Cocktail performs 20 system tasks and interface adjustments, arranged in five basic categories: Disks, System, Files, Network, and Interface. Similar to MacJanitor and Tinker Tool, it can run maintenance tasks such as repairing your system’s permissions, running the scripts that your Mac would run if it were on in the middle of the night, deleting unnecessary cache files, and putting double scroll arrows at the top and bottom of windows (instead of just at the bottom — the only option available via Apple’s General preference pane).
Some of Cocktail’s other features include arcane but often useful tasks such as renewing DHCP leases on a network (I’ve found this feature handy), building symbolic links (the Unix equivalent of Apple’s file aliases), deleting archived system logs and DS_Store files, and letting you view invisible files in the Finder.
Many of these operations, such as permissions repair, can be done with Apple utilities, from within Terminal, or even with one of the aforementioned utilities, but it’s nice to have them all in one place, and Cocktail’s dashboard-style interface is smart and well designed.
As with any utility that alters OS X’s Unix code, you can cause some damage with Cocktail if you don’t know what you’re doing — so be careful. Journaling in particular is something we recommend that casual users leave alone; it’s primarily intended for Mac OS X Server installations, and Apple left it out of the standard OS X installation for good reason.
In Macworld’s May 2003 ”
More Mac Software Bargains
” blowout, we covered quite a few options for backing up your system, including SilverKeeper (
), Déjà Vu (
), ChronoSync (
), and ExecutiveSync (
). Another choice is SweetCocoa’s iMsafe (
), which I think is as good as any of those utilities.
The $15 iMsafe can back up folders and files to disk (or an online backup location), and it can synchronize two sets of folders or disks — so you can always have an exact copy of your home MP3 library at work, for example. You can easily create multiple backup and synchronization sets, and you can run each set manually or schedule daily or weekly run times. There’s not a lot to say about iMsafe beyond the fact that it works; of all the inexpensive OS X backup utilities I’ve tried, iMsafe is the most flexible and the easiest to use.
With so many free or inexpensive options for backing up your Mac, you have no excuse for lost data. If you own a portable hard drive (or an iPod) and shuttle stuff between work and home, a backup and synchronization utility is one of the best investments you can make.
Shake, Rattle, and Roll
Sometimes you just need to make noise, and if a set of drums isn’t nearby, turn to Zygoat’s Doggiebox (
), a $29 program that turns your Mac into an electronic beat box.
Doggiebox is an easy-to-use drum sequencer that lets you use a virtual drum kit to create drum tracks of unlimited length and varying tempos and time signatures. Creating rhythm patterns is as simple as selecting the drum sound you want and then clicking on the pattern grid. Throughout the process, you can listen to your composition by simply pressing the spacebar — and deleting notes is just as easy as adding them.
The program comes with two complete sample drum kits, which include multiple sounds for high hats and other cymbals, snares, tom-toms, and kick drums. You can also easily create kits by importing audio samples.
Once you’ve created your drum tracks, you can play and modify them inside Doggiebox, or you can export them as a sound file in any of nine professional and consumer audio formats, including AIFF, Wave, Wave64, and Paris.
Doggiebox is not a MIDI program; it won’t drive a drum machine or plug into software such as Emagic’s Logic Platinum or Steinberg’s Cubase. It is, however, a really cool tool for performance, recording, or just playing around. Check out the two audio samples Zygoat has posted on the Doggiebox site, or download the demo version and make your own racket.
One Step at a Time
If you burn a lot of CDs (beyond iTunes music CDs), Roxio’s Toast 5 Titanium is the best game in town. It’s faster and more flexible than Apple’s Disc Burner, and it supports more formats, including VideoCDs, Enhanced Music CDs, PC-only discs, and DVDs. But it also costs $100 (download, $90), and you can buy a gazillion blank CD-Rs for that amount — so it’s understandable that many people who burn only a few discs here and there want to use the free stuff Apple bundles with every Mac.
If you want to maximize your CD space when making backups of folders and files (and as I noted earlier, you should be backing stuff up regularly), you generally have one option: select about 650MB of data and burn a full disc. Generally, though, you’ll find that you’ve got lots of burned CDs with 100MB or less on them. Partially full CDs may not pose a financial burden given the inexpensiveness of blank media, but they can be uneconomical in the long run — and they result in lots more CDs to store (and to search through when you’re having trouble finding a file).
If you’d like to be more efficient about backups, take a look at James Sentman’s $17 CD Session Burner (
). This application takes advantage of a little-known feature embedded in every CD burner and in Mac OS — the capability to read and write multisession discs.
Simply put, a multisession CD lets you write individual volumes until the disc is full. After each burning session, the program creates a new volume on the CD; when you mount the disc on your Mac’s desktop, each volume (or session) shows up as a separate CD icon. Apple’s built-in disc-burning feature can’t create multisession discs (although it can be done with Disk Copy), but adding CD Session Burner to your Mac makes doing so a piece of cake. CD Session Burner has an uncluttered interface with few buttons, and it does all of its magic in the background.
Finding the Time
CD Session Burner is a gem that adds functionality to an existing Mac OS feature. Script Software took a different approach with its $20 iClock (
), choosing instead to build an enormously enhanced replacement for OS X’s menu-bar clock.
Apple’s menu-bar clock is fairly simple; you get limited display options, listed along with the date in a drop-down menu. iClock lets you add the date to the clock and change its color and font (for some reason, you can’t make the clock an icon), but the program has much more depth than that. It includes features such as a timer, a stopwatch, floating calendars and clocks, times for cities around the world, and an OS 9-style Application menu. The timer is especially useful — you can set it to play a system sound, display an alert, launch apps or documents, and even run scripts.
For many people, iClock will be overkill — it’s more than I need, although its application-switching menu does tilt the balance in iClock’s favor — but if you want your menu bar to give you more than just the time, iClock is a good place to start.