Category Archives: Utilities

Little apps I find that I don’t want to forget…

Keeping your Mac applications Afloat

If you work on Mac OS X, and despair at the lack of ways to keep certain windows "afloat", or "always on top" (if you’re familiar with Windows applications that do similar things), then Afloat is the utility for you! Did I mention that it’s free?

Upon install, it adds itself to the common Window menu of every application, giving you a bevy of options to control the window of the app you’re working with. 

It allows you to keep one or more windows floating/pinned above others, or turn them translucent, allowing them to be visible and let clicks "fall through" to the windows behind it.

Window

 

For example, I’m on a lot of conference calls, and need to take notes, but also have other windows open doing research about the subject matter, etc.

I had been using (and LOVE) a free utility called Shift It to emulate Windows 7’s "Aero Snap", i.e. the ability to snap a window to the right half of the screen, or left, or top/bottom/etc. This works wonderfully, although it is a key combination, versus a  drag/drop operation.

NewImage

I was using a different application called Cinch, which I actually paid for, but there are some minor bugs that are being worked out before I can use it on a day to day basis. It also behaves weird with VMWare Fusion, not always snapping properly, but I’m sure that it will be updated soon enough.

So, if you’re a fellow window-holic like me, grab a couple of these free utilities and start making the most of that [growing but] limited desktop space!

 

Quickly/automatically grab lyrics and album artwork for non-store mp3s in iTunes

(Quick note, this tip is for Mac users only currently; if someone has a comparable method on Windows, or even Linux, let me know and I’ll add it).

 So you’ve added a ton of mp3’s to your collection, acquired by who knows what means, but many of them are missing artwork, and probably all are missing lyrics.

 As an iPhone/iPod Touch user, this frustrates you to no end, because when you are gazing lovingly at your iPod while jamming, you see a goofy big black note instead of mind blowing album art, and cover flow mode just seems to mock you.

Worse, when you want to know if Jimmy is saying "excuse me, while I kiss this guy", you have no way of knowing…tapping the screen brings up nothing but frustration (and the playback controls). 

 Well here’s a quick and dirty (and free, the best kind of) solution to get you set up in a jiffy.

It involves two pieces of software:

  • Gimme Tunes – This amazing little iTunes companion/plugin generally does a few things:
    • Show a bubble popup during song transitions with song info
    • Grabs artwork for a song when it plays (ding!)
    • Grabs lyric for a song when it plays  (ding!)
  • And then we have NeedleDrop. NeedleDrop is an AppleScript that interacts with iTunes to automatically play N number of seconds of a song, and works its way automatically through a playlist (or all music if you’re not in a playlist).  

So, you can see where this is going. GimmeTunes would be perfect if it would automatically go through songs; NeedleDrop would be perfect if it grabbed artwork and lyrics. Like other famous matches made in heaven, if you put your NeedleDrop and my GimmeTunes, you’ve got a great solution.

 I won’t go into full installation details, it’s a Mac, it’s easy anyway, but here are the basic steps:

  1. Install iTunes (99% of you have this)
  2. Make sure your music is listed in iTunes (I suspect you’re here already)
  3. Install GimmeTunes
  4. Make sure the preferences are set to grab artwork and lyrics (pretty sure they are)
  5. Install NeedleDrop (this one is slightly more tricky, read the doc that comes with it)
  6. Select the first song in your Music list, or make a Playlist that contains only the tracks without lyrics and artwork. (Check out the NeedleDrop site for other scripts that may help here. I just used my entire folder because what can it hurt?)
  7. Launch NeedleDrop and tell it to play at least the first 5 seconds (it defaults to 10), and 0 seconds from the start of the file. (Not that this one matters)
  8. Hit ok and watch it rip!
  9. I like to turn on the lyrics window (Show Lyrics in GimmeTunes) to verify it is grabbing lyrics properly for a while.

The time it takes is equal to (Number of seconds of each song to play * number of songs in collection). Mine finished in just a few hours, running in the background while I worked.

 It may not be the most elegant (or only way), but it worked for me and didn’t cost a dime. If you have other ideas (for other platforms, solutions, etc.) drop em in the comments!

The Several Habits of Wildly Successful del.icio.us Users

Slacker Manager has put together “ The Several Habits of Wildly Successful del.icio.us Users“. del.icio.us is one of those services that I use semi-frequently, but am starting to understand the power of more and more.

Definitely check ou the part about the Inbox, and then think about how you can subscribe to the Inbox feed with RSS…in Russia, the web comes to you! πŸ™‚

My Treo 650 Mini-Review and Software list

Edit 9/25/05: So, I did return it after all, and am waiting for the Next Big Thing(tm). Until them I’m using a RAZR. Tragically, it only makes phone calls… πŸ™‚

So yours truly once again has dipped his toe into the smartphone/communicator/PDA/what-have-you waters to see if technology has in fact caught up with my ideal device-topia. In this foray we examine the omnipresent Treo 650 and my feelings thereof… Note, you’re not going to get a lot of pictures or screenshots of the OS. They have been covered ad nauseam elsewhere, so I invite you to open your encyclopedia and I’m sure you’ll find them πŸ™‚ As you will have seen in my previous reviews, I’ll cut straight to the meaty part, in the interest of saving you time:

Current verdict: Great PDA (but lack of multitasking means many apps won’t keep running in the background. There are various hacks but tends to make things unstable.), mediocre phone. Will I keep it? Not sure at this point. It’s a lot of $$ to swallow for something I’m not 90% happy with. Call me a version whore, but Windows Mobile 5 is right around the corner and, like most things Microsoft, they probably got it pretty close to right after the numerous previous versions. Not to mention that if I want to keep using most of my apps, I’ll have to shell out quite a few dollars more. I have 2 weeks or so left in my Cingular "first 30 days" trial, so feel free to help me make up my mind πŸ™‚

Pros:

  • QWERTY
  • High res screen
  • Moderate breadth of apps

Cons:

  • Mediocre phone (earpiece volume is unusable w/o it IMO, sound quality (often garbled even w/ perfect reception))
  • Unstable (or at least a lot of poorly coded apps), resets
  • Size (but really not that bad)
  • No EDGE anywhere I’ve been so far
  • Most “decent” apps are charge for (based, in my opinion, on the fact that coding for Palm is ‘hard’, and thus people want ROI. This is versus Windows Mobile and the .NET CF which I believe is going to lead to a large number of free apps for that platform)
  • Sold my soul to Cingular to save $100 or so on the phone (priceless!)

Here’s what I’m currently running, in order of coolness/usefulness. Note that all ($) are charge for and I’m currently using their demo versions.

  • RadioState: (Free) Turns radio back on after reset, MUST have…works 97% of time unless software inits manual reset
  • VolumeCare: ($) Volume is simply unusable w/o it (which btw is #1 reason I’m on the fence)
  • DirAssist: (Free) one of the best mobile phone apps ever, must have, thing I will miss most if I switch to something else
  • TakePhone: ($) Great phone dialer replacement
  • MobileTS: ($) Terminal Services client, works great (if a tad slow), looks great on high res screen, $40 yikes!
  • ZLauncher: ($)absolute best launcher, great for storing apps on your SD card
  • InnerBackup: Free, and unfortunately I find I’ve had to restore from backups a few times now
  • FlightStatus: Free, does what it says
  • HandzipperLite: Free zip/unzip
  • pSSH: Free SSH util
  • TreoAlarm: ($) schedule alarms and apps to be run at those times
  • TiBRLite: Free version of ebook reader (so far my #1 use for Treo which simply just isn’t right :-))
  • Adobe Reader for Palm: nuff said.

I took Docs to Go off since it kept crashing even when it wasn’t running (diagnosed by #*377 in Cing firmware…only useful thing?)

So, like I said, I’ve got 30 days, and we’ll have to see what transpires in the next week or two. I’m considering tossing in the towel and going to get the RAZR as a new (dumb!) toy to tide me over until the WindowsMobile 2005 devices come out, but what a step down! Cingular is also about to launch (per rumours) the hw6515 (EDGE, QWERTY, GPS) but it runs WM2003SE which I wasn’t totally pleased w/ in the past.

Let’s hear it people, what should I do? πŸ™‚