In Tim Cook and Jony Ive’s quest to change everything arbitrarily just for the sake of being different, they took away one of the most useful and intuitive features of the OSX touchpad interface–the tap and drag–and replaced it with an esoteric gesture that makes less sense than removing all the ports on a MacBook Air!
Call me a Luddite, but I prefer the old tap and drag way of interfacing with the machine. Fortunately, there is a a way to get that functionality back! Apple just did a clever job of hiding it. Under the “System Preferences” menu on your Mac, click the “Accessibility” icon. On the Accessibility options pane, scroll down in the left sidebar until you find “Mouse & Trackpad” and select it. Then click the “Trackpad Options” button.
You’ll get a window popup with a few options. Check the box next to “Enable dragging”, and you’ll have your functionality back. I keep it without drag lock because that’s yet another click to make, and slows down my workflow, but you might prefer to click again to finish the drag. That choice is yours!
Seriously, though, the fact that you have to re-enable tap and drag after it’s been turned off during an “upgrade” is a piss-poor element of UX design, and for a company that prides itself on design, these sorts of changes (headaches is a more appropriate term) create unnecessary hassle for the end users. Introduce the concept in the update, but give the user a choice before implementing it. Arrogance is always the position of the company who is dancing on the rain-slicked precipice of consumer opinion, and it never bodes well when its applied to arbitrarily changing deeply-ingrained interface gestures.
Let’s face it: the built-in file search in OSX really sucks. All is not lost, however, because Thomas Tempelmann has written a fantastic, robust search application called “Find Any File“.
It doesn’t integrate completely with Finder, but Find Any File can be docked for convenient use. I use it almost daily to locate files for work. You can drag-and-drop directly from the search results as well! The application works great, and is definitely worth the $6 he asks for it. I just wish that–with the prices they charge for computers–Apple would get on the ball and put a real search function in OSX.
I’ve been looking for a good solution for run Windows apps on Mac for a while now–going so far as to employ a virtual machine for some of my needs, but Bootcamp and VMs are often resource-heavy or time-intensive, requiring reboots or simply taking a long time to initialize. WINE in OSX is cumbersome at best, and not ideal for quickly deploying small applications (like my all-time favorite MP3 player, Winamp). Enter CrossOver.
CrossOver is a commercial version of WINE that has many of the settings “pre-tweaked” for each application that can be installed in its own “bottle”, much like the app structure for OSX itself. It should be noted that CrossOver, like WINE, is not a virtual machine or an emulator. The utility creates a compatibility layer on top of OSX, adding Windows-specific libraries and redefining the directory structure so that the application can work in the Unix-based Macintosh environment. Since CrossOver builds a Windows compatibility layer on top of Unix-based systems, it can be used to run Windows apps under Linux as well.
Install CrossOver on Mac like any other application, then run the app to install Windows applications. You will be prompted to choose the application from the database of known working applications (which is updated fairly consistently), then to locate the installer executable, and finally to create the “bottle” that will hold the application-specific libraries. So far, I have used CrossOver to run Winamp with great success (playing MP3 files from my former iTunes library and adding skins), and I will try to update as I use more software from my archives.
Take note, Cupertino: Stop bundling horrible, unnecessary apps with MacOS. All this bloatware is making you look worse than a Verizon-branded Samsung phone!
The “Macs don’t get viruses” nonsense was never really true; it was only “common knowledge” because there was no practical reason to write viruses for Macs–the “security through obscurity” maxim protected the ecosystem since the mid-1980s. Since the rise of Apple’s marketshare in the 21st century, there has been an increase in the threat of malware and other nasty bits of code infecting so-called “immune” Macintosh computers. Once upon a time, antivirus for Mac was considered a joke and a ripoff. Today, it is an understated necessity.
Enter AVG–long have they been one of the bastions of security in the PC sphere, their flagship antivirus utility is now available for Mac. It’s a lightweight application that offers the level of protection one would expect from AVG on a PC, and it even scans for known PC and Android threats to prevent you from unwittingly spreading an infection to other devices!
In addition to AVG’s antivirus, they also offer a useful cleaner app that scans your Mac for detritus that can bog down the system and cause a loss in performance or valuable hard drive space. Many applications leave behind small breadcrumbs–configuration files or other nonessential bits of code–in the OSX Library or System folders, usually as hidden files or folders that even most advanced users wouldn’t necessarily know to look for after uninstalling. The AVG Cleaner app scours your hard drive for this kind of refuse and eliminates it. I ran it once and regained an easy 3.5GB of space!
It’s a brave new world out there, and we’re better off being prepared than we are posturing with austerity. You don’t have to use AVG, but for the price, it can’t be beat!
Ever get a document emailed to you that you need to sign and return? This usually involves printing the document, then signing it, then scanning it, then emailing it back. Now, with Autograph from Ten One Design, you can sign any document right from your computer using the trackpad!
Yes, I was skeptical at first, and I’m not sure I would pay the $7 license fee for something I won’t use terribly often, but the app does work. It works quite well, in fact!
It lives up in your menubar as a stylized “A” icon. Click it, and you will be prompted to “Autograph now” which brings up a small window–indicative of your trackpad–and traces your movements across the pad. Hit enter after scribbling and your signature will be pasted into your document as an image.
It’s convenient if you have a lot of electronic papers that you have to sign–or if you don’t want to go through the print-sign-scan dance–but for most folks, I don’t think it’ll be worth the $7 price tag.
I picked up Koingo’s AirRadar utility as part of a bundle of useful utilities that Stack Commerce was selling for a pretty good deal a while back. I don’t normally purchase utilities such as this one, but I look at it as a free bonus for buying a license to Crossover and Paragon. It’s actually pretty useful!
AirRadar scans the airwaves picked up by your wireless card and delivers all kinds of useful information regarding signal strength, noise ratios, encryption, and much more! The average Joe probably won’t use all the features presented, but power users and system administrators will enjoy being able to dial down into the minutiae of WiFi radio engineering.
So far, I’ve used AirRadar to find the clearest channel for my router to broadcast on–which has noticeably improved bandwidth in my crowded apartment complex. Most of the routers–Pace DSL gateways from AT&T (yet another piece of information you can glean from AirRadar)–are clustered around a handful of channels toward the middle of the spectrum, so I just moved my router over to an empty channel and voila! I’ve also learned that there are a lot of unsecured private networks near by–most likely because of a benign ignorance to information security. I’m tempted to access these unsecured networks and drop them a friendly note to let them know how easy it is for an unsavory character to gain access to their computers, but that would technically be illegal (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986). Maybe I should just triangulate the signal and knock on their door instead?
Another cool feature in AirRadar that I haven’t used yet is hotspot mapping. Open the app, start scanning, throw the lappy in the passenger seat, drive around, and soon you’ll have a nice map of all the access points along your route! Granted, only the publicly open hotspots should be disclosed, but a broadcast is a broadcast. Use this feature responsibly!
I’m not entirely sure that an average idiot would want to spend the $10 license fee, especially considering that there are similar applications available for free, but since it was part of a larger deal, it was worth it. If you’re a war driver or a radio aficionado, it might be worth your Hamilton, but I would’ve been just as content letting my router figure out the best channel to broadcast on automatically.