Archive for May, 2007

You don’t need a grass skirt to use Ukelele

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

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Everyone works a different way, but all computers are pretty much alike. Ukelele allows you to customize how your keyboard behaves, and may just make you more productive in the process.

Ukelele is a Unicode keyboard layout editor for Mac. Rather than having to dig through and manually edit XML-based keyboard-layout definition files, Ukelele provides a graphical way to go in and create just the right keyboard layout for you. Especially useful when typing foreign languages on your keyboard, you can assign multiple keystrokes to a single key, to add an accent to a character, for instance. Alternatively, you can set a particular key to be a modifier, allowing you to set multiple values to a given key.

Ukelele is a Universal Binary, so it's suitable for both PPC and MacIntel machines.

Download Ukelele

You don’t have to start from scratch

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

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Scratch may be the ultimate object-oriented programming language. Developed by folks at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a programming language where you literally snap objects–blocks–together to build applications. Rather than procedures or functions, you drag graphic "blocks" around on screen and the order in which you hook them together determines how the resulting activity behaves.

Scratch includes blocks to move, turn, and bounce on-screen "sprites". You can speak and make sounds, draw, resize, and more. Control blocks allow you to loop and branch, test variables, and even follow your mouse.

With Scratch you can do interesting things without having to be a hard-core programmer. Designed for kids as young as 8 years, there is a large community for sharing activities. Scratch is designed to help users become familiar with the design process, while learning mathematical and computational ideas.

Scratch is available in both Windows and Mac versions, with work underway to release a Linux version by the end of 2007.

Download Scratch

And dance by the light of the moon

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

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Moonphase is a cool application that, as its name suggests, shows you the phase of the moon on a given date, incorporating NASA photos to get you up close and personal with our celestial neighbor.

By entering your latitude and longitude, you can get precise moon rise, transit, and set times, as well as rise, transit, and set times for the sun. You can set your timezone, with an option for adding an extra half hour where appropriate. A checkbox allows you to adjust for daylight/summer time.

And if you really, really need to know, now that you've entered your location information, Moonphase can give the exact distance to the moon from your location.

For anglers, Moonphase can also show you "good fishing days", as listed in the Angler's Almanac.

For those south of the equator, or the curious in the north, there is also a Southern Hemisphere version.

Download Moonphase

Use your bean: use Bean

Monday, May 28th, 2007

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When Word is too much, but Text Edit is not enough, you need to find a middle ground. Bean may be the app you've "bean" looking for.

Bean has most of the bells-and-whistles of the big apps, but without the bloat. You can format text, of course. Onscreen options allow you to show and hide invisible characters, use alternate colors (light characters on dark background), and easily zoom in- and out. Autosave means never having to say "oops!" when things go bad. There's a page layout mode, so you can accurately see what your documents will look like when printed. Bean is compatible with most generally used document formats, either natively or through import- and export facilities.

Most of the time, you don't need the things that Bean doesn't do: headers and footers, floating images, columns, and such.

Bean is a Universal Binary, so you should have no problem running it on PPC or x86 Mac running OS X 10.4+.

Download Bean

Makes your new system better than new

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

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The name says it all: PC Decrapifier gets rid of all the crap on your system.

When you buy a new computer, you get not only the computer, but also demo versions of every kind of software imaginable. Some of this may be good–you might actually find something useful in the array of stuff on the system. Most of it, however, probably really isn't what you had in mind, and you might be better served to get rid of it. This is where the aptly named PC Decrapifier comes in.

PC Decrapifier is designed to seek out and remove items from a huge list of typical extra stuff that comes loaded on new PCs. User configurable, you can choose what to remove and what to keep in place. You may want to take advantage of the free six months worth of antivirus that came with your new system, for example, but have no intention of ever signing up for the cheap-o dialup ISP that is featured prominently on your desktop.

PC Decrapifier is aimed at relatively new systems, so it knows what to look for on those machines. Older machines probably can't take advantage of its features, however, since they had their own list of "can't live without it" apps from back in the day.

PC Decrapifier is a Windows app aimed primarily at XP or later.

Download PC Decrapifier

Make the world safe once again with Acidbomb

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

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Did you ever wake up in the morning and decide that your life was too boring? That you wanted a challenge? That maybe you should join the bomb squad? This could be your lucky day!

Acidbomb is an action-packed puzzle game that puts you in the ultimate hot seat: you are the bomb disposal expert, and everyone depends on you. You have limited time to defuse your bomb, and just to crank it up, as you get closer and closer to the end, and the pressure starts to mount, the screen starts shaking and the volume and intensity of the sound increases. If you are successful, you're the hero, but it you don't get it completely right, then KA-BLOOIE!

With fifty different levels and constantly-changing bomb configurations, you will never play the same game twice. Extensive documentation clues you in on how the various types of bombs work and what your best approach may be to defusing them.

Acidbomb is available as a "lite" version, without music, or you can grab the whole package, music and all.

Download Acidbomb

You’ll never be left red-faced with Crimson Editor

Friday, May 25th, 2007

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Not just another Notepad clone, Crimson Editor is really a professional source code editor for Windows. Featuring syntax highlighting for over a hundred languages, you'll probably find the ones you use, or you can roll your own syntax files to bring in even more.

With multiple undo/redo actions, macros, and an output window, you can build your own IDE (we like to use it with FreeBASIC, reviewed earlier). Code, compile, and run, all from within Crimson Editor.

Find-and-replace works across multiple documents and supports regular expressions, so you can efficiently make changes across a whole project. And speaking of projects, you can manage multiple files as a project, including remote files as well. Equipped with an FTP client, you can edit remote files directly. A built-in dictionary with 100,000 words makes spell-checking easy. The list does go on and on.

Download Crimson Editor

Time to redecorate with DeskDecal

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

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For some people, a computer is just a tool to get a job done. For the hard-core, a computer is an extension of their very being. The icons on your desktop are arranged just so; you have the precise set of programs you need; your desktop wallpaper makes the exact statement you need it to make.

So now it's time to change your wallpaper. Where was that setting again: View? Edit? System Preferences?

DeskDecal is the easiest way going to change your desktop wallpaper fast. Just drag any image file and drop it on DeskDecal's icon, and voilà instant wallpaper change. You don’t have to dig through preferences, and you don't have to browse through your hard drive looking for the image–it's all on your desktop, and the change takes place now.

DeskDecal is a Mac app and requires OS X.

Download DeskDecal

Why do they make those web pages so hard to see?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

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Computers are such a visual medium that your experience can be severely limited if you can't see what's on the screen. Whether because of limitations in your vision, or design choices made by a site’s webmaster, if you can’t see it, you can’t fully understand it.

Virtual Magnifying Glass does exactly what it sounds like: you can magnify sections of your screen to see just what is going on there. The magnifying lens follows your mouse around the display, so to zoom in on an area, you just point with your mouse and you’re there.

Users can adjust Virtual Magnifying Glass to work the way then need it to: the lens height and width can be adjusted, zoom can be set anywhere from 1x up to 20x, and the mouse scroll wheel can be used to zoom. Multiple displays are supported on several versions of Windows.

Virtual Magnifying Glass is available for Windows, Linux, and even FreeBSD.

Download Virtual Magnifying Glass

Plasma Pong: the wait is over

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

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The story goes that an early prototype of PONG was set up in a Northern California watering hole and became so popular that people would line up before opening for a chance to play. After a short while, the big console broke down and the bar owner called to have it removed from his establishment. Upon further examination, it was found that the reason that the machine stopped working was because it was too full of quarters. Pretty popular. The folks in line thought that PONG was a good thing, and that it was worth the wait.

Good things indeed come to those who wait. For those of you who have waited since our last review of Plasma Pong for a Mac version, that time has come. Recently released is the OS X port of this mesmerizing game, available for both PPC and x86 machines running 10.4+.

Plasma Pong is PONG with a twist: not content to just move paddles back and forth to bat the "ball" around, players operate in a plasma environment. The game field comes complete with swirling colors and fluid dynamic principles are the order of the day: squirt plasma into the environment, create a vacuum that attracts the ball, and even generate shock waves to keep things interesting.

In addition to the Mac version, there is a new version available for XP and Vista, so there’s plenty to go around.

Download PlasmaPong for Mac