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James Cull

Content Editor for AppStorm

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As a student, I know exactly how boring studying is. You spend all day locked in your room, poring over a textbook thick enough to stop a bullet at 30 yards, and trying to concentrate on those printed words while resisting the temptation to let your mind wander.

Sound familiar? I’m sure every student has been in this situation at least once and I can tell you now, it isn’t a fun one to be in. But studying doesn’t have to be a daily slog through endless sheets of notes and lifeless, black-and-white textbooks. There are plenty of ways to rekindle the ever so slight spark of fun in your studies.

Everyone has their own different study techniques, but I find that flash cards are a useful way of memorizing information quickly and easily. However, going down to Staples and buying a pack of note cards is a bit too 20th-century. In this digital age, we want something more modern and “flashy”.

This is where Smartr comes in. It is a small, lightweight flash card application for Mac OS X that helps you easily compile flash cards and test yourself on the computer. This avoids the need for hundreds of note cards lying around everywhere and saves you the time it takes to write them all out by hand.

Let’s take a look at Smartr in a bit more detail to see if it can really make studying less of a chore.

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Organization is crucial for greater productivity and we all know the famous saying, “A failure to prepare is a preperation to fail.” On Macs, you’ve got a whole range of programs designed to help you become more productive and improve your organizational skills. You can use the traditional option of iCal, which has been given a much-needed rework in Lion, or if you prefer to have your calendar synced across all platforms, you can use Google Calendar. Facebook also comes in handy for keeping track of those house parties as well as your friends’ birthdays.

But there are times where you want to see exactly what’s happening across all your calendars without having to look all over the place. Enter CalendarBar. It’s a lightweight application available exclusively from the Mac App Store that runs quietly and nonchalantly in your menu bar and lets you view all your appointments from all your synchronized calendars with one click. The developers, Clean Cut Code, state on CalendarBar’s website that it’s a “unique way to keep track of your events”. Let’s take a closer look at CalendarBar and see whether this claim holds up.

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CopyPaste Pro, from the developer Plum Amazing, describes itself as “Time Machine for your clipboard” and is designed to give a much-needed refresh to this simple, yet vital feature. There are plenty of features built in which not only bring some added functionality to moving text around but also some useful little perks which may help you become more productive by helping you to save time.

Let’s have a look to see what features CopyPaste Pro gives you and how it can be a radical change to the way you work.

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Today’s discussion is a classic one: are Macs really impervious to the malware threats so rampant on PCs? Due to the rapidly changing nature of technology and the ever-increasing acceptance of Macs, this is a question that needs to be periodically revisited.

We’ve recently seen Apple’s bulletproof security claims become quite tarnished in light of threats such as MAC Defender. Read on to see if you should be concerned.

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This review should, in hindsight, be more of an obituary. As you are probably aware, Apple is planning to ditch Front Row from its latest release of Mac OS X, Lion. Why is anyone’s guess, but the fact that the last update for it was released in November 2009, I think we could all see it coming.

In comparison to other applications, Front Row is very basic and only offers a limited number of functions. Apple may want people to switch to the Apple TV, a small digital media receiver which did borrow heavily from Front Row, or maybe it ditched Front Row because of the rise of other, third-party media applications.

Boxee is one of these. Although the whole app and its interface had larger TVs in mind, it can still be used on desktops without too much trouble. Boxee has been around for a little while now – the public beta was released in January 2010 – however the application is still in its beta stage of development. It does boast a neat interface and some handy in-built features so even if you don’t have a large TV, you can still gain some use out of it on your computer.

Boxee is, in my opinion, the final nail in the coffin for Front Row. Read on to find out why.
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In recent years e-books have experienced a notable surge in popularity. Much of this can be attributed to devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad, which have seen a huge rise in popularity over recent years and seem to always be in those “top 10 gadget lists”. Amazon now sells more Kindle-format books than standard paper copies and the research and advisory firm mediaIDEAS forecasted that e-book readers are set to become a $25 billion market by the year 2020.

So with all these e-books floating around, you’ll need a way to manage them, right? Well, that’s where Calibre comes in. Think of it as iTunes for your e-books. Although e-book readers such as the Kindle provide their own software, it is a bit basic and you can only read books purchased from the Kindle store.

Calibre allows you to categorize all your books, convert them into different formats and upload them to your device. Although it won’t win any awards for its looks, the old adage is true, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” (or should that be e-book? Sorry, bad joke). Calibre is, to use the age-old comparison, iTunes for your e-books. Read on to find out why.

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With Apple’s WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference) coming up on June 6th, forums and message boards across the internet are filling up with speculation about what is going to be announced. Apple are inviting us to “join us for a preview of the future of iOS and Mac OS X” and it’s set to be the most popular WWDC yet.

The event was sold out within 12 hours, faster than any other WWDC and tickets for the event were reportedly being sold on sites such as eBay and Craigslist for as high as $4,599, nearly triple the face value of $1,599. This popularity can only mean two things: Apple is planning to release a major new version of Mac OS X and, possibly, a new version of iOS, the sister version of OS X designed for the popular iPhone and iPad.

The new version of Mac OS X, Lion, is set to be a major overhaul of Apple’s default operating system and was announced in October 2010 in a keynote entitled, quite fittingly, “Back to the Mac”.

The last major rework of Mac OS X was seen back in 2007 with the release of Leopard (Snow Leopard, released in August 2009, simply optimized certain areas of the OS), so the OS was in need of some modernization to keep it competitive. Three previews of the new operating system have already been released to developers via private previews and some new features have already been noticed however, in true Apple-style, they will surely save the best bits for the official announcement.

Let’s take a look at what we can expect from Steve Jobs’s keynote on the latest version of Mac OS X.

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When Time Machine was released with Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) back in October 2007, it was one of the highlights of the new release. Apple was the first company to offer a fully-functioning, built in backup utility into their operating system and in true Mac-style, they pumped it full of eye candy. Well, only Apple could take a simple system utility and transform it into a work of art.

Although Time Machine is good for recovering files if anything does happen to your Mac, it is a bit basic in its functionality. You do not have the option to schedule backups depending on when you want them – when your external hard disk drive is plugged in (or the device you are backing up to), Time Machine will simply sync any changed files and folders hourly.

For the average user, this won’t cause too much of a problem, but for someone who uses their Mac for high-end software or gaming, the backup can slow down the performance of your Mac. Time Machine also isn’t a true backup option per se, as it does not create disk images (unlike other programs), where you can restore your Mac in the case of a drastic failure.

This is where ChronoSync comes in. At $40, it is quite a pricey alternative to Time Machine (which is bundled in with Mac OS X 10.5 and above) and some might question paying this amount for a piece of software which is pretty much identical to something they get for free anyway. I decided though to download the 30-day trial version of ChronoSync to give it a test run and to see whether it is really a viable (or better) alternative to Time Machine.

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Language learning has traditionally been quite a mundane task involving dense, boring textbooks and pointless grammar and vocabulary exercises. People only really learnt a language simply because they either had to at school, or because it was required by their employer.

However, last week I went into my local bookstore and I thought to myself that the demand for language learning must be there. There was a whole corner of the bookstore devoted to language learning, from Afrikaans to Zulu and the more popular languages such as French, German and Spanish often had whole bookcases to themselves – there must have been at least 5 different kinds of courses for each language.

People must obviously want to learn languages; otherwise bookshops wouldn’t be filling up their shelves with courses. But is learning a language out of a book now history? Can a computer really help us with some conversational Spanish before that trip to Madrid? Or maybe that big meeting with those investors from Germany?

Well, Rosetta Stone believes it can. It uses a technique called dynamic immersion, which is an intuitive new way of learning a foreign language and one that is radically different from all other programs.

It has certainly got a loyal fan base: NASA and the European Union both use it to teach foreign languages and the company offers a six-month risk-free guarantee on all their products, meaning you can return them within six months of purchase without any problems if you’re not completely satisfied with the results.

Rosetta Stone teaches a foreign language in the way babies start to learn talking: by listening to their parents and repeating every word they say and by relating words to pictures, much like during infant development. This method may seem a bit dumbed down for us adults, but I gave the Russian version of Rosetta Stone (a language which I had prior to this write-up absolutely no idea about) a go to see what the results were like. Read on for my full review.

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