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Kibbles & Bytes | News, commentary and tips & tricks for the Mac community | SmallDog.com | 800-511-MACS
 
#763: Essential Mac Apps, Apple News Recap, Wireless Storage and Sharing

 
     
 

Dear Friends,

It’s Kali writing for Don this week, as he and Grace become one with Rastafarianism while on vacation in Jamaica. As Don’s mentioned many times, he’s not a big fan of winter (I don’t second that, clearly), so we like to imagine that he’s blissfully soaking up the sun and sand with a good book, unplugged from the outside world.

Around here, we try to take vacations just as seriously as our work—as much as we love it, the more one can retreat from the constantly connected, fast-paced nature of our business and re-energize, the better. (Don, you better not be reading this…if so, shut that iPad and relax!)

The big news this week was that Governor Shumlin and representatives from All Earth Renewables and Freeaire were on hand to “cut the cord” and dedicate our new solar array, designed to convert sunlight directly into electricity and located on the grounds of our Waitsfield, VT headquarters. Currently, they are powering 100% our South Burlington location’s electricity and a percentage of Waitsfield’s usage; we hope to improve upon that in the future! Check out the photos on our Flickr page here.

Small Dog Electronics, along with the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and Woodchuck Cider, was recognized yesterday by the Vermont Growers Association regarding our partnership in the annual Apples to iPods event. Each fall, wooden apples are hidden within the trees of participating Vermont apple orchards, and the lucky scavengers who find them are rewarded with an iPod or iPad! We’re happy to be involved in a promotion that supports local farmers, and though apple-picking season seems far off at the moment, we look forward to another successful event.

 
     
  Weekly Apple News Recap | 2/13-2/17  
   
 

Apple had some notable news this week (but no, the iPad 3 isn’t out yet):

Apple Releases Mountain Lion Developer Preview
Apple announced the ninth major release of OS X, 10.8, this week, and made a preview available to registered developers immediately. A public release is scheduled for late 2012. Taking a cue from iOS once again, Mountain Lion will add Notification Center, Messages, Notes, Reminders and Game Center to the Mac, among other features.

Read more on this story here.
Read about the preview Tim Cook gave to the Wall Street Journal.
Get a sneak peak here.

Software Update Goes To the App Store
With the release of Mountain Lion, Software Update is relocating (movin’ on up?) to the App Store, thus streamlining users’ app update experience.

Read more here.

 
     
  Essential Apps for Your Mac  
   
 

My mind is in Spring Cleaning mode right now (maybe because this weather is ridiculously unseasonable?). In between scrubbing the wet paw prints from my entryway due to an early onset of the dreaded Mud Season, I figured I’d do an audit of all of the apps on my Mac to find the ones I’d classify as truly “essential.”

The following excerpt, originally featured in Kibbles & Bytes issue #623, was a perfect starting point for multiple reasons: the apps mentioned are free, it includes two of my favorite “de-clutter” apps and finally, because it’s fitting that it was written by Ed since we’re watching Spy (and her mud tracks) while he’s out of town.

*****

OnyX is a multifunction maintenance, optimization, and personalization utility for Mac OS X. I use it about once a month or so to keep all my Macs running smoothly.

OnyX allows you to verify your Mac’s Startup Disk and the structure of its System files, run miscellaneous tasks of system maintenance, configure some hidden parameters of the Finder, Dock, Safari and some of Apple’s own applications, delete caches, remove cumbersome files and folders and more.

VLC media player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, more) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

In other words, VLC will play back many file formats that the QuickTime Player, Windows Media Player, etc. can’t handle. Best of all, VLC doesn’t need any external codecs or programs to work.

Bean is a small, easy-to-use word processor (or more precisely, a rich text editor), designed to make writing convenient and efficient. Bean is Open Source, fully Cocoa, and is available free of charge!

Bean includes many writing essentials including a live word count, a Get Info panel for in-depth statistics, a zoom-slider to easily change the view scale,
an Inspector panel with lots of sliders, date-stamped backups, auto-saving, page layout mode and more.

I combine Bean with Think for efficient, clutter-free writing.

NetNewsWire is an easy-to-use RSS and Atom reader for your Mac. It allows you to browse, subscribe, read, and save hundreds of thousands of website feeds. It is a true desktop Mac application, with integration with Spotlight, Address Book, iCal, iPhoto, Growl, Twitterific and more. Best of all, it effortlessly syncs with NetNewsWire’s web-based RSS reader for free, allowing you to manage all your RSS feeds from any Internet-connected computer (Mac or PC).

Handbrake is an open-source, multithreaded video transcoder available for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. It will convert just about any video file you can play on your Mac into a variety of other, easier to play, more portable video formats. Most people use HandBrake to back up their DVDs, or convert a DVD into a file that can be played back on their iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, PS3, etc. Use it as you will. HandBrake has been updated substantially over the past several years since its initial release

I admit, since Time Machine debuted, I don’t use this app as much as I used to. However, for simple, successful backups, Carbon Copy Cloner can’t be beat. You can also use CCC3 for backing up across network, backup to disk images, and backup of selected files only. CCC 3 features an interface designed to make the cloning and backup procedure very intuitive. In addition to general backup, CCC can also clone one hard drive to another, copying every single block or file to create an exact replica of your source hard drive.

Forget the other commercial unarchiving apps (like the free version of StuffIt)—the Unarchiver is all you need. Uncompress RAR, 7zip, tar, and bz2 files on your Mac. The developer notes the “many new Mac users will be puzzled the first time they download a RAR file. Do them a favor and download UnRarX for them!”

Google SketchUp is used to create, modify and share 3D models of anything you like. I know a few people who used SketchUp extensively to plan and pre-visualize house renovations. I’ve used it to create a virtual set for planning camera placement. There are dozens of video tutorials, an extensive Help Center and a worldwide user community for SketchUp, making it relatively easy to learn.

Want to remove some of the apps you’ve downloaded here, or downloaded in the past? Try AppCleaner. It’s a small application which allows you to thoroughly uninstall unwanted apps. Installing an application distributes many files throughout your System, using space of your Hard Drive unnecessarily. AppCleaner finds all these small files and safely deletes them.

*****

Want more? If you’re looking to add or replace some of what you’re using now, check out this list of Top 100 Essential Apps.

 
     
  Kingston Wi-Drive Review  
   
 

Kingston’s Wi-Drive is a new portable (and affordable) storage and sharing solution for iPod touch, iPhone and iPad. The Wi-Drive is roughly the size of an iPhone and comes in 16GB and 32GB storage capacities. It creates a small Wi-Fi network that you can access through their free Wi-Drive app (opens iTunes Store), allowing you to view and share anything that you have stored on your iOS device.

The app also has a built-in media player that streams the music, movies and more that you have stored, so you don’t have to worry that it will take up valuable storage space on the device itself. It supports a wide variety of video, audio and file formats as well.

My one complaint about the app is the fact that you can’t load content to the Wi-Drive from your iOS device directly. All content needs to be loaded via USB from a computer and then streamed to your device. For now, that works well enough for me, but I would like to see that functionality added in the future.

Overall, it’s an ideal solution for people like me who like to have access to all of my media, but have limited available storage on my iPhone. It’s way more affordable to just buy one of these when you need extra space than to upgrade your whole device. I would highly recommend this for any heavy iOS user.

Fore more details, view the 16GB Wi-Drive and the 32GB Wi-Drive here.

For a limited time, you can save up to $60—check them out below!

 
     
  SPECIAL: Wi-Drive? Because You Gotta!  
   
 

Wi-Drives are pretty cool, especially if you have an iPod touch, iPhone or iPad. For a limited time, the 16GB Wi-Drive is $60 off and the 32GB Wi-Drive is $40 off regular pricing.

 
   $60 off! Kingston Wi-Drive External Network Drive - 16GB
59.99
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   $40 Off! Kingston Wi-Drive External Network Drive - 32GB
114.99
View  
     
  SPECIAL: Floating on a Cloud(Box)  
   
 

Save $20 on the LaCie CloudBox 100GB NAS Drive/Cloud Storage Interface

169.99

Everything you need for storage and backup. Just copy and paste your most important files to your CloudBox, and they will automatically be backed up online daily. It’s that simple: your data is backed up on a local hard drive and again in the cloud for double protection. The CloudBox includes a one-year online backup contract for 100GB, which can be easily renewed.

  • Automatic daily backup to the cloud
  • Recover your files from the cloud even in case of theft, fire, or physical damage
  • AES encryption keeps your files secure
  • Renew your online backup after 1 year at cloudbox.lacie.com

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Using social media? Have you connected with us on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ yet? Aside from getting glimpses into life at Small Dog, we often feature contests and tips for your Mac. Do it!

Thanks for reading Kibbles & Bytes, and I’ll be back with you again next week.
Kali