Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

GigaOM: Busycal is what iCal for Lion should have been

In this article for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I review BusyCal and tell why it's a better iCal replacement for Lion.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

GigaOM: 7 apps for conquering Black Friday

In this article for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I review shopping apps and in particular ones related to Black Friday

Sunday, December 25, 2011

GigaOM: Spanning Tools review: Cure your cloud syncing woes

In this article for GigaOM/TheAppleblog, I review Spanning Tools and how it can help with your sync problems

Friday, December 23, 2011

Software Review: Log Leech

While your Mac may not have a secret black box that records every crash, the logs that are typically accessible via the Console app comes darn close to recording anything and everything that goes wrong in your Mac. The problem is being able to read it. Even advanced technicians have trouble parsing the voluminous amounts of data locked in those logs. Mere mortals rarely have a ghost of a chance understanding it. Log Leech bridges that gap and makes us look like heroes.

Log Leech won’t necessarily explain these logs but will help you at least find those nuggets of information locked in the haystack. Once installed the program will take all the log entries and sort them attractively by program (and associated icon) as well as by date. You can then use the icon to hone in on the specific information you want.

When problems develop with your Mac and you aren’t sure what could be the program, a look at Log Leech might help you find the answers. More than once opening Log Leech revealed the reason problems were occurring that I couldn’t easily find by looking at the console. Console lumps all your program information together. You can’t always see what you need when you are faced with an overwhelming screen of random code.

Log Leech take the copious amounts of trivial information in the console and organizes it into an easy to use and read fashion. The Console App reminds me of DOS and the Unix world while Log Leech reminds me of a Mac.

Pros: Great for reading logs and deriving information from
Cons: Apple will buy this app and include it in the OS if they are smart

5 out of 5 Dogcows

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Software Review: Office Time for Mac and iOS

They say time is money, and well it is. When you bill your time, it is money and when you fail to bill properly it’s money down the drain. For others, there may not be a 1 to 1 translation between time and money, but knowing where your time is going and what you are doing is important. Productivity experts always say: know where you time is going. Office Time lets you do that and much more.

Office Time for the Mac and iOS makes sure none of those valuable dollars and cents slip through your fingers, and more importantly helps you bill that to a third party.

Office Time for the Mac starts off as a general time tracking program. You can set a series of projects and categories to figure out exactly what you are doing and whom you are doing it for. For example, if you are working on a website project, you might put the website as the project name, coding as the category and then put in notes about exactly what you are coding. You can even specify what your billable rate is. With this level of detail available, you’ll be able to tell the client exactly how the bill was derived and where their money is going.

For professional management, you can use advanced reporting such as graphs and spreadsheets to determine where you time and money are going. In particular I used the program to make detailed reports of exactly how much I spend on different types of projects to know if I should hire additional administrative or technical staff. Office Time also allows exporting for more advanced analysis.

In order to prevent you from missing out on any missed time, Office Time uses a menu bar icon to quickly log a specific project and begin tracking the information. Switching tasks is as easy as choosing from the menu. Should you walk away from the computer or get distracted (dog barking, phone call etc), Office Time will recognize no activity and offer to remove that time from billing or place it in another category (which typically isn’t something you can bill).

Since so many of us are on the road and may not be at our main computer, Office Time also has a separate iOS application that works great on both the iPhone and iPad (full screen on the iPad). The iOS application will sync on demand when both your main computer and iOS device are on the same wireless network. Over the air syncing on wifi or 3G would be great, but I fully understand why these limitations exist.

No stone was left unturned in the design of this program. Since expenses often go along with billed time, Office Time for both MacOS and iOS includes expense tracking that can be directly integrated with the projects and categories. You can sync the information with iCal so you can visually see your projects and where your time is going.

Best of all, from right in the program, you can set custom invoicing to send our your bills, or export the data into your favorite accounting program. The program is not for accounting so it won’t track whether you’ve been paid or if an item is past due, but you can still get your invoices out quickly. International users will appreciate the ability to track in multiple currencies. If you don’t know what an invoice is and you bill your time, this program is a great place to start.

Now, you have absolutely no excuse not to track your time and billables. Except, of course, your own laziness. At least with Office Time, you can’t blame your tools but only your actual productivity. Office Time will save you time and help you bill it better than any program I’ve seen.

9 out of 10

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: The Mac OS X Lion Project Book

The Mac OS X Lion Project Book, despite it's title, isn't as much a book about Lion, as a book about how to use a Mac with Lion to do certain neat projects. Most Mac users can figure out email and surfing the web, but what about taking your DVD collection and putting in on your Mac.

Before purchasing this book, read through the projects. Even if one of them interest you, the book will be a great value. If you aren't interested in any of this, then it's rob ably worth taking a pass on this one. Projects are as follows

1) Organizing your files
2) Mastering Spotlight searches
3) Printing to save paper
4) Installing applications purchased at teh Mac App store
5) Providing Remote Technical Support
6) Remote controlling a Mac in your home
7) Accessing your files remotely from another Mac
8) Using DropBox
9)) Copying DVD content to your Mac
10) Basic photoshop editing and touch ups
11) Creating a slideshow
12) Using rapid weaver for a fmaily website
13) RSS Feeds
14) Configuring TextExander
15) Full screen mode to avoid distractions
16) Audio Podcasting
17) Setting up Time Machint alongside a cloning solutions
18) Using your signature in a PDF

Each of these projects are short--just four of five pages. The book is easy to understand and the projects are fun and relevant. They assume a basic to intermediate knowledge of Lion. No explations of files or how to click a mouse is included. This is direct an to the point weekend projects.

Since I knew how to do all of this or the things I didn't know didn't interest me, I didn't find the book that valuable. I learned this stuff the hard way through trial and error. However if someone asked me how to do any of these small projects, you bet I'll suggest this book.

New Mac users that simly want to feel more comfortable with their Mac and need some ideas of projects on how to achieve that comfort this book would be ideal. If I did Macintosh tutoring this would be a great companion manual.

Overall, a fun book for intermediate Mac users with relevant and interesting projects.

Pros: Excellent digest of fun projects to get to know Lion and your Mac better
Cons: Limited scope if you already know how to do these things or if they don't interest you.

Five out of Five

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spanning Tools review: Cure your cloud syncing woes

In for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I review Spanning tools and how it can help you with your cloud sycning problems

Friday, December 09, 2011

Book Review: Facebook Me

Amazon Review Facebook me!

Title: Perfect for absolute beginners and great for intermediate users

If your parents are finally wanted to get on that "Facebook thing", then this book is ideal for them. This book walks you through the absolute basics of Facebook in a fun and relevant way. Rather than being a technical "how-to" book, this reads more like a tour guide of the Facebook universe. No technical knowledge or computer is required as the book is vividly annotated with screen shots of what you'd see on the computer.

Starting with the geography and setup of a Facebook account, the tour continues with each aspect of the Facebook world such as creating friends, privacy/security, applications, groups and pages. Along the way tips and tricks are given for navigating the tricky social and moral issues that come up such as how to properly "defined" and the risks of friending coworkers and the boss. If Facebook actually had a printed manual, this would be it!

Throughout the book, strong and practical advise is given on how to protect yourself and your privacy for what you post and ultimately explaining that anything you do put on Facebook can end up with untended consequences.

Intermediate Facebook users will find the advanced topics such as groups, pages and advertising extremely valuable. Don't skip the first part of the book because you may have missed a few interesting things in your Facebook journey and this book leaves no stone unturned.

If you, or someone you love is new to Facebook, this book will get you up and running and make you the master of Facebook, until it changes. Even when it changes (and some info in the book is already out of date), the principles of usage remain the same. I recommend giving it to anyone that is new to Facebook.

Pros: Easy to read with details practical tips throughout
Cons: Like any book about Facebook, some information is already out of date

Five out of Five Dogcows
Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Software Review: Logo Design Studio Pro

Logo Design Studio Pro is a great program for those of us who have very little design skills. In fact, its name only scratches the surface of what this handy little program can do.

Apple came out with iPhoto for those of us who needed basic, powerful and intuitive ways of managing our photos and then took that iEthic to movies, DVDs, music and more. Unfortunately design was left out of the picture. Sure iWork can help you create and manage presentations, but graphic design is not its strong suite.

Logo Design Pro might as well be called iDesign because it takes the ideals of the iLife suite and brings it to graphic design. The foundation of the program is Logo Design. A series of templates don’t just give you ideas of logos based on your industry and what you do, but include a series of tasteful graphics and “taglines” for your business.

Being a extreme novice (I hate the word “dummy”), I was still able to great some pretty nice logos in just a few minutes. Moreover I was able to create designs for a wide variety of settings, including a Keynote presentations (see how well this works with iLife!). Open an existing template, add some of the included art objects, some fonts and color and there you have it!

The designs created by the program are “vector” based which means they can be shrunk and enlarged without any loss of resolution or quality. This is the accessible equivalent of FreeHand and Illustrator and for those that remember, MacDraw.

Even if you have a logo, you’ll still love this program. Presentations, web graphics, and flyers can all be enhanced with the tools this program gives you. Import your logo and jazz it up a bit with some graphics and wrapped text. Create a business card on the fly or just enhance a iWork or Microsoft Word document with some easy pizzazz.

My only major complaint with the program was skimpy documentation and included help (the help is virtually identical to the included program guide). The help didn’t conform to the typical Apple design and actually used icons from Windows help. Uggh.

Pros: Easy to use, powerful, and very intuitive
Cons: Skimpy help

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Hardware Review: Logitech K750 Solar Wireless Keyboard for Mac

Apple’s wireless Bluetooth keyboard is a natural and elegant compliment to iMacs, Mac Pros and really the entire product line. However, for serious typists, it often has us wanting more and the Logitech K750 for Mac fulfills many of those needs.

First, batteries are so 20th century. With the ample amount of light in most homes and offices, the constant swapping and charging of batteries is wasteful and annoying. The K750 is solar powered and solar charging. Once it’s fully charged, the specifications indicate you can use it in total darkness for 3 months. A handy app allows you to check the exact charge left in the unit. After using it for a few months the keyboard has always tested at 100%.

The keyboard is sleek and comes in five different colors (including Apple’s standard aluminum). I like the black because, hey, black is the new black. This is a full keyboard including a numeric keypad and a full set of function keys across the top. The Mac version of this keyboard has the command keys in the correct place as well as the function alternatives for Mission Control/Dashboard at the top. The typing was extremely responsive with a soft and smooth touch. “Delightful” is the word that comes to mind.

The wireless technology uses the “Logitech Unifying receiver” which is a USB dongle for all of Logitech’s wireless peripherals. All things being equal I would have preferred Bluetooth based technology. Bluetooth wouldn’t use one of my USB ports and would allow me to use the keyboard with iOS devices. Annoying, but I understand sacrifices have to be made.

The Logitech K750 for Mac is a great wireless keyboard for users that type often and don’t like constantly changing batteries.

Pros: Save money and hassle’s using solar technology, full featured keyboard that is easy to type on

Cons: Requires a proprietary dongle, doesn’t support Bluetooth

Five out of Five Dogcows