I’m a big fan of Mac OS X, but I admit that there are a few things I miss about OS 9. The Internet control panel, for one, let you customize helper applications — the utilities and apps that process URLs and files you’re likely to encounter on the Web and in e-mail messages. OS X includes the same settings, but apart from letting you choose your e-mail client and Web browser, it doesn’t give you a way to edit those settings. (Microsoft Internet Explorer does let you change some of them.)
Monkeyfood Software’s free utility More Internet (
) works much like the Internet control panel, but as an OS X preference pane. More Internet displays a list of protocols on the left, and the application that’s set to handle each protocol on the right. To change a helper application, you select a protocol and then drag the preferred application’s icon into the More Internet window.
If you want to add a protocol that isn’t listed, such as SFTP, click on the Add button and type the protocol (sftp) and a short description (say, Secure FTP). Click on OK, and then drag the icon of your preferred application for that protocol into the window to set it. I chose Panic’s
; September 2003) to handle SFTP URLs. As another example, if your chosen browser has trouble with HTTPS (secure HTTP), you can opt for a different browser that handles it properly.
Speaking of helping hands, if you have an iSight camera, you’ve probably noticed that apart from the clip-on PowerBook mount, the included stands require that you blemish your beautiful Mac — or $2,000 Cinema Display — with a big, round slab of adhesive. Your choices for mounting location and angle are limited, too. MacMice’s $15 SightClips (
) are a welcome alternative.
Made of attractive clear acrylic and available in a number of styles, SightClips let you mount an iSight wherever you want, without adhesives. Form-fitting clip-on models are available for Apple flat-panel displays, iMacs, eMacs, and CRT monitors. You can also choose a model with suction cups that attach to any smooth surface, a shelf-mount version (if your Mac has a shelf above it) that doubles as a tripod mount, and a stand that sits on your desk, elevating the iSight about 6 inches. No matter where you want your iSight to sit, there’s a SightClip for you.
In previous issues, we looked at the Internet crossword-puzzle clients
; April 2003) and
; June 2003). But what if instead of solving online puzzles, you want to make your own? Yin Yan Software’s $25 CrosswordMaster (
) may be for you.
CrosswordMaster walks you through the process of creating crossword puzzles. First you create a grid from scratch or from a library of templates. If you want to build your own, CrosswordMaster’s grid mode lets you designate where filled blocks go (you can also add such blocks to grid templates).
After you’ve customized your grid, you need to fill it in, one word at a time. If you’re having trouble finding a word to fit, CrosswordMaster helps out by providing you with a list of possible words. You can also search for words that fit a particular pattern (for example, all five-letter words that fit the pattern -t–r).
After you’ve filled in your puzzle, you’ll need to add clues for each word. CrosswordMaster assists you here, too, with built-in dictionaries and (as long as you’re connected to the Internet) the ability to look up definitions in several online dictionaries and thesauruses.
Composing good crossword puzzles isn’t easy, but CrosswordMaster makes it a lot more manageable.
People have been burning CDs for a long time, but Apple’s iLife apps have transformed modern Macs into veritable media-production machines. I regularly make mix CDs for the car and DVDs of home movies for the relatives. The problem is that these homemade discs are just plain, well, plain. Writing titles on discs with a permanent marker may be retro-cool, but it doesn’t impress the recipient, and it makes finding the right CD while driving down the freeway difficult.
The obvious solution is CD labels. There are a number of applications on the market that let you create disc labels and case inserts — but SmileOnMyMac’s $30 disclabel (mmmh) is my favorite. It lets you create the actual disc labels, as well as design CD and DVD case covers and tray inserts, down to the text on the spine.
The program’s design elements and online templates make it easy to create exactly the look you want. You can start with a blank slate, or base your design on one of the included templates. Even better, other users can share their designs via the Internet. Either way, you can then customize the label with text, graphics, and shapes. You can rotate, crop, and move objects at will, as well as create circular text — great for printing track info around the edge of a CD.
But what really sets disclabel apart is its iLife integration. Just burned a CD from an iTunes playlist? disclabel imports the track list and track information. Got a great picture you want to use for the case insert? You can browse your iPhoto library, and disclabel will insert a selected picture into your label layout.
Another nice feature is disclabel’s AppleScript support. If you’re handy with AppleScript, you can automate the label-making procedure — so you can create multiple labels with a few clicks of the mouse.
Though disclabel has a few quirks, its impressive feature set, stellar interface, and excellent customer support add up to a bright future.
Home (Data) Movies
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Back up your data regularly. The question is how to do so without spending a lot of money. I’m going to let you in on a little secret — if you have a FireWire-equipped digital-video camera and a Mac with a FireWire port, you may already have the solution.
The $25 DV Backup (
), from coolatoola, lets you use your video camera or deck as a tape-backup system. It works with many DV and Digital8 camcorders, as well as some DVCAM decks, and it provides a simple interface for backing up and restoring data. Insert a new tape, click on the Format button, and then drag files and folders from the Finder to DV Backup’s table of contents. Add a description, and DV Backup will do the rest. You can store 10GB of data on a one-hour videotape at standard speed, and in my tests, 160MB of data took about two minutes to back up.
DV Backup also lets you choose a level of error protection, enable backup verification to ensure that the files have been copied correctly, and enable buffer-underflow protection in case your hard drive can’t keep up with the video camera. In addition, the latest version includes a number of traditional backup-utility features, such as incremental and scheduled backups; compression; and the ability to back up data across multiple tapes.
DV Backup doesn’t work with all camcorders — some models have issues writing or retrieving data — but you can run the Perform Camera Test function in evaluation mode to verify compatibility. And even if your camera fails the test, it may still work, so try a few backup-and-restore cycles to be sure. I tried DV Backup with a number of DV camcorders — thank you, Good Guys — and several that didn’t pass the camera test worked fine when I tried to back up and restore data.
Even if you don’t use DV Backup as your normal backup system, at times it can really come in handy. For example, take your video camera along when traveling, and you can back up important data from your PowerBook at a moment’s notice.
DV Backup may not have all the features that a standard backup utility such as Dantz’s
Retrospect Backup 5.0
; July 2002) has, and some people may have concerns about the wear and tear that regular backups may put on their video camera. In addition, because DV Backup’s interface is a bit different from that of traditional backup software, you should actually read the (very thorough) manual. But if DV Backup encourages you to back up your data when you otherwise wouldn’t, that’s the most important feature of all.
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