It’s that time of year

April 20, 2007

Tax time usually means that I remember how much I wanted to organize my finances last year. I’ve used a nice little application called iBank from IGG Software. It has suited most of my needs over the past year and is about half the price of Quicken for the Mac. But this year I had the itch to see if I was missing anything by using independent software like iBank. I purchased Quicken 2007 from my local Apple store and got to work moving all my finances over from iBank.

The real drive for me was that Quicken claimed to be able to link up with my accounts online so that I didn’t have to remember to download my transactions. Well, guess what… no program will do that. Quicken does have one nice feature. It will import your bank info from the account activity. This means that if you import your activity from Wells Fargo, Quicken will recognize that the account is with Wells Fargo. It’s not really that big of a deal.

Both programs allow you to reconcile your account during import, both show all your assets and both show how you use your money. I really can not recommend Quicken over iBank. iBank does everything the average home user needs and you’ll keep some money in that bank account.

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March 5, 2007

Remember back in the day when you had to BUY mapping software? I can. I plunked down $30 for some mediocre software that was out of date in a year. Then Mapquest saved us. It brought forward free software to find out where we could go and how to get there. Google has since elevated online maps to an impressive level. There is still a major issue with creating waypoints and paths. Recently I came across a great little app that does this one thing really well. It’s called Meander. The principle is simple. It creates a transparent window that hovers over any map window, be it Google, Mapquest, or Microsoft Live. It can even be a PDF of a map. You set the scale of the map as shown, then draw your path over top of your map. It’s that simple.

What Meander does is create a line drawing (which can be seen with a white background) and measures that line. It’s so simple, it’s amazing.

I find it pretty handy for all kinds of mapping. Scheduling dog walks, bike paths and even some crazy road trips.

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A band-aid for the Finder

December 29, 2006

Yes, the Finder could be better. I think many of us are hoping that the next OS release brings tabbed finder views and a simple way to deal with moving and viewing files. But until that day comes, there is Pathfinder by Cocoatech (PF4). It’s been touted on 43Folders a couple of times, here and here. Cocoatech have produced a quality product that feels right at home on my desktop. It takes some practice to get used to it though, so I’ll outline some cool features here.

The dropstack is a temporary holding place for files. Think of it as a more useful and forgiving command-select. You just drop files in the square and it keeps track of all of them. Then when you are ready to manipulate the files, you can easily grab each or all of them. YOu can even ctrl-click the stack to compress, burn, or email the lot. I use this for organizing my directories. I just browse through a bunch of folders throwing misplaced files in the dropstack. When I’m ready I just switch to the folder I want them in and unload them all.


There are a huge number of options when working with files. The contextual menu for a single file allows you to do almost anything with it. Pathfinder not only gives you the option to copy the path of a file but it gives you the option of copying the UNIX, HFS, Terminal, URL, or name as a path. Honestly, it’s more than I have use for, but I’m sure some uber power user out there would love this feature.


As far as file paths go, PF4 has multiple optional drawer that you can setup to display the curent file path. As shown below, I also like to keep a folder histroy displayed so I don’t have to keep back tracking to folders that I use regularly. You know, those folders that are good enough for favorites, but you might make a desktop alias to.


The last feature I want to mention is the optional Running Processes tab. It’s kind of like having a mini-dock attached to the window. You can kill a process, switch to an application or bring up a contextual menu with loads more options, such as launching another instance of the application as root.


These are the kind of features that only a dedicated and Apple Fanboy would think about including. I bet the developers at Cocoatech all love their macs and started making great software that they wanted to use. I, for one, am grateful that the mac community is made by companies like Cocoatech

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Upload your photos

December 26, 2006

Now that we all have a bunch of new holiday photos it’s time to get them uploaded to Flickr and other various photo sharing sites. If you’re running either iPhoto or Aperture on the Mac you have limited choices to automate the upload process. I have used the plugin ApertureExport in the past, but to purchase the full version is kind of pricey for a one trick pony. After trying out some of the options out there I’ve finally settled on PictureSync from uVerse. You can upload to just about any service you can think of (check out this list) with tags, descriptions and complete group control. It will even pull in all the metadata from Aperture. PictureSync is free for the casual user but they ask for $15 for heavy users.

One of the coolest features is the Automator like scripting. This allows you setup rules to control how information gets added to the photos during uploads. For example, if you don’t want your keywords from Aperture added to your photos on Flickr, just create a rule that substitutes new keywords to the photo before uploading.

PictureSync is also application aware. It can pull selections directly from Aperture, iPhoto or Adobe Bridge. It’s pretty universal.


A close runner up to PictureSync is 1001 from the makers of Ecto and Endo. I really like this application too. It does far more than upload photos, it’s also a photo stream viewer. Similar to using iPhoto to view photostreams, but 1001 allows you to set the time intervals for checking streams as well. It does a good job, but I just liked PictureSync better.

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The easiest way to download Google and Youtube video

December 24, 2006

A little while ago, I wrote about using Podtube to download flash videos from Youtube. As Youtube pulls more and more videos off, due to complaints from studios like NBC, I enjoy keeping local copies for future viewing. Well, I’m happy to report the easiest way yet to capture these video. VideoDL is web service that simply fetches the flash file and provides you with a simple download link. Just put in the URL from a video that you want to keep. VideoDL produces a link. Click the link and your browser starts the download. From what I can tell it works great with both Google video and Youtube, but not Metacafe (they don’t claim it should).

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The easiest way to print a calendar on a Mac

December 16, 2006

Today I had the need to print out a calendar for my wife. She needed a blank printout to write a schedule to hang on her wall. My first thought was “I think there is a template in Apple’s iWork Pages that could do this.” Well, that was a poor assumption. No such luck. I went to the iWork community site to find a template but nothing was really useful.

Then it hit me! I have iCal. Right there under the file menu I chose print, fully expecting to just get a bland printout of my current view. That’s not the Apple way though. You get a nice print preview and preference panel that allows some great print options. You can select the number of months to print, along with which calendar events to include. Black and white or color? No problem. Even mini-months are included. This is a wonderful surprise built right into iCal.


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Parallels and Apple — Near perfect

December 4, 2006

There’s a whole lot of buzz around the latest Parallels beta release. They have added a new feature called “coherence” which allows OSX and Windows to co-mingle on your desktop. At first, this seems wrong and creepy. But once I appreciated what this will mean for the future, I found peace with Windows on my Mac.


Here’s the gist, you can drag documents between the Windows and Mac desktops and folders. Sadly, they do not “move” but simply copy from one environment to the other. Hopefully this will be changed in the near future. That’s not all, with the coherence mode turned on you can also drag an OSX window into the MS Windows desktop environment and copy and paste between applications using the default Apple short cuts. This is nothing short of monumental in the evolution of virtualization on the Mac.

I’m imagining a future where you can right click on a document anywhere and choose to open it in either the windows  or the OSX environments. Or better yet, predefine that certain file types always open in the desired environment. The software will just work. No need to worry about the operating system. Web browsde in linux, rip DVD’s in Windows and take care of photo’s in iLife without ever concerning yourself with which environment is actually running.

I am blessed enough to be running dual monitors. This allows me to dedicate one to the Windows VM on Parallels and one to OSX. I couldn’t ask for a better setup for getting my work done. The coherence mode of Parallels allows me to drag OSX windows into the Microsoft environment with no problems (however, you can not drag Microsoft application windows into the OSX environment). The image below shows Microsoft Media Player 11 running overtop Vienna and iStat (both Mac applications).


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