SuperDuper is Super Duper!

13 04 2007

Backing up your computer is one of those jobs that nobody likes to do. It takes time and effort to get it right, but for most people the completed backup won’t ever be used. It’s difficult to maintain a backup routine when you don’t get instant benefits from it that keep you motivated.

I used to backup the odd thing here or there, but usually only stuff I knew I could never recover – and even then I did it so infrequently, the backup would probably have been next to useless had I have needed it.

Paranoia and concern for my precious data led me to start looking for a solution that would allow me to backup all my important things without taking ages to configure and ages to perform, that way it will be a lot easier to stick to the regime.

I found quite a few apps that would claim to backup things, but they were either too complicated to use or too simple to be useful.

The only one that seemed to be spot on for me was Super Duper.

SuperDuper

Super Duper allows you to create backups of your entire hard disk which can be saved on an external disk and made bootable so you can instantly resume working should your hard disk fail. It also allows you to create custom backup sets where you can pick out just the files you want to backup and leave the rest.

My favourite feature though is the Smart Update ability which allows you to update your backup set to match your hard disk at a fraction of the time a full backup would take.

All this is free, but if you pay for the registered version (at $27.95 / ~Ā£14.14) you get access to more customisation and a scheduling feature which allows you to truly automate your backups – Super Duper will mount a target disk, perform the backup, then eject the disk, all on a schedule you set.

The software has been written with absolute computer novices in mind, and so explains in detail what each step of the process entails so there are no doubts. This may be irritating to more experienced users, who may find it a little patronising, but I for one don’t mind it as it does help make it very clear what will happen. It’s sort of like taking a holiday from techno-jargon šŸ™‚

Developer: Shirt Pocket
System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later – Universal
Download Link: http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/SuperDuperDescription.html
(2.7MB disk image)





Sticky Windows – Now Universal

10 04 2007

Sticky Windows ScreenshotAlmost a year ago I blogged about a piece of software that allows you to very usefully create tabs out of any windows you have on any side of your screen. Very useful if you regularly have a lot of windows open, and don’t want to minimise them to the same place on the dock where they can get lost and mixed up.

4 days ago, this software was finally updated to a Universal Binary and now works properly on Intel Macs!

Developer: Donelleschi Software
System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger – Universal
Download Link: http://www.donelleschi.com/stickywindows/
(908.0KB disk image)





Apple and EMI Wave Bye Bye to DRM

3 04 2007

That’s right, almost 2 months after Steve Jobs’ original Thoughts On Music open letter to the music industry, the first major label EMI has agreed with Apple and allowed their entire library of music to be sold DRM-free and at double the bit-rate previously.

Not only that, but apparently the iTunes Store will provide a single-click solution for existing customers to easily upgrade their previously purchased EMI songs.

The price per single has risen from $.99 to $1.29, but for no DRM and double the encoding rate, $.30 isn’t really that much (its about 15p more for us English people).

Now that one major label has taken the plunge surely it won’t be too long before the other ones have to follow suit, which can only be a good thing!





RSS Rules – Vienna

17 03 2007

RSS (Rich Site Summary / Really Simple Syndication) is a lightweight XML format for distributing news headlines and other content on the Web. You point a RSS-capable browser at the RSS link for a website, and you can then subscribe to the feed, seeing the content within an RSS view in your browser.

I liked the idea of it for being able to keep up to date with my favourite news blogs and sites, but I never really managed it very well, ending up with way over 80 bookmarks in Safari, in different folders on my bookmarks bar, making it a little difficult to keep up to date with new content.

Introducing Vienna:

Vienna

Vienna is a really simple yet powerful RSS client for Mac OS X.

Vienna takes away all the complications with dealing with a lot of RSS feeds, by allowing you to subscribe to them all from one place. It allows you to create folders for different categories of feeds, and automatically checks for and downloads updates at a regular interval you choose.

It has some powerful features for finding the content you want, by allowing you to create Smart Folders of feeds, that automagically update as you would expect from any self respecting Smart Folder.

And because the content Vienna downloads is cached, you can then view your RSS feeds offline, ideal for people who have a lot of feeds to keep up to date with on the move; connect to your hot spot at Starbucks, let Vienna update, then disconnect to save your bandwidth.

To set it up, you simply drag any RSS bookmarks you have into it’s sidebar, and you’re done. Vienna will then automatically check for updates to the feeds for you, and notifies you when there are new ones by displaying an indicator on it’s dock icon, much in the same way that Mail.app does.

What I like about Vienna the most is that is isn’t trying to be anything other than a feed manager – a lot of applications I’ve seen try to do so much they actually end up being browsers in their own rights, but not quite as good. I’m happy with my browser, so I want to stick with it, I just want a nice centralised place to keep up to date with my feeds – Vienna does this, and does it well.

Vienna 2.1.1
Link: http://www.opencommunity.co.uk/vienna2.php (1.3MB zip)
Reqs: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later (Universal)





IMAP and Mail.app

11 11 2006

IMAP: If you can you shouldMail.app

I’m here to talk about the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) today. In the world of email there are basically two protocols: POP and IMAP.

POP is the original old faithful, but is very simple – you connect to your POP server, it sends you new messages, you download them and they are removed from the server.

The main problem with that is that the messages are now stored locally on your computer. Many people now use webmail of various types to connect in to their mailboxes, so if the messages have been downloaded, you won’t be able to see them anymore through the webmail.

Now most people probably will not find this a problem – and it isn’t if you only ever read your mail at home, on the same computer.

Enter IMAP. With IMAP, your emails are stored on the server and you connect to the server to download new messages, which are then cached on your computer for offline viewing. If you then connect in via a web interface, and delete some messages, when you next connect in from home, the mailbox is synchronised to reflect these changes.

This means you can organise your mail into different folders, and be able to see the exact same setup, regardless of your email client. Another really useful ability of IMAP is that it can request just the mail headers, allowing you to see the subject, sender, size and so on, without having to actually download the whole message.

Users of dial up who often receive large messages, will find this more useful than most, as it prevents them from wasting connected time (and money) waiting for large messages to download, as they can choose whether or not they want a particular email.

Thunderbird, Mozilla’s email client works with no further configuration, other than the account settings, but if you want to use the built in OS X Mail.app, then there are a few things to be aware of.

Mail.app and IMAP
Mail.app has issues with IMAP – it just doesn’t behave properly. Any folders you may have added to your IMAP account will either be missing or incomplete, and will disappear at seemingly random times!

After puzzling over this for some time I was worried that perhaps my email server host (1&1) didn’t fully support IMAP properly. So I installed Mozilla Thunderbird and tested it, only to see all my folders exactly as they should be.

So with 1&1 ruled out as the cause, I decided to move on to setup Mail.app to work with my Gmail account, while I puzzled over it. After setting Gmail up, suddenly, my original IMAP account started working perfectly!

So the solution to getting IMAP to work properly with Mail.app is to make sure you always have more than 1 account configured in it. After accidentally stumbling across this solution, I checked online for more advice, and apparently this is quite an old problem, stemming back to early versions of Mail.app, so who knows why it hasn’t been solved yet.

The only other thing you need to do when first setting up your IMAP, is tell Mail.app which of the server folders are to be used as the Inbox, Drafts and so on, or things will get a little confusing.

To do this, you just need to find each special server folder in the list, click on it, and choose ‘Use this mailbox for’ from the ‘Mailbox’ menu. Then select the appropriate option. Once this is done, you’ll have a fully working IMAP setup on Mail.app through OS X.





MSN 6 for Mac

10 11 2006

MSN LiveMicrosoft have finally releasedĀ an update to their MSN Messenger software for Macintosh users. Although its a whole new version number, it hasn’t changed that much. The main changes boil down to a few interface changes, mainly with the inclusion of the ‘Windows Live’ logo. The application is now also a Universal Binary.

In addition to the interface changes, there is now at last the ability to set a display message seperately to your name, which you can set to automatically show your current iTunes track if you want. You can also create custom emoticons, and they have finally enabled ‘Check Spelling As You Type’ in the input box. The final thing I have spotted is that the emoticons now animate in a loop, as aposed to just once then stopping.

The most disappointing fact is that Mac users of MSN are still unable to use it for voice or video, though with more pressure coming from alternative instant messaging programs that do support voice and video on any platform, Microsoft should probably think about adding it sooner rather than later.

I will say this though – the Mac version of MSN is so much nicer to use than the Windows one! The interface is clean, streamlined and easy to use and it doesn’t get in your way. The Windows version may look nice enough, butĀ is full of advertsĀ and annoying things such as nudges and winks that slow it down and make it feel really cluttered.

Developer: Microsoft
System Requirements: At least Mac OS X 10.3.9 (Universal)
Download Link: http://download.microsoft.com/download/0/8/3/083da6e6-0db8-4d62-a8c7-7e2b0ac70f4a/Messenger601.dmg
(8.6MB disk image)





Software Review: Folder Brander

24 10 2006

FadedFinderWindowIn Mac OS X, you can quite easily create shortcuts to applications, files, folders and so on, by dragging them into your Dock, or into the Finder’s Sidebar. What you may notice though is that, without hovering over to see a tooltip, folders all look identical, making telling them apart difficult.

Folder Brander is a piece of software by Yellow Mug that allows you to customise the appearance of any folder without having to get into any graphics editing. You can use it to overlay simple text labels, change the colour of a folder, or even change the folder style itself.

FolderBranderScreenshotYou can also use it to add any other folder icons you may already have, such as those available from the Internet.

A free trial is available from the Yellow Mug Software company website. It is fully featured, though it does place a grey ‘X’ in front of all icons you replace with it, but it is more than enough to get a feel for the program.

At only $9.99 (approx Ā£5.30) it is very cheap should you wish to purchase the full version and I would recommend it, as it makes spotting folders much easier and does give you a sense of personalisation.

Developer: Yellow Mug Software
System Requirements: At least Mac OS X 10.3 (Universal)
Download Link: http://www.yellowmug.com/folderbrander/
(1.28MB disk image)