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 / ~£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 🙂

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)





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)





MSN 6 for Mac

10 11 2006

MSN LiveMicrosoft have finally released 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, but is full of adverts 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 £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)





Software Review: Delicious Library

23 05 2006

Delicious Library IconI’d like to share with you one of the most innovative pieces of software I’ve seen for ages – its called Delicious Library.

In a nutshell, it allows you to catalogue, browse and share all your books, DVDs and music. You can type in the information manually or look up information, for example by using the ISBN number for a book.

BUT the most amazing part of this software is that it allows you to actually scan the barcode using your integrated iSight camera or external camera, instantly obtaining a wealth of information from various international sources online – it even plays a satisfying supermarket checkout bleep at the same time 😛

Upon selecting to add a new entry to your library you can bring up this Video Preview, with red barcode-scanner lines to show you where to line up your item of choice, in this case it was a PHP 5 book written by Paul Hudson, that I had recently purchased. Notice how this book for some reason has two barcodes on it, but this didn’t confuse the software:

Delicious Library Example 1

I simply waved the book in front of the camera and after a short checkout bleep, the book was now sitting comfortably on a very nice looking virtual bookshelf. The system also spoke the name of the item to confirm the successful import. Clicking the book displayed a wealth of information, including the genre of the book, the format, pages, original price and current value.

There is also a section for you to enter your own information and rating, and finally a very useful section on similar items, clicking on which will take you to the item on Amazon:

Delicious Library 2

I also tried it out with a soundtrack CD I received as a gift, same procedure, only this time a CD case identical to the real thing was now sitting on my virtual shelf:

Delicious Library Example 3

I am very impressed with this application, it looks great, is very fun to use and should be very useful. Since I use iTunes for my music catalogue, I won’t need to import my CDs, but for books and DVDs I didn’t have anything, until now!

Some of the other useful abilities of this software include:

  • Spotlight search integration
  • iPod synchronisation
  • Loan system for tracking which friends are borrowing which items
  • Dashboard widget

The software isn’t free, but at only $40 (approximately £21) it is very cheap for such a powerful tool. Also, if you are upgrading from a competing product, the company offers a $10 discount. The version available for download has a limit of 25 items before it needs purchasing, so feel free to download it and give it a try.

Developer: Delicious Monster
System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3 or higher (10.4 required for Spotlight and Dashboard features).
Download Link: http://www.delicious-monster.com/
(11.0MB disk image)





Software Review: Desktop Manager

4 05 2006

Multiple desktops are a feature which some people claim should be built into Mac OS X. I wasn’t so sure myself, so I decided to find a third-party appication and give it a whirl. The one I came across is called Desktop Manager.

Although only in Alpha status right now, Desktop Manager is open source and free. The software enables you to configure as many virtual desktops as you want (subject to available memory), giving each a name which you can choose to have displayed in a corner of the screen if you wish. To switch between the virtual desktops, you simply click a button on the menubar:

Desktop Managr Screenshot

There are many transition effects which you can set for switching between desktops, I have mine set to the ‘Cube’ transition like you would see when switching between users on the same Mac. The others can be seen in the ‘Screenshots’ section of the product website. So far I’ve found the whole experience to be very good, having as many virtual desktops as I like is very useful, as it effectively gives you a much greater work space.

Although Exposé is great for switching between windows whenyou have a few open, it doesn’t allow you to group windows based on a particular rule – its either all windows, or just the current application’s windows.

The virtual desktop way allows me to arrange my work by grouping windows in whichever way I choose, for example when I am doing web development work, I may have one desktop for the source code, another for graphics for the website, and another for previewing it in multiple browsers. Plus Exposé continues to work as you would expect on each virtual desktop!

Like I said, the software is in Alpha release at the moment, so don’t expect it to be perfectly reliable, though I haven’t yet had any problems with it. Although currently only natively for PowerPC Macs, I haven’t had any trouble running it on my Intel Mac under Rosetta.

Developer: Richard Wareham
System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3 or Mac OS X 10.4
Download Link: http://desktopmanager.berlios.de/
(260.8KB disk image)