Software

Trying out ZigVersion

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For the past two years I've been using SmartSVN as my graphical subversion tool of choice on OSX, mainly because it seemed more feature rich and stable than the others. On the MacPro with 3gig of RAM I used to have at work it was great, I didn't notice the bloat associated with its Java foundation, but on my current 1.33ghz PowerBook with only 1.2gb of RAM the bloat really is noticeable - it can take easily use more virtual memory than anything else running (about 700mb is typical), and take longer to become active again when swapping between apps. So after a quick look at similar tools again I've decided to try out ZigVersion, a native C application which makes it much faster. While the workflow is definitely different, it seems pretty good so far, though it's early days yet. I'll let you know how it goes.

CardRaider - great little app for recovering lost photos

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Recently the HD in my main Mac died. While I had just made a full backup, I had also moved some pictures off our digital camera into iPhoto, causing me to lose about 60 pictures. Well, thanks to how digital photography software work (they don't fully erase pictures off memory cards, just do a partial delete) I stood a chance to recover the pictures using one of the file recovery tools available.

After looking on MacUpdate for a suitable tool I settled on CardRaider, a $20 app that makes the process very easy: run the app, insert your memory card, click Scan and wait while it pours over the card looking for your lost media. As each photo is discovered it will be displayed as a thumbnail with some associated metadata, giving you enough information to decide which photos to recover. You decide which photos to recover and can either save them out to disk or import them straight into iPhoto - a little touch that goes a long way to boosting its simplicity.

The only issue I discovered was a slightly glaring problem that will hopefully be remedied soon: only photos can be recovered, the movie clips that almost all digital cameras can take are completely ignored, as are any other types of files. This greatly reduces its usefulness for me, and ultimately I'm going to have to find another app to recover the lost movie clips (we take a lot of them of our kids playing). I emailed the developers to ask when this feature would be added and was informed that while the feature was being considered for a future release nothing had been decided yet and so they could not give any guarantees.

If you are someone who only uses their digital camera for taking photos and not movie clips, this is $20 well spent that can probably save you much anxiety for those occasional accidents. If, on the other hand, you do take a lot of movie clips with your digital camera, you may want to look elsewhere.


Update!

Interestingly, I emailed the author my suggestion that it also be able to recover other files and at first he didn't seem too interested. Before I'd even finished this review, however, he sent me a test release of the next version that can recover AVI files (the format most cameras use). Talk about support! So, with this feature due to be added soon, I can't recommend this program enough! Well worth it!


And then I discover File Juicer which can recover images, movies and do a boatload more. Doh. C'est la vie.

Boost productivity with Isolator

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A common problem in today's world is distraction - too many applications open, too many emails showing up, etc, etc. Large screens give a tremendous boost to productivity but this often turns into having more applications open distracting you. And let's not mention email, RSS feeds and IMs constantly chiming away.

Thanks to the wonderful design of Mac OSX there are several utilities available to help lessen the distractions by hiding all applications other than the one you are working on at the time. Some of them, like Think and Backdrop have one fatal flaw - they require you to use their custom application switcher to jump between your apps, rather than integrating with the operating system's built in one. Thankfully someone worked out a way to do it right and Isolator was born.

Isolator is a very simple application. It doesn't launch as another app in your dock, instead it sits in your (albeit overcrowded) menu bar, and provides only a few sparse settings - the background color to use, whether to make the backdrop opaque (so you can see the desktop underneath it), whether it should start when you log in or activate automatically, and what key shortcut should activate/deactivate it. Once activated, all but your current application are hidden and your chosen background color fills up behind the window(s).

Having only used it for a short while I can't proclaim how it has saved me x hours per week or saved the lives of thirty-three cats, but even after my limited use it looks to be an app well worth using. And, given its cost there's no excuse for not trying it (presuming you use a Mac).

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