Apple touts the Mac mini as compatible with any USB keyboard, but there’s a catch—if your keyboard was designed for use with a Windows computer, it doesn’t have the Mac’s familiar Command or option keys. Instead, it has Alt and Windows keys, which can perform the same functions as their Mac equivalents—but they’re in the wrong order, so you end up with your option and Command keys in switched positions.
That’s where Michael Baltaks’s free DoubleCommand 1.5.3 (donations accepted; ) comes in handy. This OS X kernel extension lets you swap the functionality of the Alt and Windows keys, thus making any Windows keyboard behave just like a Mac keyboard (perfect for Windows-to-Mac switchers who already own keyboards, or for anyone who buys a Windows keyboard for its low price or special features).
This ability alone makes DoubleCommand a must-have for Mac users who have Windows keyboards—but it can do a lot more. DoubleCommand got its name from its original purpose—to remap (change the function or position of) the enter key to the Command key, thus giving PowerBook users two Command keys. In the current version, the DoubleCommand preference pane allows you to remap a number of different keys on your keyboard to suit the way you work.
If you’re a Mac user— new or old—who wants to use a Windows keyboard, DoubleCommand is the first software you should download and install.
If you’ve got an iPod, you know how easy getting your music onto it and keeping it in sync with your Mac are. But you may have discovered that Apple doesn’t provide a way for you to get music from an iPod to your Mac. Understandably, Apple doesn’t want people using iPods as “music mules” that transfer tunes illicitly between computers.
The problem is, there are legitimate reasons for copying music off an iPod. For example, if your Mac’s hard drive suddenly bites the dust and you haven’t backed up your music, Apple’s only solution is to rerip everything from your CDs (a process that took me several months the first time). And Apple won’t let you redownload tracks you’ve purchased from the iTunes Music Store. So if you’re in this boat, I’m happy to recommend Whitney Young’s free Senuti 0.23 (donations accepted; ).
Senuti isn’t the only utility out there that will help you get music from your iPod to your computer, but it just might be the easiest one to use. It provides an iTunes-like window listing the contents of your iPod, including all songs and playlists. (If iTunes launches and asks whether you want to link the iPod to this computer, you should decline—doing so will delete the music on your iPod that’s not on your computer, the opposite of what you want to do.)
You can download songs from your iPod to your computer, and, if you prefer, Senuti can automatically add the tracks to your iTunes Library (even to a particular playlist). Senuti’s live search filter works just like the one in iTunes—start to type the name of a track, an artist, or an album, and the list of results will narrow down as you type.
Another nice touch is Senuti’s Hide Songs In iTunes option, which shows songs that are on your iPod but not in iTunes. I found this option useful for figuring out which of my titles I hadn’t yet transferred from my Power Mac to my Mac mini.
I’ve encountered only two minor glitches in the app. First, I haven’t been able to get the artwork feature—which is supposed to show artwork for those tracks that provide it—to work. Second, Senuti won’t let you sort filtered search results by column. But if you have a legitimate need to fetch music from your iPod, you need Senuti.
Count ’em Up
As a writer, I often face limitations on the maximum length of what I pen. Sometimes I use a word processor or text editor with a built-in word-count feature (BBEdit or Microsoft Word, for example), but often I don’t. If an application is services-aware, as TextEdit is, I can select all the text in the current document and then choose the Statistics service to find out how many words it contains, but that’s a bit of a pain.
Even when an application does have a word-count feature, I can never be sure whether it’s counting every word or leaving out a, I, and the, or whether it’s counting hyphenated terms as one word or two. Although I’ve yet to find the perfect solution, I recently discovered SuperMagnus Software’s free Word Counter 1.7 (donations accepted; ), and I’ve been fairly pleased with it. Rather than integrating into any particular application, Word Counter provides its own text window. You can copy text from another program and paste it into the window, drag and drop text, or, in the case of a plain-text or RTF document, drag the file itself into the window. Click on the Count Words button, and you get both a word count and a character count.
What sets Word Counter apart from similar utilities are its TextEdit counter and its preference options. If you use TextEdit frequently, you’ll appreciate Word Counter’s palette. This palette remains visible while you’re using TextEdit and lets you do word and character counts without having to copy or paste; it keeps track of the text in the active Text-Edit window.
The only drawback to this feature is that each time you click on the Count Words button, Word Counter becomes the active application and doesn’t switch back to TextEdit when it’s done. To get around this, you need to enable Word Counter’s auto-update option, which updates word counts at a chosen interval.
Other handy options include the ability to decide how long a word must be for Word Counter to count it—if you don’t want to include I or or, you can tell the app to count only words with more than two letters. You can also choose whether a hyphenated term counts as one word or as separate words. Finally, you can determine whether the character count includes spaces as characters.
Word Counter is a bit clunky and requires too much switching back and forth between it and the application you’re typing in (even when you’re using the TextEdit counter). But it’s a useful, free tool with options that aren’t available in many applications. If you often have to write pieces that contain a specific number of words, it’s worth a try.
Where in the World
When I was a kid, we learned geography by filling in place names on copies of world and U.S. maps, and we learned country and state capitals by making flash cards with a country or a state on one side and its capital on the other. But learning geography is much easier and a bit more fun today, thanks to computers and applications such as World of Worlds Software’s $10 World of Where 1.3.1 ( ).
World of Where is actually two learning aids in one: a set of world and U.S. maps, and a geography quiz program. Each map displays country or state names, the capital of each country or state, and the names of nearby oceans and seas.
The Map mode also provides useful information about geographic locations: hold the mouse cursor over a country’s name, and a tool tip appears displaying the country’s size, population, and per-capita GDP; if you hover over the country’s capital, you’ll see the city’s latitude and longitude.
If you want a printed copy of a map, or if you want to send a map to someone via e-mail, World of Where’s Export Map command lets you save a copy of the current map in TIFF, JPEG, or PSD format.
But Test mode is my favorite part of the program. If you choose a region and start a test, World of Where removes all text from the regional map and then asks you where on the map you’ll find a particular country (or in which country a particular capital resides).
In Soft Test mode, World of Where tells you if you’ve guessed incorrectly and gives you unlimited guesses to find the right country. In Hard Test mode, you get only a single guess, after which World of Where moves on to the next item, whether you were right or wrong. World of Where keeps track of your accuracy for country, state, and capital tests. This useful feature helps you (or your child or student) figure out which regions you need to study more carefully.
World of Where has two flaws. The first is that it can be difficult to click on some tiny countries and islands. The second is that World of Where doesn’t include every country on the globe; it’s currently missing a few island nations and protectorates. (The developer expects the next version to include these.)
Even so, it’s a great way to learn, and if you’re a teacher, it can be an invaluable instructional aid.
Apple’s new PowerBooks feature a scrolling trackpad, which adds the ability to scroll through documents or pan within windows by dragging two fingers across the pad. Unfortunately, users of older PowerBooks can’t take advantage of this feature, as it requires the new trackpad hardware. However, owners of other PowerBooks (and iBooks) can gain similar functionality—and more—by installing Raging Menace’s $15 SideTrack 1.1.1 ( ).
SideTrack is a replacement trackpad driver for OS X. When installed on a PowerBook or an iBook (but not the new PowerBooks), it lets you designate a portion of your PowerBook or iBook trackpad as a scroll pad—simply drag your finger up and down (or left and right) to scroll through (or pan across) windows. In addition, you can modify your trackpad so that pressing the trackpad button and tapping on the trackpad do different things; for example, one can be a standard click and the other can be a control-click. SideTrack also lets you assign the corners of the trackpad to different functions or keyboard shortcuts.
It also includes controls for customizing the speed and sensitivity of your PowerBook or iBook trackpad, both significant improvements over the options available in OS X. It even offers a Redmond Switcher Acceleration setting that emulates the trackpad profile of many Windows laptops—helpful for new Mac users switching from Windows laptops.
SideTrack is a kernel extension, so make sure to read the documentation before you install it. But once you do, you’ll likely never go back to the standard trackpad functionality.DoubleCommand lets you make better use of a Windows keyboard with your Mac. With Senuti, you can move music from your iPod back to your Mac. World of Where helps kids and adults alike learn their geography.
With low-cost DVD burners and software such as Apple’s iDVD and DVD Studio Pro, it’s easy to put your movies onto DVDs. What isn’t so easy is getting content off those DVDs. Because of the way DVDs store audio and video—mixed together in files called VOBs (Video Objects)—you can’t simply edit or reuse it.
So why would you want to extract content from a DVD? Perhaps you want to make a multimedia portfolio of your work. Maybe you’d like to create a “greatest hits” DVD containing footage from several DVDs without recapturing from the original tapes (assuming you still have them). Or maybe you have a DVD recorder attached to your TV and want to edit the shows you’ve recorded.
If these situations sound familiar, you should check out Miraizon’s $60 Cinematize 2.03 ( ), which lets you pull content from unencrypted DVDs to your desktop in a number of different formats.
Cinematize lets you select your start and end points to decide exactly what video and/or audio to extract. You can preview your selection in full-motion video inside a window, but (unfortunately) the preview doesn’t include audio—so it can be difficult to figure out what scene you’re actually viewing.
You can decode to a QuickTime file, using the built-in QuickTime codecs, and choose the quality and aspect ratio (among other options). Or you can save the video as an elementary stream, which simply pulls video off the DVD and saves it, with no loss of quality, as an M2V file, which you can then import into DVD Studio Pro. The other option is an MPEG-2 program stream, which gives you an MPG file.
The Audio tab lets you pick the audio stream to extract—Cinematize can handle PCM, AC-3, and MP2 audio (but not DTS), and you can decode it to AIFF or WAV format, as an elementary stream, or as an MPEG-2 program stream. The program can down-mix multichannel AC-3 audio to stereo audio.
The Output tab gives you options for the final output format of your extracted content. You can create a QuickTime file, a DV stream, or an AVI file with audio and video combined into a single file; create an MPEG-2 program stream file with audio and video combined; or save the content as separate stream files. Or if you prefer, you can save each chapter as its own segment. At output, Cinematize does an excellent job of properly synchronizing your audio and video.
If you need to edit or reuse content from your DVDs, Cinematize is a full-featured app that offers almost all the features you could ask for.— Jonathan SeffCinematize lets you breathe new life into DVD content and use it in many different ways.