Archive for the 'Mac Compatible' Category

Jul 30 2012

Say “Night, Night” to Long Installation Sessions with Ninite

A new computer is a popular high school graduation gift, and a great one at that! However, getting all your favorite applications and software isn’t as exciting, and can be a very time-consuming process. Luckily, Patrick Swieskowski and Sascha Kuzins–two awesome people at Secure by Design, Inc–have created a way to streamline that process for us!

Click here to visit Ninite, a website with a long list of popular software that you can download in a single bundle.

Ninite Software Options

What would you like to download?

Check the software you want on your machine–Ninite (which takes suggestions of what apps to include) offers a multitude of selections in categories such as browsers, imaging, media, developer, and documents.

This is great if you are (as we hope you are) a devout user of Firefox and Chrome, because your average Windows machine, for instance, comes only with Internet Explorer. How about another free favorite of ours, the imaging app Gimp? Yup! It’s there too.

Ninite's Installer

Easy to download the bundle!

After you’ve made your selections, download the installer and treat it like a dot exe file–execute it! All the programs you want will quickly download. It’s as easy as that!

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Nov 19 2011

Hello, Songbird

Here at SfSS, we love open source. I mean, we REALLY love it. And while we also for some reason love Apple (all of us do), we haven’t let that stop us from checking out open source alternatives to what Apple does well. If you’ll refer to my previous post, some of us still keep the faith with Mozilla. Consequently, I’ll be doing posts on Mozilla technologies from time to time. Today, it’s Songbird.

When Songbird came out, people branded it “the open source iTunes killer.” It hasn’t really done that. They also called it “the Firefox of music players” and it’s kind of that. It’s built on Mozilla’s XULRunner framework, making it particularly cross-platform (unless, of course, your platform is Linux, which they don’t support anymore). Consequently, Songbird is extensible – just like Firefox. And that default purple look? You can switch to another skin – er, feather (I am not making this up) – and be on your merry. Or, if you like a minimalist aesthetic, you can put it on “Mini View.”

Their stated mission is “to incubate Songbird, the first Web player, to catalyze and champion a diverse, open Media Web.” Remember that little discussion we had about an open web? Songbird is all over that. For more on what’s meant by an open web – and specifically who’s out there trying to circumvent it – I refer you to this post.

Full disclosure, here: it won’t work with your iPod. What it can do, and I know this is kind of disappointing, is, whenever you import music into Songbird, it can also automatically add it to your iTunes library. It will sync with your Android phone, and there’s a nice, informative post on how to do it here.

The Good:

  • Open source
  • Cross-platform
  • Easy migration/plays nicely with iTunes
  • Android sync
  • Integrated web browser
  • Uses lots of web services like Last.fm, mashTape and SHOUTcast
  • Extensible
  • Lots of feathers (read: skins)

The Bad:

  • No iPod support
  • Not available for Linux anymore

The Ugly:

  • Exiting doesn’t behave like iTunes – you click the X, you close the program (there are workarounds)
  • Memory pig – used 40 MB of RAM when not playing a song more than iTunes did when playing music
  • Albums not delineated like in iTunes

Check it out! Let us know what you think.

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Nov 17 2011

Lest we forget

Do you remember this post by Martha? Of course you don’t. It was just about three years ago. If you’re a freshman here at UMW, you might have been 15 years old and probably not reading this blog – and let’s face it, who wades through the archives of blogs running back at least three years? The answer is: not me, and probably not you.

So we here at SfSS would just like to reaffirm everything Martha said about Mozilla Firefox back in 2008:

  1. Add-ons, Add-ons, Add-ons: Firefox was the first browser to support extensions (or add-ons – the terms are interchangeable) and to date it still has the largest library. If you’ve never tried extensions before, think of them as apps for your browser. They let you do something that you weren’t able to do before, just like an app. I know you go on YouTube a lot. So do I. Are you sick of ads before videos? Install AdBlock Plus and they’re history. It’s only on Firefox. (They try and tell you it’s on Chrome, but it’s never, ever worked for me.)
  2. Standards: Mozilla is all about the open web – where you have the freedom to do anything that you want or need to do without some government or corporation standing in your way and telling you what to do. Sometimes governments do this with misguided laws (see also: SOPA), and sometimes corporations do this with proprietary technology (see also: Apple, Microsoft, Google and on and on and on). Mozilla stands firmly in the way of that, and they do it with open technology: HTML 5, CSS, JavaScript and other open technologies that adhere to the recommended standards.
  3. Security: Okay, here’s the thing. Firefox is open source. That means that the code that defines how Firefox works and runs is freely available for anyone and everyone to look at, tweak and fix, and thousands and thousands of eyes are looking at every single change to the code. So not only are security holes patched as soon as they’re spotted, but if someone tries to add malicious code it gets kicked out immediately.
  4. 100% Organic: This ties in to what I said earlier about Firefox being open source. That means there’s no one at the top controlling everything. Firefox is built from the ground up by people just like you who are passionate about what they do. And they do it so that you can have the freest, best web experience at no cost.

If you’re not running Firefox – if you’ve lost faith – it’s time to jump back in. Mozilla needs you. The web needs you. And you owe it to yourself to give yourself the best browsing experience out there.

 

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Nov 10 2011

Sage: because MATLAB is too expensive

Do you have anything to do with math, ever? Have you been assigned projects which require you to make use of some kind of mathematical software, like MAPLE, or MATLAB, or Mathematica? Chances are, if you take anything heavy in statistics or applied math, you have been or will be. Now, you have options. You could pay for a license ($99 for MAPLE, $139 for Mathematica and these are student prices), you could pirate them (risky, banned at UMW and illegal), you could trudge on over to Trinkle in the dark and the snow (winter is coming, after all), or you could go for the free, open-source alternative: Sage.

Pretty cunning, right?

Right.

Sage works on Windows, Mac (binaries are coming for Lion, but the Snow Leopard release should work) and Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora or source). It’s a hefty download (1.4 gigs for Windows), but after that you’re using your computer for what computers were built for: all that math stuff. Do you have any account online, ever? Google, Yahoo!, WordPress? (Myspace?) Try it free, online (i.e., no download), here. DO IT NOW.

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Nov 09 2011

Setting up a writer’s ambiance

Hey SFSS

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got to be in a certain state of mind before I can start writing.
I need quiet music, low lighting (or super bright if I’m going the pen and paper route), a comfortable chair, and no distractions.

I’ve found tools on the web that can help me with 3/4 of these things (still waiting on that comfortable chair app).

img from flickr

 

1. Shades (mac only)- This is a great application that I just found the other day.  Sometimes I like to have my screen really bright, but not while I’m writing.  However, I can never find that happy medium between too bright and too dark.  Shades gives you a slider that you can adjust to change the brightness of your screen.  But I think my favorite feature of this app is that you can change the tint of your screen.  Instead of dimming to a dark black color as usual, you can dim it to purple, pink, yellow, orange, any color you can think of.  I like yellow because it’s akin to writing on old parchment.

2. Spotify – Spotify is a lot like Pandora, which I’m sure you’ve heard of, but it’s kind of way better.  You can search for playlists, star songs you like, play a genre specific radio, and even make your own playlist.  I like classical music when I write and it’s super easy to find a lot of it at once.  Spotify is also very social networking based so you can share what you’re listening to on facebook.. or not.

3. WriteRoom (mac only.. although there is a windows version out there somewhere) – This is my favorite of all three of these.  WriteRoom gives you a big, giant, happy plain text screen where you can just writewritewrite.  I might have written about this before.  I don’t care.  It’s the best.  Are you one of those people who starts writing and says “Wellll I’ve written for five minutes, ooh look, a shiny open Facebook tab!”?  Because I am.  WriteRoom takes up your whole screen so you can’t explore the other things floating on your desktop.  The format reminds me of the Terminal on the mac, very clean.

 

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Nov 08 2011

(Wh)Y Write(r)?

A tool does not make the master, but it certainly make the master’s job easier. That’s why I’m bringing yWriter to the attention of our readers, particularly our creative writers. yWriter is a piece of freeware developed by a writer for writers.

Simon Haynes (author of the Hal Spacejock series) created yWriter after struggling to write his first novel in an organized and efficient manner. “I really struggled with my first novel because I wrote slabs of text into a big word processor file and I just couldn’t make sense of the whole thing at once. No real overview, no easy jumping from scene to scene, nothing,” he states on his website.  As an experienced computer programmer, he possessed the know-how to create a piece of software that would work with him, and then kindly shared it with the world for free (and with regular updates).

yWriter5 Main Screen

The yWriter5 Main Screen

yWriter’s keynote feature is its usage of “scenes” inside chapter files.  As a creative writer myself, I found that thinking about my story in such terms helped me as well, and although I have a plethora of other programs I could write on, I’ve been a satisfied user of yWriter for the past three years.  I first discovered it while participating in NaNoWriMo (which is going on now).

Give it a try.  You might discover that yWriter is the tool that will revolutionize the way your approach and complete your stories. It’s compatible on all system. If you find it useful, consider making a donation of support and thanks.

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Oct 20 2011

Play In Mines

Minecraft.

Creeper

The Face of Minecraft

I feel guilty posting about a game that costs money to purchase (though there is a free version), but the hours you put into playing it will make it feel like you got a deal. Also, this isn’t a typical video game, in that it doesn’t cost $300+ for the console and $60+ for the actual game.  If you are reading this post, you can play this game. It’s available in Pocket Edition, playable on your Android, for $6.99  as well as its original format on the PC for $21.99 (Windows, Mac & Linux).  If don’t mind missing out on the fancier features, you can always play it for free in your browser!

What makes Minecraft great? Well, while the game itself is fun and frankly addictive, the community that has sprung up around the game is fun and impressive.  Even the de facto official Wiki is run by volunteers.  There are also thriving forums all over the internet full of active members who create their own mods for the game and share them with others.  You can get everything from a mini-map to new skins for your world and yourself.

However, what I feel makes Minecraft truly fun is its multi-player aspect.  There are many open servers available to the public (though care must be taken to avoid griefers and unsuitable mining mates), though I’ve found it far more rewarding to play on a  private server with friends.  In fact, my favorite place to mine is on a server that a summer class put together.

Besides, who doesn’t get a sense of satisfaction out of building something like this:

Minecraft Creation: Falling Water

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

Or this:

NES Sprites

NES Sprites

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Sep 07 2011

bubbl.us – brainstorming in a (bubbl)e

I’m always on the lookout for new tools to use for brainstorming or mind-mapping as they call it at bubbl.us.  The video above gives a brief tutorial on how to use the site.

 

What bubbl.us basically does for you is what you did for yourself back in elementary school.  Remember when a teacher would assign you an essay topic and you’d have to present some sort of outline before hand?  With the little bubbles?  bubbl.us speeds up the process.  I always found it annoying when I would have more thoughts than the little circle I drew on my piece of paper could hold, but with bubbl.us you can manipulate the circle to the size of your choice.  You can also change the color of the bubble to better organize your thoughts.

 

Another great thing about bubbl is that you can share your brainstorming with other classes.  For my Codes, Culture, and the Postmodern course we’re actually using a bubbl map right now to discuss topics while we aren’t in class (click the little “Map” tab on the website if you want to follow along).

 

So not only is bubbl.us useful for your own brainstorming, it’s great for classes to collaborate together on topics.  Print it, export it, embed it, what ever, but give it a shot regardless 🙂

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Sep 02 2011

750words – exercise for your brain

Throughout my travels here at UMW, I’ve come across a lot of tools for school on the web.

But I have to say the one I’ve gotten the most use out of is 750words.

photo courtesy of feuillu

The basic concept is pretty simple, you use their nifty little interface to scribble out 750 words of your choosing.  It can be gibberish but that kind of defeats the whole purpose.

What I really use it for is to get the juices flowing.  Brainstorming.  Freewriting is a great way to get started, simply just writing out your thoughts sometimes can help you clear your head to get on to the important stuff.  Or use your words to jump start a project you weren’t sure about.  Write a letter to your grandma or a poem about bagels, it really doesn’t matter.

The great thing about 750words is that you get awards for how you use the site, akin to the foil star stickers you used to get on your papers in kindergarten, called badges.  There’s a Night Bat badge if you frequently write in the late evening, and the Albatross badge if you write for 30 days in a row.  I’m the kind of person that excels with reward systems, and I’m sure some of you out there feel the same.

If you’ve got a paper to write, the clean, no-distractions window makes it easier.   You wanna vent or solve world hunger, do it, it’s all anonymous so nobody can steal your brilliance.

Another cool feature is that you can get your writing evaluated into a little personality chart.  It’ll tell you if, on average, your writing is affectionate or self-important, if you’re more concerned with death or money, and how many times you swear in an average post.  I’m up to an average of 26 curse words per entry apparently.

750 words seems like a lot (3 pages double spaced, actually) but you’ll find that once you get into the groove you’ll fly past that amount.

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Nov 11 2010

Dropbox it like it’s Hot

Dropbox is one of those great tools that I can’t believe we haven’t talked about yet. If you aren’t familiar with Dropbox the name should give you a hint as to what they do. Dropbox not only acts as an online storage space but provides an easy interface to share files with people. The free account gets you up to 2GB of online storage (with up to 100GB of storage for a paid account). Sign-up and you’ll be able to download a desktop dropbox folder that syncs with your online account automatically when you add new files. With Dropbox you can upload any type of file and it is available the Mac, Window and Linux Operating Systems.

Like I said before besides being a place to back up your stuff, Dropbox gives you a public folder (that allows you to control access) that makes it easy to share files, like those old family photos you have been so diligently scanning, with other people. So rather than large e-mail files that you know will bounce because of the size, just stick it in Dropbox and share the link with friends and family.

Besides software and web access Dropbox has free applications for your mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry) allowing you to access your files on the go and I know how you young kids are always on the go.

So go ahead and sign-up so you can finally back-up those important files (like your senior thesis) I know you have been letting sit on your hard drive unprotected. Don’t forget to tell your friends about it so you can share files (legally of course) back and forth.

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