I find myself setting up my home and office’s Macs perhaps a little more often than I would like and when I do, I find, more often than not that I install the following software.
In the first installment of this short series, I will mention a trio of window management utilities.
Note that this is not a list, just software that I am intimately familiar with and have used practically every day for over a year.
I’m running a 27″ iMac with the Awesome IBM T221 3840 x 2400 (yes, that’s right) monitor for photo editing. As such, I really need a bevy of good screen and window management software to keep the huge real estate in order.
$13 / OS X 10.5+
by Irradiated Software
Used on my smaller iMacs, this allows for a window to be sized automatically by user defined shortcuts into full-screen, top / bottom / left / right halves and quadrants. Has some fine tuning functions, too. For example, to adjust the balance between left and right and top and bottom, such as a 60:40 split or 70:30 split or to enable the screens to avoid edges and the dock, etc.
Simple to set up and effortless to use.
Useful rating: ☀☀☀☀☀
$7 / OS X 10.5+
by Irradiated Software
Made by the same company that made Sizeup. Best new UI feature stolen from Vista, drag a window to the top of the screen and watch it maximise. Drag it to the left or right edge and have it neatly resized to half the screen width! The only reason it doesn’t get a rating of five is that cinch doesn’t integrate with the custom left/right settings of Sizeup, and as such screens cinched to the sides tend to interfere with screens manipulated using Sizeup.
Takes 10 seconds to install and get working. Simplicity itself.
Useful rating: ☀☀☀☀
$14 / Mac OS X 10.5+
I consider this the king of window management software. You can divide your screen into a user defined grid and assign shortcut keys to resize windows to an arbitrary shape and size for the ultimate flexibility. Alternatively, if you need a custom size window, you can press a hotkey and rapidly assign a window to anywhere on the grid using the mouse!
As with most powerful utilities, the trade off is time required to set up the software in a personal and meaningful way. Still, if you’re willing to invest a little time in it, the payoff is increased productivity and more efficient screen use.
Useful rating: ☀☀☀☀☀
Free / Mac OS X 10.5+
A little different to the others here, Isolator allows you to focus on just one task or window and thus reducing distractions on the average, cluttered desktop by darkening or blurring the other windows out with a simple definable keystroke or a click of the mouse on the menubar.
Elegant and simple.
Useful rating: ☀☀☀
The battle between Firewire (A.K.A. IEEE 1394, iLink) and USB rages on.
It’s well known that although USB 2.0 shows a higher speed on paper (480Mbps vs. 400Mbps) than Firewire, due to inefficiencies in USB protocol and the fact that USB requires the host to manage the transfer of data, Firewire is in actual fact faster on the whole.
The reason is cited as being not just the efficient, real-time, streaming oriented protocol but the Firewire controller itself, which manages much of the dirty work when it comes to data transfer, offloading the stress of controlling real-time, high speed data from the motherboard/CPU onto the device.
This offers two main benefits:
- The host CPU or controller has less work to do and can focus on other, more important stuff, meaning the attached host will feel more responsive and less stressed under heavy load.
- Because major data flow control is performed on the device itself, wasteful, detailed control data does not have to flow back and forth between the device and the host, leading to less wastage and latency.
…and two main drawbacks:
- The controller is relatively complex and thus expensive.
- The controller’s complexity can lead to difficult to diagnose compatibility issues.
Which leads to my main issue.
My Logitec MA-16FU2/WM external firewire and USB dvd burner regularly fails to mount disks on my Mac, while connected by Firewire but performs flawlessly with USB.
Basically, no disks inserted will mount at all under Snow Leopard.
Indeed “about this mac/more info…” shows no sign of any volume in this drive, whether it’s directly connected to the mini or via the firewire hub of the Princeton PHD-MM160IUH.
Moreover a second firewire / USB device will often fail to remount over firewire if I shut it down or disconnect it. Again, it works flawlessly over USB. Moreover, it even works with Firewire when connected to my Windows PC!
sudo kextload /System/Library/Extensions/IOFireWireFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/AppleFWOHCI.kext/
but the external drives just shut down and restart, still without mounting the volumes.
It’s really ironic that the Mac has worse support for firewire than Windows, especially since Apple were one of the founders of the specification.
basically, despite the ‘so-called’ superiority Firewire, I can only get my job done reliably with USB… sigh.
I wrote this in response to an article I saw regarding the relative speeds of Windows 7 and Vista.
I have a venerable 2.8GHz P4 with Intel RAID on 2x160GB HDD and a gig of RAM which I bought in 2003 or something… I only upgraded it once to a 256MB NVIDIA 7600 as I was running it as a Tiger Hackintosh for a couple of years. It really flew on Tiger, but I had a real Mac (albeit a G4) which was slower but much less flakey and so went back to the trouble free XP.
I then made the mistake of BUYING A BOX COPY (sheesh) of Vista Ultimate. My first ever Box OS purchase. My poor machine really felt its age since it would no longer play back HD videos smoothly, so the box went back to XP again and served as my main Playback device for my Projector for a couple of years.
On hearing all the Windows 7 brouhaha I decided to retry Vista with SP1 and about 75 incremental upgrades and put office 2003 and Zend Studio back on.
To be frank, It wasn’t as slow as I remembered it. It was as if the patches were just enough to allow my old faithful to climb back on to its feet.
And Aero’s 3D surfaces for each application actually meant the interface was MORE responsive and Mac Like since each app didn’t have to redraw when brought to the front. With the RAID disks, even 1Gb of RAM was usable (although multitasking slowed it much sooner than in XP).
I found myself honestly enjoyin using Vista for the last month or two and not missing XP, even when I had to really struggle to find any of the randomly shuffled functions.
Last month, I forced myself to make what I promised is the last upgrade to this machine and got 2GB RAM. My old faithful suddenly sprang to life… After a couple of days of heavy use, the memory was full, but it appeared to be about 1.5GB of cache! Office opened instantly (once I turned off min/maxing animations) ! I mean that literally. It was definitely faster than XP in general use and although 1080P HD Vid playback still stutters, my Leopard C2D Intel iMac w/ 4GB of DDR2 can’t match it for general interface response speed!!
So, to cut a long story medium, I installed the Windows 7 RC on the 2nd of May(!!!) expecting wonderful things… Firstly, the interface and colours remind me of a certain open source OS. Light, simple, breathy. Everything is simpler. I haven’t scratched my head as much as I got accustomed to with Vista, for sure.
However, I NOTICED NO SPEED INCREASE for my particular workload of Zend, Office and a Trial install of Illustrator CS4, indeed Office felt marginally slower which corroborates what was mentioned in the article. Instantaneous was replaced with a slightly annoying Almost Instantaneous, but not quite sort of feeling.
Still, benchmarks aside W7 is definitely less offensive to use than Vista.
In conclusion, then, I think it’s all about expectations. I was expecting molasses for Vista and got syrup – It felt good. i was expecting water for W7 and got slightly warmed syrup – I felt cheated and actually missed Vista’s moody dark interface.
Windows 7 is not much faster than Windows Vista but of course, YMMV.
Disclosure: I’m a “slider” rather than switcher, finding my Windows use fading out since 2005 on the release of the Mac Mini. My SOHO now consists of 6 Macs and only 3 PCs (one of which is a netbook). I now basically use Windows for Office 2003 compatibility and a label printer that refuses to talk Mac.
BTW, Vista Boot Camp on an Aluminium Mac 24″ w/ 4GB of RAM is THE FASTEST Office 2003 machine I have ever used. It’s shockingly instantaneous! If I had time, I’d install W7 on it, but I can’t be bothered.
The Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk) and other sites such as Macfixit, Mac in touch and others are showing a number of problems.
I’d like to report updating five systems without problem:
- Mac Mini (Intel 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo) – Mac OS 10.5 Server – 10 client edition
Combo Update without issue. ~ 10 minutes
- Server version of Mac OS X
- External Firewire storage
- USB Memory Card Reader
- iMac 24″ (Intel 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo)
Software Update (Delta) without issue. ~ 5 minutes
- Vista under Boot Camp
- Various large video and graphical editing packages.
- MS Office
- Firewire 800 RAID storage
- USB Card Reader
- Firewire Scanner
- Graphical Pen Tablet
- 12″ Powerbook (PPC 1.5GHz)
Software Update (Delta) without issue. ~ 15 minutes
- MS Office
- Power Mac G4 Cube (PPC 1.4GHz)
Combo Update without issue. ~ 15 minutes
- MS Office
- Zend Studio for Eclipse
- Entropy PHP on Apache Package
- Graphical Tablet
- iMac 15″ (PPC 700MHz, dome shaped effort)
- MS Office
Combo Update without issue. ~25 minutes