webcam images. Accessed through the Server tab, the program includes a built-in streaming web server, or you can elect to upload images via FTP or even email them out!
On the Options tab, you can create a motion detection camera, set image quality, schedule dates and times for the camera to be active, and choose between various archiving and uploading options. The Status tab shows you information on the current frame, and the Items tab is where you add all the neat features mentioned earlier. You can even impose multiple video streams (if you have multiple sources) in one webcam window.
Once you've set everything up, you just enable the server, and your webcam is up and running. Any video source that's visible to QuickTime should work fine; I used our Sony digital camera and it worked flawlessly. I even tested it on our iBook, and sent the images via the wireless Airport connection to create a truly portable webcam setup.
From the time I installed this until the time I had a streaming video picture (outbound via a cable modem connection) was no more than a minute or two, and that included the time necessary to figure out how to configure the web server on another port (File -> Built-in Web Server). I had people view the streams from overseas, the east coast, and the west coast, and all had reasonable frame rates (one or two frames per second), given my somewhat limited upload speed. The amazing thing about this, though, is that I continued to use my Mac as I usually do, and made no concessions to the fact that there was a streaming video server running in the background. I couldn't tell that it was running, other than noticing the preview window updating on screen in real time. A quick look at 'top' revealed that it was using anywhere from 15% to 35% of my (G4/733), which left the machine very usable for my normal tasks.
All in all, for $20, EvoCam is an amazing little application, and worth checking out if you're looking for such a solution. It even comes with a no-limits 15 day trial just so you can make sure it meets your needs before purchasing.
iTerm was noted in a recent hint, but I feel it's worth a bit more exposure than that. iTerm is a terminal replacement program that supports multiple tabbed windows within one primary window, as seen here:
If you wish, you can see a larger version(172K) of the image. Using tabs, you can quickly jump from one task to the next (and there's a keyboard shortcut to making cycling both directions quick and easy). The tabs themselves also provide information on the status of each terminal window -- the two red tabs in the screenshot indicate that the particular window has new information for me to see or act on; the active tab is highlighted in blue.
As noted in the comments to the original article, you can use screen to effectively do the same thing. However, as a visual person, I like to be able to see the numerous windows at a glance, and not have to cycle or run a command to see what's happening. One additional feature of iTerm that you can't replicate in screen is that each tabbed terminal can have unique colors for text, background, and selection, as well as unique transparency settings (note a portion of the desktop image showing in the screenshot). You can also add opened windows to an "Address Book," making it very easy to re-activate the program and settings you have in place. It's also a Cocoa application, complete with a customizable multiple-size toolbar (I've reduced mine to text-only in the screenshot).
iTerm isn't perfect; it may have troubles with programs that don't use the standard character set, and it's quit on me a few times in the 45 days I've been using it. However, for me, it's a nearly full-time replacement for the Terminal. It's also got a great set of features if you find yourself using multiple terminal windows relatively often (and you're not a full-time UNIX user with tons of experience using screen). Give it a look if you're interested in tabbed terminal windows; at worst, you'll be out a few minutes of your time.
Hey, so it's an early Wednesday morning Pick of the Week instead of Monday morning ... better late than never, right?
Tired of the included desktop patterns? Don't like using photos instead? Try StarfishX, the desktop pattern generator. The easy to use GUI features options galore for creating cool desktop patterns. Start by picking a desired size and make a selection from the 15 pre-defined starting color palettes ("Spring," "Summer," "Autumn," or create your own), and decide whether you want the pattern to fill, center, tile, or stretch on your desktop. Click the New Pattern button, and StarfishX goes to work with your settings and some random numbers to create some truly amazing destkop backgrounds. You can optionally control the seeding of the random numbers that create your image, and StarfishX will remember any number (up to 500!) of your recent patterns for easy re-use.
Depending on what you're asking it to do (and what else you might be doing in the foreground), it can take a while to generate the patterns, as there's a lot of number crunching going on behind the scenes. One nice touch in StarfishX is that its dock icon changes when it's creating patterns -- instead of the full-size icon you see here, you get a very small icon along with a constantly updated miniature version of the pattern being generated. This makes it easy to keep an eye on the process, and you can quickly tell if the random pattern will be to your liking or not (there's a Cancel button to halt processing and start over if you don't like what you see).
Given my limited graphics skills, I've also found StarfishX useful as a starting point for web background images, Keynote presentations, etc. The GUI is easy to understand and I've never had a problem with a crash, and it's free and open source!
One of my biggest complaints about Camino (nee Chimera) was that I found the default theme icons in the toolbar hard to see against the pinstripe background. As of tonight, this is no longer a problem for me!
While perusing this month's Macworld, which has 75 reviews of free and low-cost software packages (humble aside: there are a few of my reviews scattered amongst the bunch, and there are some gems hidden in there, some of which will be appearing here as future PotWs, I would imagine), I stumbled across a review of ChimerIcon, which I had never heard of before. ChimerIcon (soon to be called CaminoIcon??) is a "theming" program for Camino that lets you very easily replace the splash screens and toolbar icons with any number of predefined sets ... or you can create you own theme.
Using ChimerIcon is about as easy as it can be. Just launch it, click on the Icon Themes tab, select a theme from the drop-down, and notice that the toolbar icons are now switched to those of the chosen theme. If you'd like to see all the buttons for a given theme, just click on Show Theme Icons button. If it appears the program is hung up and ignoring your input, it really isn't -- it takes it a while to display all the icons (even if you're not displaying the Show Theme Icons page, it still loads them all onto that page). Just give it a few seconds, and things will return to normal.
As long as Camino isn't running, you can then just click the Install button to put your chosen theme to work in Camino. I haven't had time to look at all 30-ish of the provided themes, but I quickly installed Orbit, my favorite Mozilla theme, and I'm now 100% happier about time spent in Camino (though I do want to browse the rest; some look quite cool). I'm not a huge fan of theming in general, but ChimerIcon is very well done, and makes it absolutely simple to give a new look to an excellent browser. The only reason it scores a 9 instead of a 10 is the slight slowdown when drawing the theme icons, but that's quibbling. ChimerIcon looks and feels professional, and the fact that it's free (including all the themes) is simply amazing.
This week's PotW is not an actual application nor exectuable code of any sort. Instead, it's an assortment of new iDVD3 themes. realeyzimaging has created a collection of four iDVD theme paks comprising a total of 32 themes (plus some freebies). Even with the 24 new themes in iDVD3, I was beginning to feel somewhat limited in the looks that I could give my iDVD projects. But with the iDVDThemePaks, that feeling is gone (for a while at least!). The themes cover the gamut from the serious to the whimsical, and all have a very professional feel to them. All feature bold well-done foregaround graphics and background imagery, with many including a full-motion animated background. The only slight disappointment was the lack of sound with any of the themes, but that's fairly easy to work around with my own sound collection.
Installation is easy, as each CD includes a double-click installer that adds the themes to a new /Library -> iDVD -> Favorites folder. It takes a few minutes to transfer each CD to the hard drive, but after that, the themes are available to iDVD via a new 'Theme Pak' selection in the Themes section. And of course, you can customize the fonts, colors, and buttons in the new themes.
So if you're tired of the standard iDVD theme offerings, give iDVDThemePak a look. You can even preview all of the themes (including QuickTime movies of those with active backgrounds) on the company's website. There are also two free (non-motion) themes for download if you'd like to check one out before making a purchase decision. At just over $3.00 per theme (if you buy all four paks), I found this to be $99 well spent -- there's no way my meager graphics skills would be able to create anything comparable.
This week's PotW is simple, indispensible to me, and easily overlooked ... which explains why it hasn't been a PotW before! We ran a hint on the program back in November, and after a very brief testing period, it has been installed on each of my Macs ever since.
What does the PDF Browser Plug-In do? Just what its name implies -- it allows you to read a PDF file directly in your browser. For me, this is an amazing timesaver, as more times than not, I'm only interested in finding some factoid buried within a PDF. Without the plug-in, I have to download the PDF, switch to the Finder, find the download, double-click it, then find what I want. With the plug-in installed, I just click the PDF link, and the file opens directly within the browser. A small (easily overlooked!) icon at the top of the scroll bar offers a drop-down menu with Page Setup, Print, and Zoom In/Out controls.
Installation is simple (drag it into a folder in your user's Library), and it seems to work with the major OS X browsers (IE excluded, at least in my testing). The only reason I gave it a "9" is that the displayed PDF will sometimes (but not always) vanish if I use the forward and back buttons in the browser; it returns with a reload, so it's just a minor annoyance.
Unless you always want to download and save PDFs for future usage, you'll find that the PDF Browser Plug-In will quickly become an essential part of your web browsing toolkit.