Hidden Gems

Every month, grassroots software developers release dozens of new apps for the Mac. And every month, Senior Writer Dan Frakes reviews as many of them as he can in Mac Gems . But a monthly column just can’t include all the worthy ones—hence our September feature “50 Mac Gems,” in which Dan got to clear out some of his backlog. Many of you wrote in to complain about programs he’d left out. Not to worry: if Dan hasn’t reviewed one of your faves yet, he’ll add it to his check-’em-out list.

You forgot

Scott Brenner - I enjoyed September’s “50 Mac Gems” article but was surprised that the fabulous open-source FTP client Cyberduck was overlooked. You mentioned a few FTP clients but passed over the mature, feature-rich, and free Cyberduck. I think many Macworld readers would have benefited from knowing about it.

Henry Schaechterle - In your September issue, you covered 50 low-cost applications for the Mac. I was surprised that you didn’t include the NeoOffice office suite. I think it’s equal in every way to Microsoft Office, and it’s basically freeware. You can use the entire suite without limitations or being nagged to register, but after I’d used it for a while, I made a $20 donation to support the open-source project. It’s now my office application of choice.

We didn’t include Cyberduck because it was included in November 2004’s roundup of bargain software, Even More Software Bargains. Rob Griffiths mentioned NeoOffice in his May 2005 review of OpenOSX Office. The September article wasn’t intended to be—indeed, couldn’t be—a comprehensive look at bargain software for the Mac. Rather, it was a snapshot of 50 gems that we hadn’t been able to review previously but that we felt you should know about. There’s a lot of great inexpensive software out there. We try to cover as much of it as we can in our monthly Mac Gems column, our Mac Gems Weblog, and occasional features such as September’s “50 Mac Gems.”—Ed.

Repurposed Macs

Steven Minkler - Thanks for the great tips about converting an old Mac into a jukebox (“Old Mac, New Tricks,” September 2005 ). I work in a college media-production department with four other highly creative people. We’ve always enjoyed playing background music to make the day move along. We started with an FM radio nearly 20 years ago, and then upgraded to a CD changer. About 5 years ago, we decided to load up an old 266MHz Mac with iTunes and some of our favorite music. Over the years, we’ve accumulated nearly 4,200 songs (as well as sound bites from movies, comedy routines, old radio commercials, and self-recorded “promos,” to make it sound like a real radio station), taking up 14.5GB of space. Visitors to our office comment on our eclectic music mix, not to mention the random iTunes visuals on the monitor. The only drawback is that the old G3 can’t run OS X (even with XPostFacto), so we have to create all of our playlists “by hand.” But it’s still chugging along!

Michael R. Hoffmann - I have used X10 for many years now and must say that, after trying Smarthome’s PowerLinc Controller USB, I’m about to give up on using my iMac to automate my home. The problem is that even with all the updates to Indigo and its drivers installed, even after upgrading to OS X 10.4.2, and even after reinstalling Indigo and connecting the controller directly to the USB port, Indigo finds that controller only about once in 20 tries—and usually only after a full restart. Having everything else (printer, external USB drives, and even my cable modem) off or disconnected seems to help. I have e-mailed Smarthome a number of times and followed their recommendations each time, but with no improvement. The old PowerLinc USB worked fine, but who wants to leave their computer on all the time?

Peter Marmorek - Foolish me! Here I’ve been giving my old computers to charities, Third World countries, or underfunded inner-city schools. But now you tell me that I could have used them for such valuable purposes as saving myself a walk upstairs to select a new playlist, or a walk across the room to turn lights on and off. Come on, Macworld: there are billions of people who would love the chance to do nonfrivolous stuff with an old Mac.

Who’s the thief?

Ken Alan - With regard to your story about software activation (“Stop, Thief!” Mac Beat, September 2005): yes, there are software pirates out there—the monopoly software publishers. Thanks to dwindling competition (for instance, the recent merger of Macromedia and Adobe), we get buggy, crippled products, little innovation, products rushed to market with little usability testing, and, of course, inflated prices. It may be time for computer users to organize a software user association to set our own policies on how software publishers will do business with us. In business, the people who pay the money make the rules.

Mobile surgery

Chris Cluck - I thought the article “Laptop ER” ( Mobile Mac, September 2005 ) was well done, but it should have included a link to Safeware. This company specializes in insuring laptops. For as little as around $200 a year, you can insure your laptop and all its accessories from theft, accident, out-of-warranty issues, and more, and that coverage extends around the globe.

Ron Schacht - I’ve worked in the broadcast-engineering field for about 40 years and have seen just about every possible liquid spilled into just about every electronic device made. The most important thing to do is to immediately remove the power source—in the case of a laptop, take out the battery. Even when the unit is off, several circuits are still “live.” The liquid, especially if it isn’t water (believe me, iced tea is the worst), will conduct, and the resulting electrolysis will etch away the foils on the boards, and the pins on the chips. Unplug the unit, take out the battery, and let it dry out (hint: put it in a warm attic for a few days). Then you can reinstall the battery and see whether it fires up.

Feedback on Feedback

Brad Mitchell - In September’s Feedback , a reader commented on the fan noise of the 12-inch PowerBook. I had the same problem, especially after switching to Tiger. Looking at my SysStat widget, I found that Virex was eating up 60 to 85 percent of my CPU cycles. I erased Virex from my system (scary), and the heat and fan noise immediately disappeared. I’m whisper-quiet now except when running several processor-intensive programs. All I need now is virus protection with Tiger that isn’t such a CPU hog. Any ideas?

Grant Mukai - I’ve been reading your Feedback column for the past two years, and I’ve seen all sorts of comments about the magazine but nothing about the CD that comes with it. So I just want to say what a wonderful addition the virtual CD is to Macworld. Having all the applications mentioned in the magazine right in one spot is very helpful. I don’t have to jump from one Web site to another to find the programs reviewed. The CD intros are creative and (in most cases) hilarious. And I love the Breen’s Bungalows and Lynda.com videos—they’re really helpful.

Thanks for your comments. We’re planning major improvements to the virtual CD over the next year. Check our table of contents each month for the link to that issue’s CD.—Ed.

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