Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


I can see right through your plastic mac

Filed under : Gadgets
On January 13, 2008
At 10:15 pm
Comments : 4

It’s Monday in Australia and you know what that means: tennis is back! Game on! So far I have nothing to say about that, though. Lucky for you, non-tennis fan. Tomorrow it’s Monday in the US and if you had as many tech feeds as I have, you’d know that Macworld begins. What does that mean for me? Nothing! Despite having a MacBook Pro and really loving it, I’m not a fanboy. Or fangirl, although I’ve never heard that term used. I don’t even use any of the programs that came with my Mac, other than iTunes and I’m actively looking for a replacement for that. So I thought I’d use this occasion to describe to you all my favorite non-Apple programs that fill my hard drive with utility. Also, lots of people probably got shiny new Macs over the holidays and your minds are fresh and open!

If you are a non-tennis fan and PC user, today is not your day on J-Ball. Come back tomorrow. No, actually, many of these are available for PC. And they’re all free! I’ll go in alphabetical order.

Adium is the program I use instead of iChat. Adium is the sister-program of Pidgin for PC’s and I can see all my AIM and gTalk contacts in on place. It also plays Crowded House’s “I get your tongue in the mail” line when I get e-mail. But that was my customization.

Audacity lets me edit song files. Make your own ringtones!

Burn does just that. It burns CD’s and DVD’s. This is how I make DVD’s because I find iDVD clunky and full of all kinds of stuff I never use.

Cyberduck is yet another bird themed program that I use for ftp.

DoubleCommand lets me remap my keyboard. I use that for precisely one thing: to make shift-delete do a forward delete. The fn key is way too far away to make this convenient the way Apple has it set up.

ffmpegx is what I use to convert video from one format to another.

FireFox is the browser I use instead of Safari. Safari makes sites look prettier but FF has all those add-ons that I can no longer live without.

Gimp is the open-source (read: free) substitute for Photoshop, if you do Photoshoppy type things.

Handbrake rips my DVD’s to my hard drive so I can load them onto my iPod. Then people can look over my shoulder on the subway while I watch The Simpsons.

Max is a program that encodes CD’s. That is, I use it to rip CD’s to my hard drive because iTunes doesn’t use LAME, what I consider the best encoder. You can also use it to encode in lots of other formats, like Ogg and FLAC and others. Occasionally, I use iTunes-LAME, which encodes right in iTunes.

MPEG Streamclip is what I use to edit video. I find iMovie iAnnoying.

Quinn is Tetris. That’s all you really need to know.

Senuti (read it backwards) moves songs from my iPod to my hard drive. Sometimes I rip a CD at work and then I want to listen to it on my home computer. And there we are.

Skype is a “phone over Internet” program. It’s free to call people who also have Skype and reeeeally cheap to call those who don’t. You’ll need a headset.

SuperDuper! is the back-up program I use. I don’t have Leopard but even if I did, it doesn’t make bootable back-ups. It’s free for the basic and like $28 for the version with the bells and whistles.

Thunderbird is the e-mail program I use instead of Mail. I use it because it’s cross-platform, so I keep it on a USB drive and tote it around between my work PC and home Mac. You need a special script to do that but it’s easy. Even easier is if you have either two PC’s or two Macs.

VLC is what I use instead of Quicktime. It plays lots of video formats that QT can’t or won’t.

Wiretap Pro
(I have the paid version but the free one does quite a lot) records any sound the Mac is making. This includes cassettes that I want to import and make into mp3’s, Skype conversations with sketchy customer service people (check legality in your state – in NY only one person needs to give consent), Internet radio interviews, etc.

I should also mention Songbird, which is Mozilla’s (the FireFox and Thunderbird people) alternate to iTunes. But it’s in Beta and is full of bugs. So I downloaded it but never use it.

I also have lots of candy in my menu bar.

Alarm Clock makes the most expensive one you’ll own. I use it as a kitchen timer, actually.

Google Notifier
tells me when I have Gmail.

You Control Tunes
puts the controls to my music in the menu bar so I don’t have to switch programs when I’m in another and want to change songs or pause.

Show Desktop is something I missed from PC’s (actually, that’s their slogan: “The only good pc feature, now on the macintosh”). It automatically hides all your active windows so your desktop is clear.

If you have any others, please share! I’ll need something to distract me from Nalby’s foibles this week.

Title comes from:
The Who – Substitute


iPod song of the week – Morrissey

Filed under : iPod Song of the Week
At 8:30 pm
Comments : 13

Ever wonder how I pick these songs? Random detritus of the past? Well, a good amount of the time, they just pop up on shuffle during the week and I think, “I forgot this song existed! Yes! iPod Song of the Week!” This is one of those weeks. Actually, I usually skip right past this song when it comes up on shuffle because it means a certain something to me and there’s nothing more disconcerting than a song full of meaning popping up while you’re cruising the aisles at Target looking at ziploc bags. But this time I actually listened, as it had been a while, and I thought, “yeah, this song is still the shit.”

There are certainly catchier songs by Morrissey. Funkier. More clever. Songs where he pronounces the word “playboys” with three syllables. But this song is just so unusual that I dig it the most. It has no chorus and just plows along as a wistful look back upon the occasion of moving house, the house the character has lived in his whole life. And it’s a long song (nearly eight minutes with no chorus!) because there’s a lot to look back on. It’s just bits and fragments of (naturally) a pathetic life and the music is as poignant as the tale.

“There were bad times on Maudlin Street,” croons Morrissey. Indeed.

Morrissey – Late Night, Maudlin Street

Streaming audio available on the iPod Song of the Week page.