Ask the Mac.AppStorm Editor #1

We’re kicking off another new post series today, called “Ask the Editor”. Hopefully it’ll turn into a great outlet for you to ask questions – both about Mac software, hardware, and AppStorm – and for me to share my responses!

Whether you have a burning question about which is the best Mac text editor, want to know what software I’d recommend for students, or even if you’re interested in what happens behind the scenes at AppStorm, I’m here to help!

I’ve had some great questions submitted this week, so read on to find out what my responses are (and how you can submit your own questions for the next article!)

People say that “Macs are secure”, but I’d like to know why this is. Isn’t it just because they are not as widely used?

– Girish Kolari

Definitely an interesting question. Many people take this approach, that Macs are just as susceptible to viruses as Windows, but there simply aren’t many viruses targeted at OS X. Of course, this is always bound to be partly true. But that’s too simple an explanation.

By default, your Mac comes in a fairly secure state. Most external ports are closed by default, you set a user password that’s required to install any new software, and software updates occur (almost) automatically to plug any security holes as they emerge.

The important thing is that system files on OS X can only be edited with your explicit authentication (i.e. entering your password). Malware and viruses do exist, but are generally only installed on the back of another legitimate app. Software can’t be installed without you knowing, as you need to authorise it.

Though you’re more secure on a Mac than many other platforms, don’t be complacent. You should configure the firewall and consider using an anti-virus app. We posted a really extensive article on this topic a few months ago, and it’s an excellent place to go for a full overview of this issue.

How many days of development/planning went into Mac.AppStorm before it’s initial public release?

– Brandon Roach

The idea for this network of sites was conceived by Envato’s founder – Collis Ta’eed. After he’d developed the concept of Mac.AppStorm itself, I was hired to be the site editor as the development process was getting under way.

I came on board as the site editor around the 5th January 2009, and the site launched on the 30th January 2009. Development took just over a month in total – not all that long (but the site was considerably simpler when we first launched than it is today!)

One of the very first site mockups

One of the very first site mockups

Is there a way to stop mounted external hard drives from spinning up when you open a save or open dialog box in OS X?

– John Columbo

This is a problem that I imagine annoys quite a few of our readers. If you have several external drives connected, it can be a really frustrating experience when they need to spin up every time you open a “Save” or “Open” dialog window.

The good news is that there’s a solution to preventing this. The bad news is that it prevents a drive from mounting altogether – if you want to access it, you’d need to manually open Disk Utility and mount it specifically.

The solution itself is also quite complicated. Rather than re-iterate the whole process here, I would point you in the direction of this MacWorld hint which explains everything clearly.

It’s quite tricky, unfortunately, and does require that you get your hands dirty editing a few system files.

Is there any way in Mac OS to somehow “freeze” an app without quiting it?

– Bartholomew Soyka

There absolutely is! This comes in the form of a really handy little app called AppTamer. After a little bit of configuration at the outset, you can sit back and let AppTamer handle this process for you automatically.

AppTamer pauses an application when you switch away from it, then automatically restarts it when you start using it again. Just set it and forget it! This is particularly useful when running on your MacBook’s battery, and can really help to prolong the life you’ll get out of a single charge!

Why are you better than the competition?

– @danielsgroves

Good question! My instinct would be to avoid answering something along these lines, but I definitely feel it’s a valuable topic to debate…

First of all, I’m proud of the fact that AppStorm is completely impartial in everything we write. Although we offer Quick Look sponsored posts, these are completely seperate to our reviews, and have no impact on the way we look at an application in a subsequent review.

I think that readers also value how we go into more detail in our articles than many other review sites. Although the response was positive when we started publishing more content recently, many people said “great, so long as quality isn’t affected”. We always strive for quality over quantity.

Finally, I think that we do a good job of listening to our readers and asking what they’d like to see. As it happens, we’re launching a big “AppStorm Reader Survey” this week which will give people a chance to say what they’d like to see more/less of across our sites.

Didn’t See Your Question?

If you asked a question but didn’t have it answered today, don’t worry! I’ll do my best to get to it in a future week. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to answer every question that’s sent in – I received quite a few over the past week!

If you’d like to submit another question for next time around, you can do so here:

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I mentioned today!