The Cult of Seasonality

Written by: scottmc

Categories: Reviews

I seem to be the kind of person who insists on using “Pro apps” despite largely non-professional, or perhaps semi-professional, usage. So, for example, I have a lot of graphics apps though I’m neither a pro designer nor professional photographer, and really, I’m not harming anyone (well, permanently at least) by fiddling outside my core domains, right?

So I guess it’s no surprise that I am totally enamored of Gaucho Software’s Seasonality application, despite the fact that I’m not a true weather geek, and I don’t really know why I might want to be able to see independent graphs of wind speed and direction, and even more, wind direction modelled in two different charting styles.

Seasonality is a gorgeous OS X application, a distinctive Cocoa app that makes people stop, look and ask questions when they walk by a display showing its exotic weather maps, satellite imagery, forecast data, and charts of recent weather in your region.
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Much has been made of the delays in getting Adobe’s mission critical pro apps, including Photoshop, onto the Intel platform, a gating item for many PowerPC Mac users considering the move to Intel. The other software category experiencing major delays for MacIntel ports, perhaps slightly less mainstream, is that of audio plug-ins and software synthesizers.

Audio plug-ins are programs that run inside a host program, such as Logic or Garageband, and in many cases in “standalone mode” as well. Without major contortions, it’s fairly impractical to run PPC plug-ins inside an Intel-based host program and nearly impossible to run both PPC and Intel plug-ins in the same host at the same time (see this discussion thread on BigBlueLounge for a workaround that involves some third-party software). Plug-ins typically generate audio (by making sounds), transform audio (e.g., by adding delay or compression), or both, and represent a substantial after-market for the big audio programs
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Fission for Compliments

Written by: scottmc

Categories: Reviews

Fission IconAre you the type of person who likes any of the following:

If so, you have the kind of appreciation for specialized tools that will make you like Rogue Amoeba‘s interesting and attractive new Fission utility.

Fission does one set of audio management tasks very, very well: cutting and splitting audio files–including MP3 and AAC files–and then saving the fragments as individual files. One of the big deals about the tool is that when it saves your file fragments, it does so in a lossless save operation, even on such a notoriously “lossy compression” scheme as MP3. It will also easily do fades — to fade audio in or out, blend two clips together in a crossfade, and easily crop sections of an audio file, for example to remove a long silence from a file. It supports AIFF and Apple Lossless files as well as MP3 and AAC, handles stereo or mono files, and supports Intel Macs in a Universal Binary.
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Switched Again, Again (Part II)

Written by: scottmc

Categories: Editorial

As a longtime Windows user who has owned, built and used hardware with pretty much every version of Windows OS (starting from 2.1 I think), one of the most impressive features of the Mac for me is the Migration Assistant. The first night I had it, I started up the new Mac Pro, connected my MacBook over Firewire and when the assistant was done; I sat down at the Mac Pro with every application, preference and desktop tweak from my MacBook fully installed and was ready to get to work. (OK, I did have to reauthorize two applications, but all my settings were migrated for those as well).

I have never moved from one PC to another without at least a week of pure hassle—hunting for key codes, reinstalling applications (even if restored from backup), reinstalling preferences, figuring out how to get Outlook to find and use old mail files, ad infinitum. In fact, my Windows laptop at work suffered a hard drive crash right around the same time I was installing my new Mac – some dark cloud of technology karma was hanging over my head there for a few weeks – and it took 3 days to recover even with a current backup. I’m still missing a few apps for which I need to hunt down the old versions before upgrading again. Not just a time sink, but a time sink with a genuine soul drain at its center.
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Switched Again (Part I)

Written by: scottmc

Categories: Editorial

Hey, I realize that switcher stories are getting so common these days, we’re all at risk of fatigue from the influx of new Mac fans and fanatics among us. Forgive me then for adding a few words more in the rising tide of Mac market share. When I quite literally blew up my home-built PC a few weeks back—with a dramatic flameout of the PSU and a roomful of acrid smoke–I was driven to make my “second-tier” switcher commitment. I am now officially a “switched-again” Mac user.

I got my 2Ghz MacBook as my first Mac in May, but in truth I’ve primarily used this machine as a desktop, KVM’d next to my home-built XP machine. Real multi-taskers use separate machines. Despite (or perhaps because of) over a decade of masochistic personal Windows malaise, I was struggling to get myself even to attempt Microsoft OS on my Mac. I’d upgraded to a 100gb 7200rpm drive, but I couldn’t convince myself that Parallels or Boot Camp would beat the sheer convenience of hitting the scroll lock key and moving over the to other box. My original plan was not to deepen my Mac ties until Leopard came out, then think about a MacBook Pro or Mac Pro, and let Windows run in its own isolated tier.
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Mini-widgets for system stat geeks

Written by: scottmc

Categories: Cool Stuff, Podcast

iSlayer‘s donation-supported “iStat” is a bit like Mr. Scott’s console on the Starship Enterprise: it shows at a glance where you have–and don’t have–the power. iStat can be run as both a widget and as a standalone applet, and provides robust reporting on CPU, memory, disk, network and wireless bandwidth, OS/X uptime, and battery life. It sports an attractive console presentation—indeed the elegant design of the widgets is really the important feature here–and each application can be customized to suit your specific tastes in obsessive-compulsive system monitoring.

iStat 2.0 main screen

iSlayer has just issued a minor update to the iStat applets, but has also introduced new dashboard-style gauges for each individual statistical category (they call them “mini-widgets”) for those who wish to drop a quick speedometer-like gauge on their desktop. Each widget can look like a speedometer or be tamed to look more like a breakout of the overall iStat text-on-an-attractive-box look and feel. You can mix and match with the mini widgets to find a suitable layout and choose only the stats that you find meaningful.
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Fission Main ScreenPodcasters who use the Mac are very familiar with Rogue Amoeba‘s respected Audio Hijack Pro utility, which provides an excellent interface for recording Skype calls, iChat sessions, and similar internet communications applications directly to audio files. Once those streams are stored safely on disk, the next logical step is to edit captured audio to construct a completed program. Rogue Amoeba is positioning its new Fission utility as a lightweight audio editor capable of editing MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless and AIFF audio files. A typical application might include cutting and splicing files, but one very nice feature is the ability to produce a smooth crossfade between regions. Crossfades are used in audio editing to produce a smooth transition between audio events, and help prevent awkward splices and annoying audio pops when making transitions.

Rogue Amoeba notes that Fission can also be used to break up long audio recordings, create ringtones, and remove unwanted portions from audio files. Fission costs USD$32.00 direct from Rogue Amoeba’s online store. Existing users of Audio Hijack Pro can upgrade for USD$18.00 and both programs can be purchased together in a software bundle for USD$50.00. Fission 1.0 is released as a Universal Binary and a trial version is available for download at http://www.rogueamoeba.com/fission/download.php.

Verizon is spending $20 billion upgrading its network to provide fiber to the home, a new network running fiber optic cable for voice, internet and TV/Entertainment applications. I was one of the first in line to swap out my Comcast services. Why?

Good old-fashioned, raw, American speed, of course. While Comcast Internet provides anywhere from 4-8Mbps downloading and somewhere between 500-768K upload service, performance wavers substantially during typical usage. For the same price, I could get Verizon’s middle tier service, offering 15Mbps downloads and 2Mbps uploading speed. Pricing may vary in some regions, but the basic options are as follows:

5Mbps/2Mbps: $34.95/month
15Mbps/2Mbps: $44.95/month
30Mbps/5Mbps: $179.95/month

All with free installation. And unlike cable, fiber technology promises to be “truer” to its rated speeds. You can run a bandwidth tester such as http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest, and see what you’re getting now with your current provider. So far with FIOS, I’m almost always getting the advertised download speeds, and come very close with the upload speeds as well.
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