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.

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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.

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“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…)

Finder is the first element of the Mac OS you interact with after booting your computer. On a fresh Mac with nothing installed, it is the only program that starts automatically. It’s such a central component of the system that you can never close it, and only restart it. Finder lets you mange the files and documents stored on your Mac. It’s where you interact with files, disks, and network volumes and therefore the main way to find your files and documents for all users and how you keep things organized the way you like.

In spite of this ubiquity, Finder has rough edges. For the power user there are many lacking features that would save time and speed up common operations. Two programs look to extend Finder by adding additional features and functionality. TotalFinder expands the functionality of Finder while Path Finder provides a full alternative to Finder with many additional features and functions. How helpful can they be? Let’s see.

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It’s very frustrating to take what you think is a great photo only to find it’s blurry when viewed later. Blur can result from poor focus, focusing on an object other than the one intended, or motion. In poor light the camera shutter often must stay open longer to allow in more light and it’s easy to move your hand resulting in a blurred image. Normally after seeing a blurry photo you’d have no alternative but to trash the photo.

On TV shows, there always seems to be a magic “fix photo” button that is used whenever a character needs fix a blurry image that magically restore it to perfect clarity. In real life, there is no magic button. But, there are some programs that can restore some clarity to images, and Blurity is one of the best. It will take a blurry image and in a few clicks produce a photo with recovered detail and far less blur. Let’s see how well it works.

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Almost every web site begins life as a specially formatted text file. Initially, the web consisted of static HTML files usually create in text editors. Soon the rise of the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web editors to sought to hide this code and present an editor more like Word or other popular word processors. This would allow the creation of web pages without the need of learning HTML.

Building better development environments is one of the holy grails of computing. At heart all computing is zeros and ones, but no one programs at that level. Instead we use higher level languages to bring concepts into execution and let the computer translate those languages to code the computer understands. On the web, much of the interactivity you see that drives everything from photo galleries to web apps like Google Docs is coded in JavaScript. It’d be too complex for someone with no experience to use on day one to design their own site, but it’s not so complex as to be unapproachable. But surely there’s an easier way to make an interactive site without having to become a developer.

That’s where Lucid comes in. It’s a new tool from The Escapers that’s designed to help you code JavaScript-powered sites in a simpler graphical interface. Let’s take a look.

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In the summer of 2009 I began working on my Master’s degree part time. In addition to my degree I also work full time and keep up with other activities (such as writing for this site) all while trying to have some semblance of a life. In December I should complete my Capstone project and graduate.

It’s taken a lot of careful management of time and more importantly energy to keep moving to this point. When I moved to a MacBook as my primary computer last summer, I had to redo my workflow and evaluate the best tools to keep up with my courses. Here I’m going to look at a few of the tools that I’ve used to keep my notes, organize my assignments, complete assignment, and work on my thesis project. (more…)

The CD data disk came as a revolution when it arrived. Before the most common storage method was still the 3.5″ floppy disk that held only 1.4 MB. The size of programs was rapidly increasing and many popular programs already came on a dozen or more disks and a bad floppy disk was all too common. The arrival of the CD made larger programs and games not just easier, but possible in the days when dial up Internet was still the norm. The DVD soon followed and increased the amount of data on a single disk to 4.7 GB and also brought the digital movie to the computer user.

Installing software now most often comes from a download, whether from the Mac App Store or the vendor’s web site. The DVD adds space and weight that can seem unnecessary. Apple now shows no concerns about removing the drive to shrink the size of their computers. The MacBook Air doesn’t come with a DVD drive to save space and the new MacBook Retina also removed the DVD drive. The trend is clear that Apple considers these drives to be unimportant and best relegated to an external drive in the rare times it’s needed.

Still, computer users can’t quite completely ignore the CD and DVD yet. Most boxed software, which now is relegated to mainly large suites like Microsoft Office or Creative Suite, still comes on a DVD or CD. While digital downloads of both movies and music are the future, many of us also have DVD or Blu-ray movie collections and even (gasp) CD music collections that we’d like to bring with us to the digital world. Here we’ll look at a few programs either included with your Mac or freely available that will help you deal with those physical disks still lying around. An external DVD drive will allow you to get anything on those disks to you Mac with the programs below.

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