We all know that iTunes is a bloated behemoth of a media player, but (Mac users at least) are kind of stuck with it. It has changed over the years from an MP3 player to an electronic hub for music, film, TV, radio, podcasts, apps, syncing and shopping, which is great until all you want to do is play that album you just downloaded. You don’t want to import it, you don’t want to then hunt for it in your terabyte sized collection and you’d rather you didn’t give up a quarter of your system’s memory for the purpose.
Vox is a slimline music player and it’s the ideal foil for iTunes’ gargantuan proportions. It does one thing and one thing only – it plays music. It also happens to do so with an impossibly cool minimalistic interface and enough audio tuning goodies to make even the biggest high fidelity audio snob pay attention. Did I mention that it’s also free?
Created by Alessio Nonni, Vox has been around for a couple of years now and continues to improve. We took the latest 0.3 beta 1 release for a spin and were very pleased with the direction that the app’s heading in. The most immediate change over the previous release is that the already superb interface has been updated again and is now the very essence of simple, effective design. If you’re after neon colours and wacky fonts, this is not the music player for you.
While iTunes requires codec updates to play anything other than very mainstream audio formats, Vox will cheerfully serve up FLAC, MP3, AAC, Musepack, Monkey’s Audio, OGG Vorbis, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV, IT, MOD, XM and more. The app includes its own built-in 10 band equaliser, but can also leverage Apple effects such as Hipass, Compressor and Peak Limiter. Moreover you can chain these events as you desire. It has a built-in BPM detector and a powerful time stretch facility that can speed up audio without changing the pitch.
What Vox won’t do is manage your library of music. It has a playlist into which you an drag and re-order tracks, but that’s the extent of its file management capabilities. This app is purely about playing back music and through such cool features as the menubar transport controls it quickly becomes an indispensable part of any music-listening Mac owners app library. You can download it here.
There are otherways to monitor the traffic on your website, but let’s be honest – Google Analytics is both incredibly detailed and free – few people go past Google Analytics. However having access to those analytics can turn you into a bit of an F5 statistics junky, forever checking your profile out to see how the day’s numbers are adding up. If this sounds like you, then you’ll probably love Gaget – a Google Analytics widget for your Dashboard.
Gaget serves up the basic nuts and bolts of your traffic within a cool looking interface that’s always only a sideways swipe away. It shows you the last two weeks traffic, visitors today (users and pageviews), bounce rate, new visitors and a graph of traffic over the last two weeks. If you have more than one site in your analytics account, you can switch between them easily in the widget’s preferences screen. Gaget is a simple and effective widget that deserves a home on every Mac using webmaster’s Dashboard.
In the modern era of operating systems, no programmer creates every facet of their application – frameworks and programming environments are utilised and libraries (usually created by the developer of the OS) are deployed. While this means that a programmer doesn’t have to be fluent in binary to create software, it does mean that many applications carry a lot of unnecessary bloat. This bloat means that they take up more space on your hard drive and, more importantly, take longer to load.
So the whole point of XSlimmer is to strip out the unnecessary code from Mac applications and save them out in a slimline version with the end result being speedier loading times. The code that XSlimmer targets are the bits that aren’t relevant to your Mac and therefore never get executed – these are located inside the Universal Binaries. In addition the software will expunge all those redundant foreign languages that just unnecessarily hog hard drive space.
To compress an application you just drag it into the main window and XSlimmer will then analyse the app in question. Before any compression takes place, the software checks its software blacklist to make sure compression won’t break the app, then it determines if there are any space savings to be made. Once it’s happy it will determine how much space you’ll save and you can decide to proceed with the sudden weight loss diet or not. For safety reasons, XSlimmer will back up your applications before compressing them so that if anything goes wrong you can just revert the app back.
By way of a test we compressed the latest version of iMovie which weighed in at 407Mb. We did a test load of the software and it took 25.4 seconds to start up on a 2009 MacBook Pro with 8Gb of memory. Then we put iMovie through the XSlimmer wringer and it emerged the other side at a svelte 332Mb. Not the most massive massive space saving, but we were pleasantly surprised by the load time – it now took just 16 seconds to load on the same system. We had no issues using the application either – the slimming procedure didn’t appear to have harmed iMovie.
The principle downside to this application is that most of the apps we were most interested in compressing in order to speed up loading times, were on the blacklist. Most of the Adobe CS5.5 suite was ruled out (including Dreamweaver, Flash, InDesign and Photoshop) and so was the whole of the Microsoft Office 2011 suite. iTunes was also blacklisted, but Pages and Numbers were given the green light as was (surprisingly) XSlimmer itself. So where it can be deployed there are useful load time and hard drive space reductions to be made, but don’t expect to be able to trim those traditionally sluggish apps from Adobe and Microsoft, they don’t want to be the biggest losers.
The problem with copying and pasting is that there’s no stacking of data – copy something and then copy something else and you lose the first item. Being able to paste items from a clipboard history is clearly an extremely useful facility, particularly if you’re a programmer trouble-shooting a bit of code or a writer editing some copy.
Ditto is an open source Windows clipboard manager that has a number of neat features. Whereas many clipboard managers only handle text, Ditto will happily store text, images and html swatches along with any custom formatting you’ve applied to them. Even more cleverly, it can also access clipboard on the network, keeping all of them in sync if required.
If you don’t like the default styling of the application then you can download an alternative or simply create your own. Ditto is currently at version 3.17 and can be downloaded here.
Something whistful for you all this week. Deep Blue Sea is a beautifully designed wallpaper that reminds us that there’s a lot going on beneath the surface in the ocean. If you fancy making something similar yourself, you can find a list of 18 montage tutorials for Photoshop here.. You can get the wallpaper here.
It’s not rioting, let’s face it, it’s group arson and theft. As an expat Londoner living in Australia, I find myself far removed from the scenes taking place in my old home town at the moment. I was a student in London when the poll tax riots took place and while I don’t condone anything that happened on that day, at least there was some political motive behind the violence and criminality.
There’s been much talk in the media of the role of modern technology in the riots. In a staggering display of (let’s be polite) naivety, the police laid some of the blame at the door of Twitter. When the Brighton riots kicked off in the 1960s did the old bill blame the telephone or the Vespa? However it is pretty clear that the modern mobile phone is being utilised to organise gangs of thieves to break into and then torch businesses – they are Flash and Smash Mobs. They come not to dance in railway concourses, but to kick in the windows of electrical goods stores and nick a new telly. Some feel that the Blackberry is the real tool of these criminals who have leveraged its Blackberry Messenger Network to hook up with each other.
While Twitter may or may not be a tool in the arsenal of the disaffected youths running amok, it’s certainly the medium that people are turning to, to make their views heard. Americans and (bizarrely) the army of pop chanteuse Justin Beeber’s pre-teen girl fans took to Twitter and asked what was going on. Clearly the idea of going to something like a news website, such as London’s own the BBC, is beyond the grasp of these little girls. Having followed a Twitter search on London for a while it was pretty clear to me that all you’ll find on there is hoaxes (London Eye in smoke, Buckingham Palace on fire) and religious nutters suggesting that praying for the old town would help.
For anyone wanting more accurate news than the rubbish on Twitter, Google News came up trumps yet again. With over 7,000 news stories and rising, a timeline of those stories and headlines from the main news sites, it’s the go-to source for solid information. If you wanted a visual overview of the events of the last few days in London, then the news Image feed is a great place to start. We just wonder what the security’s like at the new olympics venues.
Just lately there have been some absolutely stunning looking applications landing in the Mac App Store. Sparrow, Reeder, Producteev, Twitter, Wunderlist and Pixelmator all look so great and work so well that they positively invite you to use them. And to that list of beautifully designed and functionally useful apps you can now add Day One, which does for journalling software, what Reeder did for news readers.
In the current era, personal diary applications make much more sense than blogs. Unless you’re somebody famous the only people that tend to read your online blog will be family and friends and the very fact that you’re publishing online means that you censor yourself. So instead of blogging online and giving out far more personal information than you perhaps ought to, why not keep a journal yourself.
Day One sports a beautiful Lion styled interface broken down by date in a calendar view reminiscent of Calvetica. You can quickly jot down thoughts via a menubar quick-note facility or add them straight into the app itself. Add your diary to your Dropbox and it can sync quite happily with the accompanying iPhone app. And to stop prying eyes viewing your darkest secets, password protect everything.
If you’re one of the few people in this depressed global climate to have a few quid going spare in your off-shore bank account, or you’ve just won the lottery, then we have just the toy for you. The Icon A5 is a light sports plane with retractable landing gear, a high visibility cockpit, short take-off and landing capabilities and, best of all, the ability to take off and land on water.
The amphibious A5 was designed by Icon, a company founded by Kirk Hawkins, a former F-16 pilot and his team of engineers and designers who were previously responsible for (amongst other things) the X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. So it’s probably fair to say that they know what they’re doing. The A5 is yours for a mere $140k and they’re taking orders now.
The problem with digitising your TV and movie collection is that it often restricts where you can view your shows. If you have a media centre plugged into the large family television then that’s where you have to watch, which makes curling up in bed to watch a downloaded film a bit tricky. It’s for this reason that media streamers have become so popular lately because they enable you to leverage the power of your home network to broadcast multi-media (film, TV, music, radio or pictures) to any similarly network enabled device.
Many media centre applications offer streaming capabilities and even something like the humble VLC Player is capable of broadcasting on an IP, but it takes an application like Tversity to wrap that sophistication within an easily understood GUI that can be used by the non-geeks in the house.
First things first – while Tversity (Windows only) is free, there’s a pro version available that adds some cool features to the application. What sort of features? Transcode to H.264, on-the-fly iPad/iPhone/iPod transcoding and built-in access to BBC iPlayer and Hulu. By default the free version does offer streaming to current generation consoles (Xbox, PS3 and Wii), but not hand-held Apple devices.
After installation and a reboot, there’s the set-up process during which you add your media folders to the system and enter your log-ins for Flickr, YouTube and Picassa. Then it’s simply a question of pointing your network connected to device at your Tversity IP address and you can begin viewing the content. Pretty much anything with a browser can access the server though some things have to be converted prior to streaming in the free version. The built-in tagging system and simple web based menu system makes finding your way around Tversity very simple. It effectively means you can organise your library in the way you want, with your categories and definitions.
Tversity is an easy application to set-up, administer and use. It enables you to watch your shows on anything from a Blackberry to an iPad by just accessing the server’s IP address. Transcoding does of course depend on your network and you’ll get much more out of the system if you have a recent router/switch, particularly if more than one person is likely to access the server at one time.
An unsung app it might be, but the Dictionary that comes with Lion is still a bloody useful tool. There have been a number of small changes to the application in Apple’s latest OSX release and many users may not realise is that it’s also configurable according to individual requirements.
The first big change in the application is that when you search for a word you now see a list of alternative words in the pane on the left. This enables you to drill down your search much faster than the old search > define > redefine method. You can also tweak font size of definitions directly from the toolbar.
In the preferences for the app you’ll find a number of alternative dictionaries available for search. By default the Oxford American Dictionary is installed, but if you prefer British-English spellings then simply click the ‘On’ button next tot he Oxford Dictionary of English and Oxford Thesaurus of English and deselect the American versions. You can also drag dictionaries within this window to set your preference for initial search.
Five Cool Dark Minimalist Wallpapers : We've scoured the wallpaper sites and are happy to present to you, five incredibly cool wallpapers that are the very essence of minimalistic. For this first rou...
Here at Geekosity we're dedicated to bringing you news you haven't read anywhere else. There's a hundred tech blogs out there, but have you ever noticed how they all cover the same stories, over and over again? We're happy to let them tell you about the latest iPad rumours for the 10th time you've heard it that day, or the news on Microsoft's profits for the 15th time that day. We look for equally interesting stories that have passed by the cloned tech news sites - stories about software, gadgets, science news - anything we think might interest like-minded geeks. The site is edited by Andy Hutchinson, a veteran tech journo with over 20 years experience in hardware, software, gadgets and free lunches with PR people. Thanks for dropping by.