Thursday, January 26, 2006

What's on My Mac 2

Last July I listed What's On My Mac. I figure it's time for an update. I'm running the lastest version of OS X software, 10.4.4. Unless otherwise noted everything listed is free.
  • Safari - Last time I listed Camino as my browser of choice, I'm backing to using Safari. Camino is good, and does have better ad blocking than Safari, but it's still not at 1.0 (though it is getting closer) and there's another feature that's become more important to me. Safari uses native Cocoa widgets for text, so the standard mac features work. Namely, selecting text and typing Command-Control-d will popup a dictionary definition of the word and while editing, there's automatic spell checking and emacs-like editing keys (particularly important to me for blog entries). If Camino (or Firefox) had that, I might well switch, but really Safari does everything I need of it.
  • Aquamacs - If you don't know what Emacs is, you don't care about this. If you do, then Aquamacs is the version you want. It's the most stable and up-to-date (based on the development branch of Emacs) and works well. They are working hard at making it behave like a standard mac application and while they sometimes go too far (they deprecate user preferences in ~/.emacs to be in ~/Library/Application Support/Aquamacs/Preferences.el) it's very configurable (it's still Emacs :). I was previously using CarbonEmacs which is still a fine choice. If you use an emacs on mac, configure the Option key to be meta so, that your fingers don't get confused with the Command (aka Apple) key. Aquamacs comes configured with the standard Comand key bindings working, so Comand-S saves and Comand-C copies, so your fingers don't get confused as you switch applications. Also you'll want this hack to add more emacs keybindings to every cocoa app.
  • Quicksilver - This is really a wonderful application and is hard to describe. It's an application launcher with a very flexible plugin system which many powerful plugins. Via a trigger key (usually Command-space) you activate it and via typing can enter a noun, verb and perhaps an object to do things. Nouns can be file names, bookmarks, Address Book entries, iTunes songs, iPhoto albums, Applications, services, users, random text, etc. Verbs are things like run, copy, paste, open, compose email, send IM, append to file, etc. Objects are needed to specify things like what address to send a file to, etc. It's all modular and is really remarkable. One of the great advantages is that it's matching algorithm is very clever, working with a variety of abbreviation techniques and it learns your preferences over time. So after not too long you can do very complicated things with just a few keystrokes. The documentation isn't great so you're left learning by doing, but this basic and intermediate tutorial are quite good and this page on 43 folders hints at some powerful things. The more I use it, the more I new things I learn and more dependent on it I've become. I can now control iTunes (including rating songs) with key strokes without leaving the application I'm using.
  • Vienna - This is a free open source RSS newsreader that's clean and works well. I subscribe to about 65 feeds and read them in a 3 panel window. It can open web pages in background tabs or in Safari and feeds recognized in Safari can be automatically subscribed in Vienna via a Safari preference setting. Some memory leaks are being fixed in which is a beta and 2.0 should release soon.
  • Adium X - Until iChat adds support for Yahoo IM I need something else. Adium is the closest thing to Trillian on the mac. It uses libgaim, works very well and there are lots of extras available. I use the Dock theme which can get pictures remotely or from the Address Book. So I have a small dock-like thing on the right of my screen that has pictures of my online buddies. It seems very personal. It can't yet do video chat, I have to use iChat for that but don't use it that often.
  • Delicious Library - This is a clever app to help you keep track of your books, DVDs, CDs and Games. It only runs on Mac and won all kinds of awards when it shipped in late 2004. It's a little expensive at $40 but I've enjoyed it. Basically it's a database for your collections but it's very very pretty. It's also easy to enter information into, you give it a name or a UPC code and it looks it up on Amazon and downloads all the info, including a picture, it can even suggest similar items you might be interested in. The really neat hook is that it can use a video camera (I bought an iSight) to scan in UPC codes. I entered 150 DVDs in about an hour.
  • Microsoft Office - I can't say I use it too often but I did buy this to open docs people send me. I found the Standard edition online for $257. Many like Entourage which is the included Outlook-like app, but I use, and and am very happy. Now there's a free option, NeoOffice/J based on OpenOffice, but I haven't tried it yet.
  • iWork - This is the suite from Apple and includes Keynote for presentations and Pages for documents (and it's rumored the next version will contain Numbers). Keynote is very impressive and Pages is ok for a 1.0. Both integrate nicely with iLife and it's interesting to see the different approach from Office. A lot of features are dealing with typography and making things print nicely but I find I need hardcopy less and less. It's $79 from Apple. I'm still using the '05 version but Ihear good thinks about the '06 update.
  • iTunes - It's obvious and came with the Mac, but I'd figure I'd list it.
  • iPhoto - This is suiting my modest digital photography needs for now. It's part of iLife and came with my Mac. I haven't upgraded to the '06 version yet but probably will.
  • Media Players - Certainly QuickTime comes with the Mac and I use it a lot. I have not spent the $30 to upgrade to QuickTime Pro. I use Windows Media Player to play WMA files though it's now been discontinued and Flip4Mac is a third-party plugin for the QuickTime Player that Microsoft is pointing people at to use. Occasionally I use Real Player, usally for NPR audio streams. If I have any other video file that doesn't play VLC will almost certainly play it.
  • Audacity - is an audio file editor. I've only recently started using it to create ringtones for my new Verizon RAZR but it seems to work quite well. It's free and open source.
  • SilverKeeper - I bought a LaCie d2 drive for backups and this came with it. It works with any drive and is freeware. So far it's been fine.
  • Azureus - This is the BitTorrent client I use.
  • Cyberduck - This is a GUI-based ftp client. While OSX has a command-line client, this is convenient to use from the finder with drag and drop. The other popular client is Transmit which does have a Quicksilver plugin, but it's $30 and I don't do that much FTP. MacWorld reviewed 3 FTP clients in July 2005.
  • Stellarium - is a free star charting program (works on Windows and Linux too). Enter your location and it will draw the stars above you. It's quite pretty and works well.
  • Tofu is a small application that displays text in narrow columns, much like a newspaper. If I'm reading a long article I'll sometimes copy the text into Tofu to make it easier to read. It supports the Mac's builtin speach recognition so you can say "Scroll Page Right" to move the page.
  • MoinX - I tried a lot of outliners for personal notetaking but found myself drawn back to wanting a wiki. I wanted a python-based one and MoinMoin seems to be the best. This is a prepacked version that's trival to install, though development seems to have stopped on it.
  • Google Earth - now runs on the Mac

1 comment:

Mike said...

GoogleEarth for the Mac??!?! I need to download that now. My kids love it...travelling virtually around Grandma's....around the US...and around the world. The best geography lesson ever.

Also have Audacity.

And...Firefox, Accutab, Zoom PS-02 client, MS Office, iLife (love Garageband and iDVD), and seemingly hundreds of inexpensive kids edu-tainment disks bought on PlanetCDRom.

Connected to a wireless network...of more Macs...iBook and iMac.

I love these Macs...what's up with the Intel chip now?