When I get into the flow of working I often lose track of time. I find that my best work often comes in these periods when time seems to almost disappear. Much of the time this poses no problem, but sometimes I need to be reminded of something no matter how engrossed I am in my work. There are also times when I start something that will take a long time to finish, but I want to be able to work on something else and still be reminded when it’s complete. Either way, I need something to remind me what’s going on.
For events that take place at a specific time, the calendar works well. A reminder for a meeting at 10 A.M. or to meet someone for dinner at 7 P.M. does the job simply. It doesn’t work as well for things that are less tied to the clock. When I start laundry I just want to be reminded to check on it in thirty minutes. When I start a backup I want to be reminded to check on the status in an hour.
Timebar is an app in the Mac App Store that provides a simple countdown timer in your menu bar. This lets you keep an eye on the timer while keeping it out of your way. Let’s see how well it works.
Writing my contribution to the Apps We Use Feature after several others makes it interesting see how many applications we have in common. Like several of the other writers I’m a recent convert to the Mac, having started using a MacBook less than two years ago.
I now use my MacBook as my main computer; however, I’ve not made the complete switch and still spend as much time within Windows during my normal day as I do my MacBook. In addition to writing here, I have a day job as an IT manager and also do consulting, mostly in networks and web development. I tend to use apps I can use in both environments, or at ones that are compatible with similar Windows programs. Here are a few apps that I turn to every day to work and organize my work.
AirPlay Mirroring was one useful new feature Mountain Lion added to Mac OS. AirPlay Mirroring allows sending the screen of your Mac to display on a TV connected through an Apple TV. The usefulness for presentations is obvious, but I’ve found it most useful as a way to share a video to the room. While iTunes allows sending to an Apple TV, its limited in usefulness. AirPlay Mirroring let’s anything that can be displayed on your Mac to appear on an Apple TV. Instead of huddling around your MacBook display or the monitor on your iMac, everyone can watch it on the larger television screen your Apple TV connects to.
It’s not a perfect solution as the quality isn’t always great with stutters and pauses in the video a common problem. It also ties up your Mac when the display is mirrored. This works fine when watching short videos off YouTube or other online sites, but sometimes you don’t want to give up your computer for an hour or more to watch a longer video or move. Perhaps your roommate or significant other wants to watch a movie, but you’d just as soon catch up on email or finish a presentation.
Beamer offers a solution. It promises to send a video file to your Apple TV without having to completely give your Mac over to showing video. You can play any video from your Mac on your Apple TV. Since it’s an application the video can play while you continue doing other things. Let’s see how well it meets the promise.
A computer network exists to ease the transfer of data from one computer to another. Before networks became common in homes and offices, moving even a small file would require transferring the file to some temporary medium, often a floppy disk, taking that temporary storage to the other location, and then copying the file onto the new destination computer. It took more time and effort and moving a file to a computer in another building or location required someone to walk or drive the disk there. Now with the ubiquity of networks this task has become an almost transparent action. We routinely move files around our local networks with little more difficultt than moving files within on our computer.
This easy transfer still only holds in when the source and destination are two computers on a local network. Once you need to transfer a file over the Internet, that is to a computer somewhere else, things get more complicated. This is such a common need and over time several dedicated protocols such as FTP and SFTP arose for this task. Unlike the seemingly transparent transfers on the local network, transfers with these protocols require a specialized client such as Cyberduck or FileZilla to move files between the remote location and your local computer.
The ExpanDrive app seeks to bring the convenience of a local drive to remote storage normally accessed through FTP, SFTP, and on Amazon’s S3 service. It makes a FTP, SFTP, or Amazon S3 connection appear like a USB drive plugged into your computer and transfers to these remote systems as simple as moving a file to an external hard drive. Let’s look at how well it works. (more…)
Note taking application are probably second only to task management apps in the App Store now. I’ve used many of them, but keep coming back to the same few programs that best meet my needs. I would probably would count Evernote as my favorite cross platform version, but in truth my favorite note taking application isn’t on the Mac. It’s OneNote for Widnows. While most Office programs come in a Mac version, OneNote is a notable, and frustrating, exception.
While OneNote compatible programs aren’t unknown, there are few and most have fallen far short of replacing OneNote. Microsoft’s SkyDrive includes a web based version that functions for many basic editing tasks, but loses some of the powerful features that make OneNote so useful. Many Mac users find themselves resorting to keeping OneNote installed on a virtual machine to keep access to the program.
While Macs are more popular than they’ve ever been, Windows computers still form the majority of the market. Many of us, in fact, spend time using both, perhaps a Mac at home while on a PC at work. Working with others means even full time Mac users often needs to exchange files and data with users running Windows.
Fortunately the increased popularity of Macs makes this split environment easier than ever. Many common applications are cross platform and available for both Mac and Windows computers, and open standards and web apps make up for the rest. Let’s look at some apps that make it easier on everyone when working on both Macs and PCs. (more…)
iCloud promises much. Apple build the service not only to store your content, but to ensure that content is available on whatever device you’re using at the time. It gives you an easy way to keep app settings and the documents you’re using synced between your devices using the same apps, but since iCloud syncs files specifically for each app, it makes it hard to use documents in other apps.
This can be frustrating to experienced users used to moving between apps for different elements of their work. Here, the simplicity of iCloud can frustrate more experienced users by hiding some of the complexity of cloud storage. Some apps allow ways to move files out of iCloud and to your local device, but it would be nice to be able to do this from Finder directly. Plain Cloud is a simple and free app that promises simple access to your iCloud in Finder. Let’s see if this is the solution we need to solve iCloud’s complexity.
Last month I looked at a couple of programs to improve the experience with Finder on your Mac. Several readers mentioned XtraFinder in the comments to that post. This program appeared to be very similar to TotalFinder so I decided to take a look at the program to see how it compares to the other Finder tools already examined.
“I didn’t think Macs got viruses.”
A friend told me that as I helped her clean off a spyware program from her Mac computer last year. While the Mac user has less to fear than a PC user when it comes to the dark side of the Internet, the days when a Mac user could just assume they had nothing to worry about from malware are over. It’s not just viruses causing damage and data loss to be concerned about, but also programs that want to steal your data or personal information. These applications send your info to someone with malicious intent, track what you do and where you go notifying you, and otherwise invade your privacy. Being careful about what you install can do a lot to protect you. Even then, security flaws in software can let software such as the Flashback Trojan that took advantage of a bug in Java to silently install and begin sending your personal information back to remote servers.
It’s just good to see for yourself what’s running on your computer and connecting out. Overall a program that shows you what your computer is doing will help you better understand what’s running and notice when something is amiss. Private Eye from Radio Silence is a free network monitor for the Mac that gives you a real time view into the network connections to and from your computer. Let’s see how well it works and if it can help keep you safe online. (more…)
Before the rise of wireless networks, getting online or setting up a network required running a cable to each place that you want to connect your computer. Now, almost every device from computers to phones comes with wireless built in, and in many cases is the only option to get that device onto the network.
Installing a wireless network isn’t always easy. Interference from other nearby networks and electronics can interfere with your signal, a common problem in crowded small apartments. In an office or enterprise, machinery and other system can produce problems. In addition, covering a larger area will often require multiple access points while trying to place them in a way that will adequately cover the entire area using as little equipment as possible.
You can overcome these problems by trial and error, but it’s better to find a program to help you out. NetSpot is just the app for the job. We previously looked at NetSpot on Mac Appstorm, but recently version 2.0 of the software came out adding new features and functionality. How does this version stack up and can it work for the home and enterprise? Let’s see. (more…)