if its too loud, turn it down

Friday, January 29, 2010

Top 10 OS X tools & utilities I couldn't live without

These are either free, cheap, or not super cheap but worth every penny. All of these have made my life easier. I often wonder how I got by before I discovered each one of these. This is not a paid advertisement! (free ones are noted with an asterisk *, though donating to the developers is a nice idea!)
  1. Quicksilver * - It's hard to define Quicksilver because it does so many things. Basically, you can configure it to perform tasks on your Mac with keystrokes. Launch apps (obviosuly), but also launch searches on commonly-used websites, do math, pause iTunes, add an event to your calendar, etc. It's magic. I couldn't live without it. Seriously.
  2. SubEthaEdit - This is the greatest text editor I've ever found - and I've tried alot. It's fast and simple, yet has all the functions you'd ever need. I have it open all the time to use as my scratch pad, do regex on data, or convert characters or line endings. I don't do much actual coding in it, for that I use Eclipse, You certainly could, as it has syntax highlighting for all big languages.
  3. WireTap Studio - This is my go-to app for almost all audio work. It's primary function is to rip audio from any source (mac audio, or from any app specifically), but it has a great audio editor built in. It's not as functional as Audacity's but it's so much easier to use. OK, it's no Logic Studio but sometimes you just need a fast, quick and dirty audio editor.
  4. Default Folder X - OS X's built-in file system navigation is decent, but leaves something to be desired. If you open/close/save lots of files each day like I do, this app is incredible. It integrates seamlessly into the OS.
  5. SuperDuper! - I'm a backup freak (learned the hard way), and this app makes it a cinch. There's no backup scenario that SuperDuper! can't handle. It's saved my ass several times and besides that, it makes transitioning to new hardware a breeze.
  6. iTerm * - Best terminal app I've ever used. Tabbed terminals, and so much more.
  7. X11 * - This little piece of genius is actually part of the OS X distribution (optional install, Xcode tools). The wonder of it is, it allows you to run graphical *NIX applications (like GnuCash) natively. OS X is itself a UNIX distribution, after all. Of course, you'll also need a slick package manager like MacPorts or Fink to install your apps (I've used them both and they are both pretty nice).
  8. VLC * - Plays pretty much any media file that's playable. Soooooo much better than Quicktime. Even comparing it to Quicktime is insulting to VLC, because it does so much more. There are so many neat, tweakable functions I continue to discover. And it's a joy.
  9. Disk Inventory X * - I am also a disk cleanup freak. When your hard drive is full, or approaching full, sometimes it's hard to see where huge chunks of data are located in the filesystem. This lays it all out for you visually so you can go in and delete, delete, delete.
  10. Reggy * - Super handy little regular expression tester.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The three things I would need to actually get work done on the iPhone

I love my iPhone, it has freed me quite a bit from my desktop computer. But there are many instances that I am out, and I am unable to complete simple work tasks on the iPhone because multiple applications are needed. The hardware and OS tools that a computer has available to allow you to synthesize your workspace to get tasks done, are just not available on the iPhone...even though all the apps I need are. It's not a huge deal, but I think the barriers to actually being able to get work done are small(ish). I've narrowed it down to these three simple things:
  1. An External Keyboard - The touchscreen keyboard just isn't workable for alot of typing. I'd love something external that either folds up, or is very small and can "cradle" the iPhone. Keyboard shortcuts (like Command-C, Command-V) would need to be incorporated into the OS.
  2. A Pointer (Mouse/Clickable Trackpad) - This is in conjunction to, or perhaps even part of the keyboard. This would allow for much easier editing of text, and easier highlighting of text for copy/paste. The copy/paste function on the iPhone now is OK, but very cumbersome.
  3. Multiple Applications Open/Fast Application Switching - Right now iPhone seems to have limited support for multiple apps to be open. For example, you can listen to music while using Safari. I'd love if you could open as many as 4 applications at a time, and have a keyboard (see #1) shortcut to switch quickly between them. If I could have Mail, Safari, a simple text editor and TouchTerm open all at once, switch between them easily, and cut/copy/paste text between them, I'd be in heaven.
Of course, these three things are all dependent on one another. And the big issue here would be RAM. Supporting external hardware and multiple running applications would really slow the iPhone down. However, I think the gain in productivity would be worth the cost of the slowdown.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Record an early broadcast of "This American Life" to listen to at your leisure

If you're like me, you don't like to be tied to your local NPR station's schedule for "This American Life" each weekend, and you don't want to wait until Sunday for the This American Life podcast to become available.

Solution! Time-shift an early broadcast of This American Life on the internet. That way, it's available for you to listen to when it's convenient for you. For me that's usually on my iPod, on my Saturday run.

The earliest reliable and listenable stream I've found is on WUIS in Springfield, IL. It airs on Friday evening at 7pm Central time. They provide a quite listenable 56k stream at this URL:
It's great for me because I am on the west coast, so it comes on at 5pm my time and is available at 6pm. There are earlier internet broadcasts of This American Life on east coast NPR stations, but I have found their streams to be too low-quality or unreliable.

If you know of an earlier broacast that's of decent quality, let me know in the comments. Whatever stream you use, be sure to donate to the station to compensate for the bandwidth. And of course, donate to This American Life!