MacHeist II: 11 great Mac apps for $49

by Michael Alderete on 1/14/2008

This year’s MacHeist includes 11 applications in the bundle, which individually would sell for $368.75. When bought as part of the MacHeist promotion, the whole collection is under $50.

MacHeist II: 11 great Mac apps for $49

Now, it’s a rare person who would want and use every single one of these applications; there’s just too much variety to have everything fit perfectly. But if even half of them would be useful, then you’re way, way ahead.

For me, the big winners are 1password, TaskPaper, CSSEdit, Snapz Pro, and Pixelmator. Pixelmator alone costs $10 more than the bundle, and I’d been meaning to buy it for over a month, since this terrific review of Pixelmator appeared in Macworld magazine. So buying the bundle was an easy decision.

Maybe it will be for you as well.

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RailsConf 2006

by Michael Alderete on 6/29/2006

RailsConf 2006Last weekend I was in Chicago for the first ever RailsConf, a gathering of about 600 people focused on developing web applications using the Ruby on Rails application framework. Other people are posting lots of details and thoughts (try clicking the RailsConf tag below), so I’ll just add a few deltas:

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Dude, you’re getting a MacBook Pro

by Michael Alderete on 4/5/2006

I’m sure a million people will be linking today to the Apple announcement of Boot Camp, a new utility which now makes it both possible and easy to install Microsoft Windows XP onto an Intel-based Mac. I’m also sure most of them will put their amateur analyst hats on, and tell people what they think it means. (Most will be wrong.)

My interest in and comments on the announcement are quite a bit less global in scope.

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Two months ago I upgraded to PGP Desktop 9, because the new version would finally work with Eudora on Mac OS X. Indeed, all I had to do was install the new version, reboot, and the new automatic mode began immediately discovering and auto-enabling my email accounts as I used them. It does this with some clever connection redirection using the built-in Mac OS X firewall, courtesy of the Unix subsystem.

Unfortunately, the automatic mode doesn’t work so well if you are also using some kind of network tunnel, such as a VPN or ssh port forwarding, which is increasingly common for me as I take the laptop to clients or on the road.

I finally got around to figuring out how to set up PGP Messaging’s manual proxy mode, courtesy of decent instructions for Windows users written by Robert Johansen of PGP. I thought I would document the configuration for Mac OS X users, since there are substantial differences in the application between the two platforms.

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Dell 20″ Flat Panel under $500 $400

by Michael Alderete on 5/24/2005 · 6 comments

A while back I took advantage of a special running at Dell, to get one of these 20.1” flat panel LCD displays. It arrived a week later, and I’ve been using it as a second monitor off my laptop since then.

The quality of the display is terrific. I dunno about doing color-calibrated print work, but as just extra screen space (which I’ve found I absolutely need to do web development productively), it’s spectacular, and makes the built-in screen on my laptop seem dingy by comparison.

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OS X Backup sucks

by Michael Alderete on 2/26/2005 · 15 comments

I was recently trying to configure automatic backups for a friend’s computer, the idea being that once a week his important files would be backed up to his .Mac account. Having remote backup is one of the reasons he is paying for a .Mac membership. It’s not an ideal or comprehensive backup solution, but definitely a good thing.

But, the whole point is it’s supposed to be automatic, transparent, set and forget, don’t think about it until the time comes when you have to restore. The problem is, the backups just keep taking up more and more space on his .Mac account. Eventually it fills up. And Backup stops working.

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The sound of silence

by Michael Alderete on 4/16/2003

Two weeks ago I installed a new hard disk in my Mac G4, a 75 gig IDE disk, to complement the 70 gig SCSI hard disk that came with the computer when I bought it. The SCSI disk is an ultra-high performance hard drive, running at a much higher rotation speed and connected to a dedicated high-performance interface card. The disk and card added $1,100 to the cost of the system, and for speed it (theoretically) blows the doors off the IDE drive.

It’s also incredibly noisy.

It’s a high-pitched whine, and when the disk is on, it pervades the office, penetrates the brain, and drives me nuts. Then when the disk is active, when I’m downloading or running scanning activities, it audibly chirrs and chatters away. It’s by far the noisiest device in the office. Ah, the price of speed.

So I bought the relatively slow IDE disk, for $80, because it is one of the disks with fluid dynamic bearings, and runs nearly silent. My intent was to transfer my entire installation from the SCSI disk to the IDE drive, and disconnect the SCSI disk, hoping to reduce the overall noise level to something bearable.

Last weekend I did exactly that. When I shut down the machine to disconnect the power cable from the SCSI disk, I took a moment to savor the noise my computer makes when it powers down to quiescence (my system normally runs full-time, 24/7; I never turn it off except for maintenance). The SCSI disk makes this slowly trailing off whine, like a jet turbine shutting down. When it finished, the office was eerily quiet.

When I booted back up, the G4 was not entirely silent; the power supply and chassis fans all make some noise, which was hard to notice before, over the whine of the SCSI disk.

The weirdest thing for me was that disk activity is unnoticeable. Booting and during other disk-intensive activities, I could previously hear the disk quite distinctly, and it gave me feedback that the task was making progress. The new disk is completely inaudible over the (fairly quiet) fan noise, and gives me zero clues that anything is happening at all. It’s great, but I find it interesting that I actually depended on the unpleasant disk noise to know that things were running normally.

Guess I’ll have to get used to it. :-)

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Building a better keyboard

by Michael Alderete on 3/11/2002 · 1 comment

Today I gave up on the KeyTronic, the keyboard I selected when I couldn’t stand anymore the Apple Pro Keyboard that came with my new computer. I used it for several months to be able to say that I truly gave it a shot. But, in the end, it sucked. Like most keyboards today suck.

I now have my trusty 10-year old Apple Extended Keyboard attached to my 6-month old Apple G4, using a Griffin Technology iMate ADB-to-USB adapter.

It’s kind of an ugly hack; I’d much rather be using a modern USB keyboard, especially one with the special keys for volume up/down/mute and CD eject, like the new Apple Pro Keyboard.

But all of those just have the wrong feel. Too spongy, wrong resistance, not enough tactile feedback. The AEK is perhaps the finest keyboard ever made. Certainly, it is to me. I may never give it up.

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